Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Book Report: The Angry Tide

I picked up The Angry Tide to read as the school year began, confident that it would be a welcome respite as I settled in to busy school days.  I was right about that.

The novel is the seventh title in Winston’s Graham’s Poldark series.  I’ve written before about the series and how much I love these books, you can read that here and here.  The novels, set in Cornwall in the same time period as the American Revolution and into the early 1800s, are terrific stories on their own, with interesting characters woven throughout.  I’ve enjoyed every book in the series and together, the themes of the novels linger well past the reading of the books.  

The stories are parables of privilege and work; of responsibility and happiness.  They are stories of class and feminism.  Graham has an impressive talent for showing the reader all of the characters’ points of view in a well-drawn way, sometimes sympathetic to them, sometimes not.  He’s never unkind but neither does he gloss the truth of each character’s existence and behavior.  Each novel has been a great read, with experiences and turns of phrase I think about well after I’ve turned the last page.

Tomorrow, the Poldark series begins again on Masterpiece Theatre and it’s nearly as well-done as the novels, with beautiful images to boot.  Like the books, it's well-worth your time.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pretty Package

It’s been a busy week and when I get time to write, I have some stories to tell.  But first, there’s a 4 class day to navigate, a colleague's baby shower to celebrate, a taco supper to cook, and who knows how many middle schoolers will make unwise choices today……..

How about a pretty package to start our day?

That’s happy!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: Sept. 27

As I recall, just a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the passage of Summer.  Mother Nature must have heard me because the temperature has been creeping upward since then and it’s been warmer than I like.  There are a couple of lessons to be drawn from this.  One is that I should quit complaining about things I can’t control.  Another may very well be that I am never happy with the weather I have.  Both are likely true but in any case, the dogwood tree knows its business.

And it’s business is ginning up for Fall.  A cold front is on it’s way for the end of this week and we’ll close out September on a colder note.  The dogwood is ready and so am I.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Garden Report, Week 17: September 25

Thanks to unusually warm September weather, my garden and backyard have finally begun to look a little ragged around the edges.

To take advantage of the warm days, I ran the sprinkler a few times last week. The reward was a generous handful of tomatoes and still more set on the vines in a race against frost.

There is more warmth forecast for this week, so I’ve a feeling a few more tomatoes will come my way.

That’s happy!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Late Season Flowers

After a cool start to the month, the second half of September has been unseasonably warm.  That’s provided a chance for late season blooms to take center stage.  On Wednesday afternoon as I was running errands, I came across a small town garden with hydrangeas blooming in the shade.

I stopped the car and got out to admire them.

These last summer blooms are always especially lovely to admire.

Soon enough, I’ll have pumpkins, mums, and piles of fall leaves to admire (and rake!).  In the meantime, I plan to soak up the last of the Summer’s loveliness.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Price of Vigilance

Being attentive to politics, both domestic and international, is part of my DNA.  Since the Newsweek subscription that I started at the age of 14, I’ve paid close attention to the news.  These days, I regularly read the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Nation, and Vox.  I follow some excellent print and digital reporters on Twitter.  NPR is my station of choice and I listen to the morning and evening broadcasts every day.  I think of myself as well-informed; I’ve always been proud of that.

In the Trump era, there is a price to that vigilance.  The daily news out of our president is rarely good, and often frustrating and anger-inducing.  My lifelong pattern has been to get up in the morning and switch on NPR at the same time I start brewing my coffee.  Lately, I’ve found myself standing in front of the radio and taking a deep breath to brace myself before I turn it on to experience the day’s news.

I am deeply frustrated and disheartened.  This president dependably demonstrates ignorance, racism, and sexism; he’s shallow and self-absorbed.  His administration is gravely incompetent, ruled by half-formed rationales and ignorant policy proposals.  Trump’s own propensity for mean-spirited name-calling is shameful.  He is unable to rise above anything and we all suffer as a consequence.

For this reason, it’s more important than ever that I pay attention and we all remain attentive and involved.  It’s hard to do when paying attention to the news invariably means signing up for a punch in the gut.  But absorbing that punch to remain vigilant is the cost of democracy right now.  I fear for my nation as I have never feared before and that is a very uncomfortable feeling.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: September 20

Fall starts today and the dogwood is ready to go.  In some sort of wrinkle in the seasonal continuum, the last two weeks have been warmish, not steaming like it’s full-blast Summer, but warm enough to ensure that I don’t look like a complete idiot wearing flip flops everywhere that I go.

The dogwood is having none of it, having transitioned to Fall a few weeks ago.  So it’s full speed ahead on seasonal change in my backyard.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Front Porch in September

There is a new flag for the front porch in September.  T gave it to me for Christmas and I set it out just as school began so that it could welcome me home each day.

The table is also ready for the month, with my wooden village to greet me.

By September, my Summer plants are starting to feel weary and look a bit ragged; their peak has passed.  But the weather is warm and even half-hearted flowers are blooms to enjoy.

The potted plants have nearly completed their Summer growth and are just a few weeks from heading indoors for the cold weather that lies ahead.  Now that classes have begun, I’m up at 5:30 am and the porch is often too dark (and sometimes too chilly) to sit outside.  But I grab time whenever I can because being out here feeds my soul, reminds me to live in the moment, and makes me happy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Garden Report, Week 16: September 18

Despite the continued wet weather, my garden has begun to look somewhat ragged at the edges.  The growing things are weary and looking forward to a resting season.

The continued warmth and sunlight has ensured that I am still harvesting tomatoes.  Many more remain set on; there are even new blooms this week.  But it will be a race against cool weather to have those tomatoes.

The late-planted zinnias have generated a bloom, but the others are being chewed up by the local wildlife, so I may not have many more flowers before the first frost arrives.

I’ve written before that this is a hard Summer to let go.  But Fall will “officially” begin this week, even though I’m holding on.  Mother Nature has a timeline and plan and she marches toward it, whether I am ready or not.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Letting Go: Taco Supper

The backstory: This year, as JT prepares to head off to college, I’m writing about the traditions that spell love in our home.  I’m thinking of them more mindfully than usual as I prepare to send my bird from his nest.  For me, these traditions  were always about a securing a happy and well-loved childhood in preparation for a happy adulthood.  They are about creating memories that will endure and for me they are also about letting go.

One of the traditions in our home is homemade tacos, a supper I learned to make in California.  I make Diana Kennedy’s chicken recipe, so we have chicken tacos.  When there’s time, I make homemade refried beans.  There is always homemade salsa.  We have them so often that I have dozens of pictures of taco suppers served over the years.

We have chicken tacos when someone special comes to to dinner.  We have them to celebrate birthdays and achievements.  We have them because its Tuesday and tacos are delicious.  It’s special because its ours; it’s JT’s most requested meal.  Tonight we had tacos to celebrate the end of the second week of school.  T and JT’s girlfriend A joined us; both have had plenty of tacos at our house.  They are welcome to plenty more, because tacos at Sassafras House are a thing; our happy thing.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Joy of it All

I change the picture on the desktop of my computer very regularly.  There’s only one requirement of the picture I place there: it needs to make me happy.  For this reason, the picture is most often one of two things: something from the outdoors, often a place I’ve visited with T, or my son.  Not coincidentally, both of these things are growing and changing and it is the notion of capturing one moment in a happy time that I find so pleasing..  

In September, I came across the picture of an 8 year old JT, playing in the backyard with a sprinkler and a stick.  This was frequent game he played over the years and it always featured laughter and joy because he was outside and running, two of his most favorite things.  I set the picture as my desktop because it made me happy.

Yesterday, one of JT’s Cross Country teammates made this picture of him in his second race of the season.   He wasn’t laughing and sticks aren't allowed in Cross Country, but I know that he was having fun.

Same kid, 9 short years later.  And the best thing of all is that I see the same kind of joy.  That’s happy!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: September 13

It took me the better part of 40 years to learn to live in the moment and  appreciate the blessings of each day; to enjoy today while it happened.  I’ve been thinking of that quite a bit lately, as the days of September slip by one by one.  This year, I’m more determined than ever to enjoy each day, aware that big changes are coming my way.  Those changes are exciting; even welcome.  But things will be different at this time next year.   So I enjoy today.

The dogwood, inching its way to a lovely display of red leaves, is a reminder to stop and admire the beauty of these days.  And so I step outside each morning to watch the sun slip over the horizon to light my morning and the dogwood leaves.  And I welcome all that the day brings.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Garden Report, Week 15: September 11

The calendar may say Summer, but the days around here feel like Fall.  For starters, the evenings and early mornings are cool, even downright chilly.   Each morning, I awaken in the dark and in the evening the sun sets sooner than I would like.  But the most significant sign that the Summer is closing is the slowing pace of ripe tomatoes in my garden.

I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to idea of fresh tomatoes, picked from the garden and still warm when they arrive at the supper table.  It’s been a lovely season.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Season Begins

A few weeks back, JT began daily team practice for his Senior year of cross country, his sixth season on the school’s Cross Country team.  He enjoyed running in those early years on the team, though he didn’t always look like a runner.  7th grade JT sometimes walked part of the course on his way across the finish line.

8th grade JT found himself racing to get across the finish line.

By 9th grade, he was more committed to the team; he never missed a practice.  But I wouldn’t say he was fast.

In tenth grade we cheered him on as he came along with the pack.

Last year, in 11th grade, it was a whole new JT on the track.  He ran quite a bit the summer before his Junior year and he began the season in the middle of the JV pack.  By the close of the season, he was the number one Varsity runner.  More important than that, the sport was in his blood and he loved it.

Though the cross country season ended, he never stopped running.  He joined a local track club and trained on his own.  He logged countless miles for a training regimen that had him on the trail six days a week.  I don’t know of a single time that he planned to run but laid around instead.  He started his final high school season as the Varsity leader and as a team captain.  The first race is always nerve-wracking but he looked good, ran a personal best time, and placed fifth.

It’s been terrific to watch him develop as a runner.  Last fall, when he first glimpsed his potential talent in the sport, a light went on and he worked as hard as I’ve ever seen him work at a task.  It’s thrilling to watch him do something that he so clearly loves.  

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: September 6

We’ve had several weeks of cooler weather with more than a half-dozen nights in the 50s.  So while I am still full-tilt in warm weather flip flop mode, Mother Nature is looking toward Fall.  That shows on the dogwood leaves, which are starting to take on a golden shade, especially clear in the morning light this past weekend.

From now and until the day the leaves are all gone, I’ll be posting a weekly dogwood photo.  The collection will be my reminder to embrace all that the season has to offer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Letting Go: First Day of School

Today, JT started his Senior year of high school.  He’s a “lifer” at our school, having begun classes on this campus in 2003, when he was three years old.  Today is the last day I will snap his “first day of school” picture.   JT graciously yielded to my photo request.  He realizes that the year ahead is our last in clearly charted territory.

By this time next year, he’ll be in his first year of college.  Some of the days may have been long but the years since I gave birth to him have passed by quickly.  As this next year unfolds, I plan to write about all the tradition in our family, the things I did mindfully to remind JT that he is loved, and always in preparation for my expectation that it is my job to launch him into the world.   I’m going to call this collection “Letting Go” because that’s really what it’s about.

Today, as his last school year begins, I’m thinking of the years that he held my hand as we walked to his classroom door.  By first grade, I walked him to the main door and he travelled the last few feet by himself, calling, “I love you Mama,” as he walked off.  In second grade, I carried his bag while he and his broken leg travelled on crutches to get to class.  By third grade, he was ready to go on his own and I haven’t walked him to class since then.  Bit by bit, he has embraced independence.  This morning, he let me make his picture and then he drove to school himself, delivering flowers as he picked up his girlfriend on the way.  

And so his Senior year begins.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Garden Report, Week 14: Monday, September 4

It’s not clear to me how September slipped in but it has clearly arrived.  Mornings feature a noticeable chill and school starts in earnest tomorrow.  I am still wearing flip flops and picking tomatoes, so denial is the order of the day.  I’ve decided to post my weekly garden photos as long as I still have something to show for it and until the first frost.  

This Summer has been simply lovely and I’m going to miss the leisurely days.  With any luck, the tomatoes and flowers I’ll continue to harvest will be reminders of the season.  That’s happy!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Smack Talking and On the Move

JT's Senior season of country practice has begun.  The team runs its first race a week from today.  In hindsight, it’s not much of a surprise that JT has taken up this sport.  He was smack-talking from the get go.

He was at his happiest when he was left to run and plan.  He made everything a game.

He slowed on occasion.

His bike and a scooter were always welcome diversions.

He liked speed and would give anything a try.

For a kid who ran for hours and hours in our backyard and at every local park I could find, I guess that cross country is the obvious sport of choice.  This summer, the miles have piled up and I’m excited to see where they take him.  Bring on the Senior season!