Today near the beginning of Liturgy I found myself standing close to my dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Bread. Mr. Bread whispered, “I have something for you,” and he put this gift into my hand, a little cross he had carved from abalone shell. I’ve been trying for an hour to take a photograph that shows all the colors that shimmer from it, and this is the best I could do.
It is so much more than a visual thing – I held it for a half hour before I could bring myself to put it away in my bag. So smooth and cool on its face, with gentle contours… I felt the need to keep stroking it with my fingers that were suddenly clumsy and large. I don’t usually have anything in my hands during worship, but its natural beauty and Christian meaning fit right in with the smell of beeswax candles and the chanting of prayers, and of course the icons.
Maybe next week I’ll be wearing it around my neck. 🙂
I’m having that feeling of Too Muchness. I’m trying to reject it – it’s only a feeling. What is truly required of me? Jesus told Martha that only one thing is needful, and that her sister Mary had chosen that “better part.” What was Mary doing? Listening to her Lord.
I can’t listen to Him and entertain these depressing thoughts at the same time. If hear Him correctly this afternoon, He is telling me to play Bing Crosby singing “Silent Night” and “Frosty the Snowman,” and to write down some of the things in my life that are threatening to overwhelm me. It seems to calm me to take control by putting all the craziness into sentences and paragraphs, where it doesn’t loom so vague and impossible.
Also, writing it down shows me that in the balance the crazy aspect weighs a lot less than the obviously good and wholesome, the things that are easy to be grateful for and happy about. I took some pictures of the garden and grandchildren and such beautiful things to intersperse among my sad tales. That way you have the option to just scroll through the pictures — if you even have time to be here this Month of Too Much. 🙂
The first photos are of my church at night, when a performance of choral Christmas music was performed here and special lighting was set up outside. Inside, also , we had all the electric lights turned on before the candlelight performance began, and I was wearing my glasses, so everything looked very bright and clear! Normally for evening services we only have candlelight.
I had returned from my travels in time for Thanksgiving, but because it took me so long to finish my travelogue, I failed to show you any pictures of our festivities.
We feasted at Pearl’s in Davis, but the next day all the littlest grandchildren were here with their parents, and the weather permitted them to play out in the garden and to make gourmet salads and casseroles using various approved cuttings from various plants including cherry tomatoes, yarrow and nasturtiums.
I had bought junior-size lawn rakes which Scout and Liam were eager to use to help rake up the pine needles that continually blanket the ground. Ivy and Laddie enjoyed using the heavy equipment in the gravel utility yard. And Ivy took her alligator on a culinary tour to feed it different flavors of leaves.
While both families were packing up to go home, Jamie was sitting in the entryway in this sweater I had just given him. It was knitted by his great-grandmother for her first granddaughter Phoebe. Then my children wore it – at least a few of them – a lot before I accidentally shrank it and made it into this boiled-wool sweater that actually fits, and complements Jamie’s fair coloring. Perhaps he has made use of it this month in their snowy weather.
At the end of November asparagus crowns arrived in the local nursery, so I took a couple of days to prepare the two areas in my front yard that had been reserved for this one vegetable crop. Preparation means, in this case, digging out a foot of dirt. It was loose, imported loam, but it was wet, and represented a lot of shoveling.
I started to carry the dirt in buckets to the other side of the driveway but quickly realized that I’d never get the job done that way, so I hopped in the car to drive to the hardware store to buy a wheelbarrow. It didn’t make the job much easier at first, because the tire was too low on air. My bicycle pump wouldn’t work. So I plugged away, on the lookout for my neighbor Dennis to come home from work, and as soon as I saw his truck I was over there begging for help. Whoosh, his airless pump did the trick.
After two days I wasn’t quite finished with two beds of similar size. I knew I needed to take a day off, though, because my back was tired. Turned out it was more than tired – it was truly “out,” and I was laid up for several days and missed church and a St. Nicholas Faire and baptisms and a special dinner. Kit finished the last of the preparation for me, and I ordered a kneeling chair such as I used to sit/kneel on 15 years ago to spare my spine.
Then Monday my back was 90% better! I put the asparagus crowns in the bottoms of the holes, and covered them with a couple of inches of dirt. Maybe it was because I was racing against the coming rain that I forgot to take a snapshot of the stages of planting. Here is a photo from online showing how they look just before being covered with soil. I planted 35 crowns.
Now that bed looks like this:
Those brown hoses are the irrigation lines that will lie on top of the soil, under the mulch, when I am all through putting the dirt back. Most people fill it back in gradually, but one expert gardener I saw online seemed to think it didn’t matter and he replaced it all at once.
Here is a sort of blank place in the front garden, where I plan to put a bench under the osmanthus. Maybe I need to cut out some more low branches first. I will sit there in nice weather when I’m feeling friendly, and call to the neighbors who walk past.
My kneeling chair arrived, and I managed to assemble it by myself. That’s the second item I have put together now! But the replacement casters I bought to protect my wood floors didn’t work, because they needed to have threaded stems. So I boxed them back up and took them to the UPS store, and today the next set of casters arrived and they did work. Here is my chair, which I quickly amended by putting a memory foam pillow on the kneeling pad, and even that is not friendly enough to my shins – so I am working on my technique for kneeling on this thing, even as I type. I was not so delicate 15 years ago!
After I planted the asparagus it still hadn’t started to rain, so I reorganized the woodpile. I have eucalyptus and oak now, in different stacks. I got them separated more cleanly from one another and filled my firewood rack in the garage with both kinds, and I covered the rest completely with tarps. In the course of this work I found where the rats (before I got rid of them) had made nests reminiscent of Brambly Hedge in a sort of multi-level apartment arrangement. They had chewed up some of the old tarp for their nest.
This morning when I was lifting a bag from the coat rack on the wall, the whole thing started coming off and one screw came out of the wall. I tried and tried to put in a new drywall screw, but nothing worked; the hole got bigger and bigger. I watched some YouTube videos on different types of fixes using even more types of screws I didn’t have. I decided to make new holes just above the present ones, but I didn’t have two of the best kind of screw anymore, because I had wrecked them. After spending an hour on this unexpected project I had to admit to myself that I needed to hire a handyman to do the job for me. I don’t really have anyone I’m used to calling, and I dreaded making the arrangements.
But I had to postpone thinking about that – I must run some errands. I left the mess on the table, and went out the front door. At the same time my new neighbor went out to his car a few feet away, and I remembered that he is a handyman, and he has been very friendly to me, so I asked him if I could hire him to fix this little problem. He said sure! And he will come tomorrow. I argued with him when he said it is such a little job he won’t charge me. I told him I will be home all day because my daughter and granddaughter are coming to bake cookies, and his face lit up. “Cookies? You can pay me with cookies! Seriously.”
So that tale of woe has turned into a happy thing, a chance to get to know my neighbor, and even feed him! I was able to feed more people this week: First, DIL Joy’s mother, whom I took out for her birthday; she grows micro greens and petite greens to sell to fancy restaurants, and she gave me a pot of petite kale greens for salad snipping.
Pathfinder was on a business trip that brought him into town on his very birthday, so we went out this week, too. The year he was born he was my best Christmas present by far. And I’ll get to see him and his whole family in just a fortnight, for Christmas. It looks likely that all five of my children will be here then! The first time since their father’s funeral – It makes me cry to think about it. I wonder if we can manage a thing where they all gather me in a multi-hug?
Yesterday my friend Tim, who was a pallbearer at Mr. Glad’s funeral, came over for along-overdue visit. I fed him soup and fried bread, and strong coffee. We sat by the fire, the first one I’d made this season, and talked and talked. Now that felt very normal and necessary. I’ve been working so long on this post, I didn’t make a fire this afternoon, and I’m getting chilly here in my corner.
Though I haven’t got my tree up, or added more strings for the peas to grow higher on, or written many Christmas cards, I did put a big wreath on the front door. One step at a time, and one word at a time, I’ll do all that’s necessary. And Christmas will come. O Come, O come, Emmanuel!
I hadn’t been on the creek path for five minutes this evening when I saw that I was about to overtake a long-legged woman with her hair up in a ball cap. It seemed that she had been looking for blackberries, and was just getting back up to speed, as she glanced back at me and revealed a soft and friendly face. But I was without a doubt gaining on her, and as I came up alongside I said, “I thought you would be speeding ahead of me, because your legs are longer.”
“Oh, I already had my workout for the day…this is just my pleasure walk,” she said, slowly enough that I had to adjust my gait to hear her out. It didn’t seem polite, since I had started the conversation, to rush away. And she continued, “You seem to be going at a good pace.”
“I’m trying to work out the kinks I got from gardening all afternoon,” I answered, and when she went on,
“Oh, I love gardening…I used to do a lot of gardening, and I had a nice garden until….” I think she might have sped up a little, and I stayed a tiny bit slower, just so we could keep chatting.
She began to tell about how she had included catnip in her 12′ x 12′ garden, and after it had grown peacefully for some weeks or months, the neighborhood cats discovered it all together one night and had a riotous party. She could hear their noise through the window, and didn’t know was going on, and when she saw her garden in the morning she was crushed. Her garden had been devastated by the excited cats, who had smashed plants, scattered cherry tomatoes, and even broken a cantaloupe. Indeed, a neighbor testified that she had found her cat sleeping off the party in the bathroom with cantaloupe seeds stuck to his fur.
After my surprised comments — really, have you heard such a tale? — she easily, but without any hurry, began to talk about how she had found a turtle one time, on the path we were on, and taken it down to the creek where it would be safer, giving it a kiss on its shell to say goodbye and good luck. She described seeing lots of baby turtles in springtime, lined up on a log by the water, and how cute they are.
I have never seen a turtle in all the years we have lived here. That may be because I am walking too fast on the creek path, or I’m over at the gym reading at the treadmill. I wanted to stay with my lanky lady and listen to her, so I changed my route to match hers as long as I could.
She mentioned finding little turtles as a child, and how at that time you could sell them, but then they were found to be carrying salmonella, so that nowadays they have to be a minimum size to be sold. So I asked her where she grew up, and it was Michigan, and she said that though it does get cold here, she likes that better than Michigan where it stayed hot all night in the summer. She was wearing a down vest over her flannel shirt, and I also had on a lumberjack weight flannel shirt, and we talked about the weather. I told her how I wasn’t able to go to sleep the other night until I changed into a flannel nightgown and added leggings and socks to my sleeping outfit, and she said she had had to do the same thing last week.
But she liked to talk about animals. We were passing by an elementary school and she mentioned a puddle that forms near there every winter. I know it well; Mr. Glad and I on our walks used to have to make a wide arc to get around it. She said, “I take a big bucket of water over to that puddle every year and scoop all the polliwogs out of it and into my bucket…they think that is a spacious hotel! And then I take them down and pour them in the creek.”
I had been with my friend only about five minutes, and our paths diverged when she headed toward the apartments where she lives, on the other side of the creek from the school. She didn’t try to keep talking to me; we just said, “See you later!” While I was with her she never gave me the impression that she was desperate for company, though she did like sharing her stories. I had to walk another twenty minutes or more before I got home, and the whole way I was musing on our short but sweet encounter. I stopped at a bridge to look at the wild fennel crowding the banks of the drying-up creek, and I thought about her frogs relaxing in the cool water down there.
If you had encouraged me to go for a walk after dinner, because I was going to meet a woman who would make my walk more enjoyable by sharing a few minutes of it, I would have stayed home. For me, something like this has to come as a complete, and completely happy, surprise.
Today I am gathering up some stories that feature “B words,” as part of my Springtime Scheme.
Over the last week and more people have been feting my birthday. It started with a Peter Rabbit Garden apron that arrived in the mail from friend Gabriella. I already washed it so the picture shows it a little wrinkly. The birds and bees and vegetables go with the theme of my new garden space, and I’ve even been wearing an apron more often again – especially last weekend, as I will tell you about with a different letter of the alphabet.
Soldier and Joy came with the boys and she had made me a vegan coconut cream pie with coconut crust — I know, it sounds incredible, and it was — and then on my birthday itself Kit baked a blackberry pie for me. I was telling Pearl about it on the phone while the pie was in the oven, and I couldn’t stop giggling over the topsy-turvy charm of that particular gift: After 40+ years of me baking a blackberry pie every July for my husband’s birthday, even when I had to do it over a campfire, on my first birthday without him someone is baking the same for me. Life is strange and wonderful.
The sweetest thing that belongs to this post is not exactly edible and doesn’t live in the garden. Baby Jamie turns a year old this month; he was the boy I wrote about last year, who was born the day after his grandpa’s funeral. We had a slightly early birthday party for him while their whole family was down remembering his grandpa with me.
He had the traditional first-birthday-brownie baked by cousin Maggie. And he also had his first chance at enjoying Grandma’s playhouse. Then, too soon, we had to say, “Bye-bye!”