I forgot to show you the summer “bugs” I saw on my trip last week. I know you wouldn’t want to miss them, so I’ll put them at top here. Also so that I can have a flower or something more traditionally pretty at the bottom.
They were all the large size of insects that I only ever see when camping or in the forest, and Pippin does live in the forest. As soon as I would step outside in the early morning my senses took me to mountain camping trips, where the air at the beginning of the day is cool and dry and piney.
One 95-degree midday Ivy called me over to see a creature resting in the shade on the tree swing. It was a surprisingly still subject, which enabled me to identify it as a Robber Fly. And the morning that I departed, a huge Western Sculpted Pine Borer landed on Pippin’s arm. She brushed it off and then collected it on a paper, where it sat, possibly stunned, and posed.
My first morning we found a chipmunk on the front doorstep, which a cat had brought as an offering. The second day the sliding door would not shut, and the children and I finally figured out that a dead mouse was jammed between the two doors. I could not access it to get it out, but when she got home Pippin managed after laboring with a yardstick. The next morning another mouse was left at that back doorstep, which I disposed of. Four cats live with the family and at least two are hunters.
We watched “My Octopus Teacher” one night. Have I already mentioned that movie? I also saw it with my Colorado children last summer, and like it very much. I’ve heard a couple of people say that they wish there were less of the narrator and more of the octopus, but if it weren’t for the narrator-photographer, who visited the octopus nearly every day for a year, there would be no story. He had to tell it in his way.
As it about how whole experience of interacting with the octopus helped him move into a healthier life and frame of mind, I have to take it as it is, take the human subject as he is. Without agreeing with all of his presuppositions about nature, I very much appreciate that his relationship with the creature was thrilling and healing. Ivy declared that it is her favorite nature movie. Over the next several days she drew one picture after another of ocean landscapes.
Often the children would draw while I read to them, and I read for at least an hour every evening before bed. Mostly this time I read from The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. I gave this book to my grandchildren a few years ago, thinking it was an anthology she had compiled of others’ works. But no, all the stories are by Farjeon herself.
They are the most unusual children’s stories I’ve ever read, a combination of fairy tale style with more realistic everyday happenings, and silly stories that make us laugh and laugh. But all happy hearted, and many brimming with pure Goodness. If Scout had not been away at Boy Scout Camp, he would have insisted that we read “The Princess Who Cried for the Moon,” a very long story about a whole kingdom of people who don’t have their thinking caps on.
I still haven’t read the whole lot, but I did notice that the last entry in this edition is not a story by Eleanor but a piece titled, “Tea with Eleanor Farjeon,” by my beloved Rumer Godden. I read that one aloud, too, and Ivy was interested but Jamie drifted away. Eleanor sounds like the sort of old lady I would like to be. I wanted to quote from Godden’s article, but I can’t find my own copy of the storybook at the moment.
I spent six nights last week at Pippin’s Mountain Homestead, longer than any other visit. That gave me time to go with the children to the library and to have a breakfast picnic in their favorite park that features a tiny waterfall and “jungle.” Ivy made her dragon to fly over the creek, and I discovered chicory and more.
There was lots of water play in the back yard, resulting in burned shoulders. And a big batch of gingerbread for cutting out with my new tiny animal cutters.
I suppose it’s because Pippin’s garden in the middle of the forest gets extra water, that the ferns constantly encroach. I was watering the new zinnia and dahlia sprouts and wondering at the robust ferns still popping up everywhere. They push against the deer fence that surrounds the vegetable and dahlia enclosure, and try to colonize the whole inside space, too.
Where I pulled out a few fronds to let sunlight on to a strawberry bed, we saw that frogs had been living among them. And while I aimed the hose at small flower plants, Duncan cat lay nearby in his cool and ferny hideaway and begged me to leave that colony as is. And for now it remains, another corner of the estate hospitable to critters.