Tag Archives: childhood memories

Thoughts in my heart and in a box.

A few months ago as I was following my usual route along the paved bike path, I heard hammering nearby, and peering through the trees across the creek I saw a man on the opposite bank working on some kind of cabinet. I stopped and called over to him and his wife who was nearby, “What are you working on?” and though we couldn’t see each other very well we raised our voices and they told me about their project and invited me to take part. Though the object of their carpentry had been in that place for many years, I’d never noticed it before, and from that day until now I never took the trouble to respond to their invitation.

This morning felt very leisurely to me, a day with no appointments or commitments, no one to care how long it took me to get home from my walk. I admired the field along one leg of my excursion…

… and when I started back toward the creek I thought again about that spot across the stream. The reason I hadn’t visited it in all these months is that it’s not easily accessible unless you live in the mobile home park on that side. By the time I find myself across from its approximate location and it comes to mind, I am usually far from a way to it. The people I met had built it with the residents of that community in mind: it’s a place for sitting and thinking and for writing down one’s thoughts, to add to the collection in the “thought box” they had built for their parents and other residents.

Steps lead down from that neighborhood, but the more obvious and public way to that destination is blocked by a chain link fence. Today I slowed down and kept my eye out for a way across the water to that side — in late summer there isn’t much flow — and I found a vague path through the foxtails and over the little stream across rocks that seemed to have been brought and piled in one area.

I climbed up to the unpaved path closer to the stream and soon reached the little meditation spot. The chair is upturned so it won’t collect dirt or rainwater.

The box has been fitted with a heavy lid, roofed with composition shingles ! and inside, bright velvet banners hang down from the underside of the lid. A ziploc bag holds 3×5 cards, some of which have been written on. I didn’t take the time to read on this visit. Maybe next time I will sit and ponder and write something myself.

As I went on my way and the yellowing leaves drifted down over my path, I remembered the first time I self-consciously felt the season changing and noticed the effect of the beauty of creation on my soul. I was eleven years old and maybe it was the first time I’d walked by myself down to the river that was about a mile from our house through the orange groves.

It was at this time of year, and some trees that may have been cottonwoods were blowing in the breeze. The water was low in the river, and the plants among the river stones were drying up. I walked very solitary along a dirt road that ran there, and I was glad.

I took no notes on that experience when I got home, I took no pictures. I just was, in the day. And the gifts of that holy afternoon became a part of my self and of my memory, so that I could receive them again this morning. God is so good to me! Maybe when I go back and put my thoughts in that box, they will be these thoughts.

When I got to the end of this path that I’d never walked on before, I was below the bridge that I normally would be walking on, in the spot where I one time looked down on women collecting watercress. And there was some watercress still, and a stretch of concrete by way of a ford over a second creek, leading up to the main path again.

In the jungle of plants down there I saw some bedraggled pennyroyal, one more surprise of the day.

 

“For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies;
Lord, our God, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

Christmas trees and Christmas now.

gretchens-1st-xmas-marysville-50This was my first Christmas, in Marysville, California. I seem to be more interested in my toys than in the tree, but with the decided lack of bling on that scrawny evergreen I guess it’s no wonder. Now, though, the strings of popcorn please me very much. After that year, our trees were always decorated with tinsel in typical 50’s fashion, and sometimes plastic icicles.

Amazing, to see three dolls under that tree! All these things make me think that my First Christmas may have been more formative than one would imagine.

This year I put up my faux tree for the second time. Who would have dreamed, even three years ago, that I would ever have a faux, (a.k.a. fake), tree for any reason? (When I mentioned my faux tree to friend Mr. Bread, he burst out laughing.) But while we were shopping during my late husband’s last Christmas season, he looked at the faux trees on display and said, “Gretchen, next year you should get one of these.” I brushed him off and never gave it another thought until the following November when I realized I couldn’t manage getting a cut tree home, not to mention setting it up, and taking it down again in January.Christmas tree 2015

If you didn’t read the poem by Robert Frost about the Christmas trees he didn’t know he had, I put it up last year Here.

This year I decorated my tree all by myself one day when I was alone in the house. That was also a totally new experience for me, and I enjoyed it so much! I should not be surprised about that, either, knowing how I’m never at my best doing group projects.  In the past our whole family would take an evening to decorate while we drank eggnog and hot cider, and many times listened to a recording of “A Christmas Carol.” Seven people decorating one tree is a challenging group project, but it was our tradition that we loved.

I’m pretty sure that introverted decorating will be my new tradition. I will listen to carols while I make the tree into a work of art. As I try to remember who gave me which beloved ornament, I will thank God for Christmas Past and Christmas Now.

Christmas Joy by Soldier and Joy 14

Sunflowers shine on my garden.

gl dragonfly 2 by JR 5-31-16

So many flowers are growing in my garden that I haven’t ever grown before, or not for a long time. The Kangaroo Paws are ever-changing and fascinating.  One of the three plants sent up a flower stalk months ago, and the blooms are opening now. I didn’t know that these little rising-sun flowers that have popped out were even part of the deal.

In May Mrs. Bread took this photo of a dragonfly who flew right to that plant that matched his own color. He knew, even though the buds were small then. >>>gl P1040891 k paws 7-25-16gl P1040891 k paws closegl P1040894 k paws

 

 

 

 

When I was in Monterey, on California’s Central Coast, I saw lots of Kangaroo Paws in different colors. Some plants were seven feet high.

Maybe next year all three of mine will bloom at the same time!

 

gl rice straw P1040853

I bought a bale of rice straw with which to mulch the vegetables and strawberries, and I did get the job done just before the heat wave rolled in. While I was pulling hay out of the bale I was swept back to my childhood when we used to play in the hay barns at the neighbor’s horse ranch. I had completely forgotten about what was a fairly brief, but special year or two of my life, but that hay smell….

My everbearing type of strawberry plants are producing their second crop, and I’m getting more than in their first fruiting. Every other day or so I pick a few to eat in the garden. I’m enjoying them more than I expected, now that they are responding to the summer weather and being healthier.

gl berries P1040889While most plants are growing taller, the fennel is getting fat. I’m growing the bulbs to roast as vegetables. It must be time to pick them, because flowers are beginning to form on the feathery tops.

gl fennel P1040851

gl P1040862 chamomile

 

 

 

Chamomile flowers are cute little skirted pom-poms. This is the German variety, which is said to grow to 2 ft., but mine is 27″ high 🙂 The short Roman kind is on the other side of the garden, covered now with tiny yellow buttons, and no skirts.

 

 

 

 

 

When I bought plants in the spring, for some reason I thought I was getting an orangey-brown variety of sunflower, but my giant specimens are lemon-yellow, and I do love them. They are nearly 8 ft. tall, and would be all of that, if they held their heads up just a tad straighter. But then they wouldn’t look quite right.

The goldfinches have been hanging around a lot. This morning six goldfinches and one house finch were having a drinking party at my fountain, and taking baths, too, while I sat in the garden eating breakfast. Later on I surprised one that was pecking at a sunflower leaf, and last week as I was walking around in the evening I came upon a goldfinch perched quietly on a bachelor’s button, enjoying the air a bit before retiring.

gl garden sunflowers

I wonder if it was birds who ate my green beans…. Well, I consider everything experimental this year. It will be interesting to see which things want to come back next spring. In the meantime, I have learned how not to plant tomatoes in a box, and that if aphids show up on my kale, I better wash them off quickly. The sunflowers are trying to convince me — and so far it’s working — that they are a success.gl P1040874

If we would all break out into such glory when the summer sun shines!

I soak up homey and farmy vibes.

gl3 NL hat weddingMy travels over a long weekend were for the purpose of attending my nephew’s wedding, held very near my old high school and home in the agricultural middle of California, the Central Valley. If the event had begun any earlier than 4:00 in the afternoon, much sunburning would have occurred; as it was, the two sunhats I retrieved from my car were traded around for a few hours among several of our family group, of both sexes.

At the reception, descendants of my parents, with their spouses, were seated all together at one of the long tables on the grass, and my own clan took up two-thirds of those chairs. No seat assignments had been made beyond assigning us a table, and as I was the oldest — the matriarch? — I sat at one end, what might have been the head of the table. But truly I didn’t sit there very much. The three-year-olds Liam and Ivy kept me busy, fetching drinks or wedding cake, or taking them up front to dance in a circle with me. Do the books on how introverts can survive parties ever talk about the strategy of hanging out with the preschoolers?

It was fun to introduce those two to the aunts and uncles and cousins they hadn’t met since they were old enough to be introduced. “Ivy, this is your Aunt Cairenn. She is my sister; we used to be little girls like you….”  The children were all happy to shake hands and be cordial, though reserved. And my heart filled and was satisfied to see all the love shared among the younger generationsgl3 wedding trees and across generations, even though many of them rarely see each other.

Over the two layover days I spent time at three houses, each situated in the middle of a different citrus grove. Two belonged to my siblings and one was the home of a man I grew up with in a bygone era that seems a short while ago; we used to ride our bicycles between the rows of orange trees and slide down the golden hills on pieces of cardboard. While I wasn’t paying attention, my brother and sister and my friend Dick were learning the art of farming, so that now they can carry on in their parents’  tradition and even in some of their groves.

I had the chance to play among the trees again, this time with Liam and Ivy and Scout, who in the absence of store-bought toys were making do with old oranges that had fallen off the trees, with snails among the dead leaves, and with a trowel in the dirt. The smell of the trees and of the Bermuda grass lawn, and of the soil, and the air that stayed warm into the evening when we watched the Black Phoebes swooping and scooping up insects… All of these sensations and moments added up to create in me a dreamily contented mood.

2016 wedding Soldier corn hole DL

mt view-by K crp

My nephew the groom partly grew up in the same house that I mostly grew up in, that his grandfather built. I stayed three nights with my sister who is another of his aunts; she and her husband farm mandarins and oranges for his mother and for themselves, and live in a house they designed to have a view of the Sierra Nevada much like this one from her neighborhood (taken by someone else).

It was fun to be with country people who are daily involved with plants and animals different from my usual. In addition to the snails and phoebes mentioned above, I learned about or interacted with:

A frog that I met in the bathroom. It was at midnight and I didn’t want to frog in bucket at nancy's cropbother with him right then, so I went back to bed and he disappeared for two days, during which time everyone teased me about my tall tale. Then he was found in a different bathroom, and I was judged to be sane after all. Here he is in a bucket.

A house finch who flew down the chimney into the ashes; I helped Nancy use an old towel to surround and collect the tiny bird and carry him outdoors.

Gophers come down from the foothills in droves to feast on the roots of all the watered orange trees and vegetables, etc. that my friend Dick grows on 50 acres, and their tunnels contribute to the erosion of the sloping orchard land. His son explained all this to me and showed me the traps they put into the tunnels, trying to keep the population of pillagers at bay. It’s a constant and fairly hopeless battle that must be fought nonetheless.

More snails: Did you know that some snails are carnivorous and eat other species of snails? Yep. The brown snail is a pest in the orange groves, but the Decollate snail ignores the trees and goes after the brown snails. My brother is in the field of citrus research and one nephew is a farm advisor on such matters. I lured them into the grove with my questions and we scratched around under the trees trying to find some Decollate snails so I could remember how they look different. Later I did find an empty shell at my sister’s. You can see one on Wikipedia’s page about them.cara cara vs blood

Pink oranges. Have you heard of Cara Cara oranges? I hadn’t; I must not have been spending enough time with all the citrus growers, because already Sunkist is selling lots of Cara Caras — they are mainstream. Friend Dick is growing them, as well as…

Berries: I had brought with me boxes of blueberries from Costco for a family breakfast, fruit that seems to have been grown in Salinas, California, not far from the coast. But even in the hot Central Valley they are growing blueberries now, more of them than are produced in any other area of the U.S. I learned about this from Dick as we stood on a patio overlooking his garden, and I could well imagine how the earlier spring might sweeten up the fruit. His son ran down and brought back some blackberries bigger than my thumb and mm-mm….yes. The flavor lingered on my tongue as I drove away.

Another nephew is marrying in October, so I will have a good reason to visit again and soak up the vibes of my childhood stomping grounds, and chat with farmers about their crops and the weather and the birds. I know that time will be here before I know it; I should read this post again about a week before my departure, to remind me of the joy I am likely to have once again.