I knew the summer would fly by! Here it is --- August already!! Brown-eyed Susans orange day lilies and Queen Anne’s Lace dot the roadsides. Before we turn around, there will be golden rod. The self-seeded sunflowers are sporting saucer-sized yellow blossoms that seem to be smiling. And I smile back when I see them. The expensive ones I planted, however, are reluctant to thrive; some didn’t even germinate! So much for my green thumb where sunflowers are concerned! Perhaps the crow colony on the hill watched me plant and then had a dawn snack. And speaking of snacks, Mama Turkey is bringing young ones down to our bird feeders; part of their survival training no doubt.
August is my natal month; I am a Leo astrologically although I have enough trouble connecting my dots, without the complication of star lore. Astrology was a respected science for many eons, especially in the Golden Age of Ireland; a complicated and exacting way of determining when one should marry, travel, etc. Currently it is frowned upon by many, still followed by some and basically disregarded by most, as I tend to do. However, because I think nothing created is useless (though I wonder about mosquitoes and ticks), I am sure the stars have their place in the stories of the world. After all, the Magi were astrologers.
Part of our family is about to gather for the annual picnic on the shale-layered shores of Cayuga Lake. It is more difficult now as children have become teen agers, college attendees and couples with children; they have their own schedules calling. And, as is true with many families, we are scattered from coast to coast. This summer picnic helps us to stay in touch. Besides marvelous food and lively conversation, one thing that we find useful and amusing is our Family Quiz. I send out a request for items of interest asking people to share some of their accomplishments, bloopers, and what they are currently doing and loving, with the rest of us. When I’ve gleaned what I can, a set of questions goes out, with the answers following some days later. For instance: “Who, is back on the race track, doing what he loves, after a long time away?” Or “Who graduated from kindergarten this year?” Or “Who tipped the tractor over in the snow and walked away unscathed?” Because we care, we try to stay current and remember who we are. “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”* Getting together reminds us of this truth.
Before we all scattered to the winds, my siblings and I were in and out of each other’s houses frequently. The furthest away anyone lived was fifteen miles. I expected, when I graduated from college, that I’d be coming home again, finding a job, etc.. As it turned out I was home only for the summer; Kerm and I married the September after graduation, and moved to Washington DC. After that, leaving for new pastures seemed to happen regularly among the younger family members ---- Connecticut --- Massachusetts---- California ---- Virginia ---- Montana. Leaving what we’ve always known --- wide fields, glacial hills, making hay, Sundays with family, small town ambiance, Northrup’s ice cream ----- was not easy. New adventures are almost always scary and a bit risky, but, accompanied with courage, they also may be the road to growth, as I think we’ve probably discovered. Not everyone leaves; there are those who stay and hold the traditions, and others who seem called to follow new paths. When a call comes for either way, refusing due to fear is like remaining in kindergarten when we are actually ready for first grade. It stunts our growth as surely as the old customs of foot-binding or whale-bone corsets. Hugh Walpole said: “It isn’t life that matters, it’s the courage you bring to it.” ** Listening to that inner voice usually leads us in the right direction.
That first move away was difficult. I am a “nester”---- a person who wishes to snuggle into well-known digs with my pictures and pillows. But it was good for us, as a new couple, to be forced to only rely on each other in that new place. However, it should be noted that my aversion to relocation didn’t go away after one move; I’m a slow learner. To this day, as the car rolls down the driveway – even for vacations --- I often want to turn around and go back. Twelve years after that first move, on the way to our third move, it took me three months to unpack the boxes. I was inundated in depressive home-sickness for the place and friends we’d left back in Pennsylvania, and I simply couldn’t function beyond getting meals and tending children. There are those who can live life by lightly touching down and easily wafting away again. But if one is a nester, moving from a well-loved place creates trauma. That’s just the way it is, and learning to cope with this has been challenging. Perhaps that is the lesson: the process may well be painful, but the positive experiences that come after the “pack up and move” can bring new gifts and happiness, which we’ve always found --- eventually ---- in each place.
I try to remember (when I’m cranky about a situation) my conviction that life is essentially a training ground for eternity. Sometimes (not often) I am actually successful in recalling this. ☺ In retrospect, I have found that even in the locations or situations where we weren’t all that comfortable or thrilled to be there, that there was something we needed to learn as individuals and/or in the collective of our marriage. Both of us can look back and say, “Yes, that move was something we needed, pain and all.”
A delightful and wholly non-painful experience was a recent visit by our granddaughters. This time they stayed without benefit of mother and daddy, and I think we all had a really good time. Besides having quiet times with crafts, being outside in the gardens and lawn, and reading, we explored Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods, visited Josh’s riding stables where they got lesson #2 (lesson # 1 was last summer), visited Morrisville’s Dairy complex, and both girls helped a bit with our community Bible School. We saw a few fireflies, lit sparklers and enjoyed slightly crunchy S’mores (our marshmallows didn’t melt the chocolate very well). We are grateful for the time.
Now, as we enter August, I’ve been weeding, exposing both disappointments and surprises. Where is my Holy Basil? Why does it not want to grow here? Why only a half row of lettuce when I planted the whole row. How did those cucumbers suddenly change into jumbos? And I thought kale would grow anywhere, but I don’t see it. Speaking of kale, everyone knows this is one of the current health fads; kale smoothies, kale salad, kale chips ---- is there kale ice cream yet? I learned a new trick recently for making kale quickly palatable. At our recent pinochle gathering, our hostess made a kale salad. To tenderize, one usually marinates kale overnight, but Gail put it right into a salad by first massaging it!! She gave those leaves a good rubbing ---- that apparently did the trick, for the salad was delicious. Education just goes on forever if one is open to it.
The last time I wrote, I mentioned that we needed rain. That problem was certainly eliminated with last week’s continuous all-day showers and down-pours. The only time prior to this when I remember a week-long rain event it turned into the 1972 flood. There were some areas this past week that experienced flash flooding, but fortunately, Spencer did not, though our creeks were high. I hope wherever you are, that you have just enough rain, plenty of sunshine and are ready to enjoy the month of August.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Linda Hogan – born 1947. American poet, story-teller, academic, novelist and environmentalist. This is NOT the ex-wife of Hulk Hogan, whose name also comes up in a Google search.
**Hugh Walpole ---1884 (New Zealand) – 1941 (England). English novelist.