Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stone Cottage

     Someday I will live in a stone cottage. It is a small house, easy to keep, leaving me time for baking cakes, writing stories and dreaming in the garden. The windows are deep enough to hold a pot of violets or set a pie to cool on the sill. I will always take time for tea. You are always invited to join me provided you leave your muddy boots on the threshold. My cottage is invariably tidy except for the books strewn about, the dozen pair of eyeglasses I keep close to hand in order to look at your photos, and the crumbs under the kitchen table from the cookies I give to the children who visit. The violets on the sill I have dug from the birchwood up the hill, and the berries for the pie were gleaned from the hedgerows. The sheets on the bed have been dried in the wind and there is lavender from the garden under the pillows. If you happen to spend the night, you will be wakened in the morning by the songs of robins or of wrens in the tree outside your window, the rich, sharp smell of coffee, and muffins baking in the oven. You may eat as many muffins as you like; there is time enough to make more. 

     I walk out every day, in the woods, down the lane, or along the bridlepath beside the brook. I go even if it rains because I like my flowered umbrella and wellies and don't mind showing them off. I splash through puddles instead of going around them, stop often to watch the day unfold, and nurse a fond regret that I am no longer spry enough to climb the trees in the wood. If you see me coming down the lane, you will abandon your good intentions for the hour and join me because we are two of a kind. Of course, it is always good to come home again to the quiet welcome of my cottage where my larder and cupboards are crammed with the simple goodness of life.   

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fairy Wing

    Girlybird and I were sitting in the backseat of the car talking about this and that when I plucked a piece of something white from her hair. It was a small, gauzy thing shaped like a leaf or flower petal.

     “It’s a fairy’s wing,” I said.

     My granddaughter looked at me with a skeptic’s eyes, doubt forming on her tongue. Girlie is six and doesn’t believe the Easter Bunny is real or the Gingerbread Man was seen running through her school chanting, “Run, run as fast as you can…” We talked about butterfly wings for a minute.

     “If you rub the dust from a butterfly’s wings you can hurt it,” I said, examining the scrap of white in my hand.

     “I know, Grandma, that’s why I never touch them.”

     “I wonder if it is the same with fairies…”

     “They have pixie dust on their wings,” she lisped through the double-wide gap in her front teeth.

     “Yes,” I said, smiling, “pixie dust.”

     “Didn’t you touch the Toothfairy’s wings?” She knows the story about Gossamer Toothfairy dropping by for tea when her mommy’s teeth went missing. Was she testing me?

     “I didn’t think it would be polite,” I said, holding out the fairy-wing in the palm of my hand. “This one looks so small it must belong to a child. Maybe fairy children lose their wings and grow new ones as they get older just like you lose your teeth.” Girlie’s eyes were beginning to shine. I talked about finding bits of colored shell from robin’s eggs scattered on the ground in the spring; told her that mother birds protect their babies from hungry animals and naughty children by dropping the broken pieces far from the nest. “I wonder if that is how this wing got caught in your hair; maybe a mother fairy was flying past and dropped it.” I paused, considering. Timing is delicate when dealing with a sagacious six-year-old. “Maybe it’s not a fairy wing;” I said casually, letting a shred of doubt creep into my voice, “maybe its just a piece of that flower you have clipped to your…”

     Girlie snatched the wing from my hand before the bubble of possibility popped. “No, Grandma, it’s a fairy’s wing,” she said in a determined voice that dared me to contradict her.

     Sly grin. That is as it should be. I didn’t con my granddaughter, grandma’s no grifter; I just think children should believe in the unbelievable, and anything I can do to encourage her to suspend her disbelief is part of my job.

     And who knows what things may be true that we have trouble believing in?

Illustration by Arthur Rackham 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Buckwheat Pancakes

     Some folks like buckwheat pancakes. My mother-in-law does not. She was in North Carolina visiting a nephew last week, and he made his signature buckwheat pancakes for breakfast one morning. Mom, who is nearly eighty years old and wouldn't hurt the feelings of a flea, tried to speak well of them, tried valiantly to make them sound like a culinary treat, but I’ve eaten those pancakes and I called her bluff. She admitted to me that she nibbled around the edges until her nephew turned his back, and then tossed them out the open kitchen window. She was sure the squirrels or birds would find them before he did and destroy the evidence.

     I’m still laughing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Collecting Thoughts

     I don’t think of myself as a collector. So why do I have more teapots than I can use? And there is a bird ornament of one kind or another in nearly every room of my house. My decorating style is somewhat spare…until it comes to my walls; I have to discipline myself not to cover every available space with a piece of artwork or something architectural. I do own a lot of movies, just over a hundred. I used to think that was excessive until a lady I worked with told me she owned close to six hundred. I love books, but I do not collect them promiscuously—although I probably would if there were a room in my house for a library. Most women collect shoes, but nowadays it is difficult for me to find attractive footwear that will fit my hobbit feet.

     If someone were to ask me what I like to collect, I would say: Thoughts, I collect thoughts. I keep thoughts for blog posts on my computer; I keep thoughts for stories scribbled on scraps of paper and stuffed into notebooks; I keep thoughts of my reflections on the meaning of life in a journal. And I don’t just collect my own thoughts: I have notebooks for interesting quotes, notebooks for poems and passages I like, and bookmarks for the blogs I read.

     I also spend a lot of time staring out windows or off into space looking for thoughts. Some thinkings are as delicate as moth wings and need a butterfly net to catch them before they flit away and are lost forever; some I can chase down and grab by the heels like the wayward shadow in Peter Pan; others I wrestle out of thin air and pin to a page in bold, black type—I’ve knocked the wind out of some of those, and they don’t always recover. And there are those thoughts I have gone to a great deal of trouble to hook only to find there is nothing much to them, so I throw them back, give them a chance to mature.

     At my age I lose some of the thoughts I have gathered over the years—they wander off and I can’t find them—but I have learned that if I leave them alone they usually come home wagging their tails behind them.

     My collection of thoughts is not something I horde; it isn't so valuable I need to keep it locked up in a safe place, but I try to be judicious and gracious with the ones that I share. It’s one thing to show someone your stamp or button collection, another thing entirely to expose them to your thoughts. This is the spot I choose to display some of my collection, this blogspot, and I hope visitors to my store of stories, my museum of memories will find something to please them.

Watercolor by Fran Evans for Two Bad Mice

Monday, July 9, 2012


A door closes...


The kindliest thing God ever made,
His hand of very healing laid
Upon a fevered world, is shade.

His glorious company of trees
Throw out their mantles, and on these 
The dust-stained wanderer finds ease.

Green temples, closed against the beat
Of noontime's blinding glare and heat,
Open to any pilgrim's feet.

The white road blisters in the sun;
Now half the weary journey done,
Enter and rest, O weary one!

And feel the dew of dawn still wet
Beneath thy feet, and so forget
The burning highway's ache and fret.

This is God's hospitality,
And whoso rests beneath a tree
Hath cause to thank Him gratefully.

Theodosia Garrison, 1874-1944

...A window opens

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mud for My Birthday

“If you pray for rain, be prepared to deal with some mud.”
– Mary Englebreit –

     I walked out of church on Sunday into a wall of humidity. After weeks and weeks of drought there was no question it was going to rain; too much ominous promise in that dark, thunderous sky. The question was whether I could make it to my car parked at the library two blocks away before it unfurled. It was my birthday and I felt the coming rain was a gift from the Almighty. It filled me with exhilaration. I began to run, unable to suppress the glee rising within.

     “I’m going to outrun this gust front,” I laughed as I passed other parishioners on the sidewalk. The wind heard my challenge and blew harder. I caught up with a woman even older and grayer than me and was about to race past her bubbling a joyous “Wheeeeee…” when I pulled up short and stopped.

     “Are you walking home?” I asked her.

     “Yes,” she replied, looking a little distressed.

     I offered her a ride. We proceeded at a more dignified pace and reached the car just as the rain began to fall. Within seconds we could hardly see the road ahead. I was glad the woman lived close. By the time we reached her house it was raining so hard she couldn’t get out of the car without getting drenched, so we waited for the worst of the storm to pass. The wind blew even harder. Then it began to hail. We were under large trees, and I hoped they would break the fall of ice and save the car from dents. A long time passed and we had a lovely chat. She was an interesting woman who had taught American missionary children in the United Arab Emirates for twenty-six years, a primitive area in southern Chad for two years, and then on to Korea before retiring at 73.

     At last the rain subsided and I headed for home. As soon as I backed out of the driveway, I realized how providential it was that my car had not been damaged, or worse. Tree branches littered the streets and as I crept home, weaving around the storm-wrack, I began laughing with relief and repeating to myself: “Oh my. Oh my goodness! OH MY GOODNESS!!!” Downed power lines, flooded roadways, snapped and uprooted trees, flattened fences and street signs bent to the ground—the storm was worse than I thought. By the time I reached our neighborhood I was praying, “Please, Lord, not the birch tree…”

     I have pampered that river birch in the front yard for twenty years. I didn’t plant it, but I fell in love with it when we bought our home. Birches are not taken for granted in this part of the country. It turned out that the birch was the only tree in the yard left intact. With 90 mph winds, I lost two mature silver maples and three evergreens. My shade garden is gone and I am sick about the shattered trees, but I am hoping that with all of the sudden sunlight I might be able to grow some things my heart has been longing for: violets, lavender, roses, daisies, herbs…tomatoes! Just think of the possibilities.

     The house did not come through unscathed, but we are safe, and with all of the trees so recently flying about like harpies, it could have been much worse. We lost power, but have a generator that provides the basic necessities. Most importantly, I am not alone; my globe trekking husband is just home from Indonesia to manage the clean-up and deal with the insurance.

     I can’t say it was a happy birthday, but it certainly was a memorable one. I am weary and wilted but not worried, and I am content. In my experience, contentment often outlasts happiness, and sometimes it takes the peeling away of the common, everyday graces for us to glimpse God's blessings hidden beneath the surface.

Photography by little a