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Phenomenal

img_2732Stuck in between the wonderment of December and the madness of March, February is my least favorite month of the year!

Come February, I am traditionally posting photos of a winter-white landscape, complaining about frigid temperatures, and longing for the color green. I am apt to reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” or pull on my boots and trudge to the “way back” to see what havoc the resident herd of deer have bestowed upon our little acreage. I ceremoniously don my very old, very long, black wool coat with massive hood and scurry out to the mailbox to see what is inside. I keep the coat for just such times for it is as warm as it is voluminous – and it cushions my tush against any tumbles I may take while slipping and sliding here along the Cutoff.

This year has presented itself as a rather mild February; record-breaking, if fact be told. Hereabouts, we love to tout our weather records. We recognize weather-versaries, such as the renowned Valentine’s Day Blizzard, and mark in time the largest snowfall, the most sub-zero days, the most snowfall on sub-zero days, the windchill, the chilblains. (okay, I made the chilblains up).

 A February phenomenon.

We have had this year a string of record-breaking February temperatures. We have had temperatures well over 60 degrees (F) for several days in a row, surpassing temperatures   of 130 some years ago.

We find ourselves wandering about in light jackets – or no jackets at all. People are smiling, lawns are greening, trees are budding and folks are out-and-about picnicking, golfing, and otherwise enjoying the welcome sunshine and warmer air.

So it was that the Antler Man and I took a pleasant Saturday stroll around Lake Katherine. It was so crowded that we had to park the car in the parking lot of a nearby office complex. While parking was a challenge, walking around the lake was not, even with families and strollers, dog walkers and couples both young and not-so enjoying the gifts of nature unusual for a mid-February day.

As we walked about, we heard a flock of Sandhill Cranes, deep in the deep-blue sky, with their distinctive calls amid their great migration. A pair of swans preened in the Lake as a family of turtles sat upon logs sunning close to the shore. Further along the winding path, a single turtle positioned himself out on a fallen branch, balancing his protective shell as a gaggle of geese honked away as if in a traffic jam during rush hour.

So it is that this phenomenal February has risen in rank to one of my favorite months – at least so far this year. I say this knowing that many of you are experiencing much different weather, threatening and disastrous, in fact. Please know that my thoughts and my prayers are with you.

On a Walk

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“We walked in so pure and bright a light… I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of elysium,and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman, driving us home at evening.”
-From “Walking” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

Wisps and Words and Wanderings

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My thoughts, it seems, have been like these wispy clouds afloat in the deep blue sky. My words catch on the tail of the wind and flit around without landing on a sentence. Here it is, more than a week since my last post and I really cannot say why.

I could blame it on the Queen. Not Elizabeth, who just celebrated a historic milestone. No, it is another English queen who ascended the throne of England at the age of 18 and has captured my attention for the past few weeks.

Victoria.

We are just now viewing this delicious historical drama here in the States. My friends from across the pond, or via other televised means, have already seen this lush period piece. For  those among us who await such treasures on PBS’s Masterpiece, we are just now four or five episodes into the first season of Victoria.

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What drama and  maneuvering and courtly demands led to Victoria and Albert’s wedding – replete with a break in tradition. A white wedding gown! Of course, there is much more to this series, but, I do love a wedding.

Have you been watching Victoria?

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I have also been listening to the audio book of Kate Morton’s “The Secret Keeper”,

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and taking my time lost among the leafy pages of “Meetings With Remarkable Trees” by Thomas Pakenham. This volume first came to my attention at L. Marie’s always fascinating blog, El Space.  Her post on trees and this book can be found here.

The arboreal photographs and elegant essays have been welcome companions during the gloomy days and long nights of this winter and they have left me longing for my   wanderings among the forests and preserves around me. I was at last able to satisfy that longing and take a long walk walk around Lake Katherine and . . .

. . . where I found myself under the surveillance of a goosenecked spy!

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Such things happen when one has her head in the clouds.

Thank you, dear friend and readers, for being so patient with me.

A-tiskit a-taskit

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. . . a cut glass basket.

I first admired the glass basket when dating a tall, dark and handsome young man. I had been invited to his house for a Sunday dinner. The basket sat in the middle of the dining room table and held an arrangement of flowers from his mother’s garden.

Over the years, after marrying the young man and growing a family of our own, there were many meals around the table with the basket often serving as a centerpiece. When not in use, it sat upon the buffet, sometimes holding bits and pieces of whatever needed a place to rest. Other times it lingered, rather like a lady-in-waiting.

“Yes, m’lady, allow me to assist with those flowers”. 

My mother-in-law, Carolyn, was an accomplished gardener, well-equipped with the knowledge and common sense that came from her childhood years on the farm, and equally equipped with an innate sense of flower arranging. These were not the lavish bouquets we see today, but, instead, cuttings and snippets of flowers she grew – and needed trimming.

Carolyn was a teacher, then became a school principal. She taught in one of the last small, country schoolhouses in Cook County (think one-room school), and eventually became a principal of several schools in her career; an interesting and commendable journey for a girl who was raised on a farm during the Great Depression. She was the product of the rural, public school system of this country. While encouraged by teachers to go on to college, she was admonished by her grandfather to stay home. She was, after all, a girl and would only get married, have children – and quit. It would be a waste of time.

Carolyn persevered.  She earned her teaching degree and taught. Her first contract would be rendered void if she married – and she did marry. The war years came, then children arrived – and so did the 1950’s.  She went back to teaching, then returned to school for an administrative degree.

The years went by, as they do in life, and the time came when my in-law’s house needed to be cleared out, then sold. It was at this time that the glass basket came to be mine. It has followed me from our first home to the one we now live in. While I always treasured it, my appreciation has grown as I have, in my own endeavors.

I had a bouquet arranged for the glass basket and used it for a celebratory gathering on the night I won a seat on my local Board of Education. It seemed like the thing to do, following the trail of proponents of public education. I also ventured forth and made my own arrangements in the basket when each of our daughters married. By then, thanks to the internet and Ebay, I was able to determine that this type of cut glass basket was common in the area my mother-in-law came from. Then, one day, not long after the last wedding, while looking through an old scrapbook of Carolyn’s, a wedding album typical of time and place, I found it listed!  Gift- glass wedding basket.

The basket is now three-quarters of a century old. It is most often found on the old chifferobe, which is also from the old house that sat on the acreage Tom’s descendants homesteaded. I cherish the basket and I use it. It holds flowers, especially in Autumn when the grasses mimic the flow of the vase, but, I also employ it in winter when colored glass balls twinkle through the glass, or in Spring, with colored Easter eggs. Bouquets come in all sorts of ways and with varied materials, as does life, I think.

This glass basket is a simple treasure that holds complex memories of times gone by and hopes of times to come.

A sincere thank you to Marilyn who asked me tell about the vase. 

 

Half Past Late

img_2390Dawn had already broken as I padded down the long, narrow staircase to the first floor of our little homestead. Reluctant to climb out of bed, I had fallen asleep long after half past late. I awakened sluggishly, yet, there they were, slipping in through the kitchen door, past the kitchen counter then down the hall, splashing radiant rays of sunshine around our home!

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As I stepped too the last of the steps, the sun kissed the recessed bookcase and danced into the living room,  landing on a candle and setting in aflame.

After eight days void of sunshine in a month of unending gray and gloomy skies, the sun was a most welcome visitor and seemed to lighten the heavy load of January in our cold and fickle northern climate.

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In the kitchen, I happily discovered  that the blooms on the Amaryllis I wrote about in the last post had opened up and greeted the sunshine streaming in.

Today’s sunshine was a ray of happiness here on the Cutoff. How i the weather in your neck of the woods?

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Once Upon a Countertop

 

img_2225The first Amaryllis bulb came home with me in early December. It was just a bulb with instructions to place it in a container (a pot, a bowl, a plate) and to let it be. No water – or just a small amount if I really felt it was needed.  I placed the bulb in a shallow dish, added a few tablespoons worth of water, and proceeded to let it be.

The very next day I could see the emergence of a bud. It was small, looked different from the thick leaves and I was armed with just enough gardensense to know it was the start of a flower.

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A week or so later, I brought home another bulb. By now the first bulb was pushing up at least a half-inch worth of stem each day, the bud was holding on tight and reaching strongly for daylight coming through the window. I turned it daily with care so it would not become top-heavy.

Both Amaryllis bulbs came from grocery store, a local chain, that I frequent. Bulb #2 found another dish and proceeded to try to follow to the first bulb in growth.

Yet another week and another Amaryllis bulb followed me home. I felt the need (OK, the urge) to buy it. It was one of the last bulbs in the store’s barrel. How could I leave it behind? Each bulb was $8.00 and the first two were so rapid in their growth, that, well . . .  you know me and flowers.

These exotic bulbs put on a spectacular performance throughout the month of December and well into January, showing off with amazing blossoms that seemed to be perfectly timed so that new blooms opened up as old ones faded away.

img_2227As the flowers died back, I gently snipped them off, amazed at the amount of liquid that secreted out of the stems, especially since I had not watered them! I eventually cut them all back, with just one bloom left on one of the stems. She did not disappoint. This  weekend, now mid-January, there was this amazing blossom (above).

I have displayed these bulbs along my center countertop, right behind the kitchen sink. They have been a bright spot in what has been a predominately gloomy winter. They have performed quite spectacularly. At the moment, there is the one last bloom, but, much to my delight, the other two Amaryllis bulbs, which I thought were dormant, have sent up new shoots which look like they will be opening by week’s end.

How wondrous our world is and what a joy these small little pleasures in life can be. It looks like there will be enough Amaryllis blossoms to take me through at least the month of January, and now I am wondering if I can facilitate dormancy for next December.

Have you had any experiences with Amaryllis bulbs?

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When the dog bites,

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when the bee stings,

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when I’m feeling sad

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I simply remember my favorite things

 

and then I don’t feel so bad.

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Just a few of my favorite things.

img_2151What things make you happy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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