Snow Day

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter    
From Snow Day by Billy Collins
The meteorologists seemed to agree. Snow was predicted come Thursday evening, last through the night and toss snow about the area all day Friday like a snow globe in the hands of an exuberant adolescent. Up to a foot was predicted and I do believe we came close to that mark, here along the Cutoff.
Snow buds blossomed on dormant bushes and muffin tops filled the bird baths.
More snow is on the way (the say), but, all is well here in our cozy house. Chicken soup is burbling atop the stove. A short walk brought a quiet peace as the snow fell, softly, quietly, steadily – the great equalizer of the north.

Of Boxes and Sentiments

I opened them as they arrived, silently slitting the sealed envelopes with the swift glide of a butter knife, easing the card stock and folded notes out, reading the condolences offered and holding the givers close to my heart.

The cards kept coming, from near and from far, Hallmarks and American Greetings, local artists, prayer cards and postcards, encouragement and understanding. There were cards intricately crafted by the sender and personal letters, remembrances and poetry, words from songs and reminders of the past.

They waited for me. For over a month, they waited, each one in turn holding up the most recent arrival, a pillar of paper strength to soothe my soul.

They waited until one fine day, while the sun streamed through the dining room window. The sun warmed the house within and belied the frigid temperatures without. On that fine day, I carried the cards to the table, brewed a cup of English breakfast tea, and sweetened it with the last of my local honey. I gathered my many sad thoughts that crept in as sure as the dust motes visible in the illuminated slant of the sun’s rays, and I set to work.

As I sipped my tea, I savored each message, grateful for family and friends, and I remained in the moment, still and silent, until my eyes caught sight of a box that rested just beyond the door into the living room. The box had been a gift some years ago from my dear friend Sharon, who knows how much I like boxes. This box sat on a small side table and held a few random items. I looked and it beckoned “come pick me up”,  which I did. I lifted the lid, appreciated its charm, and realized that THIS was the perfect container to put the sweet sentiments that I have received since my sister’s passing.

I took my time as I nestled each piece of correspondence into the box, cognizant of the time and attention each sender took in choosing the card, the words, even the postage stamps. I felt a small sense of accomplishment over such a simple task while Angels’ rays continued to dance about in the old, worn dining room where I found  safe harbor at just the right moment on one fine day.

I am doing fine, dear readers. I will take my time with this thing called grief, with tears, of course, but, with laughter as well. I want you to all know that there is one more item that I will put into my box – you. Your comments have meant a great deal to me. I come back to them, read them anew, gather strength from them. I want you to know that I will be printing them out and placing them along with the cards and letters already inside the box and there they will remain with my most sincere gratitude.


Three Decades and Counting

As good ideas have a tendency to do, this one rose like dumplings in a bubbling pot of chicken stew.

The idea, the Field School Book Group, now aged to perfection, has been meeting and discussing books – and just about everything else – for 30 years!

Our bookish circle of avid readers was a spontaneous outgrowth one evening following a PTA board meeting. Parents and the principal from Field School gathered to tend to the usual business at hand. Chatting over this-and-that afterwards, the idea emerged and we’ve been meeting happily ever after.

While none of us now have children attending Field School, several grandchildren do. A few of our members are former Field teachers and most of our members live close to the school, while several travel a little further afield to attend. Some of us have been members since the beginning and a few of us are relatively new, but, I can honestly say that we all fit in like well-developed characters in a novel and that each member brings me to books I might not otherwise have read and add interesting thoughts and points of view to our discussions.

We’ve read everyone from Noah Chomsky to Judy Blume, and everything from  “Hatchet”  to “The Gold Coast Madame”. We have had the pleasure of hosting a few authors who have joined us in discussions of their books, both as part of our monthly meetings or on a more casual venue (think wine and dinner/coffee cake).

We are, shall I say, a “gabby” bunch and sometimes we talk about the book. Actually, we always talk about the book. When we began, three decades ago, book discussion questions were hard to find. Now, they are as easy as the tap of computer keys and many books have discussion questions in the back of the book.

We occasionally take excursions after reading a book. A tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park followed a reading of Nancy Horan’s “Loving Frank” with lunch at Hemingway’s Bistro.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a tour of the location of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition after reading The Devil and the White City by Erik Larson.

Isn’t the tea candle great? One of longest attending members, Sharon, presented each of us one at our recent January meeting, where we have a very lively discussion of “Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen.

Are you in a book discussion group? What have you read lately?

Amazing authors who have spent time with the Field School Book Group:

Tracey Bianchi https://www.amazon.com/Green-Mama-Guilt-Free-Helping-Planet/dp/0310320364

Andra Watkins http://andrawatkins.com/?wref=bif

Tyra Manning http://tyramanning.com


Fog Spirits and Tree Cookies

“Faith is like radar that sees through the fog – the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see. “

Corrie ten Boom

It was mild for January. Misty.  50 degrees warmer than a week earlier. Fog greeted us in the early morning and enveloped us by mid-afternoon.

Rambling along a backroad, taking it slow, I opted to turn left instead of right. I was so close to the Morton Arboretum that I decided, then and there, to go for a visit. It had been so long since I spent time at my favorite outdoor museum. I cut through the fog and dove into the “soup” for a few laps around the grounds.

I drove the west side first, biding my time, wending around the alternate route past Lake Marmo. There, I spotted a bird of prey surveying the grounds.

I parked the car and wandered over to the Visitor’s Center to check out the gift shop and then, my real reason for the stop, to indulge in a cup of hot white chocolate! White chocolate on a soupy day – what more could one want? Tom was nearby and ended up joining me. On the way to refreshments my eye caught this half eaten tree cookie.

There is usually an engaging, hand-crafted arrangement near the entry of the Visitor Center, assembled with plant material found on the grounds of the Arb. This unique arrangement caught my eye and whet my appetite to fashion an arrangement to soon.

Click onto the photo for a better view.

Refreshed and renewed, my Antler Man homeward-bound, I opted to drive around the east side of the Arboretum, even as the fog thickened from soup to stew and blurred the horizon.

I could still see the shapes of trees, but, they took on a mysterious manner with distorted apparitions – fog spirits – as far as the eye could see in a muffled atmosphere that rejuvenated me as I took the long way home.








All Things Being Equal

It was on a recent afternoon, after a snowfall, amid single digit temperatures that I ventured off-road and entered the cemetery where my sister was recently laid to rest. It is a peaceful cemetery with curving lanes and stately trees, but, like most cemeteries in northerly climates, locating a gravesite can be a bit of challenge in snow.

As I rounded a bend in the road, the crunch of my tires moaned softly as wisps of snow occasionally wept upon the windshield.

I wended my way past the historic windmill and the new mausoleum then navigated the car a short distance on my slow, snowy pilgrimage. I located the section marker and followed another gentle curve.

I looked for a bench that I knew to be close to the grave, passed one – not the one I was looking for – then suddenly a hawk swooped past my windshield, the span of his wings nearly four feet wide. With all of his majestic splendor, he dipped down, right over Dottie’s grave, issuing a cry, as if to say “here she is” then rose again to claim a perch high atop a neighboring tree.

The hawk, a red-tail, still and respectful, watched over me as I had a brief chat with my sister. As I returned to the car, he circled around then disappeared as I rounded yet another bend in the road, grateful for the soft solace of nature, a balm for my soul.

While We Slumbered

. . .  But while the earth has slumbered, all the air has been alive with feathery flakes descending, as if some northern Ceres reigned, showering her silvery grain over all the fields.We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within.

From A Winter Walk by Henry David Thoreau

At Journey’s End


So it was, on the day after Christmas, just shy of sunset, as the clock chimed four that my sister closed her eyes for the very last time and breathed her last breath.  Dottie’s journey was over and she was home at last with a chorus of angels who had been beckoning her to come.

For as long as I can remember, Dottie and I have been part of a duet, coined “PenDot” by our cousin Ted. As different, and as alike, as two sisters can be, we shared, above all else, a love of family and a treasure trove of stories and reminisces which we told and retold, not only with each other, but, with family and friends who helped care for her and who visited her this past year. I cannot speak highly enough or be more grateful for the family, friends and hospice nurses who helped care for Dottie, and especially of her husband, Rick.

A friend remarked that when we lose our siblings we lose our past. Her words hit home with me. It is that shared past that is silenced. There is now no one left who can call and say “I’m making Ma’s meatloaf” and leave me tasting the words, nor is there that one sister who can ask if I remember the seventh verse in the Our Father – in Greek – and thus begin an hour- long discussion of learning it in Greek school when we were very young girls.

My heart is heavy and my soul so sad, even as I count among my blessings the privilege of helping to care for Dottie during her battle with pancreatic cancer and of being present as she lifted her eyes toward the heavenly angels calling her home.

A very special thank you to my Katy, who made the special montage of PenDot for me – a sweet gift to ease my sorrow.



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