November Moods

One of the few colors to penetrate November’s grey cast – the greenery I gathered today.

November Moods

November is colored a hundred shades of grey

As if summer had used up all the colors in the world

Grey is an easy, undemanding color, more like a feeling

November tells me I have reasons to be thankful

Now there is time – I don’t mind looking for thankful thoughts

With every leaf I pick up, and every walk I take.

Thankful that I made it through the summer challenges

The unfamiliar roles I had to play, the confusion, helplessness

Thankful for wise ones who shared the load, who came alongside

I can hear the travelers in the sky, honking

I can see their dark V against the grey background of clouds

The comfort of knowing that nature knows it’s November

Geese take turns leading, how wise of them.

An Old House: If Walls Could Talk

Actually, if walls could talk this house would not have a lot to say. Most of the interior walls are gone

The backstory:

Pennsylvania is a historic state, having been one of the first settled. This means there are a lot of old houses with stories to tell. The valley that the husband’s family lives in is full of old, two story, frame houses. Both in the small villages and the outlying farms, I’ve been seeing these fascinating structures and I love to take pictures of them and wonder what they look like inside. My brother-in-law and his wife have bought a farm that enjoins their property and on it is a collection of farm buildings and an old farmhouse. We went over there to look yesterday. It was a treat for my passion about old buildings.

The outbuildings:

There is a very interesting turkey barn – reminiscent of old covered bridges. I’m not sure why it was built this way, or if it’s original purpose was to raise turkeys, but that is what it was known to have housed last.

There was a barn with a stone foundation. There are lots of them in this valley, probably because there is no shortage of stones for building material. The barn is gone but the foundation remains, begging to be used for something.

There are other sheds to house machinery, and a modern cement block building that was a butcher shop, presumably to process the turkeys raised in the turkey barn. And of course, there was this outbuilding.

Not too many of them still standing, but I always like getting pictures of outhouses when I can. I don’t know why.

The house:

This was my favorite excursion into the past. The house has seen better days but my brother-in-law assured me that the structure was sound and sturdy. It has been completely gutted of its interior walls of plaster and lathe, in hopes of being remodeled at some point.

One feature left intact in the kitchen is a large built in hutch which pretty much makes the house, in my opinion. It should definitely stay and become a focal point.

The shanty:

One of the common practices before air conditioning was to keep the heat of cooking out of the main house. This house has what my brother-in-law calls a shanty added to the side of the kitchen. It’s a fairly large room with a huge hearth where cooking fires could be made, or a cook stove positioned. There are huge doors to close off the hearth and when my sister-in-law opened them there was an ominous noise that sent her and Dennis out of the room. They were thinking “rattlesnake”. I went in later with Ron and we were curious to hear the noise, which turned out to be a baby bird that was dislodged from a nest higher up in the chimney. I don’t know what kind of bird it was, but the sound was bizarre.

Flitching:

The stairs were sturdy enough so we went up to look at the upper story.

There was a large central beam that had marks all over it. Ron told me about flitching, a process of making the cuts on the beam. All the wood is exposed in the house and I could see that some of it was rough lumber, with the bark still on. But no termites (I’m still in Florida thinking…)

I wandered around taking pictures of this interesting place and wondering if I would ever have the energy to renovate an older place like this.

I Have Cupolas

No, it’s not a disease or something to hold a beverage. Read on…

On today’s walk, my goal was to check out the corner of my brother’s property that is storage for all the large things he doesn’t want to look at all the time.  I knew that there were two metal structures there, cupolas from an old barn. I had seen them years before, on the ground, near the barn on the property and just assumed that they were from that barn. My brother said, no – they did not fit – and since they were so large, moved them out of the way, into the storage corner.

20181103_1418361637012230563529341.jpg

There they were. They were large. They were also rusted, a bit banged up, and looking forlorn with tall grass growing up the sides and an old metal drag leaning up against them. My uncle, who was with me, explained that they were galvanized steel which had lost the galvanizing in spots, leading to the rust. Peering up into them showed that the vents were still covered with wire mesh to keep the birds and other animals from going in. I found myself attracted to them even in their dilapidated state.

A cupola is really a ventilation device for the top of a barn or any building that is tight enough to require ventilation. Barns have lofts where hay is stored and often the hay is put in without having dried fully. If it is tightly packed, organisms in the hay can produce enough heat to spontaneously combust. Barns can burn down because of this. Also, in the winter when cattle are kept in the barn, moisture levels rise and the environment can get quite drippy. And so, cupolas are necessary. But where did these cupolas come from? I had not heard the answer.

As I wondered, out loud, my uncle said “What about the barn out on the farm near Round Lake?” That barn had come down in a windstorm years before (read about it here). I had grown up looking at that barn but could not remember if it had cupolas. I knew that after it fell, my dad had cleared the wreckage and made a pretty impressive bonfire.

20170403_121719-1
One storm, and it was a pile of rubble…

Fortunately, there are many pictures of that barn before it fell and in one of them, a cupola is clearly visible. It looks just like the ones stored in the field. I am even more fond of them now that I know where they came from. My brother has given them to me, to do with as I wish. I wish to enjoy them, see them and use them for something, but what? I’m just sayin’ I could use some suggestions here…

Life Up North: The Doll Collector

Some people think clowns are creepy, scary, sinister. I feel somewhat the same about dolls. I had a moment today that was steeped in “doll creepiness” as Mom and I were casing out the Salvation Army thrift store.

Salvation Army is a semi-regular stop for Mom because she is curious and always amazed at what she can find for a quarter, or a dollar – something she might have to pay a lot more for somewhere else, and so much more convenient than running all over the county to garage sales.  I find it amusing too, but also a little sad. There are so many things that are clearly in the last stages of their existence. It’s like a nursing home for household goods.

Occasionally there is something new or almost new, but that is also sad. Who would part with a perfectly good item unless there was trauma, duress or sadness involved? Maybe a death, or a downsizing move, or just the inability to maintain… all possible. I’m thinking something like that happened with the doll collector.

20180830_2030124607602179735966170.jpg

I entered the store and within a few steps became aware of the dolls. I noticed them first in a bin, lying piled on top of each other. A few baby dolls, but most were collector items, perhaps like American girl. Some had exquisite faces and hair and all were in full costume. Little replicas of people with unseeing eyes staring around in all directions – some were watching me. I’m sure of it.

20180830_1124064572552281665660811.jpg

And then I saw the shelves. Dolls lined up, standing at attention, oblivious to me as I examined their dresses and coats, straightened their hats and tucked their hair into place. Personally, I would not make a doll stand out in public with its hair frowzy and messed, and a big pink sticker on its face. They are/were someone’s little people who have been uprooted, left homeless and unwanted because of some dire circumstance. Surely, they are due some compassion and respect.

20180830_112413803672085309016997.jpg
Could this sticker not have been placed elsewhere? And that hair!

I can only imagine that it must have been a hard decision for someone to take them all to the thrift store, when they could possibly have been sold for more. Maybe there was no grandchild to give them to, or maybe there was no time to advertise and find new homes for them, or maybe they couldn’t stand reliving the memories. Have it over and done with.

I’ve just emptied a house and moved myself. I know the feeling.

20180830_2027542680780883936625638.jpg
Poor, brave darlings!

Sad, and kind of creepy. Just sayin’…

Losing My Voice

I am saddened. Today I decided to consult with a piano repairman about my faithful, long-standing instrument and its recent problem.  It will cost more to repair than it is worth, about $300. I would have thought it was worth more than that – it certainly was in its youth.

20171205_134704.jpg
Faithful friend

We acquired this Everett piano in 1974 or 75, I’m not certain of the date. The husband and I were newlyweds and in college. We had mentors, both of them teachers at the college, who were going to spend some time abroad and were selling a lot of their possessions that would be hard to store. We bought their piano and their car.

I’ve had access to a piano my whole life, except for a few years living in college dorms. Now I had my own, in my apartment, to play any time I wanted to. We moved from Texas to California and the piano came with us and survived the distance. We moved from California to Wisconsin and again the piano held up well. We moved from Wisconsin to Florida, with the piano in the trailer. Through all this it never had significant tuning problems, just a nick or two on its wooden surface and a stripped screw that held the music stand.

I practiced my lessons on this piano, as well as wedding music, funeral music, fun music for my kids, and special accompaniments for friends who sang. As my children learned to play their instruments, I learned to accompany them. There were years when I taught my own piano students – many small hands had their first introduction to music on the keys of my Everett. There was the year when I once again took lessons from a college professor, doing difficult music and learning intricacies that stretched my ability. Learning hymns and worship music for churches I worked for was always going on in the background. My piano was a workhorse.

But it was more than that. They say that music is a path to the soul, and I have experienced that connection. The instrument making the music became a voice for my soul. My piano taught me that beautiful sound is more than just pushing the right notes, it is putting emotion into those musical phrases, touching them in a particular way, a familiar way.

My piano has calmed me as I cried, has distracted me in distress, has satisfied my need to create. Although made of wood and metals, felt and ivory, it has become almost like a person to me. A treasured friend and encourager.

We are looking forward to one more move, and I have been paring down in anticipation of having to store whatever we decide to take with us. The piano is heavy. It will not store well, and it is broken. I think it is time to let go, but it is hard, and sad. Yes, it’s a sad day, and there are a few tears… just sayin’.

I Took Pictures

It started as a quiet, overcast day that was perfect for nostalgia, contemplation and being content at home. I needed to rest my hands from yesterday’s outside work and was committed to doing less active tasks, like my “paring down” of photos.

My photos tell the progress of technology in “Kodak moments” starting with the ones I took with my box Brownie when I was a child. There aren’t very many of those because there were only 8 frames on a film and I was always lucky to get half that number of decent pictures. They were black and white.

20170718_222022-1
A black and white, old enough that it’s starting to look like a color photo.
20170718_222038-1
Kodachrome moment on Santa Catalina Island.

Kodachrome came next. They are square and all have a golden cast but they are in color. My wedding photos are in this category and they are a sorry collection of candid snapshots taken by one of my brothers. There are half a dozen 4×6’s and a couple 6×8’s. Today’s wedding photographers would have a good laugh, I’m sure, but they tell the story and my memory fills in the holes. I didn’t pay $1,000 for them and honestly, I’m not sorry about that.

We bought a good camera early in our marriage. It took good pictures and we about wore it out on our first child. Film was still the standard but now there were 36 frames on some of them. We mailed the rolls to far away companies to be developed and double prints were the marketing ploy. I am lightening the load by throwing most of the doubles away. I am not in many of these photos because I was behind the camera and there was no such thing as a “selfie” without going to a lot of trouble.

The second child came and there were still lots of photos, because the two of them were so cute together. Lots of those doubles come in handy as I am making photo books for each of them to remind them of how it was, who they were to me. When they started taking their own pictures, mine became somewhat fewer.

My brother was the first to get a digital camera. It seemed so expensive and complicated to me, but it wasn’t too long before we had one. We stopped getting our photos printed out, except on special occasions. My box of photos from the 1990’s was the last large collection.  Since then, very few events have warranted hard copy photos. The ones I have printed are either artistically worthy or for special projects.

20170718_215944
Only one of the horizontal surfaces covered with stacks of photos.

The day is done now. Every time I tackle this job, my room is littered with piles of pictures by categories, and the waste basket is full as well. I have stopped being chronological in my organization. When I look for a photo, I’m remembering a person or an event, not the year it took place. I have envelopes with the names of people, special places, memorable trips. It may sound morbid, but I’m only saving ones of myself that I would want shown at my funeral. Who, other than me, should get to choose how I’m remembered? Right.

20170718_215904
Here’s hoping this will help me find that one photo I’m looking for…

These days at this task always leave me flooded with memories, reliving the past and longing for the goodness of those times caught motionless on paper. It’s a strange feeling and not always comfortable because it has so much to say about the passage of time and mortality. I stop frequently and text a picture to my daughters, with my phone. Just sayin’… who would ever have thought it.

20170718_215959
I’m not going to say the cat helps. She doesn’t.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things M

Marbles

wpid-20150323_101306.jpg
a happy wave of nostalgia

 

I know, another collectible. It seems all my favorite things are either practical things or occurrence that I encounter every day or they’re something I collect that has no practical anything about it.

I have been drawn to marbles since grade school when playing “odds or evens” was all the rage and challenging a friend to “10 down last” was a way to possibly win his or her best marbles from them. I remember having my marbles confiscated by the teacher. There were cat’s eyes, steelies, purees, and crackles both in regular size and boulders.

We all had marble bags. Marbles were like money, and you could be both marble rich and marble poor in the space of one afternoon. I used to hide my marble bag in various places to keep it away from my brothers, and as I got older and the craze died off, I lost track of the last hiding place. I still wonder if it was inside the huge old upright piano that my mother finally gave away. That’s where I look in my dreams (yes, I occasionally dream about grade school and marbles).

The digital age has pushed marbles into the antique/thrift shops I’m afraid, or maybe it’s just where I find them because I don’t shop in toy stores anymore. I have a small velvet bag of my favorite marbles just to remind me of how much fun they were, and I’m going to get them out and play with them the next time my young friend Gracie comes over. I’m sure it will be something new for her.

I kind of want to know – is there anyone on earth who has not made a marble pyramid with Elmer’s Glue for their mom for Mother’s Day?

 

Scallops and the Sea

The Inner Life of Someone’s Mother – Tales from the Archives

wp-1478183547422.jpg

We moved from the north woods of Wisconsin to Florida – a shock actually. The realtor put us in an apartment on the beach while we looked for a home. It was late fall, early winter. Instead of tramping across wind-swept snow drifts the children and I were tramping across wind-swept white sand. The visible similarity was striking even while the contrast was unmistakable.  We went to the ocean nearly every day to wander, to marvel at our new surroundings and to look for shells.

Looking for shells on a beach full of shells is an art. I compare it to doing a jigsaw puzzle. You must school  your eyes to detect a certain shape, a certain color amidst countless shapes and colors. I didn’t want lots of shells since there was no challenge to that (and soon no place to put them all). I wanted to find one special shell each trip, a scallop as near perfect as possible, with maybe a bit of color. At least one. And soon it was a ritual and a way of entering into our new life.

It is thirty years later. I still look for scallops.

wp-1478181821180.jpg
I love everything about this – the words, the composition, the sentiment, the hand that penned it…  Poem by E.L.D.A.

 

wp-1478184416945.jpg
Grandma Gwen and J.J.D. at Siesta Beach

 

There Is a House…

wp-1471628511978.jpgIt sits at the top of a hill in a midwestern town. It has been there for a hundred years or more and I can imagine the stories that took place within its walls and grounds. I think I want to live there.  Maybe not forever, but for long enough to see if I love it as much as I think I might.

In this large house with stairways and many bedrooms I would have places for all my favorite guests, and I would have some secret places just for me. I know it must have at least one hidden room somewhere.  I would make each bedroom special with places to sit, to sleep and to read while looking out a window.

It has a large kitchen with lots of light coming in numerous windows. A cool breeze blows through the central hallways because it’s on a hill and surrounded by shade trees – the currents of air are refreshing and full of magic smells like clover flowers and mown grass. Outside the kitchen door would be a garden with a pool. I would grow herbs and salads and water lillies.  On my tall fence I would grow grape vines and in late summer there would be a lot of grapes.

wp-1471628569252.jpg

In the winter I would sit in the great front room by the fireplace with my wool and knitting needles. I would invite women to come and knit with me. In the summer I would sit on the front porch. I would call to my friends walking by and ask them to sit and have ice tea with me. I would flavor it with mint from my garden.  There would be a bouquets of hydrangeas everywhere.

wp-1471628943471.jpg

But being old and full of stories, means that this house is drafty, poorly wired and has some floors that are not quite straight or level. It would need lots of paint, and constant attention to the roof. It’s fireplaces and chimneys would need cleaning, and it’s plumbing would be less than desired. Would I love all that? I don’t know, but I would like to live in it and see.

Just a dream…

 

#atozchallenge: Raspberries, the passion and pleasure

20160421_194041.jpg
Here they are, today’s star

I come from northern Wisconsin, and a particular part of it that is extremely cold for a good long time in the winter.  We have three months of growing weather in a good year. It can freeze yet in May and probably will in September so gardens go in quickly and get down to business. We can’t really do apples, or cherries or plums but berries…  We do them pretty well.
My first berry experiences were with wild berries. We were always on the lookout for bushes on the roadside or in the woods. Recently cleared fields and brush piles were likely berry patches. When we started seeing the right color on the berries it was time to get the pails and gear up.
There were all kinds of perils. There were bears, of course, and poison ivy, wicked thorns everywhere, a constant halo of deer flies and my most dreaded one, hornets. Long pants, long sleeves, big hat and a bucket on your belt in July meant we were hot and slow moving.
Thankfully, by the time I was married and living in Wisconsin again we had learned about cultivated berries and had a large patch in the yard. Much easier, but there were still chores every year – cleaning out the old canes and pruning. There was also the new problem of the guilt when you just couldn’t pick and eat that many raspberries. They are still my absolute favorite berry for eating fresh.
I don’t know how they do it these days since they are soft and perishable, but  my store has fresh berries almost all year long. Does anyone go out in the woods anymore? I don’t know. Your reasons to eat raspberries, in addition to their wonderful flavor, are a low calorie, high fiber, high antioxidant source with lots of vitamin C and B complex vitamins and a number of important minerals.  Interestingly, they are a source of xylitol which I will mention again when we get to letter X.  And they’re pretty.  And red.

Happy Letter R, my friends.