Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

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And no…. I’ve never explored The Enchantments. There are outdoorsy people and then there are people who like to drink Arnold Palmers on outdoor patios. These are not one in the same. Thank goodness for the next of my family generation who love the great outdoors! Not that I don’t love the great outdoors. I do! Just not in a rugged, camping, put up with no showers or commodes sort of way.

As my children and their families have been sharing spectacular photos such as these, I’ve been re-thinking my aversion to outdoor ruggedness and perhaps regretting that we were not such a family when my children were growing up. While beautiful, pictures are not quite the same as actually being there. Alas! That decision has come and gone and the consequences of which I must pay the price, as it’s not too likely that Nana is going on a rugged hike anytime soon. And the likelihood lessens with the passing of each new year.

So, in looking at the pictures above, I have more than a few tearful regrets!!

Since it’s a fool’s errand to dwell upon what might have been…. I got caught up in the beauty and lore of the Larch tree. Did a bit of looking into it and became fascinated with this unique tree of distinction. Of course, my first insights lured me straight to poetry.

Longfellow’s Hiawatha used Larch/Tamarack roots to lash his canoe.

Hiawatha pleads with the Larch…

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In Longfellow’s epic poem, he personifies the Larch as it shivers, sighs, touches Hiawatha’s forehead with its needles (tassels) and speaks to him, offering up all its roots for the making of his canoe.

What an awesome beginning to getting to know the stately Larch tree! Makes you want to reach out and touch ‘his majesty’ while thanking it for befriending and sharing its very foundation with Hiawatha.

As a matter of fact, in Europe, the Larch is cherished as a decorative tree as well as one that is incredibly functional. The city of Venice, Italy, is built almost exclusively of Larch wood.

So… ‘why an oddball?’ you may ask.

The annual larch needle drop.

Doesn’t it know that conifers are supposed to be evergreen?

What makes the Larch an oddball is that it is one of the rare coniferous trees that drops its needles each fall right along with the maples and oaks. In fact, before Larch needles fall off, they turn bright yellow, adding to the spectacle of fall colors here in the mountainous Pacific Northwest. And then every Larch becomes as bare as any beech or birch.

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Here in my small corner of the world, as I sit at this desk and write…. with the window over my left shoulder widely open, the sun shines brightly and warmly. Perhaps not quite as warmly as in the picture above… where, at this very moment, these beautiful grandchildren of mine are enjoying another day together in the Magic Kingdom. A picture just sent to me by my daughter. Through the wonders of modern technology, I can see…. almost to the moment…. what fun they are having.

This has become close to an annual trek for the two families. Sometimes together and sometimes just one family at a time. Only every so often does a year go by without a visit. Does anyone ever tire of going to Disneyland? Come to think of it, I do know one who has said enough is enough and she refuses to cross the threshold ever again. The magic went pouf so to speak. That comes from living within ‘spitting distance’ of the great and mighty theme park where every visitor to your door expects a guided tour for at least one day at the park.

Hence…no more Disneyland for my dear cousin Dinah.

Mostly though… my first thoughts when the picture arrived on my doorstep went back to a long ago wish that I had for my two daughters when they were so so young and my “babies.” Amy and Allison won’t remember this but we used to have get togethers with several of their mother’s friends from her years of teaching at Jane Addams. Nearly all of us being first year teachers, we were full of energy, enthusiasm and creativity. How lucky was that school to have us burst upon the scene.

Good things come to an end, however, and most of us ended up leaving the profession, at least temporarily, when the joy of a first born became a shared experience for us. We were all blessed and fortunate enough to be stay-at-home mothers for the first years of our children’s young lives.

(If I do say so myself) Jane Addams’ loss was mighty when we all ‘retired.’ So, it was great fun to keep up with our friendships under the guise of playdates for our children. ‘Two birds with one stone’…. or lunch together. Chicken Divan Casseroles, Caesar Salads eagerly awaited at one table…. PB&J’s with milk and cookies at the other.

The memory comes from one of those luncheons when my friend Jan invited her sister, Diane, to join us for that get together. Those two sisters had four young children between them… all very close in age and…. oh how they seemed to be best friends with children who felt the same. As I witnessed the laughter and fun and love clearly expressed between them, I distinctly remember thinking and wishing for that kind of friendship to be shared between my daughters in the future. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they kept close and if their children were the happy recipients of their mothers’ love and friendship for one another?… I thought to myself.

And there they all be
at the magic kingdom today…
where wishes really do come true.

Have great fun and make more memories to share and last forever.

Thank You, Amy! Love the picture and it took me to another place and time this afternoon. One just never knows what might fall upon ones’ doorstep each and every day.

Love,
Mom

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bursts with unfamiliar meaning as one explores the jewels to be found in all the nooks and crannies lining autumn’s coat of many colors. Tumbling out of her pockets come maple, alder and oak shaped nuggets of amber, garnet, citrine and smoky topaz… gems weaving the tapestry of autumn’s beauty.

I feel more present in autumn. Like watching my grandson’s soccer game, for me autumn is a spectator sport of sorts… the surrounding beauty is my play field and it’s a wonderful time to cheer and applaud till one is hoarse from the excitement of nature’s winning streak.

That autumn is rounding the bend needs no calendar to convey better than one’s own ‘sense’ of the incomparable radiance of nature. As the chill seems to arrive earlier every day, just step outside your door on one of the new season’s first crisp mornings and you’ll see, smell, hear and even taste the fall flourishes that have drifted in to dazzle us with their golden presence and presents of gold.

With nose in the air, you’ll smell that slight hint of smoke somewhere in the neighborhood. Perhaps that hint has arrived because autumn has set foliage ablaze with colors straight from my box of crayons…. burnt sienna to burnt umber to burnt orange to deep merlot and bittersweet.

In the early morning light, dawn’s heavy dew reveals the glistening of dozens of spider webs as they drape and decorate my favorite hanoki cypress…. like tinsel on a Christmas tree . Walk more briskly, add more layers, wear those new boots for the first time and listen to the Cap’n crunch of colorful, dry leaves beneath your feet. Pick up a favorite coffee drink along the way and I just bet that savoring the first sip of that hot, creamy, mellow ‘deliciousness’ never tasted quite so comforting as it does on an autumn morning.

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Remember when …. with a wave of her wand Cinderella’s fairy godmother transformed her from tattered and torn to belle of the ball? On my walk to work each and every day there is a canopy of trees surrounding the fountain and four corners of the square…. While never taken exactly for granted, I must admit that in shades and shadows of green they sometimes fail to capture my notice, until nature waves her wand in the autumn of the year and adorns them with new attire. Suddenly, the transformation is stunning as these trees wear their regalia with Cinderella’s blushing enthusiasm.

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And then there’s my garden! Despite the air of dishelvement that just naturally occurs as the new season approaches, the beauty that autumn brings is worth a bit of untidiness.

Endless nuances and complexities gathered together in layer upon layer of nature’s slow shedding away of summer’s full bloom. Quick… before Jack Frost tiptoes in and snatches away the purple blooms of my plumbago, let me savor the remnants of what is being plucked away by the changing of the seasonal guard or by the pruning shears of the angel who tends the garden with me. Japanese bloodgrass plumes. . . mop heads of hydrangea blossoms…twigs fallen from the sumac…moss covered piece of driftwood near the oriental fisherman…..and, from the bittersweet family, bright red fruits on my strawberry tree open to reveal orange seeds blown to earth by a gentle breeze. And, of course….. that bird is having a ‘field day’ as he nibbles away at what remains to feast upon.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumn.” ~ George Eliot

Speaking of delicious! Eliot got it right… autumn’s ambience is dappled with numerous elements of deliciousness. Not the least of which occurs in my kitchen at this time of year…. it’s not called comfort food for no good reason. The elements that proclaim this seasonal change are cozy and comforting and food is high on the elemental list. At last…. autumn chowder, meatloaf and baked potatoes, homemade stews and dumplings are back on the menu. Simply prepared, savory, aromatic, mouth-watering and full of nostalgia…..comfort food is aptly named, bringing with it a sense of well being. Let’s see… here we are at the beginning of the month of October… so many choices await. What shall it be tonight?

comfort-foodsOut comes a favorite cookbook of the same name. A day off for me today with time to cook something scrumptious. A delicious dilemma! Why does everything seem to taste better at this time of year? Do I stay with the tried and true or try something new? Think I’ll keep the soup pot simmering with the first Minnestrone of the season. Pure self-indulgence!

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And… Bittersweet you wonder! A re-occurring theme in my short essay and an adjective expressing contrasting emotions of pain and pleasure…. with the bitter comes the sweet. So, while the passing of the seasons is bittersweet, as are the passing of years and memories, autumn brings with it a certain optimism inspired by nature’s bounty of beauty.

One of the first telltale signs of autumn’s arrival is the lowering position of the sun in our sky. The lighting of our world has changed. A beautiful autumn day begins with luminous light casting a warm glow on nature’s generosity. As the day progresses and the sun moves, the color of the season seems even more flamingly intense and, with luck in my small corner of the world, a sunset on this autumn day ends in the embers of what appears to be a fire on the beach. So goes the bittersweet tapestry of life.

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Okay Miss “Lizzie Lu” (Shh! I always wanted to call you that but wasn’t sure how kindly you would take to my nickname…. so I decided to leave well enough alone.)

So, Miss Elizabeth…

This is one very belated birthday story! And Birthday Wish For You!!

Well…. don’t really have a story to tell because I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of the day you were born so many times already that I’d just be a boring re-tell… even though I do have a certain perspective that no one else could possibly have seen. So… someday you and I will have to share what your very real ‘birthday’ was like from my point of view. Until then, know that you were a joy and blessing to welcome into our family. The very first of my now seven grandchildren.

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Ah! But wait! A mere three months later and along comes blessing number two by the name of Ethan Jack. And you dear boy… I always thought you’d become an EJ and I was looking forward to the nickname.

But, alas!

Neither you nor Elizabeth ever got shortened into the category of nicknames. Perhaps just as well. Both of you have simply glorious given names. I can’t imagine calling either of you anything but Ethan and Elizabeth. So I was right in the first place by leaving well enough alone.

And, as with your cousin, Elizabeth, I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of the day you were born many times over. It was quite a coincidence, however, that you both decided to make your appearance into this world, and our lives, an entire month earlier than you were actually due to land… giving us all pause to worry just a bit!. But here you both are into your teen years and growing up all too fast for this Nana to adjust to.

So There!

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8792324 - back to school. green desk with school supplies.

You know that I just can’t resist a little bit of reflection!! Chalk it up to the teacher in me! (pun intended)

Not that I would have listened to any of these suggestions that I’m about to propose when I was fourteen but maybe you two will. If not this fourteenth year of your life, perhaps in years to come….

Dear Elizabeth and Ethan,

A friend of mine had dinner with her 28 year old granddaughter the other night. My friend was proud to tell me all about her granddaughter’s accomplishments as a graduate in the school of business and that she now has this amazing job with a great company here in town. It got me to thinking about the both of you and where you might be in fourteen years, and more importantly, how you will be in the world.

And, I shall state the obvious here…. a lot of that depends on you and the choices you make. There will be so much you can’t control in the coming years. But you can choose, in fact you have to choose, every single day who you’re going to be.

FOR EXAMPLE:

You can choose gratitude over thanklessness. “Let your heart be awakened to the transforming power of gratefulness.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

You can choose kindness over thoughtlessness. If you act from a compassionate place, you can change someone’s life. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama.

You can choose how you spend your time. Because how you spend your time really does end up being how you spend your life. It’s not about how you make a living so don’t worry about what you want to be when you grow up. Just decide who you want to be today!

You can choose to ask for help, support and the love that you really need, instead of pretending you can go it alone because you’re determined not to impose on anyone else. This bit of wisdom and advice comes directly from the heart of your Nana as, in this case, she admonishes you to do as she says… not as she has done in the past. “I get by with a little help from my friends.” ~ Ringo Starr

Are you nodding off yet?

‘Cause I, of course, could go on and on but I won’t. That’s enough pontificating for this journal entry.

Well, come to think of it!

As a connoisseur of the gourmet, I must add one more small but very important addition to my list of reflections on growing up…..

Don’t wait until you are forty to try mustard greens or swiss chard or other foods you think are weird. After all, Ethan, remember how much you liked your Mom’s green salad the other day at lunch? Who knew? And, if you hadn’t tried, you would never have known. And now your palate and menu choices have been broadened.

I’m so excited about the young man and young woman that you both are now and will become in the years hence. I can hardly wait to see you fourteen years from now.

“God willing and the creek don’t rise,” as a very wise and dear old friend used to say to me so often… let’s plan to meet for lunch. OK?

Just what delicious morsel will be ordered off the menu in fourteen years? I wonder!!

Love,
Nana

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