Celebration in Spring Blooms
by Most Beloved
The serviceberries opened their white blossoms this week. A gentle breeze scatters their petals and airborne, they sift and drift down, joy in their flight, celebration in their journey.
by Most Beloved
A glorious May Mother’s Day, replete with brilliant blue skies and wisps of sun-drenched clouds, became gardens requiring enormous clean-up once the storm had passed. We had walked in the mid-afternoon, savoring the sun and remarking on the cerulean blue sky. But we had no longer returned home before the skies grew dark and the birds stopped singing. The sky erupted in rains whipping sideways on gusts of high winds.
The peony bushes whipped this way and that, turbulent skies covered the gardens in darkness, and hard rain quickly transformed most of our young gardens to mush. Early flowering bushes cowered to the ground. Spring flowers (daffodils, tulips, hyacinths) toppled over.
And while unbeknownst to us at the time, Cali Cat was birthing her kittens in the peonies’ gardens. Yes, when the storm was fiercest. Yes, when the peonies whipped this way and that. Yes, when on what seemed an idyllic day, a harsh storm decided to unleash its fury. Early May ushered in particularly harsh weather this year, and great gusts of winds blew in heavy downpours of rain. Poor Cali, a first time mama cat, delivered her kittens in an sheltered area of the gardens in the suddenness of the storm.
But Cali Cat knew instinctively to look for higher ground, a place to move her kittens where they would be protected from the storm. The storm ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and at this point, Cali left her tiny, eyes-tightly-shut kittens (three kittens in all) to seek more secure lodging. We could see the tiny kittens, huddled and rounding up and over one another, by looking out the window and casting our gaze directly down to where wet, soppy leaves, pulpy stems, and peony buds served as a canopy over the kittens. The kittens were wet, but also newly birthed.
And while the storm had passed for now, heavy rains began again to fall that evening. The next few days would bring drenching rains and more high winds, and as for Cali? She had already relocated her kittens once, trotting each tiny kitten, one at a time, by the scruff of the neck to beneath a shrub that was on higher ground. The storms persisted, day and night, three days consecutively, and Cali cat, ever the faithful mama cat albeit a young, first time mama cat, moved her kittens yet again.
We couldn’t find the kittens after she moved them from the shrub. She didn’t want us to. We’ve only seen Cali cat once since that fateful week during Mother’s Day, and even then, a good distance away. She’s moved on from the Gardens at Effingham, though the gardens will always remain imprinted with her memory. From the whimsical delight of her kitten-hood to the turbulent night she delivered her own kittens, Gardens at Effingham bore her love. I can still see her sitting atop the wall, looking out over the gardens as we tended the flowers. Cali cat lives on—just not at Gardens at Effingham anymore.
Double Dipped, Gardens at Effingham
Ah ha! Captured! That stray pen–twirling, whirling, edging ever closer its way towards me. And Paper? Well, that’s a given. I’m already sitting on top of a stack of papers. ’Tis my place (always) to sit atop her papers, especially when she’s writing, especially the papers she’s trying to use.
And besides, what use does she have of this paper without her favorite pen? Oh how she loves me.
Cat Sketches and Stretches
‘Tis September 8th, day after labor day weekend. Hot and muggy the likes of mid-summer—but the shift is palpable. Leaves are turning yellow, falling, trees shedding. Not dormant, and still, one hopes, far from dormant—for that would mean cold– freezing temps and dips below the temperate nights we’ve been having, all for which I’m not yet prepared.
September remains glorious. ‘Tis I who am not ready, which is, I suppose, why we’ve been given the reprieve of this transition. Movement forward yes, though lingering still the comfort and warmth of summer.
So today, heat lingers and sun shines brightly still. Massive thunder storms last night—thundering, booming, lightening striking, preparing the way. Signaling to all—birds, trees, plants, insects, critters, cats, flowers, shrubs, even us—that seasons shift. Our summer shifts. And fall? Already blowing through winds that chill, winds that bring change, winds sweeping away summer—and sun and warmth.
We are in that pause between joy and settling in; laughter and taking on serious tones; colors and the inevitable browning, drying up, and cloaking us all in the drab of winter.
Already, I miss summer. Already, I dread winter. It is hard not to think about falling into the abyss of winter’s gray days, though necessary to keep moving past the point of that dip where the fall is inevitable, the darkness everywhere, the mood lethargic, and so much of everything seeming hopeless ’til spring.
Oh my, I’m beginning to sound like Daddy Cat who lives outside in the gardens. He bemoans losing summer and spends far too much time stretched out on top of the warm bricks of our garden walls. Frankly, if you ask me, I think he reads far too much literature. Heavy reading. Long reading. Not the books with happy endings, the ones we can easily forget, the ones we might even feel compelled to put down and not finish.
Oh my, I do feel in need of a cat nap, for as hard as I try, I cannot seem to stop yawning. The sun streams brilliantly through my window, its warmth my comfort.
I look up and above to the picture Mom gifted me of my 11-year-old self, hand across the back of our Labrador Retriever’s shoulder, and Dusty (our rescued groundhog) pulling at his jaw. I was sitting, plaintive smile, faraway look in my eyes even then, blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, choppy bangs, knees tucked both under and sideways, on the top of the hill of our orchard.
And I fall back, am called back, where 88 acres of orchard defined all the summers of my childhood and young adolescence. Rich Haven and Hale Haven peaches—Alberta Cling peaches, peaches by the peck and by the pound, peaches in half-bushel baskets, Montmorency sour-pie cherries, Sweet Cherries, Bartlett Pears, Concord Grapes, Jonathan, Melrose, Red and Golden Delicious apples. Nectarines, Black Raspberries. My mind drifts. My tongue remembers.
Peach fuzz from picking sticky on my hands and arms, peaches bigger than my fists could hold, sweet, ripe peach juice dripping down my chin. The ’54 Ford tractor with the wagon hooked up, flatbed, empty crates out into the orchard and full crates of peaches coming back on that slow, bumpy ride from bush-hog rough-cut orchard grass clear up to the packing shed.
Dad driving the tractor, his lopsided smile beaming, my sister and I riding on each of the tractor-well wheels, our black lab up on the wagon along with all those crates of peaches that we had picked in the heat of late July and early August sun. The kind of heat that sinks into you in this part of southeastern Ohio. Humid heat. Overhead, brilliant noonday-sun heat. Heat that makes you thirsty—before-anything-else heat.
Grandpa bought that land, 100 acres at the top of Malta Hill, to start an orchard. After WWII. Money from his G.I. Bill. Planted an orchard 4 miles straight up that hill to get all those fruit trees close to the heat of the full Ohio sun. And far enough away from the Muskingum River valley where trees, townspeople, and a stronger chance of a killing frost could wipe out a full crop of peaches.
Memories of so far away and long ago, wispy—as if, almost, they didn’t happen in this lifetime, in my lifetime. And yet still the peaches cling, the orchard clings, a love for planting and growing. A heart for all things earth, sky, trees, plants, flowers, animals, that way of life from so long ago, my love still.
And so on this late August day, I am still who I always was. Perhaps a riper version of self, but still, at my core, that 11-year-old girl sitting atop that hill of our orchard. A bowl of white peaches today centers my table (though these peaches came from California).
And the box they came in? That box belongs to Most Beloved who relishes sitting in (and looking out from) a box clearly labeled “Peaches.”