Little Green Tomatoes

Tiny Seeds of Goodness


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Pasta Inspiration

I was inspired yesterday.  Inspired to prepare and consume wholesome, simple, delicious food! After watching the first episode of Samin Nosrat’s Netflix series, Salt Fat Acid Heat , I rummaged through my frig and pantry to see if I had the necessary ingredients for one of my favorite pasta dishes.

Although not the incredible aged Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy that Samin featured on her show, I had shredded Parmesan in a plastic pouch from the grocery store.  High class all the way, baby!! Although not fresh handmade pasta – also featured on the show, I had a box of average, run of the mill fettuccine in my pantry. I did have a nice fresh bottle of Italian Carapelli Oro Verde EVOO. And a can of California ripe olives. The stars were aligned!  The pasta prep could begin!

I have been making this dish for eons.  Well, since the early ‘90s actually, which, most days, seems like eons ago.  I used to follow the recipe to a T. Now I am lazy and tend to avoid / combine a couple of the steps.  Main reason – I absolutely abhor peeling and seeding tomatoes, and will do just about anything to avoid that task.  Besides, I like the skins and the seeds – they add flavor and texture.  So, for correctness sake, I’ve included the recipe in its original form.  If you choose to make the dish, you can make the call on how you want to handle the tomatoes.  I do not peel nor seed my tomatoes, I simple cut them into large chunks and cook them along with the peppers and garlic.  I will tell you that I have used fresh heirloom tomatoes, cherry/grape tomatoes, even canned tomatoes, and have been pleased with each.  Yesterday I used a package of Wild Wonders Gourmet Medley , and I love the variety of colors and flavors they brought to the dish.

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Pasta with Broccoli and Tomatoes

  • 1 lb fresh broccoli
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet red paper, cut into chunks
  • ½ lb spaghetti, fettuccini, or penne pasta
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can ripe olives, pitted and sliced
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Cut broccoli into small florets with about an inch of stem. Peel the remaining stems and dice into small pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and submerge tomatoes for about 10-20 seconds. Remove. Peel and seed tomatoes; cut in to large pieces.

Add broccoli to boiling water and cook 3-4 minutes, until just tender.  Remove and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and to retain the bright green color.  Drain and set aside.  (Note: in my current lazy state, I eliminate this step and simply drop the broccoli in to cook with the pasta about 5 minutes before the pasta will be al dente).

Add a few drops of olive oil to the boiling water, drop in the pasta, and stir.

While pasta is cooking, warm olive oil in a skillet with garlic and red pepper flakes.  When hot, add tomatoes and sweet red pepper chunks.  Cook for several minutes over low to medium heat.

When pasta is just about done, return the broccoli to the water to warm, then pour pasta and broccoli into a colander.  Transfer to a large warm serving bowl. Add the tomato mixture, black olives, parsley, black pepper and toss.

Serve with plenty of freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread.

Generously serves 2 to 3 hungry folks. Cibo delizioso!!


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As I See It

Monsoon Sunrise, photo by SharonIMG95201808309506103795HDR

When you arise in the morning,

give thanks for the morning light,

for your life and strength.

Give thanks for your food

and the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks,

the fault lies in yourself.

 ~ Tecumseh

Earth Prayers from Around the World

 

Stymied, waylaid, paralyzed, sad, disappointed, angry, hopeless, helpless.  Dismayed.

I have found myself feeling all of the above at many times over the last several months –

 for Us, Now

for Earth and All of Her Inhabitants, Now

for the Future

for the Young, the Old, the Middle Aged

for Those who have worked tirelessly for close to a century to try and repair the damage that was and is being done

for those of Us who have the choice to make better decisions, but who choose not to

for Those who don’t have choices

for Those who don’t have the opportunity to learn

for the Innocents whose wisdom and voices are ignored

I was quite taken by the beauty of the Monsoon Sunrise that my friend Sharon was lucky to witness and photograph.  She graciously shared it with me.  I kept going back to her text message – looking at the photo again and again.  It was speaking to me.

Initially, I intended to focus this blog on Goodness – as I see It. I had no intention of giving space to the opposite.

I do hold the belief, however, that Light is defined, to some extent, by Darkness.  Likewise, with Right & Wrong, Love & Hate, Kindness & Aggression, Peace & War, and…………Good & Evil. Reasoning then, that acknowledging the Dark allows the Light to shine even brighter; that witnessing Wrong may move Us to take action for Right.

So, going forward, I’ll be giving some space in this blog to the opposite of Goodness – as I see It and feel It – as background and contrast to Goodness.  It is my hope and my belief that this will allow the seeds of Goodness to germinate profusely, create great and strong networks of root structures, grown en masse, and thus create an inhospitable environment for Evil, or whatever you wish to call the opposite of Good.

And, so it is that my dear friend’s photo of this unusual and beautiful sunrise has been softly speaking to me.  I hope it speaks to you too.

There are always two voices sounding in our ears – the voice of fear and the voice of confidence.  One is the clamor of the senses, the other is the whispering of the higher self. 

~ Charles B. Newcomb


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October Beans (in September)

My Grandma called them “Shellie Beans”. The farm stand at Smith Farms calls them “October Beans”.  The North Carolina Folklife Institute says that these beans, also called “fall beans” or “speckled beans”, are an assortment of old heirloom shell beans that ripen between the end of summer and first frost.  Whatever you choose to call them, these are some Beautiful Beans!

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While the Great Depression of the 1930’s was a time of hardship and suffering, my mother would tell me of how blessed her family was at that time. She was continually thankful that she grew up in a farm family.  Although times were tough and they had little else, they had their land, their home, and they were able to grow and produce their own food. She had fond memories of the simple meals that sustained her large family during those lean years.  She continued to prepare her favorites, even in times of plenty, throughout her adult life.

One of those beloved stand-by meals was soup beans and cornbread. I vividly recall coming home to the mouth-watering aroma of a pot of soup beans simmering on the stove and cornbread, fresh baked, and straight out of the oven.

Over the years, I’ve tinkered around with Mom’s basic recipe, changing it up a little bit, adding some ingredients.  Mostly I eyeball and adjust quantities to taste, but this time I recorded my measurements.  So, here’s my version.

Delicious! Simple! Beautiful Beans! 

  • 4 cups beans, removed from pods, rinsed in cold water & drained
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 4 slices thick cut uncured bacon
  • 1 teaspoon bacon drippings
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon chicken soup base
  • ¼ cup organic raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup to 1 cup ketchup, depending on your taste

Place rinsed and drained beans in a large soup pot with 6 cups cold water.  Bring to a full boil.  Reduce heat to medium, boil for about 5 minutes, mostly covered (leave lid a bit askew to prevent boiling over).

Cut the bacon into chunks and fry until crisp.  Remove from pan and drain, reserving 1 teaspoon of the bacon drippings.

To the pot of boiling beans, add the bacon, bacon drippings, onion, garlic, chicken soup base, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ½ cup ketchup.  Stir well, and return to a full boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until beans are to desired tenderness – about 2 hours.

You may need to add a cup or two of additional water as the soup cooks, depending on the amount of broth you prefer.  If you add additional water, you can add additional ketchup as well.

Serve steaming hot with fresh baked cornbread or sweet corn tomalito (sweet cornbread pudding).

Any kind of dried beans can be used in this dish as well.  Great Northerns, Pintos, Field Peas – all are very good.  If you’re using dried beans, you will need to rinse, sort, and soak overnight, according to the instructions on the bag, prior to preparing this recipe.  Or, you can use the Quick Soak method if you’re short on time.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Sweet Corn Tomalito 

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup masa harina
  • ½ cup organic raw sugar
  • 2 cups whole kernel corn – fresh, frozen (thawed), or canned
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Fill bottom pan of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil.  If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use a large soup pot or Dutch oven and a glass baking dish to accomplish the same thing.  See my post on The Great Cobbler Experiment for more information.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, masa harina, and sugar until light and fluffy.  In a food processer or a blender, blend 1 cup of the corn with the milk and cornmeal until smooth. Add to the masa mixture and stir. Add the remaining cup of corn, baking powder, and sea salt.  Combine well and stir until batter is smooth.

Pour batter into top pan of double boiler.  Cover tightly, either with the double boiler lid, or aluminum foil.  Lower heat and steam over simmering water for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until firm. Check water occasionally and add more if needed, to prevent bottom pan from boiling dry.

Serve warm, on a warmed plate or small side dish, by the scoopful.  A small dollop of sour cream on top is tasty as well!

Makes 6 – 8 servings.

 


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Solo

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At night make me one with the darkness

In the morning make me one with the light

 ~ Wendell Berry

 We have been blessed with a respite from heat and humidity.  For this girl with Celtic & Germanic blood coursing through her veins, that means I can drink in the joys of summer without wilting!

Windows have been opened! Soft summer breezes and birdsong have drifted into the house! Sun porch has become inhabitable again! And the night time chorus has been a welcome replacement for the drone of the air conditioner.

One of my guilty pleasures (which, thankfully, I rarely feel guilty about anymore) is an afternoon nap.  And today was a perfect day for one.  As I drifted back in to the space between sleep and wakefulness, too comfortable and relaxed to get up – warm summer breeze floating in through the windows – cicada chorus lazily moving like “the wave” from tree to tree – my mind began to tinker with the meetings I have had in the last 18 hours.  These were impromptu meetings – not scheduled – I reckon.  More correctly, they might be considered to be encounters or observances, not meetings in the true sense of the word.  Each brief, and in each case, I did not offer up any meaningful contribution.

And yet, tinkering with the collective experience, laying there sprawled out on the sofa in the sun porch, they seemed more like meetings.  In each case, I felt connected to the other party, to the encounter itself.  I did not feel like a casual observer only looking on from the outside.

Those thoughts seemed to drift on the breeze and to swirl around other thoughts I’ve been tossing around this week.  In particular, a conversation I was blessed to have a few days ago.  During which, the other person, an accomplished author, offered that the true reason she writes is not for reasons some would expect, but for a purely selfish reason.  She feels the most connected when she is writing.  Even though a solitary exercise, she feels the most connected to everything when she puts pen to paper.

I get it.  I totally get it.  And for me, I have been increasingly aware that I seem to feel the most connected during encounters with the natural world – those unscheduled meetings where I don’t have to speak or form a meaningful analysis – all I need to do is just be.

And, be, is exactly what I did at about 9:00 last night, when out with one of the dogs, patiently waiting for that perfect blade of grass to be located before the necessary business could be done.  The moon was up, and she was lovely.  I believe the bright golden/orange planet near to the moon is now Mars (?), and I was admiring both of them.  A little movement or glimmer in the periphery, down closer to where I was standing, caught my eye.  But when I moved my gaze to that location I didn’t see anything.  And then, about 8 inches from my right hand, a brief, faint glow.  As I squinted to see if it was a firefly – unusual for this late in summer in North Carolina – he moved in closer, about 6 inches from my nose, so I could get a better look! Hovering, I was presented with another faint bit of glow.  A little “ah!” and a smile, and he disappeared into the darkness.  I looked all about and didn’t see any other blinking beacons.

A little firefly – flying solo in the dark of a late August night.  I wonder, was he holding out for that “perfect gal”, or was he just enjoying his solitude and the beautiful evening and sharing what little faint “glow” he still had to share?

And so it was with the other meetings.

~ Sitting in the dark, enjoying a sip of water before bedtime, listening to a solo Katydid amongst a choir of crickets.  Waiting for a response from another delicate green soul? Needing to find a mate before languishing in the cooler nights to come? Or just thinking that the choir of crickets could use a bit of diversity?

~ Lying awake, hearing a barred owl on the gutter in the wee hours of the morning.  Calling for his mate?  Or just preferring a little soft music with his gutter water?

~ Standing in the yard, again patiently waiting for dog business to be conducted, watching a red shouldered hawk wheeling and calling in the clear blue morning sky.  Staking out territory?  Or just enjoying the view and the wind rushing through her feathers?

~ Reaching for a clean coffee mug, watching a lone hummingbird sampling the nectar from the dewy lantana – red, orange, pink, yellow.  Hmmmm……which one is best?  Checking out the impatiens in the flower box and not finding much that interested her.  Pausing, hovering, eyeballing me as I watched from the other side of the kitchen window.  Sizing me up for battle?  Or thinking to herself, “wow, I’m glad I look better than that first thing in the morning!”?


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The Great Cobbler Experiment

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So, it is cobbler season, and my oven is currently not functional! Sadness. It over heated some time back and I haven’t moved forward with getting a repair service to come and look at it. My “spidey senses”, intuition, or just plain procrastination have been telling me “wait a little while – don’t get in a rush to fix it”. So I haven’t. But if nothing else has malfunctioned with the range by October – Apple Crisp and Pumpkin Crunch season – you can bet I will be calling the repair guy!

With our collection of about every other piece of cooking equipment known to man (and woman), we have not been going hungry, trust me. About the only thing I haven’t been able to make so far is home-made pizzas.  The “complaint department” has officially stopped taking any further complaints on that issue.

Being that I am frugal, a “DIY-er”, and always aspiring to be more self-sufficient, I decided that there has to be more than one way to make the fruit cobblers I love.  Thus, the decision to experiment was made.  I should add that I inherited all of the above from parents who grew up during the Great Depression in Midwest farm country. Grandparents who always grew, prepared, and shared all sorts of deliciousness may have also contributed to a few of my inherited traits.

First experiment: Peach cobbler.  Cooked on very low heat, stovetop, in heavy enameled cast iron dutch oven. As feared, the cobbler dough on the bottom scorched. The un-burned upper layers were scooped out, consumed, and very tasty.  More ooey & gooey than a baked cobbler, but I happen to like ooey & gooey.

Second experiment: Peach cobbler.  Steamed in DIY double boiler.  As luck would have it, my Pyrex pie plate nestled perfectly on to the rim of my stainless steel soup pot.  And the lid for the soup pot fit perfectly atop the pie plate! Cobbler was steamed for approximately 1 hr. & 15 min. over gently boiling water.  The beginning level of the boiling water was just below the bottom of the pie plate.

Note to self – use less butter than recipe calls out for a baked cobbler! No burning experienced with this method, and my taste tests received an “mmmmm…..yummy” rating. Again, more ooey & gooey than a baked cobbler. Maybe somewhat more of a consistency of an old-fashioned fruit pudding? I packed this experiment up and sent it along to the office with my husband.  His co-workers gave it a thumbs up and the pie plate came back scraped clean.

Third experiment: Blueberry cobbler. Steamed in same DIY double boiler.  Reduced butter by ½ the amount called out in recipe.  It’s ooey and it’s gooey – and I’m not sharing this one!!

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Here is my favorite cobbler recipe. So simple and so delicious! I use an air-bake cake pan when I bake in the oven, to prevent any scorching of the bottom crust or fruit sugars.

Fresh Fruit Cobbler

  • 1 tablespoon + 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups fresh fruit of your choice (my favorites are blackberry, peach, or blueberry)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease an 8” x 8” pan with 1 tablespoon of butter.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg, flour, and 1-1/4 cups of sugar until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ¼ cup of the flour mixture to the bottom of the pan.  Pour in the fruit and sprinkle the lemon juice on top. Spread the remaining flour mixture evenly over the fruit. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter and drizzle evenly over flour mixture. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on top.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve in individual dessert dishes and top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional).

Yield: 6 – 8 servings.

 


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Tigers & Turtles & Toadstools – Oh My!

“The Summer hath its joys…” ~ Robert Campion

Loads of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies this time of year! 

Spicebush Swallowtail & Black Swallowtails are here too!

Toadstools – the fungus among us – wild mushrooms.  Whatever you want to call them, there are LOTS of them popping up everywhere! 

Seems to be an abundance of turtles out and about as well.  Kind of unusual for this time of year.  Heavy rains in recent weeks may be a factor.  This guy or gal decided to rest for a couple of hours in the shade right outside our patio door.  

 

 

 

 


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FRESH Extravaganza!

 

I am blessed to live where fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers are grown locally and readily available. This is blueberry, blackberry, and peach season in North Carolina, and for me, there is nothing quite like fresh picked berries and peaches.  Early in the morning, about every week or two during mid-summer, I treat myself to a 20-minute drive through lovely North Carolina countryside to Blueberry Thrill Farm.  If I can beat the heat, berry picking is a joy.  Seeing families and friends enjoying their time together and hearing the kids announcing their conquest of the “Biggest One EVER!” or “Dad, you’re not gonna believe how many berries I just picked” makes me smile.  Women chat about what they will make when they get home – cobblers, pies, salads, cakes, ice cream – old family recipes or something new they want to try.  Dads and grand-dads hold the kids up to reach the high ones, and help to referee contests between siblings.  Honestly, it’s a slice of Americana, a great learning experience for young and old alike, and generally a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a summer morning.  I think it’s the berries and the flowers – I think they make people happy!

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Blueberries have been folded in to pancakes for Sunday brunch, sprinkled on sweet kale salads, and combined with sweet corn in a delightful summer salad.  I’ll be freezing some from this picking.  And I think I have enough left for a cobbler!

I made cinnamon applesauce from the summer apples – some for enjoying now and some is in the freezer waiting to brighten a winter day!

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And the flowers, oh the flowers!  Beautiful! Zinnias, Ageratum, Cosmos, Globe Amaranth, Lemon Balm.  Picked a 5-gallon bucket full and arranged some Mason jar bouquets for the kind vet clinic staff who take such good care of our canine kids (and us too).  We appreciate them!

So, here are a couple of my favorite fresh blueberry recipes.  I’ll be sharing some more in future posts.

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Blueberry and Sweet Corn Salad

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 cups fresh sweet corn, cooked and cut off the cob
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 orange or red bell pepper

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice – your preference
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil

Mix all dressing ingredients in a bowl, except for oil, and whisk until sugar is dissolved.  Slowly add canola oil and continue to whisk until dressing thickens.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine blueberries, corn, pepper, & onion.  Add dressing and toss gently.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Makes a great light side dish to grilled chicken or pork chops. Or, enjoy on a bed of fresh salad greens or as a salsa with salty tortilla chips.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

 

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Pecan Topping:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Batter:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries (or frozen) – rinsed, drained, and patted dry.

Prepare topping. In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter.  Remove from heat and stir in flour, pecans, sugar and lemon peel to form a soft dough.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9”x13” baking pan.

Prepare batter. Cream butter and sugar. Reduce speed to low, add flour, baking powder, lemon peel, salt and eggs. Increase speed, beat until smooth and creamy. Smooth evenly in to greased baking pan.  Top with blueberries and crumbled pecan topping. Bake 45 minutes or until golden. Lovely when served warm.  Serves 16.

 


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Tiny Windows…..

“…….in the shadows, in the mystical place between life and death.” ~ Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm Journal 

“……..our existence is not a toggle – “on” for alive, “off” for dead – but a dimmer switch that can move through various shades between white and black.” ~ Robin Marantz Henig, National Geographic, Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death

“Death is a process, not a moment.” ~ Sam Parnia, Erasing Death

“What I remember about grief is what becomes perfectly clear in its wake, this perfect knowledge that nothing about the life we live, nothing about the story we write for ourselves, nothing about what we have taken for granted regarding waking up and being alive is ever, ever the same.” ~ Lynne Hinton, The View From Here

“That which brings us sadness has once brought us joy.” ~ Flavia Weedn, Wrapped in a Ribbon

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Areas Between…….Twilight Worlds…………

Passage: the act or process of going from one place or condition to another.

I have some level of understanding of these things.

25 passages within 12 years time.  Each different, unique.  All beloveds.  Knowing what I know now, I hope that I could have acted differently in some cases.  I did the best I could at the time.  My intention was good.  I would like to think I acted out of my best intention.  I am not sure of that.

Some passages have goodness – light – peace – appropriateness linked with them in My Mind and in My Spirit.

Some passages have restricted thinking – overwhelmedness – avoidance of authentic communication – sadness linked with them in My Mind and in My Spirit.

Many have different and separate associations in My Mind versus in My Spirit.

All feel peaceful and loving from the other side of the veil.

With each, different ailments or conditions, stage in life, physical manifestations. With each, a unique individual – Mind, Body, and Spirit.

With each, a different role for me to play. With each, I was officially a caregiver, a steward. With each, ultimately, it is uniquely his or her own passage, his or her own leaving. I struggle to navigate the winding path weaving between the two – mine and theirs.

I want to help, I want to understand.  I desperately desire to act out of my best intention, with compassion, in love.

I wonder, is it a tiny window whose opening grows a bit larger with each passage of grief, loosing, losing, loss, and letting go? Or is it a new tiny window that opens each time – creating a mosaic of tiny windows – each with its own unique view?

I do know this – it resonates throughout My Mind, My Spirit, My Knowing:

It is morning on the other side…and all is light & joy.


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I 💚 Trees

 

I suppose it could have gone either way – my relationship with trees – could have been love, could have been hate.  From the time I was a wee babe, resting in my mother’s arms, I’m fairly certain I was a silent participant in many discussions, ruminations, and heated debates revolving around trees.  And, I imagine there were a fair number of tears, earnest requests, ultimatums, “I told you so’s”, and “we have to do somethings” associated with the above communications!

When I was only 3 weeks old, my father uprooted my mother, my sister, and me, and we moved to a new house, in a new subdivision, surrounded by other new subdivisions – all of which had been carved out of corn fields and a berry farm. While many folks would love to have a new house in a new neighborhood and would think that my Dad was a pretty nice guy for providing us with such, the new lot and the new neighborhood were basically treeless.  And there-in lay the problem.

Knowing my Dad, he was probably thinking, “If I can get grass to grow in this heavy clay backfill, this yard is going to be a CINCH to mow!”

Mom, on the other hand, was a bit on overload with a newborn and a 12-year-old – moving, settling in to a new house, a different town & a different school district. She was yearning for her beloved bungalow and its shady corner lot, surrounded by street after street after street of attractive homes within established lawns and gardens, populated with big beautiful trees.

As luck would have it, that summer was an unusually hot one.  The builder of the new house had not installed central air conditioning, which was actually a common practice at the time.  To make matters worse, with stationary picture windows and small awning style windows set up high on the walls, there was very little air circulation.  And, the old stand-by, the box fan, could not be accommodated by those awning windows in that modern ranch style house.

No doubt as an act of self-preservation, Dad paid a visit to a local tree nursery shortly after the move. As the story goes, he asked the proprietress what he could get that would grow fast and cost little. (He did, after all, have plans to build a man-cave/bar/ping pong & dart room in the basement.  Pennies would need to be pinched!) Out of the ensuing conversation grew the trees of my childhood.  White pine, weeping willow, tulip trees, and silver maple.

I spent many a summer lounging in a hammock under the arching branches of that weeping willow, breezing through my summer reading program books. Many a crisp autumn afternoon was spent raking leaves. Many a supper was consumed while listening to Mom complain about the mess those tulip trees made and the drainage issues the tangles of willow and silver maple roots were famous for. Dad’s mowing scheme did not pan out the way he intended either.

But, ya know, those trees did grow fast. Their roots helped to break up that heavy clay. The grass grew green and healthy. The lawn, shrubs, flowers, and trees helped to make that house a home.  Under and around those trees we played on the swing set, practiced archery, trained the family poodle, had badminton matches, visited with family, friends, and neighbors.

I think we all came to love those trees. They grew up and grew older with us – their progress visible in the family photographs that were snapped through the years. As they matured, no matter which window we looked out of, branches and leaves were part of the view.

As we lost them, one by one, over the years, it was sad – like saying goodbye to an old friend with whom many happy memories had been shared.  The pine trees succumbed to power company butchering, and, broken hearted, Mom had them removed a couple of years later, replaced by lower growing shrubs. The willow tree had to come down after the Roto Rooter men said its roots were breaking apart the terracotta drain tiles running along the basement footings. One of the massive tulip trees was struck by lightning and exploded in the front yard.  The silver maples lost limbs in ice storms and by venturing too far over the neighbor’s property line.

Mom and Dad are both gone now, as are most of those trees of my childhood. My sister and I have both migrated south to warmer winters. A new owner now resides in my childhood home – reportedly drawn to it, in part, because of the mid-century man cave/bar/rec room my Dad built in the basement, and the established lawn, landscaping, and trees.  Both of which would have made Mom and Dad happy to know.  And, for my sister and me, the new owner’s appreciation for things that had been important to Mom and Dad helped us to feel better about transitioning our parent’s home.

The one remaining massive tulip tree and the one remaining silver maple stand tall, still nourishing the soil and shading that little brick mid-century ranch house, holding memories of the other trees of my childhood and the happy family that dwelt among them.

And so, the stage was set, and it was inevitable, I reckon, that all throughout my 30+ years of inhabiting other abodes, the #1 criteria on my “must have” list has always been TREES.

As I walk from room to room, window to window, in the little brick ranch style house I now call home – guess what?!  It’s mid-summer, and I see boughs heavy laden with beautiful green leaves in every view! These trees are well-loved too!