Book Hoard

I’ve been pretty busy for a couple weeks- either out of town, or brooding. I went out of town to visit family and ended up in places like this:
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as well as places like this:
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until I came home and made Amish bread. You can find that post elsewhere on my blog.

After that I finished up some brooding I’ve been working through this summer. This has to do with a series of milestones that happened this year. They are:

1) Our wonderful dog died. Here she is in one picture:

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She was very vocal, hard working, and deeply connected to us.

2) I turned a certain age. I did various things to both celebrate and cope, like making myself a momcove. The momcove is the living room alcove turned into my personal space. It looks like this:

The Momcove
The Momcove

 

Parts of it change to reflect my mood from time to time.

I did other things, too, like hauling large boxes of family photos out of storage and letting everyone just paw through them. They enjoyed asking questions, revisiting memories, and laughing at some really weird poses. There were, for instance, a couple pictures of my kids being slaves. They had watched the Charlton Heston movie Ben Hur one summer and found colorful ribbons to tie their feet and hands so they could pose “in fettered agony” (my daughter’s words).

That was part of the brooding I’ve been going through- a reflecting back and peering forward kind of pendulum emotion.

Then I decided to finally drag down those old boxes of books from the attic. I’d stashed them away a couple boxes at a time as the kids grew up. I figured there were about ten boxes up there, from toddler board books to early readers and great classic kids’ lit. So I crawled up into the attic, not an easy task, and found that something about the size of a squirrel had been living up there. Nobody was home and it looked like they’d been gone for a couple years, but there was a new level of smell up there to add to the dust and heat.

And there were eighteen boxes of books.

One of them exploded as I was hauling it down from the attic and board books went flying. Two more fell apart as I was later organizing the books. These particular boxes were all far too large for storing books in anyway, so they did me a favor by dying.

I should have taken a picture, but honestly, I feel embarrassed that I may have passed into the realm of the hoarder and I didn’t want to provide published evidence.

With my kids helping, I sorted out at least three boxes’ worth to get rid of. It was all we could part with.Then we resorted the remaining according to who wanted which books. Each of us ended up with five boxes each, and of those fifteen, all will go back into the attic until I can unload them on my kids when they are adults.

Fifteen boxes we kept. Fifteen! It seems like a lot to me. Of course, I had initially guessed that there were only ten boxes to begin with, so this all seems a bit much anyway.

I console myself that I am in no way a hoarder, because there is still plenty of room in the attic for more boxes of books.

Not that I want them, to be sure. Oh, I want them. But then again I don’t. Yes I do.

Sigh.

Also in the attic were a rocking horse, rocking chair, a box of handmade baby clothes, other neat stuff.

Any critters that had lived up there don’t seem to have done damage to our possessions…so I couldn’t complain too much.

Other milestones:

3) My oldest child is in her last year of high school. She is nearly an adult. Combined with my age milestone, looking through old photos and old children’s books seemed a pretty mild way to work through these feelings. Sometimes I am sentimental, sometimes I am terrified, sometimes I am proud, and sometimes I nearly mourn how quickly time has passed. I’m grateful I often had the strength to tell the schedule to go jump in the lake, because I have many, many precious memories. There is no greater treasure in this world than children. None. Not my books, not the manuscript I’m working on, not the car, not my education, not my antiques, not our investments. Maybe my health. I won’t argue that one. But: kids! Children.

4) My youngest is now officially in middle school. And she’s old enough to start attending what we call Early morning Seminary (a before-school scripture study program for teens). I have no more little kids. I have teens. I will soon have adult children. I’ve already hinted once or twice about the possibility of grandkids. Otherwise, why keep all these books about animals and babies and trains and stuff? That gave the girls pause for thought!

5) I started this blog. 🙂

What did I do before I was a mother? Will that even suffice for whoever I turn out to be when the kids are grown? How much have I changed? Will I ever lose all this extra weight? Should I paint my momcove? Can it really be possible that I’m gravitating towards historical romance movies? Who is that man in my house?

So, having successfully felt my way through a summer of feelings, I feel about ready for another school year. And whatever may come after it.

tea and books poster

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The Mimosa part 3

I hadn’t expected to have an update on my mimosa tree so soon, but things are afoot, my friends. This morning I discovered three flowers on my tree, all on the same branch. Here is a picture of one, and while it is a rather poor picture, I can also state that this is a bit of a poor flower, as well:

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And here is another picture:

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I hope you can imagine how the tree would look if it were covered in hundreds of these. They look like some sort of tuft on the head of an exotic bird strutting its way through the grassland or jungle. Heck, it looks like a hat suitable for a fairy out for her summer tea at her friend’s house the butterfly.
I really did not expect to see any flowers this year, this being mid- August and all. Our first frost is only about a month away, after all. But there’s a lesson here for the Christian gears that turn my thought processes, and it is this: it is never too late. There is always hope.
I am happy.

Dragonmother

Since I’m going to be extraordinarily busy this week, I thought I would post a short story of mine from a few years ago. It should last all five of my readers the whole seven days of next week.

Dragonmother

“There’s just no accounting for dragons,” the squire muttered. “If it pleases your lordship to say so.”
His big brown eyes flicked their gaze across the saddles to his master. The aging knight didn’t seem to have heard. The squire cleared his throat and began a little louder, speaking up over the swaying squeak of leather and armor.
“It’s dragons, you know. There’s just no-”
“I heard the first time,” his master interrupted. The graying beard and moustache hid his mouth so it seemed he had not even moved his lips to speak. He certainly had not turned his head, nor shrugged a shoulder, nor raised one hand in the slightest gesture. The squire grudgingly sank down into the company of his own thoughts. Hopefully an inn was nearby. He craved human conversation and he apparently wasn’t getting it here.
The knight reined in his white charger and his servant obediently followed suit. The lower man watched the face of his lord as he raised his old armored bulk up in the stirrups, straining his senses that were more easily strained than in times past. The squire wondered, what was his lordship thinking?
His lordship thought to himself: my knees don’t lock in the stirrup like they used to. He eased back down into his saddle.
“We’re near the lair.” His subdued tone indicated that he wanted quiet. The knight was wise and shrewd, and had gotten them both out of so many scrapes that his servant had the utmost faith in him. Dismounting, they led their horses through the underbrush. It became easier as the vegetation died away to charred stubble. They passed among outcrops of bare boulders. Three riderless horses were picking their way towards the men. The squire caught one by the bridle. He examined the saddlebags which hung in shreds from their sides.
“Nobility lost these steeds, sire.”
“Tie them. We’ll collect them on the way out.”
‘If we’re not fleeing for our own lives’, the squire thought, biting his tongue. The last meeting with a dragon had not gone so well; he knew better than to mention it.
A stench grew as they rode, and the stench was dragon. The two riders found themselves looking up at a cave from their position along a bitter resentful creek of tainted water. Bones were strewn about and several hungry horses stood amongst them, looking guilty by association. They shied a bit- just a bit, before the recognition took over- when the great green scaly body of the dragon pulled itself from out of the cave.
Dragon heads were ridiculously large by proportion and covered with intricate detail. The purplish scales around the golden eyes told this observant knight that here was a female in her prime. That was good to know. He started marching forward as she herded the horses together and spied a human skull she’d overlooked before. Idly popping it into her fang lined maw, she spied the visitor and watched his approach while she crunched up the tidbit.
“Good afternoon, Madam,” the knight said politely. He bowed low to her. “I am Sir Galaird, and I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.”
The dragon eyed him, then the petrified squire, then their horses. She leaned down and sniffed the knight a few times. There was much to tell about a man by his scent: his health, his fear, his deceit. The knight stood very still. He was pure in purpose and strong in constitution. He also carried an ample supply of lemon drops.
The golden eyes lit up on catching their tangy scent. She regarded him with new interest, and he boldly winked at her. The dragon found this amusing and sat back on her haunches. She seemed to be waiting for something. The knight always found this particular gesture most comforting. It meant he would probably walk away from this encounter alive, perhaps even successful.
From a safe distance the squire marveled. By what saint was his brave master able to tame dragons? The servant, being relatively new to his lordship’s service, knew nothing of an aged mother who still made lemon drops for her son, he of the stiff knees and dulling senses. He did not know the story of the knight’s conversion: the evening when he’d been surprised by two young dragons who had thrown him to the ground, devoured his horse, and eventually started ripping their way through his armor.
“I see you have a fine collection of steeds, milady,” the knight was saying. She glanced over them, and smiled a toothy smile.
“Are these your trophies of past contests? Or are they larder for the coming winter?” he asked. She pursed her lips and, ducking her head, listened at the mouth of her rocky home. Satisfied by what she was – or was not- hearing, she spoke in a whisper to the knight. It was a ravenous sounding whisper.
“I do hope for a nibble of them, but the truth is, these are my daughter’s pet collection. She loves horses, you see.”
“Ah, a romantic soul, is she? She must bring you great joy.”
The dragon nodded proudly. She was very obviously pleased with being treated so graciously by a human knight and obvious gentleman.
“I hesitate to bring this up, but there is one observation I feel I should mention.” He shifted his feet on the barren terrain, and she cocked her head in concerned interest.
“It’s just that these horses are looking a little thin. I presume they keep wandering off, as well.”
“You know horses,” she commented.
“Perhaps I might show you how to build a corral. It will keep them in one place. Then there is the matter of food. We could trade some of them for you- in town-“
“Oh, no, she couldn’t part with them. She’s named most of them,” the dragon interrupted.
“Perhaps her least favorite ones, then. For the sake of her favorites.”
The dragon considered and then nodded.
“I will talk with her. Will three do?”
“Three should, milady. It has been an honor.”
“Ooh, another white one!” came a squeaky reptilian voice. A slender head with a hint of purple around the face showed from the cave. The knight turned to regard his charger. It took a few moments’ consideration.
“It’s yours, sweet princess,” he immediately offered, gesturing to the squire. The man removed saddlebags, saddle, blanket, and bedroll. With trembling in his limbs he led the sturdy horse forward.
“This is Sir Galaird,” the dragon mother said. “This is my daughter, Fire Eyes.”
“Sir Galaird…” the younger female breathed as she led the skittish horse aside. The charger had a new name, and the lord had a new client. That made three for him so far, and fair enough business for any aging knight facing retirement. Knights rarely faced that prospect: they were intended to prefer the honor of a horrible death. Galaird had, over time, become a more prudent man whose discretion knew fewer bounds than did his valor.
Fire Eyes reluctantly let them talk her into giving up three horses. On leaving the area of the lair, the squire gathered up the other three strays. Six chargers for one was not bad business. The knight would have his manservant sell some for hay and feed, others for their business commission. After the promised delivery, it would be time to make the rounds of more dragons’ lairs. The knight could tell that he was already making a name for himself among his new clientele. The long hours and extra attention to service were paying off. Not a drop of blood had been lost; only a bag of lemon drops sealed each deal.
As they rode back towards civilization the squire was relieved to the point of tears. The knight reflected upon the evening of his conversion long ago. It’d been the first time he had ever heard dragons speak. Perhaps, he sometimes mused, it had only been the first time he’d recognized their noise as language, inspired as he was by his own desperation. Dragons were usually solitary and made for breathing fire rather than making conversation, or so he had always assumed. The two that had paused above his breathless and flattened form that night had startled every dove-winged assumption out of his soul.
“Wha- what is that?” one had said, snuffling his chest where the pouch of lemon drops lay.
“It…smells good…” the other had said. Planting a clawed foot on the knight’s legs, the second dragon had investigated the bag more thoroughly. Then the two of them binged on their newfound treasure, sucking the lemon flavor out and crunching the hard candies. The knight lay as quietly as possible, observing their behavior as well as the drool that was something like hot melted wax as it dripped onto his supine figure. Afterwards they demanded to know how they could get more candy.
Lemon drops. Loving mothers indulging their children. A knight with a fresh opportunity rather than his previously grim future. He felt God must truly be smiling upon him.
The squire certainly thought so.
The end.

The Mimosa, part 2

It is now 2014, and my mimosa has taken a bad hit. It was fine in 2013, but this last winter was a hard one for it. We had deeper cold spells that lasted longer. They came earlier in the season. The winds were harsher, the ice heavier. It was hard on man and beast, but little did I even consider the trees. The closest I came to recognizing a problem was during the deepest cold spells when I could hear branches popping, splintering, and falling through the woods.
Finally the softer side of Spring made its appearance. The woods showed some holes in its canopy where dead wood had fallen down, letting the sun shine in. Since my mimosa is always the last tree to wake up each year, I wasn’t too worried when it was still stark and empty at the end of May. After all, this thing can wake up one day and by the end of the week be in full leaf, or so it seems. However, in June I began to be aware of a problem.
The tree began with a few shy leaves curling out after the month had already begun. Then the leaves stretched rather slowly and the tree came into its new, pitiful version of full leaf. Which this year meant that at least a quarter of the tree is bare branches. And by the middle of July it became obvious that there would be no blossoms. This tree suffered trauma last winter. The live parts seem very much alive, but the tree has a bit of a reserved feeling about it now, as if it must rest and gather its strength, so no flowers this year, so sorry. Which means a lot less for the butterflies and hummingbirds to rely on. In fact, this year I have only seen two hummingbirds all season. One of those looks thin. Whatever their challenges this year, the lack of mimosa flowers hasn’t helped.
I’m not sure what will happen this winter. If it’s a harsh one again, it may very well damage more of the tree. If it’s a mild one, it may still do damage to an already damaged tree. I find it comforting that there is no sign of disease, per se. If it flowers next year, then it is feeling better. If it doesn’t, I will watch for decay. Perhaps its recovery will take longer than a year or two. I can’t find much information on healing your tree.
In the meantime, we have a house rabbit who is supplying plenty of fertilized mulch for the mimosa. I’m hoping this is a good shot of nutrients and vitamins for my tree. It will also ease the roots and help the tree have one less worry when things get cold again. If trees worry. I really am that big of a softie to wonder if trees have feelings. I once read that the tree rings of a tree show some of their history- thin rings for drought times, thick charred rings during times of forest fire. Of course, being cut down so that tree rings can be read, well, there’s no chance of that experience being recorded within the same rings, now is there? Not in the usual way, I expect.
I miss several trees in the neighborhood that have been cut down over the years. When I look at old family photos of our suburban homestead, I notice the trees in the background almost as often as I see my kids romping around in the grass. I see this, as well: our yard was bare when we moved in. It now has trees, a variety of berry bushes, two gardens, a fort, and most recently, the grave of a loyal dog. This yard is a deep-rooted record of our own lives. We have feelings here. We sometimes call the back yard our ’healing yard’, but that should wait for another post I suppose. Maybe our mimosa will take advantage of what our yard has to offer.
I hope my mimosa recovers. It is a beautiful tree. I have since learned that the blossoms can be used in a tincture to ease sensations of depression. I fully believe it- the tree does that just by standing in my yard; I wouldn’t be surprised if it somehow held that essence within itself.

cropped pic

Mimosa 2014

The Mimosa, part 1

In my intro to this blog I mentioned an old blog that had gone feral, or weedy, or what have you. There are some good articles on there I will be bringing over here. For the first, I want to edit an old post about my mimosa tree, and then update the condition of the tree. This is because when I decided to grow a mimosa in Pennsylvania, everyone told me it was too difficult. Yet I had seen them around, here and there.
So I did some research and drew together information, mostly hints and tips, that formed my hypothesis on how to successfully grow a mimosa. So this will be a two part post. This part is the old post. Part 2 will be the update. It’s my hope that folks may stumble across this in their own pursuit of knowledge. It might apply to mimosa trees, or other out-of-habitat growing. Because while we tend to think of such an action as detrimental to the natural ecosystem of a locale, the fact is, sometimes it is practical information. For instance, I accidentally bought tomato seeds that are meant for desert climates. I’ve decided to take a whack at that challenge. We’ve had some hot dry summers and some cool wet ones. The very land itself is capable of major changes, and we need to be aware and be adaptable. So, without further rambling, here is the initial ramble:
(originally posted Septmeber 2011)

I have a mimosa tree in my back yard. It is nearly due east of the house. I planted it there to be protected from the fierce winds that come from the west. The west side is the colder, more exposed side of the house, where even small rocks have been blown against our west windows during some storms. This summer the tree has come into its own. It is about twenty feet tall now and spreads out overhead like an umbrella from a single willowy trunk. Most of the branches tend to grow away from the house, towards the woods- towards the east. The mimosa has an uneven canopy as a result, but it more than makes up for this with shade, flowers, and now pods. The flowers of the mimosa are difficult to describe. If a person is familiar with fiber optic strands, I tell them that is what the flower looks like. The pods are only one way this rampantly fertile plant spreads its genes. It also seems to send little trees up from its roots when the weather is warm enough. Between the pods and the root sprouts, this plant is banned in many southern states as an invasive species. Here in Pennsylvania, the cold seasons keep them under control. In fact, they can be very difficult to grow here. Using the house as a shield has worked, as well as mulching the roots the first few years against the winter cold. It also helps that this tree grows near some water. Ours has a kind of vernal pool directly behind it to sink its roots into. Every time it rains that pool forms, a temporary watering hole that actually appears more often than just in the Spring.
The mimosa opens its frond like leaves during the day, and closes them at night or when there is a strong storm. If a child breaks off a frond and leaves it on the porch, the frond will continue to open and close for a few days before it finally wilts. The flowers get pretty ugly when it rains, all sodden and flat and sticky as heck. Many mimosa owners complain about the mess these things make: dropping sticky fronds, flowers, and pods, over cars, benches, or houses. My tree is far enough from all of those that I only need to place a chair there, enjoy myself, and then take the chair away again. It has a heady perfume, as well, a cloying scent that comes off the tree in waves and which I can only take so long before I have to move farther away.
With the tree in the east I have had the most wonderful effect in my own yard. Not only does this tree bring a splash of the exotic to my yard, but at dawn it re-enacts the Garden of Eden for me as well. In the morning the tree is literally dripping with dew. The entire yard is fog grey as if a roving caravan of water fairies came during the night and made themselves at home. The fronds of the tree shimmer at every feather and edge. The sun breaks through the surrounding woods and shines directly through the uppermost leaves of the mimosa, lighting every dew drop on every open frond and making the tree dazzle and shimmer. It is a spectacular light show. Sometimes when I admire this, I can hear in my head Cat Stevens singing “…Morning has broken, like the first morning…” Other times I recall scriptural accounts of Eden and the Creation, the verses about that trouble making tree, dontcha know. We all know which one that was!
As simple as the act is, stepping outside to enjoy this fleeting light show brings me out of the world of chores and school and into the world of nature and beauty. I think many of us have realized this opportunity as we squeeze a garden into one corner of our world, or spread it across the yard. I may have to live in the suburbs, but I can make my back yard feel wild and woodsy. Not that it’s hard to do- there are woods up behind the house. It is packed with animals that have been displaced by construction in other areas around our neighborhood. They like my garden.
The critters like my mimosa, as well. When it is in bloom with hundreds of pink flowers, both butterflies and hummingbirds crowd around it. I like to sit outside and watch the mimosa sustain life. All the trees do that, of course. The Trident Maple is best preferred by those who desire well hidden and solid nesting. The gnarly old pine tree drops cones that the squirrels carry away. The Pin Oak feeds deer, turkeys, rodents, and my daughter’s acorn collection. The peach tree actually gives a couple peaches once in awhile. I love my trees. But none can compare with my sentimental attachment to my mimosa. When I was a child living in Virginia, we had one. I often stood under it, waiting to catch a glimpse of fairies. I didn’t believe in fairies, of course, but at the same time I was so sure they lived in those magical flowers. How can such a contradiction exist in one’s head? In my experience, how can it not? People seem quite comfortable living with contradictions in their heads; this one just seems so obvious. I know now that the flowers float down like feathers, and any breeze will spin them as they fall. The tree is teeming with hummingbirds and butterflies, each with its unique way of flying and hovering among the fruitful branches. Out of the corner of a child’s eye, this could easily look like very busy, very magical, Fairy Traffic Central.
My mimosa is not a practical tree. I haven’t learned yet of any edible parts. It does keep the stink bugs away from the house while it is in flower. Mostly I just enjoy it.
As the weather turns colder, the tree will suddenly drop all its fronds in one day. It will stand bare like most of the other trees, only a little more scraggly. Next Spring it will send out fronds again, and grow at an amazing speed if the heat and moisture are enough for it. It did that inside the house, when it was a baby. For its first year it was a stick in a pot beside the kitchen table. It grew in that year from three feet to about seven or eight or more, and brushed against the ceiling with its fronds, a fun bit of jungle in the house while it lasted. That is one part of mimosa-keeping that I miss: the fronds above my head at the breakfast table. It turns out that I am not the only one. My daughter is angling for a banana tree.

mimosa

My mimosa tree in the morning, 2011

I wish I had some pictures of the mimosa in bloom for you to see, but those pictures were on my old computer which died. And in part 2 of this post we will see that flowers are not in this tree’s near future, even though we are already in August. I recommend that all two of my readers go do a search for images of the mimosa, or silk tree, in bloom. Very exotic.

First World Problem

I seem to have trouble using the vacuum these days. Every time I have to edge the living room I wave my arms over the vacuum and declare in a commanding voice, “Onboard attachments, unite!”

Yet they never do; not by themselves anyway.
And to make it worse, the kids have become, shall we say, inured.

I’m not even sure which part of this post IS the First World Problem.

 

housewife

 

 

 

Wisdom of the Ages

This wasn’t my intended post, but I have been so caught up in my reading this morning that I have to share it. I read different books over the day. In the morning as I nibble eggs and turkey bacon and chickpeas with chickweed (like you wanted to know that), I do a daily scripture reading. I have been reading in the Old testament, in Proverbs. I recommend it to everyone. If you’ve never read the scriptures or wouldn’t know where to start, then try Proverbs, just that, all by itself. It feeds the soul in small bites, and it’s not nearly so demanding as some of the behavior of the kings or the dense poetry of Isaiah. Here are some of the scriptures that have just very nearly leapt off the page for me:

Proverbs 8:35-6

“For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me loveth death.”

(Do we suffer from a death culture in our larger society? I think we do.)

 

Proverbs 9:13-18

“A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.

For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,

To call passengers who go right on their ways:

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.

But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”

(Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ came so strongly to mind as I read this that it took my breath away.)

 

Proverbs 11:11

“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.”

 

Proverbs 11:15 (and this one just messes my mind up, which happens to me throughout the Bible)

“He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.”

(Like, are you sure about that? I think I’m going to understand that last word as meaning ‘confident’.)

 

Proverbs 11:17

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”

 

Proverbs 12:10

“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

 

Proverbs 12:18

“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.”

 

Proverbs 12: 25

“Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it to stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.”

And finally, because this is as far as I read before I finished my breakfast…

 

Proverbs 12: 27

“The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.”

 

The over all effect here for me as I read is that I desire wisdom, discretion, and grace in word and deed. I don’t get that feeling when I watch TV, that’s for sure. Really, to be honest, most TV shows kinda end up looking really bad when compared to the standards in the book of Proverbs. The more I read the scriptures, the worse things like TV sit with me. But TV is just a side issue. How I treat my fellow brothers and sisters upon this Earth (and our critters) is the essence of how we can be defined individually and collectively.

I feel well fed this morning, and not just by chickpeas.