Farm Fresh Memories ~

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” **Thomas Moore

Sheets on the line, snapping in the warm breeze, are one of my very favorite things. It’s barely noon, but I picture myself cozy in my bed tonight, fresh scents of summer, lulling me to sleep. Is there anything as humble as a clothesline? It can be as simple as a length of twine tied between two trees (like we do when we are camping) or as fancy as a collapsible umbrella that you can take in and out according to the weather. I even have one made for apartment dwellers, that fastens to the wall to be attached across a room, then rolls itself back in when not in use.

My grandma had the best clothesline. It was a pulley system from her back porch, a mile (it seemed!) out to an ancient maple tree in the pasture. I can still see her laundry stretched above the yard and across the garden. It truly danced on the wind that whipped up from the river. Helping grandma pull it in the late afternoon never seemed to be a chore. Even as a little kid, I felt the sacredness of those times spent on her farm. Summer days filled with endless hours making trails in tall grass and searching for kittens in the dark interior of the big old barn. My brother and sisters and I couldn’t think of any place we would rather be. We grew up sitting around her round picnic table in the yard, her old transistor radio turned to KWYZ while we played cards or shucked corn or snapped beans.

Upstairs at grandma’s house was a huge bedroom. Even with the low, slanted ceilings, there were enough beds for each of us, including grandma. She tucked us under quilts made from five inch squares cut out of old wool coats and and sewn together with feather stitches in contrasting thread. Beneath their weight we had little choice but to lay still as grandma told stories in the darkened room. I loved how she spun the Mother Goose tales into a long and winding adventure where Little Bo Peep bumped into Little Boy Blue and they worked together to round up their restless flocks. Sometimes they ran into Mary and her lamb, sometimes the Billy Goats Gruff tripped along, telling of the wicked troll that lived under the bridge. We’d drift off the sleep to the soft sound of grandma’s voice and the lonesome whistle as the train lumbered on tracks on the other side of the river. In the morning we would tip toe down the bare wooden stair treads and venture into the kitchen where grandma already had a fire in the trash burner and corn meal mush cooling in the pan.

Isn’t it interesting, how our memories are stirred and pop up as fresh as if it happened yesterday when we allow ourselves the time to ‘just be’? Here I am having quiet afternoon, thinking I am alone in my backyard, when in fact I am sharing the space with my younger self, my siblings, my grandma, not to mention, long gone barn cats. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.” I picture underground springs of memories, that bubble up when the surface is scratched. It’s funny how it works. Here I am, the grandma now, sixty four and counting, but when I think of these old days I am six, or eight, or ten… and for a bit, immersed in the good old days, in my heart I am a child again!

My brother loves to say, ‘those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…’ (or maybe that was Judy Collins), in any case, it is certainly true! We’re busy living and growing up, and then all of a sudden here we are, looking back across the years, wondering where in the world the time went. Today, close your eyes for just a few minutes. Let your mind wander, open the door to the dusty closet where those old times were stuffed so long ago. Pull out a good time and sink into it for a while. I’ve got to go take my clothes off the line…

Peace. Love. Amen.

Spring Flowers ~

“The Earth laughs in Flowers” *Ralph Waldo Emerson

I took a walk around my yard this morning. The sky is heavy with the promise of rain by noon. My peonies are already sagging with the weight of yesterday’s downpour. I wish I had caged them in before they got too big, but I do love that on breezy days they are free to dance. Peonies are such an old and beautiful flower. Two of mine came from my Grandma Goodie’s farm, and they were almost lost. Grandma had given up flower gardening and I took over the lawn mowing. One spring I noticed some spikey red growth poking their way through the lawn. “Oh, yes, those are my peonies.” she said with a chuckle as she pronounced ‘peeOHNY’. It’s a good thing they were so tenacious, I dug them up and brought them home, saving them from the lawn mower and here they bloom beautifully every year.

~ Pretty in Pink ~

Speaking of grandmas, many years ago I took my maternal Grandma Helen on a road trip ‘home’. Though her family moved often when she was young, she always felt home was a ranch on the banks of the Grand River outside of Lemmon, South Dakota, where her grandparents and extended family had homesteaded in the late 1800’s. We knew the farmhouse was long gone, having been moved into town years before when construction of a dam created Shadehill Reservoir and claimed the land, but we hoped to find the family cemetery to pay our respects. We stopped at a general store outside of town to ask for directions. Two fellows were playing checkers on a board a~top an old barrel (true!). They questioned our motives at first, but then decided we looked honest and pointed us in the right direction with the stipulation, that if you open a gate, close it again behind you! I still can hardly believe we found it, but from gravel road to dirt, we wound our way across rolling lands of waving grass, opening and closing gates as I drove, and there it was. High above the old homesite, surrounded by a rusting wire fence was the cemetery. We walked around the graves, reading names we recognized from family history; Smebaaken and Scholaas. Grandma read the names of her cousin Vivian’s baby brothers and spoke of what a treasure she was to her parents when she not only survived infancy, but grew up. In one corner was a sprawling lilac bush. I tugged a start from the sun baked earth, (toppling over backward if I remember right) and on the way back to the highway, filled a baggy with water from the Grand River and tucked the slip safely in the back seat. It took root at my house and every spring, my South Dakota lilac gives me more than beautiful, fragrant bouquets, it takes me back in time to that special trip with my grandma.

My South Dakota Lilac in Grandma Helen’s vase

Mock Orange is another treasured heirloom. I brought a twig home from grandma’s farm, stuck it in the corner by my front porch and she decided that would be a good place to grow. At grandma’s house, the bush grew big and lush beside her back porch. Grandma had the best clothesline, a pulley system attached to the wall reeling all the way out to an ancient maple tree in the field. With her sheets pegged firmly to the line, flapping in the wind whipping up from the river, Grandma would sit a spell on a stool she made out of wood from the collection in her woodshed. I know how much she loved that view of cityscape and river, pasture lands and Mount Baker. I imagine in spring she lingered to enjoy the sweet scent of mock orange. For me, the scent not only reminds me of our wonderful days on the farm, but it takes me across the Cascades to Leavenworth. My great~grandpa built a log cabin where my uncle lived and aunt Fran lived across the lawn in a tiny house. I can’t recall seeing a mock orange around there, and she was not a gardener, but breathing in that fragrance on my front porch is like climbing into a time machine. I am ten years old playing hide and seek with my siblings and cousins. My sister and I visit Leavenworth often and have met the fellow who calls the log cabin home. He is the perfect person for it. When he had to take down one of the pine trees in the yard, he had it milled and used the lumber in his kitchen remodel. His love for the place makes my heart so happy!

Grandma Goodie’s Mock Orange… can you smell it??

Another favorite in spring~time is Love in a Mist. I’m pretty sure the fairies sowed the peppery seeds. Just look at the feathery foliage and how the purple flowers open their faces to the sky. Look closely, I think I see a fairy now!

~ Love in a Mist ~

I cannot do a morning walk~about without speaking to my Foxglove… oh my goodness! I brought the seeds for the wildings home from a walk years ago and sprinkled them all over. I’ve never taken the time to count the number of flowers on these tall stalks, but the bees hum and bumble in and out all day. We don’t have foxes around here, but I do love to imagine a forest glade and small red pups slipping their gloves on to dance in the moonlight.

Foxglove…

Thank you so much for sharing my morning walk, I wish you a wonderful day!

Peace. Love. Amen.