The ancestral viewpoint is formative to the way society subtly changes over the generations. It helps codify the protocols, procedures, and customs that the present establishment upholds; it also forms a norm against which reactionary and reforming spirits can rebel. These two notions of conformity and rebellion, like two intertwining shoots about a sapling, define the growth of the trunk. The influence of our descendants is a more subtle one. We need inheritors to guard what we have established, but we cannot entirely dictate and mold them to our desires. Our descendants will modify and change what we leave them. The continuity of society is woven from many generational needs and influences. Only when we stand at the hub of time, as ancestor, self, and descendant concurrently, do we become fully aware of the contract that our partnership involves.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)
My sister delivered the most important news first. On Sunday we had last talked on our cell phones, and she let me know then that they had lost power at our father’s house, courtesy of the freak Halloween Nor’easter that caught Connecticut by surprise this past weekend, dumping over a foot of heavy wet snow on most of the state. Dad had a cold, and they had the wood stove going trying to keep him warm. Then her cell phone went dead and I heard nothing further.
This afternoon, two days later, she finally was able to make it down to her office and call me from work. They have their power back now, but still no land line or cell phone service. Beverly says I won’t believe the damage up there, although I am seeing many news reports on TV. Apparently the state lost more trees in this storm than we did during Hurricane Irene. With the wood stove they were able to keep Dad’s room at 70°F (21°C), although like many elderly ones, he doesn’t feel comfortable until the temperature is about 80°F (27°C).
When my father was a young man – he is now 89 years old – he found the chestnut sapling in Pennsylvania and brought it home with him, transplanted it in Connecticut soil, and nurtured it to a full-grown, gorgeous tree. When his short-term memory started disappearing several years ago, he would tell me the story over and over, every time I went up for a visit, which used to be several times a week. He looked forward to seeing it outside his window every morning, and was very attached to it, his special tree.
In June of 2010 it bloomed! A lovely scent filled the air. I’ll never forget it.
We used to decorate it with flower garlands for Midsummer.
And now the Halloween Nor’easter of 2011 has uprooted it. Beverly reports that when Dad discovered what had happened he simply said, “This is demoralizing.” I cried when she told me. The storm also took the tops off several oak trees and the yard and the roads are a mess. Poor trees. They’ve taken such a beating this year…
O chestnut tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?
~ William Butler Yeats
(Our Secret Discipline: Yeats & Lyric Form)
Yesterday I finished writing and scheduling the next three blog posts, and then went off happily to a cookout at Nate & Shea’s. We’re trying to squeeze in as many visits as possible before they move away… My plan was to “coast” for a few days, by responding to comments here and catching up on my reading and commenting on other friends’ blogs…
The pictures are of the branches of a pair of nut trees in the front yard of Nate & Shea’s house. Most of the leaves, and zillions of the nuts, had come off during Tropical Storm Irene. Nate was using a snow shovel to clean the nuts off the lawn after the storm. The trees looked so sculptural in the cloudy light.
The sun came out after a while and Tim & I started playing badminton with four little guys, ages ranging from 2 to 7, and we were having a blast teaching them how to serve and we were all darting around trying to hit the shuttlecocks. Well, apparently I dove too far or tripped on one of those nuts or the edge of the sidewalk, and next thing I knew I was down on the ground, my body on the cement and my face down in the grass and soil. It’s a good thing we’ve had so much rain lately and the ground is really squishy. Tim said there was an imprint of my face left in the ground. I felt disoriented, as if I had been rudely awakened from sleep.
My right hand got the worst of it! It’s a sign of our times that my first thought was not how hard it might be to write, but how hard it might be to use my mouse! My mouse-hand! Shea gingerly bandaged the wounds and gave me an ice pack and I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening under the trees, gathered around the fire and the music – I love Nate’s Pandora Radio station – we seem to have the same taste in music. Ate dinner with my left hand. My right shoulder and arm are feeling very sore this morning, and my hand is very swollen! But nothing seems to be broken or in need of stitches and it looks like typing – I type with two index fingers anyway – and mouse clicking will not be too much of a problem, since I can leave the bandaged pinkie hanging off to the side…
We had a midsummer party Saturday night, but the pictures I took did not come out well. So I’m going to “cheat” and use pictures from last year’s celebration, which will seem new to my readers because I didn’t have this blog back then…
This is the fourth year my sister and I have done this, and it keeps getting better. All year long we toss around ideas. We got started doing this, I think, because we are both nature lovers. And because we have a little Norwegian heritage and my sister once lived in Sweden for a year. Our adult kids have come to love it and look forward to it just as much as Christmas/Yule. This year we had 17 friends and family attending, a very nice size gathering.
In the first picture, my brother-in-law and Bernie pause for a moment before the decorating begins. The picture is taken from the front yard, looking down one story over tiered stone walls leading down to the side yard. My parents built this house themselves about 1960. My father built the stone walls after we moved in. My brother-in-law installed the patio much more recently for our midsummer parties. Last year my sister found some nice wooden folding chairs to replace the green plastic ones pictured here. Little improvements here and there…
My brother-in-law does the gardening now. He doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides – it’s so naturally beautiful.
Last year we managed to get Dad outside for a little while. The year before that we actually got him to whittle some sticks down for the kids to use to roast marshmallows. But this year he was too fragile to jostle around across the lumpy terrain in his wheelchair. I’m not even sure how aware he was that there was a party going on. I was hoping he would catch a whiff of his blooming chestnut tree (it didn’t bloom last year…) but he didn’t say anything about it. When I asked him about it he seemed so confused that I didn’t press him any more.
My sister, my daughter and I have been using pretty beads to decorate glass balls that hold floating candles. The effect is so enchanting after dark. Some of them shattered the first year we tried it, so now we’re using fishing line instead of wire to string the beads. The wires wouldn’t allow the glass to expand from the heat of the lighted candles. It’s hard to get good pictures of them, though!
The summer breeze was blowing on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden
~ Van Morrison
♫ (In the Garden) ♫
Another highlight of the evening is the arrival of a bottle of frozen vodka! Preferably from Norway, but this year we settled on one from Iceland. We give it to my brother-in-law ahead of time and he freezes layers of flowers and water around the bottle. It’s so pretty to look at and then we drink shots using my sister’s cobalt blue glasses, which only come out of the corner cabinet twice a year!
And finally there is the fire. We roast marshmallows and make some-mores. Play with sparklers and glow sticks with the little ones. Blow weird bubbles with magic bubble wands. Swat at the mosquitoes that make it through the citronella and the smoke. We always say we’re going to stay up all night – it’s supposed to be one of the shortest of the year – and greet the morning sun, but we have never made it much past midnight. Following are some more pictures…
At 4:00 a.m. this morning a very loud, but very pretty, bird song awakened me. It was soon joined by many others, all adding their distinct tunes. Soon I will have to start boiling the beans that were soaking overnight… We are having a belated Midsummer bonfire/cookout up at Dad’s tonight. Belated so more people could make it, having it on the weekend.
Yesterday Tim took the day off of work so we could go to Dad’s to help my sister and brother-in-law with the preparations. We were about to do some food shopping so I called Auntie to see if she needed anything at the store. (Fiercely independent, she lives near Dad in an elderly housing complex.) She sounded terrible. She said she had fallen at 3:00 a.m. and that she was in a lot of pain. After I got off the phone with her I called her doctor and he was willing to see her in an hour. When we picked her up I asked why she didn’t call us and she said she couldn’t reach the phone at first. Then asked her why she didn’t press the life alert button on her wrist? She forgot it was there. By the time we got to the doctor I was wondering which morning it was that she actually fell…
Fortunately the doctor examined her thoroughly and said that she had a cut on her elbow that did not need stitches, and that she was badly bruised head to toe on the left side of her body, but nothing was broken or dislocated. He suggested that she start using a cane. The attention and reassurance from the doctor had lifted her spirits considerably. We drove her to the medical pharmacy in the next town and she worried all the way that she would not find one short enough for her. But we did find one. Tim is a cheerful and pleasant problem solver and he made the selection process a treat. (Had no idea there could be so many options and features on a cane! Dad had used one for years, one that his own father had carved from a branch.)
Auntie was a little grumpy about having to use a cane now. But I pointed out to her that she had done very well getting to age 95 before needing any assistance at all with walking! She tried it out on the sidewalk leading to her “cottage.” The walk has a slight decline and she was very pleased that it kept her from pitching forward. Phew! Hopefully this will work out for her.
Back to food shopping, back to Dad’s. Getting very tired… Bernie wanted a walk so I took him while the others continued laboring away. Didn’t take the camera, but rather spent the time observing Bernie to see if I could figure out how he manages so well with his blindness. I think he has a detailed memory of the lay of the land because he never bumps into anything stationary, like a tree or a stone wall. But he often bumps into small twigs sticking up from the leaves, or plants that have popped up along his usual routes. My brother-in-law leaves a dish of water on a bench outside for Bernie’s convenience. Yesterday he had moved the bowl over and placed some potted plants he was transplanting on the bench. Bernie was distressed and disoriented because he couldn’t find his water bowl. My brother-in-law figured out what the problem was and redirected him to the other end of the bench.
We finally headed home, realizing we just weren’t going to get to the fun part, decorating, until today. Going to put the beans in the slow cooker and head out to my dad’s early and cook them up there while we decorate the garden and the trees. Dad’s beloved chestnut tree is blooming, the air is filled with its scent.
We followed a lovely big full moon all the way home! I also spotted three young deer on the other side of the highway, up on the edge of some rock outcrops. They weren’t so young that they had spots, but they weren’t full-grown. Maybe “teenagers.” I hope they weren’t thinking about crossing the interstate.
The moon was so pretty we went down to the beach to see it shining over the water. Took a picture, but because of the moon illusion the camera did not capture the hugeness of it perceived with our naked eyes.
Came home and found that Jeff’s cards had arrived! They will serve as stunning invitations to next year’s summer solstice gathering… Who knows, maybe Jeff will create something wonderful we can use for our winter solstice gathering…