midsummer memories

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
the setting ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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…

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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!

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
gnomeland security ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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…

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Dad’s beloved chestnut tree, all dressed up ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
granddaughter and grandfather sharing a rare moment outside ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
frozen vodka extraordinaire ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
candlelight floating in decorated glass balls ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
firelight ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

mead moon

6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point
mead moon ~ 6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point

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.

6.25.10 ~ Jeff’s notecards

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…

more waiting

Mid-May I started re-reading The Master of Hestviken tetralogy and this morning I finished the last volume, The Son Avenger. (see Changing Perceptions) My reason to begin reading it again was that I remembered loving the descriptions of the natural surroundings and the inner thoughts of the characters living in medieval Norway. Or so I thought. What stood out quickly to me in the first volume, this time around, was all the waiting Olav & Ingunn had to do to get matters settled so that they could finally be together.

In my “Eternally Terminal” post I commented on the waiting again, and connected it to the waiting theme in my current life situation. Little did I realize that the theme would keep coming around again and again in the four volumes. Waiting. Some things cannot be rushed.

Like many of the other characters, Olav was not to have a quick or easy death. He had a stroke and could no longer speak or use one side of his body. His son and daughter-in-law did their best to care for him as he lingered on for a few years. When Olav felt his death was near he struggled, inch by inch, to drag himself outdoors near dawn one morning without his family hearing him. He wanted to see the fiord once more. He finally climbed high enough to find a spot where he could see the water and the sky and be with nature. The next two paragraphs took my breath away:

The immense bright vault above him and the fiord far below and the woods of the shore began to warm as the day breathed forth its colours. Birds were awake in woods and groves. From where he lay he saw a bird sitting on a young spruce on the ridge, a black dot against the yellow dawn; he could see it swelling and contracting like the beats of a little heart; the clear flute-like notes welled out of it like a living source above all the little sleepy twitterings round about, but it was answered from the darkness of the wood. The troops of clouds up in the sky were flushing, and he began to grow impatient of his waiting.

He saw that all about him waited with him. The sea that splashed against the rocks, rowan and birch that had found foothold in the crevices and stood there with leaves still half curled up – now and again they quivered impatiently, but then they grew calm. The stone to which his face was turned waited, gazing at the light from sky and sea.

What a profound moment of intense awareness… It reminded me how when playing in the woods as a child I never felt alone, sensing and delighting in the energy of the trees, my friends. I now feel I was led to read this book again so I could pick up on this message about waiting. Patient waiting is definitely not one of my strong points! I’m impatient for my father’s suffering to end.

I’m also impatient for menopause to arrive, because I’ve been assured, by older women who have been through this and by my neurologist, that my hormonally triggered migraines – and they are the worst of them – will disappear. Every time I go several months without a period my hopes climb a little higher, only to be dashed as they were yet again last night.

Both these things I wait so impatiently for are part of nature. Maybe like Olav I can learn to become more aware of all of nature waiting with me. To let nature calm me down and soothe my frustrations.

Poor Olav. When his family discovered him missing they came looking for him and when they found him unconscious they carried him back to his dark little bedroom and there he died a couple of days later. They meant well…

by the sea

It’s been another rough week – will things ever settle down? Dad is not doing well at all and seeing him in so much pain, or else so drugged up that he’s incoherent, leaves me with a pit in my stomach as I stay helpless to relieve his misery. It’s at times like this that it seems like being there couldn’t possibly be enough, although everyone tells me that it does make a difference.

It’s way past my bedtime and I’ve been sitting here at the computer emailing family… And fiddling with a different theme and name for this blog. As if that would change anything. Edge of the Sea suddenly sounded so sharp to me, like the edge of a razor, or the edge of doom, or the edge of night. By the Sea sounds so much softer and comforting. I simply couldn’t rest until I changed it.

None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

~ George Harrison
♫ (All Things Must Pass) ♫

gardens and yards

Tim & I bought our little condo in 1993. We loved the wooden blue-grey board siding, the landscaping, the light, and most of all, the two birch trees in front of and on the side of our unit. Our little garden in front was just the right size for me to keep up and I loved taking care of it, and basked in the frequent compliments I received from the neighbors. But it was not to last. Sadly around the year 2003 the condo association decided the complex needed improvements. It was a very drastic renovation and we are far from pleased with the result.

First, they removed most of the trees, bushes and flowers in the gardens to make room for scaffolding. I can’t begin to describe the anguish I felt when the two lovely birch trees disappeared… After we got new roofs and new windows they covered the exterior with some ugly peachy tan stuff that looks like stucco or adobe. Here it is, seven or so years later and I still haven’t fully recovered from the trauma. Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve planted all kinds of things in the garden and made valiant attempts to keep weeds at bay. Occasionally it looks presentable, but most of the time by August (when my allergies kick in) I’ve had it and have given up.

My sister lived in New Mexico for many years and told me the siding looks like it would be appropriate there. But I am a New Englander and I’m still at a loss trying to figure out what would make me feel at home with the outside of my dwelling.

Tim was home sick with bronchitis most of this past week. So yesterday we went out for a drive to see the trees starting to get some green on them. We wound up in Mystic for a brunch at a little restaurant we love, and then decided to head up to the nursery in Ledyard following the back roads. We took pictures of a rusty tow truck that looked in worse shape than the last truck it ever towed! We wondered how many “Yankee points” this farm would score. (Not sure where I learned about Yankee points – many New Englanders, who can’t seem to throw anything away, keep all kinds of potentially useful stuff in their yards. The more stuff, the more points. You know the old saying, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”)

4.24.10 ~ Ledyard, Connecticut

When we got to the nursery I was immediately going off on a tangent wanting every other bush I saw. Tim helped me to recover my focus and stick with my new plan. A cranberry cotoneaster. I loved the one I had before it was taken away and this one promises to be 5 feet in diameter. It will eventually choke out some of the weeds. Maybe this will be the year I regain my footing out there. Maybe this fall or next spring I will dare to buy a birch tree. One step at a time… I dug a hole this morning and planted the source of my renewed hopes. It’s supposed to be drizzling for the next three days so it won’t need too much watering. We still love the light here… Will try yet again to make the best of it.