Tag Archives: Seasons

September 9 – Catching Lightning Bugs

by Sara Etgen-Baker

When I was a little girl, Granddad and I spent many summer evenings together sipping lemonade and swinging back and forth on his metal porch glider. On one such evening, I sat with him; and we watched the sun sink lower in the Missouri sky, slowly draining away the light of day. The trees gradually became silhouettes against a newly silver sky, its blue hue all but gone until dawn. Their branches gently swayed in the wind, and the first sound of the nocturnal creatures came; chirping crickets, buzzing mosquitoes, a hooting owl, and a skittering rabbit taking cover in the hedgerow. Soon it grew dark, and a closeness and silence enveloped us.

Out of nowhere, a mysterious yellow twinkling appeared in the night, quick flickers and crackles of incandescent light too fast for the naked eye. The soft warm glow of lightning bugs sliced through the darkness, dipping beneath the black walnut trees. I was enchanted and imagined Granddad and I had discovered the lair of a great magician.

“Want to catch lightning bugs?” Granddad asked, a smile spreading over his face.

“Capture that magic?” My voice quivered with excitement. “Can it be done?”

Granddad looked at my face; jumped out of the swing; and fetched a Mason jar from his work shed, its lid pierced with holes. We walked barefoot into the darkness, following the flickering lights. I ran toward them hoping to capture them, but in my eagerness, they escaped. Granddad cupped his hands and lunged.

“Look!” he said, making a peephole into his hand. With my face pressed against his thumbs, I caught my first close-up glimpse of a firefly.

The jar grew full; and when Granddad tucked me in that night, he placed it beside my bed. The glow of the lightning bugs mesmerized me; and long after everyone else was asleep, I was still wide awake watching the golden lights flare in the darkness.

Now, so many years later, I’ve forgotten most of my childhood dolls and toys. But the night Granddad and I caught lightning bugs and made them into a nightlight is forever imprinted in me. And I’m reminded that there’s so much ordinary magic dancing around the backyard.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

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August 13 – Summer Punch

by Sara Etgen-Baker

The home I grew up in was a two-bedroom, one-bath cracker box house. Minus the garage, it was only about 950 square feet. Like most post-war homes, ours didn’t have any air-conditioning. During the summer, Mother opened the windows for circulation and summertime heat relief.

Most summers, our neighborhood wilted under a hard Texas sky, sweltering in temperatures that stayed fixed in the mid-to-upper nineties. The cloudless sky was painfully bright whether I looked up at the burning sun or down at its reflection on the concrete pavement. The birds were silent; the grass stood still as if it was too hot to move. Cold water ran hot from the taps, and the roads turned to tar. At night there was very little relief from the heat; our pajamas and nighties stuck clammily to our damp skin.

Most summer days, Mother sat inside in her easy chair sipping on fruit punch and dabbing at her brow with a wet hand towel she kept in the fridge for that purpose. My brothers and I escaped the oppressive heat inside the house and played outside on our shaded front porch. My brothers played war games with their green, plastic Army men; and I played jacks. One particular summer day while playing jacks, my ball bounced out of control striking down my brothers’ Army men who were in the midst of a critical battle.

“Look what you did, you stupid girl!” my older brother shouted, throwing my ball and striking me in the face.

“I’m not stupid! Take it back!” I sprang from my sitting position, knocking over all the green Army men.

“Look what you’ve done!” he yelled as he stood up and glared at me.

“I hate you!” I said, punching his shoulder.

“I hate you MORE!” he said, returning my punch. My younger brother joined in the ruckus. The three of us slapped at each other, striking one another’s arms and legs. Words were exchanged. Within a few short minutes, Mother flung open the screen door and marched onto the front porch.

“Stop it right now!” she hollered. “I’ve had enough of your bickerin’ and fightin’.” Mother raised her arms and lightly clenched her hands into fists. “On the count of three, I’ll start punching. May the best man win! Ready? One…two…three!”

She threw her fists in our direction, packing quite a punch as she struck our shoulders and arms. We froze in place, unable to defend ourselves against our otherwise mild-mannered Mother; the same mother who rarely raised her voice and who never even spanked her children. We ran off the porch, convinced Mother had gone stark-raving mad! Mother wasn’t crazy, of course. The ever-present heat inside the walls of the tiny house had closed in around her, short-wiring her temperament.

Although my home is air-conditioned and bigger than Mother’s, like her, my temperament short-wires during August as summer’s relentless heat bears down on me. Walls close in; my patience runs thin, and I’m more easily agitated. So, I pour myself a glass of summer punch; sit down in an easy chair, and wipe my brow with a cooling rag, resisting the urge to snap or pick a fight with those around me.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

July 20 – Bluer Than Robin’s Eggs

by Ariela Zucker

“As I remember your eyes,
Were bluer than robin’s eggs.” Joan Baez – Diamond and Rust.

RobinsEgg-ArielaZuckerI watched them for almost three weeks, a couple of robins building their nest. They flew around the front yard for a while. Checked the grassy lawn for its offering of forage. Perhaps consulted with the hummingbirds who inhabited of the lawn for many years, and finally decided to construct the nest in the bush right next to the deck. The bush that I neglected to prune and is now hovering over the drive.

Every morning with my first cup of coffee I would sit, and watch fascinated how they were flying back and forth each time with a new trophy; a blue thread, a twig, a dead leaf, stopping occasionally to chat, while resting on the arch that holds my Dutch Trumpet’s vine.

I was a bit worried about their choice of location, at the tip of the bush, on a rather low branch. Constructing the nest at the section of the bush that seemed fragile, unstable in the wind and easily seen from the front drive. But I calmed myself thinking that they have generations of instincts guiding them so who am I to judge. It was nice to be able to see, from my seat on the deck how the nest grows and forms with each day and becomes an elaborate creation to hug and protect the eggs and then the newborn birds.

But this morning, on the deck a blue egg, fractured is the first thing that caught my eyes. It laid half-open on the floor with its insides oozing out. I knew right then and there that my worries were justified; this was not a good place, not a safe location at all. For a few minutes, I was consumed by sadness and anger.I was surprised by my reaction. Only a broken robin’s egg, I kept telling myself, not a big deal. Light blue, the kind of blue robin eggs are known for. Blue for happiness and rebirth, in this case, became the death of a hope.

I found myself mourning the loss of one blue robin egg, the death of a future bird. Perhaps in a world full of misery, and anger, it is the simple daily things that in the end get us.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. This post originally appeared on her blog at Paper Dragon.

June 28 – Tending Roses

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Unpruned Rose BushI strolled through our backyard, the footpath sparkling and crunching like sugar underfoot.  Under December’s dove gray sky, the colors of my world donned their winter coats, each hue darker and richer than before. The flowers in my garden slept, and the bare branches of the oak trees showed their lofty arms. A hushed silence enveloped me; and the crisp, cold air brought me right into the now. Oh, no! Winter’s here!  I sighed and scurried inside.

January arrived bringing weeks of sunless harsh days. Snow and ice laid like a glistening white sheet over the backyard, and winter’s dreariness settled over me. I often stood on the back porch, the frigid air penetrating my skin and chilling me to the bone. I shivered and felt myself being silently drawn by the strange pull of something; an undefinable, almost mysterious stirring or yearning in my soul.  I dismissed my feeling as the one I typically get in winter, the one that longs for spring. Yet part of me sensed there was more to this yearning.

Winter was unbearably long; and I grew discontent, not just with the winter weather, but with myself. By late February, the first signs of spring grew boldly as if commanding warm weather to come even faster. I so wanted the flowers to emerge and could almost smell the promise of their fragrance. I slipped into my gardening boots and trampled across the backyard where I found my husband pruning a rose bush along the fence. I watched him snip and clip until the bush was nothing but a stump of nubs and limbs.

“Do you think you’ve overdone it, Bill?” I asked. “Can anything possibly bloom out of this?” I found myself staring at it with a twinge of sadness and a sudden sense of kinship.

“Pruning removes the dead wood and actually encourages new growth,” he replied confidently. “Pruning shapes the rose plant and gives it a new direction.”

Can that possibly happen in my life? Can pruning and cutting away the old bring an unfurling of newness in me? I don’t know. I’m discontent, but I don’t know if I want to grow back any differently.

“Do you suppose that sort of thing happens to people?” I asked, unaware I’d spoken the thought out loud.

“Why not?” he said. “Something completely new can happen to you.”His remark stirred something inside me. There it was again; in the midst of springtime’s promise was that mysterious, unsettled feeling I’d felt during the depth of winter.  What if things that mattered before no longer matter to me, and the things that never mattered suddenly do? What if I become different; so different that no one recognizes me? How will my life change?

As the days of spring peeled away, I recognized the need to tend to my rose garden and do some pruning, shaping, and letting go. Like the unfurling of spring’s rose petals, I needed to open myself up to a newness I couldn’t always control.

 

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

April 20 – Spring

by Ariela ZuckerSpring Flowers

Spring by far is my favorite season. Every year when the snow finally melts I can’t get over the magic of the first spring sprouts. It’s as powerful as God’s promise never to bring a second flood. Regardless of the craziness that engulfs us daily when even nature at times seems to lose its grip and lash at us humans with unremembered fury. When April rolls in, the days get longer, the ground gets softer, and the green erupts. Soft greens at the beginning dot the ground or appear as tiny buds on the trees until one morning everything is green.

My favorites are old friends I saw last fall and are now coming back. The Clematis who all through the winter looked like a dead twig springs new leaves and buds that will open into glorious purple flowers. The sweet pea in the corner sends tender, shy shoots that from experience I know will grow and grow relentlessly and if not stopped will cover walls and windows. In the wet ditch, bordering the road the nine cattails raise their brown heads and sway in the light breeze while next to them my pride and joy, the wild lilies I planted years ago start their journey that will yield my favorite orange blossoms.

It’s nothing less than a dazzling celebration. The colors of the new growth mingle with the loud music of the peepers. First, just a lone forerunner whose voice is heard at dusk from the wetland in the forest across the road but before long another one joins and another to create a deafening orchestra that salutes nature and will last all through the night reaching its crescendo shortly before dawn.

The cycle of life, perhaps a cliché, or maybe it holds an inner truth that we can adopt into our lives. Decline and death are but stages that interact with the spring bloom and the summer’s lush. It makes me feel good to know that the seeds I invested in the ground will forever become a part of this everlasting succession.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now resides in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at https://paperdragonme.wordpress.com/

November 12 – Resist or Release

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

Autumn in the Cariboo-1

Quaker Meeting was my destination on this crisp, windy fall morning. Trees were swaying; some as though their boughs would break, while others seemingly allowed the wind to give them the ride of their lives. Leaves were swirling in spirals while others floated lazily to the ground below.

“Why that fits the description of how people choose to die,” I thought.

I have outlived many of my family members and peers; thus been a witness to various and sundry methods that death has released them.

My grandmother had a brief illness during her last year. She was recuperating with my mother and took her last breath while asleep during the night. No lingering for her. She had swayed through a myriad of fall seasons, the death of two husbands, and sunnier days, raising four children, in a lifetime of 88 years. She knew when it was time to take her last breath.

Then there are the deniers. Death happens to other people. I witnessed such a death with my second husband. We couldn’t talk about death in spite of the fact that his body was wasting away due to cancer, multiple heart problems, diabetes and beginnings of dementia.

“I am going to live until I am 90,” he would tell me.

The reality only hit him when his M.D. pulled up his chair, got in his face and said: “You need to hear this, for you are dying.”

Was this heartless? No. My husband needed to be shaken out of his state of denial, for death would have the last word despite his protestations.

The leaves symbolized the deniers of death as they hung onto the branches tightly in spite of winds that were battering them to and fro. “No, no, it’s not time yet” they were saying. “We want another day, another week, and another month.”

As a hospice volunteer witnessing the death of the physical/bodily existence is just a rebirth into another form of living. I do not proclaim to have the answer as to why one person dies seemingly peacefully while others struggle with agonizing breathing for what seems like an eternity for the witnesses.

May I leave this life floating and swaying to the rhythms of Andre Segovia’s guitar or Deuter Buddha Nature like the leaves that know when it is time to stop hanging on and just drift into what lies ahead.

Patricia Roop Hollinger: cat lover, musician, gardener, voracious reader, now exploring writing skills in retirement. She was employed at Brook Lane Health Services as Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor/Chaplain for 23 years prior to retirement in 2010. Celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary on October 30, 2014 to a former high school heart-throb.

August 20 – Summer Waning

by Morgan O’Donnell

Photo-Aug-09-8-01-30-PMSummer is waning. I know this because the soft glow that seeps through the blinds comes later each morning. I know this because each evening the rich shades of burnt sienna and crimson and twilight lavender color my living room wall earlier. Normally, the end of my summers are frantic, filled with hurried preparation for the fall semester, advising new graduate students who are worried about being back in class after many years, and calming faculty who are wrestling with ornery technology for their online classes. Usually, I am so busy that I barely register the change in light as autumn comes creeping in.

The summer is different. This summer, for the first time in well over a decade, I am not involved in the fall semester prep, filled with both excitement and stress. Instead, I have left my job in higher education to take a break and see what I can do with these words and ideas that have been tumbling around in my head for so long. Instead of putting them into emails that welcome and calm new students or memos that cajole and console weary faculty, or impromptu pep talks to coworkers, I want to see if I can wrangle these words and ideas into the shape of a book.

Each time I tell my story of how I ended up in the mountains of New Mexico watching summer wane, I realize there are many beginnings to it, not just one. The career mentoring sessions with my dean was one beginning. Listening to my boss tell stories of her close friend who had always talked of writing mysteries and then suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s before those ideas reached paper was another beginning. Yet a third beginning was seeing people smile or hearing them chuckle over some quip or crazy Tumblr post I created and realizing that just maybe I could add a little fun to someone’s life. Each time I tell the story I learn something new myself, some little nugget I hadn’t recognized before.

So this summer, for the first time in years, I am measuring my days by the waning light, the gentle chill of the pre-dawn darkness, and the feel of my pen as it glides over paper while I wait to discover where the story will take me.

 Morgan has done a little bit of everything from serving as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army to public relations coordinator for a boys’ ranch to graduate advisor. She has spent the last 10 years guiding college students of all ages. You can follow Morgan’s adventures in the Land of Enchantment at www.morgankodonnell.com.