Tag Archives: Seasons

May 18 – Where Beauty Lies

by Ariela Zucker

Flower Montage

We got to Portland in the middle of March. My first impression of Maine was “gray.” The sky was the color of ash. The snow, still on the ground, was a mixture of mud and slush. Only a few people walked the streets wrapped in their winter coats, and their heads bent to the ground to watch for hidden obstacles.

When the wind blew, it brought a faint scent of salt from the ocean but mostly a bone penetrating chill. And then when the snow finally melted by mid-April, the rain began. Cold drops that turned everything into mud. Mud season the locals kept joking was the fifth season in Maine. Following a never-ending winter, quick and chilly spring, short summer, and a promise of glorious autumn, that more often than not failed to deliver.

After two years in Idaho, I missed the mountains’ deep greens and the lake in front of our rented home. Idaho supplied dramatic scenery, Maine, in comparison, was almost flat. Under the gray skies, the colors appeared muted, and the residents unfriendly and brusque. People kept telling us that in time Maine will grow on us (like a fungus my husband used to joke).

In time we will discover the colors, the subtle beauty, the picturesque corners that gave Maine its reputation. Seventeen years later, I can assure you that it is all true. Maine grows on you. There are those breath-taking spots, like the brochures promise. Where the ocean meets the craggy, rocky shore, and picturesque lighthouses send their haunting lament over the waves to warn the sailors. In the summer, the ocean is so blue one cannot tell where the water ends, and the sky begins. Spring is an extravaganza show of greens and the fall blaze in reds and oranges. Trickling StreamOver time I fell in love with the subtle tones of Maine’s beauty, those I did not appreciate in the beginning. The winding country roads that go on forever, passing through small villages with only one main street. The surprise that never fades of seeing the ocean peeks behind a curve of the road. Small streams and uncountable lakes, that the locals call ponds. Old farmhouses with falling apart barns and the promise of ghosts that hide in the frequent fogs. The flat blueberry barrens covered with wandering rocks that make them appear like the face of the moon.

Now I know that the real Maine is in the small details, those that do not draw attention to themselves and are only clear to those who know how to observe.

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. Ariela blogs regularly at Paper Dragon.

March 30 – Corona Virus Chronicle

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Almost three weeks have passed since we first saw evidence of the coronavirus—people frantically hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectants, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer. The next week, we watched shelves being emptied of food essentials such as eggs, bread, cereal, crackers, cheese, peanut butter, meat, bottled water, juice, etc.

“What’s happening?!*” Bill and I commented to one another. Had we miscalculated the seriousness of the pandemic? Or were people just over-reacting? I hate to admit it, but we succumbed to the fear and chaos; quickly grabbed a shopping cart, and purchased some of our frequently-used items and even some random items believing that things were direr than we realized. We wanted to be prepared.

That day even before mandates to self-isolate, Bill and I isolated ourselves in our home shielding ourselves from exposure to the coronavirus. To stop the virus’ spread, schools, businesses, restaurants, malls, and non-essential businesses soon closed. Everyone suddenly found themselves shuttered inside their homes facing a string of rainy, sunless, dreary days and negative news. The pandemic was real after all, and we hunkered down seeking solace inside our home.

The past ten days have been challenging ones for Bill and me as we came to grips with the ever-changing new pandemic reality—a reality riddled with more questions than answers. Although we’re retired and don’t get out much, we suddenly missed the freedom of being able to go wherever we wanted when we wanted. We missed dining out and the social contact we had at our favorite restaurants. During my morning walk through our neighborhood, I saw only an occasional car but nary a person was out and about. How surreal and life-altering it all was.

But today shortly before noon, the rain stopped, and the dreary, gray skies that had enveloped our neighborhood slowly lifted. I opened the garage door; stepped onto our driveway; and glanced upwards to the sky. Pristine white clouds drifted by. The concrete was warm under my feet, and I was glad to be free of my fear and the confines of being inside. I removed my shoes and sat cross-legged on the lawn running my hands over the soft green grass relishing the new growth. I closed my eyes; the warm sun on my face felt like the kiss of summer without the fiery heat of noontime in August.

I opened my eyes and watched as neighbors opened their doors and windows bringing the clean air into their homes. One by one, my neighbors emerged from their houses making their way to the end of their driveways. We all stood at the edge of our driveways many feet apart and had conversations, offered emotional support, and shared laughs. This sort of chit chat connected us to one another. And there in the midst of a pandemic, a feeling of hope swaddled our neighborhood.

CORONA VIRUS LESSON LEARNED:  There’s great power in fresh air, sunshine, and camaraderie.  And I’ll never again take those things for granted.

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.

 

January 13 – You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

by Ariela Zucker

Every day in the winter, when I make the fire in our woodstove, I see it as a reminder that no matter how old, I can learn new skills.

I could have identified other, perhaps more respected skills I acquired over the past years.

Like becoming a writer in a language other than my native language (Hebrew) about ten years ago when I was in my sixtieth. How I joined college classes and rejoiced at my ability to hold my own against first, second, and even third-year students.

Or how I learned to run a motel, in my late fifties, without prior experience in the field of hospitality. How together with my husband, we managed for over ten years to hold our place in a competitive tourist-oriented market. (Working side-by-side, 24/7 is a massive victory by itself.)

But starting and maintaining a fire is, no argument here, a life-sustaining skill. I learned it when in the winter of 2001, with my family, we rented an A-frame in Northern Idaho with no other heat source than a woodstove on the ground floor. In Israel, where I grew up, I never saw a woodstove, nor had the need to make sure that my house will be warm enough to protect my family from death by freezing.

My husband, who grew up in Connecticut, was familiar with wood fire. Still, being away all day, it became my responsibility to stoke the fire and keep it going. I gained overnight a new title – “Fire Mom.”

Every day  I went outside into the snow to collect logs from the woodpile for the daily fire. I learned how to arrange the logs in the firebox, tuck old newspapers around them, strike a match, and fail time after time to start a fire with only one match. Over time this became a routine I strangely learned to love. The roaring fire hours later when my husband returned home from work was proof of my ability to master a new trick and a useful one at that.

Now in Maine, even though we have central heat still in the cold, snowy nights, I light the woodstove. I love the feeling of performing a job that, while being apparently simple, connects me to the women that all over the ages performed this task starting in the stone age caves.

I think of them with sisterly affection when I tread in the snow my arms loaded with wood. I am filled with primal awe as I pile the wood into the stove adjust the damper and gaze enchanted how the small orange flame licks the logs and wraps around them, and the warmth spreads around me.

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. Ariela blogs regularly at Paper Dragon.

December 9 – Snow Day Chronicles

by Ariela Zucker

Snowy Day

“Up to a foot of snow,” the smug-looking weatherman announces on the six o’clock news.

“Thirty million Americans in the path of the storm,” numbers are always a convincing tool in scare tactics.

“More than six states,” he continues to plant the seeds of doom.

“Stay in if you do not have to be anywhere,”

The small crooked smile at the corner of his mouth reveals how pleased he is with the drama he creates.

Behind him, the weather map alive with serpent looking swirls of green and blue and the dreaded pink.

In the middle of the night, two orange lights penetrate the shades of my bedroom, and a low growl and grind on the driveway. Ready to jump out of bed, I realize it is the snowplow performing the first of many rounds and slide deeper under my blankets.

In the morning, the quiet is deafening. It is the kind of quiet that accompanies snow days. No cars on the street, no kids on their way to school, even the dogs hush. Outside, a world clad in crisp white. My entrance door decorated with snow flowers. I savor the uninterrupted white before I send my lab out to mark it.

Shovel the deck so the snow crystals will remain outside, is my part in the snow removal operation. My husband wakes up the snowblower, and the brittle quiet explodes. The machine sucks in the snow and spits it out like a water fountain. Before long, our cars reappear from under their thick blanket of snow, and a narrow trail connects us to the main road.

On the morning news,  somewhat disappointed anchorwoman discloses that only 9 inches of snow came down. She brightens considerably when she shows us pictures of cars that sled off the road (everyone is OK).

By noon the temperature rises to 32 degrees. Big drops of water from the roof and the trees create an illusion of rain. The cleaned cars and narrow trail freeze to form a shiny layer of ice. This thin, hard layer will remain unbroken until covered with a fresh coat of snow. In the meantime, it is sprayed with sand to avoid sliding.

Brown, muddy-looking snow with untouched patches of slippery ice that snaps and pops when stepped upon. Icy cold drops of water, some find their way inside my coat as I haul inside logs of wood for the woodstove. Snow shovels and ice picks everywhere.

“Tomorrow night, a monster snowstorm on its way to the East coast, 50 million Americans in harm’s way,” here he is again with the smug look and the smirk.

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.

December 2 – It’s Fruitcake Weather!

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Tears stream down my cheeks, splattering upon the keyboard as I write this.  ‘Tis the holiday season, you see, and I delight in the memories of my childhood yuletides.  One such memory stands out as clearly as the glittering angel atop my Christmas tree.

November’s blustery winds arrived weaving frost spider webs onto Mother’s kitchen window. “Oh, my,” she’d invariably say, staring at their intricate designs, “It’s fruitcake weather! I’ve much to do!” Yes, ours was a blessed fruitcake house.

I can still see Mother and me driving into town lugging home packages of my favorite things: candied cherries, candied pineapple, figs, walnuts, pecans, raisins, dates, and candied citron.  Back in her kitchen, we chopped the nuts, the candied fruits, the dates, and figs, blending them with the heavy batter, and dumping the glorious mixture into fluted cake and loaf pans.

Three hours later, the cakes emerged from the oven only to be wrapped in cheesecloth; doused in peach brandy; then stored in every nook and cranny Mother could find.  Every few minutes, it seemed, I pestered her.  “Are they done yet, Mother?”

“No, not yet. They must age.”

After what seemed like months (It was really only three to four weeks.), she’d proclaim, “The fruitcakes are ready for wrapping.”

Out came the rolls of wax paper, aluminum foil, ribbon, and the mailing cartons.  Having bundled up our packages of cheer, we took them to the post office.  On the way home we dropped off mini fruitcakes to neighbors, teachers, and friends then tootled home, warmed with the knowledge we’d brightened the Christmas of friends and family.  My head sank into my pillow dancing with visions of folks unwrapping our fruitcakes; sniffing the cinnamon, cloves, and peach brandy; and eating a slice of our dense, sweet fruitcake topped with a dollop of thick whipped cream.

Folks felt blessed by Mother’s thoughtfulness, and soon our mailbox was stuffed with cards and notes of gratitude.

Even now, I love eating fruitcake and don’t understand why they’re underappreciated and maligned, often being referred to as bricks, paperweights, or doorstops.  They also bear the brunt of many holiday jokes. I remember the first fruitcake joke I heard.  “The worst Christmas gift is fruitcake,” cracked Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and year-after-year people send to one another.”

“Sure, Johnny, considering how long a properly made and stored fruitcake can last, it’s quite possible. The alcohol alone acts as a preservative, allowing people to keep or regift it for years.”

If only I’d known. I would’ve kept some of Mother’s fruitcakes; and when the holiday season arrived, I’d retrieve one from my freezer; thaw it, and re-douse it with peach brandy.  I don’t have Mother’s fruitcakes.  Instead, I have our fruitcake-making memories. I’m heartened that Mother loved making those fruitcakes, and I’m touched with how thoughtfully she involved me in a decades-old family holiday tradition, a tradition I revisit every year when it’s fruitcake weather.

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.

 

September 2 – The Reds and The Yellows

by Ariela Zucker

The lone red leaf on a soft mat of green that I detected this morning, is it a sign of fall?

“One swallow does not a summer make,” (Aristotle), a voice inside me resists.

One red leaf does not herald a season just like one flake of snow is not a sign of a coming storm. I try to talk myself out of the winter coming predictions, but I know I am fooling no one.

The reds and the yellows are a sure sign that the seasons are changing, there is no denying it.

I look at the Goldenrods in my garden, now at the peak of their bloom, but my eyes are drawn to the top of the trees. Up there, I find the incriminating proof in the view of several branches that overnight turned a bronze-red.

“Just the weakest link,” is always a good explanation. Young branches turn red first, so do sick ones, but those resistant and hardened will not change till the end of September.

Almost convinced, I walk in to pick up the motel phone to answer the question that in the following days will become more and more prevalent.

“So, when do you think it will be the best time to come see the leaves?”

The changing leaves, or as we call them, the fall foliage, are the big draw to our area in September and October.

Within a night my husband and I become the ones to consult with regarding leaves. People from all corners of the US and often Europe who plan their fall vacation in our motel depend on our recollections of past years foliage and the forecast for the coming season.

Just like the infamous New-England weather, known for its capricious nature, the foliage can fool even the best of nature enthusiasts.

People reminisce about the good years when the colors were so vibrant, they practically shimmered, and try to figure out the mysterious color quandary so they can predict the colors for the coming fall. The success rate is not very high, especially when the weather, in the last minute, decides to interfere, and a sudden storm knocks off all the leaves overnight.

Once September starts, we hold our breath and pray. For the weather to remain calm, for the winds to stir clear into the ocean. For the rain to hold on till the last leaf will land safely on the ground and for the sun to shine in a clear blue sky.

This, we discovered, is the real secret for the assurance of good colors.

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.

May 28 – Lesson From a Pothole

by Teresa Lynn

©CanStockPhoto /marcbruxelle

There is a corner coming into my neighborhood that for some reason always has a pothole. Two or three times a year it gets filled in, but always within a few weeks, the pothole is back. If you don’t give wide berth on that corner, you’ll get the jarring experience of a wheel in the crater.

Naturally, folks in the neighborhood don’t like the pothole. It’s unsightly, but that’s not what most people have against it. They’re more put out with the fact that you have to slow way down to miss the hole but still make the turn. I admit I felt the same way for a long time.

Then one day as I approached that corner after a rain, I saw two mallards, a male, and a female, at the edge of the pothole. They were taking turns getting a drink. I stopped the car and watched for several moments until they drank their fill and waddled away.

Not long after that, while the pothole still held water, I saw a squirrel drinking from it. Squirrels are nothing uncommon, no matter where you live, but that was the first time in my half a century of living I’d ever seen one getting a drink. The same day, a grackle bathed in the hole.

I began to think that maybe the pothole wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Then I remembered that this is Texas; drought-prone country. When it was no longer a puddle but merely a wheel-catcher, what good would the hole be?

The answer came several days later. The rain had all dried up, even in the ruts and ditches. Driving out of my neighborhood, I glanced down and saw a post lizard sunning itself. Down in the pothole, it was safe from passing vehicles.

Now, I make it point to see what’s at the pothole whenever I pass. Often, there’s nothing. But sometimes I’m surprised by a chance encounter with nature. That wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have to slow down and pay attention. Wonder what I’d see if I slowed down and paid attention all the time?

teresalynn-e1559253850889.jpg

Teresa Lynn is a writer and editor with a background in journalism. She has written for a range of publications and authored two books under her own name, as well as ghostwriting several works. In 2014, Teresa helped establish Tranquility Press, where she now provides all types of editorial services. She blogs at http://henscratches.blogspot.com/.

 

 

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December 3 – Claus Creativity

by Kalí Rourke

I begin with the fact that I am a Christian, attend church, and yes, I know the reason for the season.

That said, my husband and I decided to make Santa Claus the spirit of generosity in our house and to make it FUN! As the girls grew old enough to appreciate it, there was always a special last present from “Santa Claus,” and it was often the most desired gift on their list.

But that was not the good part, believe it or not! 

Each year Santa was left a cookie or two, a glass of milk, and perhaps a little treat for his reindeer by our daughters. He always responded with bites and sips taken from all and with a lovely, handwritten thank you note to them.

The delight on their faces each Christmas morning as they discovered the evidence of Santa’s visit will live in our hearts forever. One year there were ashy footprints from the fireplace to the dining room. Another year, reindeer prints and reindeer poop (oatmeal mixed with chocolate powder and glitter) joined the mix. (Note: Do NOT do this on the carpet!)

As they added their precious gerbils to our family, Gabrielle and Xena had to join the party and those clever little rodents shredded some festive wrapping paper to decorate their cage and managed to put some of their little chew toys into the girls’ stockings.

Time went by and Santa got messier. Sometimes he apologized for making a mess, saying he tried to clean up but ran out of time and didn’t have time to put the Dustbuster away. 🙂

The girls started admonishing Santa in their yearly notes, to “be neater!”

Inevitably, they asked, “Is Santa real? Should we believe in him?”

My husband and I were prepared. We explained that Santa was merely the spirit of generosity and giving in our home, and when the time came that they no longer wanted to believe in him, he would go away. It was that simple. They looked at each other and decided to believe just a little longer, but one year they had both expressed their doubts and so that was a special Christmas morning.

Santa said goodbye. He thanked them for believing in him so long and said he knew that their lives would be filled with happy Christmases. Then he added, “I really tried to be neat this year and even grabbed a shower, but I seem to have forgotten something important, and I can’t remember what it is! I am sure you will figure it out. Love, Santa.”

Hanging on the light fixture in the dining room, in all its red and green glory was a huge pair of Santa’s boxer shorts. Giggles galore, and we said a fond goodbye to a glorious family tradition that may very well be revived with the next generation of beautiful children.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Kalí  Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, proud Seedling Mentor and a champion for children’s literacy through BookSpring. She blogs at Kalí’s Musings where this post also appears, and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

 

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November 6 – Ode to My Gardening Gloves

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Alas, beautiful gardening gloves, I knew you well. I remember the early March day I opened the package and slipped you onto my hands. At first, you were a bit stiff and uncomfortable; but over time you softened and became my weekly companion, pulling weeds, cutting flowers, and guiding the nozzle on the water hose that allowed our foliage to flourish even during the hot summer months.

You’ve faded from our days together in the sun; the bubble grippers on your fingers are worn, and your fingers are tattered and torn and worse for the wear. I will surely miss you as I will miss the warm, languid summer days we shared together.

Sadly, I’ll soon cover my hands with my woolen mittens and furry gloves. But you’ll hold a special place in my heart as I stand on my front porch shivering and yearning for next spring’s arrival. And inside my desk drawer, I’ve placed my new pair of gardening gloves already purchased for next spring.

Each morning when I open my desk drawer, I’ll slip them onto my hands and say, “Spring’s coming. Spring’s coming.”

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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October 31 – Happy Hallo-Wasp!

by Kalí Rourke

I love Halloween.

When I was a child in Northwest Washington, it meant brisk mornings and cooler evenings with bright, colored leaves flying everywhere as my favorite holiday approached.

I spent hours deciding what persona I would let loose each year. My mother was my willing conspirator and her crafty skills and imagination created prize-winning costumes.

I dressed up for Halloween even after I moved to Texas as an adult, but it wasn’t quite the same. Embodying a Disney villainess in the heat and humidity of Austin’s 6th Street didn’t quite have that fall kick, but I adjusted, and my new town gave me my most frightening Halloween ever.

The weather turned cold very suddenly one Halloween weekend.

I realized that I needed to bring in my vulnerable plants or risk losing them. I hauled them in, hanging them in the kitchen, then I went to the front room and watched TV.

Bzzz…Something flashed by my head.

“What the heck?” I frantically searched for something to kill it. I didn’t know what it was, but it did not belong in my front room!

I cornered it at the window where it banged against the glass. It was an adult wasp.

Swack!…thud.

“That was exciting,” I muttered to the empty condo. I went back to the TV.

“Bzzz—Bzzz.” More wasps!

I hustled this time, starting to freak out. I realized that they were coming from the kitchen.

Bzzz… BZZZZ!

The kitchen was swarming. Wasps were flying in panic, hitting each other in their frenzy like a scene from a fifties horror movie!

I lunged for the patio door and threw it open, hoping they would exit, but cold air poured in and kept them inside.

I pulled on a scarf and cleaning gloves. I gingerly grabbed a can of Raid and a fly swatter. The wasps did not make it easy, but the cold air slowed them down, so I sprayed many of them in mid-air and then swatted and stomped them. The mess became immense.

I spotted one coming out of a plant I had brought in. It was a large plant, and I realized it must have a nest in it!

“Oh crud,” I thought, “What do I do now?  It has to go!”

I grabbed it with my Playtex pink, long-line gloved hands and ran as fast as I could toward the open sliding glass door. I slipped on smashed bodies of wasps on the floor, wobbling like a crazed skater. Lurching to the patio, I lobbed my precious plant into a corner!

As I slammed the door shut, wasps started to pour out of my broken plant, looking in vain for a new home in the cold. I watched in fairly unsympathetic silence since I was still shaking with adrenaline!

Later, I called my friend. told her my Halloween horror story and she laughed.

“Oh Girl,” she said, “I can just see you running around going ‘Rambo’ on wayward wasps!  And what was that get-up you were wearing again?”

It was pretty amusing, all right.. afterward.

Happy Hallo-wasp!

 

Kalí Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, proud Seedling Mentor and a champion for children’s literacy through BookSpring.

She blogs at Kalí’s Musings where a longer version of this post appears, and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

 

 

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