It is morning here in my little corner of the world, an almost June morning. For the last 50 years of my life that would have meant the excitement of school being almost over. Now it is just the excitement of being able to slowly take in the beauty of the day.
I missed the sunrise this morning. It was early, I was late. I am learning to sleep in a little later. I still wake up at 4, but now, instead of coming out here and rushing around to get some work done on the computer, well, I often just totter back to bed. I am learning to take another little morning nap. I never was able to do that before, the pressures of LIFE, the worry of school, or the responsibility of whomever I had to take care of kept me from napping. I am still up before 7, but seldom before 6 anymore. I feel lazy saying that! I have my cup of tea in front of the computer. Snuffy seldom gets up with me in the morning. He prefers dreaming in his window bed or watching the morning’s activities if the window is open. Snuffy gets in the window at the first sound of morning, the first insistent chirping as some little feathered creature says his morning prayers. Or are they shouting threats to the worms below? “Are you ready to die? I am hungry!” Whatever it is, Snuff removes himself from sleeping on my feet or next to my legs and hops over into the window to check things out.
Eventually I have read enough or have typed long enough to need a break. I get up from the computer and look out to see if the outside crew is around. Sometimes Pumpkin beats me to it and bangs on the back door. “Feed me!” he yowls. Or worse, he gives me that poor starving kitty look with the silent meow that says he is too weak from starvation to even manage a sound. If I don’t hurry up with the food, he will fall over dead and won’t I be sorry?
I look around for Spook. Usually he is asleep in the plastic lawn chair that no one ever gets to sit in anymore because he now owns it. I scoop up a cup of Chef’s Blend, try to remember what they had to eat the night before – god forbid I should ever give them the same thing twice! I grab what I hope is the appropriate can and quietly go out the back door.
Cats fed and ears rubbed (a quick tick check done) I stand and breathe in the morning air. This morning the air was a bit on the heavy side. It was already 70° at 6:30. The scent of honeysuckle lies on the air as I start my gratitude list. Well, actually this is my second gratitude list for the day. The first one was for being able to get out of bed and make it down the hall under my own power!
I think about how great it is to wake up out here in the boondocks where I can smell honeysuckle in the morning, not exhaust fumes. I hear a woodpecker off an acre or two away rat-a-tat-tapping on a tree. I think about how lucky I am to share the place where woodpeckers live and to have the ability to hear them. I listen to the morning bird songs. What a gift to hear those songs. I must remember to put some more peanuts out for the blue jays, sunflower seeds for my cardinal family.
I decided to take a stroll out on the eastern acre. I have all these little paths thru what used to be my pine woods before the pine bark beetle and then the guys with the BIG power saws reduced my acreage to weeds, stumps, and wood rubble. I had them shove all the debris into one big pile (more or less) so I could keep pathways clear with the mower and wander out here in the morning. The big pile is habitat to any number of critters. There is a tunnel under everything and pathways beside some of the big hardwood trees that were just shoved out of the way, their wood sadly having no value here. They carted away the 100+foot pine trees. There are places where I can see the deer have slept. Often I can see their hoof prints in the soft earth or mud. A few of the birds fly up as I quietly walk along smelling the honeysuckle, marveling at its color and form, amazed at how it seems to be able to grow just everywhere, turning bare, dead limbs, trimmings from the yard, and piled up deadfall branches into a small hill of flowers and fragrance. Many of the birds just look at me, used to my morning wanderings, but with a cautious eye just in case, just in case. You never know with humans, they are so unpredictable.
This morning brings bad news on the air. My first mosquito for 2006. Rats! So now I must decide whether to wear long sleeves or spray that yucky (but effective) stuff on my arms when I go out. I have been battling with ticks already for a couple of months – it was a warm winter. I even had to have my hair cut down to what feels like nakedness to me - I don’t like it much, but I got a bunch of tiny ticks in my hair last week and my hair was too thick to be able to get them all – so……………. Well, I feel bald.
A couple of the pathways I keep reasonably weed free (mostly poison ivy free) are covered with moss. The holly, scrub trees and sweet gum, locust and maple keep some parts of the path shaded enough to let the moss grow nicely. The hardwoods really grew fast once the tall pines were out of the way. The pines are being very slow at growing back on the eastern acre. The western acres have pines up around 12 feet or more. Not bad for, oh, what has it been, 5 yrs? 6?
The path comes out to a fern garden, one of three I protect and love, but this one has a different variety of fern than the other two. I must look them up to see what they are called. I walk past the dogwood, weeks past blooming now, but my mind can still see the beautiful flowers it had this year. Past my studio, I see the yellow iris glowing with the morning sunlight with the darkness of the woods behind it. Robins hop about ears cocked to the ground listening, listening. The early bird gets the early worm. Hey, isn’t that life? I guess you just have to decide whether you are the early bird or the worm!
The magnolia is about to bloom. I see the promise of its great swelling buds and can hardly wait to smell them. There is something magical about these great flowers.
I have several mulberry trees. They are very busy places this time of year. The deer come by early in the morning or in the evening and snack on the lowest branches. Then during the day, the birds and squirrels sit and dine and chatter, sometimes fussing at each other over the ownership of a particular branch only to be chased away by the real landlord, the blue jay.
The earliest morning buses roll by, still empty, on their way to pick up their precious cargo. I am still shocked that I do not miss getting up and going off to the old brain factory after, what is it, almost 58 years on one side of the desk or the other? No, I was right to quit while I could still walk if only short distances and have a chance to enjoy my yard even if most of it is still a jungle. Whenever I meet other teachers in a restaurant or in a store, they tell me how much they envy me and my decision. They tell me how the new girl (my replacement) has had such a horrible time, how bad the kids are, the struggle to pass the exams, and how long until they, too, can retire. So instead of feeling sad as the buses roll by, I breathe a sigh of gratitude that I survived 38 years. So what if I couldn’t make it to 40! The physical pain had gotten just too great. I turn and slowly pick my way over the rough ground and head toward the house and my bottle of Starbucks.