September Takes My Breath Away

The leaves start to drop. The air is fresh. A school playground fills with shouting kids, and pick-up soccer games – and I feel melancholy, but on the edge of excitement, too. More than January, isn’t September the time of new beginnings? New grade school? College and university? Parents and kids fill backpacks with crisp notebooks and coloured pencils, then head to the malls looking for squeaky new runners? There are anticipatory trips to Ikea to deck out tiny dorm rooms or studio apartments full of furniture with funny Swedish names.
But there’s boo hooing all across the country too, for all those kids heading out the door with hockey duffles converted to super suitcases, and back packs hiding that favourite worn out stuffie, or that last  pair of sandals hopeful for another month of warm weather?

I have four young adult children who are just now getting used to my having written a book about this next stage of parenting, about all those Septembers – those goodbyes until Thanksgiving.  When Zoë, the eldest, left home, her copies of Love In the Time of CholeraHarry Potter, and Dragonquest gone from the shelves, her colorful collection of shoes gathered from the closets, and her vanilla-scented products stripped from the bathroom, I searched the self-help sections for a manual on how to let go. Now that I’m a true empty nest-er, it seems a bit odd. After all, I still had three hyped-up teens in the house. One of them leaving home should have given me a little more room to breathe. But it didn’t. It took my breath away. photo

I was able to relive it all, writing Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two boys, One Empty Nest.  (Hey kids – I gave you pseudonyms – relax.  Nobody knows who this Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily that I write about are.) If you’ve been following my erratic blog, I’d love it if you check out my book.  It’s been one hec of a ride. And if one of yours has packed up and will be spending winter and spring in another part of the country, or maybe another country – it’ll be okay.  Really.

 

It’s Hot. I Know It’s Hot.

It’s hot. I know it’s hot – at thirty-two degrees it is almost as hot as the summer days ever get in Calgary, this city in the long shadow of the Rocky Mountains.  Standing barefoot on the lawn, dead heading petunias already spent from the heat, I get a whiff of the strong perfume of a peppery wild geranium in the still air. blue delphiniumsIt’s quiet on our city street.  A sparrow chirps and then there is just the beat of a sprinkler keeping a newly planted berry bush alive next door. And now there is the sweet drone of bees discovering my blush pink roses. The peace, the myriad of scents, the calm energy of nature alive with intention these are the soft blessings of summer. But it’s hot – oh so hot. 

 

I rally myself in the heat to remember the long winter that drags us down. Beads of sweat are at the nap of my neck and I leap across the too hot sidewalk but, “Come on, think,” I tell myself, “of all those days relying on car heaters, and scraping angry pebbles of ice from the windshield, cursing that I’d left gloves in the house. Just remember wanting to skate but how it was too cold to skate. So I’m roasting now – big deal,” I go on to no one but myself, recalling all too plainly staring down heaps of snow on cars, and walks, and piled against front stoops and how I had trouble imagining this too brief summer – with the landscape so locked in winter’s breath. 2014-01-13 15.03.29

“Buck up,” I tell myself as an ice cream truck plays it’s jingle somewhere in the neighborhood, and I resist complaining of the heat that glistens on my brow. best splash park Trying to think ‘summer’ my inspiration is to call my daughter and offer her girls a trip to a splash park, “Pitter patter, let’s get at her,” I’ll say, but first I’ll fetch a dish to pick the ripe red cherries reachable from the shade of an apple tree, and feel the wonder that is this country that after six or seven months of cold, cold temperatures – still bears remarkable fruit. cherries

Ah – Summertime – Sweet, Sweet Summertime.

It’s June 23rd. The days are long but we’ve past the very longest day of the year – which might make me melancholy – accept I’m forever mindful of that schools out schedule, and so feel that summer stretches before us still, in all it’s short sweet Canadian glory.  apple blossoms

The apple blossoms have faded but the peonies are still blossoming and hanging their lovely heavy heads. yellow peony

It’s disheartening to know they will droop and scatter their generous petals soon but in a few days the garden vegetables will be ready and my favorite – the raspberries – will follow.

 

One of my earliest memories is of picking raspberries beside my grandmother in a magical patch of juicy red sweetness that absolutely enveloped me.

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And there will be days and nights at the lake – kayak and canoe trips sliding over the still water, swims at sunset and campfires after dusk. rose swims

 

 

Evenings with family or friends gathered around an outside table slurping up the sweetness of peaches and cream listening for the call of a loon on the lake and seeing flashes of fireworks on another shore. girls play

So the longest day has come and gone but summer is only just begun …

A Magical Backyard Garden – My Inherited Mom’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day and the Gift of the Backyard Garden

Vibrant little green peas, the smell of carrots with specks of soil still clinging to them, earth with the aroma of green onions – the promise of the backyard feeds my soul. Every May the calendar days around Mother’s Day and my internal genetic calendar push me to turn over my tiny plot of soil, buy a handful of pretty seed packages, and tuck their contents into rows ready to water.  It’s a tradition passed on to me from my mom and her mother, like colouring Easter eggs around Good Friday, and picnics on a blanket on a warm summer day.

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On Mother’s Day when my four kids were little and excited to make me a tray in bed with the most delicious passion-filled luke warm pancakes, overcooked eggs, and bowl of Captain Crunch, I would elicit their dad to help me sneak pass them because always at that time of year the empty garden spots among the blossoming trees were just begging me to prance around on the dewy lawn and be lifted up by the best work I know. I’d run back to bed for my tray of child-love when it was ready.

My mom taught me the simple beauty and deep satisfaction of the vegetable garden. It was her favorite work too. She has five children and I have four. Raising a family is chaotic and chore-filled, and raising a garden takes you into another space for a short reprieve from groceries and laundry, meals and cleaning, ferrying little ones from here to there. Somehow in the garden you find time to dream a little dream while kneeling in the soft grass with seeds in hand, pushing aside an earth worm, thinking about how the summer might go, of people standing barefoot picking peas, or biting into the strawberries the squirrels don’t steal. It’s time away from time.

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I joke with my family that, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got the fall harvest in,” when in reality my eight by six foot bed of vegetables only supplies a few colourful meals and delightful raw snacks, not like my grandmother’s farm garden that was needed for survival ‘in the early days’. Still after retiring to the luxuries of town, my Nanny, an image of independence, planted a back yard garden; hills of potatoes and squash, rows of beans and peas, carrots and beets, circled by cornflowers and raspberries, and she did that until she was ninety-four-years old.  It’s my inherited Mother’s Day gift, from my mom, and her mom to be drawn outdoors with a reverence for the sun and the soil and the magic ability that nurturing the earth has to calm and sooth us, to take us to a sweet spot every May of hope and inspiration.  (Discover more at Amazon.com )

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“The Earth is Like A Child That Knows Poems”

Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

March. March, March. The word sounds like spring. Like hope. Like the smell of thawing earth. The smell of renewal and something you can taste coming to an end. That was the way I began one of my most ‘liked’ blog posts. I’ve puzzled over the popularity of that post that was a simple tribute to spring, but I must have done so wrapped in the warmth of summer, or delighting in the first blanket of snow changing a dull brown yard to a magical white one, because if I’d thought about it at this stubborn time of year I might have grasped why it garnered so much attention. Its easier to understand its popularity today, and yesterday… and all the frozen days before – in this winter that refuses to give up its grasp.cherub

As a collective my friends and family and even strangers around me are pleading that this March weather let go. The temperature rises from minus sixteen to minus eight and we want to cast off the heavy coats we are tired of, to turn our faces toward the afternoon sun ever so hopeful. There are still piles and piles of snow to melt before the hardiest crocus has a chance of pushing out of the earth. So maybe not this week or next but soon the words of this long ago well ‘liked’ post will come into play again:

easter 2012-ish-11Spring with a promise, just a promise blowing in the wind, of buds pushing out of the ground, of light cleansing rains washing away the sifting dirt of winter, of a neighbor reporting the sighting of a good luck robin, of a hard crust of snow melting in an afternoon, the winding hose left out during a late October blizzard appearing again. Birds sing in the morning and sound lighter, water drips off the roof and a cat meows in heat. I swear people too are more animated, slightly off balance with the extra light and sense of coming out of the dark, having made it through the long nights. March – skip past us, deliver us to the newness of another season.

Do You Remember the Feel of Bike Pedals On Bare Feet?

Remember long July afternoons  when you were maybe, say ten? I do.  I can sit on the front steps with the sun on my face today and recall sucking on homemade orange Tang popsicle while I plotted the rest of my day. Or sharing secrets with a friend in the park, both of us perched on big wooden swings, our feet scuffing in the groove in the earth below us. Or how about being sent off walking to swimming lessons with my siblings, with our underwear rolled in a towel and a quarter for the locker.  Or the jubilation of the hottest nights when my dad said yes, to the sound of the ice cream truck.

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For all of that late July is just the most languidly indulgent time of year. Schools long out, and summers in full swing. The never ending winter is almost forgotten – not like in the crisp days of late August when you can hear it whispering again, “I’m coming, I’m coming.”

But now the afternoon sun heats the sidewalks and bee’s and cricket’s sounds make me lazy and nostalgic for days when I rode a bike in my bathing suit – helmet-less in the days before safety rules – and sometimes even barefoot. Do you remember the feel of bike petals on bare feet? You had to slow down your ride by bumping over the curb and onto the lawn. Or how about summer vacations and roasting a hot dog over a fire that someone else was managing – your bare bug bitten legs hot from the flame, your butt cold from the night temperatures. You couldn’t eat the hot dog fast enough cause after it came the marshmallows – gooey and likely burnt. And if you didn’t bother the grownups around you too much, you could run off after that into a sandy tent or cabin bunk and read Archie comics, or share some giggles with a friend or cousin before you were shouted at to go to bed.

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And so I promise myself on this hot July vacation morning that I’m going to just float in the lake and watch the blue sky, and not chastise myself for this weeks calorie ridden snacks by doing laps from the dock to a buoy and back. I’ll skip the Archie comics and barefoot biking, but I’ll bring out the new bag of soft fresh marshmallows and perch by the fire, immersing myself in a moment in time under the full moon. Which reminds me that the shooting stars of August are coming. Ah August and beach blankets spread over a grassy slope for falling star gazing. Okay – August then is very fine

…if you’d like to read more of my writing check out the book Text Me, Love Mom – available at http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

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This Mom – my daughter.

This Mom.

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Mother’s Day is supposed to honour our moms but I also want to thank my eldest daughter – the mom that has brought so much delight to my life and filled my arms with first sweet babies, and now little girls.

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I have so much respect for my daughter’s calm, quiet way with her children. Sometimes I can’t keep my grandmother/mother mouth shut about “do this or try that”, but really and truly my first child to have children is such a graceful, smart, giving mother, evidenced by her two adventurous, creative, caring small daughters. And I thank her for sharing them with me, always the best part of my week.

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So the last Text Me, Love Mom Mother’s Day quiz question – what message does the mother in the book text to her children at the close of the final chapter?  Thanks to all those who have had fun with my quiz, I’ll send a signed copy to the reader with the most correct answers in the comments section.  And to you all – Happy Mother’s Day.