April Come She Will

promise of seasonsI recently heard an old Simon and Garfunkel song called “April Come She Will” and was instantly reminded not only of how beautiful a tune it is, but also how true. There is much debate over what the song means… from the natural evolution of a short-lived love affair likened to the changing of the seasons, to a metaphor for the actual brevity of life itself. Here are the lyrics… you can decide for yourself:

April Come She Will

April, comes she will,
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain.
May, she will stay,
Resting in my arms again.

June, she’ll change her tune.
In restless walks she’ll prowl the night.
July, she will fly,
And give no warning to her flight.

August, die she must.
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold.
September, I’ll remember.
A love once new has now grown old.

Any of the theories as to its meaning would work for me, but the snow on the ground, the shorter days, the layers of clothing I pile on every day or the space heater cranking away at my feet lead me to think about the seasons and how they change. I reflect upon the uncanny way each one has of representing a new phase or marking the visceral passage of time.

The inevitability of change… the promise of seasons is the only thing we can truly count on in this life. What is that saying? “The only constant is change?” … or something like that. The marching on of the seasons is reliable. No matter what is happening in our lives at any given moment — the backdrops of April, May, June, July, August, September and so on rarely change.

April comes and thaws and fosters life with rain. May follows and we are so grateful to see her again. With her flowers and warmth we graciously hang on to every last drop of sun she offers. June finds us tiring in the heat with days that last so long they’ll draw us into the night before we ever even know it is upon us.

July goes so fast with its high blue skies and holidays—like a month-long celebration—we’ll truly wonder where she’s gone by the time August interrupts. She gently reminds us that soon it will be time to go back. Back to school, back to work, back inside as the days grow shorter, darker… colder. September, we will remember, all the life and love and laughter that came with the start of April’s rain.

Harvest of the Senses

Like kamikazes sacrificially plummeting from the sky, I watched some of the first leaves fall to earth yesterday. Which always makes me sad. Though I cannot blame them… It’s been a long, hot, thirsty summer and frankly I am amazed at their capacity to have held on this long with little to no liquid nourishment from above.

Autumn is without a doubt my favorite season as it unwaveringly causes me to become reflective. For some, reflection comes with the arrival of the New Year… 365 pre-packaged days bursting with possibility. Or perhaps it is spring that stirs within others dreams of opportunity and renewal. But for me, there is no time of year where change is as palpable as in the fall.

If you will, consider how all five of our senses are engaged during the transition that accompanies fall…

The wind feels cooler against our skin that—not long ago bare—is now covered with softer, warmer fabrics.

The air smells crisper, edged with the saccharine scent of our biological world as it breaks down around us.

Our palette changes to accommodate warmer things, tasting both spicy and sweet.

Our sight is continually stimulated by the brilliant colors and shifting shades of the leaves, grasses and the fields of the harvest.

Our surroundings grow quieter and still as the cool weather begins to slow us down. And all that can be heard is the distant falling, rustling and crunching of the leaves as they give themselves over to Time.

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Pass Me Some Peeps, Please! (but only if they’re stale)

That’s right I said stale. And I mean stale as in old, crusty and past their prime. That’s the way I prefer my Peeps and according to a small amount of personal, non-scientific research… so do many of you! For example, did you know that stale Peeps have their very own fan page on Facebook? Neither did I. But a quick Google search told me so and now we know.

I first discovered that my love for the less-than-fresh-but-still-almost-too-cute-to-eat confection was not all that rare when I began mentioning them last spring on Facebook in some annoyingly-regular status updates. I was surprised how many previously closeted stale Peep lovers came out on my profile page! 

It is a magical moment — finding out there are others and learning that you are, indeed, not alone in your slightly deviant desire. Friends practically came out of the woodwork proclaiming their affinity for the sugary, squishy, marshmallow Easter treat. All admitting that they tasted MUCH better after having been opened and allowed to sit for awhile… permitting them to reach the peak of Peep perfection.

One friend copped to cutting the plastic wrapper across the top when they were fresh from the farm, then placing the compromised package of Peeps on top of the refrigerator for three whole weeks before enjoying them. Another explained that she stocked up on the Peeps after Easter, buying them on clearance and filling up an entire cupboard so as to partake of them—in various stages of staleness—all year long.

To those of you who like your Peeps fresh or perhaps (gasp) hate the cuddly, candied cuties altogether… you may be mildly perplexed as to why it is so many of us prefer our Peeps past their production prime. Well, I can’t speak for everyone when I say this but for me it is all about the texture. I like the crunchy, sugar shell that forms around the chewy marshmallow center. It’s as simple as that.

Like a fine wine that must age for years before being uncorked and encouraged to “breathe” a bit before reaching perfection — that same patience is what proper Peep prep looks like to us crusty-confection connoisseurs.

The Secret of Life

Yesterday afternoon the sight of sunshine bouncing off of tender, green leaves and bright pink blossoms pulled me through the sliding doors and out onto the warm and welcoming patio. The sun was high in a vast blue sky and lively birds offered a loud and cheerful accompaniment to the tiny white butterflies flickering about. It didn’t take long for me to decide that this was indeed a far better place to spend some time than seated in front of a computer or television screen.

I grabbed my book, a cold drink and my sunglasses and set up camp between two lawn chairs. Jackson Browne’s Greatest Hits played on the outdoor speakers as I debated whether or not to read another chapter or just close my eyes, getting lost in the music, the scent of the freshly-cut grass and the feel the hot sun on my face, arms and bare feet. Truth be told, I did a little of both on and off for over two hours.

It’s been a bumpy couple of weeks for us as we have been confronted with such a huge loss. But three things are becoming increasingly certain as the days go by… Number 1: There are so many worries that are simply not worth the effort. Number 2: There is so much more to enjoy about this life. And Number 3: Number two far outweighs number one.

The older we get, the more tragedy and loss we are exposed to. It’s only natural. We become more aware of the frailty of life. And if time is to teach us anything, any, ONE thing… it is that NO thing is certain. There are no guarantees, no such things as perfectly fufilled promises. Only best efforts, best hopes and best wishes as we vulnerable, fallible, fragile humans keep moving toward. Everything else is out of our hands.

Anything can fail. Anything can end. Anything can crumble and fall away. All we have is TODAY. All we have is NOW. Time changes like shifting sands.

James Taylor performs a beautiful song called “The Secret of Life” and the essence of it’s message can be summed up in this lyric: “Well, the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” His song says it much better than my words ever can so if the mood should strike — I encourage you to take a few minutes and give it a listen…

Getting Dirty. Coming Clean.

With spring officially in the air, it simply cannot be avoided and as middle-class home owners there is no one around to do it but you. If it doesn’t get done, the neighbors will inevitably complain and start to hate you. The arduous, unavoidable task to which I am referring is springtime yard work. Pulling weeds, raking flower beds, planting, mowing and mulching. And no, I didn’t actually DO all of those things. I just helped out. A little. But somehow I find merely thinking and writing about it to be exhausting.

It is back-breaking, blister-inducing manual labor and if you don’t count housework like washing, scrubbing, sweeping, straightening and polishing — then I don’t do manual labor. It’s not that I think I’m above it. I’m just naturally lazy. Lazy and particularly fond of staying clean, pressed and relatively well-dressed. Yet even as I type this, a red, watery blister is pushing it’s way up through my irritated, over-worked thumb. Undisputable, irrefutable evidence of actual, physical work.

My dad has run his own landscaping business since I was young. Naturally, when my sister and I were big enough to operate push or riding mowers and other types of lawn equipment, Dad tried to put us able-bodied youths to work for him. My sister took to it right away and did this sort of work willingly… mowing, trimming, planting, weeding and the like. But to me, all of it seemed like a lot of hard work. Hard. Dirty. Work. I watched them come home day after hot, steamy, summer day drenched in sweat and coated with bits of grass, mulch, mud and the occasional outbreak of poison ivy. And I decided—rather quickly—Ummm… No. I don’t think so. Not for me.

I could usually be found at one of two places during the months of June, July and August. They were the Dairy Queen and the community pool. Therefore, upon turning 15, it made total and complete sense that I should—by any and all means necessary—work to secure summertime employment at these two fine establishments. So… while attending lifeguard training at the Y, I was getting paid to perfect the signature DQ curl atop cones, sundaes and banana splits. And I couldn’t have been happier.

Apparently, my ambition to perpetuate pleasure and never really break a sweat actually paid off! I was earning real money while working on my tan, sneeking bites from occasional Oreo Blizzard “mistakes” and talking to my friends. Everything worked out wonderfully as long as no one drowned and everyone received the correct amount of change with their Peanut Buster Parfait. Near as I could tell it was a win-win situation.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay a teenager forever. I managed to dodge the “dirty bullet” for awhile with my creative and fun-in-the-sun-vacational vocations but eventually the real world beckoned and I had to answer the call. I may have chosen a career that keeps me clean and seated behind a desk all day but that no longer negates the fact that NOW the yard is THERE. Waiting. And growing. Silently. Planning my Sunday afternoons for me for the rest of my foreseeable, capable existence. And my sister—with the green thumb she apparently inherited—certainly is not going to come and mow it, rake it, spray it, seed it or weed it for me.

Ode to Springtime

Say what you will about the sorry state of our Union … but some things just don’t seem to matter quite as much when spring is in the air. We tend not to concern ourselves with things like the upcoming election, the economy, our current unemployment rate or the soaring price of fuel.

Yes… when spring has sprung, there is very little that can get us down…

It is light outside when we drive to work and when we return home. Daffodils seemingly pop up overnight, dotting the landscape. Gardens are planted. Lawnmowers and laughter can be heard throughout neighborhoods everywhere.

Crisp, white lines appear on baseball diamonds across America as the Boys of Summer begin their recreational reign. Birdsong fills the air. Windows are opened up, rolled down or taken out and replaced with screens… allowing the fresh air to push away the last stale remnants of winter.

It is also during this magically transformational time of year that the SAME birds who sing to you each morning whilst you rub the sleep from your weary, little eyes… also fly overhead and unleash a torrent of crap on your newly washed car.

Spiders, centipedes and other unidentifiable creepy-crawlies from the pits of hell appear as if out of nowhere scaring the $#@! out of you, making you reach for the nearest can of Raid or Aqua Net—whichever is closest.

As trees and flowers and other living things burst to life… your eyes water and sting while you sneeze uncontrollably as though having a grand mal seizure.

The ground thaws and frequent rain waters the thirsty earth while flooding your basement and turning your driveway into Monster Truck Mud-Fest 2012.

The weather warms and grows psychotic causing you to leave the house dressed in a snappy tank-top-turtleneck-wool-sweater combo, carrying an umbrella, sunglasses, gloves and scarf, rain boots, bottle of iced-tea, flip-flops, thermos of coffee, an ice-scraper and a bottle of SPF 30.

A sudden abundance of sunshine pours obscene amounts of sunlight through your dirt-brown window panes revealing how truly filthy your house is after you and your family have been trapped inside of it for 5 months straight.

The snow and ice melt away revealing dozens (if not hundreds) of dead twigs and clumps of leaves that have been deposited all over your rain gutters, flower beds and patio furniture.

The climbing mercury propels you to rummage through boxes of spring and summer apparel—and as though trapped in a nightmare from which you cannot awake—you and everyone else is forced to see your thighs for the very FIRST time since Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and the pizza, brat and beer fest that is March Madness.

Ahhhh Springtime… We are oh SO happy to see you again!

The Most Valuable Thing

I am sitting at the computer in my childhood home. The windows are open and a fresh, cool breeze is lightly brushing my face and neck. The birds are singing and I can hear children’s laughter just outside.

It is definitely springtime and the world is coming to life again.

Recently I have been reminded that life is the most precious of gifts with health and family coming in at a very close second. These are the things which should never be taken for granted.

Sadly, Lee’s mother passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon after a brief illness. We were not prepared for this — though no one ever is. And it has been an in-my-face reminder that life can change in an instant. In the blink of an eye or the brevity of a single breath our lives can be altered eternally and irreparably.

This week as you’re rushing from here to there to take care of this and that and all of the other “things” that we may deem important — take a little bit of time to stop and look around.

As you experience your surroundings—hopefully enjoying the very life and health that has been given to you—say thank you and tell your people just how very much you love and value them.

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

I saw a little black spider in the corner of the ceiling while in the shower this morning and even though I knew it would mean a slow, torturous death for the miniature monster… I also knew it that only one of us was going to survive this shower. It was either him or me. So naturally I chose me… and I drowned him.

Poor little guy. Here it is… finally, mercifully springtime and he crawls out of his tiny crevice either from wintering or simply because he was just born and he starts to build his first delicate web of the season… when all of the sudden some crabby bitch with a personal vendetta against all eight-legged creatures as well as the state of wakefulness in general has to come along and cut his life short.

And let me tell you that the shower isn’t exactly the easiest place to commit murder. Though it IS the cleanest. The problem with the shower is that said method of execution HAS to be what I like to call death by “splash drowning.” I call it “splash drowning” because one must repeatedly throw cups-full of water onto the offending beast and their fragile, new structure until they tumble from whence they came. 

Yes, death via splash drowning is far, far worse and deeply cruel compared to “direct drowning” in say, like… a sink or a toilet, because it is MUCH slower and the spider thinks for a bit that he actually has a chance of surviving this terrifying ordeal.

He’ll try to outrun the waves that continue to crash rhythmically upon him and he’ll do so successfully… for a bit… until, when out of sheer exhaustion, he’ll be spent. He’ll have nothing left and be forced to succumb to his fate, riding the river of death straight down the shower wall, across the floor of the tub… slipping anonymously and unceremoniously into his watery grave.

Now, you might ask: Did you, at any time, feel badly about torturing one of God’s creatures who was merely minding his own business, doing what he was designed to do by choosing your shower corner in which to innocently emerge from winter and spin his little web?

Well… I guess you could say that I did feel an itsy-bitsy amount of guilt and sadness as I watched him rushing helplessly “into the light”… until he got caught on one of the anti-slip treads on the bottom of the tub… and I gave him a swift, wet kick… right down the drain.

The Shorter Days

I walked across an empty parking lot and turned, startled at an unfamiliar sound. Propelled by a sudden crisp wind, a single brown leaf was scraping against the asphalt. I grasped the cold metal handle and went inside the store, anxious to get warm.

“I can’t believe it’s dark already.” I said to the owner pointing in the direction of the navy sky… dotted with stars. “I know,” he replied, “before we know it, winter will be fully upon us.”

I shuddered at the thought. In winter it seems I never see the light of day. I spend the whole of my available daylight hours beneath artificial flourescent light… in front of the glow of the computer… my back to the window.

It’s hard to believe that winter is almost here again. Most of the leaves have dropped and curled at the bases of the trees while barren branches scratch at a steely sky threatening to slash it open at any time. Once torn, the ice and snow that has been patiently waiting , weighing heavily on the topside of the clouds… will fall mercilessly to the ground, coating everything in crystal.

I’ve heard it said that when spring arrives in the northern states, one realizes that people really do live here. For it is not uncommon to go months during the season without ever seeing your neighbors. People often grow discouraged this time of year as they find themselves pining for those not-long-ago endless days of summer.

On winter’s days the light is scarce. In the mornings, it is dark outside. The streets are silent, except for the occasional commuter traffic and the low roar of a lumbering school bus. There are no voices. No children shouting or laughing. By early evening, it is dark once again and the streets are quieter than ever before. It’s as though the entire world has retreated indoors while the cold and the darkness stake their claim.

Take heart my friends who find themselves despising this time of year when the days grow shorter. We oft forget this meteorological technicality, but actually it is during winter when things begin to turn back the other way! And even in the midst of the gathering darkness—if you take the time to notice—there are signs of life. Houses lit from within by the warm glow of lamp or firelight serve as beacons in the thick, black night.

Their illumination is evidence that we are merely hybernating, and once again we’ll carry on into the spring. The days will grow longer, the ground will thaw and before we know it… tender green shoots will shove their way up through the soil, pushing the snow aside.

“And everything that’s new, has bravely surfaced, teaching us to breathe. For what was frozen through, is newly purposed, turning all things green.” ~ Nichole Nordeman

While The Leaves Are Still Green

After eleven years in the desert, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about coming home to Ohio is seeing all of the green. Don’t get me wrong, the desert has it’s own distinct beauty with wide open skies fringed with colorful mountains, and long, long welcoming stretches of road that unfold and roll out in front of you wherever you turn your wheels… But the desert earth is brown. This time of year in Northeastern Ohio, it seems like the whole landscape has been draped in varying shades of green velvet and I can’t seem to take my eyes off of it. It captivates me! It is like I am seeing it for the very first time. I grew up with it all around me, but I never really SAW it until I went away.

For a few weeks I have been intending to grab the camera early on a Saturday morning and take some photos of the lush green that has enveloped everything… The farm fields, the rolling hillsides, the thick and towering trees, the mossy embankments and the rows upon rows of golden-tassled corn. There is something amazing about the early morning sunlight illuminating a bright green leaf making it look as though it were lit from within, or glinting off the dew making everything appear as though it’s been laced with diamonds… and I want to capture it before it disappears for another 9 months.

Naturally, I never get up early enough to actually accomplish this. I seem to love my bed a little too much. I can literally sleep for hours… especially on a Saturday morning.

But yesterday on my lunch break, I noticed that a few of the trees were not so green anymore. And when I went to the park to eat my lunch, I found it curious that the edges of the very same leaves that last week seemed so fresh and new, are now tinged with another color! Fall is on it’s way.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the explosion of reds, oranges, yellows and purples that seems to happen all at once before the leaves surrender to the cold and drop to the ground. The chill in the air invigorates me! The smell of sugary-sweet foliage and wood smoke makes me want to find that favorite flannel. But when the days get shorter as darkness steals more and more of the light, I am reminded of how fast it goes.

And I don’t just mean the lengthy days of summer… I mean, it ALL goes fast. 

I can’t believe my niece is now the age I was when she was born. I can’t believe that the kids I once taught to swim can now be found at the YMCA, signing their own kids up for the very same lessons. I can’t believe that when I open my mouth, it is now my mother’s words coming out instead of my own. How does it happen? WHEN does it happen?

It happens day after day, night after night, little by little and in giant leaps and bounds. Gradually and all at once. We go about the business of our lives and before we know it, OUR leaves are tinged with another color. We get older, we build families, the youngers become the olders and just like the marching on of fall, winter, spring and summer… The whole pattern will repeat again and again. It’s been going on for centuries, and yet we’re surprised when it happens to us! Just as every fall I am surprised when I see the tips of that very first leaf start to blush…

You’d think by now I’d know.

There is nothing I can do to stop it. In the end, none of my efforts will slow it or even affect it. The best thing I CAN do, the ONLY thing I CAN do is get up early on a Saturday morning and grab my camera while the leaves are still green.