Friday, December 31, 2021

Evening, 31 December, 2021

Weeds that crowd in on my flower plantings are evergreen through a Kentucky winter. 
Pansies have self sown along the edge of the raised bed by the front steps with a few popping up in the grass beyond.

Mornings are so slow in December, the effects of the solstice not evident until mid January. The sun, when it condescends to rise, does so in the south-east coloring the sky beyond the ravine.
The weather has had an uneasy feel, daytime temps in the 60's F, nights seldom falling below freezing. Clouds, pale sunshine, warm, damp air, the kind of wind that rushes through the bare treetops then dives to sweep through drifts of fallen leaves. 

Robert-cat balks at coming in after dark so I am often out calling for him, standing with arms hugged against my sides or hands thrust into the pockets of a light jacket. Waiting for Robert, trailed by ever faithful Willis and his cohort, Sally, I look up at the night sky marveling at the imagination that could form pictures from the distant clusters of stars. 

I've felt unsettled, not quite back into what passes in retirement for a winter routine. 
I read, both online and from conventional books, read until my eyes are strained and squinting. 
I've needed to prepare music and lessons for church presentations, wondering if the time is nearing when I should bow out of those duties. 
We have tended to our small errands, avoiding Wal Mart even more than usual, choosing from what is on offer at the neighboring Beachy Amish store or the Discount Sales in the next county.
Family birthdays crowd the calendar in December and January, celebrated by 'eating out.'

Baking during Christmas week: Oatmeal bread--which J. sampled before it was cooled; a small blueberry pie pulled from the freezer; a pan of date bars which only I fancy--good with a mug of something hot.

It is lovely now to have good family cooks eager to take on much of the meal prep for holiday dinners. I am requested to produce the favorite Lemon Meringue pies.

We chose to gather for our family meal on Sunday, 26th December, at our house. The day was warm and sunny. Rosie-kitten wants so badly to help in all that I do--setting the extra folding table has to be a last minute arrangement.

New Year's Eve is traditionally a time for reflection. The turning of the calendar from one year to the next has never seemed to me a cause for noisy celebration. 
I've been sorting through old photos stored on CD's--a nostalgic undertaking that calls forth moments of sweet remembrance of times past, people--and pets--no longer with us. Memory once tapped can open the flood gates; it takes a certain vulnerability to deliberately step into the past, allowing scenes to  unfold, emotions to be stirred afresh.

I remember suddenly a New Year's Eve at our last home in Wyoming. Snow knee high in drifts around the house, wind--always the Wyoming wind, blasting down from the mountains.
For some reason I chose to bundle in layers of warm clothing, tall boots, face muffled in a fluffy scarf, to trudge along the pasture fence, flashlight in hand--checking on the old horse I suppose. I remember that she came trotting through the snow, eyes glinting, breath making steamy clouds in the circle of light from my torch.

As the early darkness has moved in on this evening in south-central Kentucky there have been several bursts of rain, a peal of thunder. The electricity jolted off and then on again; the digital clocks all needed resetting. The outside temperature stands at 64F. 
Rain and wind are predicted for tonight and tomorrow, with cooler temps expected at the beginning of the new year. 

I have started to work again in my sewing room--taking up the projects that were laid aside during November's anxious days of Covid. 
The first seed catalog arrived in the mail on Wednesday--my favorite for ordering flower seeds. 
Surely it is not too soon to dream of impossible bursts of bloom, abundant crops of vegetables. Armchair gardening at its best!

Jim's projects have included a return to filling the woodshed, the refurbishing of a John Deere tractor.
We are feeling blessed that we can meet the new year with a return of energy.


Monday, December 20, 2021

On The Eve of the Winter Solstice

Jim was first dressed and in the living room this morning. He called me to take note that both the full moon and the flush of the rising sun were visible.
By the time I had pulled on clothes and taken my camera out the back door the moon was sliding off to the north west. The shades of blue, mauve and pink were more delicately beautiful than my simple camera can record. Frost was still glittering on the pasture grass with temperatures close to the freezing mark.

The glow of a mid-winter sunrise behind the bare trees that edge the lane.

Looking across the now grassed over lane along the south ravine.

DIL Dawn knows my love of flowers in all seasons. This beautiful centerpiece gives me joy each time my eyes rest upon it. I carry it gently to spend nights in the sunroom or my bedroom closet as a safeguard from interested felines.

The deep red roses are like velvet.

My cactus began blooming in mid-November. It resides on the crowded table in the sunroom which is warm on sunny days but decidedly chilly if the day is overcast.

Rosemarys, a few small geraniums, starts of begonias and African violets all crowded on the sunroom table. I'm prodding J. to put up a light downstairs over a stretch of counter that could host some of my plants for the winter.

I have an array of African violets nearly all raised from gifted leaf cuttings.
Years ago I had dozens of violets under grow lights--many colors, doubles, variegated leaf forms.
I don't mind that the present ones are nearly all the same. They are in almost constant heavy bloom, thriving on near neglect.

Two of the reasons why my house plants are not safe in the main living area.
The kittens went for their respective spay/neuter last week. It slowed them down for two days. They are now very much back on form--which means naughty!


Monday, December 6, 2021

Thunder Before Day-Break: Weather Journal

View toward the south ravine edge a few minutes past noon.

Waking around 4 A.M. is normal for me. This Monday morning I had barely time to roll over, tug at my pillows, before I registered the mutter of thunder. Desultory flashes of lightning blinked through the open window curtains, reflecting harshly in my big dresser mirror on the opposite wall.

We've enjoyed a week of balmy weather--it had been 62 F. when we went to bed on Sunday evening.
Clearly change was arriving, with fanfare.

The thunder increased in volume, lightning pulsed into the bedroom.
During the next hour the storm moved close bringing rain that pounded down, then began a pattern of retreat and regroup. The sound of thunder tapered off, lightning subsided--10 minutes of quiet followed by the return of cracking, ear-assaulting booms. 

I don't like storms.
I lay tensely still, eyes closing against the searing slashes of light.
Robert-cat, whose fear of thunderstorms is pitiable, huddled against me.
When I stroked his long silky fur he managed a nervous purr.
A particularly loud crash of thunder sent Robert scurrying from the room and Jim suddenly loomed out of the darkness.
'Shouldn't you disconnect the internet?' he asked.
He moved ahead of me into the living room, turning on the light in the alcove where my desk sits.
Scuffling into my slippers, wondering why I hadn't thought of the at risk wifi modem, I dropped to my knees and crawled beneath the desk, flipped off the switch on the surge strip which holds the plugs to PC, printer, all the bits and pieces which connect us to the world.

As I backed carefully from under the desk , hauled myself to my feet, there was a series of loud crackling pops and the cordless phone lit up in a brilliant display before the keypad turned black.
I screamed.
The cats who had gathered round to assist me [a human under the desk immediately becomes a person of interest] skittered in all directions, tails inflated.
Cautiously removing the phone from its cradle I stared at the message on the screen advising me that there was 'no power to the base.'
Time to dress, to turn on the front porch light and view the shimmer of wind-flung rain, to feel the cooling air. The cats huddled by the door, unwilling to go out for a morning walk.
The storm continued to clatter and fizz, menacing in the unquiet darkness outside.

Anticipating that we could lose power, I brewed the morning decaf, Jim stoked up the woodstove.
When the storm begrudgingly muttered off on its final round, I flipped the power strip back on.
We watched the row of lights on the modem flicker and steady.
I rummaged out an old landline phone, plugged it in. No dial tone.
I messaged our grandson who suggested that lightning had taken out the side of the 'splitter' that powered our land line.

The retreating thunderstorm left a legacy of brief light showers, a chilly wind and dropping temperatures.
Around noon the sun began to break through the rapidly sailing clouds, glimmering on the runnels of water in the lane, sparkling on drifts of fallen leaves and wet grass.

I went outside with my camera, standing on the west end of the back porch to take this shot of the now pruned wall garden.

Jim pulled on a warm jacket and gloves and trundled about with his latest tractor, started a truck, moved his big trailer down the lane near the shed.
Several of the cats tip-toed out, testing the damp with cautious feet.
I walked up the lane to the [empty] mailbox, clutching my hood tightly around my face against the bite of the wind.
In anticipation of freezing temperatures expected tonight I dragged in the two large rosemarys from the back porch along with the now leafless lemon verbena. These have found a lodging for now in front of the big windows in the downstairs living room. 
I settled at my sewing machine, contented to resume the quilting project that was laid aside when we were ill.
The kittens sniffed at the plant tubs, poked inquiringly at the rosemary branches.
As I finish writing this at 8:30 P.M. the outside temperature has fallen to 34 F with 10 degrees still to reach the predicted overnight low of 24 F.
The night is dark with a few stars pricking through the black sky.
The scent of wood smoke hangs in the chilly air.
Winter seems a closer reality.


Sunday, December 5, 2021

November Journal: Illness and Recovery

 Mid-November color on a cloudy afternoon. 

When one is ill, or when a family member is very ill, days and nights recede into a blur.
I keep a small calendar on my untidy desk and most days note the weather or anything that seems important to remember, thus I have a record of our experience with covid, the brief notes calling to mind the frightening time.

In my previous blog post [November 1] I noted that J. had been cutting a dead tree for firewood. He came inside from that task feeling a definite lack of energy.  By the next day he was feverish and coughing, but announced that the trunk of the tree proving to be rotten had aggravated the lung damage incurred years ago when he got into black mold on a renovating job.

He reminded me [testily] that he had for some weeks been burning brush and inhaling smoke.
True, but as his cough worsened I suggested that covid testing might be wise.
If you've ever dealt with a stubborn spouse you'll not be surprised that it took four more days of incessant coughing before I drove us both to be tested.

I had a slight sore throat, the harbinger of a mild head cold, a low grade fever at night--the sort of thing I would have treated with tea, tylenol and chicken soup.

Both of us tested positive for Covid and arranged an appointment to receive mono-clonal antibodies the following morning. 
I have been taking an assortment of vitamins and supplements for the past year, I don't have lung damage. While my symptoms did not worsen, the stress and sleeplessness of caring for a very ill husband was taking a toll.

A day by day recital isn't necessary. None of us are likely to forget the strain of the next two weeks. Finally, a trip to the ER, where I  waited in the car for nearly three hours while a friend with 'connections' saw J. through testing [diagnosis covid pneumonia] and the prescribing of antibiotics and a heavy-duty codeine cough syrup.
Loyal family members arrived the following day to take over J.'s care. I kept up 'custodial' duties--the daily laundering of sweat-soaked bedding, the light cleaning necessary to keep the house in some sort of order. I walked outdoors when the weather was nice, then tucked myself on the downstairs sofa with favorite old books.
Our children and their spouses appeared daily to leave fresh fruit, juice drinks, other helpful items on the front steps. The medical pros of the extended family were a keyboard away to provide advice and support.

My DIL, Dawn, chose this beautiful begonia as a love gift--a glowing place to rest my eyes during a dark time.

Howard did some errands  for J. on November 24 that necessitated starting a recalcitrant truck. J. bundled up long enough to help.

Thinner and a bit wobbly but pleased to be outside for half an hour!

Life this past week has been slowly resuming normalcy. Lingering fatigue seems to be a common complaint post covid. We are realizing we have to take things at a slower pace for now. 
We've done small errands; J. has had brief sessions of using the wood splitter. 

On Friday--a lovely warm day--I finished pruning the rose hedges on the east and west sides of the house. I have yet to summon the energy to return to my quilt projects.

We are thankful to the family and friends who have tended us, prayed for us, encouraged us through this nasty bout of sickness and its slow--but steady--recovery.
I'll probably always feel that we 'lost' a month--but there is a fresh one ahead of us!