The fullness of summer is upon us now, although autumn is waiting impatiently in the wings. The leaves on the trees are at their apex, with a few premature ones turning color. A true harbinger of autumn, the goldenrod, is now blooming along the roadsides and meadows, and there are reports of katydids making their lonely serenade. August has been called the bridge between summer and fall, and we are beginning to cross over it.
Canning and preserving the garden crop is at its peak, with housewives (and some husbands!) feverishly rushing to capture the vegetables at their maturity. Mom always told us she was putting up food for “snowy days” and hundreds of jars of canned food were stored away for the winter season. With eleven hungry mouths to feed, canning and preserving food was almost mandatory.
Our canning chores have somewhat diminished, but it is difficult to change a way of life that has been ingrained in us. Mom was 86 when she raised her last garden, dug her own potatoes, and carried them to the cellar. She and Daddy were married during the Great Depression, and she was well versed in knowing how to manage. She was from a family of eleven children, and they learned early how to work hard and raise most of what they ate.
It is amazing to me that most of our younger generation has no conception of where their food is obtained. Suppose you couldn’t go to the supermarket and buy the needed items for a meal? If there were no deli foods or instant packaged items, what would you do? If you had to rely on your own resources (raise a garden, harvest crops and preserve the food) could you manage?
Criss has worried for a long time wondering how the younger folks would make it if times got real hard again. He has said many times that they don’t have the slightest idea of how to manage on their own. I know that that is a sweeping statement, and there are many who are following the old paths and learning the old ways. It is something to think about . . .
We learned from our parents, and our children in turn learned from us. When you get down to the grandchildren, it is a different story. A generation who has had everything handed to them does not value what they have. They do not know the satisfaction of reaping the rewards of hard work, or taking pride in what they have created with their own hands.
The wisest man that ever lived, King Solomon, had much to say in the book of Proverbs about slothfulness and idleness. Proverbs 18-9 says this, “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” Also Proverbs 6-6 says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” Well, I guess that is enough sermonizing for one day.
The forty days of Dog Days will soon be going out, and hopefully taking with it the humidity, mildew and rain. The old adage about Dog Days setting in wet and staying wet must be true. We’ve had rain almost every day, and it is drizzling now. Gardens have mostly done well, in spite of the excessive rainfall.
It is blackberry picking season, and an opportunity to enjoy more of God’s wild blessings. It was a busy time when I was a kid, picking Mom’s quota to can and make jelly. Then we could pick and sell them for the stupendous price of fifty cents a gallon. My sister Mary Ellen says we only got twenty-five cents a gallon. Wow!
It was fun in the beginning to head for the berry patch early in the morning while the dew-wet underbrush and weeds were cool. Out berry patch was also the cow pasture and we set out merrily with our buckets and high hopes. The flower we called St. Anthony’s cross (which probably is a type of mallow) would be blooming, and the spicy smell of nutmeg flavored the air. By the time noon came and the sun rose hotter in the sky, it was not as much fun. Sweat bees and chiggers made us miserable, and blackberry briers would grab us in the back.
It was a thankful bunch who trudged back down the hill with our bounty, tired and hot. When Mom brought the hot and juicy cobbler out of the oven, and a pitcher of fresh cow cream to pour over it, it was worth every brier scratch. She made jam and jelly and canned quarts of the fruit. Mom was no sluggard!
I am just now recovering from cataract surgery on the second eye, and I’m not sure it was a good idea. After I got the patch removed from the first eye, I could see dirt and grime all over the house. Then I glanced in the mirror, and I had aged ten years in two days. Seriously, I hadn’t realized how bad my eyesight had become and it was quite a revelation. Cataract surgery has progressed to the point where it is painless, fast, and remarkable. Dr. Brian Griffith is an excellent surgeon.
My friend Faye Fleet of St. Albans wrote a poignant poem years ago, and it is so good I want to share it. Her husband was a riverboat company supervisor, and was killed in a ‘dozer accident at age 46. They had been married only 13 years and had three children. Her mother died at age 66 of colon cancer.
Yesterday I went looking for my mother.
I walked the dusty country lane
Toward mountains blue with summer haze.
I faced the southwind that bent the willow that was weeping—
And softly called her name.
The lilacs gave their gentle, sweet assent
As I searched the garden corners.
The evening swallows wheeled, and the crickets
Chirped ‘round the chimney still warm
From daytime sun.
I looked and left for she was not there.
She was gone.
Last night I went looking for my husband.
I stumbled up rocky steeps.
I slipped on icy ridges and I fell.
I peered into heavy darkness; still, lonely night.
I searched the fog-shrouded river
And listened for a distant steamer’s wail.
I held my breath and listened and looked
But he was not there.
He was gone.
Today I went looking for my son.
I searched along a brook that ambled over
Time-smoothed pebbles and treasures of arrowheads,
I sat on a low stone wall and waited.
I listened to a blue jay scolding.
I looked on city streets and in the schoolyards.
I saw a tiny, happy tot
Spellbound by a yellow butterfly
That danced around his silken, gold-red hair.
But that was yesterday.
I heard of Vietnam and him
And although by the grace of God, he is here,
I cannot find him.
Perhaps—someday he will come looking for me
And I will not be here.
I will be gone.