No, I’m not suggesting that Thanksgiving week wouldn’t be right and whole and real without a rake – any more than without Black Friday, at least in my life. But this year we returned from Florida to Michigan for the holidays to find the leaves that were on the tree when we left were now on the ground. For a couple years our son raked them because he was living with us, other years they would blow away, probably to a neighbor’s yard, or the farmer’s hedge row behind them.
This year they were not only on the ground, they were embedded in long grass. They couldn’t be blown into a big pile on a sheet, they had to be raked and picked up, and it is hard work with the long grass. JB got most of them up this afternoon, with a little help from me – as much as I could do. Now we are drinking hot chocolate, and I bet JB has closed his eyes as he sits in his recliner downstairs. I turned the lights out when I took his hot chocolate down.
When we left Michigan in mid-October, several plants in the garden were still blooming and it seemed wrong to cut them down. When we returned last Tuesday, I was afraid there wouldn’t be any color left but I was excited to see a few trees with deep red leaves and new colors had emerged in the garden as the weather turned from warm Fall to frosty Winter.
I did some garden clean-up. It felt good to pull out the last of the annuals, deciding not to collect marigold seeds, and to cut back the dead growth of the last perennials. It always feels like I’m tucking my beloved flowers in for the winter. It isn’t sad because most of them have sent up little green sprouts as a promise of new growth in the Spring. And the sedumns that I planted in the small, dry bed between the drive and sidewalk and have volunteered around the garden are so hardy that they stay green long into winter.
I got tired and my body began to ache so I sat myself down on a turned over pail. I smiled one of those memory smiles. I smiled because it wouldn’t be this time of year, the start of our holiday season, if I couldn’t feel the cold, but gentle breeze on my face and through my clothing. I close my eyes and listen to the sound of a mower down the street but it sounds so far away – muted. It seems everything becomes quieter when the temperatures drop. I draw within myself, not in a bad way but in a way that nurtures my introverted spirit. As I sit in the chill, smelling the freshness of almost freezing air, and hear the sounds of silence, I feel a comfort that tells me that all is well in this moment.
JB says he will do a quick first time over with the mower and some hot chocolate would taste good. Before I go in I take a few more photos of the color that is still in my late fall/early winter garden. Maybe I’m trying to hold on to this moment in time, because it’s not this time of year without… these rich fall colors and a nippy cold nose.
This moment in time was created in response to Nancy’s prompt “It’s Not This Time of Year Without…” at The Daily Post, a part of WordPress support for bloggers.
We left Michigan when fall was just beginning. As we finished last minute packing and I got in the car Monday morning, I noticed a few red leaves had fallen from the Maple tree in our front yard and along our drive south there were trees that had bright yellows or reds on their top branches. The nights had become cold – it looked like frost on the very lowest areas of lawns.
We made sure to buy some fresh-picked apples at our local fruit stand before we left. We used to go to the orchard and pick a couple of bushels that I made into applesauce to eat during the long winter, make into pies, and the whole family ate for lunches and after-school snacks. This year I wanted some Northern Spy apples because they make the very best apple pies, but Ken said the trees didn’t produce many apples this year – so I bought a cross between Spy and Golden Delicious. I didn’t buy a bushel – only a half peck to take to Florida for a pie to share with friends and maybe an apple crisp. I also bought a bag of Honey Crisps for eating.
We had spent the previous week cutting back the flowers that had bloomed so prolifically all summer. We like to clean up the flower beds for our return in the Spring – when the perennials are starting to send up green shoots and I am chomping at the bit to buy some annuals. My criterion for whether perennials were cut back or annuals were pulled up were the strength of their blooming and whether the bees and butterflies were still visiting. I left some mums and marigolds to be cleaned up when we return north in November.
The most painful part, tears in my eyes painful part of leaving our northern home was pulling up my beloved Morning Glories. They were late in blooming this year so I only enjoyed about a week of the glorious blue blossoms. There were hundreds of buds that were growing plump, ready to bloom if a frost didn’t get them first. I kept asking JB to wait just a few more days – until there weren’t any more days. Sunday afternoon I cut the plant down in the front of the house, while JB pulled down the plant growing up the side of his shed out back.
I left my true home in Michigan – the place that is imprinted on every cell of my body. I know the small town, rural place by the smell of it’s freshly turned soil in Spring, the sight of changing colors in Fall, the feel of hot Summer sun and cold Great Lakes water, and the silence of a world covered with snow.
Three days later, I find myself in my winter home, where everything is different in sub-tropical Florida. This is the sixth year that we have wintered in Florida and coming this year feels like coming home – almost. We have decorated our home in a way that comforts and nurtures us. I am slowly learning how the plants that I once grew as houseplants, grow outdoors. And I look forward to getting back to the botanical gardens to take some new photos. This makes leaving my real home much easier.
To see more posts on “home,” click here.
This morning we left for our yearly Snowbird migration. Autumn has been slow in coming to Michigan so I’m not sure I was ready to go. Yesterday I sat on my purple porch swing for the last time – until next spring. I held my cup of coffee with both hands to keep them warm, with the morning sun shining on my face, absorbing every sight and sound and smell because this is my happy spot – this is where I make sure “I’m in my groove for the day.”
JB and I had many discussions about when to pull the morning glory vines. We had a very cool spring, going well into summer, so the morning glories started blooming just a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to keep them as long as possible because there is nothing more beautiful than the clear blue silky blossom opening to the morning sun. There were hundreds of buds so it pained me to pull them before our first frost – but JB did the job two days ago and I missed them yesterday. We did a lot of cutting back of my perennials so the garden will be neat and tidy when the plants come back to life with new sprouts in the spring. It seems strange to resist cutting back plants that still have a bloom or two while at the same time being excited as I think about how my garden will fill in next year. JB doesn’t feel as sentimental about the plants – but I said don’t cut so we (I) will have some more cleaning to do when we fly back for the holidays.
We are not the only ones planning our southern migration. I went out early Sunday morning to photograph some fall color and heard a flock of Sand Hill Cranes in a corn field. They make a big noise – and then they took off in a southerly direction looking for another field.
This was my second early morning outing in the past week – because Michigan is my happy place where the change in seasons excites me and nourishes my soul. I especially like everything about fall.
As I was wandering down a farm lane last week, I realized that I needed to soak up all that fall has to offer because my winter home has entirely different delights. One way that I work to keep myself from getting depleted by what I have lost or don’t have is to thoroughly enjoy what I have when I have it. So I focused all my senses on that very moment. These are the simple pleasures that I will miss in the coming months. I hope they trigger a happy spot for you as you add the sounds and smells to the sights I provide – and don’t forget to feel the cool morning air on your face.
You can find other Happy Places at The Daily Post.