There was a Time…

For everything in life, there might indeed be a season. When it comes to the normal and quite predictable shift in relative values or availability, of course, I’m as skilled as the next person in forgetting to renew, rearrange, or simply release that which is no longer fulfilling. It might be an object of utility or beauty I’ve treasured and utilized until it was worn or a new and better one supplanted it. It could be a handed-down family treasure whose receipt over the years went from being an honor to onerous. It is even, occasionally, a relationship with a person that was exactly the right thing at the right time but has either shifted as our personalities and needs grew apart or has been taken from me by death or distance. The question, after any of these, becomes how and when I am able to distance my own self from them without fear of losing what was wonderful in having had them.

I worried about this each time I moved from one home to another, despite knowing it was impractical to take every single thing I owned with me to my next locale every single time, and with no surety about what would fit the new place or how I lived in it. When my husbandly person and I decided to downsize some years ago from a house to an apartment and simplify a little by getting rid of lots of what was essentially unused stuff, even though we’d both collected and enjoyed much of it happily over the years, this question arose yet again. I’ve not once regretted the off-loading of so much, even many family heirlooms, in that process. As we sorted and packed it off to new lives/homes, I decided to photograph not only the house and garden as they were but also all of the best-loved Things, thinking that if I could look at the photos when I got wistful and nostalgic later I would be comforted by the stroll down memory lane.

In the end, I almost never even looked at the photos afterward; just knowing that I could was enough, and made it quite easy, really. The very process of ‘documenting’ the stuff helped me remember it and my feelings about it even better than having it still in hand. In practice, I found that much of what I do keep around is easily forgotten simply because it’s not in constant use, so why have it at all? Somebody in need of such a thing will love it all the better, and I’ll feel more contented that the right person and the right object came together and I’m relieved of caring for something I too rarely appreciate. Out of sight, out of mind, and better out of sight in someone else’s appreciative hands than in the back of some cobwebbed cupboard.Photo montage: Stuff & Things

I Fall for It Every Time

Autumn, that is. I’m kind of a sucker for all seasonal changes, but there’s something a little romantic in the sweet melancholy of seasonal natural decay and the nostalgia brought on by the beginning of each school year and cultural season that catches at my heart every year anew. Even here in the Texan climate, where autumn is likely, as this year, to arrive no sooner than winter is appearing farther north, once the Fall comes it’s a welcome

I love the bold colors of the wild grasses and the few leaves that turn to flame before falling off the branches, and the flocking birds pausing to fill a whole grove of trees with raucous whistles and laughing chatter on their way south. I adore the loamy scent of the finally cold air tinged with wood smoke from nearby chimneys, and the perfumed indoors redolent of clove and cinnamon. I am enamored of the grey spray that airbrushes the sky on a frosty morning and the crunch of dry stems and seeds underfoot during an afternoon’s ramble. And I feel the sting of pure joy in me whenever I look up at the blazing blue of the bright autumnal sky stretching brilliantly in the spaces between the craggy oak and the spiny acacia and the hedge-apple festooned bois d’arc branches as they reach up to draw back those cerulean velvet curtains and reveal that winter’s just

Call me sentimental, but maybe it’s precisely this sense of brevity that makes the autumn seem so desirably rare and refined to me. Carpe diem, I think, for only in the very moment can I hope to revel in such ephemerally earthy happiness. Still, while the moment may be infinitesimal, the falling for Fall appears to be endless, and repeatable, for as long as I live.

Farmer Friendly

photoAn Understanding

Jacob Johnson Underhill,

Our long-gone friend, we miss him still,

For there’s none left to pester now

That he is dead; the old hay mow

Has no more mousetraps set to catch

Him with an unexpected snatch;

His cows remain un-tipped; the well

Where his hat “accidentally” fell

Is boarded up; the outhouse stays

Untroubled now for days and days

Where it was once (we’re sorry, Mom)

Deposit for a cherry bomb

And too, quite often (sorry, Dad)

Pushover to a farmer’s lad

And lass who hunted for a thrill,

Thanks to old farmer Underhill.

photosNow his old tractor has not seen

Us sugar up his gasoline

Or stuff a tater in its pipe

For ages, things that used to gripe

Old Jacob some, but he plowed on

With chuckling brown-toothed grin; he’s gone

And how we miss him now, old coot,

Who never bent to our pursuit

But took it all in patient stride,

The way we liked to chap his hide.

The fact is, he loved us until

He was no more, old Underhill.

It’s dull down on the farm these days,

Except when a peculiar haze

Will sometimes gather in the field

And there his shade may be revealed

To grin, complicit with us still,

Old Jacob Johnson Underhill.