Ghosts of Christmas Past

Yesterday I went for a Christmas morning walk. The “kids,” one about to leave his twenties and the other halfway through, could not make it home. COVID restrictions.  I met a couple pushing a stroller and stopped them briefly, learning it was their daughter’s second Christmas.  I talked longer to a neighbor whose two sons, three and five, remind me so much of my own boys at that age.

Those things combined to make me nostalgic. Perhaps empty nest syndrome comes in waves. The first wave when they go away to college. The next when they get jobs and more permanent living arrangements. Home both is and is no longer “home.”

So I set out my mother’s ceramic Santa and decorate the tree with paper ornaments the boys made at preschool.  I make a pot of tea and sit with my memories, both warm and bittersweet.

A Cool, Misty Sunday

The neighborhood air is scented by fresh buds of jasmine. At the plant store, gardenia bushes too have begun to bloom.

Arriving back home, the rose bushes are a riot of blossoms. Maggie, my climber and the one with the strongest perfume, also displays the most vivid color. Deep fuchsia.

After I nestle the lantana into their ceramic pots, I discover that my gardenias, planted last fall, in fact survived February’s hard freeze. Tiny shoots curl at the base of stems turned brown by prolonged cold.

Sometimes new life springs from what appears dead.

Biking in the Rain

It was raining when I set out but I didn’t mind. I was heading home. I’ll dry off and make hot tea, I thought.

Turning to go home the long way around, I caught a whiff of the last few blooms of jasmine.

Drops of water tap my helmet and spatter my glasses. The damp of my dress, the chill of the breeze, and a kind of wild joy just exhilarating enough to occasionally take my breath.

Seen and unseen

Biking home yesterday, I stopped on the side of the road. A chaste tree was in full bloom, purple spires punctuating the greenery. I rubbed a leaf to transfer the spicy fragrance to my fingertips.

A block farther on, I heard the call of a treefrog from a nearby ditch. I spent several minutes, peering into the agae-laced water but could not find the small vocalist.

Before getting back on the bike, I put my fingers to my nose. Alas! The perfume was already gone.

The Rushing of Water

I took my bike ride even later this evening than yesterday. The light had turned blue. The mourning doves had started their calls.

As I rode past a drain, I could hear the rushing of water.

A Storm Blew Through

Two and a half months into the stay-at-home. I’ve been biking every day for a month. Today a heavy rain and strong winds meant I went out in the early evening instead of the afternoon. Twigs and wet leaves litter the ground. Yesterday a hummingbird plant was backlit in the setting sun, a burning bush […]

The Color of a Rose Leaf in Autumn

I went for a walk this morning, the first in a very long time. The air was cool, the sky overcast. A neighbor’s bush had a halo of fire. Farther along, a tree with leaves of yellow had a vine, growing high in the canopy, dripping leaves of dull scarlet. Upon closer inspection, its trunk was scored with shoots climbing and encircling the bark-covered column.

Continuing my walk, I came across a house for sale. White with a gray skirt. And a door the color of butternut squash. Or of a rose leaf in autumn.

Walking in Fog

A bitter cold snap has warmed and now the trees and the end of my block are shrouded in fog. I walk through air that still has a crisp bite. I walk quickly past frost-blackened foliage.  Somewhere a rooster crows and crows again. The Christmas lights have disappeared from my neighbors’ roofline but red velvet bows still dangle, askew, on their fence. I stop at my own fence. An icy coat has melted and left my rose bush aglitter with droplets of water. A frozen rosehip glows like a jewel.

A Hard Freeze is Coming

New Year’s Eve morning. Four days of freezing weather ahead. Today the weather is brisk but properly bundled up the air is bracing.

I pass a Christmas tree thrown into the ditch along my street. Stripped of almost all its finery, a plain tin ornament is still attached by a loop of rough twine. I snap it off and slip it into my pocket.

Early on this Sunday morning I am almost alone with the gray skies and Christmas decorations.  At the place where my path begins to turn back home, I see in a distance too far for hailing a man walking his dog.  Three quarters of the way home, I stop to watch as a leaf floats to the pavement at my feet. I look up at a tree made colorful by autumn foliage. Two women out walking together greet me.

Nearly home, I stop at the house with the abandoned Christmas tree. I carefully place the tin ornament on the porch, next to the wheels of the baby stroller.

As I pass my neighbor’s house, the red, green, and yellow of her Christmas lights, the same colors as my tree of falling leaves, bring warmth to a cold winter’s morning.

Points of Fire

Yesterday was one of those days I wish I could rewind.  At what point did I lose control? Ah yes, Friday night when I made a last-minute addition to an already over-full weekend schedule.

I wish I could go back and reconsider that addition, eat the lunch I skipped, not eat the junk food I ate later, only watch one tv show, sit down to the piano, and then finish off the evening with writing in my diary before going to bed at a decent hour.

Still, as I came home yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the yellow mums I had placed on the steps of my front porch had red centers.  The same roasted red pepper red of my front door. The red of new brick. Of Cubanelle chilis.

The 4 p.m. sun set my door ablaze. It is to that moment, before the caramel corn and the two episodes of “The Closer” I’d already seen, it is to that moment I would return. When autumn air stirred the leaves as they changed color, dried, and fell.

When I rejoiced in my choices to paint the door that color and choose that color chrysanthemum.

When I recognized the moment as the one that defined the day, the tiny poem amidst my everyday life.