When Rich and I left Rod and Trish, we headed east out of Missouri towards St. Louis. Rich wanted us to see the “Archway to the West” and as we rode I-64 I was able to get some decent shots of the archway and the St. Louis skyline. Then we crossed the state border into Illinois going almost halfway across to spend the night in Mount Vernon. We attended Mass in the lovely church of St. Mary’s on Saturday 27 August which left us free to have a small lie-in on the Sunday before making tracks for Louisville, KY and Richard’s family.
Like most of the days on this trip, God blessed us with perfect weather for riding as we finished crossing the state of Illinois, clipped the bottom of Indiana, and rode into the blue grass state of Kentucky. I could feel Richard’s excitement mounting as we rode closer to “home”. The plan was to head to his sister Rose’s home, unpack the bike, then head over to the Kentucky State Fair with Rose, her husband Ronnie, and their kids, Megan and Kalin, to meet up with another sister, Robin, and her daughter, Brittany, and his brother, Robert and his wife, Sylvie, and their son, Patrick. Wow, what a reunion!! I had not seen some of these folks since Thanksgiving 2004!
We spent several fun hours at the fair. I found some great HOT dip mixes and some wonderfully decadent fudge, while Richard ate a Krispy Kreme hamburger?????? (yes, that was a hamburger between two doughnuts!!), and later he could not resist trying some “fried Koolaid”. While some of the others went to a concert they had booked to see, Rich and I strolled around the rides for a while. We had fun tempting the “guess your age” guy who made my day and gave me a “prize” after guessing me to be 15 years younger than I am. Whether he was being truthful or gallant in his guessing I’m not sure, but I was happy. Then the tiredness of the ride hit in and we headed home to get a good night’s rest. We needed to get our beauty sleep because the next day we were putting on a Bar-b-q for the family and even more people were coming.
So on Monday we went shopping then got busy cooking and preparing food. By 4pm yet another sister, Rhonda, arrived with her daughter, Ginny, followed shortly afterward by Rich’s step-Mom Ruth, his step-brother Ryan and his step-sister Rachel and her husband Michael with his son in tow. The crowd was rounded out when Robin got there with her son Dustin, and finally we were able to tuck into all that good food. A little later, as we rested full tummies, Kalin took Dustin and they went to pick up Brittany and her girlfriend who had been attending a school sport meet-up. By that time we were ready for some dessert and enjoyed some wonderful concoction that Sylvie had made.
Our final day in Louisville, Rich went to get his (final?? who knows) tattoo in honor of his retirement. Of his eight tattoos, Lucky in Louisville has created 5 of them. This one he actually created around a small existing one of a dolphin that Rich had done in Washington, DC some years ago. Lucky extended the water/wave line under the dolphin , then added the letters USN over the top of everything with a sunrise and the year Rich entered the Navy at one end, and a sunset with his retirement year at the other. It’s really beautiful.
That evening we hooked up with Rose and Ronnie and the kids, Robin, and Richard’s old school friend and partner-in-crime, Fonda with his wife Sherry. We had a great meal and wonderful socializing at a very good Mexican restaurant, where we all ate a bit too much because the food was great!.
Next day, Wednesday 31 August, it was time to load up our faithful Harley, say our farewells, and hit the road again as we headed towards North Carolina. It had been a good visit with family and hopefully it won’t be so long before we see each other again.
In the last few weeks leading up to the change of clocks, I would go out to my lanai and claim my God-time. One day I realized, that even though I had gone out at the same time as usual – about seven o’clock – the morning light had changed. In fact it was not fully light but rather that eerie time of in between when the sun has not quite risen but there is a pallor about the sky.
That was the first time I allowed myself to even consider that summer was ending and autumn was pushing through the door. I sat and watched, and listened. There was absolute silence. Normally as I go out there in the morning, squirrels are rustling through the trees and the birds are beginning to awaken with soft twitters and small trills. But on this morning I noticed the total quiet.
Although I accept the changing of the seasons, after all there’s very little that I can do to stop them changing, I do not like it. In sixty six years, however, I have learned that lesson. I think much of my non-acceptance stems from my British upbringing. In England, once whatever precious little summer that we got was over, then we were always assured of grey cold autumn coming in, followed by an even greyer and colder winter. Grey dooms my heart and soul. I get de-pressed and sad, and I’m just not my usual bright sunny self.
So even though I live in Florida now and the summer blurs into autumn, and winter usually is not so cold (let’s forget about last winter,shall we!!!) and definitely not so grey, I still have an imbedded expectation around this particular change of season, that the grey is about to descend upon me. I am grateful to be living here because I soon realize that autumn-into-winter is not synonymous with grey and cold. In fact, in the almost seven years that I have been here, I remember sunbathing frequently in the “winter” months and reveling in the fact.
So, as I was saying, in these past few weeks I have watched the morning light grow dimmer each day, even though I have gone out there at about the same time. Then, suddenly, about ten days ago I realized that there was barely a glimmer of light. I sat there and had to squint my eyes to make out shapes and forms in the un-light. But then I had the unexpected pleasure of watching the dawn light creep across the sky and in those pre-sunrise moments I began to make out smaller shapes and forms, and the details of leaves, flowers, trees, gazebo, slowly filled themselves in.
Then, in one glorious instant, a shaft of bright light came across the side garden fence and illuminated a slice of the picture in front of me. The trunk of a tree, a few branches, a small angle of the top of the gazebo, all became as clear as if in a naif painting. Moment by moment, my back yard and the woods beyond were suddenly lit up like the opening scene in a live theater. Almost immediately the rustling, the soft twitters, and the small chirps began until there was a full-throated burst of bird song.
Thank you God for the joy and the beauty of your creation. No matter what the season, there is always something wonderful, something awesome, to see and marvel over. I hope I always keep my open eyes and my open heart to appreciate the glory that is our world.
Finally the sun has deigned to grace us with his presence, his light, and his warmth down here in (normally!) sunny Florida. The biting cold, the frosts, and miserable grey are hopefully a thing of the past. And not a day too late; my garden Muse was absolutely itching to get to work because I had major projects to accomplish!
This year I decided to shake things up a little in my garden. The St. Francis flower bed, so named because his statue oversees this part of the garden, had developed a deep-rooted weed system which was hard to control. So I decided to dig deep, dig out as much as possible of the offending growth, and put in a fairly large (10’ x 6’) paved patio center-front of the bed to eliminate some of the back-breaking work of weeding. I have dressed up the patio with pots and urns of various sizes and colours which are planted up with bulbs, seeds and some partially developed plants.
The Quan Yin flower bed, obviously named because her statue reigns supreme here, is much the same as before. However I have decided to fill it with even more flowers this year. There are also hundreds of seeds lying just below the surface of the soil which hopefully will germinate and bloom as the year goes by. I also plan to add to the collection of brightly coloured chimes and wind twisters that hang from the wrought iron framework of the old gazebo that I moved to this bed when the lanai was built last year.
The front yard has undergone the biggest transformation: the side two of the three small flowerbeds have been eliminated and returned to sod, while the central flowerbed has been enlarged to four times its original size. I have walled it in with rustic stonework, elevating the back part to a higher terraced level. The front area has been filled to overflowing with brightly coloured spring flowers and hundreds of seeds are also germinating here for later in the season.
However, the central attraction of this new terraced bed is the weather-worn, trellis arch that originally sat just outside the screened-in back porch room. This arch, which was deeply rooted into the ground on each side with six years of steadily growing orange trumpet vine, was dug up and relocated to the center of the raised terrace part of the new bed out front. A couple of extra trellis panels have been added on each side of the arch to accommodate the copious trailing branches that grow from the vines, and I have planted several rose bushes in this elevated section too.
All of this was done with much help from my assistant gardener, Linda – a very dear friend without whose help I could not have achieved this major overhaul!! This morning, after many anxious days of waiting and watching, new green growth showed on the winter-hibernating vine that wraps itself intricately around the arch:-).
As I sit in the lanai writing, my heart is full of joy and my soul sings in gratitude as I survey the end result of much hard work. It continues to be a work in progress and God’s creation will become even more beautiful as seeds develop into plants and then bloom out in a riot of colour. And this joy and gratitude are magnified because I know that passers-by can feast their eyes and experience their own heart joy.
My happiness is complete as I watch the birds swarming at the feeders. Squirrels are scurrying in the grass and chasing each other up and over the back fence. Lizards and frogs are awakening from their winter lethargy and today I have seen at least a dozen butterflies.
Richard has taken some lovely photos of the garden today, some of them early this morning in the subdued sunrise light, and some of them around lunch time. Enjoy!!
You can see all 45 photos at the Spring Garden Update Photo Album.