Saturday, May 26, 2018

Stillmeadow - May


I love the way Gladys Taber begins her May entry in The Book of Stillmeadow.
May in New England is so close to Heaven that I wonder how the early preachers managed to keep the eyes of their people turned to the future life. Nobody could help being dazzled by the beauty of this world if he rode down a Connecticut country highway in the soft sweet light of a May morning. Heaven enough for me, at any rate; I wish everyone could see it.
This is pretty much the way I feel too, though it is heaven with qualification. If you have read this blog very long, you might know that I am going to use the 'T' word - ticks. I still can't figure out why we have them now but never did before. Climate change? I don't know - most things here are the same as they've ever been. Moose population? Deer? Mice? I guess the cause doesn't really matter because none of those things are going to go away. They are a problem for a couple months, and then when the weather is hotter in July, we aren't bothered much. So far today I have found seven on Lucy. I may have said it before but this is the reason we will have only yellow Labradors and not the blacks or chocolates. The ticks are easy to spot. Years ago we had a lot of black flies, the scourge of northern New England in the spring, but they have decreased quite a lot since my kids were little. We would put bee veils on them so they wouldn't get so bitten. It used to be miserable to work in the gardens in May because of them, but now they are just an occasional nuisance. Did they decrease when the ticks came? The latter have been around for at least 14 years. That is when I remember them on our collie, MacIntosh. I've even wondered if perhaps his epilepsy came from Lyme disease, in those days when we didn't really know that ticks were around. We'll never know. Every bit of paradise has its pests and problems. Some have poisonous snakes or spiders or scorpions. Some have fungi that cause disease. There's always some kind of snake in Eden to have to worry about, I guess. But as a kid, the only thing I ever got was a mosquito bite. No black flies, no ticks. So something changed but I've never read a real explanation. Okay, enough about ticks, etc. I remind myself of Gladys as I go off on rambles wherever my mind takes me!

A difference between us is that she adores having bouquets. I used to. However, I decided over time that it just wasn't worth it when my cats would always go after them, chewing leaves, pulling the flowers apart. The only reason I can get Vanessa's bouquets (in Flower CSA under Letter Topics on the sidebar) is that I put them on the wood stove which Raya can't jump on. Perhaps when she is gone, I will begin having bouquets again all over the house. Gladys isn't that troubled by her cats getting into the flowers.
May is almost a perfect month in many ways. One is that now flowers can come into the house. And no matter how involved we may be with the house, the garden, the dogs, there will always be time to arrange flowers. And bouquets will be happy in glass pie plates, wooden mixing bowls, old sugar bowls, bean pots. I have an antique knife box, painted black and stenciled with a colonial design in dull gold. In it go tin cans, cut down to fit. It is lovely with pale misty-gold forsythia and massed jonquils. I use the forsythia for the line of height, and keep the jonquils low, toward the edge of the box. Add to this one Siamese cat, batting the flowers around with a brown velvet glove, and you have something really nice.
As you can see, she has an artist's eye for putting flowers and containers together. My 'arranging' is more pick and pop into an old glass jar so they look much like they did outdoors.

As always, in among the practical things in life, Gladys offers philosophical ruminations that give the reader pause.
Sometimes I stop to think, now, that every day we are making memories. And I wonder whether I make happy memories for my own child. I feel sure that if families would be conscious of the fact that everything they do or say may one day be a memory, there would be less quarreling, fewer harsh words spoken. It is nice to be right, but better to be remembered pleasantly. And there is something so inexorable about the past; you can't change it. You can only try to make today a good one before it, too, slips into the past.
I don't think you can read a nonfiction book by Gladys Taber without mention of lilacs in May.  And really, around here lilacs come up in most conversations, and we put up pictures on Instagram and Facebook. We can't help it. Every year is like the first time we've ever seen them. My first May here on the blog has a post titled Lilac Time. I went out today in the light warm rain and took pictures of all our lilacs.







The lilacs are the stars now, just as the day lilies will be later. The dark ones on the L in the second picture were my mother's. We brought them out here 37 years ago. The ones that I showed in that May 2007 post are now gone. They were in the pasture and were destroyed over the years by all the animals. When Tom cut them down a few years ago, he cut them to a couple feet above the ground, thinking he would get back to the job and cut more, but we found out that the sheep love to scratch themselves on those small trunks, so naturally we left them there.

Gladys has a lovely description.
A single lilac flower is one of the most perfect of God's creations - the little star with its four points and the translucent color and the heavenly scent.

Gladys ends with
The white light of the moon falls on the blossoming fruit trees, on the sleeping meadows, on the far dark of the hills. All's well at Stillmeadow in the lovely May night.
When I am wakeful, I like to listen to the stillness of the hours after midnight. The very wings of peace fold over our valley. I can feel how good the world is, and how unnatural it is for mankind to be so ridden with fear and hate. We are all born into the same world, we breathe the same air, that miraculous envelope wrapped round our small planet, we are nourished on the same fare of food and water, and we are one in death at the end.
Seeing this is so, we are communally bound together. We are brothers whether we like it or not! And every time we invent a nice new buzz bomb or jet rocket, it is our own whom we prepare to destroy.
The moon is wiser, for she sheds equal light over the hills of Judea and the silvered meadows outside my New England window.
These are words as meaningful now as all those years ago.

29 comments:

  1. Gladys in May!
    Second only to real life lilacs....
    Yours are beautiful, clearly belonging to their environment.
    We have only one bush left so borrow our views from nearby parks and the local extension garden.
    And now comes the iris parade. Splendor in the springtime.

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    1. Thank you about the my lilacs. Every one we have planted. This place was devoid of flowers and bushes when we moved here. The mother and daughter who lived in the house were older and here only in summer. They painted stones white and planted annuals.
      I love that- the 'iris parade' Mine are not doing well. Haven't had great blooms for years. May be time to get some more. Not the bearded but the Siberian.

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  2. Your lilacs are so lovely around your farm, just as I imagine they were at Stillmeadow.

    Thank heaven for Gladys, who taught so many to notice and appreciate the everyday miracles.

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    1. Thank you! And yes, so grateful for her.

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  3. We are visiting family in Michigan. I am lucky to be having a second round of lilacs here. Wonderful.

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    1. Isn't that clever of you to time your visit so you'd get to see more lilacs! ;<))

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  4. I love lilacs, I wish they would grow here, SIGH!.

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    1. I'm sure you have beautiful things that I could never grow here! Honestly we are in zone 3! You have to be a tough plant to make it here.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your re-reading of Gladys, for your own thoughts about your bit of Paradise, and especially for the lilacs and the memories ( we have none here in Florida).

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    1. And I thank you. You don't have lilacs but you have gorgeous plants!

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  6. Lovely reading this on a thundery morning in the UK. And I loved all the photos, too, what amazing plants. The lilacs are out here, too, and a wonderful thing to see and smell when running through the suburbs where I live. Wisteria are everywhere, too.

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    1. Thanks so much! Is wisteria the same color as lilacs?

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    2. It's a pale purple usually, while our lilacs run from purple through, well, lilac, to pink and white.

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  7. I enjoyed this post very much, Nan, thank you! Here, the lilac trees and bushes are well past flowering; we have the first ripe cherries already, and when we were running along the fields this morning, I couldn't believe how far along wheat, rye and other crops already are - it is not even June yet, but it fells like closer to July than May.
    I so agree with what you wrote at the end of the post, both Gladys' words and your own.

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    1. Wow! Cherries! Sounds like a good year for crops there.

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  8. It's a long time since I saw a tick (here in England) but we do have them. Some years ago, the cat next door used to suffer with them and I was always picking them off his head with tweezers, after first dabbing with surgical spirit. Is that how you deal with them on your dog? Our cats have never had them, funnily enough. I think over here they live in long grass and sheep are susceptible to them. I've never had one, touch wood, but my husband has, when we were in Tennessee. It was on his back and I had to extricate it for him because he couldn't see it, let alone reach it. Horrible things aren't they, just horrible!
    I've not yet read one of Gladys Taber's books, but she sounds like our Edith Holden who wrote the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. I must look her up.
    I'm doing a giveaway on my YouTube channel if I can get 50 subscribers to it. Details on my blog if you are interested.

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    1. Mostly we get the ticks while they are still walking around on Lucy. Occasionally there is one embedded and we just pull it off. I have heard of using tweezers but so far, so good with this method.
      I have the Holden book but haven't read it yet. I seem to recall she died young. I think you might like Gladys' work.
      Will head over to YouTube!

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  9. I love your lilacs! Wish we had those here, but no. And yes, everyone has something icky - as you know, we have the snakes and the scorpions and apparently this year - big, big green grasshopper-y things. We had those a few years ago and they were annoying beyond belief. Plus we found another very, very long snakeskin in the dry creek. Must be a good place to slide those old skin off. No ticks though. Love these posts!

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    1. I think I read that there are ticks in Texas, though I thought they like more lush settings! But then again, I was just watching The Flame Trees of Thika last night and they spoke of ticks in Africa, so what do I know? I wonder what those green insects are. Do they bite? A plague of locusts?? I am so happy you 'love these posts.' It means so much to me that you do.

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  10. Thank you. Love all the Gladys wisdom tucked amid the Nan. :) It has been a while since I read Stillmeadow.

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    1. Thanks, Marcie. Loved your comment.

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  11. Your lilacs are beautiful! Can't grow the normal variety down here, BUT, I can grow 'tropical lilacs' down here in s.e. FL.

    I found you through Ernestine's blog 'A Mindful Journey', as she mentioned your orange cookie recipe, which I have saved and want to try real soon.

    I look forward to reading more from your blog. Your countryside is absolutely beautiful and peaceful looking.

    FlowerLady

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    1. So happy you came by, Lorraine! Yes, Ernestine has loved those cookies for years now. Makes me happy!

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  12. Such gorgeous lilacs. We used to have them in our backyard in Illinois. I do miss them. Sigh...

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    1. You have some pretty nice compensations where you are now!!

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  13. It is time for me to read Gladys Taber. The only time I ever got a tick was in Kyoto, Japan for my 60th birthday. I had to go to the International Clinic to have it identified and nearly missed the bullet train that I was scheduled to take to Tokyo.

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    1. If you do, please let me know what you think of her work. What a nice birthday present!

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  14. I should get around to reading Taber at some point. Whenever you post excerpts, I find them enchanting.

    I don't remember if I've ever been to New England in May. I visited Massachusetts last year in Labor Day Weekend (the Boston-Rockport-Concord area) and it was so beautiful that time of year too.

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