Catharine, Now & Then – the 2nd novel about the Blanchards, is now available on Amazon.
Catharine, Now & Then – the 2nd novel about the Blanchards, is now available on Amazon.
Author: I just published a book of my poetry through the years.
He didn’t think he’d ever really noticed the leaves in fall. A bright yellow maple leaf drifted onto the porch and settled near his foot. Slightly upturned, the burnt golden edges seemed fueled by the dark red veins flowing from its stem.
It brought back memories of Sarah in what she deemed “her harvest best” – a multi-hue cotton shift she wore in autumn hanging up laundry and dancing barefoot among the fallen foliage. The sunset turned her hair rich shades of gold and orange as she spun and laughed and beckoned him to join her.
A gust of wind lifted the maple leaf and it was gone. Just as Sarah was gone with the fall breezes.
A bouquet of elm leaves blew around his feet and the rails of the rocking chair. He noticed the rainbow of colors: some green with yellow, some pure orange, some scarlet. It triggered thoughts of Ginny, his daughter, sitting cross-legged on the worn boards coloring with crayons labeled persimmon, tangerine, canary, and such. Of her playful way of talking to herself as her imagination transcended the simple patterns in the coloring book. Then, with no warning, she would leap to her feet and scamper off leaving the mess behind to find some new adventure. As sure as the wind swirled to sweep away the elm leaves, Ginny too was gone.
He had long since stopped rocking, leaning back as the full glory of nature filled his gaze. So many variations in the splendor of the trees. A kaleidoscope ever-changing as the limbs were blown in crazy non-synchronous waves, dipping and swaying, dumping their cargo of leaves like snowflakes in a blizzard. There was the gentle swoosh of branches against branches and the solitary tinkle of what remained of a fractured wind chime.
He closed his eyes.
The aroma from fresh baked pumpkin pie wafting through worn curtains in the open window entered his memory. The soothing feel of ice cold hard apple cider flowing down his throat; the taste of honey-baked ham with a touch of mustard; the drip of butter escaping down his chin as he bit into a home-made biscuit still hot from the oven. All the flavors of fall now many years past.
He began rocking again. As if some strain of music had flooded over him reminding him of slow dancing with Sarah, of singing with his friends in the quartet. The melodies of the county fairs, barn dances, and radio stations at night filled him.
The wet, rough tongue of his dog, Star, on his hand stirred him out of his nostalgia. If a man had nothing else but a loving, loyal mutt, he thought, he was blessed indeed.
“Yes, I know,” he said stroking the shaggy white mane, “You’re ready for your dinner.”
He rose slowly from the old oak rocker and, with the dog close at his calves, entered the house letting the wobbly screen door slam behind him.
The wind gusted swirling, tossing leaves against the screen before shifting direction anew. A single majestic oak leaf gently landed on the rocker.
“Why do you do that?” my wife asks.
“Pull the covers up around your neck like a cocoon?”
I grew up in Northern Virginia with raindrops pounding on the roof, the steady soft staccato; the rhythm ebbing and flowing as the storm surged. With it, the thunder rumbled far away at times and booming suddenly right outside the window brushed by dancing tree branches.
“I feel safe and warm.”
The daytimes were so varied and open and rarely in bed. At night, darkness, cold, thunderstorms all merged together as a singular event – a mysterious, alternately scary and soothing crescendo of sights and sounds beckoning fear and sleep in waves.
“The rain puts me to sleep in comfort,” I continued.
“Well, you sure picked the right place to live then.”
When we moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, we thought little of storms. The perpetual sunshine, the warm seas, the tranquil beaches were an escape from the lifestyle of the Northeast. Someone told us that we were now in the lightning capital of the world. Really?
Our introduction to the Gulf storms came late one afternoon. Clouds stand in high bas relief here and strike quickly. The wind comes ahead like trumpeters announcing the coming of royalty in twists and twirls. Flashes drizzle from the oncoming thunderheads and a slow rumbling bounces along the ground. Moisture starts to dot the air and darkness floods overhead.
Then the first crashing boom like a giant cymbal starting a symphony shatters the air. Then white-hot streaks cut through the sky. Like a large showerhead on full, the rain starts in sheets changing from vertical to horizontal, spinning in the wind, slamming the sides of lanais and walls and smashing on to the roof. Volumes rise, the light show dazzles, and the buckets of rain keep coming. Slowly, almost gently it moves on to the next neighborhood leaving in its trail the debris of Mother nature’s passing –torn palm tree leaves, tossed furniture left outside, puddles where dry grass lived before, and mud.
Somehow, even in its fury, the storms are majestic. Clearing the air, cleaning the land, bringing new life through the gift of fresh water. All I can do is stand just inside the lanai and watch, in wonder, awed by the power and gift of this earth.
We’ve heard of monster siblings of our storms, the ones with names and categories. The ones which are supposed to get us, long overdue they say, but which always seem to veer northwest at the right moment and torment another shore, leaving us only the fury of winds and the overflow of rain. But there’s more beauty in our resident raging.
I don’t pull the covers up anymore.
I don’t want to miss the show.
author: The little dingy swelled and rocked as the gentle gulf waves lapped its sides. Weathered wood contrasted with the soft green water surrounding its sides. Tied with a single, threadbare rope, it had nowhere to go.
A long, worn-out fishing rod lay propped up between the forward seat and the bow, its tip gyrating with the surf. Someone had tied a bow at the end with a small brass bell. With each dip and roll it rang out a strong single note, not loud but pure.
In my mind it was the sound of the fishing fleet returning in the fog, the far distant peel of a church steeple, the jingle of a sleigh bell passing a snowy lane, and the nostalgia of Santa’s reindeer.
I sat in silence awhile, listening. I wondered of all the adventures that insubstantial boat had seen, where it had been and who had steered it to this final resting place. Who had left this tiny bell as its tombstone, soothing to the ears and evoking such pleasing memories.
author: Advance notice – the 2nd book in the trilogy is nearing completion. Catharine Butler, Asa’s sister from Caught in a Past Reflection, is the main character. The story follows her path from the 21st Century to the 18th Century. Her adaptation to the past includes a great love story, her passion for horses, and her indomitable spirit. Should be out next April or so.
Rebecca: Thank you, Asa. I always adored the poems you wrote me. Here is one for you:
Gently kissing in the sky
the leaves and branch entwine
dancing to a distant song
as to the breeze incline.
Does not love so also bend
and sway, as if to play
music for the heart to hear
against the mind to lay.
Over years it changes such
each Spring its life anew
that we can only marvel at
the depth and shape and hue.
Is not love but growing?
that as two souls mature,
the years interweave them
so through life endure.
I wonder could you be more loved
than in the sunlit Spring,
with sunrise creeping up to you
and sparking you to sing.
When sunbeams wander through your hair
and lighten its soft strands,
leaving traces in your smile
and gentle, soothing hands.
I can speak but to your eyes,
that melt me in a glance.
Teach my soul to seek what warmth
and with it love to chance.
For all my words are never enough
and all my looks can’t say
How beautifully and preciously,
you’re loved this springtime day.
Asa – When I worked in the Colonial Williamsburg Silversmith shop, we did most things by hand, just as they did back in the 18th century. But there were some modern conveniences – we had coffee available all day, we had electric lights, we used stock silver instead of melting coins or other silver objects. But the actual work of making spoons, salvers, cups, bowls, etc. was just as hard and I was prepared well for my 18th and 19th century life as a silversmith. I did feel strange melting Spanish pieces-of-eight and older style silver objects to form new items, almost like I was destroying history. Using the barter system was challenging also. What should a spoon cost, or a bowl? How much firewood? How many chickens? How much fabric for Rebecca? The best thing was that people were honest in their dealings. It was valued more than greed. Not like today. I usually took what they offered since they knew such values better than I. I was never disappointed. Although the one time I got bear meat didn’t work out well.
Rebecca: I was thinking about how important Independence Day is. How vital to our future and great an event in our heritage. But when we experienced it in the late 1790s, it was not the holiday and celebration we have today. For many people it was either a vague event in the near past or a day of reflection. Asa and I had no flags, or fireworks, or parades & BBQ to attend. It became our time to be reminded of how far we were from our lives in 2015. Celebration was limited to being thankful for being alive and well, in the past.