Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho! It's Off to Work We Go!

It's harvest time at Yule Love It
Well, dear Reader, we’ve survived another marital marker. Six months of His retirement.
With one phone call last December 21, the poor guy induced the greatest transition in his life—and without the benefit of a refresher Lamaze class.
After forty-seven years on the road as an outside salesman, he awoke the next morning with no place to go and no quota.  Christmastime, a new car, and our wedding anniversary diverted the symptoms of withdrawal through January.
Then headaches hit with a paralyzing vengeance.
“I put the brakes on too fast. I should’ve never retired in the winter,” he said one Sunday night.
“Then you need to take a drive tomorrow to breathe some fresh air. All day. And every day this week as if you’re going to work.”  
The following night his car pulled into our driveway well after our dinner hour, unusual for his 6:00 p.m. punctuality. He stepped into my study a bit sheepish.
“You’ll never guess where I’ve been.”
“Grand Lake.”
“You drove up to Presque Isle to the Lodge?”
He nodded and slid into my reading chair. “It’s been over forty years since I’ve seen the place. It’s not the same.”
He related the modernization of his beloved childhood summer roads and haunts. We reviewed again this truth: nothing remains the same, and loss and mourning come with each change.
The premise abided like a faithful friend as we navigated retirement’s rough waters through February and March. In April, I took a sabbatical from a few weekly commitments to rest, consider, and revise my personal and professional life.
We began our field and yard work. He went his way. I went mine. The wind cleared and invigorated our minds.
“You know,” I told Him one night, “when each of the girls left home, it was like retirement from my job as their mother.”
He turned from his book. “I never looked at it like that.”
“I didn’t either until today.”
See, my husband is wired to work alone. I’m made to commune. So he pulled up weed cloth and dead lavender plants and sowed grass seed while I worked another field and my gardens. Gradually, his headaches subsided. His strength and enthusiasm revived.
When it came time for me plant the vegetable garden in May, he weeded it without my request. With his hands and back around 24/7, we’ve not had to hire help this spring. Instead of driving carpet and wood samples to clients, he’s now my mulch deliveryman. 
And Mo the retired mouser doesn’t know what to do with his master home day and night, so the cat sleeps under the lilac hedge. He awakes to meow for his breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
After our lunch the other day, I took up my garden gloves to replant the greasy and turkey craw beans. I waved Him good-bye. “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go!”
He smiled.

A Different Topic

The pink rose expresses gratitude 
Cindy is a Royal Oak friend. We’re fellow members of Detroit Working Writers and have served several years together on the Board of Directors.
She’s the kind who will lose sleep to find ways to encourage her husband, children, and friends.
Cindy’s a Giver, the unofficial title for folk who gather in board meetings on behalf of someone else’s benefit. And she’s prepared with her report.
I stepped close to Cindy’s administrative skills a few years back when she tutored me in her system of vetting new membership applications. Her laughter and wit infused every link of the process. I’ve never seen such a fluent flowchart.
That day, when I first parked in front of her house, three white pillars welcomed me.  Her porch offered a bench for reflection and conversation.
I could live here, I thought. I would sit, read, write and wave to neighbors.
My, my, what I found inside her office—furniture, files, and her New Membership folder in amiable order. From start to finish, in simple terms, Cindy explained and demonstrated the correlation between the folder’s detailed instructions and her computer documents.
She placed her masterpiece, thumb drive included, into my hands.  “Would you like a cup of tea before you go?”
“Please.” I spied an upright piano. “Do you play?”
“A little.”
At my prodding, she slid onto the bench and ran her fingers over the keys in a sweet tune I cannot remember. Another talent.  
Cindy introduced me to her youngest son. “He’s part of a local band, and has composed some pretty nice pieces.”
The young man obliged our request to play one of his favorites. I heard the harmony I felt without and within their home. He played with beautiful longing and revived memory of that vulnerable season in my youth, and my daughters’.
That holy moment lingers and calls order out of chaos, inspires hope and courage whenever I am vulnerable. The life cycle begins and ends in dependency upon someone to love, defend, and care for us.
In our productive middle, we build and rebuild our internal and external house. We write and revise. Sow and reap. Lose and gain. 
The other day in a business email, Cindy summed up our present season. “On a totally different topic, a lot of my seedlings are emerging! Such fun. I've planted small and large sunflowers, string-less green beans and cucumbers. Not as big as your farm, but for this city girl, this is a scale of ‘farming’ I can handle.”
Well, dear Reader, most of my greasy and Turkey Craw beans aren’t sprouting. Could be the drought. I’ll plant more seeds and water this week if seedlings don’t appear. A Southerner must have her beans cooked with onions in bacon grease.
And yes, it is fun to have a city girl friend who knows what scale to farm. I can’t wait to see how she’s designed her rows of sunflowers, beans, and cucumbers.

Perhaps she’ll play her sweet little tune again.

Birds & Woodchucks

“The rights of natural life are in the midst of the fallen world the reflected splendor of the glory of God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born in 1906, executed by the Nazi’s in 1945.

I feared genetics when floaters appeared in my right eye several years ago. I didn’t want Mom’s macular degeneration, her struggle to read in old age when she at last had cash and leisure time to build her personal library.
Thankfully, my vitreous tear healed. My brain adapted to this aging process, and the floaters disappeared. In time, I advanced from +1 to +3 over-the-counter readers, and +1 strength for driving.
Then, last November a web of floaters obstructed the vision in my left eye.
“I’m going to send you to a retinal specialist,” my ophthalmologist said.
With pupils the size of hockey pucks, I aimed for Royal Oak Beaumont and cut off a driver on a right turn—a $125 ticket for a gray-haired lady wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day.
Yes, I deserved it, shouldn’t have been driving in my condition. I’m thankful no one was injured.
“Good news,” the doctor said. “It’s a retinal tear, not detachment. Surgery should repair it.”
An hour later, I left the medical complex with a throbbing headache and what looked like a serious case of conjunctivitis in my left eye. Two Security guys helped find my car in the parking structure. I slid behind the wheel for a good cry.
Two weeks ago, I drove south on Livernois in a hopeful frame of mind with my $545 prescription glasses. I trusted the doctor would offer more encouraging words. The floaters had vanished, yet my eyes couldn’t find the reading line in my new progressive lenses.
While I waited at a red light in a construction back up, I spied a sparrow to my left, pecking at a scrap of paper in a driveway. Repeatedly, the bird macerated the paper with its beak and attempted to lift it. After several failures, the bird at last secured its prize, flew over the road and into the bushes in front of the Montessori School of Rochester. Nest sweet nest!
I mused upon the sparrow’s perseverance as I turned south onto Coolidge. Oh, another blessed sight! From my left a waddling woodchuck crossed the divided boulevard with the speed of an Olympian. Burrow sweet burrow!
The retinal tear did heal. “See you in a year,” the specialist said. “And wear your prescription glasses. Be patient. Give your eyes and brain time to adjust.”
Thus, I persevere with wavering depth perception, missing steps, and tripping on invisible things. My reading width is four to five words, a strain on my eyes and brain—never slept so much from reading and vision fatigue.
Dear Reader, it is a comfort to wake to birdsong, to hear their faithful praise in this imperfect, fallen world. In the framework of natural life, I abide with birds and woodchucks.
Our home, sweet home, the splendor of God’s glory.

When the Smoke Clears

Yule Love It rhubarb goes to market.
Assumptions can be hazardous. For instance, while uprooting a huge, diseased lavender plant from the field, the voice of common sense whispered my name.  “Iris, why not burn them in the ground?”
Sure would save hours of grunt work, I thought. And a burn would nourish the soil and exterminate ticks.
           Enthused, I stood erect and posed the question to Mary Ellen, my fellow farmhand.
           “Sounds good to me,” she said.  “That way the stems won’t scratch our arms.”
           In no time, we had the weed cloth pulled up, bagged, and piled at the driveway for trash day. It isn’t often the wind decides to rest on our fair hills, so I suggested we begin the burn.
           “Do you have a permit?” asked my prudent, law-abiding friend.
           In twenty-eight years of bonfires and burning woodpiles, my husband and I had never thought about that technicality. However, setting fire to an open field in close proximity to our lot line presented a scenario that demanded approval from the authorities.
“I’ll call the township immediately.”
They directed me to the fire station. Nice folk. There’s no fee for the permit.
“You need to renew this each year,” the officer said.
“Do I truly need this paper to roast marshmallows in my backyard?”
She smiled and nodded.
“Be advised, our neighbor will call when he sees smoke,” I said.
“No problem. Just know we’ll have to send out a truck.”
Mary Ellen and I waited a week for the perfect morning. We began the burn at 9:30 a.m., keeping the fire to a 5X5X3 foot dimension per the “Shall” list on the Burn Permit. The easterly wind picked up. I hosed down the flames.  
“I’m going to call the fire department,” my neighbor hollered.
Without fanfare, the truck pulled up. My heart palpitated.
Rob introduced himself. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Underwood. You have the flames under control. Call us if you have any trouble.”
That night at dinner my husband asked again if I thought I’d planted too much lavender. I understand. The past two summers, my reluctant lavender farmer has cleared hundreds of shrubs from the valley. He’s a much happier man with more grass to mow. 
It took seven years to build our three beautiful fields. We’re now mid-way our five-year restoration plan to return our property to turf and native grasses. That means we wait patiently for calm days and have hoses and shovels handy.
Meanwhile, we harvest rhubarb and asparagus. I recall the tribulations, joy, and fulfillment of realizing the dream of growing a lavender farm—and the remarkable people I’ve met, the likes of herbalist Jim McDonald. He taught my guests and me the most useful lesson of using the plantain in our lawns and gardens for bug bites and stings.
Dear Reader, the burn permit ushers in a new season. I don’t assume to know its nature or name. That would be hazardous to the natural flow of life.
Perhaps I’ll see it when the smoke clears.

Note: The submission deadline for Yule Love It’s Annual Poetry Contest is midnight Monday, June 5. Please visit the Poetry Contest link for guidelines.