Twas the night before Christmas, and the children were all snug in their beds in the tiny houses of Channelwood village. A mouse was stirring, with visions of cookies dancing in his furry little head. Although Ella’s pet mouse, Darcy, was supposed to be asleep in his basket at the foot of Ella’s bed, he was just pretending. As soon as Ella dozed off, up he jumped, intent on getting to that plate of cookies he’d seen Sara leave on the kitchen table. He was in such a rush that he didn’t even stop to shake off the ridiculous red cap that Ella had put on him.

Usually, the children were tidy enough that Darcy wouldn’t find much besides a crumb or two for a midnight snack. Ella conscientiously fed him a healthy mix of homemade kibble; but of course, no self-respecting pet would be content with that. Not when there were cookies left unguarded!

Scurrying toward the kitchen, Darcy heard the sound of tinkling bells. He didn’t think much about it until he discovered an intruder—a big fellow in a red suit, with a bushy white beard—standing next to the kitchen table and EATING ALL THE COOKIES! Furiously, Darcy stood up on his hind legs and chittered something not at all nice in mouse language.

Mouse in a Christmas hat.

“Well, hello, little fellow! A very merry Christmas to you!” The intruder gave a jolly laugh and bit into the last cookie.

Darcy shook his tiny fists and screeched something even nastier.

“Well, now, this won’t do. Naughty mice don’t get presents. If you want a piece of this cookie, you’re just going to have to ask properly.”

That didn’t seem fair to Darcy; after all, he was the one who lived here. But his greed soon got the better of his pride, and he chirped something that sounded at least somewhat contrite. The white-bearded fellow reached down, with a chunk of cookie and a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!”

Darcy took a big bite. Yum, oatmeal! He closed his eyes in bliss. When he opened them again, the intruder was nowhere to be seen. Outside the kitchen window, bells tinkled again, and the faint shape of a sleigh vanished into the clouds.

Snuggling back into his cozy basket in Ella’s room, Darcy tried to tell himself that he had dreamed it all after eating too much of a very tasty cookie. He couldn’t quite manage to convince himself, though.

Because I still had a little unscheduled vacation time needing to be used before the end of the year, I decided to take off Thursday morning and Friday afternoon from work. Earlier in the week, the weather forecast for Thursday predicted a warm day without much chance of rain, and I thought that perhaps I could go rowing with my husband around noon if it wasn’t too windy.

Although the morning was indeed quite warm for December, the wind was gusty enough that we decided a lunchtime row wouldn’t be much fun. Friday’s forecast looks much better for rowing. I spent a little time doing yoga and exercising on the rowing machine, but mostly I just lazed around, feeling indecisive about what sort of image to put on my digital art display. The morning started out sunny, but clouds were blowing in fast. I finally settled on a lake with a blue sky and some passing clouds.

A lake in winter with tall brown grass in the foreground.

(Photo credit: Antonio Garcia Campos)

The dry brown grass along the shore made plain that winter was near, as did the bare trees across the lake. When I pictured myself taking a breath of the cool fresh air, it felt pretty comfortable; there was almost no wind. The tiny structures on the other side of the lake settled into a recognizable pattern as the outbuildings of Channelwood, the imaginary village inhabited by several of my younger selves.

I heard a bit of splashing, and a stone skipped into view across the water. Turning to my right, I saw Peter, who was me at five years old when I really, really wanted to fly away to the Neverland and enjoy a new adventure with the fairies every day.

“Did you come here to play?” Peter took a step toward me and held out a flat chip of dark gray slate.

I gave it my best effort but didn’t have much success, given the fact that skimming stones was something I hadn’t done in decades. Peter politely refrained from commenting as my stone sank without a bounce.

“Well, playing wasn’t actually on my mind,” I had to admit. “And not much else was, either. I’ve been feeling low on energy because I trained so hard to row faster at regattas this year.”

Peter stopped skimming stones and looked thoughtful for a minute.

“The Lost Boys felt like that sometimes, when they’d had a long day of adventures and had been working hard to learn new flying tricks. Wendy said they needed more sleep, and she tucked them into bed early and told them stories.”

“That’s good advice, Peter. But my mother can’t tuck me in and tell me bedtime stories because I grew up and don’t live in the same house with her anymore.”

Peter thought about it a bit more.

“I’ll have to pretend to be your mother and tell you a story, then. It’s not bedtime yet, but you can lie down in the grass over there next to that tree, and I’ll tell you a naptime story.”

I found a place among the tree roots that wasn’t muddy. Peter gallantly contributed his green jacket for my pillow and gave me a moment to get comfortable before starting the story.

——————————

Once upon a time, on a lake very much like this one, there was a duckling who was full of energy and always wanted to play. Instead of staying in line and following Mama Duck like the other ducklings, he wanted to dance on the water, flapping his wings and turning in circles. When he got too far away, Mama Duck quacked at him and Papa Duck pecked him, but he still wouldn’t behave like a proper duckling.

“Little one, you need to do as you’re told,” quacked Mama Duck. “There are hawks, dogs, and cats everywhere, and they don’t want to see you dance—they just want to eat you!”

Of course, he went on dancing anyway, and it wasn’t long before he got too far away from his family again. Trying to find his way back to them, he passed a hawk sitting on a branch overhanging the river.

“Good afternoon, Madam Hawk,” said the duckling (he had, at least, properly learned his manners from Mama Duck). “I would like to show you my new dance, but my mama says that you don’t want to see it and that you just want to eat me. You wouldn’t do that, would you?”

The hawk fluffed her feathers. “Your mama isn’t wrong that I am a predator, but I wouldn’t have any interest in eating a scrawny little duckling like you. I wouldn’t get much more than an annoying mouthful of feathers. A nice fat rabbit would be much more to my liking. So, you may dance for me, young duck, and I promise not to eat you.”

The duckling happily performed his latest dance, and the hawk clapped her wings, cheering.

Just around the next bend in the river, the duckling saw a spotted dog lying on the shore in the sunshine. The dog blinked, half asleep, as the duckling hopped out of the water and came closer.

“A good day to you, Mr. Dog, and may I show you my new dance? My mama says you only want to eat me, but that isn’t really true, is it?”

The dog yawned, showing a large mouthful of sharp teeth. “I might eat you if I felt like getting up, but right now I am too lazy and would rather lie here in the sun.”

Once again, the duckling danced, and the dog applauded with a wagging tail.

Walking farther along the shore, the duckling came across a black cat fastidiously licking a paw. The cat watched with curiosity as the duckling approached.

“Hello, Madam Cat, would you like to watch me dance? You wouldn’t eat me instead, would you?”

The cat blinked once, as if uncertain, and then began grooming the other paw. “Hmm. A duckling might be a tasty little treat, but my owner just fed me, and I’m more bored than hungry right now. Watching you dance might be more interesting than eating you—maybe.”

The duckling gave one more performance and then, seeing that the cat was starting to look hungrier, scooted back to the river in a hurry. It wasn’t long before he found his family again. After giving him a loud quacking lecture on his bad behavior, Mama Duck just shook her feathered head in despair and turned to Papa Duck.

“He’s sure to come to a bad end one of these days.”

——————————

I wasn’t far from dozing off as I listened to Peter’s naptime story. That seemed to be all there was to it, though, as Peter turned away and sent another stone flying over the lake, skimming it lightly across the water with perfect technique.

“Did he?” I asked.

Peter turned back to me, looking as if he had forgotten all about the story. “Did who?”

“The duck. Did he come to a bad end?”

“Yes, of course he did.” Peter shrugged. “He grew up.”

The world felt unusually quiet when I woke up to a cool, overcast morning on Saturday. I got myself some breakfast and, while sipping Raspberry Chocolate coffee, set my art display to a painting of spring blossoms with a peaceful lake in the background.

Painting of spring blossoms on an overcast day with a lake in the background.

(Image credit: Linda Apriletti)

My mind felt quiet, too, like there was nothing I needed or wanted to do. That was peculiar enough to make me wonder if there might be something wrong. I didn’t feel like reading a book, browsing on the computer, or writing a story or a blog post. Nothing else was distracting me—no chores or to-dos demanding attention. What was going on here? Had all of my creative energy mysteriously gone missing?

I imagined myself stepping into the picture on the art display, but not much seemed to be going on there either. Just another cool, overcast morning with painted spring blossoms. I looked around for interesting characters and didn’t see any, so I sat down on an imaginary log and gazed out over the pond. A few pink and white petals floated by. A frog jumped on a rock at the water’s edge.

“Doesn’t this give your mind the loveliest space to wander?”

Turning my head, I saw one girl, alone. Sara, cheerful as always, had come up next to me while I was looking at the frog. The path behind her led away into the woods, and I could just make out the tiny tree houses of Channelwood in the midst of the spring foliage.

“Ella and Queenie both have been working hard since they woke up this morning,” she went on, arranging her long skirts comfortably as she sat down beside me. “There’s always something to do. Chores, projects—so many ways to stay busy. People forget that they need to leave space for imagination.”

The frog hopped off the rock and landed with a splash.

“I wasn’t busy at all this morning,” I told her, “and I felt that I had plenty of empty space—but, for whatever reason, there was nothing to fill it.”

“That’s what happens,” Sara replied earnestly, keeping her big green eyes fixed on me. “When imagination hasn’t been given enough space in your mind to wander around and make itself happy, it finds somewhere else to go. Then you have to coax it back, like a neglected pet; and afterward, even more time has to pass before it feels comfortable again.”

I pondered that for a moment, unsure what to say. Then it occurred to me that she was a fictional character, after all; so I didn’t have to come up with an answer right away. Instead, I could put this scene on pause until I had a better idea of where it was going.

After giving myself a day to consider the proper care and feeding of imagination, I returned to the conversation on Sunday morning. The spring flowers picture on the art display didn’t match the bright sunlight streaming into my house from a clear blue sky; but I let it stay there for the time being, just for continuity of thought.

Sara was sitting on the log where I had left her, although she wasn’t in exactly the same position. She had turned her head to watch the bees bustling about on the heavy blossoms.

“They look very busy,” I said, following her gaze.

“Yes, they never stop to wonder what might happen next. I don’t suppose that means they lack imagination, though. Perhaps that one,” and Sara pointed to a bee hanging upside down from a large blossom, “is imagining a warm and sunny day, with just the lightest of breezes under a bright blue sky. Maybe it’s easier for them to pretend simple things like that because their minds aren’t cluttered with worries. Imagination doesn’t come from idleness. What it needs, instead, is regular practice, along with enough space to grow.”

I glanced away from the art display for a moment, and I had to agree with Sara when—in real life—I found myself in exactly the bright, sunny day she had described.

March 11, 2021 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

After a few days of pleasantly warm weather this week, I’ve been wanting to get out somewhere fun and play hooky, rather than sitting at a desk all day. I even dreamed that I was a high school kid in detention for skipping classes.

But of course, no spring break again this year, so instead I went to visit my younger selves in the imaginary village of Channelwood for a virtual vacation. I found the two youngest ones hanging out at the beach: Peter, who was me at five years old pretending to be Peter Pan, and my seven-year-old past self Ponch, so nicknamed because of the woven poncho that she wore over her dress on breezy days like this.

Rocky hill by a seashore.

(Image credit: Aimee Elise)

Ponch had a bag of sunflower seeds and was eating some of them, but Peter was throwing handfuls to a noisy crowd of seagulls. Peter also was carrying on a lively conversation of squawks and chirps with the closest birds.

“Okay, that’s enough. You can’t give the birds all our food,” Ponch declared, pulling the bag away when Peter reached for it again.

“Why not? There are plenty of seeds in the kitchen shed. Queenie grew more sunflowers than we could use, just like she always does with her crops. And if Sara tries to make the best of it again by feeding us another pumpkin and cauliflower casserole full of sunflower seeds, I might change my mind about wanting her to be my mother.”

“Sara is very creative, and she wants the best for everyone. You ought to be grateful that she takes such good care of you. And…”

Peter cut her off mid-lecture by squawking loudly at the nearest gull, which had turned its head sideways to regard both children with a beady eye.

“The gull was complaining that I hadn’t brought biscuit crumbs instead. See, Ponch, even the birds have had enough of Queenie’s sunflower seeds.”

“You’re just making that up. And if you really can talk with that gull, you should tell it to be grateful, too.” Ponch tossed her head in annoyance and only then noticed me standing there. Evidently looking for an ally, she turned to me and asked, “Don’t you think so?”

What I honestly thought, in fact, was that I hadn’t planned on spending my imaginary spring break mediating a squabble between young children. But, in the interest of kindness to my younger selves, I tried to come up with a diplomatic answer.

“When people help us, it’s always a good thing to be grateful,” I said. “But if there are plenty of sunflower seeds, then sharing a few with the birds won’t do any harm.”

“Barrels of sunflower seeds,” Peter informed me, illustrating the point with hands wide apart. “And barrels of turnips, rutabagas, and lots of other stuff besides. Queenie is already starting to plant more. We couldn’t possibly eat them all, even if we wanted to. And of course…”

Ponch interrupted the obvious next sentence about not wanting to. “Peter, you still ought to be glad that we never have to go hungry. You know, there are places in the world where children are starving. If all you can do is complain about having too much food, then you’re just being silly.”

“Don’t preach me a sermon, Ponch. I saw you last night feeding your rutabaga to Ella’s pet mouse under the table.”

“Well, the mouse was properly grateful. It ate the rutabaga and didn’t complain.”

“Huh.” Peter, having created an effective distraction, took the opportunity to grab the bag and toss out another handful of seeds. That prompted a screech from Ponch that was even louder than the gulls.

Feeling grateful on my own part that they were both just fictional characters and I didn’t have any parental responsibilities here, I decided it was about time to cut my virtual vacation short.

After several weeks in winter’s frigid depths, I woke this morning to find bright sunshine and melting snow. To match the light, airy feeling that it inspired, I chose an image for my art display that featured a sunrise over the calm waters of a pond in springtime.

Sunrise over a still pond.

The sunrise photo reminded me of the imaginary pond in Channelwood, the tiny village where I send my stressed-out younger selves to relax. It wasn’t the same area where Peter had been skimming stones in a June blog entry, but it could easily have been another view of the pond. I took a deep breath and pictured myself there, breathing in the fresh air.

Peter and his usual companions were nowhere to be seen. When I turned to the right, I noticed a little girl who looked comfortable in a light cloth poncho over a navy blue dress, with knee socks and penny loafers. She hadn’t been among the visitors to Channelwood before today, but she was immediately recognizable as my seven-year-old past self.

“Well, hello there, Ponch,” I greeted her cheerfully, giving her a nickname just for the fun of it. “What a beautiful morning it is.”

“Mom always wants me to wear the poncho when the temperature is between 60 and 70 Fah-ren-heit,” she informed me, with the last word in a singsong tone, as if enjoying the sound. “And if it’s colder, then I have to wear a coat. The thermometer in the window wasn’t quite at the 60 mark when I came outside, but Mom didn’t notice. And she won’t, either, because she was too busy complaining again about Dad getting a convertible. That’s why I came here, so I wouldn’t have to listen to that. I like the convertible because it’s such a pretty sky blue, and it’s fun when we go to the beach. I want them to quit arguing.”

I found myself wishing I could return to those days of innocence while, at the same time, feeling sorry for my younger self because I knew they weren’t going to last much longer.

“They love you very much and want to take good care of you,” I said, choosing my words carefully, “even if you have to wear a coat sometimes. And when you grow up, that doesn’t mean life has to be a struggle, doing everything on your own. There will be kind people who can help when you need it, because the world is full of them. You just have to look.”

Although I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was trying to convince Ponch or myself, she smiled a little before turning aside to gaze out over the pond—and I felt better too.

When I woke up, it was quite a dark morning even for midwinter, with wind gusts and the occasional snow shower. Until I checked the time, I wasn’t altogether sure that it was morning at all.

With Christmas Eve being a holiday from work for me, the hour didn’t really matter; but I can’t often fall back to sleep after waking at my usual time, so it seemed not worth trying. After getting my breakfast and coffee, I sat on the couch and changed the image on my art display to a sparkly Christmas tree. Then I switched on a daylight lamp, which took away enough of the gloom to make it look like an ordinary cloudy morning.

I decided to exercise my imagination by visiting my younger selves and their fictional companions in Channelwood village. Although the sky looked brighter there as I pictured it, the trees were still mostly bare, and muddy paths stretched away into a windy woods.

Muddy path through winter woods.

(Image credit: Garry Knight)

The scene looked more cheerful when I opened the door to the kitchen outbuilding, which is my younger selves’ usual gathering place. They had just finished breakfast, judging by the crumb-strewn plates on the central table, along with one remaining pumpkin muffin on a serving platter (which I nabbed, yum).

Evergreen wreaths with bright red berries adorned the walls. Fragrant candles glowed on shelves and tabletops. Embroidered ornaments hung from the branches of a potted pine sapling in a corner, along with shiny strands of dried grass that served as icicles. A nativity scene with wooden figurines occupied a table beside the tree.

The children’s faces, when I looked closely, were not as festive. Even Sara, known for her unquenchable optimism, couldn’t entirely repress a sigh as she gazed at the merry decorations.

“Sometimes I miss the crowds of London,” she confided. “It’s lovely and peaceful here in this tiny village—but when Christmas is almost here, I want to see the busy shops and bright lights again. Oh, I’m longing to hear the carolers.”

“Yes, I remember,” said Peter, who was sitting cross-legged on a forest-green rug by the tree. “The city lights always looked so jolly when I flew over with the fairies on my way back to Neverland.”

Ella, never idle for long, had started gathering up the breakfast dishes. “I used to dream that someday I would go to the holiday ball and dance with the prince.”

Still sitting at the breakfast table, Queenie sipped from a half-full mug and stared at the little tree as if oblivious to her companions. The silence lengthened until I thought she wasn’t going to join the conversation, but then she spoke.

“I miss store-bought tinsel, sparkling like fresh snow on Christmas morning. And shortbread cookies in a holiday tin. And, and,” her voice quavered as if about to break, “getting together with family.”

Sara nodded, her small face unusually grave.

Although I wanted to say something that would cheer up this somber little group, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Truth be told, I’d had many of the same feelings myself this year, and whether I had dealt with them any better was debatable. So I stayed quiet, just looking around the room at the holiday decorations, until my glance fell on the nativity scene.

“In my time it’s a lonely year, too,” I said. “But as you know, Baby Jesus had nothing but a manger with the sheep and goats for company. It was enough.”

Sara responded with just a hint of a smile. “Ella carved our nativity scene. She’s a talented artist, though she won’t admit it.”

“It’s nicely done,” I agreed.

“And Peter put the straw on the floor, while Queenie painted the figurines. It all came together very well.”

I turned to say a few words to Queenie, who was just now getting up from the table.

“Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to bring a cookie assortment in a decorated tin.”

The winter’s first snow started falling in my area on Monday. Very little of it stuck to the roads, and I didn’t have to go out anyway because my husband did the grocery shopping. Still, it looked yucky when I took the trash out to the curb, and the lack of sunlight left me feeling a bit gloomy when I brought in the garbage can after Tuesday’s pickup.

I decided to cheer myself up with an imaginary visit to the small village of Channelwood, which I envision as having a pleasant island climate for my younger selves to enjoy. When I arrived, though, it was plainly late autumn even without the snow. The sky was overcast, and the breeze felt chilly. Brown leaves floated in the still water of the pond, not far from where I’d found Peter skimming stones in June.

Still water on a cloudy autumn day.

(Photo credit: Maja Dumat)

Looking at the quiet landscape, I didn’t see my younger selves—or, for that matter, much life at all. No birds could be heard in the drab brownish trees, and no ducks or geese swam by in the pond. The only sign of wildlife was a pile of rabbit droppings. I suspected that some mischievous gremlin in my subconscious mind was having a good laugh at my expense.

“It’s so peaceful.”

The soft voice came from my younger self Queenie, who had come up behind me while I was gazing out over the pond.

“I love this time of year,” she continued. “Nature is clearing away the distractions and leaving plenty of space for us to breathe, ramble, and dream. You were daydreaming just now, weren’t you? I saw you jump a little when I spoke. I’m sorry about that—I wasn’t meaning to startle you. What fun things were you imagining?”

Queenie sounded so earnest and hopeful that I didn’t want to disappoint her with the mundane truth of my mental grumbling about rabbit doo and a drab landscape. Sifting through my recent thoughts for something more positive—and falling short—I told her simply, “I was looking for ducks and geese, but didn’t see any.”

“There were ducks here yesterday morning,” Queenie informed me. “I saw them just as the fog was lifting. Don’t you love to go for a walk on a foggy morning? Everything looks so mysterious and magical. Sara told me that when she lived in London, it was easy to imagine fairies around every corner in the fog. Sometimes their silvery wings would come clear, just for an instant, and then they would dart away again after realizing they’d been seen.”

Once again, I couldn’t help but to feel that my imagination left a lot to be desired. Although I’d noticed the low clouds and mist on Monday when I took the garbage out to the street, my focus had been entirely on getting the chore finished before the snowstorm blew in. Visions of fairies or anything else had been very far from my mind.

“I like Sara’s way of looking at things,” I said. “She makes ordinary days seem fascinating.”

“Yes, she does.” Queenie glanced toward the pond again. “Look, there’s a pair of ducks coming toward us.”

“Where I came from, there’s snow on the ground today,” I told her, much more cheerfully. “After I go back, I’ll pretend that I’m living in a cozy gingerbread house with vanilla icing all around it.”

Queenie smiled. “Sara would like that.”

November 22, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I woke up on a dark, rainy morning and got a cup of Chocolate Glazed Donut coffee from the K-cup carousel on the kitchen counter. That turned out to be an easier decision than choosing an image for my digital art display. I generally pick a different image each morning and try to match it to the ambient light, so that it looks like a window onto a new landscape every day. Usually I match the season, too, unless I’ve had enough of winter and decide that I’d rather see a tropical vacation picture.

Because winter wasn’t here yet, I went with an image of a forest in late autumn—thin, bare trees with only a few red leaves still in place. Something about it left me feeling sad, though; so I changed the picture to a winding stream with autumn trees, some of which still had green leaves.

Winding stream with autumn trees.

(Photo credit: Finn Terman Frederiksen)

This one felt like a better match for my mood. I sat on the couch reading a Kindle book for a while. As the day went on, I spent some time reading blogs and thought I probably ought to write something, but wasn’t sure what. I did a load of laundry, played a game on the computer, went back and sat on the couch again, and thought it was a dull and boring day. Even a cold, damp November afternoon had seemed a lot more exciting when I was a kid…

When I glanced up at the art display again, the winding stream image expanded in my imagination to take in a nearby playground. My 12-year-old self was hanging upside down by her knees from the monkey bars, waving to me.

“Hey there, dull and boring grown-up person! Wanna come play on the monkey bars with me?”

That wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind for exciting childhood adventures, to be honest. I pictured myself walking over damp squishy leaves and standing between the monkey bars and the swings, with my feet firmly on the ground as I looked up at her.

“Don’t you think that’s a rude way to talk to your future self?”

Younger-Me, looking entirely unconcerned, swung back and forth a few times before taking hold of a bar and dropping to the ground next to me.

“You sort of called yourself that, didn’t you? And it’s not my fault so much of your imagination went missing when you grew up. That’s what happens to old people—they get so totally stuck in their routines that they can’t do anything if it’s not on their a-gen-da.” She drew out the last word’s syllables mockingly and then, for further illustration, mimed writing on her left hand with an imaginary pen in her right.

“Kids get bored sometimes too,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but kids don’t stay bored. There’s always something else to do. Or, at least, something to imagine.”

I thought about that for a moment, and then I walked over to the swings and sat down.

“Okay, give me a push.”

October 22, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The kitchen outbuilding in the tiny village of Channelwood was filled with the delicious autumn scents of apple, cinnamon, and pumpkin. A mostly-eaten loaf of pumpkin bread sat invitingly on the large picnic-style wooden table in the middle of the room. I helped myself to a yummy slice. My younger self Queenie was nowhere to be seen, but her companions Ella and Sara bustled busily about, filling crates with glass jars that held bright cinnamon-brown contents.

“I made a batch of apple butter this morning. We’re taking it to the storage shed now, and after that we’ll take some apples down to the cellar,” Sara explained, cheerful as always. She and Ella each picked up a crate and headed out the door. I took the last crate and followed them.

Walking past a few small sheds on this cool, misty afternoon, I didn’t see anything that looked like the entrance to a cellar. We left our jars in one of the sheds, picked up baskets of apples, and went back outdoors. A leaf-strewn, muddy trail led through a sprawling pumpkin patch just outside the village.

Pumpkin field with trees in background.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

“It looks like you’re having a very good pumpkin harvest this year,” I said. “That pumpkin bread in the kitchen was delicious.”

Sara glanced back at me and smiled. “I am so glad you enjoyed it! We’ve had quite an adventure finding ways to use them. Pumpkin bread, muffins and pies, roasted pumpkin seeds, and even a pumpkin and fish casserole. Yesterday I made pumpkin walnut butter; that’s what was in the crate you took to the shed.”

“Too much of an adventure, if you ask me,” put in Ella, stepping carefully around a puddle as the trail began sloping downward through trees and bushes. Around a bend, there was an opening in the hillside with rough stone steps leading into a narrow cave. The girls started down the steps, and I walked behind them.

Ella put her basket on a shelf along one wall before turning to speak directly to me. “As you can see.”

The dim light in the cave—which was evidently Channelwood’s cellar—revealed baskets and crates of ordinary foods such as apples, pears, and carrots. Much of the space, however, was taken up by pumpkins. Everywhere I looked, there were more of them.

“They aren’t native to this island,” Ella explained, “and we never had them until Queenie got seeds from the supply ship last year. When she planted the seeds this spring, pumpkin plants sprang up all over.”

“By now, we’ve all had more than enough pumpkin to last us forever and ever,” chimed in young Peter, who had followed us into the cave. “Even my turtle won’t eat it anymore.”

Now that Sara and I had put down our apples, Ella led the way as we came back up into the fresh air. A light rain had started to fall, but it was still warmer outdoors than in the chilly depths of the cave.

“Fortunately, the ship came by again today,” Ella continued, “and we helped Queenie take cartloads of pumpkins down to the beach. She’s haggling with the sailors now, trading them for something more useful.”

As we made our way back through the pumpkin patch, Sara observed, “But it has been lovely to see Queenie so pleased with the success of her crop.”

Ella just shrugged in response to that. She looked much more cheerful when, after taking off our muddy shoes in the kitchen’s foyer, we found ourselves welcomed with a roaring fire and mugs of steaming hot cider. Queenie happily showed us what she’d gotten from the sailors: more jars for canning, a kettle, sewing needles, matches, and several other household essentials.

“And,” Queenie announced, holding up a large paper packet triumphantly, “they gave me another kind of seeds, even though I didn’t ask for any. I’m very much looking forward to next year’s crop of zucchini!”

July 15, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

After a rainy Sunday afternoon, we’ve gotten back to a more normal July weather pattern around here. The pleasant sunshine brings to mind the long summer days of childhood, rambling through the woods and picking wild blackberries in the meadows.

Blackberries ready to be picked.

(Photo credit: Bob Richmond)

The image that I had on my art display on Tuesday was a seashore animation, which showed waves breaking on the sand beneath a gorgeous blue sky. Although the art display is silent, I felt as if I could hear the rhythmic sounds of waves and seagulls very close by.

Then my imaginary view expanded to take in a patch of blackberries near the village of Channelwood. A hillside, dotted with wildflowers, sloped gently down to the beach on the island’s eastern shore. The sea looked calm on this bright, clear day.

Picking berries next to me was my younger self Queenie, dressed as usual like an 1890s farmgirl with a bonnet, braids, and a long gingham dress and stockings. I didn’t have a basket, but Queenie had a good-sized one, which was about half full.

“I remember how much I enjoyed picking berries when I was a kid,” I said, after I had picked a handful and put them into Queenie’s basket. “Those summer days felt like they would go on forever. Going back to school seemed very far away, and being grown up was almost too distant even to imagine.”

“There wasn’t anywhere you needed to be,” Queenie put in, as she carefully disentangled a bramble that had gotten caught on her dress. “There wasn’t anything you needed to do.”

“Yes. Or at least it seemed that way, which amounted to the same thing.” I looked up from the blackberries and, for a moment, let my gaze rest on the hazy blue line of the horizon. “Of course I needed to be home in time for dinner, and I wore a wind-up watch—that was a few years before digital. I remember winding it before school on dark winter mornings. But that watch isn’t part of my summer memories; the days seem timeless as I recall them now, without anything to measure or limit them.”

Queenie picked a few more berries before she spoke again.

“It’s not entirely true that there is nothing I need to do. I’ll have to get back to the village after a while. Ella wants the berries so she can bake blackberry tarts, and I have some chores to do after that. Right now, though, I don’t feel a need to be anywhere else. Maybe that’s all it takes to have a view into forever.”