A View of the Full Moon From the Almost-Home: Everyday Magic, Day 741

IMG_1090Tonight we watched the moon rise, one evening past full moon, from the eastern side of the hill. Standing in the grass at the top of the slope, we remembered how we had once planned to build our house in this very spot. We would have a home nestled in the eastern curve of the hill, protected by the trees and near the rag-tag orchard Ken’s grandfather planted many decades ago. Now this view is interrupted by a radio tower, blinking incessantly, and the ongoing roar of lawnmowers trimming the ground around a housing development that sprung up here in recent years.

Over 20 years ago, pre-radio tower and pre-housing development, I spent hours in this very field, figuring out my kitchen view of the sky and bedroom leaning toward the woods. This was where we would live, we decided, for the rest of our IMG_1085lives. Until we decided something else.

It happened one bright spring day, too cold to not have a coat. We walked to the west side of the hill, sat down on the slope and looked at the sky. “We could just build here,” Ken said. “We could see the weather coming.” A click. We both knew instantly. So we changed plans in a hurry, and began dreaming out a southwest-facing home instead of a due-eastern one.

It’s worked beautifully for us. We like looking into the future, tracking the weather to come, far more than seeing the tail-end of what’s leaving slowly or in a hurry. Being in such a place means we’re more exposed, but we’re okay with this trade-off.

Now, almost 20 years later, we watch the moon rise over the past. Large and orange, it makes all we see glow awake. Then we return through the dense forest, stepping gingerly among raspberry bushes and fallen branches, finding the old road back to our home. Once it’s in sight, so is the night sky, welcoming us back.

Eden of Autumn in Iowa: Everyday Magic, Day 413

When I confirmed plans to join a bookclub for a light dinner in Iowa on the way to see Natalie in St. Paul, I wasn’t expecting more than a sandwich, short discussion about The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body, and a sparse bedroom where Ken and I would bunk down for the night. Instead, we landed in paradise, the Iowa version of Eden in autumn, and no wonder. The home of Karen Weir and Doug Jimerson is a haven of gardens and animal life, bursting with color, blossom, three jumping but sweetly calm Irish Jack Russells, a bevy of border collies, grazing sheep in the field near horses and donkeys, and about a dozen roaming cats, most of the sturdy six-toed variety.

I soon discovered that Doug is the garden editor for Better Homes and Gardens, a magazine I’ve loved forever (who doesn’t love lush photos of gardens and meals without those pesky articles on how to lose weight juxtaposed against triple-fudge brownie recipes?). Karen is a writer and vibrant creative soul who imbues all she touches with color, texture, whimsey and depth. Together, these two are true artists of the home and garden. A gate led to raised beds of overflowing flowers and vegetables towering and expansive with purple string beans, giant red hibiscus, sprawling roses, pale violent crocus and more. Through another gate, and a water garden featured giant goldfish dart around lily pads surrounded by rocks climbing through flowers and other greenery. A weathered table and chairs, close to the backdoor of the house, was surrounded by hanging white and golden tiny lights, so fairy-like that I couldn’t help but linger later that night at the window to watch that space in the dark. A brook runs through the property along a round walk.

The book group met in an old chicken house, reborn into a dining building with soft yellow walls, long antique benches around the table, and soft lighting. There we dined on vegetable soup, fres French bread, cranberry tart, a meat tray, and various spreads, not to mention the oreos passed around as the hours unfolded. A simple discussion turned into questions about the book, how we’re doing, our collective cancer stories, tales of floor refinishing and interspersed readings I did from parts of the memoir and also from some of my poetry.

After hugging everyone multiple times goodbye, Ken and I were delighted to spend time with Karen and Doug, learning that they, like us, loved the film Babe, sharing stories of college and post-college-age kids, weather fiascos and near-misses, and places we loved. The house was as alive and artful as the gardens: a former four-square expanded out both sides, one side of the house mirrored the other, and all of the interior was furnished with antiques: an old pale green armoir from New Mexico that weighed a ton, a dozen multi-color Fiesta ware pitches on top of a cabinet, weathered tables great for putting our feet on, and comfortable deep leather chairs to sink into before we climbed the stairs to a high bed, the wood floors around us gleaming in the cloud light.

“This is my new home, and these are my new parents. Go on to St. Paul, and I’ll see you later,” I said to Ken, especially finding out about the horses, but logic and family ties took hold and led me to the car, saying goodbye to the six-toed cats and the Jimersons, the gardens around us saturated with lush and fading color on this cold overcast morning.

First Cold Rain of the Season: Everyday Magic, Day 117

I sit in the old block chair salvaged from a curb one sunny day, the cat asleep behind my head, the rain steady and expansive, and the occasional loud rushes of water from where we should have gutters wrapping sound and calm around me. Soup cooks in the crockpot. The dog sleeps on the floor. The windows are filled with darkness and the reflections of our lamps, and I’m trying to summon up the energy to saute some onions and make some cornbread.

This outrageously long fall is clearly ending. From 487 miles north, in St. Paul, MN., my daughter sends me an email titled, “So this is interesting” with nothing in it but a link to the weather report she’s facing: 100% snow for her weekend. Back in the wet skies of Kansas, I can’t yet imagine snow, but I know the trees are being washed free of their leaves, the ground is softening, and winter is coming.