Reflections, Summers Long ago

I am midway through my sixties, another birthday just days away, and as I sit here on the terrace on this August morning scenes of summers of my childhood flash through mind like an old home movie.
The time of my girlhood is the 1950’s. I live in a small farming community which is surrounded by golden fields of wheat. The population of our town is 1,036.  My family lives on the North Hill, near the edge of town. We are not farmers. We own and operate a grocery store. There is a field next to our house, and a dirt road separates our yard from the vegetable garden. Our house is a two bedroom single story, white with green trim. There is a porch out front and another out back. Hollyhocks grow in the front yard, which is fenced with posts and wire.   A huge bleeding heart bush is nestled right next to the house and several locust trees grow along the fence and shade the yard in the front. In the field behind the chicken house there are old apple trees just made for climbing.  Beyond the field are the rolling golden hills of wheat and purple mountains in the distance.  The sky is broad and brilliant blue. There is no traffic, just the quiet songs of the birds.  

Where I lived until I was 12. A few changes to the house over the yearsince then.

Me as a young child

I am an only child until the age of seven when my sister is born but I have an imaginary friend whom I call Janie.  Janie and I spend many happy hours together. I grow into a shy, quiet girl, with long dark hair which my mother braids into French Braids. My mother’s sister lives on the other side of the field so my cousins, my siblings and I play endless games of tag and hide and go seek.  Sometimes we sleep out in the yard in the summer and stay up late, giggling and making wishes on the shooting stars.
Sometimes, while my mother prepares dinner, I sit in our kitchen at the yellow Formica table and listen to The Record Man and The Story Lady on our AM radio, a coloring book and a package of Crayolas near my elbow. A true bookworm, I lug home piles of books from the library to read away the hours as I sit in the shade of a tree. I am also a tomboy who loves to swim and make mud pies. I have scabs on the palms of my hands and knees from crashing my bike on the gravel road down by the school. On the playground I ride on the merry-go-round, slide down the slide and play on the “monkey bars”. I play hopscotch, tetherball, and a game called 4 square and catch the grasshoppers in the football field and keep them for awhile old coffee cans before I let them go.
First day of school

My dad spends his days at our family business. He prefers to walk to the store when the weather is nice and most days he comes home for lunch.  He keeps a motor boat in the garage along with our family Ford. My mother is a homemaker, and works in the bank. By now I am old enough to take care of my sister and little brother.  
            The animals in my life include chickens, (I have a pet chicken which I push around in a doll stroller), rabbits that my uncle keeps in the cages along the outside wall of the chicken house,( I once opened all the cages and “freed” said rabbits) and his two sheep that graze in the pasture.  At one point there is a docile old mare that lives in the field among the crabapple trees, patiently allowing the neighborhood kids to ride her.  At any given time there is a mother cat and a batch of kittens to delight in.
            For musical entertainment there are records that we play in our stereo which we call a hi fi, and sits along one wall of the living room. It is big and square, like a chest and opens from the top.  My parents like Perry Como and Glenn Miller. My mother occasionally plays the story of Sleeping Beauty which has Tschaichowsky’s music as the background; my first exposure to classical music.  Our first television is black and white. Our favorite shows are The Wide World of Disney, the Mickey Mouse Club Show, and Lawrence Welk.

I believe those peaceful days as a child led me to the quiet place I enjoy now, dwelling among the stately pine trees, the river flowing nearby. I have come full circle to live on the land close to nature with family in the neighborhood.  I am learning to appreciate the present moment and to treasure memories of my heart.

The Mantis

I believe that Mother Nature offers gifts of the spirit.  One September afternoon while watering the garden I discovered a praying mantis perched on the row cover on the broccoli.

She (I assume it was a she), aware of my presence, turned her head to look at me and in that moment I had the oddest sensation that she was reading my mind.  For a few brief moments we regarded each other.

The word Mantis comes from the Greeks and means “prophet” or “seer. To “follow Mantis” means to put the foundation of your spirit at the helm and let it direct your life. According to one source the mantis comes to us when we need peace in our lives. In most cultures the mantis is a symbol of stillness and patience.

Another source stated that mantis medicine represents the process of creative becoming and being aware of personal kinship with everyone and everything and to be mindful of the choices you make.

To be mindful, to be still, to be patient, this then is the gift and the reminder from one of Mother Nature’s smallest creatures.



 It was resting on the back porch of the house, the largest and most vivid moth I have ever seen. I was curious about this fascinating creature and wondered why it was there in my life at that particular moment.  What message it was bringing? I ran to get the camera to take photos of it before it flew away. Internet research revealed that it was a Cecropia, or Robin Moth, a specimen of the largest moth in North America.  I believe it was a female, judging by the size of the abdomen and the antennae.

 In ancient Greek mythology the goddess Psyche was represented by a moth, the symbol of soul or spirit. Moths are also symbols of sensitivity and intuition. They are guided by the moon, for the night is their realm.  Like their more flamboyant butterfly cousins moths are identified with transformation and metamorphosis (meta is Greek, “change beyond,” morph is “shape”, and osis is “state, process, condition)” from a caterpillar in its cocoon into a winged, more refined creature.

To me, the story of the Cecropia is both joyful and heartbreaking. Their short life spans have a single purpose, to breed.  To this end they don’t eat, as these moths have neither mouths nor digestive systems.  The male, attracted to the female’s pheromones will fly as far as seven miles to get to his mate.  When he finds her, they spend one day together from early morning until the evening.  After the mating is complete and the female lays her eggs, both moths fly away to die within seven to ten days.  The cycle of life is complete.

Why had this Psyche moth stopped to rest at my doorstep? Was she merely resting?  Perhaps she was exuding her sweet fragrance to attract her mate, or she already laid her eggs and had embarked on death’s journey.  I don’t fully understand the significance of her appearance; maybe her presence at that moment was a reminder to embrace the cycle of life and to give me courage as I move forward on my own journey on this earth.  Whatever her message, to find this exotic creature in my own back yard is a miracle, and that is enough for me.

About Autumn

In a word, bittersweet, this season of fall, this transition between summer and winter when the leaves turn gorgeous colors before they die and when the days turn crisp and cool like a ripe apple. Time seems to pass more quickly, as the daylight hours get shorter and shorter, and the school children assemble in classrooms. Halloween generates high excitement, pumpkins harvested and the full moon presides as the veil between the world of spirits and our daily lives dissipates. Autumn represents harvest in preparation for winter, and the gathering of family and friends in appreciation of this part of Mother Nature’s cycle.

In my own life, this season means concern about the weather, and shorter days which make me claustrophobic. I am melancholy as I mourn the sun’s brief appearance in the skies. I worry about the frosty, foggy mornings as I prepare for my early morning drive to work. I know that winter approaches, my least favorite of seasons but I am learning to be more accepting. All things have a purpose in Mother Nature’s plan.