A New Season

The sun continues to fry the grass and flowers if I skip the watering can  just once. The mosquitos hang on to cover legs with bumps and scabs while the spiders and mushrooms pop up around the yard. Humidity lingers enough to trick me; the sky has begun to change towards longer nights and I am tempted to put on jeans and long sleeves, maybe even real shoes with a closed toe. But just cracking the door for the dog to slip out lets in enough hot air to curl my hair. This is not the image of fall I want.  I want apples and cider and gingerbread topped with lemon curd. Where are the crisp blue skies with warm sun and cool air?

I want to put away the white jeans. I think white jeans are evil for anyone under the height of 5′ 7. I broke down and bought a pair this year, on the end of a trend I know, but anytime I purchased a top, someone would say “Oh that would look great with your white jeans.” And I wore them. A lot. And each time I did, at least 60% of the women I was with wore theirs too. I only wore mine in Maine. I know white is a year round color and all now but I don’t really wear any full length anything past April in North Carolina. The heat makes me claustrophobic and a tad bit grumpy, if not self-righteous.

I am a person greatly affected by weather. If it’s raining and cold, I must have mashed potatoes for dinner, preferably with meatloaf and a glass of pinot noir. If it’s sunny and 70, I cannot be inside, which is why I don’t know how I would go back to an office job. Above 90?…near some body of water. And I like to be dressed for the weather (see above paragraph) All this is to say I believe strongly in the seasons. I couldn’t live in California even though I love the lifestyle. I welcome the south’s early spring and have come to accept the short winter. It is certainly easier with small kids. I even understand why people call it  “skiing or snow skiing” rather than “skiing or water skiing” given the lengths of the seasons. I like the rhythm of ordering my days differently based on the sun and the heat and the air. Perhaps I need the weather to organize me because I am not a great planner otherwise. I enjoy thinking about spring cleaning and reading Martha Stewart’s calendars of all those things we should be planning and doing step-by-step so the benefits are reaped at a later date. According to the Queen of OCD here is what we should be doing: I will include September in case you have not done those things either:

September 1: Edit summer photos (I did get mine done on the 22nd)

September 3: Plant next summer’s perennials (too hot outside)

October 2: Change out your closets (that would require having 2 and enough clothes)

October 7: Store outdoor furniture (wish I had some)

October 9: Clean wooden cutting boards with coarse salt and lemon juice (yea right, then do a shot of tequila!)

October 14: Buy firewood

And on -andonandonandonandon- I know, she overwhelms everybody. At one point I was going to compile a book called “The Martha Project I Did That Sent Me Over The Edge“. Mine was homemade valentine cards. We were newly married and living in The City (which is of course New York). Martha instructed I show my blissful and undying love to my newly betrothed by purchasing cardstock, rice paper, and silk ribbon. I was told to use a thumbtack to poke holes in the rice paper in the shape of a heart. It took me 4 hours and a bruised thumb-pad to achieve a look remotely similar to the one pictured in her magazine not to mention the $34 in supplies. I have heard countless tales of attempts at making wreaths, gardening, or baking- all of which ended up in personal injury and countless lost hours followed by large amounts of wine consumption. If you have a contribution, please fill out the comment section. I may resurrect this book idea afterall!

The cliche goes that life has it’s seasons too. I f I had to guess, this current phase would  be about a garden in about mid July. The babies are made and thriving, strong enough to survive some things on their own but still needing great care to navigate unchartered territory like shoe-tying and bus riding and bullying. We have figured out what grows well in this soil and conditions. And there is bounty in the harvest -learning to ride bikes and surf waves; giggling from the same knock-knock joke, sleepovers, french braids; the tooth fairy and allowance. Some marriages are dying, like the plants scorched by the sun, neglected too long from water. Most have need of pruning, trimming dead leaves and bad habits in order to let new life spring forward.

A friend asked me recently, “Is this all there is?” At first I said yes, thinking most of our major decisions have been made, the ones that mold what our lives look like. And then I thought about it and said: “No, there is the bad stuff to come.” The sickness and loss of parents. The bodily aches and pains and the eternal search for reading glasses. The 10 pounds that won’t come off.  Cancer. The child being left out or cut from the team or heartbroken. The thought of puberty in three girls is enough to send me running for cover. I don’t want to be Debbie Downer but I do think we have a fall and winter season of our lives on the horizon. Just this summer three friends lost their fathers, before their time. For varying reasons, each of these deaths strikes a blow to the daughter left behind, some unfinished business that no longer has the gift of time for sorting out.

As we welcome the start of fall today, take stock of your life. Tend the plants. Enjoy the bounty. Give water where needed. And put away the white jeans.


7 responses to this post.

  1. I quit reading Martha’s to-do list when a recipe for sugar strands to decorate a dessert instructed one to make the sugar syrup, then stand across the room and throw it at a laundry rack to harden. Love reading your blog, Melanie. You have lots of good ahead of you….aging offers many rewards!


  2. Posted by Mary Fowlkes on September 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    The Martha Stupid Project by Stacy Dendy. Stacy was getting ready for Christmas and decided she would make wreaths for her house. The process involved heating glue, it was recommended that she do that on the stove. The next thing you know the glue, pan and stove is on fire. Good thing she caught it in time and didn’t have any major damage. Just another Martha Stupid project that could have potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and caused you to be poor and homeless (at least temporarily).

    I think you should write a book about ridiculous Martha Stupid Projects, it would be hilarious!!! Mary Fowlkes


  3. Posted by Robert Marshall on September 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Mel! Lo and I are driving up I-95 towards DC and I just read this post aloud. Awesome. You are so talented. Keep em coming!!


  4. love love. so glad somebody was doing something in my space today.

    I believe we are in Fall at my house, which is my favorite time of year. Yes, there are those losses — today I visited briefly with my 98-year-old hometown neighbor who is dying. but there are grown kids to celebrate and 30 years of marriage gotten through — some of those years even happy ones — and all that. Yes, Fall it is at my house.

    my martha story (was she not named so APTLY?) actually happened before she came on the scene. looking at buttery and crusted loaves of bread on the cover of Redbook I thought I could bake them the day I lost a crappy job. So I went to the store and spent probably my week’s budget on bread pans, flour and eggs, milk and yeast, Crisco (these were pre-Pam days I think) and got to baking. The dough tasted right, so I divided it and popped in the oven… one thing though. I forgot to let it rise. An hour later, I could have built a small house with the four beautifully brown dough bricks I created.

    one thing about that Martha. Given enough years, you can get her back.


  5. Posted by Cindi Bartol on September 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    reading your post and thinking ‘doesn’t matter the age’, we can all substitute the examples because you write REAL stuff for us to think about and examine…
    hugs from Mom


  6. Posted by Cynthia on September 27, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Mel, this time of year up North and you get those perfect fall days, I itch to be playing field hockey, when it is cool enough under a brilliant blue sky. Like you I LoVE the seasons…
    With regards to Martha Stewart I have a love/disbelief relationship with her. Love she is so accomplished and wish I had her house in CT.. Disbelief in what she owns. she has more kitchen tools that a kitchen store….things i have never heard of…and I still cannot fold a fitted sheet even though I watched her show on it…..


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