Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, or the day before Labor Day weekend officially begins

Thursday... Last day of August... You feel suspended between summer and fall. Between vacation and the school year. The long Labor Day weekend and a work day.

Of course, for me it shouldn't matter. I retired from teaching three and a half years ago. Holidays, school years -- what import do they have?

Because of Snowdrop, they've become significant once more. Her schedule this week is unusual because her school is closed until after Labor Day. And as I take her to this place or that, I feel that restlessness all around me -- of children with perhaps too much vacation behind them, even as they cling to the last scrap of play in the middle of a fine grand half autumnal, half summer day.

The school year, it turns out, anchors us all. Even as the drift in the interim, is not at all unpleasant!

My morning is, let's face it -- luxurious. I always wake up early, but honestly, I don't have to spring out of bed. And so I don't. I read. Ed reads. He dozes off, I read some more, I doze for just a few minutes, then, still in bed, I review the day before me. Such luxury!

In fact though, I'm so programmed to get going, that most often I nudge myself to get at it at a very early hour. Today, I drive over to the bakery to get fresh croissants for Snowdrop's snack, but hey, as long as I'm in the bakery at a dawnish hour I may as well pick up a few yummy croissants for us!

(You don't have to write and tell me that Ed's pinkie finger looks weird. I know it does. He mangled it in one of those Ed adventure episodes a very long time ago.)

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When I drive out to pick up Snowdrop, I encounter the sandhill cranes once more. So you're still here, you lovely birds! Are you telling me that we're still in the thick of summer rather than creeping into an early fall?

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And now I have this dilemma: what should I do with Snowdrop? Too cool for the pool. She's with me briefly today, so too little time for a protracted period of play at the farmhouse...

I have this idea, inspired by my Polish architect friend who just sent me an email with photos of a family hike in the Polish mountains of Bieszczady. Their four year old made it to a summit which frankly would have strained many among us.

So I'm thinking -- perhaps Snowdrop would enjoy training for a long hike?

I tell her we're heading for an adventure in Owen Park (yes, yes, I went there just yesterday). We will be hiking!

She looks puzzled, possibly because no one has ever used that word with her before.

I explain that I have a backpack, food, and good shoes. We will hike!

She is excited, even as she doesn't fully comprehend what's in store.

But she is a trusting child and if I say -- let's go down that trail! -- she will indeed saunter down that trail, happily embracing the unknown.

... With pauses to admire the bunny rabbits and the butterflies and the heavenly prairie flowers.

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(Here's that beautiful pond I first noticed yesterday...)

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But as luck would have it, toward the bottom of the hill, she develops a blister. A hiker's worst enemy! I suggest taking off her shoes. And she goes along, but still, she is uncertain as to her stamina at this point (and so am I).

We pause for a snack of fruit and croissant.

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She is revived somewhat, but still, there is the matter of a blistered foot and shoes that rub mercilessly against it.

Gaga, can you carry me?
You mean up that hill?
She snuggles into my arms to let me know that this is exactly what she has in mind.
Snowdrop, you are heavy... I would have to be very strong to carry you up that hill!
Gaga is good... -- she says in her sweetest voice.

Fine little one... Up we go!

My plan had been to take her then to a new playground, but she has other ideas: can we go to the zoo?
The zoo? I guess so... Do you want to see the polar bears?
No, I don't want to see the polar bears.
The giraffes?
No, I don't want to see the giraffes.
The lions? Tigers?
No I don't want to see the lions and the tigers.

I must say, at this point I am just immensely curious: what on earth do you want to do at the zoo if you do not like viewing the animals?

After a stroll through our small but serene zoo (well, mostly serene: on this Thursday before Labor Day, there are a lot of children here), I still do not have an answer to this question.

But I do know this much: when we get close to the merry-go-ground, and when she spies that it is open, she is one happy child!

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(The serene flamingos also cause her to smile.)

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Adventuring done for the day. I return her home and now Ed and I settle into our Thursday (end of) summer routines: a trip to the farmers market, where I discuss the corn prospects for a Labor Day supper.

 This is it, I'm told. Today, tomorrow... the end of the season.


Yes. In case you haven't noticed, summer is a thing of the past.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

last bits of summer, continued

Summer is leaving lovely imprints and memories for us here, at the farmette.  These last days of August are warm but not hot, sunny but not sweltering, buggy but not painfully so.

I did some garden trimming yesterday -- taking down spent monardas and phloxes -- just to create a textured fall garden. The challenge now will be to make something of the entirety, even as I have only pockets of blooms to help move everything forward. And honestly, I like this phase of gardening. It's far less demanding and much more forgiving. Every bit that you can give will pay you back in fistfuls.

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And a spot look at several favorite corners of the yard, including this one, with late blooming day lilies!

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And this one, where the lavender has taken on a second life...

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I have a dental visit in the late morning. I work hard at scheduling things in ways that one thing doesn't inconvenience the next, but I miscalculated today's set and so I find myself with a big chunk of time before I am to pick up Snowdrop.

And so I go for a walk in the nearby Owens Conservation Park.

I used to live just a few blocks away from this place and I've always loved it for it's short but lovely trails. But oh, how it has changed in recent times! Infinitely gorgeous now, on this tail end of summer.

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The restored prairie is beyond lovely.

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The flowers of gold lay a carpet around a small pond. So beautiful!

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A deep sigh of peace...

And now I am with Snowdrop. She's sporting a sweet pony tail today!

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I tell her it's pool time for us! And here's a surprise: Ed will be joining us today! That makes for one happy girl.

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Ed is a fish. I mean, when you see him in water, you know that he is as comfortable moving about in its depths as he is taking a leisurely stroll up a country road. Snowdrop feels this immediately and they go on some wonderful "swimming" expeditions together.

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Oh, happy girl!

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Maybe you're a bit of a fish too?

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Last bits of summer... last days of pool laughter...

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How good it is to have a day like this one! The end of summer, with a splash.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

last bits of summer

We are so on the heels of Fall! In the twelve days that I was away, my granddaughter seems to have grown two years and the garden transformed itself: everything about it shouts "end of summer!"

Breakfast on the porch.  Gold. Everywhere I look I see gold.

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Take the Great Flower Field now:  it's all purple and gold, with that autumn look of grand old age. Perhaps you can see, too (in the upper right corner of the photo), the appearance of red crab apples? So Fall-ish!

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The bees are extremely busy. They're all over the false sunflowers...

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... and all over the sprawling ruby red sedum (with a view toward the writer's shed).

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As I drive out to pick up Snowdrop, I note that the sandhill cranes haven't left yet. But they're at the edge of the fields. As if thinking about taking flight?

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This is the last week that the community pool is open. It's not exactly hot outside (a partly cloudy 71F, or not quite 22C), but the water is warm and Snowdrop is happy to return to this favorite summer place of ours.

But the pool is nearly empty. You'd think we'd both love that, after a summer of shoulder to shoulder kids. We have so much space and quiet! Well yes and no: there is plenty of space to move around, but the little one is always on the lookout for kids to observe and imitate. Scant pickings today!

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At the farmhouse, she settles into play. (She needs help adjusting a toy. Here, let me do that for you -- I offer. No, I want ahah to fix it! Well, she's got us pegged!)

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And always, always, she gives time to her babies.

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Snowdrop joy: feeding her little ones toy ice cream.

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Summer treats from a summer day that is slowly slipping away...

Of course, fall in Wisconsin is a beautiful season. And seeing the patches of blue in a gentle sky today can only make us feel grateful. Texan families are struggling under intense flooding and rains. We here are the lucky ones.

So very lucky.

Monday, August 28, 2017

and now I am home

Storms were predicted for the evening of my return home on Sunday. But the storms never fully developed and my flight, like all the others on this trip, was on time and Ed (eventually) showed up at the airport and we headed home -- by way of a local mostly organic grocer, where we picked up some mishmash of foods for supper.

I carried the foods and my backpack into the farmhouse, Ed carried the travel bags. And as soon as I put my stuff down, I was out again, madly snipping a few spent lilies.

I don't mean to sound insane. Nearly every lily is long done blooming. Things are looking really autumnal in my garden. Still, the countless spent blooms tell a story of finality. I don't think we're ready for that yet.

Early the next morning, Ed sleeps and I'm out grocery shopping. But not before throwing an eye on the yard.

It has certainly changed. None of the light and airy wall of flowers.

But not bad either.

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The front garden -- the one by the road -- is dominated now by the strawberries and cream hydrangea.

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I do some necessary snipping and then I am off to grocery shop. (Yes, before breakfast.) I am to care for Snowdrop this afternoon. Might she not like a croissant? And so long as I am at the bakery, maybe I should pick up a thing or two for breakfast back home?

Yes, to both questions.

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And now I go to a radiant and joyous little one and I sweep her up and take her back to the farmhouse where it's as if she never saw her toys before!

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I tell her it's raining outside and she insists on interrupting her play to check it out...

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(Did you notice how autumnal it all looks?)

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Inside, she flits from one toy group to the next...

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Oh happy girl! What a beautiful smile you have!

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Beautiful little one -- how you love your most precious spaces!

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And in the evening she goes home and I go back to fixing supper for two and it's as if I've never ever left.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

wedding day and night

I know that the Polish wedding conjures up images of revelry the likes of which you'll not see elsewhere. Of excess, of noise, of huge amounts of alcohol -- Vodka at the helm of it all.

Well, there are often grains of truth in such stereotypes, but to me, this is not what defines a wedding here. And although each wedding is different and you'll find every example of every type, as you would in the U.S., I think the bulk of Polish weddings have a soul and spirit that are uniquely Polish.

As you know if you've read earlier posts, I had the great pleasure of attending a wedding in Warsaw -- of two of my closest friends. Yes, sure, they're more or less my age and both have a marriage behind them and grown children (indeed grandchildren) to prove it, but a wedding is a wedding and theirs was one hell of a wedding! My feet are very, very sore.

So what might I put forth on Ocean to give you a sense of that Polish soul and spirit?

It is very hard to describe. And it doesn't help that I took very few pictures. Too busy dancing!

Maybe it's that a wedding (or rather the "wesele" -- the party after) is very much a group event. We come from many different corners of the couple's lives, yet we are not without knowledge of each other. We'll sit together, dance together, sing together.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

First let me introduce the couple -- I've known him since university years and her  -- well, just a few years, but the friendship extended to her immediately and with gusto!  He brings out the calm, she brings out the jovial. At least that's what it looks like to me. See for yourselves!


Whoa, here, she is calm and steady, he is jovial. You see how good traits rub off?


Family and friends gather. And everyone dresses up. I mean seriously so!

(Here's part of my small group of very special friends...)


Now comes the official part -- at a church or the administrative office. Take your pick. This wedding was at the administrative office. There are seats, but most stand because the marriage, done by the officiating person, is not super long. Maybe ten minutes.

This officiating person performed the ceremony with heart. You felt that she really wanted them to have a rich and happy life.


There were the vows, the exchange of rings, the signing of the papers. Someone played a few melodies on a keyboard at the side.

And boom! They're married.

Congratulations, you two!!

We pile into cars or a bus and make our way to a small hamlet just outside the city, where a restaurant has been transformed into a wedding venue. Can you tell we're at the edge of a beautiful forest?


The table is set (it's one big table with octopus like arms), we go inside. Toasts follow. There is wine, but, too, there is vodka, iced, of course. A shot for every toast. Very few women indulge.


The meal comes next. In this case, duck. So Polish! But hey, just because there is a dinner, doesn't mean that this is the only food for us all. There will be a second wave of eating in a few hours (pates, Greek salads, etc). And then, several hours later, a third wave of eating (goulash -- a Hungarian stew). In between, there is the cake. Wines and juices throughout.

Did I mention that there is from the getgo a lot of singing: traditional celebratory and congratulatory songs. An impresario (for lack of a better term) makes sure we remember to sing.

Dancing. The couple leads with a finely choreographed dance. I was impressed.


And by the way, the norms are that the men keep their jackets on until the groom frees them from this obligation. Here he is saying -- jackets off, guys!


It is a warm and beautiful evening. The restaurant opens out onto a patio and small groups of friends form. This is the time to catch up with those you haven't seen for a while. Surely that's the case for me, as we do have one friend from the old pack who lives outside Warsaw and so I almost never run into him when I am in town.

But for a great deal of the time, I dance. It's been a few years: I danced last at my daughter's wedding and the time before -- at my other daughter's wedding. When I was young, I had a ton of energy for dancing. I mean, it was excessive.

Things haven't changed in that department.

The rest of the evening is a blur of disco pop and plain old pop -- American, Spanish, Polish, Swedish. Phenomenal dancing music! How can you not go wild?!


But my friends (oh, I will miss these guys in the months ahead!)  remind me that it's nearly midnight. The party will continue for a long long time, but I have to be heading home. To pack up the last bag, to make sure the apartment is put into rest mode. And to shower! Dancing requires a few moments under a steady flow of cool water.

I sleep for an hour or two and then I hop into a taxi and catch a sunrise flight to Amsterdam.

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Misty Holland..

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I'm posting this from the airport there. Late this afternoon, I should be in Madison.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

a half a day is better than none!

The day starts too early and ends too late. It's brilliant and warm and it is a beautiful ending to my stay in Warsaw.

My last breakfast (because I'm leaving tomorrow at 4 a.m., before any even thought of breakfast)...


And then my sister joins me for a long stroll along the river's edge.

You're familiar with it, I know. But the beauty of reaching a state of familiarity is that you can start noticing the detail. For example, we all know now (don't we?) that there is a mermaid and that she is a symbol of this great city. So now you can look at the families gathering at her base. I smile at the kerchief on the little girl's head. I used to wear one on a sunny day when I was a kid. It's so Polish!


And now we're back on the theme of Polishness and so I'll add another photo attesting to the usefulness of the Polish grandmother. She takes one child's hand while the mom shepherds the other.


New Town, as seen from the riverfront...


And then we turn up the steps...


If you follow them to the tippy top, you'll alight at the Old Town Square. Please do throw an appreciative glance at the beautiful blue sky!


And now it's time for me to return to my apartment, but with a pause first at the Labour Cafe for a bite to eat. One last photo of my sister...


... and you get to see the very important photo of my afternoon snack, because scrambled eggs with chives and bread with butter is, well, so Polish.


And now I am home -- which is on the third (in American terms) floor of this building, above this trendy cafe which I love, even as I rarely pop in there because, well, I have my own coffee maker and -- you remember this, right? -- my own favorite coffee cup.


It's a very simple post on a very beautiful morning.

The afternoon and evening are devoted to the wedding of my good, good friends. If you are curious about a Polish wedding, then you'll come back tomorrow. I'll be flying back to Madison -- pretty much as soon as the wedding comes to a close. A long trip will give me the opportunity to reflect on the very happy celebrations that will take place tonight.