Soft rain is pattering against the window. It is a welcome sound because we haven’t had much rain this past summer. As we have been establishing new plantings, it has been a challenge keeping up with the watering. Not only does it feel wasteful and environmentally unwise to have to water plants that once established, don’t require a lot of moisture, water from a hose just doesn’t work the miracles that a good inch of rain does.
This is the last week of summer – the autumn equinox falls on Friday. I always feel a restless sense of waiting in these waning summer days. There has been a steady show as the flowers, trees and shrubs commenced their performance first with the daffodils spearing from the cold ground in March and April to the recent white crest of sweet autumn clematis draped over the garden shed. Hummingbirds and butterflies are industriously busy, paying most attention to the sedum, catmint, hyssop and lantana in the cottage garden by the front door. Most trees, while still bearing green foliage, have begun to appear a little faded, like they can’t make up their minds as to what to wear. I feel it’s like my own September wardrobe woes. Too early for boots? Should sandals be put away for the season? It’s cold this morning, but by late afternoon, jeans will be too hot. I am not anxious for the long, dreary winter months, but the cool, sunny days of October will be welcome.
We drove across the state on Sunday, and as we headed south and east, noticed many more trees were already beginning to show their fall finery than at home. It made for a beautiful drive, especially when we left the flatlands behind and climbed into the hills and wended through the peaceful valleys where the last of the Appalachian foothills spill across Ohio. We went through the county where my parents were born and raised. My parents chose to make a life for themselves and their family in another part of the state, but, as he grew older, Dad always yearned to go back, to return “down home.” I have many memories of visiting there as a child, and they are good ones. Yet, even though my ancestors, especially on my dad’s side, were some of the earliest settlers there, it doesn’t feel like home to me. Yesterday, we took our youngest daughter and her husband past my grandfather’s sturdy old brick house. She had heard many stories about it and had been by it when quite young, but she didn’t remember. It’s nice she now has a visual to accompany the stories.
As we were driving away, I got the same feeling I always get when we go through that part of the state, but finally I was able to identify and describe it. It is loneliness and a little sadness for the people in my life who began their journey there. They meant so much to me and are gone now. It’s where their roots run deep into the clay. Although many of the sights are familiar, I feel like an observer, not a participant. There is longing for that sense of self that comes from having deep connections to a place. I can imagine my mother, books cradled in her arms, seriously walking home from school and bristling under her brothers’ constant barrage of teasing. I may have roots there, may have shadowy memories of surreptitiously sliding down the forbidden banister in that solid brick house where she was born, but there is no feeling of belonging.
It’s not a prosperous area; there is some farming, some tourism, but its heyday of coal and clay mining waned decades ago. However, in the quiet valleys and wooded hills a wildness remains. I understand now why Dad in his later years, teared up when he talked about the “down home” he left to go serve in WWII. I can hear the ghostly, plaintive whistle of a steam train as it wound through the nighttime hills of his boyhood. I can see him barefoot, in tattered overalls, splashing through little babbling streams with his cousins.
It’s a complicated sensation, but fleeting, and it quickly ebbs when we get home. I look at the woods in my own back yard, where here and there gold leaves indicate the trees have begun to succumb to the call of the seasons. I admire those first colorful notes of the approaching autumn parade and ponder just a little longer feeling homesick for a time and a place where I never lived.
Get instant email notification when something new is added! Simply click on the link!