Wednesday, February 27, 2008

February's Last Hurrah

A frigid wind sifts the snow from the pine trees and steals into the cracks and crevices of this old house. Yesterday's snow blankets the garden and the fences, and creates its own light in the cloudy darkness of the winter evening. Last night, as the snow was falling, I took a short walk -- the snow was heavy with moisture, coating each tree and bush to create a wintry wonderland. The silence of falling snow soothes my soul, and I love nothing better than a solitary walk in the snowy darkness.

In the Northeast February is usually a month of deep cold and frequent snow. Everyone is weary of winter and depressed as new snow falls. However, if you observe closely, there are subtle changes during this month that herald the coming of spring. By mid-February, there is a shift in the angle of the sunlight that speaks of spring and the hours of daylight become noticeably longer. When I rise in the morning now, a gentle dawn has already begun and some mornings I am greeted by the song of an optimistic bird or two.

As I gaze out over the snow-covered world tonight, I remember that by mid-March I am often out in the garden gently removing the winter covering of leaves that protects my perennials and marveling at the tiny green shoots which sprout beneath the mulch. But, for tonight, I will savor this lovely silence of deep cold and snow -- a peaceful gift in these final days of February --

Monday, February 11, 2008

Home Sweet Home

According to the media, mid-lifers are downsizing in large numbers, trading in the homes where they raised their families for smaller condos or townhouses that require less maintenance. At times, it is a tempting choice, especially when I take a realistic look at our kitchen and bathrooms, which need major updating. Unfortunately, though, in order to get top dollar for the house, we would have to do these projects before we put the house on the market. I know myself well, though, and I would immediately fall in love with my new rooms and never be able to leave.

In fact, I can't really imagine choosing to leave this old house. Of course, as time goes on, the factors of age and finances may require me to move to a smaller home or apartment, but for now, I intend to stay here, in the house that has sheltered my family for over thirty years.

My house is an old Victorian with a wrap-around porch, touches of gingerbread, and a steep, fairy-tale style roof. The house had actually been in my husband's family for fifty years before we bought it, and was in need of much updating. It seems we spent years scraping off old wallpaper, tearing out plaster and lathe walls, renovating the kitchen and baths, and painting. Of course, money was always scarce, so these projects were done on a shoestring, with results that matched our checkbook balance to a much greater degree than our dreams.

As I walk through today, though, I see not the scratched floors and mouldings, but the lovely little library alcove we designed and lovingly built. I walk through the kitchen which so badly needs new cabinets and counter, but I focus my attention on the cozy back porch with its old wicker furnishings and mullioned windows, where I sip my coffee each summer morning as the birds sing their hearts out. My garden may not be on the garden club tour, but I have coaxed each tree, bush and flower into bloom, and laid each stone in the pond and the walk with my own hands.

I look at the kitchen table and remember the faces of friends and family who have gathered there through the years; I hear the long-ago voices and laughter of my children and savor the memories of family parties and holiday celebrations. I remember the sad times, when this old house sheltered me as I grieved for lost loved ones or lost dreams. It has been both a peaceful haven when I need solitude, and a warm and welcoming gathering place for all of those I have cherished in this life.

The large rooms and attic hold all my treasures -- my mother's dressing table, my grandmother's hope chest, my grandfather's desk, my china and linens and pictures. How could I ever choose what to take to a smaller house -- what would I leave behind?

I want to stay. If I left, even though I would carry the memories in my heart, I would be lost. This house is my refuge -- when I am stressed I walk through the garden, listening to the birdsong, sniffing and stroking my flowers and herbs. Each night I close the curtains and feel thankful for this lovely house and all the memories it holds. I can't leave!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Please Vote for a Democrat!!!

It has been two weeks since my last post, and tonight I feel I have nothing to say, which is unusual for me. Seldom do two weeks pass without my being passionately moved by some thought that must find its way to the written page.

Actually, as I think over the past two weeks, I believe the problem is not one of lack of passion, but more likely an emotional overload, which has left me quiet and empty -- not devoid of feeling, but overwhelmed. My days have been filled with the mechanics of life, and my mind has been filled with financial worries and personal stresses. Our business, which burst with promise two years ago has stumbled limply along in this fragile economy. My frequently depressed husband is once more on a downward course. I have worked hard for so many years, and resent the struggles I must now endure. I look with envy at friends who are retiring with comfortable incomes -- knowing in my heart that my own choices have contributed to my financial insecurity -- but still feeling anger that my years of struggle have reaped no benefit.

I watch the political debates with a sense of extreme urgency -- we must elect a President who champions the middle and lower classes. I listen to Mitt Romney and I want to spit. He talks about our free market economy adjusting itself -- and then I read the newspaper articles about the oil companies' record profits in these past few months while hard-working Americans are paying exorbitant prices to fill their gas tanks and heat their homes. We have become the second "Gilded Age". I believe deeply that the free market cannot adjust enough to provide adequate incomes for average Americans when the wealthiest among us greedily amass profits at the expense of the rest of us.

I am tired -- and I know there are millions of Americans tonight who are just as weary as I am. We work and struggle and juggle our families and jobs and bills and suddenly a day comes when we are drained -- today is that day for me.