This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

Every spring Midwesterners swear that summer will never arrive. Then one night after weeks of cloudy, windy damp-cold we go to bed, and wake up the next morning to a balmy 70 degrees, a bright blue sky, and trees leafed out.

It’s glorious.

Last week I took out the trailer for the first time; Friend Mary set up her tent behind me. And, oh my goodness, it was a beautiful few days in the woods. We hiked. We sat in the sun and soaked up the goodness we had waited for since maybe mid-October. It was even warm enough to soak our toes in Lake Hamlin. Except for uncooperative campfire wood and Mary’s cold, the trip was picture perfect. I had plenty of sit-and-stare time to feed my soul.

And twenty-four hours after I got home, the kids came over for Mother’s Day Sunday dinner. The company was delightful, but I just can’t help but feel that my cooking days are waning. I don’t even know how that happened–I used to be a good cook!–except it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been cooking and cleaning up after for over fifty years. God bless my working mom for teaching me early, but–oof!–I just might have run out of steam. (When I was twelve, I would start dinner prep after school; Mom finished things up when she got home at 5.) It is decidedly un-grandmotherly of me, though, and I can’t reconcile my feelings with my apron-wearing-steamy kitchen-china teacups fantasy.

I missed my mom this year, of course, our second Mother’s Day without her. I’m walking much more steadily through my grief than I was last year, that’s for certain. I planted a pretty geranium on her grave and wore her beloved charm bracelet to church. She wouldn’t have had me any other place. (If you know my mom, you know!)

I finished May at the Lowell Historical Museum with first and second-graders: it’s field trip time in Michigan! Lowell is a community rich in history, and the schools and museum have an incredible partnership. If you had told me that seven and eight-year-olds would be excited about the fur trade and lumbering and milk men and shell buttons I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true. Not a single one of the kids in my groups weren’t incredibly curious and bubbling with questions. (And, truth be told, the occasional “Can I tell you something about my brother?”)

My perennial beds look amazing, and Little Mitten Landscape’s clean-up last year was worth every penny. Lesly cleared and ripped out and mulched–and this year I had a blank slate to work with. I’m really intent on attracting pollinators, and have been working hard transplanting and dividing and mulching. My herbs overwintered nicely, so with the warm weather, I’ve already been able to freeze my first container of herb mix. And a neighbor had some rhubarb divides that I snapped up. That won’t be ready for a couple years, but yummy goodness is on its way. Add some tomatoes in the raised bed and a beautiful row of raspberries along the back of the garage and I feel like I’ve got a little homestead. Crazy, I know, but until last year I told myself the story that I couldn’t grow things.

Last week I devoured The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. It. was. amazing. One of those books that is devastatingly beautiful. And even despite the violence and adject poverty, uplifting. Adunni, a young Nigerian woman, is married off at fourteen because her father needs the bride price money. Shattered because she had always dreamed of returning to school to become a teacher, Adunni flees her husband’s house after tragedy strikes. Unwittingly she is tricked into becoming a housemaid in Lagos for a wealthy businesswoman who beats and berates her. I know, I know. How can I say the novel is beautiful and uplifting? Mainly, it’s Adunni. She is strong, yet tender; ambitious and open-hearted. She wants that “louding voice” so badly, the reader has no doubt she will prevail.

I spoke today with a lovely friend who–like Adunni–has had her own share of tragedy. And you know what? She, like so many of us, is finding hope in the midst of struggle. Because, by the grace of God, that’s what strong women do. We prevail.

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