Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming Author Michele Rhem, who presents us with her poignant memoirs of the Rabbit Patch, where her diaries weave tales of a simpler, expressive life lost to many, but gathered together in her most familiar environs - the Rabbit Patch.
I was up early on Sunday and was out traipsing the territory at the rabbit patch, before seven am. The boxer was with me. I cut the vines that were creeping up the barns and fences.. . again. Those vines and I have been in battle for a dozen years now-but, there are less of them than there were. At least, a breeze blew and the sunlight was gentle. It has been miserably hot and humid for a few weeks now.
Since my return to the rabbitpatch, I have been restoring order and cleaning. The spiders are every bit as gallant as the vines. Yet, I have not lost heart. I even packed a small box yesterday! This box joined the fifty, already packed. Boxes are in every nook and corner, still awaiting their destiny . . .as am I. I have a real estate "expert" coming on Tuesday. Hopefully, she can offer me advice, which I will pass along to my sons, Will and Tres. Maybe then a plan will be concocted, on how to proceed. The bank looms in the near future, awaiting the decision. They are more than willing, for me to borrow money for repairs. Goodness, I am drained and can not seem to make sense of any detail, at this point. So I clean. It is about the only course of action, I am suited for. Oh! I want to mention that I love the bar of dishwashing soap-it lathers and does the work needed . . .and it does NOT come in plastic!
The peach tree is full of young peaches. They are not yet ripe, but it seems there are a good many cobblers, to come. How lovely it is to smell peaches, when the wind blows just right. I especially miss "Miss Claudia" when the peach trees are bearing, for she loved them dearly, in ice cream, cobblers - well in any form. I told Will, that I will never see a peach, without remembering her.
The Pear tree is bowing under a bounty of fruit. I planted the tree on my fiftieth birthday, now a decade ago. The pears are far from ripe, but it seems clear that not a single rabbit on the territory are in danger of starvation, for a while, at least. Now, the apple tree is another story. . .
You could not prove it is an apple tree at all, this year, for the thing hasn't produced a single apple. This has never happened, and at first I had a pity for it. The poor thing is planted right beside the sagging pear, after all. But then I remembered that I could take comfort, in that trees are not as shallow as humans, and surely do not base their worth, on how they compare to their neighbors.
My paternal grandmother spent her last years at the rabbitpatch. Those were happy years. Grandmama was in her nineties, yet was determined to contribute to the work load. She swept every floor in this house every day. . .that has never happened since . She also made the beds. One night, Grandmama took a bad fall and that changed everything. She stayed in bed after that. That summer, there was always somebody visiting, for we are a close lot and we all especially loved Grandmama. I spent half of my life in the kitchen preparing meals for at least a dozen folks, three times a day. Bed sheets were always on the line and the grass was always growing. My aunt Carolyn, who tended my goats and always had a fire of sticks going, came in and said "the apple tree is full! What are you going to do with the apples?" I was on the way out to hang more sheets on the line, and said "nothing, I just do not have the time for apples." When I came back in, the kitchen table was surrounded by every woman in the house, peeling apples! The sight moved me to tears. Aunt Carolyn, was determined I would have those apples, and so she had organized ( or demanded ) the endeavor. That was the way Aunt Carolyn said "I love you".
Country life keeps you very informed of the seasons. It is a harder life, in some ways . . it is more beautiful, in some ways. Tending a big yard is hard, but watching wild honeysuckle climb up the woodland trees is beautiful. There is not concrete to keep dirt from being tracked in on a regular basis and there are more pesky insects-but the grass is cooler than concrete and much more tender. . . and the air is filled with more than just insects, for it carries a sweetness, of all sorts of blooms. To see fox or deer, reminds you what it is like to live with a bit of wildness and to consider, the way you live, carefully. The earth is their home too. If all else fails to keep you humble, there is also the sky. Views are unhindered in the country, of sunrise and sunsets. There are no bright light to hide the shine of the stars or the whereabouts of the moon, so it is beautiful-but it is also hard. I am always so impressed when Will cleans his yard of debris and just puts it all by the street. A crew comes along daily and carries it away. How delightful, I think. Yards are push mowed in a morning and the farmers' market has every fresh fruit and vegetable-without endless hours of toil and fatigue. I always thought living in an apartment, would be dreadful, until I stayed with my friend Julie, as she was recovering from surgery. The neighbors were so kind and quiet. Daily, during my six week stay, folks would make inquiries of Julies' recovery, and offer to run errands or help in any way. How cozy it felt, to be surrounded by new friends. There are so many ways to live happily.
For many years, I had no quarrel with living on the rabbitpatch-in fact, I felt it was a privilege. Then, everyone grew up and moved on, save Christian, who being the youngest, bears the guilt "of being the one, to make me be alone", as he said. The children grew up and I grew older. The house and territory got bigger and the grandchildren were born-now, THAT changed everything. Still, with all the "hard" there is the beautiful, here too. I have wanted to "escape" and I have wondered how I will ever leave. I have felt "stranded" and I have felt richly blessed-all in the same day. I have felt as if I were in battle and weary from it -and hopeless . . til at last, and now, at peace, with whatever prevails. Finally, I know, that "There really are so many ways to live happily".