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Summer in Ohio

Yesterday, June 21, I sat outside on my deck surrounded by potted herbs and flowers enjoying the 80 degree temperature.  In our corner of the world, the U.S. state of Ohio, it was the first official day of summer, having more daylight than any other 24 hour period of 2017.  Sunrise was just before 6:00 a.m. and sunset didn’t occur until 8:56 p.m., giving us more than sixteen hours of daylight.

I have lived in the state of North Dakota where the sun did not set until 9:49 p.m. yesterday.  Having daylight until 11:00 p.m. was fun, but caused me to experience some summer insomnia, having wakeful energy well into the night and needing to get up with kids shortly after the 6:00 a.m. sunrise. I did prefer this, nevertheless, to the December days that had as little as eight and a half hours of sunlight.

More daylight means more time to enjoy the sounds, sights, and activity of Summer in Ohio. The sound of our summer day begins well before sunrise. Our early bird, a robin soon joined by friends, begins singing around 4:00 a.m. and continues until after dark. There are more bird songs in the air than I can identify. The robins’ and cardinals’ tunes are blended with chirps and trills of song sparrows, finches, and mourning doves with occasional blue jay and crow calls. Most days I forgo turning on music, content to listen to nature’s song. Yesterday’s breeze stirred the leaves of our backyard trees, creating a swelling and subsiding soft percussive sound.

I also enjoy seeing a variety of birds and other wildlife visit our yard throughout the summer days.  We recently installed a bird feeder near our bird bath. The menu is limited.  Today’s feature is black sunflower seeds. Tomorrow’s feature will be the same. Our patrons don’t complain. Many varieties of birds frequent the feeder, but often find it empty due to the hoarding instincts of our chipmunk and the persistent squirrels who scurry up and down the pole for a bite to eat.

We are blessed in our neighborhood to have a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern Gray Squirrel who also likes black sunflower seeds.

The bird bath is popular for more than washing up, and serves as a  watering hole for birds, squirrels, and occasionally a white-tailed deer.

I had the great pleasure of watching a days-old fawn from our dining room window for a couple of weeks this year and expect him to be back for snacks throughout the months to come.

While summer in Ohio has its rather laid-back  warm hours, it is not void of activity. Both my husband and I were born in the Buckeye State and enjoy traveling a few hours to our family reunions – a Lake Erie Fish Fry for the Frisch side and an August Sweet Corn Roast for the Vent/Pfeiffer side. Celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as the patriotic holiday weekends often find us driving two hours to spend time with our sons and daughter-in-law in Columbus. I enjoy the lighter packing and freedom from fear of snowy or icy roads.

During this stage of my life, I have several volunteer commitments that follow our nine month school schedule. That frees up time during the summer to accomplish some practical projects at home. This year I am sorting through closets, cupboards, drawers and boxes for items to include in a summer garage sale. My husband and I are working together on some home improvement projects including reupholstering dining room chairs (complete) and remodeling our upstairs bathroom (in progress).

I have come to anticipate the weeks of summer as a time for personal renewal and spiritual growth. I seem to find more time for lunch with a friend. I feel free to take the time to sit on the deck and read a book, not wanting to waste the season by remaining in the air conditioning. It has become important to me, also, to spend some hours considering what God’s current assignment is for me. Are there things I’ve been doing that can be considered finished? Is there something He would like me to start doing? It was  during this prayerful openness to His plan for my life last summer that I heard the words “begin a blog.”  There are some stirrings in my heart this summer that need more definition and I joyfully anticipate the unfolding of new things.

As the afternoon of the First Day of Summer gave way to our longest evening of the year, a dark cloud rolled in bringing the threat of rain and I heard our garage door going signaling my husband’s returned from a two-day work trip. Since I had not started our gas grill to prepare dinner yet, he took me to a Chinese restaurant where we chatted about our day as the shower passed. No matter that it was 8:30 p.m. until we began our evening neighborhood walk. There was still plenty of daylight as we took in the stunning summer sunset.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

 

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Seeing Yellow

As I pick up my yellow notepad to write this week, I’m pondering two memories from my childhood.  As a little girl growing up in a rural Ohio home in the sixties, I would pick little bouquets of wildflowers from our yard and present them to my mom.  After thanking me, she would prepare a small glass of water to place them in.  The arrangement might contain violets, clover, Queen Anne’s Lace, or, yes, dandelions.

It wasn’t until my husband and I bought our third house that I began eyeing dandelions as an undesirable yard intruder, and then only because I realized that our neighbors were fighting a war against them.  During the summers of the early nineties, little flags were popping up along the curbs to advertise and warn that the lawns had been treated with chemicals. My farm-raised husband and I had no interest in spending money on lawn treatments, and I suspected that the sprayed concoction was giving our son headaches as he walked home from school.  Our pediatrician could find no other cause and said it was a possibility.

Now there are many on-line warnings of harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and gas exhaust on pets, people, water, and the ozone layer.  I recommend the interesting (and lighter) Wikipedia article about the history of lawns and how we came to care so much about them.

We’ve made two more moves since dandelions became weeds and now live in a lovely neighborhood filled with friendly people and unassuming homes, most with weed-free lawns. We’ve found that keeping our grass growing has been a challenge here, while weeds of all kinds flourish. When a lawn care specialist knocked on our door a couple of years ago, I admitted that I was not happy with our lawn, but didn’t like the idea of using chemicals. To my surprise, he recommended a natural product made mostly of chicken manure that would (somehow) stimulate the grass roots to grow and to choke out the weeds.  In our third year of treatment, we do have more grass, however it seems to be living peacefully with many kinds of weeds including a bumper crop of dandelions.  And this spring they got to me.

I could put up with the bright yellow blossoms in our back yard, but seeing our front lawn filled with yellow dandelions almost had me seeing red.  Plastic bag in hand, I harvested those heads before they could seed.  However, the next day our lawn was again dotted with yellow as well as tall stems loaded with white seed-filled fluff.  I told my husband that I’d like to move to the country where it wouldn’t matter what grows in our yard.  He bought some weed killer and sprayed the front lawn.

A couple of days later, when our dandelions had shriveled, some beautiful photos taken by my friend, Autumn, showed up on Facebook. With her artistic eye and love of nature, she had captured her little daughter playing in a “field of wish flowers.”

I remembered being that little girl who made a wish and blew on the seeds, sending them into the breeze to find fertile ground. And I felt a twinge of regret for having hated my dandelions and a bit of sadness for how our feelings about simple things change as we get older.  Since my posy pondering has filled front and back of my yellow page, I’ll save the other childhood memory for a part two of Seeing Yellow.

photos by Autumn Dimmerling

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” – Winnie-the-Pooh

 

 

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Where I Come From

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  I will be going “home” this week, back to where I’m from.  Back to where my mom, sisters, and brother live.  Back to Upper Sandusky.

So far today, a good friend and my chiropractor have asked me what I’m doing for Thanksgiving and I’ve replied “going to my mom’s” ( thinking “here we go again.”)   “Where does she live?”  “Upper Sandusky”, I replied, adding “It’s not Sandusky, which is up by the lake.”  Each then mentioned Cedar Point or something about a day spent at Lake Erie.  I just smiled.

Sometimes when this happens, I attempt to share an Ohio geography lesson.  I say something like, “Upper Sandusky is in Wyandot County.  It’s near Findlay.  It’s between Columbus and Toledo.”  If their eyes glaze over, I stop.  But if they seem interested, I explain that my hometown is named UPPER Sandusky because it is located on the upper part, or headwaters, of the Sandusky river which flows north to Sandusky and into Lake Erie .  On the rare occasion that the person is still following me, I reveal that there is also a town of LITTLE Sandusky, but have never explained that the Little Sandusky River is a small tributary of the Sandusky River.  Confused yet?

upper_sandusky_map

Technically, I’m not from Upper Sandusky, but from “out in the country” of Wyandot County.  I grew up with the mailing address Rural Route 1, Upper Sandusky, Ohio.  Our mailman didn’t need a house number to find us.  Our mailbox was located beside the spirea bush at the end of our driveway.  We lived among a few people in a little neighborhood called Lawrenceville.  Don’t look it up, or you’ll be in the wrong part of the state again.

My two younger sisters, little brother, and I moved with Mom into the county seat when I was 16.  Upper Sandusky’s seven square miles are home to about 6,500 people.   Anyone from outside the area that knows where “Upper” is may have been through at Christmastime to see the light display at Harrison Smith Park.  Or, they may be a fan of “The Shawshank Redemption” which was partly filmed  in my hometown.  A fellow who lives down the street from me knows Upper Sandusky because of Thiel’s Wheels motorcycle shop.

upper-court-house

Wyandot County is rich, not only in farmland, but in early Ohio history, and its county seat displays markers of events dating back to the late 18th century.  Here are five of the sites that every fourth grader in the school system likely still visits.

  • the seat of government for the Wyandotte Indian Nation, the last organized band of Indians to leave Ohio. They moved to a reservation in Kansas in 1842.
  • Battle Island Monument where Colonel William Crawford  fought a losing battle with the combined Indian and British forces in 1782.
  • The Wyandotte Mission Church, found in the Old Mission Cemetery  among  Indian graves.  The first Christian Mission for the Indians was established in 1816 by John Stewart, the father of Methodist Episcopal Missions.
  • monument honoring Chiefe Tarhe, the first Indian Chief to sign the Treaty of Greenville establishing the Indian territorial boundaries.
  • The Old Indian Mill which was built by the government in 1820 for the Wyandotte Indians

old-misson-church Old Mission Church.  Dear family members were buried in this cemetery.

Upper Sandusky is a pretty cool place to come from!  And its a great place to go home to, not so much because of the geography or history of the city, but because that’s where Mom lives.

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