In the wee hours before dawn I often lie in bed waiting for the hour hand to click a little closer to 6, head cradled in my pillow as I mentally review my to-do list. A few days ago this tranquil time was interrupted with a startled clucking from the henhouse, the sound of alarm.
I rushed to the window. The hillside looked so peaceful blanketed in the dew and mist of early morning. I blasted my tough-sounding, burglar-chasing, no-funny-business warning call: “Hey!”
I tumbled downstairs, stepped into my Birkenstocks, grabbed the leather leash and clipped it onto the collar of, by now, a very alert Mr. Magoo. We were about 200 yards up the hill when I realized I was still in my pajamas. Fashion plate, I’m not, but if I were ever spotted in public in PJs, I guess these would be my choice. They are the only thing I own from Nordstrom’s – light blue flannel sprinkled with hearts and stars and crescent moons – purchased by my parents too many moons ago.
More than four decades have passed since I was in eighth grade and my parents went to a conference with my English teacher, Mrs. O’Neill. (Yes, this is my timely plug for the value of public education and teachers everywhere.) It was one of those good-news-bad-news reports.
“Laurie loves to read … but she should start reading something other than horse books.” This was not news to my parents, of course. There were ponies in the paddock, the binding on my copy of “School for Young Riders” was worn to shreds, and the family’s summer vacation plans included a visit to Chincoteague, VA, for Pony-Penning Day after I had become totally absorbed in Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague”. My young life’s dream at the time was to go to England and ride in a fox hunt.
My parents repeated Mrs. O’Neill’s comments but let me continue grazing through my horse-lovers library. Still, the criticism rubbed, like a girth cinched too tight on a saddle. I don’t remember how or why I selected my “breakthrough” book – but I remember it well, and it haunts me still: “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote. This nonfiction novel was about the murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two children in 1959.
Today, I’d have to describe my reading habits as voracious and eclectic, with a leaning toward intrigue and mystery – as far from my reality as possible. And, it may be thanks to Mrs. O’Neill that I spent a chunk of my newspaper career as a police and courts reporter.
As Magoo and I continued up the hill, I saw the crime scene: a patchwork of white feathers scattered about the grass. Just a few mornings before, I spotted a beautiful golden-red fox trotting across our meadow with a limp Black Australorp in its jaws, taking breakfast to its den. A serial killer was on the loose. As Magoo and I entered the top pasture, I saw the dark silhouette of a fox crossing the hill. I opened the metal gate and Griffey, the newly appointed guard horse, thundered into the pasture.
After the commotion died down, the quiet began whispering. I realized that sometimes we reach our dreams in unexpected ways. Up until then, I joked to myself that the closest I had ever come to my teen-age dream of riding a Thoroughbred across the English countryside decked out in a hunt cap, scarlet coat, white breeches, and black boots was my first job after college – waitressing at a place called “Tally-Ho”. Yet just this week, surrounded by green rolling hills, a bellowing hound named Magoo, and my trusty steed Griffey, I was chasing a fox into the hedgerow and saving my flock … in my pajamas. Laurie Lynch
Beauty and the Bridge: For a year or more PennDOT people have been measuring the Eagle Point Bridge that borders our meadow. A woman from Harrisburg stopped in the shop last summer, bought a few things, and told me we had nothing to worry about with the bridge repair work.
Then on Friday the 13th, a Right-of-Way Representative came with a letter from PennDOT saying they are pleased to offer us $$$$ for a slice of our property along Eagle Point Road. And, by the way, construction will start in the next month or two.
There go the hop vines, the blackberries and the black raspberries, not to mention a fourth of our Eagle Point garden, two bald cypress trees (one towering at least 30 feet), a river birch, a Sorbaria, sorbifolia, a couple winterberries, red-twig dogwoods, close to 500 feet of fence, and who knows what all else. The Right-of-Way Representative suggested we dig the plants up and move them. Same with the fence. Oh, and if we want a professional to “evaluate” the acquisition, they’ll give us up to $4,000 for legal fees. In other words, they will give our lawyer twice as much as they’ll give us for our land and trees, and then “acquire” the land anyway.
And you know what? I’m moving. It shouldn’t matter. But it does. We raised these yard-high whips into stately specimens. These plantings were my legacy to my children, to my community. It was my small attempt to create a wildlife habitat, a refuge, a sanctuary. Gone.
Temper, Temper: OK, now that I got that off my chest, I understand that we need safe bridges … just not in my front yard, ha, ha. The night after the PennDOT visit, as I read the Legacy chapter in Joan Chittister’s “The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully”, words, not trees, jumped out at me:
“We leave behind our attitude toward the world. We are remembered for whether or not we inspired in others a love for life and an openness to all of those who lived it with us. We will be remembered for our smiles and for our frowns, for our laughter and for our complaints, for our kindness and for our selfishness.” Miles to go before I sleep …
Please Vote Tuesday: As Americans, as Pennsylvanians, as Berks Countians, as Kutztown Area School Districtians, and Maxatawnians, we have to believe our vote counts.
Fleur-de-Lys Central: We planted the first square of our four-square garden at my mother’s house with Picasso shallots, Rainbow Swiss Chard, and Royal Burgundy beans. Next, Richard will plant St. Pierre, Green Zebra, Carolina Gold, Giant Belgian (in honor of Ziggy), Orange Russian, and Cherokee Purple tomatoes, courtesy of Steve and Gayle Ganser of Eagle Point Farm Market.
Blog Photos: Jen’s photo of eggs awaiting cake baking, the last fall for our beautiful Bald Cypress, Picasso shallots bound for Fleur-de-Lys Centre County, and our Brasilian family: Celso Santin, Celso Jr. and girlfriend Sarah, Rui, and Samba Mama Tania.
At Fleur-de-Lys Farm This Week: Eggs, asparagus, ba-bob-a-rhubarb, rhubarb, and inspirational slate signs.
Written in Slate: (19th Century, author unknown)
Dear little tree that we planted today,
What will you be when we’re old and gray?
The savings bank of the squirrel and mouse,
For robin and wren, an apartment house.
The dressing room of the butterfly’s ball,
The locust’s and katydid’s concert hall.
The schoolboy’s ladder in pleasant June,
The schoolgirl’s tent in the July noon.
And my leaves shall whisper to them merrily
A tale of the children, who planted me.