Children playing and gardening - Grattan School mural

Children playing and gardening – Grattan School mural

2:00 pm

Today is a deliciously cold, gray day. Moisture beads on the porch windows, condensation from the combination of the chill air outside and the glowing chiminea, its little apple wood fire scenting the air with the fragrance of well-seasoned split logs, as they spit, hiss and crackle. Curled up on the porch futon, I’m warmly nestled under a red plaid throw, resting, listening, still. Sparks spit onto the slate floor now and then, and sizzle before dying to ash.

While we were away, weeds burgeoned in all the house gardens. I’ve yanked, chopped and composted till even my sturdy limbs and back demand a break. Yesterday, I gathered nearly a bushel of fat rose hips, which produced two batches of jelly, not too sweet. The little jars, ten of them, rest momentarily in the kitchen window, where they catch the light, like stained glass. Can I capture their jewel tones on canvas, I wonder?

But I’m needful of a long sit, so I’ll tell a little more about our wedding week in the north country. Noah is anxious I not forget, since the fete occurred in a village so far away, where customs differ somewhat from ours.

“I want the history we’re collecting to show the connection we feel with the other villages, Rose,” he said. “It’s so easy to settle into our comfortable lives here and forget how rich our wider world can be.”

It was just that sense of connecting that remains most with me after the wedding. There we were, people from villages far and wide. Not so many people, but enough to tax the Village of Jasper’s ten guest-house apartments. Packer and Balboa are well loved.

What amazed me was how easily we settled in with each other for our whirlwind week. Guests and Jasper villagers alike pitched in to decorate the couple’s new home, cooked dinners for each other, shared recipes, exotic and familiar. I sampled a wild currant and gooseberry pie that I wouldn’t mind having another piece of right now, tart and fresh.

The day before the wedding, Lotty–Packer’s mom–and I added last minute touches to their cottage and made the bed for the newlyweds. She and other village women had stitched a quilt with a scene of the mountains Packer loves so dearly. I recognized the double waterfall we had visited a few days earlier. Splashes of rust and gold in the pine bark seemed to embolden the greens and blues of the mountains, sky and stream. The quilt smelled deliciously of lavender.

“Oh!” I said, clapping my hands and doing a childish hop.  “That’s why you asked the guests to send dried lavender flowers from our gardens last spring!”

Lotty nodded. “They’ll sleep every cool night wrapped in the love of their friends and family.”

Opposite the bed, we hung a tapestry, Janine’s gift, lushly depicting one of Balboa’s favorite twilight interludes near Ordinary. We giggled, noting the golden grasses, burnished redwood limbs and dark leafy branches that perfectly echoed similar hues in the quilt.

“As though we’d contrived to match scenes and colors,” Lotty said. “But we designed and began piecing this quilt long before we knew who might one day receive it!”

“And Janine simply wanted to give Balboa and Packer a treasure from home,” I replied. “I do know that she asked Balboa about favorite colors and whether there were any that just might not do in their cottage.”

Janine had woven bits of moss, twigs and some of the actual grasses from the spot into the piece. If Balboa looks closely, and I know she will, she will recognize a ribbon from her favorite little-girl dress, now a ripple of shining water in the stream. There, in the redwood tree, two Stellar’s jays, upon closer inspection, are stitched of yarn from the blue sweater her sister Jasmine wore until it was little more than swatches of thread hanging from her shoulders. We could spend hours working the origins of all the bits in the piece, but I daresay most came from someone or something special to Balboa.

Chatting about the memories we hoped the couple would make in the long years to come, we unpacked and stocked the kitchen cupboards with the teas, jams, jellies, pickles, fruits and baked goodies friends had brought from near and far, most made lovingly by hand, each with a funny, thoughtful, or deeply caring note attached. Some had clever little drawings. Several of the containers were hand-made as well–long-lasting remembrances to use again and again throughout the couple’s life together. I imagined Balboa and Packer taking these down, one by one, over the months ahead, thinking of each friend in turn.

I tucked my fresh-baked quiche in the tiny refrigerator–Balboa’s favorite spinach-leek in a flaky whole wheat crust. Lotty added a small kettle of beef stew with dumplings, which she said was Packer’s favorite childhood dish, bar none.

Earlier, when I arrived, I set Cheyenne’s small feather and pine needle basket on the dining table, thinking to find a niche for it later. But  when Lotty arranged the flowers Ruby sent for the table, she placed them in the living room, saying she thought the basket perfect in the dining nook.

Before we left, I popped the wrappings off the water color and two acrylics I had brought, the water color a small sketch of my daughter and her sister when they were children. It has hung in my bedroom all these years. Outside, Lotty and I strung a garland of wild asters and daisies across the door, to be removed by the bride and groom on the morrow.

We smiled and hugged, deep and long. “Well done, Mama Charlotte,” I said. “Well done, Mama Rose,” she replied.

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