On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Friday, December 14, 2018

Otober’s Golden Glow

. . . They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock . . .

Excerpt from When the Frost is on the Punkin, by Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley, 1849–1916

Autumn is gently turning down the light on the brilliant joys of summer, and, in its stead, the month of October offers us some of the most vibrant delights of the year.

Gone are the warm days of July and August, when the bright morning sun has risen before us. Now we awaken to refreshingly crisp, cool temperatures while it’s still dark outside. Once the sunshine appears, however, we are treated to sparkling signs that Jack Frost has been here: overnight, he has left crystal traces of his lacy handiwork artistically etched on our windowpanes.

That mischievous elfish creature has also lightly nipped the green leaves of the trees with his silver paintbrush and magically transformed them into a rainbow of dazzling colors: flaming crimson, burnt orange, sunny yellow, and glowing amber. Finally, Jack Frost has begun to loosen the stems of the leaves, releasing them to dance lightly through the air and flutter silently to the ground.

Ah! Golden October. It has its own characteristic charm. Time to retrieve from the back of the closet those warm sweaters, scarves and gloves, go outside, and enjoy! Just take a look at that deep azure sky filled with flocks of birds… Our wise feathered friends are gathering together to fly southward towards more temperate climes.

In anticipation of the cold weather ahead, the squirrels are busily stocking their larders with black walnuts, hazelnuts, and assorted acorns from hardy oaks. Can you detect the pungent aroma of drifting wood smoke from bonfires in the distance? Mmmmmm . . . There’s a definite nip in the air, and restless Mr. Wind can be heard whistling through the trees.

Out in the country, the grain has ripened, and fields have turned to brown, but pumpkins with their familiar orange-yellow hue and tan-colored corn stalks bundled together add lively splashes of color here and there. Sometimes standing guard nearby is a comic scarecrow, sporting denim overalls with red paisley patches and sandy-beige straw hat.

The flowers of summer have almost faded away, but a deep orange marigold and hardy chrysanthemums, in rust and purple, remain in my garden patch to brighten the barren scene.

Fallen leaves form a soft carpet under my feet as I shuffle along, their crunch and rustle crackling with every step. I pass by houses festooned with festive ears of Indian corn on the front doors, and, as evening begins, jolly Jack-O-Lanterns aglow with candlelight appear on porch steps and peer out of windows.

My thoughts turn to hot chocolate, roasted marshmallows, crunchy apples, sweet cider, and pumpkin pie fresh from the oven. In the deepening twilight, I feel the invigorating chill of the night air and eagerly head for home, to curl up with a good book near my blazing fireplace.

Nature, as in all of life, has a beginning and then an end, but, as James Whitcomb Riley suggested in his famous poem “When The Frost is on the Punkin,” excerpted above, this should not be cause for melancholy. When days turn cool, and winter’s on the horizon, we may wish to hang on to the warmth of summer–its lush green leaves, beautiful birds, and busy bees–but if we open our eyes to the fresh wonders of autumn, we realize there is an abundance of reasons to be just as happy now. Every season is one to be savored.

As with the seasons, the substance of our lives is also transitory. As one chapter ends, we may look back with longing and wish for the “good old days,” but it’s well to remember that other experiences, different, of course, but equally pleasurable, are still to be discovered and appreciated on the path ahead.

The splendor of the summer months is over and gone, but take heart. In its place, the magnificence of October has arrived. It’s time to gather up our happy memories and prepare for the exciting, new days to come.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Harvest Time

Have you noticed it? Subtle changes are in the air. There’s a feeling of anticipation, excitement, and new beginnings. The sun is slanting a little differently now . . . casting longer shadows. Days are growing shorter, with more comfortable temperatures, evenings decidedly cooler. Summer is waning and quickly passing away. Autumn is upon us.

The general pace of living seems to have picked up from the “lazy days” of June and July. Most of the vacationers are home now and back to work. Bright yellow school buses can be seen again on the streets, for the children have returned to classes, proudly armed with new pencils, pristine notebooks, and high aspirations. “This fall is going to be the best one ever,” my young friend Sarah assured me recently. A determined third-grader who finds decimals and fractions a bit of a challenge, Sarah nonetheless vows she’ll master those concepts this year. “I’m going to be a math teacher when I grow up,” Sarah proclaims, “so I need to know this stuff.”

For many of us, once we reach Labor Day, the real “New Year” begins. Life gears up again in earnest. It seems an auspicious time, a time for making plans. Football practices and games, school programs, and band rehearsals begin to fill our weekly calendars. Fall festivals appear on the scene, and organizations are scheduling their first meetings of the season.

Retailers have put away their racks of beach towels, sunglasses, and flip-flops until next spring. In their places, we now find rows of potted chrysanthemums in yellows, bronzes, purples, and burgundys, as well as eye-catching displays of fall decorations, including bundled ears of variegated Indian corn and ornately-twisted garlands of burnt orange bittersweet. The coming season is clearly evident in the packages of candy corn and Halloween masks that already fill the store shelves.

Out and about, I see signs that Nature also realizes a shift is in the offing. Flocks of wild geese with their familiar honking cry are appearing in the clear blue sky, as they take flight southward. Fewer fireflies twinkle in the early evenings, and the presence of crickets is becoming more noticeable as their chirping sounds seem to grow louder.

The last of this year’s tomatoes, deep red, hang heavy on the vine. Slightly tougher in texture, these tomatoes also taste different now, not quite as flavorful as those relished a month or two ago. The luscious peaches and nectarines and tender ears of sweet corn – all pure delights of the summer – have also passed their prime. Hardy marigolds, in bright yellows and oranges, the famous late-bloomers of summer, are now in full flower in my garden. Faithful little plants, they’ll continue to flourish long after all the other posies have faded away.

Queen Anne’s lace, with its dainty, white-clustered blossoms, is everywhere along the roadsides, and will be so until first frost, lending an old-fashioned, Victorian charm to the scene. Milkweed pods will be opening soon, releasing countless seeds that float hither and yon through the air on their little feathery-white parachutes. Country fields of goldenrod will presently be in evidence as far as the eye can see, their deep saffron florets waving gently in the breeze. It won’t be long before we’re deeply immersed in those picture-postcard days of fall, when the green leaves of summer magically transform into blazing jewels of ruby red, glowing amber, shimmering wine, and brilliant yellow.

It’s harvest time. The black walnuts and hardy acorns are ripe and falling from the trees, to be retrieved and cached away by busy squirrels already planning for winter’s provisions. Apple orchards are laden with shiny, bright-colored fruit ready for the picking – as a crisp, crunchy treat or cool, refreshing cider. The zucchini and summer squash are at their peak and ready to store in the freezer. Months from now, when our beloved gardens are just a memory, these delectables from our carefully-cultivated patches of earth will evoke a reminiscent touch of summer when made into sauces, casseroles, breads, and cakes.

It’s harvest time for you and me, too, perhaps – time for taking stock, for evaluating the yield of our lives, so to speak. How fruitful have our days been? As we’ve tended to our crops of daily duties, responsibilities, and challenges, have we also tended to the people in our midst? They have crops of challenges, too. They could use the provision of a helping hand, a sowing of sunny thoughts, and a shower of encouraging words. Such caring acts can make a powerful difference for good. Indeed, the things we do for others throughout our lives often prove to be our greatest accomplishments.

What of true value have we reaped so far, and what significant offerings can we hope to glean in the time we have left? “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit . . .,” read the Scriptures (John 15:5). It is reassuring to know that, even in the autumn of our lives, with God’s help, we can still bring forth a veritable bounty of good deeds and kindnesses of lasting impact.

The unfolding of the fall season’s sights and sounds not only invigorates our senses, it also renews our spirits. Lofty goals are being set, and rightfully so. As my friend Sarah said, “This is going to be the best fall ever!”

Monday, August 13, 2018

Write It Down!

When my father was in active medical practice, beginning back in the 1950s, long before the days of answering machines and voice mail, doctors routinely employed the services of what was called the Medical Exchange. During off-hours, when patients could not reach their doctor at his office, they would call this glorified switchboard and leave a message.

The lady who took the messages was a Mrs. Kendrick, who had been with the service for many years. When the doctors would later call in to retrieve their messages, Mrs. Kendrick would always insist, “Write it down! Write it down!” She wished to emphasize that our short-term memories can be fleeting and fallible.

We may think that we shall always be able to recall life’s details with full accuracy even after lapses of time, but Mrs. Kendrick knew better. Most probably early in her career she had received many call backs from doctors, asking, “On that telephone number you gave me . . . did you say 341? Or 321?” Or, “Was that patient’s name War-ren or War-den?” The longsuffering Mrs. Kendrick would sigh and patiently repeat the information, along with the admonition “Write it down! Write it down!”

Throughout our lives, we experience many memorable events. We also have some rather profound ideas. Things we wish to remember always, but sometimes the exact details of which escape us. If you have special tales and insights you wish to keep for posterity, write them down! Now. While the facts are still fresh in your mind.

What are you most grateful for in your life right now? Where do you find comfort and peace for your journey? Who are the individuals who make your heart go pitter-pat? Whose presence sustains you? Write it down. Tell your story.

I have discovered that much of what I wish to say to the world is brought out simply through the act of remembering and then writing those thoughts down. It’s kind of amazing, actually. I often see my work coalesce on paper right in front of my eyes, even before I consciously realize where my thoughts are taking me.

I’m reminded of the story of the little child in Kindergarten who was intently sketching a picture one day. He was deep in concentration on his work when someone asked him, “What are you drawing?” The little boy, with a rather exasperated tone, replied, “I don’t know. I haven’t finished it yet.”

I venture to say that every one of you has recollections and perspectives running around in your head that are definitely worth sharing with others. I encourage you to grab a pen and a pad of paper, put on your thinking cap, and let your thoughts flow.

As Mrs. Kendrick would say, write it down!

Previous Posts