Fall Reflections by Tasha Halpert

Fall REflections 15 Bright spot   As a child I looked forward to fall. I enjoyed the swish of the leaves as I shuffled through them and the crisp air redolent of the smell of burning from people’s yard clean ups. Each year I collected colorful leaves and treasured them until they dried up and crumbled. When my children were small we collected our favorites and ironed them between sheets of waxed paper. We’d tape them on the glass storm door or onto windowpanes. The wonderful variety of colors and the way the each leaf is uniquely designed by nature has always fascinated me.

Recently, driving down the highway I gazed with pleasure at the vista of the changing leaves. In some places they had already turned, and the autumn colors had emerged in a blanket of bright hues. However, in a few places summer’s green still predominated. Then I noticed an outstanding patch of red in the midst of a section of green leaves. It stood out so strongly that my eyes were drawn to it and lingered until I had driven past it. That particular section of leaves seemed so vivid compared with the usual display of roadside color.

The patch of brilliantly red leaves I had just passed wasn’t especially large, yet it overpowered my attention in a way that the conglomeration of greater color had not. As I drove I thought about the difference between it and the other colorful leaves that lined the roadside. I realized it was the contrast that made it so strong. I was reminded of how Shakespeare spoke of the light of a candle in the darkness saying: “So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” There is something about contrast that enhances the presence of what is outstandingly lovely to experience. The same is true of scarcity or of specialness; these enhance the way something is experienced.

I realized that my attention had been drawn to the brightness of the red against the darkness of the green. A hillside of lovely fall leaves is a beautiful sight to behold, yet without contrast my eyes soon grow used to it; I don’t see the view with as much interest or delight. The same thing applies to taste. If all the food on my plate is bland, it all begins to taste the same. If it is either entirely crunchy or entirely smooth I don’t enjoy it as much. With what I hear, the same applies: What makes Beethoven’s music so special to me is the interplay of loud and soft, thunderous and sweet.

This is also true with regard to life in general. I enjoy it when things go smoothly, when everything falls into place, when people show up when they’re supposed to. I am grateful for the excitement of winning, the feelings of accomplishment when I am praised. Yet without at least temporary failure, without glitches, without the serendipity of strange twists and turns, life would not be nearly as interesting or as vital. While I may lament a loss or mourn a missed opportunity, because of that contrast I am even more grateful for my gains and my successes.

Shine On Harvest Moon by Tasha Halpert

Onions on Display

Once upon a time harvesting was done by hand. The farmer and his helpers scythed their way through their fields or picked their way through their orchards and gardens, gathering in grain, fruit and vegetables to store away or take to market. Most children today have no idea what a scythe or a flail is, or how to winnow. Yet though the ways of doing it have changed, fall is still harvest time, and we look to the shortening days to gather in what has grown.

In the month of September the harvest full moon shines brightly. At that time there are often gatherings and parties. The bright moon reminds us to say goodbye to the summer growing season and greet the time of reaping. This applies both that which we have planted earlier in the year and been tending, and that which has grown from the seeds we have planted in our lives. It is time to begin to reap what we have sown and tended over the last months.

For children today fall means school and the beginning of lessons. At one time in the past children too worked in the fields helping to bring in the harvest. I remember when I was small, my mother put up jars of fruit and vegetables. She made jelly from grapes and other fruit gathered locally. My great aunt’s gardener harvested and stored root vegetables in root cellar dug into the earth of her garden. In our basement was a small barrel of potatoes also harvested from her garden.

Although i no longer have a garden, every spring I look forward to the swelling of buds and the growth of all the nature around me. I also feel a sense of creativity blown in by the winds that stir up the soil and stimulate the air. In my mind I plant the seeds of projects I hope to accomplish as well as plan what I hope to learn in the months ahead. Spring is a time of promise. In the springtime of life youthful ardor makes ambitious plans for what is to be designed and built.

Then it is time to carry out the plans made and take care of the seeds planted. Tending the garden of my life is a task I have grown into as the years have gone by. In the beginning I was much less organized. I took on more than I could sensibly handle; all too often I planted too many seeds. As I grew to understand the folly of my ways I learned better no matter how hard I tried, what I could and what I could not accomplish. The knowledge and the understanding I have gained has also been part of the harvest of my years.

Friendships both seasonal and perennial are another important aspect of the seeds planted earlier in my life. The bounty of my experience as I have learned and grown is another. My most precious gain of all is perhaps the unfolding knowledge of who I am and what I can do as well as the extent of my potential. As I look back to the springtime of my life I realize how richly rewarding the harvest from my garden is, and how very grateful I am for it all.

The Wish I Coulds by Tasha Halpert

Kathy's Kitchen Baskets I’m not sure why I was so uncoordinated as a child. Perhaps it was because I was tall for my age and my physical development had run ahead of my ability to manage it. I was fine riding a tricycle. Then came a two wheeled bike. Over and over again I fell off. It didn’t help that my bicycle seat was loose and kept wobbling, and that the sidewalks where I had to ride were bumpy. Once on the way to a friend’s I fell off and hurt my knee. A kind person stopped his car and brought me home. My parents thanked him, then after he left they scolded me for accepting a ride from a stranger. Perhaps they were right to do so, however I thought the man seemed nice, and I was scraped up and bloody and my knee was painful.

Even as an adult I had problems riding a bike. I’ve never known why it was so difficult for me when most people seem to have no problem doing that. I rode it to keep my children company until I finally twisted my front wheel, making my bike inoperable. I was secretly relieved. Skating too was difficult. I wanted to be able to glide over the ice, yet I had to be content with a few simple turns around the rink before my ankles became to painful to continue.

There are other things I always wanted to be able to do and never could, like run fast, or hit a tennis ball with accuracy. I had tennis lessons to no avail. The sailing lessons I took one year were a disaster. No one wanted me to crew with them because I kept getting my directions mixed up. School sports were a torment because I was so uncoordinated. It was difficult always being chosen last for any team regardless of the game being played. The people who were good at sports were always the popular one. In some respects my childhood was one long “wish I could.”

My hand-eye coordination seems lacking. Drawing presents another obstacle. I can draw what I might be looking at, and I enjoy sketching, but drawing from my imagination presents a problem. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to transfer what I might envision to paper just the way I see it. And then when I manage to come up with something I like, try as I may I cannot reproduce what I have drawn so that it looks even remotely the same.

Do I sound like I am complaining? Perhaps I am. However, it is also true that there has been compensation for what I have I lacked. In my solitary childhood I read avidly and thus developed a large vocabulary. My vivid imagination helped me to write stories and poems and still does. Spending time outdoors by myself I learned to love nature and nature comforted me. Perhaps most important of all I developed compassion for those who are limited or unable to do as they wish. There are still things I wish I could do, however I recognize that they are not nearly as important as the things I can do, and for these I am grateful.

Celebrating Birthdays by Tasha Halpert

Celebrating Birthdays

When I was little I looked forward to my birthday. Rarely there was a party with friends, more often it was celebrated quietly within the family. This was probably just as well. I clearly remember the embarrassment I suffered at my twelfth birthday party. There were two small nude statues displayed on our living room bookcase. They were by my mother who was an artist and sculptor. These created a small sensation among my invited classmates who pointed and giggled, looking at me strangely. To me they were simply statues.

My dear parents were more sophisticated than my friends’ parents. My mother played in a civic symphony; my father was in a local theater group. They didn’t talk about sports, discuss politics, or participate in the kinds of activities my classmates’ parents did. My days were spent either by myself or with adults. I welcomed the idea of growing up. Every birthday was a step in that direction.

My husband Stephen celebrates his birthday the day before the 4th of July, and we celebrate our anniversary the day afterward. This makes for a grand celebration for us, taking place over all three days. We will have enjoyed doing this now for thirty five years of marriage. Born so close to the birthday of the USA, and being an independent person himself, Stephen feels connected to the celebration of independence that it signifies.

For myself I enjoy celebrations of all kinds. Birthdays are a wonderful opportunity for this. Over the years making up for all the parties I never had, we have enjoyed commemorating both his and my birthdays with friends. I also enjoy sending cards and even making telephone calls to sing happy birthday to special people on their day. The internet provides wonderful animated cards that cost little or nothing. Sadly some people either can’t or do not wish to open them. It always makes me happy when they do.

The birthday of our country is an important one to celebrate. Despite our faults we have been generous and supportive to many. While our growing pains have sometimes been severe, we have in the long run achieved much as we have grown. By European standards we are a very young country. There are churches all over Europe that are over a thousand years old. Nothing in this country even comes close to that. Being a young country, like any other gawky adolescent we could perhaps be excused for some of our clumsiest actions.

Whether one is a person or a country, it is impossible to grow without making mistakes. The important things is to learn from one’s mistakes, and also to be forgiving of whatever stumbles have been made in the process. The acknowledgement of oneself as a person who lives and thrives makes a statement concerning oneself. To have a birthday is to have survived another year of ups and downs, of trials and triumphs, and of defeats and victories. This alone is a cause for celebration.

Sydney's Party Blowing out the candles

Lilac Time by Tasha Halpert

Thinking about lilacs I remembered hearing a song with the words “Lilac Time” featured prominently in it. Looking it up on the Internet I found the full title Jeannine, I dream of Lilac Time, as well as an old recording of it to listen to. It brought back memories of my hearing it as a young child. What fun it was to listen again, courtesy of the Internet and whoever was kind enough to resurrect it. Seeing lilac,s like hearing the song, brings back a host of memories.

Stephen and I were driving to an appointment when I saw a lot of lilacs by the side of the road. They were so lovely I had to stop the car to look. What was even more wonderful was the fact that there were a several different varieties of lilacs in this particular collection. What I really wanted to do was get out of the car and pick some. However, I resisted the temptation and drove on before their lure grew too strong for my will power.

I have many memories involving lilacs that go back to my childhood. There was a cluster of bushes in the back yard of the home where I grew up. There was a lattice fence in the midst of them. This helped to form an enclosed space on one side where I played house. There I made mud pies using water I would scrounge from the house and berries from bushes nearby. I also mixed up other concoctions to feed my doll family.

I kept my doll sized dishes, pots and pans and other implements on shelves made from boards stuck into the branches of the lilac bushes. These usually collapsed when it was windy. For some reason that escapes me now I didn’t mind too much; I’d just pick them up and rearrange things as best I could. I even wrote recipe booklets of my efforts, though the pages became illegible when they got soaked in rain.

There were a great many different kinds of lilac bushes next door, growing at the end of my great aunt Alice’s back yard. Her father had been a horticulturalist and most likely chose the various different varieties so that they would bloom for longer as well as present different colors in display. Some were double, some had an incredibly sweet smell. All of them were lovely. I used to pick them and bring them home for my mother to put into vases.

Each year I worried that there wouldn’t be any lilacs still blooming to honor veterans on Memorial Day. My family always went to the parade in Beverly Farms where there was a square dedicated to my father’s father who died in World War One. The children who marched at the end of it used to carry lilacs to throw in the water when the parade ended at West Beach as the band played “For those who perished on the sea. Seeing the lilacs as they bloom now I greet them with joy and with gratitude for their beauty both today and in my memory.

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Text by Tasha, photo courtesy of Olga Stewart