Tag Archives: Kenyon College

It’s Sugar Tyme

With my 56th approaching by week’s end, I thought to throw out a birthday challenge for the week. Can I create a post a day, limit 300 words or so, each one about Nature or our garden? Of all the topics I blog about, writing about Nature thrills me the most.

Born in the spring and raised in Atlanta, I always thought the world celebrated my birthday by bursting into blossom. And while many a birthday up here in the Great Lakes State has often been spent wearing snow boots, this year my day has been heralded for nearly two weeks already.

I am grateful for each of you who stops by, leaves a comment or just allows my words to lift your heart or pique your curiosity. I won’t send out a daily notice of a new post. Just know that there will be a nature reflection each day this week. Here’s Day Three’s post.

The flowers of the Sugar Tyme crabapple have been gestating for weeks. This sweet little tree has been patiently waiting her turn while the Bradford Pear, commanding and thrice Sugar Tyme’s height, went into a magnificent flowering of white. The pear bloomed so unseasonably early that I would wake up some mornings and look out, momentarily confused over whether it was snow or flowers covering her branches.

The petals of the pear have now drifted into memory. For the past week the crabapple has gifted us with occasional top notes of perfume, wafting through the yard like renegade balloons escaped from a far-off balloon man.

I first encountered crabapple trees in ’75, Kenyon College, the spring of freshman year. To this day, their scent reawakens in me every college student’s late spring conflict: do I head back to the dorm to study for exams or do what I really want to do, which is put on a pair of shorts and a halter top and run barefoot through the grass? Heading to the dark side of fifty, I marvel how the essence of one small tree turns back the clock to rekindle decades-old ambivalence. Responsibility or youthful abandon? Academic duty or feeding the soul?

Overnight the Sugar Tyme came into full and gorgeous flower. When I left for work today I hesitated, enjoying the memories before I slowly backed down the driveway, sunroof open, all the windows down. Youthful abandon took the necessary back seat to responsibility.

I don’t wear shorts too often and haven’t owned a halter top in nearly four decades. But tomorrow morning while morning is still new and quiet, I will steal outside barefoot. Tomorrow morning it’ll just be me, my soul and the Sugar Tyme.

A Snowy Day

Realized today as I was clearing the driveway of snow for what seems like the dozenth time that I have lived in the midwest for more than half my life. Way more. Excepting a six-year sojourn in New York and a delicious junior year abroad, I have lived in the country’s midsection since 1974. And it was snow that first tempted me. Yeah, snow. The white stuff falling relentlessly this year, the drifts multiplying faster than the water-schlepping brooms in Fantasia.

I went to Kenyon College, drawn in part to the promise of living in snowy Ohio. I was a kid from snow-challenged Georgia, mind you. The only snowfall of my childhood I spent hours scraping every flake I could into a little mound that was meant to be a snowman. It never even reached snowboy status. Kenyon didn’t disappoint. The snow of ’78 (my senior year) forced three days of cancelled classes. I loved every thigh-high-in-snow minute of it.

And then six years after graduation, a move to Michigan. And snow. Which quickly lost its charm. Oh, it was fun sledding with the kids and building snowmen. Coulda made a whole football team with plenty left over for the coach. We live near a lake and even went ice skating a time or two.

But the snow quickly became a bother and a hindrance. I don’t like driving in it. And there is so much to put on. And to lose. Gloves, hats, scarves, mittens, thermal longjohns. And boots. Let’s not forget the boots that make me feel like Lurch, the Addams family’s butler.

But the boots do keep my feet toasty while I’m shoveling. And after a snow like we had this weekend there is the powdery hush that stills the world and turns our block into the dreams of my childhood — crisp, white, iced overnight with magic. Snowflakes are miraculous bits of Divine engineering, every spoke fringed or feathered by Nature’s Arctic hand. There’s a certain satisfaction to shoveling a driveway neat and pristine and then coming in for a well-deserved cup of hot chocolate.

I love the way even the smallest branches are frosted to their tips. As I write, a pair of cardinals flits through the tree beyond the window; the mister’s feathers are barber-pole crimson against the snow-laden tree limbs. The snow scatters beneath them as they take wing, chilled and exhilarated perhaps, or maybe just cold and hungry and yearning for spring.

As much as I sometimes say I want to get the heck out of this State and leave behind the snow plow, the shovels and the back-up gallon of blue windshield de-icer, I would miss a morning like today’s. I would miss the crystalline air and the utter softness of this transformed rain. And I would miss the opportunity to bundle up and go out in the front yard and fulfill once again a childhood dream.

Over the weekend we had another six inches of snow. Or maybe it was six feet. At least that’s what my back and shoulders are telling me. Total winter snowfall is now forty inches. Twice the usual.

The gutters are fanged with icicles I tell guests to come to the side door lest they run the risk of getting impaled by one of Nature’s phenomena — an icicle is what you get when water melts and freezes at the same time. Forget about childhood dreams and a snowfall’s powdery hush. I’m tired of shaking Nature’s Arctic hand. Did you know Currier & Ives retired to Sarasota? Yep. Sarasota. Here’s what Frosty has to say about it. I’m with him.

The Two-Minute Miracle

Had a chance to catch up with some reading over the weekend and happened upon a great article in my Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin on alum Laura King, class of ‘86. King, now a Ph.D. in psychology, has made a career — and a good one at that — out of studying happiness.

And guess what, dear readers and fellow writers? King has determined (through hard science no less) that writing is one of the biggest, most effective, most opening-ist keys to happiness. Yes, writing! I know this might be a wee bit counterintuitive to those who occasionally consider papering the guest bath with rejection letters, but King’s research has proven otherwise.

Writing, it seems, is good for you. The article reports that “…the benefits of intensive two-minute writing sessions may be longer lasting than those of normal journal writing. King recommends focused bursts of writing.” The link betweeen mental health and quick quotidian quill-fests is so unassailable that “the phenomena has been given a name: ‘the two-minute miracle.’ ”

OK, I’m no scientist but the above results beg certain unscientific hypotheses. Are bloggers happier than other writer types since they tend to work in short bursts of word deliverment? Is this why novelists are moody and depressive? NOT because of the constant, inescapable, inevitable, and ongoing-but-one-day-surmountable rejection but because novelists write for long disciplined stretches of time instead of penning their prose in a mere two sweeps of the second hand?

The link to this latest issue is not up yet but visit the Bulletin archive anyway. Novelists will find it a great distraction between those depression-generating writing sessions. And bloggers will surely find inspiration for a two-minute miracle. Like I did just now.

Happy? You bet!

Happier? When that agent calls.

Happiest? When that agent calls with our publisher.