After Mass during the school year, there are a few obligatories: a fresh pot of coffee and something sweet. Feed the soul, then feed the spirit. Something like that. Perhaps accompany it with something to read, maybe a game of chess. But eventually, it’s time for the trial and treasure, for it’s something K loves and loathes doing. Polish lessons.


The love is easy: it’s her language, her culture, that she’s sharing with her beloved daughter. The loathe comes from the frustration that sometimes accompanies it. Perhaps “loathe” is not the right word — perhaps it was just too alliterative to pass up. “It’s something that K loves and that frustrates her” doesn’t quite make it. Always searching for the right word, never able to find it, which is what makes the Polish lessons so frustrating for the Girl. Her passive vocabulary, like everyone’s, is much larger than her active vocabulary. She can understand more than she can say, like me in Polish.

E, on the other hand, has of late only a passive vocabulary for the most part. The production has ceased. However, we’re seeing that language and such is perhaps just not his strength. He can watch a cartoon about how airplanes fly and remember it long afterward. (Language, though? K was trying to teach him a Polish prayer the other evening, and he replied, “You must be kidding me! I can’t remember that!”)

In the evening, it’s time to feed the soul once again — a quiet bonfire in the backyard. The temperatures have cooled, the mosquitoes have disappeared, and we’ve entered our favorite time of the year.


We’ve been waiting all summer for this. The kitchen is mostly done, our routines have returned, the weather has cooled, and it’s time to start everything again. So what better way to end than with a song by Antoine Dufour, a Quebecois guitarist, who wrote a song for his yet-unborn son, a song about waiting, a song I’ve listened to at least a dozen times this weekend. Perhaps the most beautiful acoustic guitar song I’ve ever heard.

Autumn Sunday

It’s during this time of year that the early morning sun is so spectacular. It’s not that the leaves are kaleidoscopic for they’re all still green here in the South. It’s the angle of the sun at this time of year.


“It’s the best time of the year in South Carolina,” K always says. Sunny cool days that invite backyard play.

And it’s time to begin decorating — first Halloween. Pumpkin ghosts to hang on our Crepe Myrtles in the front yard.


Of course there’s always time for the sandbox.


In South Carolina, spring comes when the calendar says it does: late March. The tops of trees, where the light is most direct, already have buds beginning to open.


The tulip poplars have buds all over.



In the brush beneath the trees, there is just enough light for some blossoms.


All this inspires me finish up with the leaves that have been blanketing the ground for four months now.


A new mulching mower makes relatively quick work of the leaves (except for those in the rocky, uneven areas that remained undisturbed this time around), turning them into a powder that will improve the soil for the spring of 2011, when we think we might get around to doing something with the backyard. This spring we’re concentrating on getting veggies growing; next spring will be the front yard’s turn.


Thoughts on the Seasons

It is now the middle of winter, and though we have already passed the winter solstice and the days are growing, the bulk of winter lies before us. Spring is at least three months away.

One thing about winter that I have noticed here is the relative lack of natural sounds. The snow makes no sound as it piles up. (It is amusing to imagine what it would sound like if flakes made metallic sounds, like jingling keys, when they hit each other. Winter would be cacophony.) Of course there is the squeak and crunch of snow as one plods along, but even that is man-made. Nature seems to take a symphonic rest during winter. It is undoubtedly resting for the upcoming program: rain and birds in the spring and summer, and rustling leaves in the [autumn]. There is the trickle of melted snow forming streams and ponds, and the moan and creak of the ice layer the stream as it begins to flow again. Late summer will bring fabulous thunderstorms (Mam nadziela) that will keep me up at night. (And perhaps I’ll be able to capture it on film this time.)

In the meantime, all I can do is appreciate the quiet beauty of winter. And it is spectacular. In Bristol snow never stays on the ground for longer than ten days (which would be exceptionally long). There might be spots of snow in heavily shaded areas, but not the continual blanket of Lipnica. The temperature is consistently below zero, so old snow remains as a foundation for the occasional flurries. Yet despite the amount of snow on the ground, it really hasn’t snowed that frequently. The bulk of the snow now on the ground is from two heavy snow falls, and it hasn’t done much more than flurry since then.