According to the calendar, yesterday was the first day of autumn, 2018. I am not one to argue with a calendar, so I accept its statement as true. I also then accept that my wife Mary Ann and I have now lived our first summer on Lake Norman (LKN), which is an occurrence that no calendar, save our own, will commemorate.
Having moved to LKN in August 2017, we did not experience the full Lake summer until this year. There is an excitement and anticipation for the summer that rises out of the spring when everything is, as Cummings wrote, “mudlucious,” especially the red clay of Iredell We had moved from about 325 miles north of the Lake, so we knew that the summer would bring heat and humidity and “dry spells”. The Shenandoah Valley suffered those, also, and we were prepared for the violent afternoon thunder storms and their eerie calm just before arriving. We were even prepared for the mosquitoes and noise of water craft on the Lake.
However, what we were surprised by was the difference in our flower gardens. Having brought some of our favorite flowers with us, we noticed how the few hundred miles farther south affected their growth. Our sedum by late September had lost its bloom, and we had earlier in the season watched the Savannah Sparrows eat its every leaf. Many of our hostas finished their bloom by the middle of September, and the cone flowers are long past their bloom. Our purchased butterfly bush has since bloomed as have the three lyda roses and black-eyed susans. All of this is a new growth cycle for us, and we have learned that those three hundred odd miles, while relatively short, are long in ways that no calendar can mark.
But our blooming cycle is not the only change we have experienced. We lived on seven acres in the valley at Red Hill, and our Lake lot is less than an acre. Both our land and house are downsized, and we appreciate those values. The smaller gardens are a joy because they are less work, and less space gives us the opportunity to, oddly, do more with it. Our small, fenced back yard has three, distinct flower gardens or courtyards and one tomato patch of two bountiful plants. One side garden is filled with the butterfly bush, a hydrangea and beside it a rhododendron, and several bulbs of various colors that shadow the black fence with a rainbow of colors. All of this is tucked between a sidewalk, two fences, and under three tall pines. Next to the house and sidewalk are four white azaleas to light up that area. In the back yard we planted the three roses and a gardenia next to our neighbor’s white fence. They have settled in well beneath the light shade of a dogwood. Our front yard is larger, and we have fought the urge to fill spaces with plants. We have one area of hostas and soon it will be a full garden when the plants mature. Enough is enough out there.
This first full summer of coffee mornings and lake sunrises from our screen porch show us that our small spaces are more intimate than the ones at Red Hill and, like all things intimate, they offer more. Our Red Hill space was large, and in the large space we often lost sight and sound without realizing. We loved the space there, but on Lake Norman we now see and hear more. Here we hear the wings of a chickadee flying from feeder to branch. We hear the scamper of a squirrel on bark. We watch the chipmunk as it hurries to eat underneath the back feeder with tail erect almost like a banner. Lulled by a Lake breeze flowing through the tall pines, we pause to hear the mockingbird singing from somewhere in the camellia.
The Preacher writes that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” This first season on the Lake has been one of many purposes and pleasures. And it holds memories of experiences and learning. With much joy.