63. Apple Blossoms, Lilacs, and Birdsong

This is part 3 of several posts discussing Richard Foster’s chapter on Simplicity in Celebration of Discipline.

Ahhh, spring!
The flowers, the colors, the smells, the birds, the sun… It’s just good for the soul.


We’ve been talking about Richard Foster’s practical ways to simplify your life. And today we are skipping to #6 because this is an easy one: “Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation…Walk whenever you can. Listen to the birds. Enjoy the texture of the grass and leaves. Smell the flowers. Marvel in the rich colors everywhere. Simplicity means to discover once again that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’ (Psalm 24:1)”20130421-002630.jpg

And when better to start this part of your new simpicity regimen than spring?

The view from my back porch...

The view from my back porch…

My back porch workshop is open for business again, and I was painting out there on Saturday morning. Painting is a quiet, lovely, simple activity, and I was enjoying the birds. In the two hours that it took me to paint the shelf boards for the built-in spice rack, I saw a flicker, a dove, robins, a red-winged blackbird, a phoebe, a female cardinal, mockingbirds, wrens, a starling, goldfinches, and a turkey. What joyful songs they were singing… I had stepped off the porch just to turn my face to the sun, when I heard a bird sing “Look here, look here. Tuweet, Tuweet.  Over here, over here, Tuweet, Tuweet. Right here, right here. HaHaHaHaHaHa.” 

I laughed just for the gloriousness of it. I was sure that mockingbird was teasing me. But just a few minutes later, I was back painting on the porch when I heard him singing the same song for his girlfriend. She turned her back to him, totally ignored him and soon flew away. He stopped singing; he may not have won his lady love, but he certainly entertained me.

maple tree in spring against a blue sky

Somewhere in this fuzzy spring maple tree sits that singing mockingbird…

Mr. H.C. could hardly wait to get on his tractor for the first time. He was spending a lot of time mowing, but I was busy and not paying attention to how long it was taking him to mow the grass. He finally came and found me and said with a grin, “Want to go walk around the estate?” If you knew what the “estate” looked like, you would laugh. Apple Hill is not exactly an English country cottage on manicured grounds. In fact, where the moles don’t live, these do:Dandelions

But we have wanted to mow paths around the berry patch since last year, and Now Is The Time! So we walked around the newly mown paths, scoping out the possible berries, and discovered an apple tree that we couldn’t reach last fall because of the briers.Apple tree blossoming

Under the dappled light of the apple tree the air was sweet from blossoms, the bees were humming, and the grass was trampled low from deer sleeping there.

We walked home clutching handfuls of wild chives and sticks of apple blossoms to add to the vase of lilacs in the kitchen.apple blossoms and lilacs
How easy it is to be joyfully at peace on these glorious days of spring.

13. A Lotta Big Trees

We have five very tall trees around the cottage. By very tall I mean 50 feet or more. One of them, a sycamore, is about 5 feet from the front porch. WAY too close! If it fell, that tree would do serious damage.


When the house insurance guy came to survey the house, his first comment was, “Uh, you’ve got a lotta big trees here.”

The sycamore is a lovely tree, don’t misunderstand me, but it is a litterbug extraordinaire. Little twigs, pieces of bark, big dried leaves, and stickery sycamore pods all litter the front yard and porch in all seasons. I think cleaning up after it will get old fast.


The prettiest (and furthest away from the house) is the catalpa. The bees were thick around it when it bloomed in mid-June. (Has anyone heard of catalpa honey?) Now in mid-July its long green bean-like seed pods are just starting to grow. The catalpa’s circumference is eleven feet around. When the furnace guy was here last fall, he spent some time admiring it. “You just usually don’t see catalpas that are that big,” he told us. It turns out he is a chain saw wood carver and catalpa wood is his favorite wood to use for his hobby. Near the catalpa is the original well for the house. There used to be a tall hand pump on the well and I remember Aunt Mary showing me how to get water from it. It’s well down on the priority list, but we’d both like to find another old hand pump for it.

The large maple on the other side of the house is at the top of the slope going to the back yard. Its limbs stretch out over the roof of the garage bedroom. We’ve contemplated taking it down to put a real garage there. Of all the trees, it is most likely to fall down the hill and spare the house. But it still has some mighty big limbs over the roof.

The oak tree next to it could have been the stateliest tree in the yard, but it had the bad fate to be too close to the electric wires. The electric company has done their pruning on it, and it will never be the beautiful oak it should be. (That is, the entire middle of the tree is gone!) It does have one lovely horizontal limb though, which is perfect for a swing… Olivia and Olivier love it, and so do we!

The maple tree in the middle of the gazebo has its own special history. It was a big tree when I was a little girl. The tree is close to the road and provided the perfect shade for bushels of apples for sale. Pa built a hexagonal set of bleachers for the apples around the tree, then roof joists were nailed to the tree about twelve feet up. People just pulled into the yard to buy apples, and Aunt Mary would hurry out of her country kitchen in her full apron to take their money and help pour the apples into sacks. The biggest and best apples were on the top bleachers. We would run up and down the levels and around through the baskets. Pa hardly ever yelled at us. He was the only one who had nicknames for us — we were Cee, Dee, and Fancy. The most he ever said to correct me was, “Now Cee…”

Joe and Clara enclosed it in the seventies and called it the Gazebo. I think it must have stunted the tree’s growth, because what was a big tree fifty years ago, is still just a big tree. It is locally famous though. When we tell people where we live, they say, “Oh, is that the place with the tree growing out of the garage?” Makes it difficult to park cars inside…

The roof and joists need repairing; if anyone has any great ideas for a building with a giant tree in the middle, don’t keep it to yourself!


I love these tall trees — they give us shade, keep us cool, bring the birds and their songs — but I gotta say that the winds on this ridge make me nervous…