There’s an old farmhouse down a winding road. I can see it plainly—white with green gables, just like in the story of Anne. Past the house runs a dirt driveway that splits at the elm tree and goes all the way back to the tin-covered barn.
To the right of the house is an orchard of old, twisted apple trees that are perfect for climbing. There are lilacs and blossoms, fragrant in spring. Surrounding the house is a big yard—cherishing, protecting—where childhood unfolds, safe in its embrace. Beyond the yard are vast, green fields that reach to forever, and thick forests of mystery entice us to wander.
We’re two little girls in pigtails and ponytails, bare feet and denim, with lace on our sleeves. Through endless days of soft summer breezes, we explore our paradise together. Stepping through hayfields and sweet-smelling clover, gathering bouquets of daisies ... Riding through woodlands of sundrops and shadows: galloping, spirited, innocent, hopeful, free as the wind.
Far back in the field, hidden from view, is a grove of maples … haunting; intriguing. Just like an enchanted garden, it’s guarded by a thicket and brimming with wildflowers; and its cool depths call us to come and explore. Two little adventurers, without hesitation, go into the heart of a wonderland. We find heroes and villains and fairy tale castles in this secret hideaway, our Promised Land.
Little girls in swimsuits and flip-flops, we skip along the road with our faithful dog at our side. Over a gate and through a pasture, we hurry down into a ravine where a rambling brook of frigid water ripples and sparkles in the light. Splashing, swimming; lots of laughter. Then shivering, dripping, we warm up in the sun. Dragonflies; butterflies; skippers; minnows ... Peaceful satisfaction. They’re long afternoons of simple pleasures and daydreams by pools in the Garden of Eden.
Afternoon sunshine, and we’re off catching frogs at the pond down Gillespie Lane. With rolled up pantlegs, we wade out into murky water. Little splashes signal the scurry of creatures. Mud squishes between our toes. We've got smudges and creases; dirty faces and tangled hair ... what does it matter? We're lost in a world without time. Then come the kisses of raindrops, and dark clouds threaten. With the rumble of thunder, we’re hurrying home. Flashes of lightning on blackening skies, and we dance in the downpour, carefree in the storm.
There’s an old farmhouse down a winding road. I can hear it plainly, calling me back to sunny days and dusty lanes, to gardens of make believe and little girl dreams. Ice castles; bicycles; fairy dust trails; sneakers and hairbands; daisy tiaras … Come back with me, Sister, to those hayfields at sunset; to the pond and the forests and the songs on the wind.
Copyright © 2022 Sandra Grace
The tomate had an interesting flavour, I admitted to myself as I swallowed the last bite; but it didn’t taste much like any tomato I’d ever eaten. So, I looked it up online, just to see what I might find. Turns out, you’re supposed to cut it in half, scoop out the flesh, and add a little sugar. Huh. Well, that might have made it tastier. I should start checking into these things beforehand.
I scanned the article further in case there was anything else I should know. Yadda, yadda, yadda … Then my eyes alighted on the words, Don’t eat the skin.
I did a double take. What? Why not? I’d chomped right through it. Yikes! I was beginning to have some doubts about the culinaries of Costa Rica.
Continuing my search more urgently, I typed in the question, “Is it safe to eat the skin of tomate de árbol?” and I landed upon a conversation about this curious little fruit. The skin is poisonous. Don’t eat it. A lady had written. The words jumped at me, reached up, and grabbed me round the throat.
There wasn’t a thing I could do. I had no way to get anywhere, no one to call. I was too far from everything to walk for help. They’d find me, eventually, slumped over my dinnerplate. If it’s your time, you’re done! Face your fate, Sandra. Bold wisdom from my conscience, but where was she before I ate the apple of death?
Get a grip! I commanded myself. Maybe they’re not lethal. Find out what to do. I went back to my screen and made myself focus on the next line of the entry. There were several laughy faces followed by someone else’s comment, Where did you hear that? They’re not poisonous! They just taste bad.
I blinked at the words. That’s it? They just taste bad?! ... TASTE BAD? Forget poisoning, that little falsity had near given me a heart attack! I closed up the bag and put the rest of the “tomatoes” away. No more tomate de árbol for me! Uh-uh! Nope!
I messaged my host just to be sure I finally had my facts straight. He was unconcerned and said he didn’t think they would even make me sick.
Okay, so maybe I won’t die today. But check back with me tomorrow to make sure I’m still here.
From Wings in the Storm
Copyright © 2021
(photos by Sandra Grace)
Anyone who’s been within earshot of a Nova Scotia pond on a late May evening knows better than to describe the sounds heard as frogs croaking. Though these little green amphibians may grunt and grumble while lazing in the water alone on a warm afternoon, when evening falls and they come together around the shores and among the reeds, they sing. The cool night air fills with sweet notes, sharp and clear: nature’s choir, heralding hope and new life — the songs of spring.
It comes with reluctance in the Maritimes, holding back; taunting; maybe shy. Then suddenly, spring breaks through, erupting in full colour. Deep scarlet adorns the red maples. There are rose pink crabapple blossoms, bright yellow forsythia, lilies, blue flags, and purple clusters of lilacs.
Enticed by rain showers and warmth from the sun, new leaves, tender and bright, peek out from their buds. Once satisfied that all is ready, they emerge quickly, as though making up for lost time. They clothe every shrub and tree in shades of rich green, lush and moist. The foliage becomes so thick — bulging — it’s as if the forests can’t contain its own, and all will burst, any minute, out of its bounds, into the fields and onto the roads.
Deep in the woodlands are more painted treasures: lady slippers; trilliums; lily of the valley; blue flags purple violets. And if you can find them, hidden in the cool, damp shadows are delicate blooms of sweetly fragrant mayflowers.
Never far from the woodlands are the beaches, and it’s here that time is forgotten. Bask in the sound of ocean waves, breaking on the shores. Hear the squawk of gulls overhead and the flap of a sail in the breeze. Breathe it in: the smell of salt air. Feel the grit between the toes and the warm sun that kisses the face.
Unheedingly, time advances. Too soon, the bright, yellow ball sinks, shimmering, into the horizon, the edge of the earth. Its rays sparkle like diamonds on the dancing ripples; they reach across the water, beckoning.
And there wells up within a longing to stay — to see and hear and feel and dream a little more — on the beaches … in the woodlands … in the fields and on the hills … just a little longer in the Maritimes.
Copyright © 2023 by Sandra Grace
It’s one of those beautiful afternoons as you pull into a parking spot just a few spaces from the door, pleased with the unexpected find. You hum to yourself as you hop out of your car cuz everything’s going just right, and you really are on your game.
You scuttle into the grocery store; pick up coffee, pasta, and brown sugar; then you head to the bulk foods section for one more thing. You grab a little plastic bag and a twist tie. (This is back in the good ’ol days when the bulk section had bulk food, and nobody minded that we all served ourselves from the bins.)
You sidle up to the almonds, and your mouth starts to water ... But, wait! What’s this? Stray almonds all over — in the tray beneath the dispenser and on the floor! And you think to yourself, Goodness, people are wasteful! What a shame!
You’re well experienced with this machine. You wrap your bag purposefully around the spout and hold tightly with one hand while you ease down the lever, ever so carefully, with the other. Not too fast, little almonds. And dozens of those delicious nuggets pad softly into your bag as they’re supposed to — not one escapes. You smile with satisfaction. This is how it’s done, people.
Once you have enough, you ease up on the lever to close off the flow. You take away the bag; you’re about to reach for the twist tie when …
Oh no! Oh, goodness! There’s tapping — still tapping! — and your head snaps back to the dreadful scene ...
Almonds unrestrained! Malfunction! What’s happening?
You jump into action, back in there to save them. You stuff your bag under the spout again, but your fingers are tripping all over themselves, and the bag just collapses while almonds shoot past, pinging off the tray, into your basket, and all over the floor! No, not on the floor!!
Then you see it: an almond, stuck way up in the chute! For pity’s sake, jammed in there like that, the valve can’t close!
You grab for the lever — you’ll fix this — and you give a good yank. Yet in your befuddlement, you err ... There’s a startling gush of almonds, unleashed! And with horror you realize you’ve brought the valve wide open!
A torrent ensues. Almonds fly at you, inside your coat, mounding up in your basket, pounding the floor. It’s madness! Oh, stop! MAKE IT STOP!
You just know by now everyone’s staring, but you don’t dare turn your head cuz you can’t let them see what a state you’re in: all flustered and sweating. You have to end this! End it now! You muster everything in you, and you shove that lever as hard as you can. This time it crunches and jolts … and finally goes all the way closed.
The deluge subsides.
Silence, at last.
The whole store has gone still.
Your hand remains on the lever. For a moment, you don’t move. Then your shoulders heave as you let out your breath. You survey the damage ...
Nope, it’s too far gone; there’s nothing you can do. You slink away with your overflowing almond bag and your violated shopping basket.
Well, you can’t just walk off and leave such a disaster. You square your shoulders and track down an unsuspecting employee. “Ah …, I’m so very sorry … There was a little trouble in the bulk foods section …” You give your sweetest smile. “Don’t bother with the dustpan,” you tell her helpfully. “You’re going to need a shovel … and the big garbage bin.”
Awkward moment where you stare at each other ... “Oh, and uh … You’re out of almonds.”
You hand her your basket and make your escape.
Copyright © by 2022 Sandra Grace