Monday, March 30, 2020

Spring in Empire ~ my column from Sunday's paper

On Tuesday, we got a short reprieve from the rain, and when I walked down to check on the bees, things looked different down toward the barn. The green leaves of the tulip poplar trees made the sky seem even bluer. Springtime has arrived here in Empire.

That evening, we sat on the sofa watching the weather people chattering about storms coming out of Mississippi. We stayed up past our bedtime watching, but the weather gods must have gotten bored because the storms moved off to the east.

This morning as we drank coffee, a ruby-throated hummingbird zipped, dipped, and sipped sugar water from the feeders.

Later, when I stepped down to get the morning paper, I noticed that the dogwoods in our yard had decided to make their debut. The blossoms looked as if they’d been carved from bone. The buds had been on the cusp for days...taunting us. Na Na Na Boo Boo. But then, today, they unfolded. This is how I know it’s spring.

It was the dogwoods that made me fall in love with this farm 50 years ago. I’d heard that the owner wanted to sell seven acres with an old house and a barn.

We were broker than the 10 Commandments back then, but when I told Jilda about it, she agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to look.

We parked the old Plymouth Valiant on the edge of the main road (if you could call it that) and walked to two hundred yards down the barn road. It was about this time of year. The redbud, wild honeysuckles, buckeye bushes, and the dogwoods were in bloom. It smelled like heaven in the hollow.

I’m not sure how long it took us to walk those two hundred yards, but neither of us said much though we did gasp a great deal. Just before we got to the barn, a covey of quail exploded in front of us. I almost had a hygiene issue right there. Jilda and I laughed so hard we had to sit on an old log and catch our breath.

By the time we returned to the car, we both knew that somehow, someway this place would be ours. I knew in my heart that we’d found a place that one day we’d call home.

It wasn’t a Hallmark moment, because it took time. Jilda’s dad was still working, and no one could pinch a dollar like he could. But, he knew the value of land. When Jilda and I rode with him back up to the farm, it was an easy decision for him and Ruby to buy the property.

I think he would have deeded the property to us that day, but he still wasn’t totally convinced that Jilda and I would stay together. I’m sure he believed we still had some growing up to do.

Later, when I’d proved my worth, they deeded us the land. It was a gift that we will never be able to repay.

I thought about that this morning when I realized the dogwoods were blooming.

Walking around the tree, I searched for the perfect angle. The sun was just rising over the eastern horizon and doing what it does best in the morning – which is to show us that life is a circle going round and round.

Even during the darkest times, springtime comes, the sun rises, and the dogwoods bloom.


  1. A precious gift indeed - and memories to go with it.

  2. There really is no place like home, and you expressed it so perfectly. I want to be the one to present you with your Pulitzer. When I came to Jacksonville almost 11 years ago to look for a house, my son told me not to bother with a realtor. He said, Let's just get in the car and drive around to find a house.

    That is what we did. When we walked into the house where I now sit with my beloved dogs and my numerous books, we nodded at each other in the foyer. We had found my home.


    1. I’m flattered by your kind words. I’ve known people who bought places because it was in the right area or the price was right. But I think when you find your home, you feel it.

  3. What a lovely story about your beautiful farm and what a lovely farm it is. Dogwoods are my favorite spring tree. They haven't quite bloomed yet but man when they do its so amazingly incredible. They never get old for me.

  4. That is a gift that could not be topped, a piece of Heaven!

  5. When it's meant to be somehow it happens. Your home sounds like the garden of eden and I know from your blog that you and Jilda have improved it, tended to the upkeep, shared the bounty harvest with family and friends and played your music in the air. I felt uplifted by this post and hopeful that Spring will find us up North and somehow we'll get through these weird days and enjoy the season. Take care and stay safe

  6. What a lovely memory to cherish. Your father in law had a good idea that you 2 would stay together otherwise he would have never bought the place in the first place. He knew you could not afford it right that moment so he waited until you both could afford it.

  7. Thanks for the history! Your presence there was a thing of destiny. I miss those blooms.

  8. Yes, Thanks for the STORY. A memory well expressed. Also a tribute to Jilda's parents. This made a great column. You guys have made those parents proud over the years I am sure. Good stuff and a great subject.
    Sherry & jack

  9. this spring is needed more than ever. As we go through dark times, It's important to have hope renewed.


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