Halcyon Days

 

Halcyon Days: a state of pure happiness induced by hard physical labor in the pursuit of enhancing natural habitat, complete with the resulting physical exhaustion and wildlife encounters.

Synonym: a perfect day.

I know that if you look up the lore and definition of halcyon, it will not be exactly the same as my definition above. The previous owners named this property Halcyon because of a pair of kingfishers that live near the pond. We liked the name and adopted it, but since all relationships depend on the personality dynamics of those involved, Halcyon has shaped us as much as we have shaped it these past 16 years. It’s only natural that the definition of halcyon could change a bit.

golden ragwort

Twenty years ago, I didn’t know that I would do some of the work I do to help shape my home or property. A lot of this work is what most people have to do to manage a property: painting, mowing, house upkeep, gardening, fencing out deer, etc. Even when we bought the house I had no real understanding of the activities I would undertake to make Halcyon our home: gutting rooms down to the studs, cutting and placing tile, plastering, using a chainsaw to clear brush and cut firewood (once crawling on my stomach under a forsythia bush with my chainsaw to cut invasive mulberry at the base, and aware of how foolish this was), learning about and eating some wild edibles, and lots and lots of canning. Chris has undertaken much of the same in addition to plumbing, wiring, dam building and the ability to amass a huge pile of firewood in the amount of time that takes me days. I have chainsaw envy.

This relationship wasn’t always easy. In the early years, we were very busy and Halcyon benefited from our benign neglect and my do I have to mow all that? attitude. When we would walk the trails, which were getting narrower year by year, I would feel frustrated at all the work there was to do, all the times Chris would point out places we should clear. This frustration, and the slow steady creep of a host of invasive species: ailanthus, multi-flora rose, autumn olive, honeysuckle and more, was a huge part of my desire to leave teaching and focus on Halcyon. She needed me. I don’t think I grasped how much I needed her.

waterfall on Mouse Run

It still isn’t easy. I mean, I don’t sit on the couch and eat bon bons, but a good day is made all the better by the fact that it isn’t easy. Sweat, scratches, close-encounters with snakes (we let them be) and sore joints and muscles are not only a price we pay for our Halcyon Days, they are part of the process. I daresay there would be no bliss, no matter how enshrined in exhaustion, if someone else did this all for us and we just showed up as guests every day. For me at least, I have to be a part of the process.

view of the Mouse Run from our bench

There have been almost daily discoveries, mostly of native trees. We have been rescuing some favorites from honeysuckle and other crowding. I call these dates with Chris, Operation Redbud Rescue or Operation Sassafras Patch. Just a few days ago we had a really rich Halcyon Day: We rescued sassafras trees and found many maples and baby sassafras. We cleared around a milkweed patch so they had more room to grow. We found and watched 5 fledgling Carolina wrens in the wood shed (they are so cute!), found a patch of wild phlox, and saw an indigo bunting at the bird feeder. All of this makes for a great day, but Halcyon wasn’t done with us yet. Before dinner we made a cocktail and took our tired bodies to the stream to enjoy the view of the waterfall – talking about what else we want to clear no longer frustrates me, it excites me – when I noticed a GIANT morel! It was almost 8 inches long and wide! I have never seen one so big. There were enough others nearby for two dinners and I am drying a few. Ah, Halcyon Days!

monster morel
morels

Each morning as my joints are slow to join me in greeting the day, I have less of a to-do list in my head and more of a vision. This vision of Halcyon grounds me in these tenuous political times and gives me hope that nature will outlast us all. But it is not just the vision; it is the process, which I hope is never done, that grounds me. It also gets me, eventually, out the door to do it all over again.

shady wall garden

2 thoughts on “Halcyon Days”

  1. Hi Lisa I just read your post about the visitors then clicked on this post. I,m also a children’s book writer which is how I found your blog. I have posted before about how much I enjoy reading about Halcyon. Today I realized we have a lot in common. Our place is 15 acres in Texas. Most of it is in woods and we have a large pond. Our place is called Hog Heaven, partly because our kids raised hogs while in 4-H and they were treated so heavenly but mostly beccause it expressed the way we feel about it ( I hope you are familiar with the southern expression). Walking around the pond and watching birds (we also have a pair of kingfishers sometimes) is like salve on my tired mind. I am still teaching school, but online now, and its great being at home, but almost worse than brick and mortar school because I am so close, and yet so far, from my haven. We are slowly losing the fight against losing some trails and even a pasture close to the house, but some changes coming soon will hopefully allow us more time to work. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you I enjoy your posts and your beautiful descriptions of Halcyon and the photos you share.

    Like

  2. Hi Angela, I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. It went to my spam box for some reason. Thank you for sharing your love of your land and I hope that you and your family can continue to enjoy your haven for years to come despite some encroachment. We live with risk of someone building on the land opposite the pond or the piece parallel to our driveway. Both would be sad, but we are blessed to have what we have.

    I love your phrase: a salve on my tired mind. That describes what Halcyon is to us perfectly too!

    Thank you for reading my blog. I quit teaching five years ago and am now writing children’s books. I have one coming out from Arbordale Publishing in Spring 2018 called Oliver’s Otter Phase. It’s a picture book. Just in case there are any little ones in your life.

    Thanks for your lovely comments.
    Lisa

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