Szymanski: Autumn blessings from family and friends

Szymanski: Autumn blessings from family and friends
Grandson Matthew jumps in to help with the tall weeds. (Lois Szymanski)

This week has been a reminder that good family and friends are among the biggest blessings in life. When love brings everyone together to help the cause of one family member, you know that all is right with the world. I am feeling grateful.

Cool weather has finally arrived, a feast for the senses — with reds and golds, the smell of apples and spices, leaves on the wind and breezes that light on your face, billowing your hair. After all those long, sunny days, with too much rain sprinkled in, earlier sunsets are here. Those long shadows and that chill on the air fill me with a sense of urgency. There is so much to do before winter comes. I’m trying to get a new pasture cleared and fenced for the ponies, but there always seems to be some stumbling block.


I’ve purchased the fencing and fenceposts, but commitments away from home, sickness, and rain that always seems to come on the only available work days … these things are like roadblocks, stopping me in my tracks. Then, just like magic, in steps my husband, my grandson, my granddaughters and even a friend who is much like family with a post hole digger on his tractor.

While I am at an event way down the road in Gambrills, selling books for a fundraiser for the Maryland Therapeutic Riding program, my grandson and my husband rent a tall weed trimmer from Ben’s Rental. With this bush hog my grandson cuts down all the weeds in the field. Any kind of tool with wheels and a motor makes Matthew happy and he was ready to jump in. At the same time he’s clearing brush that’s over his head, my husband is using a chain saw to cut down the seedling trees scattered among the pokeberry bushes, the wild roses and sticker bushes galore. He trims dead limbs from the trees bordering the pasture and hammers stakes in to mark where the fenceposts should be planted.

When I arrive home from the fundraiser, I am surprised to be able to see all the way to the back of the new field. Dan and I set to work clearing the piles of brush the next day. Just over being sick, I am slow and achy, but I push on, because these ponies mean so much to me and I want them to have more room to run.

The cool air makes the work easier, but it also reminds me that dreaded winter is just around the corner. My miniature horses, Georgie and Hazel, are already thick with fuzz and that makes me think we may have a cold one coming. The trees are shedding leaves and birds are feeding together in bigger flocks. I don’t like that. So, I focus on the beauty of this October day instead of what’s to come.

Author John Donne once wrote, “No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace, as I have seen in one autumnal face.” It is true. Something about the pumpkins lined on porch steps, billowing gray clouds and colored leaves floating down … is magical. I still love summer best, but I can’t deny the magic, and that keeps me going. Slowly, we work, but at the end of the day, there are still sticks and logs and piles of brush scattered throughout the field.

The next day, my granddaughters come for the morning and early afternoon. They play with the ponies while Dan and I hit the field again. Then, they decide they want to help us. They are only 7 and 9 years old, but they set to work, dragging brush to the pile and stacking logs on the side. Watching them makes me smile, and it makes me count my blessings once more.

At feed time, I gaze across the field. The pile of brush we need to haul away has tripled in size. The girls have gone home, so I have time to reflect. The pasture is bathed in an orange glow as the sun sinks into trees. It makes me think of an Annie Dillard quote – “When light spreads over the pastures like wings, and fans a secret color into everything, and beats the trees senseless with beauty, so that you can’t tell whether the beauty is in the trees — dazzling in cells like yellow sparks or green flashing waters — or on them …” that is when we drink in the beauty of autumn.

At the Thursday night Lions Club meeting, our friend, Chuck tells me he is bringing his tractor to dig fence post hauls for me. It’s the barter system, he says with a smile. Dan fixed his brother-in-law’s light pole and wouldn’t take payment, so he is going to dig my fence poles. When I was a teen on Sidling Hill Mountain on the other side of Hancock, I saw a lot of this kind of thing. At butchering time, we went from farm to farm to help each other. We all brought yummy dishes to share for lunch and worked together throughout the day to grind and wrap meat. Each weekend was spent at another neighbor’s farm. The barter system is almost a lost art and that is sad, because most of those barters came with loving hearts attached.

The fence is not completely up yet, but the pasture has been cleared and the fence posts are in the ground. All of this came together while I was under the weather. I know that I could never have done it alone. It happened because of family and friends. It happened because of love. And that is what we should be all about.

Norwegian politician Jens Stoltenberg expressed it best in this writing: “When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are the expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.”

On my Facebook page I frequently post #blessings. There is a reason for that. It seems blessings are more abundant when we work together with loving hearts. I pray daily that our nation will begin to come together in this same way that good family and friends do, with realization that takes our breath away and change that is swift and good.