It’s an annual tradition for me to gather cut flowers the day before the first frost and make a couple last flower arrangements for the season. I enjoy this ritual immensely. It is really the only time I cut marigolds as they are laborious to arrange and they look so great in my flower beds that I don’t want to sacrifice any blooms until frost is imminent. Because of the urgency of this pre-frost task, I have been known often to pick the flowers by flashlight because I have been too busy to pick them earlier. First frost never seems to come at a convenient time. Now, I could just let things go. After all, I’ve enjoyed the flowers all summer. But I simply can’t stand doing that when I can have at least one more beautiful bouquet.
Delayed frost this year
This year here in Connecticut has been an unusual one. Twice the weatherpersons predicted frosts and I went out and gathered flowers and arranged them. But the anticipated frosts did not come. The second time we had a little frost on the cars but still none on my flowers. So I had beds and pots of gorgeous flowers all through October. Not until this past week, on the third warning, after my third set of pre-frost flower arrangements did it finally frost. Thursday, November 9 marks the latest first frost I remember. Attached are pictures of all three sets of night-before-frost flower arrangements. By the third one, the zinnias were no longer available but I decided to try a miniature arrangement of verbena, lobelia and Dara carrot. It goes so well with my wife’s fall décor. My grandmother, Jessie Isaman, used to make miniature arrangements. I thought of her.
A reminder of the urgency of doing good
Picking flowers before frost speaks to me of the urgency of getting some special things done before….. For people of my generation, several life events from the autumn of life could go in that blank. “Frost” could be semi-retirement or full retirement. It might be ill health which brings disability preventing us from doing what we had planned. It could be the illness of a loved one. It could be financial loss or an unplanned or a necessary move. And “frost” ultimately might stand for our passing on to face our accountability before God (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 9:27).
When I was still in full time ministry, there were some things I wanted to accomplish before I retired but I don’t think I felt sufficient urgency. Hopefully I’ve learned from that and in my current part-time ministry, when I think of some key goals I almost nourish a sense that time is too short before “frost” arrives. “Frost” in this case could be just the end of my current assignment or it might mean full retirement, but whatever it is, time always seems shorter than one thinks. “Frost” will arrive before we are ready.
Make the most of time before “frost”
So before “frost” comes, whatever it may be, I want to pick some more blooms and arrange them well in my life. What I mean is I want to live productively. I want to take good advantage of the time God gives. The Bible exhorts us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16); and I believe that God has a purpose for every day (Eph. 2:10). So I’ll use my urgent gathering of flowers before yearly first frost to help me to have a healthy sense of urgency about doing the good deeds I need to do. I could procrastinate but … it may frost! I’d rather see the beauty of a few more bouquets.
Before the first frost warning
My zinnias were at their peak. The dara carrot looks great. My late shasta daisys work well too. The black and green vase was Grandma's. She had great taste for that kind of thing.
Before the second frost warning
Second chance. Lots of marigolds still as the late rains helped them.
A miniature bouquet before the third frost warning
I saved some little flowers for this one that I had not used before- lobelia, dara carrot and verbena. One of the joys of all flower arranging is learning to use what nature provides. My grandmother, Jessie Isaman, used to make miniature arrangements. I thought of her.
I just love marigolds
One last marigold bouquet. I used some sweet potato vine for filler along with the licorice plant which grow abundantly in my tower pots. I used the shrub out front and the seed stalks of the Japanese Iris for straight pieces.
A pre-frost bouquet from 2016
The ultimate goal of bouquets is to fit well and beautify the place where you place them. Here I am enjoying a cup of tea in my big chair along side my reading table with its cheery bouquet even though the flowers outside have frosted.
One from 2015
This one includes some mums in one of the vases I inherited from my Grandmother Isaman. The family flower arranging tradition stems (pardon the pun) from her.
Last night was the first frost here in West Granby. So for me it was time for my annual tradition, going out and cutting armfuls of flowers for season-end bouquets. I especially associate this tradition with picking marigolds as they are not the easiest to arrange and they look better in the garden, that is, until you know they won’t be there anymore tomorrow. So I usually don’t pick them til frost threatens. So late yesterday afternoon I gathered bunches of the marigolds that my sister-in-law, Chris, had given me to grow and sat down at the table to arrange them in multiple vases. For me it’s a lot of fun as I put into practice the family knack for flower arranging that came down to me from my mother, Dorothy Jones, and my grandmother, Jessie Isaman. Here are this year’s results. All the bouquets this year are all-sided bouquets. The first bouquet, the largest, decorates the dining room table. It happily matches my wife’s fall colors. The second sits at her computer desk to cheer her spot. The third is on my chair side table along side my Bible, devotional book and notepad. There are full size marigolds and two colors of smaller ones along with a very hardy daisy type plant that blooms very late. Greenery is form a licorice plant and some shrubbery that grows out front that I have to trim anyway.
I haven’t played golf in a couple years. But I was invited to go out today to Casolwood in Canastota with Mark Boswell, Shaun Harrington and Peter Moon. It was great friendship and many laughs from the start. We played eighteen holes of captain and crew and came in at three under par. It was overcast but dry and warm with temperatures in the low sixties, a great fall day. The course was in good shape for late fall. I took advantage of my age and played from the Sr. tees. Pete hit some monster drives. Mark used his experience to make the calls as to which shot to play. Shaun saved his best shots for the last holes, saving us from golf disaster several times. I stayed with my three-wood most of the afternoon since I have played so little. But on the 17th hole, Pete tempted me into finally getting out the driver. He had hit a great drive and I knew that in order to better it, I had to move up from the three-wood to the driver. So I did and successfully outdrove him, surprising none more than myself. I ended on eighteen with another picturesque driver shot – one of my best ever. Whenever I play golf, I always remember the advice of my friend Bryce Tuttle, former owner of Skyridge Golf Course. He used to say, “Golf is a believer’s game.” Pete, however, said that he has to dream it. Then he can make the shot. Well, sometimes he did and sometimes… but that’s golf. The outdoor air, the few good shots you make and the great company keep you coming back.
JoAnne and I love walking at Green Lakes. It’s good exercise, it’s calming to the spirit, and there is just something about nature that invigorates. I think God made it that way. If we are walking together, we can talk over things. If she has gone on ahead to conquer more territory, I often pray as I walk. I enjoy greeting the other people walking and occasionally, I’m privileged to pet a dog or two as well.
Lots of animals and birds to see
We have observed all kinds of creatures while walking; deer are regulars—four at once on this walk. As a bird-watcher I’ve observed many birds there too—owls, pileated woodpeckers, a pheasant, wild turkey, crows, ravens, vultures, geese, to name the bigger birds. Probably the rarest ones for this area that I’ve seen were an orchard oriole and a fox sparrow. This past summer I was overjoyed to spot a scarlet tanager in full color.
Fall pictures on the path by Round Lake
Speaking of full color, fall is such a gorgeous time to walk in the falling leaves. Here are some pictures I snapped with my old Kodak digital. It has such blue blues.
Thanksgiving Sunday is a significant milestone in the landscape of the year for me. In my first church it was often designated as friend Sunday and it was a time of great celebration. At Community Wesleyan Church is has always been the time for our Thanksgiving dinner, a time when the family of God gathers for one of the biggest social events of our year.
It is usually also a time of significant ministry for our church. It marks the end of the Thanksgiving message series; it is the day for handing out Thanksgiving dinners to those in need; and on it we enjoy the first contribution of the season from one of our special performing groups. In addition, in the evening, for many years, I and others have been a part of the ecumenical Chittenango area Thanksgiving service. This event is a unique sacrifice of praise that adds a glow to the season. The glow comes from the smooth cooperation of almost all the Christian churches in the Chittenango area joining together in praise to God as well as from the privilege of being a participant both as clergy and as a singer in the mass choir.
In our culture this is a week of seasonal change too. Hunting season starts. Often the first significant snows fall. In the stores, Black Friday is this week; by next Sunday everyone will be thinking about Christmas shopping.
Liturgical year end
Liturgically, too, Thanksgiving Sunday is usually the last Sunday of the church year—not the fiscal year but the liturgical year. In most years, the following Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the new liturgical year. While our church does not formally follow a liturgical year, I have always observed Advent, so this change is always noted with a change of décor, the use of the advent wreath, and the beginning of a new message series.
Outside, my attention turns from gardening to wood for the fireplace stove insert. My father always said, “Wood should warm you twice; once when you gather it and once when you burn it.” So I try never to work on wood for the fireplace insert until it’s cold outside so that it has a chance to warm me when I do the work, even it if it’s only gathering and cutting kindling from what has fallen from the maple trees in the yard.
I love Thanksgiving Sunday
As I was reflecting on all this, I decided that the events of Thanksgiving Sunday have become important to me as a marker in my own calendar of the year. They help me mark the changeover of the seasons. Thanksgiving Sunday for me has become a very important transition point from fall into Christmas. Celebrating on this day is important to me.
It was a frosty beginning to beautiful bright clear fall morning today. The leaves on the red maples are just past peak and falling fast in response to the cold. This is the first frost and is one of the latest first frosts I ever remember. Seems like I remember when we first moved here 20 years ago covering tomatoes in late August because of danger of frost. Anyway, now the fall work of cleaning up the garden can begin in earnest.
I was reminded that it is September by the scene in my backyard this morning. A migrating flock of robins was busy feeding on the lawn. Many were young robins. An occasional starling was mixed in the flock. Farther in back of the house is the sweet-corn field, recently disked in. It holds numerous flocks of geese this morning picking up a good breakfast.
Fall is a great time for family fun. On our recent two day trip to Keely’s and Mark’s house, we took time for a couple typical fall activities. The most fun one was a big surprise to me. I thought I was just going along but ended up really enjoying it. Life often works that way doesn’t it. It’s one of the reasons God gives us friends and family to push us a little out of our ruts.
Back to the story—we went through a huge corn maze. And we had the pick of days for it too – a sunny fall beauty in the Connecticut countryside with autumn colored roadside hedges, pumpkin fields and grazing cattle. Looking at the map of the field, however, I just knew they used modern technology to cut it. Inquiring, I found out I was correct; a GPS was used to mark the cuts. I never did find out exactly what the paths were originally cut with, though I confirmed my observations that they were cut some time before so that they could be made smoother. In this maze were hidden posts that we needed to find. Doing a crayon rubbing of the emblem on the top of the post proved that you found it. This made it more of a puzzle as you found yourself guessing where they would have hidden the thematic posts; traversing unlikely parts of the maze; and generally getting about twice as much exercise as you had planned–which is probably a good thing.
We also went apple picking. The trees were the new size – only about twice as tall as I am so most of the branches I could reach. I knew I would love that and the rest of the crew had to drag me away before I filled the car and spent too much money. Orchard-ripe Mac’s are just too good. Keely, Mark and JoAnne were happy to pick a half a bag apiece. But I filled three and…well, I might still be there if JoAnne hadn’t warned me that I didn’t have that much money.
I’m always encouraging couples and families to find activities to do together besides watching movies or TV; activities that prompt conversations and laughter, that create memories to cherish and talk about later. Such times help to bond us together in loving families. Apple picking and solving corn mazes together are two are great examples I can personally recommend.