Summertime Gatherings for The Mantle

Half past five they flew in by instinct and divine assignment. They eyed our open windows and perched on silver maple, Bradford pear, pine, and redbud branches.
They gathered above the blessed, cool dew following a heat wave—sang me awake with their Ode to Joy as songbirds are designed to do.
“This is the day the Lord has made,” they declared. “We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Indeed, these creatures praised a remarkable morning, a day of another gathering long anticipated in our household. Since April’s thaw, our birds have observed where my husband and I have walked, the labor of our hearts and hands to plant food, prune lavender, and groom flower gardens in good time for the Seventh of July.
Our robins, wrens, and bluebirds sensed we grew something special, but being birds, they couldn’t see the celebration we planned. Rather, they fussed when we disturbed their nests and tidied their messes.
In their innocence, they forgave our trespasses and sang until they could sing no more. Scattered chirps from those who must have the last note surrendered to dawn—the open gate to a meeting of old and new friends to witness a dream come true: the release of my first novel.
High noon our guests drove in, and by everyone’s observation, strolled down the hill under the most pleasant sky of summertime. Good reason for Michiganders to roam and make new acquaintances.

I rang the dinner bell under the shelter of the pavilion and welcomed one and all to our tables. Without meddling and mishap, the birds serenaded us in those glorious hours of fellowship and sustenance. Their wings fanned the air above my head as I read about the writing process, the faith required to develop, complete, and bind a book.
Robins sang outside our former gift shop windows where The Mantle waited in stacks upon our repurposed dining room table. The Englander Triangle purchase of forty years ago served perfectly the auspicious occasion of signing books.
To order The Mantle, please mail a $33 check
payable to Iris Lee Underwood to PO Box 61
Lakeville, MI 48366 
Joyce Harlukowicz, retired Imlay City public school educator and artist of The Mantle’s illustrations, sat by my side. In a condition of awe and gratitude, we penned our names on the title page for our guests.
At five the barn wood tables and benches sat silent in the afterglow of gentle laughter and conversation. Slanting sunlight infused the blue canning jars filled with flowers and ferns.
I collected the twenty-two bouquets I had arranged with a volunteer who called in May to learn about growing lavender. Like our birds, she’s nested here, drives in one day a week to work where needed.
Huddled on my potting table, the mass of daisies, calendula, and larkspur held my breath with their beauty. How could I pitch them into the compost bin when they showed no sign of wilting?
With regret, dear Reader. But before I did, I shot my only photo of the day’s gatherings, a proverb hung on the wall above.
“It’s a wonderful life,” the birds sang at sundown.

Click here for an interview with Weam Namou, Vice President of Detroit Working Writers

Click here for a video taken by guest Laura Verhaeghe: