The seasons remind us of this truth every year in their cycle of change when our expectations of spring, summer, winter, and fall are not disappointed. Budding flowers give way to lush growth in warm breezes which, in turn – do turn, to golden brilliance before fading to brown as the harbinger of cold and snows on the ground. All things in Creation continue on their merry course as set in motion by God’s command. The surety of the seasons – nothing new under the sun – have comforted mankind through the ages; though, not without each arriving in its time with unique and mysterious aspects to keep things interesting.
Perhaps that is what our friend, Squirrel Nutkin was considering when he looked out from his perch on this particular Autumn day . . .
High on the branch of a walnut-tree
A bright-eyed squir-rel sat.
What was he thinking so earnestly?
And what was he look-ing at?
He sat so still on the swaying bough
You might have thought him asleep
Oh, no; he was trying to reckon now
The nuts that he might could eat.
Then suddenly he frisked about,
And down the tree he ran.
“The best way to do, without a doubt,
Is to gather all I can.”
Annie Douglas Bell
And, THAT was about the time he noticed Cecily making tea through the cottage window below. Not just tea, mind you – tea and treats!
In a trice Nutkin’s savvy nose twitched with recognition at the scent wafting through the open crack in the window. This particular October morning was rather pleasant, inviting cottage dwellers to air out their homes before the much cooler temperatures of late fall bid them shuttered against the chill. Nutkin breathed the sumptuous scent in, and exhaled with delight, inspired with a plan.
PUMPKIN DOLLOPS! Cecily had made Pumpkin Dollops this morning and everyone knows a teatime with such a wonder is not to be taken alone.
“I shall take tea and treats with Cecily this morning!” thought Nutkin. “She will be glad of my company, I daresay.”
So, scurrying down the tree and scaling the window ledge where it was open just enough to welcome guests his size, Nutkin found himself in the cozy surrounds of Cecily’s kitchen – and spotted his prey right away!
It was as though Cecily had been expecting him. There they were – literally a cupful of Pumpkin Dollops piled high, filling a rather appropriate Johnson Brothers HARVEST TIME teacup, sitting regally on its matching saucer.
Cecily was distracted with the tea water, but Buddy Bantam, who was perched on a shelf above, watching all, began to cluck and tick when Nutkin cunningly tiptoed over to the dollops for a closer look.
And, of course, he would HAVE to taste them to see if they were as good as they smelled.
He was not disappointed.
However, Cecily was – when, alerted by Buddy Bantam’s sharp squawking, she turned to see her display of fresh Pumpkin Dollops had been unceremoniously accosted with a BITE from the center of the pile.
“Now, how could that have happened?” she wondered aloud. Here was a mystery that must be solved! Cecily had her own plans for those dollops and they did NOT include felonious intruders nibbling on the fruit of her labors!
Nutkin hid close to the Brown Betty Teapot that had been a gift to Cecily from one of her dear friends at Christmas one year.
She always took tea from it in Autumn as its deep brown hue was a perfect match to every fall themed teacup she owned. And – it made the most perfectly steeped tea! The history of its manufacture and design gave it added value in her collection.
To be sure, one of her dollops was decidedly bit into. She was sure that she had not done it. Her pet bantam was far too well mannered. So, who did? This required her best sleuthing efforts!
She was suddenly startled to distress as Buddy Bantam flapped his tiny wings and nodded towards Nutkin huddled by the Brown Betty.
“Alright!” Cecily commanded. “Show yourself! I know you are here . . .”
Nutkin slinked back against the teapot, blending in with the color, and giggled to himself. He could barely contain his delight in alarming his hostess. What a good joke!
“There you are, you thief!” Cecily saw him at last. “You naughty squirrel! You’ve crashed my tea party!”
Nutkin laughed with that familiar cackle-cluck Cecily oft heard from the treetops. “I’m sorry, Miss Cecily,” he said, composing himself in repentance, “but, when I caught a whiff of your Pumpkin Dollops . . . well . . . I couldn’t resist.”
Truly, what else might she expect from her frilly tailed friend. Such behavior was nothing new under the sun for him. Nutkin always needed an extra portion of GRACE to under-gird him in his frailties and fondness for sweet treats. So, Cecily, always open to compliments about her culinary masterpieces, smiled warmly and shook her head. “Silly squirrel. I made them FOR YOU! I hoped you’d like them. Tea is served!”
Nutkin’s tail twitched and he leaped around, closer to his gracious tea lady. “Oh! Thank you!” he cried. “And, might I inform you that – the Pumpkin Dollops are delicious! However did you do it?”
Cecily raised her chin and pursed her lips knowingly. “Ah! No mystery there, my friend. Simplest thing in the world!” she said. “They take no time at all.”
And, to be true – Pumpkin Dollops ARE the simplest thing in the world that can be prepared quicker than you can say ‘Squirrel Nutkin’!
1 box spice cake mix
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
1/2 cup raisins or cranberries
Mix all ingredients together and “dollop” a spoonful into two greased 24 cup mini muffin tins. Place in a 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes – remove and cool a few minutes before placing them on wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen dollops. GLUTEN FREE: Use 1 package of Bob’s Red Mill Vanilla Cake Mix and 2 heaping TBSP of pumpkin pie spice – mix well and add the pumpkin and raisins and bake the same as above.
Cecily smiled. “But – I have a surprise for you, Nutkin. Just look at how I love to serve them!”
She presented Nutkin with a plate boasting two dollops that had been cut through the center and garnished with fruit inside. One was Polaner All Fruit Blueberry, and the other was a Pumpkin Butter spread she had bought that week from the local Farmer’s Market. Nutkin was delighted!
“Happiest of harvest blessings to you, my friend.” Cecily offered Nutkin his choice of the blueberry or pumpkin stuffed dollop.
Nutkin, true to form, took a bite from each. Cecily shook her head relinquishing herself to Nutkin’s table manners.
Nothing new here. He was a squirrel, after all.
I was inspired with this little story by the Annie Douglas Bell poem, found in a public school textbook from 1895 that was used in literature classes.
It is called, Nature in Verse: A Poetry Reader for Children, compiled by a 19th century educator named Mary I. Lovejoy. In the preface of the book, Miss Lovejoy writes a little verse of her own:
Speak to the children, Little Book,
And bring to them happy hours;
Teach them to find in every verse
God’s message in the flowers,
His loving care of beast and bird,
His wonders in the deep,
His patience in His perfect work,
His care o’er all who sleep;
And learn from all His teachings true
How much a little child can do.
She explains her purpose in compiling this book, intended for school use, with poetic verses by various American and English authors, separated into the subjects of the four seasons, is to “arouse and cultivate the habit of observation . . . and impress the facts thus acquired upon the mind and memory. What more delightful medium than verse for transmitting the beauties of nature to the awakened perceptions of childhood?”
She sums up her Preface comments and acknowledgements thus:
“That the book into which so much good thought has been incorporated may awaken in children a true love of the beautiful in nature, and a reverence for its Creator, is the earnest desire of the compiler.”
There may have been “nothing new under the sun” in relation to our Nutkin and his mischievous behavior true to his nature, but I fear there are a great many “new” things circulating in the manner and behaviors of our current world and its ways – as these comments from public school educators of the past bear witness. Our dear Miss Lovejoy’s work would never be considered appropriate for training the minds of children in the 21st century by government schools – much to their shame.
Oh! To have sat in a class where literature and science were so gloriously interwoven! The ancient landmarks of academic education have been not only removed, but perverted, these 100 years later. But then, there have always been those worldly wise men – in every culture and era of time – who have sought to supplant nobler faith based ways for their own empty imaginations. Nothing new under the sun, indeed – and unfortunately, not always ending with Grace and an invitation tea.
No wonder our Cecily condescends to the squirrels in her life with Grace for the frailties of a Nutkin character – extending an invitation of Hope.
Inspired thus, may we seek God’s Grace to cultivate such quality life-long learning and love of literature in our own lives – imparting the same in the lives of children of all ages who are in our sphere of influence. Perhaps, the Creator whom Miss Lovejoy speaks of here, will shower our efforts with His Grace and Mercy and help us turn back the tide to goodness and beauty – and all things lovely – touching one hungry heart at a time . . . with tea and dollops, of course.
Sharing The Case of the Pumpkin Dollop this week with:
Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage Tea Time Tuesday
FEATURED THIS WEEK by Kathy at Delightsome Life’s Return to Loveliness
Terri at Artful Affirmations Tea Cup Tuesday
Martha at Martha’s Favorites
Ruth at Antiques and Teacups
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