The merry heart makes a cheerful countenance. Proverbs 15:13

As I drove north to Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden, I hoped to see Teresa Rolland and Rhonda Kaltz, fellow long-term members of the center’s Friends of Herbs group.
Our paths cross sporadically throughout the year as volunteers beautifying the center’s herb garden, and joining in monthly winter meetings indoors.
This meeting marked my seventeenth annual Christmas decorating, cookie exchange, and lunch with a band of women who take healthy living and laughter seriously.

We first followed the leadership of our former co-chairs, Ruthanne Morningstar and Jan Burns. Since they retired several years ago, Jeanette Farley and Kelly Poole have perpetuated the herb garden and led hands-on botanic and culinary programs.

However, today’s meeting offered a heightened sense of anticipation. The first Friday of December means preserving a tradition: creating swags and wreaths of greens to deck the halls and entrance of the building for the Seven Ponds Holiday Auction and Christmas Dinner.

Glory be! Teresa and I parked in the lot simultaneously. “Can I carry the bag of greens for you?” she asked.

“It’s bulkier than heavy. I can handle it, thanks. I’ll take a hug, though,” I said.

We carried our contributions of greens and goodies down the steps and onto adjoining tables in the building’s basement. Jeanette and Kelly had set up the cookie, food, and beverage tables, and those with supplies for creating wreaths and swags embellished with festive red bows.

Conversation and fun began. We wired and zip-tied together spruce, pine, and cedar boughs in various arrangements while catching up on family happenings. Some spoke of grown, married children living in different states, those coming home for Christmas, and those who are aren’t.

The joyful season of reunion and crafting together lifted us from the separation of the past two years, into the light of companionship and common ground we’ve known long enough to appreciate what we’d missed.

At last, one by one, we held up our finished product for one last look and photos before we carried them upstairs for hanging.

“What do you think?” Jeanette said, posing with the wreath she designed for the Holiday Auction.

“I think you need to pose for a picture,” Rhonda said.

Jeanette framed her face within the circle of the woven twigs for the perfect smile of the day. We placed the greens into the staff’s hands for hanging and returned downstairs for cleanup. Afterward, Jeanette and Kelly set up their home-made chicken taco and salsa lunch for our herb group. Jeanette provided her colorful and delicious Ensalada Nochebuena, or Mexican Christmas Eve Salad.

For the first time in three Decembers, the Seven Ponds team joined us. Another reunion. We met the new, young naturalist named Madison.

Dear Reader, at last my fellow herb members and I lifted the lids to our cookie containers. Some a deliciously healthy assortment of chocolate and coconut. One, my mother’s Chocolate Pecan Sandie.

For nothing makes a cheerful countenance like friends and delicious traditions.

Contact Iris at