Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Poem

should have told me
about 30 years ago

To not only 
store away 
those little moments
to lovingly take them out 
from time to time
and remember

the sight 
the smell 
the sound
the summer reunions
the holiday meals
the desultory conversations
the uncontrolled laughter

In the arrogance of 
those endless 
times when 
all my loved ones were still 
enfolding me
in that cocoon of 
familial security

Before my appreciation of 

how wonderful life can be
eroded away 
in the travails of time

And my soul found this yearning
for then 

of now

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Appalachian Tale: Picture Puzzles by Ellen Apple

Picture Puzzles

Granny lived in the cabin here on our home place. That cabin likely was the first permanent shelter here, leastwise as far as I can tell. Now that ain’t to say that Indians weren’t here first off. Fact is, I feel fairly sure they was here. When we was little, we was always findin’ signs from them. Arrowheads was so commonplace I knowed some folks that has as many as a pickle crock would hold.

There are a few good places to find arrowheads. Along side creek beds where maybe hunters would set up for the night, in the fresh turned fields in the early spring, and the caves up on the ridge. Those caves always give me the willies, so I never spent too much time lingering in ‘em and I never did go no further in than the sun could find me. I ain’t skeered of the dark, and I ain’t skeered of no haints but I do carry what my daddy would call a healthy respect for both.

That cabin is a place that holds many a good memory for me ‘cause I used to be sneakin’ off there so much to sit with my granny. She had this ole potbelly stove in the front room, and even in the summertime she was more likely than not to be burnin’ a few lumps of coal or a pile of kindlin’, just so as she could fry some sausage and pop up a pan of popcorn in the grease. Her front room always seemed to smell of popcorn and sausage, and the kitchen was likely to be smelling of lemon pound cake.

Now my granny was never one to sit plumb idle, and there was a whole passel of things she kept at hand to keep ol’ Scratch from making use of her on this Earth. She was a fair hand at needlework, and liked to crochet as well. She had an endless thirst for learnin’ and always had a book or two with a page dog-eared for to mark her place. Now her choice in what to read was an education in itself. She could find a recipe in any magazine, and clipped them all out to try later. Whether she did is still up for debate, I think she done most of that fancy cookin’ in her own head. She liked books ‘bout other parts, like the old west days and over in other lands.  She had books ‘bout healin’ too, and kept her notes in there. She was a right fair hand at roots and plants. Lord, she poured the Sassyfrass tea down us in the wet months. And I reckon we ate enough liver and greens that none of us could ever have weak blood.

Bar none, her favorite thing to do whilst she sat around eatin’ popcorn and sausage was to work on picture puzzles. She had her a special table just for her puzzles. They was a lip all the way ‘round that table, and she had her a big ole’ piece of wallboard that was just a mite bigger than that table what she would keep it covered up with. She had took a length of feedsack cloth and crocheted her a pretty trim all around the edges and she would keep that wallboard covered with that cloth most days. My idea is that any dust that dared get in her cabin was kept off the puzzle this way, and she was able to keep nosy pitchers out of her business as well.

Those picture puzzles were a sight to behold, big ones that has 1000 pieces and more. When she finished one she was particular proud of, she would glue it all together and put it in a real pretty picture frame with glass and hang it, or give it to somebody. I promise you, anyone what was gifted with one of those picture puzzles felt they was right special in my granny’s heart. Most of them was pictures like we had in our schoolbooks. Bridges and buildings and mountains in far off places.

Sometimes I think mayhap Granny was so fond of those picture puzzles ‘cause while she was concentratin’ so fierce on that picture, getting it all put in the proper order, she in her head was travelling to those far off places. No matter how her soul wanted to fly to far off places, time and money and the way life played out for us kept her feet planted here on this land. As much as the beckoning can call us up to the highest points, this air and the dirt we walk keeps us here as sure as if we were a crop planted in the ground.

When my granny passed I was powerful sad. I cried, and could not rest nor sit still. My momma and daddy were my momma and daddy but my granny was special to me in a way that is even these years later hard to put to words. Being raised in the mountains, we are by need close to life and death. We learn to see the way life comes and leaves as being a necessary thing, like breathing or eating or sleeping. It was a fact in my head, and one I had felt, but never ever like that when my granny passed.

Her wake was held at the home place, and she was laid out in her front room. Folks from all over came to pay their respects, for she was loved and known all over these parts. When the time came, I could not bring myself to look full on her face. I did not want my last sight of her to be when she was without breath in her lungs and a smile on her face. Her burying was done here at the home place as well. We have a plot set aside for our people, not far from the creek and where the wind whispers through the weeping willow on a sunny day. The grave markers are carved from those glacier rocks up on the mountain, and the menfolk of the family keeps a good fence up. That way the hogs and sheep and cows don’t graze over the grave plots.

It had been a season since granny had left me, and I reckon I had moped about and drug my feet to the point my momma and daddy were downright exasperated with me. I was outside meandering about, trying to act as though I had more chores to see to. I had slopped the hogs, and scattered scratch for the chickens. The eggs had been gathered and the cows had gone up the side of the hill and would not be back until my daddy sicced the dog to fetch ‘em when it was time to milk. My hand found the holey stone I had tucked in my pocket, and I decided this would be a right fine time to visit the top of my knobby hill.

I had all intentions of meandering up to that special place where Mother and I had our talks, it is true. But my wandering feet took me around the other side of the house, down past the spring house and towards the creek. Now our creek is special, for it begins here on our land, water just rising up out of the rocks and dancing down over the limestone. The creek begins as a fresh water spring, and it is the coldest, sweetest water known to man or woman in these parts. I reckon we could sell it to make money if we were so minded. My daddy had pipes laid, and we have water to the house that comes from that spring. Of course, these days we are all hooked up with The Water Project. I had a mind to tell you today of The Water Project, but if I start on that path I will get all riled up and I have no thought of being riled up when I am in a mood to be tellin’ you about my granny. That tale will have to be told another day.

No, I meandered myself right over towards that fresh water spring, and the place where the water pooled so deep and cool. Have you ever sat and sunk your toes into the soft mud in the bed of a creek? It is like unto velvet, or the soft fur of a pet rabbit. The minnows dart away, and the skippers and tadpoles make themselves scarce as well. We have salamanders in these parts that are the prettiest dark red color, like blood, and crawdads and turtles and garter snakes, all of which I have played with at the creek. I was always careful to play past where my daddy had laid that water pipe, so as to not muddy the water that my momma used to cook and wash our clothes.

As I sat there with my toes curled in the mud, contemplating on things as I was prone to do – more than my momma thought was “good for me” whatever that meant – my big toe ran across something that felt different. I worked at it for a few minutes using my toes then reached down into that icy cold water and pulled out a pretty. Now I was not exactly expecting to find a pretty this day, and certainly not in the fresh water spring pool there just up above where those family grave plots laid. 

An almost in one piece shell of a turtle. Now a turtle, the shell is a wonder to behold. The natives tell us their understanding of how all life came to be here on this earth by using the turtle, saying turtle carries the world on his back, the mountains and the rivers are seen in the pattern of the shell. As I sat there on a rock, running my finger over and around the grooves of that piece of shell I thought of how much a turtle shell brings to mind those picture puzzles granny was always a working on in the cabin. She carried us in a way, I reckon, just like that big turtle that Great Spirit made carries this whole world.

Granny is gone, but we still have pieces of her. We are pieces of her. There are so many folks what loved her, and she was always feeding and healing people, and did enjoy making us laugh when it was a time laughing was okay. Even now, her body down there in that grave, she is still with us.  I truly do believe that.

So anyways, I rinsed that piece of turtle shell off real good and took it to granny’s grave plot and nestled it in beside that piece of limestone my daddy had carved her name into and then took and polished it up right pretty. A pretty for my granny, to always be there when I want to go take a look and remember her and all she undertook on herself when she tried teaching me.

We are all making a picture puzzle in this life, just by the way we live and the people we see and love and sometimes have ill feelings towards. It is up to us to keep that picture pretty, and I have no need to tell you how to do that, now do I? Folks is not turtles, and though it may feel that way at times they are not toting the whole cares of the whole world on their back like that turtle.

I sit from time to time and talk with my granny, mostly when I have knots in my mind because she was a right good hand at untying those mind knots. Mother and granny and my holey stone are all parts of my own picture puzzle. I leave her pretties as well, and I make sure to take her a wild violet when they come out. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Appalachian Tale: The Beckoning by Ellen Apple

The Beckoning

I recollect when I was just a youngin’, still in school, we were taught how these mountains came to be as they are these days. How great big glaciers slid their way down the surface of the earth, scarping and pushing and piling up rocks until the highest was so high and all the good soil was left down low. I reckon the scientists took a long time to figure all of that out. It is rather rough for a mountain woman like me to understand all the ages and eras and layers they taught us. I have a much better grasp on that I can see with my own eyes, and feel with my own hands.

They’s a hill that our homeplace backs right into. Remember when we were little and we would pack silty dirt into a old bowl and turn it out upside down? That round top that would be jutting up above all the dirt around it? That is what that hill reminds me of. ‘Course, they’re trees and rocks – Lord, the rocks we have. Gifts from those glaciers I suppose. Deer and cows and sheep and God knows what else have walked that slope so many times there are paths worn all the way down to the rock in places. In the springtime, when the scrub grass and violets and clover and dandelions all start coming in those paths look like some giant drug his finger through the dirt, leaving a trail for us regular folk to explore.

After the peepers have come, and the Forsythy bush by the front fence has come out in a yellow as bright as the Summer sun, those cowpaths start to beckon me.

Now the beckoning might come at any time by the time and calendars folks tend to keep. I have a bit of a chuckle to myself from time to time about such things. In the old days, the people kept time with nature. By the signs some folks might say. Moons came and went, and weather and the land kept a calendar to suit themselves. All the education and postulatin’ in the world has yet to be able to keep Mother Nature and Father Time on any schedule but their own. And Mother, she sure does have a mind of her own. Why, we might have a late Spring by man’s accounting but I promise you that Mother is not late, nor has she ever been early. All that happens is at it should be. An’ I don’t reckon we were supposed’n to understand and agree with her at all. They’s mysteries to life, and death, that keep to themselves no matter how hard we try to figure ‘em out. And that is truth you can put in your head to keep, ‘cause I know it to be so.

Well, this year Mother and Father have decided that ‘round about what we call May Day is when the beckoning has come upon me. It is hard for me to put to words what this beckoning is, or why I hear and feel it when others don’t far as I can tell. Of course, I never really talked it over with others much. Seems to be the sort of thing a woman might be wanting to keep to herself. I don’t want to start being known as one who is tetched, though tetched I very well may be. I do know they has been others in my line, menfolk and women as well, who were whispered as to maybe having the sight. An’ my Granny had a right good hand with healing plants. Many times when I was just a youngin’ I recollect the knock on the door callin’ her out in the wee hours, she and her pouch of plants and roots being needed for other folks or maybe a sick cow or lame mule.

What? You were thinkin’ that such things were only for people or that the tales you been told ‘bout the folks up here on the ridges and in the hollers was just talk? I am here to tell you that life is more, and less, than you ever thought to dream.

Now where was I? The beckoning. I have marked over 50 trips around the sun already in my life, and I hope to make many more. The beckoning started with me when I was still a snot nosed youngin’, not even a-knowing what weight being a woman would bring to my shoulders. The reason so many womenfolks has stooped shoulders, you know, it comes from that weight of love and worry and sorrow that keeps getting heaped on us year after year. It’s a rare thing indeed to see young girls stooped like that. The years have not piled in on them as of yet.

This ain’t no thing you can see, now, nor a sound that comes from the outside. It be more of a feeling that commences to roiling about inside one, but not a bilious feeling at all. Bilious makes one want to run to the outhouse, or grab the slop jar. This beckoning is more of a feeling that flutters about in your chest, like a starling caught up in a tree canopy and fighting to get free. I never was much one to talk things out with others, or to really stop and think things through. A bull in a china shop my momma used to call me. Settin’ off on my scattered way without thinkin’ out where I might be endin’ up when all was said an’ done.

I was out in the side yard, tryin’ to keep outta way of my momma as she had set to gettin’ all the washin’ done at once. After catching my right arm plum up to my elbow in the wringer one day she was more at ease if I kept myself scarce when the Maytag was a’dancin on the back porch. Being too short to pin the clothes up once they was washed my only real chore on laundry day was to help her lift the line up with the forked pole so the sheets and my daddy’s britches didn’t trail in the dirt. A warm breeze came across my face, making a strand of hair tickle my nose and make me want to laugh. I looked up towards that ol’ high knobby hill, seein’ that cowpath, and all of a sudden I just knew I had to climb up there.

They is two ways I know of to climb a hill, a hard way and a easy way. Even as a youngin’ I would pick the easy way – keepin’ my energy in case I needed it for somethin’ more vital I suppose.

Hard climbing is goin’ all out, not resting none or looking at the pretties along the way. Hard climbing is like not understanding that laughin’ makes it easier to cry right when cryin’ times come.

Easy climbing is a pure joy, and in itself is enough to make one not mind overmuch when there are bugs and itchy weeds trying to make you want to go back before you get to where you want to be. Truth be told, a good easy climb might take a girl so long she needs to carry a biscuit spread with apple butter with her. Just in case she gets peckish along the way. So off I darted into the house, grabbed me a biscuit to wrap up in one of my daddy’s bandanas and off I went. My momma hollered for me not to wander off too far, and I waved my hand in her direction just to show I heard her as I headed up the hill.
My granny told me once I don’t so much walk as meander. They taught us in school that a meandering stream is one that makes its way through the land in a path that ain’t straight but that instead follows the soft earth, going around and over the rocks and stones and roots that gets in the way. I guess that makes a right smart sense to me. Why step on a rock and hurt your foot, or trip over a root and scrape your knee when you can go a little this way or that and avoid all the bother?

So up the cowpath I meandered away, taking in secrets and picking up pretties along the way. You do know what I mean when I say picking up pretties don’t you? Pretties is those thing the birds and critters and ole Mother herself leaves lying around, just waitin’ for a girl to find and decide upon. You decide upon a pretty by weighin’ the attraction against the aggravation. If something is too big or heavy or smelly or still attached you just admire and remember where it were. If it is just small and light enough to fit in your pocket or to fold up in a bandana then you can decide upon takin’ it with you. Later on there may be another pretty that you like more, so you can change ‘em out one for the other. I have been known to pick and change out pretties a half dozen times on a good climb. My pretties tend to be bird feathers, snail shells, and rocks. Especially rocks.

So, there I was, meandering up the cowpaths picking up and squirreling away my pretties. The further up the hill I went, the more settled that fluttering in my chest was. I found three special pretties that day that I knew were keepers. A shard of shell from a hatched out robin, a bit of quartz rock worn smooth and shaped all round yet with a hole ‘most dead center through it, and a raven’s feather all blue black and shiny. Having long since eaten my apple butter biscuit I wrapped my pretties in the bandana and tucked it in my pocket. After stopping to rest a bit every now and then, I finally found myself as near to the top of that knob of land I had ever been.

The sun was about high in the sky, so I knew it was time for my momma to put dinner on the table but I felt more inclined to linger a bit than to go back down that hill so soon. I found myself a sitting place, a flat piece of limestone jutting out from one of those big ole glacier rocks. They was dark spots on the shady sides, where the mosses liked to gather and suck up the water running down the crooks and crannies after a shower passed over.

One thing most folks don’t know about living up here where we do is that many days it is like being in a cloud. The mists will gather in the hollers and the air gets a softness that is both a comfort and a bother. When you take it into your head to go to the top of a ridge it is like unto walking through the clouds and coming out in the sunny side of the sky. In springtime the rains come often, and the air drops to so cool at night the mist rises from the hollers like fingers, wrapping around you and putting a chill through your skin all the way to bone. Come noontime, the sun just burns off all that mist, from the top of the ridges down to the greenest holler.

As I sat there on my shelf of rock, I felt as though Mother herself was burning that fluttering right out of my chest and I commenced to feeling more like the me I was more used to being. My heart wasn’t thumping no more and I felt a lightness and sort of happy in my belly I had never known before in all my days. Even a youngin’ can have worries, and I had been carrying a few burdens in my deepest self I had not seen fit to tell about to other folks. No matter what they were, or even if they may seem that burdensome to others. For me they had become a weight, and up there on that knob of rock Mother seen fit to help me untangle some knots in my mind and ease the weight I had been a toting around.

After a bit it were as though I was being given answers to questions I never knew I had, and I will tell you one thing for sure. The first time this happens it can be a mite scary. I was not yet knowing what was happening to me, and it was a good thing I was up there with Mother ‘cause she spoke to me in that way she has that makes one know things are okay. I had a peace about me then, one that I was needing to be sure.

All at once I knew that those things I had been trying to tote around all on my lonesome were going to work themselves out, and that Mother was the one that would do most of the working. Yes, there was things that were beyond me or my momma or daddy or even my granny. But that was okay, leastways for now.

I took the bandana I had wrapped my pretties in and laid it out on that big ole limestone outcropping. I untied my knot, and placed each of the pretties on the stone, side by side. After a bit I knew that I could tote the stone with the hole back down the hill with me but that Mother would be mighty happy were I to leave that egg shard and black feather there with her. She had in someway I had yet to divine placed the pretties just where a meandering girl might find them, and each had their story to tell.

That piece of a robins egg, just a shard of blue shell? It was a telling me that I had to let some things break so they could be more of what they were meant to be from the beginning. We can’t be keeping an egg forever, cause it will spile and be of no use to anyone. An iffen we want to hear the birds sing, why they have to hatch out and learn to fly so they can find the things what makes them sing.

That blue black feather that had fallen from a ravens wing? It was a telling me that sorrows have weight to them, but they fall down below and land soft even as we go on the journey we were meant to take. The weight of our sorrows and worries can sure enough grow so great that we cannot carry on another step or take our next breath. T’only choice we have is to let them fall away gentle as we go, let them land soft on Mother for she will truly take care of them.

That quartz rock with the hole in it? That had the most to tell, and so much I needed to be keeping it with me for a long time. I carry it with me to this day, and each and every time the beckoning has come upon me I have toted it up to the top of that knob with me. My life has taken a path none of could have foreseen when I was just a youngin’, and I am here in the homeplace still. Many odd and wondrous things have been in my days, things that made me laugh ‘til I cried and things that hurt my soul deep I could not shed a tear or lift a word the knife of sorrow were so sharp upon my heart.

The beckoning has been my constant. I never know when it will be upon me. At first it came only in the spring of the year, when Mother and Father got their heads together and decided it was time for everything to get on with the business of living and dying. Over time, I have felt it more and less, depending I guess upon the weight I was tryin’ to tote with me. There has been years it visited as many as half a dozen times, and there was once I did not feel the pull for almost 15 moons. Each time, I take my meandering climb up to my knob. Each time Mother leaves pretties along the way for me to bring up to her. They has been times I found the pretties waiting for me the next time I come, and I knowed they was gifts and Mother let me know who they was to go to next. I always take my holey stone with me, and as time has passed I have learnt that if I always have her in my pocket, or tucked away in my bosom right next to my heart, I can easier tote the worries of my life until Mother beckons me up the path to the knob again.

One day soon I reckon I will tell you more about Mother, and the beckoning, the things she has taught and showed to me some of which I am now seeing are my place to pass along. But right now, right this minute? I have a path to meander up, and a few pretties to gather up to take to Mother. For the beckoning is upon me this day, and it is a call I have to answer. 

Original artwork by Roger Lee Apple

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Memory

Easter 2000. Oscar was in the first stages of his fight against the cancer that would take his life 10 months later at the age of 24. Patricia and her two sons were visiting, Daniel was 10 and Michael was almost 8. Dianna was at home still, 20 years old.
Friends invited the family to go to Easter services at a large Baptist church in Bristol and all of them but Ann went. They rode in the Villager van, and the six of them really enjoyed the service. Oscar had some discomfort, his leg was bothering him. The cancer was causing extreme pain and he limped noticeably. There was a soft tissue tumor in his left hip about the size of a softball.
Roger is a very consistent person, one of regular habit. He always assures he has the vehicle keys before locking the doors. Except for this day.
When church services were over they mingled with fellow worshipers for a while then headed to the van. That was when they realized the keys were in the van, and the spare set was in Abingdon. The family friend went to retrieve the keys from Ann in Abingdon.
The weather was beautiful. A picture perfect Spring Sunday. Warm, sunny, blue skies, trees leafing out and flowers in bloom. There was a play area adjacent to the parking lot with playground equipment, swings, seesaws, a merry-go-round. The two children of the friends, Michael, Daniel, Dianna and Oscar made their way over to play on this beautiful Spring afternoon. Oscar was limping, obviously in pain, but for those moments he was fully engaged in the joy and laughter of childhood once more. Playing on the merry-go-round, pushing the younger ones on the swings. Playing, laughing, the joyful happy soul he had always been fully present in the moment.
Patricia was always prepared as most mothers are and had water and snacks with her. They had an impromptu picnic in the park, and it was a day for precious memories to be stored. It ended up being over an hour before they were able to get into the van and head home for the Easter feast awaiting them.
What some may have seen as a coincidence, an irritation, an inconvenience Roger sees as divine intervention. Because of the one time in his memory that he locked the keys in his vehicle and did not have a spare in his wallet, he has in his memory this incredible time Oscar, the nephew he helped raise, being able to really laugh and play one last time. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

In Need

One never knows the twists and turns life journey will take, one never knows which decision, which choice will be the right one, which will be the wrong one.

I am not sure what people see when they look at me, at my life. I try to be a kind, compassionate, caring person. I know I can be harsh, impatient, callous. Human nature is comprised of a conglomeration of traits - virtues, flaws, defects, an idiosyncratic.mixture that is constantly re-configuring itself.

I know I am stubborn, and proud. I know I like to laugh, and  tend towards obsessively over think situations. I am insecure in a lot of ways, and am prone to rash decisions. If people were separated into 2 groups, one being those who burn the bridges as they cross the rivers from one phase of life to the next and the other being those who maintain a smooth continuity of connections and relationships I would fall into the burner category more often than not.

I have learned these things about myself. I do the best I can, and I suppose in the end that is all any of us can do.

We as a culture judge. We look at others lives and make assumptions and judgments based on what we see. None of us know what circumstances, experiences, influences have brought a person to the particular point in the life we are privy to.

I have been out of work since October of 2010. I have a husband who is on Social Security disability. We have a house payment and monthly expenses that have not been treated kindly by the current economy. I have applied for so many jobs I have lost count.

We have had kindnesses extended, gifts from friends and relatives that have been there to provide when I could not see how provision would come. They know who they are, and they know the depth of my gratitude for their generosity.

I cannot ask for a personal loan from anyone because I do not know if or when I would be able to repay a loan. I list and list and list handmade items for sale on eBay and nothing sells. Our savings are gone. I fear our electricity may be disconnected soon.

I am in need, and I am making an open plea for charity.

This is so embarrassing for me to write. I just do not know what else to do. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Decisions Cannot Be Undecided

Yes, I know - we all know this.

But there are times, at least for me, when I forget, have forgotten, this truth - time may move slowly, or at the speed of months in a day, but it always moves forward.

Words cannot be unspoken, decisions cannot be undecided. Burnt bridges leave a gulf that cannot be breached.

I cannot live in the past, I know this. I cannot rewind and get a do-over. Hell, if I am honest I would probably make all the same decisions again, Because a rewind would more than likely erase the knowledge gained from the pain and regret, so all of the same impulses and rashness of moment would still be in place.

I have been in rough spots before, but right now I really am in the roughest yet. Materially, financially. Hard lessons learned.

It almost seems as if the more successful I am at being real with who I am at core, the more I strive to be kind and sincere, the more difficult things are. 

Years ago, 20 years or more, I had a situation arise where I chose to be true to my beliefs and standards and ended up being income free. I opted not to compromise my principles and had a rough couple of years as a result. 

It seems as though this is a continuation of that time. 20 years has put a lot of mileage on me. Not sure how this one is going to pan out.

I am hoping for a miracle.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Being Half of a Person

To come from a different perspective: I was a step-mother and then a step-grandmother. I divorced my husband because - well, lots of reasons. I lost two little girls with the divorce who had always known me as the "cool" grandmother that was until that point the only stability they knew - because my stepson and their mother divorced then she dropped them off at his house one weekend and never came back. A mother and not a mother, a grandmother and not a grandmother. a hard thing for a heart to bear.

The above is a comment I made regarding a blog post I read about how difficult it is to be a stepmother when the children live on an opposite coast and the mother is not cooperative in accepting the remarriage of her former husband.

It made me think, and not a few old feelings came back I had thought were done and over. 

I loved those little girls, who are little no longer. One was born in 1984, the other in 1989. So they are 29 and 24 now. Grown women. I have no idea where they live, what they grew up to be. I do not know if their father's second marriage survived or how they processed and reconciled the loss of their grandfather. 

I tried as hard as I knew how when I was a part of their lives to be a stable influence, and offer a safe haven to process the confusion and rejection they felt when their parents divorced. I talked about the good things I knew about their mother with them because they would hear so much bad from others. 

We made pancakes and cookies together and I was with them when they experienced the miracle of watching a goat give birth. I laughed hysterically when the younger one wanted to put the afterbirth in a paper bag and take it to kindergarten for show and tell. I laughed even harder when her father and grandfather lost their breakfasts when she tried to pick the afterbirth up with a stick. 

But in the end I was only half of a person in their lives.

I hope it was a good half.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to my daughter

I love you.

When I realized I was pregnant, I felt a weight of immense responsibility.

I was not nearly as mature as prepared for motherhood as I should have been.

I was wise enough to know I could not give you the life you deserved, so I made the decision to entrust you to a loving, caring family.

They did not disappoint.

I never, ever stopped thinking about you. The day my telephone rang and I heard your adult voice the first time was a day I rank second only to the day I met you in person. All else fades to insignificance.

I gave birth to you but you have given me so much more these past years.

My darkest days have a hope now, because I know you are there. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life With The Air Leaking Out

This is my second attempt to write this post on my blog. Blogger, the platform I use, totally crapped out on me earlier. At the moment I am extremely frustrated, because all of the words are gone, out in the ether somewhere. Perhaps the gods will take pity and let someone else grasp them in the ethereal mists of the universe and make of them more truth, more beauty than I could imbue. In the meantime, the cats have awakened and Roger is back in from his outdoor labors and my moment of reflection and solitude has been ripped away like a partially formed scab that got caught on the adhesive of a bandage.

I shall attempt to recreate, if not the words the emotion of what I was trying to share earlier.

February has always been a difficult month for me, for as long as I can remember. I know there are good things about February this also ran of days on the Julian calendar. There are holidays, commemorations, celebrations, birthdays (I love you Johnna!), and anniversaries (how many years now, Steve and Kathy?)

The big final push into a new year is over, we have once again survived the darkest of days and daylight hours are now reaching to six in the evening and beyond. Life seems to be expelling a long drawn out breath, and February is the final wisps of air escaping. At the same time, nature is gathering her forces and preparing a new explosion of life.

Perhaps I suffer from SAD. Perhaps I have cabin fever. Perhaps the healing of my spirit and soul that has been such a long process over the past years has reached a point that requires a more real interaction with life. I find myself wanting to be out in life, not watching it through my window on the world. I yearn for warm breezes, dirt from planting herbs, flowers and vegetables on my hands, the smell of rich loamy soil, and the sheen of sweat on my face.

The inside cats are spending more time at the living room window these days, keeping their vigil as the birds are more frequently visiting the grape arbor and the porch eaves. Every once in a while I hear a “meep” and a paw swipes in a high pitched squeak at the window pane.

We had rain, lots of rain, and wind over the past days and Roger has been outside surveying damage and picking up twigs and branches.  He saw a salamander down by the creek and has already been seeing mosquitoes.

So much about life seems to be uncertain in 2013. Socially, ecologically, politically, financially. I know each era feels these pangs. One need only read history to see the same concerns in decades and centuries gone by. Each generation faces their own crucible. The current ones have not been and shall not be spared. For us the concerns feel more imperative because we are the ones riding the turmoil. There is a vast difference in watching someone make bread or reading how to make bread and getting your own hands into that gooey sticky mess.

I am ready to get my hands into the gooey sticky uncertainty of life again.

I leave you with a picture of a cat sitting at the window, looking out.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Personal Encounter With Violence

I have seen things in life, up close and personal, that left me with memories I can call up with just the wisp of a thought. I have heard and smelled and tasted and felt (in my abnormally large for a woman hands) life at its best and humanity at its worst. I suppose many of us can say the same thing. So here I am going to share a story with you, a true story. The event occurred in the mid 1980's.

I was working as a cashier in a convenience store in Fort Pierce, Florida, a busy little store. We were across the road from the local community college (IRCC - Indian River Community College) and there were quite a few homes in a small community to the west and north of our location. I was working a morning shift and my relief was due to arrive at about 2 PM. A young lady, perhaps 21. I was not yet 30. 

We were at a quiet time of the day - between class times at the college, local secondary schools had not dismissed for the day, the deliveries of beer, soda, chips and bread had all been made for the store. I was just biding my time, waiting to clock out and head to the house to relax for an hour or two then cook the evening meal. 

I saw the maroon car belonging to my co-worker turn into the parking lot. There was another car right behind her, a black Toyota. Both vehicles came to an abrupt halt and the driver of the second car and my co-worker both jumped out of their cars and ran into the store. They left doors ajar and engines idling. 

They were no sooner in the store than they were engaged in a no holds barred cat-fight. A hair pulling, nail scratching, groin kicking fight. There were not many words, just grunts and squeals. I was behind the counter, backing slowly towards the telephone.

Suddenly there was a glimmer of silver as the girl I had worked with for several weeks suddenly held a switchblade in her hand and thrust it in a quick upward motion into the rib cage of the other girl. The second girl turned and ran out the door, jumped into the black car and sped out of the parking lot.

As she was leaving, my co-worker looked at the blade of the knife, wiped the blood on the leg of her jeans, and smiled in the oddest way. Turning to me, she said, "Call the cops, bitch, and you are next." With that she ran out the door, got in her car, and left.

I called the cops. They were there fairly quick, two cars. One took off in pursuit of the two girls as the officers in the second car took a statement from me after I provided the address of the girl who worked with me. When that was all over and done, I called my supervisor and arranged for another person to relieve me after explaining what had just happened. 

I worked over about 90 minutes that day. I left work with two bottles of wine, went home and drank all of one bottle and most of the other before my not yet husband came home. I may have been pregnant then with my daughter, I am not really sure. My timeline memory of 1984-1986 is not real reliable. I worked at that particular location both before and after she was born. 

I do recall how scared I was that I would be the target of violence because I called the police after witnessing the fight. The young woman did lose her job, but I do not believe either was formally charged following the altercation because I never had to go to court in relation to the incident.

I did acquire a small handgun afterwards, one that would fit in my purse. I was taught to use it properly. I never had to fire that handgun, but felt safer for having the option. 

I no longer have that handgun, I lost it in the divorce you could say - I did not bring it with me when my first husband and I separated. My current husband was in the military, and he owns legally purchased firearms. I have no problem with people owning guns. Violence will occur with or without guns. People are prone to anger. I know that is a simplistic statement, but I know no other way to put it. I will close by sharing a status I posted on Facebook earlier today.

Gun Control? Too late for that. If someone really wants to do harm, they will find a way. Taking away the right to own firearms for defense of life, family or property or for sport/food will not remove the impetus some feel to do harm to others. The issues lie beyond guns. Mental health issues, medications that affect judgement and personality, bullying, the desensitization of the populace through video and audio ... very complex issues need to be addressed. My take on gun control. Everyone else is voicing their opinion, this is mine.