Friday, August 18, 2017

Books, Kindness, and Mom

      Today I finished a lovely book by Nancy Horan titled, Under the Wide and Starry Sky.  It is the story of the life and marriage of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wild and wonderful wife, Fanny.  What a story! Though not a false and touched-up story; a real-life adventure full of wild creativity alongside the crush of recurring illness. There are daring, spontaneous sea voyages, travels across the Continent, late night drinking sprees with friends, harsh words, love poems, and beautiful words.
    Included is one of my favorite poems of his, which I first met as a break-my-heart lyrical choir piece. I believe the title was And This Shall Be For Music. (click the link to listen)
      Louis wrote this poem for Fanny while she was recovering from a mental break while they were living on the island of Samoa. Remember, R.L.Stevenson was a Scotsman so that first noun, brooches, would have had the rolled r.

"I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me,
Of green days in forest and blue days at sea..
And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear,
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire."

Fanny did manage to come almost all of the way back from that break, and in the process Louis was able to begin to identify with what she had had to do so many times during their years together, as she dragged him back from the edge of the cliff, due to his terrible lung problems.  He realized she had given her whole life to keeping him alive, so that he could write, the one thing he longed and loved to do.  There is this final paragraph in that chapter that is so moving.

"In trying to nurse Fanny back from her netherworld, he'd rediscovered something within himself.  It had done him good to know an essential decency still resided there. That much had not changed.  In the end, what really matters? Only kindness.  Only making somebody a little happier for your presence."
                                   *******                                             *******

    That is so true, so true.  Making someone a little happier for your presence.  Some will be remembered for feats of valor, or for for acts of evil, or for great creative endeavors, but most of us will be remembered, if only by a few, for our small acts of kindness, day after day.
     When I read that line I was reminded of my mom, making her rounds in the small town in which we lived, visiting the shut-ins, touching the hands of the old women who were all alone, visiting those who were ill or forgotten; taking them flowers from her gardens, listening to their stories, and gifting them with her beautiful smile.
      She gave so much to that little town; gave it her whole heart. I hope they remember her many acts of kindness. She gave away flowers and plants by the boxful, to anyone who wanted them, and they continue to bloom all around town, every spring...still brightening those streets with beauty.
     But it wasn't just small kindnesses that she gave, there were some huge ones as well. For instance: She wanted the town to have a public library, so she made it happen; found someone with the money to back it, and talked them into climbing aboard her dream. She made the plans, bought the books, picked out the carpet, set the thing up and opened the doors. It is still there today, bigger and better than ever, one of the best small town libraries in the state.
     Thoughts of Mom always bring to mind this quote:
 Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.  (And I might add...and don't whine about it.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

5 Things You Should Know About_____

The prompt was:
5 things you should know about___

What would I choose to write about?
*Farming in Oklahoma during the 80s. (I don't think you could bear it. I couldn't.)
*Teaching school in a state that doesn't fund education. (No. I'm trying to keep my blood-pressure down today. Maybe later....after the law suit comes through. FIX THIS.)
*The journey through the grief of losing a spouse. (Please, no. Not going there.)
*The things all cat lovers know. (They already know and no one else cares about cats.)
*The traditional Christian church vs the teachings of Jesus. (Go back to the beginning and LISTEN.)
*Gardening in Oklahoma. (Three words: Not. In. Summer.)
*The process of writing, and its obstacles. (Oh God, where would I begin?)
*Raising free-range chickens. (I think we've covered this one.)
*Things that give me the creeps. ( don't want to know.)
*Mistakes people often make with their children. (Not touching that one.)
*Karma kicking your butt. (aka What goes 'round, comes 'round.) are some questions that keep coming up:

1.  Why do we, as a species, continue to forget the lessons history has to teach us?
2.  (Nope. I changed my mind about #2.)
3.  Why must dogs lick their butts every time company comes over?
4.  Why didn't I begin writing down the books I read, plus a short synopsis, when I was twelve?
5.  What is it about Pizza that is so addictive?
6.  Where have all the flowers gone? When will we ever learn?
7.  How long, oh Lord?
8.  Why in bloody hell didn't they stay in Missouri?
9.  Why can't I buy a television plan that is only PBS?
10. Why do you finally master parenting when you're on your last child?
11. Why do little kids love to talk about poop so much?
12. What's wrong with having a house that is actually a library?
13. Why does such a small percentage of the population have most of the money?
14. Why are the people in medical professions the only ones who have pulled off wearing their comfy clothes to work? (Probably because they are too busy saving lives to worry about what you think of what they're wearing.)

That's my deep thoughts for the day. Done. I'm outta here!
Please, please, please try to add a little kindness and understanding to someone's day today...and tomorrow...and the one after that. The news is killing me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Elephant In The Room

      Let's talk about Honeyvine. It has a proper latin name but I'll use the vernacular, lest I endow it with any unearned respectability. Honeyvine is a fragile-looking green vine that has become an absolute menace, not to mention a nuisance, in my gardens. Here is a pic for you.

     It looks very similar to Morning Glory, though the leaves are not quite as rounded, and the vine is thinner but with the same lovely bend and twirl. It also lacks the knock-your-socks-off stunningly beautiful flowers of the Morning Glory. Truth be told, I haven't found any redeeming qualities to Honeyvine yet, not that I have been looking. I've been too busy dragging it down off the wisteria, the little elm trees, the the silver-leaf maple, the four-o'clocks,  and the forsythia, with both hands while cursing a blue streak and sweating like a horse. You get my drift.
      The amazing thing about Honeyvine is that it slips in unnoticed, perfectly camouflaged against everything you love, staying out of the light, not making any noise to speak of, looking absolutely at home if you happen to point a camera in its direction, until the day you look closely at everything in the garden and realize that Honeyvine has taken the house and is throwing a pall over all of it.
     It is what they call an invasive plant species, like wild grape vine and five-leaf ivy, wisteria, trumpet-vine and yes, honeysuckle.  They will all take the garden if you take your eyes off them for a season or even a couple of weeks. That is what they do.
     Notice I put wisteria and honeysuckle on that list of Invasives. I love both of those plants but I also know you have to watch them like a hawk and be out there with clippers in hand every day in order to keep them under control. They are not the only beautiful plant in the garden, after all; they are one of many, and do not get to bully, strangle, or steal nutrients and sunlight from all the others.           I don't know when they got it into their pointy little heads that they were somehow better than others, but that type of behavior is not tolerated in my gardens. They are hauled out of there and then dumped on the compost pile or burned. They get no second chances here. They may have the right to bully somewhere else, but they do not have that right here. Not in my gardens. Not on my watch.
      Okay, I'm breathing, calming down, and moving on.
     I am a believer in Pride of Place or I wouldn't still be living in Oklahoma, with all that has been happening here lately. I am a Patriot, in so much as I love The United States of America and the freedoms it has historically held as promised to those who come here seeking safety and a shot at a better life. I believe myself to be extremely blessed to call this my native land. During the past fifty years or so we, as a society, have very slowly been edging our way forward toward becoming an even better country than we ever were in some areas. Those who, until fairly recently, have been the victims of severe social injustice and rampant inequality of rights, recognition and opportunity have had a few doors opened to them. I understand that opinions concerning ethnic differences and gender roles change slowly, when they change at all. One lifetime is not long enough to see much movement.
     I understand that the people on the extremes always make the most noise and that the majority of Americans are of a more moderate bent than the ones we are seeing in the news these days.  That being said, after what happened in Europe during the 30's and 40's and the price paid by so many people of every nation to stop that madness, I never imagined I would see that hateful red and black flag carried side-by-side with the Stars and Stripes in parade. I never expected that I would ever, in a million years, see Americans raising the arm in that horrible, disgusting salute.

      Every morning, early, I step out into my gardens and pull out the impostors from among the Purslane and the Marigolds. I pull them up by the roots and carry them away. Every time I see that first leaf of the Honeyvine unfurl, I reach in and pull it out. Just so, hate-speech, bigotry, racism, misogyny, intolerance of differences, must be spoken out against each and every time they raise their ugly heads. You and I must turn and speak against hateful words, words that would deny freedom or human dignity to any of our countrymen, whenever and wherever we hear them. That is what Americans do: we defend the freedoms of our people, our friends and our family. We defend those who came to us, running from danger and want, seeking shelter. We stand beside those who need an ally. That is what we do.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Meteor Showers of August

I wrote this poem several years ago and feel it deserves revisiting during these peak nights of the Perseid Meteor Showers. Sadly, last night was completely overcast here at the farm until seven in the morning, which was too late, the sun already brightening the eastern sky.  Perhaps tonight will prove better conditions to "catch a falling star", as the old song goes.

August Traditions

Come, my friend,
away from the clatter and clutter of life.
Come join me in the quiet of a summer night
with a white smile of moon sailing above.

Bring nothing but yourself;
leave behind all that weighs upon you.
Take my hand as we climb the high hill
through weary, rustling grass, breathing
the dusty scent of Summer's final days.

On the open hilltop, below a starry sky,
we will lie down upon my tattered quilt
and watch the lights arc and fall across
the infinite darkness which surrounds.

There is nowhere I would rather be
than under those stars,
in the warm August air,
with you.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

All The News That's Fit To Print

   Here are my honeys, my darling grandkids who bring so much joy to my days.They are each so different, unique in their own personalities and gifts as well as in their relationships with me.  We have had a busy summer and soon (next week) school will start and our times together will shift back to the school routines. This summer we were together at the lake quite a few times, taking it easy and playing in the water. I made it to a few swim meets and cheered on Maggie and Brendan in their races, M for the neighborhood team and B for that team and also his city team in the long courses.
     I sat and cheered for Zaneyboy for a few fast and furious games of t-ball early in the summer. I hear the teams are starting up agains soon, for the Fall season. This time Rowan will be on a team too and he is soooo excited.  It should be hilarious, as usual.  Z moves up to coach-pitch ball, which I think he will like much better. Miss Maggie is fully into horseback riding now and for her birthday I gave her four extra lessons so she can ride twice a week for her birthday month. What could be better? (Well, in all honesty, it would be better if I owned an acreage outside of Edmond, one that had a stable, a corral, and a horse and tack. That would be better. I don't see that happening at the moment though. I would need another oil well for that one to come true.)
      Everett may start back in gymnastics, which he really likes to do and has the skill for. He has been tumbling and flipping over things since he could stand up and is very strong for such a little guy.  The Richards have a new (large) puppy, a Golden Labradoodle (?),  so all of the kids are busy loving on and caring for Moose.  Moose seems to think Everett is one of his litter-mates, since they are about the same size. It's hysterical to us but a little disconcerting to Ev I think.
    In sad news, I had to have the old elm tree topped because it had died and bits were falling on everyone below.  We cut it a little above the height of the tree house and it makes me sad every time I go outside.  But the treehouse is fine, as demonstrated by Emily Moody's boys having a blast in it last evening when they came over to visit while their older brother mowed my lawn. Yes! I asked and Cody was delighted to agree to be my lawn boy. He did a fantastic job and is a very hard worker and soooo polite. He may save my life by doing the hard and hot jobs outside for me.


In the biggest news of the week, Little Miss Alice had her baptism last week-end at Christ The King Catholic Church in OKC and was perfectly behaved through the entire thing, including the pictures.  Kari's mom made the little baptism gown and cap, using the fabric from her wedding gown and it was gorgeous. (I admit, I have taken my wedding gown out and looked at it, intending to do this very thing, but have never been able to pull the trigger on it.  It remains folded in the cedar chest.
      Truth be told, I don't trust myself to do a good job of it. Maybe I'll take it over to cousin Patricia and see if she would like to do the deed for me. She is a whiz at sewing these little gowns and has made several for her many grandkids, I believe.)

All of Alice's family, on both sides, were there so she got to be in her first "all cousins" picture. Which, by the way, we have never been able to accomplish with the Dotter grandkids. At these ages it was a bit of a rowdy-dow and I am happy to say that both babies survived the photo shoot intact. I love this picture and know that it will be even more fun to look at ten years from now. I hope we can recreate it at some point before they all graduate and scatter to the four winds.
      We had a nice reception with a strawberry cake, baked by one of our employees from the spice shop, who also has her own baking business. There were also fresh veggies and our traditional pink frozen punch, which we have for every event. There were presents, conversations, and catching up on the news all around; our two families not having many occasions to get together very often. Both babies were well past nap-time by the time it was all over but seemed to weather it in good spirits.
   This is one of my favorite pictures of the day, all the boys spinning together at the reception. I guess that was the whole game, I don't know, but it was so cute to hear them all laughing, getting dizzy and falling down. Invented games are always to best, I think.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Poem: This Weighted Now

I'm trying to live in the Now.

But so much has happened,
so many years have passed,
so many lives have touched mine,
have changed me,
have taught me,
have challenged me,
have healed or broken my heart,
have listened, and sung,
and cheered me on,
have laughed and cried with me,
have walked with me through changes.

But, as I said,
I'm trying to live in the Now;
savoring moments,
delighting in my grandchildren's
innocence and discoveries,
soaking up those baby smiles,
applauding accomplishments,
being there when they need me.

Now and then, in quiet moments,
I watch the leaves moving above me
and wonder where those people are,
right now, in this moment that is Now.