Friday, December 30, 2011

Silence


         I've been silent a long time, yet I haven’t moved away or gone anywhere.  Nothing major has happened.  I have stayed in the same place, letting the world and its petty obligations rush by me or swirl around me.  This blog and the treasures it held by reaching others was sitting quietly, patiently while I tried to catch the spirit, the whirlwind of seasonal stuff. 
        One new “thing” I have in my routine is a “smartphone” of which I still have many doubts about its worth.  One big surprise was that because it is Google enabled, when I downloaded the book app a long lost book I purchased over a year ago was waiting for me. It was The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. I had given this wondrous book as a gift to many friends, but didn’t get one for myself.  Google had just started its ebook business and I wanted to try it out. Easy to buy but didn’t perform well on my ancient ereader. Long forgotten, until now.  It now greets me every day, and I can read a few words of inspiration once again.
        He had months ago talked of silence between friends, and that it may reach a point of feeling as punishment or rejection. Well, that hit a guilt nerve. How do I get back to friends when I have been gone for an uncomfortably long time?  Then I opened the passage for today, December 30th, “We Are the Earth” He spoke of the intangibles as the deepest things: doubt, faith, confusion, wisdom, etc.  Not anything to be held, yet they are the very things that shape our lives.  We may spend years trying to gain wisdom yet the paradox is that after all that time we seem to have less to say. Nepo made a great analogy about that:  “Silence doesn’t diminish what we have to say. Just because sound always ends in silence doesn’t make the music any less precious.”  You know that feeling after the symphony ends, what joy spreads through your soul! 
        He goes on to make other points about how we become what we seek, yet this one comparison hit home.  It made me not only realize that the silence between friends in a blogosphere, or a sister friend miles away, or even that lump snoring on the couch can still possess precious value, but also that their silence gives us a chance to let their previous sounds become part of us. We then find that we do become what we seek.  And our lives are once again shaped by those intangibles of acceptance, love, comfort, peace, passion.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

MErry Christmas?


     After spending a week away from home on a trip only my husband wanted, eating out 3 big meals every day, and suffering from my usual traveling bloated-ness, I am quite literally “full of myself,” and I do not like it!  Notwithstanding, another birthday marker snuck in here, and I spent my day seething over the fact that my ancient cat has decided that my laundry room is now her extended cat box. It was a day of Poor ME and so I poured another glass of wine (along with my whine), toasted myself and got busy mopping up the mess. 
    While I was gone, I thought more about writing than really doing it, and I felt very guilty that I was not making time for my writing routine. As a consequence, the ideas dried up, and I started looking for things to substitute (devotion books, inspirational ditties) that I could borrow with due credit, of course, until I got my writing mojo back.  What would others would think of me if I'm not clever and witty once again? 
     And like everyone else, the holidays are drowning me.   I am stressing about what to get everyone, when to get into that nasty crawl space to drag out the decoration boxes, and how to get it all done.  I’m to the point of just shucking it all, declaring it a go-gift zone Christmas so I don’t have to think about it. Bah Humbug!!
    This selfish rant has a purpose actually. What these past few days have taught me is that I have been the center of my thinking. Look what I have done for everyone. Look what I am planning to make our holiday better. Look what I am doing to sacrifice my time to make everyone happy. No one else is making the effort to clean, cook, decorate, so I HAVE to. Look at how unselfish I am! Looking back on this first week in December, I thought that I was starting a most unhappy month, but there have been really wonderful moments already. Sharing a phone call with my little brother talking more than an hour about great grandparents and our thirst for the past; a small ladies brunch I enjoyed getting back to finding out how they were doing after my long tense absence from the group; a belated BD celebration with close friends; a delightful couch-talk with my daughter catching up after being away; a call to my sister laughing about my escape from the house to avoid the cat; a funny text exchange with my son. And also, just letting go of my fear of not having anything else to write and just get back to being in touch with all of you.  All of these could have been just as whiney and self-absorbing as my thinking before, but one difference, I was not thinking of myself as much as I was enjoying the company of who was with me.  
      No doubt I may slip into that gown of ME a few times more this season, but I hope I quickly remember that I didn't like how it fit. It's good to be back into the soft comfort of YOU. And by the way, how are YOU doing?
       


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Boy’s Dreams on Linen

I had such in-depth and poignant comments posted on the story about my dad, that I thought it was time to share the only little boy picture I have of him. While my mother was the true artist, and my sister has followed suit, Max had a hidden talent for drawing that showed up at a very early age. He just never had the desire to overshadow Mom's talents, so we never heard about them. I think I was in college when I came across three pieces of linen with pictures drawn in crayola. Dad told me that he had drawn them at school when he was about 11 years old.  I marveled at the detail and depth he created on those linen pieces. I think the picture of him was when he was about seven or eight, close to the time of his father's death.

The teacher tapes the flaxen linen to his desk and walks away.
Borders stretched to the edge of the school desk.
He lines up the crayons
Like waxen soldiers awaiting
The call to arms.
His head dances with his dead daddy’s dreams
Of the Copeland Street castle,
Erased by a heart’s explosion.
Fearing the stark blank linen,
He squeezes his eyes shut
Like a vice on steel, bursting
Color behind the eyelids.
Muted blues and greens
Cool the burning fires in his brain and
The wishes, dreams and delights of a faraway place appear.
Now he can see.
He picks up the patient blue
Soldier and draws.
Smooth stones line the path to a cottage in the
Linen’s left corner.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lessons in Beth’s Quilt

Last month I had the complete joy in making something for someone in my family. Although I used the excuse that it was a belated birthday present, it was really a "just because, it's completely right for her now." Beth and her mother were overjoyed that I sent it, and while their precious and heartfelt kudos were treasures, I seem to relish the joy of making something just right for a dear one. While I was  making this quilt, I kept thinking how parallel the process was to living our lives. I sent her this message along with the quilt.
    I hope you can enjoy this metaphor and maybe find something in you life that so closely resembles how you manage to make the steps in your own journey. I'd love to hear how you created such a parallel.



You do the best you can,
 even if you really don’t know
 how it’s all going to turn out.
The pieces are put together as neatly as possible, 
but sometimes not everything lines up just right.
Even with the best instructions and the best of intentions, 
mistakes are made. 
Sometimes there are errors in judgment.
There may be a few kinks,
 but you have to press on and finish the job.
It’s a labor of love worthy of tender loving care.
Try not to look at the little mistakes and
 take in the overall beauty as a whole.
We never know how long it will last,
 but it’s worth bringing joy for the time we have it.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

       This is the week for gratitude and thankfulness. I have been so amazed at the wonderful contributions everyone posts on this fledgling blog. Even with this small community which I don't think has mushroomed beyond the multitude of maybe a dozen, have I felt such emotion, validation, spirit, soul, and yes even love. I sometime fear that I write about death and sadness so much more than the uplifting topics, but I do gain strength though those entries.  Then I am embraced by the insight and interpretation that you bring to the posts . It enhances, strengthens and sheds new light on perspectives I never dreamed were part of my initial post. Life is so multifaceted, yet at the same time we are finding such commonality, reading, and sharing with each other. I really do believe that we humans are programmed to make opportunities to communicate and to connect to one another. We are not a rock, not an island as the old song claims.
      You hear people damning the new technology as the bane that keeps us from connecting to other people. I agree that there have been more than a few times I have been at a table of friends each set of eyes  locked onto their smartphones instead of talking to the person across from them. It is a bit comical and when we realize what we are doing, we laugh and pick up a new new conversation with each other. Some will say that is not the case with the typical morose teenager, but hey, we were just as non-communicative at that age, too; and we didn't have the added technology. I guess I'm saying here that I have faith that they, too will discover that inward need to connect.
       I hope each of you are able to spend at least a small time with a loved one during this week, and experience a renewed connection.  I also want to encourage you to possibly pick up a tried and true habit of writing down 5 things you are grateful for every night. It doesn't have to be big stuff, and actually you may find that something as little as being grateful for a silent wink across the table is pretty precious. I know I am grateful for each of you and the wisdom you bring to me. Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Tough Guy's Christmas Promise

The scream ripped away the comfort of his blanket and his dream. Suddenly, Max was awake and aware that something was not quite right.
"Is it Christmas, already?" He questioned. Waking his thoughts by rolling through a battery of questions to himself, Max rattled off the answers,
"1926.
I'm Max.
I'm seven years old.  No, just turned eight!
My big brother is still sleeping next to me.
I'm in my house in Paducah, Texas."
Well, everything seemed in order. He slowly began to lie back down, but then, as before, a scream pierced the air. It was Mama.
"Jack! Jack! Wake up!"
Max scrambled out of bed and down the stairs thinking Santa must be stuck in the chimney. Mama blurred past him on the way to the kitchen. As he stood in a sleepy freeze, he watched her run to the water pump and with one hand begin the pumping motion to bring the slow moving water to the sink spout. In one sweeping second her other hand whipped open the cabinet door and brought out a glass.
As Max watched from the doorway, he saw her grow older. Although she was already fifty-two, he never thought of her as old. Her gray hair was not in it usual bun, but instead, partially covering her face in uneven strands like an old mop. Her robe hung unevenly on her shoulders, and the belt drooped lifelessly by her side.
The breeze cause by her rushing passed him interrupted his thoughts. He finally found his feet and walked to her bedroom door. She stood by the bed. She seemed to hesitate, and then with a piston move of her arm, splashed the whole contents of the water glass on Papa's face. They both hoped . . .expected Papa to jump up spittin' and coughin' and yellin' at Mama that she must be crazy.
The bed didn't move.
Papa didn't move.
The water dripped off his face like tears in a rain shower.
Max's Papa, who could sternly lecture him, give him a fierce thrashing, but gently tousle his hair and wink an eye, would never move again.
His Papa, whose laugh could travel out the kitchen and into the street, would never laugh again.
There was a Christmas morning celebration, because lots of people came over and brought all kinds of delicious food. But instead of the expected laughter, a strange silence hovered only to be interrupted by stifled sobs.
Last Christmas, Max remembered his big brother Jackie hoisting him on his shoulders and bounding down the stairs. The bouncing came to an abrupt stop in front of the Christmas tree. Below was a shimmering pool of brilliantly wrapped packages. The storm of bows and ribbon and wrapping paper echoed in Max's ears as the memory wave brought him back to this day. Why did this Christmas have to be so different?
After getting his hand slapped reaching for an apple dumpling, Max was told to go into the parlor and sit on the piano bench. The scratchy woolen suit that Mama told him to wear gnawed at his skin. The hard leather shoes trapped and cramped his toes.
His sister Elma came in with Little John. They were supposed to be friends. John was his nephew. Little John was seated next to Max.
'You are so prissy," Max mumbled to himself. Six years old and he looked forty.  Little John sat perfectly still. His hair was plastered into place and his fingernails were trimmed and shiny.
Max glanced at his own ragged nails and scraped fingers. Mama's attempts to civilize him usually resulted in her rolling her eyes and shaking her
head in defeat.  He couldn’t help it. As he rubbed the still red bruises on his middle knuckle, he remembered how good it felt to punch Joey Thompson yesterday when he had said Max’s momma looked like an old granny. After bloodying his nose and mouth, just a little, Max made him take it back. Which he did, knowing Max had more to give.
     Little John nudged him back to the present.
“My Grandpappa’s dead!”
“GRANDpappa? That was my papa! I’m only two year older than you and that’s my daddy!”
Confusion flushed both their faces. One man, two little boys. A grandfather to one and a father to the other?
Max was just about to tell Little John that he didn’t know what he was talking about, when a familiar smell snatched his attention. His sister Rose had arrived with her boyfriend, Edgar. Nothing, not even an easy-win argument with that little priss would keep Max from his Rosie. Before she could completely get into the doorway, he had flown into her arms and buried his face into the side of her Evening in Paris neck.
Rosy always carried the aroma of flowers about her. He wondered if she would ever smell like flour or soap or bleach like Mama.  He really believed that’s why she was called Rose. For the first time today, the scenes, the scents and the feel was finally right.
“Say now, Maxy, I’ve come back home. It’s okay. Don’t you worry about a thing.”  Tears were glistening in her eyes, and Max began to feel angry and unhappy at the same time.
As Max sat and dosed on Rose’s lap that afternoon, he listened to the bits and pieces of conversation that swirled around the room like the smoke from all the men’s pipes and cigars. Harsh and pungent at first, and then dissolving into resignation.
“Why didn’t she call the doctor right away?...I hear that the store is in trouble….You and Edgar just can’t get married next week, not now…Momma and Maxy won’t be able to stay here very long…You can’t expect me to watch over them; John is too much of a handful as it is …Well, somehow, things will have to work out”…
Later that evening, Max was sent to the back bedroom to play with  Little John.  Reluctantly, he accepted the new chore. The play drifted into one of Little John’s “Know-It-All” conversations.
“My mommy says you and Grandmother have to leave here.”
“You don’t know nothin’, Johnny.”
“Uh-huh! I bet you and Grandmother won’t even live together anymore. Mommy said so.”
“Well, She don’t know nothing either! I’d never leave Mama, Jackie, or Rosy! They’re my family, and families don’t get split up.!
“My Mommy is your family and she doesn’t live here.”
Anger and fear battled inside Max’s head while John ran out of the room. He yelled back to have the last word and maybe more so to convince himself,
“Anyway, when I grow up, I’m never going to die! And even if I do, I’m not going until all my kids are grow’d up. I’m going to have a big family, but nothing is going to separate us. We’ll always be together. Just you wait and see.”


Max kept his promise, at least until November, 1980 at the too young age of 62 he let go of his four grown children to once again join the love of his life.  Although the four of us have rarely lived near each other, our closeness is one that never makes the miles separate us.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OUR HANDS


My sweet sister had to remind me that I had not posted my latest "Love Letter" to my dear husband. Here it is now. I wonder what you would consider your symbol of love with a dear one in your life.


Since that moment at your mom’s kitchen table, 
when you slipped your grandmother’s engagement ring on my finger, 
you have adorned my hands with your love.  
We have shared a band of gold that links us forever together. 
Other decorations may have been added, 
always with a deep affection and purpose; 
but, all the silver and gold pales to the real treasures --
 our hands. 
 You have wrestled pigs, water pipes, and babies with those hands;
 reaching for reassuring hugs and bonding handshakes.
 My hands have stripped wires, gears, and mud-caked children for baths; 
patched quilts, and broken hearts. 
We have had our share of
 holding on to angry cats, posthole diggers, horse-thrown toddlers, 
and each other.  
Together we have 
stroked cheeks in love, wiped away tears of grief, and patted backs with praise. 
Whether it is a gentle squeeze, entwined fingers, or linked pinkies, 
our hands will be our symbol 
 our shared life, 
and 
our undying love
 for each other.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Avoidance


Another early morning rise and a chance to regroup after a full day of completely checking out yesterday.  I will not feel guilty about my few days of non-production. Sometimes we need that. I am back in the saddle and trying to flesh out some old journals to find my writing voice again. I had created a poem years ago just on the word AVOIDANCE.  Something I seem to still be very good at. So I present to you the same poem to let you think about how our words speak to us in ways we never imagined.  At least this little poem opened my eyes to what I was doing to myself by just avoiding any of the work I knew I should be doing. Share any treasures you have found in just one word. I'd love to hear them.


AVOIDANCE
Curious word --- Avoidance
In the middle,
VOID bulges out –
an empty black hole, because
something is being
 ignored.
A gives VOID an identity –
But a painful reminder
 that it is still a
Nothing.

And tagging along behind is
DANCE –
Happy, giddy, carefree Dance;
Tormenting the Nothing it’s attached to.
Is it trying to say something?
Perk up the Void, the negative space?
What good is dancing alone with the dark?
A * Void * Dance

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Before the End of the Day, What Do You Wish Would Happen?


       Interesting question, don’t you think?   As an exercise I was supposed to watch these people in various parts of the country answer that question.   The exercise was to focus on the characteristics of the people, but I was really into their answers. It was a bit difficult to hear everything because the filmographer had music riddled through it…an aggravating practice in my opinion.
       But the answers I did hear varied tremendously on the scale from personal to altruistic; from instant gratification to long term effects. From “have more sex, money, etc…to world peace. So I just thought I would rattle on about that for a minute and then pose to you that thought.
       Since it is only what I would want to see before the end of the day, I do consider it a person question, not one posed at the world to experience, so I’ll leave World Peace for another day.  Instant gratification would be that I would like that my cold…and my dear hubby’s cold to instantly vanish. Neither of us can comfort the other because we feel so lousy ourselves. It’s when I’m down like this that I think of all the things I could be doing if I felt better. When the cold gradually disappears, I’m back to taking it for granted.  An instant release would really jump my guns, and I might begin doing all I wished to do.  I know we could face the next day brighter and sharper. On a selfish note, sure I think a Publisher’s Clearing House bus should arrive at my curb…do they still do that anyway?
        Then what comes to mind… at the end of this day, I would hope that all the decisions regarding my husband’s mother could be cleared up. She has been hospitalized for 4 months and the Medicare has run out and her mental state is deteriorating. My dear husband is having to deal with this heartache completely alone as his half-sister is incompetent and incapable of having any empathy.  His mother is 600 miles away so the distance is making it even harder. I have seen him go from a fairly jovial, carefee individual to an inward, grumpy and angry man. I hurt for him and wish by the end of the day his pain would be over. Then comes the thought…be careful what you ask for... Ever read the short story by W.W. Jacobs  “The Monkey’s Paw” when the mother wished that her dead son would be alive again? Well, it’s not a good thing.
        So the bottom line is that by the end of the day, I hope that all whom I know can have the same thing I wish for – my loved one comes home and gives me a hug and looks me in the eye and says, “Hi, Love how was your day, I want to hear all about it.”

How about you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Internal Monologue of My Tranquil Journey to Finding a Writing Routine



I used to teach Internal Monologue to my students.  It is a type of stream of consciousness writing that displays what is going on in the writer’s head while going through a daily routine.  There are several literary examples that I would show them such as Alice Walker’s, “Everyday Use” or Tillie Olsen’s “While I Stand Here Ironing.”  As I am in the beginning of a Writing Class to discover my own writing routine, I have below my reflection of this week’s  assignment.

        Woke up at 4 a.m. with terrific headache. Decided to work through it and maybe get in some uninterrupted writing time. I’m supposed to create a ritual this week. Not my forte. I am far from being a creature of habit on anything but leaving my shoes in the middle of the living room. So that’s the plan…
I had better take my BP . For the past 2 weeks, I have been going through this silent rebellion (more like cutting your nose off to spite your face) to get off my meds and continue my eating and exercise routine to handle it. Well, it was a whopping 190/102. Okay, enough of that. Pop the dang pill. While you’re at it, take a couple of  ibuprofen for the headache, backache, joint ache that accompanies every morning rise. Oh and the eye focus routine has to take about 30-45 minutes.  Make a cup of coffee and just meditate - one of the ritual suggestions (i.e. Veg Out) for a bit to get all the drugs to do their thing. It’s now 5 pm. Still too early to take in the sunrise – another ritual idea. Get on computer go to buddy pages of my writing class. Decided to see my buddy’s blog to get to know her since I haven’t heard from her in like 3 days. So I’ll write her another email.
        Wonder what’s at the class site to help me take in ideas for my ritual. The assignment is to write about childhood memories and food. Making lists. Okay let’s see  one… Lemon halves dipped in sugar bowl, two…chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream.. Hmm, What else is on the site comments…
         Another student has posted that she uses  a bouncy exercise ball as a chair at her computer. Bouncy ball. I’ve got one of those. Bouncing to the Beethoven’s music - yet another ritual idea. Probably quite a site when daughter walks in to ask what I was doing.
        Oh gosh this is trash day. Got to gather all the trash up and get it outside.  Last night Sam had raked our leaves for us and I was supposed to get them in bags last night. Well, I’m not going to do that now! It’s still pitch dark.  When does the sun rise these days anyway? Dragging the big trash canister to the curb is enough for now.
        Sister calls. We both have to have our daily jabber session. This will last almost an hour. Then we make excuses to get back to the laundry. Better make it look good, so pick up all the weekend cast-off clothes littering my bedroom floor, and put on a load of laundry.
        Back to the computer…Bouncy bouncy. Set up visual imagery meditation tape. Is it 9:00 already?!!
Oh, I’ll light a fragrant candle.  Can’t find lighter or matches. Well skip that.  Make a cup of tea... burned my tongue. Get back to the Meditation. It really worked last week. But it’s too soft to hear. I resort to hanging my neckloop over my ears so I can hear it. Only those who know about hearing aids and neckloops would appreciate this, but I will the rest of you to imagine this ridiculous sight of a 60 year old woman, still in her morning velour pants and plaid shirt, silently yet merrily bouncing on an exercise ball with wires hanging over her ears, in front of her laptop ..
           Headed back up to the other list on childhood memories and food. Oh scratch that. I’ll have to write that another time.
        Bouncy bouncy
        Tea is cold now.
        Looking out window at beautiful fall  trees. Wind robustly blowing .  Oh no, those 5 carefully raked piles of leaves that Sam created for me!! Well, no need getting them in bags now.
It is now 11 a.m. and I have successfully completed my goal of 600 words and hopefully a bit of entertainment for my dear bloggees . 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rosannah's Dogwood


Before Rosannah Counts Rutledge was 25 she had given birth to six children and would have three more after that. By the time she was 40 she was a widow with five of her nine children still at home. When she dies of malaria five years later in 1879, her youngest, eleven-year-old  Jack, my grandfather, will be raised by his older sisters a few miles away in Lincoln County, Smithland, Tennesse .   I can only imagine what this woman, pregnant with my grandfather had to endure reflecting on her circumstances in 1867 as she stood by a dogwood tree.

      Even as a sapling, the Cornus Florida L will flower and bear fruit.  As the legend goes the once tall, straight dogwood was once used as timber. But when the lumber was used to make the fateful crucifix, The Lord Almighty promised that it would never again grow large enough to serve that purpose.  As a symbol of that promise, in the springtime the Flowering Dogwood bracts individually bear the shaped image of the cross and nails of Calvary.  The full crown of whitened plumage provides a delicate respite of color among the forest evergreens. A small trail of like foliage is in the forest path but this one seems to have ventured farther toward the river.  Full grown it will stand fifteen feet tall and bow its head over the river. How this one dogwood was able to grow by the water’s edge could be left to divine providence.
       It sways in the breeze to the rhythm of the flowing waters of the Elk River.  By fall the flowers will be gone and replaced by the purple magenta fruit and leaves. Although its fruit is poisonous to humans, it is a sustaining force for wildlife. The downy woodpecker will thrive on its berries, and the trunk will hold a hidden nest.  As it grows, the rough, but thin bark becomes a healing elixir to break a fever when she boils it into a tea. Little does she know that the tiny holes made by the waspy borer is evidence of the insect’s urge to procreate, and at the same time condemns this tree to an early demise.
       It’s summer 1867. The house is on the other side of the river and the dogwood can’t be seen from the yard. Every day on the way to the Old Salem’s Emporium to sell her eggs, she has to follow the forest path toward the bridge to take in the sight.  The sounds of the surrounding forest invade her ears as a simple high pitched buzzing.  The summer flow could have been mild and pleasant if she did not carry such a heavy burden of thought.  The birds overhead in the pine trees sing warning songs to each other as she walks under their protected nests.  Crossing the bridge, she would glance longingly at the broken dogwood tree hanging over the river bank.  It was a comforting piece of agony that she held onto.  There was talk that the men would eventually cut down the dangerous eyesore, but she silently hoped that they would just let it be.  Why keep the reminder there?  She really couldn't explain it; she just wanted to keep seeing it.
      On this particular day, Rosannah stops at the bank of the Elk River, feeling the soreness of her back intensify as she stands longer. Why did she stop here? Was it just a year ago her world shattered?  No, it’s even been longer, but why come here now? Is it going to relieve her sorrow to see the empty space where that little one last stood?
      What a horrible year it has been. She thought she had seen her share of death. Her mother gone before she was 15. Two brothers destroyed by this horrible war that won’t seem to end. Those lost loved ones could be explained as the natural order of things, but Annis? Just a stupid accident. What had she done wrong?
      The river isn't even blue, but a murky muddy red instead. It's not as fast as it was that dreadful day, but its power is still there.  Evil power? Fateful power?  Or just a sad accident? No rhyme or reason, it just happened. It would have been so easy, so comforting to just give up and fall in.  But she has many other children to care for.  When has she had time to grieve by herself?  Annis was a bright child, but even at the age of 5 seemed so prone to a moody darkness like her father, Nelson.
       Nelson seemed to just plod on after the accident. Rose knew however that he was really frozen by the loss of his daughter, and was able to just keep his anger penned inside.  While she outwardly cried in every private moment she could chisel out of the day, it at least helped her release the pain of not knowing what the last moments of her little girl’s life had been...
       The thunder didn’t frighten Annis. She was used to walking in the soft summer rains, and in fact, loved the gentle little taps on her face and hands.  Her wet dress however was becoming heavier, and she knew she should leave her magic forest and get home. She would have to leave her mudpies decorated with the red fruits for the downy woodpeckers nesting above.  The thunder was more vibration than sound. She could feel the wet slippery ground quiver with each thunderous invasion, but to her ears it was little more than a soft thumping sound.
      Her mother’s voice calling had no chance of reaching her ears in the sudden summer deluge that surrounded her.  She continued to head for the river bank.  The lightening was something different. The bright strikes blinded her momentarily, losing her footing, she slipped in the red mud. She grabbed a lower limb of the dogwood tree, crying out for John or George, but they had long ago left her to her imaginary castle before the clouds even gathered. “Mommy! Mommy!! Help!”
      As it had aged over the years, the trunk of the dogwood had grown thicker, but the holes in the bark showed how the ravaging borers had killed it from the inside out. It was only a shell of its former self.  Still standing tall but weaker each day, she could not recognize it as the death trap it had become. It could not even carry her tiny weight, and the trunk cracks. Little Annis Rutledge falls onto the muddy bank’s edge.
      Her little fingers were holding tight to a root, and she pulled with all her might to try to stand up.  The mud just gave way to the advancing rain and became a small rivulet that pulled at her soaked smocked pinafore as it created its new path to the river.  Little hands are not meant to grip for long and in only a moment Annis was swept into the rising river and it carried her away. Water seared her lungs as it rushed into her mouth and down her throat. A huge water-soaked log rushed by her too fast to grab, and her head hit one of its outstretched limbs.  The cold comfort of darkness shrouded her mind and her body, and the fear and struggle was over.
      The familiar quickening in Rosannah’s abdomen shoved her mind back to the present. So many babies. Will it be different this time? Fevers, wars, accidents. It really doesn’t stop. But she won’t stop either. Life is for the living, and she resolves to press on. What little faith she has, she will hang on to it never really letting anyone know the dark hole in her heart. What purpose would it serve to have them turn on her if they knew she couldn’t believe in God’s grace anymore? Her God IS, but he doesn’t control her every move or thought, or anyone else’s in this world. She glances at the fallen dogwood.  The jagged trunk is wet. It weeps. Yes, God IS. HE too weeps with her.
     The men eventually come to the edge of the river to release the carcass of the tree leaving a nine inch stump. They may not understand that the natural capillaries in the bark will draw the sap and water through the roots and up the existing trunk even though it is no longer alive. Because the roots touch the bank of the river, the bark channels the water up the exiting trunk, and the stump still weeps.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Birthday!

     Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 91 years old. Sadly she didn't even make it to her 53rd year.  I didn't get to find the pleasure of her becoming an old person. I know that may sound strange to most who are caring for an elderly parent, and I do hope I am not stepping on anyone's feelings here.  There are so many of you out there suffering through the living loss of a parent. But for the most part you did have 30 more years with them that I never had.  I have precious friends and a husband who are dealing with this kind of loss right now, and I offer little comfort because of my lack of experience.  It's just a different perspective.  I missed out on the frail bones and the failing memory. I didn't get to observe her hair growing whiter over the years. She couldn't be at my side when  we lost our first born son at age 23, or when I miscarried. She didn't get to experience the absolute joy of seeing her first grandchild, or watch all 6 of them grow into beautiful adults.  With Dad following only 7 years later, the image of older parents just is not part of my make-up.
     I sometimes wonder what Mom would have been like as she grew older. Her faith, her everlasting, unconditional love for her husband and children, her exquisite artistic talent. How would they have played out over the years?  And her face, the sparkling eyes and alabaster skin free of a single wrinkle. Would those have faded over the years? I really doubt it.
     How would she have acted when it came to my trials and tribulations throughout my own marriage? I've said many times that if she had lived, I probably would have been divorced.  It would have been too easy to run back into her loving arms at the slightest argument with my new husband.  Or as a grandmother, how would she have judged me as I struggled with the kids' terrible 2's that are seeming to last until 32!
     I've been able to squeeze so many memories out of the 23 years we had together. I've savored every recall of mine as well as from my siblings.  They remember  things that I don't and vice versa.  I have to make that a good thing!  What treasures others must have with having parents on earth for 60, 70 or 80 years!!
     Now that I am embarking on a new venture as a grandparent, what lessons will I be able to fall back on?  I thought she was the perfect mother. She was gone before I realized she even had imperfections.  Through my own experiences as a mom, I know now she could not have been perfect.  But the love my children show me reflects my love of her, so maybe in my short 23 years with her, something did rub off on me.
     Parents can sometimes be the best teachers --- not the ones who lecture or show you how everything is done right, but the ones who stand back and let you discover on your own; learning to accept and acknowledge your own successes and failures equally. As a parent, Mom didn't have that choice...to stand back, but for me it's the biggest lesson right now. As I watch my own children  who are learning to become adults and parents themselves, I HAVE TO stand back and let them struggle through it. I must have the faith in them that they will, too, get through this life with as much love and appreciation for their family and those around the as possible.
     Thanks, Mom, for all you have taught me. I'll try to live up to all your lessons.
And Happy Birthday, Mavis Gertrude Pendley Rutledge!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thinking Time

Wow! I have really been gone a long time!  I have been finishing a basement, but it would be better to say that I have been my husband's go-fer while he finished the basement. Then I started a writing class to see if I could make a better routine of my writing. What kind of sense does it make to say that I haven't been blogging because I have been writing !?!? Enough excuses....

Here is an interesting thought...Under what circumstances do you do your best thinking?
         I have seen so many changes over the years in my thinking process.  Years of traveling for 20 plus minutes to and from school, I know that was my best time to think. Still, my best thinking really does happen when I’ m in the car, alone, no radio or music and the thoughts begin to flow. I have created excellent lesson plans, stories, and arguments in the car. Driving home it gives me a “down-time” to re-group, plan the rest of the evening, what to fix for dinner, what pattern or quilt problem can be resolved,
        After retiring, and having all this time on my hands, I find that I cannot think creatively, logically or any -ly. I couldn’t figure it out. I do not have that kind of driving time any more, and it is becoming more difficult to think clearly - age?  Maybe in part, but I don’t think I have the other distraction time anymore - least ways, not one I create. Now the TV is always on and the up and down to and from TV to computer keeps me from thinking much at all. Too much input and never enough output. It even seems to affect my speech.
       I recently took a long drive home to see the changing leaves before they were all gone. I thought the drive would be me some good thinking time. It worked before, so why not now? As it turned out, I found myself just taking in the scenery.  Maybe that's all I needed.
       I also thought that I could discover good thinking time while I painted the stairwell and the stairs to the basement.  It was such an unpleasant chore (never liked painting...too much prep) that all I could chisel out of my brain was "Where did I put the ibuprofen and should I schedule a massage?"
        Trying to pick up on  writing my roots (genealogical creative non-fiction) has pretty much stalled in my head. I want to create a writing routine, but it just isn't happening. Then again, maybe its time to "do" and let the "thinking' just be.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Story of Rutledge Red






     Several years ago in the frenzy of getting Christmas presents planned, I knew I would not be able to do all I wanted. The thought came to me that I would send out a request page of what kind of Quilt I could make for my brother and his wife. I knew that would buy me some time. By March they sent me their specifications – all that really stuck out from the page wasn’t the size (queen) or the type (traditional) but one little word – RED. I practically had red as non-existent in my stash. Not that I didn’t like it, I loved red, but I had never worked with it. Why? Fear of bleeding? Too Red Raider-ish? Too valentiney?
     Nonetheless I began my red quest frenzy every time I came near a fabric store or went on a shop hop. By the end of April I had so many reds, blacks and pinks and every thing in between that I was ready to find the right pattern. First I had a great “scrappy” pattern and began slashing and slicing all the pieces. I followed the next step a quilter usually does and threw them up on a design board. “Threw up” is not to be taken lightly --- scrappy became crappy. My fears were realized; it looked like a chewed up and spit out Valentiney Red Raider horse blanket. I abandoned the whole thing – in despair.
      Now what? I lamented my dismay to my dear quilting friends, Maureen and Beth, as we were walking into a favorite store. I pulled out my recent magazine on the subject and began flipping through the pages. I said if I really wanted to do one right for them it should look like—this--- pointing to a pattern featured in the magazine. “So let’s look at likely fabrics”, Maureen said. Thirty minutes later we were walking out the door with all the fabric for THE ONE. I was ready to “get’er done.”
     Little did I realize that the 20 blocks had over 60 pieces in each of them, and I was also going to be tackling a never attempted skill of appliqué. This might take a little more than the couple of months I had planned. I didn’t even want to think about the quilting itself, so I proceeded to piece, and piece, and piece all summer long.

     Finally in August the top was done! I called on a few friends and we “sandwiched” the top, batting and backing together in record time. Maureen offered to teach me how to use her big long-arm quilting machine. Pushing my new fears aside, I said okay. For about 3 weeks I would go over to her house after school and quilt. I soon stopped my “white-knuckle” driving and began to really see this beauty emerging. In spite of all the imperfections, I was proud to pull it off the machine and hurry home to bind it. That gave me the slow down time to think about the label, and what I would name it. 
     As I formed the pieces for the label Rutledge Red came to mind. That had to be it. Knowing how much Tricia loves red, and how much Tom loves Tricia, the two came together. The two words joined a perfect union, just like Tom and Tricia do.
     I began quilting as a selfish act as a way to work through my own grief and healing, but it has now become such a piece of myself, that I want to share it with all whom I love. But, I also hate to “push my homemade-y” stuff on people. Hopefully this quilt created in love will be used in the same spirit it was given.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Children of Summer



It's October and my heart and mind is still focused on summer.

Ray Bradbury's style in Dandelion Wine inspired me to try his way with words. His beginning line to describe the great-grandmother character was that  "she had stuffed chickens, squabs, turkeys, men and boys." I loved that play with words. Here is my attempt.  I would love to hear how you would emulate his style.


In the heat of the summertime children will
paint sidewalk pictures,
make brownies, trouble, and
   obstacle courses for their two-wheeled, stream-lined racers; 
create "crafty" magnets, sibling battles, and 
    reasons not to clean their room; 
build new Lego cars, fortresses of blanket and pillow, and friendships; 
chase rabbits, dreams, or imaginary monsters; 
giggle through the slumber party nights; and 
cry,
 "That's not fair!"
 "Are we almost there?" and
 "Mom, I'm bored! There's nothing to do!"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Making Chow Chow


I have been savoring MawMaw's Chow Chow in my memory for more than a year now. I resolved that my meager green thumb was going to somehow grow enough green tomatoes to make her delicious relish. Having a grandmother in the 50's usually meant canning days were a part of my life. Unfortunately Mom didn't can much, and I can only remember a day or two at MawMaw's where she was canning which was enough to instill a memory of a hot kitchen in August. My aunt and grandmother in sleeveless floursack aprons, Damp wisps hair plastered to their necks and foreheads, endlessly chopping green tomatoes, cabbage, and onions. Then the sweaty hot business of stirring and stirring with a large wooden spoon in a cadaverous black pot on the gas stove... forever. As a 12 year old it looked like too much work, no fun, and probably much like my mom...too old-fashioned to be a part of my daily routine. But... the end result was...heaven. I guess I never really learned that little lesson from Henny Penny to earn your rewards, so being able to take home a can or two of the rich green treasure wasn't like a job well done, or a deserved award...just a chance at a good meal of blackeyed peas with the spicy tangy topping of "MawMaw's Chow Chow." It was a great fall dinner and an absolute MUST on New Year's Eve. Years after leaving home, every begging year, I feared that my luck would be ruined because the idea of black-eyed peas (with that relish) was not the first thing that passed my lips.
Fast forward almost 50 years and for some reason I wanted to create that same scene, but this time I wanted to earn it. Wyoming wind never gave me a chance to grow anything successfully so my chance came when we moved to Colorado. It wasn't until our third summer here that I was able to grow enough tomato plants to produce the little green charms that I would need. I would shuffle out each morning to scan the plants to count the little yellow blooms and then the eventual bulbs that would be my "green 'maters". I figured that by the end of July the 'maters and I would be ready. Enter deck building weekends and a surprise 10 day visit from little sis and I woefully watched as the green gems began turning red. A delight for our daily salad but a fear that I would not be able to pick enough green ones and how am I going to find the time to let canning take over my kitchen? Especially with the memory of Two Sisters in the kitchen creating Mom's Merangue Pie?  Janie's fragile nerves from a trying year already was the reason for her visit, and was I asking for a meltdown (not sure from her or me) by inviting her to partake in this memory fest? Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was now or never for this season.
Two days after the Saturday Deck Party, a few donated green 'maters from a dear friend and my promise that he would get the first jar, Janie and I gathered the ingredients and began the New Millennium Chowchow Creation.
I had already bought the 2 heads of cabbage, the onions and the carrots. That morning before Janie got up, I chopped up the cabbage and put it all in large plastic bags. A little later,  the onions with the every present tearing eyes were packed away. After seeing Wayne off to work and a couple of cups of coffee and the needed "Gotta have my protein" Breakfast for Janie, I started to assemble the works.
"Do you have the cabbage?"
"Yes, all ready to go."
 "And the onion? I think she was beginning to think I was going to do this all alone. I had to give her something to do."
"Yep."
"Carrots?"
"Oh, no, would you chop those for me?"
After  the pound of carrots were chopped, we sat and looked over the recipe for the 10th time.
"I really don't remember carrots it it".
"Me either. It says here that she never used hot peppers but I remember the best part was that it was really spicy."
"Me too.and really GREEN. Maybe she put food coloring in it."
"I'm not going to do that."
"Well, it's getting late. Let's go to lunch."
As I looked over the assembled ingredients, the ready pot and the makings for the syrup, I didn't want to leave now. Our speedometers were definitely not on the same cruise control setting. Never has been, and certainly not this visit.
"Janie, we just got started; why leave now?"
"You know I need to eat lunch and I've got to not just sit here all day. I sit at home alone every day. We need to get out."
  Again, the kid gloves go on, and we pack up everything back into the refrigerator and off to NoNo's Cafe. I had promised myself much to my daughter's chiding that I give in to her aunt's demands way too much, to not make waves this trip. The woes of grown children and the typical husband bashing dominated the conversation once again with the repeated barbs of accusations that her daughter would lay on her mother that she was trying to manipulate her life..."How can she say that? I don't have a manipulative bone in my body."
In mid-chew of my hamburger, I had to say it..."Yes, you do." Uh-oh now I've done it. To my surprise the astonished stare from across the table only lasted a few seconds. No fire back, but a request for how that could be.  I tried my best to lovingly point out something that we all suffer from, not really knowing ourselves but how we are perceived by others. She seemed to just ponder the thoughts.
An hour later, we are back in my kitchen and the process of making Chow Chow was once again on track.

"No, no I think you've got it."

This time I know I earned it.
Like the chow chow, the memories of our lives are  bottled up into a conglomeration of  tiny little bits, some are sweet, some are biting or even a little burning hot, but together they can be combined to be stored and later opened up for all to enjoy who want to bring a little of us to the table. There will be someone who doesn't want to try it at all, some who will fondly remember and savor it, and others who will enjoy the newer version. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Walk on the Dark Side

A long ago forgotten memory. I was probably around 8 or 9 because I would have been able to walk home alone (in those days) without big brother who was already in junior high or tag-a-long little sister, not yet in school .


        A beautiful spring afternoon to walk the 10-12 blocks to our house from the elementary school.  Never a creature of habit even as a child, I would shuffle from sidewalk to street gutter to add variety to my steps.  I let my eyes scan the ground for various treasures abandoned for whatever reason.  Unusual bits of broken glass, abandoned  balls,  pencils,  or tattered school papers adorned the little swept street.  My favorite sighting would be rocks of various sizes and shapes.  Once I had found a strange red sandstone-like rock that looked like a rose..
      So, this particular day I knew I could take my time to search  for new objects and knew I might have some luck.  Just a block or two from home, I found IT. But what a strange smooth tiny rock it was!  I picked it up and marveled at its beautiful blue speckled color. It seemed unusually hard and heavy.  What possessed me to do what came next, I still do not know.  I tossed it up in the air. Caught it. Then squatting close to the ground, I smashed it into the gutter.  Did I really believe it was a rock?  Why couldn't I recognize or admit that it was a robin egg?  What ever evil thought I had, I really do not remember, but I do recall with vivid acuity, the horror.  Even though the yellow yolk and glistening white spilled from the shattered remains, and my adult mind now knows that this abandoned egg was probably never fertilized, my child mind sized me up as an evil killer of a baby bird.
      First thought of death...
      First thought of my power to end life...
      First thought of my internal wickedness.

     Eggs are the symbolic essence of the beginning of life, of purity, birth, renewal, of nature's miracles. Ironically my first thought or memory of the word "egg" created just the opposite.  But, could it be that nature is powerful enough to hold lessons from both poles of good and evil within ourselves, and we can be grateful for that power to teach us.
     We can so quickly point out the evils in others or in the world, but until we can recognize those seeds of evil within ourselves, we cannot heal the world around us.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My School of Learning

The mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting -- Plutarch

         Four plus years out of the educational setting, and I still can't shake the "teacher thoughts."  Not that I want to go back or should go back, the quotes and thoughts I shared with kids everyday still stay with me.  Each morning for 32 years -- without fail, I wrote a quotation on the board.  My initial "fresh out of college, eager to ignite minds" purpose rarely achieved the "ah-ha moments" I expected my passion-impaired charges to grasp and hold dear. But, I persevered. Everyday a new bit of wisdom was plastered up there for all to see and share.  Dutifully they wrote. Silently they sat for 5-10 minutes while I performed the required first of class duties of taking attendance, picking up homework, and passing out graded work. Of course there were years of variation to place the writing at the end of the hour so I could also share in the writing time, but much of the time was to secretly prepare for the next storm of students.
         So what did they learn from my daily quotations? I hope more than I am presenting here, but I really will never know.  I do know I learned a great deal:
 #1 There are a lot of wise quotations out there. The sea is endless.
                 (As a matter of fact I never ran across this one posted above)
 #2 Different perspectives of something said is as varied
                   as the number who hear it.
 #3 hmm,....do I have a #3?
           Probably not, but I do ponder on Plutarch's words. I agree that I could not pry open the Richard Craniums and pour in the knowledge. I had to try to give a spark and hope that someone's perspective allowed a bit of a firestorm in his pursuit of learning.  But on the other hand, mighty Plutarch, once ignited and a grand bonfire of knowledge is before our eyes - what is left but ashes?
      So, I will probably lean toward another quotation when it comes to "lighting up someone's mind"
The one I favor was originally Thomas Jefferson's but picked up in different forms as I have here:

         Using your candle to light someone else's, 
doesn't take away your own light, 
but adds to the brightness of the room.


              As least on this blog, my world is definitely brighter when I hear from you discovering new life for yourself  in my words.  It's a lesson I hold dear.  
Thanks for being here.