Sunday, November 18, 2018

Let grateful days be endless

Forever on Thanksgiving Day. The heart will find the pathway home. - Wilbur D. Nesbit

How many times did we sit around the table, focusing on food instead of understanding the preciousness of those moments? No longer can I sit with my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents. Little is the family that remains, yet I am not saddened. I am blessed to have had those times, those people. Each Thanksgiving those faces once more come into view. The dialogue we shared. The laughter and memories that made my family so wonderful. The love that I always knew was there. Even as a child, I was thankful. Now as an older adult, I am truly blessed.

This Thanksgiving I hope you look into the eyes of those surrounding you and understand the gifts of giving. Tuck those moments in your heart for you will take them out and look at them time and time again. Even in the darkest of times, in those of loss and sorrow, the heart that laughed and loved will find warm memories to ease the pain.

Many are not as fortunate as most of us. Perhaps we are their thanksgiving by what we can do to make their lives easier. Perhaps that smile you share with a stranger or the hand given to someone in need will be the giving and the thanks. For in giving we truly receive and are thankful to be tools of hope and joy.

My column is small this week because I want to add this Thanksgiving Song. I am thankful for each of you. Please reach out this week and give others something for which they can be truly thankful. Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table. From far and near we travel home, blessed that we are able. Grateful for this sheltered place with light in every window, saying "Welcome, welcome, share this feast. Come in away from sorrow." Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone in the gift of loving kindness. Grateful for what's understood, and all that is forgiven; we try hard to be good to lead a life worth living. Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone let grateful days be endless. Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table.

Many blessings, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Chill in the air

That time of the year when summer is tucked away and fall has taken her leave(s). The grey skies that
make you think that it is evening all day long. And, most of all, that chill in the air that only comes with the first frosts. Winter.

I sit in my writing place in our 'crow's nest' looking out over the valley. In the distance I see Mt. St. Helens glowing with winter's first mountain snow. Outside the window our little hummingbirds seem to fight just for the heck of it. The huge fir tree looming over the back of the house is alive with birds of all types. I can hardly take my eyes off the view from the window.

We sat by the window in the kitchen back the lane. Mom always wanted a big window with a bar and stools below it, so she and Dad could sit there watching the comings and goings on Neff Road. The red maple outside the window was filled with lively activity. The bird feeder was enticement to draw them close enough for the window viewing.

By the time the kitchen was remodeled, the Loxley girls had all moved away. Coming home meant that we got to enjoy that beautiful kitchen and even more so, the new bathroom with a tub!!! Sometimes we lament that we had an outhouse when we were growing up, and as I child I took a bath in the kitchen sink until I outgrew it. The new kitchen had a dishwasher, so the previous dish washers could retire. Perhaps we enjoyed the new room more having experienced the old.

We all took turns sitting on those stools, enjoying the view as much as Mom and Dad did. We sat our toddlers on the counter, showing them the wonders of Neff Road. Long talks were held by the window. Long talks and a pot of coffee.  We watched as cars came down the road, maybe coming to the Loxley house. We watched for family and friends as they drove or walked up the lane. We watched Dad go down the lane for the mail, and for family members returning from a walk to the bridge. This was our window on the past, and one we still visit in our hearts now and then.

I look out my window over the valley to the hills far away and think how my Dad would have loved this lofty view, especially of the birds. There is not a time that I sit there that I am not drawn back to the farm and that wonderful window. We should all have such windows. Those that tug on the heart. Those that evoke smiles. Windows into the creation of all who care to look.

There's a chill in the air. Perhaps it won't be long until I see snow.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Run, Turkey, Run

Not being much of an athlete or a follower thereof, I must make a confession. I thought the Turkey Trot was for turkeys trying to escape hunters, looking for a Thanksgiving bird. Hm. Well, at least it should be. 

This time of the year I have turkeys on the mind. I hate that the birds are raised just for eating. What a life! And, I feel the same for all food animals even though I do partake of said critters. As you know, I am a believer that animals have souls as well as do people. Then we come to those being hunted with guns. First of all, it is my belief that we should arm all turkeys with weapons to make the hunt equal. Makes sense to me. However, as you know, I am on the animals' side. 

I wish I could be a vegetarian. I actually like veggies better than meat, yet a great prime rib calls to me now and again. I remember when Dad loaded my pet calf on the trailer to become someone's dinner. "Pam, you did such a good job with the calf. He walked right onto the trailer." Well, darn! I didn't train it to be meat. I trained it to be loved, Dad!!!

I am not against farmers or hunters. I am just for the animals. And, a tofu turkey does not whet my appetite. Not that I don't like tofu, soybean growers. Oh my, it does get complicated. And, I do love turkey sandwiches the day after. In essence, this is a traumatic time of the year for the turkeys and me.

This article seems to be about me and those darn birds. Yet, maybe it is about a bit more. Maybe it is about realizing that animals give up their lives for us. In olden days animals were sacrificed for higher deities. Perhaps we are still sacrificing turkeys to our deity in thanks. Hm. Sometimes I wonder where my mind will lead me. 

So, in keeping with the season, all I can say is "Run, Turkey, Run!!!!"


Monday, November 5, 2018

Just crossing off days

My Halloween decorations sit waiting to be stored for another year. The weather is warm and flowers still blooming. The trees are just glorious this year. And, next to me, Emma sits with her tablet making a Christmas list. Just crossing off days.

I was a little girl living back the lane when I made my first list. I found it in some papers from the farm. The printing is that of a very small child. Some letters are large and some are small. All go uphill and downhill like a silly worm that lost sight of the body parts preceding it. That small girl asked for a black baby doll. Yes, I have always been this way. I knew that beauty was in the doll and not the color of it.

Santa certainly read that list for on Christmas Day Amosandra was sleeping dressed in a long yellow gown with blue trim inside of a grey baby buggy. It truly might be the one present I hold most dear. That little doll went to Washington DC and every place else with me.

Years ago I found the doll in a paper bag inside of a dresser in my old room. Being a rubber doll, she had not made the trip through life in good condition. Most of her was so fragile that to touch her she would crumble. Yes, I cried. The tears were those of a little girl who knew how to love with all her heart, saying good-bye to her sweet friend.

I don't know if Mom and Dad realized the gift that they had given me went much deeper into my soul than just the love of a doll. I grew up blind to the color of people. I grew up with a deep love of color and the beauty it possess, the diversity it adds to my life and most of all the richness that happens with the shades of humanity. It was the gift for a lifetime.

Those days of my childhood are crossed off. I now look at my granddaughter and see the child I was so very long ago. I wonder if I have perhaps given her pieces of who she will become. Okay, she wants a hot tub, a horse (I asked for that most years), a trampoline and a playground just to name a few. I don't know what I give her, but she gives me the reminders of what it was to be a child with hopes and dreams. She gives me words to type and love to express.

We are just crossing off the days from Halloween to Christmas.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

BOO!

Ghosts say 'boo'. My grandchildren and earlier my children loved to scare me and say 'boo'. We play peek-a-boo with babies and kiss their boo-boos. And....sadly enough, many 'boo' at ballgames. Over the last 71 years of my life, I probably have said 'boo' at least once each year. Now that adds up to a lot of booing over time. Especially, when combined with your 'boos'. 

According to Britain's Daily Mail, linguistics professionals revealed that the word probably comes from Scotland. It was first recorded in a document displayed in the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence. Boo is defined as a word to frighten crying children. (Well, that would bring you right out of crying!) That was back in 1738.  

There are as many definitions of 'boo' as there are people to say the word. And, this time of the year, it will be one of the favorites used by all of us. Probably the next most popular will indeed be 'trick or treat'. 

I found this little bit of information and found it applicable for today. During the celebration of Samhaim in the Middle Ages, the Celtic visitors dressed in costumes made of animal skins to drive away phantom visitors. Banquet tables were laid out with offerings to placate these spirits. In later ventures, people dressed as ghosts and other malevolent creatures. They performed antics in exchange for food and drink. The custom was called mumming. Certainly an early form of trick or treat. I rather think that maybe they didn't say 'boo'.  And, perhaps this is why today many of the homeless and poor perform for coin.

I love that old and young dress up for Halloween. The twins will both be dressed as SWAT policemen. James and Lisa are going as burglars. Loren and I are going as plainclothesmen. 'Boos' will ring out throughout the neighborhood. 

I wonder on these dark Halloween nights if perhaps the spirits are following us from house to house. Listen. Perhaps you will hear a whisper. Perhaps a ghostly 'BOO'.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Falling for Autumn

Moo. Cluck. Baa. Woof. Oink. We know the benefits of livestock. In fact, I grew up with animals as my nearest neighbors. The chickens lived in the house across the yard. The cows lived in one barn and the sheep in another. The dog lived outside only because Dad would not let him in the house. Whether we realized it or not, our lives were influenced every day by those creatures great and small. Even the creatures of the fields and air were an integral part of my growing up years.

Autumn brings those sweet critters to mind. The sheep getting woolier. Dad adding fresh bedding for their winter homes. Cows hung out in the barn more and the chickens seemed more content on cold days to stay in their house. My horse looked a bit fatter with her winter coat thickening. The bird feeder was under constant surveillance from the kitchen window. Yes, autumn was deliciously wonderful on the farm.

I was delighted to find that there are actually fall festivals throughout the world honoring animals. From the website Mental Floss, I learned the following:

The festival of Kukur Tihar is a Hindu festival held in Nepal. On the first day, crows (messengers of death) are worshipped. Cows are worshipped on the third with oxen having their blessings on the fourth. On the second day, dogs, both pet and stray, receive garlands around their necks to show respect. A red dot is placed on their foreheads as an act of worship. 

In Madrid, the Fiesta de la Trashumancia is held to mark the season of moving animals to new grazing fields. Sheep, by the thousands, are led through the city. Men and women dress traditionally leading the way with song and dance. (I think they lead because, I mean, who would want to follow that herd through town?) A celebration of shepherding traditions.

This might be my favorite. In Thailand on the last Sunday in November, several tons of food (and even Coke) are set up in the ruins of a 13th century temple. Thousands of macaque monkeys feast.
The monkeys have been revered for about 2000 years. They are a sign of good luck. Lots of monkey business.

Wooly Worm Festival, a festival worth thinking about in Darke County, happens in Banner Elk, North Carolina, in the third week of October. Folklore has it that the thirteen segments on the worm's body predict the weather over the thirteen weeks of winter. Black means colder and snow; brown means fair weather. Not sure what an albino wooly worm means.

India has such great festivals. Each November the Pushcar Camel Fair is held in Rajasthan. Watch out Darke County Fair! This is one of the largest fairs of its kind in the world. Camels and livestock are shown off and local culture and traditions abound. Not so unlike our fair. People and camels are brilliantly adorned. Lively competitions take place.

Vina del Mar is on the Chilean Pacific coast. It is a fall celebration of the beauty and diversity of the country's birds. It is a time of educating people to the value of birds. Something we need as well.

Now I know you probably won't get to many of these fall events, but these international festivals just might encourage you to pay more attention to the creatures of land, air and water. Perhaps next year the Darke County Fair might include a camel barn. A banquet of treats for the goats might be a nice surprise. Dressing pigs in glorious colors or a competition of sheared designs in sheep shearing would draw crowds. Well, food for thought.

Whether you call it Fall or Autumn, it is a time when perhaps we need to do more contemplating in new ways life around us. A time to take in other cultures. A time to find a new relationship with the critters in our lives. Happy Autumn, my friends.

PLEASE VOTE.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Stitched in time

The old piano sat in the front room of Pop and Mom Johnson's home. The old piano with the high top covered with a bright orange, velvet scarf. On the Loxley homestead, the piano sat in the living room (or maybe sitting room back then). It was an old player piano. We kids plunked and rolled our fingers across the keyboards, but I never heard an adult play either one of those two pianos. Of course, we had a well-played piano at home. It was the way of it back then. With no TV, music filled more homes. Children grew up with piano music wending its way around the house. Thus from these roots comes my story.

I have a basket that was full of music. So full that it hardly closed. For years I moved the music along with me.  Some of it was Millie's music that came to me when my mother did not want it. My mind could not get around tossing sheet music away. Seems criminal. All that past captured from the notes on the page to the artwork on the cover. The lyricist and composers worked to have their music produced, to have their music known. Millie had played the sheet music so much that the tattered pages had to be sewn together to keep them in place. She did not destroy the sheet music. She continued its life. 

When Mom passed, I accumulated even more music. Pieces that she had played throughout her lifetime joined those of Millie's. They were the pieces I grew up playing. Some were from her youth. Some were my sister's favorites. Some were the songs we sang as a family. All were pieces of history. I added these to my mix of music mayhem. My books of music from movies, musicals, Billy Joel and George Gershwin. Rock and roll and love songs. Children's songs and songs my Great Uncle Jerry Loxley wrote. Music from my piano lessons still hung on. Maybe a grandchild would play them some day. Maybe I might revisit them. All resided together until sorting day.

Yes, it was time to weed out and pass on what I no longer played. A trip down memory lane. I first looked through Millie's pieces still not able to part with them. They are no longer songs that anyone remembers. They are remnants of a time long past. I still hold Millie in my heart and want to preserve what her stitches held dear. A range of emotions followed me through this sorting of the past. Old loves, deaths, lonely times, happy times, and even painful memories that were accompanied by songs. The basket carried songs that Mom pounded out on the piano throughout my childhood. The pile to pass on grew as I kept the memories and music that were part of me.

We all have sort of sheet music memories that we store. Memories that we take out and look at on occasion. They hold feelings and the music that accompanies them. As we get older, we see a history unfold, and we pick what is important and carry that on with us. My memories are stitched with love.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Seeing eye to eye

Yep, eye to eye. He looked at me. Me, one startled excited and slightly frightened woman. Well, what did I expect! You ask for something, and it happens! Wow, it happened.

The little beady eyes looked at me. I stared back in awe. It didn't move. I thought, "I am about to have my eye poked out." Yet for a brief moment in time, we took the measure of one another. Me in tears as this little one checked me out. Was I friend. Or, perhaps I was foe. Friend. Yes, indeed. Friend.

Since we moved into our new home, Loren and I have watched the antics at the feeders. Sweet little birds entertained us daily. Colors dancing in the sunlight. Little clicking noises coming from the trees, towering behind our house. If only one would come visit me....and then one did.

I held the little feeder in my hand daily, hoping to entice a hummer to come visit. Then last week we began our one on one time. At first the little green jewel raced around my head then came within inches of my face to meet me eye to eye. It was only a moment but a breathless one. Next it dashed around my hand checking out the yummy content held there. It was only seconds, but it seemed to last forever. My eyes took in the face of this tiny creature. A sweet face that seemed to understand my purpose there. I looked at the long beak immediately thinking that I should probably move in case the bird decided I was an foe and took out my eye. I felt the breeze from its wings on my face. Oh, what the heck, its just an eye.

Now tell me how a bird's wings can flutter 70 times per second and the body not move at all. I tried flapping my arms as fast as I could and my entire body moved. Well, it wasn't a pretty sight; however, it did prove a point. I will never be a hummingbird.

The next thing I knew after this face to face visit was another more intimate one. The sweet little bird came down to eat from my hand. It ate from both little vials balancing on my palm. I swear my heart stood still. I couldn't breath. The experience was spiritual, undefinable. Tiny wings flitted just above my hand. Our eyes met and all was well.

I have had this experience three times. The second time was with one with pink feathers on her head versus the green of the other. This morning I had the little green hummingbird visit again. The little helicopter wings startled me as the tiny missile swept down to the feeders. Again, I was awed. These little birds and I have a relationship now. I am committed to them, and they, in turn, trust me. Hopefully, one day my grandchildren will be drawn into this circle.

Beyond barriers there is hope and change. Patience, understanding, a feeling of love so powerful that you experience what it is to be in the presence of God. All creatures great and small.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Talking pictures

Pictures piled high. Black and white. A few with ragged edges, a style of the times. Years of families with non-smiling faces. The pictures change from those in cardboard folders to shiny photos of smiling faces. I grew up with those pictures. My time in life was recorded from little square photo to little square photo.

Sometimes I marvel at my lack of attention to detail.  I can pull up some of the detail of my youth but not nearly enough. How do I know? I look at old photos. Wow, new discoveries and more and more questions with no one left to ask.

Never had I really thought about my mother riding a horse even though I had heard the stories. I did not equate a visual with the stories. Well, not until I came upon a picture of my mother astride a horse. I looked at it. I looked some more. There was my mom on a horse. My mom who did not pay the least bit of attention to my horse. Who was this woman?

We gathered eggs. Walked into that hen house every day. Played in the yard behind it. Walked by it to feed the rabbits in cages next it. The hens roosted on one side of the building with the nest boxes on the other side. I could envision it and even smell the darn chickens.  Yet when I came upon a picture of my mother mowing the lawn next to the hen house, I was struck with the smallness of the building. I could not equate that building with the one of my memories. Did it shrink? Oh, of course, I grew.

Pictures of my past. Pictures of the family I remember and those in which the faces are almost strangers.  I did not remember the faces of my sisters when we were young. I only have impressions of the snapshots of times. So when did I put faces on them? How old was I when I began to take notice? Pictures of strangers I lived with yet did not recognize.

Some pictures are missing. Where are the pictures of the porch that was torn off the front of the house? Where are pictures of the huge logs within its walls? Where are the pictures that we want of the memories we wish to look at one more time? Do you notice clothing, house furnishings, old cars and children playing in the background? How much do you see when you look back? What are the questions you never asked?

Yes, I hold on to old pictures. They are stories within themselves. These pictures speak volumes.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Leaving summer

Evenings are cooling off. In fact, evening is even early. Leaves have not begun to rustle but seem to be thinking about it. The horse working on his winter shag coat looks enviously at the ewe getting woolier and woolier. Kids are in school and the county fairs are over. The calendar reads September, and we wish for one more month of summer.

Nolan told me he couldn't wait for Daddy to rake leaves, so he can jump in them. Oh, yes, leaf jumping time. Dad raked the leaves that the old mulberry and maple trees dropped. He raked them into rooms, so I could play house before the leaves were dropped into the fire. Dad hated the leaves. I loved them. I get it, Nolan.
 
I grew up loving fall. Mom's pies changed from summer, berry pies to cream, shoo fly and pumpkin pies. My favorite time of pie making, er, eating. Mom made noodles to last throughout the winter or hold up as long as possible when we begged to have them. Chickens were packed in the freezer along with of containers of chicken broth. The kitchen smelled of yummy food we missed during the summer months.

Bedding was placed in the stalls. The corncrib full. Grain was ground to keep the livestock tummies full throughout the winter, and the haymow was full of sweet smelling hay. We were often given the bounty of someone's canned goods or nuts from their trees. With the farming slowing down, more and more neighbors came to sit a spell. 

Dad took off screens and winter bedding was aired. Wood was stored next to the basement door. Hot dogs and chips were always stocked for visitors. The car was winterized, and so were we.

Yes, fall was the best season. There was more family time. Dad and Mom sat in the living room with us instead of rushing off to the field or cooking for hands. Mom once more picked up her crocheting and Dad lingered over the newspaper. The farm was readying for a winter rest.....so was the family.

Most of all I remember Betty Johnson, Doris Lavy, Margaret Stager and Lena Linder popping in to chat. There wasn't much news to talk about, yet conversations were easy and long. Fall on Neff Road. The best time of the year.