Saturday, February 18, 2017

Birth of spring

The quiet earth wakes again as the daphne and hellebore bloom. Daffodils and other bulbs pop up bringing a fresh new shade of green to the soil. Activity that makes ready for spring long before it comes to life above the ground. Yes, indeed spring is on the way.

Oregon has had a winter like none before. It was the winter of 'mores'. More snow. More rain. Records on all accounts. Mud slides, pot holes, sink holes. Again, the earth below holds surprises that come to light in the spring. A globe in transition.

I decided to check with my old friend The Farmer's Almanac to see what we should expect for the coming months. Here in Oregon it predicted a rainier than normal winter. (got that right) Temps below normal. Snowfall above normal. (yep, again) April and May will be slightly warmer and drier than normal with summer warmer and rainier than normal. September and October to be cooler than normal. (Hm. Seems to me that 'normal' has disappeared.)

I went on to check what was up with the Ohio Valley. Winter was to be warmer than normal with not as much precipitation as normal. Snowfall was to be below normal. April and May are to be warmer than normal with rainfall above normal for the west side of the state. Summer is to be cooler and slightly drier than normal, and September and October will be rainier than normal. (Hm. We lost the normal again.)

Well, there is a new normal. It is a 'no longer normal'.  We cannot depend on what our usual seasons presented to us, because our world is changing. Flooding is worse, tornadoes and other storms are more violent, and there are more of them. Sea levels are changing with some small island countries actually looking for places to move their populace, before their island is lost to the sea. So what does this mean? What does it mean to the farmer? What does it mean to the world in general?

On AGweb, I found an article from the Farm Journal regarding the views of farmers and scientists. The article is written to explain the views of both sides. Having grown up in a farm community, I understand the tremendous feeling of protection farmers have for their way of life and protecting the very soil they love. And, from learning about what is happening all over the world, I see the immediacy of saving a world for my grandchildren and those who follow. It is a mixed bag of feelings. Feelings that raise anger as well as fear. However, no matter how you look at it our earth is in distress and changing. No one will win.

This lovely state in which I live now has changed. My weather journey began here thirty-nine years ago. We rarely had snow. Rain came in showers not torrents. We loved to boast that we never carried an umbrella. The weather has become more extreme. Tornadoes were rare, yet we see more and more now. Winter temps have dropped, and these homes built for milder winters are cold. We seem to go from drought to flood. Yes, the climate has changed.

Spring is peeking in on us. The path above my home has washed out, and mud greeted me inside my front door last week. There are gullies where once there was none. We struggle here to make a dent in this global changing. On a whole, we recycle everything we possibly can. We drive vehicles that do little to impact our atmosphere. There is little litter in our ditches because of our care of the earth. We protect our wildlife as passionately as we do our environment.

I write this not wanting my own way, because our environment will have its own way. Our lives will mean little in the grand scheme of things, but our grandchildren will reap what indeed we sow. There is no debate in that.

So I ask you to do your part. Whether or not you believe in global warming, our earth asks that you care enough to take care of it, so we all can share it. The air requires you to care enough to keep it clean for our children to breathe. Spring comes with the birth of new growth. Spring comes with the hope for all seasons.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

You might not see me often. You might know me by birth or by becoming family not of the womb but of the heart. You might only be an acquaintance. You might be a stranger who just wandered into my world. Well, you are all loved. When you entered my thoughts, you entered my heart. Today I thank you and give you my love.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The dancing bull

Strange the things come to mind when least expected. A niggle from the past comes creeping in, capturing the sense of smell, of touch, a memory.

I was watching a show about a bull that had lost a hoof. A new prosthetic hoof had been designed for the bovine. A demonstration of its new found dexterity not only tickled my funny bone, but also made me wonder what I had missed with the cows that live behind our house. The bull bound across the field, dancing after an enormous beach ball. It leaped and chased. It nuzzled the owner affectionately. What indeed had I missed.

Of course, in watching the bull's warm nose being stroked by the owner, I was reminded of my sweet horse with a nose as soft as velvet. The smells of the leather saddle, the barn, the damp horse after a fast run all came dashing back to me. And, I lovingly embraced the reminder.

Sometimes I think the barn was more my home than the house. There was never a day without a trip to the barn. A check on the cows. A handful of hay for my horse. In the summer, a daily sitting in the hay mow door. A look across the field to the road. A time of listening to the sounds in the house, in the field, in the pasture and at the neighbor's farms. Sometimes I'd visit the tractors and look at the old horse tack hung by the door. I'd touch the old, burlap feed sacks that Dad piled up over the cow stanchions. Searched for baby kittens. Gazed at some old fish Dad caught and put into the horse trough. Oh, yes, a daily trip to the barn. Hm. All that niggling from a bull dancing across a field with an artificial hoof.

Perhaps that jiggling of memory exposed what I had missed as a kid. I missed having our little herd of cattle as friends. I missed sitting with sheep instead of just ignoring them. I missed having more time with our rabbits, wondering if perhaps they could have been my friends as well. (I did not miss time with the chickens.) Wouldn't my dad laugh to see his cows chasing balls across the creek bottom. Sneaking a peak, I would watch to see if he realized that he had more than just dumb animals. He had critters that could play and enjoy life.

"Daddy, do you think animals have feelings?" I asked at an early age. "No, they don't have feelings. They're just dumb animals," He would reply. I have looked into the eyes of many a pet. "Oh, Daddy, indeed they do."

Dance on, sweet bovine. Dance on.

Monday, February 6, 2017

To be loved

'In the street I met a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat was threadbare- there were holes at his elbows: the water seeped through his shoes and the stars through his soul.' - From Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Back in the late 80's a musical came to the stage. One that rocked box offices and gathered followers. I have seen the stage production at least six times. I would see it as many times again if possible. Yet, the play was not the voice that held me. No, it was a book almost 2" thick. 1,463 page that I have read three times. It is the dearest book to me. Paragraphs are underlined. Notes in the margins. A story of love, war, forgiveness, compassion and most of all God.

 'What a great thing, to be loved! What a greater thing still, to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion. It is no longer composed of anything but what is pure: it no longer rests on anything but what is elevated and great. An unworthy thought can no more spring up in it than a nettle on a glacier. The lofty and serene soul, inaccessible to common passions and common emotions, rising above the clouds and shadows of this world, its follies, it falsehoods, it hatred, its vanities, it miseries, inhabits the blue of the skies, and no longer feels anything but the deep subterranean commotions of destiny, as the summit of the  mount feel the quaking of the earth.'

Valentine's Day is coming. It is not just a day for lovers. It is day of loving one another, loving our earth. My grandchildren and I will take our hands full of homemade valentines into the community. We will show our love to those we do not know with hope that they pass on the love. Love unbridled spreading across from one person to another. Could there be anything greater?

The book calls to me again. I think perhaps I should visit my old friend. With each passage, I learn more about myself, about humanity, and humility. We do keep learning, changing, growing. If we do not, we rob the world of the piece that is us, that needs us. We grow and change to lead future generations to even greater discoveries. We capture a new awakening with every person we meet and are the better for it.

'If no one love, the sun would go out.' - Thank you, Victor Hugo.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Revolving door

Ready! On your mark! Whish....whish....whish. I dashed like crazy to get into the space in Rike's revolving door. The big, gold, heavy doors rotated around and around. For a half pint, it was a challenge to get my little legs in gear to hit the mark. Round and round then dash and hope beyond hope that there wasn't a splat. The revolving door.

The Loxley door only had one position. Open. However, anyone who knew my parents was well aware that we had a revolving door. Many times one group of people would be leaving as someone else pulled into the driveway. It was not something that the Loxley girls appreciated since we rarely had Mom and Dad to ourselves, yet we learned a lesson that to this day is probably the greatest lesson we ever learned. My parents did not have much, but what they had they shared. What they had was love.

No one was left out. Friends brought their friends. Relatives brought their friends. Neighbors came and stayed. I think they stayed because our house was a place of entertainment. Always something new and exciting happening in the house back the lane. Laughter and deep conversations. Compassion and peace.

We girls were allowed to have a glimpse of the world beyond the farm. Our world expanded and became richer.  It did not matter the religious belief, country of origin, the way they dressed or even smelled. Mom and Dad invited them all to their kitchen table for wonderful conversation and a piece of pie. They would have shared their last piece of bread with anyone who needed it, shared without complaint or worry. Shared without judgment.

I have said before and will continue to say that my mom, Ruth Johnson Loxley, fought for children's rights before anyone ever acknowledged that they had them. She loved meeting people from other cultures and included her children in every conversation. She read books that broadened her view of the world and always hated that her father had not allow her to go to college. She was an ambassador for all people and would stand with them and for them against anyone.

Yes, we lived with a revolving door. A door that brought truth and wisdom to our house. A door that fed that family back the lane with knowledge and friendship. I am all grown up now. I hope that I am a good example of my parents' love for others. Ready.....on your mark......whish. I make it every time.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Singing owl praises

The small owl sat at the edge of the road. My friend stopped the car. I jumped out and picked up the sweet thing. We took the tiny creature back to the nature center where they informed us that an owl had been hit, and they had not sent anyone out to check on it. They would not accept responsibility. It was up to us. My tiny friend who huddled beneath my jacket was taken to the avian hospital where they said they would look after it. The owl did not make it, but I had to try.

There is no darkness darker than the dark I knew at night on the farm. A darkness that made everything invisible. All except for the sounds. The barn owl that Dad captured time and time again, and that was taken away to another woods would manage to come back to the barn loft and lament the night. Hoo hoo. Hoo hoo. This little girl was always afraid of the dark and that darn hootin' bird just made the night eerier. A lovely white-faced bird that ate rodents and made a mess in the corner of the barn. An owl that Dad despised and I knew only by the nightly sound. For a child terrified of mice, I should have been singing owl praises.

The children and I walked the path of the nature center coming upon some people looking off into the woods. Not far away was a big owl sitting on a branch. The sweet creature looked a little ragged. Knowing that they were night creatures, I wondered if it was well. We looked at it. It looked at us. Hm. Was it thinking what we were thinking? Who were these people looking at it? Didn't they have some place to go during the daylight hours?

Many things went bump in the night in that house back the lane. Mice skittered in the walls. Dogs barked at something unseen in the dark. A chicken would complain or a lamb would protest. Yet nothing was so haunting as the hoot of the owl.

Sometimes I go to sleep remembering those nights long ago. I miss the night sounds that disappeared with the rising sun. Perhaps the lonely tones of that beautiful owl reminded me of the loneliness I sometimes felt or maybe the missing of a lost pet. I cherish the day time song birds that bring each day to life. And miss the wooting that comes in the night. Hoo hoo. Hoo hoo. Yes, I remember.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ask a man who owns one

Time seems to pass slowly on the farm, especially when you are waiting for something or someone to arrive. We girls waited for the mailman hoping that the toy ordered from the cereal box would arrive. For Willard and Ruth, they waited for one of the biggest purchases they would make, and it did not come in the mailbox. It was the end of WWII and factories were gearing up again for better years to come so sometimes you had to wait.
 
I do not know how Mom and Dad did it. Back then starting cost was $2274. A fortune to these farmers. The price of a new Packard 8 four-door sedan. Their family was growing with the addition of baby girl Loxley. I am not sure how big they thought I would grow to, but this car had enough room for several species of animals that took a ride on an ark.  Plus without seat belts, we could comfortably seat 6-7 people.

Packard brothers, James Ward and William Doud, ran Packard Electric Company in Warren, Ohio, where they manufactured wire and electrical equipment. Evidently, James owned a Winton and was extremely dissatisfied with it. So in 1899 the brothers began manufacturing the Packard. In the beginning, it was a car only the wealthy could own. A car that represented prestige and status. After WWII, the need arose for mid-priced cars. So owning a Packard was indeed a big deal.

Sometimes the media called the Packard "bathtub" or "pregnant elephant". Indeed it was a beast of a car. I remember sitting in the backseat in all my shortness unable to see out the windows. Since Mom and Dad loved to go visiting on Sundays, their youngest was often found sleeping in the back window. It was a lovely car. The girls wrestled in the backseat, played on the floor and sang at the top of their lungs. We had that old car for about twelve years.

June and I often talk about that old Packard. It was a mammoth. In retrospect I believe that Dad loved it for the sheer mass of it. He loved to drive trucks and this car could easily have been in competition with one. Also the graceful swan hood ornament might have reminded Dad of the Hollinger family crest bearing a couple of the long-necked beauties.

Confession: That old Packard was one of my favorite cars. Two of the Loxley girls could recline in the backseat after packing their little sis in the back window well. I can still feel the softness of the seats and the heat of a summer day. The car came to us after the farmer had lost his cattle herd. A time when a little girl was no longer bedridden. The one time when my parents decided to splurge on themselves. A rare event indeed.

Packard was the best-selling car during those years of 1948-49. The automobile catch phrase was repeated by kids and adults alike. "Ask the man who owns one." Ah, just as a kid who rode in one.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Down a dusty lane

Like Pig Pen in Charlie Brown's world, dust followed me as I walked down the back lane. An old lane that was dusty and dotted with hazards as the cows used the lane to go to the creek bottom. Dung beetles worked feverishly. Most would have seen nothing but crops and dirt. I saw a world of possibilities.

My early education from my father about the nature that we so richly possessed never left me wanting for entertainment. Learning seemed to be an everyday activity. I loved that old back lane. The walk to the creek was often the best part of the trek. Crops surrounded me. When the corn was high, the lane was toasty hot. Creeping from the field to the lane took me on a perilous journey beneath the electric fence. Lacking a bit of coordination, I often found the experience shocking. Yet I belly crawled beneath that fence time and time again.

That old lane saw my father's Belgian horses pull lumber cut and planed in the creek bottom to the site of the new barn. We trekked down the lane with fishing poles, and ran down to watch baby lambs romp and play. June and our neighbor Donna would camp in the creek bottom, dragging their gear down that lane. My horse took me on many a fast journey when heading to the barn. For a mare that had plodded down the lane, she seemed to find extra energy on the return.

The fences came down when I was older. There was more land to till.  And no fences to separate neighbors. My nemesis, the electric fence, disappeared as did my days of adventuring. The fields were lovely no longer separated by wire and post. Another lesson. Lessons for an older child. One who saw poetry in expanses of green and gold.  The correlation between this beautiful blending of nature with that of humankind.

I walked that lane a last time when we left the farm. Truly it was a heartfelt journey. No cattle. No beetles. No horse. No fences. As a child in mourning, I felt the earth and loved it even more deeply. I felt the sting of the fence and was glad it was gone. I absorbed the earth, and it would hold me forever.

Fences. My horse had tried to rub me off on those nasty wires. The sheep lost wool on the nasty barbs. My world down that dusty lane was full but restricted. Those fences had separated fields as I sat looking at the view from the hill. Then progressive thinking removed the barriers and created and flawless landscape. A landscape of unity that has accompanied me all these years. Oh, how I would love to be walking that dusty lane once more.

Monday, December 26, 2016

One gift at a time

At Christmas when my granddaughters were little tykes, we made ornaments to give to random people. Wonderful things happened with this experience, hence it became a tradition I wanted to continue with the twins.

The twins at age four are not accomplished artists, so this year we made cards with stencils and stickers. The little ones put love into each card they made. They licked each envelope and stamped the corners with a reindeer. The cards were handed out with Mommy and Daddy. A great family experience.

I had the kids last Thursday. We were making cookies to take to the local firehouse. The firemen know us well as we have visited them since the kids were toddlers. After we picked up one of my older granddaughters, Gabby, we bought a box of ornaments and were off to the mall to hand out gifts.

Gabby picked the people who would receive the ornaments and the twins would take turns handing them out with a "Merry Christmas" greeting. They handed them to all ages and nationalities. They learned not to be afraid to greet others as long as they were with a family adult. They had twenty-four to give and never once complained of being tired.

We were approached by a lady who earlier received a Nolan ornament. She was sitting alone on the bench where we supposed she was waiting for someone. When she reached us she said, "You saved me. I was feeling sad and alone when you came by. Thank you." The kids hung on every word understanding what a special thing they were doing. I hugged the woman, "You have just given us a gift in return."

My grandchildren and I will go into the new year ready to begin our project for next Christmas. We are making ornaments out of nature. Gifts from the earth. I hope that my grandchildren are learning to care about people, one person at a time. It the best we can do in this new year of 2017. Happy New Year, friends.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Snapshot memories

Hurry, grab the camera! Snapshot! Snapshot of yesterday. Snapshot for the future. Snapshot of moment, memories, dreams. Snapshot!

We sat on the floor next to the old trunk. Sydney, the oldest of my grandchildren, took out the pictures one by one. Boxes of glossy snapshots. People looking back at her. People she will never know. Snapshots of the past. Sepia, black and white, colors fading with time. Not just a history of a family but also the history of photography.

Our brains of full of snapshots. The memories that come in a glimpse seemingly held there like a picture on a piece of paper. Pictures of people who were part of our dreams for the future. Snapshots of people we do not know but give us that instant glance into the past that was our parents. My grandmother lifting me from a high chair. My grandfather giving me the one and only hug I would ever receive from him. A glimpse that is held like a snapshot in my brain.

It is the season of pictures. We each want those special moments captured forever. However, the digital day and age keeps most of our pictures stored on our computers or in our phone. I save all of my digital photos on a flash drive, hopefully protecting them from loss. The twins are awed by paper photos. (They would be even more awed at the outhouse and the party-line phone, but those are other stories.) A new way of looking at our past. We can even change the color of eyes or crop out faces we do not care to see again.

This is all great, but there is something to be said for sitting next to a family member relating the past as each pictures is pulled from the trunk. Questions are asked and answers given from the depth of a loving heart. Sure, I have gotten rid of all of the scenery photos of trips that will mean nothing to my family. Why should they have to go through them someday? I have those pictures in my own memory, snapshots in my mind. What remains in this trunk are the true treasures.

Mom kept many of our photos in the piano bench. They were taken out and appreciated time after time. My grandfather had a pictures basket. And, I have the trunk. Each generation keeping their pictures close enough to peek in at a lost loved one whenever the heart calls.

For we parents and grandparents, the greatest gifts we can receive at Christmas are pictures of our children and grandchildren. For my son, I put all of the digital pictures I have taken throughout the year and put them on a flash drive, giving it to him at Christmas. On my Christmas tree is a sweet picture of my parents with their young daughters.

It is the holidays so hurry, grab the camera! Snapshot memories.