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.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Living backwards

There was Barney's side down around the bend. There was Cyril's side across the road. With the Lavy side connected to it. Then there was the Loxley side. We never wandered much from our side even though Cyril's had a huge tree trunk that was resting on the banks of the creek. A tempting, felled tree laid waiting for kids to sit on, while watching a little bit of nothing.

I never thought much about living with the creek running through our property. In fact, I never played in the water. Dad always said we would be covered with leeches. Enough information to keep me on dry land. Dad and his brothers played in the part of the creek that ran along my grandparents' home. The creek changed with the seasons as did the size of the children. That creek was a strong pull throughout our lives. We took our children there. We went there to think and to sometimes weep. We went there to say good-bye.

I wish I could live my life backwards. More questions would be asked. I just never thought to ask. My questions to my dad on those times together in the field or on our treks through the woods would take on a new dimension. When looking through old pictures, questions remain unanswered. I can only look at the background and faces, trying to create the story in front of me. My time would be filled with absorbing my history and that of the neighborhood. I would look harder and feel deeper. But alas, I cannot live backwards.

The creek was a connection that tied us all together. Yet never did we picnic on those banks or invite neighbors to join us in a day of creekside fun. Dad told me stories of the old Indian who lived by the creek. Stories about the mill set up in the creek where lumber was cut for the new barn. There was a history that only crept into our lives. Now I want to go back and embrace it.

There was something healing and comforting, living by that little creek. My early memories are of Dad showing me the turtles and frogs that lived there. He taught me to skim rocks and to watch minnows. It was a place where the Loxley women visited with their children. A creek that tied us to the land and one another. The creek is part of our hearts.

So, Dad and Mom, I am the memory keeper. Although I live far away, I write a column and live life backwards. Always a child of Neff Road.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Whispering fields

Fields of corn whisper as they stand in rows, a regiment of green sentries, watching over the land. A far cry from the shores of the Pacific. Peaceful fields slowly turning to shades of golden brown, waiting to give up their treasure. The gentleness of the fields impressed Loren. He grew up in Colorado before living in the Pacific Northwest. The quiet countryside was such a change from the noises of the suburbs and pace of the city, the mountains and the rivers.

It took us both awhile to settle into our days on the farm in Indiana. A completely different life from that we know in Oregon. We loved the time with friends and family, catching up with the events in their lives and making new memories to take home with us. We took Loren to Shipshewana and the Amish countryside. It was a different perspective on life in America. A different pace. Different points of view. Different energy.

My time with my sister was priceless. We laughed and pulled memories out of the past, revisiting those we miss and times we both lived but did not share due to the age difference. She was with me when I got my new/old saxophone at the Wednesday auction in Shipshewana. It had been years of attending the auctions that I had tried to win the prize. We ate in old haunts and shopped until we ran out of stores. I had my first visit to Ollie's. And, my second. And.....my third. The suitcase was getting fatter, and we had three boxes of memories to ship back as well. As with all visits, they come to an end. There is little that I find much more difficult then leaving my sister. My heart truly felt the distance as we flew to the western coast.

In taking my sax to be cleaned and repaired, I found that it is worth quite a bit more than I paid. I am excited to pick it up once more, reliving those days next to fellow saxophonists David Aukerman and Brenda Stager in the Franklin Monroe band room. My family doesn't believe I can still play it. Hehehehehe. Well, I can.

It took a bit of settling back into the old routine. Well, it isn't all that old, since I have only been living in this house a couple of weeks. The traffic and noise were apparent as we missed those rolling fields of green. Yet we did indeed come home. We came home to a different pace with a different view. There is an energy here and an embracing freedom that we love. How nice it would be to have it all. Well, maybe we do once a year.

The boxes arrived. A magazine rack my father made sits in the living room. A few things from June's home bring her closer to me. Already we are planning a trip back in the spring. And, indeed, some of Neff Road will come to the wedding in December. Yes, we are only a plane ride away, yet in some ways, we are a world apart. Whispering fields.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Cotton candy memories

As I write this, many of you will still be in bed but soon to rise and head to the Great Darke County Fair. You will walk the midway or sit along side of the coliseum, searching for familiar faces. Those reliving memories from years gone by. I once looked for friends in the animal barns. I held hands with my guy who just might win a teddy bear for me. We ate cotton candy, waffles and all the things that the fair had to offer. We hugged relatives we only saw once a year. We watched the ponies run and stood by the fence hoping to catch a bit of the fair shows. 

Well, it was a long time ago when I last returned with my twentyish children along with one new granddaughter. Nothing had changed except the age of the people and the number of campers parked in the field. That granddaughter is six months shy of the years ago when we last attended. Yes, it has been almost twenty years.

I drag my feet when I think of returning. Those past memories are very sweet. Now I would return as an older woman, looking for faces that have changed as much as mine. All those things that made the fair fun will have changed. Many of the faces I saw on my last visit are gone. Yes, it would be different.

It becomes more and more difficult to return to my roots. The houses on Neff Road are different. My dear ones are gone. Greenville is not the town where I grew up, and my memories teeter on an edge of altered or erased. There was a sweetness in the times on the farm. It was maybe not so much about the place as it was the people. I don't think you notice so much when you live there. You change with the things around you. While those of us who live away notice the changes. Yes, life goes on unless that last picture captured in time still resides in your mind and does not capture the changes. 

There is a true sense of loss. Loss of family members, loss of neighbors, loss of time.  I debated a long time on whether to come back to the fair. I did want to see you again. I did want new memories to carry home with me. The amount of miles I traveled had worn me out. Long trips from Oregon to Ohio plus well over 800 miles of driving in two weeks had taken its toll. By the time Loren got to Indiana, I was done. We decided to just spend time with June and family, relaxing in a whole new way. The city life, traffic and daily routine stepped aside for cornfields, a duck named Henry, bunnies  hopping around the yard, a little girl named Della and stars in the sky. Loren got to meet family and to savor life in the country. His photographic mind captured it all making him ready to return soon.

Yes, I missed the fair this year and many of your lovely faces. We will return in the spring, so Loren can bring his old Deardorff 4x5 camera. A great old wooden camera, taking pictures of beautiful old places. So don't hold it against me for not making it this time. I was not ready, and it was not the time.  

Have a great time at the fair. You might even remember the young girl who loved the fair as much as you do.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

An elephant's eye

'The corn is as high as an elephant's eye. And it looks like its climbing clear up to the sky.'  Well, I might not be in Oklahoma, but I am in Indiana looking at the beautiful fields of corn surrounding the house. Ah, yes, home again.

Well, I really am not home, but Indiana is pretty close, and my sister is home. Then again, we can never really go home. I guess I realize that more and more over the years. We can reminisce, but we cannot go back. Once we leave, we change. When we return things have changed. So, with visiting comes remembering, or for me, a new column.

Everything catapults me into the past. The corn fields, wild bunnies peeking out of the fields. A horse in the paddock and a duck that likes to follow us around. Back again to farm country where times past await me.

I am thankful for the friends I still have back home. They are indeed a gift. We pick up conversations where we left off no matter how many years have passed. Geneva will call me Sis, and once more, I will feel that closeness we shared when my father passed. We all get older and these meetings are priceless. Precious gems added to my ring of life.

It takes a couple days to settle into this leisurely life. I miss my home and my guy. There is a longing that takes place when you live away from the roots that raised you; however, I love my home in Oregon and would not wish to live elsewhere. Still my heart belongs to these states where memories were made.

There is a beauty of living away. You not only increase in awareness by living with different people with different ways, but you also look back and find that those parts of you not only fit into this new life, but they also add to what you can offer others. I am a better person for expanding my world and would not change the place where I was born. Both have created the me who writes each week. They created the wide range of experiences I have gained by living in Ohio, Wisconsin and now Oregon. All were different experiences and all blessings in so many ways.

My time in Ohio will be short. Having a new house to settle has made this trip a much shorter one. Before I even think of leaving here again, I am homesick to return. Yes, the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, and I am once more living back a lane looking out the upstairs window across Daddy's cornfield at Neff Road. I did not leave Neff Road. It is all tucked sweetly in my head.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Beyond the plastic barrier

Shapes loomed and elbowed throughout the new house. Large plastic mounds hugged the middle of each room. Loren is known for his photography of plastic wrapped buildings. I think perhaps he should start shooting shapes that haunt rooms in the process of being painted.

Far from the olden days when a drop cloth was tossed across your worldly goods, the current mode is to wrap everything in plastic in the middle of the room. The pile is wrapped in multiple layers as masking tape companies reap the profits from the rolls of tape used to secure the furniture so it will not escape. Yes, indeed, every blasted thing in the house was wrapped in lumpy bundles. Hence, when it came to finding my phone and computer chargers, clean clothes, etc, they were not to be reached. Hm.  Looked like I would be washing out underwear for a few days! Ah, plastic. Can't get rid of it, and it separates you from just what you need.

The contractor brought Isaac and his team in to paint the entire inside of the house. And, truly it was in need. A house that was built in '84 had had no new paint on the ceilings or in the closets. The musty smell that greeted us when we entered would soon be gone. Isaac brought with him four men.  All were Hispanic, speaking broken English. Of course, we greeted them with open arms, since these four men would be part of our family for the next week.

I argued with our contractor on bringing in a port-o-let. It was to be in the upper 90's all week, reaching over 100 one day. "They can use our bathrooms," I said. Our contractor said that they needed to use the big, green, stinky thing in yard. When the men arrived, I informed them that they were to use the inside bathrooms. The contractor insisted that they could eat outside, hooking up their microwave in the hot sunshine. "You can use our microwave. We have water in the fridge and cups for you to use," I told them.

So why I was breaking the rules? I was raised when migrants were lodged in sheds with dirt floors and no running water or bathroom. They used the outside faucet and outhouse if they were lucky. They slept on wood pallets or on the floor. Whole families lived in a room. As a child I didn't understand it. I still don't. These people were my people. We all came from the same God. They were doing jobs that we didn't want to do. They were trying to make a living in a safe place just as we were with our families. No, there was no way I was going to treat these men less than I would my friends and family. They are my brothers whether they speak my language or are my race. I love them with no expectations. I was taught that as a child.

Over the week, we started joking and having a great time. We left the house all day leaving computers out and telling the men to come into the house to stay cool on their breaks. They worked hard and did a beautiful job. I smiled whenever I heard the toilet flush. Yes, we could show them what America is all about. We could show them what love means. One person at a time.

Our furniture was wrapped in plastic. We thought our lives would be complicated in having no access to what we used daily. Instead we found that on the outside of that plastic barrier, friendship was alive and kicking. We found joy and delight in another culture. Our newly painted walls broke down barriers.

Now we have our space free of plastic. I can write again. We have new friends we hope we will see again some day. It is time to move forward. I think we did.