Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trees for life

Loren included my writing in his show at the Aurora Gallery in Vancouver, Washington. The verses were supposed to be posted separately; however, the gallery posted it as one piece. Thought I would share.















Roots
At home in the darkness
Fed by rot and nature’s debris
Stretching beneath the soil
So your very essence can reach to the sky
Roots. 
Beneath my feet I see no roots from which I grow
My roots are in the past
Those that fed the mighty roots
That created the hand that writes and the soul that sings
Mine fed by my lineage
Yours fed by an eternity of seasons.
Both fed by the hand of God.
I tugged and pulled
Yet you did not budge
I found you in the desert
I found you at sea
On an island touching no other land
You would not give up your life
Not until I built a building
Or plowed a field
Not until I mowed you down so I could have more
I took you from your roots
Now mine are endangered.
I give you carbon dioxide
You give me life
You embrace me with your beauty
And my heart found song
You take my breath away
You give me air to breathe
I promise to take better care of you.
A tree stands only wanting to give shade, bear fruit, live and breathe
No voice does it possess
It cannot move to make room for ‘progress’.
It stands alone.
Or does it?
Hush
A whisper
A song sung between the wind and branches
Hush
Listen before it is gone.
My father pulled the plow
Turning the rich soil that was once
Crowned with a mighty forest
Soil fed by rotting leaves
Soil fed by the animals who dug and dunged
Soil broken up by roots’ long fingers tilling the earth
My father pulled the plow and our family ate
The sparrow said to the wren
“May I share your tree?
Mine has disappeared.”
The wren answered,
“My nest is in the eaves.
Come, this seems to be the way
Of what I have heard called progress.” 
The old rope swing hung from your branches
Your old gnarled roots became places for my dolls to rest
Cicada shells hung to your bark
I wore them on my shirt with great pride
Your shade protected me
And your grace wooed words to my pen
My heart is overwhelmed with love for you
My gratitude is unending. 
So understand, my tree,
My roots are indeed tied to yours
For all the life you seek
I seek to preserve for you
My lifelong companion
Should I find you gone
There would be no songs to sing
No birds to fly
And no whisper of the wind
My pen would be silent
And my heart would break.
~Pam Loxley Drake

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The grill is lit

Jackets tucked away. Heat turned off. Screens exposed once more. Hm, feels like spring. Bought a Mason bee house for the backyard. New flowers waiting to be planted. Daffodils wanting to come in and brighten the house.

The family has battled flu, colds and pneumonia for the last few weeks. We are all exhausted and in need of change. The sunshine seems to be a miracle cure. I threw off my jackets and howled at the sun. Oops, I think that's the moon. Not up yet. I bought books. Went to the grocery. Bought foods that are fattening and those that speak of warm weather. It has been a good day.

The first sign of spring on Neff Road was definitely when the robins returned. Here, the robins stay wondering why, when it snows, they didn't go south as well. Mom was always looking for those first bulbs to pop through the winter soil. How do they do that? Little green shoots shoving and pushing their way towards the sun that THEY CANNOT SEE. What's with that? Dad was sharpening plows and animals were giving birth all over the place. I guess when winter comes so too does the cuddling.

I can honestly say that I have seen more births on the farm than I ever did in my own delivery room or in my with my grandchildren. Lambs, calves and more lambs, more calves. Mom sent me to the field to learn the facts of life and indeed I did. Little did she know how much more I learned during those years.

While waiting for Mom's flowers to pierce their way towards the illusive sun, Dad was getting the garden ready as well as the tobacco beds. However, that is a long boring story that I have told before. Spring meant change.

I realize more and more as I age that we had a rare growing up. When many farm people think that suburban people think they are naive, the truth is that urban folks have no idea what it is to live on a farm. They are just clueless. It seems to be a two-way street in learning about one another and embracing our difference. I am a hybrid of both. I am now a city girl with country roots that go deep. I embrace both with fervor, because I have had the best of both. One cannot thrive without the other.

A story came to my attention this weekend. I asked my son's father-in-law Joe, age 83, what it was like growing up in the south. A southern boy all of his life growing up in North Carolina, he lived such a different life. "You have to understand," he said. "I was 30 before I knew that the civil war was over slavery." What?!?!?! What?!?!?! The history books in the south did not mention slavery in context with the civil war. The kids didn't know. They thought it was all about states' rights. "Didn't it bother you that the blacks were separated from whites?" I asked. "We had always lived that way. Again, we had nothing to compare it with. We didn't know it was wrong."

Perhaps this is a little like the little green spikes trying to find that darn sun that keeps calling to them. They are in the dark until the light shines on them, and they bloom. Spring has a new meaning for me. Now I know there is an understanding that must take place between those raised in darkness and those who had all the information they needed without it being hidden from them. It has to do with city and rural finding that they have much in common and much to learn. Just like the south seeing the day of light and perhaps feeling manipulated.

"So, want to sit on the porch with a glass of wine?" my husband asked. We had finished with our hibernation. "Only if we can toss dinner on the grill," I answered.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Haunted by morels

This time of the year rolls around, and I always write about morel mushrooms. So this year I am going to get off this merry-go-round and not talk about morels. Those I looked for in the woods with my dad. Those that mom rolled in flour and fried in butter. Those that haunt my dreams.

Doris Lavy always found more than anyone I ever knew. Even after we went looking, she would find many more. We always tried to beat her to the woods, so we could get ahead of her. I would never tell Dad, but living at their house I would have gotten more.

I was telling June about the time we went to Aunt Bess's in Ludington, Michigan, where I picked a mushroom that was about five inches tall. I have a picture to prove it. Aunt Bess could sure fry up a skillet full of mushrooms and some fine fish in no time at all. Ah, sweet memories.

Lowell Lavy always finds hundreds of them. In truth, I think he puts them in the freezer and just pulls them out to take a new picture each year. Maybe there should be a limit. All those over the limit should be sent to Oregon. Seems fair to me.

Loren and I haven't gone looking for mushrooms here. Well, for one thing, he doesn't know how, and with his big feet, they would be in danger. Plus, our huge forests would be the perfect place for these two hunters to get lost. Happens here all the time.

I felt the need to research predators of morel mushrooms. Much to my dismay, I found that mule deer, elk and grey squirrels are only three of the many who race their human counterparts to the precious morsels. You will note that morel is only one letter off from morsel. I get it.

Now in this time of eating healthier, one might not consider morels. Yet they are high in Vitamin D and minerals. Plus you must hike to find them, and bend once you do find them. In contemplating these few facts, I know that these are a necessary food for my better health.

In about six weeks, we will be coming back to Ohio. I'm sure we will be past the time for stalking and capturing morels. I would love to go on the hunt one more time. A chance to breathe that wonderful country air and walk the places I walked as a child. But instead the memories almost bring those morsels back to life, er to my taste buds.

I seem to have failed in my attempt to change my tune this year. But perhaps you learned a bit more about the benefits of morel mushrooms and the craving of them for those of us who know that the season is short.

Hope to see you all in a few weeks. We will have a meet and greet. Come spend time with us. Time and date to follow.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A Dog's Life

As usual I am at a loss as to what to write. Emma is home sick and hanging with Loren and me. I asked her what I should write about. She suggested I write about her dog Millie or about her school. We both agree that Millie is a really great dog and needs some newspaper time (especially since she started out on newspapers.)

Millie is a beautiful eight year old Airedale. When she was a pup, she looked like a Rottweiler. We were a little concerned, since the mother was indeed an Airedale. Well, her fairly pointed nose rounded out, and she became the beautiful dog we love with all our hearts. Millie weighs about eighty pounds. It is impossible for me to walk her. She is better at walking me.

Since we have the new house, we invite Millie to come stay as well as the twins. Seems that everyone knows how to make themselves at home. Millie likes to hang out on the deck. Not sure if she likes to watch the birds as we do or is waiting to bark at a squirrel.

Loren and I talk about getting a puppy. We both have had dogs all of our lives. And, we have lost dogs. There is a craving that goes along with those of us who have had dogs as part of our families. But then, we are retired and fancy free. Do we really want to start over? Do we want to leave a dog while we are gone all day? Our answer, at least so far, is no. Millie is filling the holes left in our hearts by the loss of our beloved dogs.

My dad never allowed a dog in the house. I wonder how much richer our lives would have been with a dog there to nuzzle our legs and sit on our laps. How many nights would I have felt safer with a dog by my side? Of course, Dad thought animals belonged outside. Yes, I think we missed something.

Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith had Dachshunds. Stagers had a Pointer named Judy. Lavys had a Heinz 57. Cyril had a big, old hound that loved to bay. We had a cocker spaniel who followed Dad and I all over the farm. Dogs that were loved but all lived outside.

Today Emma is ill and snuggled up next to me on the sofa. On the floor in front of me is one very large dog contently sprawled out on her bed fast asleep. We know that Millie is not in the best of health. My heart aches at the thought of losing her. So I soak up all the warmth and scent of this magnificent dog. Her sense of humor and dedication to our family is priceless. I wonder if dogs had people if the would keep them outside? Hm.

Monday, February 25, 2019

On a wagon in a field

And, the movie of the year is......Green Book!!! Oh, yes, I cheered. We saw the movie and fell in love with it. Not only did it take me to the past but also to the present. The acting was superb. The film well written. A true story brought to light. A story of us.

Four brothers were born in Piqua, Ohio. (So was I) John Jr, Herbert, Harry and Donald were sons of a local barber who founded a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony. His sons learned from their father just as we did from our parents. This vocal group grew into one of the longest-lasting oldie acts in American popular music, entertaining audiences for decades. Even before Pentatonix began making their own instrumental sounds, this oldie group made their own. In the late 20's this group charmed radio audiences. This quartet went on to record with Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. In 1943 their Paper Doll became one of the biggest hits of the decade with 12 weeks at the top of the charts with six million records sold.

June and I got into a discussion about where Myrtle Mack had lived and about the house across from my Uncle Bob's house on Yount Road where I was sure her son Don moved with his lovely wife Nancy. "Remember the field between that house and Uncle Bob's? It was where a wagon was pulled into the field for the singers to stand on," I said. Dad and his quartet sang warm-up for that group of boys from Piqua. June came back with, "You know Dad's quartet (a group of young men lead by Mr. Paulsgrove) travelled with them. They sang mostly in churches. Dad got a serious ear infection and had to come back home for surgery." Well, yes, I did know that, but it raised a question, especially after having seen Green Book. "Dad's group stayed in one hotel and the Mills Brothers stayed in another or maybe a tent." What?!?!? I thought that was only in the south!!! All these years I had never thought about it.

The bus pulled into the driveway. They came to do laundry at our house. We girls were thrilled to have them. When they found me in the basement singing along with my record player (which was a daily occurrence), Marva Jo Dixon lifted me onto her lap, and the girls joined me in song. Often June and I have questioned why Mom and Dad never had them stay in our house which was always open to anyone we knew or didn't know when they needed a place to sleep and have a good meal. These beautiful young women from Piney Woods Boarding School in Mississippi were not allowed to sleep in our beds. Oh, they used our outhouse and used our old ringer washer, but did not stay in the house. When their bus was parked at the church, they had no access to the inside bathroom but used the outhouses. A school based on Christian principles with students who sang in church after church were not as welcomed into homes as a white group of students would have been. It was a day and age. And, it was wrong. And, it was not the south.

The old belief that we are of different races is quickly coming to an end. Genetically, we are all the same. The colors of our skin are determined by how melatonin is affected through our genes and affected by where we live. Research the information. It is fascinating. We all began in Africa. We are all related. There is no denying it. We found this more clearly when my son did his DNA. He is indeed .01% black. He is also .02% Jewish. Our genetic makeup over the thousands of years has been influenced by mutated genes and the blending of cultures. We all started in the same place and are one race. Wouldn't it be so much better to look at the positive things we have in common rather than the differences?

Green Book brought it all home. I stepped away from that sign I saw on a bathroom door in Georgia back in the 60's: Coloreds Only. I opened the back door of my life and saw that discrimination was not only the south but right outside my door on a bus and in a field on a wagon. We can always learn and grow. I thought that we in the 60's would change race discrimination for all time. Yet, we didn't, did we? Maybe my .01% is crying out to have a voice that began for all of us in Africa.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Welcome home, Rufous

Something hid beneath the leaves. A little mound told me so. I learned long before s tthat there were wonders beneath leaves and twigs. So this was well worth investigating. A wonderful morel mushroom was nestled there. The prizes we craved every spring. Yes, I learned to look beneath the leaves. And, I learned a lifelong lesson.

So many are crying for forest management here in the west. No forest fires if these huge forests are managed better. Really? I learned from my father that you don't mess with nature, because nature is where all wildlife and sweet morels thrive. Baby animals live in underbrush. The earth is nurtured by decaying leaves and limbs. Mother nature knows what is best.

The Rufous Hummingbird has returned to Oregon. The few hummingbirds who wintered here are once more battling these snowbirds for their place on their feeders. I sit in the loft watching out the window as bright patches of green and red flit by. The trees behind us shelter the birds, giving them sustenance as well protection. Living so close to nature is a dream come true. Like my father, I am protective of the nature in our charge. We share it with the grandkids. We soak it up surrounded by windows and evergreens. Sweet birds peek in at us, and the grandkids gather nesting materials to do  their part in preserving this eco system.

Dad was always upset when he passed a woods where the ground was swept clean of nature's debris. He would encourage me to think about it. Where did the little critters live when this clearing took place? Where did they find their food that was once tucked beneath those leaves? Where did small plants find their nourishment? Where were would Jack sit in his pulpit and the Dutchman hang his britches? What was more lovely than nature just being itself, serving itself?

Farm land was cleared and crops grew. Over time farmers became aware that overuse of the land and the flatness of it would tend to cause erosion and loss of vital nutrients. The land was rich because of the landscape that came before. The rotting leaves that fed the trees. The animals that nurtured the soil by digging and what they left behind. The soil that was rich with the gifts of the forest and its creatures.

I had no idea what it was like to be surrounded by green all winter long. I had no idea what it was like to see nature in its own environment so close to me yet in its own.  Because of all this, we will plant flowers to draw in the bees, butterflies and hummers. We will be cognizant of our responsibility to wildlife, so it in turn will survive to bless our grandchildren.

Nature is indeed an eco system that begs to continue as God meant it. It is we who infringe on it. We who use it and abuse it. It is we who tear out trees to build houses and who in turn take away our clean air. It is the mighty dollar that causes the very source of the world's clean air to be destroyed in South American so enterprises can thrive.

So, please, think on your plans as spring approaches. What flowers will you plant? Could you plant a tree or two? (So what if you have to rake in the fall.) You are creating shade and a home for birds. Be an advocate for conserving what earth we still have not just for yourselves but for those who will come behind. Stop using chemicals that destroy our water sources. Recycle even if your waste management does not. Look at what is around you and realize that we are all the caretakers.

Here in Oregon the Rufous Hummingbirds are back. The daphne is blooming and the daffodils are on the brink of bursting forth. Take it all in. Preserve it. Encourage others to do the same. For we are indeed responsible.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Yellow striped pajamas

bee: noun
A bee is an insect with a yellow-and-black striped body that makes a buzzing noise as it flies. Bees make honey and can sting. (Thank you, Collins online dictionary).

Yep, most dictionaries say the same thing, yet they say nothing. We know bees give us honey. Honey and life.
 
Pollination: We would not have flowers without bees, and we would not have bees without flowers. In fact, we would have a lot less food without those guys in yellow striped pajamas. Some vegetation would become extinct. Crops are dependent on our little buddies. Imagine a world without apples, pears, cucumbers, cherries and the list goes on. All those plants that grow because of the little wings to get these fuzzy insects from one plant to another, spreading the pollen that gives us blooms and fruit. 

I love Burt's Bees. My lips are softer and my health in general is better. Bee products. We all use them. My grandkids love honey by the spoonful. I still revert to honey in the comb. When I eat honey, I forget to thank the bees for the vitamins and minerals they provide in this spoonful of gold. And for centuries people have burned candles made from bees wax. Beauty products often contain honey. Crayons are sometimes made of bees' wax. Even the venom of the bee is used to treat stings and to relieve arthritis pain. What's not to like about bees?

Bees are an important component for our ecosystem, for farmers, for health, for our planet. Without bees, we would have few vegetables, no alfalfa, some trees would be extinct. I found a list of things that need pollination from bees and found it impressive and frightening all at the same time. Animals would be affected as well as people. Our way of eating would change drastically. In the end, we, too would be extinct. Yes, they are the important.

Seven types of bumblebees, who is also a pollinator, were just added to the endangered species list. A list already listing endangered honeybees. Yes, all bees are in trouble. Why? Because of pesticides and other chemicals used on farms, yard maintenance, gardens and also due to climate change. Mites kill off colonies of bees. Albert Einstein: "Mankind will not survive the disappearance of honeybees for more than five years".

So what can we do? Stop the use of chemicals that are harmful to bees and other insects on fields, grass, gardens and trees. Plant flowers that encourage bees. Go to the library or check online to find out what plants will help. My son has a flowering sumac tree that hums with life from the hundreds of bees who visit its blooms. Do some research. Buy local honey to keep local beekeepers in business. Protect bee habitat. Bees are thirsty. They need flowering trees to give them sustenance. Place small stones in your birdbath, so the bees can sit on them and drink. Start your own hive. Research and be part of the solution. Educate your children and others about the bees and the need to protect them. Get those grandchildren involved. We know bees give us honey. Honey and life. 

Yellow striped pajamas.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Just call me fern

Yep, just call me fern. I reside in memories as well as having once lived in the homes of both grandparents. I sat in a brown and green pot that resembled a ceramic basket. My pot resided on a stand that was about 36" tall and had a small shelf under it. I had a place of importance there by the window. Yep, just call me fern.

Remember? I do. The fern pot that sat in Mom and Pop Johnson's front room later resided in our home. I have the plant stand but the fern never made it. Most of the grandparents' homes I had ever been in as a child had similar pots and stands. Fern. Was she a good luck charm, a fad, a tradition?

There were many things that I remember as a child that I really didn't understand. There was that ceramic dog that sat in front of the fake fireplace mantel in above-mentioned home. Often I had seen other breeds of dogs in other homes. Again, why? Was this what you had in place of a real dog? Was this the only way to have a dog in the house, since it was the belief that dogs were livestock and belonged outside? What good was a real dog in the house?! Did people shop for their ceramic pet? I could have taken that dog home with me when my grandparents passed. Somehow I didn't think it would get along well with our schnauzer.

Doilies were on the chairs, on the tables, on anything that had a surface. I always thought they must be a way to have a dust pattern on the surface when removed. It was like stained glass only in dust.

And, as always, that silly glass bowl that came with the TV. Why? Of course, as I have said before, we would never have dreamed of removing it. I think it was still at Mom and Dad's when we prepared for sale. In fact, I think the same flower was still in it.

Then there was the velvet cloth that covered the top of the old upright pianos. Again, a dust catcher? Maybe something romantic to go with the music? Perhaps long ago someone listening to the music whipped the cloth off the piano and danced around the room. My Aunt Bess would have done it in a heartbeat. And, yes, I do have that cloth.

We lived in a different day and age. I wonder if my children will have the same questions of our decor. Those old things decorate my memories of the people in my life. They accompany my reflections on the day and age of my parents, my grandparents. I look around the room and see the old fern stand. My grandfather's picture basket is a little more ragged but full of memories. I sat looking through old post cards it held when I was a child. Perhaps it was my TV before they had one.

What color are your memories? Where are the dust catchers, the ceramic dogs, old fern stands? These are a history, yours and mine. So for now, just call me fern.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Roller skates, nylons and giggles

We laughed. No. We giggled. We made prank calls, "Is your refrigerator running?". We ran through the sprinkler and flirted with boys.

Yep, we all have a friend who shares those memories with us. Mine was Vivian. The Force family lived on Pitsburg Gettysburg Road. We passed their house on the way to church and most times we picked Viv on the way. After church she either came home with me or I went to her house. The Force family was always part of our lives. My sister Peggy was friends and classmate to Sammy Force. Viv and I babysat for Janice's kids in Greenville. Every Saturday night Raymond would drive back the lane to pick me up. It was rollerskating night! Yes, we had great times together. We played kick the can with her brothers and did our best to pester them.

Music was always a part of our friendship. She was the first person I knew who played the piano by ear. She and I formed a singing group with Donna and Marilyn. We sang at churches and any place else Mom could find that needed a cute little singing group who performed for free. We went on to win the local rural arts show with our childish rendition of "When Molly was a Baby" finishing second in the regionals. I sang harmony, and Vivian sang alto.

Vivian's parents tolerated our silliness. We jumped on the bed, played games and had a seance. Silliness was the best description of our adventures. No one laughed or giggled more. 

Vivian has been tucked in that sweet part of my heart where childhood memories stay as delicious as they were when first experienced. My children often heard stories of Vivian's sleepwalking. She was a marvel. I truly don't think there was a night that she didn't find something to get into. One night I found her going to the attic and maneuvered her back to bed. Another night I awakened to this feeling that someone was watching me. In opening my eyes, I found Viv with chin-resting-on-elbow leaning over me staring at my face. I was determined to follow her one night, planning to gather feedback information as to her nightly walkabout. We tied our ankles together with a nylon and giggled ourselves to sleep. Of course, we awakened the next morning without a bit of nighttime activity. Well, not really. The nylon was off the ankles and tucked behind the bedroom door. Yep, she was a marvel.

Anyone who knows Vivian has been blessed with pure delight. I swear she is a spirit that was given to us, so we would know joy. We have been friends since we were small children. There were years we drifted apart until one day when visiting the farm, I called Viv. She and her daughters came to the old skating rink to meet me and my children. We picked up where we left off. A couple of Junior High girls swapping stories of days gone by.

I am writing this today because my friend has been in critical condition fighting for her life. Many of you know her as the child I describe and as an adult who continues to brighten the lives around her. I wanted to share just how remarkable this woman is even in this fight for her life. Please keep her in your thoughts. We are keepers of memories which are meant to be shared.

Friends make you smile - best friends make you giggle "till you pee your pants." - Terri Guillemets

Monday, December 24, 2018

Memories are made of this

"We all met at the church," June reminisced. "Mom and Dad took us all caroling." Well, yes, they took us ALL. I can well remember being a bit taller than knee-high when Mom and Dad pushed me out in front of the teens caroling at the Brethren Home. Back then it was a dark, dreary place that really didn't smell all that good. I was terrified. Of course, when Mom said, "Sing!" there was no dodging it. In my child voice, I sang Away in a Manger. The residents wanted to touch this little girl who was none too receptive. This is one memory that is very vivid from my point of view, which was mostly of knees and coattails.

My sister has different memories which mean the world to me. Being seven years her junior, my memories are limited. I don't remember Junior Stuff playing the accordion as the teens sang. Nor do I remember Cousin Gene Johnson and some other boys wrestling and breaking the back off of Mom and Dad's sofa after caroling. However, I do remember going from home to home singing to seniors: Grandma and Grandpa Force, Jess and Rosie Riffell, Rene Beane, Becky Groff and so many others who were the cherished in our community. We were often asked into their homes, tucking in like chicks beneath the brooder.

The youth group was made up of kids whose parents grew up together included Edwin, Miriam, Nancy and Martha Royer, Art, Larry and Gary Fourman, Junior Stuff, Lynda Fourman, Ruth, Kent, Terry and Dan Snider, Lois McBride, Barbara Rhodes, Judy Reck, Carol Stager, Margaret Dohner and so many more teens blessed our lives. The faces I remember over that decade of Christmas carolers, the older church children who filled our home regularly. They caroled then came back to the house for a wiener roast over the fireplace and ate green and red popcorn balls. Dad always went to North Star to get a couple of tins of potato chips. The atmosphere was full of laughter and fun with farm kids who grew up together.

Mom and Dad no longer had the youth group when I was a teen. How I wish we had those same experiences, since we were all siblings of that older group of carolers. Doris Royer, Mary Kay Snider, Vivian Force, Shirley and Janet Riffell, Karen and Kenton Loxley, Eddie Reck, Brenda Stager, Gary Rhoades, Darrell Fourman, Marena Neff and more grew up the same way as those older sisters and brothers. Yes, we missed things like caroling, hayrides and wiener roasts over the old fireplace.

My memories are made of this....and of all the things my sister remembers to share with me. We are the sum of our parts, plus those parts we find on our own. Christmas is over, but what we leave behind goes on forever. So when Santa comes next year, be sure to make sure he leaves memories that will be related for generations to come.