Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy toe wiggling

Anticipation began to build. It was spring. The Easter mark had passed, and Mother's Day would be next. My feet were aching to be free.

Spring was always special on the farm. Sheep were sheared. Lambs born. Chickens embraced the weather, clucking with more gusto than usual, and the cows seemed to moo at just about anything. Spring was a time of preparation. As with the creatures in our backyard, Dad was busy in the barn getting his equipment field-ready and plowing the garden. Mom had emptied the freezer and canned goodies in the fruit room, filling her daughters with the end of the year remains. She was making room for the new season of food. We prepared for the bounty of our land with the labor of our hands.

So all was well at home, but at school we wiggled in our seats each time the sun came out. Teachers fought a good fight, trying to keep our attention away from those wonderful, big windows in Franklin School. We dashed to the monkey bars and waited for a turn on the swings. Balls and bats littered the field and jump ropes spun around and around. Summer was around the corner.

For the seniors, we anticipated freedom at last. We began to see the present in that rear view mirror.  It was then we realized the leaving. Boys would be going to war and girls to work. Some would go to college, and some would serve humanity. The going was becoming bittersweet. Spring. A time of growing up.

I remember the summer kitchen airing out in preparation for the summer baking and canning activity. I always hoped that mice who wintered there might go to their summer retreats far from the house. It was a time of removing the feather downs and flannel sheets. A time Sunday drives and visiting friends.

There were more trips down the lane to the bridge. More time visiting neighbors who sat outside, waiting for a little girl to pass by. The kids on Neff Road got off the bus at the corner of Byreley and Neff Roads. No longer did we ride that long trip home. Instead we skipped, hopped and meandered our way down the road.

My feet ached to feel that summer grass between my toes. I wanted to get started on toughening them up for the gravel I would one day race across. The freedom of my toes signaled the freedom from school.  And, now, my toes still ache. They ache for the grass back the lane, the lambs in the pasture, Brenda and I sitting on the gate, watching the world pass by and most of all, for those lovely days of childhood. Toe wiggling at its best.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Coming home

Coming home.  How Mom and Dad loved to hear, "I'm coming home." So many thoughts come to mind with those two words. For most of my life, it meant coming home to Neff Road. Driving down the road and back the lane to the arms of my parents, to those of my relatives, to my friends. Coming home.

Over the years those words expanded to embrace more years and more people, more places and dear faces. Walking into my son's home is just like coming home. Sweet arms of my grandchildren wrapped around me is indeed coming home.  Even though I have a home, those coming homes are so much dearer.

For those of us who moved away from Darke County many years ago, coming home has a different connotation. Many of us no longer have the loving arms of parents to hug us. Yet home is still the house back the lane. Doris and Victor, Hollie and Margaret no longer live in their houses I visited so often in my childhood, yet they are places that I still call home. My grandparents homes call me back to their embrace. And, that bridge and sweet creek pull at my heartstrings. Yet it is difficult when we come back, as many people take us in to where we left off, forgetting about our lives we have lived away from Neff Road. We come back to visit, wanting to share our lives, sometimes feeling we have been kept in a niche from long ago. Perhaps that is the way with everyone who returns to their roots. Coming home changes over the years.

Sometimes we find someone in our lives who gives us that coming home feeling. Maybe it is a whisper of something we cannot quite explain that calls us. A walk in the forest. Walking into a room that feels familiar. The smell of cinnamon or fried eggs lures us back home with the pure delight of sense of smell. I find that music takes me back to many homes. They tug at my heart and talk to me with a melodious voice, returning me to a place I have been.

Now I come home to my little nest. I delight in the respite from the day of work or babysitting. A place created from the parts of my life that all have that sweet echo of the past.  It embraces me in the warmth of yesterday and a place of peace before the morrow.

The arms that held me long ago still hold me when I dream of coming home. The smell of the farm, the hug of a child, daily Skyping with June and snuggling in at the end of the day. Yes, I love coming home. Home to many pieces of my life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I am a visitor

At only three years old, she could capture a heart and hold it forever. A sweet little thing with a winning smile and a connection to the earth and its creatures that I could not understand.

Glued to the old Raytheon TV, I sat watching cowboys ride the range fighting Indians and establishing new territory. They came in wagon trains. They came in land grabs. No matter how the natives fought, they came in numbers too big for them to hold on to the very land that sustained them. I watched and watched. Loved every minute of these wild westerners shooting and finding love when the show needed a little more story line. I watched and watched totally oblivious to what the shows represented, what they were planting in my young mind. Shooting, killing, fighting, stealing of land, violent interaction with one race bullying another. And, I grew up loving those old shows. No wait, I wasn't grown up.

In looking back, I wonder what the adults in my family were thinking allowing me to watch these shows. We had cap guns and BB guns, things that make killing a make-believe game. Whether you agree or not, that is the bottom line.

Native - adjective
1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being
2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature
3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

We had many tribes in Oregon. I am going to list them because I feel it is important to acknowledge them: Alsea, Cayuse, Cheto, Chinook, Clatskanie, Coos, Galice, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Multnomah, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shasta, Sinuslaw, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tututni, Coquille, Umatilla, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wishram. There are now only nine federally recognized tribes. A few tribes with few people have created confederations. There are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio, and only two unrecognized: Munsee Delaware Indian Nation of Ohio and Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band.

Then I grew up. I realized that this earth is truly precious. In finding native stones on our land, I came to realize that this was not really our land. I wondered whose blood was deep beneath our home and barns. Where were the families whose roots truly were part of this land? What in the world had we done to them all.

"Are you home?" asked Mom. June answered that they were home and had a beautiful little girl. I grabbed my jacket and told Mom and Dad to get ready. We were heading to Indiana. My niece Jobi was not born to our family. No, she was a sweet, little, half-Indian girl who was up for adoption. June and Bob wanted her. We all wanted her. They took off to Montana and came home with a sweet, little girl who had a winning smile and who brought pure joy to our family. A little girl whose brothers and sisters still lived on the reservation. A place where Native American families struggled to make a living.

I am a visitor to this land. I came on the trail of blood and war. My roots lie in Germany, Switzerland, England. The Mexicans who lived here, the Native Americans, all have been pushed away from the land they loved and were born to. A little three year old taught me the meaning of acceptance. She gave me understanding into the beautiful spirit of one born of the earth. I am a visitor here.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Alumnae of the past, keepers of the future

Many questions have been asked on Facebook about the early towns and schools in Franklin Township. So, today I am turning my column over to Mom. In 1996, about three months before Dad passed, Mom sent a journal to me for my birthday. She wrote of her childhood, of her life. In doing so, she wrote of the history of the times. So, Mom, it is time for your pen to have its way: (I use my mother's words.)

The year before I started to school, Bess (her sister) took me to visit. She had a man Orville Riffell as a teacher. I kept laughing and he told me to be quiet. And I told him I didn't half to. So he took me up to his desk and switched me. Bessie got all excited and run down to her Uncle Dan's (he was on the school board). There was quite a lot of excitement for awhile. And when it came time the next fall for me to go to school, although there was another teacher, I wouldn't go.  Abe Minnich (the owner of Red River Grocery) took me and sit with me every morning for the first week of school before I stayed by myself.

We had a bench in the front of the schoolroom that 5 persons could sit on. The teacher would call on the 8th grade arithmetic class up from their desks in the back of the school. They would work problems on the board. Then the 7th grade would be called on down to the 1st grade. Sometimes I would be asleep as it was boring to listen to all of them recite. After I got in the 3rd grade, I liked school and I liked to go early before the big kids got there, and I'd carry wood from the wood-house in to make the fire. We would have to stay after school and clean up. Sweep the floor, pick up papers. I really liked that part.

I did good in school and hated to miss any, but in the 3rd grade I was riding Edward Young's bicycle home as I always went home at noon from school to eat dinner, and I was going pretty fast and fell off the bicycle and hurt my knee. It got infection in it and I had twenty-three boils on my right leg around my knee and couldn't go to school for three weeks. The teacher boarded with Bob (Mom's brother) and Welma and she come with my lesson every evening.

There is more I will share of my mother's story. This is the way it was in Red River when the school was  just down the road. A place where brothers and sisters were in the same room and all ages learned together. Water in the well and fire wood to be brought in. A time when classes were small and teachers lived-in.

This is the time of year for remembering the alumnae of our schools. A time for looking back at our own pasts and a time for watching the new graduates move forward. Let's hope in our moving forward that we not forget what and who came before.

Read the papers left behind from your loved ones. Hold the diaries and appreciate each word. Close your eyes and step back in time. Smell the wood fire and feel the snow on your cheek as you walk to school.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Little pointed cap

Morel (according to Webster) any of several edible fungi having a conical cap with a highly pitted surface - called also morel mushroom.

Well, for the clueless, this definition sounds like a description of a dunce with bad acne. For those of us who get a hankering this time of year for the wild taste of those clandestine morsels, we drool our way into spring hoping to dine on them once more.

Without stooping down for the mushroom, you cannot put it in your basket. - Russian Proverb. When I was a kid, I found those tricky morels loved to hide beneath leaves and under logs. I seemed to find more than Dad, probably because I was closer to the ground. I learned to stoop down early, and in that bending, I learned that the most delightful morsels could be found, a lesson at an early age. It takes time to seek out what we care about even if it means bending ourselves to find it. That single chance to find a treasure or to pass over it. Observe and be rewarded or look away and miss an opportunity.

Oregon abounds with mushrooms. Yep, we have morels. I have been a bit tentative about hunting them as our forests are dense, and I am not educated in regards to the mushrooms here. So, I am going to take a class on our local fungi, grab a bag and step back in time. I want to learn, so I can take my grandkids hunting the way my dad took me. There are traditions essential to learn as a child. This one was a keeper.

Mushroom time is approaching. Through our forest service I found that my limit is a gallon of them. Indeed if I find a gallon, I will have a backache from bending and probably a stomach ache from the most delicious meal ever. Ah, yes, morels.

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.