Saturday, June 23, 2018

Walking down the dingle

The trees reached from one side to the other, creating a beautiful archway dense with foliage. I was transported to another time and place. I had never been to England, only in the books I read. Now I was stepping into those visions I'd only dreamed of.

A friend wrote that she was walking down a path in England. Ah, I was a little envious. It has been about eight years ago that I traveled with a friend to Nottingham, England, to help settle his mother's estate. We moved into the town for two weeks, becoming natives instead of visitors. The perspective was different. No tourist tours for us. I met locals and was shown all the sights. The most memorable were the antiquity of the buildings, the awesome pubs and, most of all, the dingle.

dingle [ding-guh l]
noun: a deep, narrow cleft between hills; shady dell.
syn: basin, lowland, bottom, dell, glen, swale, vale, coulee, trough, notch, channel, basin, gorge

I grew up with a bottom. Now don't giggle. I grew up with two bottoms. One was a creek bottom. A place where cows grazed. A place where I rode my horse. It was a place of adventure and memories. We fished there and walked the back lane almost every day during the summer. I knew what a bottom was. However, I did not know that the bottom was also a dingle. This does not apply to the other bottom.

A fence ran along the shaded path. Though the day was sunny, the archway mottled the light, creating a dramatic effect. We followed the old rock wall to a gate. I began to laugh. At last I had found the faerie glen straight out of Tolkien novels. The sign on the gate said that it was the entrance to the dingle. We walked down the forest path into a small bottom where I am sure a mystical world lived. We clambered over fallen trees and hopped across rocks in the stream. The little girl in me laughed and wanted to dance with the faeries and talk to the forest creatures.
 
When traveling to another culture, you absorb. You do not compare, because there is no comparison. The people are different. The language is different, even though you supposedly speak the same. The history is much older. And differences enhance our lives and help us grow. 

Yes, I walked down a dingle. I walked in as a country girl from Neff Road and walked out with new understanding. Was it a dream? Sometimes I think so. For a girl who always had a wild imagination, imagination came to life. I walked down a dingle.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A new beginning

Yes. No. No. No. Yes. No. Well, you get the point. I am deciding what will go to our new home and what will not. There is a great benefit to moving. You actually stop to think about all of this and that which has been following you around during your lifetime. The childhood memories, the things left from your parents and, for some of us, the things remaining from a past marriage all residing in one house. So the Yessing and Nooing is taking place.

My son came over yesterday to peruse the No pile. He shook his head and picked up only two things. My treasures have nothing to do with him. It is a new day and age. Back in older generations things were passed on, because they had use to the next generation. Doilies that once had a place on the shelf are now something that my kids and grandkids don't remember seeing in a home. The silver and antique dishes mean nothing in this new day and age. They are my memories and not theirs. So my No pile increases as I look to this new life with this wonderful man who is doing the same in his house.

We have decided that we want new things that are ours and not part of our past lives with other partners. And, I have to say, this is indeed an adventure. We are looking at our life together in a different way, a more creative way. Our ages have nothing to do with making plans and having fun finding things that represent this new phase of our lives. Having a new house that didn't belong to either of us is a great start. We get to plan together this new home of ours. We get to look forward. Not backwards. Not to the end when we are feeble. We get to look forward with a new vision that is all ours. It is full of life and enthusiasm.

I have emptied the old trunks. Too much has been packed and moved and never used in recent times.  The attic will be empty of the same. It is not housecleaning. It is life cleaning. My children will not need to go through years of history trying to decide what to keep and what not to keep. The piles of pictures of people they do not know will be gone. Only the history will remain.

There is a relief in ridding myself of all this baggage. I do not need these things to retain memories. I have the memories in my heart. Yes, I have saved a couple of doilies made by my cousin Betty and  those made by my grandmother, and I am keeping one of my old dolls. Not all will be gone, but the pack rat is gone.

A new beginning has begun.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

It is no lye

The buckets filled with it sat in the back room. I never really thought much about it as a kid, but it seemed that anything that could hold anything held the stuff. Funny the things that pop up in memory.

The twins were in the backseat. I was telling them about singing in the car when the Loxleys were going for long drives. All of a sudden I burst into verse......three little kitten, they lost their mittens and they began to cry....I couldn't seem to stop....oh, Mommy dear, we sadly fear, our mittens we have lost....where in the world did this come from? Those things that pop up in our minds that we have long forgotten. Once they grab hold, you don't want them to slip away.

June and I are good for one another in bringing up things we had forgotten and things that only siblings can share. We fail to realize as we are growing up the significance of having someone who lived lives with us and who can share all those memories that no one else knows. Yet, her childhood, until I was able to realize life around me, was so different from mine. Mine, after my sisters had gone, was much different than theirs. Little things. Little things that were taken for granted are now cherished, because we share them once more. And, they are little bit of a surprise when we stubble upon them.

I stood in the shower looking at my choices of soap. The shower soap smells really yummy. The handmade, oatmeal bar leave me feeling scrubbed clean. The body scrub takes off a layer of skin, leaving me pink all over. Then it hit me!!! Those tubs of that white stuff in the back room. Mom's homemade lye soap. Hm. Did we bathe with it? Certainly it would take off all your skin. Mom did laundry with it as I remember, scraping pieces off into the wringer washer tub. Did she use it to clean the house? Did she use it to wash dishes? Did she have any hands left after she used it?! Why was there so much soap hardening in the back room?????

Niggle, niggle, niggle. What pops up in your thoughts of the past that you fail to share? Don't you think you should? Making lye soap, using a wringer washer, reciting poems from childhood and sometimes breaking out in "How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggily taillllll. Memories more fun to share then to tuck back into the recesses of our minds once more.

I love sharing my memories with you but ask you to share yours with others. I guarantee they will be much richer when you share them, because a wealth of memories of people, places and childhood will flow over you.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Element of surprise

"Which hand?" Dad had his hands tucked behind his back. Which hand? Behind his back was something that Dad discovered and wanted to share with his children. The guessing game always brought smiles and giggles. What would he have this time? Was is alive? Was it an arrowhead?

My father loved to make his family smile. Of course, Mom's face lit up every time he walked into a room. He didn't surprise her with gifts. He surprised her with song or by taking her into his arms. He was her surprise and delight, and he knew it.

But for the Loxley girls, he was adventure. He delighted in taking us into the field to see a nest of bunnies or to take us mushroom hunting steering us toward a patch. His adventures often lead us to birds nests or maybe a turtle or a frog. Never was it just taking us to see the new thing. He delighted in teasing us and making it memorable.

There were two surprises that I know thoroughly delighted Dad. It wasn't just the end result. He loved the planning to make the event the best it could be. I sit here remembering these events and smile. My heart is full of love for that man who made it all special. He opened the door of the milk truck. Two small lambs stood on the floor. Some kids want a new dog or a cat. I just wanted a lamb. The sweet little lambs made our hearts soar. And, to this day, I can hear my dad laughing as our responses. Years later a truck pulled into the driveway. It pulled over by the garage. Dad and Uncle Jim opened the door to the trailer, leading the horse out. Yes, my second dream was to own a horse. It was a new mouth to feed and more work for Dad, but again, he could not resist the surprise.

So often when the screen door closed, Dad came in with a new treasure. He loved to tease us until we guessed. An arrowhead, a chrysalis, a fossil, a discovery he made that he knew his children would love to see. A lesson he would love to teach his children.

Farm life is full of adventure and discovery. We had nature lessons everyday. We learned how what it takes to make plants grow. We knew early how to reap the bounty of a garden. We knew the calls of the birds and the names of the stars in the sky. We learned to know the trees by their bark. We knew what birthing involved by watching the calves and lambs born. We knew how to gather eggs and to pluck a chicken. We knew how to play using our imaginations. We absolutely knew what it was to be part of a community. Yes, we were surrounded by the things that other children could not imagine. And, with Dad, he gave us more lessons in living.

Which hand? Which hand held the surprise? It is not that surprise that is precious now. In fact, I cannot remember all of them. I do, however, remember my father's hand as it unfurled. I remember his warm laughter and sparkling eyes. Dad indeed did leave us with a legacy in finding delight in life. But more than that, he left us with a spirit of adventure. He taught us to be surprised at what we might find. He taught us to look deeper into life. Which hand? Perhaps my own.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

History by design

History by design. Fashions long forgotten yet big in their day. Looking back and in awe of what I do not remember, I find a past opens up with memories I cannot capture. Being in theatre, I learned what it was to look at history by design.

I love watching Call of the Midwife on PBS. Indeed, it is a wonderful series that takes place during the years I have been alive. It begins post WWII. The costuming is right on. I observe what my mother would have worn in those early days and learn a bit about life in those times. It takes place in England but not so different that what was happening in the United States. I often see a young Ruth pushing a pram. Her hair curled and her figure thin. She isn't wearing glasses back then, and, to this daughter, she is quite beautiful. House dresses buttoned up the front were made from sackcloth.  Shoes were designed for long wear. Dresses were practical. Clothing was worn for several days and bathing was not a daily activity. In these women I see my past life. I learn what it was like to live when the milkman delivered milk in a glass bottle, and people rode bikes or walked. A day of no television when radio was the main source of learning about the world outside of Neff Road.

In later episodes of Call of the Midwife, time progresses to where a modern world steps in removing the old and adding bright colors to the new. Appliances take on new colors and so do the clothes. This series is now into the 60's that I remember. Through this show, I travel through time.

And, yes, I love Perry Mason. I love the look of the homes, hair, cars and clothing. Perry goes from slim to not so slim. Della ages from young woman to middle aged. Paul, of course, is still a womanizer. I chuckle at the differences the years make and love every minute of the mysteries. Indeed we learn about our pasts by learning from that magic picture box.

I am in wonder at the speed at which time travels. We cannot go back. And, who wants to? Contrary to the past, we can design our own looks. I know this because I still watch TV. Heck, I can get a tattoo, wear white pants in December, ride on a Harley in leather and shave my head. All of the finger-pointing that took place long ago and the rules of protocol are tossed aside, so we can be who we want to be without criticism. I rather wish I were a teenager now. Not just because of the smooth skin and thin figure, but because I would be able to have my own voice and use it. I could be a girl of my own design.

We don't wear bustles any more. And cinched-corset designs gave way when, I would assume, some women said, "no more". For me the demise of the garters, girdles and pantyhose was the end of useless torture. We no longer dress for men. We dress for ourselves. Men can toss out the there- piece suit, tie tacks and pegged pants. They can be more casual and yet look good. They can design their own look.

History does indeed show us how far we have come. I will continue to watch Perry and try to remember if I have seen the episode four or five times. I will continue to embrace new shows that show me more options for my current look and those that remind me of my mother and sisters. Indeed the past was history by design. Perhaps the future is individuality by design.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fields of flags

Curiosity got the best of me when I sat down to do the column today. I knew I wanted to write about Memorial Day. It was a time when grave stones were cleaned and grass trimmed. Mom and Aunt Welma allowed me to tag along running around looking at markers at Cromer Cemetery and Newcomers Cemetery. It was a tradition practiced by each family. However, there is much more to learn about this holiday. With the help of the History Channel, I found my interest fed.

It was the late 19th century that the US began the practice of honoring those fallen in battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans actually had annual days of remembrance for all loved ones. There began the practice of placing flowers on graves and holding feasts in their honor. Athens held public funerals for the fallen after each battle with public viewing before delivering them to the grave. (Hope they had outstanding morticians.).  In 431 BC, one of the first public tributes to fallen soldiers was held there.

Thousands of Union soldiers were held prisoner in a horrible camp in Charleston, South Carolina during the Civil War. More than 250 died from disease or exposure. On May 1, 1865,  three weeks after the Confederacy surrendered, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves accompanied by US Colored Troop regiments and a handful of white Charlestonians gathered in that camp to consecrate a new proper burial site for the Union soldiers who died there. They distributed flowers and sang. Flowers and music.

So how did we get to May 30th. Hm. It seems that in May 1886 General John A. Logan who was then commander-in-chief of the Union veterans' group issued a decree that May 30th should become a national commemorative day honoring the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War. It was then dubbed Decoration Day. Logan wanted Americans to lay flowers and decorations at the graves of war dead. However, before Logan took up the cause, women's groups across the south gathered to decorate the Confederate graves. The Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, decided to honor the fallen once a year. Perhaps Logan caught his idea from them.

American love special holidays thus embracing Decoration Day. In the first year, more than 27 states embraced it. By 1890 every former state of the Union adopted it as an official holiday. And now we have an 'oops'. This Decoration Day only honored those who died in the Civil War. It was not until 1970 that it became an official holiday honoring the fallen soldiers of all wars. 

Of course, the day has changed with placement of Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. I remember laughing that May 30 was going to fall on the last Monday in May whether it was the 30th or not. Another 'hm' moment.

In looking to this Memorial Day, you might just carry a bit of this column with you. A day of remembrance that began in our country with a war within our borders. A war that tore families and the country apart. I am saddened that we still lose soldiers to wars. What is the price. Perhaps we can measure it in the flags flying on graves. Fields of flags.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dum Dum De Dum

Tricky tune, right? Hm. The second set of notes are the same. Dum Dum De Dum. What does it mean? Well, just in case you have no musical sense. I will continue. "Going to the chapel and we're....". Yes, Loren and I are going to be married.

At one time I would have wondered why anyone my age would want to marry again, especially since I have been single for over twenty years. I would be the first to say I was pretty pathetic. However, Loren Nelson did enter my life a year and a half ago. We have tested this relationship. Questioned if this would work with a woman who loved her freedom. Through it all, we discovered that there is so much life and love we have ahead of us. He is my best friend and just a silly guy who loves his woman.

Loren is a professional photographer. His work is shown in many galleries on the west coast. A gifted photographer who has a wonderful reputation. He comes from a family of potters and artists. I come from a family in the performing arts. We are a good match. We have much to learn about one another and many adventures ahead of us. (https://www.google.com/search?q=loren+nelson+photography&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1)

Loren and I had a conversation on our return from a gallery show in Astoria about being at the perfect age to marry. Our priorities are so much different than those we had at a younger age. We both have been on our own and in other relationships, so we have a pretty good idea about love. We have no desire to move into a home where we will raise children. No jobs to bother with. We are focused on family, volunteering and creating with our own artistic interests. Plus, we have all the time in the world, any day of the week, to have a new adventure. What could be more perfect!

Perhaps you wonder at this strange column, but I am a child of Neff Road. Maybe I need your permission. We have it from our kids. Maybe you and I are, by now, old friends once a week. I will be bringing him back this summer. He is very interested in meeting all of you and walking down Neff Road with me. He plans to bring his camera and capture the house back the lane.

We are not sure when we will be married. Perhaps late summer or fall. Nolan is thrilled to be the ring bear. Yep, I said bear. Emma is ready to toss flower petals at people. What could be better? So we invite you to be part of our new adventure. Looking forward to our meeting you when we come back to farm country.

I just had to tell you.....dum dum de dum.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A shoe full of slush

The pungent smell filled the room with a heady perfume, casting me back to my childhood and that house back the lane. Sweet purple flowers drooped from branches, calling to butterflies and hummingbirds. It is the beginning of warm weather. The rebirth of summer knocking on the door.

This time of the year I love to watch Oregon come alive with color. My son's yard is a glorious array of lively inspiration. A small white butterfly flits across the yard. "Look, MeMe," Emma yells. "It's cookie! Cookie came back!" Yep, Cookie seemed to have returned. Well, not really but truly to a small girl and boy who called and waved to the little white butterfly last year. Not aware of the life span of butterflies, they were thrilled to see an old friend.

I was thrilled in the spring when Dad would come into the house with a yearly surprise. A big cocoon latched on to a twig was placed it in the backroom with Dad sometimes adding one or two more during the next week or so. Days would pass, and we would forget about the brown casing propped up in the backroom. Then one day he would call us. Huge cecropia moths would be flapping their wings stretching from their rest in their small sleeping bags. They spanned the width of Dad's large hands. Creatures that seemed to have four huge eyes displayed beauty unrivaled. We knew Dad would set them free so that nature could once more renew herself.

Perhaps spring should be called Awakening. Flowers, newborn livestock, trees once more in leaf, grass that seems to grow faster after a winter's sleep. The spirit awakens to the newness it remembers. The air is sweeter and a new vitality seems to affect every part of our lives.

There is another facet of spring that not everyone thinks of. As a child it meant that we would be taking more drives to just roam the countryside or go visit friends or relatives. We piled into the old, black Packard and headed off to adventure. It was not only adventure. Those times were wonderful family times. We all sang together and listened to Mom and Dad tell old stories or point out landmarks we had seen many times over the years. We later realized that these were the most intimate times we had with my parents. Dad's tenor would begin, and we would all fall into our harmonies. It was as it would be in the summer, when once more we would fall into the routine of field work and chores creating a difference harmony. The harmony of a farm family. We didn't mind. Winter had kept us inside. Spring called to us, and we answered with gusto.

I found a quote just for you, since your winter has been a very long one. Enjoy.

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. - Don Larson

Monday, April 23, 2018

The door is open

The song greeted me as soon as I opened the door. Open the door. Song. Close the door. Silence. I did that about five times then determined that indeed two birds were singing their little hearts out to the sun's warmth coupled with the smell of spring. Needless to say, the door stayed open.

Most of the country, including you on Neff Road, have had a long, cold winter. We in Oregon have had cool, rainy weather. And, contrary to belief, the weather here is not always rainy. In fact, Oregon is the 39th wettest state. So, for a state that had not met its needed rainfall this year, we found it all in April. On Wednesday when this column comes out, it is predicted to be 86 here. Where's my sunscreen!

The weather affected those in that house back the lane. Weather was often the topic of discussion. Farmers depend on good weather for healthy crops and money in the bank for the long winter. A dry year and plants struggle. I remember walking the field with a bucket of tobacco plants replacing those drooping and dying. Livestock seemed to feel the weather. Grazing land was sometimes meager. Rain kept animals in the barns. Farmers often could not plow due to wet fields. And erosion accompanied dry, windy weather. The land coupled with the weather either made it a year of bounty or a year of struggle. We creatures felt the fear of lean years, hoping to hang on until the weather changed.

I remember those nights lying in my bed just praying for a breeze to pass through the window. Just a faint breeze tickling the sheer curtains would have been a blessing. I tossed and turned finding sleep an allusive bedtime companion. In the winter, I prayed that the heat in the one radiator upstairs would reach my bedroom. Comforters piled high, I snuggled into a cocoon wishing for the days when I shared a bed with my sister June and had her warmth to keep me warm. The people in that house back the lane on Neff Road felt the weather even though we were sheltered.

The weather affects us all. Depression sets in when we have too much of any type of it. Grey days. Hot days. Snow that seems to never end. We hibernate waiting for spring. We hibernate waiting for a breeze. Rain comes as a relief. We smell it before the first drop strikes the earth. We stand in it and revel in the freshness we have missed.

After all those years of soaking up the sun, I find my skin damage makes me angry that we did not know that sun exposure was harmful. I now know that much of the illness I had as a child came from allergies and changes in barometric pressure that affect me. After all these years, I am very aware of how weather affects me. Weather. It affects all living creatures.

The weather is no longer ours to depend upon. Changes are happening, and we are learning how to adjust. Animals are disappearing as their environments change. Glaciers are disappearing. Water is rising. Island people are searching for places to move their tribes as their land disappears beneath the sea. The great coral reef is dying, not to be revived. The ocean warms and food sources for sea life suffocates. Satellites circle this ball we live on and track its changing surface. The change in climate will not go away.

So as I warm up this week, I will keep my mind on the big picture. Not everything is the way we want it to be, and we can't make it change. Well, we can. Maybe not a big change but making wise decisions on the way we live can allow us to be proactive.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has been shooting Photo Ark (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rare/) for eleven years. He is capturing photos of animals endangered and those almost extinct. Those so rare that he must climb mountains and hike through impossible terrain to capture them. In many cases, they are the very last of their species. There are many fighting to save this planet. As we struggled on the farm wondering what the crops would do and if we could survive the winter on the productiveness of those crops, we have to wonder with the changes in the earth, how soon we will be on the extinction list. The extremes in weather, the rising and warming seas, the loss of incredible species are signs of the earth crying out. The question is, "Are we listening?"

The door is open.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Depth of field

There's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.- Sarah Kay

We sat looking over the blue Pacific. Shades of blue melting together from shallow to deep. A slight wind pushing sailboats across the horizon as an occasional sea lion bobs to the surface then disappears. I missed our Oregon coastline on this beautiful ocean but savored our moments as we watched nothing but water, knowing that we were receiving a gift. A gift of the deep blue sea.

Loren was invited to participate in Rfotofolio Depth of Field at a gallery in Carmel, California. So we packed our bags, photographs and eagerness to get out of Oregon rain and headed to Monterey. Sometimes things work the way they are meant, and you don't quite get it until the moments have passed. Our three days in the beautiful sunshine were filled with such as these.

This new life of mine with this gentle spirited photographer is an adventure for both of us. He has the seeing eye of the camera, and I have the words to accompany his gift. We are an indomitable pair. Our conversations and observations definitely have depth of field. (Depth of field is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp. For me, it narrows down the area that you look at in a normal view but what you might end up finally focusing on in a wider view.) I know Loren will correct me if I have this wrong. So where Loren focuses on life through a lens, I see it in all its possibilities.

Loren spent time with a very prestigious group of photographers, while I soaked up sun and visited with a very sweet lady named Sele. In a matter of minutes, we had covered life, politics, religion and relationships. On the surface we had nothing in common. Peel away the layers, and both our lives were enriched. I came away from that afternoon and evening with many new friends. Those I will in likelihood never see again. 

We enjoyed the beauty and uniqueness of Carmel then spent time at the Monterey Aquarium. In Carmel, we saw a town filled with beautiful buildings and people. In Monterey, we marveled at what lies beneath the beautiful, blue Pacific. We sat overlooking the ocean drawn into the sheer loveliness of it. We wondered what it would be like when the water begins to rise with global warming. We were concerned that the water temperatures are rising. What then of the lovely life that lives below that deep blue sea? This was a new depth of field. 

Our seats on the way home were on different sides of the plane. I was tired and not really wanting conversation. I heard Loren laughing across the aisle. He had made a new friend from Pátzcuaro, México, who was visiting in Portland. The young lady next to me finally made me talk (hard to believe, huh?). She is a preschool teacher from Vancouver. In just a few minutes, we were sharing pictures and stories, ways to engage young children, marriage and twins (her having a twin brother). Parting we finally exchanged names. Two more people we were gifted with to share our lives for just a bit of time. Our depth of field truly focused us in on people who were just part of the mass when we first boarded the plane.

What is your depth of field? What do you see when you focus on something that is near to you? Do you look beyond and find a new point of focus? Do you find something interesting or even life changing in the view? I learned a great deal about photography and people on this trip. I learned a great deal about me.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.- Mother Teresa