Monday, August 31, 2009

The Porch

When I was growing up, our back porch was open. At one end was the well and the entrance into the backroom. At the other end was our porch swing. As a child, I would sit on the swing with my syblings and friends, even those friends with fur. We sat on the swing to snap beans and shell peas. When company came, we sat on the swing and visited.

Then I became a teenager. A nice evening always ended up sitting on the porch swing holding hands and talking. When the swing went back and forth, it made a rhythmic sound. If the swing stopped and Dad didn't hear a car door, he was out the door to check on the lovers sitting on the porch.

Later Mom and Dad screened in the porch. The swing was taken down and a glider took it's place. Still the kids would play on the porch gliding back and forth on the glider. Grandbabies were rocked and small children took naps. Beans were shelled and peas were shelled. Family gathered and neighbors were always present.

We could now sit on the porch and watch storms, the farmers in the fields, the inspiring sunsets. The children chased lightening bugs, and we gazed at the stars. It became gallery seating for the older family members to watch the kids play croquet and a place to watch the children once more investigating the barn.

The old swing stills hangs stored in my garage waiting to some day hold another generation. Until then, the old memories warm my heart and take me home again.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Different Playgrounds

Many years ago I undertook a trip from Chicago, where I was visiting my son at Northwestern, to Ohio. It was a study in mankind. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by looking at the children. In Chicago, the children have streets and lakeside as their playgrounds. Parents ride on bikes with their children in downtown Chicago after dark. For the less fortunate, brown empty lots and cluttered streets, the only place to play with no trees for protection from the sweltering sun.

In Angola where my sister, June, lives, vintage houses sit on quiet streets with children runing from yard to yard. At country homes children play in the barn and run across the fields with their huge, black dog.

Finally, I arrived back in Darke County an my father's auctioned tools. Small, cherub-faced children...girls in long dresses wearing print bonnets. Boys in long pants with suspenders and brimmed, straw hats. Never have I seen such angelic faces, that seldom smile. Their playground? The chores they live by and the occasional cherished toy.

The children know what they know. Let's hope that they understand some day that each child has a different playground.
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Remnants

They hung on the wall like trophy-bearing antlers. Yet there so much more to the man who placed them there. As I turn one over in my hand, I’m awed at the splendor and wonder of it all.


My father brought his wife and baby daughter to his farmland. He pulled the drag across the fields behind his Belgian horses clearing rocks from the land. Occasionally, he would happen upon remnants left behind by the true owners of this land. These rocks that were chiseled by hand, rock upon rock, tap after tap. The creative eye saw in a chunk of flint an arrow, a scrapper, perhaps a spear. He saw in the rock a hatchet, a hammer, a grinder. And with his skill, he created pieces that not only served his needs but were also beautiful pieces of art. My father knew them as treasures.

I never had my father’s eye for finding this flint, yet he could see one from atop a tractor seat moving across a field. As children, we were always thrilled when Dad came into the house smiling, his hand a curled fist. Slowly he would unroll his fingers to show us his newest discovery. We then passed it around as Daddy told us the purpose of each tool. I never thought to ask him how he knew so much, but he was my own teacher of handmade Indian tools. He would lovingly mounted each treasure with a leather strap and hung them for all to appreciate.

Now they have left their land. As I hold this primitive hatchet head in my hand, I am hurled back in time watching a weathered face tie this tool he painstakingly grooved with a leather strip to a thick limb. Here I am holding these perfectly formed tools in my hand and am awed. Hundreds of years have passed between these people and me, yet we have shared the same land. We have eaten food produced from this land. And we have touched the same stones they chiseled.

These treasured pieces once on my father's wall now sit in glass case before me. They will indeed have a place of honor in my heart as always will the artists who created them. These people fished in our creek, gave birth to their babies on this land and were buried beneath its rich black soil.

I left no remnants there

only

my heart.




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Friday, August 28, 2009

Through the Door

With my sisters in tow, I opened the door and walked onto the porch. “What are you doing?” exclaimed my sister, Peggy. Oops, what was I thinking. Suddenly I was about 7 and going to a piano lesson with Dorthea Hunt. I had walked into this house, the place where at 6 I learned correct fingering for my little hands through the next seven years later to when I was a teenager who played piano/organ duets with Dorthea. Never once had I knocked on the door when going to those $1.00 classes.
Every Saturday Mom would pack up her daughters from our Neff Road farm and take us on our weekly visit to town for piano lessons. Saturday treks to Greenville had been a family tradition for at least 2 generations. Long ago my grandfather would pack up his family, drive the old Model T to Greenville, sit on the wall in front of the Court House visiting with other farmers who came to town for the same reason. The men sat and smoked while their women did the weekly shopping. But that was then. I was the new generation.
After our piano lessons, we followed our same Saturday ritual: Off to the Hamburger Shop for a great, greasy hamburger and fries then off to Murphy’s Five and Ten. We were each given a nickel or dime and given free range of the store that had everything. Peg went for the chocolate drops, June for the malted milk balls. Me? I wandered around the candy counter a few times but usually went for the comic books.
Next stop was The Palace Department Store. Mother would shop the rounders, while I hid in them. The best part was the tri-sided mirror with side panels that could be moved.
The butcher shop where we kept our butchered beef was usually our last stop. At the back of the store a rack of coats hung waiting for the next person to enter the cold locker. We donned the over-sized coats and entered the winter world of the locker. On hot summer days it was great.

Now as an adult I was at Dorthea’s door. No longer was I a student, I had just walked into her house as I had hundreds of times before. Inadvertently, I broken into her house.
Even though I now live in Oregon, a visit home, this place that calls me without knocking is no further than my thoughts. I open my mind and walk through the door. How I miss those Saturday excursions and Dorthea Hunt.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Down the lane

For me it was always 'up the lane' to go the the house and 'down the lane' to go to the mailbox. However, I find that most people think that going to the house is 'down the lane' and the mailbox 'up the lane'. You ask, "Who cares?".

Well, evidently I do or I wouldn't be allowing my fingers to follow my brain. We lived on a hill, thus heading toward the house meant that we had to go 'up the hill'. Now how could you go down the lane or up the lane and it mean the same thing? Maybe it depends on the length of the lane plus the level of the gound. The old Langston home was built in the middle of the mile square land that housed our family lands. This was not unusual for old farmsteads that consisted of large acreage. The farmhouse was built in the middle of the lands. I would think that going down a long lane as such would be going down the road.

I think that Dorothy went down the Yellow Brick Road. Going up the Yellow Brick Road just does not sound right. So perhaps we really did go 'down the lane'.

I find it disturbing that I lived 'down' this lane for 18 years and was sure I was living 'up' the lane. Yet it has nothing to do with anything. However, for a small child raised with such information, confusion can come later in life when one says, "I feel down" or perhaps when it comes to moving up in a career.

Since I can't decide if I was up or down, I think I close with this one thought. No matter if it is up or down, you get to mailbox one way or another.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Then Oh Why Can't I

Somewhere Over the Rainbow was on the radio. Isreal Kamamawiwo'ole, a Hawaiian, was singing this arranged medley combining two songs into one. I was a little offended that someone would take such liberties with “my” song even though I really did like the rendition….and, it really wasn’t ‘my’ song.

“When all the world is a hopeless jumble and the raindrops tumble all around, Heaven opens a magic place.”

We all associate certain songs with certain times in our lives. Country Road  played as we drove away from our farm home in Ohio heading toward a future in Wisconsin. When I broke up with my boyfriend years ago,  it was Send in the Clowns. My separations was Bill; Havin’ My Baby was Stacey’s birth; my divorce was Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.  On and on it has gone over the years.

"There's a land that I heard of once in a lullabye."


When I was a tiny girl, my Great-Uncle Jerry Loxley would occasionally come to the farm bringing with him a new piece of sheet music for me to learn. He would stand me next to the piano as he prepared to play it or his violin. I would sing my little heart out for this man. I adored him. He loved music and wanted me to love it as well. Our favorite song was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. With these words, I sang myself to sleep as a child. It was the first song I sang to my children in the womb and their first lullabye. It was with me on the family farm the last night I was there.
"And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."

Uncle Jerry opened a magic place for me. He gave me music. I’m not sure that anyone puts music into us. No, I think we are born with the music. For whatever Uncle Jerry put inside of my head was already met with understanding. I’m sure he is smiling that I finally get it.

"If happy little blue birds fly, beyond the rainbow, why, oh, why can't I."

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fertile Ground

When reading a novel, I came across a passage in which the farmer was clearing his field of stones in order to plant his crops. It brought back memories of working with my dad in the fields. When he  plowed his fields, rocks surfaced and needed to be picked up. I walked back and forth across the field picking up the rocks and tossing them onto the drag. (A drag is an implement made up of long pieces of wood hooked to gether so they could roll over the terrain behind the tractor.) When the drag was full, we would pile the rocks against the fence row creating a rocky wall.


Years later fence rows became a thing of the past. Fences were taken down and rocks were moved or buried to make more area for raising crops and so tractors could manuever more easily at the end of the fields. Neighbors learned to cooperate with the changes that evolved when fields connected with no marked boundary. The land was no longer chopped into oversized cages. The old rock piles were 3’ under.

If I were to make an analogy, it would involve communication – no fences, no stones and cooperation. Sounds like fertile tilling to me.



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Monday, August 24, 2009

Look under the Leaves

Sometimes I forget just how lucky I was being raised on the farm. My dad offered me an unusual education. Those lessons now are carried down to another generation. I doubt that Dad realized the impact he made on this child who shadowed him. A walk with Dad was always an adventure.

I vividly remember walking across a barren field with Dad when he stopped, motioning me closer. With a gloved hand, he turned back some old brown leaves exposing a hollow filled with fur. Gently he lifted the fur. Nestled there in this soft crib were tiny, brown bunnies barely covered with fur, eyes still not ready to see the world. Little ears were perfectly formed and tiny pink noses twitched. A treasure unseen, hidden away.

He taught me how the killdeer will feign a limp just to lure predators away from her fledglings; to sit for hours with fishing poles in hand watching a silent pond as Dad pointed out birds, bugs and trees. He taught me to rub mint between my fingers savoring the aroma; to look beneath broad leaves to find the hidden bloom of the ginger plant. We laughed at the jack-in-the pulpit sitting on his throne and the violet hiding the king as he soaked his feet in a tub. I learned to recognize a shag bark hikory and that buttercups reflected beneath my chin. I could drop pebbles into a crawdad hole and hear the water kerplunk or watch a dung beetle roll perfectly round balls toward his home.

 I learned patience. I learned to be observant. I learned that my world was mystical. Most of all I learned lessons on how to protect my own at any risk, to look for beauty where none seemed apparent and to appreciate nature and all of her mysteries. Quality time with Dad was a gift.

Remember, you might not know what lies under the leaves until you lift them and peer beneath. Perhaps you will find something beautiful.



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