Sunday, October 7, 2018

Stitched in time

The old piano sat in the front room of Pop and Mom Johnson's home. The old piano with the high top covered with a bright orange, velvet scarf. On the Loxley homestead, the piano sat in the living room (or maybe sitting room back then). It was an old player piano. We kids plunked and rolled our fingers across the keyboards, but I never heard an adult play either one of those two pianos. Of course, we had a well-played piano at home. It was the way of it back then. With no TV, music filled more homes. Children grew up with piano music wending its way around the house. Thus from these roots comes my story.

I have a basket that was full of music. So full that it hardly closed. For years I moved the music along with me.  Some of it was Millie's music that came to me when my mother did not want it. My mind could not get around tossing sheet music away. Seems criminal. All that past captured from the notes on the page to the artwork on the cover. The lyricist and composers worked to have their music produced, to have their music known. Millie had played the sheet music so much that the tattered pages had to be sewn together to keep them in place. She did not destroy the sheet music. She continued its life. 

When Mom passed, I accumulated even more music. Pieces that she had played throughout her lifetime joined those of Millie's. They were the pieces I grew up playing. Some were from her youth. Some were my sister's favorites. Some were the songs we sang as a family. All were pieces of history. I added these to my mix of music mayhem. My books of music from movies, musicals, Billy Joel and George Gershwin. Rock and roll and love songs. Children's songs and songs my Great Uncle Jerry Loxley wrote. Music from my piano lessons still hung on. Maybe a grandchild would play them some day. Maybe I might revisit them. All resided together until sorting day.

Yes, it was time to weed out and pass on what I no longer played. A trip down memory lane. I first looked through Millie's pieces still not able to part with them. They are no longer songs that anyone remembers. They are remnants of a time long past. I still hold Millie in my heart and want to preserve what her stitches held dear. A range of emotions followed me through this sorting of the past. Old loves, deaths, lonely times, happy times, and even painful memories that were accompanied by songs. The basket carried songs that Mom pounded out on the piano throughout my childhood. The pile to pass on grew as I kept the memories and music that were part of me.

We all have sort of sheet music memories that we store. Memories that we take out and look at on occasion. They hold feelings and the music that accompanies them. As we get older, we see a history unfold, and we pick what is important and carry that on with us. My memories are stitched with love.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Seeing eye to eye

Yep, eye to eye. He looked at me. Me, one startled excited and slightly frightened woman. Well, what did I expect! You ask for something, and it happens! Wow, it happened.

The little beady eyes looked at me. I stared back in awe. It didn't move. I thought, "I am about to have my eye poked out." Yet for a brief moment in time, we took the measure of one another. Me in tears as this little one checked me out. Was I friend. Or, perhaps I was foe. Friend. Yes, indeed. Friend.

Since we moved into our new home, Loren and I have watched the antics at the feeders. Sweet little birds entertained us daily. Colors dancing in the sunlight. Little clicking noises coming from the trees, towering behind our house. If only one would come visit me....and then one did.

I held the little feeder in my hand daily, hoping to entice a hummer to come visit. Then last week we began our one on one time. At first the little green jewel raced around my head then came within inches of my face to meet me eye to eye. It was only a moment but a breathless one. Next it dashed around my hand checking out the yummy content held there. It was only seconds, but it seemed to last forever. My eyes took in the face of this tiny creature. A sweet face that seemed to understand my purpose there. I looked at the long beak immediately thinking that I should probably move in case the bird decided I was an foe and took out my eye. I felt the breeze from its wings on my face. Oh, what the heck, its just an eye.

Now tell me how a bird's wings can flutter 70 times per second and the body not move at all. I tried flapping my arms as fast as I could and my entire body moved. Well, it wasn't a pretty sight; however, it did prove a point. I will never be a hummingbird.

The next thing I knew after this face to face visit was another more intimate one. The sweet little bird came down to eat from my hand. It ate from both little vials balancing on my palm. I swear my heart stood still. I couldn't breath. The experience was spiritual, undefinable. Tiny wings flitted just above my hand. Our eyes met and all was well.

I have had this experience three times. The second time was with one with pink feathers on her head versus the green of the other. This morning I had the little green hummingbird visit again. The little helicopter wings startled me as the tiny missile swept down to the feeders. Again, I was awed. These little birds and I have a relationship now. I am committed to them, and they, in turn, trust me. Hopefully, one day my grandchildren will be drawn into this circle.

Beyond barriers there is hope and change. Patience, understanding, a feeling of love so powerful that you experience what it is to be in the presence of God. All creatures great and small.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Talking pictures

Pictures piled high. Black and white. A few with ragged edges, a style of the times. Years of families with non-smiling faces. The pictures change from those in cardboard folders to shiny photos of smiling faces. I grew up with those pictures. My time in life was recorded from little square photo to little square photo.

Sometimes I marvel at my lack of attention to detail.  I can pull up some of the detail of my youth but not nearly enough. How do I know? I look at old photos. Wow, new discoveries and more and more questions with no one left to ask.

Never had I really thought about my mother riding a horse even though I had heard the stories. I did not equate a visual with the stories. Well, not until I came upon a picture of my mother astride a horse. I looked at it. I looked some more. There was my mom on a horse. My mom who did not pay the least bit of attention to my horse. Who was this woman?

We gathered eggs. Walked into that hen house every day. Played in the yard behind it. Walked by it to feed the rabbits in cages next it. The hens roosted on one side of the building with the nest boxes on the other side. I could envision it and even smell the darn chickens.  Yet when I came upon a picture of my mother mowing the lawn next to the hen house, I was struck with the smallness of the building. I could not equate that building with the one of my memories. Did it shrink? Oh, of course, I grew.

Pictures of my past. Pictures of the family I remember and those in which the faces are almost strangers.  I did not remember the faces of my sisters when we were young. I only have impressions of the snapshots of times. So when did I put faces on them? How old was I when I began to take notice? Pictures of strangers I lived with yet did not recognize.

Some pictures are missing. Where are the pictures of the porch that was torn off the front of the house? Where are pictures of the huge logs within its walls? Where are the pictures that we want of the memories we wish to look at one more time? Do you notice clothing, house furnishings, old cars and children playing in the background? How much do you see when you look back? What are the questions you never asked?

Yes, I hold on to old pictures. They are stories within themselves. These pictures speak volumes.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Leaving summer

Evenings are cooling off. In fact, evening is even early. Leaves have not begun to rustle but seem to be thinking about it. The horse working on his winter shag coat looks enviously at the ewe getting woolier and woolier. Kids are in school and the county fairs are over. The calendar reads September, and we wish for one more month of summer.

Nolan told me he couldn't wait for Daddy to rake leaves, so he can jump in them. Oh, yes, leaf jumping time. Dad raked the leaves that the old mulberry and maple trees dropped. He raked them into rooms, so I could play house before the leaves were dropped into the fire. Dad hated the leaves. I loved them. I get it, Nolan.
 
I grew up loving fall. Mom's pies changed from summer, berry pies to cream, shoo fly and pumpkin pies. My favorite time of pie making, er, eating. Mom made noodles to last throughout the winter or hold up as long as possible when we begged to have them. Chickens were packed in the freezer along with of containers of chicken broth. The kitchen smelled of yummy food we missed during the summer months.

Bedding was placed in the stalls. The corncrib full. Grain was ground to keep the livestock tummies full throughout the winter, and the haymow was full of sweet smelling hay. We were often given the bounty of someone's canned goods or nuts from their trees. With the farming slowing down, more and more neighbors came to sit a spell. 

Dad took off screens and winter bedding was aired. Wood was stored next to the basement door. Hot dogs and chips were always stocked for visitors. The car was winterized, and so were we.

Yes, fall was the best season. There was more family time. Dad and Mom sat in the living room with us instead of rushing off to the field or cooking for hands. Mom once more picked up her crocheting and Dad lingered over the newspaper. The farm was readying for a winter rest.....so was the family.

Most of all I remember Betty Johnson, Doris Lavy, Margaret Stager and Lena Linder popping in to chat. There wasn't much news to talk about, yet conversations were easy and long. Fall on Neff Road. The best time of the year.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Living backwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Whispering fields

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Cotton candy memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

An elephant's eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Beyond the plastic barrier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A breaking heart

Today I write with a heavy heart. In fact, my heart is so sad that I fear it might break. How much longer can I write about Neff Road? I am not sure.

I grew up in a red state. I didn't know any better. I just did what my parents did and was told all the reasons it was the best to be a Republican. Throughout my life I questioned what was happening in our country. I questioned my faith wondering why it was so narrow minded, why it did not progress with our awareness of life around us other than what we knew. I questioned why men wrote the Bible and its interpretations. I saw narrow-mindedness all around me and did not know how to cope with it.

Over the decades I allowed myself to stand back and make my own decisions and observations. I knew that the way I was raised was based on a patriarchal attitude. Men had the say. Cowboys brandished guns and took what they wanted. People were shot and no one seemed to care. They just went on to the next scene. I watch old shows and wonder how we could even have tolerated the discrimination. What was wrong with this life I was raised in? It was a great life on the farm, but the scope of life in general was limited. There was no new input because everyone believed the same thing. I was suffocating.

All of the siblings in my family could not wait to escape the narrow bounds of our growing up. We all went to places where we were surrounded by other cultures and ideas. We had neighbors of all colors, all orientations, all religions, all nations. Our view of the world expanded, and we continued to delight in what we could learn. New idea, new awareness, open love and admiration for all took the place of that tiny place we had dwelled for the 18 years of our lives. Our God grew, our opinions about freedom of expression expanded, our views on violence found a place that felt right to each of us. We found that we were more drawn together even though the three of us lived far apart.

My life is rich for the people that have accumulated in it over these many years of living. I have grown and learned what love of humanity really means. So why am I writing this. Remember? Because my heart is broken.

Where were the churches when children were put into pens? Outrage!!! There is no justification. Why are we blocking people from coming to a country that accepted our immigrant forefathers on it shores??? Who do we think we are? I don't get it.We took the very land we live on. What hypocrites! How can we arm everyone in a country that already is the leading country in violence? I just read an article about how violence is increasing rapidly in farm areas? Why can't we be a country of peace? How can we judge people who protest by taking a knee? We are allowed to have a voice. This is a flag that has let people down. It is a flag that represents to many all that is not allowed under that flag. I came from a time when men did not want to join up. Our country made them. We did not want war. Now war is a real money maker for our economy. Why are we so egotistical that we think everyone is treated like white, anglo us? Now we have a man who gropes women, who has no idea what it means to be honorable and kind, who listens to only one news media because all the others do not feed his ego. Truth is in hearing it from all areas. When we turn off our news sources, we become a nation of one, and he is really working on it. We are moving backwards. We are losing all of the protections that have served our people and our land well. I am heart broken.

We turn away people who live in fear, who are raped, whose lives are always threatened. Why? Because one man says they are all criminals and will take away jobs. These people are why our country is great. They are the backbone of our country. Our economy is better with these people in our lives. People of color have suffered terribly in this land that welcomes all to its shores. We should be beginning them for forgiveness and see if they want to accept us.

Hitler convinced a society that they were the best. Books were burned. People were slaughtered and placed in cages, so to speak. A man determined what the public could hear. He convinced a nation into his illusions that they did unspeakable acts and caused a war that killed so thousands of our own. Yet here is a man who is doing exactly the same. He makes his own laws, he dictates what press he relies on calling all other liars, he makes people look one way while he sells them down the river the other direction. And......people are easily lead.

My heart breaks when I read what some people post. I wonder at the ignorance of it or the lack of caring for other people. I am crushed that churches do not stand against such vulgarity and do not stand up for all human rights. I am stunned that people do not believe in global warming because that and gun control just might upset their own narrow world. If you say it isn't happening, then it isn't true. Read only what will feed your beliefs, and it will be fact. Well, that's a crock.

I am sad. Why should I write? Entertainment? Is that all we think about now. Put all other thoughts of this declining country aside? So many people have said to me, I just can't think about it. Well, we have to think about it. We will not be another nation ruled by a dictator. We have to take a stand. I cannot preach to closed ears. I cannot preach to blue or red states.  The sadness I feel in my heart is that of losing someone I love. I am losing a community and a country. I can try to save that community, but they will not turn from what has always been.

So......do I keep writing?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Coming home again

House sold. Check. House bought. Check. Moved in. Check. Surrounded by boxes. Yep. Hm. Must be time to plan a trip to visit June.

For some reason moving seems to eat up your life. Packing, packing, packing. Unpacking, unpacking, unpacking. A ritual that I have repeated too many times and am finally at the last destination.....at least until I start running into walls and swearing my name is Bette Davis. Moving is indeed the appropriate name. I seem to have been moving constantly for the last month. Now I sit looking at the boxes saying, "What's the rush?"

Thus it is indeed time to plan a trip back to Angola, Indiana, to visit my sister. A lengthy visit. I leave here the last day of July and am very excited to pack a suitcase instead of a box. Sister time is the best. We always pick up where we left off even if it is a couple of years later than our last meeting. Yes, we are rather selfish with our time together, because we have so much fun reminiscing and going to our favorite places. I dream of tenderloin sandwiches and Shipshewana. June's friends have become very special people to me. Going to her house is truly like going home.

So how do we do it all in about three weeks? A look at the calendar says that we should have time during the end of the trip to make it to Ohio for a couple days. Loren will be there and wants to walk down Neff Road, see the farm and meet the people in my life. And, as luck would have it, the fair will begin. Hm. Two birds, one stone. Home. Perhaps we will do a meet and greet as we did before allowing me to meet all of you and spend time laughing and making new friendships.

I could say I am going home. But truly home is where the heart is. Our new home is indeed a dream come true. Spending time with my sister is a home where my heart sings and renews itself. Coming back to Neff Road is that blanket of love that has surrounded me my entire life. I look forward to meeting you and visiting with old friends. I look forward to coming home.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Walk the lane

Walk the lane with me one more time. I'll hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will share the memories of another time. Please walk the lane with me one more time.

A sweet neighbor posted the grave marker of her parents. I sat looking at it with tears streaming down my cheeks. Dolores and Carl Bucholtz were more than neighbors. They were our Neff Road family. Carl farmed with Dad, so heard his tractor or truck often coming back the lane. When we held the farm sale, Carl sat with me by the big, white barn. He told me that he did not think he would beat this cancer that he was battling. We had lost Dad and now his tools were being sold. It was the end of our farming, one that Carl was so much a part of. I held his hand knowing that I was not only losing the things that surrounded me in my growing up, but I was losing a dear friend.

That lane on Neff Road had seen many who returned again and again. The house back that lane seemed to be a beacon of love. Warm loving arms always welcomed whoever came through the back door. There was always time to sit and talk, even when work was calling. We stopped for friends and family. And sometimes for people we didn't know. Dad would stop working in the field when he saw a car in the driveway. The lane brought us together. And, even in parting, we held dear those it brought to us.

I often think of that lane. Our families walked it each time they came home. From the house to the bridge and back, or maybe we wandered off to visit Lavy's or Stager's. The lane represented our family. A trip to loving arms and loved land.

We live lives in transition. We go from there to here in the blink of an eye. We either embrace the new, bringing a newness in ourselves, or we lose precious time hanging back. Over the years, I have found that what I learned on the farm, back that lane, has brought old friends back into my life and new friends to continue new journeys with me. The link from the past to the future. From the road to the house.

When my mother passed, I asked friends and family to send their favorite memories of my beautiful mother. I came across those letters again as I packed to move. They are memories from the past that have traveled to the future, allowing me to see new visions of this mother who rarely shared about herself. She was always too busy asking about others. I think everyone should ask for those memories when a loved one passes. A bridge from one time to another.

Walk the lane with me one more time. I'll hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will share the memories of another time. Please walk the lane with me one more time.

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

In your Easter basket

The smell of vinegar permeated the kitchen, along with the smell of freshly boiled eggs. Not really the smells we crave unless you are about nine years old. Lined up on one of her thin, white dish towels spread across the table top, Mom set the big, white coffee cups filled with boiling water and a bit of vinegar. June popped out the little red, yellow, orange, green and blue tablets, dropping them into the cups and cut designs from the waxy tissue paper imprinted with bunnies, baskets, chickies and perhaps a cute little duck. They also included an egg in those sweet pictures; it never made sense to me why you would imprint an egg on an egg. Nevertheless, the egg coloring event commenced.

I remember June taking the wax stick and imprinting our names on the eggs. We all had our favorite colors thus the name on the named egg met with the chosen colorful bath. She also tried her artistic hand at wax designs. Hers were much better than mine. Hard to draw on an oval egg held in a little hand when the egg rolls as you try to draw on it. Yes, Easter was once more alive in the Loxley kitchen.

Easter was always one of the main events in our family. The egg coloring was important. But one of the highlights for little me was the shopping trip to Greenville to find a new frock. To this day, I still remember the pink dress with the lace trim, the blue dress with a smocked top and the yellow dress with the full skirt. It tied in back. I always had a new chapeau. Well, it was probably the same hat hidden away each year. And, just maybe I got new shoes. It was a rare day when we got new clothes. Obviously true since I remember each and every one. It was the one day that I felt pretty.

As I grew older, I found that the sweetly dressed me discovered solace and warmth in that Easter congregation that surrounded me. It was different on this one Sunday of the year. We sang the hymns that had carried me throughout my life  (except when June told me that the words were "Up from the gravy He arose). The lilies in the church. The choir singing a choral cantata practiced for weeks just for this special day. We seemed to greet one another with a renewed love. Families had come from all over just to be with their own on Easter, so old friendships were embraced. The church rang with song and love.

Mom, of course, had dinner in the oven just waiting for us to return home. Easter was usually spent with the Johnson's, bringing their favorite dishes along for the celebratory meal. I have a picture of my niece Jobi and my cousin Sue when they were just little girls. In their hands were some of those colored eggs that left the adults with colored fingers.

I cannot look at an Easter without remembering those wonderful traditions and the people who shared them with me. The farm was coming alive with new buds on trees and bulbs promising to open just for this special day. New lambs were in the shed and soon baby chicks would join the menagerie. It was the birth of spring and the love of God for all.

Whatever your belief, I come not to ask you to celebrate Easter with me but to embrace the love that we are all reminded of and the birth of spring. As many the colors of eggs, be they one solid color or a beautiful mix of colors, they are all beautiful in that Easter basket, the unity of love. Today I am blue, red, orange, green and yellow. I am white, black, yellow, tan, slightly apricot and a whole lot love. Happy Spring. Happy Easter. Happy world of so many lovely colors.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I belonged to it

The house was quiet with only the whispers of yesterdays tucked in closets and in each crevice of the house. No furniture slept quietly on the floors. No pictures hugged the walls. The smell of all those yesterdays remained but only that.

I don't know what it is that causes me to love that house so. The memories were both good and bad. The winters were cold within the walls of the bedrooms. The basement was often damp. Ash hung on the walls of the fireplace and the rock walls held the memories of children laughing. What causes one to love a house so dearly?

I cannot look at an old house without wondering who lived there. Even the old house we lived in had been built by someone else. It was not our house. We were just the next to love and cherish it. It had been remodeled, hence many of the sweet walls were gone with a remodel of an old house. Who were those first people. There were many bedrooms. Were they full? Did they choose to build there because it sat on a hill? Was it once surrounded by trees? Who dug the well and lit the first lamp.

Yes, I love old homes. They have personality and character. A charm surrounds them and even though they need work, the thrill of giving them new life is exciting. New additions, walls removed, a new bathroom or two, paper torn off and paint applied. Old creaky windows replaced with thermal panes. Storm doors and perhaps a bit more insulation. New siding replaces old and outdated. Carpet covers those once cold floors. The wash pan is replaced with a marvelous new dishwasher. Even a microwave hums in the corner. Clothes no longer hang on the line. Instead they are in the house in the fluff cycle. A bathtub is added to delight the woman of the house.

Yes, I grew up in that house. I walked the rooms on that last day memorizing the feel, the smell, the shadows and mysteries played out within those walls. There I could hear my mother's voice and feel the presence of Dad. Memories of childhood were stored there. The essence of who I am would always stay there. I would take a bit with me, but the love of those walls would always possess me.

My children have memories of the house. My grandchildren have no idea where it is or what it meant to me. It belongs to me and I to it. Creaking boards, rattling windows and rain on a tin roof. My heart warms and yearns at the thought. Home. Forever in my heart.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Women of the land

Up early to cut the bacon from the slab and set it to frying. Breakfast for Dad who had already gone to the barn to feed the animals and get prepared for the days work in the field. Children wander in sleepy from a dark night's sleep drawn to the kitchen by the smells of breakfast, hoping that maybe mush would be on the morning menu. Beds were made, laundry started. A child followed Mom to the hen house to help gather eggs. Baking commenced and preparations for lunch, feeding Dad and the hands. A chicken killed, dressed and in the skillet. Potatoes peeled and beans gathered from the garden. A pie sat cooling. It was nearly eleven in the morning.

Hands fed, children off to play, laundry hung on the line, hoeing the garden and taking in what was ready. Canning jars sat in the garage. Mom paused her day to take a little something to the field for the men to eat. Sometimes she even drove the tractor. When we raised tobacco, she worked in the fields and in the strip shed while continuing her daily routine. Her day was finished when we were all fed. It was evening, and she could finally sit down and rest.

In Mom's spare time, she gave all she could to the church. She cleaned it, taught, sang in the choir and sometimes directed it. She played the piano and lead the youth group and young marrieds. She babysat for all the neighbors and took in anyone who needed a home. She never thought of herself or allowed herself to be tired.

My mother was remarkable. Farm women are remarkable. They work all day long and give their families every bit of themselves. In olden days, they helped a neighbor prepare a deceased loved one for viewing. They sometimes helped with a birth at home. They worked the fields and were always available for their husbands. They could plow the field, reap a crop, bend over the dirt for hours and chase cows. They knew how to milk those cows and could help a ewe lamb. They made bread, they slaughtered chickens, they beat rugs with a rug beater and stuffed down comforters. They cooked on a wood stove and wove rugs. They could ride a horse and hitch a buggy. They could lift a bale and feed a lamb from a bottle. They bore child after child and lost often. They climbed out of the birthing bed and went back to work.

Farm women never leave their job. They are remarkably strong. They don't wait to see what must be done. They just do it. Never do they ask for anything, because they know they have everything in the world just outside their back door. The flowers they grow and the seedling they see pushing through the earth give them pleasure. They love deeply because of this life lived where work and family are a twenty-four hour a day blessing.

Today I salute farm women. I honor them for their strength, their goodness, their dedication to their land and their families. You are quite marvelous, you women of the land. Oh, yes, you are.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Like a poorly written novel

The stories we don't tell. This history hidden away in diaries and old letters. Scattered remarks that make you want to know more. However, sometimes we do not realize until it is too late that there is no one left to fill in the blanks.

Our family had so many stories with no followup. We had our share of black sheep and shady history. Not that our family was all that unusual (well, maybe it was).  My parents' day and age was tougher. There were fewer people and maybe strangers on horses passed through, stopping at a grandmother's door asking for a meal. Maybe a relative had a terrible accident falling off a chair, hanging herself. Funny thing that the chair was against the wall.

Sometimes I think I should delve deeper, visiting archives in order to find out what I can about those incomplete stories. These things sound like some poorly written novel, but then it was a rougher time. In many homes and neighborhoods women had no voice and children were not cherished. The generations of settling things consisted of a rod, a whip or maybe even a fist. Gentleness was considered weakness and free thinking was unheard of. So stories were written. A woman found at the bottom of the basement stairs. Oh, found by the husband at the top of the stairs. A woman found dead in an outbuilding after days after the postman tried to deliver a registered letter. A theft and a war. A history where no one talked. Not in the home. Not to neighbors. Children terrified to be in the house. Children terrified to leave the house. It was a different time when the family stories were buried beneath silence and fear.

As that silent child who heard everything, I learned about the history of the neighborhood along with the gossip. The secrets covered up so long ago surfaced. The adults around me laughed and told more details, according to the age they were when events happened. A new history, one not written down, came into my life. It was colorful and sometimes disturbing. Still I did not ask the questions that now my sister and I debate. Maybe this is part of the reason I write. I open those doors and look for answers. Maybe I even challenge you to do the same.

 In one of my mother's journals, she relates a story that I heard over and over in my childhood. My Aunt Iva was Mom's oldest sister and just about as wild as they came (according to the family). I think I would have liked her, but I never had a chance.  She died in 1940 under suspicious circumstances.

Mom's journal entry:

After my sister Iva graduated from grade school, she went to Dayton and got her a job. And she met a man from Chicago. She would come home sometimes on weekends and one Saturday she came and was in a Chrysler car and we had never seen them. Her beau asked me if I'd like to take a ride and I said yes. When we were riding, he told me his name was Bugs Moran, a Chicago gangster. I didn't know what that was. So after they went back to Dayton, I asked my dad what a gangster was. He never brought Iva home again.

Colorful and crazy. I think perhaps my family was a bit more colorful than most, but then, what's a writer to do?

Monday, February 19, 2018

You can do it

Canasta. Euchre. Uncle Wiggley. Scrabble. Games. We all grew up with them, didn't we? Well, let me tell you that being the youngest was not all that great back the lane on Neff Road. Coming along late in life, I was often alone. Had it not been for my relatives and neighbors, I would not have known what it was to play a game or to have an adult play with me. Mom and Dad were great parents, but they were busy with the youth group and my older sisters. I was the tag-along.

However, I was given a wonderful gift by this alone time. I developed a wonderful imagination. And, by tagging along, I learned to observe. See, being shy has advantages. You get to be invisible thus giving you opportunity to learn by what you see. You pick up little things that outgoing people miss. You learn to listen to adult conversation. You learn to play independently. You learn to create your own world of imagination.

I didn't really realize this wonderful gift I was given until I became a parent. It was then that I found my voice. It was then that I opened that box of wonderful ideas that had hidden so deeply in my past. My home filled with musical instruments and no holds barred on the handling of them. I gathered art supplies for everything from coloring and cutting to painting and creating. Those observations I had as a child showed me what I missed. I determined that my children and theirs would never lack for creative outlet. They have been exposed to concerts, plays, museums and other events. Throughout all of this, conversations and a closeness develop. With stepping into a world of creativity, windows are opened into what is possible.

I was at the end of the kid line in our family, but the experiences (as well as lack of) made me into who I am today and gave me insight to offer my family more.

What has made your heart sing? It is never too late, you know. Those of you who worked hard all of your lives and put off trying something new, do it now. Maybe you  were shy and silent. Find your voice. You can't fail. You only fail when you don't try. Too old to try to paint, write, draw, sing, dance? No, never too old. The beauty of being older is that you learn that you cannot embarrass yourself. You do not need to be perfect. You can try anything you have wanted to try and not go through life wondering if you could have done it. You can open doors for the children in your life by your example.

So today, I hand you your dream. I challenge you to take that first step. Perhaps it will be a new beginning. I know you will find joy. Go for it!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Love comes in remembering

Focusing on Valentine's Day just around the corner, once again I turn to love. Nothing could be more worthy of my attention.

Yes, it was long ago that I was a child back that lane on Neff Road, but there are things that crop up from those years that almost catch me breathless. Little acts of love that I had forgotten or taken for granted. We sat at the table ready to eat. I usually sat by Dad. He would cut up my food (an act of love) and tuck the napkin into the neck of my shirt. Wow, I had forgotten about that tuck. My small frame dwarfed by the large piece of cloth placed there to keep me a bit neater, placed there by hands that loved me. Love comes in a piece of cloth.

Mom loved to make her pies saving the scraps for a very special reason. She squished the odds and ends together then rolled them out with her old rolling pin. She dusted the dough with sugar and cinnamon then rolled the dough tightly finally cutting the pieces into small rounds. After baking these to a soft brown, she gave the hot, little rolls to her children. We were at her elbows through the entire process. Sometimes she allowed us to complete the process on our own. I think she enjoyed seeing her daughters learn the beginnings of baking. She loved to give us sweets from her hands. Love comes from flour and a rolling pin.

Doris Lavy watched over me. She sat on the porch and watched for me from my earliest memories to the last when I came as an adult. Margaret Stager saw me in her house almost as much as she saw her own children. She was my other mom who scolded me as well as loved me. I never doubted these neighbor women's love for me. Love comes from the front porch.

Aunt Welma Johnson played cards with me, made cookies with me and allowed me to play beauty parlor as I combed her hair. She taught me what it was like to have the complete attention of an adult. Aunt Kate Loxley taught me about respect. She loved me with all her heart from the beginning until the end. Uncle Phil Barnhart took time with a little girl answering her questions and listening as no other adult ever did. Love comes in the interaction with adults.

I laid my head across the front seat, resting my head on Dad's lap and my feet on Mom's. (good way to get your head crushed) We often took to the road on a Sunday afternoon. Love comes in the touch of a hand.

My sister June was the other part of me from my childhood to now. She teased me and loved me by those very actions. Even though years parted us, our hearts grew closer together. Geneva Lavy Yoder held me when my father passed. She loves me like a sister and perhaps holds that other part of my heart. Love comes in the embrace of a sister.

A napkin tucked, a mother's purse filled with wonderment for a little girl wiggling on a church pew, a voice raised along with your own song, a mother's hands on a rolling pin covering those of her daughter, a few coins tied in the corner of a handkerchief, a large sugar cookie straight from the oven, a string and a Cat's Cradle, a licked finger wiping a bit of chocolate from a cheek, a large hand lifting some leaves to reveal baby bunnies, a hand reaching out to hold your own, all of those little things we knew but didn't understand as the ways of love. Love comes in quiet moments.

Little things do reflect love. Truly I believe they are the reasons we all try to stay in contact by mail, Facebook, all those ways of saying I love you. I remember. Pictures of the old neigborhood from Janet Rhoades, a letter in the mail from Janet Douglass filling me in on the family news, Cousin Patra Loxley Sengsy finding me after all these years, reconnecting with the Eliker kids, Linda Newbauer, friends from high school and relatives and friends after years and miles of separation. A column for the local paper and old friends. Love comes in remembering.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Beating of the human heart

tick tock, tick tock, tick tock....
tick-tock (dictionary.com) 
noun: A clock; also, by extension, the human heart

The sound of a clock ticking drew my attention to the TV. I was thrown back to another 'time'.  I landed in Pop and Mom Johnson's living room. The clock ticked and tocked throughout my childhood. A sound that was soothing, relaxing. A sound that was so familiar that I do nothing else but remember.

When I was a child, clocks were a part of the sounds in a household. They chimed, they tick tocked, they played music and sometimes they mesmerized a little girl as she watched the gold pendulum swing back and forth. Mantel clocks, pocket watches, huge wall clocks that hung in banks and other city buildings. In some homes, Cuckoo clocks announced the hour. Small figures danced around the bottom of those same clocks.

I remember walking into a jewelry store and hearing the clocks on the walls playing tick tock tunes so randomly that one could get lost in the chaos. Yet when the hour arrived, they played in unison. Some clocks were part of bronze sculptures, while others were merely clock faces with no adornments. 

Then came digital. Hm. The numbers glowed and the tick tocking ceased. The lovely wall clock was obsolete and the mantel clock became an antique. The grandfather clock seamed incongruous with modern interiors. Clocks were seen less in businesses, probably in hopes that customers would shop longer if not watching a clock. Indeed employees would work harder. Now the clock resides in our phones. More arms are free of watches and the tick tocks I listened to on Daddy's watch are now silent.

I have a mantle clock that doesn't work, but it reminds me of another time and of other people. The large key that opens it is a treasure in itself. It holds a history of other hands winding the gears, keeping time on time. An action that began the tick tocking for another day. An action that probably was accompanied by putting out the lights, checking the children and saying good night. 

For those of us who are older, we have memories of places and of people stirred by the sound of one of those old clocks. Today that ticking and tocking took me back to the farm on Yount Road. A trip home to visit my grandparents once more. A sound of a clock...and the beating of the human heart.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A noble cause

Standing sentry over my little domain, it gave its life and limbs. The noblest of nobility. The beauty of the holidays greeted me and held me wrapped in delight each time I looked at my lovely Christmas tree. Indeed it brought new life to my home.

Trees. They have indeed been a huge part of my life. With Dad and his family being true naturalist, at an early age, I learned to love trees. I embraced many a tree in Dad's company. His explanations of bark, leaf and bloom gave me the backstory on every type of tree on the farms on Neff Road and Byreley. Moss and lichen, toad stools and mushrooms, woodpecker holes and birds' nests were all part of my earliest education. Dad knew his trees, and I was the blessed recipient of his wisdom.

I never had a tree house. Oh, how I would have loved to play in one. A few curtains. An old fruit box. I believe I could even have fashioned a lift so my faithful dog could be part of the fun. Perhaps the tree house could have become a pirate ship. An old pipe from the brooder house would make a fine cannon. A bit of old tin would make a great wall. A couple of tobacco lath for swords, a red handkerchief, and a patch over one eye, and Captain No Beard would be on her way. Ah, the dreams of a little girl without a tree house.

We picked pears and apples off the trees. A bucket of apples fell out of a tree cracking my head open. I sat in the shade of the mulberry tree.  I played on hug rocks beneath trees and swung from a trapeze hanging from a tree. My horse about knocked my head off under a low limb. Lavy's had two trees that passed lightning from one to the other. An old tree rested comfortably for years in the creek bottom. A few initials were carved there. My dad carved he and mom's initials in a tree in the catalpa row. A tree had fallen over in the old pond where Dad said the bass were ever present. Dad chopped down trees to build the barn. I sat on many a teeter totter that was made with a board from a tree. Fire wood burned in our fireplace, in bonfires and in the tobacco strip shed. Trees enriched our lives.

Yes, it was time to take down the Christmas tree. The sweet noble hadn't dropped a needle and was as fresh as the day I got it. I said farewell to this sweet tree. I knew it was raised on a tree farm to be chopped down, yet it was sad to see it give its life for my delight. I was blessed to have this beautiful tree for a couple weeks. I celebrated the holiday as it looked on. Boy Scouts picked up my tree and had it ground up. Perhaps it will be return back to where its roots began. Good bye, dear noble. Your time with me was a noble cause.