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.