Monday, May 13, 2019

A full life

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude." - A.A. Milne

The door opened and Mary Kay (Snider) walked in. We had not seen one another since we were teens. Growing up at Painter Creek Church together, we were tied by friendship and the heart. She was so brave mastering three-day camp at Sugar Grove while I went home homesick on the first day. Now in our 70's we embraced in tears and still held that love.

What makes the years disappear and the heart swell with love? After going 'home', I found my love had grown for those people I met once more. Their generosity of spirit and kindness to an old kid who left the area in 1971 reminded me that I never left home. As to that man I brought along with me, he was embraced as one of their own. He was overwhelmed with the open arms that greeted him. Yes, he found 'home' as well.

As a writer and as an old native, you wonder if anyone reads your writing (and wonder why they would). You just take a brain full of words with a heart that loves her roots and writing is just something you do. But you took my words in and cherished them. I am humbled. Classmates, neighbors, readers, people I have known and those I did not came to embrace June, Loren and me. You take me to my knees, dear people. Your wonderful faces lifted me up and make me want to do better for you. There was not enough time. Never enough time.

I missed those who are now gone. We shed tears remembering. Loren wanted to meet everyone from my past and see everything about which I have written. "Can we come back next year?" he asked. Oh, yes. Please know that we relived every moment of having you with us. On Saturday we spent time with Carol, Bob, Sue, Martha, Shirley, Ron and Kay, Marilyn and Barbara, Linda, Miriam and Clarence, Doris and John, Ed, John, Jeanette and Jim, Barbara, Chester, Fred and Joice, Janet, Nita, George and JoAnn know that your lovely faces are embedded in my heart. I look forward to seeing you again only over a much longer time. Four hours was not enough. For those who could not make it to the meet and greet, let's try again soon.

"It sounds like we will be coming back for the fair," Loren said. "I was also told that I need to go to it and need to eat a Maid Rite." Thank you for making him so welcomed.

"Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie

We headed back to Angola with thoughts of you whirling around in our heads and Maid Rites on our lips. Thank you, my friends. Thank you.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The beginning and the end

Here I sit once more with a page waiting for words. I wish Emma were here to tell me how to sort through my thoughts, for you see, my heart is overflowing. So much I want to say and trying to say it in words doesn't even begin to capture how much I love the people I have seen in the last three days. Perhaps this will take a couple of columns.

So, I will start at the end. Yesterday June, Loren and I visited my dear, childhood friend Vivian (Force) and her beautiful daughters Melissa and Monica. A lot of tears have been shed and many prayers sent up asking that God give Viv to us longer for we are not done with her. We laughed at all the things we did when little girls. Years of nightly phone calls and so many sleepovers that I can't count them all. "I remember your dad coming over to pick me up when we had a big snow storm. My dad called yours telling him I wanted to come over and play." Well, Dad did pick her up, and she rode on the snowplow. There was not enough time to hold all the love we have for one another in that special hour. So I will take it home and cherish it. "My mom always said that you are as good as anyone but not better." Yes, this is the family I grew up being part of.

Saturday night we enjoyed time at the Bistro with my neighbor and other 'sister' Carol (Stager) DeMaio and her son David. Time with the Stager family was always time with my own family.

On Saturday one by one people came to the meet and greet. I wish I had an entire weekend to talk to each and learn about their connections to my family. Time to spend with old friends...and new. I still feel the warmth of those loving hearts. Memories swirled around June and I. We both were (and are) better people knowing that Neff Road is not forgotten. There will be more to come on this.

Saturday morning was spent on Neff Road. Neff Road. It isn't just a road; it is my other parent. First stop is always with Don and Janet Rhoades. Best welcoming station I know. They sent us on our special trip around the block. We stopped next to visit Janet and Rob Douglas where we were welcomed with open arms and fresh hot bread. Then we went on to visit Geneva and Roy Yoder who live where my mom's parents lived. Next stop was the farm. It has changed and is no longer ours. Loren had heard so much about Neff Road, and it didn't disappoint.

Friday we had lunch with my cousins. Alma Lea Gilbert and Ron and Angie Dapore spent a long visit with us. We had seen my Alma Lea's other daughter Kathy in Marathon, Florida. Family is so special and keeping the generations together is an honor to those who passed before. These people are a big reason why I come home.

So we are at the beginning and the end. We leave Angola for Oregon on Thursday. Time will be spent here with family. My son informed us it will be 88 when we get back. We began this trip in Key West in summer clothing and will return to the same. The most difficult thing of any trip is saying good-bye. For all of you who have so warmly embraced us, we will miss you and wish we had more time. Your kindness and open arms will remain in our hearts.

We left with a Maid Rite on our lips and a promise to return some year for the fair. Thanks, dear friend.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The journey has begun

We started off with two full days in Key West. The humidity was a bit much, but Loren loved it every bit as much as do I. We enjoyed the flora, and kidnapped my sister June to take her North.  Yesterday we met up with a cousin I haven't seen since we were children. Kathy (Sharp) Wilkins' Great Grandma and my grandmother were sisters. We met she and her husband Al in Marathon. Then we were off to St. Augustine, where I am writing now.

My son's father-in-law owns a lovely marina where we are staying in a condo overlooking at least 200 yachts and sailboats. I looked out over the marina from my bed last night, watching the water sparkle around the tall masted boats.

Today we heard about pirates and ate at the Florida Cracker (which is named after the sound of a cracking whip). We learned about Ponce De Leon and a man named Flagler. Then, we shopped. Now if you are a Loxley girl or know of one, you realize that shopping is in the blood. Mom was a shopper out of sight!!! So when June and I get together, it is more of the same.

Poor Loren has had to deal with all of the old stories and tales of the past, a past on Neff Road. All siblings should be as close as the two of us. Thank goodness Loren gets it. The years melt away, and we are embraced once more by our love of the farm and of our family. Yes, we are on our way.

Tomorrow we leave for Savannah. Loren will get another look at the old South. And, again, the Loxley girls will shop. Next stop will be to visit our other sister Peg in Virginia. Finally on Tuesday, we tackle the last leg of the trip.

On Friday we will come into Greenville to visit with family. It is indeed a precious time for us. I want to show Loren around on our first day. On Saturday we will hope to see as many of you as possible at the Turtle Creek Country Club from 1-5. It is the easiest way to see many. And, if it is like the last time, old friends will find other old friends and pick up where they left off. One difference this year is that June is coming with us. I know she will be happy to see old friends and once more plant her feet on Neff Road. Please come.

This foot planting on Neff Road is not easy for us. We love that farm. It not only holds our memories; it also holds our hearts.

I will try to keep up my column while we are gone. Right now I am in need of a long nap!!! Be safe. Be happy. See you soon. The journey has begun.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

More precious than diamonds

Take me home, Country Road. To the place I was born. The place that holds my heart, my roots, my past. Well, really I just lied, because Oregon holds my heart and the roots of my grandchildren. I have been here since 1978.

I remember when I was newly married and living in Wisconsin raising two small children, we found that every holiday was spent on the road going back to the farm. I resented not having the holidays in my own home. Then when we moved to Wisconsin, we found that our big trips were those back to Ohio. In Oregon, we found our trips were few. My roots called me home by way of guilt. I felt I had to go home. Yep, guilt is a mighty power that grabs you by the suitcase and points east.

Over the last couple of decades, I have lost many people. Most of them have been family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends who were as close as family. I know I don't have to explain this as you have found this to be true. We cannot go back and add to those times we missed. And, I mourn those times when I could have sat with all of these people, knowing the questions I would ask now. Absorbing their essence and tucking it away for when I would no longer have them with me.

I love hearing from you who also live away from home. It feels rather like making a quilt with all the threads that tie us together. The patches of lives woven by joy, sadness, faith, love. So many of us passed by one another and never knew it. Now we can be in touch and feel as though we have always known one another. We can reminisce about church, county fair, Bible school, driving the circle in Greenville on a Saturday night and, sometimes, tobacco fields.

Growing up, I was the youngest in my family. Hanging out with older people was normal to me. Now as one of those older people, I realize what my visits meant. I realize how loved ones watched over me and followed my life. Perhaps I am a better person now for understanding the gifts of love and recognition. Maybe I can pass on an understanding of the fragility of life and write about the past for those 'young'uns' who will someday, many years down the road, understand how I feel now.

Yes, I am going home. A suitcase is packed. Summer clothing for Key West and St. Augustine then layers and sweaters as we meander our way north. When I asked the twins what they wanted me to bring back, the combined answers were shells, crystals, diamonds and toys....in that order. Hm. I intend to come back with stories more precious than diamonds. I will absorb every bit of the earth, the sky, the towns and the feelings I left behind. Watch out, Neff Road! We are on our way. See you all May 4 from 1-5pm at Turtle Creek Country Club.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Going home once more

The old trunk holds photo stacked on photo from past generations of family members. In some relative's hand, names have been written; however, way too many have nothing on the back to tell me those pieces of my past. A deer is leaping. A child stands next to an elderly woman. A fresh caught of fish is on display for all posterity. Except, who caught them? Ah, pictures. They tell a story and too often just make me curious. Stack upon stack.

I cannot go home without thinking of the way Greenville was when I was a child. The fountain in the park was a place I padded around with water spraying into my face. The swinging bridge scared the bijibbers out of me. There was an old slide that I swear was a mile high. We watched fireworks at the park and swam in the pool.

Memories. It is funny how we capture them in bits and pieces when at the time we think they will remain intact forever. But life does muddle things. We pile up memories like bales stored in the barn. We toss them in and stack them. We can climb up them, but still many are buried beneath. Remove one and a flood pours in.

I can still feel my hand in Mom's as we walked past the hat shop and the bakery. We shopped at the Palace and cruised the candy counter at Murphy's 5 and 10. A burger and fries at the Hamburger Shop and maybe, just maybe, a phosphate at the corner drug store. I didn't get to Maid Rite until I was a teenager. And, the last time I was there was with my cousin Gene who is now gone. My sisters' registered their dishes at Gray's Jewelers across from the Palace. Dad looked at men's clothing at Fourman's. We saw entertainment at Memorial Hall and loved to visit the old library.

There is so much I want to show Loren on this trip home. We can't do it all.  This is a long trip with a purpose, squeezing in the bits and pieces as we go. We are meeting everyone who will come on May 4 at Turtle Creek Country Club between 1-5, because we cannot possibly get around to see everyone. You are my memories. You are the people who were part of that history that lies within the old trunk. You are my readers whom I truly appreciate. For those of you who have not lived away from your stomping grounds, you might not realize how dear you are to the people who have moved away.

Greenville is one of my hometowns. Gettysburg was my neighboring town. Pitsburg was my school town. Arcanum, well, Arcanum is a lot of memories and probably my sweetest hometown. The memories are stacked, the pictures taken from the trunk. Yes, we are going home. Home to you.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A bee in my bonnet

I planted my feet on the ground. Hands were gloved. I totally put on my thirty year old (I don't like hyphens) brain and pulled. At first it did little more than break the surface of the soil. This was going to take more work, and this old body had been hibernating for months....if not years. I then put on my twenty five year old determination, planted one foot on the wall and pulled once more, refusing to give up. The old root let go, and I felt the joy of an Olympic champion. Spring is here.

Yes, I have garden gloves, but there is something about feeling the soil run through my fingers and dirt beneath my fingernails that makes me one with nature. Perhaps it is that part of me that came from the earth, that shares the earth, that is a caregiver of this beautiful soil and all it grows. I grew up with the soil as a gift to our lives. It fed us and our animals, allowed us to have money for another year, blessed us with its beauty. As a tyke, I sat on the soil and played while as my family farmed. I dug in it when the garden went in. It was as much a part of me as was the air I breathed. It still is.

"I loved you even more," my husband said encountering me with a cart absolutely loaded with flowers. He would have to since the day before we had twice as many carted home. This was our year to give back. Our year of caring for an earth that had cared for us for so long. We read the labels to be sure that they were free of chemicals. It was important to find out if they were bee and butterfly friendly. This man I married is supportive of these efforts to be caretakers, or maybe caregivers. 

"Can I buy it?" I asked him. Yep, I found a treasure. While shopping at Costco, I came across a Mason bee barn with little slots for butterflies. A cute little barn with a red roof reminding me of my 'roots'. Upon announcing that we had a bee barn, my son's sister in law supplied us with a little box of Mason bee cocoons. We are setting up housekeeping for the bees, offering them a wide variety of flowers to choose from. Hm. I wonder if each has a different flavor. Now we need to set up a mud pit for the bees so they can seal their cocoons in their new digs. I get to play in the mud once more.

The Mason bees will not sting, so the grandkids can watch them closely and enjoy nature working for us. The hummingbirds were our project last year, but I came up with an idea to take care of both bird and bee. In a clay saucer, I placed stones so the bees can stand on them to drink water. I also put small hummingbird feeders on some of the rocks to draw the hummers closer to us. The ants cannot get into the sweet feeders unless they can swim. Oh, it will be a fun year.

So why are we doing all of this as it is an investment in time and money. We do it because we must in order to save what we have. This is not something to take lightly. I watched CBS Sunday Morning today on the segment about how scientists are looking to nature to find out how it works. Nature is teaching us how to survive. We are surrounded by ways that nature has enhanced our lives. Loren and I have taken on the caregiving of our own little way. Our lives are blessed by what we can give and indeed by what we receive. Care to join us?

Mark your calendars: Meet and greet at Turtle Creek Golf Club on May 4 from 1-5. Would love to see you. Please join us.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Shaking out the sheet

Shake out the sheet. Yep, that's all it took. Shake out a sheet and a memory falls out. Now every so often I seem to shake thoughts of my sister June out of this and that. So there I was making the bed with clean sheets. The sheet billowed and just like that I was back on the farm with my sister on the other side of the bed, telling me what to do. I could once again smell the sweetness of the bedding hung on the line to dry.

Mother aired everything out when spring came around. I'm not sure how often quilts and comforters were washed, but they did their time on the clothesline each spring. After flapping and 'airing', the Loxley girls' duty was to fold the bedding. I vaguely remember June teaching me how to fold a blanket. "Okay, Pam, hold the two corners," she said. Now at this point I must point out that June is seven years my senior and was a lot bigger than me.

I held the corners, but sure as the sun rises, my end of the blanket was dragging on the ground. "Okay, just hold them, I'll come and get them." Now she sounded a bit irritated, so I did as I was told. She pulled her end down to my end and grabbed all four corners folding the blanket once more. "Hold these," she barked. I held two more corners while she returned to her position as the much shorter blanket. A blanket was twice thick and a handful for a little girl. "Hold it up!" Well, things weren't looking up. I did a lot of standing, and she did a lot of grumpy noises finishing up the job. Thus, my lesson in learning to fold bedding.

Bedding is quite the keeper of memories. I remember sleeping beneath family-made quilts, taking in each square Mom Johnson made. A quilt of family history made from the clothing of my aunts, my mother and perhaps even my grandma. The green, tied-comforter covered me every winter. I snuggled down beneath it on those cold nights when body heat was all you had to start with. The chest which held some linens smelled of cedar mixed with moth balls, and the big closet smelled of family. It held all of our clothing, bedding, shoes and play clothes. It was a well-loved room.

I shook out the sheet. I stood in the bedroom in Oregon and was shaking out a sheet on Neff Road. A flood of the past rained down on me, embraced me and welcomed me once more. I heard my sister telling me to shake it out just right. "Don't let go of the corner! Okay, Pam, let's try it again." Ah, yes, shaking out the memories.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trees for life

Loren included my writing in his show at the Aurora Gallery in Vancouver, Washington. The verses were supposed to be posted separately; however, the gallery posted it as one piece. Thought I would share.















Roots
At home in the darkness
Fed by rot and nature’s debris
Stretching beneath the soil
So your very essence can reach to the sky
Roots. 
Beneath my feet I see no roots from which I grow
My roots are in the past
Those that fed the mighty roots
That created the hand that writes and the soul that sings
Mine fed by my lineage
Yours fed by an eternity of seasons.
Both fed by the hand of God.
I tugged and pulled
Yet you did not budge
I found you in the desert
I found you at sea
On an island touching no other land
You would not give up your life
Not until I built a building
Or plowed a field
Not until I mowed you down so I could have more
I took you from your roots
Now mine are endangered.
I give you carbon dioxide
You give me life
You embrace me with your beauty
And my heart found song
You take my breath away
You give me air to breathe
I promise to take better care of you.
A tree stands only wanting to give shade, bear fruit, live and breathe
No voice does it possess
It cannot move to make room for ‘progress’.
It stands alone.
Or does it?
Hush
A whisper
A song sung between the wind and branches
Hush
Listen before it is gone.
My father pulled the plow
Turning the rich soil that was once
Crowned with a mighty forest
Soil fed by rotting leaves
Soil fed by the animals who dug and dunged
Soil broken up by roots’ long fingers tilling the earth
My father pulled the plow and our family ate
The sparrow said to the wren
“May I share your tree?
Mine has disappeared.”
The wren answered,
“My nest is in the eaves.
Come, this seems to be the way
Of what I have heard called progress.” 
The old rope swing hung from your branches
Your old gnarled roots became places for my dolls to rest
Cicada shells hung to your bark
I wore them on my shirt with great pride
Your shade protected me
And your grace wooed words to my pen
My heart is overwhelmed with love for you
My gratitude is unending. 
So understand, my tree,
My roots are indeed tied to yours
For all the life you seek
I seek to preserve for you
My lifelong companion
Should I find you gone
There would be no songs to sing
No birds to fly
And no whisper of the wind
My pen would be silent
And my heart would break.
~Pam Loxley Drake

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The grill is lit

Jackets tucked away. Heat turned off. Screens exposed once more. Hm, feels like spring. Bought a Mason bee house for the backyard. New flowers waiting to be planted. Daffodils wanting to come in and brighten the house.

The family has battled flu, colds and pneumonia for the last few weeks. We are all exhausted and in need of change. The sunshine seems to be a miracle cure. I threw off my jackets and howled at the sun. Oops, I think that's the moon. Not up yet. I bought books. Went to the grocery. Bought foods that are fattening and those that speak of warm weather. It has been a good day.

The first sign of spring on Neff Road was definitely when the robins returned. Here, the robins stay wondering why, when it snows, they didn't go south as well. Mom was always looking for those first bulbs to pop through the winter soil. How do they do that? Little green shoots shoving and pushing their way towards the sun that THEY CANNOT SEE. What's with that? Dad was sharpening plows and animals were giving birth all over the place. I guess when winter comes so too does the cuddling.

I can honestly say that I have seen more births on the farm than I ever did in my own delivery room or in my with my grandchildren. Lambs, calves and more lambs, more calves. Mom sent me to the field to learn the facts of life and indeed I did. Little did she know how much more I learned during those years.

While waiting for Mom's flowers to pierce their way towards the illusive sun, Dad was getting the garden ready as well as the tobacco beds. However, that is a long boring story that I have told before. Spring meant change.

I realize more and more as I age that we had a rare growing up. When many farm people think that suburban people think they are naive, the truth is that urban folks have no idea what it is to live on a farm. They are just clueless. It seems to be a two-way street in learning about one another and embracing our difference. I am a hybrid of both. I am now a city girl with country roots that go deep. I embrace both with fervor, because I have had the best of both. One cannot thrive without the other.

A story came to my attention this weekend. I asked my son's father-in-law Joe, age 83, what it was like growing up in the south. A southern boy all of his life growing up in North Carolina, he lived such a different life. "You have to understand," he said. "I was 30 before I knew that the civil war was over slavery." What?!?!?! What?!?!?! The history books in the south did not mention slavery in context with the civil war. The kids didn't know. They thought it was all about states' rights. "Didn't it bother you that the blacks were separated from whites?" I asked. "We had always lived that way. Again, we had nothing to compare it with. We didn't know it was wrong."

Perhaps this is a little like the little green spikes trying to find that darn sun that keeps calling to them. They are in the dark until the light shines on them, and they bloom. Spring has a new meaning for me. Now I know there is an understanding that must take place between those raised in darkness and those who had all the information they needed without it being hidden from them. It has to do with city and rural finding that they have much in common and much to learn. Just like the south seeing the day of light and perhaps feeling manipulated.

"So, want to sit on the porch with a glass of wine?" my husband asked. We had finished with our hibernation. "Only if we can toss dinner on the grill," I answered.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Haunted by morels

This time of the year rolls around, and I always write about morel mushrooms. So this year I am going to get off this merry-go-round and not talk about morels. Those I looked for in the woods with my dad. Those that mom rolled in flour and fried in butter. Those that haunt my dreams.

Doris Lavy always found more than anyone I ever knew. Even after we went looking, she would find many more. We always tried to beat her to the woods, so we could get ahead of her. I would never tell Dad, but living at their house I would have gotten more.

I was telling June about the time we went to Aunt Bess's in Ludington, Michigan, where I picked a mushroom that was about five inches tall. I have a picture to prove it. Aunt Bess could sure fry up a skillet full of mushrooms and some fine fish in no time at all. Ah, sweet memories.

Lowell Lavy always finds hundreds of them. In truth, I think he puts them in the freezer and just pulls them out to take a new picture each year. Maybe there should be a limit. All those over the limit should be sent to Oregon. Seems fair to me.

Loren and I haven't gone looking for mushrooms here. Well, for one thing, he doesn't know how, and with his big feet, they would be in danger. Plus, our huge forests would be the perfect place for these two hunters to get lost. Happens here all the time.

I felt the need to research predators of morel mushrooms. Much to my dismay, I found that mule deer, elk and grey squirrels are only three of the many who race their human counterparts to the precious morsels. You will note that morel is only one letter off from morsel. I get it.

Now in this time of eating healthier, one might not consider morels. Yet they are high in Vitamin D and minerals. Plus you must hike to find them, and bend once you do find them. In contemplating these few facts, I know that these are a necessary food for my better health.

In about six weeks, we will be coming back to Ohio. I'm sure we will be past the time for stalking and capturing morels. I would love to go on the hunt one more time. A chance to breathe that wonderful country air and walk the places I walked as a child. But instead the memories almost bring those morsels back to life, er to my taste buds.

I seem to have failed in my attempt to change my tune this year. But perhaps you learned a bit more about the benefits of morel mushrooms and the craving of them for those of us who know that the season is short.

Hope to see you all in a few weeks. We will have a meet and greet. Come spend time with us. Time and date to follow.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A Dog's Life

As usual I am at a loss as to what to write. Emma is home sick and hanging with Loren and me. I asked her what I should write about. She suggested I write about her dog Millie or about her school. We both agree that Millie is a really great dog and needs some newspaper time (especially since she started out on newspapers.)

Millie is a beautiful eight year old Airedale. When she was a pup, she looked like a Rottweiler. We were a little concerned, since the mother was indeed an Airedale. Well, her fairly pointed nose rounded out, and she became the beautiful dog we love with all our hearts. Millie weighs about eighty pounds. It is impossible for me to walk her. She is better at walking me.

Since we have the new house, we invite Millie to come stay as well as the twins. Seems that everyone knows how to make themselves at home. Millie likes to hang out on the deck. Not sure if she likes to watch the birds as we do or is waiting to bark at a squirrel.

Loren and I talk about getting a puppy. We both have had dogs all of our lives. And, we have lost dogs. There is a craving that goes along with those of us who have had dogs as part of our families. But then, we are retired and fancy free. Do we really want to start over? Do we want to leave a dog while we are gone all day? Our answer, at least so far, is no. Millie is filling the holes left in our hearts by the loss of our beloved dogs.

My dad never allowed a dog in the house. I wonder how much richer our lives would have been with a dog there to nuzzle our legs and sit on our laps. How many nights would I have felt safer with a dog by my side? Of course, Dad thought animals belonged outside. Yes, I think we missed something.

Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith had Dachshunds. Stagers had a Pointer named Judy. Lavys had a Heinz 57. Cyril had a big, old hound that loved to bay. We had a cocker spaniel who followed Dad and I all over the farm. Dogs that were loved but all lived outside.

Today Emma is ill and snuggled up next to me on the sofa. On the floor in front of me is one very large dog contently sprawled out on her bed fast asleep. We know that Millie is not in the best of health. My heart aches at the thought of losing her. So I soak up all the warmth and scent of this magnificent dog. Her sense of humor and dedication to our family is priceless. I wonder if dogs had people if the would keep them outside? Hm.

Monday, February 25, 2019

On a wagon in a field

And, the movie of the year is......Green Book!!! Oh, yes, I cheered. We saw the movie and fell in love with it. Not only did it take me to the past but also to the present. The acting was superb. The film well written. A true story brought to light. A story of us.

Four brothers were born in Piqua, Ohio. (So was I) John Jr, Herbert, Harry and Donald were sons of a local barber who founded a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony. His sons learned from their father just as we did from our parents. This vocal group grew into one of the longest-lasting oldie acts in American popular music, entertaining audiences for decades. Even before Pentatonix began making their own instrumental sounds, this oldie group made their own. In the late 20's this group charmed radio audiences. This quartet went on to record with Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. In 1943 their Paper Doll became one of the biggest hits of the decade with 12 weeks at the top of the charts with six million records sold.

June and I got into a discussion about where Myrtle Mack had lived and about the house across from my Uncle Bob's house on Yount Road where I was sure her son Don moved with his lovely wife Nancy. "Remember the field between that house and Uncle Bob's? It was where a wagon was pulled into the field for the singers to stand on," I said. Dad and his quartet sang warm-up for that group of boys from Piqua. June came back with, "You know Dad's quartet (a group of young men lead by Mr. Paulsgrove) travelled with them. They sang mostly in churches. Dad got a serious ear infection and had to come back home for surgery." Well, yes, I did know that, but it raised a question, especially after having seen Green Book. "Dad's group stayed in one hotel and the Mills Brothers stayed in another or maybe a tent." What?!?!? I thought that was only in the south!!! All these years I had never thought about it.

The bus pulled into the driveway. They came to do laundry at our house. We girls were thrilled to have them. When they found me in the basement singing along with my record player (which was a daily occurrence), Marva Jo Dixon lifted me onto her lap, and the girls joined me in song. Often June and I have questioned why Mom and Dad never had them stay in our house which was always open to anyone we knew or didn't know when they needed a place to sleep and have a good meal. These beautiful young women from Piney Woods Boarding School in Mississippi were not allowed to sleep in our beds. Oh, they used our outhouse and used our old ringer washer, but did not stay in the house. When their bus was parked at the church, they had no access to the inside bathroom but used the outhouses. A school based on Christian principles with students who sang in church after church were not as welcomed into homes as a white group of students would have been. It was a day and age. And, it was wrong. And, it was not the south.

The old belief that we are of different races is quickly coming to an end. Genetically, we are all the same. The colors of our skin are determined by how melatonin is affected through our genes and affected by where we live. Research the information. It is fascinating. We all began in Africa. We are all related. There is no denying it. We found this more clearly when my son did his DNA. He is indeed .01% black. He is also .02% Jewish. Our genetic makeup over the thousands of years has been influenced by mutated genes and the blending of cultures. We all started in the same place and are one race. Wouldn't it be so much better to look at the positive things we have in common rather than the differences?

Green Book brought it all home. I stepped away from that sign I saw on a bathroom door in Georgia back in the 60's: Coloreds Only. I opened the back door of my life and saw that discrimination was not only the south but right outside my door on a bus and in a field on a wagon. We can always learn and grow. I thought that we in the 60's would change race discrimination for all time. Yet, we didn't, did we? Maybe my .01% is crying out to have a voice that began for all of us in Africa.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Welcome home, Rufous

Something hid beneath the leaves. A little mound told me so. I learned long before s tthat there were wonders beneath leaves and twigs. So this was well worth investigating. A wonderful morel mushroom was nestled there. The prizes we craved every spring. Yes, I learned to look beneath the leaves. And, I learned a lifelong lesson.

So many are crying for forest management here in the west. No forest fires if these huge forests are managed better. Really? I learned from my father that you don't mess with nature, because nature is where all wildlife and sweet morels thrive. Baby animals live in underbrush. The earth is nurtured by decaying leaves and limbs. Mother nature knows what is best.

The Rufous Hummingbird has returned to Oregon. The few hummingbirds who wintered here are once more battling these snowbirds for their place on their feeders. I sit in the loft watching out the window as bright patches of green and red flit by. The trees behind us shelter the birds, giving them sustenance as well protection. Living so close to nature is a dream come true. Like my father, I am protective of the nature in our charge. We share it with the grandkids. We soak it up surrounded by windows and evergreens. Sweet birds peek in at us, and the grandkids gather nesting materials to do  their part in preserving this eco system.

Dad was always upset when he passed a woods where the ground was swept clean of nature's debris. He would encourage me to think about it. Where did the little critters live when this clearing took place? Where did they find their food that was once tucked beneath those leaves? Where did small plants find their nourishment? Where were would Jack sit in his pulpit and the Dutchman hang his britches? What was more lovely than nature just being itself, serving itself?

Farm land was cleared and crops grew. Over time farmers became aware that overuse of the land and the flatness of it would tend to cause erosion and loss of vital nutrients. The land was rich because of the landscape that came before. The rotting leaves that fed the trees. The animals that nurtured the soil by digging and what they left behind. The soil that was rich with the gifts of the forest and its creatures.

I had no idea what it was like to be surrounded by green all winter long. I had no idea what it was like to see nature in its own environment so close to me yet in its own.  Because of all this, we will plant flowers to draw in the bees, butterflies and hummers. We will be cognizant of our responsibility to wildlife, so it in turn will survive to bless our grandchildren.

Nature is indeed an eco system that begs to continue as God meant it. It is we who infringe on it. We who use it and abuse it. It is we who tear out trees to build houses and who in turn take away our clean air. It is the mighty dollar that causes the very source of the world's clean air to be destroyed in South American so enterprises can thrive.

So, please, think on your plans as spring approaches. What flowers will you plant? Could you plant a tree or two? (So what if you have to rake in the fall.) You are creating shade and a home for birds. Be an advocate for conserving what earth we still have not just for yourselves but for those who will come behind. Stop using chemicals that destroy our water sources. Recycle even if your waste management does not. Look at what is around you and realize that we are all the caretakers.

Here in Oregon the Rufous Hummingbirds are back. The daphne is blooming and the daffodils are on the brink of bursting forth. Take it all in. Preserve it. Encourage others to do the same. For we are indeed responsible.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Yellow striped pajamas

bee: noun
A bee is an insect with a yellow-and-black striped body that makes a buzzing noise as it flies. Bees make honey and can sting. (Thank you, Collins online dictionary).

Yep, most dictionaries say the same thing, yet they say nothing. We know bees give us honey. Honey and life.
 
Pollination: We would not have flowers without bees, and we would not have bees without flowers. In fact, we would have a lot less food without those guys in yellow striped pajamas. Some vegetation would become extinct. Crops are dependent on our little buddies. Imagine a world without apples, pears, cucumbers, cherries and the list goes on. All those plants that grow because of the little wings to get these fuzzy insects from one plant to another, spreading the pollen that gives us blooms and fruit. 

I love Burt's Bees. My lips are softer and my health in general is better. Bee products. We all use them. My grandkids love honey by the spoonful. I still revert to honey in the comb. When I eat honey, I forget to thank the bees for the vitamins and minerals they provide in this spoonful of gold. And for centuries people have burned candles made from bees wax. Beauty products often contain honey. Crayons are sometimes made of bees' wax. Even the venom of the bee is used to treat stings and to relieve arthritis pain. What's not to like about bees?

Bees are an important component for our ecosystem, for farmers, for health, for our planet. Without bees, we would have few vegetables, no alfalfa, some trees would be extinct. I found a list of things that need pollination from bees and found it impressive and frightening all at the same time. Animals would be affected as well as people. Our way of eating would change drastically. In the end, we, too would be extinct. Yes, they are the important.

Seven types of bumblebees, who is also a pollinator, were just added to the endangered species list. A list already listing endangered honeybees. Yes, all bees are in trouble. Why? Because of pesticides and other chemicals used on farms, yard maintenance, gardens and also due to climate change. Mites kill off colonies of bees. Albert Einstein: "Mankind will not survive the disappearance of honeybees for more than five years".

So what can we do? Stop the use of chemicals that are harmful to bees and other insects on fields, grass, gardens and trees. Plant flowers that encourage bees. Go to the library or check online to find out what plants will help. My son has a flowering sumac tree that hums with life from the hundreds of bees who visit its blooms. Do some research. Buy local honey to keep local beekeepers in business. Protect bee habitat. Bees are thirsty. They need flowering trees to give them sustenance. Place small stones in your birdbath, so the bees can sit on them and drink. Start your own hive. Research and be part of the solution. Educate your children and others about the bees and the need to protect them. Get those grandchildren involved. We know bees give us honey. Honey and life. 

Yellow striped pajamas.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Just call me fern

Yep, just call me fern. I reside in memories as well as having once lived in the homes of both grandparents. I sat in a brown and green pot that resembled a ceramic basket. My pot resided on a stand that was about 36" tall and had a small shelf under it. I had a place of importance there by the window. Yep, just call me fern.

Remember? I do. The fern pot that sat in Mom and Pop Johnson's front room later resided in our home. I have the plant stand but the fern never made it. Most of the grandparents' homes I had ever been in as a child had similar pots and stands. Fern. Was she a good luck charm, a fad, a tradition?

There were many things that I remember as a child that I really didn't understand. There was that ceramic dog that sat in front of the fake fireplace mantel in above-mentioned home. Often I had seen other breeds of dogs in other homes. Again, why? Was this what you had in place of a real dog? Was this the only way to have a dog in the house, since it was the belief that dogs were livestock and belonged outside? What good was a real dog in the house?! Did people shop for their ceramic pet? I could have taken that dog home with me when my grandparents passed. Somehow I didn't think it would get along well with our schnauzer.

Doilies were on the chairs, on the tables, on anything that had a surface. I always thought they must be a way to have a dust pattern on the surface when removed. It was like stained glass only in dust.

And, as always, that silly glass bowl that came with the TV. Why? Of course, as I have said before, we would never have dreamed of removing it. I think it was still at Mom and Dad's when we prepared for sale. In fact, I think the same flower was still in it.

Then there was the velvet cloth that covered the top of the old upright pianos. Again, a dust catcher? Maybe something romantic to go with the music? Perhaps long ago someone listening to the music whipped the cloth off the piano and danced around the room. My Aunt Bess would have done it in a heartbeat. And, yes, I do have that cloth.

We lived in a different day and age. I wonder if my children will have the same questions of our decor. Those old things decorate my memories of the people in my life. They accompany my reflections on the day and age of my parents, my grandparents. I look around the room and see the old fern stand. My grandfather's picture basket is a little more ragged but full of memories. I sat looking through old post cards it held when I was a child. Perhaps it was my TV before they had one.

What color are your memories? Where are the dust catchers, the ceramic dogs, old fern stands? These are a history, yours and mine. So for now, just call me fern.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Roller skates, nylons and giggles

We laughed. No. We giggled. We made prank calls, "Is your refrigerator running?". We ran through the sprinkler and flirted with boys.

Yep, we all have a friend who shares those memories with us. Mine was Vivian. The Force family lived on Pitsburg Gettysburg Road. We passed their house on the way to church and most times we picked Viv on the way. After church she either came home with me or I went to her house. The Force family was always part of our lives. My sister Peggy was friends and classmate to Sammy Force. Viv and I babysat for Janice's kids in Greenville. Every Saturday night Raymond would drive back the lane to pick me up. It was rollerskating night! Yes, we had great times together. We played kick the can with her brothers and did our best to pester them.

Music was always a part of our friendship. She was the first person I knew who played the piano by ear. She and I formed a singing group with Donna and Marilyn. We sang at churches and any place else Mom could find that needed a cute little singing group who performed for free. We went on to win the local rural arts show with our childish rendition of "When Molly was a Baby" finishing second in the regionals. I sang harmony, and Vivian sang alto.

Vivian's parents tolerated our silliness. We jumped on the bed, played games and had a seance. Silliness was the best description of our adventures. No one laughed or giggled more. 

Vivian has been tucked in that sweet part of my heart where childhood memories stay as delicious as they were when first experienced. My children often heard stories of Vivian's sleepwalking. She was a marvel. I truly don't think there was a night that she didn't find something to get into. One night I found her going to the attic and maneuvered her back to bed. Another night I awakened to this feeling that someone was watching me. In opening my eyes, I found Viv with chin-resting-on-elbow leaning over me staring at my face. I was determined to follow her one night, planning to gather feedback information as to her nightly walkabout. We tied our ankles together with a nylon and giggled ourselves to sleep. Of course, we awakened the next morning without a bit of nighttime activity. Well, not really. The nylon was off the ankles and tucked behind the bedroom door. Yep, she was a marvel.

Anyone who knows Vivian has been blessed with pure delight. I swear she is a spirit that was given to us, so we would know joy. We have been friends since we were small children. There were years we drifted apart until one day when visiting the farm, I called Viv. She and her daughters came to the old skating rink to meet me and my children. We picked up where we left off. A couple of Junior High girls swapping stories of days gone by.

I am writing this today because my friend has been in critical condition fighting for her life. Many of you know her as the child I describe and as an adult who continues to brighten the lives around her. I wanted to share just how remarkable this woman is even in this fight for her life. Please keep her in your thoughts. We are keepers of memories which are meant to be shared.

Friends make you smile - best friends make you giggle "till you pee your pants." - Terri Guillemets