Friday, November 17, 2017

Short in the straddle

It's that time of year.  I know I should be writing about Thanksgiving.  And I am.
Azure hills.  Squinting my eyes against the strong November morning sun I turn to the west and see my beloved Caney peaks in one of my favorite hues.  I ask Andy, the painter in my family, what color is that?  He answers, Azure.  Ahhhhh----Azure.  Not quite purple.  Not quite blue.  Something in between.
We are loading wood in the pickup.  Climbing down out of the truck, I carefully make my way to the woodpile.  Branches and limbs from our timber harvest still block the way, but Andy has been busy splitting and sorting until several good sized mounds of firewood are arrayed along the edge of the field.  Loading the truck bed reminds me of many other times I helped get the winter's wood in.  I was younger then and my muscles were stronger, but I can still lug and toss and pile it high, being careful not to break the back glass of the truck.
Loaded up we get ready to drive over to where the wood is stacked.  But there is a problem.  The truck is parked on a "sidelin'" hill...and my door is on the higher side.  As usual, I am too short in the straddle to make it into the passenger side.  Andy circles the truck around until I can get into the high seat comfortably.  
I have admired women who can give themselves a little bounce and hike themselves into a truck with grace and ease.  It seems so effortless.  In fact I saw a lady at Battlefield Mall, dressed in a short and rather tight outfit, give a little leap and settle right into her perch with very little effort.  Of course, she was several years younger than me.  But even when I was her age I had to struggle to get into the pickup.  Because I am a little too short in the straddle.
Making it over to the woodpile we begin the task of stacking.  As anyone knows, there is an art to stacking firewood.  And I am pretty good at it.  My short straddle doesn't interfere with my ability to stack wood.  But my short arms do make it harder to reach over the truck bed and grab the right size  log to stack in the proper place.  With some grunting and a little tip-toe work I can usually keep up with Andy in the stacking game.
You are probably wondering how this is going to lead into Thanksgiving.  And here it is.  Yesterday, loading wood, driving all over my beautiful farm, the sunshine, the wondrous view of  the hills in the distance, brings tears to my eyes.  Even though I may be a little short in the straddle, and perhaps not able to do all I used to do, I am thankful.  
Thankful I have the privilege to live in a quiet and peaceful place.  Thankful for sunshine.  Thankful for trucks that run.  Thankful for a husband who takes good care of me.  And thankful for wood that will keep me warm this winter.  
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.



Monday, November 6, 2017

Geese

One of my favorite sights and sounds of fall is the flocks of geese flying over head...going south for the winter.  This morning on my walk I could hear their call before I saw them.  It always amuses me when I look up and have to circle around before I see that familiar V-formation up above me.
It was fairly cloudy early and they were hid from sight for a few minutes.  The clouds broke away and there they were...a thin, ragged line but headed to their new destination...following the leader.
If you pay close attention you will see that the leader changes almost minute by minute.  I have read articles...and a few inspirational quotes and anecdotes about the flight of geese.  As I watched I became aware of something else.  Not only did the leader change, but sometimes there was a smaller V inside the larger one.  The arms of the formation are not equal.  It is almost like a ballet how they swerve and sway as they fly.  First this way, and then another direction.  All in the plan.
And they may vary in their path south.  Headed for the river, they may suddenly turn west and head for the hills of Arkansas.  Amazing.  That inner compass keeps them on track.  They know where they are going.  They might get side-tracked once in a while.  But not very often.
I love to hear them calling to each other.  "A little to the right there, Bill.  Now a little to the left, Marge. "   All in the plan.
Too bad we don't have an inner compass like that.  Oh..wait...yes, we do!  Too bad we don't follow it as faithfully as the geese as they fly on their long journey south.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Teasing

Here it is.  The end of October, or nearly so.  I finally broke down and got out the coats and heavier jackets, washed my winter clothes, bought some new winter shoes, located the caps and scarves.  And all for naught.
Temperatures in the high seventies do not require much more than what I usually wear for late spring and summer. Even the plants and flowers are getting fooled by this fluctuating thermometer.  A friend showed me a lawn full of crocuses yesterday.  Even the blue birds are confused.  I saw our next-to-the-house pair looking anxiously into their abandoned box the other day.  Then they chased each other through and around the porch in the semblance of a mating dance.  
I am getting impatient.  I do not like cold weather.  I don't look forward to ice and snow and the miserable north wind blowing furiously outside my windows.  But this unseasonable warmth has the effect of putting me off my stride.
We have cleaned the wood stove, checked the flue. Wood is piled in the garage ready to bring in and warm our house to a cozy temperature, if needed.  We wait...and wait...and wait.
Almost holding our collective breath, we anticipate those crisp frosty mornings when the sky is clear and cloudless. When you step outside to check the weather, you quickly come back in to grab your sweatshirt.
Squirrels are not fooled by this on-again, off-again weather.  They scurry from field to tree to hiding place carrying walnuts and hickory nuts to store for the coming cold.  The spiders are doing their usual fall weaving of webs in every nook and cranny of the porch.  The cicadas have stopped their song.  The night music of the crickets has slowed and the frogs in the pond have made themselves scarce.  
Each sunrise beams honey-colored light into my house, reaching farther and farther into the north-most corner.  All the signs of fall are there.
This teasing has to end.  And it will.  Patience will have its reward.  Finally, one morning, I will get up, go to my east-facing door and see that it has finally come.  I will be glad.  Welcome fall. You are here at last.   

Friday, October 13, 2017

D.F.W.

I live 10 miles exactly from my supermarket.  Ten miles is ten miles.  But it is ten miles back home.  I don't go to town everyday.  And I certainly don't go to town more than once a day when I do go.
Today we were up in Cabool at the Older Iron confab.  Lots of fun, lots of old tractors, lots of noise and action.  When we left we decided to take the back roads home...or nearly home, since we had a date night in mind.  But that is a whole 'nother story as they say.
We ended up driving through Mountain Grove and heading down 95 toward Vanzant.  Andy mentioned that he just wanted to know how far this little excursion was going to take us to our destination.  So he set the odometer at zero where the road crosses the railroad tracks in Mountain Grove.  
We remarked on the fact that it had been some time since we traveled this section of 95 highway.  As we passed familiar and unfamiliar places we reminisced about all the people we knew from the area...and what fond memories we had of them and the times we had shared.
And then the question arose.  Just how far are we from WalMart?  Just how far would these people have to drive to shop at that Mecca of Merchandise that we mostly all frequent at least once a week..if not more?
13 miles, thirteen miles to WalMart.  That's not too bad.  Grab a bite to eat on your way out of town, gas up the car, maybe pick something up at another place or two.  
20 miles, twenty miles to WalMart.  Now that is a fer piece, as my neighbor would say.  Twenty miles is a forty mile round trip....and forty miles on winding roads with the probability of a livestock trailer negotiating the curves ahead of you makes it much more of a task.
When we got to 30 miles D.F.W (distance from WalMart) I realized that we were actually a little bit closer to the WalMart Mecca in Ava than we were from that store in Mountain Grove.  Aha...and a little light appeared to come on in that thing I call my brain.  
No Wonder.  No Wonder the movers and shakers in Bentonville, AR put those familiar must-go-to places to shop just about 20 to 25 miles apart in rural areas.
Is it that critical measurement that may mean where you choose to live?  That D.F.W.?( I truly doubt that) . No, I am familiar enough with the back roads and side roads  of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas to understand that it doesn't take a marketing genius to figure out that at least once a week, almost everyone in a 30 mile radius is going to need something that they can "only get at WalMart."
So as we journeyed down W hiway, which by the way is a lovely sidetrip as you leave Vanzant,  I admired the farms that stretched from here to there.  Pastures are dry but the cattle still look good.  Lovely homes, some old, some new.  Trees are still mostly green and the slanting light of late afternoon make them seem more beautiful.  
And you know in your heart that D.F.W. doesn't really make all that much difference when you live in such a peaceful, wonderful place.  Dora, Caulfield, Romance, and even Brixey.
As we neared our destination... my favorite place to eat a steak dinner on Friday night...I got to thinking about another amazing retail fact. 
What about that latest phenomena in our area?  What about D.F.D.G?  Distance from Dollar General?  But that will have to wait for another day.
   

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spiders, spiders everywhere....

A moist, cloudy morning.  No wind.  As I opened my kitchen door to review the day I saw a line of dew drops.  It stretched from half-way down my west-facing porch to the southwest corner.  A single thread of silver.  A spider's masterpiece.
I have often marveled at the way a spider can make a web that wanders and sways and finally ends in a far-from its beginning place.  How do they do it?  I know the why...they need to eat.  And the way they capture their prey is by putting an invisible net in a bug's flight path.  Not always successfully.  But anything to make sure you have breakfast...lunch...and probably dinner for a few days.
Fascinating.  We are blessed with spiders up here on the hill.  I love to see the diamond-studded lace they weave on cool mornings...right there beside the road as I take my walk.  But often they visit my porch.  Truthfully, I sometimes sweep them away so I can hang up the clothes.  And often, just plain blunder into their masterpieces when I open the door or step down the stairs toward the garage.
But sometimes, like this morning, I have the chance to mark a spider's night time work when the day is still new.  I marvel at how that little being can laboriously climb and swing and weave a small, small thread all through the dark hours while I am sleeping, tucked into my comfortable bed.
Do spiders ever sleep?  I doubt it.  Always working.  Always planning where to place that trap.  Always finding the perfect area, out of the wind, and elements.  
Well, maybe not always.  But they are persevering little critters.  When you wreck their masterpiece that has taken hours to make, what do they do?  Why, just pull up their teeny, tiny socks, hitch up their minuscule britches and get back to work.
They may not be your favorite but they take the prize for sticking to the job..and never giving up.
Spiders, spiders everywhere....and amazing workers they are.  
I, for one, am thankful for their handiwork, even when it gets in my way.  
What a wonderful part of Creation....so tiny, yet a lesson to us all.  Just keep on keeping on.  You might just make a masterpiece one day.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Different Kind of Fall

Don't get excited.  This is NOT a picture from this year.  I took it several years ago, in the fall, while we were walking in the Caney Refuge.
This year is so different.  High temperatures during the day.  Wind.  Dry air.  Blue skies.  And not a hint of rain.
Several places near and far from us have had moisture in the past few weeks.  Some have had even a few inches of rain.  But not up here on my hill in Luna.  The rain moves around us in successive  bursts of action.  We can see it coming up in the southwest, down by town, swinging up to the north over Caney, then across to Zanoni and on to Dora.  Or down to the east, across the Bryant where it dumps its load of rain on fishermen and canoeists.  
As I went for my walk today, I found that it is dry as can be up here in south-suburban Luna.  The armadillos are frantic in their search for food.  They have made the patch where we planted turnips a plowed field...scratching and digging in the dry powder and piling up the earth in mounds that cover  the boundaries of our cane patch.  The deer found our squash.  They kicked holes in the huge gourds and ate the silky moist flesh, full of water and seeds.  We saved a few but not much remains.
Our ponds are sinking down below the level they have held all summer.  If we have any fish left, they are destined to be a meal for an enterprising predator.   
Grass crunches under my boots when I walk across the field in the early morning coolness.  And when I scuff my toe around a bush or little tree, puffs of smokey earth rise up to cover my shoe.
Even the grass is a different color.  It is losing its green sheen.  Rather than turning brown, it looks grey and dull. 
I listened to the weather news today.  They are predicting rain for next week.  I have heard that before.  Hopefully it will give us a good soaking.
But for now I will wait and see...missing the bare hint of color in the trees across the valley...missing the shadows of green under the oak trees...the clear blue sky reflected in my ponds....red leaves littering the road....the way fall should be.  But this is a different kind of fall.
Patience, my heart says.  Patience.  And perhaps a good rain will bring my hill to life again. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Total Eclipse

In my life I have experienced three partial eclipses of the sun.  When we found that we were going to be only 200 or so miles from the line of 100% totality we got out the map and started planning our journey to see this wonder of nature...a total eclipse.
Drawing a line on the map from west to east we spotted the perfect place.  An area just north of Highway 50, a Conservation Area that included a lake and hiking trails.  Port Hudson Lake.
Leaving early last Sunday we drove up past Rolla, motored through Belle and Bland and Owensville.  Turned right toward Rosebud.  Drove on through Gerald.  Turned to the north and followed the road to the lake.  Arriving we found that we were not alone.  A few fishermen in boats, a few people fishing from the dock.  In essence the perfect place to see the eclipse.
On Monday we got up very early, in the dark, anticipating crowded roads and lots of people on their way up I-44 to see this celestial miracle.  Pleasantly surprised by the empty road and easy sailing, we stopped to stock up on lunch supplies and grab a bite of breakfast.  On the way we saw a yard sale sign.  The man who was sitting by the cash box and selling various interesting items was pleased to see us.  Were there many people here to see the eclipse, we asked.  No, not many.  But he had decided to set up anyway...taking advantage of the expected crowd.  Was he impressed with the eclipse-to-come?  Not too much.  He thought it might just be like a cloudy day.  Nothing to get too excited about.
Arriving at our spot we found more than a few people had gotten there before us.  We strolled around, fished a little, took a walk around the lake and hiked up a solitary hill.  Perfect.  Just a perfect place to view the coming attraction.  With excitement mounting we came back to the truck and fixed a little bite to eat.  The day was hot.  We sought shade on the boat dock and visited with the growing crowd of people.  Some came from Arkansas, some from nearby, and some from farther away.  They put up sunshades and open tents.  We saw one or two fancy telescopes and cameras.  Things were getting pretty serious here.
Finally we checked our time and made the trip back to our solitary hill.  As we walked we sensed the beginning of the dimming of light.  I remembered how the sun appeared to fade when I had experienced an eclipse before.  There is a difference in the light...almost a bleaching out of color.  We climbed up to the field and waited.
Putting on our glasses we watched the sun move from a fat crescent to a small and smaller sliver.  And then, just as if someone was blowing out the light of a candle, the air around us grew chilly and  darkness descended down around us.  Taking off our glasses we saw it ...a total eclipse of the sun.  The moon stood there, blocking the light.  With our glasses off we marveled at this amazing sight.  
For me it was an almost holy experience.  I began to cry.  My heart beat so fast.  Actually, I don't think I could ever find the words to describe what I saw.  I was at once very small in the universe...and very alone standing there on that hill.  
I took some pictures as the moon began to move away from the sun.  The brighter colors came back.  We took some pictures of the crescent sun as it grew larger, its shadow making tiny arcs on the bare ground and through the smaller leaves of a river birch.
Coming back to the parking lot, many people were already leaving.  We stayed until the sun emerged whole again.  Sharing our experience with the others, we found that they were just as awed as we were.
Going back through town we stopped by to see our friend, the garage sale man.  So, what did he think of the eclipse?  Awesome, is what he said.  It was absolutely awesome.  Never thought it would be like that.  And I think he was having a hard time coming up with words to describe his feelings.  
Just like me.  At a loss for words.  In amazement we all saw something that will live in our memories forever. A total eclipse of the sun.