Monday, April 9, 2018

Patience

I went down the road today to check on the dogwoods.  All the recent freezing weather has me in a tizzy.  I am in a hurry to see all the spring flowers and lovely trees in bloom.  I have no patience for spring surprises like snow and low temperatures that bite the petals on the redbud and ruin the peach crop.
But I have learned that patience truly is a virtue.  I am not a good cook, or baker, or seamstress.  The reason?  I am impatient.  Why does this wonderful dish take so long to make?  I'd love to bake this gorgeous cake, but two hours?  I think not.  Even cookies try my short attention span....get 'em in the oven, bake 'em, eat 'em...that's my plan.  And let's not even touch the topic of sewing.  My daughter can tell you about some disasters that I tried to get her to wear.  Rolling eyes and that 'come on Mom' look!  You get the idea.
However, my life up here on the hill has helped me learn one of life's lessons.  Not everything has to be done at a rapid-fire pace.  And good things happen when they are meant to happen.  I took a short walk down to the glade on the westside of my hill this afternoon. I looked and looked for familiar flowers that I see this time of year.  And with patience, I found them, clustered in small groups, vibrant with color, small but mighty, facing the frost of the last few mornings, still there and blooming.  Patience.
I looked up at the sky.  Who has time to look up when you are concentrating on getting this job or that task done?  Guilty as charged.  Hanging out the clothes this morning I stopped and really looked at the April sky.  How can any sky be bluer than a spring-kissed one?  Thin clouds added  mystery to the whole picture.  They seemed to say, "Just wait and see what comes next.  You won't believe it."
Patience.  That's all it takes.  Slow down.  Let life come and surprise you.  It is worth the wait.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Front porches

I was born in a small town in north-central Illinois.  The railroad splits it north and south.  We lived on the north side, but truly there wasn't much difference on which side of the tracks you lived.  We were all neighbors.  We all had front porches.
There is a song about wishing the world had a front porch.  I think that's how it goes.  Anyway, I ran across this old picture of my grandfather, my aunt and my grandmother sitting on the front porch of my childhood home there on N. Center Ave.  This was many years before I was born.  Lolly still lived there and so did my dad, Bill, and his little sister Pearl.  Nell was married and gone to Kewanee by this time I imagine.
I love this picture.  I remember that porch.  We played on it when it was raining.  We sat there and waved to people going by.  We hollered at our friends to stop and visit for awhile.  But mostly we just sat and talked.  Or at least the grown-ups did.  
I had many a doll tea party on the porch.  Nina has the table and chairs now.  It was a small version of a table and chairs you often found in drug stores and cafes...an ice cream set, is what we always called it.  Four chairs.  Room for me and three of my best friends.  Or one friend and two of our dolls.  Or just me and three dolls.  Tea served in the Blue Willow tea set I loved.  Maybe a cookie or two.  But always tea.  Soft summer breezes blowing across the yard.  Mowers making that swish-swish sound of blades moving rapidly.  No one had a power mower back then.  Only the old fashioned reel-type ones.  No gas.  Just arm and leg power.
How peaceful it would be if we could make people in charge of our rag-tag world sit down and sip a little coffee or tea on the front porch.  Get to know one another.  Share ideas.  Or just sit and enjoy the view of people peacefully passing by.  Stop and wave.  Share a joke.  Be friends.
What a wonderful place our world would be...with a front porch.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Feeling Spring

As I tell my friends, I have wintered well.  In fact, TOO well.  It seems as if ever since Thanksgiving, my will power and get-up-and-go have disappeared.  Added pounds and lack of exercise have not helped my mood.  
But today, yes, today I laced up my hiking boots and made a trip down over the north-facing field, into the woods.  The sky was that unbelievable robin's egg blue.  Wispy clouds looking like the smoke I used to see as the trains would pull into station in my hometown.  I wondered if there might be a celestial locomotive up there in the sky, chuff-chuff-chuffing away.
This morning I got up early.  Early enough to see the sliver of moon in the eastern sky.  Did you see it?  It was marvelous.  I went out on the porch and stood by the railing, listening for turkey gobbling.  I didn't hear a sound, but Andy when he went out a few minutes later, heard several down in the southeast...probably in our neighbor's field.  That time of year.  Birds finding places to build nests, little critters ready to make forays out of their safe holes and into the bright sunshine.
In my trip down the hill I had to be careful.  Lots of hidden rocks and holes down there, up above our creek.  I can see my neighbor to the north's house.  Later on, when the trees leaf out, all of that will be hidden from me.  I love the sycamore trees down in the bottom.  Oh to be a bird and fly off my hill to scope out the scenery in the valley!
Trees have minuscule buds on them now.  Spring wild flowers will be popping their heads up out of the leaf piles before long.  I explore all the nooks and crannies where I might see a little sign of bloom but I am too early up here on the hill.
Turning to go back up to the road I discover that I have ventured down below the fence.  This may be trouble for me.  With a compromised knee and an artificial hip I have to be careful about climbing and stretching beyond my limits.  I am glad there is no one to see me on hands and knees, kneeling as I push down the barb wire and gingerly shift my weight over and onto the other side of the fence.  What a joke!  Glad that I made it without falling on my face.  I probably would still be there trying to get up when lunch time rolled around.
Walking out in the open, back up to the house, I turn around to take in that gorgeous view of Caney that I love so well.  
Yes, spring is here.  Or almost.  And I am feeling it.  


Monday, February 26, 2018

Ghosts

Can you hear it?  Can you hear the fiddle music, the tap-tap of shoes keeping rhythm to the beat, the chant of the caller in the set?  Can you see them circling the floor, bending to pass under an out-stretched arm, swinging and smiling and moving as one?
Square dancing as we have known it in Ozark County died a natural death a few years ago.  It expired with a smile on its face.  Memories of by-gone days, of full platforms and floors full of friends old and new, all gone and now just a faint tune you hear now and then on the wind.
Andy and I learned to square dance in 1985, thanks to Verda Faye Hambelton.  She took us under her wing and taught us the moves...and Andy learned the calls.  And so many other people helped us along the way.  We danced in ElkCreek, Cabool, Mountain Grove, Ava, Norwood, Forsyth, Taneyville, Branson, Kissee Mills, Bradleyville, Springfield.  You name a town, we probably danced there.  Sometimes it was once a week.  Often times it was two or more.  If a fiddle was in the band and they could keep the beat, we danced.  
Why did it die?  Why are we still dancing?  The answer to the first question is easy.  So many of the dancers just couldn't dance anymore.  Some of them passed away, others would have liked to have continued but their bodies just wouldn't let them.  We have danced with young people, middle aged people, octogenarians and some who had hit the 90 mark.  But now the crowd has thinned to the point that it is hard to get enough people together to make a square.
Hootin an Hoolarin used to be the place to meet and greet all our square dancing friends.  We kept adding platforms because there were so many dancers.  On Friday and Saturday night you would have to wait your turn in order to find a place to dance.  We danced until after midnight on Saturday..not wanting to let it go.
Why are we still dancing?  Now that is a good question.  There is just something about hearing a good square dance tune. Your feet naturally start tapping.  We enjoy teaching anyone who wants to learn how to go through a set.  We are open to welcoming new dancers to the floor.  Lessons?  Everyone has time constraints these days.  Other things that need to be done.  And we understand them.  The best way to learn how to dance is to come to Hootin and Hollarin, or the Old Time Ozarks Festival in West Plains.  We are more than happy to include you in a set...to start you out.  It isn't hard.  Even if you think you have two left feet, you can do it.
A ghost?  Yes, square dancing, as we fondly remember it, has joined those things that "used to be".  We understand that time has passed us by.  But as long as we can revive that ghost, we will be out there doing our best to keep up and make the night sing with calls and laughter.
And somewhere those long ago dancers are smiling and keeping up with the tune, tapping their feet and listening to the call.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Legacy

Good teachers are all around us.  Great teachers, ones who live with you long after you have become an adult, come along rarely.  And this is to honor two of them.  One, a high school teacher, the other an elementary teacher.  But both had such an impact on the lives of their students, an impact that will always be remembered in their communities and beyond.
"To teach is to touch a life"  How very true.  We become teachers not because it is a just a job.  It is a true vocation...a calling.  We feel it in our hearts before we even step into a classroom on our own.
And these two women were so dedicated to their lives of teaching it was not hard to tell what a difference they would make.
Tributes are written now that they are gone.  How she loved her students and went the extra mile to see that they felt important and wanted.  How she put in extra effort to make sure that her pupils were well prepared.  Listening.  Offering advice.  Caring.  That servant's heart that we all seek in our life.  These two women had it all. 
It is hard for me to write these lines.  One of these teachers was my very best friend.  Last week we talked about how she taught her students about shadows on Groundhog Day.  Always creative.  Never willing to let any opportunity pass to teach and love and touch her kids with kindness and hope for the future.
The other teacher was so involved with her students.  Especially those who needed extra help.  She recognized their strengths and helped them find a way to succeed.  When I interviewed her about one of her pupils, her eyes shone with unshed tears as she described this young woman's potential.  A true teacher...always with the future in mind.  What a wonderful asset.
And so we say good-bye.  Tears flow.  We miss them.  But their lives live on in what they helped to mold.  Futures bright with promise.  Bright stars shining above.  Guiding these people to a better way and fuller lives.  A true legacy.  And one of which we can be proud.
Rest in peace dear friends.  Until we meet again. 



Saturday, January 20, 2018

And on.....

Salter Path, North Carolina.  1967.  Late August.  Andy and I had been married about 2 months and stopped by to visit with his folks while they vacationed near the ocean.  How young.  How untried.  How in love we were.  Just the best of the best.  We had no idea what we were going to do.  Headed back to Wisconsin to familiar surroundings, we had dreams, but nothing really in mind.
I think back on those days.  It would have worried me as a parent to have two young people joining their lives together without a clue as to what might be ahead.  We weren't totally in the dark.  The war was raging in Southeast Asia...and Andy's number had come up.  We knew that was in the future.  But we would make that decision when we had to.  And we did.  But that story will wait for another time.
Yes.  We have just celebrated 50 years of togetherness.  Ups and downs.  Joys and sorrows.  Disappointments.  Unbelievable good fortune. 
Just last night as we were dancing to a familiar tune, in step and smiling at each other, he reminded me that we were beginning our 6th decade with each other.  Can that be so?  I guess it is.  
I close my eyes and smile.  What might lie ahead for us?  I have no idea.  
Love will carry us through it.  And on and on......

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snowed In

I heard the forecast.  I counted the loaves of bread in my freezer.  I checked the stock of staples and canned goods in my cupboard.  I bought extra milk.  I was ready for the coming snow and deep freeze.  
Yes, I was ready.  Plenty to do when I would be inside for who knew how many days.  Books to read.  Puzzles to work.  Little jobs that I had put off for several months like cleaning out closets and doing paper work.  Catching up on all those things I never get a chance to do when the weather is good and I can be outside.
And what have I done?  I have read.  I have checked on my friends on Face Book several times a day.  I have cooked.  I have sat in my rocking chair.  I have taken a nap or two.
I have not cleaned.  I have not gone through my closets or sorted through my drawers.  I have not done my paper work.
I stand at the window and look out at the snow and check to see if any animals have ventured close to the house.  Andy goes out and gets wood to keep the fire in the stove perking.  He walks down to the mailbox and trudges up the hill to bring me the few letters and the daily paper that have come.  
We leave the water trickling a little into the kitchen sink at night.  We check to see that everything is working as it should.  The heat pump turns on about 4 AM and that is a good thing.
Inside.  I am snowed in.  I might go out tomorrow.  I am almost out of milk.  But how important is that?  We can do without milk for a few days.  I guess.
A few days stuck inside is not good for my brain.  I tried to do a crossword puzzle that came with the Sunday paper and it was just too hard for me.  That is strange.  I finally gave up and cheated with a look or two at the solution  I found a few pages over.  I'm glad  they put it a little distance from the puzzle itself.  It lessens the temptation to sneak a peek and keeps me honest.
I have read all the magazines I had stored up to read for days such as this.  I don't dare get out the cookie pans and make a sweet treat for us.  More calories are something neither of us needs.
Luckily I have made some low calorie meals and put them in the freezer.  And apples and oranges are there to snack on.
Tomorrow we might try to get out and go to town.  But I doubt it.  The forecast calls for a warm-up pretty soon.  Which is good news.  I love the snow.  For a little while.  I don't mind the cold as long as I have a way to warm up.  
But this being snowed in is not good for me.  Hopefully I can bundle up, pull on my boots and take a walk tomorrow.  Hopefully breathe in some fresh air.  Hopefully.  Because I have been snowed in too long.