Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Extravagant Beauty

I looked up extravagant in my dictionary just now.  Going beyond reasonable limits: too ornate or showy: wasteful.  Truly, I have to argue with those definitions.  Especially when you are looking at butterflies feasting on milkweed, their favorite food.
I saw them gathering in a flock near the edge of my road when I drove home the other day.  I hurried home, parked the car, grabbed my trusty point and shoot camera and walked back to where they were hovering over a few purple flowers.  I know from experience that they are shy and will flit away as soon as they sense any kind of movement.  I started my picture taking across the road, with the zoom on full.  As they continued to feed I edged a little closer, step by step.  Finally I was just a few feet away.  Not minding me at all, they continued to crawl across the blossoms and fly a few inches and try the next bunch of flowers.  What joy!
We used to have lots of milkweed and butterfly bush near one of our fields.  But for some reason it died off.  Our first year, when we were building the house, I would sit in a chair near the flowers and take picture after picture of these gorgeous flyers.
This was the first time I had seen butterflies near our home for a long time.  I tried not to hurry.  I wanted to concentrate on getting the perfect shot, watching in amazement while they did their butterfly ballet in front of me.  The light was leaving but I kept shooting.  I finally had about ninety shots when I ended. 
I kept thinking.  How beautiful these creatures are.  God could have made them just ordinary colors, just given them a few swirls of gold here and there.  I would have been satisfied with that.  But no.  He gave them this extravagant beauty..above and beyond what we would give ourselves.  You know the scripture about the lilies of the field...how they toil not neither do they spin?  At yet, our Maker has given us these tiny beings..right here under our noses....because He wants to remind us how much He loves and cares for all of us.  Extravagant beauty...extravagant Love.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Sunlight and Shadows

I learn so much from my life up here on the hill.  Sunlight...and shadow.  How I love to see the Caney hills in all their glory.  But my favorite time is at sunset...or late afternoon when shadows from clouds move across their flanks in ever changing waves.  Bright green to dusky purple.  First one valley lit up and glowing only to be plunged into darkness in the next second or two.
The last few weeks have been difficult for many of us.  Life comes and goes.  We celebrate...those beginning and those ending.  The peace I find on my porch in the evening has brought a few thoughts to mind.
What would life be like with only sunshine?  It is trite, but true.  We don't appreciate what we have until it is no longer there.  The coolness of the valley we walk in sometimes blinds us to what we have experienced in the warmth of the sun as we climbed higher up the hill.  I began to realize that sometimes shadows are actually angel wings covering us and giving us shelter from the sorrow that we feel.  We don't always feel comfort, but it is there and waiting for us to accept it and move on.  
Move on we do.  Into the bright light of day and joy and relief from the burden we have borne.
What would our lives be like without the contrast of shadow and sunlight?  We would have nothing to appreciate when the light was gone.  Just bright day after bright day.  I must confess than when I am in the valley I truly wish for ease and comfort and light.  I wonder if I will ever feel that warmth and ease again.
But then it comes.  The sun appears on the hill.  I climb up and over that ridge.  Shadows still await me but step by step I gather courage to go on.  
Step by step..from shadow into sunlight.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Untangling

Have you ever had one of those days?  A day when everything goes upside down, backwards, and seemingly gets so knotted up that you feel as if you will never be able to have a clear or sane thought again?  Today was one of those for me.
What do I do when my mind refuses to slow down and behave?  When too many choices come rushing at me, all demanding my attention?
I go for a walk.  Those of you who know me know that being outside is my great healer.  This spring has brought few if any days when I could get out for a long walk.  The rain, the sleet, the wind, the cold.  All of these conspired to keep me  inside and twiddling my thumbs.  Not good for my mental state, that is for sure.
This evening I went for a walk down to our north field and into the woods where we had timber cut last year.  Miraculous is all I can say about what I found there.  Dozens of tiny flowers, blooming away.  Clear yellow, bright blue, soft hazy mauve.  A complete rainbow of color and every shape and size in the book.  But most of all there are dogwoods.  One towers well over 30 feet above the sloping hillside.  The rest nestle in the crook of the gently rolling earth.  Peacefully, they seem to reach out and say "All is well."  Such pure white beauty.  And when you see them against the blue sky they dazzle your eyes.
I could have stayed there well after sunset but the terrain is rocky and rough back up to the road.  I have to watch my step.  Any little hole or rock may trip me up and send me flying.  But finding my way home, I kept that image of the clear white beauty of the dogwoods in my mind.  And not surprisingly, when I got home, my mind was at peace and my heart was calm.  All it took was a walk down where the dogwoods grow.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Escape

True confession time again.  Yes, I do not like housework.  And today, the first really nice, less-windy and more warm, sunny with a dash of clouds kind of day....yes, today, the temptation was just too much for me.  I left the broom and dust cloth, the Scrubbing Bubbles and the Windex, on the shelf and escaped.
Andy and I have always been a team, ever since we kept our 1950 Chevy Carryall running and half-way on the road when we were first married 50+ years ago.  I helped him change oil, put in new spark plugs, check the battery, install new hoses.  Whatever needed to be done was done in the driveway of our rental home there in Wisconsin.  Rain or shine, freeze or thaw.  There we were.
I am really good at being an extra pair of hands.  I can find a wrench.  I can dig around and unearth the oil can, the antifreeze jug, the needed piece of short wire that will hold until we get something better.  
Today was such a day.  I could see he needed help getting the disc on the tractor.  And I was his Girl Friday..or Saturday as the case might be.  Go get the oil can...and I got it.  Go get the socket wrench..oops wrong one...go get the RIGHT one.  (I'm a little rusty with reading that fine print on the sides of tools.  I used to be able to find them in my sleep.)  Find the right size chain to weigh down the front of our little 8N.  She is small but she is tough and ready for any job we have.
Finally he was ready to go.  Down to the garden he went with me trailing behind.  I was curious how our new-to-us disc would do.  I must say that it worked like a charm.
And the best part?  I was outside, on a beautiful spring day in the Ozarks, watching my husband do what he loves.  Worth every minute.  And a welcome escape.

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.