Tuesday, July 11, 2017


This is a picture taken a few years ago when I returned to my hometown in central Illinois.  July always brings so many memories of my childhood back to me.  Especially the warm summer nights of midsummer.  As my dad used to say...listen to the corn growing.  And I could add the crickets chirping and the frogs croaking.
As soon as supper was over we would escape outside...screen door banging signaling our exit.  We would gather across the street at our neighbors...all of us kids....and choose a game to play in the gathering twilight.  Sometimes it was Hide and Seek.  Sometimes Kick the Can.  And sometimes just a pick-up game of baseball with all ages playing together.
If the fireflies were especially thick we would go and get a jar from home.  We'd chase those flickering lights up and down the field, sometimes catching one just as it doused its light.  Letting it crawl across our fingers we could coax it into the jar and clap the lid on quickly.  The more fireflies you caught the more light they made.  What joy to hold it up to our faces, very close, and marvel at the way they would make their bodies glow..off and on...off and on.
For a few glorious weeks I visited my cousins a little farther south in Woodford County.  My uncle ran a body shop in ElPaso and he would haul us down to Bloomington to the stock car races at least once or twice during our visit.  Climbing high up in the bleachers we could see the whole racetrack down below.  Smoke, crashes, lots of action.  The smell of burning tires....the screech of brakes as contact was made....and above it all the haze of that midwestern night....humidity clashing with night air...and the chilliness that came with the advancing darkness.  Bright lights made it seem like day, but when you looked around you could see the thick night crowding in on you.  Shivering, I would draw closer to my uncle and he would cuddle me in his strong arms.
I wish I had some way to open the memories of those magical evenings and show them to my grandson Gus.  He will have his own chance one of these days.  Summer nights pass by so quickly.  Enjoy them while you can.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sunrise, Sunset

I don't need a calendar this time of year to tell me that we are just a few short days away from the summer solstice.  In the morning the sun's rays march along my kitchen wall, shining through the east-facing door. illuminating the far reaches of the house where sunlight never hits the other months of the year.  I glory in the golden honey light that bathes those corners of the house and spreads its joy to bless my day.
And at sunset I often stand on my west-facing porch, waiting to see where the sinking sun will finally go behind the hills of Caney.  Like a sundial, the light tells me that we are almost at mid-year.  It even appears in my east bedroom,  sunshine dipping in the open door to cover the quilt on my bed with red and gold and maybe purple.  And as it is with the morning sunrise, the sunset light never enters that room except when it reaches its northern most point in the western sky.
The joy of living on a hill appeals to me.  The eternal movement of the sun reminds me that I am a mere speck in the universe.  But, oh how fortunate I am to see the changing of the season and wonder at the majesty of it all.
Sunset, and sunrise.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Why is it always at night that I start making plans for tomorrow?  I sit on my porch, comfortably full from supper, clean clothes, bathed, ready to relax.  And that is when I feel ambitious.  I will clean the cupboards..tomorrow.  I will get all the winter clothes out of the closet, wash them, and put them away for the summer.....tomorrow.  I will take my loppers out and cut all those pesky thorn tree sprouts that have appeared in our fields and gullies...tomorrow.
But when tomorrow comes my mind tends to forget all those promises made at sunset the night before.  Do I really want to attack those "have to" jobs?  Aren't they really ones that can be left for another day?
YES!  And so I cheerfully do the minimum housework and, like the spendthrift rogue housewife that I am, do things that bring me pleasure.  Walk down to the pond and see how many bullfrogs I can see peering up at me with bulbous eyes.  Stand under the oak tree and watch zebra swallowtail butterflies flit from blossom to blossom.  Sit on the porch, in the shade and read a book from cover to cover.  
Ambition?  I do have plenty of it....just not today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flower Power

There is just something about a daisy that makes me smile.  Simple, direct, unassuming, not flashy, but still sending me a message whenever I see them blooming along my road and in the field.  If the day is sunny, they shine even among the weeds and vines in the deepest grass.  In the dim light of evening their bright faces reflect the glory of the passing day.  After the rain, with drops of water  clinging to their petals, they lift their faces to the sky as if to say 'I'm still here.  Bring on the storm.  Bring on the wind. I will continue to bloom until my job is done.'
This has been a few bad weeks for all of us.  Things have happened that we would not wish on our worst enemy.  Untold sorrow, grief, hardship.  Decisions to made, endless waiting, and always,  the knowledge that some of us escaped...and some of us did not. 
I hike down the road and sing songs to myself .  The steady beat of boots on the dry rough road are calming.  When I look around and see the daisies blooming, I begin to relax.  Perhaps I am focusing too much on the here and now.  I need to take courage from these unassuming flowers...they don't shout at me, they don't demand my attention.  They wait quietly there in the fields and furrows beside the road....and bear mute testimony to the power of hope.  That there will be a brighter day tomorrow..that we will all emerge from this time with renewed strength.  And perhaps a better understanding of how the simple things in life are the most precious.
Those plain flowers have a message for us...flower power...it is there at our fingertips.  We just have to reach out and take it.  And tomorrow will be a better day, for sure.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Come a flood....

We aren't going anywhere anytime soon.  It began to rain yesterday and the rivers came up and the creeks rose.  It came a flood.
A few years ago we had a flood that they called the 100 year flood.  And the very next year we had another....100 year flood.  So I guess, to make sure this doesn't happen again, this one will have the super-title of the 500 year flood.  Or so I hear.
The ground was already saturated with rains from a few days ago.  And when it started in yesterday the only place for it to go was out....over the fields, into the already swollen lakes and streams and ponds.  
The water played havoc with any surface it ran over.  We went down to check out the roads this morning.  Walking from bridge to low-water crossing, checking into our alternate route to town, we found huge chunks of asphalt tossed like frisbees along the roadside.  And deep gouges running across the gravel where the rushing water had lifted huge rocks and tossed them aside as if they were made of fluff.  Water is powerful and when it is running as fast as our streams and creeks did, it packs a wallop.
What will we do?  We, as in Andy and me, will stay put until our road is fixed enough to get the truck out.    What will we do as a community?  Why, what we always do.  Roll up our sleeves, get out the heavy equipment, and shovels and rakes, help our neighbors put their lives back together, cry with the ones who are crying, hug the ones who need a hug.   That's what we do in a case like this...when there comes a flood..even a 500-year one.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Keeping up with a boy

Constant motion.  Never still.  That is what being almost 3 is all about.
We have spent the last month in New York, visiting our grandson Gus and his parents.
Our days were full of fun and adventure.
Pick him up from his parent's apartment in mid-morning with lunch already packed.  Ready to roll.  A stop along the way at the donut shop to greet everyone who comes in the door.  This boy has never met a stranger.  "Hi" he says to everyone in line.  Most of them smile and say hi back.  Some even give him a high five.
Then on to the park.  What will we do today?  Throw rocks in the stream?  Kick the ball all over the soccer field?  Run until we fall down?  Maybe all of the above.
The Aqueduct Trail is always a point of interest.  Lots of flat space to run and lots of places to stop, pick up a stick and dig a hole.
Dig a hole?  Of course!  What else would you do with such an expanse of wet and oozy mud?  Doesn't matter how dirty you get.  Grandma has clean clothes in the backpack.
Lunch.  How he loves to eat.  Cheerios and raisins, a pb and j sandwich, some cheese, maybe a veggie or two.  Whatever there is he eats it up and takes a big drink of water to wash it all down.
Getting sleepy, so we drive him back to our apartment where his travel bed is located.  A snuggle or two, a story about Winnie the Poo and then lights out.
After a refreshing nap...for all of us....he is ready to go back home.  "Mama, Papa!" he yells as we open the downstairs door.  He greets them with a happy smile.
It's almost time for him to help make supper.  He loves to cook.  And thankfully his parents know just how to keep him busy in the kitchen.  What a joy to see him cutting up carrots to put in the salad and adding a pinch of this or that to make a tasty dish.  Perhaps he'll be a famous chef someday.  Who knows?
One thing this grandma does know.  When it is time to kiss him good-bye and tell him we'll see him tomorrow, his little face lights up with joy.  That is enough to keep us trying to keep up with this little boy.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bound boy

Andy's ancestors came from Ireland.  And before that they came from Scotland.  Slaves..captured in the dim mists of time from their Scottish home...enslaved by their Irish captors...servants, bound in service for life to masters who ruled them with an iron hand.  And then as the famine in Ireland grew and life was hard for everyone, the news came that there was a chance for freedom...in the United States of America.  Freedom.  How sweet the sound.
Several great-grandfathers ago a ten-year old boy by the name of Elder signed to become a bound boy...an indentured servant who would work out the cost of his passage to America by working for a family...a different kind of servitude..with an iffy promise, but better than the life that he could see ahead.  He made the long journey across the Atlantic.  He worked and managed to save some money.  With his savings he bought his freedom...and made plans to pay the passage for another brother.  When he arrived the two brothers worked to bring over another brother.  And so it continued until ten Elder men came from Ireland to start a new life in America.  Sweet, sweet freedom.  Hard work.  But, still, it was what they felt they owed their family.  A chance.  A chance for a new life...
The young man at the bottom center of the photo is Andy's grandfather, Andrew John Elder.  He was the father of John Andrew Elder who was the father of  Andy.
The patriarch of the family in the picture is also named Andrew John Elder, the father of all the children in the picture.
A heritage to be proud of.  Hope makes everything possible.  Even from the fog-shrouded coasts of Scotland...to the gleaming green hills of Ireland, the call for a free life and a new way of living echoes.  Freedom...for every bound boy...and man and woman who cherishes life and lives in hope of a better day.