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.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

That time of year...

You can feel it in the air.  Everyone is taking a quick last minute vacation with the kids.  Stores are full of boxes and shelves stacked with notebooks, pencils, backpacks, anything you might need for school.  Beauticians are busy giving boys and girls haircuts suitable for that first day back.  New shirts, new pants, new shoes.  Anticipation.
I still get excited when this time of year comes around.  So many memories of my own school days.  As I remember there wasn't much shopping for clothes or shoes.  We usually had what we called "school" clothes and "play" clothes.  Most for me were hand-me-downs.  But it was the same for most of us.  I don't remember any of us wanting for something that was clean and neat.  Nothing fancy...just good for school.
Our school supplies were not hard to get.  No teacher list was needed.  Pencils, erasers, crayons, paper, glue, scissors.  We had those wonderful desks that had a lift-up lid, metal body and attached seat.  They had been cleaned carefully by Mr. Thompson, our janitor, and were ready for another year.  We were careful with school equipment.  We knew that if we did anything to mar it our trip to the principal's office would be short and not too sweet.  Respect.  That was what it was all about.
I still like to pick up a box of Crayola crayons and take a sniff of that unique odor.  I enjoy seeing what kind of things teachers require students bring to school.  Most of it was not even thought of back in 1953.
But anticipation and excitement haven't changed.  Bright eyes.  Wide smiles.  Climb on the bus and off you go.  Another year of fun and learning is on tap for everyone.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Angels watching over me....

So many funerals...so many good-byes.....so many angels watching over me.  Today, again, I sit in that familiar place, among friends and family, honoring the life, supporting in prayer, grieving but not wishing them back.  
I have attended so many good-byes this year that I have actually lost count.  Some were old and have lived a full and fruitful life.  Others taken too soon, without even having a chance to tell them how much they meant to us.
Words are said, songs sung, Bible passages recited, comfort given, hugs, kisses, tears running freely down our cheeks.  All in all a time when we need to gather together.  
I don't particularly like funerals.  My father's was the first I ever attended at the age of 12.  Numb with grief, I was scarcely able to remember what was said or done.  But I do remember one kind lady taking my hand and leading me to a secluded spot.  She said, "Janie, you need to cry.  It is what you need to do...just go ahead and cry.  I'm here and it will be okay."  And cry I did.  After that I was okay...in a way.
Grief is a personal, private thing.  We all grieve in our own way.
And always we feel that connection with the one we have lost.  Angels.  That is what they are.  Angels looking down.  Angels watching over me.
Peace, comfort, rest.  For you, me and all of us who are left behind.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Milestone

I am a wildflower enthusiast.  One of the great pleasures of living on my hilltop is the constant changing scene that greets me on my morning walks.  For the past few years I have had to rely on pictures  I have taken in the past.  But this morning I reached a true milestone.  I took my camera with me on my morning hike.  First time in a long time.  There was a flower I wanted to add to my album...and it grows not on top of the hill...but at the very bottom.
And therein lies the tale.  Two years ago today I was in surgery to replace my worn-out right hip.  They gave me a bright shiny titanium one to get me walking right again.  Abuse, arthritis and age had taken their toll on the original to the point where I was unable to hike, walk, or enjoy my lovely country home.
And today I did something I have not done in three years.  Three long years.  Years of yearning as I passed by plants and sights I longed to record with my little Nikon camera.  In the car, with the windows rolled down I would stop and visualize myself walking over that high ditch and into the woods to snap a picture of the lovely blooms there in the shadow of the trees.
But today I did it.  I have been training my legs for several months to make the short trip down the hill...and then up again.  Stretching the tight muscles and urging my body to go that extra few steps.  Taking those tentative moves down the hill and over rough terrain until I felt confident again in my ability to walk without stumbling or falling over a root or rock.
Yes, I set off with that goal in mind.  Down, down, down I went.  And as I passed each familiar tree and turn in the road, my spirits soared.  "I am doing this.  I am actually doing this." I said to myself over and over.
And then I was there.  American bellflower.  A small, inconspicuous bloom.  But delicate, intricate in its form.  Not an intense blue like spiderwort or chicory.  But a lovely soft blue with hints of darker hues all around its lovely center.  Amazing.  I took a lot of pictures but found just the one when I got home  to share with you.
And to share with you this miracle.  Yes, a milestone.  All the way down that hill....and all the way up to the top.  Stopping along the way to catch my breath.  But feeling good.  Feeling whole.  And much more myself than I have in a long, long time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July

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

Ambitious?

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.