Touching Home Base

Chugach State Park AK by JJ

Fall Colors Chugach State Park, Alaska, by Janson Jones*

“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

It’s been rainy and cloudy here for days, which is all right considering that my spirits have been rainy and cloudy for days as well. But a few days ago, something subtle changed: It is beginning to smell like fall.

Looking Skyward by Janson Jones
Looking to the Sky by Janson Jones

I remember when I was a child, fall lasted longer. And before they were such harbingers of air pollution, the smells of neighbors’ fireplaces infused the night with the comforting aromas of woodsmoke.

The falls that I spent with my family in Great Bridge were especially wonderful. With the longer days, my cousins and I would stay outside as long as possible playing hide-n-seek well past dark, the big Sycamore tree in the front yard serving as home base. The sounds of tennis shoes crashed through the thick carpet of fallen leaves as we all raced home so that we wouldn’t be tagged “it.”

Leaves and sticker balls everywhere. Ignoring calls to come in now. Irreplaceable memories of our innocent days.

On Sunday afternoons, smells of burning piles of leaves permeated the neighborhood. This was before Great Bridge was overdeveloped to the point that trees are almost non-existent. The big trees in my aunt and uncle’s yard were enormous. Someone tied a tire swing to one of the trees in the backyard, and we would push each other so high, high enough to get flutters in our bellies.

My cousins Butch and Sheryl tried to get me to climb the tree with the tire and then jump off a branch while in the tire. If any of our parents knew an iota of the things that we did. Good times.

“Autumn to winter, winter into spring, Spring into summer, summer into fall—So rolls the changing year, and so we change; Motion so swift, we know not that we move. ” ~ Dinah Maria Mulock

Fireweed Chucagh St Park
Fireweed, Chucagh State Park, Alaska by Janson Jones

Sundays at Great Bridge were such a large part of my life for so long. Being an only child, those times spent playing with my cousins are some of the best memories of my life. We were a motley group. No one wore designer clothes or expensive tennis shoes. We were made equal by our extreme ordinariness.

Of course, I was different—no blonde hair, no ordinary name, the ony one with no siblings—but after their initial mistrust faded of anyone who didn’t know what iced tea was, I was never treated any differently.

In actuality, the younger ones, the ones who were my age, were my second cousins; my first cousins were closer to my mother’s age, daughter’s of my Aunt Ronnie and Uncle Ros. We were all close, until the first divorce, the first move out of the area, the first pregnancy. Time and circumstance, as they always have a way of doing, stepped in and ended our idyllic lives.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw one of them, but I’ll be seeing all of them soon. My Aunt Ronnie died yesterday. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years. That most unkind of diseases that takes over the brain, erases memories, makes even the most familiar face into the face of a stranger.

The last time she saw me, she did remember me, fleetingly. But it was so long ago

“A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.”
Eric Sloane 

Eastern Tiger Swallotail by Janson Jones
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by Janson Jones

For me, Aunt Ronnie was the closest thing to a grandmother that I had. When my cousins called her grandma, I was always so envious. A part of me wished that I could call her grandma as well.

I used to buy my Aunt Ronnie butterfly pins for Christmas. She loved butterflies.

I never knew my mother’s mother. She died when mom was only eight years old. The youngest of 12 children, my mother was raised by her older brothers and sisters. My Aunt Ronnie was almost the oldest of the 12, so my mother’s relationship with her oldest sister was very close, more like mother and daughter than sisters at times.

I wasn’t as close to Uncle Ros. I don’t really know why, but the first time I met my Aunt Ronnie was when Mom and I were visiting the States while Dad was stationed in London. I remember that my cousin Jeanette and her husband at the time had been in a horrible car accident, and everyone was recuperating.

I was overwhelmed by all of the people and completely unused to so many children in my own age range. It was great. I never wanted to leave. 

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” ~ Stanley Horowitz

December Snow Anchorage by JJ
December Snow, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

Once my dad retired from the Navy and we moved back to the area, visits to Great Bridge became almost weekly events. 

Christmas at Great Bridge was such an occasion. We would open presents on Christmas Eve. So many presents everywhere. But Christmas Day we would all get together for Christmas dinner.

I know that I’ve written about Sunday dinners at Great Bridge before, but Christmas dinner was the ultimate Sunday dinner: turkey, stuffing, country-style green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, country ham, homemade biscuits (usually two batches), sweet tea. Homemade banana pudding, fudge and pies for dessert.

And the most amazing aspect of this feast was that until she was in her 70’s, my Aunt Ronnie made almost all of the food by herself. If someone were going to contribute something to the dinner, it was usually dessert.

We would eat in the early afternoon, and then the parents would watch football and nap on the couch, Uncle Ros in his recliner, while all of the cousins would go outside and get into whatever we could, depending upon the weather. If there was snow, so much the better. There was no keeping us inside.

Then later in the early evening, people would snack on ham biscuits, turkey sandwiches, cakes and pie. Sleepy, satisfied and totally at ease in each other’s company

“Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.”~ Edwin Way Teale

I remember their long driveway would be packed, two-wide with cars, the overflow going onto the street. Leaving was always strategic, depending upon who was parked where and whether or not the car was small enough to turn around in the front yard.

Anchorage Dawn by JJ
Anchorage Dawn by Janson Jones

Eventually, we stopped going to Great Bridge for Christmases, long after I had gotten married (the first time), and Alexis was born. Of all of my children, only Alexis really remembers Aunt Ronnie. My mom would take Alexis with her when she would go to Great Bridge to visit. Alexis would play with my cousin Theresa’s daughter who was a few years older.

Christmas celebrations had moved from my Aunt Ronnie’s house to one of her daughter’s houses. It just wasn’t the same.

And of course, we had all grown up, gotten married, moved away, changed jobs, had children. My second cousins still went, but I kind of dropped out of the fold.

I saw many of them at my Uncle Ros’s funeral several years ago. It was an event that I had to attend and then return to work, so I didn’t have time to visit with anyone. Sunday will be different. I have the time now. I have the memories. I have the regret. I have the loss, the second in less than a month.

“Once more I am the silent one
who came out of the distance
wrapped in cold rain and bells:
I owe to earth’s pure death
the will to sprout.” ~ Pablo Neruda

My mother says that she isn’t going to go to Great Bridge for Aunt Ronnie’s funeral, that she’s never going to another funeral again, that she doesn’t want to see Aunt Ronnie in her coffin; it will give her nightmares.

Turnagain Arm Sunset Anchorage AK by JJ
Turnagain Arm Sunset, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

I don’t agree with her method of coping, but it really doesn’t matter if I agree or not. Does it? Her unwillingness to visit the family bothers me tremendously, just as her unwillingness to go to Uncle Melchor’s funeral bothered me.

We are so different, my mother and I. While I love to keep hand me downs from family members, appreciate antiques and the memories that go with them, my mother calls it clutter and sees no point in it. I see a tea service that she bought on Portobello Road in London as something to be cherished, a reminder of our time in London and that wonderful section of booths and shops. My mother has no use for it.

Who knows, when I get to be her age, maybe I’ll feel the same way, but I doubt it.

My memories make me who I am. All of the little nooks and crannies in my mind are filled to overflowing with the sweet and the bittersweet. To me, that is life. Little pieces of jewelry, a china cup and saucer, a silver sugar bowl—each is part of a story, my story.

It makes me sad for my mother who only wants to think about happy things, who won’t watch anything deep or sad, who loves sitcoms and talk shows. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not what she does but what she doesn’t do that makes me sad. What saddens me is that she closed a part of herself off a long time ago, and it has been so long since she went through that door that I don’t think she remembers how.

 “There is no answer to any of these questions. It’s a matter of time and timing, of seas and seasons, of breathing in and breathing out. It’s a matter of balance.” ~ Peter McWilliams

Yes, funerals are for the living. My mother wants to be cremated, as do I, as does Corey, all for different reasons. What happens to our bodies after we die is not really the important thing. But memorial services allow a chance for those left behind to say goodbye, to talk about the person who has been lost with fond words, to forget petty arguments, to remember Sunday dinners and sticker ball fights, new bicycles at Christmas and melt-on-your tongue homemade biscuits.

Dawn in Deland Florida by JJ
Aurelia's Dawn, Deland, Florida by Janson Jones

My Aunt Ronnie’s death is like the closing of yet another chapter in my life, a very good chapter, one filled with so much loving and giving. The woman in the casket is not the woman I loved. The woman I loved is already gone; unfortunately, she has been gone for quite a while, ravaged by an unrelenting disease that rips apart everyone touched by it.

But in my mind’s eye, I still see her smile quite clearly. I remember her dining room table, filled to overflowing, and the conversations around it. That was my Aunt Ronnie. The woman who said come and see me sometime. The woman who liked “The Old Rugged Cross” but did not like “Amazing Grace.” The woman who accepted butterfly pins from a young girl with as much relish as if they were rare gems.

These are my memories, the pictures inside the permanent locket of my heart, the ties that bind and make us who we are. The sweet tea of the soul. Piles of fallen leaves. Running as fast as possible when the coast was clear. Touching home base. Being safe. Knowing unconditional love.

 

More later. Peace.

*Many thanks to Janson Jones for giving me the perfect images for this post. Your photographs help me so much to form the words that I need to say.

If It’s Friday, It Must Mean Leftovers . . .

 

Key West lightning by Janson Jones

Key West Lightning by Janson Jones

 

Daniel: Don’t you know anything you can tell me?
Miyagi: Hai. No get hit.

Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance? 
Daniel:  Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

justdrops by Reys from The Gold Puppy
"Just Drops" from The Gold Puppy

Massive thunderstorms in the area last night. I had to turn off my computer as I did not want to chance another freak power surge like the one that took out half of the house’s electronics a couple of years ago. So unfortunately, I did not get to post.

It was an incredible storm: brilliant flashes of lightning and resounding thunder. I’m glad that none of our current dogs are afraid of thunderstorms. Murphy, our last lab was terrified of storms and fireworks, and it just broke my heart to watch her. Her eyes would get big, and she would try to crawl under any piece of furniture that she could find, which is kind of hard for a lab.

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that with Tillie, Alfie or Shakes. I believe they could sleep through just about anything, unless of course air happens to be circulating outside the door, in which case, they must move en masse to the living room and bark hysterically until someone yells at them to shut up. Then they all retreat back to the bedroom and become sleeping lumps again.

Miyagi: [shrugging] … Because sometimes, what heart know, head forget

Well Eamonn penned his first batch of thank you notes today. I was very proud of him; even though I gave him the three basic sentences that any thank you note should have—acknowledgement of being remembered, thanks for specific present, and closing thanks—he took it a step further and personalized all of his notes. How nice.

And he hasn’t given me any grief about imposing the thank you note restriction before he can actually have gift in hand. I thought for sure that he would quibble with me, but he has surprised me, so I need to take back any mean things that I may have been thinking about him, not that I would ever think any mean things about eldest son—after all, I’m his mother, and in my eyes, he can do no wrong . . .

Far North Bicentennial Prk Anchorage by JJ
Far North Bicentennial Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones
Perhaps he is on a new path. We’ll have to wait and see. Let’s move along. Shall we?
 

Daniel: Hey, where did these old cars come from?
Miyagi: Detroit.

The gardenias are in full bloom, and I’m keeping the house full of freshly-cut blooms. The front butterfly garden is starting to come into bloom as well. I’ll try to take some pictures and post them once we begin to attract butterflies.

GardeniasThat’s the highpoint of the summer season for me: watching all of the butterflies and moths dance through the blooms and leaves. I know, small things, but hey, I believe in appreciating beauty wherever I can find it.

About beauty, I’m featuring a few more picture from Janson Jones’s Floridana Alaskiana blog in this post. He has been doling out the photographic gems from his Florida trip in between other posts, and I’m loving all of them.

Miyagi: Daniel-san, never put passion before principle. Even if win, you lose.

Speaking of Janson’s blog, I had to pause when I read his most recent posts on what is going on in Anchorage. Apparently there is a big brouhaha in the Alaskan city over a proposed gay rights ordinance. According to Janson’s post, the protests are over “Anchorage Ordinance Number 64, which is intended to provide extended and protective rights to gays and other minority groups in Anchorage.”

Ordinance 64 anti protest sign2Now let me pause here. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you already know how I feel about this issue. I am completely stupefied that society is still fighting over whether or not the GLBT segment of society deserves to be treated just like everyone else. But after seeing some of the signs being hoisted by the opposition, I must confess that I am beyond stupefied, beyond mortified. I am flapping my gums speechless (well, almost).

As you can see from the smaller sign in the picture on the right, the holder is purporting that “gays recruit children.” I thought that Ellen Degeneres clarified this particular nonsensical position years ago when she made it clear that for every person recruited, said gay person receives a toaster oven. It’s a joke, people. I mean really: “recruits children.” That is just feeble, uninformed, and sadly ignorant.

Or let’s take this sign: 98.5% of America is straight. That one really blew me away. I’m sure that it would shock many of these sign holders to find out just how many people in their lives are gay.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, “Nearly 550 people have signed up to testify on the ordinance, which would add ‘sexual orientation’ to the list of classes protected from discrimination. Classes already protected include race, ethnicity, age, sex, marital status, and others.”  For me, this just seems like a logical addition, an affirmation of civil rights, if you will.

The article continues: “In general, they argue that gays and lesbians shouldn’t be protected because of their immoral lifestyles, or that protection isn’t needed because discrimination doesn’t occur, or that passing the ordinance opens the door to same-sex marriage in Alaska and they don’t want that.”

I had my Irish up (which is pretty hard when you’re Filipino, and I hope that that idiom is not considered derogatory as I’ve used it for years) over the whole situation, but Janson, ever the logical, reminded me that “the fact that there were only three cops (that I saw) standing watch and smiles on most folks’ faces (most, but not all) is a reminder of what we do and can have in this country (violent nut-jobs excepted)—non-violent, peaceful activism, regardless of the merits or rationality of any given side’s actual argument. A few decades ago, rocks would’ve been thrown at the pro gay rights crowd and they wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate side-by-side.”

Janson’s observations were that instead of the opposing sides being physically separate, the pros and the cons were on the same side, mingling, and there didn’t seem to be any hate-speak going on.

Obama signing GBLT memoPersonally, I find that pretty amazing. I know that I fly off the handle pretty quickly when I learn of or see such things, and it’s nice to have a calmer voice reminding me of just how far those of us who believe in equal rights for all people have actually come.

That being said, we still have so far to go. Even President Obama’s recent Presidential Memorandum allowing for some extended benefits, such as visitation or dependent-care rights, to the same-sex partners of gay federal employees seems like a grain of sand in an hourglass that is bypassing the candidate of change.

DADT (don’t ask/don’t tell) was supposed to be repealed. Remember that promise? We’re still waiting . . .

Perhaps Obama plans to mete out change in tiny increments so that he isn’t shoving it down the throats of the Neo-Cons. But geez. DADT seems like such a no-brainer, at least to me.

Daniel: You think you could break a log like that??
Miyagi: Don’t know. Never been attacked by a tree.

Praying Mantis from Natl Geo
Praying Mantis from National Geographic (has nothing to do with this section; I just love the picture)

On to other things . . .

I learned today that the insurance company through which I receive my long-term disability benefits is denying my request for an upgrade of 6 percent as I paid for that option when I was actively employed by The George Washington University. Quelle surprise. The upgrade is supposed to be allowable for any non pre-existing conditions.

Well, my fybromyalgia was not diagnosed until November 26, 2007—after I had already been put on LT disability. However, just as I expected, the company found four pages of reasons as to why I do not qualify for this additional benefit for which I paid. Apparently, the doctor who diagnosed me did not list all of the criteria needed for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia according to the “American College of Rheumatology criteria.”

What is it with insurance companies that they will gladly take your money in premiums, but they will nickle and dime you to death over benefits owed you?

I really hope that Obama’s supposedsocialist health care reforms will somehow trickle down to me because my monthly premium for health care is unbelievably high, and it only covers me, not the rest of my family. Thankfully, the boys are covered by their father’s policy until they are 19 unless they are in college. Corey was covered by his former union, and that’s one of the things that we’re keeping our fingers crossed over until he gets his new job.

Daniel: Wouldn’t a fly swatter be easier?
Miyagi: Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.

I wonder if there is anything else that I can bitch about in this post? Not in the mood to tackle Rush today. That’s usually a post by itself. The situation with the mortgage? Too depressing. The Virginia Gubernatorial race? Not ready for that one yet. The current state of Izzie the Trooper’s health? She’s in the shop now getting an estimate on how many arms and legs they want to make her run again.

I did see something completely sweet today, though. Brett’s two gerbils—Ben and Jerry—were snuggled up in the corner of their home, spooning. It was an aww moment.

Mr Miyagi with Chopsticks
The late Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi

Let me leave you with this tidbit of information: PETA (yes I believe in treating animals well, but these people are way over the top), objects to the way in which President Obama killed the fly that was dive-bombing him during a television interview. If you recall, Obama slapped the fly in a Mr. Miyagi move and nailed it. PETA has sent the President a fly trap that will catch the fly, and then said pest can be released outside.

Okay. I don’t believe in killing crickets or praying mantisssses or ladybugs or similar beautiful insects because it’s bad joss. But flies create maggots. Maggots make me gag. Big time. Flies also transmit diseases. The Black Plague of Europe anyone? Remember rats? Flies? Lots of dead people. Unfunny.

PETA needs to get a grip. The President wasn’t shooting wolves from a helicopter or field dressing a moose in the Rose Garden. Those things are appalling, and we all know of someone who boasted about doing them. Killing a dirty fly that feeds on feces? I’m sorry, but I have to give the Prez a big Miyagi “hai” for that one.

I need to go read and put ice on my head. More later. Peace.

Daniel:You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.
Miyagi: You… pretty okay, too.

Oh yeah. The whole Karate Kid thing? I know. I’m a dork.

                                                                                                          

If you are interested in becoming a part of a blogging community, go to Condron.us, where you will find blogs on a variety of topics. Click on “Add Your Blog,” and select the category that best describes your post. While you are there, peruse the blogrolls or add comments to the forums. Condron.us is a wonderful way in which to increase your blog’s traffic as well finding blogs with similar focuses as yours.

And Now . . . For Something Totally Different

flickering20fireflys
Lightning Bugs

Reflections on the Letter L

I saw this on someone else’s blog, and for the life of me, I cannot remember whose. So if it was yours, please jump in and remind me so that I can give you credit. The idea is that you choose a letter of the alphabet to ponder, and then once you have chosen, you think of ten things that that letter signifies for you and write about them. I thought that it was an interesting writing prompt, and since I am not up for anything too taxing today, I thought that I might try this.

The letter that I have chosen is . . . L. Surprise! I know that you are absolutely dumbfounded, as was I. But it was the first letter that popped into my weary head, and so I thought that free-association may come easier. I’m going to try to find new subjects to write about so that I’m not always writing about the same, predictable things.

  1. Lies: I have a very hard time with lies and liars, and I think that it’s because of my nature to trust too easily and too quickly. As a result of this, I frequently find myself encountering people who lie as easily as they breathe. I find this to be a deplorable trait as what is the point in trying to have a relationship of any kind if it is not based on truths that are shared? Too many people in this world get by on façades which they hide behind, never letting anyone see beyond the persona they have created.
  2. Labradors: I have never made it a secret that labs are my favorite breed of dogs. They are quirky, funny and have incredible senses of humor. Just don’t ever buy one as a guard dog. A lab is more than likely to welcome an intruder and lead them to the cookie jar than to attack them. But they are wonderful family dogs and protective of their little humans. Just don’t leave lab puppies alone to their own devices or you will probably find that they have begun to teeth on your best pair of boots or a piece of furniture. 
  3. Loneliness: I am one of those people who can be very lonely if a loved one is away, or I can relish the time alone in the peace and quiet. It really depends upon the circumstances, as in exactly how long I am going to be alone and why. I do not equate being alone with loneliness. Sometimes, it is very nice to spend time alone; while other times, it is infuriatingly tedious. 
  4. Learning: I am a believer in life-long learning. If it were possible, I would stay in school all of the time earning degrees in different subject areas: anthropology, sociology, political science. Since I can no longer teach, it would suit me just fine to be on the opposite side of the lectern listening and devouring. I know that my sons think that I am some kind of freak for thinking this, for actually wantingto sit in a classroom, but I don’t care. I’m not much for online learning. I like the face-to-face time too much. 
  5. I was offered a job teaching English online for an online college several years ago, but I just could not do it. I was supposed to write scripts for other instructors to use to teach literature classes, but when I sat down to do it, I realized that there was no way that I could put down in a script what I do in a classroom. I ad lib too much, depending upon the mood of the class, my mood, the reading material. And what I do depends so much on the immediate feedback from the students. I literally feed off them. Learning, and teaching, are creative processes. A script does not allow for independent thought.

  6. Lantana: In Mexico, lantana grows wild in between the rocks, and it’s everywhere you look. Corey planted lantana in the front yard, and it’s the centerpiece of the miss20huff20lantana201butterfly garden. The plants, when in full bloom, are almost four feet tall and just as wide, and full of orange and yellow and purple and pink blooms. Like our lilac bush and fresh lavender, butterflies love the blooms and the scents, but the lantana also attracts large bumble bees. When I look at the plants, I am always reminded of the plants in Mexico. 
  7. Lightning Bugs: When I was a child, we used to catch these little beacons in jars and watch them light the jars in which we imprisoned them, never having the first idea that we were harming them. When the boys were young, I used to read a book to them by Eric Carle, I believe, about the lonely lightning bug that was looking for his family, and on the last page, he found them, and there were all of these blinking lights. I loved those books. I remember there used to be so many lightning bugs (or fire flies)in the summer time; they were never hard to find. Now, I hardly ever see them. I wonder what happened to them all. 
  8. Leaves: I love to see the changing leaves in the fall, particularly on Maple trees. The best place in Norfolk for beautiful foliage is Forest Lawn cemetery off Granby Street near the Naval Base. There are so many different kinds of trees planted in that cemetery. I remember that right after Caitlin died, the first few years, I would ride through the cemetery every day, and in the fall, there would be this wonderful path of yellows and reds lining the narrow lanes between the sections. Other than there, Skyline Drive in the foothills of Virginia is a lovely place to drive and look at nature’s autumn pageant. 
  9. Loons: Loons are lake birds, larger than mallards but smaller than geese. They can live for up to 30 years and have been known to mate for life, but what is so distinctive about loons, and what I find so intriguing about these water birds, is their call, which has been described as haunting. In some native legends, the loon is a bird of magical power. To me, the sound of a loon calling, and the water lapping is the epitome of a natural concerto.

  10.   
  11. Lockets: Lockets are wondrous things, and you don’t see them much anymore. I’m talking about the sizable lockets of the Victorian era in which small keys and shakespeare-sonnet-locket-based-on-va-museumlocks of hair could be enclosed from prying eyes. Lockets could also contain powders, poisons, and other secrets. Made of sterling, gold, aluminum, brass and copper, the lockets of old were much more interesting than today’s lockets, which tend to be flat, with only enough room for pictures. Round and heart-shaped Victorian lockets were often set with seed pearls and jewels such as rubies, and were often monogrammed and worn close to the heart.
  12. Li-Young Lee: I’ll bet you thought that I was going to finish with love, didn’t you? I told you, I’m trying for new topics tonight. Li-Young Lee is one of my favorite poets, and his poem “The Gift,” one of my very favorite poems. I will close with the first two stanzas of that poem because it always reminds me of my father, his hands, the great care that he took when he was doing something gentle with them:

 
The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

(from The City In Which I loved You, 1990) 

More later. Peace.

Grace in Small Things #40

male-cardinal 

Male Cardinal

Grace in Nature
by-the-seashore

1. Walking along the shoreline at dusk, and letting my toes sink into the sand as the water recedes, the white foam leaving tiny rivulets, an uneven line that disappears as soon as another wave hits the shore and pulls back again. This is the best part of the day: in the gloaming, that time between dusk and sundown, when all magical things are possible, and everything seems to be just slightly more tinged with the setting sun’s pink hue—red, pink, gold, and alabaster. This is the time of faeries and dreams.

2. The flower garden in early morning when everything is still covered with dew, still glistening with dawn’s light shower. The only sounds are bird song and crickets, the frogs in the pond and cicadas beginning their low hum.

female-and-male-cardinals-together1
Female & Male Cardinals

3. The almost crimson cardinal and his mate as they dart from the top of the fence to the nandina bush on the side of the house, its berries muted red in contrast to his unmistakably deep blush and crested head. He is always careful to dive first; she follows. Mated for life, they dance this dance from bush to fence to tree to water—he first, to clear the way, the lady to follow.

4. The softness of a lamb’s ear plant, its silvery foliage, smooth as velvet. Small purple flowers call to hummingbirds and bees as this mat of fuzzy foliage spreads through rocks, lines borders, and encircles trees. The lamb’s ear, so sweetly soft, invites touch, hence its whimsical name.

5. Wisteria is perhaps the most beautiful of vines with its arches of violet-blue flowers that cascade like multiple waterfalls, one atop another atop another, creating the perfect stage for butterflies to perform their air dances in search of honey-sweet nectar. Long associated with the beauty of the Orient, wisteria bears exotic names: Shiro Noda, a Japanese Wisteria; or Kokuryu or Black Dragon, a Chinese Wisteria. Every spring, I anticipate the flowering of a magnificent wisteria vine that has insinuated itself into several trees on a vacant lot. The vine has climbed perhaps 20 feet towards the sky and claims three trees as its own. When it blooms, the smell is heady, and the hanging clusters are magnificent, reaching almost 18 inches when in full bloom.

wisteria-vine

I love that no one touches this vine, that it grows freely, with pure abandon. I have watched its blooming every spring for years now, each year praying that no human has interferred with its manifest destiny to own the trees, the bushes, anything and everything that grows in its path. Nature, unaltered, is powerful and resplendent to behold.

Nature in all of its wondrous forms always amazes me. I am always finding new things each time I look with a careful eye. More later. Peace.