Friday, September 30, 2005
My daughter has been invited to the Homecoming game and dance where she will reunite with friends of her own. Though she's able to see some of them a few times a year, this will be an opportunity to connect with those she left as an 11-year-old girl. Tomorrow they will meet the lovely young lady she has become.
I will be away from the computer for a few days as I spend time with my city community, making new memories to bring back home.
May you all have a safe and wonderful weekend.
'Til we meet again.......
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Today I finished my book so wrote a letter to my sister whose birthday is tomorrow. As I sat there with the windows rolled down, I looked and listened to everything around me: The playground beyond the fence where children's laughter echoes, beautiful, feathery clouds of early autumn, shiny buses lined up in pumpkin orange, and trees reveling in the crisp coolness. Everyday, commonplace things, yet beauty in the eye of this beholder.
Birds were chattering somewhere above me and the church bells began playing, "It is Well With My Soul", one of my favorite hymns.
Nothing extraordinary, nothing spectacular. Still, the peace and contentment of the moment filled me with its gentleness.
A touch of reality, a hug of simplicity. All is right with the world....and well with my soul.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
"Little Boy Blue
Come blow your horn;
The sheep's in the meadow,
The cow's in the corn."
There's nothing unusual about seeing cattle on our way to school in the mornings, but these girls were out of their fence and right next to the highway. I knew they weren't our neighbor's as he has Angus, so I called the school secretary to check if they belonged to her husband (Turned out they were her son-in-law's).
Living in a small community, you not only know every person that you meet, but you recognize their livestock, too. Happy herding!
Monday, September 26, 2005
At the top of the stairs, the wide doors opened into a grand room filled from floor to ceiling with books. Shelves and shelves of wonderful stories; colorful spines of different sizes and widths calling to me. A lifetime of reading at my tiny fingertips.
I loved the library. The hushed voices, the echoing footsteps on tiled floors, the long, tall counter where the librarian stamped our books, cards at the back of each in vanilla-colored pockets, the smell of paper - old and new - and brick walls, cool to the touch.
My sister and I were allowed to check out records to bring home as well; smooth, vinyl discs grooved with words and music that took us to places filled with mystery and intrigue. Each loan was a precious gift we were allowed for two weeks; 14 days of adventure and story-telling. A visit to the library was the highlight of our trip, and the ride home was often spent looking through our new-found wealth.
There were no computers back then, no summer reading programs, no fancy themes. No surfing necessary, no magnetic beepers to walk through. It was simpler times. Time spent sitting cross-legged on the floor with a treasure in our hands. Time spent looking at colorful pictures and wonderful descriptions. Time spent traveling on magic carpets in fantasy worlds and riding horseback through centuries past.
We left the library with a sense of excitement; a new adventure tucked under our arm, a story in our pocket. Sometimes old, sometimes new, but always a gift and always....enough.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
She would have been 76 today. A vibrant woman who lived her life in full-capacity mode; never meeting a stranger, never forgetting a birthday. Full of opinions, spoke her mind. Loved music, sports, writing letters and travel. This is how I remember her: full of spunk and laughter, energy and life. And when the memories surround me and take me back to the years that we shared, I see this vision...imprinted so deeply within my heart.
Today was her birthday....and she should have been celebrating. We lost her ten years ago to an aggressive cancer that attacked her body and took her from us far too soon. The pain of that time is still so vivid, but I refuse to allow it to be my remembrance of her life and who she was.
I see the woman who accepted me completely into her heart when her son brought me home. I remember the woman who was so proud of me, who, having no daughters of her own, claimed me from the start. Memories of holidays and trips together, going to church and ballgames, teaching my children games at the kitchen table, talking and laughing, singing and dancing, embracing me...embracing life.
She stepped over the threshold into her new life, forever altering the path of mine. Her husband soon followed, taken also by the same horrible disease. But I picture them together, complete once again as they dance amongst the stars, laughter ringing and hearts open to each new arrival on the dance floor.
The years pass by and time marches on. But this will always be your day to me. Happy Birthday, Idolia. How I miss you...
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
For the most part, my life has been pure enchantment, filled with love and family and all the things that make life joyous and whole. So when the earth suddenly turned on its axis and things slid out of control, I wasn't sure where to grasp to prevent myself from hurtling off into the never-ending vastness of the unknown.
The loss of someone dear, a marriage dissolving, new changes in my life, health issues, financial devastation; they all came knocking at my door. I wanted to turn the key, lock the deadbolt and pretend that I, as the occupant, was enjoying a well-earned, luxurious vacation on some exotic island far away. No admittance. Do not enter. No trespassing.
It was during these moments that I began to truly wear my cross. And then I never took it off. My hand went up to it when I needed strength; feeling its coolness and distinct shape beneath my trembling fingers. I held it in a clenched fist during medical tests and it lay against my pillow each night. It was a symbol, a security, a promise that I wasn't alone. It was renewed faith, peace to a troubled soul, hope for the future.
A year ago, I lost one of the stones and for the longest time I didn't replace it. And even though I know it is only a piece of jewelry, for me it is something much more. Since it would cost more to replace the stone than to purchase a different necklace, I waited awhile until I found just the right one. It's interesting that my cross broke just as the light was beginning to touch my path once more. Perhaps it is symbolic and that the stone was "rolled away" to make room for a new life.
Believing has nothing to do with necklaces, old or new. But having this golden cross is a reminder that I do have something that will never be lost or broken......and that is Faith.
Monday, September 19, 2005
I did have a run in with a opossum this evening, though his image is still locked up inside of my 35 mm camera. I'll put him on display as soon as he's processed...
Still dragging from full and busy days and new medication, but will post as soon as I can stay awake long enough to write something coherent!
Tapping my ruby red slippers....and heading to bed.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
In Kansas, between summer and autumn there is another season called, "Sunflower". It is a time when the heat has dissolved into a mellow warmth, the sky loses its pasty white color and hues of blue return. For as far as the eye can see, in every direction, bright yellow Sunflowers dot the landscape.
They wave from the ditches like little girls in golden bonnets, bowing and stretching in soft breezes as I pass by. They vary in height and size, some shadowed in small clusters while others tower over me in a petal-covered trellis.
I look around me at the fences, barns and windmills; all commonplace objects on the rolling prairie. They were built by strong hands to help tame and maintain a farming heritage that seems to be slowly fading away.
But the Sunflowers are the offspring of this land.
Many years ago when covered wagons crossed the waving grasses of Kansas, they were met and welcomed by this native flower. I imagine pioneer children weaving them together to make wreaths for their hair and picking them for colorful supper table centerpieces. Their ancestors saw America in its beginning and each succession of seed and bloom witnessed the changes to our state. But if I stand quietly and listen carefully, I can still hear the silence of a land with less technology; the farmer's calls of encouragement to his oxen...the laughter of children dancing inside a fairy's ring with laurels of Sunflowers upon their braided hair.
As the sun moves across the sky, the plant watches then follows in eager pursuit. Fields with rows upon rows all turn their bright faces towards the light, reaching for the very thing that sustains them.
How simple that is. And how much better our own lives would be if we were like the Sunflower; greeting all around us with a bright and cheery face...and always, looking towards the Son, who sustains us too, with his ever-burning light.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Summer bought a ticket on the southbound train. I saw her leave on the shirt tail of a north wind and on the tip of a blackbird's wing as it turned its flock in midair. I heard the departure as her sullen, humid air was whisked away by a crisper, cheerier breeze and the cicadas faded softly away, replaced by the flautist in a shiny black suit. The curtains blow in different directions now, ushering in a welcomed respite, and the sun retires earlier in the evenings. Jackets are grabbed off of backdoor hooks as cooler temperatures are anticipated. And there is a relief in spirit.
She overstayed her welcome. Though during winter winds her warm caress was desired, it has been too much; too close for too long. Her dry, dirty winds and brown grass made me weary and her strong, threatening storms made nights far too long. She exuberantly unpacked her bags in June, promising leisure and peace with her stay. And though I enjoyed the visit, it really was time for her to move on.
Thank you, dear summer, for the annual River Festival; our stay with old friends in our old home town. All those hours on the mower gave me pause from the classroom and time for thinking my own thoughts and stories. Time with family, celebrations, wheat harvest and rest from the world were all gifts you brought back from your winter holiday. Your generosity was appreciated and our time together, well spent. But now it's time for you to go.
Next winter when the snow flies and the days are enveloped into early night, I shall think of you sunning on golden beaches. And when spring arrives and the daffodils push their fluffy yellow trumpets up through the soil, I will look forward to your return. But for now, autumn's suitcase is at my front doorstep. She'll bring me russet pumpkins and falling leaves, brilliant blue skies and dazzling mums. To everything there is a season and now is her turn.
Summer left on the southbound train.....but she holds a round trip ticket.
I know we'll meet again.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
This storm was to our east and south this evening, but I loved its beautiful intensity with the moon hanging serenely in the calm skies just above the fierce clouds.
The weather alert sounded loudly throughout the house, announcing impending bad weather. Even now, three hours later, I hear its rumbling.
I hope it takes a detour with its grumbly rantings. I really need some sleep tonight.
Monday, September 12, 2005
My mind is full this evening, but I can't seem to articulate. A busy day and many more ahead in this week. I feel like G.T. in this photograph: standing still, watching, listening as the sun goes down and silhouettes me against the day.
Tomorrow awaits on the other side of tonight.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
It wasn't time for you to go --
The memories weren't yet complete.
There was so much more to learn,
Too many words have been left unspoken;
Too many things you hadn't yet done.
Your life can't be over...
It had only begun.
Why aren't you here?
I can still see your face,
Hear your laugh,
Touch your hand.
I've watched you grow and you came so far...
You were so alive and full of plans.
There's too much of life that you haven't yet lived.
It can't be over.
You had much more to give.
I sit alone, without you,
Do angels hold your hand now
And guide your footsteps?
Can you see us, hear us,
Us who loved you,
Whose lives are less bright
Now that you are gone?
It shouldn't be over...
You had reasons for living,
For going on.
You know now
What we all ask ourselves...
What is to happen
After this life, this world?
Will I ever see you beyond the pictures
In my mind
Of what used to be?
You were so young,
And I can't understand
Why God took you away
When you weren't yet a man.
It wasn't your time...
Why did you leave?
It is vivid. Young boys with long hair and ornery smiles who teased us in the hallways, stood beside us in prom pictures and made our hearts sing. Sweet, innocent girls filling the school with laughter, and being carefree and silly in a time when fashion and make-up was not a big deal. We wore flannel shirts and baseball jerseys, ski jackets and overalls. Fancy dresses had long eyelet sleeves and a decorated gymnasium was the backdrop for our proms.
There were music contests and band concerts, cheering at games until we were hoarse, field trips and favorite teachers, roaming the hallways between classes and making memories too numerous to count.
Somewhere between then and now, we all grew up. We stepped out of the time capsule that kept us in perpetual youth and turned into wives and husbands, parents...adults. A season, indeed, for everything.
Dear schoolmates, when I think of you I see you at seventeen with the world in the palm of your hand and your future awaiting. Your voices still echo down the hallways of my mind and its sound fills my heart. I feel the light and energy of your youth and I, too, am there once again. Though our time together has come and gone, the memories remain. You touched my life and changed it forever and perhaps one day our paths will cross again.
So, to the class of 1980 and to those who shared our road, you will always travel with me; making me smile, making me cry and making me remember when the world was still brand new.
Thanks for the memories.
Yesterday was one of those days where my mind had been all kinds of places; where I felt I had traveled all over the world without leaving the building. I was relieved when 3:30 came.
Enter the custodian's cart. In order to supplement my teaching wages, I have signed on to substitute when one of our custodian's is gone. I was glad to begin a new shift in my day and have some quiet time, letting my body take over from the exercise of my mind.
I am responsible for cleaning 7 classrooms as well as the Band room and Library: sweeping, cleaning countertops, dry erase boards, mopping and emptying trash. It was a task that started out energetically with whistling and speed.....that quickly dissipated into quiet monotony.
It's hard work.
We get so accustomed to our clean school and classrooms that sometimes we forget what it takes to get it there. Since we are a small school in a small town, we all know one another. A teacher is no better than a custodian and our paths cross from simple acknowledgement to genuine friendship. One of my dearest friends here is a custodian. She left our classroom this year where she also worked as a para....and I miss her terribly. She is no less of who she is because she cleans rooms instead of teaching children. And neither am I, now that I do both.
Before you leave things scattered on the floor, put gum or something ugly in the trashcan, think of the person who has to clean it up. It's truly eye-opening, viewing the world from a different perspective.
It's rare that we get the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone else. I plan on learning a lot in this journey.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
I often wonder about you; my mother's father.....a man I never knew. You passed away on my own father's birthday in 1964, the year that my little brother was born. I was not quite three.
Most of what I know of you is what's been written down in our history and the memories Mother has of you from her childhood days. I know that our family lineage nearly ended with you many years ago, in 1917.
You were sailing on the ship Delamere from the coast of Africa to England when it was hit. A German submarine fired a torpedo which struck the Delamere and sank it in the Irish Sea. Lifeboats were sent out, including the one that carried you and 18 other men. Only three of you survived after being adrift for several days. Due to the exposure, you developed pneumonia and lost a lung.
But you recovered. You went on to serve in the United States Army until the armistice and after the war, married my grandmother. Throughout your life and marriage, nine children were born and thirty-four grandchildren. Among them....is me.
I close my eyes and try to imagine you. Your face is familiar only in photographs, not through my own memories and recollections like I would wish..... and your voice is foreign and lost to me. Still, there must be something of you in me.
I remember Grandma well.....but I do not see her in me. I saw my paternal grandparents often, but do not recognize traits from either when I see myself. So I look to you, Grandpa, to find something of sense, to grasp a family connection that links me to the past.
I know that you were a quiet man, an honest man... a man of great character and integrity. I know that you always helped your neighbors and friends, and that even though you weren't one to attend church, you lived your life in a Christian way: by example. I saw that trickle down into my mother and know that so much of the goodness in my life was because you were my grandfather.
I wish I had known you. I wish we could have sat in the porch swing of an evening and talked and done all the things that Grandpas and granddaughters do. I could have learned much from you, I know. I missed a lot by missing your life, and I'm not sure I truly realized it until now.
So as your birthday approaches, I'd finally like to say "thank you". Thank you for your strength in that lifeboat so many years ago. Thank you for holding on, for living so that your life could continue through those of us who follow you. And thank you for being the kind of man who left a mark on people's lives; who touched the world and made it better with his own.
May our footsteps be as courageous and as honest. May our lives be your legacy....and may they make you proud that we are those who called you "Grandpa".
I Love You,
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Sunday, September 04, 2005
"The garden of my childhood days
With hollyhocks was kept ablaze;
In all my recollections they
In friendly columns nod and sway;
And when today their blooms I see,
Always the mother smiles at me;
The mind's bright chambers, life unlocks
Each summer with the hollyhocks."
--Edgar A. Guest
As a little girl, the first bloom of the Hollyhocks was my introduction to summer. Their stalks would grow tall with elephant ear leaves edged in lace. The fuzzy green buds were Peter Pan skirts showing glimpses of pink. Within a day or two each rose-like bud would burst into magnificent bloom, an orange-tipped star stamped firmly into every center. The delicate- looking blossom was deceptive as it could withstand the hot summer sunshine and a sturdy Kansas wind. We would press the flowers up to our noses, inhaling deeply and letting them stick to our faces like a frilly, pastel clown's nose, dotting the tips with a powdery fluff.
But my most vivid memory of the Hollyhock is the lovely ladies we created from them. The full bloom was turned over and served as a skirt; flowing layers of fuschia cinched by a velvet green band. A bud was picked - the stem long enough to be inserted into the bloom - and served as her head and hat. With her elegant headpiece she swirled and twirled amongst the other flowers, nodding her approval, dancing with the bumblebees. Barbie had nothing on her natural grace and beauty.
She accompanied us in the swing and on walks through the garden. She stood proud and upright in the palm of our hand. Her fragrance was sweet, her beauty, unmatched. The loveliness of her arrival was much anticipated and savored. This old-fasioned simplicity and duel delight was something I hold close and cherish in my mind's eye.
I am back in my childhood, sitting on the back porch as summer steps through the door. And the cat tails bow low as the wind passes by to make way for her entrance...
I love clouds....
Wispy strands of cotton, pulled like taffy across the sky...
Misty fog that hovers like an enchanted ghost outside my window.....
Perfect, spring-time cotton puffs that drift aimlessly far above...Clouds. A varied pot porri of looks and temperaments; an ever-changing kaleidoscope of fascination on display......right in my own backyard.