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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. (J.M. Barrie, novelist and playwright)

Random, dead, moss-covered wood. I’ve felt a kinship with it at times. Yet, the fallen logs create artistic patterns. Hollow centers offer homes for wildlife.

My husband and I walked under a lacy shade of branches. They protected the ground from the late-May heat. The pattern of dead and alive seemed to ramble, aimless. Nevertheless, there was a wholeness to the scene.

Recently, my husband and I attended an event. I am intentionally vague about whether the event was a picnic, graduation, family reunion, or none of the above. The setting was accidental; the story reveals a story within a story, the one that occurred instead of the one planned.

One of the guests passed out after a possible seizure. An individual honored at that moment ran to her defense. She saw the need for a 911 call. Two of the attendees were nurses and two were doctors. They assisted the fallen person more thoroughly than the paramedics did.

After the ill guest was taken to the hospital, any separated groups bonded. A different story developed based upon mutual care and love. We met as friends, not strangers.

I hoped to hold onto that intimate feeling forever. Then I totaled my car the same day my husband and I returned home. A tree won when the accelerator stuck…or I missed the brake…or fate decided my time with Little Beige should end. I don’t know what happened. This incident was the first in my years behind the wheel. It doesn’t matter how the accident happened. My 2005 Toyota will soon become junkyard fodder.

Like the dead branches my car has a history. Soon to be buried. I am okay, relatively anyway. So is my husband. We were not physically injured.

Neighbors arrived immediately. With offers to help. With support. With the difference between rotting in the moment and survival.

The story changed. I am not the only character in my tale. Nor, am I the only heroine. And that is what makes the difference. Sometimes, simple actions may have saved someone more than anyone will ever know.

Thanks to all who take that extra step forward.

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screened vision

(screened vision, black and white, not easily read and slightly off-center)

The most important thing is to be whatever you are without shame. (Rod Steiger)

Even if I had the X-ray vision of the Superman I watched long before flat-screened TV and Netflix, I doubt I could understand human motivation. Friendships with the folk who share a similar sense of empathy, are easy. Those who can’t see a relationship between weapons and death, are difficult for me to figure out.

Someone I know tells a story about direct experience with an individual wielding a gun—at her. No pause for recognition of her experience, the person she tells continues with a statistics-game. No awareness of the damage done by violence.

Yet, this man is worthwhile, genuine in what he does. I have no intention of turning away from him. Argument proves nothing.

A photo taken through a screen isn’t the same as a picture taken in the cold and ice—as it develops. The picture isn’t the same as the photographed space.

Life continues without a set pattern. I need to be who I am, speak my own truth and respect the truth of another. Sometimes this respect is as difficult as seeing through two separate screens, made of vastly different experiences.

Peace. Five letters, each one separated by centuries of misunderstanding. Nevertheless, an essential goal. For all.

 

 

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winter through the screen (2)_LI

All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart. (Tahereh Mafi)

Snow. A four-letter word. Not in a vulgar, but in a testy sense. Nevertheless, I know I’m blessed as I feel and hear warm air rise from the furnace. My husband kept a thick, warm coat in the back seat of the car until we saw a homeless man who could use it. Socks next maybe. Some packaged food…

Inside the house I wheeze. Yet, I have the medications necessary to recover. Outside, who knows how long I would last?

A cardinal stops to snack at the birdfeeder. A squirrel gorges on the feed. I look at my belly and suspect I have more in common with the squirrel.

The snow melts and then promises to appear again. Need never melts completely. However, compassion isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. 

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ice storm January 20, 2012 (2)_LIWhatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Sunday morning. My husband and I celebrate at a different church. With special friends. The minister’s topic for the day combines science with awe. He speaks about the universe. In context with spirituality.

The back row, where we placed ourselves, has little significance compared to the vastness of space, the alignment of the planets, the statistical possibilities for life to exist. Yet, I embrace the moment. Beauty lives immersed in the ugly, the grand, and the ordinary.

This church community is friendly and welcoming. “Hi, I think I saw you here once before,” a woman says, “a while back.” Wow, what a memory. I came last year, maybe. And I will return. On another special day.

Bare trees display the uneven shapes of their branches, while the seasons shift in the same semi-predicted pattern. Known. Unknown. Meshing together.

I notice the shadow

of a branch on brown grass

as if bright-sun shadows

on ground were brand new.

Both spine and chin

live in the same body

yet never face one another.

One planted seed and one kindness

grow in time and

belong to another universe.

 

 

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Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. (Albert Einstein)

I have more than enough work and projects to keep me indoors for the next century—or at least it seems that way. However, as Jay and I put clean sheets on the bed I look outside at the clear blue. And it calls to me to come outside and play.

How much worse will my back feel on a shady trail in the woods than it does now? I look at the clock. We have just enough time in the afternoon to enjoy the warm, but not-too-warm, early September.

Jay knows most of the trails in the park. He chooses one that winds through prairie grass reaching twelve-feet high. He can walk much faster than I can. Yet, as other people come through he lets them go first. “We move slowly,” he says, emphasis on the word, we. But he chooses to stay with my uneven step.

And the slow travel allows the discovery of a bird nest hidden in a bush on the side of the path. Jewel weed abounds. The stem of the plant can be opened and spread on skin to ward off poison ivy. The jewel weed acts as a guardian angel plant since it seems to follow poison ivy patches. Canopies of branches stretch across the trail. Huge bluebird houses, large enough for other birds, hide high in the trees.

We step over and into last year’s dry, dark brown leaves. Yesterdays that can’t be returned. The past. I remember when I felt I would always be 25-years-old. I acted as if each moment could be prolonged forever, too.  Some of those moments ended as regrets crunched now by the heel of my shoe, especially on my right hip where the pain hits sharpest.

But, I also notice the pain doesn’t stop me. Instead it teaches me to savor beauty while it lasts.

I smile as I recall a recent yesterday: My two older grandchildren visited. Kate and Rebe healed with their presence and their humor. They pretended to find cures from a mock healing source on a Walmart Internet site. And for no external reason at all I chuckle as the trail twists and so does my aching back.

The sun shines and casts moving shadows. I call the brightness, hope.

take-hearts-for-walk-in-the-woods

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The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy; they come when the mind is still, when silence speaks loudest. (Leon Brown)

I am off the grid. No Internet. No cell service. Nature presents the better show at Hocking Hills State Park. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. My husband and I have just arrived. Nature hasn’t had enough time to tell stress to cool-it yet.

The weather couldn’t be better—mid-fifties in the morning climbing to the mid-seventies in the afternoon. Few clouds. No rain expected. I ignore time. My husband and I don’t have a schedule. Our cabin provides no frills. We don’t need them.

People who go to parks tend to be friendly. Striking-up conversations is easy. Serendipity brings unexpected gifts. Since Jay loves to talk about travels, conversation with folk who have already checked out the area directs us to the better trails and the most beautiful views.

I relax—well, somewhat. The restaurant area has a Wi-Fi connection. I am like an ex-smoker opening a pack of cigarettes or a gambler entering a casino. I say I will post just this picture. Then write this message. Then…

The grid becomes gridlocked. And I need a lot of self-talk to press the off button on my iPad. Answers never come when the mind is counting likes on a post. Okay, that is only part of the problem. But I get it. I get it!

Search for

serenity. One more time.

Sun. Hemlocks. Red. Yellow. Orange.

Sandstone caves. One crow calling to another in the distance.

A single step followed by another. Peace. Harmony. Yes, it is possible.

hocking hills sun through trees

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Old age ain’t no place for sissies. (Bette Davis)

My 94-year-old mother-in-law sleeps on a narrow couch. She looks as uncomfortable there as she does inside her fragile body. She smiles and seems emotionally touched by the gentle stories I tell her about her grandson and great-grandchildren. But, I suspect she would agree with Bette. I have enough tact, however, not to discuss the obvious.

While my mother-in-law rests I elevate and ice an amazingly painful foot. I injured it the first day we arrived. This isn’t the out-of-town weekend I had in mind.

At the same time I sit with my youngest granddaughter, Ella, on the back porch of my brother-and-sister-in-laws’ house. Ella watches Peppa Pig on my iPad as I watch my ten-year-old granddaughter learn the art of hooking a bass with a lure. Ella and I are at the top of several rolling hills so I can’t see Kate’s face, but I know she has wanted to do this for a long time.

The action on the porch is different, subtle. Several ruby-throated hummingbirds flit close by. Then other species of hummingbirds appear—long enough for me to see their color, nothing more. A striped lizard makes an appearance. The next heat wave hasn’t passed through yet. The shade brings amazing comfort.

I think about my mother-in-law sleeping inside. My limitation, even though this one seems temporary, reminds me to celebrate what I can do—not what stops me. Sure, I can’t trek through the woods right now, but someone needs to stay with our youngest granddaughter. A four-year-old could create a hazard among swinging hooks. And who would have volunteered to be a companion to our littlest one, even if she didn’t have a foot the color of bad sunburn? Uh, Grandma?

Ella points to the screen as Papa Pig dives into the water without making a splash. She grins. Perhaps she realizes the absurdity of diving anywhere without making an impact of some kind. Ella already knows life isn’t easy. She approaches Down syndrome with an up attitude.

I study the striated skin on my arms. The challenges of aging occur slowly. I have no idea how many losses it will ask of me. But I’m not living in tomorrow. Today a blonde beauty smiles at me with a love of life that’s contagious. She doesn’t count wrinkles; she looks straight into the heart.

I chose to spend time with Kate shortly after she was born because my mother-in-law had bonded with my children. She showed me how much that connection is worth. Nothing less than priceless. That lesson isn’t lost because my mother-in-law is now in the winter of her life.

Here’s to the older folk of the world. We’re all headed that way. Eventually.

enjoy little things words of wisdom

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Love is the bridge between you and everything. (Rumi)

A cool breeze and a moderate temperature turn our walk in a county park into a mini utopia. It’s the kind of day where people pass by and say, wow what a day, as if they could hold onto the beauty longer. Storms and hot weather will return soon. Then, something peculiar in the grass on a hill to the left of the path catches my attention.  At first I think it is a piece of plastic caught on a hidden twig. But the shape isn’t right. It is too perfectly round. As we draw closer I see a turtle digging with her hind legs into the grass, apparently readying the area for her eggs. The lake is about three feet from the other side of the walkway.

Jay and I move closer, but not into her space. She remains focused on her work. As we watch Mama another walker stops. He and my husband discuss the hazards of eggs buried in that shallow open spot, mowed by park workers, within a predator’s view.

“Well, turtles aren’t known for their intelligence,” the man says, and then moves on shrugging his shoulders.

A reply comes into my head too late. I don’t equate intelligence with the right to exist. True, I wouldn’t take a vole to the vet, but that’s because it has a life-span of three to six months. Moreover, I’ve never met one. But this example circles the truth: Love is the bridge between me and anything.

Jay and I look at one another. We decide to notify a naturalist. At the camp store the woman behind the counter calls the naturalists’ office. The office seems pleased we let them know about our discovery.

When we return to the hill where we saw Mama, the search doesn’t turn out to be as easy as we expect it to be. Jay finds the spot, now a packed circle of dirt. Fortunately my husband’s memory is better than mine. The area he chooses to survey is right on. Mine misses it by several trees and thirty feet. He places three yellow warning flags around the mud turtle nursery.

The Midland Painted Turtle is known in the scientific world as Chrysemys picta. These turtles often bask on logs or stones in lakes with their friends, sunbathing with the stillness of the surfaces under them. Perhaps Jay and I didn’t save much, but a few more painted turtles may have a chance to celebrate the water and sun someday.

We didn’t bring a camera, so my quick colored-pencil rendering will have to do. One form of life may feed on another, but sometimes one life form helps another, too. The red stands out exaggerated in this picture, like dark stitches or scars. Life always has its cost. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Some scavenger may find all of Mama’s eggs. Maybe. Maybe not. I have no control over tomorrow. For now Jay and I trek hand-in-hand over the bridge that crosses the lake, and I wonder what the next bridge will ask of me.

Midland Painted Turtle06142014_0000

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Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it, but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance. (Charles A. Lindbergh, aviator and author, 1902-1974) 

Another inch of snow falls on top of the ice we already have. I can walk across it in boots without making more than a crunchy dent in the surface. Winter has moved in to stay—at least it feels that way. I remember grass as a distant memory. My ’97 Toyota is iced to the curb with almost a car length of solidified snow behind it. I have a medical appointment this week. Mother Nature does not care whether I make it out of my petrified spot or not. At least, I am grateful to be retired. When I worked in a hospital pharmacy, business didn’t close. If this were a few years ago I would need to take a bus in sub-zero temperatures at six o’clock in the morning. Okay, imagining that landscape possibility is one heck of a lot worse.

Yesterday I tried to slam the snow shovel into the offending space behind my car. I could have been attempting to break a prison wall with a marshmallow stick. Nothing. When I went back inside the house to get a spade, the look on my husband’s face irritated me, mostly because I knew he was right. My back already had a few twinges in it, and I sometimes walk with the stiffness of an old metal toy soldier left in the rain too long. So far I have been managing a back problem with heat and exercise. Pushing it may not be a good idea.

So, Terry, consider what you have been able to do: take care of your husband as he recovers from minor surgery; cook some wonderful meals for him; thoroughly clean-out the refrigerator; re-vamp three stories published in 1998 in a local magazine known as “Dream Weaver,” and then have them accepted by http://www.pikerpress.com/. The pending dates are listed on the web page. At least one of those stories you were able to illustrate. So far this has been a good year for poetry and short-story publishing. You remain free of the burden of wealth, but being internationally unknown has its benefits.

How the whole looks in the future is beyond my reckoning. I look at the bird feeder in our blue spruce tree and watch as a red-bellied woodpecker intimidates his fellow feeders. They fly away from his pointed beak. But they come back. Again and again. For as long as the birdseed remains available.

Okay, sun, I know you are out there! Patience? Sure, I’ve heard of the virtue. That doesn’t mean I’m crazy enough to ask for it.

Then, thirty minutes before my younger son, Steve, is due to arrive at our house I rush outside to shovel enough space for him to get his car into our driveway. I can handle the softer additional inch in that time without breaking my back. My eyes widen when I reach the street. Some unseen elf has removed the igloo material from behind my car. I figure out who he could be within seconds and call our neighbor, Brian, to ask if he performed this minor miracle. With what I hear as a heaven-accent soft voice he says that he did. My thanks are honest; I feel warmed by his kindness.

Steve widens the driveway path and finds the road under my car. A peninsula-shaped remnant of the ice remains in the street, but every car battles that one.

My thanksgiving should be complete. I’ve just received a get-out-of-jail-free card. However, a neighbor arrives. Our older son, Greg, and a passing stranger helped her out of her driveway last week with the help of our snow shovel, spade, and a rug that should have been discarded years ago.  She gives us a loaf of homemade banana bread.

I guess I owe Greg a loaf of banana bread…Then maybe I should provide another kindness to the next person I see, to keep the blessings flowing.

(pic not taken from our area; the snow just feels this high)

high snow

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What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. (Chief Crowfoot, Native American warrior and orator, 1821-1890)

The rumble of drills, hammers, and machinery runs from the curb to our basement. We are getting new gas lines this morning. The connection must be occurring right now; I smell it. The energy of the work extends from the basement to the living room floor. Nevertheless, reaching for the ceiling while using my core muscles, I finish one back exercise and begin the next. Let the work on the street and in my basement continue. Let me trust that it will be completed well, that all will be well—whether it appears to be or not.

At least my husband and I know our blue spruce will be spared. When we saw the painted yellow planning line on the grass next to it we feared that our friend of at least thirty-seven years would be lost.

When our evergreen was planted as a sapling our older son, Gregory, was a toddler. It was planted for him. We have pictures somewhere of him watering it, in the days when he could touch the ground with his head without bending his knees. Our son is now a father of two girls and the author of two books. “Open Mike” came out recently. The tree is the front yard. It’s a bed and breakfast for birds in any season. At one time my husband and I considered moving. Our son’s first thought was about the loss of the tree. It arrived as a gift from my husband’s uncle who owned a nursery at the time. That gift has cost us a fortune in maintenance. The tree contracted a fungal disease and blue spruce isn’t covered by any health insurance policy. Fortunately, treatment has brought color back into our spruce’s limbs.

The tree represents life. Birds thrive in our evergreen’s branches despite snow, wind, or rain. Yet, they remain prey for hawks and other predators. We have seen scattered feathers and dead sparrows, an occasional Cooper’s Hawk, a squirrel feasting on the birds’ seed.

If our spruce had been lost, it nevertheless would have been a symbol of life. And we would have mourned it. But it carries on and reaches for the sky, as I do with the final exercise count as I strengthen my core muscles and feel the smallest twinge of pain in the small of my back. It’s okay. Anything worthwhile has its cost. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty…finished for now.

blue spruce

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