Work In Progress

Every stage in life is just as important as the last or the next.

We learn. We grow. We evolve. Life is a process.

Our lives are what we make of it. Where we go is up to us.

We start out as mere possibilities.

We feel our way through the world.

We soak in life. We expand.

We can sit and wait for life to come for us.

Or we can use what we’ve been gifted.

We can choose to fly.

Masses Of Wildflowers To Tame The Masses

I consider any thing with a bloom to be a flower. It is no secret that I like many weeds and wilflowers as much as “tame” blossoms. I grew up surrounded by fields that led to the woods and creeks. My bare sweaty legs fought off chiggers and ticks that hid in the wild Queen Anne’s lace and what ever those yellow things were that grew along side them. The fields were home to wild strawberries and snakes as well. Purple flowerheads poked through green stalks here and there.  My absolute favorites were the yellow and brown Black-eyed Susans spread throughout the acres. It could have been a kindred thing since we shared a name. At any rate, I’ve carried them in my heart all these years and grown them myself. Still, their beauty never matches those wild ones of my memory.

Several weeks ago Dirt Man, Wylie and I traveled through some rural back roads of North Carolina. I was both surprised and delighted to see farm field after field of wild buttercups. The huge bright mass of yellow warmed me all over and brought a smile to my face. It made me think back to when my sister and I were little girls. She’d tickle my chin with the bud, and say some kind of little rhyme. If the yellow reflected on my chin in the sunshine, she’d tell me it meant I liked butter. We often picked wildflowers and tied them into flower necklaces and bracelets. We ran barefoot through the flowers like gypsy children.

These were planted along side the NC highways. I don’t know what they are called. Could they be blue bells or blue bonnets? They were certainly a lovely sight to partake. Blue gives me a feeling of calm. Streaks of blue stretched down both sides of the roadway until another type of wildflower took reign.

These poppies are divine. I thought the buttercups were like pure sunshine, so I guess the orange were like bursts of fire.

Lovely flowers along the highway makes driving/riding less stressful. I enjoy seeing the countryside, whether I get to explore by foot or vehicle. It’s something quite peaceful about taking in the sights that nature offers. I especially love it when I ride down major highways and  see sights like this when I least expect it.

Getting To The Nature Of Things, Again And Again

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. – John Muir

Yay, Jen of Sprite’s Keeper has brought the Spin Cycle back to life! Our first installment is “Reunions”. Now I could be somewhat typical and tell you about all of the reunions of family and friends I‘ve experienced lately, or my hubby’s 30th high school reunion, or even the 30th reunion that my class has decided doesn’t need to occur. Or I could tell you about all the fabulous connections I’ve made through Facebook. I could talk about the feelings that surface during these meetings, impressions we try to make on others, and all of the changes we go through in life. Remember this is the Spin Cycle, so I plan to put my own twist on the theme.

small cycle

I’ve lived in this city for twenty-nine years. I had only been to First Landing State Park once or twice. It had probably been a good fifteen years ago. Last August Dirt Man and I decided to go there to hike some trails. Then we went back to ride bikes. We’ve been at least four times in the past eight months. Sometimes we take different trails, and sometimes we see the same views of nature but through the eyes of different seasons.

Each time I return now I have that same excitement and sense of familiarity. I look forward to going to a few of the same spots and experiencing it in all it’s current splendor. In the dead of winter, the swamp can seem dreary…bring in the sun and it comes to life. It smells heavy and earthy of decaying leaves in the fall and winter. In the spring the flora of budding trees intoxicates you while the late summer brings out the woodsy scent of pine.

In the heat of an August sun, my hair stands on it’s own in the humidity, and I’m laden with sweat. In the fall, my hair starts to calm, and my skin enjoys the tingle of a slight breeze. In the dead of winter, a cap keeps my head protected from the wind as it bites at my face. In the spring, the sun warms my neck, and I welcome the occasional gust of air.

This photograph was taken in winter with the swamp frozen over. The suns reflects on the ice, and shadows fall in and out.

This was taken in the same spot in the spring. All life within view reflects upon the water. No matter the season, the Spanish moss thrives…whipping through the air, hanging and clinging to life.

This is taken at a scenic area along the creek. It was taken in the fall, but all was still very much alive.

I think this one was taken in the same spot, but closer to the shore line without zooming the lens. Though it was taken in the winter and much of the ground cover appears lifeless, green stands out among some of the bushes and trees.

The familiar of every reunion is the calm I feel inside. The wonderment of animal and plant life in the creek, swamp, and woods always keeps me searching for more. I am touched by all that seems different yet the same. The sun and wind are constants though in varying degrees.  The air seems different, not just the smell but the depth of it. While the heat of the summer sun is almost stifling to breathe, the crispness of the fall air is invigorating.  The woodpeckers strum year round, and the swamp remains that dingy brown color from the tannins of the cypress trees. The trails are my thinking grounds. Ideas generate and rumble around in my head. Sometimes they come in the form of words that  make it to paper; other times the notions are stored away for possible future use. What I always get that is consistent is the peace in the now, and the awareness of myself as being an integral part of a much bigger picture and plan. I don’t even feel the need to understand. I am satisfied just being a piece of it.

In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Weathering The Storm

Sometimes God calms the storm, sometimes He calms the sailor. ~Unknown

(Note the small bits of hail scattered on the picnic table and cobblestone. The wind and hail hammered my basket of impatiens, but they still endured.)

I seldom worry much about the weather unless I plan to be out in the elements. Then of course, I read and watch the forecast, and curse or praise it whether or not it is cooperating according to my plans. Yesterday was one of those days that I went about my business without checking. I headed out to the grocery store in the late afternoon. When I walked out to load my groceries I was shocked to see a veil of darkness hovering in the distance and quickly moving toward me. The sky turned darker by the minute as I drove home.

As I was putting my groceries away I heard rattling outside my garage door and on the roof. As it had not started raining, I immediately thought someone was trying to break in the house. I glanced outside to see sticks and pinecones flying through the yard. I couldn’t see through the sheet of rain and the steam rising from the ground…and then the hail started pelting the ground and assaulting the house.

(My vinca took a beating! The felled limb is in the back ground. We are fortunately the limb was from one of the pines and not the huge oak that shades the house.)

I heard a crash. I was afraid a tree had fallen on the house. I looked outside to find a huge limb had fallen in the back yard. Considering most of our trees are about 100 foot pines, the limb itself was the size of a medium tree. Shortly thereafter we lost electricity. I texted Dirt Man. It took four tries to send it…I suppose the storm interfered with cell communications. I knew that if it was a tornado Dirt Man would let me know as he gets all of the weather updates for our area sent to his phone.

With exception of the dog, I was home alone. We’ve weathered many hurricanes and Nor’ easters. I even endured one alone with the children when they were small. I remember the trees bending until they almost touched the ground, scary stuff. This was an intense storm, but no where near hurricane conditions. Storms have always made me nervous. For some strange reason I was relatively calm, even with the dog getting antsy. There was nothing I could do but wait it out. I gathered flashlight, matches,  and candles while I still had enough light to find them. Then, I settled down with a drink and my kindle to read. Other than the howling of the wind, breaking of branches, wailing of sirens, and panting of the dog, all else was quiet. I got a few calls and texts from the kids checking to see if we had electric. Once the wind quieted, I ventured outside and took a few photographs.

(Wylies is inspecting the damages!)

Dirt Man and Oldest (and his girlfriend )came home. Youngest was working across town, where the lights were flickering but otherwise the electricity was still in working order. Dirt Man poured us some wine, sliced some bread and cheese, and we waited it out. A few hours later the electricity returned. By that time, it was too late to prepare what I had planned to cook for dinner. We decided to head across town to our favorite sushi place, and Youngest met us there when he got off work. Sometimes we end up pleasantly surprised with the outcome of circumstances. We had not planned on going out for a family dinner, and we ended up having a wonderful time, good food and a chance to spend some time together.

Maybe my weathering of this storm was a reaction to having weathered some personal storms in life lately. I’ve come to accept that I can only control so much in life, my actions and reactions. Everything else, such as nature, is up to the powers that Be. I trust in that power. And maybe that trust is the calm I carry inside.

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm. ~Unknown

Relay For Life, Homestyle

Homecoming means coming home to what is in your heart.  ~Author Unknown

You all know the saying there’s no place like home. Going home is always special. This trip back home was bittersweet. I had the honor of participating in my hometown Relay for Life event. I walked in memory of my brother who recently died of cancer. I witnessed my father walking the survivor lap. The best part was that I served on a team with my family. I spent the day with cousins I have loved forever but due to time and distance haven’t seen nearly often enough through the years.

We wanted to go fast like the Ricky Bobby car, but needless to say we didn’t. Our shoes didn’t have nearly as much rubber as those tires, and our motors didn’t rev like the car…maybe we should have tried gasoline instead of water and gatorade! However, I think most of us had sore feet the next day.

This event was in my hometown of Nelson County, and my team was “Cousins for a Cure”. We even had a racing theme because we know the cure for cancer can not be found quickly enough. Unfortunately, our family has been struck hard through the years with cancer.

I was thrilled to spend the say with my family. My Dirt Man walked with me. My parents attended, as well as my sister, her hubby, and youngest daughter. Her husband walked 60 laps which is equal to about  fifteen miles. Though the rest of us walked a lot, none of us came near that distance.

This is me in the middle with two of my three sisters. The one on the right of your screen is a cancer survivor. Knowing that I have a father and sister who are survivors, and a brother who lost the battle makes it that much more important to me for a cure to be found. The bottom line is that cancer sucks! Any of you who have been affected by it know what I mean.

This is probably the first picture taken in years of the females in my family. This is me with my mother and all three of my sisters.This one has my father with us. We are missing my brother who was unable to attend as his daughter was graduating from law school that weekend. He was with us in spirit as we walked for our brother, Monte, and our many other family members.

This is my father walking the survivor lap with my friend of many years. It was such an honor that they were able to walk that lap together. We had a vial of my brother’s ashes for my dad to take on the survivor lap. It was heavy as it was in a marble container and weighed his pocket down, so he ended up not carrying it. I was gifted the priviledge to walk the caretakers walk with his ashes in my hand. I walked that lap for my mother as her health was not up to it. My sister who is a cancer survivor walked that lap with me instead of walking the survivor lap.

This is part of our team with many of our cousins. I think we had twenty-two members if I’m not mistaken. Our team raised over $5000. The county raised over $120,000 which is phenomenal for a small town. I am so proud of my family and my county. Relay in itself is an emotional experience, but being with the people you love (and have been touched by the same tragedies) escalates the emotions tenfold.

Dirt Man and I were delighted to meet up with many friends from our past. This is the husband of my best high school friend who died at the tender age of thirty-four. We had each walked in past relays in memory of Stephanie, but never the same relay.

I also met up with my best friend from first grade. It was wonderful to visit with my lifelong friend and reconnect with her family that I’ve held dear to my heart for so many years.

The luminaria ceremony was breathtaking. It was a silent walk giving time for reflection of those who’ve lost the battle. It was especially touching with the bag pipes being played. I was chilled by Amazing Grace.

The luminare ballons were spectacular. Realize that this occured on the night that some group had claimed the rapture would occur. Can you imagine seeing these bright purple blinking lights flying through the sky and not knowing what they were if you were one of those people waiting for the world to end?

This shirt says it all. I plan on walking again next year. I hope you will, too. More than anything, I hope a cure is found.

A special thank you to Nelson County for a wonderful event and to my cousins and family members for the honor of doing this together.

For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and
concern for each other.  ~Millard Fuller

Parking It Or Walking It!

Park it or walk…oh, the choices in life. I’m sure you can guess that you’ll usually find me on the trails. We also know the the chances of me finding my car if I park in a mall lot or place where there are lots of cars) are slim to none!

Though I was tired from walking Relay for Life and getting little sleep, I still wanted to get out and move around a bit. Of course, I did park IT (as in my rear!) long enough to peer into the sky and take in the amazing show of clouds.

And I even stopped to smell the flowers!

I breathed in every bit of the country life, including the pollen. The birds and bees were busy, and so was this farmer on his tractor.

Which ever way you travel, the road leads to natural beauty.

I did park it for a few minutes at the creek, just long enough for the gurgles of the water to soothe and silence my soul.

Though I was no where near any malls, there was a little exchange center at the end of the road. This pair of shoes was on display. Fortunately, mine were not worn out!

Stepping Into Nature

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~Martin Buber

Dirt Man and I often hit the road on the weekends. We are usually headed an hour or so from home to a state park to hike or maybe to the mountains to get away. We usually know where we are going, but we have no idea what we’ll see along our way or while we are there. Often the beauty is overwhelming, a pure delight to all senses. We literally take in a deep breath and pause to absorb the moment.

Listening to a mountain stream whistle through the rocks and feeling the cool sensation awakens the soul. It opens you to everything else around you: Suddenly the sun appears much brighter. You notice the shades of green and veins of tree leaves. The drum of the woodpecker sounds vaguely familiar. You breather deeper and taste hints of flora and spice in the air. You smell the earth of the water. Everything is ALIVE. -YOU.ARE.ALIVE!

“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” ~D.H. Lawrence

Standing on top of a mountain with the wind tangling your hair releases a surge of adrenaline. You can feel the power all around you. There is no mistaking there is something much greater in charge of us, and at the same time you feel as one with all that surrounds you.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

Sometimes we can have our feet in the sand and eyes on the sky and feel as if we’re at the point where elements meet. We feel a distinct connection to the land but also to what we can’t touch. Time stands still We are supposed to be right there at that exact moment…and then we breathe again. We look at the sand where one would think vegetation could not possibly thrive, yet we see life clinging and prospering…and we know there is hope for everything else.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~Miriam Beard

We experience change in the making though we are often unaware it’s taking place. The wind whipping through the pines or water flowing through the banks are weathering all within it‘s path. Even the ground does not remain untouched, soil shifts, grasses bend. Earth reshapes a little a time.

″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” ~Moslih Eddin Saadi

We are captivated by sunsets. Azure sky, linen clouds, and a dropping ball of fire intermixing and creating lilac, lemon, and tangerine streaks…WOW! While witnessing the miracle of celestial color, nothing else matters.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~Jawaharial Nehru

Once Upon A Field Day

My arms trembled as I struggled to keep my chin above the bar. Jaws clenched, I tightened my buttocks, my knees knocking together and lifted them toward my chest…as if that would keep me suspended above the bar.

“Chin up! Don’t let go! You can do it!” I could hear words of encouragement from Penny, the mom who took me to field day and supported me.

I hung for what seemed like forever, and when my arms gave out  my chin instantly slid below the bar and my feet hit the ground. It was sheer determination that enabled me to stand on those wobbly shaking legs. It was a good thing I’d already participated in the broad and triple jumps, but I still had the 50 yard dash ahead of me.

Though I was never a great athlete, I suppose one could say that I had potential for adventure. I enjoyed all the “tom boy” things in childhood like climbing trees, playing kickball, and riding motorcycles. Maybe it was those very experiences that helped me excel at “field day” and the “turkey trot”.

I generally placed in the top three of most events at my own school. I was never allowed to continue to compete at the combined field day until that year. My parents didn’t attend those sorts of things, but that year the mother of my friends, Mike and Sunny, offered to take me with them to compete.

I hardly slept the night before and was ready well before they arrived. It was about a thirty minute ride over a mountain to get to the other elementary school. Back then, we did not have to wear seat belts. Heck, Penny’s van didn’t even have seats except for the driver and front passenger seats. We started out sitting in the back on cushions. We slid off on the first curve. We bounced from side to side, rolled front to back, and at times clung to one another to remain upright. By the time we arrived, we were a bit light headed and sick to our stomachs.

Nothing like adding popcorn, cotton candy, coke, and hot dogs to a queasy tummy…mine must have been made with lead because it was all I imagined heaven to offer. I spent every last cent my parents gave me on junk food and games.

I felt so “worldly” being let loose to find my events, allowed to fend for myself, and trusted to show up at the van at the end of the day. Somehow Penny managed to find each of us at our scheduled events to cheer us on. Mike and I usually were rough and tumble with one another. Actually, he usually threw balls at me and pushed me around, but that day we palled around and had fun without my getting beat upon.

When the day was over, I had a rainbow of ribbons on my wrist. I placed a blue (first place) in the flex arm hang. I got second (red ribbon) for the triple jump and third (yellow ribbon) in the broad jumps. I only placed forth (green ribbon) in the dash. On the way home, we were too tired to even try to hold ourselves up in the van. We let the curves take us where they wanted. Mike and I physically butted heads a time or two, though we didn’t argue once that day.

Once I hit middle school, my sporting days were over. My mother insisted, “You don’t want your legs to look all muscular like a boy. Besides, girls need to be ladylike.” I still roamed the woods, ran along our property, and rode motorcycles with my cousins. I also had a female cousin my age who was quite the athlete. When we played ball, her brother always called me a sissy. He was trying to insult me (truth was that even I could throw better than he could!), but I liked being referred to as being feminine.

At school, I started pulling the dainty girl act. I always thought I did it because I knew my mother wouldn’t allow me to play sports and I’d have to explain that to the PE teachers who also coached the school teams. Now, I wonder if I did it more because I knew in going to a larger school, I no longer rated in the top three places of all events. Maybe, I just didn’t like losing.

I’m happy to know that the activities I enjoy now are no longer labeled by society as “sissy” or “tomboy”. I enjoy a wide variety of activities which include sewing, writing, and hiking. At least now, if they were labeled, I’d still choose to do them because I find them enjoyable. It’s nice to reach an age of comfort in life where I can choose to participate in the things that bring me joy. I’ve also learned that winning or losing is truly the least important aspect of most things I do. I’m finding the journey itself to be the best prize of all.

The Dramatic (Or Not So Dramatic) Life

“There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So, love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of LIFE…Getting back up is LIVING …..”
— Lois Heady

Photo credit: Wikihow.com

Drama can easily take over our lives if we allow ourselves to be sucked in. When emotions are high, we lose focus. We function on adrenaline and feelings, and therefore react differently while in the heat of the moment. If we can remove ourselves from the situation things often look much different a few days later. However, sometimes the damage is already done. And even when damages occur, our reactions can still determine the outcome. As difficult as it might be, sometimes no reaction at all can be best. And then again, I wonder if that is just a cowards way out by not wanting to get involved. Most of us always have an opinion, but for the sake of peace we might keep it to ourselves.

At any rate, most dramas vary somewhat but have many commonalities. Some plays are tragedies, others comedies, and some are spectacles. Drama always has a star player. It usually has supporting actors and an audience. Maybe more than anything it needs a critic to close it down.

Drama often occurs when someone is not getting what they want or feels slighted. It can also start from a misinterpretation of what someone has said or done or from miscommunication in general. We might be the ones spreading false information. We might be the one whose words or actions have been misinterpreted. Or we might merely be innocent bystanders. One can apologize, walk away, or participate. (Are you still on stage? Are you you continuing to watch to see what happens? Did you leave the building?)  Whatever reaction one chooses in his role determines the outcome of the drama. It can fold production or it can go for an encore.

In life we find dramas being carried out with different casts in our families, groups of friends, churches, P.T.A.s, and organized sport teams. How do we keep from getting sucked in? I prefer to stay clear of drama as seldom anything good comes from it. However, we all get involved in one way or another at one time or another. Are we starring in the show, selling tickets, or watching the play? Must we stick around to see the ending? Is the theme of the drama pertinent to our life?

I usually consider myself a spectator in life. I like to watch what is going on around me. I’d rather slip in and out than be cast in a starring role. I learn more this way, am able to keep my emotions in check, and am less stressed. Am I missing out? I don’t think so. I play an active role in my own life process. I only prefer to stay out of the politics of everyday living that surrounds me. I think there’s a difference between actually living life and living in the midst of drama and politics. Some choose to live loud and open while others choose a more subtle approach to life. I suppose we are all stars of own life dramas, and the world is our theater. How we want to be perceived and remembered is up to us.

A Land Of Possibility

If a man owns land, the land owns him. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A winding dirt and rock road leads to the family homestead. Parallel to a creek which crosses it twice, the road runs between a fern bank edging pastures on the left and deep woods to the right. The two hundred and thirty plus acre farm was passed through the generations. (I am of the fifth generation.) I spent almost every Sunday of my childhood there, and at the age of ten moved onto a parcel of the family land.

The soil of the land is red clay. After a good rain, the sun dries it until it becomes caked and cracked, but the surface brushes with the scrape of your fingertips. You don’t even have to dust the dirt to see the shiny black squares of jack rocks or the sparkles of quartz. If you pay close attention to the shape of the quartz, you might find you are looking at arrowheads or other Indian artifacts from the people who roamed the land long before my ancestors took over. The water runs fresh and is piped down from a spring off the mountain. There is nothing quite as refreshing as a sip from the hose on a hot summer day.

The land has always provided my family with an abundance of food. My grandparents grew garden crops of beans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, and such. More enticing were the fruit trees. Not only did they provide pears, apples, peaches, cherries, and mulberries to sustain us, but the trees shaded us from the scorching sun and imparted a cool breeze across the hill. Most important to us grandchildren was the entertainment bestowed by the trees: climbing, hiding, swinging, and jumping.

The vast amount of land gave me a sense of freedom. I was allowed to scamper amok through the fields and explore creek beds. We built teepees, collected artifacts, and engaged in apple wars. The scenery of the fields changed with the seasons. We’d run through and hide in fields of buttercups, daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, butterfly weed, wild mustard, and black-eyed Susans with the scent of wild honeysuckle calling us to the woods. The flowers drifted to hay and silver threads of rabbit tobacco, and the scent to ripening apples. Ticks and chiggers gave way to beggar’s lice. We ran nonstop throughout the property, but as we neared the house the large cacti at the edge of the yard warned us to slow down. At the end of each day I had collected treasures in the way of jack rocks, wild flowers, or bounty I’d picked myself. The greatest gem of all was respect for the land that provided for my family.

I watched the sun leather the older generation. I saw them sweat as they toiled the land. I also witnessed pride gleam in their eyes when they produced a good harvest. Everyone benefited from a good grape crop as well. While we children were happy to eat them straight off the vine or later in jelly on biscuits, the adults seemed delighted to be able to make some homemade wine.

Whether the family members worked or played, we were all brought together at the end of the day on Sunday for dinner. The food prepared was either raised or grown on the farm. My favorite meal was crispy fried chicken, a colorful and delectable succotash, and flakey homemade biscuits. I sometimes wonder if the comfort I find in food today stems from the great joy and security it provided for me in childhood. Even today with an array of fast food at my finger tips, I prefer the sustenance of a home cooked “country” meal and the company that goes along with it.

Country nights were much different than city nights. The stars and moon lit up our skies instead of traffic and street lights. We didn’t hear car motors or ambulance sirens…we heard bull frogs croak, cicadas buzz, owls screech, whippoorwills call, and bob cats wail. There didn’t seem to be a need for television or radio entertainment.

I learned here that if we took care of the land it would take care of us. It was a place where childish dreams and adult perseverance met, creating a land of possibility for all. I can understand how people hate to part with land that has been passed down through their families for generations… It becomes your oxygen; you live and breathe it. I might have moved away, but I never really left it. It is a piece of all I ever was and all I dare to be. Ties to my family land keep me honest, humble, and always searching for what is good in life.

The arms of the beech tree on the hill reaches it’s limbs out to welcome me each time I return. The Sunday dinner chatter still echoes through the hallway of the house now empty for more than thirty years. The pastures no longer corral animals but still beckon me to run wild. The trickle of the mountain spring always invites me to taste freedom once again.

Click here for a photo and poem about the old homestead.

“Allow your mind to be a memoir movie camera as you view the landscapes of your life. Write what you see, feel, smell, and know deep in your bones.” This prompt is from Joy at Memories and Memoirs.