Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dogwood Winter

After opening all the windows, kicking off the quilts and digging out my sandals for spring the weather reversed itself. It is now "Dogwood Winter". Meaning that the dogwoods are blooming and its cold again... (there is also a blackberry winter too but that comes later; before Indian summer or Dog days...)
Even though I live in the city now, there is much of the country still in me. It pops up at odd times like now. I wish I had not lost so much of my past. I wish I could recall the memories easier.
I have fleeting glimpses of summer days that are achingly beautiful, with lush green locust trees tenting over me as I read, cicadas calling, a gentle breeze breaking up the heat...
I remember the taste of freshly made ice cream scooped out of the churn, with strawberries I helped picked frozen in big red clumps so sweet.
I remember long dead pets: Lonesome the rooster, Dinky the beagle, the twin calves Bucky and Buford, countless animals that I loved and lost and buried.
I remember games and toys and I wonder where my Cinderella paperdolls went? I can see them so clearly I just can't believe they aren't packed away somewhere in my basement... but I know they aren't.
That's the thing you see, I can remember things, people, events, but not all the time, not as often as I wish and not as easily as I desire. Plus I know they are gone, lost except for these glimpses. And that sometimes just breaks my heart.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Of boys and men

Yesterday was a sad, sad day. The lovely Miss Sarah left our agency for a wonderful new job where she will be just as awesome and fantastic as she was at our place. She left behind a great example, big shoes to fill and 11 sad and angry boys...
Our group will miss her dearly.
She brought in ice cream for the going away party, gave everyone an excerpt from Dr. Suess's "The Places You Will Go" and made her last day a wonderful fun event. Still there were tears. In particular one little guy went to the corner and just put his head down and sobbed. I went over to talk to him. There wasn't much I could do except sit with him, rub his back and let him cry it out. I knew exactly how he felt. I tried to explain we needed to remember the good times w/ Miss Sarah and enjoy the hour we had left with her. Its hard to convince an eight year old to live in the moment, enjoy the present, experience the Now; sometimes Buddhism just doesn't translate!

At this age, the boys aren't ashamed to cry, to express their honest feelings, to give hugs or hold our hands. They are refreshingly open, innocent and so vulnerable. I want so much to preserve that. To somehow keep those qualities intact as they traverse the rocky steep climb to manhood. I want them to see these qualities as strengths, as character, integrity, as good qualities. I don't want the World to beat it out of them. They are so pure right now that they shine; I don't want that light to dim.

In contrast, my friend had a "manly" week with some sales guys. It involved a lot of red meat, lies, chest pounding, horse racing and disrespectful talk about women.My friend is disappointed in these guys (and that is why he is my friend! He so rocks!).
It seems these men are all wearing masks, sophisticated men of the world, charming, "I can sell you anything you need and make you mine" masks. That is the biz. That is their job. They live and work in a world where its OK to be mediocre. Where its OK to take advantage of others to get the best deal, undersell the competition, wheel and deal. My friend found this world to be less than savory. He is in a conundrum because he has to work with these men and has to find a way to respect them. We talked about the 2 worlds we see. The world of boys and the world of men. We talked about if he could find the boys inside. The ones who haven't been totally demolished by the world of the Biz. I feel as helpless w/ my friends at times as I do with my boys; all I can do is be there. Hopefully that will help.

Out of the events of this week though I finally have started to glean what being in the world but not of the world might actually mean; thanks to my boys, thanks to the men.
I just hope somehow I can pass it on to my boys and they can change how the world views "men" because frankly, they are some awesome kids.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed...

For the last two nights I have slept with my windows open. It is exquisite because just beyond the bedroom window our lilac bush is blooming and the scent wafts through lulling me to sleep and back in time.
I loved Spring on the farm: new calves, new chicks, green things popping up everywhere, and soon no shoes!!! I loved running barefoot in the grass, in spite of the ever present danger of stepping on a bee or landing in chicken poop.
Daddy always planted peas and potatoes insanely early and we usually were eating them from the garden about now. There is no sweeter meal than fresh peas and potatoes and cornbread hot from the oven with butter your mother churned from your own cows milk.
If I had to request a last meal, that would be it... with some sweet corn thrown it and a fresh from the vine tomato!
Spring also meant flowers blooming. I have always loved violets and dandelions. Plus the beauty of buttercups which most people call daffodils.
Our yard had surprises too: Sweet Williams popping up, tiny white stars shining in the lush green grass, young garter snakes slithering about, their scales gleaning in the sunshine, asparagus pushing up along the fence row, begging to picked and eaten.
Daddy would start to till the garden, borrowing a mule and plowing in his hat and tie. I would follow smelling the rich scent of the soil, looking for arrowheads. Often I would sneak my shoes off then to wiggle my toes in the mealy soil.
In the orchard the fruit trees were blooming, and then shedding blossoms in cascades of snowy white. In the woods the redbuds and dogwoods flowered, the maples, elms and oaks started to tinge the world with light green. Dryland fish popped up after rainstorms and we would pick them for mama to roll in cornmeal and fry.
The baby animals would be gentled and named, ready to be loved for a season. Mama would start spring cleaning, putting the feather beds and pillows out in the sun to air out. Soon she would be scrubbing and cleaning and all the windows would be opened and I would fall asleep on sheets that still held the warmth of the sun and the freshness of the day while the scent of lilacs drifted through the windows lulling me to sleep...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tiny miracles

This weekend I experienced 3 tiny miracles: unusual, surprising, mysterious happenings.
First Molly dog and I were walking and she had one of her stumble and falls. As I bent to help her up, I spotted a four leaf clover by her bum! I haven't found a four leaf clover since I was a child. I think Molly the miracle dog intentionally sat down in that spot just so I could retrieve it and add it to her memory book...
Next driving home on the lonely country road from church, I spot a critter ahead in the road, I start slowing down thinking its a dog, start to toot the horn, when it turns to face me. Staring at me with big luminous eyes is a beautiful red fox. I stop the car and we hold eye contact for a long moment, then with a lovely smile, he flips his full fluffy tail and lopes away, leaving me breathless with wonder.
Last but not least, this morning, I sat in my car waiting for it to warm up, putting on lip gloss, when a mocking bird landed above my window, turned and stared in at me! Again I made eye contact with a wild creature and just sat there staring until he turned hopped onto the hood, strolled about for a minute or so and then took flight.
These 3 connections in such small beings linked me to something so immense, so great and grand, that I can't help but to feel the energy of the universe is real and realized in my daily life.
I find it miraculous when God appears in the humblest forms and seeks me out, winking at me as it to say, "Hey, I am everywhere, and don't you forget it, Mary Martha!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Toughen up, mister.

Today a 5 year old came to my office with his mother to meet with the other clinician. The little guy was crying. It seems he had gotten in trouble (again) for talking and the teacher had reprimanded him and he had been reduced to tears. This is the second time I have seen this kiddo crying like his heart is breaking because an adult has punished him. He is very sensitive and appears quite remorseful for his misbehaviors. The first time, mom told him to "Toughen up, mister", not in a mean way, just in a "the world is a rough place and you need to grow up and get used to it, pronto" kind of way.
Today when she came in, he trailed behind her, his tears leaving big tracks down his cheeks. His sobs were loud and gaspy. The other clinician asked him if he could stop crying long enough for his mom and her to make important phone calls. "NO!" he wailed and started sobbing even harder. That did it for me. "Hey, come over here," I said. "Would sitting in my lap help?"
"YES!" he said chin quivering.
He laid down his tiny backpack and climbed up in my lap. I wrapped my arms around him and leaned my chin on top of his head and rocked him gently. He started to quiet down. Mom and the clinician started phone calls. As they made them, I just held the little guy, rubbing circles on his back until I felt him relax and sigh. I whispered to him that if he wanted to get down and get a toy, that was ok. But it was also OK to stay where he was if he wanted. It was his choice. He stayed put.

The world is a rough place. Adults can be loud and scary. They yell sometimes. They don't listen to a little kid's explanation of why he was talking. Adults are quick to punish at times. Kids really do need to toughen up.
But there is plenty of time for that; it can happen tomorrow. Today they just needed to be held and to feel safe, if only for a few moments.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Home again..


On this most recent visit to the farm, I spent time with two of my "greats". I have a current total of 7 great nephews and nieces~ (Hopefully within the year my nephew will be adding one to bring me to an even 8!)
So I got to see two great nieces this trip.
Alexis and Hannah. They are just fascinating: beautiful, smart, joyous. I am sure that they think I am a crazy aunt, because I just keep staring at them and smiling. What they don't know is that I see the past in them, I catch glimpses of their grandmothers, great grandparents, aunts and cousins surfacing in them. They are whole, unique individuals, but I love to see the common traits we share as a family. The shape of the eyes, the family mouth (we all have the same cupid bow lips!)the bookish tendencies, the same sounding giggle, the long skinny toes...
I just fall in love every time I hang out with the greats. I being born halfway between my siblings and their offspring, can remember when the greats' parents were babies. I was 10 or 12 and played with the nephew and nieces as if they were living breathing dolls. So its so wondrous to see the offspring of my doll babies... Remembering my nephew and nieces at the age of their children, seeing their shadows in their children.
Life is incredibly rich and beautiful...

Time Warp


The bro and I went home... sort of.
We both ended up at the farm visiting biggest bro and decided one rainy afternoon to go to the house in which we grew up.
It was a bit surrealistic. I lived there from the age of 7 to 14. When I think of "home" that is the place that always comes to mind. I have lived in many houses in my life, but that is the one in which I know every detail, can remember every room, every piece of furniture; that I dream of, that I could draw a floor plan in a moment's notice...
Somehow it shrunk.
And its slowly falling down: the windows are broken out, the doors are hanging open, the porch is rotting and collapsing. The yard is overgrown with saplings and weeds.
It is a ghost house now.
We pulled up and parked across the road and just looked at it in amazement. It used to be such a pretty house. When we lived there it was painted white and had 3 or 4 large maple trees stretching across the front of the yard. There was a porch swing on the porch and rocking chairs. My mamma planted geraniums in these large concrete pots that sat at the end of the steps leading up to the front porch. There was always flowers blooming somewhere in the summer and spring.
We made our way cautiously up the steps and jumped across the gaping holes in the porch. The glass was broken out of the carved wooden doors and they sat open inviting us in...
We stepped into the house. Trash was ankle deep. Clothes lay scattered everywhere. Bottles and books, broken furniture, sections of collapsed ceiling, sheet rock, all piled up in mountains in every room. We shook our heads in dismay.
In what had been our living room, Paul asked "When did it get so small?" I remember it being huge. We had a green behemoth of a couch that sat across the 3 windows, a platform rocker, daddy's big red recliner, the matching chair for the sofa, a TV and a "Warm Morning" gas heater plus there was still tons of floor space to spread out games and books and toys... now the room was so tiny I don't see how we could have fit half that in there.
The dining room had also shrunk. Where there used to be a large round oak table with 8 chairs and a Victorian buffet, china cabinet, whatnot shelf and occasionally a baby bed for the grandchildren, there was absolutely not enough space for all those things and our family to have fit in the room we were standing in.
Looking up I saw someone had taken the brass chandelier too. It had held 5 bulbs in uplifted arms and it always made me think of blooming flowers of light when it was turned on...
Paul was trying to rip up a section of the kitchen floor. He remembered when Mamma and Daddy were putting down the new floor that he and I had written a note and sealed it in a bottle; "Help we are being held prisoners..." He wanted to see if it was still there, but in spite of the damp and rot, the floor still held its secrets.
We walked through what had been the bedrooms with me pointing out where the furniture had sat. My bedroom had had the walls rebuilt, the door was in the wrong place. The closet, my wonderful magic closet was filled with broken shelves and the door was barely hanging on... when I was really little, I would sit in the bottom of my closet, curled against the chimney wall for warmth and read for hours. It felt safe and even now I often dream of that tiny space, painted white in a lavender room, sitting underneath the hanging clothes, knees tucked up, a book on my lap, reading by the light filtering in the window just to the left of me...
We headed upstairs on the sad remains of what had been a once lovely staircase. It was dark walnut, carved and filigreed, now covered in dust but still sturdy. Just much much smaller...The railing I used to slide down, the post that sharply stopped my descent still held firm.
Upstairs we poked around, trying to see in the secret space in the closet where we found old newspapers and magazines from the 1800's one day... we went into Paul's old bedroom, his "Prevent Forest Fires" sticker was still stuck above the door 34 years later... He remembered how in the winter he would wake up and scratch his name into the frost that covered his windows every winter morning... I couldn't find the floor vent where we used to hide to spy on the adults as they talked in the living room below...
We went back downstairs out onto the porch, remembering where the water bucket and dipper had sat, the cistern pump was gone and the well house had collapsed...(did I mention we had no running water in the house growing up? That we used outhouses and pumped water for drinking from the well for a long time? And then finally we got a bathroom- but never did get a kitchen sink. We still used dishpans and heated the water on the stove...)
Out side the out buildings had weathered grey. I laughed remembering what trouble I had gotten into the day Martha Barlow and I had made mud balls and thrown them against the front of the smokehouse trying to make it polka dotted.
Paul remembered where the pawpaw tree had stood, now long gone. I walked along the remnants of the garden fence line where countless pets had been buried, my animal grave yard. The fruit trees Daddy had planted were no where to be seen. A lot of the trees were gone. Most of the buildings and barns were following their lead.
The outhouse was toppled over, leaning crazily to the right, the concrete commode section cracked and disintegrating. I remembered how Paul had told me that poison spiders loved outhouses, living under the seats waiting to bite people on the butt... thus instilling a phobia of spiders in me at the tender age of 7 that took me 30 plus years to overcome.
Before leaving we walked through the house one more time, looking for souvenirs. We managed to wrestle two door knobs out of a couple of the doors laying on the floors. Paul ended up breaking the plank holding one by sticking it between the posts of the stairs and cracking the plank until the door knob just fell off. The stairway still held up. I think the house will fall down before it does.
We left then, with me holding the door knobs that I had turned countless times in my youth, somehow it didn't feel like stealing, they felt like they were mine; that they had been and still were as if they had been waiting for me to come back and get them.
I know we walked through that house. I saw the decay, the destruction and the ruin. But that isn't the home that still exists in my heart. That house, the one from 30 plus years ago is safe. Rot will never touch it. The windows still gleam whole and unbroken in the sun. The porch is intact, with rockers and swing waiting for the evening when the whole family stops work and sits down in the cool of the night. Dinky the dog still runs in a game of tag beneath the maples. My bedroom is still the safe haven with my books and puzzles. The trees still stand tall and proud and the geraniums planted so lovingly by my mamma bloom as boldly red...
That house still stands, preserved forever by love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Higgy on LOLcats!!!


A Higgy look alike has appeared on LOLCATS!!! He is not quite as cute or purrmudgeonly but he is a close approximation of one of the greatest cats that ever lived. My Higgy the Pooh! His nose was more triangulated and his face rounder... but this is close...

This makes me laugh!









For some reason this makes me think of me and my brother Paul. I will let you all decide which kitten is who!!!