I saw her crying as she sat beneath the weathered tree.
“Hey.” I whispered, touching her shoulder.
She looked up at me startled, “I didn’t see you.”
“Didn’t mean to scare you.” I said and sat down.
The grass was cool and soft, I watched the shadow
of the tree wave across the sun drenched field.
I had invaded her privacy, she was embarrassed.
I could see it in her eyes as she tried to dry them.
I picked up a dandelion, turned to seed.
With a smile, I blew the seeds into the wind.
She reached out for the stem and twirled it around.
“Funny,” she sniffled, “how words can hurt you.”
She held out the dandelion stem to me,
and straightened her long skirt, so dark in the shade.
She motioned for me to get up and follow her.
As I rose, she disappeared into the shadows and
left me with the flower stem still in my hand.
I walked back toward the old abandoned house,
My special place-hers too, I guess.
Archive for July, 2012
I saw her crying as she sat beneath the weathered tree.
The Lost Art of Longhand
I have always admired people who had a beautiful and consistent longhand script. I considered the ability to have that lovely artistic flow to one’s handwriting as a talent, a peek insider one’s innermost self. I always blamed my fourth grade teacher for robbing me of this talent. She didn’t approve of the way I held my new ink pen, complete with light blue ink cartridges that had to be changed at regular intervals. It was such an exciting new skill for me. I loved the way the ink flowed onto the paper, how the heaviness of my hand on the pen would change the amount of ink in my writing, and thus the depth of each letter with every stoke of the pen.. It carried such emotion, such feeling.
Several of my cousins had developed this lovely, passionate longhand. I admired it and found myself rather jealous of their skill, for it seemed that no matter how much I practiced, my “cursive” had a sloppy, uneven texture to it that made it seem insincere and unprofessional.
I have loved exploring my family’s past from the time I was a teenager. Among the treasures that my grandmother kept in a quaint old wardrobe were copies of letters and photographs dating back to the Civil War. My favorite letters were those written by my great-great-grandfather when he was a prisoner in a Yankee prison camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. It was surprising to me that even many educated men in this era had developed a lovely script and flow to their writing. Somehow, the beauty of the longhand, itself, seemed to fill his thoughts with a sort of prose. There would be hopeful letters reporting that “no one else had died” in the camp, or emotional letters of how he longed to meet his son, born while he was a prisoner of war. Later, when he worked as a surveyor and traveled, he had written this same son, now grown, a letter of advise on what to do to insure the success of his upcoming marriage. His dark, elaborate script brought his words to life.
My aunt had inherited a collection of another relative’s Victorian-era Post Cards. Many of them had photographs of loved ones on the front of the card, as was the style during that time. Each card would draw out to the reader details surrounding current events in the life of the person or persons pictured. I remember my aunt using her finger to trace the delicately slanted script that filled the back of each card. The beauty of the handwriting served to enhance the details of her captions.
Remembering my struggles to develop the artful script of longhand writing, I encouraged my daughters to work on the quality of their “cursive”, as it was called, when they were around nine or ten years old. This “coming of age” event, when we were allowed to write in cursive was a big deal when I was in school. Even fifteen years ago, when most school papers were written by hand, the art of using “cursive” instead of print was becoming less important. Sadly, the older daughter never really learned to write in a traditional cursive script, and the younger one rarely used the nicely flowing script she developed when word processors became the way to write papers and e-mail and face book took the place of writing letters.
Perhaps, now that we have realized that using longhand to communicate is becoming a lost art, we will seek to teach its beauty and heritage much as we have begun to revere the customs and languages of our forbearers. There is something about seeing a letter written in someone’s own hand, that makes it more personal, gives it life and personality. Indeed, longhand is much like any craft we might learn, it serves to remind us of a more simple time, when people took pleasure in communicating their feelings and didn’t mind investing the time required to do it.
They had been walking quite a while when they reached the cabin. His brogans were muddy and wet, the cuffs of hi pants covered in mud. He reached down and picked up the puppy and held it in his arms. It was dirty, panting, its fur matted with burrs. He looked at the puppy’s pleading brown eyes as he held it to his chest. He was so thirsty, they were so thirsty.
The spigot was hidden in the vines at the side of the house. He sat the puppy down and turned the spigot hopefully. Nothing. Sadly, he grabbed the puppy and started back down the path. Suddenly there was a gurgling sound, a rush of air and a spurt of spring water burst forth from the spigot. Together they rushed back and burrowed their heads in its cool freshness. “From water comes life,” thought the man watching from the barn.
A rattling awakens me,
from the depths of a sleep badly needed.
I ease back into a restless slumber,
Comforted by the patter of rain outside.
He loved storms too, I smile and remember,
Even as a tiny child, we’d watch them,
Cuddled on the porch as lightning
And thunder surrounded us.
Somehow now, as I lie here alone,
The echoes of distant thunder
Comfort me, embrace me.
I feel him here, somewhere, somehow.
A flash of lightning filters into my room,
Filling my mind with better times.
In that brief moment, I hear him calling,
Come, hurry, watch the storm with me.
I recall the voices of summer afternoons,
my home filled with the opening of doors,
Laughing, joking, loud TV shows.
I would smile through the exhaustion
and empty refrigerator, as I told a friend
that fifteen kids had touched my heart,
left their mark, become a part of my day.
They often called me “mom”, even if I wasn’t,
Told me their secrets, whispered their fears.
Those days filled me with a sense of being needed,
appreciated, I was honored , I was loved.
Somewhere inside me, I was invigorated.
The tiredness, replaced by a special joy,
a completion of my need to be needed.
Now, the years have aged me, time has passed,
children grown, still the memories remain.
I hear my last teen walk in, laughing with a friend,
The refrigerator opens, the door closes.
“Hey, mom!” say two voices, as I fight a sweet tear.
“Wanna watch TV with us?” You bet I do.
This Echinacea in my son’s yard was visited by a Checkerspot butterfly. Echinacea is an herbal plant sometimes used to prevent infections and colds.
The rain splashes down on the skillet-hot pavement
steam rises from the street, making its own fog.
A sharp bolt of lightning, way too close,
followed by window rattling thunder crash.
Sunday afternoon, my back throbbing,
I lay exhausted, listening to the storm.
Wondering if the heat, the fire, the thunder
is coming from outside me or within.
I walk slowly to the door to look out again.
The sun is peeking around a cloud,
I see a coal black cat dash by.
It’s so quiet, I can hear the grass rustling.
I knew the answer anyway, I sigh.
The thunder in my soul will always
frighten away the storm outside.
When I was a child, my family spent weeks camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though I never liked the inconveniences of camping, I loved to be outdoors and partake of the undisturbed beauty of the area. We usually camped at Smokemont or The Chimneys, both operated by the park service. I loved playing on the huge boulders that filled the roaring streams. The aroma of campfires and dinners cooked on camp stoves is with me still. My mother and I would splash in wide, quiet areas of the rivers, so clear and fresh that I once dropped a ring in water several feet deep and was able to reach down and retrieve it with ease. Once, I had an unforgettably close encounter with a bear at our campsite. I was putting some trash in a can at the edge of the dirt road, when I looked up to see a huge black bear looking quizzically back at me!
At night, there were programs at an outdoor amphitheater, lead by a ranger. He (or she) would tell us stories, share legends and invite us to sing songs handed down by the early settlers. An abundance of trails lead visitors through lush forests filled with wild flowers, gentle streams and thundering waterfalls. A more rigorous hike might find lead to sharp, craggy peaks, that looked out over countless rows of the misty mountain range that gave the park its name. Nearby, there were free museums, operating grist mills and restored settlements to visit. Camping, horseback riding and a few other sites charged only minimal fees. The most wonderful part of this place is that it still exists today much as it was in the 1960’s. It is easily accessible, and still free, with the exception of camping and extras. Indeed, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in our nation! It is well worth the ride and price of gas to immerse yourself in the beauty of our country as it was before the influence of tourism and commercial businesses.