Archive for nature studies

The Mystery of the Lily Seeds

Summer Lilies

 

They say deer eat these mine are all still healthy

Summers lilies of pumpkin gold

waving softly in the wind

The black seeds perched

precariously at the center of every leaf.

 

I wonder-which wisp of wind

will scatter seeds and where will they land?

Will they hang on drying slowly

until fall finally wilts the plant?

 

The fuzzy stamens, tempting new life-

why do the seeds form down the branch,

when the stamens and ovulates

rest within the velvety soft flower?

 

Each tiny gift nature has given

develops its own ways,

keeps its mystical secrets,

reminds us that every living thing.

 

is special, unique, magical.

Look at a daisy, a lily, a daffodil,

every one with its own way to reproduce,

Life itself holds infinite recipes.

 

Every flower shares it beauty,

to observe and enjoy is a gift

free and simple, there for the taking.

The finest things in life ARE free!

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Days and Nights Alone

 

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Across the room, a picture of the two of you,

Its seems like yesterday, but its been 8 years,

in the purest hell. You- taken only four months later.

Your little brother now 6’3” and growing-

the girl who has his heart isn’t me.

I am alone in my heart-I’ve taken in my sick dad-

and the daily reminders of why I left home at 18

haunting my every quiet move, with doors down,

curtains up to accommodate walkers-hospital supplies.

Every time I think “life” can get no worse, it does.

I need you, I need your brother to be little again.

I want to teach 6 kids about bugs and butterflies

and play in the creek. I want to live, love, dream.

Tonight, if and when I close my eyes, please,

my beautiful young man, stolen for no reason,

come to me, be with me, let me remember life.

 

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Fresh Flowers on the Grave

 

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

 

I walked up the hill as I so often did. My 15-year-old son rested there with a black obsidian stone that we had ordered from Africa standing guard. Many people had left mementos over the 7 ½ years since that night of hell when we lost him. There were tiny figurines, glass etchings, a link of chains with the number of people who were supposed to be in our family, notes, items from his favorite ball teams. Then, along with Christmas ornaments and coins, we kept a vase of artificial flowers.

Ironically, I often found black widow spiders on the flowers or near the stone. Since I study arachnids, it was like a special message from me-one that spoke of the anger we both felt from the loss of his life through mistakes and excuses. When I looked at other graves in the large cemetery, I found only one other place with a black widow spider-my mother’s grave.

As I walked up the hill on this early summer day, I noticed a new container of flowers sitting in front of the stone. They were light orange with delicate leaves dancing in the breeze. As I reached the grave, I realized that the flowers were fresh. It was unusual to find fresh flowers on a grave that was not a new grave because they do not last long in the heat and wind.

I knelt down to look at a small note attached to the vase that held the flowers. On the front , I could see a set of fading initials-it had rained the night before and I couldn’t read them. As I turned the little note over, I saw a delicate pink heart. I smiled. He never got the chance to experience true love, but after all these years, someone still loved him, thought of him. Without coming to a conclusion about who the flowers were from, I smiled, ran my fingers across his name as I always did and knelt down by the stone, whispering, “I love you.”

I was reminded of something my grandfather used to tell me. “As long as someone loves you, and remembers what you loved and dreamed, you will never be forgotten.” The scent of fresh flowers wafted in the air. For just a moment, I was with him and this time, we were not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Father-A Man Among Men

29720194     My Father-A Man among Men

 

I started this story many years ago, but this week, in honor of his 87th birthday and Father’s Day, I have revised it and added a little sentiment. You see, this will be my father’s last Father’s Day or birthday, if he even lives another week and a half. I found out this week that he has terminal cancer. I have spent the last month in a downhill spiral with him. I have gone from trying to keep him from driving, to trying to keep him able to walk, to admitting him to hospitals, therapy programs and now, the hospital again. Rather than change what I wrote before, I decided to leave it, and simply add the thoughts that come to an only child whose mother is dead when she is loosing her father too.

 

This is the beginning of the story I put on wordpress last year. With some additions that came to me as I wrote this year, tears running down my cheeks.

A few years ago, I wrote this story for my father on Father’s day. I had hope to put it on my blog, but it didn’t happen. I found it today after I got home from my third day accompanying my father to a surgeon and decided that I wanted to honor him every day. It was time to write the blog. My father did not have cancer this time.

I had been looking for a poem that I had written my father years ago, when I felt so young and innocent. Life has never been particularly kind to me, bu the last ten years have seen so many changes in my world that it has been hard to hold onto who I am. I realized more than ever that the only way that I have made it through these time was the love and strength I had received from my father (and my mother.)

Within these past ten years, I have lost my best friend and three cousins to cancer. I saw four of my children marry in only four years and have been blessed with seven grandchildren, with number eight due next week.. Not long after my second child got married, I lost my precious 15 year old son very suddenly while he was playing baseball. I lost my health because of this loss and have come close to death myself five times. Not quite four years ago, when I was still recovering from a hip transplant, I lost my beloved mother. The grief that my father felt after 61 years of marriage took a tremendous toll on him.

This story, however, is about my father, one of the most amazing men I have ever known. My father never had an easy life. His dad was a tenant farmer in Upper South Carolina and then Western North Carolina. His family moved nearly every year when he was young. They moved six times in his first six years. He and his brother would nick-name the houses. For instance, my dad would call the house they lived in by a nick-name so that  he and his brother would remember the houses and the places they lived . One house, they called the “smoky house” because the chimney flue was faulty and the house would fill up with smoke.

He and his brother, who was three years older were out earning money doing chores when they were in grade school. They were raised by their dad, with some help from a maiden aunt. She was kind, but very strict and religious. Their dad spent a good deal of time in a Veteran’s Hospital in Tennessee and they would be passed among aunts and uncles while he was ill. His mother, who had been sickly most of his life died when he was five years old. During the 1920’s, it was practically unknown for a single father to raise his children. They were fortunate that this maiden aunt agreed to come and help him raise them. She cooked them good meals and allowed for a a woman’s influence in their lives.

My father has told me stories of his life since I was a child. I would beg him to tell me a particular story. I called him, “Huckleberry Ken” because his life had been so full of both hard work and mischief. After becoming a parent myself, I suggested that he should write down his stories, so that we could pass them on to his grandchildren, along with others who had enjoyed his art of storytelling.

He took my suggestion, and with me acting as editor, he published four books about his childhood, teen years before World War Two, his time in the Navy in Guam, and his years working on both the Highway and Railway Post Office. He has another book that we never officially officially published. Today, I got a check in the mail for someone who had read about his books and ordered some of them.

Helping him with his books was both a chore and a privilege. I has to order photos from museums, obtain permission to use them, hunt down friends he had known 50 years before and record their stories, then scan and edit everything on the computer. In the early 1990’s a home computer was much more complicated than it is today. Ironically, my laptop computer seems more difficult for me to figure out than that old, but expensive computer that we used to prepare his books for publishing. I often wonder why I ever suggested the idea of publishing the books. To my father, it was the dream of a lifetime. Still, I look upon those difficult days, when I had a house full of little children to deal with as well, as some of the most hectic and yet some of the best days of my life.

My dad was the good student, the hard worker, his dad’s “favorite”. His brother had more difficulty in school and would probably be labeled “ADHD” in this day and time. When the school would send home letters about his brothers lack of progress, my father would read them and tear them up, knowing that his brother would be unjustly scolded by their father and realizing that no one at school would follow up on the letters. In the decade when he and his brother were students, kids from impoverished families were looked down on by teachers and administrators. Many of the children had parents who could not read or write and children started school with little knowledge of “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic” as it was often called. Often, in rural areas,there was a shortage of materials and children who could not pay for books, never received any. There was little chance for these children to get an education when no one could help at home and no one at school seemed to care.  Most of the children from poor families has quit school by their early teens, with boys working late shifts in factories and girls staying home to work on the farm. Many girls were married by their mid-teens. Though there were child labor laws “on the books”, it was easy to lie about your age and not be questioned.

Once, when my father was in the 5th grade, he decided to change schools. After hearing from friends that a nearby school was better than the one he was attending, he made up a simple plan. All he had to do was walk a little further and catch another bus. Without ever discussing it with his father, he simply started the new school year at his “new” school. It was nearly Thanksgiving before his father found out, and since my father was doing quite well in his “new” school, his father just let it ride.

When my father and his brother were still in grade school, they would be out looking for jobs on weekends and in the summer, in order to get enough money for “soda crackers, a can of Vienna sausages and a soft drink for lunch.” In summer, it was easy to pick berries and sell them to the wealthy families who would come south “to summer” in the low country of the Western Carolinas.

He and his brother learned to work hard for very little pay. Often, they were asked to tear down old barns and storage buildings, and do odd jobs. When a wealthy resident or better yet a local contractor would ask if they could “fix cars, lay brick or haul cement”, their answer was always, “sure”. It was in this way that country boys like my father and his brother got most of their “education”.

When World War II was on the horizon, my dad and some friends headed north seeking manufacturing jobs that they had heard were plentiful in the growing automobile industry. A few of them stayed, but my father and a friend, who owned a car, did not. They came home and found work in the construction business, taking any job they could get. They learned to drive trucks, build houses, and any other job that might lead to a “step up” on the employment ladder.

Not long after returning from their adventure “up north”, my father received his draft notice and decided to join the Navy before the decision of which branch of the service he would be drafted into wold no longer be his choice.

His brother had injured his knee when he was a child and did not pass the physical to be placed into the “service”. One of my father’s most poignant memories was hearing his dad’s last words to him as he boarded the bus for basic training.

His father had bowed his head, hiding a tear and whispered, “Son, I don’t think I will ever see you again.” He didn’t. While on Guam during the Christmas holiday of 1945, my dad was called into the chaplains office and told that his father had died of a heart attack. He still has the letter hr received four days later from his father, saying that, “everything was fine.” Communications were very slow in those days but the letter was profound, his father’s prediction had come true.

Upon landing in Guam in the fall of 1945, my father was asked by his commanders if he could drive a truck. Even though he had never held an official driver’s license, he replied confidently, “Sure.” and thus found his job with the Navy would be that of a truck driver as our military men struggled to wipe out the final skirmishes of war and rebuild the devastated countries that had been left in its rubble.

His book about this time of his life is titled, “Two Hundred Thousand Boys on a Rock Called Guam. On the cover is a photo of he and two friends sitting on the top of a captured Japanese submarine, the “rising sun” that was the Japanese flag was seen right below their young, smiling faces. To me, this book is the story of a group of boys being thrust into an unthinkable situation and showing their determination and fortitude. It is the story of “boys” becoming “men”.

My father did not come home from World War II with the ticker tape parades and tearful families rushing up to their ships as it was shown in the newspaper. He got off of a bus in Upper South Carolina and walked several miles down a dusty unpaved road to an uncles’ house where he had lived for a while when he was a child. When he got there, tired and thirsty, no one was home. After walking to a country store to get a soda, he returned to his less than excited family who had been away selling produce. He stayed at their house one night, and realizing he wasn’t wanted, he took a bus to the home of a friend in Western North Carolina, hoping only for an invitation to supper and a bed for the night.

 Surprisingly, the reception he got there was one of love and acceptance. The idea of a third son to help around the farm seemed good to the father, Mr. Jackson. A warm smile came from his wife, Mabel, who had always loved my father as if he was her own. Aunt Mabel, as I was taught to call her, had always had an affinity for this long, lean, hard working young boy. Hoping only for a good nights’ sleep, he stayed there four years, until he met and married my mother.  Mr. Jackson taught my father the skills to help him get construction and truck driving jobs, and was happy to have him “pay for his keep” by helping out around the farm. My father earned enough money to buy an old truck, which he nick-named, “Old Hully”. This allowed him to move up the ladder in the construction business to the hauling of materials, rather than carrying the heavy rocks and such to the construction site. The Jackson family called my dad, “Kenny”. And the name stayed with him in that neighborhood throughout his life.

My father had always valued an education and enrolled in a local Junior College under the G.I. Bill, which had allocated him funds for attaining an education. He took a double major in Accounting and Truck management at the Business School in the larger town nearby. It was there that he met my mother, who was also taking Accounting, riding the bus to night school while working in a bakery during the day.

When they married several years after meeting, my father was working at a Trucking Company and my mother still held her job at the bakery. They soon moved in to a small house on the street where my mother had grown up. I wasn’t born until nearly six years later. I had my father under my spell even before I was born, but when he laid eyes on a little girl with golden curls, his heart melted. After growing up with men and living in a home with only sons, having a little girl was both frightening and a blessing to him.

My father worked two jobs most of his life. He worked in the insurance industry, but decided not to move to Ohio when the company transferred there. I was nearly five years old when my dad was offered a job with The Life of Georgia Insurance Company in Atlanta. Hoping that my mother would be happy in Atlanta, where her mothers’ family lived, he took the job and rented an apartment. Most of the time, my mother and I remained in our new house that he had built in our home town, and my father came home on weekends. When he moved our family to Atlanta, my mother was miserable. It wasn’t long before dad turned in his resignation and came back to our home town hoping one of his applications would be in the mail.

Surprisingly, an application did await him. It was for a job at the Postal Service! The hours were bad, the schemes, where an employee had to put cards into the correct hole in a large stand-up desk were a nightmare, but my dad was up to the challenge and while keeping his part time job with the Tennessee Valley Authority, he passed the test and got the job! His early years at the Postal Service lead to his book about his years riding a highway mail bus that was so long that it required a bolted back section to traverse the country roads, and his years working on a railway mail car, sorting mail and throwing it out onto poles made for this purpose in rural areas. These jobs often required “lay-overs” of several hours or even a whole night and the Postal Service rented out rooms for their employees to rest in as they caught their next “run”.

My father’s job at the Tennessee Valley Authority was my favorite. He often let me help him decode the machine-made charts from places up in the mountains with lovely names like “Sunburst”, which sparked my poetic soul. There was a secret phone number with a coded message on it that told the depth of the river at different locations. Dad trusted me with the number and I would call to check the gauges which sent a piece of equipment down into the different rivers and let out a series of beeps to tell the worker the depth of the river. The office also held volumes of books filled with photographs of the famous 1916 flood which devastated our area and caused several deaths.

More importantly, the TVA office was where I saw my first computer! It was in the late 1960’s and the machine took up a whole room. Its only job was to make the charts that we read to compare the depths of the river at different locations. The most exciting part of being “daddy’s girl” on his TVA job, was that I got to ride with him to observe and record data about floods that occurred in Western North Carolina. I loved telling my friend the stories of seeing houses, flooded up to their porch rails, with a cat sitting forlornly on the roof.

Being a girl, and an only child, I had to be my father’s “son” as well as his daughter. That meant I got to learn all the “boy” jobs, unlike my friends. My father taught me about the stock market, investing and he shared his love of learning with me. We played geography games, such as “who could name the most states, state capitols, or fill in a blank map”. We read books together, he taught me the love of reading and learning. He helped me with my homework. He would stay up hours doing math with me, a man who had only a 7th grade education before he took a double major at a Junior college. He would wrap my curls around his finger and assure me that if he didn’t know how to help me with an assignment, he would learn it with me.

We worked in the garden, build sidewalks and fancy brick walls and made crafts out of wood. He taught me the names of the flowers, trees and insects where ever we went. Although I spent many hours with my mother, aunt and grandparents next door, it was my father who taught me about life beyond our valley.

I had thought about sending a copy of this story only to my father, but later decided that it would make an interesting blog. ab A little girl and her devoted father would make a heart-warming story. He always reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, which did not please him. But he was tall, with curly, dark hair and a serious face, much like our 16th President.

My hope now, years after I first wrote this letter, is that my children and grandchildren will look back on this simple tribute to my father as one of love and respect. At only a few days from 87 and in extremely poor health, he still commands our respect, still teaches us the lessons that he has learned in his life and still remembers our names. Last night, as I left the hospital, he had not spoken in hours. He turned to me and touched my hand. “We live and we die.” he said simply. I kissed his cheek, fighting tears and he said, “Goodbye, Brenda. “ I honestly didn’t know if I would ever seen him again, he was so very sick. He slept all morning but this afternoon was able to listen as his youngest grandson (my youngest son) told him that he had been awarded an internship in his school’s district office. It was an honor only two kids were chosen for . My father looked up and whispered, “I knew I didn’t save all that money for college for nothing and smiled at my 15-year-old son, nearly 6 foot three, tall and thin like my father, who lay before him, sometimes cringing in pain. My father has been generous with his help, strict with his rules and filled with an unequaled devotion to his family.

Though he has not always been agreeable with our modern ideas, he has tried to keep up with technology, taught us to invest and “save for a rainy day”. He reminded us of HIS “Golden Rule” which is “Who ever has the gold makes the rules.” and that, of course , was him.

I cannot imagine having a father who loved his errant, non-conformist, self-proclaimed “hippie” daughter with any more patience and unabashed devotion than he has had with me. It goes without saying that he has had this same love and patience with my children and grandchildren.

I can only hope that in years to come, that my children will have even half as much love and respect for me as we all have towards him. As the old saying goes, “He has learned to turn lemons into lemonade.” The gifts that my father has given have been many, but none were more important than his time. He chose being with me over friends or hobbies. When I asked him what “the most important thing that we had , as young people in this crazy world ” and he would squeeze our hands together and softly say, “Time.” You can’t buy it, or even earn it, but you sure can waste it.” I wish I had listened more closely to his simple wisdom. I feel so fortunate that I have had so much time to spend with him.

This past few weeks , doctors have told me that I was fortunate that he had lived past his very close bout with death, when I was 11 years old. Many doctors and nurses said that it was so rare to see such resilience in a man with a body that had been in pain for nearly 50 years, that they were all amazed by him, that he could smile, still hope, still say “It wasn’t easy, but the rewards were greater than the pain. Next June, I will try to honor him by remembering his determination, his talent, his stern but loving voice. I will try not to cry, but instead, to tell my children and grandchildren what hearty stock they came from and simply, to live to make him proud.

 

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Cooking from the Grain to the Table

 

Mo’lasses!

I could smell the fragrance of the thick molasses all the way in the upstairs room my brother and I shared. My grandpa’s molasses making trays and tools were still tucked under the shed, waiting to be washed today before the bugs went crazy

The lightning storm that had crept up suddenly the night before had almost ruined this years molasses run, be together, our neighbors, my father and brother finished the load.

I don’t think any one who has never gone through the grinding of cane stalks, the shuttling of the sugary fluid through the zig-zag trays, or stood sweating in the August heat should be allowed to savor the incomparable taste of warm biscuits slathered in molasses!

When we were young, our family had a joke. If you asked for ‘lasses, that meant that you were asking for your first serving. If you wanted a second service you asked for “molasses!”.

Not many people get to see the metal trays set up for molasses making these days They done see horses turning the machine that grinds the stalks of sugar cane, they don’t watch the paddle moving the molasses along the divided trays above the flames. Indeed the love of molasses has nearly disappeared in some areas.

Oh, go on to the store, buy a bottle and try to imagine the making of molasses I have described, use the little honey stirring device to drizzle the molasses on your canned biscuits. I guarantee, you will get a glimpse of the way grandpa make then as you close your eyes and savor the first bite!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could smell the fragrance of the thick molasses all the way in the upstairs room my brother and I shared. My grandpa’s molasses making trays and tools were still tucked under the shed, waiting to be washed today before the bugs went crazy

 

The lightning storm that had crept up suddenly the night before had almost ruined this years molasses run, be together, our neighbors, my father and brother finished the load.

 

I don’t think any one who has never gone through the grinding of cane stalks, the shuttling of the sugary fluid through the zig-zag trays, or stood sweating in the August heat should be allowed to savor the incomparable taste of warm biscuits slathered in molasses!

 

When we were young, our family had a joke. If you asked for ‘lasses, that meant that you were asking for your first serving. If you anted a second service you asked for “molasses!”.

 

Not many people get to see the metal trays set up for molasses making these days They done see horses turning the machine that grinds the stalks of sugar cane, they don’t watch the paddle moving the molasses along the divided trays above the flames. Indeed the love of molasses has nearly disappeared in some areas.

 

Oh, go on to thee store, buy a bottle and try to imagine the making of molasses I have described, use the little honey stirring devise to drizzle the molasses on your canned biscuits. I guarantee, you will get a glimpse of the way grandpa make then as you close your eyes and savor the first bite!

 

 

 

 

 

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Hard Times in Blackberry Winter

07500012In the Southern Appalachians , we almost always have a cold spell in mid-May. We have all sorts of what we call “winters” after the real winter has passed. The two that are most talked about are “dogwood Winter” in April, when the dogwood trees are in bloom and “Blackberry Winter” in Mid to late May when blackberries are blooming.

My hard times have very little to do with the cold spell right now. My father, who is 87 is having serious health problems and I am his primary health care. I am not well my self, with back and hip issues, scoliosis and the remains of what Cushings Disease did to me when my body and soul could not bear the sudden loss of my 15-year-old son several years ago. I am exhausted. I often come home from my morning trip to dads and just collapse into sleep. The same thing happens after my mid-day visit and picking up my grandchild and son from bus stops. One day last week,I was so deeply asleep that my dad gave up on me and went to bed without supper.

He doesn’t eat much and says he wasn’t hungry or at least more tires than hungry, but I felt like crap. I did go, and he was still awake , but in bed. I won’t go into the issues that I have to go through to help him, but they are not peasant for either of us In the morning, I have to rush over after bus stop time just to help him out of bed.

He has spent most of his life dealing with the pain of a misdiagnosed “inverted appendix rupture’ when I was a kid, almost dying a year later when benign tumors had invaded his intestines and attached to his back area. I guess he is proof that pain won’t kill you because he has not slowed down until the past few years after the death of my mom.

I believe I have written his life story in an article called “In Praise of Fathers” or something similar, so I won’t repeat it, please look it up if you’d like, it was written may 2 years ago around Fathers Day.

I have managed to work in my flowers a little. I have had to give up my big garden because of my own health. Until my father’s health worsened a few weeks ago, I was spending the tie I wasn’t on my feet in bed because my back and hip pain aren’t as bad then.

The reason I am writing this blog is to beg the patience of my loyal readers, read some of my old articles, there are a lot that I think are worth a re-read, and think of me and my dad as I try to get him to a place of better health.

Meanwhile, I will watch (while laughing) as the turkeys fight for dominance over our neighborhood, look out for bears, listen to stories about the bob cats neighbors and even my son have seen and try to get some rest. Best wishes to all my wordpress friends. I will be writing as often as I can.

 

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Tales of the Lost

 

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

At last the tiny ship saw land ahead. Lost for two days on the shores of the Black Sea, Tony was beginning to panic. His food was running short, he was heading into hostile territory and his communications gear was not picking up the “Mayday” signals he was blasting over his communications system.

 

As Tony got closer to the land, his heart sank. There was not a sign of human life in sight. The banks were steep and rocky, small bays fooling him every few miles, he decided to stay in sight of land until he came upon some sign of life.

 

Where was he? Would the place he finally found be friendly, or some random terrorist camp, far away from those hunting them? As nightfall came, he began to worry again. Still, no civilization, still no good harbor site close to shore. He decided to keep on until the sun set and the light had faded from thee sky and then put down his anchor for the night.

 

Up ahead, Tony thought he saw a flash of light. Though his first emotion was excitement, it quickly turned to fear. He turned on a small light on his starboard to gauge the reaction of the light on shore. Relieved, the light flashed back at him-three times, he took this as a friendly sign and started toward the light.

 

As he neared the beach, he could see a campfire glowing on the shore. He packed up what gear he could carry on the life boat-gun ammo, water, a little food, dry clothes and a blanket ,anchored the little ship and hopped in. As he approached the sandy inlet, he yelled out, “Hello, there! Anyone home?”

 

Feeling rather silly at his lack of a better greeting, he heard a voice come back towards him. “Please, come on up!” said a voice that sounded rather feminine. He wondered what a woman would be doing out here? Who was she with-was it a trap? He could see in the moonlights shadows the figures of three people.

 

As he drug the life boat up the bank, past the tide line, the three figures raced down towards him.

 

“Oh, my God!” shouted one of the figures, definitely a woman. “We thought they had given up on us!”

 

“Who?” Tony asked, puzzled.

 

“We were on our way to an island for research, said the third woman.” The ship was called the Morning Dawn. It went down in a storm after taking on water We fought the storm for maybe a day, and realized we were the only survivors.”

 

Well, now there are four lost explorers, sighed Tony as he sat down on the edge of a rock.

 

 

 

 

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On a Stormy Night

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As I listen to the rain spattering against my cabin’s window,
I think of that night when we were stranded here.
The roads were washed out and the creek overflowing,
but I was in your arms , safe, warm, a long-awaited dream.

I saw the lights blink on the alarm clock, the bang on the transmitter.
I smiled, we were alone, you and I , no one would check on us.
I tugged on grandma’s quilt and you tugged back-asleep.
I listened to the sweet sound of your breath, soft, even.

When I awoke, stars glimmered in the window, the clock was flashing.
Darkness still surrounded me, along with your strong, hard arms.
I wanted this night to last forever, the moon seemed satisfied with just a peek at us.
You and I, finally in a place where life brought a freshness-alone, together.

 

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The Ephermals of an Appalachian Forest in Spring

As a teen, I often wandered in the forest and grassland of my grandparents pasture. The sight of the ephemeral flowers of spring always brought me great joy. It seems one dy, in late February, I would notice a tiny Spring beauty growing below the deciduous tress deep in the woods. Then there wold be another and another. I would round a curve on an old logging road and discover a bank filled with Bloodroot. I felt as though I had found a treasure, as all ephemeral rise up, bloom and disappear within a few weeks, before the leaves are much more that a pale green bud.

There are “arguments” among locals as to which wild flowers of early spring really qualify as ephemeral-meaning flowers that appear, bloom, fertilized each other (sometimes themselves) and disappear within a very short time. I never really cared. I knew which ones fit that category in “My woods” and that was all that mattered. After the first flowers had begun to disappear, others wold take their place. There were Clinton Lily’s. Pink Orchids, common violets, Pipsisewa, May Aapple and many more as spring progressed towards May. Between mid-April and mid-May, the forest was covered with these small shy flowers. I found them to be fascia ting, often getting down on my knees to explore each leaf and bud.

I always enjoyed the sounds of busy squirrels and chipmunks, I loved the way that the sound of the creek became louder as I got closer to a small pond that someone had long ago built for cattle drink from. Occasionally, sight of a foot-long ground snake, would surprise me. We would stare at each other, her head held high,and then she would slowly crawl off into the brown leaves still littering the ground. It was always exciting to pick up a stone and find a resting lizard, remaining still underneath. I often had to put the rock back down right beside the creature for fear of crushing it.

I was raised in the woods. My mother, aunt and grandmother would go on walks with me. We knew where natural springs flowed from depths of the earth, with water as fresh as a spring shower. We would lift rocks with a hoe from the creek where the cattle drank and catch crawfish (who, of course shoot backward when disturbed and were easy to catch.) DON”T argue, crawfish is what we called them! Salamanders would hide in the s shallower areas near the edge or the water plants swishing near the edge of the creeks.

By mid June, blackberries were starting to ripen, and the chiggers that lived on and around them were waiting for a dog, person, any creature that spelled “food” to walk by. When I was 12 years old, my parents made me go pick blackberries and I got 103 chiggers bites. I swore that I would never go again, and I didn’t, until I was a young adult and had to decide on my own whether the seedy berries were worth the briars and chiggers.

The fields are gone now, either grown up or a mansion has sprung  up in the middle of a big “lot”. It should have never happened. It breaks my heart that only my mom cared enough to want to save it and she was out-voted.

Times have changed over the decades. The big houses have chased the bears, wild turkeys, coyotes, even bobcats down into the valleys. There, they have found easy meals from scraps and trash cans. My grand kids will never see the world I knew. I take them to the Botanical Gardens at the University or the Bird Sanctuary at the man-made lake.

There, they can see mallards and red-headed ducks, turtles resting on logs, frogs jumping into the slim-filled swampy areas, birds of all kinds. That is as good as it gets near my home any more. I have always hoped to one day convince an old farmer that what I could offer him to save his land was worth more to his descendants than the crowds of houses the developer wanted to build, smiling and offering him an exorbitant price to destroy his land. I have about given up hope, it seems the green on money means more to even the old farmers than the lush, lovely green of trees.

Perhaps someone with more money than I have will come along, or some old timer with a mind that loves nature like I do, will donate his land to a nature conservancy. In the meantime, I will go to the edges of the woods , when it has just started to sprinkle rain and the fragrance of soil and plants fills my senses and remember what this place was like before the leaders of surrounding towns turned paradise into pitiful.. The Singing Group called the Eagles wrote a song when I was a teenager that said, “Call a place a paradise, and kiss it goodby.” How sad, how true. But I have my memories. Please take time  listen to the song that plays on this blog.

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A Special Place

Red dress 3-31-14

Not far from my son’s high school, sits a mansion, Biltmore House, which was built by George Vanderbilt in the 1880’s. This was during the time when the wealthy seemed to be having a contest to see who could build the largest house. Many were in new York and on Cape Cod.

For some reason, this picture reminded me of the trees lining the way to the front of the house though to  see the beauty of nature leading to a comforting barn rather than a mansion was much more of my taste.DSCN1812

However, I must commend Mr. Vanderbilt and his family for their appreciation of nature, to help in starting Pisgah National Forest and the Forestry Movement as a whole. There are museums and fish hatcheries open to the public along a beautiful stretch of mountain highway, filled with the wonderful rumble of waterfalls, trails lined with wild flowers and nature preserves where we can still see what the beautiful Blue Ridge looked like before the retiree with money filled so many hillsides with their homes.

A line of deciduous trees is particularly beautiful in autumn when the leaves put on their grand show for a few weeks. Often, in spring, wild flowers decorate the area around the trunks, enhancing their beauty.

When I see a photo that reminds me of a location so very different than the red barn and the Biltmore mansion, it makes me realize that, in our hearts, the rich and the poor, the have and have-nots are not all that different in what they find attractive to the eye or soothing to the soul.59100010

I try to appreciate those, like the Vanderbilts, who saved thousands of acres from development (this was before income and property tax days, of course) donating and helping develop these areas that will be kept wild forever. The sound of a bubbling brook, the quiet of a deep green forest, unusual rock formations, accidental encounters with wild animals, all enrich the days of both the young and old.

It is doubtful that money will allow me to fulfill my dream, yet I keep dreaming.
“If I could just let this farmer know that I would not develop his precious farm before the developer comes up waving tons off money to a man who raised a family on $20.00 a week… If, if, if. I will keep trying, a will my children, and who knows, one day there may be a grove of trees and a barn, perhaps an old farm house with my name on it and my heart in it.

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