Archive for nature studies

Mama vs. Beebee (Grandma)

Today, I walked thru the bird sanctuary at a lake near by.  I relearned a few lessons,  that to be honest, I  had sort of forgotten. It saddened me, hurt me. It made me feel like I didn’t matter anymore. I had six kids, one lost at 15, the stress almost killing me too.

I walked along. I would smile at couples walking by, see a woman apparently alone, then see her kid run up. Sadness would creep in.   I fed bread to the fish and turtles, like I used to with my children, and a few times with my grandchildren.  I felt profoundly alone as I walked along.

An hour before , I had walked around my neighborhood with three grandsons, two, age 7, one age 4, along with my youngest son who is in college. ( as of October, I will have 11 grandkids!) Though I enjoyed it, I was disappointed at the lack of discipline, especially after “7 year old no. 2” joined us and there was more ‘cutting up’ going on.  The other two were brothers. I tried to show them how to hunt snail shells. I would  tell them that they were called mollusks, I would name the flowers, if they were annuals , biannuals or perennials, that some  were irises  that grew from rootstock a hundred years old. ( I got an audible “wow” from that).We saw butterflies and I asked who knew what kind it was-  ( swallowtails, easily recognizable). We looked at the creek bank and talked about the flood that collapsed on side of it, and had to be shored-up with rocks. We talked about how the rich people scraping off the plants that held the water in the ground was responsible for the flood, but those of us down valley had to financially and physically clean up the mess the mansion makers made,and how wrong that was.

If you are thinking, “that was too advanced to be teaching seven year olds”, I beg to differ. I started having my own version of “home school” when my kids were two years old. They knew their alphabet and numbers 1-20 by the end of their 3rd year and were reading simple books by the end of their fourth year.  It is a matter of discipline on the part of parent and child, but with my kids, its just what we did.Period. When they learned one thing, we moved on to the next step. Having consistency is the key to education. That was my problem today, there is no set time or way to learn at home. All of my kids went to public school. I taught the youngest at home full time in K-1. We had an hour  to an hour and 1/2 or more of home school, depending on  if it was outdoors or such.

I had very little problems with discipline. Some of my kids wDr e not easy, (ask their public school teachers!)They knew we were  doing school on Saturday, holidays,summer, etc BEFORE anything else. It wasn’t a question or discussion. I may hear you saying “and they hated it”. No, they didn’t, they got it done early, knew more about any subject than their friends, and never complained a lot about doing it. My kids were not close in age, so I would have my 9th grader learning world capitols while the 5th grader learned state capitols,lakes and rivers, and the younger one learned to read or memorize math tables.  At some times, I had four at a time and worked with varied topics. We only spent abut 20 minutes on each subject. We did lots of art, nature walks and studies,  all seasons too. In fall we studied mushrooms and watched the mating of spiders and mantises we had followed since spring. We watch plants emerge in spring, develop color for their rest time in fall. we studied weather as it happened. These are examples.

Besides not having any grandswith me,  (especially not having my kids when they were young) it was hard. I could have probably taken one of the 7 year old, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell my kids not to delay teaching until a certain age. I do tell them about using “teaching moments”. When you went to the store, and were unpacking groceries, you could talk shapes and colors with young ones, then maybe names of vegetables or other foods for preschoolers. The story goes on, as they grow. I have worked with kindergarten children who didn’t know their colors, first graders still struggling with the sound of letters, unable to read a very simple book.

If you work outside the home, it is hard, you may have to work for shorter time periods, but it is still possible. When my grandkid complained, I asked them , do your parents go to work every day so you can eat, have a roof over your head? Of course they all nodded “yes’ , I said, ” Do you think they just woke up one morning and knew how to do their job? ”  Answer: (in unison..Noooo…) So they learned all of their lives, right? (heads shaking, “yes”) I asked the 7 year olds if they could read and they said ,”yes”. I asked the 4 year old and he smiled and said, “I’m learnin!”. I pointed out that the seven year olds had learned thing between the time the were 4 and 7. They got it.

The last thing I told them to day was an old Indian proverb: “You cannot learn with your mouth opened.” I asked  them what that meant, and after some delay , I covered my mouth and said ,”We learn by listening, not talking” I told them , “There is a time to ask questions and a time to listen, do you understand?” They all smiled and said yes. Then  I let them choose what to have for lunch. I told them I loved them and hoped that they would grow up learning everything good that they could so they could take care of them selves and their families. They smiled, ate their crazy lunch choices, had extra glasses of tea (After all, it IS grandma’s house (or as they call me ‘Beebee”. )My husband took two of them home and the other walked home, after hugs, smiles and them saying, “We love you, Beebee.”

I feel better about my walk alone now, realizing that it is simply life which has moved me from  ‘mom’ to ‘Beebee’ . Still, it hurts that I can not teach them like I did my kids because they didn’t start at two with a strict schedulde. I will continue to teach my grands as I can. I find myself learning from my own kids now. It is nice to know that they have learned that learning is a life- long adventure. I am trying to think of things that will grab their attention and to express my pride it what they have accomplished. Yesterday “7 years old #2 showed me some barrels of standing water with creatures swimming in it. He knew they weren’t tadpoles. “What is it, Beebee?” He asked.   It was mosquito larva! We poured the water out and I told him how proud of him I was and that he had saved us from a lot of mosquito bites. Today, he got to brag to his cousins bout what he did.

Just thinking of that lesson- one that my grandchild learned long ago, had been used to help his family, cheered me up. Being a mom and making my own rules my suit mr better, but there is a lot to be said for capturing those moments with my grandkids. They have learned from me! And, I also learn from them. Maybe it isn’t so different after all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoy a Fall poem and Help me Identify this flower!

imageI planted a package of wild flower seeds and after a long, dry spring, I am enjoying these large, beautiful orange flowers. They are about four feet tall, with multiple flowers and rather large leaves. The flowers look rather like cosmos, but the plant stems and leaves are much larger. Does anyone know what they are called?

I learned this poem in fifth grade and have never forgotten it. I am sure I could find the author if I looked it up, but since today (August 31) is my son’s birthday, and I have always considered the poem to be about today, because it is named, “September”..I will share it now.

September

A road like brown ribbon,

A sky that is blue,

A forest of green with that sky peeping thru.

Asters, deep purple,

A grasshoppers call-

Today, it is summer,

Tomorrow, it’s fall!

 

 

 

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The Once and Future Homeplace

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No! Stephie cried when she heard that her relatives were selling the family farm. She had begged her mother to help her save it and her mother was definitely an advocate of saving it, but it wasn’t “hers”. It wasn’t I her name and all of her begging and all of her daughter’s tears and heartfelt letters didn’t change what was to come.

Her mother described it as “like a death”, as they tried not to watch the bulldozers build roads and then driveways. Sometimes. They would swallow their pride and go on walks up the now, ruined valley that had once been so beautiful, so unusual, with its north side and south side and the different plant life that chooses each environment.

It was heart breaking to trudge over the humps of dirt where the developers were making roads. Stephie remembered the days when she had walked these hills with her grandmother, aunt and mother. She remembered the galax plants on the end of the north side and the stream where cattle had crossed, making it wider and melodious as it tumbled over the rocks. Stephie grew up going to the pasture with her mom and hunting “lizards and crayfish” in the creek. The memory of it was one of her childhood favorites.

Stephie was afraid of the cattle and the goat her grandparents kept in the pasture. She once cut her had badly trying to make it through the barbed-wire fence when a bull charged her. She remembered the six-foot long black snakes in the barn and the garter snakes that surprised her as she jumped the small ditches that ran down the hillsides. But this place was like heaven and she could not imagine that a realtor with a wad of money had convinced her aunt and uncle to sell the property they once cherished.

Of course she knew their age and health and the death of her grandparents, who lived into their 90’s was part of it. But Stephie had always thought the family would be asked if they wanted to buy it first, or at least, that it would be left to the nieces and nephews in a will.

The houses of the wealthy began to replace the small streams and spring beauty, the curvy road was not in the place the cattle trail had been, it was soon taken over by briars and weeds. A cousin rescued the old bathtub the cattle drank from. Though she never understood her aunts and uncles motivation, and though she cried over it, told them how it hurt her many times, she forgave them and loved them and sometimes watched an eight-tack tape of the pasture before the developers ruined it.

Decades went by, Stephie married and bought the “old family home” on a road nearby. Her older children remembered the pasture, the younger did not. In her mind, she never got over the desire to buy some land, have it belong to their family, and for them to value it like she did. She taught her children and grandchildren that there were more things like TV’s computers, fancy houses, clothes, but God made only so much land and when it was gone, it was gone. Period.

Sometimes she felt a bit selfish for the hurt she felt towards her beloved aunt, but there must have been some issue her aunt would not reveal to her that made her separate herself from the love of that place with the beautiful view where she build her house and had her farm. She had kept her home and a few acres, but Stephie feared she would sell them too and a rich person would tear down the house and build a mansion, after all, the house had the best best view in the valley. She would do everything she could to keep that from happening!

One day, Stephie, who was the grandmother of quite a few grandchildren by now, saw an ad for a farm about 40 miles away with a small farm house, a trout stream and 20 acres. Her heart trembled.DSCN1676

She nervously called the number of the farm which was on the border of the next state, in a very rural area with isolated mountains. A man who sounded very old answered the phone with a wavering voice. “I don’t want to sell my farm,” he said, fighting tears. “I don’t want to see it developed or ruined, I love this place, it is my heart. My wife died last year and we have no children, I just want someone to love it like I did.”

Stephie fought back her own tears, and quietly told the old man, “Then you’ve found your girl’. She told him the story of lost farm, how it hurt her and that she wanted her grand children to get to spend time out in the wild places that she remembered from her youth. “I don’t know where I will go….” the man said softly. “How about nowhere?” Stephie smiled.

“What?” The old man said and as he held his breath, Stephie realized they had not even introduced them selves and told him her name. “My name is John Withers,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a “life estate” she asked and when Mr. Withers said “no”, Stephie attempted to explain to him how she would buy the farm now, but not take possession of it until after his passing.

Mr. Withers was in tears by now. “I know God sent you to me.” he sniffled. I prayed every night that some one would come along who would love this place like I do,” Stephie laughed, “Well, life has not been good to me, and praying isn’t easy but I have hoped and even tried to pray hat I could find a place like yours for my family to have-forever. They both sat silently for a minute and then she laughed, “You know, I haven’t even seen your property, but I know, without a doubt, that I will love it., When can we come and meet you?”

Somewhere inside her, Stephie felt a peace that she could not even remember. She had actually made someone happy and in the process, fulfilled her lifetime dream as well. A few weeks later a van load of Stephie’s family rumbled up the long dirt road to meet Mr. Withers. From the moment they saw the land, they knew it was the place they were supposed to have, They would share it, enjoy weekends there, holidays together, maybe have a garden again. Mr. Withers had offered them use of the land when ever they wished,if he could just live in the house. Stephie talked about build one, just one big house up on the hill for her big family, and Mr. Withers gladly agreed.

It had been 40 years since Stephie’s heart was broken by the ale of “her farm” the one she grew up next to. She had given up on ever being able to afford to find another one. After all the years, all the tears, sorrow, and pain, something had worked out right for two strangers. Stephie was sure that Mr. Withers would have a bigger family now than he ever imagined!

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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From the Bus Stop

In spring we watch, day by day as the snowball bush goes from a tangle of limbs to a magical green. Days pass and the blossoms of white start to appear and the green darkens among the growing snowballs. Weeks pass quickly ad we count the days until school is out. the snowballs, now so heavy that they weigh down the limbs have taken on a purple hue towards the middle ad the begin to wither and die.

Summer has come and we have watched the dogwoods change their shades of green leaves, observe the daily opening of the blooms, and
once again , watch them wither and die.

When summer has ended (way too soon) and we are back in the morning mist of August, we see that the Joe Pye Weeds are waving in warm winds beau the rushing stream.

Soon the dogwoods take on an increasing reddish hue and leaves of gold flutter down from the many deciduous trees on the hillside.
As the leaves fall from the dogwood trees, clumps of red berries have appeared in the frost where blossoms once sparkled in spring storms.

As we watch time go by, from the first buds of spring to the lushness of summer, the glory of autumn and snowdrifts of winter, my children and I realise how quickly tome goes by and how fast they are growing.

Like the seasons, we grow and change. Each age, each season having its own special beauty. As a tear rushed down my cheek when I think of how quickly my children ate growing, I look longingly at them and realise that soon, they will be watching the seasons change with their own .

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She Sliters Away

It had been a fine summer for Sylvia. No floods, plenty of insects, the birth of a new group of live young. But now, it was time for Sylvia to find a place to spend the cold, Appalachian winter.

She slithered quietly through an overgrown garden, eating a few snacks on the way. Her tongue waved as she became aware of the scent of water and rotting wood. Perfect! A fallen maple presented itself not far from a tiny mountain stream.

Sylvia continued on up the low hill from the garden and explored the space underneath the log. It had fallen several years before and had created small spaces in the damp soil which she could work on in order to make her winter home.

She took one last breath of cooling fall air before she began carving her winter home in what appeared to have been home to a worm at one time. Gently, she curled up inside the hole, her fertilized eggs ready to grow inside her as she settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Sylvia had seen other snakes like her-garter snakes with a print of different colors of brown and she knew she was both beautiful and harmless. Smart human neighbors left her alone to eat the insects that consumed their gardens or simply admired her grace, perhaps hoping to see one of her babies as it slithered away from her as it hatched, alive and ready into a new world.

Her life had not always been easy. Once, a human ran over her mother with a lawnmower and a human mom who happened to study amphibians happened upon her. Her mother had died, but the kind lady saved two babies who were only slightly injured and let them go in he garden when they had healed in about a week. Thus, she and her brother had survived.

Sylvia often spent warm spring mornings in the lady’s garden and the lady would come by and speak to her, never touching her, only whispering greetings. How Sylvia wished that she could say, “Thank you.”, but, alas, it was no to be.

One day next summer, Sylvia would find a quiet place and give birth to her young. She would not give them any maternal care, only wish them a good life and watch them crawl away. Such is the life of a garter snake. The lady who saved her would always remember her, always hope she saw Sylvia in her garden. Their lives were separate, but forever bound.

Hopefully, one day, the lady’s children would tell stories about the baby snakes and teach others to appreciate them and share their yards and woodlands with them. Such is the way with nature. We share the same world, but in separate realities. I wish you well, Sylvia, and hope I see you or your young next year!

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Prompt Plead

WordPress Friends:

I am looking for PROMPTs to write about. I used to write for quite a few, but it seems they have all stopped publishing.  If you know of anyone who publishes PROMPTS to write for, please, let me know!  Thanks.

beebeesworld

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