Friday, November 12, 2010

Ignore That Mess Behind the Curtain...

If that title makes you think of The Wizard of Oz, then you and I are now on the same wavelength for a few minutes! Don't be scared, it's not you that's a little warped, your mind just veered a bit because I dangled the Emerald City on the end of a stick. Oh, but I do love to watch "The Wizard of Oz," and I do love the man behind the curtain and his all too human attempt to control his world!

What is this "mess" that you are supposed to ignore? I'll tell ya. It's all the junk and overgrown patches of weeds in the spot that tried to be my garden this year. The spot isn't to blame for my shortcomings, though, in case you're wondering. I put out the garden. I made mistakes. I neglected things when I didn't know what to do with them. Now that Jack Frost off'ed the last of the atomicblasthardy cherry tomatoes, it's time for me to clean up, clear out, and generally put things to bed for the winter. The wheelbarrow with tiny pebble rock that I moved from one place and didn't get to another place has to be emptied. The fire ring that had to be relocated so we can have a nice apron and drive to the new pole building has to be tidied and filled in anticipation of a good burn day. All the makeshift stakes and mini-umbrellas have to be picked up and put away for re-use next year. The stray plastic hand tools that were made to withstand weather deserve a wipe and a dry spot in the shed. That's the mess behind the curtain.

See, the mess is just the backdrop for this trip to see the wizard. Honestly, I'm not sure why I got off on the tangent of Emerald Cities and Wizards! What I was thinking about is cleaning up my mess and having a little fun, too. This past summer, I gathered wishes from friends and family on Facebook and then gave those wishes a real world send-off into the Universe. One time, I wrote everyone's wishes on great long scraps of paperboard left from the building crew when they put up our new shed. Then, I rolled the scraps and burnt them, watching the wishes turn to ash and spread into the sky. Another time, I wrote wishes on leaves and let them fly away on the breeze. This time, I'm going to gather wishes and dreams and requests from everyone, use markers to color them onto a dead branch that needs to be burnt, and then put that branch into the fire (after it rains! we're much to dry here to be burning leaves and branches and such right now).

So, you wanna join me? What's your wish? Do you have a request for someone else? Would you like to just have your name thrown into the pile and say your wish silently to yourself? Whatever you'd like to do, you're welcome to join! Please, leave a comment so I know what to add for you... and everyone who reads it will be virtually joining hands with you and extending your wish!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Well, Veterans Day has come and almost gone without me putting much pen to paper. Here's my blurb for Facebook today, short but sincere:

Because a veteran has seen the things he has seen, my visions are possible. Because a veteran has done the things she has done, my to-do lists are filled with things that can be freely done. Because veterans have given their lives, I can have my life. Because veterans have fought, I am free to spread peace. Thank you. That's hardly enough, but I'm not sure you could ever be repaid enough.

My father-in-law, a man I never met, served in the Army just after WWII. He brought home another Angie from Germany and started a family. My paternal grandfather, another man I never met, joined the service during WWI. My uncles, four of them, did their stints in the military during Vietnam-- a Duncan who spent his Army gig in the U.S., a Duncan who re-upped with the Marines at least once, and two Greers in the Army. In the Garren family, my husband's brother is a chaplain in the Air Force, a man whose daughter served, a man whose two sons-in-law served/serve.

So, I've known veterans, but that's about the extent of my military knowledge. When recruited by the ROTC guys at Murray State, I gave a non-interested kid's flippant response. I didn't like green, and I didn't want anyone telling me where to live. Yeah... that wasn't my best moment, but I had no clue at the time. Thank goodness there were other people who did understand and did take on the responsibility!

Today, we went to the Veterans Day Parade in Germantown, a town just a few miles down the road from here. It was awesome, and by "awesome," I mean smack your forehead and say Duh AWESOME. The younger military people deserve much thanks, but it was the faces of the older veterans that really drove the point home to me. The saying goes that all gave some and some gave all. After some reflection, I'm convinced that All gave All. It doesn't matter how they got into the uniform (happenstance, circumstance, or Uncle Sam grabbed them by the seat of the pants), once in uniform, they gave every second of their life to their country. Oh, sure, they had leaves and furloughs, but they were still on Liberty's clock. Wives and girlfriends waited. Children grew taller and taller each month. Parents grew older. No one gets to turn back time, but it seems to me those guys should've gotten the chance in exchange for what they did. Then, when their time in the service was finished, the "lucky" ones who came home on their own two feet and not in a casket were given the privilege of picking up where they'd left off as if nothing had happened. For the most part, I think that's what they did, too. For the most part, they didn't complain about it, either. AWESOME. Yes, that's the word:


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Well, Flock It All, I Never Thought about It That Way :)

Ever hear someone complain about flocks of noisy birds disturbing the peace and leaving mondo poops everywhere? Of course, you have. I know I've shoo'ed away seagulls in grocery store parking lots, and I've tooted the car horn at massive flocks of blackbirds chattering in an empty field. Maybe those seagulls were confused by the Long John Silver's restaurant and thought they really were seaside, I don't know. I do know I have only a vague idea why I would be bothered by big gangs of vagabond birds.
I was much too much of a scaredy cat to ever have watched more than a clip from an Alfred Hitchcock film, so flashbacks of birds pecking out eyes and such can't be to blame. Quite possibly, the bird poop is at the root of the distaste we seem to have for big groups of blackbirds, seagulls, or pigeons. Duh-- that has to be the reason when the birds congregate in towns or cities where people will have to walk around the poops.
But is there a good reason for me to look with distaste on a flock of blackbirds in the field?
Now, that probably sounds like a stupid question, and I know there are smart answers having to do with some birds threatening other birds, etc.
What makes me ask the stupid question, then?
It's like this: I was sitting in the living room earlier this afternoon, trying to stay out of the sunshine because my eyes were still a little dilated after an eye exam. Suddenly, the sunlight slanting across the other side of the room started wavering and quivering. My first thought was that my eyes really had gone bad! That couldn't really be the problem, though, so maybe we were having an earthquake? That could happen, but it wasn't very likely to be the culprit since I didn't feel anything quivering and shaking. So what was happening?
It was blackbirds, flocks of them, flying across the sky. Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut, I stepped out the doors and onto the upper deck (the kiddos call it our "sky deck") to watch the birds. It was like watching waves breaking and curling in the sky. The ones that settled in the trees at the back of the yard looked like so many flecks of pepper on the trees. The noise fills the air, not at thunderous levels but definitely fills the space.
It's really a spectacular sight if you view it without preconceived notions.
Blackbirds, I think I might not dislike you so much.
I'm not sure I can say I like you,
but you're not so bad.
P.S. Dear Seagulls at the Beach,
You are at least on the right track, since the lake is a bit bigger than a puddle... I do like to watch you!
P.P.S. Dear Seagulls in the Parking Lot,
Stop begging for fries when I happen to eat my lunch in "your" parking lot!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who? Me?

Heehee... guess that was false advertising, since I'm not sure I have a good Katie story to tell you that you haven't already heard. You know the caption fits the picture, though, especially with those wings!
Did you hear about the ghost hunting she did this summer with her friends? They were all around the house, inside and out, with their pretend ghost detector gadgets (old cell phones, toy calculators, whatever was handy). One pleasant afternoon when the windows were open and the wind was blowing, they walked through the downstairs just in time for the wind to blow James' door shut with a loud bang. You should've heard them scatter!
That's all I've got for you this morning. It's time to drink the coffee, wake up the kids, get all of us dressed, and get out the door in time to drop them off and make my own way to school. Yesterday was my first day as a teacher aide in a local school's pre-kindergarten class, and it was fun! Better run for now! Have a terrific Friday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yoooohoooooo, Jack! You Forgot Something!

Dear Jack Frost,
Please be advised that remnants of your laundry were left hanging on my clothesline. If it weren't for the fact that I might need that clothespin if I hang out all the wash on a single day, then I'd let you slide on this. Unfortunately, I have D.W.C.S. (Don't Waste Clothespins Syndrome) and cannot abide spurious use of clothespins.
Dear Ang,
Please forgive Jack's lack of oversight. Details tend to get lost in the freeze-everything-you-can-before-the-sun-comes-up shuffle. You do like the colors on this leaf, though, don't you? I mean, it was all sparkling and crystalline and flashy and blingy in a "kissed by Jack" kind of way, wasn't it?? Not that Jack requires your approval or anything.
Now, be a good girl, and explain to Jack this D.W.C.S. in more detail. I, uh, Jack must know more!
Jack Brrrrr Frost
Dear Jack,
It all started when I was a kid. My sister and I often had to hang clothes on the line when our mother was doing laundry. I'd hang out a basket. She'd hang out a basket. Sometimes, we'd both work on the same basket. Anyway, all four lines would be filled by the end of the day. There would be no room to spare, so you had to work in a meticulous manner. Okay, so not much I do could be described as "meticulous." Fine. You had to pay attention to detail, though, or you'd run out of room on the line before you finished! Oh, and clothespins! You had to creatively engineer the hanging of the last few batches of clothes, otherwise you'd run out of clothespins before you finished!
White clothes are the most clothespin intensive, by the way. Socks, socks, and more socks will deplete the clothespin stash quicker than you can say "Frost my ankles, and freeze my knees!" You have to make sure no sock hangs alone. In fact, if you can squeeze three socks under one pin, you're on the right track. Underwear is a similar story. Besides the fact that no one wants to flash their drawers like so many flags on the line, there is also the fact that drawers tend to be almost as plentiful as socks. Panties, schmanties, you better hang those babies up two to a single clothespin! Those tighty-whities might need more airspace if they're very large, but you get a feel for these things after a while.
T-shirts are a whole story unto themselves, Jack. If you hang them by the corners at the tail, you can connect a bunch in a row by overlapping the corners slightly so that a single clothespin catches corners of two shirts at a time. This means less than two clothespins per t-shirt! However, this has its drawbacks, as the tails of the shirt tend to stretch and cause mega-weird clothespin-ghost tracks when you take the shirt off the line. Same thing will happen if you overlap them at the shoulder seams, too, except the stretch is not as bad if the shoulder seams happen to be reinforced. It took much experimenting as a child, as well as a goodly amount of experimenting as an adult, to figure out the least noticeable spot for clothespin-ghost tracks is under the arms. It goes without saying, too, that you must continue to overlap these parts of a t-shirts in order to cut down on the required number of clothespins!
Jeans and pants require judicious use of pins, too, you know. Don't waste two clothespins to a single leg of lightweight khakis because you're going to need those pins for all the jeans. Denim is kind of heavy when it's wet, in case you didn't know. (Jeans zippers are also kind of hard to zip and unzip when wet, too, but that's another story about Opryland and high school senior trips that we can save for another time... well, just know you shouldn't ride the log flume *before* you go to the bathroom... otherwise, you might find yourself borrowing enough money from a loanshark classmate to buy yourself an extra-long t-shirt...)
Sheets, towels, and blankets take up the most space on a clothesline, but they are the easiest to manage, with one caveat. Do not drag them across the yard while someone might be watching. That's all I can say about that.
So, Jack, I guess you can see now that D.W.C.S. is often rooted deeply in the brain, or at least, it is ingrained at an early age. Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of backyard activities, but now you know!
P.S. I am sorry you tripped on all the weeds in the garden. I find it best to balance the D.W.C.S. with a healthy dose of willful neglect in other areas :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wanna Walk?

Come on, let's walk side by side through the late afternoon. We can talk about the weather, or we can talk about our "whether or nots," or we can walk in silence.

We're on the low side of the Carlyle Lake Dam right now, on a Nature Trail by the side of the road. The trees are so tall, reaching up and up, forming a cathedral under the bluest sky.

Now, lean against this tall maple goddess of a tree, and look up into the fading green canopy of leaves. It's dizzying and awe-inspiring, all at the same time, isn't it?
Did you feel the shaggy bark as you leaned back against her? I did, and I told her "thank you" for letting me enjoy the view at the expense of a few pieces of bark that crumpled when I moved.
Cottony clouds float along the bluest sky ever, whispering secrets to the treetops.

Isn't it funny how thorny situations can stay at the back of your mind for such a long time? Walking with you makes me loosen up, makes me think I can talk about anything, even those thorny situations... Maybe I won't talk about anything in particular, but I know you will listen while we walk. That is a good feeling.

Or maybe, this tree is in our path today because it symbolizes something larger than our problems. Maybe we are meant to think about crowns of thorns and prophets and philosophers?

Look. I think it's a reminder to cross bridges when you come to them. Don't worry so much about the bridge until you reach it, or you might miss the sights and sounds which build up to it.

Standing here with you, listening to the breeze through the drying leaves, watching for birds flitting here and there, I feel peaceful and happy. Even a dead branch seems beautiful in this frame of mind.

Of course, it's always true for me that driftwood and dead branches and such have an impressive beauty, but it's not always that I connect that to the beauty of the circles of life.

Who really needs to say anything in a spot like this? I'll put my hand on your shoulder and thank you for sharing this with me.

There's part of the dam. Our trail is coming to an end. The sign at the beginning asked us to take nothing and leave only footprints, or I would be tempted to make a bouquet of delicate dry weeds and seeds.

Goodbye, Trail.
May each of us who walk you come away with a sense of calm and belonging.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can You Hear Her?

This is Annie Marshall's grave.
Annie lived and died over a hundred years ago, but her story lingers, thanks to the haunting strains of a violin that some say can be heard at midnight.
Annie was eleven years old when diptheria killed her.
Annie probably gets quite a few visits from the curious living souls this time of year. I can tell you from personal experience that walking up to Annie in the daylight, or in the dusk, is a strangely compelling experience. I can't tell you what it's like to walk up to her at midnight and hear the strains of violin music, though. Never have done that one yet.
You know what I think about when I walk the loop that comes past Annie? I imagine a real little girl, a practically homeless and oft neglected girl spending lots of her after-school time flitting around the graves and mausoleums near Annie. Can't you just imagine the thoughts of such a little girl, if she existed?
That's Annie. She's my friend. She don't talk much, but neither do I. We kind of like it that way. She done give me so many of them little bears of hers, I couldn't never not call her my friend.
I been wishing I had a dress like that, but Annie says she'd rather have some jeans and a t-shirt like mine. She didn't know little girls ever wore anything except dresses! Come to think of it, she didn't know little girls could ever be wandering around outside any time they please, either.
I like coming here. It's safe here where nobody can reach out and grab you. Ain't nobody trying to tell me to get outta the way. Ain't nobody making fun of my hair or talking about my mama's boyfriends. Shoot, ain't nobody here at all most days. And when they do come here, they's always whistling or singing to themselves, so I hear 'em and hide.
There's some good hiding spots over there by that stone house thing. Annie says there's dead people's bodies in there, but I don't care. I do wish they'd open their door and let me see inside sometime or another.
I hear my mama hollering for me. Shhhhhhh... don't you tell no one you seen me here. It's our secret. You, me, and Annie. Our secret.