Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Review: travel-wise

This year has been unusual in that I've been able to do more traveling than usual.

In the early summer, we went to Rhode Island...

in the early fall, I went to Utah to visit my dearest friend and her family and see the lay of the land...

and for Christmas, we drove to Michigan to visit family and the snow...

Here's to hoping your year was just as adventure filled and to another one more so!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Once upon a time....

...when I was about 9 years old, I was in the back yard doing what little girls in back yards do (probably looking for horned toads), I heard a crow's voice on the air.

As he circled lazily in the blue sky, I jumped up on the top of the metal slide of the swing set and cawed back. He circled closer and I held my arm straight out beside me. I lifted and lowered it as I repeated the sounds of his call. He circled closer, then landed on my outstretched arm.

That was a long time ago... this raven was particularly interested in Stella (the lamb), Little Vulture, and I. The three of us lounged in the hay in the pasture and Raven made sure we knew he was nearby. Eyes closed, I could hear his feathers cut through the breeze not far above my head each time he passed overhead. The memory of when I was young flooded back made me smile.

He settled on an old tree and continued to broadcast his story, the vultures on lower branches not entertained by his intrusion. I suppose I could write many stories about the experience spanning multiple levels. All I know is that his visit brought back a cherished memory and in that, healed me just a little.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Isn't So Grand from Here

I climbed into his bed and smelled his scent on the pillows. I inhaled deeply, caught every molecule and stored them deep into my lungs. I couldn't hold back the tears. They flowed down my cheeks and pooled on the case-less pillows. Emotion swirled around me, the bed, the room--an engulfing eddy; and I let it. I sunk deeper and wanted to drown...nothing mattered, not even the children and husband in the other rooms of the house.

I came up for breath, was cold, and found his blanket. I shrouded my body and covered my face--his aroma embraced me. Memories flooded and played on the screen of my closed eyelids; I fell asleep.

The next day, Niles put his arms around me and thanked me for being so strong for he and his sister and brother. Looking at him through a fog, I asked him what he meant. He thanked me for not crying in front of them and he added he had heard me in the other room the night before and that he was so sorry.

Death is beautiful.

The sun shined through the windows in Daddy's room. Brent went to work, Lillie went to school. Niles and Forrest slept in. I awakened with a start. Daddy wasn't awake as usual and I feared that he had passed. I looked over my shoulder from the chair I had been sleeping in and saw his chest rise and fall. Slow breaths of peaceful sleep.

Quietly I made my way to the kitchen, poured coffee, and returned to his room. I lit a candle and set it on the dresser by his bed. I gently washed his face with a warm washcloth. His eyes opened briefly and I smiled and gave him a kiss.

Later, I settled into the chair and noticed his breathing became more shallow. Then breaths came further apart. 15 seconds, 30 seconds, then one deep breath and exhale. The room was quiet. The house was quiet.

He passed at the same hour he had been born 76+ years earlier.

Daddy's faith was strong. I asked him what was the hardest part of dying. He said, "Not knowing." "Before or after?" I asked. "Before." he said. I asked what it was that he wanted and he said, "A peaceful passing." He got exactly that.

Daddy's favorite color was light blue, his favorite animal was Dog. He lived on the same land he was born on. He could tell tall tales like no one else. He had a huge soft spot for stray dogs and stray people and never hesitated to help both. He never complained or asked 'why me' or ever said 'this isn't fair' in reference to his cancer. He always looked for the positive. His daughters meant everything to him, and so did his family. He was country when country wasn't cool and he left behind the boots and stetson to prove it.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Sometimes you just have to get away to be able to see things that are near you more clearly.

I was able to take a trip to Utah to visit Barbara and her Littles. Instead of a week like last time, I was going to be able to spend almost two weeks. I thought it was was going to be a time to catch up and share, but it turned out to be far more than that.

Many things weighed heavy on my mind--my dad's health wasn't the best and I found myself feeling guilt for being able to get away for an extended period of time while he wasn't able to take a break from what he was living. I wasn't able to work as often as I wanted and that was putting pressure on my co-workers in that they weren't able to depend on me, which in turn stressed out the family budget...

I needed to re-prioritize in a neutral place. And, I knew Barbara would take the best care of me while I escaped my life for awhile.

She had great plans and we both hoped there was enough time to do it all. First up, a trip to Kanab to Best Friends Animal Society. On the way we stopped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park--a huge sand dune in the middle of the mountains! We all spread out and wandered alone and in groups... the most urgent activity was finding moqui marbles . When we finally found them, we grabbed every one we could find; after the initial excitement, we narrowed our selections to ones that we were really moved by. Finding our way back to the picnic table, we talked of our adventures while others (me) gasped for desert air. As we were loading up, one of the Littles began to throw up her lunch.

Long story short, we made it to Barbara's sister's house in Kanab where the stomach flu in turn took us each down... except for Barbara. Bodies were strewn all over the place in various phases of the illness and poor Barbara ministered to each in turn, as needed. She even watched over me as I slept and tossed and turned in my bed. Eyes closed, I could hear out the open window in the room I slept in the call of an owl overnight, the rustling of desert scrub as a cat or other wild animal foraged for dinner, the breeze blowing softly on my face, and birds singing in celebration of the coming sunrise. If only I were well enough to catch the sun peering over the desert mountains... I just couldn't drag myself out of bed.

Eventually we all loaded up and headed back home, but not before we drove the entrance to Best Friends. The kids thought it odd but then, well, what's normal?

The rest of my stay is a kind of blur--we brought out an 8' table and set it in the middle of the living room and proceeded to create art every spare minute we had. The girls would rotate through the empty chair at the table while Barb and I were steadfast in our endeavors.

We visited Bridal Veil falls and took evening walks where I met not only neighbors, but neighbor's pets of all kinds. And I fell into a deep like with these beauties--

while the buckskin didn't really have anything to do with me, the bay never hesitated and I left liberally slathered with kisses and slobber.

Son my time was over and I had to return home. Dad had been in the hospital and Misty was there with him.

My discernment had been productive and sad at the same time. I decided I had to leave the job I'd been doing and loving for 10 years in order to be with dad, one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in a long time. My thoughts went to the animals I wouldn't be able to care for and to Rocky whom I wouldn't be able to see on a regular basis. Also, I knew this wouldn't be forever but right now the need was clear.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Endure. Breathe. Hope

The last little while has been somewhat challenging for me. My dad is sick, my husband has been working in Rhode Island for the summer, the kids have been at home watching me come and go with working and other obligations, and, the inevitable preparation for the beginning of school was beginning.

I've rarely had my camera since we returned from Rhode Island at the beginning of the summer and frankly, after the heat and dry weather set in, there wasn't much to photograph. Kind of a drought all the way around.

Creatively I've been trying to make it to my table when I can, but more often than not, if I'm not on the road, staying with dad, making hospital visits, or working, I am more inclined to be on the couch trying not to think.

Of course, my challenges don't compare to many, especially my dad's where every day is a fight, but they're mine and I own them. Aside from all of my domestic worries, I am working through the possibility (probability) of living a large part of my life without my father--the only constant man in my life. The man who taught me all things male... fishing (including baiting my own line with minnows, trolling, dropping anchor, barge fishing for bass, and cleaning everything I caught), driving a boat (including loading and unloading), how to waltz, cotton eye-joe, shottish, two-step, and twirl... drink beer, and enjoy the country and the land.

This list is nowhere complete, but, they're highlights from right this minute... and that's all that I will allow myself for right now.

I try not to focus in the inevitable, however, when it's fresh and looms up in front of my face and I am blinded with tears, I find I lose all connection with my 'higher self' and grieve uncontrollably. A wise man told me not to grieve daddy's passing while he's still here but to celebrate his life and living (I love that man!!) every moment that I can. And that's what I remind myself to do every day.

This morning as I was running out of the front door, in a hurry, distracted and hoping I had everything I needed for the day, my eyes saw this:

(a green grocer cicada)

Now, many will wonder just why this is so important that I have to post it. And I get that. And this is how I see it...

Some people listen to other people to hear the lessons in life that they are to learn, some read books. I learn from the natural world. This one small event made me stop dead in my tracks and marvel. At life. At a new life. A Beginning. The continuing of a cycle that has been going on forever.

His wings were gently lifted and replaced by the breeze. He emanated life. LIFE. There was an energy around him that was almost audible. I remembered to breathe.

I dropped everything in my hands and rushed back in for my camera. I took photos from all angles, trying to capture his energy... if only.

The morning sun was warming up the day and in surrounding trees, cicadas began their singing... and I wondered if he recognized the singing, if he understood the song... if the song that was being sung was for his arrival...

And I realized he probably wasn't concerned about what his life would hold, if he was going to make it through the day or if a huge cicada killer would be the end of him--he was living in the now. That moment was a celebration of life. His life. ALL life.

And I remembered to breathe again. In, then out... and I was in that moment, The Moment. All thanks to a little green emerging cicada, who reminded me about life not having an end, only a transformation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Emily, Sonia, and Tiger Molly

I know. It's been awhile. Not that I haven't had wondrous thoughts of what to post here. I've had those.

Fleetingly, there have been musings, squished in between being a single parent while Brent whiles away ever so lonely in Little Rhodie; working only some times; taking daddy to his drs appointments, a couple trips to the ER for him, one for me; and getting the kids ready for school. Leaves little time for written thought or even art...

But there have been highlights. Like these two hooligans:

Oh sure, they're absolutely reeking innocence. And I must say they were the most amazing kittens ever. Their story is one that breaks your heart--the litter was dropped off in a box. Before I could get the woman to fill out any paperwork, she left. I looked into the box where the babies were crying their hearts out and there were 4 of the tiniest babies, smelly and frantic, I'd seen in a long time.

I brought them in and examined them. MAYBE 3 weeks old, covered with fleas, dirt and feces. ALL of them were starving and I really couldn't tell if they'd been with their mom for days or not--they were little bags of bones covered in fur. I gently bathed each one in warm water, wrapped them in a soft towel and put them in an warmed incubator. After they were warm, I weighed and named each one and bottle fed them warmed fluids. They nursed from the bottle like champs and fell quickly into a sound sleep.

That evening they were transported to the clinic and then taken care of. Sadly, two siblings didn't make it. They were so sick. However, when the remaining two, Emily and Sonia, were old enough, I requested to foster them until they were able to be adopted.

Therein begins a month long journey with no regrets. Knowing their sad beginning, I thought bringing them into a home with kids, other adults cats, and a couple of dogs would go a long way into making sure they were appropriately socialized.

Really long story short, they are the two most loving kittens I've known. And one thing-whenever one couldn't find the other, they would trill out loud and the other would come running.

They were adopted by a wonderful family and we have so many wonderful memories... and hundreds of photos.

and then there's little Tiger Molly.

Sweet little ball of fire. I heard her long before I saw her and when I saw her I knew I had to bring her home. With little discussion, I brought her home, taught her to nurse from a bottle and the rest is history. She quickly learned to play with the much older Emily and Sonia and in the process learned to jump, climb, and squeal like any ordinary younger sibling.

Now that the girls are gone, she has learned to entertain herself. Every once in awhile Jemima The Gladiator will lower her standards and PLAY with Tiger Molly. When we hear a Gladiator flopping around and scurrying around the house with a teeny little ball of fury on her heels, we know It's ON.

Tiger Molly has been spoken for. By a little boy (and his mom and dad) that we've known since before he was conceived. We know they will be best friends.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Little Rhodie

Walking back from the beach, Lillie finds a pair of maple tree seeds. They make a fine mooo-stache, no?

We look for things to do that we didn't do last year. Our friend Deborah, Lillie and I made our way across the island to Sweetberry Farm where raspberries were in full season.
I'm not a huge fruit person, so raspberries aren't on the top of my list of fruits to pursue, but, it was a perfect day with blue skies and temps in the mid 70s so how could we not go berry picking? We found the farm in no time (well, after circling the beach a few times). Crops on either side as we drove in, fruit trees still blooming, an old farmhouse, turned a corner and there it was--the updated farmhouse. Walking inside we slowed just for a minute--the front room was full of delectable treats-home made cheeses, ice creams, jellies, chutneys, and breads. In the garden room were home made pastries, sandwiches, coffees, teas and shelves of books from local authors, small gifts, and tables to rest.

We made it to the raspberry field to pick our on berries and Lillie was thrilled. We walked the rows of bushes, picking many of the small berries only to refine our harvesting to the deep fuchsia colored ones... I was instantly in love with fresh raspberries. My limited experience with this fruit has been berries in sad plastic containers in the stores filled with faded berries. Their flavor faint and bitter and not what I would call even remotely tasty. So you can see why I wasn't all aboard wanting to graze the rows and rows of bursting-with-spring-flavor offerings. (This photo of Lillie graced the web page of Sweetberry Farms for several weeks.) We ate fresh berries with every meal, including breakfast coffee for the next few days... how lucky were we!!

I booked Brent and I for a sunset cruise on the schooner Aquidneck. Having grown up sailing, I thought this was a great treat to surprise him with--and it was. Lillie stayed with Deborah and Brent and I eagerly boarded the schooner.

They also encourage visitors to help out, so I volunteered Brent to help raise one of the sails. It was so wonderful to be able to see the town we have fallen in love with from another vantage point.

Deborah and I went to the annual flower show at Rosecliff Mansion, one of the amazing mega mansions from the late 1800s. Many were destroyed and the few that remain are breathtaking. There are tours with all of the mansions and we decided to make that a treat for another time. The flora arrangement here was bigger than any I've ever seen.

Since we were there so early in their spring, the roses were just coming on with their first bloom. The fog left its calling card on all of the flowers making photo taking a must. We strolled the back area where vendors had set up tents for their merchandise. We touched leather riding boots from Ireland, linen shirts and skirts from New York, beautiful purses and bags made with leather tanned in Italy... we found amazing pottery made by Lark and made a new friend as we visited with Lark and her mother Barbara. Lark invited us to attend a garden lecture by a friend of hers, Kent Russell, a garden guru of that part of the country. And he didn't disappoint. His charisma exploded seconds after beginning his talk and he didn't slow until after it was over. I wish I could have purchased every plant he offered that day... and brought him home to do my gardens!

Finally, the evening before our last day, we made it to the cemetery. This particular one straddles one of the main roads into town and ever since our first night last year I've wanted to visit and photograph this place. Many of the headstones were faint and I could only guess the date on them, but some that I could make out were from the 1500s. At first I thought they were made of wood in that you could see the layers of material that made up the head stone, but Brent told me it was slate.

This was a grand statue, the angel majestic and watching over her part of the cemetery. Larger than life and breath taking. It was really very calming to walk through and feel the peace, calm and gentle otherworldliness of the place.

The final photo of the evening--Bunnicula. Ever seen a more menacing cotton tail??

I am out of words about our visit and full of emotion. Brent stays on there in Nirvana until the end of summer. While he claims to miss us and that it's just not the same without us, I know he is enjoying a mild eastern summer of rains, lower temps, and the people who live near and on the water.

There will be another summer of exploration for us next year and the next. I don't know if I can make the jump of relocating--winters there would definitely either make or break me and with my dislike of cold weather, I can imagine I would be running back to Texas once the temps dipped below 70....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Baltimore to Newport

For this summer's adventure to Rhode Island, we flew into Baltimore and planned to drive to Newport. We got up early in order to be packed and ready to hit the airport by 7am. Notice I didn't say 'awake'! We slept on the flight and after landing in Baltimore rented a car and headed north to Rhode Island!

An hour into the drive (and totally NOT out of Baltimore by much) the a/c went out on the car. Between Brent's new Iphone and my Pixi navigation apps, we found another rental and headed out in a nicer vehicle. We stopped at several mega rest stops that looked like mall food courts on steroids (chaos and noise and neon OH MY!!!). After our last pit stop, we noticed Lillie had grown suspiciously quiet. When I looked into the back seat, she and Bunny were fast asleep.

We made it into Newport (home sweet summer home!!) before midnight and our friends Deborah and Magno were waiting up and surprised us when we walked through the door. What a homecoming!!!

The following day, we couldn't wait to get to the beach. The familiar scents, curvature of the bay, rocks, gulls--spiritual familiarity.

While we may not be staying as long as we did last year, it's as if time stood still and the relationship was still breathing, still alive, nurtured and fed by my memories...