Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ode To The Back Porch

Ode To The Back Porch


You know spring is here when winter slinks away, leaving a fresh scent clinging to your hair. People are grinning more, that old fire back in steps. The earth, hyper-charged once again. And the best perk is, you can sit outside without freezing your rear end off. That and step outside bare-footed.

On a recent trip to southern Louisiana, we stayed on the two hundred acre grounds of a plantation. The cottage digs weren’t fancy, one bathroom between three girls, but that ample back porch, complete with iron tables and soft sitting areas, was primo. Knew I’d gotten it right when a collective squeal went up.

The view from there was heavenly: two hundred year-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss which resembled wiry hair. To the right, a pond, complete with ducks, quacking, flapping and gliding. And land to roam as far as your little eyes could devour.

The old Missouri farm girl in heaven.

Shoes popped off. Cards and books materialized. The good old days reincarnated. Maybe you had your own back porch growing up, or a grandparent did. Remember when people actually spent time outside, visiting with family, neighbors and friends, nothing more on the agenda than sipping tart lemonade and shooting the breeze? Call me old fashioned but this still appeals to me. Big time.

We wandered from the porch that day only to retrieve dinner and walk the grounds where we discovered an ancient family graveyard, complete with eerie stone wall and iron gate. Of course the girls wanted to visit at night, but the chicken in me squawked, No thanks, don’t want to. With flashlights wobbling, they took off, me sitting on the back porch clutching coffee, breeze in my hair, a sloppy grin on my face. “Have fun,” I yelled. “Say hi to the ghosts for me.”

Not two minutes later, lights flickered on and off. “Wait for me,” I whispered, lip quivering, but they were long gone. The next night they didn’t have to talk me into going. I was so there. I even took my cheesy camera, which turned up pictures that would make your hair stand on end. Stay tuned for that story in an upcoming series I’ll be weaving.

All the while the porch waited; for us to sit, savor, to make memories on. I do hope you’re out making your own memories. Life is short and that back porch is waiting!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On The Fly

Yes, these are my children!

Yes, these are my children. An altered version of course, but there is something primitive here that captures their personalities. Now it may be fairly painful for me when they see this here.

I may have to relocate.

But as you might have already guessed, this post is about growing up and growing out. I’m actually going to use a bird illustration here, so picture them with wings. Is it working? Yeah, not for me either, although they are bird-like in the form of angels at times.

Don’t quote me on this as it depends on the day!

Last week I saw a flying lesson of the bird variety which reminded me how we all must begin as babes. Outside, a few feet from me, a wee cardinal flopped into a bush. Immediately Mom and Pop were there. They chirped and coaxed. Then flapped higher and came back. This was a team effort.

The wee one hopped up a notch, then another. Flopped down and tried again. Slowly she grew confident enough to flap to the next highest tree, where parents waited, twittering for her to come. When she reached that level they flew higher and the process repeated.

The sheer grit, faith and determination of that little bird reminded me of our own journeys, and those of our children. In nature you can clearly see how animals get nowhere without the help of others and without helping others.

This is true for us as well.

Now the story doesn’t end here. Just yesterday I was watering a potted plant, brimming with mint and rosemary. That same baby bird zipped right out, startling me so bad I fell backwards. On further examination, a small nest had been constructed on top of the soil, mint hiding the bird. Apparently she was the runt of the litter.

The underdog.

She is still there, the parents bringing food and encouragement. Don’t we all feel like that baby bird at times? There are days we don’t feel much like flying, let alone teaching our children how to soar. We want to stay in our cozy nests. Other times we are like eagles riding the sky in a downwind.

Rather young, old, animal or vegetable, we all need people watching our back. When ready, we’ll soar.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wild Wind Chimes

Wild Wind Chimes

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like wind chimes and those who don’t.


And apparently so do little old ladies and squirrels. Let me explain. My sister mentioned she once got behind a much older woman in a fast food drive thru line who had a wind chime suspended from the inside ceiling of her rusty Buick, visible from the back window. It was Spring, windows rolled down, wind chime swaying in the breeze.

They tinkled. And tinkled. A mini symphony before the main cheeseburger and french fry act. This I thought charming enough to use. I don’t waste much. In my newest novel is the sweet yet spicy Dottie Campbell, who happens to drive a car with wind chime in tow. Life is stranger than fiction as we well know.

Regarding wind chime loving squirrels: my birdseed was disappearing at alarming speed, and I caught a particular squirrel, lets call him Greedy Gus, using my chime as a springboard to the bird feeder. First he climbed up the kitchen window. It was like watching a big pinball, pinging from window, to chime, to feeder. Once there, he devoured seed as though he were a ravenous child attacking candy from a busted pinata.

The birds were glaring at me, so I moved the wind chime. That and I didn’t want to take on a part time job for seed money.

South Texas has a thing for wind chimes, too. When we first moved here, I did a double take when passing a cemetery on the way to the grocery store. Scratching my head, I mumbled, “What on earth is hanging from those trees?” On the way back, I did a triple gawk. Yep, wind chimes, just as I suspected. They were everywhere, dripping from trees.

Apparently being wild for wind chimes carries over to the hereafter.

Someone should tell the squirrel.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lazy River

Lazy River

A river is never lazy. It pretends. Meandering through, glassy water primps and prepares for summertime company. Underneath currents fish glide and wiggle and get fat. They make room for splashing. Rock bluffs like natural metallic skyscrapers blink in sunshine, echoing shrill laughter, accommodating sun, bursts of wind, clouds and birds, gliding, passing, chattering.

Icy coolers bursting with sandwiches and soda complete the outing, along with lawn chairs lacing river banks like colored presents. If you don’t have a grand time, blame yourself. This natural host has gone all out.

All year we wait for the river and the river waits for us.

Nothing cracks open my imagination more than floating down a crisp, lazy river. Here in Texas, specifically the Frio. On that slick, black inner-tube or puffy yellow raft, sitting under azure sky, I feel like the wealthiest woman on earth.

My happiest memories have sprung from water. Maybe yours too. As a child, Swan Creek, and Rome Creek and Rippie Creek, all complete with swinging ropes, crawdads, and family. When my dad asked mom if she wanted to go to Rome on certain weekends, she gave him a sloppy grin and said she’d love to. Then we’d pack up and head to Rome Creek.

Water is for the living, but I once saw an old man die in the Buffalo River. One minute sitting in his neon green lawn chair, dipping toes in water like chocolate to a strawberry, and the next, stiffening and face first in the water. The river seemed to shout, “Leaving so soon? Well, if you must, I’ll receive you like I always have.” I’d like to believe he died right where he’d lived the best.

Despite this, my best times have been lived in and around water. After a day spent there, thoughts are crisp, appetite ravenous, and sleep strong. The air smells fresher, life seems deeper. Sweeter. It’s as though these things have never been experienced properly before.

Summer is here. A lazy river awaits.

Light My Fire

June 5th, 2009

Light My Fire

Happy for no reason; lighted candles dress up my mood this way. So does moonlight and starlight and turn your head smiles. Sorry if you thought this post was jogging a different direction. I’ll try not to steer you wrong. You see, I have this aversion to those who buy candles and never light them. When they leave the room I want to pop around. Fire them up.

Quick! Where’s the lighter? Matches?

Two vanilla tapers on the mantle. The flicker would be magnificent. Oh, and another two on twisted metal stands by the window, topped with cinnamon colored chunks. Perfectly formed, flame never touching wax. Imagine the whirl of white blue, soft, dreamy, reflective.

These are not my candles so I can’t light them. I shouldn’t. Couldn’t. Can’t. But sweetie I want to say, you don’t know what you’re missing. I want to say life is too fast not to light slow burning candles. Do it and I’ll buy you more. But I say nothing. The candles remain dusty, intact.

My aversion actually covers anything unused. Everything in my home can be touched, sat upon, walked over, enjoyed, worn. There are no mysterious sitting rooms too huffy for human consumption. If I had one, we’d be…hmm, sitting in it. Laughing in it.

When a dish or glass falls victim to my tile floor, I don’t flinch. The lesson came from a then four-year-old daughter’s eyes when she’d accidentally dropped an heirloom German mug brimming with lemonade. Yelling, I was upset. As I looked in those sky blue eyes blooming with tears, a revelation came. She and her sisters are and always will be my most precious walking, talking everyday heirlooms. From then on I was a changed woman. Not to say I never yell, just not about broken glass.

We have always stopped to smell the candles. Still do. And now that they are teenagers, I can leave candles burning without them playing with hot wax, or trying to start a bonfire. I have loaded up on them. Lit by day, night, anytime I’m feeling vulnerable or romantic or happy or sad. I even pack them in my suitcase when we travel. On and on and on.

Please excuse me now. I must go light my fire.