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Touching the Earth

I am in the midst of relocating to another town. The drive between houses is close to two hours and I have been making that drive a lot lately. As I listen to the news of the brutal winter experienced by many of my friends and family, I have begun to witness the early signs of spring. The pollen is in full force for sure. Not good news for allergy sufferers, but good news if you are like me – encouraged by the promise of renewal and rebirth that spring so aptly signifies.

IMAG2799My route takes me through a well-known farming community. A place that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables for this entire region. I was so frustrated the last time I drove over because I passed through as the irrigation systems kicked on. The misty over-spray glistened like diamonds in the sunlight. I was frustrated because I did not have a camera to capture the moment. It is indescribable and passed so quickly. I often wonder how many people drive by and fail to see what I saw that morning.

I grew up in the country and I guess that’s where my roots will always be. I don’t profess to be anything but a simple country girl. I ran barefoot through my little valley nestled in the Appalachian mountains. I sipped water from a lazy waterfall out of a laurel leaf or a community coffee cup hung precariously on a branch by the creek. No one got sick from drinking the water or from drinking after our neighbors. It was pure and simple and beautiful.

I could take a different route – a faster route – but it would mean highways. I wouldn’t see the rolling fields, or be amazed at how fast the plants seem to flourish between trips. My sister would get a kick out of that because she’s always preferred the slow and meandering path. I guess as I get older I appreciate her outlook more although it’s still dangerous to give her control. She likes to take you hostage and keep you out on back roads longer than our fast-paced brains allow us to simply relax and enjoy the scenery. (This confession will come back to haunt me I guarantee.)

IMAG2797A few days later I started the trip back home. It was mid-morning when I noticed all the colors dotting the green landscape. I slowed down until I realized that there were people in the fields ready to disperse to accomplish some farming task that most of us would never consider. My thoughts drifted back to my valley as I remembered the small personal farms and gardens that were critical to each family’s survival. We knew where our food came from and we respected the sweat and backbreaking work required to bring that food to the table. I decided to turn around and take a photo. As I pulled close to the side of the road, I felt too voyeuristic to get out and take a picture. I felt a little guilty and I’m not sure why. Maybe I thought they would not understand my purpose or realize that just seeing them there made me proud of where I come from and proud of them for what they do for all of us.

IMAG2837I sheepishly turned and took a distant photo. I wanted to capture the moment specifically for my blog. I wanted to remind people to appreciate every bite they take because the food doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. I wanted to remind people to be aware of what they eat. I won’t get on my soapbox about GMOs and large seed producers – I think we all need to do the research and think about how we protect our children and our children’s children. They deserve  a safe and healthy food supply, too. I hope I inspire someone to take their families to pick apples or strawberries or maybe plant a family garden.

I know these individuals had no idea how their mere presence that morning impacted me. I still didn’t have a camera, but I did have a phone. The pictures I took on my drive home that day inspired me and I wanted to share them with all of you.

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Hawks on the Hunt

IMAG1712-1-1My internal clock is out of sync. I open my eyes and realize it is early as I pull the sheet over my head in hopes of coaxing sleep to return. Thoughts start to swirl in my mind unwelcome at such an early hour. I concede that morning has claimed me as I swing my feet onto the floor.

I want to write, but nothing comes to mind other than all the chores and tasks that lie ahead of me. My mind has always run amuck and I have been helpless to stop it. I start writing……..delete, delete, delete. Nothing. Instead I decide to read other blogs for a bit. I try to write again……delete, delete, delete. This desire to write is really my desire to make this time productive. Relaxing is hard for me these days; I feel every moment must have a purpose.

That’s when I hear the hawks. The sun is just breaking through the trees — it must be time for breakfast. I step outside to hear them better. Usually the hawks are high in the trees, but not this morning. I can tell by the chatter of the squirrels they are on the hunt. With phone in hand, I try to record the sound. It’s audible, but the layers of morning sounds are hidden. I stop and listen. The hawks are the most prominent sound. Then, the squirrels. I hear a mockingbird and then the high-pitched chirp of the cardinals. As I walk the perimeter of the pool, the hawks take flight. Of course I am not prepared so I do not capture the grandeur of their flight into the morning sun.

IMAG1713-1-1I move on to the window seat and see activity starting at the bird feeder. The male cardinal is balding. This is a common sight this time of year – a condition caused by feather mites. On the ground, the squirrel digs for seeds dropped from the feeder. The squirrels are relentless, but we have one or two feeders designed to keep them at bay. They are only slightly effective.

A movement in the grapefruit tree catches my eye. The hawks. I watch as they move in and out of the low branches of the cedar and the grapefruit tree. They are stalking a squirrel as it uses the fence to find its way to the feeders. The hawks are almost always in pairs, so when I see a third hawk I look closer. There are two sets of hawks hunting. I watch them dive in and out of the trees, so caught up in their beauty I forget to try to photograph them. Quietly, I step outside, still only armed with my phone. The hawks are well concealed so my camera phone is ineffective. One hawk approaches the squirrel, but my movement thwarted its attempt. The second hawk flew out of hiding close overhead. The sound of the huge wings send chills down my spine. For a moment I wonder what it must be like for the creatures that fall prey to them – I shake my head. The hawks are gone.  As I turn to go back IMAG1714-1-1-1-1into the house I catch a glimpse of grey out of the corner of my eye.  I turn to see the hawk perched on the fence. I couldn’t get very close, and the camera is inadequate, but I am always so thrilled to see these majestic creatures. As quickly as he appeared, the hawk took flight again. Maybe this was the single reason my internal clock woke me at 6:00 am this morning. I smiled to myself as I walked back into the house.

Time to put the coffee on.

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My Sister’s Birthday

IMAG1677-1It started ten or fifteen days ago. I walked through the grocery store, looked up and saw the card display. Rosie’s birthday was approaching.

I’m not sure I will ever fully come to terms with losing her. I still reach for the phone to call her before it hits me that she is gone.

I struggle to remember every little thing about our life together but try as I might, I cannot remember everything. Of course, none of us remember everything. We don’t realize it until it’s too late – too late to capture the memories in some tactile way. I have a message from her on my answering machine. Every time I play it, I cry. I have a few cards and letters, but not near all the letters and cards she ever sent me. As I sit here today, I wish I had kept them all. This electronic world we live in is great, but nothing can replace the handwriting or the slow tenor of a voice you hear when you read a letter from someone you love.

IMAG1699-1After Rosie passed away, I wrote a simple blog entry entitled Rosie’s Rose. The blog was about a rose that suddenly bloomed after years of lying dormant. Today when I glanced out the back door, I saw a flash of red. There, as bright as it could be, was a rose. Rosie’s rose. I walked outside with my phone and snapped a picture. There are two roses blooming and seven buds. Never has there ever been more than one rose on this bush at one time. I guess some might say it a coincidence that this rose appeared today. Perhaps. But I believe in a spirit that lives beyond the confines of this world and I think this rose appears when I need to know my sister is with me.

Rosie, tomorrow, is your birthday. It feels strange not to pick out the perfect card to send you. Tomorrow I will feel a certain sadness when I cannot pick up the phone and call you. Even so, I am blessed to have you as my sister and I know you remain with me still.

Happy Birthday, Sissy.  I love you to the moon and back again.

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How My Garden Grows

Rosie's Rose

Not much to say today. I did take a walk around the yard earlier today and snapped a few photos to share. The plant with the large yellow berries just sprung up out of nowhere. Found out it is an invasive species I need to get rid of.  Poisonous if ingested. It never ceases to amaze me how fast nature reclaims what she considers rightfully hers.

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How Lazy Can One Be?

I was not raised to be lazy.  But here I am – lazy, laaaazzzzzy.  I know this because I made homemade cole slaw over the weekend.  Laugh if you will, but my arms got tired using that old box grater.  I no longer own a food processor, so I dug around and dug around in the cabinet looking for the old box grater my husband had when we got married.  I only had about three-quarters of a head of cabbage – and it was small!

I could not help but remember how many times I had watched my grandparents, pick, cut, peel, chop and can everything they grew in the garden.  We did not have a freezer, which meant every morsel was canned.  Now if you have never canned anything you must understand what’s involved.   First, you must examine the mouth of the jars for any cracks which would prevent them from sealing.  Then the jars must be sterilized (and yes, you used the same jars year after year).  There were new lids and screw tops which also must be sterilized.  Sometime before all this you would have picked, cleaned, chopped and prepared the fruits or vegetables.  Then you cook.  A mountain of greens becomes a few cooked portions.   The corn from dozens of ears of corn are cut off  the cob into a much smaller pile of food.   The cooked food is portioned off into individual jars.  The mouths are wiped clean, then the rubber edged lids and screw tops are put on and each jar loaded into the canner.  BIG canning pressure cookers with racks for stacking.  Once the heating process is complete, the hot jars are removed.  That’s when you start to hear the lids sealing.  Pop, pop, pop.  My grandmothers would stand back and look at a day’s work and say to themselves and their friends – “Those are beautiful beans!”

They certainly were beautiful.  This process filled an entire spring, summer and fall.  From tilling the land, buying planting materials, planting the garden, weeding the garden, harvesting the garden, picking, cooking and canning.  This all-encompassing process was simply referred to as ‘putting away’ or ‘putting up’.  “I put away 45 quarts of the prettiest green beans.”  Do you have any idea how much work is involved in 45 quarts of green beans alone?  Add in the jams, jellies, applesauce, cooked apples, pickles, peaches, corn, sauerkraut, chow-chow and any other number of ideas and you have in one simple word – survival.

Without the efforts of these strong women, families just would not survive.  It took every effort of every person to get a family through.  Quarts upon quarts upon quarts of food, preserved for the winter months.  Potatoes dug and stored in the cellar.  Even sometimes a little wine although I don’t remember anyone ever drinking it much – other than once or twice when my grandfather would go to the cellar and ‘taste’ it.  I can remember the smell so clearly – lawdy – it would knock you over.

So here I am, a grown woman raised by some of the strongest women I have ever known.   I was tired from chopping cabbage.  What a statement.

I want to add something here.  I am proud of my niece and nephew as I watch their journey settling in with the land.  I love that they garden and they preserve some of their food.  It is a wonderful talent to have.  I love seeing the photos of what they grow and what they cook.   I miss that connection with my surroundings.

Someone said something to me the other day which made me stop and think.  He said, “Take Manhattan for example.  If the trucks stopped rolling into Manhattan, it would only be a matter of days before the food supply ran out.”

Definitely something to ponder.  Sometimes I think maybe we’ve gotten ‘too big for our britches’.   And maybe just a little bit lazy.  Laaazzzzzy.