4

Every Day Struggle for Life

Watching a hurricane approach can be stressful, especially if you are in the path of the storm. We live inland, so Hurricane Florence will lose some strength before it gets to us. However, after living in Florida for so long, you learn you just never know what’s going to happen until it gets down to the wire. I have friends and family closer to the coast, so it is stressful no matter where the storm goes.

YIMG_6743esterday I just needed to take a short break and decided to walk down to get the mail. We live on a hill with a steep driveway and a steep road. The mailbox is at the bottom of the hill so it is a nice little walk. I stepped out of the front door and a bright yellow leaf caught my eye. It was in the driveway, but had not yet turned brown and brittle like the others. The trees were shedding preparing to go dormant for the coming winter months. As I walked along, I noticed how many plants were budding. Fall is just around the corner so this juxtaposition of dying leaves and new growth reminded me of the constant struggle for life.

When my grandchildren were here this summer, we took a twice daily walk down to a little creek beyond our mailbox. The first day we saw a snake sunning himself on the rocks. At the slightest vibration, he disappeared into the rocks. My granddaughter named him Jerry. I asked “Why Jerry?”. She explained it was after Tom and Jerry because Jerry always ran away. I love that child!

IMG_6750So, today I decided to walk down to the creek in search of Jerry. At the bottom of the hill, I noticed a bright white dead branch hanging from a tree at the end of our road. I think that tree may see some damage if we get the winds they are predicting with the hurricane. That might have been the last time I would see it suspended from the green portion of the living tree.

As I walked further down the road, I noticed the county had painted new lines on the road. They were bright in contrast to the pavement. I wondered how long the road had been there and just how many times it had been painted over the years. How many people and animals IMG_6752had crossed this road?

I tiptoed to the bridge to look for Jerry among the rocks. I was barely able to catch a glimpse of him before he slithered back into hiding. We are so afraid of snakes but I think he is just trying to survive like the rest of us.IMG_6753

The next few days are going to be precarious for a lot of living creatures. We are all in the same struggle for life. I recently read that half of the population of wild parrots were killed when Hurricane Hugo hit Puerto Rico.  Makes me sad for all the l creatures I share my world with. It is a constant reminder that we are all in this thing called life together. All struggling, fighting and praying for things to return to normal.

Stay safe everyone.

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2

Transitions

img_2549I follow Kim Halsey‘s Leading With Heart Facebook page. She creates some thought-provoking videos and this morning was no different. It was short and concise but she said something that struck a chord with me. She mentioned women who are in some sort of transition. That word stuck with me all morning. I think perhaps this is what I am feeling. Maybe not in the way most people imagine transitioning to be, but I feel I am definitely in-between phases of my life.

Today I was overwhelmed with news of Hurricane Florence aiming sights on the Carolinas. After living in Florida for 18 years you come to understand the cycle of hurricane preparation. If you watch or read or listen too much, you will drive yourself crazy. We lived through one summer with three hurricanes: Charlie, Frances and Jeanne. We lived with our windows boarded up for the last two and I thought I would go stark raving mad. What you learn after 18 years of this annual trauma is to learn to exercise extreme self care. Once you know it is headed your way, you get your supplies together and resist the urge to check on the status every three hours as the National Hurricane Center makes its updates.

So, I shut off Facebook and decided to go outside. Nature has always been my solace and today is no different. I took my phone so I could snap some photos along the way. The first day of fall is September 22. I love fall. Color comes back for a brief while. I am thrilled with the mix of orange, yellow and red everywhere you look – especially here in my mountains. If Florence heads our way though, we might lose a lot of foliage before the leaves change. Nope, cannot think about that.

What I saw outside was my little world in transition. Summer is coming to an end and the green leaves are struggling to stay alive. New shoots are mixed with dried, brown leaves that have already given up to the change in seasons. I saw a few blooms – the last of the season I am sure – still bright in color as if to defy the transition that lies ahead. I saw a beautiful yellow butterfly – leaf shaped – that managed to disappear into the foliage. It was frantically darting in and out of the foliage looking for the last bit of available food. It was beautiful – so bright amongst all the dark green leaves. I tried to get close enough to take a photo, but, sometimes the only time you see God’s little miracles are to be there – in the moment – to witness them.

I am not sure what this transition is for me, but I am anxious to dig in and discover what I am leaving behind and what discovery lies ahead. It’s nice to know I am in sync with Mother Nature. She is a glorious companion to welcome along on my journey.

2

Little Girl, Where Are You?

IMAG2858I am a creature of habit. I generally maintain the same routine and take the same route to places I frequently visit. On my route to the grocery store, I fell in love with the adventures of a little girl whom I would never know. I fell in love with her because even passing by her in a moving car I could feel her energy and her spirit.

This charming little spirit lived in a small house in one of the older neighborhoods in my town. Her house was in need of a new coat of paint and the chain-link fence was wavy in appearance where I’m sure at one time it stood rigid and straight. At the front corner of the fence, there was a small tree – leggy from lack of pruning. At the height of its bloom, the leaf spread was still sparse. Between the small tree and the corner of the fence, there were two old chairs, worn from too much sun and not enough attention. As I describe it here, it sounds a little dismal, but this little girl made it anything but that!

If I had occasion to go to the grocery store in the late afternoon, I always saw her. Most days she had a friend and it was obvious the two chairs between the spindly tree and the wavering fence were transformed into a very special place. I could see their shoulders rise as they covered their giggling faces with their tiny hands. They whispered what I can only imagine were amazing secrets into each other’s ears. I caught them toasting each other with imaginary cups and bowing like the princesses they most obviously were.

Today I drove by and noticed the house was changed. The tree was gone and so was the delight of a special secret hideaway.  No old chairs tucked away behind barren branches. Contractor’s trucks were parked there while they painted the exterior. The fence was still standing but I am sure it won’t be there long. I realized at that moment it had been some time since I had seen ‘my little girl’.

I’m sure many people will say how ‘wonderful’ the house looks. It will be transformed from something special to something more ordinary – more cookie cutter. I worry that the house with the special secret place has become the latest victim of gentrification. I hope not, but I suspect so. I want to believe that the little girl with the imagination capable of drawing passing strangers into its force field has found a new and better magical place. I miss her. I was her a long, long time ago….

As I drove home, I was affronted once again by the huge mega-house being built on the lot beside our house. The trees are gone – the places where the hawks stood watch. The house so large that it consumed a double-lot with little green space remaining. The house with the four car garage and cinderblock walls. I wonder what the runoff will be like when hurricane season arrives?

Where are you, little girl? Where did you go?

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
By Emily Dickinson

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us -don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

2

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.

5

Contractors aka Men in Trucks

IMAG1675Preparing a house to put it on the market should not be a painful process. Cleaning and packing are all to be expected but then all those deferred maintenance things we all live with are suddenly illuminated with a bright shining light. Under my breath I utter words of contempt for myself for letting things go unattended for so long.

We live in a hot humid climate. It’s hard on structures of any kind. Algae grows, wood gets damp, and critters find delight in dark, damp places. The flowers die and the weeds flourish. The summer rains are heavy and constant. The mid-day sun is brutal. Temperatures have been hanging around the mid 90F mark for the last week or so. It didn’t help my mood when my A/C gave up the ghost.

IMAG1653Contractors have been in and out of my house for months now. The schedule is always pushed back for some reason – weather, someone else’s emergency, workers out sick…..I have come to generically refer to these contractors as ‘men in trucks’ or MIT for short. I stole this from my friend who had issues with these nameless people long before I did.

I am a prisoner while they work. I am fortunate to do most of my work from home, but feeling ‘trapped’ worsens the mood. Trash, empty bottles, cigarette butts (we don’t smoke), gates left open and chemical smells from chlorine and paint plague me. When the work is finally completed, I breathe a sigh of relief, but it seems so short-lived. There is always ‘one more thing’ around the corner.

I know the tone of this sounds cranky and I suppose it is. The reality is that I love this place. The memories made here and the open feel of it make me smile. We have lived through several substantial hurricanes here. We have been fortunate, though.  A fence down, a branch off the tree, a statue toppled over – all small compared to those who live around us. Living in an old house presents a set of unique problems, but for us, they have all been worth it. Maybe I am cranky because I see an end to our life in this place and that makes me sad. I know there will always be a perfect space in any house for the perfect Christmas tree. I know that wonderful meals and laughter-filled gatherings will always be part of us no matter where we go. This old house has been such a good friend, though, and maybe I’m not 100% ready to say goodbye.