One Foot

One Foot

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Peonies by the Bucket - Memories on the Side

      We have had an unusually cool and very wet spring in southcentral Kansas.  This follows a three-year drought and loss of crops, so it is quite a contrast.  A friend said today she thought everyone must have been praying at the same time for the end of the drought, as we surely are drenched.

     At my city house, the rain has brought on excessive growth in the beds and the cooler temperatures have allowed iris and peonies to bloom longer than usual.  I decided today that between showers I would make an attempt to clear the abundant weeds and grasses from the beds and see if I could get some management to the growth.

     I probably should have been armed with an electric hedge trimmer, but being a purist, I tacked the overgrowth using hand tools.  I took off two feet of yarrow (height, width and depth), pulled the random thistle and made it tidy.  My last job was to bring in the remaining iris and the peonies that were so loaded with bloom they were on the ground.

     And so I picked, and chopped and brought in to arrange – not in vases, but in buckets.   And as I arranged, I recalled the lectures of my grandmothers about Memorial Day customs of decorating the graves.  (Oh, that would be tomorrow wouldn’t it!)

     My grandmothers were dedicated grave decorators and it could be quite a battle at our house to harangue someone into driving them to the various cemeteries.  It was an all-day event, and normally in the middle of wheat harvest, so as soon as my sister or I could drive, we were assigned.  We always heard the peony lecture.

     “We used to save all the peonies for Memorial Day,” it was repeated by both grandmothers, “and if one of us so much as touched a petal, we’d be a dead duck.”  I believe there was some chuckling of fond memory there.  “And when the day came, we would gather our very best fruit jars for vases and load them in the car, and put peonies on all the graves……..” This was usually followed by the philosophical comments of how important the remembrance of the deceased was.

     My mother sometimes repeated that same lecture, but more often she was of a practical nature.  If the harvest was on, we didn’t decorate.  If we could squeeze it in, we did.  
     Now I am the grave decorator – or not.  I have found beliefs about the practice can sure depend on who it is we’re decorating.  As a general rule, yes, I decorate graves.  But for my mother, the person always closest to my heart, that doesn’t hold true. 

     First, she didn’t much like the artificial flowers for graves, and second, she was just such a practical person that she always said she would prefer someone remember her in something more sincerely and she didn’t really care about the grave.  When she did pass away, I found that the last place I found her in my heart was at the cemetery.

     I found her at the corner where her car went off the road, and so I placed a cross there.  And I found her in her flower garden, where she loved to be.  And there, I placed statuary of a young girl, sitting on a log communing with flowers and nature.  And then I realized that I also found her in my own garden, where I had planted the peonies she shared, and the iris she gave me.  And darn if I didn’t find her in the memories of gathering peonies by the bucket on the eve of Memorial Day as I smelled the brisket cooking in the oven for tomorrow’s picnic.

     I am not sad as I plan for tomorrow.  My loved ones were a joy and I remember them with such happiness.  I know they are in a good place and are always a part of me.  

      I had a good afternoon in my garden.  I don’t particularly like so much rain, but I surely do like the buckets full of flowers that await their Bell jar vases.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

1884 Farm is Still in the Family

1930's granery. Grain storage and workspace.

1884, July.  Kansas had been a state for only twenty-three years.  Yet, to my great-grandfather, this new Kansas farmland held promise.  He laid down $2000 for a quarter section in Maple Township and the land has remained in our family for 131 years.
          We haven’t owned a rich farm.  In fact, judging from old family photos, we were land-poor.  The abstract shows repeated mortgages at the beginning of the growing season and fortunately, mortgage releases after harvest.
          My people grew grain crops, hay, and raised cattle and pigs.  They led a self-sustaining life style. They lived sparingly, worked hard and despite many very lean years, managed to hang on to the land.  My heritage is not a fancy farm house or barns; it is found in the love of the earth, in watching things grow, and in feeling secure in a simple life.  
      Today, I own a “cleaned-up” version of my parents’ farm.  After fifteen years of hauling off junk and tearing down hopeless buildings, I am left with only basic structures.  The old farm house burned a few years ago and I am in the process of replacing it.
          The two large structures remaining represent some classics.  The granary was built early; approximately late 1930’s, and was used to store grain for planting the next year.  The barn was built in the 1940’s by neighbors pitching in to help at a “barn building.” It is of pole-barn construction.

          I   have added a barn quilt to the granary recently in a pattern called “Crown of Thorns.” It serves to remind me that it can only be through grace that we have held on to this beautiful farm all these years.  I intend to hand it on to my own sons.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Comedy Cats Are Such Good Medicine: I Laugh

I was standing at the bathroom lavatory this morning, quietly flossing my teeth.  Since it is a job of a couple of minutes I had closed my eyes and was in some stage of relaxation.  Job complete, I opened my eyes to the face of my Siamese cat about two inches from my nose, intently peering into the cavern of my mouth.  “aacck!” I uttered in surprise, and then laughed out loud.  “Where are those cynical non-cat owners when she does something this funny?” I asked myself.
People often give me a short list of reasons why they don’t want cats – usually when they are left out of a perfectly good cat-observation-discussion by cat owners.  “Too independent for me,” says my bachelor friend.  “Nope,” says my dog-owned friend, “too much cat hair.”  And sadly, a friend who admits she’s afraid of them because they might bite.
I have to admit those are all valid reasons, and I could probably come up with a similar list for dog ownership.  But the reason I DO have cats is for the sheer hilarity and amusement of having them in the house.  After all, no one, other than a grandchild, could make me laugh like these two characters.
My oldest cat, a Siamese, came to me from the animal shelter in a nearby city.  Mama cat has been expecting when someone turned her in, and the three babies were born and raised until adoption in the shelter.  “Aaah,” I thought.  The shelter folks will have them spoiled rotten and they will be real “people” cats.  Not so, said my darling kitty from day one as she revealed her own personality, told me when she wanted to be carried, when she would allow me to pet her, and most certainly what she would and wouldn’t eat.  She was also a comedy routine from the beginning.

At the time, I was doing some hand quilting in a small quilting frame.  If I had a dime for each time I removed her from what she apparently thought was a kitty bed, I would be rich.  It wasn’t the removal that amused me, but rather her style and drama as I did so.  She never did the things other cats do that annoy the heck out of us, but she would sure find creative vaudeville in any room she was in.
The Siamese became so fond of me, I found myself dragging her around as she attached herself to my ankle.   So when I found a kennel full of kittens at the vets’ office one day the idea occurred to me to adopt a sister for her.  The cutest one was a little grey striped model that was hanging off the top of the cage where she had adroitly climbed for escape.  Shouldn’t that have been a clue that I might have a comedic twin to the cat I already owned?  Yi, yi, yi, I am a slow learner.
Sissy Sings at Christmas
My friends told me I was crazy to get a kitten with a full grown Siamese.  They were predisposed to the idea that Siamese are mean and moody, I suppose.  What they didn’t realize was that mine wasn’t either of those, and was so attached to me she had taken to giving me “love bites,” which were getting a little tiresome.  So home came the grey striped kitty with the name of “Sissy.”
“Some adjustment period might be advisable” was the advice I received and once the kitten had taught the old gal how to play tag and race from one end of the house to the other, I realized the advice was meant for me and not the animals. 
Three years later this pair keeps me laughing  - both cats like to ride like a baby sack of flour across my left shoulder and both love to be rocked and told a story.  Grey Sissy likes to have her paws clapped, comes and asks to be picked up and put on my shoulder.  Both cats play “cry wolf” and wait for me to find them helpless and wounded, except they can never wait long enough and usually come to find out why I’m taking so long. 
People who don’t own cats might not realize the facial expressions and feelings cats can relay to their people, but these make them amazing friends.  If I am hurt and crying, a cat will come and brush the tears away from my face.  That always makes me smile at them, and I swear they smile back. They worry, they frown, and yes, they laugh at me. 
As I watched the latest cat race just a few minutes ago, I saw the smartest animals ever.  The Siamese ran and the grey chased.  The Siamese hid behind the door and the grey looked surprised and went another direction.  Curious about her pursuer, the Siamese came out to check and the grey jumped on her from behind the corner.  “HHAA!” her expression said and off the two went, this time with the Siamese in pursuit. 
It being a grey sort of “indoorsy” day around here, I suppose I’ll stay in by the fire and enjoy it with my cats.  The truth be told, they really do like to have me read a story to them around 4:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Bend in The Road

I love to photograph new walking trails, and on a recent trip, I was introduced to two new ones.  One was Audubon crafted around city ball fields, a delight to walk because it rescued an old creek bed and the ecosystem supported by it.  This was the rougher of the two trails.
          The second trail found its home atop an old land fill, circled through transitional woods, and offered access to fields and play areas.  Newly constructed, the entire park would now provide a natural outdoor experience for thousands in the future.
           On each trail, the designers had artfully created intriguing and frequent curves in the path.  I am a real sucker for “bends in the road” as they pull me forward, curious about the unknown and that which might lie ahead.
          How often life presents one of these “bends in the road.”  Such an occurance shows us that the path is not always predictable – as if the path had its own idea of the way things are going to go, and that is not always a pleasant twist.
          I have found these bends usually present something different and new, but seldom do we meet real harm in them.  It’s just that when we took that particular path, we had certain expectations; perhaps we made some promises about our arrival; perhaps we lost our way on the path.
          I like to tell the story of a particular trail I once took that was so rough it caused me to fall several times.  Upon my arrival, the group I was to meet up with quickly heard about my clumsiness from my fellow hikers who ribbed me good naturedly.
          “So, how did you finally overcome the pitfalls of the trail?” asked a friend at the top.
          I grinned.  “Well, when I started, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the peaks we were climbing to,” I said as I extended my deeply scratched hand for consideration.  “And then, I figured out that while I wanted very badly to reach them, it was an awfully good idea to keep my eyes on the trail as well.”
          I know as you meet new trails and the bends in the road that occur, you’ll be looking at the path and not just at the peaks.  We all get where we are going with some skill, some caution, and the belief that Our Lord will also make the crooked straight for us.

Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain