Friday, May 27, 2016

REMEMBRANCE 2016



 


It's holiday weather here today, with the heat of the sun and bright skies and the snap of flags in the sunshine, and soon the the smoke of a thousand backyard grills will raise delicious scents into the Spring air. I awoke to a silhoutte-gleam of sunshine across the room, a hopeful sign for all the activities and memorial services and celebrations of this long Spring weekend.

But weather hasn't much to do with the feelings that surround this special day, this day of remembrance and honoring and taking stock of our nation's blessings. The placing of wreaths, the little flags stuck into the earth of countless graves, the floral tributes, the handful of limp posies clutch-wilted in a child's hand, the tears of remembrance---those will quietly and reverently go on even as the scent of charcoal drifts up and clouds draw down.

I have a deep-imprinted vignette in my memory-collection, of sitting there in a hot scratchy dress several years ago, to see my dear Mother-in-Law receive the folded flag "With the thanks of a Grateful Nation." And so we remember GrandDaddy, in all his twenty-something years of service, and I keep a secret, heartfelt gleam of pride for our other servicemen and women, and those we'll never know of as we sleep safely on their watch.

And just looking at the flowers in the picture above, the two tall, stalwart reds and the smaller, just-as-strong pink, I also think of all our sisters and daughters in uniform, the strong, brave women who step up to the mark, who serve standing proud beside the men whose strength and bravery have stood true for centuries. We feel a surge of gratitude, of pride, of thankful praise for all the ones who take our well-being and our freedom so seriously that they live and die for it, and us.

And so I say "Thank you," to each and every one, and give a prayer of thanks for all of our service-people, past and present---those standing proud in uniform today, those who have served, no matter what the term, those who have retired from their service, but remain ever soldiers, those lying beneath the brave small flags, and those lost to time and in faraway fields, known only to the angels and remembered in the hearts of those who loved them.

 TAPS for remembrance.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

WORDS FROM WALT




A good while ago, my dear friend ASD in Scotland wrote a letter which struck to my own Constant Reader soul:

I believe that Alan Bennett said it most beautifully in one of his plays: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”



I so echo those words.    We’ve all had a great love affair with the LONGMIRE series on TV---he’s the essence of every good movie cowboy, in his kindness and his honorable nature and his rough exterior, tough abilities and tender heart.   He’s a lawman, a family man, a loyal and generous friend.   And his thoughts are deep and profound---perhaps he expresses them so well because of all those hours of solitude riding the miles of his jurisdiction in that big old truck.


Now, we’ve read all the books on our NOOKS, and are all amazed and impressed  with the great, sweeping imagery of Craig Johnson’s writing, as well as the down-to-the-molecule understanding and expression of people, with their glories and flaws.   I so recommend them to anyone, for wonderful stories peopled with immaculately drawn, memorable folks living their lives in Absaroka County.


You can SEE and hear the gravelly road as he eases that big old vehicle along, see the wider-than-heaven sky he's surrounded by, and feel the unflinching Wyoming wind in your face, the bone-seeking, determined cold of a blizzard.   You can smell the breeze-burned suede of Walt's coat, the worn leather and motor oil and old paper and maybe the whiff of yesterday's prisoner's cigarettes, as well as the faithful, ever-present DAWG, as the truck doors open.

Walt Longmire is a character drawn sweeping and spare, and is one of the most interesting folks in fiction in a LONG long time---you'd be glad to have him looking out for you, and doubly glad to call him friend.  I’ve taken to jotting down some of his musings in my own journal, for the thoughts and ideas, but mostly for the sheer beauty of the words:

Seeing her again was like unearthing an emotional library card with a lot of overdues.

A feeling like you’re leaking time.

Good friends are the ones who can remain close without losing their ability to surprise.

All the important promises are about leaving or not leaving.

The satisfying gurgle of impending caffeine.

What the HELL is happening to my county?


It was Monday of the second week of February and people talked less because their words were snatched from their mouths and cast to Nebraska.  I had an image of all the unfinished statements and conversations from Wyoming piled along the sand hills until the snow muffled them and they sank into the dark earth.   Maybe they rose again in the Spring like prairie flowers, but I doubted it.

Longmire words BLOOM.







Saturday, May 14, 2016

A KINDRED SPIRIT




Chapel of the Swallows---Matthias Haker


Folks, this endless font of WORDS has been a bit droughty lately, with all the SPRING thoughts and silent, overnight surges of GREEN which have left our “back forty” looking like the Down-Home kudzu fields in August.   A few home-keepings and repairings and cleanings, and I’m just wandering through the days with what thoughts there are just whispering away like misty tendrils of dreams, before I can get the gloves off or my hands dried to grab a pen.  My brain feels stripped to the echoes some days, like this pale, tumbled wraith of a chapel, as I log in and see that same old post I shared days and weeks ago, with nary another in mind.  

And so I just devour yours, looking my eyes full of wondrous things, soothing my soul and smelling your roses, trading mere crumbs for all your hyacinths, in an uneven exchange for all the bounty.





You know how I love just traipsing around through all the blogs and notes and little sharings on this marvelous menu board we all belong to---well, I have found a wondrous kindred spirit!!   She’s a sampler and a delver and somewhat of the gobbler of happy things that I am.  And she expresses the interest and the joy of finding and the happy gratitude that I, too, feel in the great offerings which you provide. 

From her personal biography on her blog, pretty little rough patches


She's VAL, a new and wonderful friend:


Pretty Little Rough Patches

IN VAL'S WORDS:

 You know how people joke about visiting someone only to have to sit through his/her slide shows of vacations, pets, and family outings?  I'm a person who is thrilled by such things.  Tell me about your best friend from elementary school, your best friend now, the first person who broke your heart, the work you do and the work you want to do, the language you'd love to learn and the lesson you need to learn, the last movie you loved and didn't want to end and the last book you hated too much to finish, the flowers that most remind you of your grandmother, the birthday cake you always bake or buy for your wife, your funniest memory of your grandfather, the dress you'll save forever because you once had a perfect day wearing it, those songs that take you back to high school, that one dog who was your Best Dog EVER, the craziest neighbors you've ever had, and the kindness a stranger showed you the day your child died. 

 Give me your tired, your poor, your fridges covered in magnet-held family pictures and your scrapbooks bursting open with saved mementos. . . .   

Where did you find the piece of driftwood shaped like a seal?!  I love it.    Is that photo you and your sister when you were kids?!    Oh!  Your dog by the fireplace Christmas morning!  Look at his FACE!    Is that sketch of the house that you told me about?    That has to be your mom's photo above your chair--You look just like her.   

                                                              


My seventh-grade English teacher always had us spend one class period a week writing journal entries that we would hand in to her to read.  She said that we could write about absolutely anything and that that there was really nothing she didn't think was interesting.  I remember thinking, when I heard her say that, "Well, yeah, I'm the same way."  I hadn't known it until she articulated it, so that realization stuck in my memory.  And now I live in the Age of the Internet and get to see your slide shows and hear your stories this way, and every day, I find someone--and something--else that interests me.  And I love that.


Keep telling your own stories.  Make time for your friends.  Finish and mail the letter you keep meaning to write.  Offer a piece of gum to the person sharing the elevator with you.  Keep putting yourself out there.  Say thank you.  And remember that even when it's rough, life is good and beautiful and worth the effort.  Ride it out.  Find the silver lining.  Go hug your cat. 
 
VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV


And from me, echoing THAT, every word,   Go look in.   You'll love her.
 


Linking today to Jeanne’s BLUE MONDAY.



Sunday, May 1, 2016

PEN AND INK




Totally at a loss for anything new to post, but I've been thinking a lot about writing lately, and all the old bits and bobs lying around the house in boxes and bins and journals.  I’ve been compiling some years of stories, and ran across a post from a while ago.

I have ink on my fingers today---I just filled my new fountain pen for the first time.   It was a Christmas gift from Sweetpea and her Mama, who choose the most wonderful presents, with a good eye (and ear, for they LISTEN) for what any of us might enjoy.

The ink---that's a FEELING. I'd been admiring and picking up my graceful new bottle of ink since Christmas, for it came with the pen. It's shaped like a squat, very smooth hourglass, with, like a lot of us, a lot more sand run through than remains. The lid is like a wide-top shako, sans plume, and the whole thing is made of the smoothest glass, with the inky depths converted into gleaming onyx by the shining curve of the hip. 

The pen came with a cartridge insert, which was blue, and since I have always had a preference for black ink, I've been scribbling grocery lists and phone numbers and jotting down and toting up with the new hand-heft of this pen.

The pen itself is a lovely purple, and Caro and I tried yesterday to name it---her "aubergine" came closest, I think, for it's just the shade of one of those smooth slender Japanese eggplants, hefty in the hand.   It was chosen by our Sweetpea, because it's her favorite color. The clip is exactly that, like a Gucci paper-clip, strong and sturdy and sleek. And I'll be writing today, a bit, REALLY writing, for almost all my words are set down in clicks of the keyboard. I CALL that writing, for it engenders a spark of satisfaction, but the real thing is done with hand and pen.




I could not trade my keyboard for a quill employed by the Founding Fathers, and I cannot fathom how the Classics ever came to be. How those persistent writers thought a thought and got it onto paper in the halting process of dip and drip and sharpen and dip again, I'll never know. Dear Jane and Anthony and all their kind, with the cupful of whittled feathers and the clotty, smeary ink, were geniuses of a level to astound, for they put down such graceful, such telling sentences and ideas and phrases as to entertain, delight, halt the breath and change how we think about things. 

If Xanadu came to Coleridge in a dream, whole passages lost to an untimely knock at the door, how DID he get down what he did? Scrabbling for paper and quill and ink and a quick whittle at the nib, with perhaps a halt for finding his spectacles---then all that stop-and-start to the scribbling. At that one poem alone, I am amazed.
Backspace to erase a line, highlight a whole paragraph and send it into nothingness with a quick flick of the delete, type like the wind before the thought whispers out (and it was such a GOOD one, too---and now an enticing, frustrating tickle melting through the floorboards of my brain)---those are the tools which we've come to depend on. Lining through a phrase, or using a pen-knife for both quill and erasure, blade-smoothing away a word with painstaking care, for paper was dear---who could think two thoughts in succession with such rude methods?

I also have excessive admiration for the writers who just pounded an old Underwood, getting the thoughts into play through the clatter of that anvil-with-keys---Gone With The Wind was written on one such, I believe, and word has it that she piled page after page into a dishpan and slid them beneath her dresser. Dedication and hope and a story to tell, that's what it took.

And now, a just-opened bottle of India Black, dark as campfire coffee, and this new medium-point fountain pen---fountain pen. With the four new journals, one-per-season this time, from Chris---I have a feeling I'll soon have the old familiar callus on my right middle finger, and the hand-tingles which literally DO spell Writer's Cramp.



Monday, April 18, 2016

PO' FOLKS' CALLIN' CARD







Happily joining BERNIDEEN'S PARTY and   BLUE MONDAY today, and especially sending congratulations to our friends Jeanne and Bill on their 53rd Anniversary!



This charming little blue “house” is a gift Donna at GATHER sent me this week---I’d admired it on her blog, way back on the first day of this new year, and told her about the one the neighbors had when I was a child (a much less elegant item, with square wood sides and a little door with black hinges, as I remember).   Theirs was filled with small rough-cut squares of tablet or notebook paper (for I unabashedly looked inside every time I went to their door, just as I greatly enjoyed ringing their bell---one of those through-the-door ones with the big round brass “school-bell” effect on the inside, and a large kiddie-car key on the outside, to turn and make the most satisfying buzzy ring, like an old alarm clock winding down.   I hope now that I didn’t run Miss Sybil crazy with ringing that bell, for I’m sure I must have given it a few extra turns for good measure before she could rush her floppy chenille house-shoes from the kitchen to open the door).


Their note-box was such a charming mystery to me---it hung beside the big glass front door, way inside the screen-porch, and I always wanted to leave a little message with that pencil-stub on the grimy string.   But aside from “Can Lynnette come out and play?” my conversation with the parents was limited, and besides, would not have made much sense---me being already gone, and all.



I know there were also rather fancy editions of the box, with cutesy cut-outs and even little clock faces, to tell when the family would be back and receiving.   You found those for sale mostly at places like Rock City and maybe Mammoth Cave.  




D├ęcor varied, as did hinges and size and even the little closers---my favorites were the small rectangles of wood nailed on, like dollhouse versions of the latch on Mammaw’s outhouse, to swing up or down to open. 





I wonder about the contents of the little messages---whether “Deliver two dozen eggs this week” or “Sorry we missed you.”  I know there have been a lifetime of small scribings, with impartings and askings and news.   You know how I am about writing anything, and every missive is a treasure to me.   

I kinda think this next one was a Woodshop project by a guy in the FFA, before he moved on to Birdhouses and a Cedar Chest for his high-school sweetheart.   Do not ask me how I know this.






Even that barely-there used-up pencil was a bit of history in lives we’ll never know. In truth, it was probably an eraser-nub Ticonderoga with a few bite marks, and the tell-tale scallops from a whittlin'-knife sharpening job.






I so love this little blue house, with its old leather hinges and the matching brass upholstery tacks, and especially the fact that it’s such a bright, happy blue. It's a weighty little structure, feeling like a hundred years in my hands from the weight of the wood and the shingles, the thick paint and all that history.  




 It even has REAL old-fashioned gritty-tar shingles on its little point of a roof---what lovely detail, and somebody must have loved it.





I thank you all so much for your answers, this week---most had versions of mail box or drop-a-note, and I know truly that it IS a Fairy Portal to somewhere, as are all mailboxes---it's ingrained since the first hole-beneath-a-secret-rock, so everybody's right in their recognition of the Magic involved.  There’s a special spot on my new pink kitchen wall, right over the tiny dollhouse kitchen appliances.  The blue fits in perfectly, and the memories! Just imagining them makes me smile.







From Donna’s e-mail:

Oh Rachel, the pleasure is all mine.  I had it out for a few years then stuck away in a drawer.  I'm so glad you have it now.  I can't ever remember seeing them, so I thought it was quite unique when I found it.  Along with a doily the same color and an old am radio the same color too, it sat on the dresser in the guest room.  I also had a large handmade primitive armoire that color so it all went together.  The walls were the lightest robin's egg blue possible, nearly in the white category.  It was just time to let go and where better than with someone who loves it.  
Warm regards, Donna

And you know, I can open that tiny door and catch the faintest linger of Coty face powder, and maybe Toujours Moi---perhaps it’s from the sojourn in the Guest Room, but I prefer to think it’s the whisper from an old Love letter.