Enough

Last night at a local fund raiser, I found myself at ‘silent auction tables’ with three women discussing depression.  “When you sit in front of a TV for five hours,” I overheard, “and don’t have anything to do, you are depressed. You are not needed, you have probably moved away from good friends,  your kids and grand kids are grown, the pets are dead and you literally have no purpose left in your life.”

I stood fixed at attention. They were describing me, except for the TV. Five hours is too much even for me, yet I love a good Hallmark movie now and then.

Even though I no longer work, and rarely volunteer for anything, life does not disappoint. There’s my African Violet on the kitchen window sill for daily inspection, usually a Good Morning Hello when I fix that first cup of coffee. There are three other plants to water, plus the mum on the back deck, two on the front porch and my mother’s rose bush along the front walk. While I have the watering can out I  fill up the flower pot with the fountain in it that my friend Gail sent for my birthday. I can’t forget the raspberries to pick, even in the Fall, and more green peppers in the garden hubby planted. And of course a daily email to friend, Gail. What would we do without our dearest friends, no matter where we live.

I count myself lucky to still have a hubby to share things with, but do have to feed him, and he does like a bit of daily attention. We even watch a few detective shows on TV in the early evenings or a PBS series of some sort, and definitely watch Seahawks, WSU & Gonzaga games, even way down here in GA.  We still fly our Seahawks flag but a UGA GA bull dog does sit on the front porch.

What more purpose do I need? There’s laundry, housework, cooking, shopping – dull routines when we were crazy busy working with kids at home, but now a blessing. I still have work to do and time to do it whenever the spirit moves me. The cherry on top is weekly visits with daughter and family for hockey, soccer and tennis with our grandson, who occasionally spends nights with us. He’s the only one who will watch The Great British Baking Show with us, and sometimes we three play Cribbage & have ice cream. Grandson calls this our ‘Ice Cream Cribbage Club.’ A year ago he told me Georgia people don’t need to use manners. Wrong thing to say to this southern Grandma. We embarked on a manners lesson. Now he thanks me when I hand him a napkin. There’s my purpose right there. There and a whole lot more.

Maybe we all need to look at our lives with gratitude for what is left, rather than with tears in our eyes for what used to be. For me, what I have now is more than enough. I feel blessed that I finally realize it.

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Mama’s Ellis’ Chicken & Dumplings

Today is a two-cups-of-coffee morning for me. I’ve decided to write about the visit to my home town of Pensacola, Florida, the year my daughter and I decided we needed Mama Ellis’ recipe for her delicious Chicken and Dumplings, which she made for the family every Sunday.

Early that Sunday morning I greeted my grandmother in the kitchen when I heard her walking down the hallway with her creaky walker. My pen and notebook were ready. Mama Ellis had reluctantly agreed to give me her recipe.

Before I knew it, Mama had flour on the kitchen counter and flour in a bowl.

“Wait a minute, Mama.  How much flour do you use?”

“Just use what you need so the dough holds together,” she told me matter-of-factly.

“Well, a cup? Half a cup? How much?”

She held up a water glass. “Just a tumbler full, Honey.” I made a note to measure the water glass later to see how much flour it held. Next she tossed water into the bowl with the tumbler of flour.

“Mama, wait. How much water did you use?”

She didn’t stop to answer, intent on patting down her obedient ball of dough, sprinkling around more flour and getting ready to roll out the dough on the counter. She’d have an easier job of this if she had a wooden cutting board, I thought, but not having one didn’t slow her down.

“I don’t know how much water I use,” she volunteered, wiping her hands on her apron. “It just needs to feel right. You don’t want the dough to dry out.”

I knew she was trying to be helpful, but shortening had also gone into her bowl and was now a part of this silky ball of dough.  How on earth had I missed that step? Didn’t matter now. It was too late. I watched as she grabbed the salt shaker.

“Did you add salt to the dough, Mama?”

She looked up at me in surprise. “Why, good Heavens, yes!”

One tumbler of flour. Add shortening, salt and water, I wrote down quickly.

Mama wiped her hands on her apron again, confident that the dough felt exactly right. She sprinkled on more flour and began to work magic with her rolling pin, not even shifting gears as she rolled the dough into long, even strips from years of practice. She cut the strips of dough into equal lengths and dropped them into a pot of water on the top of the stove, which I noticed for the first time.

“Mama, when did you start boiling that water?”

She turned to look at me, took a deep breath, and answered, a bit frustrated. “When I started the hen.”

“The hen? What hen?”

She stood with her hands on her hips. “You know good and well you can’t have dumplings ‘less you’ve got a hen stewing. Put the hen on early.” There it was ~ a large fat stewing hen that would soon have meat falling away from the bones. A hearty chicken aroma began to fill the kitchen. How on earth could I have missed that?                Concentration, I told myself, fumbling with my notebook. The family hovered in the hallway. The table was set. Ice cubes clinked in glasses. Sweet tea was poured.

Stew one hen I pencil into my notebook. Start early. Make your dumplings with ‘just enough flour, water, shortening and salt’ so the dough holds together. Roll out & cut the dumplings into strips, then drop one at a time into boiling broth from the stewing hen.

Slowly I began to understand my grandmother. Southern women were independent. Always able to ‘make a meal out of anything’ as Mama Ellis was fond of saying. For years women of her generation did not have cook books. Recipes were passed on by word of mouth.

We watched the noodles fatten up, thickening chicken broth as they cooked. I asked one last question.

“How long do the dumplings cook?”

Mama answered me calmly, with a stern look. “Until the biscuits are done!”

“Biscuits?”

Sheepishly I peered into the oven at a pan of fluffy biscuits, which Mama had slipped into the oven while I tried to figure out what size hen to cook. Only then did I see a freshly baked peach pie, also baked earlier that morning, cooling on the counter beside the stove.  The coconut cake had been baked the day before and waited now on the buffet in the dining room. I felt inadequate.

Start a pan of biscuits I penciled in at the top of my recipe. In parenthesis I wrote ~ Make a cake the day before. Use a mix. Forget the pie. I smiled at my grandmother, shorter than me now, and gave her a loving hug. She hugged me back, with brittle bones and arthritic knuckles. I saw tears in her eyes which she wiped away with the corner of her apron. We both knew we would not have many more visits like this.

My middle-school daughter slipped into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around my waist. “Mom, did you get the recipe?”

“Mama doesn’t use recipes,” I told her.

“Then how will I ever make Mama’s Chicken & Dumplings?”

I brushed her hair away from her face. “You have Southern roots. You’ll cook anything you want, just like  Mama Ellis. You don’t always need recipes. You just have to learn to trust yourself.”

She lives in Georgia now, loves to bake home-made biscuits and Sweet Potato pie, and never bothers to time her biscuits or pies when she bakes. She knows when they’re done. I’m not sure she’s ever made Chicken & Dumplings, but I don’t doubt for a minute that if she did, they’d be delicious.

After all, it’s part of her DNA.

 

 

 

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Moving to Georgia

 We always knew we’d end up in Georgia, closer to my daughter and grandson, but never thought it would happen as quickly as it did. We sold our house in Spokane, WA to the first people who looked at it, in January, but planned to delay move until we had one last fall in beautiful Spokane. So we packed up, moved into an apartment, and my husband continued working (and kayaking) in Spokane. I liked having time to tell friends goodbye, as well. We had such a good plan. But there’s something about owning a new home in a different state that makes you get itchy feet, wanting to move out, get the show on the road. By July I was in Colbert, GA, near Athens, and by September we were both home in Georgia, only twelve minutes from daughter, Allison and grandson, Asher. We had to pay an extra month’s rent on the apartment. Note to self: Don’t do that again. And then it started. Hubby went to Ace Hardware to buy a lawn mower. He came home with a new riding lawn mower. It is green, big, loud, and nearly fills the shed he coveted in the back yard the minute he saw this house for sale. Now I am used to seeing him mow the lawn wearing his floppy hat. He used to wear it kayaking with his buddies on Spokane lakes and rivers. Now he wears it mowing the lawn. He says we don’t live in the country. I tell him we do - we live on a septic tank, have a big shed in the back yard, there’s no garbage disposal and no Macy’s, and we wake mornings hearing the neighbor’s rooster crow. I call that country. Moving to Georgia Andrew/2 As for me, I’ve now gone to the grocery store with no makeup and wearing my Macy’s boiled wool bedroom shoes and Lula Roe leggings I’ve just slept in. When I sheepishly admitted this to a neighbor down the street he told me, “Honey, you live in Georgia now. Nobody here gives a shit about your shoes.” I’ve now worn those shoes to the store more than once, and am getting used to having people call me Miss Ruth, even the dentist, druggist and neighbors. In Spokane we sat on the front porch to eat ice cream and watch neighbor kids play in the cull d’sac. Now we sit on the front porch to watch the sun go down & admire our new River Birch in the front yard. We open the front door to listen to the rain, feed every bird in sight, mow the lawn twice a week, and both go to the YWCO on a regular basis. Retirement isn’t all bad, folks. Hubby has created the garden from the Gods, with more tomatoes, literally, than I know what to do with; green peppers that are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted; green beans and peas; zucchini and acorn squash; blueberries and raspberries; and two apple trees. He even drove two hours to another town to buy a scythe for clearing the land behind our shed, which is rapidly becoming his nature preserve. When new friends ask me how I like it here, I pause and turn it all over in my mind - it’s a 48 mile round trip to Target, Michael’s, Home Depot or Lowe’s; my closest library is in Danielsville; I drive seven miles at 55 miles per hour just to buy milk and eggs; and it will take me at least another year to understand that the Athens’ Inner Loop and the Outer Loop are really the same thing. And then I remember. Allison & Asher are twelve minutes away. Everything else pales in comparison. So I tell friends, “We love it here. Wish we’d moved years sooner!” As for the cherry on top, hubby has a new part-time job. It’s a blessing in disguise. After all, do you know how much those carbon fiber kayak paddles cost? I think he’s needs a new kayaking hat, too. The old one lives out in the shed now, on top of his big green riding lawn mower. Any day now I expect he’ll give that mower a name. And so it goes here in Colbert, GA, in the country if you talk to me, and not in the country if you talk to him. He wants to ‘name’ our home too, the way people do at lakes. It isn’t a lake, I tell him, unless it rains and then we do have a lake in the front yard, but only for a few days. He has come up with his pet name, which I thinks fits the bill: Kiss my Ash. Makes me laugh. But we could name it In the Country ~ or not. More names crop up from time to time, like The agony and the ecstasy.That might work, especially when we wait too long to mow the lawn, which we have apparently over fertilized. I guess one day the spirit will move us from the front porch and we’ll hang a sign on the mailbox. I can only imagine what that name may become by then. But there’s no hurry on this ~ or anything else. After all, we live in Georgia, Ya’ll. ###

Here we are this past September, at the Boutier Winery between Ila & Danielsville, Georgia. We always knew we’d end up in Georgia, closer to my daughter and grandson, but never thought it would happen as quickly as it did. We sold our house in Spokane, WA to the first people who looked at it in January 2017, but planned to delay the move until we had one last fall in beautiful Spokane. So we packed up, moved into an apartment, so hubby could continue working (and kayaking) in Spokane for the next seven months, we thought, & signed a seven-month lease. I liked having time to tell friends goodbye, as well. We had such a good plan.

But there’s something about owning a new home in a different state by June that makes you get itchy feet, wanting to move out, get the show on the road.  By July I was in Colbert, GA, near Athens, and by September we were both home in Georgia, only twelve minutes from daughter, Allison and grandson, Asher. Of course we did have to pay an unexpected extra month’s rent on the apartment. Note to self: Don’t do that again.

And then it started. Hubby went to the Ace Hardware just one minute from our house, to buy a lawn mower. He came home with a new riding lawn mower. It is green, big, loud, and nearly fills the shed he coveted in the back yard the minute he saw this house for sale. Now I am used to seeing him mow the lawn wearing his floppy hat. He used to wear it kayaking with his paddle buddies in Washington. Now he wears it to mow the lawn in Georgia.

He says we don’t live in the country. I tell him we do – we live on a septic tank, have a big shed in the back yard, there’s no garbage disposal, no Macy’s, and we wake mornings hearing the neighbor’s rooster crow. I call that country.

As for me, I’m fitting in quite well, being a southerner from NW Florida, to begin with. I’ve gone to the grocery store with no makeup, wearing my Macy’s boiled wool bedroom slippers and Lula Roe leggings I had just slept in, but it was a chilly day and I wanted to stay warm. When I sheepishly admitted this to a neighbor down the street who was here talking to my husband about building either a shop or kayak shed, he told me in no uncertain terms, “Honey, you live in Georgia now. Nobody here gives a shit about your shoes.” I’m finding out he’s right, too. I’ve now worn those shoes to the store more than once, and am getting used to having people call me Miss Ruth – the dentist, druggist, office receptionists, lady at the post office, neighbors and people on the phone. Instead of saying, “Hi,” they say, “Hey there.”  They really do. I’m starting to say it, too, and hubby has already dropped both ‘ts’ in words like Atlanta or Atlantic. But we’ve moved clear across the country. You have to expect things to be a bit different, right? We just never realized it would be us.

In Spokane we sat on the front porch after dinner to eat ice cream and watch neighbor kids play in the cull d’sac. Now we sit on the front porch to watch the sun go down & admire our beautiful new River Birch in the front yard, with hopes that one day it will shade the very steps we’re sitting on. We open the front door to listen to the rain, love the sound of thunder, and hear it often. We feed every bird in sight, mow the lawn twice a week, and  both go to the Y on a regular basis. Retirement isn’t all bad, folks.

Hubby has created the garden from the Gods, with more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I gave away 40 large ripe tomatoes last week, and some even to the pest control guy. We have green peppers that are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted; green beans and peas; zucchini and acorn squash; blueberries and raspberries; and two apple trees. He even drove two hours to another town to buy a scythe for clearing the land behind our shed, which is rapidly becoming his nature preserve.

One of the biggest surprises for us in the fall was that there are bulldogs all over Athens, GA, and nobody here seems to care about WSU vs U of W; nobody wears Seahawks jerseys to the grocery stores on game days; and nobody has Go Zags signs in their front windows, either. Here it is all Falcons, UGA and Dawgs of any kind. I have a small UGA bulldog on the front porch, wearing a red sweater. One of these days I am going to quietly paint his sweater blue for Gonzaga. They’ll never know. We’ve also been to many, many soccer games, far and wide, underneath very hot sun, but also ice hockey practices in Athens. Who would believe such a thing? Ice hockey in Georgia. And we are so there. Of course we are. It involves grandson, Asher. So, it’s a no brainer. We go.

When new friends ask me how I like it here, I pause and turn it all over in my mind – it’s a 48 mile round trip to Target, Michael’s, Home Depot or Lowe’s; my closest library is in Danielsville; I drive seven miles at 55 miles per hour just to buy milk and eggs; and it will take me at least another year to understand why the Athens’ Inner Loop and the Outer Loop are one continuous circle.

And then I remember. Allison & Asher are twelve minutes away. Everything else pales in comparison. So I tell new friends and old, “We love it here. Wish we’d moved years sooner!” As for the cherry on top, hubby has a new part-time job. It’s a blessing in disguise. After all, you have to consider how much those carbon fiber kayak paddles cost. He’s already been paddling at Lake Russell, Lake Chapman and Sandy Creek shores, plus a quick dip just today with a surfski in San Francisco Bay, thanks to his new job in a round about way. And he beams telling me that the Atlantic is only four hours away. I think he needs a new floppy kayaking hat, though. The old one lives out in the shed, on top of his big green riding lawn mower. Any day now I expect he’ll give that mower a name. And so it goes here in Colbert, GA, in the country if you talk to me, and not in the country if you talk to him.

He wants to ‘name’ our home, too, the way people do at lakes. It isn’t a lake, I tell him, unless it rains and then we do have a lake in the front yard, but only for a few days. He has come up with his pet name, which I think fits the bill: Kiss my Ash. Makes me laugh because we left a huge ash tree in our back yard in Spokane. But sadly, they tell us that Ash trees do not do well here. It’s too hot for ash trees, and even rhubarb or lilacs. Always new things to learn. But we could name this place In the Country ~ or not. More names crop up from time to time, like The Agony and the Ecstasy. That might work, especially when we wait too long to mow the lawn, which has apparently been over fertilized.

I guess one day the spirit will move us away from the front porch, we’ll decide on a name for this new adventure, and we’ll hang a sign underneath the mailbox. Just think of the names we might come up with in time. Which reminds me. We could even name it The  Time Machine.  But there’s no hurry on this ~ or much of anything else. Things get done slowly around here. We’re retired, after all, and ya’ know, we live in Georgia now, Y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trains

Early morning train whistles always leave me behind, wondering where the train is going, who is on the train and why. The whistles blow loudest at busy intersections, warning people to stay off the tracks, to not make dreadful mistakes. If only we had train whistles in our own lives as loud, to warn us of mistakes we were about to make, those split-second decisions that send us down wrong paths. For a loving, happy life, take the right fork. For unknowns, take the left fork. Or a middle fork, which might very well drop us off at a point of no return, to quick sand or an abyss. Robert Frost, I think, may not have fully understood what all of the ‘roads less traveled’ might possibly reveal in each of our lives. Some good. Some not so good. Some that can never be undone.

Regardless of why some people might be on trains I see passing me by (and I am speaking of passenger trains, or sometimes commuter trains) maybe they are going cross town in a large city to work, I tell myself, or to an appointment, or to visit someone seriously ill. We never know. They could even be traveling with no end destination in mind, and that thought can unnerve me in a hurry. People with no  destination in their minds must be lonely, I think, or running away from someone or something. I can’t imagine people being on a train going ‘just anywhere’ for an adventure, unless the adventure is the reason they are there, and then going home again would be their end destination.  But somebody on a train, flipping a coin to see where they might get off and start a new life could keep me awake a few nights, unless it was a new novel I was reading. Now that could be a happy thought. I would not have to lose sleep over that one!

But the reality is that people are on trains, planes, buses all the time, for reasons that are not so good, and sometimes through no fault of their own. They are traveling and to where they do not fully understand, not to mention being separated from family and loved ones, especially their children, no matter the age ~ whether infants, teens or kids in between, as parents seek asylum in the United States. My heart feels heavy as stone on contemplating such a fate for any parent, and being a woman myself, my mind goes first to the mothers.  Knowing I can do little about this except pray for such insanity to stop and to vote in November, does little to ease my mind.

But I do vote. It just does not seem to matter much anymore, at least not to me. I am grateful my children are grown, grand kids well taken care of, and I know where they all are. That never used to be the thing people were the most thankful for, as there was always talk of our health, or good jobs, better vacations, definitely more salary, but for me ~ knowing where my children were was hands down the ultimate gift.

Now I pray nightly that other mothers will be able to say this, as well, and if not now, then soon. I’ve always thought of our country as being one of out reach and abundance. Dan Rather says we must stay strong and act with courage. He’s right, I know, but in the face of such disappointment, it’s easier said than done. No matter what else happens, I am sure we all need to think of these parents and children in our prayers, and pray for ease for the children in dealing with their unsure trauma in the years to come. The next  time I hear a train whistle I know I will be praying for all of the souls on board, and their families, some lost to them for the time being, and I hope with all of my heart, not forever.

 

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African Violet

Over the years I have tried to coax blossoms out of African Violets in every place I lived, which includes a lot of states, cities and houses. Since officially moving to Georgia this past September (and even earlier to buy the house,  get things started), I once again picked up an African Violet for $3.49 at my favorite grocery store. It had three blooms on it.

Today it is bursting full of 17 flowers, with more peeking out from underneath the leaves. It reminds me of the Old Woman in the Shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do. Personally, I am glad this is an abundance of flowers and not children. My two children are plenty, thank you.

Yet each morning I add ¼ cup of water directly to the top of the plant, or sometimes just beneath the leaves, touching them all as I have been cautioned over and over again to never do ~ yet I do for some instinctive reason. I almost talk to the plant, but am not quite at that point yet, although I do say, “Good morning, Violet.” I planted it into a pot my granddaughter, Tate, decorated for my mother. It sits on our kitchen window sill in a small dish of my mother’s china. I think this plant knows it has a big job to do in helping us all remember Mama Parks, herself born in Georgia 100 years ago this August, but she didn’t live quite that long.

This period in our new home has been a time of waiting, and for what I am not sure. To belong? To feel needed? What about having a purpose? Or returning to my roots? I already feel all of these things. My husband and I are welcomed each morning with so many birds chirping I’m sure it must sound like Africa ~ some place away from noise and a lot of people. Except for the birds and the neighbor’s rooster early mornings, it’s quiet here, and these are noises we like. Doors and windows are open for cool air until the days get hot. It’s different from other places we’ve lived. Yet my African Violet is happy here and so is my heart.

When we left the Pacific Northwest after being there more than 30 years, I felt as if I were leaving the nest, yet suddenly here I am in Georgia, feeling I have finally come home. My husband joked recently that he was adjusting to Georgia better than me. I laughed. It’s just that he has a large yard to play in with a riding lawn mower, a garden already filled with budding fruits and vegetables, thanks to a long growing season, and the natural preserve he’s creating in the back. He’s also learning to kayak Georgia rivers, and working at a new P/T time he enjoys, driving a semi for an Athens, GA events management crew that sets up everything needed for major bicycle races around the country. (Google that at USA Crits). He’s one happy & busy guy.

Sometimes we have a green light in our lives before we realize it. A bell rings suddenly in our hearts and tells us it’s time to go, leave, move on, get packing, start the process and don’t stop until you get where you are supposed to be. That bell rang for both of us at the same time and we have finally come to the place where we know we were meant to be. It’s an awfully good feeling ~ that of coming home!

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Birds

I see now, having become a bit of a birder myself lately with my husband, that I have widened my perspectives to see that each and every creature on this earth has jobs to do. When you get right down to it, few jobs and work tasks are any more important than others in keeping this world going.

We frequently ask ourselves what can we do?  Sometimes it seems that so few people care, but I am coming around to the notion that many care, we just don’t all care about the same thing at the same time. Believing each one of us can make a small difference may be the most important notion of all.

We’ve all had moments we’ll remember forever, being present to catch a magnificent bird in flight, or see a glacier melting before our eyes, even if only on TV.  We speak in soft tones about memorable sunsets we’ve seen, maybe when we were young and in the throes of first love, or even much older, sitting on a rock or standing on a bridge for a good view, often with others waiting quietly for it to happen. And then it does. Well remember it forever as ‘a moment in time’ not to be forgotten.

Sometimes here we stand astonished to see the first daffodils poke tiny heads through the soil one at a time in the spring, such brave little souls pushing out to bloom after a cold winter, yet still battling bone- chilling cold.  Before the grass turns green and flowers bloom with abandon, we can remind ourselves that Mother Nature never disappoints.

At our house, in addition to sunsets we can’t forget and daffodils that surprise us in their sudden yellow splendor, my husband and I find ourselves transfixed at the early morning sights of Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal, a pair of Mourning Doves & too many Yellow Finches to count at feeders in the back yard. I know for a fact that we wish we could talk to them, and sometimes do, convinced they are speaking back to us.

We have an Eastern Blue Bird that has come several times to visit early on cool mornings, to pose for us on our back deck railing, turning to look straight at us as if to say, “Look.  See? Can you believe the beauty of my coloring? Don’t I lift your spirits?” “Yes,” we whisper, through the glass on the French door to our deck. “Well,” it continues,”Here I am. I’m ready for my photograph. Are you?” The answer is usually, “No. Of course not.” Instead we ask each where we left the camera last. Why isn’t it on the kitchen counter next to our bird books? But it isn’t. Instead, we hold our breaths to soak in the bravery of this small bird, willing to interact with us for a short time. Such a little bird, sending us such joy.

Lately I’ve begun to look beyond our birds and see cats, dogs, rabbits, squirrels, bees and butterflies, even wasps, spiders, worms, ants and more, understanding quickly how we all have jobs to do on this planet. Our work is cut out for us if we use our talents well. I am thankful I was not made a vulcher, a snake, or even a hornet, though I now have more respect for them, as well.

For people like me, who struggle to appreciate dangerous animals or scary ones – grizzly bears come to mind – we can look lovingly at the earth’s bumble bees and not recoil in fear when they buzz by our ears on summer days. We can nurture plants like Lantana and Butterfly Bushes that draws bees and butterflies.  We can feed the birds, especially during the winter months when berries are in small supply. We can think about and appreciate that we all have our jobs to do, even if it’s only to plant crops and  tend the birds in our own yards. We all have places on earth where we are needed.

We can think back to the birds at our feeders, or migrating birds that rest in wild places along their journeys. It reminds us to be ever grateful that our world is filled with purpose, the way it is supposed to be in spite of dysfunctional places around this planet.

I have never one day in my life worked as hard as a hummingbird beating its wings frantically so many times per second,  or a Bar-Tailed Godwit, migrating between Alaska to New Zealand and back, in full seven to eight day non-stop mind-boggling flights, as reported by National Geographic Magazine in its January 2018 issue – Why Birds Matter and  Why They Are Worth Protecting. This lead article, written by Jonathan Franzen with photography by Joel Satore, has gone a long way in making me realize that our birds have been designed with purpose, just like the rest of us, as well as our landscapes and climates.

It really does make me want to do my small part to help keep this world turning, whether it’s protecting our lakes and streams, cleaning up our oceans, or participating in clean air issues, and let’s not forget about the whales, or all of the endangered birds listed by the Audubon Society. If only each one of us could concentrate on saving our environment, rather than spending every waking moment on wars, hatred, and the hot beds of politics. Each of us. Our own small parts. Just think about that. Think what each one of us can do. How amazing would that be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The River Birch

The River Birch

Some years ago my husband planted trees all over our back yard in Spokane, WA, turning it into what I called a Zen garden. There was shade on hot summer days, beautiful snowy branches in the winter, and a magnificent fall to rival colorful leaves any other place on earth. One of my favorite things to do on cold winter mornings was to check out in the front yard for deer hoof prints in the snow.

A few years ago one Christmas Eve, daughter, husband and their little son, Asher, who was four at the time, were visiting. We decided we all needed a short walk in the snow after dinner. Asher spotted deer hoof prints in the driveway and insisted they were reindeer hooves from Santa’s sleigh. He was insistent on going back in the house so he could go quickly to bed, in the hopes that Santa would be back with his reindeer to leave toys, of course.

Even when I did not know how much I loved living in the Pacific Northwest, it continued to grow on me, especially the River Birch I loved so dearly. The peeling leaves of the trunk filled me with wonder every summer, as it grew more stately, sending long branches over the neighbor’s fences every fall.

After living in the Pacific NW for over 30 years, my grown son and daughter finally talked us into moving to GA to be closer to daughter and her family.  We moved in September after months of careful planning which included selling our house in January, a Georgia house hunting trip in April, signing papers on a new house in June, and moving in September. We told friends goodbye and climbed into the car with conviction in our hearts for the trek across the country from Washington State, land of the ever greens, to Georgia, land of the peaches.

I knew I’d miss lots about the Pacific Northwest, including the pristine rivers my husband kayaked, but I had no idea how much the magnificent river birch in our back yard meant to me until one day in Georgia when I stopped at a nearby shop where my Honda Civic was being repaired. The mechanic and I chatted briefly and he asked me where I was from. “Spokane, WA,” I told him. He had family there and asked, “What was your zip code there?” Without warning I burst into tears  – big, racking, sobbing tears. I could not speak other than to mumble through my tears, “I am sorry, I  am so sorry. ” He grabbed a box of Kleenex and shoved them towards me with a worried look on his face. When I could speak I said, “I didn’t know that asking what my zip code had been would trigger such tears.” Then I told him, through more tears, how much I loved my beautiful river birch in our yard in Spokane, and that I would never have another one like it. I told him I realized in that moment that I had been grieving that magnificent river birch, and felt almost as if I’d left a child behind.

My husband came into the shop as I was in the middle of my tears. He told me later he had no idea I had missed our river birch so much., then drove me to a beautiful plant nursery in a nearby Georgia town and bought us a new strong, stately river birch that is now in the center of our front yard. It will be full of leaves and glorious in no time at all, but it will never be the same. It will be a beautiful river birch, in Georgia, but it can never take the place of our beautiful tree in Spokane. One day it’ll all be OK, but it will never be the same. What I know now is that some memories will always die harder than others, and this is one of them!

When people ask why we moved to Georgia from Washington State, we tell them, “Daughter and grandson in Georgia.” This explains why we moved. But it can’t begin to explain what we left behind, and that is a deep, abiding love for the Pacific Northwest, with quail walking along the top of our fence in the back yard, robins nesting in the rose trellis outside my office window, and those rivers clean and clear to the very bottom. We feel blessed to have been part of the Pacific Northwest for as long as we were there.

We now have cardinals, mourning doves and blue birds at our feeder in the back yard here in Georgia, but not one quail has crossed our path, we have not seen one wild turkey, and ducks and geese, honking overhead and flying further south in the fall, are few and far between.

The weather here is basically warm all winter, compared to freezing temperatures in Spokane, yet I long for days when I could wrap up in my winter parka, furry mittens, hat and snow boots to trek down to the mailbox on the corner. Usually I’d spy quail or wild turkeys on the way. Always there was the sound of snow crunching underfoot. I miss the sounds of snow blowers in driveways, miss seeing men red in the face from plowing, and mail trucks that are late due to the latest large snowfall. I miss finding the first Johnny Jump Ups and Pansies in the Spring, and the first tulip bulbs poking their heads through the soil.  Even those deer hoof prints outside our dining room window make me misty eyed to remember.

But we go on, old school as we are. Making do. Living here to watch our grandson play Georgia hockey and soccer, to help my daughter with her busy schedule when needed, and so much more. I tell myself analytically that I need people around me, that the trees and birds I loved so much never actually talked to me, but on quiet mornings when alone, I know deep down that they did. They taught me a lot of things I needed to learn about living, learning, and blooming where I am planted.  Now, with any luck at all, my new river birch will teach me about letting go.

 

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