rain

Maybe having brushes with 3 tropical storms and a tropical system, but I cannot remember a year that I have seen so much just general rainfall.

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I do not watch news programs, nor do I subscribe to the local newspaper. So I have no idea what the cumulative rainfall is. It does not really matter. I live in a coastal town so mostly the ground is sand. We have trees so we have leaves and pine needles that fall, decompose and form a thin layer of topsoil. Subdivisions and developments truck in soil to make lawns, landscape crews mulch at least once a year. So not actually on the beachfront there is soil. Not rich, it’s sandy, but soil.

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Still, the rain drains and soaks into the ground within an hour. Not much standing water so thankfully some areas have less mosquitoes. But the area where my neighborhood is was once a watershed.

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Since we are also within 10 miles of the Cape Fear river everything from here drains there.

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I have way overplanted my backyard. In maybe 20 x 80 feet I have three fig trees, two Althea, two hydrangea, a gardenia, two (baby) paw paw trees, a Daphne, beautyberry bush, pussywillows, tansy, 3 lemongrass, asiatic lilies, penstemon, wisteria, passiflora, angel trumpet, old man’s beard, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, iris, daylilies, Black-eyed Susan, echinacea, mint, rosemary, iron weed, elderberry, star anise, Carolina allspice, Vitex, clethra, daisies, firecracker flower and invasive monarda. It’s really hard to walk around back there. I have a few pots with herbs, tomato plants and some okra.

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I have seen two rainbows this week. One a few days ago and one this morning. Because they are a promise, seeing them always makes me cry which is strange. Gratitude I guess. Relief maybe.

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Because it is July, and the rain, most plants are loaded with blooms, and bees and butterflies. I have often wondered where do they go when it rains.

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Wherever it is, they always reappear when the sun comes out and the flowers dry. And the spiders. Especially the ones on the water spout.

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possum

We are early risers. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu go outside for their last evening ablutions around 7. With cooler weather here we woke even earlier than normal today. Lulu got to pick front or back yard, and chose back. Lily ambled over to the end of the yard to scratch and sniff what changed over night. Lulu took the other side. Leaves flew, loud hissing and a grey blur darted out, long, ropy pink tail.

Oh no! Rats again. I looked closer before running to get a broom. Too big for rats. Small possum!

It was somewhat cornered. The house was to its left, I was behind it, Lulu was in front and Lily to its right. Lily had yet to catch wind of it and Lulu was feigning disinterest. It backed away, looking over its shoulder every second or two at me. I gave it a wide berth, and it turned and ran around me to the other side of the yard where it climbed the fence. Lulu, realizing her quarry was escaping dashed after it, too late as it topped the fence and toddled away. At this point Lily got interested and she and Lulu darted back and forth along the fence to see where it was.

Long gone.

I am happy to have these little visitors. They don’t carry rabies because their body temperature is too low. They feast on beetles, cockroaches, ticks and all sorts of other unwanted pests. They are virtually harmless and more afraid of me than I of them.

IMG_0216.JPGWe know something is out here. We’ll wait.

I haven’t seen a possum in the yard for a while. Maybe being so preoccupied with Lily and her surgery recoveries I hadn’t noticed. Besides, there are fewer steps to the front door than the back door so because it’s easier for Lily we’ve gone out there more than the back yard. Not much happens in the front yard. The occasional rabbit maybe.

I miss seeing deer. To many people they are big pests. They eat a lot of flowers and shrubs but they are so graceful. Where I moved from I often would see them early mornings at my bird feeders eating all the birdseed, then drink out of the bird bath. It did not take much to scare them off. They would sail over the yard fence like they could fly.

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There has been a lot of new construction in this little town. New homes, shopping centers. Development is normally a good thing but eventually there is no more room to build. Which means wildlife has no place to go. So they find themselves in backyards and some humans are not willing to share. Seems unfair to me. Here we have helped ourselves to their homes, cleared their trees and underbrush. When I lived in south Florida I learned about melaleuca, a small, non-native invasive tree also known as tea tree. These were planted everywhere because they soak all the water with their fibrous root system and make marshland dry. So every now and then a massive hurricane comes along where nature tries to reclaim itself.

Against humans it is something of a losing battle.

I wish I had an answer.

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endings, beginnings

Today is the last day of June. Which brings the first of July. Each day ends and a new one begins following the night that divides them.

A butterfly lays its eggs on a host plant which, when the larva emerges, will feed it until it is ready to create its cocoon where it will magically end that life and transform into a butterfly, and begin again

IMG_0061.JPG swallowtail on fennel  IMG_0064.JPG

A plant wakes from winter sleep and emerges in spring and buds grow, bursting open with the sun’s warmth and spring rains

IMG_0067.JPG                                                         Hibiscus “Pinot noir”

IMG_0070.JPG                                                        macrophylla Hydrangea

IMG_0069.JPG                                                                  star gazer Lily

IMG_0073.JPG                                                                         Calla lily

IMG_0072.JPG                                                  Echinacea, shasta daisies

The joy of the wonders of nature overwhelms me. The colors, fragrances, designs, all grace this planet each spring. Fall comes and they fade, preparing for sleep, having offered their very best to us for a season.

They sleep, and then they begin it all again.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.”                   Proverbs 16:3

 

 

reflections

Probably the last hold-out for a smart phone, I caved and visited the phone store this week. I was early but not the first person so was placed on the digital line. Kind of like those coasters they give you at restaurants when you have to wait, instead of flashing lights my phone would beep. I wandered from one display to anotunnamed.jpgher comparing prices and functions. I knew a phone that had basic functions– calling and text –was what I was looking for, but also thought gps, wifi and better camera capability would be nice.

So as I looked at the offerings I overheard a lady explaining how difficult it was for her to adapt to change… she was worried about a new phone and her ability to use it.

I moved to another display of fitbits. Curious I started reading about them. A few feet away I heard a gentleman who had come in to have his phone screen repaired since it had gotten cracked.

My turn came and I explained what I was looking for, asked about 2 or 3 model phones, prices, function. We looked at them and I decided on one. While the salesperson activated the phone I stood quietly watching how easy this was for him, hoping I could adjust quickly. A lady came in briskly asking where a specific employee was, she had her card. Another salesman said she was off that day, could he help. The lady went on to say she was unhappy with something she’d purchased 2 weeks prior, why would they stock something like that? An unanswerable question, the salesman explained the warranty and the lady responded she’d been in Europe for 2 weeks. My salesperson continued to be very focused on my phone and I watched him, diligently. A sharp remark from the lady jerked my head up momentarily, I quickly looked away again. She stalked out. The person who had attempted to help her shook his head, muttering something about being yelled at. Mollified, I commented ” Some people just cannot be happy no matter what you do”. He perked a bit at that and I suddenly realized I was each of those people I’d noticed in that store.

At some point in my life I’d been impatient, demanding, frustrated, angry. A phase I mercifully grew out of. Or prayed my way out. Occasionally I encounter a situation or a new process in life that requires risk or change and I am briefly uncomfortable until I begin to understand it. And I have had many accidents in my life where I have broken things.

So, armed with this new device, a screen protector and insurance I have fortified myself as best I can to use this new little phone and protect it.

It is hard to see ourselves as others see us! Sometimes we exaggerate the good, other times the not so good. But that day I was given a gift of seeing where I had been and realized how patient others were.

Sometimes it’s important to see the kindness of others through others’ eyes, or behaviors.

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— ”   Ephesians 4:13-15

 

 

 

Repairs

My father loved clocks. I don’t know if this gave him some sort of illusion of mastery over time but he enjoyed their mechanisms, workings, tinkering with them. We had a dear friend who owned a lovely and very old grandfather clock in constant disrepair. Whenever our families visited at their home Dad would spend considerable time with this clock. He usually fixed whatever was wrong but invariably it would need attention again, prompting another visit.

He once built a clock, my mother needlepointed the face of it, a blue bird and a cardinal, Roman numerals. This clock chimed every quarter hour and somehow never woke the household during the night. I loved hearing its chimes and the graceful sway of the pendulum. My brother and I would take turns pulling up the weights to rewind it.

Some years after my brother and I finished college and had left home another clock appeared in my parents’ home. Dad told me it is called a kitchen clock. It has a cast-iron body sculpted with Hummel-like figures over its face. The color has faded some but you can still tell what they are. He said it was his family’s when he was growing up and over the years the glass front has broken so the clock face and pendulum are exposed but I love this clock.

I found the clock in Dad’s attic when he passed away. It was lying on its back on the attic floor, abandoned. I did not know if this was because Dad had no place for it, or my step-mother didn’t like it, or it reminded him too much of his home with my mom, but I gathered it in my arms and carefully put it with the few things I was taking home. It ran well for a year or so, then stopped. I lived in New Mexico at the time and a coworker told me of a clock maker she knew so I took it to him. He repaired it and told me some of its history: not of great value, it had been made circa 1858 by W. S. Johnson, N.Y., the cast-iron front made by N. Muller and was considered to be what then was known as a kitchen clock, as Dad had said.

Again, after a year or so it stopped running. Now I had moved home to North Carolina and found another clock maker that many people recommended. He wanted to know how I had come by the clock. I told him of its history as I had known it, and that it had been repaired not long ago. After about 3 months he phoned to let me know I could come and retrieve Dad’s clock.

It runs at a 6-8 day stretch and needs winding with a key. The past few weeks have found it needing to be wound every 3-5 days. Then I would have to restart the pendulum several times before it would pick up momentum on its own. One recent morning, in a hurry to leave I wound it too tight and heard a terrible sounding crunch! I wanted to cry. I knew I had done something awful and found a clock repair person nearby.

He arrived one afternoon to look at the clock. I told him what I had done and he said it likely was the mainspring and gave me an estimate for what it would cost to replace it and clean the rest of the clock. I watched as he carefully carried it away to his car, his promise of its return in about 3 weeks.

My house is now silent. No friendly tick-tock greets my day. It’s like a heartbeat has stopped. Oh, the chimes stopped working long ago, but the ticking is what I really miss. As though it spoke to me, marking the minutes and hours of my days with me.

My father loved clocks, I suppose because they represented something of such great value to him: Time. He made the most of opportunity and everything life presented to him. He was intuitive and decisive, a combination which afforded him the best of everything he was and did. He often said no matter what happens, even in mistakes, you can make them work. And it’s not that you bite off more than you can chew, you just run out of time to chew it in.

He never ran out of time, but it did run out on him.

Miss you Dad. Looking forward to getting that clock fixed.

“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight…”  ~Elizabeth Akers Allen

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Dormancy

So the other day I was talking to someone about having brought some bulbs with me to the house I’ve moved to, the usual suspects– hyacinths, daylily, daffodils, and some not-so-usual– candy cane sorrell, star gazer lilies, orchid iris, and that they were just coming out of dormancy. They had small, pale green leaf buds sprouting from the tops of the bulbs which actually is helpful for me to determine the root from the flower end. Sometimes it’s not so easy. But since they’d begun to awaken I knew I needed to put them in the ground pretty quickly. “Why?” my friend asked. I said that with no soil around the bulb for the roots to grow in it would feed off of itself. Not many things more frustrating than opening a box of mixed bulbs late winter to find dessicated, shriveled pulpy masses with wilting greenish leaf blades.

Still, it made me think. Here we are (parts of the world anyway), mid-winter when most everything is asleep, or moving very, very slowly. And the new year is upon us. Harbinger of hope, new beginnings, an awakening, opportunity for change, new directions or a reinforcing of changes already begun. When everything is still for the most part sleeping.

In the silence, this grey-dark stillness transformation begins. Things are not as still as they seem. Cell mitosis happens, bacteria and fungi swarm over dead tree limbs creating new earth. Grubs lie silent under the earth’s surface waiting to emerge and begin their new life. Things are not teeming yet, but the anticipation is such that we nearly hear it before it arrives.

Nothing is ever truly still, nothing is ever completely wasted. Something happens. Some transformation, an order out of destruction.

Life resumes.

Reunions

I have never been to a college reunion. Not sure why not, maybe because my involvement was minimal. I was far too young when I attended college, even younger when I graduated. Maybe some 17- 18- 19-year-olds know what they want to do with the rest (or most) of their lives. Or at least have some specific interest with which to put their parents’ tuition payments to good use. Not me. I had no idea. Coasted through high school enjoying the occasional English teacher’s pat on the head for a particularly perceptive essay. Probably random. I did not excel at either math or any science, things which are pecuniarily useful. I did love to read and would analyze or critique but, being immature, agonized over the “right” bias or slant, so would often return a paper with such broad, vague sweeping statements there was really no focal point at all. And often my initial reaction or thoughts would be pretty sharp, but that insecurity shadowing me forbade me reveal my inmost thoughts.

So college. That freedom did not entrance me. When my parents left me at the dorm that rainy Sunday to return home, 600 miles away, I wept. My first roommate terrified me. She jumped into the liberal part of arts with both feet. She never went to classes, and I spent most of my first semester nights on the common room couch, waiting either for the funky smoke to clear or the boyfriend to leave or both. When she flunked out before second semester I became an intern, a sort of floor monitor. So basically I only knew the other housing staff members because we were more or less seen as police officers extinguishing all sorts of fun and frolic since we were paid by the college to do so.

But I did go to a high school reunion, my 25th. There were a handful of us there out of a class of 29, and we all were really glad to see each other. I have another one coming up, a much bigger number, and the names of many who are emailing are foreign or even unknown to me. These must be would-have-been classmates had they actually stayed and graduated with our class. Since I came in the 11th grade many of these were names I had never heard but seem familiar to a few of those I did know. So no, I won’t attend this one. It would be like going to a reunion for a class I never even knew. That would all but nullify my less-than solid connection to the ephemeral 2-years I enjoyed at a high school that completely changed my life for the better. I’d rather hold onto the wonderful memories I do have than fling them to those who had nothing to do with them.

Transitioning

Transitioning.

Somehow this Thanksgiving I found myself encapsulated in some sort of selfdom. Hard to describe and not very comfortable. My son appears to be fully incorporated into his girlfriend’s life and family, my brother and his family each have their own aspects to life and yet I am outside of things. If there are any conflicts, issues or discrepancies I am outside of them. Consequently I am also outside of their joys, celebrations and warmth. How did this happen?

I was raised by a kind of distant yet demanding father. It was not until very late in his life did I feel he actually needed or wanted any love I had for him. It was an odd thing but happy nonetheless.

This is different. As though I have spun off the orbit of their lives. Maybe this is what happens when a child (having grown to adult) chooses the life they prefer to live. It’s good I think to understand this. So much of my life I bounced off walls and doorways trying to find my way until I actually saw myself as I was and could then better adapt and change. Until that happens no one can make any kind of progress. They just stay in their own space, spinning and spinning, wasting time and energy until the light dawns and they are able to see themselves for who they are, what they have been and where they are. How they got there isn’t important, blackouts happen whether you drink or not. The important thing is to get your bearings, find your course and steer for it. It’s good to include others with this voyage but sometimes a lot of it is solo. And it is gradual.

The hardest thing, I think, is to see what God did for us in Jesus Christ. We selfish humans cannot fathom such love as someone wanting us so badly to be free of anything that encumbers our spirit that he would assume the responsibility and pay the penalty.Somehow God can do this for us but we cannot do it for others. Frederick Buechner says this far better than I in his book, Wishful Thinking, then again in Beyond Words:

“What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it, but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is. Like a father saying about his sick child, ‘I’d do anything to make you well,’ God finally calls his own bluff and does it. Jesus Christ is what God does, and the cross where God did it is the central symbol of New Covenant faith. So what? Does the suffering of the father for the sick child make the sick child well? In the last analysis, we each have to answer for ourselves.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Buechner, Frederick. Harper & Row, Publishers, (c) 1973. Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith, by Frederick Buechner. Harper San Francisco, Publishers (c) 2004

Red giants

I was reading Steve Forbes’ article in the Sept. 2 issue of his magazine where he illustrates the history of various economies. Since I only skimmed it I won’t even attempt to summarize, but it got me thinking. There have been all these empires in the world. Roman, Greek, Spanish conquerors, Napoleonic France, the English “empire” (won’t be tempted to spin off on a Star Wars tangent there), and the U.S. So, like stars (astronomy, not celebrity), we eventually come into our own, be the pulse of the world, flaunt our power around for a while, burning brightly, generating ideas and creating products on this maddening streak of inventions and cleverness. We get all full of ourselves, begin to relax, lose the sense of fun in discovery and creativity and get lazy. We sit around, reminiscing about our glory days. We puff ourselves up based on what we or, most often, somebody else did that we think made us great. Then we decide it’s not fair, everybody should have some of it, too. So we try to spread it around. But we don’t keep making more, we just use up what there is. Then it gets thinner and thinner. Everybody may have some but it’s not enough to support anybody. 

When you think of astronomy, a star, it starts out as a bunch of bloated gas and atomic chaos slamming into itself until it becomes organized. I’m no scientist, but as I understand it the organization only lasts as long as the star has enough hydrogen. When that gets low the star gets this red tinge. Eventually, if it’s a small star, it dies, collapsing on itself.

We need to stop looking at where we’ve been. We need to stop looking at what everybody else has, or what we think we don’t have. We need to start looking at what we can do, who we can be. Stop sucking up all our hydrogen asking “Who am I?” or, worse, “Why am I?” and just go and be. But not just feeding on ourselves. What’s left after the U.S. to shine as brightly as we have?