Miss Frances

The inn where my brother and his family stay is over 80 years old. Some sort of record for an ocean front property. We have vacationed there for the past 10 years. The current owners bought it 11 or 12 years ago and have kept things as they have always been with a few modifications to the menu. Three full meals a day are included in reservations. So a lot of walking is required to at least be the same weight when you arrived as when you leave.

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Miss Frances runs the Inn. And has. Forever.

She manages the kitchen, the staff, the laundry and schedules. It is expected that every guest is at every meal when the bells are rung. If there is any deviation it is expected that Miss Frances know in advance to plan the meal. It is an unspoken discourtesy to do otherwise.

Naturally an early riser, the last couple of summers I have quietly crept down the creaky wooden staircase to the kitchen to help set up the dining room for breakfast, brew coffee, move tables according to additional guests, fill cream, sugar, jams, jellies, syrup. And quietly listen as Miss Frances witnesses to me about her faith. A faith we share, but she brings the Gospel to vibrant life in that pre-dawn kitchen. She holds informal Bible studies with interested staff. And I have always loved hearing her lilting Gullah cadence speaking of her love for Jesus.

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So this year rescue dogs Lily and Lulu accompanied me and we stayed in a nearby cottage. I began my day with the distant roar and hush of the ocean, watching the light emerge in faded color as I walked Lily and Lulu toward the beach. The rising rosy glow still holding a dewy chill in the air. My thoughts drifted to Miss Frances moving slowly about her domain, gently polishing the stainless service before setting places at the tables. Glancing occasionally toward the porch overlooking the awakening day.

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I shared those three meals with my brother and his family during our brief stay, then packed us back in the car for our drive home. My brother texted me a day or so later to let me know this year is Miss Frances’ last, she is retiring.

Sad that I was not a part of this, she leaves a legacy. Her larger-than-life presence being absent will leave a strange void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I cannot think of anyone who could comparably carry on.

But someone will.

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test flight

One of my past lives was as a librarian. I enjoyed this work because I helped people chase their dreams, start small businesses, children learn the joy of reading, way more than telling people to “Shhhh” or sternly with thin lips accuse them of the desperate owing of library fines. I came into libraries by volunteering, then having to study for a masters, right about the time they began to digitize. Pretty exciting. Besides loving books and reading I am something of a trivia addict.

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Maybe all those other career pursuits I thought would happen but didn’t were just practice. Veterinary assistant, legal assistant, newspaper production, travel agent, and the many years as a temp so I could be home for my son after school. Some are born and just know what they want to ‘be’. I didn’t. So my working life was kind of trial and error. I don’t know that I ever earned my wings but I had many fascinating pursuits trying.

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This is one of those kind of scary large bugs that occasionally appear in great numbers but in off years there aren’t many. On their best years the sound cicadas make is almost deafening. For some reason this one was having a hard time flying the morning I saw it on the front walk. It welcomed my help and grasped my finger for a free ride. I suppose it didn’t know I wouldn’t eat it but climbed on anyway. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu were very interested until it started its loud chirring, then backed away. I found a thick bush where it climbed into the branches. Maybe a bird tried to have it for breakfast and it escaped, who knows.

This morning after the dogs had their breakfast I walked out to the porch to greet the day and immediately Lulu raced to a corner at the front of the porch and tried to get around the flower pots and chair legs at something. I looked over to find a  fledged baby cardinal that had flown in fluttering against the screen which explained the loud chirping and frantic flying of the adult birds just outside. I leaned over and gently grasped the little ball of fluff, its crest straight up and it stopped struggling momentarily. I walked outside to the fence where its parents darted back and forth chirping loudly, held it at the top of the fence and opened my hand. A flash of red swooped past and the baby immediately followed leaving no trace. A few moments later I saw both parents loudly chirping,  perched in the butterfly bush near where I had released their baby. Maybe they came back to thank me.

IMG_1229.JPGTiger Swallowtail caterpillars

I guess we all are here for a reason. Some of us just have our metamorphosis later.

 

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strength

Nerves of steel. Iron willed. Rock solid. Unflappable. So many images to describe someone who can withstand adversity. Even capricious betrayal.

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Someone convinces me that s/he is sincerely in my corner, only wanting to help, but instead of my normal step back to consider the thing I jump right in, believing this person is actually the genuine, concerned, true clear thinker that I am not at the moment.

Mistake. At rescue dog Lulu’s expense.

As a person said, after the altered-universe nightmare was over, hindsight is 20/20. Yes. And I know this. I have known it since I entered into a marriage that should never have happened.

When does one finally learn? When do I get to look back and not say “hindsight is 20/20”?

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Sure, she likely needed the treatments she received, but I needed to make that decision. I am old enough to know better. I need to remember it is almost never that anyone else has my best interests in mind or even at heart. Certainly not when s/he is insisting I do something their way. I need to not worry oh gosh what will s/he think of me if I make a different choice.

Lulu mattered. Not the controlling person.

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Mercifully Lulu is none the worse for the experience. The same cannot be said for me. It was not the expense. It was visiting my little dog and seeing her collapse in exhaustion because she cannot sleep in a tense environment with 24-hour noise, prodding of needles and not eating, receiving fluids because she is too terrified to drink on her own.

It was seeing her wild-eyed, cradled in my arms unable to relax until she slept. It was being home without her, my other rescue dog, Lily greeting me when I came home from visiting Lulu sniffing every centimeter of my arms and hands, going to the back door to look for Lulu, who was not there.

It was going to pick Lulu up on my appointed day to bring her home to be met by the ICU tech telling me, no, Lulu is not going home, and me replying Yes, Lulu is coming home today, and bringing her home.

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Thank God Lulu is fine. But now I have another person to put on my “Not to be trusted” list. A person who encouraged me to do a thing and resolved issues vicariously through my experience.

Whatever. I’m just glad it is over. And Lulu is home. The lump on her throat which appeared is still there but not a bother to her in any way, and an emergency vet experience made her no better than her own vet would have. She did need care beyond what I could offer, but not dire.

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But then I will never know. And I have trust issues. The person who told me Lulu needed to go there may have meant well but I know enough to know that people also can have an agenda. So I can remember, if such a thing should ever happen again to say thank you, I will consider the suggestion. And think about it.

And pray that there are no other dire circumstances at the same time, like a broken tree falling in the backyard …..

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impressions

This was one of those weeks that can only be described as a gift. The little coastal town I live near doesn’t get anything most people can call winter, but it gets cold enough. Even some snow and ice some years, just not this year. Not yet, anyway.

But apparently winter gave a reprieve to some areas this past week, here too. Days were 60s-70s and nights did not get much below 45. So electric bills will be lower. Abundant sun, expansive blue skies, wispy playful contrails and clouds decorating the air.

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Mindful of Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” (…Winter afternoons–…)

IMG_0866.JPGRed oak clinging to what is left of autumn

IMG_0867.JPGa closer look at leaf veins with the sun behind the tree trunk

So according to askabiologist.com* the leaves turn when temperatures get colder and the tree starts “breaking down the chlorophyll into smaller particles”, leaving more room for other colors (carotenoids) to make the orange, reds and yellows. Other trees (maples) have anthocyanins that create red, pink and purple colors.

The theory I grew up believing was that leaf colors changed when the days got shorter and there was less sunlight to make green. So that always seemed plausible but days get shorter all over the world and leaves don’t change color in warmer climates. So the cold theory makes more sense now.

I just never thought about it.

It’s interesting when we accept ideas unquestioning. Especially when they are about non-personal things, like nature. Facts are applicable to everything but so much seems subjective. So my ideas about why leaves change color, that I have believed for years (evidently I didn’t pay close attention in botany class) has been corrected.

It makes me wonder how many ideas, theories, concepts I am still holding true without really having it right.

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Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu always get things right. And they are generous in their opinions, whenever I am at a loss.

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https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color

pain of healing

Forged in the fire, no pain, no gain, that which does not kill me makes me stronger…

I have watched husky-mix Lily closely these couple of weeks as she has recovered from her surgery. She did not do any of the things I prepared for– lick her stitches so avoided the “cone of shame”, cry out, object to the physical therapies I have done to keep her leg limber and exercised. At least not at first.

Her pain has been recent. When I take my other rescue dog, Lulu out for a short walk Lily is left behind. She is feeling better. She doesn’t understand why I am still holding her back from racing to the door if the doorbell rings, bounding down the porch steps to go outside, checking the backyard before bed to ward off the possum that sleeps in one of our trees. Maybe it isn’t painful for her, but for me. I feel badly that I can’t yet allow her to be herself.

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I think we all become complacent sometimes. Then something blindsides us or something we saw coming but hoped wouldn’t, happened. Or we lose someone, in some way– death, divorce, argument –and we are hurting. We sort through what happened and face some truths, which can hurt more than the thing that happened. But that hurt is the beginning of the healing. We are free when we face the realities of it. You can see it for what it is, put it in perspective. Lies hold us in bondage both to the lie as long as we persist in believing it, and the truth that we won’t yet face.

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Years ago I read several books by Dr. Frederick Buechner, a favorite of mine, Telling Secrets. This book illustrated well for me that our secrets are lives we live that no one else sees, and we may fabricate a life that we present to others that we believe is more presentable. But it’s in our secrets that we unlock who we truly are….

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Lately Lily’s resistance to my helping her stretch and exercise her leg has become stronger. This is frustrating for me, likely for her, too. This is to be done 3-5 times each day and as she heals and becomes stronger it’s gone to more like maybe 3 times a day. Thankfully her stitches will be removed this week and I really hope her vet tells me she can be freer in her walking and movement. She has helped me see, though, how it must be when my Father, God, wants to do something for me or through me and I struggle, disobey, assert my own will.

I need to get out of His way and wait for Him. I guess it’s good I have a lifetime to work on this.

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new horizons

Metaphysically speaking almost anything can be a new horizon. A new calendar year, a new job, a new home, a new day. Every year as long as I have known her my ex-mother-in-law has acknowledged my birthday, though at times I imagine she wished I did not have one, and has shared Christmas with a gift of a 3-month subscription of lovely seasonal fruit.

When Hurricane Florence threatened my area as a category 4 storm this thoughtful woman offered to have me stay with her (she lives about 250 miles inland) and had even advised a nearby veterinarian I would need to board my dogs. She let me know she had done all of this and I was deeply thankful to her for caring about me after 40 years. The forecasts about this storm changed constantly and, crazy as it might have sounded to her I said I needed to see how bad it would be since it would be difficult to return in the aftermath (it was, very) and I’d rather be there in case my home sustained any damage so I could report it quickly (it did, though minor thank God).

Though I sent her flowers this apparently was insufficient to appease her or convince her of my (slightly) insane decision to stay. For the first time in all these 40-plus years I did not receive a birthday card from her.

Ouch.

Nor did I receive the annual Christmas gift of fruit. Admittedly, her family sustained a terrible shock just before Thanksgiving in a completely unexpected death in their family so I truly did not look for anything from her. Quite the contrary I found myself at loose ends as to what I could do to help because our lives were not connected at any significant depth.  Yet this is a new horizon for me. A new phase where I proceed in life without her in it as she seems to have chosen to end contact.

This happens in life. We gain friends, we lose friends, people. Circumstances change. New discoveries are made that can change how we see everything.

Very early New Year’s night this happened. My son (who has done this since he left home) called to wish me a happy new year. I suddenly remembered the New Horizons space craft had been scheduled to encounter the outermost object in our solar system, the Ultima Thule (too’ -lee).

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What this object is as yet is unknown. The New Horizons has gone behind the sun so extracting data about it is not possible for a few days. Once it returns to a receptive position NASA will begin a 20-month extraction to determine what this is, how old it is and, ultimately, they hope to better understand the origins of the universe.

God gives us gifts. I admire those given the gift of aerodynamics, science, astrophysics and anything that enables people to create that which, in my small brain, defies the logical capabilities of anything. I’m a total geek about space travel and discovery. When the space shuttles still flew I cried with joy everytime one returned safely to the Kennedy Space Center and watched as those enormous parachutes opened to stop its forward velocity.

This is all so incredible to me. I receive email notifications when the International Space Station is on a trajectory of my area’s longitude and latitude and I am given coordinates and times so I can go outside, if it’s clear, and watch this tiny dot of reflected light arc the sky overhead. And I stand there in awe of what God has enabled mere man to do.

So people, things, events, circumstances come and go in life. I have learned to enjoy them, be grateful and see them for the gift that they are however they present themselves and when they go, to continue to look ahead without regret or discouragement. Only God knows the number and substance of my days.

I hope to live them well.

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