Wednesday, June 6, 2012

From Your Lips to God's Ear

The Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus.
I have a dream.  One of the authors who has had a great deal of influence on my writing is Robert Fulghum, who wrote "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," along with seven other non-fiction books and a novel.  A little more than fifteen years ago, Fulghum was writing little essays for one of his kids' school papers when someone contacted him.  That person had read some of his essays and wondered if he had more like them, and if he would consider letting them get published.  "Sure," Fulghum said, and produced a whole drawer full.  He now has more than 17 million copies of his books in print, in 31 languages and 103 countries.  My dream isn't nearly so lofty, but is it possible that I could get published one day?

I found this in the comments section of my most recent note:  "Have you ever thought of being an author..... you have such a way with words..... could be a future in it for you!!!"  From your lips to God's ear, my dear friend.  Yes, I have thought about becoming an author.  I've thought about it a lot.  I sold the rights to a screenplay back in 2005 to a studio that never got around to filming it in the eighteen months it belonged to them, and for a while, I considered rewriting it as a novel.  I never went forward on that project, though, because I never felt it was the right thing to do.  If God gave me this talent, shouldn't I use it for His sake somehow?  Well, what should I write, then?

Some months ago, I mentioned wanting to write the story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well.  I was surprised to find that she's actually a named saint in the early Catholic and Greek and Russian Orthodox traditions.  She's my subject, and I'm telling you all so you can keep me accountable.  Feel free to ask me how the book is coming along in a couple of months.  I pray for the words to tell her story in a way that resonates with people today.  You can pray too! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Urgent Prayer Request: Gene

I could not have made this without Gene's help

My knife teacher is back in the hospital again.  He spent most of December and part of January at Cox South here in Springfield, and has only been able to get into the workshop with me three times since his release.  The other night, he woke up about 3 a.m., unable to breathe, and told his wife that he didn't think he was going to make it.  Thankfully, they were able to get him to the hospital where he is getting treated.  He sounds awful, (I talked to him this morning), but he says they're giving him the right drugs so we are hoping for the best.

His condition is serious.  He told me about two weeks ago that they won't put him on the heart/lung transplant list because of his previous exposure to multiple carcinogens.  The doctor has suggested surgery to remove the bottom parts of his lungs so that after some therapy, he can inhale more deeply.

Pray for Gene that the doctors can find a cure for the bug causing the chronic fevers.  Pray for the doctors to come up with a way to help Gene breathe better.  Pray for Gene's strength to return to the point where he can go into the knife shop to supervise my lessons and work on his own projects.  Pray for the salvation of both Gene and his wife, Cathy.  Pray for my witness to them.  I love them both.  Gene just turned 57.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Losing Our Fathers

He was the first man we ever loved, and the first man who broke our hearts.  We fought for his attention, thrived under his praise, withered under his scorn.  He was the invincible tickle monster of our childhood, the evil oppressor of our misspent teenage years, and the font of advice when we fledged.   The same man who knew when to put on and take off the training wheels was our guide when we heard something wrong with the car.  

We, as little girls, thought he would always be there, but something happened.  Maybe we lost a grandparent, maybe a pet died, and we realized with horror, that all life is mortal.  I still remember when I learned that everything dies and that meant parents, too.  Life is kind enough, though, that most of us didn't have to face the loss of our fathers while we were still young.  Instead we saw with each year that Dad got grayer and less robust.  The fathers of our youth that we thought were strong oaks turned out to be meadow grass that flourishes in its season and then fades under winter's blast.

We lose him.  Yet life goes on.  The grief fades, never leaving entirely, but recedes to a level we find we can more or less live with.  We might not believe this in the early days of our grief, but it is so.  Half-orphans, we casually speak of "Mom's house," when we had always said "Mom's and Dad's place" before, and the phrase passes into conversation without much notice.  This is the natural order of things, that our fathers go before us into the longest night, and we have been prepared for this, (as much as anyone can be), ever since childhood.

That doesn't stop us from missing the Daddy who pushed us on the swings and checked our report cards.  My father's birthday is just two days from now.  He would have been eighty-five.  Now, he's ageless.  Miss you, Dad.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Right Neighborly

I lived in Overland for ten years, and during that time, was invited into my next door neighbor's house exactly once about four years ago, and only as far as the front room.  If they hadn't had a brand new baby to show me, I'd probably have been relegated to the front porch any time I went over there.  To Joel's credit, he was a good neighbor in other ways, letting me borrow an odd sized screwdriver or giving me a couple of drywall screws, and once mowing my yard without being asked when our mower died.

That's not the way things are done here in Louisburg.  My first week here, I went in search of the house that had vegetables for sale. The woman of the house, Sue, invited me in and we went all the way back to the kitchen.  I paid her for a dozen eggs, but sensed that I shouldn't rush off after our transaction was completed.  (The "here, have a seat" at the kitchen table tipped me off.)   We probably spent an hour there together, and then she took me out to meet her chickens.  The vegetable garden was wilted and pathetic in the afternoon heat, but there were a few red tomatoes on the vines, and Sue gave them to me.  I think of it as a housewarming gift.

We've been here almost a month now, and this has happened over and over.  If you are on their doorstep, you are fair game, and you will 'set a spell'.  I know more about my neighbors here than I learned about my neighbors in Overland in the decade I was there.

Last night, Billy and Mary, our neighbors across the street, had us over for hamburgers and pool.  Their two little girls climbed all over us, and showed us the household treasures:  a toad, three tiny kittens, three bigger kittens, and books to read.  They are charming kids and I find it amusing that the littlest one comes over to "play" with my girls, nineteen and twenty years old.  Tonight is Pizza Night at their house, so we'll pick out some music and maybe a movie and spend another evening amidst the happy chaos of kids, dogs and kittens.  There will also be pool games and much conversation.

This past week, I have been caught up in getting my stepvan road-worthy and registered.  I spent hours--many hours--at the mechanic's house.  As it happens, the parts store in Buffalo does not take credit cards over the phone, and since I had no transportation to Buffalo, (seven miles from my house), I had to stay in Thomasville, at the mechanic's place, so that Jeanne, his wife, could drive me to town whenever Gary said he needed another part.  Did you catch that?  I hung around, watching Jeanne can gallons of tomatoes and drinking her excellent sweet tea, and chatting with everyone else who dropped by, and every so often, Jeanne put me in her truck, and drove me to Buffalo so I could pay for parts.  She even bought me lunch once.  (Shameless plug:  If you need help north of Springfield, Missouri, go see Gary at Pee-On Auto Repair.  You read that right, that's their grandson's nickname from when he was a baby.)

There is a sense of community out here in the country.  We are all in this together, and our survival depends on the help of others.  The interdependence we have with one another is just what is called 'right neighborly.'

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Culture Shock

LOUISBURG--A mobile home was driven down State Highway 64 yesterday, while Louisburg residents turned out of their houses to watch.  One witness, who identified herself as Sam, said "I looked out and there was a house parked outside our house.  So I came out to look."  She then went on to recount the number of vehicles involved in the move:  a black pick up truck in the lead, then the mobile home on its trailer truck, followed by two more pick up trucks.  Another Louisburg resident standing next to Sam, who identified herself as Melody, said that the guys in the blue pick up were "totally checking us out.  I think they were looking at my socks."

In other related news, two dogs owned by the new people in the yellow house escaped when the front door was inadvertently left open during the excitement of the mobile home delivery coming through town.  The woman, Melinda N., who brought the dogs to Louisburg originally, saw her dogs running across the highway from the front porch of long-term resident, Polly V., and gave chase.  She was joined by several other residents, notably the guy in the pumpkin colored house who is married to that blond woman with the volunteer fire department, who ultimately caught the bigger of the two dogs, and Annie, who took the dog by the collar and drug the dog back to the owner's home.

Farm Report:  Polly V. has more tomatoes than she can eat, so come get them.  Sue's garden is mostly done for the year, thanks to the groundhogs, raccoons, and the heat wave  in early to mid August.

Science News:  A green tree frog was spotted clinging to the wall of the small house that used to be a garage behind the yellow house with the new people in it.  According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, green tree frogs were native to the bootheel section of Missouri, and recently established a population in Camden County.  This may be the first confirmed sighting of a green tree frog in Dallas County.

That's all the news from Louisburg, Missouri.  Good night and God bless.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Moon Shadow and Other Delights

There is a narrow road, ruler straight, that takes you out of my tiny village. Vo-Tech Road, (paved), appears to dead-end at a tiny school, but when you drive up on it, you see that the road takes a hard left. Once you make that left turn, you leave behind all buildings. Wide pastures stretch out on either side of this short bit of road, which does dead end at Rice School Road, (mostly paved). Straight ahead at the T intersection there, is a cow pasture.

Yesterday, I was driving Ol' Red down Vo-Tech toward the pasture. Did you know that herd animals almost always graze in the same direction? Seriously, check it out. It was already fairly late in the day, the sun was still up but dusk was not that far off. The cattle had been grazing all day, and I guess were mostly done eating, because when I drove up on them, they were spread out, all facing the road, and nearly all of them were staring at me. Disconcerting, and yet funny. Have you ever faced a herd of Angus crosses regarding you contemplatively? No? Me either, until yesterday. I had to laugh. I asked them, "What are you looking at?" and got no reply, but one oddly marked calf, ruddy brown with white knee socks and a big white heart on its forehead, started ambling toward me, with what I can only guess was a hopeful expression on its face. ("Hey. Hey. You got any calf meal for me?) Side note, I've tasted sweet feed, it's actually delicious. Oh, shut up, we were kids and we all tried it and it wasn't my idea anyway.
So, yeah, I find looking at cows looking at me amusing. I'm lucky to live here.
Last night, the weatherman promised clear skies, so I went outside to see the stars. I was stunned by how bright it was! On a dark night, I can see the Milky Way from my front porch, yet the first thing I noticed when I looked up last night was that the stars were washed out. Glancing down, I saw myself. My shadow, clearly delineated on the grass. I took a few steps toward the street, turned and gazed, and there was the moon, glowing white and round as a silver dollar. The night insects sang all around me, but the frogs were silent.
 I know you can all see the moon, too, wherever you are. Even the brightest city lights can't completely fade it from view. What makes last night's moon shadow so special to me, though, is that I have the darkest, most velvety nights to act as contrast. My shadow will fade to black with the waning moon over the next couple of weeks, until finally there is no trace of me on the grass. The stars will arch overhead with cold fire and the Milky Way will once again cut a swath from horizon to horizon.
Then, like a curtain rising on a new act, the moon will wax and again, and resume her prominence in the night sky.
I'll say it again, I am lucky to live here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Paradise, Again

So, this morning I walked back to Sue's house to buy another dozen eggs--as free range and organic as they get, the hens wander around all day eating the overripe garden vegetables and any bugs that land in the yard--and looked again for more of those black butterflies.  After I wrote last night's note, I went browsing through The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies  and discovered that what I thought were Mourning Cloaks were, in fact, something else.  My theory was that they were the dark version of the Tiger Swallowtail.  The place next door to me is a nearly vacant lot with waist high grasses and weeds, with some trees (including a huge elm that I wish I could teleport onto my own property) but mostly, the yard is open to the sun.  Great place for finding a black butterfly so I can confirm my guess? 

Well, yeah!  I found one right away, and yes, it is a Tiger Swallowtail, but what's this?  Wading further into the field, which hasn't seen a mower this year, I found the Buckeye version of Grand Central.  Buckeye males flying high in dominance displays, singles flitting from the Queen Ann's Lace to the Wild Hops, a pair low to the ground with him trying to court her.  Dialogue in my head, "But I love you!  But I love you!" as I watched his futile pursuit of the indifferent female.  Maybe you should have brought her flowers, dude.  There may have been a hundred Buckeyes in this lot, maybe more.  All I know is the air was alive with them.  And I live next door to all this magic.

I've been looking through the Audobon book since we moved in, studying the photos, and thinking that it reminds me of a catalogue.  (I'd like one of these, and one of those...)  In our yard we also have Sulphurs, Pearly Crescentspots, some kind of Skippers and some others that I haven't been able to see close up.  The fabulous profusion of life is stunning.  Wild turkeys and white tail deer casually stroll through the fields and open woodlands this time of year.  Sue grumbles about the groundhog who stole her tomatoes--and I can't blame her--but I am secretly excited to think that I live in a place where groundhogs thrive.  No sign of owls yet, I've tried calling screech owls from my porch and heard nothing in reply, but just ten miles from here as the owl flies is a large swath of oak savannah, and there are probably screeches and barred owls right down the road.

Speaking of roads, my village has only six or seven streets.  I have more friends on Facebook than there are living here in Louisburg.  According to the 2000 census, only 149 people called this home.  That's about five classrooms' worth of kids when we were growing up in the Lindbergh school district.  I like it, though.  All those years I lived in Overland, I didn't know my next-door-neighbor's name, (her choice), today I borrowed tools from Billy across the street, shot the breeze with Sue and husband Darryl after buying eggs, found out that her tenant, Paul, plays guitar and have made tentative plans for a jam session with him.  Not only that, but I have found some buckskinning pals right here, Spirit Wolf five miles outside of Louisburg, and Running Wolf in the next town over, about seven miles away.  I've known both of them for years, but out on the rendezvous circuit.  We get to be neighbors, now!  Even more odd, they had friends who lived on my property, Spirit Wolf's buddy in the trailer out back, and Running Wolf's best friend in the three bedroom house behind mine.  Both of those homes are vacant at the moment, but I hope to get tenants by next spring.

Hey, wanna come live in the boonies?  I can heartily recommend it.

Oh, and for those who are wondering why I'm living out here, all I can say is why did it take me so long to make this move?