Crisp air was painting the ends of the maple leaves, turning them red, reminding everyone that summer is a trickster. She dallies all through June , July and August skipping around in the gentle rain, the summer sun, the soft winds, shinning down her long golden arms, only to take them away, leaving an early morning frost ice the tender lettuce, late tomatoes and pound the fragile flowers.
Gramp dropped small logs into the wood stove, heating the house and boiling the coffee. He was glad Shirley was still asleep because Continue reading
Shirley Jean and Gramp were sitting at the kitchen table in the early morning, eating oatmeal, topped with Gramp’s clover honey and wild blueberries.
“Gramp?” Shirley Jean said thru a mouthful of oatmeal.
“Yes?” He turned to look at her sweet face.
“Is today the day we go to the river for the rainbow trout?”
“Today is the very day. We will get our chores done, wrap our fly hooks, pack our gear, walk down to the river, and canoe to our fishing spot.”
Shirley Jean had a hard time keeping her mouth closed as she was chewing, because the smile on her face wouldn’t quit smiling.
Shirley cleaned the bowls and wiped the table, while Gramp set his wool slippers aside and pulled on his work boots.
The autumn wind was taking a stand and declaring summer to be over. She put on her best face, scudding thin clouds across the moon, baring trees of their coats, relieving folks of their hats and most of all whipping skirts and dresses around the legs of women daring to disregard her prophetic power of bitter sweetness.
On such a night, one lone figure, thick-knotted scarf, thin jacket, mid-calf skirt and tall leather boots, walking strong, knew where she was going and intending to get there. When she finally arrived she was breathless, heightened. Without speaking everyone knew something had happened. She refused to say but they insisted. “It was the Highway Man.” She gave in. “I saw him.” Trembling, saying no more, she poured red wine and sat at the fire.
They knew she was in love but they couldn’t understand how it came to be so.
One afternoon Little Shirley Jean watched as a car turned up the old road to Gramp’s farm. The car through up dust on both sides as it wound it’s way up towards Gramp’s house. Not many people came calling in the middle of the day so everyone stood watching and wondering if this was a good visit or bad. Continue reading
Standing at the forefront grinning
The dust a disembodied beast
I heard his thundering wagon approach
His grin like one diseased
I fell behind an ancient oak
His whip and laughter rang
The wind tore with sharpened claws
The trees bent in twisted pain Continue reading
Shirley Jean opened her eyes. Still fighting sleep, she turned over to watch Gramp walk across the yard, carrying the sliver milk bucket to milk their two cows. Her white iron bed was low enough to look out the wooden framed window next to her bed. She thought her Gramp was the handsomest man she’d ever seen. He was wearing his green pants with the cuff turned up, his faded blue overalls and his dapper straw hat. He walked straight with his shoulders back as though he had no debt. He skimmed the grass, walking as though he were a dancer.
Shirley Jean and Gramp lived on a farm in northern Michigan, where the North Wind blows and the animals are wild.
Gramp was a sheep farmer but also, he had two hefty workhorses, two lovely brown cows for milk, barn cats to chase mice, and a very nice bunch of chickens. Continue reading
In New Orleans, in the Garden District, where the warm air lay on your shoulders like a cat, lived the widow Madam Gardner. Her house was a pale pink color with great white pillars. A black iron fence surrounded the velvet lawns, ancient twisting oaks lined the boulevard, dappling the house in the late afternoon sun.
Madam was a sweet tempered woman, yet not afraid to speak up for justice, always offering a kind word to all she encountered and she had the greenest thumb in the parish.
Her garden was a source of envy for many. Even Madeleine Riboult, Madams oldest and dearest friend went as far as to hint, “One might think Madam’s garden to be enchanted if one didn’t know better.” Little did she know how close to the truth were her suspicions. Continue reading
You might think chickens are creatures that go around pecking at the ground, looking for bugs and now and again laying an egg, as though it were a surprise to her and to you. They fluff their feathers, squawk for unknown reasons, jump at shadows that appear out of nowhere and run screaming with indignation if you happen to turn on the hose to water the lavender while they are busy scratching up a nest beneath the fragrant plant. Listen, you can be standing near one as though you were made out of stone, not a muscle moving, and all of a sudden you wiggle your baby finger and Miss Hen will stretch her neck, eyes popping out, wings flapping and screech like a woman who just stepped on a snake. You feel sorry for the chicken, you really do. On the other hand, if you don’t know any better, you might look down on her with a touch of superiority. I used to, before I knew how sophisticated and complex they really are. You won’t find them getting out rose painted teacups for mid-morning snack, but they definitely know who they are. Continue reading
The coyote was hungry. It had been a long winter. The snow had fallen, sometimes in soft blankets, other times in angry swirls. It had been mad to cover the earth. It had been pulled down from heaven and lay like diamonds, like cold ice queens, like angels with silver wings. But the snow had not known that it had covered up all the food, the food of creatures that had relied upon the earth’s abundance throughout the summer and autumn. Now, all was beautiful, all was bleak. One day Mother Coyote said to Father Coyote, “You are the wild call of my heart. You have given me the song of my child and yet we are hungry. I know you feel the need, the ancient call of survival. I will give up my need but, Dearest, not the need of our pup.” The coyote looked across the frozen field. Maybe, a desperate, white rabbit, looking for food for his family, will stumble and sacrifice, for us. Is it a game? Is it life? It doesn’t matter when it’s food one needs. So Father Coyote stood in the cold, the ice wind blowing his silver, brown fur. He sniffed, his eyes looking upward. He smelled something. It was life, blood coursing through another father’s veins. Father Coyote stood as though all things had ceased. “I must try.” He pounced through the snow, first smelling, then seeing Father Rabbit, as well, Father Rabbit seeing Father Coyote. Life was the only heartbeat. The snow swirled; the rabbit was gone. Father Coyote’s back haunches eased. His chest softened. His despair was great. He moved to go, but something held him. Later, in the warmth of his cave, he pondered. Was it a knowing, a silent voice, a gift of providence? But, there as the wind blew it’s message, uncovering the frozen body of a turkey, Father Coyote know his family was safe.
I have wondered what I would admit to if I were asked about significant milestones in my life, if someone asked me to tell of a meaningful experience or a small piece of advice. I wonder if I would tell of my troubadour husband and me sleeping in a cornfield one summer night, in our search for dreams and money. We listened to the dry stalks creaking like old bones, the leaves rustling in a silk slip waltz. We finished out the night in our car at the side of the highway, pulled safely off the road, overlooking a mountain river. In the morning while my husband slept, I found my way down the embankment, pulling off my tee-shirt and jeans then stepping into the icy water. The embankment was high and the cars went by fast. I looked up when I heard my husband yelling, “This is a highway! You can’t be naked down there!” I just laughed and continued to wash my hair, splashing and daring anyone to stop or slow down. I can still remember how my head ached with the cold after I rinsed the shampoo from my long hair. I also remeber my hair and skin never shone with such brilliance before or since. I find nothing significant in that experience except I remember it, usually with a Mona Lisa smile. I might recall the evening my father and I sat in the doorway of his garage, sharing some talk, some silence and a beer. We gazed throught the thickening darkness at the outline of piney woods. He told me a true story of a beautiful woman, madness, lost love and a heartbroke man. I remember the sound I made in my throat instead of crying. When we walked back to the house, it was full night, no moon, no stars, only miles of unforgiving darkness. If I were to admit to learning anything useful to help me throughout the second half of my life, however I don’t believe in rules or adages, I would say, have a sense of humor. When the pain passes, find somethig to smile about and listen for the coyotes. Their cry in the night might make anyone feel lucky.