President George Washington and a Purple Eggplant

Curiosity niggles. Has another person in the world, at any time, teamed George Washington with an eggplant? Is there–has there ever been–any other writer whose mind makes the leap from our beloved first president to a well-aged eggplant?

Any of my dear readers who has the time, the temperament, and the inclination to do such research, would be held in high esteem by the writer of this piece, and the comment section on this page would welcome such information. Actually comments of any breed concerning this post are welcome, and just might prove entertaining.

I read a bit about President Washington this morning in honor of his birthday, which I believe is the 22nd. At the Washington Library site at Mount Vernon I came across this account of his reminding his men of his sacrifice, and of his aging.


“Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.”

EDITORIAL NOTES
While trying to calm anxious Continental Army officers frustrated with Congress near the end of the American War of Independence, Washington reveled (revealed) to the assembled officers, for the first time, that he had begun wearing glasses.  His gesture was a chance to remind them of just how long he had served, without pay, during the war.
Statement before delivering response to the first Newburgh Address | Saturday, March 15, 1783


It is said these men had never seen him use glasses before, and that somehow his appearing vulnerable and in a needy state helped quell the severe unrest among these officers.

I’m not sure how I came to keep this eggplant in my kitchen, but it may have gone something like this: I probably bought him at a 99 cent store, with the faint thought of concocting a tasty eggplant parmesan cheese dish, which I have never made, but which Jerry is very fond of. I think I’ve had the fella for months–maybe since Christmas–not sure. Anyway, the faint consideration of the eggplant parmesan cheese dish flickered out along the way somewhere, and I began to notice what a lovely specimen lived here in one of my kitchen baskets. He began to wrinkle in the finest way, and I began showing him to visitors.

I’m fairly in touch with aging, seeing that Jerry will be 87 next month, and that last July I had the startling experience of attending an 80th birthday party, which, unbelievably, turned out to be my own! Not just that, but as was true with President Washington, both Jerry and I have for some time sported spectacles. I’m one-up on him, though, in the hearing category, as I now sport an aid in each ear. But he has those canes he maneuvers around with, so I guess we’re even.

He’s wrinkled, is my eggplant, and as you can see, he is scarred. He’s beautiful, too, and although he did not live out the purpose for which he was created, he is ending his life by doing what he can. He brings me pleasure. His formation, his color, his intricately designed stem are works of art.

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

George Bernard Shaw

With sincere apologies to the late President George Washington.

A Valentine

Jerry has macular degeneration now. He almost never drives. He can hardly use his phone because of his limited sight. We’ve had snow on the ground for weeks, and today alone we have received almost six inches of rain. Sort of snow bound here in Crestline.

Yesterday, he said, “Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t get you anything.”

I brushed the remarks aside. “Jerry, that doesn’t matter. You know that.”

This morning our furnace quit belching out heat. Jerry traipsed down to the basement. Came back. “The flame is lighting, but the fan doesn’t come on, so then the flame goes off .”

Jerry called Ken, our across-the-street neighbor, who is the best neighbor anyone could possibly want. Ken’s a little younger than we are . . .but still an old man, I suppose. A couple of weeks ago he had cancers removed from his nose and ears, and for a few days when we would see him, the end of his nose would be white . . .with bandages. Both men poked around in the basement.

The called furnace man came. His poking around in the basement led to his saying, “Your furnace is 40 years old, has this and that problem. You need a new one.” We ordered a new one. Wrote a check for half the charge. Will pay the other half when he installs it.

Later I stood by Jerry as he sat on a stool tending the fire in our fireplace. “I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything for Valentine’s Day.”

“Doesn’t matter, now does it?” I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Red hearts, chocolates, cards . . . It really doesn’t matter, Jerry.”

We’ve made babies together. We’ve bought furnaces and paid water bills. Once upon a time we were young, and now we’re old. A time or two, we stared down death. We swatted the tush of our sons, and of our daughter, and now, they with ease, place an arm about the shoulder of a fellow and say, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” We’ve wrecked cars and bought hamburgers and pumped gas and eaten in joints. We’ve settled into the skinny seats of planes, then tramped the ground in countries not our own. We’ve cried in our living room and in our churches. We’ve hooted in laughter. We’ve cooked biscuits and gravy, and grilled spareribs on our back deck. We’ve buried friends. We sleep with Winston, and drive ourselves crazy trying to make him mind us. We’ve looked wide-eyed at our kids as they took us in hand to tell us about Alexa and Siri. We’ve ridden horses in the Sawtooth mountains, and I fell off, and we’ve waterskied, and preached, and taught, and sang. And loved.

A box of chocolates? A rose. A card. Some glitter. . Sorry I didn’t get you anything, Shirley. Are you kidding me?

The Artist and the Stone

A chunk of stone struck by an artist may appear damaged and degraded. With swift chisel he wields insult, marring the line, forcing a shadow, laying a plane. From side to side he moves, his knowing eye eternally judging. Finally the piece is finished, glowing in lustrous beauty. The artist stands aside, the masses pass before it and weep. Wrenched from the quarry heap has emerged a masterpiece; a statement, a message, a sermon.

from A Thousand Pieces by S. J. Buxton

What Will We Do With This Moment?

Photo courtesy of AP/Andrew Harnick

“Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?”

President Donald Trump

Jerry and I had watched the clock and before 6:00 arrived had tuned into Fox News on our computers, as we were eager to hear the State of the Union address by President Trump. Although the purpose of this piece is not to critique the speech, it seems appropriate to note his thoughtful, patriotic, uplifting words to be of the highest caliber.

It was his words, “What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?” that resonated with me, and it is of that I speak.

I recalled a day at the beach as I watched a man with his children. What of their moment? Where will they go? What will they do?

She was afraid, I recall, for while you cannot discern it here, there was a chasm, a drop-off, a scary place. Seeing her fearful crouch, he took the hand of his young daughter, and led her across. He taught her in that moment he would protect her, that she could trust men, that her daddy loved her and her mommy loved her, that she could conquer fear; indeed that sometimes it was okay to be afraid.

Others. Rather. Memory loam foul for the dig, deep the findings of scream and stagger. The hate. Hide and cut. Reach. A hand? ……..Any? Is there none? A slap, that’s a hand

Didn’t you know that?

And you new in my heart. A moment. To take. Of peace, Divinity, sobs, shame. Reach. A hand? ……Any? There is one and another ……and that is love. And forgiveness. And care.

Didn’t you know that?

And the good man I watched . . .as he watched . . .as he yet watches. And now is her birthday. She’s twelve. She’s safe.

New blog post on God Things. Link below.

A Snowy Day

The months have been dry, even to the extent that a severe water shortage had been declared, and we were admonished to use restraint in our usage, especially when irrigating our lawns and flower beds. The drought has continued through the winter, and here we were into February, little rain, and our snowfall of less than an inch had been disappointing. A couple of weeks ago it started raining. And raining, and then again, until I threatened to gather gopher wood, and I thought I glimpsed a thin line of animals trekking down our lane. Last night came heavy snow, mounding on our deck tables, ledging on our window frames, and spreading over the new daffodil shoots that bravely this morning are still pointing skyward. Snow is forecast to last throughout the day. Yes! We need it, and I love it.

Winston hates the rain. When he must go out, I give him a little shove down the back steps, he does his business and shivers his way back up the steps. But snow? He loves snow! Trots rapidly, pushes it around with his nose, and when we were almost home after our walk this morning, he turned in to Ken and Nancy’s across the street and barked for Shelby, their golden retriever. “Come out and play,” but Shelby didn’t like the snow too much and when Ken opened the door to let her out, she held back on the deck while Winston loudly barked at her.

“What shall we have for breakfast?” I asked Jerry after Winston and I were back inside, and he suggested waffles and bacon and that was deliciously fine with me.

Do you know about our waffle iron? I suspect not, for I have been dilatory about posting faithfully on this blog, and have a hunch I have not told you. Since I’m positive you want to know, I’ll tell you now!

During the Memorial Day holiday here in our mountain communities we have mountain-wide garage sales. Hundreds of people organize (or sometimes not!) their things, set them out on tables or blankets on the driveway, or . . .you know the routine. and we shoppers cruise by and if someone’s offerings appeal to us, we park our cars (often with great difficulty here) and browse through the items. It was three or four years ago now when Andrew and his crew were up for the event, and we were involved in said activities, when by the side of the road we spied a mound of boxes and bags and a sign that snagged us: FREE. There among the stuff set this beautiful, red waffle iron. Now I have never owned a waffle iron, and I said, “Look at that!”

“Want me to get it, Granny?” said dear little Brady.

“The rest,” as they say, “is history.” The perfectly operating red iron has now waffled out scores of crispy treats, its count increased this morning when Jerry and I chomped down on a couple of our own.

Those daffodils? They’re vulnerable. Because it is in their DNA, they have pushed through the cold earth . . .but they are fragile, and before their blooms burst into their intended glory, death and destruction will try to snag them. Disease. Rodents. The stomp of a hard-soled shoe, the wayward strike of a hoe.

I care about those plants on my front bank, and will see to them. See to their safety and to their progression.

We’re all daffodils. We lean on each other.

On The Cusp

Occasionally we finger the edge of it; our touch reckons it to be uncommon, even of the eternal. From our deep, issue thick tears, even as our breath catches. Rarified has brushed against us; encounter with glory laces our world.

Compelled to know the depth of this story, I recognize it now more than ever, to be our story, Jerry’s and mine, and in an unfathomable way, he is as our child. He who nearly killed Jerry. We weep . . .for him. . . for his people . . .for ourselves . . .for mankind. Journal words grip . . .his father discarded by drugged parents–orphanage drop-off, as casual as the mailing of a post office package. Rage. Violence. Carried to new generation . . .and to another, kicked as a bent can down the wretched road of drugs and alcohol and anger.

“My father, an Italian man was racist, called flies on the wall niggers. My mother mentioned that she did not like me at one point because I was David Jr.” A sense of aloneness in his family engulfed him, he told me yesterday, and still at this time in his life, he intimated, “I have a sense of aloneness.”

And so we met, and talked, and cried, and loved. We apologized. We forgave.

 

Dave and his wife, Dana.

At the Claim Jumper, we ordered food we could not eat.

And they had brought their copy of A Thousand Pieces, and I wrote in it, and then did Jerry, and maybe at that moment none of our eyes took in the dedication page: To Jerry, who lived it.

So here we are. On the brim, the edge. Delving, Searching. We read. We write. The last chapter? On the margin of enlightenment, self-understanding, reckoning with ourselves, finding our way ever deeper into the presence of God. The Buxtons and the Esteys . . .on the cusp. . .

A Rare, Noble Man

As soon as it beeped, I reached for the phone beside me and as I lifted it, I saw the number was an unfamiliar one. A text message read:

 

This is Dave Estey. The man that was driving the truck. I have read the book and want you to know how sorry I am. This is my contact number if anyone would ever need to speak to me further. With the deepest regret. God bless. Dave
 

I did not know anyone named Dave Estey, but as soon as I read his message, I knew that indeed, I did know him. He was the driver of the truck that twenty-five years ago had struck my husband as he stood beside a disabled car, leaving him so critically injured that he spent five months in St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, CA.

Some of you will know that several years ago I wrote a book entitled A Thousand Pieces in which I told the story of Jerry’s death in the street, the lady who revived him, his almost unbelievably severe injuries, and his remarkable recovery. I also told that the driver of the truck who hit Jerry was driving with a suspended license, had no insurance, no assets, was drunk, and was high on methamphetamines.

 

A Thousand Pieces has been an inspiration to scores of people, and is now in its fourth printing. Among other places, it is available at Amazon.

So, as I looked at my phone on January 17, 2019, I came to the reckoning that Dave Estey was that driver.

“Jerry,” I called across the room. “Listen to this text I just received.”

The details are too many to include here, but know this: Jerry and I during the past two days have come to know that Dave Estey is a rare man, one of meekness and goodness; of sweetness and of love. He has fought demons most of his life and is a deeply wounded man. But now, in his early fifties, he has come to himself,  is analyzing his life, and is making restitution. He is humble, remorseful, and truly repentant. Two days ago, he sat by Jerry in a restaurant, looked him square in the face, and, prefaced by several long sentences, said, “I am sorry.”

And my husband . . .in his sweet, slow way, put his hand atop Dave’s, and said, “I forgave you twenty-five years ago.” The sweet presence of God hovered about us, and we all, I believe, wept.

As I said earlier, the whole story is too long to tell here, but you should know this. Sometime back, Dave began searching for Jerry Buxton, and as he did, he came across this blog, learned through it of A Thousand Pieces, and ordered a copy from Amazon. He then made the contact to which I have referred, and made other contacts, which resulted in our meeting together. He lives 450 miles away from us. Last Tuesday he drove down to our area, and along with his wife, and two of our friends, Patrick and Holly Garrett, Jerry and I met him at the Claim Jumper in San Bernardino.

I have essentially finished writing a book called Dream Shards and was working on some drafting of it when the first text from Dave came. The gist of the new book is that each of us has dreams and at one time or another they all shatter. The issue then is what we do about it? Do we wallow around in the ashes, the shards, or do we pick up the pieces and fashion a new piece? A new dream? The coexistence and interaction of Jerry’s story and Dave’s story must be a part of that book. So even though I was through writing it, I am adding another chapter. Dave and I will be communicating by phone and email and the rest of his story will be told in that book.

In the meantime, I submit to you that Dave Estey is a rare and courageous man, and despite his sordid history, he is a good man. We are still shaken about this meeting, and believe it involves more than can be seen or understood. No doubt it is of the spiritual realm, and is directed by God. Both Jerry and I believe Dave has caught a vision of righteousness and godliness, and we will continue to do all we can to lead him to a full biblical experience with God. Please pray for all of us.

The High Road of Humility–Part Two

Sister Garrett had asked my husband to speak with the young men if he felt it was the right thing, and so came the time after we had eaten when they all gathered in the living room, and Jerry spoke a few words to them. They were so quiet, so attentive, and so obviously moved by his words.

I don’t say too much about it except with our family and close friends, but my husband’s childhood was quite rocky, and that he so effectively pushed through significant challenges is a source of pride to me, and I believe to our children. He was reared in the state of Louisiana, the youngest of twelve children, and more than a few times he has said to me, “We were so poor.” They had no running water, no telephone, no indoor bath, and no car. When he was four years old, his mother died. When he was thirteen his father died.

The Buxtons are great people and his siblings did their best to help him through those challenging years. He lived with some of them from time to time, but he was not really happy. “I never felt I belonged anywhere. Always felt I was in the way.” For a couple of years while he was in high school he lived with a family who had a dairy farm. He rose at 3:30, milked cows, then delivered raw milk to people in the neighborhood before his first session. “I was so sleepy, I often fell asleep in class.”

I believe it was when he was a high school Junior that he went to live with his brother, Bill, who was already a school teacher, and who helped Jerry enroll in a college after he graduated from high school. He worked his way through those four years and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. A young man having a college degree today is not considered especially significant, but in those years, it was an unusual accomplishment.

He had received the Holy Ghost when he was 13 years old, and during his Junior year in college, God called him into the ministry.

“The rest,” they say, “is history.” He has taught school, founded a school, pastored three churches, married a pretty good wife (feel free to snicker here), and sired four children who all are living good lives, and who are filled with the Holy Ghost. So to those young men Saturday afternoon, he gave the good word, “You Can Make It!” No matter your challenge, no matter your situation, “you can make it.” Some of the young men have solid godly families, some have sketchy relationships with their fathers, and some have no fathers at all in their homes.

So ended the afternoon of a memorable, blessed day. Look carefully at the last picture, and you will see that not everything was of a spiritual, holy nature. . .which is quite as should be!

 

The High Road of Humility

During the exceptional funeral of the late George H. W. Bush, our 41st president, former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson in his droll way said, “Those that travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.” In my living room, I smiled and considered the heavy truth of the matter.

While I never had the pleasure of meeting President Bush, and while I am not familiar with the little traveled high road of humility in Washington, I am well acquainted with an exceptional couple who traipse about on a similar road here in California. Pastor Patrick Garrett and his wife, Holly, are the leaders of an Apostolic church in Yucaipa, CA.  I’m overcoming my lack of fondness for cliches, when I say to you, “They walk the talk.”

The combination of very cold weather, and our decreasing wood stack which our son Steve heavily contributed to a few months ago, prompted a conversation between Jerry and Pastor Garrett. “I”m bringing you wood, buying it, . . .and  some young men are coming with me to stack it on the deck for you.” The response to Jerry’s insistence that he pay the young men for their efforts was, “No, I checked with them, and they will not accept any pay.”

On Saturday morning, here they came; nine strong, willing, young men, along with their pastor and his wife; exceptional Christians, people with the true love of Jesus Christ emanating from them.

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Pastor Garrett did not find that truck load of mixed hard wood sufficient for us, so after the first was unloaded and stacked on our deck, he pulled his truck out of our driveway and drove back to Yucaipa for another load–close to an hour’s drive.

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I was astonished to see and hear what those young men did next. While their pastor was gone, they took it on themselves–in 40 degree weather–to tackle yard work around our place. As though it were a spring cleanup, they grabbed rakes, hammers, trash bags, and blowers. Cleaned our property until it was spotless. They hosed decks, folded tarps, repaired wall hangings, swept under the front deck, reorganized containers, and from time to time asked, “Is there something else we can do?” My jaw had dropped.

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During the original discussion Jerry told Pastor Garrett we would cook up something for the workers, so on Friday evening around 7:00 Jerry fired up his smoker and for 14 or 15 hours he smoked to perfection a Farmer John Pork Shoulder. from which then he deboned the meat and formed delicious pulled pork sandwiches. I whipped up cole slaw, a huge pot of pinto beans with ham hocks, and crusty corn bread baked in iron skillets. Holly brought desserts . . .and we had a feast.

dsc_0863.jpgOnce while I was in the kitchen one of the young men came to me, so thoughtful and thankful. So sweet, so very sweet. “The table looks like it is for rich people.” His deep brown eyes stared into mine.

“It is for rich people, Caleb.” And then I expressed to him that people with principles and spirits such as this group possessed were rich; indeed they are the richest people on earth. In honor of these rare and treasured people I had set the table with shiny red porcelain plates. and their red and green cloth napkins were held by festive Christmas napkin rings.

IMG_1581Our ears ring daily with horrific tales of disgusting, dishonorable, evil activities. But there are others. Among the few who conscientiously tread the high road of humility and of true godliness are Pastor Patrick Garrett, his wife, Holly, and a number of glowing, exceptional young men.

Just before they left our home, I again thanked Pastor Garrett. “You are a true Christian.” As is his way, he bowed his head, and wept.

I continued. “And following behind you in a steady tramp is an impressive row of young Christians–just like you.”

When President George H. W. Bush removed his coat to warm a cold usher at church one Sunday morning, I was not there. When he wrote personal notes to scores of people, including some I know, I was not there. When he adorned our White House with exceptional ethics and grace I was not there. But recently, and often, it is my distinct favor to mingle with a godly couple and with an expanding flock of beautiful people who contribute to the beauty of this world as they walk the high road toward Heaven. Jerry and I are beneficiaries.

(Sad PS. That is either Gabriel or Joseph whose head I neatly sliced. My sincere apology!)

 

Do Nothing Monday

I’ve been tearing around here during the last few weeks, more than usual and that’s saying a lot. Just to fill you in, during the past month Jerry and I hosted a dinner party for seven–counting us, then a couple of our children and their families were here for four days for Thanksgiving, then last Saturday, we held our annual Christmas Open House and I whipped up a huge pot of soup and spent a couple of days baking goodies. There were 28 of us. Now understand, I am neither complaining or bragging about all these festivities that have been carried on here at the Buxton home. For the dinner party Jerry grilled ribs on his back deck smoker, and it just feels to me that if someone else cooks the meat, I can whip up the rest of it handily. Very dear friends have graced our home during these days–some of long duration, others of newly established relationships, and I’ve loved sharing meals around our table. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I feel honored when such people come to our home . . .and happy. And my kids…to have them here . . .well, it is just the best. So, as I say, the point of this piece is neither to complain, or to brag about all my doings, rather to press a point.

On Saturday afternoon as I was lighting candles, stuffing yeast rolls into my hot oven, and doing a couple of other very last minute things for my guests, I got tired. Just kind of sudden-like, I felt this fatigue threaten me. What is this?  I kicked the rascally feeling out of my being, lifted my head, and soldiered on. But at that moment I decided I would take Monday off. Flat do nothing. Today was Monday–The Day. And I have done nothing. Well, very little.

It’s been kinda cool. When they came to our Open House Craig and Sandra presented me with a beautifully wrapped box and when I opened it, I found this.

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This morning I spread out the pieces on a small desk that sets between the kitchen and the dining room, pulled up a little bench, and have spent a great portion of the day there. I’ve connected all the edge pieces, except that I seem to be missing one. Expect it will show up before I’m finished. I’ve called Alexa to play Christmas carols, we’ve listened to cowboy shows on XM radio, I’ve scratched together a couple of meals, and heard beautiful comments over the radio about the late President Bush. What a commendable life he lived.

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DSC_0832Winston took Monday off too, but such activity is not terribly unusual for him. He’s snuggled down here between Jerry’s legs that are stretched out on his recliner. Snoozes throughout the day. Rallies to eat and take in tasty treats.

I’m within a couple of months of the finish of a book I am writing. The book will be titled Dream Shards. The thrust of the book is that we all have dreams that from time to time are broken. What then we do about that? Pick up the pieces and rally, or wallow around in our grief and disappointment? Toward the end of the book I speak of ways to dream again and one of my points is that it is important to stop dashing around so much, rather indulge in slow chunks of quiet hours and quiet days.  Frequently. Restores us. Refreshes us.  I already know I’ll have a hard time writing that part. Definitely will be feeling  hypocritical!

But I did it today, and it has been wonderful. Try it. You’ll probably like it.

PS The puzzle is beautiful. The artist has a website: www.dowdlefolkart.com