An Unexpected Storm and Manzanita

Rain last night, accompanied by such lightening and thunder as we seldom see here in Crestline. Our forecast indicated a slight chance of rain, with no mention of thunderstorms. When I heard the first rumble, I looked across the living room and quizzically stared at Jerry. “Is that thunder?”

It was, and thus began the hours-long visual display of lightening, and the drum-like sound of the accompanying thunder.

Much earlier in the day, well before we drove away for our Sunday morning worship, Jerry and I had walked with Winston. On leaving the house, I saw that the light was glorious, carried my camera with me, and snapped these two shots of the men in my life.

dsc_4738dsc_4755Winston’s placid moments were to give way to sheer panic, though, when in the evening the thunderstorms moved in. He was terrified. Once when he went out in the back, a thunderbolt sounded so loudly, that he hid under the ground-level stairs and would not come up, necessitating my going down and carrying him into the house. He trembled for hours. Nothing we did seemed to calm him. He spent the night under our bed.

The storm raged for hours–throughout the night, and has continued today.

Between showers we took our Monday morning walk, and I snagged a treasure. I had eyed the gem from time to time as we walked between our house and the woods near Thousand Pines Camp; today I decided to take it home with me. The small manzanita branch was red, full of leaves, and when I bent to pick it up, I found it to be slightly attached to the earth on the side of the hill. With one firm tug, I uprooted the woody piece, and began the short drag to our house.

dsc_4764“What are you going to do with that?” (Guess who asked.)

“Oh, I’m not sure. Lay it around somewhere. Look how pretty it is.”

“You’re a sight dragging that branch down the street,” hubby sweetly noted.

dsc_4766dsc_4771Manzanita is beautiful wood, drought resistant, and our variety presents itself with  a rich mahogany color. My piece has small orange leaves and resides now on a table that sets on our front deck. Its final place will change over the course of the months and years, for despite its humble delivery to our home, the formation is suitable to anchor a centerpiece for the most formal of occasions, or to be plopped onto a rustic plank in the back yard for a picnic or a barbecue meal.

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The storm is reluctant to leave. While I have composed this piece sitting on our living room couch with a small fire burning within a few feet of me, Winston is still hiding, for numerous showers accompanied by persistent thunderbolts and flashes of lightening continue to fill the air here in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

The Fall of the Acorns

dsc_4599Through the night they fall from high oak trees, clang onto our roof, then bounce onto one of the decks, or onto the driveway that leads to the house. In the morning Jerry will sweep them up . . .again. The winds have increased, the temperature has dropped. Autumn, beautiful autumn, has arrived. The scent of ripening pears from our tree in the back floats through the air. The pears are perfection. Sometimes we eat one out of hand, or again on a small plate beside a slice of cheddar or a scoop of goat cheese.

Day 8 of 16 with the Grands *The Dump, Pears, and Zinnias*

On Monday the phone rang. I answered.

“Granny, this is Nathaniel. What if I come up at 5:30 and bring Paisley to spend the night? And if its okay, the boys could go with me to play basketball at the church this evening. They can sleep over at our place, and we’ll meet up with you and Ella at our house in the morning.”

In that way the final plans were laid for the Disneyland trip. Rebecca and Nathaniel were joining the Buxton grands and me, as Jerry had decided the trip was a bit too strenuous for him. He would “baby-sit” Paisley and Winston.

First, though, the basement clean-out job must be finished, for the trip to the dump/thrift store had earlier been postponed in favor of something else. Ken lent his trailer, Cole and  Brady helped their Pappy connect it to our Jeep, then loaded it, and tied it down with a tarp. They were off, and in less than two hours were back.

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Sad. There go my green chairs with the beautiful carved legs. 😦

dsc_4519I haven’t engaged in a lot of creative photography since the youngsters have been here, and I’m disappointed that at Disneyland I will not have my camera with me. I have decided not to take it, but to use my phone instead. We’ll be taking bottles of water, lunches and snacks, and my camera and favorite lens are quite heavy.

But in the back yard, the pears are nearing harvest time and are stunningly beautiful.

dsc_4515. . .as are the zinnias, which are nearing the end of their days.

dsc_4521The boys and I sat down at the dining room table as I gave them money to spend at Disneyland and to tell them how proud I am of their behavior, their work-ethic, and their fine manners. They loaded up their backpacks, I fed them dinner, and by 6:00 Nate had come and they were gone down the hill. Disneyland tomorrow!

A Rather Fine Day

We met Elinor a few years ago at the lodge down by Lake Gregory where often on Tuesday we go at noon for a meal served to adults of senior age. She is charming, spunky, beautiful, and 85 years old. During one of our noonday conversations, as we talked of gardening and plants, she indicated she had a dogwood tree seedling.

“Would we like to have it? Did we have a sunny spot?” she asked.

A few days ago Nathaniel had prepared a hole on our back bank in which to plant the little tree, so we were ready.  This morning we drove to Elinor’s place, following the perfect map she had drawn. Jerry was outfitted with gardener’s gloves, a bucket and a hefty shovel.

DSC_3279First, before we tackled the transplant, Elinor showed us about her place. Flashing her majestic smile, she stood behind her glorious rhododendrons for my first photo of the day.

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Both the rhododendrons and the dogwoods are past their prime for the season, but the light was so beautiful on this branch, I snapped a shot anyway. Our seedling is from this mother tree which Elinor planted 40 years ago. She has lived in this same place for 47 years. Amazing.

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As Jerry prepared to dig up the little plant, she kindly pushed him aside, saying, “Let the old woman do it.” Jerry stepped back a bit, and as they both bent back and forth, scraped, and scooped, the little fella was soon in the bucket and placed in the back of our Jeep.

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Late this afternoon, Jerry maneuvered our rather steep back bank and settled the two-year-old dogwood tree into its prepared place. Sets now on Buxton property. One day it may reach a height of 40 feet, and perhaps there will be someone around who will say, “Yeah, Jerry Buxton–remember him?–he planted this great tree.”

I had the ingredients I needed, so early this morning, I baked four loaves of banana bread. I took one to Elinor, still warm from the oven, along with a small note thanking her for her friendship.

A fine day? Yes, rather a fine one.

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Of Ron, A Cup, and Roses

Back from walking Winston this morning, Jerry carried in his hand, then set down on the deck as he dealt with the leash, a cup I recognized. The cup is from a long-ago trip when several friends traveled with us as we trekked all the way from the west coast to the east, where in Maine we ate lobster and drank coffee at the Maine Roaster Coffee place. Five couples, all in very long motorhomes towing vehicles, had the trip of a lifetime, and that fine mug you see here came to be part of our kitchen things in that way. “Motor homing” is in our past and some of the souvenir cups that once bounced around in frisky cupboards now reside in sedate, non-moving shelves in our kitchen.

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But here it was in Jerry’s hand on this foggy, chilly morning in Crestline. And in the cup were two perky roses.

It was Ron’s doing. He lives five or six houses down, and last week when he popped in for a word he accepted Jerry’s offer of a cup of coffee. I recall him walking out the door, holding the cup in the air. “I’ll get your cup back to you.”

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Neighbors. Sweet neighbors. Thoughtful neighbors. With few exceptions those are the caliber of persons who live here in our “neck of the woods.”

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Ron brought me great joy today by placing a couple of stems with roses and buds into the mug he had drunk from last week.

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I wasn’t satisfied by merely looking at these treasures, for surely something as exquisite as these deserved a snap or two by my fine Nikon.

And just so, I posed them. I thought of Ron and his wife, of neighborliness, of roses, of their beauty. Of God who made them.

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And I thought of you, and wanted to share.

A Visit on the Bank of Greer’s Ferry Lake

Lots of life questions hound me, so that I am unsure of many things. Of this one subject, however, I am positive; my life has been unusually blessed by an outstanding, talented family, and by many friends who possess sterling qualities. Two such are the Rev. Jesse Emerson and his charming wife, LaDoyne. A couple of weeks ago, we were privileged to spend part of two days with them at their lovely home whose acreage leads down to the waters of Greer’s Ferry Lake in Clinton, Arkansas.

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Although Brother Emerson does preach from time to time, they no longer are in active ministry and feel blessed to have found this home where they can spend their retirement years.This giant cup holding a magnificent plant speaks to the theme of their lives–I could tell.

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20150321-untitled (46 of 67)Beautiful voices yet, with perfect harmony. At the end of the meal they sang a sweet song–something about where has our youth gone? We grinned and clapped.

20150320-untitled (17 of 67)She was pulling these from the oven when we arrived.

20150321-untitled (55 of 67)Under this magnificent tree, two white lounge chairs await the languid summer days when the Emersons sit and bask in the cool breeze off the lake. Their family often come to visit and to play in the water.

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20150320-untitled (34 of 67)We talked of sun rooms, and storms that ripped out windows, and looked at treasured old books. We spoke of our enduring friendship and recalled the long ago days of their preaching at our church when we pastored. We spoke of motor homes and recalled they lived in one for years as they crisscrossed the United States doing the work of an evangelist. We spoke of health issues and families and friends; of aging and of progress and of regression. Upstairs they have fitted out three rooms they refer to as the Prophet’s Chambers. Consisting of a tiny living room that looks to the lake, a minuscule kitchen, and a comfy bedroom, they open this area from time to time to missionaries and other ministers who need a place to stay for awhile, to catch their breath, to regain their equilibrium.

And then it was time to go, and we left with hugs, and smiles, and promises . . .to keep.

I cherish those days, and guard carefully my friendship with such dear and precious people. How truly blessed I am.

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And what of you? I would love to hear of your friendships–whether we have mutual ones, or you have others to tell us about.

Ballet in the Woods

A movement on the rock–rock color, except that it moved, and I saw the scamper of tiny lizard. So small he was, I thought I might have stumbled onto a reptile maternity ward, for surely he must have only just cracked through his tiny egg. I read, too, that lizards may hatch early if a loud rumble or a heavy vibration circles up around the egg, and a sense of danger, the chance of predator, pervades. I hope I had not set up a rumble as I trudged up the small hill into the woods at the end of our street. Surely I did not cause a premature lizard birth this September morning–a morning of perfection, warm, with a faint brush of chill that had seen me to the closet for the first time this season to take out my jacket of lightest weight. I angled down my camera, but he was swift, and escape and hiding were encoded in his ancient reptilian brain, and anyway, he had escaped his crib already, and then he was at the side of the rock, and down, then into the thick grasses . . . and gone. I had not snapped my shutter, of such quickness were his movements.

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The low grasses wave, slender and graceful so that I see they are ballet dancers and the sunlight beams through their stems and fronds and highlights their heavy heads, heads that droop now with seed, precious seed, for therein is eternity. Unmistakable elegance, if one will pause long, and will stare at length; elegance, raw beauty, unmistakably a push against the dismissal of such as mere weeds.

The lizard, gone now, a skitter among the ballet.

My Farm Report

I live on a farm, you know, and during these summer days I try exceptionally hard to insure that I stay on the cutting edge of modern day farming techniques. I read widely (well, what I can find on the internet without too much trouble) with the intent of sharpening my farmer skills so that my crops will be abundant, beautiful, tasty, and without tooth marks from the many critters with whom I share my space in these beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

untitled (16 of 31)(A little aside here. Did you know the Defense Department has just granted more than 3 million dollars to buy land to protect pocket gophers? while at the same time thousands of employees have been laid off because there’s not enough money to go around. What? Say again?)

Anyway, while we’re on the subject of gophers you need to know we have plenty of the little fellas around here and if someone wants to protect them, just come over and I’ll give you free run of my land to catch as many as you can, and you may take them as pets. They eat things; prowl about under the dirt, chomping on vegetable and flower roots, drilling holes in the earth, then popping up for an open air feast.  One evening last week they dined on my beautiful okra plants which are planted in pots, and which I had  carefully nurtured, and which are now encased in fine screen against the onslaught of hungry gophers and ravenous ground squirrels.

Tomatoes are my stars this year. I have three plants; cherry, Better Boy, and Early Girl. They have grown so fast and so tall that the cages and stakes I had provided became woefully inadequate, so a couple of mornings have seen Jerry and me out in the wide tomato field with string, clothespins, and finally with a pvc contraption with which to support these glorious specimens that are taller than I am.

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untitled (15 of 31)Some farmers speak of their land in terms of acres. I’m a little different, so I just go about speaking of mine in terms of pots. In case you’re at all interested, I have: three tomato plants, one yellow squash, one zucchini squash, one jalapeno (which I bought at the 99 cent store and which now is showing a great blossom) and four okra plants. The okra was an afterthought–saw four little shoots in a square container at Lowes, so brought them home and put two each in a couple of pots. One pot is the wooden barrel of an ice cream freezer which Ken and Nancy were getting rid of it. Cute as can be. One day I’ll show you a picture.

untitled (18 of 31)untitled (19 of 31)Before breakfast, by hand, I had watered my entire farm, crooned to the injured okra plants, which are so brave and strong, that they have already shot up new leaves, wondered why I see no little squashes, only beautiful yellow blossoms, and eyed a couple of red beauties which I will pick just before dinner, which I will slice, salt and pepper and serve along with the grilled pork chops I have in mind.

I quite like this farming part of my life . . . and earlier today had this thought concerning expansion: A goat or two! Wonder how Jerry would like it if I ordered in one little billy goat…hmm……or should it be a nanny?. . . milk and all, you know. Goat cheese.

 

Pieces of Wonder

Part of the amazement is of me–my body, mind, memory, emotions. That I came fully formed from the simple love of my mother and father, and that now I too am a mother–of four magnificent beings who have beautiful bodies, minds, and spirits truly amazes me.

Outside my windows tonight the wind blows, and though even on sunny days I cannot see the wind, I know it is there, for it lifts tree branches and puts them down again as easily as I flag a silky scarf through the air, and it tears around the corners of our tall house and howls. I hear the wind. It’s raining too, soft rain. They had said there was only a 20 percent chance of rain, but we are of the 20 of the hundred tonight, the lucky ones. untitled (6 of 15)I imagined I heard rain against a bedroom window a while ago, so I peered out and saw that the driveway was wet and that the bushes that are illuminated by the yard light were shiny and drippy. “It’s raining, Jerry,” I said. It has been clear though. Just a few nights ago, the moon was so bright through our high uncurtained windows, I believe I could have read a book page at midnight. This early morning as we drank coffee I looked through the ascending branches of a wide oak tree just beyond our front deck, and there in the branch tops I saw the moon. It was not fat as before, but a fragment of itself.

It takes faith to believe in God and I have that faith. If I did not, logic would nevertheless pull me into the believer’s corner, for it is much more sane to believe that a Creator is responsible for the glory and wonder of the earth and for the beauty of our bodies and minds, than to think all this came from nothing and from no one.

Near our front entrance stairs is a large stone planter which in summer is a riot of flowers–annuals which I change out each year. In the late fall, I pulled out the remaining dried-up fragments and planted bulbs in there. I don’t remember what kind of bulbs I planted, for within a short span, Jerry and I planted 200 bulbs. But in a loose-leaf binder in the potting shed, I have a list of everything we planted, so I will find out what is to grow there. The potting shed is really not a shed at all, but is actually a basement room with an exterior untitled (13 of 15)wall of glass and door. I call it a potting shed because it has pots in it, rakes, planting mix, the wheelbarrow, shovels, and such. But, back to the stone planter. 🙂 We’ve had record-breaking cold here in the San Bernardino Mountains this winter, but mixed up with days of very warm weather . . . so we have flowers blooming, even though it is projected that in a couple of days we can expect a storm to dump several inches of snow on us.

. . . the stone planter. Around Thanksgiving I piled on top of the dirt in the planter a mound of huge untitled (1 of 15)pine cones, and during the days of Christmas, I tied one of them up with a wide red bow. A few days ago when I noticed a sweep of blooming yellow daffodils, I got to thinking about the bulbs in the planter. I moved aside the heavy cones, and there poking up from the earth were determined, green shoots. untitled (2 of 15)

If there is anything that reinforces my belief in God, it is a flower bulb. They’re brown, wrinkled up, and papery when you dig a hole in the fall and stick them into the ground. Down inside those little morsels, though, is magic. Surprise. Determination. Plan. They know to push up when it’s time, They know to be a yellow daffodil or a pink tulip, or a lily, and though I’ll have to check my notebook to know, they already know who they are, and what they are to do. God made them that way.

It takes faith to believe in God. I have that faith and lots of evidence. Pieces of wonder.

Eden, a Lily, and the Manger

That I would notice is proof of creation and of Eden and of the sixth day. That I would question Holly as to the classification of the flower, and that I would even think to do so, is proof that God made me quite a different creation from that of a dog or an elephant or a monkey. For which of those animals give any indication of caring about Holly’s tiny, neglected (so she told me) plant?

That I would lift my camera, focus with care, and process such an image tells of God and of how He made me. Biological evolution, you say? Creatures squirming from the sea, ascending then into trees, evolving into chattering monkeys, and then into me? You say? You think?

Been around any photography stores lately? Did perchance you see a monkey or a dog customer? Even one–just one– orangutan peering around the corner, or through the show glass just a bit reluctant to walk up to the counter and inquire about cameras and settings and price?

That I would see the tiny flower, that I would note its struggle for existence, (for it is as small as a paper clip), and that I would detect its pressing to unfold from its confining sheath, and that I would process its image is of God. The eternal, omnipotent, all-wise One. The One who somehow was born of a woman and laid in a manger of Bethlehem.

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