Sunday, July 21, 2013


This fine Sunday morning I am under the shade of my front porch trying to find inspiration just to get out of the house.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  This weekend I have been completely exhausted, both physically and mentally.  I decided to make camp out here with my camera on tripod and shutter release cable by my side and my laptop in front of me.  My motivation is to get a good shot at (photo, that is) of a hummingbird drinking from the red turban flowers or the giant pink hibiscus in my garden.   My Kit-Kat has come to keep me company and has made a bed on the table in front me.  That’s better than making a bed on my head as she has been doing these past couple of nights.  My grandmother would say she’s trying to take my breath away.  I think she’s trying to do a sort of Vulcan mind meld and sneak into my dreams.  She’s a sly one, that cat.  I guess she tired of me because she left.  She’s a fickle one, too.

Maybe my exhaustion is from the unwavering heat that defines Mississippi in the summer.  Even in the shade it is too much to bear without a breeze.  Or maybe I just need a vacation from my recent vacation.  I did go straight from doing nothing for four days to back to work without a cushion day in between.  The older I get I really need that cushion day to rest from the travelling and prepare to return to the regular schedule of the work day.

To think, only last week I was lying in bed in a borrowed beach house and listening to the frog symphony in the lagoon a stone’s throw from the back door.  Today I am sitting on my porch listing to the frog symphony in a cow pond only a stone’s throw away from my front door.  The difference is last week the frogs were singing near a Destin beach where the breezes blew cool and constant.  Today I am in humidity where the lackluster breeze is only a short reprieve and sign of impending rain.

Last week I walked the beach near sunset and again later at dusk.  There was a season in my life when the beach had to be a day-long event beginning in the early morning and lasting throughout the day, lying on a blanket under the shade of a brightly colored umbrella anchored in the sand.  That time for me has passed. I would rather spend my days lounging in a deck chair near a clear, cool pool under a shady palm with a book in my hand, and saving my beach time for the earliest hours of the morning and then again at sunset through dark.  

My favorite time during this last trip was a beach walk I took one evening at twilight.  There was a grayish-lilac glow to the lingering light, and fragments of the sun streaked azalea behind billowing mauve clouds.  A castle meticulously constructed earlier in the day by a child’s upturned pail laid in ruin from a tsunamic tide.  Last week a crescent moon hung in the sky giving only a dusting of pearlescent light to the rolling waves.  In the distance heat lightning strobed behind thick clouds.  It was a magical hour, indeed, a memory to hold close.  But I wish I could be there tonight when the full moon will shine bright, illuminating every ripple in the water, making it dazzle like fine cut glass catching sunlight.  Even I feel beautiful under a full moon’s light.

The rest of the long weekend was spent lazing by the pool, or taking walks in the surf.  Walking on sand is not really a problem for me, but walking on a sideways incline at the water’s edge proved difficult and painful to my feet.  I endured because I love the water so.  It was worth the aching feet to stand in the rolling foam and watch the schools of fish dash and dart in synchronous movements.  Try as I might to touch them they were always one fin stroke ahead of me and swam from my grasp.  The fish are like my fortune, always a stroke ahead and forever out of reach.

I may never have a monetary windfall, but I take my true fortune in bits and pieces as it comes my way; a good family, loyal friends, beach time, a front porch and the occasional company of a sly, fickle cat, to name a few.  And, I bought a lottery ticket, just in case.

Friday, July 5, 2013

John was......

borrowed from Facebook

I don’t know what I was dreaming right before I awoke this morning but when consciousness came my unborn great-nephew, John Robert, was on my mind.  I was thinking about the day he will be born and how I want someone to tell him immediately about his first namesake, John, the grandfather he will never meet on earth.  I want someone to tell him not because I think he needs to know, but because I think he will already know, and I just don’t want him to forget.  Then I remembered that today is John’s birthday.  That happens to me a lot.  I often dream about the departed on their birthday.  Is it the subconscious at work, or is it an ethereal whisper in my sleep, “don’t forget me?”

My first memories of John are scant; he was just suddenly there.  He had long, wavy hair as was the style in the mid-1970s (think Vinny Barbarino).  I remember him as being brooding, a Marlon Brando type in a leather jacket.  And he was from Michigan, a place I had heard of but was like another country to me.  Maybe he wasn’t like that at all, but that was the impression I had as a nine year-old.  I was wary of him as I was with all of my sisters’ boyfriends.  There were some stinkers in the bunch and I could smell them from a mile away.  Maybe it was just because I did not like outsiders taking up the time my sisters could have been spending with me.

In those days my oldest sister had moved away to start her first teaching job, so I took her place in the bedroom she shared with the Middle Child.  To me that was the best room because the Middle Child could not supress her artistic nature and she had painted cool mushrooms and sunsets and things all over the walls.  I remember her crying one night, saying everybody hated John. I’m sure by everybody she meant our parents, but parents are always wary of brooding types in leather jackets, as they should be. Or maybe it was because he was from Michigan.  

The next thing I knew I came home after spending a night, maybe two at a friend’s house, and the Middle Child was gone.  I was told she and John were married and she moved out to an apartment to live with him.  Apparently the time at my friend’s house was a ruse to get me out of the way so I would not have to be told my sister was pregnant and the conversation that would have to follow.  My parents took great pains to avoid all conversations of that type.  It would be weeks more before I even knew anything about a baby on the way.

Needless to say I was hurt and angry.  This long-haired, leather-jacket wearing, brooding teenager had stolen my sister and I was left all alone in the room we shared.  I should have been jumping for joy to finally get my own room, but I had never slept alone in all those 10 years.

Sometime that same year I fell and broke my left wrist.  I guess John knew I was a hard nut to crack so he slowly wedged his way in by playing Pokeno with me and my mother’s cousin, Frank Sinatra, Jr. Jr., on Sunday afternoons, and calling me “Lefty” in reference to the cast on my arm.  I much preferred “Lefty” over “Helen Keller”, the nickname Frank Sinatra Jr. Jr. gave me.  It didn’t take long for John’s mashed up Michigander speak, Vinny Barbarino hair and Paul McCartney eyes to win me over.  Our Pokeno games turned to poker games with matchstick stakes, and soon after he was my brother, heart and soul.

One night, later in my teenage years (I admit with embarrassment), I was home alone and I heard a repulsive scratching noise.  It was coming from under the end table next to the couch.  I eased in to look and to my horror was an insect of unknown origin.  In my mind it may as well have been Godzilla.  I was alone and in a panic.  I called my sister and frantically begged her and John to come to my rescue.   They did come, all the way from their home in the “country”, to save me from the nightmare still scratching around under the table.  At that moment John was Superman.  He saved me from Godzilla (a.k.a. cave cricket).  I don’t think he was very happy to see me that night, but I was sure happy to see him.

Next to my mother John was probably one of the most generous-hearted people I’ve ever known.  He  had an abundant spirit that drew people in and made them feel worthy.  He flowed through life, living it to the core.  By trade he was a master jeweler, leaving behind intricate works of art that will become family heirlooms to people who will never even know his name.  In his private life he was a boater, fisherman, hunter, deep-sea diver, Jeep driver, home builder, landscaper, stump buster, avid golfer, devoted husband, and doting father.

Just one day before he departed this earth he came to my house to borrow a tool.  I was outside planting some unrecognizable rooted sticks.  He took one look and said, “pussy willow?”  He just knew things.  We talked for a bit, he said he was tired.  He looked tired. When he returned the tool that same day he let himself in and called out.  I called back from the kitchen, he stepped in and waved and smiled and that’s all I remember.  That’s all I need to remember.  That was John; a wave, a smile, a knowing wink and all was good in the world.