Saturday, September 28, 2013


I received a blessing today.  It was not a blessing of wealth or health or any worldly good.  It was a blessing of the heart, and it was given to me through the all of my senses; sight, hearing, smell, and touch.  It was a simple blessing to remind me of simple beauty.  And it went like this…

My husband and I went on a short rambling around our property today in search of wildflowers.  I can see a goodly stand of goldenrod and rudbeckia from my driveway but I wanted to see if the back pasture bloomed.  Last fall and spring the flowers were sparse, but in previous years there have been big shows of blooms.  We had to go by tractor because the area has not been mowed all year and I am afraid of snake bites.  I’m not really afraid of snakes, but I do fear a venomous bite.

No longer my job
After dealing with a dead tractor battery we finally got underway, husband driving, I sitting on the top of the front bucket, my usual spot.  We made it through the front pasture and came to a halt at the gate that separates the fenced middle animal pasture from the unfenced property.  I expected to be lowered to open it, but husband got off and opened it himself.  I guess that job is no longer mine.  Opening that gate has cost us over $3,000.00 since May, and we’re not done yet.

We cruised past the patch of okra that grows wild in an old garden we planted a few years ago.  Its dried fruit stands tall above the underbrush, pointing towards the sky.  I imagine it rattles when it’s blown in the wind, like I imagine the sound of reeds clattering in novels I’ve read.  From this point we usually travel through a natural gateway, over a sandy place where the creek washes in a heavy rain, but instead we turned right towards a place that has been deemed a burn pile.  Under the shady pines yellow rudbeckia and a pink skullcap grow thick and tall.  

We went left into the next area and I got a first glimpse of what was waiting for me on the other side of the creek, beyond the trees and scrub that make a natural border between the two tracts of land.  In this small meadow the rudbeckia was dense and mixed with other flowers, white and silver, I cannot name.  Butterflies flitted from one flower to the next and were too fast for my camera lens.  I treaded lightly in my leopard rain shoes because the grass was tall and weedy, a perfect resting place for the snakes I was trying to avoid.  And because they were rubbing old blisters from last weekend’s diamond hunt.

Onward we went, through the winding, shady path that leads to the bridge that crosses the creek to the back pasture.  Here is where I got off and walked.  Besides snake bites I fear plunging head first into the creek sitting atop a tractor bucket.  Every time I do this I think of my mother who refused to ride in a car across the Leaf River when she was younger.  She always got out and walked, too.

As I rounded the curve up the sloping bank into the pasture I was greeted with a sight to behold.  The entire pasture was covered with golden rudbeckia, pink skullcap and other flowers, silver and white, I cannot name.  I resumed my place on the bucket and my husband lifted it high into the air so I had a bird’s eye view.  Dragonflies, the pretty ones with thick, blue iridescent bodies, flew around me like fairies.  Butterflies were everywhere, yet always out of reach.  I held my hands out for them, just in case.

The sun was coming from the west, illuminating the yellow flowers from behind and setting them aglow like candles in a welcoming window.  

I got off the bucket to take some pictures and touch the flowers.  Cicadas and crickets buzzed all around me.  I still could not get close enough to a butterfly, so finally I gave up and just watched from my perch on the tractor.   

I just looked, and listened, inhaled and felt the day.  It was a wonderful, golden moment in time.  As I said, it was a blessing.

My chariot

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Digging for Dreams

Last weekend I spent Thursday night through the early Monday morning hours with my sisters and three of my cousins, also sisters, on a trip to Murfreesboro, Arkansas to hunt for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.  I didn’t write about it before now because I had a deadline for my newspaper article, and I wanted to base my article on the trip.  I finally got that turned in last night, a slightly sugar-coated version for the general readership of the newspaper, but you, my friends are going to get the down and dirty version.  And when I say dirty, I mean gritty, grimy, grubby, muddy, mucky, and murky.  There is nothing clean about searching for diamonds in a 37-acre plowed field that has been rained on for hours on end.

We hit the road about 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night and drove all night only making short stops for drinks, gas, and lottery scratch-off tickets across the Louisiana border.  My cousin, the artist, has a penchant for scratch-off tickets and treasure hunting, hence, the trip to the diamond fields in the first place.   When we arrived at our cabin early Friday morning we scrambled to bed to get in an hour or two of sleep before heading to the crater.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the last hour or two of our drive into Murfreesboro was through pouring rain, and it did not stop when we got there.  In my short sleep I could hear the rain outside my window and wondered if we would skip the day and wait until the next to go hunting.  No. We went anyway.

The ruts between the hills of the plowed fields carried water like small rivers.  Trudging through the mud was akin to doing leg lifts with a full gallon of milk tied to each ankle.  For one as out of shape as I, that activity got old real fast.   

I started off wearing a rain poncho but after about 10 minutes of carrying a bucket, shovel, backpack, two wood-framed sifting screens and another flat fine screen I was so hot I couldn’t tear it off fast enough.  The artist shed hers as well, choosing to lie on it instead of wearing it so she could be closer to the ground to spot the stones.  Serious business, this was.

After gathering a good bucket of mud I spent the majority of the day under the roof of one of the screening pavilions, sifting mud in the cafĂ© au lait colored water.  I found lots of jasper, calcite, and volcanic ash, but no diamonds.  By closing time I was soaked from head to toe, cold, and muddy, but my spirit was not crushed.  I was ready for the next day when surely the weather would be better.  It was.

Sunny skies does not a dry field make.  Even under the most ideal conditions the rain-soaked fields did not have time to dry before we headed out on Saturday morning.  Acting on a tip a staff person gave us our group took off towards the hot spot as soon as we got there.  Forget the planning of the previous night when we discussed how we were going to canvass the area like a CSI team.  It was every woman for herself, and it only took this self about five minutes to get stuck in the mud again.  This time my feet came all the way out of my cute leopard print rain shoes and I pushed forward in socks.  I wanted to cry and go back, but that wasn’t an option.  Besides, going back would be no easier than going forward.  At least forward was uphill to drier land.

My socks didn’t last long, and soon I was down to bare feet.  All that pretty jasper, calcite, and volcanic ash is like broken glass under bare feet.  On higher ground I found a small boulder to sit on and the middle child helped me scrape enough muck off my feet so I could at least put my shoes back on.  For awhile it was good, but then another sink hole and I was in to my knees.  I pulled my feet out of my shoes and had to reach down with both hands to dig each shoe out of the sinkholes.  It was back to bare feet until I could find another bolder on higher ground again.  This is not what I bought into.  Forget diamonds.  Forget jasper, calcite and volcanic ash.  I just wanted to go home.

After a short rest my sisters and I made our way to the southern fields where it was much drier, and I regained my sense of adventure.  My spirits were lifted by watching two little boys have a mud fight.  One was so excited he shoved a handful of mud into his own face.  Later I saw him lying on his back doing snow angels in the mud.  It did my heart good to see carefree children enjoying the outdoors, and parents who allowed and encouraged their natural proclivity for dirt.  Still, the diamonds were nowhere to be found, and the impossibility of it all was a little disheartening.  I decided I would not go back on Sunday.

I went back on Sunday.  The artist and the driver were determined and their enthusiasm spread to my pesky sister and me and we had to go, too.  I was glad I did, otherwise I would have missed the artist’s rendition of a high dive without board or water.  All she needed was a slippery slope and with a backward approach she pulled out a double twist in an open pike position.  It was a fail dive ending in a belly flop, but entertaining just the same.  I only laughed because she gave me permission to do so.

At 1:00 we tore ourselves away, but not before we finally found a half carat yellow diamond.  We didn’t find it on the ground, but we did get to see it in the hands of the teenage boy who found it.  Young eyes, that’s the key!

I remember on that first day there, before exhaustion and pessimism took root, I was talking to my mother.  I told her I was doing something she always wanted to do.  I was living her dream for her.  My mother’s voice inside my heart replied, “You need to stop trying to live my dreams for me, and start living your own dreams.” Well, I was living my own dream of sorts.  I was somewhere new, I was having fun, and there was a slight possibility I could find treasure.  That was a dream, wasn't it?  And treasure? 

In the end I had to remind myself of the words of Mr. Archer, a man who went to the crater everyday for 30 years and found over 5000 diamonds in his lifetime.  Mr. Archer, who died on the diamond field, once said of diamond hunting, “Did you meet people today?  Did you feel the sun shining on you today? Well think how nice that is.  It’s not easy for anyone…always leave smiling.”

I did leave smiling.  We all did.  I think we’ll go again, or at least I would like to someday.  I’m just beginning to live my own dreams.  There’s still a diamond out there somewhere for me.   There’s still much left to find and much, much left to do.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Say Cheeeese

Point made.

My phone rang tonight, and of course I didn’t reach it in time.  I never do.  I’m not one of those people who carry their phone on their person, so by the time I got up to find it the Apple crickets had stopped chirping and the missed call notice displayed on my home screen.  This time the missed call was from my son’s high school and the ensuing voicemail from the principal told me tomorrow is picture day.  My son may wear whatever he wants on top but adhere to the uniform policy on the bottom.  And, I was instructed by the mass message, he is to show up with a smile on his face.

I called upstairs and asked him what he wanted to wear so I could at least iron one item of clothing for him this semester, and it took him about 30 seconds to bring me his favorite t-shirt.  Thirty seconds.

For me school picture day was about as stressful as going to the eye doctor.  And if you know me in the very least you know the eye doctor is about as stressful as it gets for me.  Probe me, prod me, smash me, stick me, I can handle it.  But pull up a chair on the other side of the blue light and I get cold sweats and have to breathe deeply.  Yeah, that about sums up how I felt on school picture day.

The idea of having to sit on a stool while a strange man told me where to look and tried to convince me to smile by saying a silly word, well, I was having none of that.  Who was he to think he could get me to speak out loud?  And it was all so fast.  There was never a second chance.  In the early years I needed all the second chances I could get.  I never had very many new clothes and the haircuts were homemade.  And why were pictures always taken right after lunch or recess?  This mouth-breather looked a fright in most every shot.  See above.

In later years I agonized over my clothes and hair, because those pictures were published in an eternal yearbook to be dragged out at every high school reunion, and those intermittent years when you can’t put a face to a name.  Those years were a little better, but never quite right.  Like I said, no second chances.

What is it about getting my picture taken that is so unnerving to me?  Candid snapshots or group photos aren’t nearly as distressing as portraits, but even those make me want to retch.  I’d rather look in a mirror than at a picture of myself.  My brain can distort the mirror’s fleeting reflection to my own advantage, but a picture is honest and permanent.

And let me not forget about the dreaded trading of pictures.  Dare you ask someone you favor for a picture?  Do you have enough confidence in your own picture to give one to someone else?  And, just how many pictures can you give away before your mother finds out and realizes she has to pay for all of them?

I’m just glad that tomorrow is my son’s picture day and not mine.  I’d rather have a root canal.  No, that will be on Wednesday.  Yep, one step closer to recovering my smile for good things, but even silly words will not part my lips for pictures.