Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the rooster is crooning

Good morning. Winter is here. Summer has gone. Spring is not in the air though it's still around- sleeping in the garlic bulbs planted in late October, in the tulip bed where the flowers wait. Fall is left to lay on the frosty ground, the leaves blanketing the lawn like a decaying quilt. The pines to the east stand as sentries to the winter blasts sure to come, and in their branches heavily laden with green needles are nests the staunchest of birds have built for their winter homes. Everything is quietly peaceful this A.M, even the rooster is crooning instead of crowing. The crescent moon barely visible as the sun makes it's warm way into the graces of the sky, and-

"...no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

-- written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s
from Desiderata

(I love that verse, hope you find a bit of solace in it too.)
Take care-

Sunday, November 23, 2008

thanks giving

(This is the post I intended to publish on Thanksgiving, but I was fearful...I don't know why. It is a beautiful post and intended to bless some close to me and some not so close...belated Thanksgiving wishes, especially to you J.)

Good morning. Winter is here. Summer has gone. Spring is not in the air though it's still around, sleeping in the garlic bulbs planted in late October, in the tulip bed where the flowers wait. Fall is left to lay on the frosty ground, the leaves blanketing the lawn like a decaying quilt. The pines to the east stand as sentries to the winter blasts sure to come, and in their branches heavily laden with green needles are nests the staunchest of birds have built for their winter homes. Everything is quietly peaceful this A.M, even the rooster is crooning instead of crowing. The crescent moon barely visible as the sun makes it's warm way into the graces of the sky.

This week will find many folks migrating back to a home or a gathering that just feels like home, with familiar faces and habitual foods like lumpy potatoes and dressing that's crispy on the outside and pudding like in the middle. Many look forward to these gatherings with the friends and family who hold blessings in their hearts for all at the table, and give them out like thick love. And then there are those, whom I do not understand at all- who keep those blessings like hostages, withholding the peace another might need to grow on.

If I had a big table, a reallllly gigantic place that all might come for food, spiritual and otherwise- and everyone who pulled up at that table needed some peace, some light to live by, I surely would dole it out like a big heaping slab of pumpkin pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top- just because. No, not just because. Here's the best reason I know to hand out blessings-

So many are so deserving of love, of being told they're beautiful, of warm hugs and sure nods of understanding. But sometimes I think, in those circles of families and friends who hold keys to one another's hearts but never give them- is this ridiculous belief if too much love is given out, the giver might lose control or perhaps there is a fear that the receiver will grow to big, broad, more beautiful and leave the giver with nothing more than an empty bowl. There are too many children who are over six foot tall but are still left a child, at any age...because the ones who raised them withheld the blessings that every child needs to know.

What is it that you need to know? Do you long to hear the words I love you? Do you yearn to be held even when you feel so ugly inside because no one took the time to say, "You are beautiful"? Do you wish for once your circle of folks would look past your flaws, stop holding them against you and instead just accept and trust you as you are?
OK, you are beautiful. And though you're flawed (ain't we all!!!), your mistakes are forgiven. No one can change their yesterdays, only this day can you begin to begin again. As much as you may need forgiveness, you also must learn to forgive as well. For whatever reason, even when people hurt us- perhaps they're doing or have done the best they could do with the tools they had been given. Perhaps their blessings had been withheld from them too.

If you find yourself at a table where your beauty does not transcend your past to an other's eyes, perhaps it is time to join another circle. There are those who will accept your everything. And always, there is the one who created you to be you, unlike any other. You, upon your birth, were given a blessing- a life of unlimited possibilities. Be well with yourself today, do not fear the neglect of another. Don't hold fast to what others believe you to be...believe first in yourself. Take the time today to know that you are worthy of all that you wish for. Take a long hard look at yourself, see those eyes, that smile...appreciate all you've been through, and still somehow manage to laugh in spite of it all.

Don't let anyone tell you who you are- you know... you do. If you sometimes forget, look me up- I'll remind you, please know- I am merely a mirror, all that you see in me is merely a reflection of your goodness. I have found in many of my friends, this reflection. I often wondered what they saw in me...for so long a time, I could only percieve my flaws too. Little by little, we revealed to one another a truth that could not be denied- what we loved about one another was also what we loved about ourselves. So, if you have a good friend, someone you deeply love- look for that certain something that bonds you through thick and thin. Do you find a mutual admiration? My hope is you'll find that view at the table you find yourself at come Thanksgiving.

Take care-

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the usual doe

Good morning...I have been too busy with all this moving stuff and getting the house ready to sell. The handyman pushed up his schedule and is painting and such earlier than anticipated so I have been moving furniture and removing things from the wall, cleaning corners that haven't seen a broom in awhile. Oh! Miss Etta is always under foot, she got her little noggin shut in a closet door last night. Her hurt feelings were the worst injury she incurred, although she loves the new spots- she christens each one with a puddle. Fun, fun, fun.

I am not deer hunting this year, not time enough to get ready, I haven't shot my gun all year. My Dad has a beautiful piece of property in Pike County, more big deer than you can shake a stick at. He lives and loves it there. My brother and his family will go, my Uncle Bob too. Good Ol' Grandma, at such and such an age- still manages to be a part of it all. She has seen more carnage than all of us, has heard more dramatic deer tales than an early morning diner on opening day, and has lived this long to still just chuckle and say, "maybe next year." She always managed a "good for you", no matter how small the harvested deer was.

So, it is with a memory's tale that I write today. I have deer hunted since I was a teen. My brother's too. Dad was an operating engineer, winter's weren't hard, just a bit tough when it came to money for buying winter rations. We always had wild game in the freezer, and I had learned as a young girl- how to cook it. We all learned to hunt early on, and even before that- we tagged along, always included- sometimes sitting by silently while Dad took aim. One big man and six little hands would help to drag the deer up and over and through deep ravines to get it home. Carharts and blaze orange was our fashion statement. When I was sixteen or seventeen, I got to feeling too much like a girl and began to take only photos from my tree stand. But then, after my children were born- I began to hear the call of the wild and an empty freezer again, and so I went back to hunting. It was always hard, yes I often teared up when I killed a deer. To this day, I say a "thank you", in an Indian sort of way, for the blessing of the harvest. There is nothing like knowing that the food on the table was harvested honestly, reverently and gratefully.

Once I filled my limit within twenty minutes after sunrise on opening day. A Buck in rut came crashing through some underbrush hot on the heels of a beautiful doe who was having no part of his Buck-love pursuit, he was crazy for her though and made no cautious attempt at hiding it. Twelve points and full of lust, I dropped him and shortly there after, her too. I sat in my stand another twenty minutes or so to make sure that I had cleanly killed them both, leaving them alone for a time to settle down and pass on silently. I found him right where my shell found him, fifty yards up a hill and on the edge of a ravine. I tagged him and marveled at his beauty and size. I remember following the trees and land line that I had followed previously with my eyes from my tree top stand, and found the doe peacefully lying in a Golden Rod bed not forty yards from where the buck laid down. I leaned over to tag her hind leg, no problem- on went the tag. Then I followed up her body, while hovering over her like a wrestler getting ready to make my next move, when...she jumped up and off she ran! I stood there incredulous, all I remember thinking is "how do I explain this to Dad?!" I sat down and waited for her to lay down and die, listening for thrashing and then silence. I never heard it from my listening post. I knew better than to run after her, even close to death a deer will run and run and run some more, and just when you think that every drop of breath left holding on in them had been utilized- they'll surprise you with their survival skills and go on running.

I did not know how I would explain this one back at camp, I had done everything by the book, left her to lay for a good long time, applied the legal notice to the leg where the tag should be adhered and she never even made a whisper.

I remember Dad looking at me like I was mad, and he was even madder because I had not suffered enough, the Deer Hunt. No one fills their limit on opening day, you must sit and wait and freeze and love every minute of it. That's the rule. I explained to Dad that the buck was bigger than I had shot the previous year (rule number 2) and the doe would not leave the vicinity and she was also a bigger than the usual doe. He thought I was lying when I said that I had in fact tagged her, stroked her- made my thanksgiving for her while straddling her still body.

Long story shortened. We found her, following a tiny pin hole blood trail about 150 yards from where she had first begun her last sprint. She was peaceful, she was mine- the tag on the hind leg saying so. It's a good story, a true story...but I imagine they'll tell it this weekend and laugh. They always do. "Imagine if someone would have found that doe miles away, with another hunter's tag!" Dad always questioned my nationality after that escapade, perhaps wondering if they received the wrong baby at the hospital after all.

Happy hunting, take care-

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bigfoot in your basement

Good morning. I slept all night without one little howl from the gal in her pen. Maybe Lily slipped miss Etta a doggy downer or ran amok with her until she lay down, exhausted with her little puppy heart beating a mile a minute- Etta's... not Lil's.

I was not home last evening...I went out. Gasp. Yes, I did. I stayed up until 10:00 pm. I listened to some fine finger strumming and vocals from various locals at the BluCat...a cafe by day, but on Thursday evenings...it is the place to be a grown up grooving to the tunes laid out by talented song writers and singers and musicians. Oh and I had pie, after the peanut butter soup and grilled jalapeno and cheese sandwich- on rye. Let me just say that I envy those performers, I don't know how they get up there and sing to their and my heart's content. I want to. By golly- I do fantasize about grabbing the mic and laying one on them, a somebody-done-somebody-wrong-song, laying my soul and heart bare. Watching for the nod from the tall bushy haired fellow in booth number nine. He'd nod and I'd nod back and we'd know the flow where music takes all comers who are open to it's lull of sweet, sorrowful, satirical pulsations.

I admire the courageous performer too, I want to pick them apart little by little, find out what makes them deliver- how they find that brave part of their soul that sings- even when everyone is watching and listening. I think it was Tommy who said, or perhaps he was repeating a quote from another fellow musician, "You just can't think about it too much, it's like running down a slide- you don't stop mid way and think about what you're doing- you just keep going." Sounds right. Sounds good. But if you're running down a slide and stop- the worst thing that could happen is you'd fall and break your noggin. When singing, if you stop and think about it- you fall from grace, well maybe not to everyone else- there may just be uncomfortable silence, maybe belly noises...but the songstress would lose her hold on the world around her and how could she lift up again, fly away with the music? Danged if I know, I don't sing anymore...makes me feel so vulnerable. Bottom line, is there any worse feeling in the world than vulnerability? Being so truthful with yourself and others by saying just what you feel, that you invite a slap, a snarl- maybe an embrace? Putting yourself on the line, everything out there- not to be judged but to be just you, honestly and authentically. That's scary folks, scarier than running into Bigfoot in your basement.

Anything you're dying to try but fear holds you back? Is there some kind of secret dream you hold in your heart, afraid to share it with anyone, even your closest chum- for fear that they just wouldn't understand or worse, wouldn't encourage you to succeed? Don't we all have these dreams, these fantasies to be something more than we dare to be? Let's take a day, say January something- and be daring. We'll call it "Dream Dare". It will be a state holiday and everyone will embrace their gifts and be what they were called to be. Everyone, so no one would feel vulnerable, left out. Or...here's an inspired thought- how about right here, right now on this page I'll tell you a story. Oh, wait a minute! I already do. Unwavering wonder laid out, day by day, brick by brick- because if I do, you might too. I say looky here! Look at this idiotic thing I've done, or here my heart breaks or here my heart soars...when relaying these tales of woe and wonder, don't you feel something other than your own fears, can't you see how we all mesh in one way or the other? That the secrets aren't really secrets, they're just stories aching to be told and held and loved?? Even if they're ugly stories, chances are someone else will read them, know them and see the beauty there and connect with their own dotted morse code of events that has messages they too might deliver some day to another vulnerable soul.

Pardon me. My writing little bits sometimes becomes gigantic essays unshackled by grammar and correct punctuation- as I race around, unbridled... and say too much when the point I was trying to make is this- Be true to yourself and kind to others- it's alright, it's enough and it's really all any of us can be...our vulnerable, weak, strong, gentle, loud, obnoxious, scary, off-key, lovely selves. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

to all who build bridges

I awakened last night, in the wee early morning really...too many thoughts in my head buzzing around. Veteran's Day always finds me melancholy, it finds me wherever I roam and sits me down and says "be sad". I try to shake it off, I try to run- here and there, anywhere so that it won't find me.

It always does.

"It" brings a story back to my mind that I don't care to hear. But often, grief is it's own teacher- and if you don't get the lesson, she'll repeat it over and over...until you do. My eldest son, Beau- many of you know the story there. His life trumped his death...do we not all agree on that point? But part of his life, his very proud service in the Marine Corps was discounted by the way he died. I want so much for others to know how proud he was of serving, of rising in the ranks, of finding a self respect earned and often delivered so that others might be encouraged by his story. But on Veteran's Day, he is left somewhat in limbo because he didn't actually die in Iraq, although long he served there. His was an "accidental" tragedy, a bleep on the radar screen of military mishaps. His honorable service did not equate to an honorable death. Please excuse my next expression- Bullshit.

This day finds me gathering little bits and pieces of what little I know to be his story "over there"- I had urged him to run like hell when they asked for volunteers,("Beau, keep your head down, your hand down- you don't always have to be Mr. Macho. If they ask for volunteers, be the second if need be, please don't extend your pride to be the first.") Later I learned from his commanding officer "over there"- when a volunteer was needed, when there were no other takers, he would look to Beau because he knew the other guys would follow him- anywhere. When this story was related to me at the glorious memorial service there in North Carolina- well, let me just say I was proud in spite of my son's direct opposition to my request.
He had a little guitar "over there" that he had shipped to him when he realized that he really needed to play the stuff that made him forget about his surroundings- death and sights that he would not disclose to his mama. He'd wander out into the desert, guitar and little stethoscope in hand and play the hell out of that thing. When fellow brothers had no letters, he'd share his mail or make us all send letters to certain others who had no news from home. If someone did receive mail and it was of the "Dear John" variety- he'd whip out that little guitar and make them laugh in between their tears with some witty worded lyric about the cold hearted women who left them holding a letter of regret. All this I learned later, and was left with feeling more pride for such a remarkable young man that I didn't fully know from "over there".

After work yesterday (I stayed longer than needed...) I made my way to the little cemetery that I hate to go to. But on Veteran's Day...well, I owed it to him. Traveling there always makes me uncomfortable because I cry- like a baby. And when I leave, I always take the back road- fearful of someone seeing my five year old tears. When I came upon the black stone there (Oh God, I hate that stone.) I saw a flag, a new flag placed upon the marker. It waved to me and said things I needed to hear. I looked all around and there were other flags- here and there on stones I had not taken much notice of before. Someone or some group took the time on that cold dreary day to decorate the soldier's graves. To them I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, from my melancholy soul- thank you, thank you, thank you.

The sunshine comes again. It always does. But never can it come from some lonely, desolate place- like an empty room with only one survivor. I am convinced it must be accompanied by others- brought to life by others. "Like a bridge over troubled water"- once again someone built a bridge for me to cross. Blessings and peace to all who build bridges, who raise flags, who remember.

Take care-

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Gift Given Freely

In thanks I write today. For a life of freedom, for a cost paid by our veterans. Many in the military today wonder if the folks back home support them. They wonder if they'll ever see that home again, and if they do- will they feel welcome, will they be honored as they should be or will they be shunned for being a soldier. Many have loved and lost our military men and women to a higher purpose. How can we ever repay that sacrifice, what can we do as individuals to show our utmost thanks and respect? By not only remembering to say thanks today...but every day. By acknowledging their life and efforts were not in vain. To always remember when encountering a vet, past and present...by humbling ourselves and offering a hug or handshake and a very firm, "THANK YOU!"
I have encountered such men and women before, at a gas station, in a restaurant-their hats tell a story, their license plates sometimes state their occupation or past military service. I always try to reach out to them...and always, every time- am met with tears of appreciation. It does not seem like an obligation, to open up this way-it is a tremendous opportunity to acknowledge the gift given freely so that I may freely live.

What is a vet?

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking.
What is a vet?
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the38th parallel.
She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He is the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn't come back AT ALL.
He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.
He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket-palsied now and aggravatingly slows who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being, a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

By Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Friday, November 7, 2008

And they call it....

What is it about puppies that makes us all surrender our eight hours of sleep, our love for a clean and sanitized home, our up in the middle of the night sleep walking forays out into the front yard - waiting upon a pup to pee to eventually discover that she'll only go on the wood floor once returned to the safe haven of a warm house?

Why would anyone sacrifice comfort for conformity when it comes to a little ball of excessive cuteness that cannot nor do I suspect give a doggy doo for adherence to proper schedules?


(formally known as Stubbette)

And besides that blissful pose, there's this-

Stubby and Stubbette

Isn't the answer obvious?!

Puppy love.

Take care-

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wherever We Are From

A Brighter Son

Hope became the sounding call
so many found as needed
and took a stand though not alone
as a passionate call proceeded
To this day- comes a brighter son
for many had ceased to cope
The pliable man before us now
shares a vision of rise and hope
His skin and kin don't matter
his voice aligns with one
You and I must come together
Wherever we are from
A bridge builder, this architect-
a man for young and aged
What one could say, good or bad
join the many now elated.
The work laid bare for all to see
though many trunks may pout-
Must get behind the "yes we can"
And move beyond that shout
If we think we can- you can
If you think you can't- we won't
This precious day in history
Unites us all at once.
The years to come will show in time
whether we were wrong or wise
though history might true declare-
that hope steadfast, did rise.
T.L Starks 11/05/08

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Illinois Fall Lament

Good morning.

I took a drive Sunday- wanting to test my trusty truck and camera to lament with me on an Illinois Fall day. It was as intense a drive as the colors were. Intending to drive the Illinois River back roads- I instead drove within a frame work of roads I hadn't taken before that still might connect me eventually, to the loose navigation I had used on past road trips.

In comparison, the Mississippi is a mighty river alright- many times I have crossed over her on meandering canoe trips and catfishing. The Illinois river is equally mighty, perhaps though- not so much in terms of length and width. Her might is more intimate- her byroads and crossings not so triumphant but equally memorable. All the little towns along the banks or way- like Havanna, Petersburg, Salisbury have doors that might remain mostly unlocked. The art on the walls of the homes that are scattered in those villages might be more folksy, reminiscent of homegrown and homemade. If the Illinois River were a lover, perhaps she'd be a bit more shy and shallow to the bigger river ways of romance.

A small grove of trees seemingly ablaze in gold- along the backside of the Sangamon River, East of Salisbury.

Stubby- guide dog extraordinaire. The Sangamon calling to him...some deep doggy tune apparently.

The Trading Post-Oakford Illinois. If ya haven't been...ya got ta go. I take all my out of state visitors here...once. And then it's completely up to them if we go again. We always do.


Only in Oakford.

Old Coke sign on The Trading Post.

Another common sight in good Ol' Illinois. Silo, Oakford.

Setting sun outside of Greenview Illinois. Good old truck.

Combine behind me, finishing up the day's work.

Day is done.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bloody Eyeballs Poopy Diapers

Oh my goodness, I almost forgot.....


Ghoul girls from the BluCat Cafe

Williamsville, Illinois

No pigs were intentionally hurt during this dramatization...

(Title of blog from my kid's memory of realllly scary songs.)