The Hardest Move 28 May 2021

The hardest move to make is to bring something back to life. To capture her smile when Rebel’s wagging tail greets her at the door. To remember collapsing into giggles for no apparent reason until we couldn’t breathe, dropping the heavy box and falling into the grass by the sidewalk. Catching the bright sun in her golden hair out in front of the old house on 105th street, the porch steps painted bright purple by a mischievous aunt while we were gone.

Jumping from bunk bed to dresser and onto the windowsill so our feet wouldn’t touch the floor and give us cooties. Feeling the hard wooden pillars as we peered out between them, hidden under the table past our bedtime.

If we could cuddle together again in the drainage pipe at the bottom of the big hill, keeping each other warm on a cold grey winter day, I’d take us back there.

Could I somehow fit all the pieces of her, left here, in some magic blue bottle and climb in with them? I’d add her burning sage and lavender oil, photographs of our times and places: that ride in the back of a jeep on the hard sand beach in Australia when we belted out “We are the champions” at the top of our lungs, that big horse she loved at Ponca that was too much horse for her.

I’d cut out those special days she marked on years of calendars: birthdays, appointments, special sayings and scribbles I cannot read. She might like to have all the school pictures she’d saved of her nephew and niece, and Rebel’s ashes. A bit of the beach and somewhat of those mountain paths she walked. The dreams she never had a chance to finish.

And I cannot forget her sarcasm for all things fake or put-on. Her sense of justice and her rather loud voice for the underdog. I would bring her back, but before she was broken by stroke, when she could still travel and nurse and speak her mind. And there, inside that tiny blue glass, she could go on and on, and I could see all that she would do. But in climbing in myself, I would be lost. The hardest move to make is to let someone go.

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Inch By Inch 17 May 2021

I began running a tractor when we moved to northeast Colorado. This, in my mind, was basically large-scale gardening: corn, wheat, and hay. I knew how to work the ground before the planter or drill came through, to care for the field, and to harvest the crop.

Growing up, we always had a large garden. Fresh tomatoes, hot from the summer sun, were my favorite summer treat.

Each year, in late May or early June, past any chance of a hard freeze, I take my hope-filled packets of seeds, and sow them into my little patch of worked ground. I tenderly and diligently water, weed, and sing The Garden Song (https://youtu.be/v9ZYZa5U9zM) to all the neat rows of zucchini, cucumber, and squash. I dream of fresh healthy goodness on my plate and of filling my freezer with the taste of summer in the long cold winter.

I gave up tomatoes first.

Try as I might, the tasty red beauties refuse to materialize.

After that went watermelon and cantaloupe. I already know there will be no cucumbers…some sharp-toothed critter gets through every barrier I erect or devise to protect and eats the tender leaves right down to the ground.

Squash plants grow and wind and their orange flowers push me to think about spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese on those hot strands of translucent yellow yum. Alas no. Raccoons and skunks lurk, and sensing ripeness, drag the long vines out of the garden. They munch spots here and there and then simply abandon them in the dark of night.

But the zucchinis are the worst. They grow in their bush like ways and no animals ever bother. I watch and wait as each flower turns into cinnamon spiced bread or chocolately brownies, but only in my mind. If it’s a good year, I might harvest one or two. The flowers refuse to turn to fruit.

Finally, my neighbor to the southwest texts me: “Hey, I have a boatload of zucs, cucs, squash, and tomatoes. Do you want some?”

“I’ll be right over,” I text back. “As soon as I park the tractor.”

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Running Out of Time 9 April 2021

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Running out of time. That was the message she kept receiving. It came by text, by Zoom, by email, on Facebook, on Twitter. Oh that Tweet! “Are you settling?” it said.

And she responded into the void, “Yes.”

“Stop,” it said back, “you don’t have time for that. The clock is ticking.”

Well, she could totally ignore that. I mean, who has a clock that ticks? She’d mastered the art of distraction, or maybe it was more the art of, um, once this is done or, when summer begins, or, if it happens again then she’d know it was time.

And it did happen again. But she continued settling because the rose colored sun captured her as it came up each morning. Because just that morning the horses had greeted her, frost on the tips of their ears. Because the cow licked her hand looking for the treat she always carried. Because here, when she was the only human around, was home.

Still, the message kept repeating. “Have you reached out yet?” She didn’t reply to the text, kept the phone on mute as if that would silence it. “Are you joining me in Zoom?” Not today. If she counts the hours when home is hers, they go faster, so she doesn’t. She can stop them if she ignores the ticking texts, Tweets, Zooms. Unwilling to leave behind.

But there is still time, or maybe still. Time. But it still ticks and she knows. She hears. She settles.

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Eight Years 24 March 2021

5pRGllE+TUWb89yqEp2QUQThis year marks eight years since our youngest sister, Cathy, was torn from us by unspeakable violence. I find myself better able to think about her, or at least I can remember her without so many tears coming unbidden. Something she always loved to do was to bring a birthday cake for Alex and for Lynne’s birthdays, especially when they were little.  She would bring the one with the most dynamic colors of frosting, and plenty of it. This way, when the kids dove into their cake, their skin was dyed for days and that gave her no end of entertainment.Lynne

Oddly, I think about her every time I pass through the bakery at the grocery store. The flowers on Lynne’s cake this year also brought Cathy to mind. And a short time ago, when I hiked the high desert with Alex and Rikki, I know it was a place she would have loved, along with the brewery!

We go on, and she goes with us in her way. We miss her still.

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Each Morning 24 February 2021

I’m working on a poem and struggling because of the tight form. So far:   Each morning I make my bed and check it off my list. But still I feel my feet of lead, losing them there in the thick grey mist. In my heart I long to be the one that was called and should be me   and check it off my list. Tasks pile up, run off the page I dare not shirk or yet desist For time will come–I’ll have the mage, and all I dare to dream outside where I can be redeemed. But still I feel my feet of lead They drag behind me, force my stay…  
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Finding Home 29 January 2021

I love to read other people’s stories. To live in another’s set of shoes and experience their life and their world is just as fantastic a journey as any good fiction. Nancy Parker’s Finding Home A Memoir is a story that took me back in time to Maroa, Illinois beginning in 1938 when Nancy was born.

Her life growing up was not easy, but neither was it completely bereft. Surrounded by family, sometimes loving, sometimes not, Nancy learned to take care of herself out of necessity: “I rode my bike to pieces. There were no bike shops in town and no money for repairs even if there had been. I had to learn to repair my own bike.” (Parker, 27) It was war time and with rationing, people had to make do.

There were good times on her grandparents’ farm: “The barn cats and I watched as Grandpa got his one-legged stool situated, sat down, put the milk bucket under the cow’s udder, put his head against her flank and began to milk. I loved the rhythm of the milk splashing into the bucket.” (Parker, 37)

But there were very hard things in her life as well, including her mother’s death, her father’s alcoholism, and the abuse from her older brother. Eventually, Nancy had to assume the responsibilities of care in the home: “…it became my job to get the younger two up, dressed, fed, and off to school.” (Parker, 70) After her dad’s sudden death, she and her two younger siblings had to go and live with an aunt and uncle on their farm near town. They were treated like servants.

While the memoir shares both good and terrible situations, we see Nancy’s strength as she grows into adulthood, having a career in teaching and also as an advocate for seniors among other things. And she ends up finding home, and the courage to tell her story.

If you’d like to read Nancy’s story, you can contact her here: nkp@myfairpoint.net

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Where I’m Going 18 January 2021

When it feels like I’m in a room with too many doors and I can’t seem to open any of them, I ask myself, “Where am I going? What do I need?”

I need a list, a decision, a quiet mountain meadow, a long ride on my horse and time with my kids. I need a vision of what should be, a map, a guide, a guarantee, an angel, and a winning number. I need a publisher, a wide-open place, kindness, and some dark chocolate.

I need solutions, faith, and long-uttered prayers to be answered. I need space and light and joy and love and grace. I need to lace up my boots and head out into whatever is supposed to be next. I need to root for the underdog that is me. Risking and gambling and finding that path I’m supposed to be on, but somehow lost the way.

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Where I’ve Been 11 January 2021

Looking back to January 2020 and through the last year, it’s been rough in turn, but with beautiful explosions of wild flowers from high vistas. I’ve felt the hike on last year’s trail in the souls of my feet, in the ache of the heavy pack I carried at times, and in my thirst parched throat when water was scarce. I started the year on a high, running both a 5k and a 10k in one weekend with speed I thought was behind me, but more importantly with two people I love and hold dear.

It made me realize that I’ve put up a green screen or really nice Zoom background in front of my daily life, blocking out what I didn’t want to see. But on I went, wearing more and more of that thick cushion off the bottom of my boots and patching the holes again and again. I don’t like negative progress on mountain trails and I sure don’t like it in my life, but I kept at it. I panted and felt the beat of my heart as it worked harder to help me pick up each foot and put it down again.

For days, sometimes, the trail leveled off with only a few rocks to climb over or some gravel to remove from my boots. Feeling a cool breeze whenever the path paralleled a creek or flowing river, but then suddenly facing a steep climb I knew I never make it up. Do I stop and turn back? Do I stop and stay on the rocky ledge? Or do I move on, up that steep slope until I hit the top and view of the whole world before me.

Isn’t this the kind of decision we all face?

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Wild Bells 30 December 2020

My sister posted this poem, written 150 years ago by Alfred Lord Tennyson. I was thinking that I long for those wild bells to ring out grief, sadness, depression, and bad attitude. To ring out name-calling and bullying and politics. To ring out us versus them. To ring in that frosty light in the wild sky. Ring in softly falling snow. Ring in joy and peace and hearty laughter. Ring in love and light. To ring in all that is good and kind and humble and just. And for me, to ring in courage.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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The best Christmas gift

I love this whole piece about love and family.

jpburgess

The front of the 1965 Christmas card with all seven Prescott children. Cathy would have just celebrated her first birthday on December 7. The front of the 1965 Christmas card with all seven Prescott children. Cathy would have just celebrated her first birthday on December 7.

I wrote a bit about those old family Christmas cards a few days ago in “The birthday season.” I had most of the cards my mom and dad made during the years they had together when we were children, until my mom died in 1966.

I couldn’t put my hands on two of them: 1964 and 1965. 1964 was the year the last of the Prescott siblings was born, Cathy, on December 7. I think my sister Sally has a copy and I will get my hands on it soon!

But Sally did find the one from 1965 and looking at it now, I was reflecting on its simplicity.

Like the rest of the series begun in 1956 when George was born, it has each of our…

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