July 31st, 2009
Outside my living room window something is distracting me. Miss Myrtle, who only comes round in summer, is dancing in flouncy papery skirts to a windy rendition of natural, smoky tunes.
Miss Myrtle in hot pink ruffles and green leggings seems to shout, Peek-a-boo! Yoo hoo, over here. I’m blooming now, popped like fuchsia colored popcorn. Am I not gorgeous? The least you can do is notice.
I always notice.
There are two Miss Myrtle’s in our backyard, one fuchsia, the other a tender pink. With blossoms top heavy yet papery I think of gigantic lollypops on a stick. Or ice cream. Maybe cotton candy. No matter how you look at them, the eyes get drenched. With pale thin limbs which peel and shed, they are frumpy looking most of the year. But in summer, when those pellet sized buds explode, it’s as though a million tiny butterflies have gathered for a lace profusion convention.
The given name of this tree is crepe Myrtle, which is sometimes spelled crape, which to me sounds like crap. So I’ll continue to call them plain ole Miss Myrtle’s although they are none too plain at all.
July 27th, 2009
A little flower. Some river water. Add a few shivering leaves. Lacy ferns. Herbs are nice if you see them. Small mushrooms add zest, if not shriveled by sun. There should be no trouble finding fresh ingredients. And no cooking experience necessary. Leave your chef at home.
Oh, and it’s best not to include heat. No baking, please. High humidity causes this recipe to flop. If it’s done right, the sweetness factor pops a body awake. Clears the head. Makes words and dreams and memories rise.
Now put on sneakers. Stretch those crusty limbs. Dance first if you must.
One can eat this treat to high heaven without gaining an ounce. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to get quite fit with this luscious recipe. It will also take you places. Allow your mind to wander. Refresh your soul.
It’s called a walk.
July 19th, 2009
Our family once had a tent that reminded me of those seen in a circus. My Dad found and claimed it at a flea market. We groaned when we saw it and asked, “What were you thinking?”
He grinned and said, “It was a great deal and we can invite the relatives!”
Invite them we did. Grandmothers. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. If memory serves me correctly it could sleep forty. We might of had that many too, when you threw in our own family of eleven.
Dad sat that gaudy contraption up in a field and it bloomed alongside the creek like a rowdy flower. It seemed even the trees gasped.
By day we flipped and flapped in the creek, laughter peeling through trees. When tired of that, we’d slather our skin with a concoction of baby oil and iodine and lye on hot rocks to further brown our skin, which usually ended up blistered and angry red.
In the evening were icy Cokes, and sizzling burgers, smoke from the grill swirling, twirling and exposing our hidden oasis. We’d eat exhausted but joyful among a custard of whir and buzz, the high easy call of birds on the wind.
When sun and moon traded shifts, whippoorwills clicked on, spiking air with lonesome, haunting melodies. A bonfire sprung up, fire in the sky, everyone gathering round with twigs whittled on ends to accommodate fat marshmallows. And then, Mom, fretting at little bold ones, lighting theirs, red coal fire sticks, zipping and chasing, sparks flying. Meanwhile, the old folks sitting mesmerized in lawn chairs, cheeks infused with fresh color, eyes twinkling and full.
Later came the hair-raising ghost stories, fire popping and snapping, darkness so black and voices real or imagined whispering through trees. When kids were good and frightened it was time for bed.
The adults blinked right off, but a certain sister and I couldn’t. Like pushpins in sleeping bags, we didn’t budge. An owl hooted outside the tarp and we’d stiffen, our eyes round as coasters. A snap of twig, we’d shiver and cling. And then a brother or two slinking around outside, making bizzare noises as if we weren’t petrified already. Inside the tent were odd snores and aroma’s; a funky humanity mixture ripened by night, yet oddly comforting, new and old, different and the same all in one spot at one time in time.
That gaudy circus tent; another shiny bead added to the necklace of memory.
July 12th, 2009
On a recent trip to Missouri, ten minutes from my old hometown, we stopped in the small city of Mansfield to tour the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. What I’d forgotten were how beautiful swaths of summer wildflowers were along roadsides this time of year: Queen Anne’s lace, soft, swaying, elegant, and black-eyed Susan’s wobbling in breeze, their bright yellow skirts dabbed with winking black bows, and alongside those, purple cone flower patches, picnicking tall and stoic under blue skies. All this before we’d arrived at Laura and Almanzo’s home.
This historic place tucked in the Ozark hills is called Rocky Ridge Farm. She and husband Almanzo Wilder moved with daughter Rose to this lovely area in 1885 from Dakota territory. Almanzo built the home, and since they were small folks, she four- feet-eleven, and he, five-feet-four, everything was crafted to fit them, from low ceilings to short counter-tops. A tiny staircase led to upstairs rooms which we didn’t get to tour due to the historical society wanting to preserve original flooring. This year alone they’d already had forty-thousand visitors.
As we walked through, history whispered. I imagined Laura in the kitchen, kneading bread, she in her little bed, napping, but most of all, her at the small oak writing desk, recalling stories from her childhood. Those same books I snuggled under covers and read to my own little girls years and years later.
Characters popped alive again. Mean ole Nellie Olson, who did things we sometimes wanted to but couldn’t because we were too nice. Her ultra spoiled mama, Harriet. Pa at the honey tree. Ma doctoring skinned hearts and knees. Mary going blind. Mr. Edwards, the dear family friend who almost froze walking through a blizzard to bring his dear Ingall’s girls peppermint sticks and sweet potatoes for Christmas. And, Laura, the feisty, pigtailed heroine who could always make Pa’s lip quiver and eyes brim with tears, yet also make him laugh recklessly at her antics.
Did you know Laura didn’t start the “Little House” series until she was sixty-five? This inspired me. I thought of all the late bloomers, myself included, and hope welled.
Another thing I didn’t know. Her daughter Rose was a writer before Laura was. She was also a journalist who traveled the globe. In 1928, Rose, then grown, spent eleven-thousand dollars of her own money and ordered an English style rock house from Sears, built a mile away from her parents home. She presented the home, complete with electricity-which would explain the eleven-thousand-to Laura and Almanzo for Christmas, and they moved in shortly after. Rose moved into the Rocky Ridge home, supplied with electricity also. Imagine owning the only two homes in the area with electricity twenty years ahead of everyone else! Visitors would come just to gawk at the lights and Laura’s new closets, also a novelty.
The rock house is where Laura wrote the first four “Little House” books. A few years later, the Wilders moved back to their Rocky Ridge home, vowing they would never leave again. They never did.
In 1932 Laura published the first “Little House” books. All nine manuscripts were penned in these two homes. She died at age ninety, her beloved Almanzo preceding her by several years.
All this history tucked among sun and sky and wildflowers.
July 8th, 2009
He is Lucky. This guy with peppery hair and eyes the color of liquid chocolate. On a good day he says I love you. A bad one, he still says it. Really, I swear, those are his only words. His love is pure sunshine. Such a smooth operator he is. And I’ve never seen such a fast runner. Dancing pleases him, too, especially when food is involved. Living to please and pleased to live; his life in a sardine can. When the boy sees me he’s always thrilled. It matters little what mood I’m in. He could care less if I’m wearing make-up, or a pretty outfit, or if my hair looks crappy. He lets me talk myself silly, and tell stupid jokes, never noticing if the house is messy. Anything I feed him he appreciates. If he were a man, I’d marry him. No questions asked.
But he’s a dog.
Our dog, Lucky. By world standards he is considered a mutt, a cross between a German Terrier and Chihuahua, but by our standards he’s first class.
We rescued Lucky at an animal shelter seven years ago, and he says thank you every day in his own soft ways. If a family member is sick, he is there, snuggling, waiting, comforting, leaving only long enough to drink and do outside business. Animals love us through the best and worst of times, asking little in return, taking only what we offer. They lay their hearts on the table. We often need them rather we realize it or not. For those of you who have pets, you know the joy they bring. Around here we’ve had an iguana, cats, rats, hamsters and an albino porcupine. At the moment, a snake, who has yet to grow on me.
Some writers use their animals in author photos, on book jackets, etc… Now the photo for this article, Lucky in the jack rabbit ears I made, was for promotional purposes, but this is the first time I’ve posted it, and I do think he makes a sweet model.
There was a discussion recently on the Writer’s Digest Forum-a splendid site for writers, by the way- regarding the use of animals in author promotion as being cheesy and unprofessional. I happen to disagree. That’s what I love about the forum, we can agree to disagree. Animals connect us to others and I find it enduring to see an author posing with a family pet on a jacket cover if they so choose. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this.
Meanwhile I’ll consider myself lucky indeed.