Saturday, May 30, 2015

When the Rain Comes

When the rains come, the world becomes a magical place. It's spring...again. How quickly the seasons seem to fade into each other. I remember the year we had six double rainbows in one season. We called it the "Summer of the Rainbows".  We rarely see a rainbow here and we certainly don't see double rainbows very often at all. So to see six in one year was pretty magical.

The sun pops out, warming the earth. This sight, in and of itself, is pretty magical, too. I don't need much to make me happy. I can be quite content doing very little or nothing. I am very pleased being outside in nature, snapping a few photographs, thinking and daydreaming. You are never too old to daydream. Let your thoughts carry you away, to other places, other times. Dream of all you long to do and make plans for how you may do them....even if only someday...even if never.

Grass seems to grow before your very eyes. Instant green, thick and lush. Beautiful weeds and flowers dot the hillside. We welcome the wild, for it provides for our bees. We have a hive and are very excited about harvesting honey in the future. For now, our swarm of 25,000 is busy gathering nectar and feeding the bees-to-be. 

 Our small john boat floats lazily in the water. Children can often be found at the pond, dipping their nets in the water or looking for tadpoles. We hear the deep, rhythmic calls of the leopard bullfrogs. The sounds resonate within me, instantly taking me back to my childhood and summers at my grandparents' house. Grandma and Grandpa did not have central air conditioning, so the windows were kept open all day and all night. Cool breezes, if you were lucky, stirred the curtains and drifted into your room. The sounds of crickets and frogs and a diesel on the highway in the distance lulled you to sleep.  I will never forget. I don't want to forget. When I hear those sounds, even now, many years later, I am transported to another time.

I always knew in my heart that I would have land of my own someday. But to have a small pond was just an extra bonus. Can you guess what is in the picture above? It is not fish eggs or even frog eggs, as we first thought. No......we are so lucky to have spotted salamanders living at our pond and these are their eggs.

And these are them and aren't they really cute? I adore them. If you do not touch quickly or roughly, they will let you hold them. However, they will emit a poisonous substance from their glands if they feel threatened or harmed in any way. It is a milky white liquid that oozes from their skin. We have never seen one do this. We always wash our hands very well with hot, soapy water after handling them. They are the things of fairy tales...I am thinking of Beatrix Potter and Elsa Beskow stories. There is always a newt or salamander in them somewhere.

We also have snakes, thanks to our pond. It attracts all sorts of wildlife. Here is a list of some of the wonderful creatures we have seen or captured on our land: Bobcats, foxes, coyotes, deer, raccoons, 'possum, armadillos, wild rabbits, snapping turtles, blue herons, ducks. This particular snake happens to be a very harmless black rat snake. They eat mice, so we like them. Because we have chickens and other animals, mice are abundant. Unfortunately, these snakes also like to eat chicken eggs and we have seen them do that a few times. This is what it looks like when you capture a black rat snake who has eaten a few too many eggs: 

(see the egg still inside?)

Red-eared sliders are the most common turtle but when we first moved to this place, many, many years ago...I saw a giant snapping turtle trying to cross the road and come onto our property. I felt sorry for it, as I was afraid a car would hit it. So I attempted to save it. BIG mistake! Never mess with these ancient-looking beasts...they are strong! When I grabbed his shell, making sure to keep my hands well away from his chompers, he slammed his body down so hard, it almost dislocated my elbow! Ouch! I learned a hard lesson that day. An old man was driving down the road and saw me standing next to the turtle. He was laughing as he stopped, put his truck into park and got out. He said in a thick, country accent, "This is how you move a snapper, " and he grabbed it by it's big, thick tail and drug it across the road and literally chunked it into the grass. It was probably over 100 lbs. but he managed just fine. He got back into his truck and drove away. That was my introduction to life in the country.

I have to say, I have learned a lot over the years living here. We have tamed the land somewhat and are growing an orchard. We plant gardens and have animals. A barn is in the works but not completed. But it's still wild in places and we prefer it that way. Wild like my heart.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Helper

 There will be times when you feel you are facing something insurmountable. There are boulders on the path, making you tread carefully, dodging them as you go. Gravel crumbles and gives way beneath you. This body, that you always thought was so strong, so fails you. You grasp and clutch at the trees, pulling yourself upwards, out of this darkness. You push against those solid trunks, heaving yourself off of them, higher. You think if you can just go a little further, just a will make it. But more stumbling. You fall. It hurts. You bleed. You pick yourself, you crawl back up and dig your feet deep into the earth. You again heave. You pant and blow. It's much harder than you ever thought it would be. It seemed like such a small hill from the distance, but here, in the thick of it, it's a looming mountain. A giant. You don't know if you can do this. You start to feel shaky with fear. But up see something!

Just a little further now...and there is light! Sunshine and open expanse. You are exhausted but you are amazed at how much clearer everything seems now. Only moments before you felt you couldn't go on and, you are basking in the glow. Warmth eases your aching body. Relief floods you. You could stand right here, on this very spot, a speck on the earth, forever. You never want to leave. You want to relish every made it! Such an accomplishment deserves savouring. You are feeling rather proud of yourself...rather amused at the extent of your pain a little earlier. That? Oh, that was nothing. Nothing...compared to this!

But it gets even better. You want more. You slip down to the shore. Closer, nearer the water...oh, yes. This is where your soul resides. Water. Cooling. Cleansing. It speaks. Life. It flows and meanders. It whets your parched lips. It restores peace to your heart. The agonizing hours before, during the climb, seem a far-off faded memory. Did that really happen? Or was it all a dream? But something else suddenly comes over you. Humbly. A realization. You didn't get here on your own. Oh no. Something outside of you...something outside of time, even...helped you in your hour of desperation. You were weak. You needed strength. And suddenly, you had the strength to go on. It was there, in the shadows, watching as you struggled. You were never alone. It was there. Waiting. For you to cry out. And look! You are here now. In this place. This blessed place of calm.


 Your pain will come again. That's guaranteed. You will struggle again, no doubt. You will hurt. You will scream, yell, fall down and weep. But, my dear, you will get up again. You will be able to handle the mountains, for there will always be a valley down below and the promise of something more to guide you there. The hope. A respite from the dark places. A new joy, where the vast sky stretches out above you and the warm rays of the sun comfort you. And the helper will be there, beside you sigh...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

England's Flowers

Happiness Hill is a lovely little place in Tennessee...but I have had my share of adventures and have travelled a little in my life. One of my most bittersweet adventures (for I was not able to take my family with me) was to England. One thing I particularly enjoy is flowers. And boy, does England have flowers!!

A little bit of thistle by the sea (Whitehaven beach)

Taken on a trail walk through the woods (Bicester)

 Lovely to behold (Banbury)

In someone's garden (Chipping Campden)

 Fluffy thistle after a light morning rain (Chipping Campden)

 Water Lilies (Blenheim Palace)

Compound flower (Hill Top Farm)

 The roses where Beatrix Potter lived (Hill Top)

 Manor House

The flower beds at Manor House spelled out the words "Congratulations Prince William and Kate Middleton" for they had just gotten married when I was visiting. I would much rather capture the simple beauty of field flowers but there is something to be said for courtly estates that boast lavish flower beds. They are stunning. 

In my travels through England, it is hard to say what I enjoyed most. Or which place captured my heart the best. I loved the ocean and the wonderful clean smell of salt in the air. I loved the steep hills and winding valleys of Lake District. I enjoyed traipsing on foot through Chipping Campden and Banbury. We had a lovely meal at a restaurant there, where I tasted bread made with lavender for the first time.

The weather of England is interesting. It rains often, light rains almost every day...but never very hard or for very long. At least not while I was there. People are kind and call you "love" or "dear". Markets are bustling and happy. An old man played violin in the center of the street and people rode around on bikes. I imagine I could live there and be perfectly content. 

But alas, I am home here in Tennesee, where my heart resides...where my family and children are. This is where I belong. I am happy I captured these images to pull me back and make my mind a time and place I will always cherish.