Lightning Shows

Last night leading up to midnight, I spent the better part of an hour out in the shed with the donkeys watching the sky. Our little area of Texas was having what I thought at the time was a heat lightning storm—something we cherish down here in the south. Lightning pulses behind heavy clouds in a humid sky, sometimes reaching out in bolts and grand, illuminating flashes during these storms. They only seem to happen when we’ve spent several days with high temperatures hovering around 100 degrees.

While I was out there, I got to wondering what causes heat lightning so when I came inside some time later, sweaty and draped in small spider webs I’d picked up on my walk back, I Googled heat lightning only to find out that heat lightning doesn’t exist. We’ve made up that phenomenon! That information can be found here: What is Heat Lightning?

I love the weather channel.

Even so, these lightning shows are stunning to behold. Their never ending flashes become meditative after a while, especially without the anticipation of thunder. I put these lightning events on the same level as a good fire whereby you can sit for hours staring into its ever changing light and there, no two people will regard them in the same way.

The best stories are told around fires. The best thoughts are conjured during lightning storms.

I thought about how, way back when I first moved here to the ranch and the months following, I was so lost. If you’ve only recently started following this here ranch life adventure, then you may not know that donkeys found me…not the other way around. King Ranch and I had bought a property and said property came with a donkey. I thought about how when we moved here, Little Foot was a mere 4 month old infant: tiny and fragile and I was a 4 month old mother with no idea what I was doing. We didn’t know a single person within 250 miles and even the nearest grocery store was a half-hour drive.

The lightning continually flashed across the sky, highlighting the shapes of the clouds and reflecting off the large eyes of my three donkeys who watched the sky with me intently. I thought about how many times I wanted to run away—back home to Houston where I knew people, where I had a support system. I missed my parents and my friends and my local watering holes. And although Houston is so congested and humid all the time, I missed her familiarity.

But Houston didn’t have my donkeys. I watched the way their ears shifted and twitched with little sounds that flicked about. I thought about how now, being two and a half years into this ranch life, Little Foot has had the opportunity to grow up with dirt under his fingernails and donkeys at his side. They’re very protective of him. I remember when Little Foot was just learning to walk, how Bunny and Tee would follow closely behind him, their noses right behind his little, wobbly back. Even now, when he’s out there with me running and jumping, they’re always by his side.

The lightning rolled on—a pulsing, electrical heartbeat stretching across the sky. I got the sense that the snaking and slithering bolts were beginning to reach down into my own chest, wrapping their light around and into the chambers of my beating and tender heart. It’s been over two years since we moved here and in many ways, I feel as lost as I did then—like I’m constantly searching for something but just can’t find it. I’ve described to King Ranch lately that it’s like I’m in a biplane circling the same, cloudy destination but can’t land because I can’t see it yet.

Bunny was leaning on me by this point and I suspect it’s because she felt my apprehension. She always does this: leans her weight into me when I’m thinking too hard. Maybe it’s her way of telling me to slow down which, I feel like a lot of people have been telling me to do recently. And I know I need to but I struggle because something….something….is tugging at my insides. I just don’t know what.

More clouds appeared and the bolts became harder and harder to see, only dull flashes pulsed in the distance and so I decided to abandon my post and go inside to research heat lightning. When I discovered that it’s a made up concept, I wondered to myself if that invisible landing spot which I’ve been circling is a figment of my imagination. Perhaps like the “heat lightning” being far-travelling lightning from a far away storm, my own apprehensions are far-travelling anxieties from a far away shift in my own recent past…residual stress from everything in my life changing in the past two and a half years.

Or maybe, indeed, change and shifts are somewhere on my own horizon. By now, I’ve learned that there’s a lot to be said for the feelings that poke and prod in your gut—that intuition is a real thing, if given a chance.

Either way, there is wisdom in the shifting skies. If it’s been a while, you should sit outside and look up for a while. It reminds you how vast the universe is and a reminder that the same vastness is inside you. Just as there are storms and heat and fierce winds and mysteries in the skies, so too are there in you. They’re worth beholding from time to time.

So are donkeys. They’re always worth beholding 🙂

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Sparrows and Silver Linings

In our living room, I’m perched on the couch with a mug of early-afternoon, re-heated coffee in hand. My elbows are resting on the back of the couch and I’m knelt down into the sinking cushions, staring out the front window. Moments ago, I heard a sparrow chirp on the porch and discovered that the small bird was calling to his companion—he’d discovered a house.

For mother’s day earlier this year, King Ranch, Little Foot and I built and painted a birdhouse and since, it’s hung colorfully yet vacantly on our front porch. I realize now that I’ve been sitting here for about a half an hour watching the sparrow couple take turns flying away and returning with twigs and leaves for their new home and with each return of a carefully-picked supply for their nest, I’m tickled a bit more.

Sweet Sparrow

It was only an hour ago or so that the new, adoptive parents of Sue and Maybell (two of my foster donkeys) drove away, the ladies in safe and secure tow, and I’ve spent the better part of that hour both grateful and gloomy. I’d grown attached to those two donkeys, both of them having been in my care since mid-March. No matter how lovely the new home is, (and major shout out to Joel & Anne who will be caring for these two now because y’all are just the kind of loving and enthusiastic home we hope to find for our sweet donkeys) it’s always tough to say goodbye to those who you’ve poured your heart into.

But melancholy as I could continue to be right now, there’s something profound about our newly arrived, feathery neighbors that’s setting my heart at ease—a sort of “two gone, two arrived” situation. Goodbye but then again, hello.

I’ve not much else to say at present except the admittance of struggling with my own self-worth. I’m not trying to be maudlin, but instead trying to be honest and admitting to my weakness as a way to acknowledge it and hopefully work on remedying the negativity that’s gaining momentum in my anxious mind. As a writer, I feel like I’m reaching my fill of letters, both composed and automated, that respond to my queries saying rarely more than what seems like, “Sorry, you’re just not good enough for us.” Sigh.

Here’s the silver lining that I’m trying to remind myself:

Every person who’s tried to become an author has gone through this, so maybe this is just the initiation to buff up that proverbial “thick skin” everyone talks about. Although as I’m typing this, I seem to remember a blog that I wrote a little over a year ago where I was actively trying to understand how someone who struggles so gravely with anxiety like I do could ever, ever be brave in the face of repetitive rejection…

Silver lining continued:

When I was submitting stuff last year and spending way too much time curled in a fetal position asking myself why I can’t just grow up and go back to my old days in a corporate job (how was I more mature in my 20’s than I am now?), it was for a different project and that project did indeed get picked up by Flash Fiction Magazine online and that was awesome. It was worth every rejection to then get the, “Wow, we’re totally into this really weird story” response. [Here’s that story if you’re curious: Behind the Clouds, There are Stars]

What I’m working on now is completely different and a seemingly much loftier goal. So, buck up, right? I’m trying. Really, I am.

Silver lining finalized:

As cliché as it sounds, timing really is everything. When it happens that I find the right person / company to represent my work, it will have been worth the wait to end up in the right hands just as it was worth the wait to have Maybell and Sue for as long as I did until the perfect parents came along to adopt them. Anyone sooner wouldn’t have been right.

Here’s what I do know and I promise, I’m not trying to sound preachy:

Your self-worth and value is not at the hands of anyone or anything else. No one. Nothing. Have I gone on my soapbox in my blog yet about how much it irks me when people refer to their partners as their “better/other halves?” Well, if I have, I’m sorry, but you should never be half of anything. You are whole. Wholly guacamole, you are. And if you’re not? Don’t lean on anyone or anything (not that acceptance letter, not the loss of that 15lbs you’re worried about, not that raise that your dumb boss is keeping from you, not that unfitted or even thriving relationship or whatever) to fill what you think is missing about you. You are whole. You are. Or at least you can be from your inside out, so go exploring internally. No other purchase necessary. Please know that. I think the poem I posted on here the other day, Steady, Steady, Sweet Soul, was me trying to show myself that very concept. 

The sparrows are still building a nest in my little birdhouse out front and it’s ridiculous how much time I’ve sat here watching them when I have so many other things I should be doing. It’s really cool to watch their new beginning, though. Will they have a family in there? Will baby sparrows learn to fly off that perch? I hope so. 

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I do my best thinking with coffee in hand.

Steady, Steady, Sweet Soul

Above soaring, jagged rocks
The world’s weight tugging
Heavily on your bones;
Her mouth open wide and
Ready for an easy meal…

Wind whipping and howling
With voices from deep underground,
Voices that you swore were buried
Beneath stone and time,
Their smokey doubts swirling about…

Above bird songs where
Clouds roll with secrets;
Air streaming thinly through
Your rising and falling lungs
Quickening with the thump thump thump of your heart…

There, plant tightly your tired feet,
Steady your scattered soul,
Reach deep into your gut, raw and rank
And realize the horizon-reaching,
Broader and more complex view within.

Realize that you are riddled with rolling secrets, too
And with beauty beyond written words
With often old voices shaping your moves.
Realize that the universe within you
Is worth beholding, worth admiring,

Worth travelling far and taking risks
To see and feel and inhale deeply into.
Realize that and
You, my love,
You, my friend,
You, my stranger,
You,

Will set your sweet soul free.

Edges

Wide-Eyed and Waggy-Tailed

The sun’s just come up on an already warm Monday morning, although it’s not been up long enough to burn the dew off of the un-mowed grass that’s slopping against my rubber boots. I’ve got the remainder of a roll of gauze in my hand, a disinfectant spray, and a small, black boot that was specially designed for Tink, my sweet mini donkey whose hoof (or rather, what remains of a hoof) is deformed due to profound mistreatment by his previous owner. Luckily, he was rescued by the organization in which I volunteer, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, and in time, I became his over-the-moon adoptive mother.

Tink the mini donkey
Sportin’ his handsome boot.

As I walk across the backyard towards the gate that leads into the donkey’s pasture, I hear several long exhales that I know to belong to Bunny, my standard-sized donkey, who’s revving up for a bray because it’s been three days since I’ve seen her.

Late last night, I arrived back home from an exhilarating couple of days in Houston. Y’all know by now that Houston is my hometown—my folks still live there as do many of my dearest friends—and so really, any visit there is a treat…but this one was especially exciting. More on that later.

I open the gate and Bunny is running across the pasture in a full-on bray now—her nostrils are flared and ears are laying back and so as quickly as I can, I set the boot, the spray, and the gauze on the ground just in time to open my arms and catch her before she tackles me to the ground. She hits me hard, her large neck against my chest and her snout over my shoulder. Her tail is wagging furiously and as I wrap my arms behind her large head, she starts nipping at my hair.

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Although this isn’t the greeting of THIS morning, this is how I’m so blissfully greeted everytime I go outside. My girl.

Home.

I scratch her ears and run my hands down all her legs to check for ticks or mites as Tee and Tink make their way towards us. They may not greet me with the enthusiasm that Bunny does, but their wide eyes and wagging tails are more than enough to pull at my bleeding-heart’s strings.

As I’m dressing Tink’s hoof, my three remaining adoptable donkeys wander up to the fence, their ears perked up in curiosity, and I remember just then that in only a few days, I’ll be saying goodbye to two of them, Maybell and Sue (a mother/daughter pair whose new family will be picking them up later this week.) Oof. Being swept up in the excitement of the weekend, I’d briefly forgotten that I’m within days of saying good bye, and so after I finish up with Tink, I go to them.

I’ve had Maybell and Sue since mid-March which has been just enough time to really grow attached to them. I rub their faces and let them lean on me and it’s then that I realize I’m grappling (and even struggling) with the concept of impermanence. It’s a growing weight that I try to mentally avoid but, hoo boy, here it comes.

In just a few, short days, I’ll say goodbye to Maybell and Sue and in all likelihood, will never see them again. These two who I’ve cared for so deeply—I’ve cleaned their hooves and brushed their hair and fed them and given them medicine when they’ve needed it. Now that will be someone else’s job. As one who fosters rescue donkeys, this is part of it and I know that. It’s not easy, though. Never is. 

It’s daunting, isn’t it? When you really stop to think about how temporary everything—all of this—really is? How quickly winter turns to spring, turns to summer, and your infant son is somehow already two years old and speaking in sentences and you’ve found a lone-wolf, gray hair right, smack-dab in the middle of your hairline. Your spring garden has burnt to a crisp under the Texas sun and geeze-louise, my dumb birthday’s looking right at me again with mocking eyes. Weren’t you just here?

I give Maybell and Sue each a pat on the nose before heading back towards the house. Little Foot will still be asleep in his toddler bed, likely above the covers and holding onto his orange, stuffed lion and also in the house (and as a cherry on top to my most excellent weekend in Houston), I brought back up north with me to visit for a few days, The Unicorn. Remember her? If not, here’s her story. She’ll still be sleeping too, I imagine. We had a late night last night and I want to have coffee made before she wakes.

Temporariness. Oof.

On our drive yesterday, The Unicorn and I were reveling in the years that have passed since we met which lucky for us, we know the exact date: January 5, 2010. I kid you not, we shook hands for the first time that day and static-shocked each other and since, we’ve been the closest of friends. Seven years, in fact. In a lifetime, that probably isn’t much, but I can remember that day we met like it was just moments ago. And it’s been a fruitful seven years.

It’s so fast. It’s all just so fast.

Us
This is the Unicorn and me at Houston’s Pride Festival, June 2012.

The coffee’s brewing now in the kitchen, trickling and beginning to smell wonderful and outside the front window, our rooster, Bowie, is crowing. I’ve decided it’s a myth that roosters crow only in the morning—Bowie crows all day every day. Tucker, our dog, has curled up at my feet and I’m picking away at the red nail polish that’s chipping from the ends of my fingernails. I rarely paint my nails but I decided to while in Houston this weekend because, well, it was one of the coolest weekends imaginable.

About that: I had a VIP ticket to An Evening with Neil Gaiman that would be performed at the Brown Theater and with said ticket, I’d get a chance to meet Neil himself. And I did. So I’d painted my nails.

That was some major temporariness…my VIP ticket-holding status…though I liked that I held something that considered me a “Very Important Person.” I don’t think I’ve ever been a VIP to anything before. Perhaps my wedding, once upon a time. The bride, I suppose, is one of the wedding’s VIPs.

Thrilling and unbelievably meaningful as it was to me to get to meet one of my very favorite authors, it was over before I realized what sort of anxious nonsense was pouring out of my mouth like a busted dam in a hurricane during my brief opportunity to speak with him. *Facepalm.* I was just as wide-eyed and waggy-tailed as my donkeys that night. Although, even in normal conversation with people for whom I’m very close, I tend to babble and tangent off to strange places, usually about how much I love donkeys and yoga and pizza and bluegrass bands, so at least it was genuine. 

Whether or not I made as ass out of myself (hey, in my world, y’all know being an ass is a compliment *badum tiss*) is not what I’m concerned with…it’s how quickly that one, extremely gravitational moment that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life was over like that. Neil Gaiman is one of the people who has shaped who I am and really, still striving to become, and I had the pleasure of being able to meet him and try in my most awkward way possible to tell him that. Then like the bubbles that Little Foot and I play with in the yard, it popped and that moment was gone and now I’m chipping the paint from my nails. That’s really, really difficult for me swallow.

But isn’t all of it hard to swallow? The fleetingness of everything? Of growing up and saying goodbye and being able to spend  what seem like finger-snaps of time with people who mean the world to you? The seasons and storms and sunrises and every little moment where your heart beats so heavily that you can’t really hear anything else? It’s so difficult for me to comprehend the vacuum that’s left once it’s ended.

I guess that’s a place we can all connect, though. There’s that silver lining. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from, you’ve had to say goodbye to someone. You’ve had to grow up (in one way or another). You’ve hurt and you’ve thrived and you’ve tripped and you’ve soared. You’ve been scared and been brave and when you come to, you only see it in your rearview bouncing around with all the other colors and shapes of your past.

I think the coffee is finished brewing and just now, Little Foot has started to chat in his room, probably with the same stuffed lion that he usually holds onto at night, and so in a moment, I’ll go retrieve him and his curly, little head. He’ll soon not talk to his stuffed animals, so I don’t want to interrupt.

In the meantime, I guess all of this to say that intimidating and downright terrifying as temporariness can be, it can also be very sweet and heart-tugging to recall events in our memories. Like, when I look at photos of Little Foot as an infant, I choke up and remember how the top of his head smelled like toast for the longest time. When I go into my saved voicemails and replay the birthday message my late grandfather left me five years ago, I can see his aging yet perfect smile in my mind’s eye. I remember mine and the Unicorn’s spark when we shook hands. I remember King Ranch’s brown eyes flooding over in tears when I told him I was pregnant. I’ll never forget how trusting Maybell and Sue have become of me and every time Bunny nearly tackles me with excitement, my heart grows a bit. I’ll never forget having the privilege of meeting Neil Gaiman and even though I didn’t remotely articulate my gratitude to him, I hope that he got the sense that he means a whole lot to me.

The Unicorn and I are planning to take Little Foot to the library today. We’ll nuzzle into the same corner that Little Foot and I do every week with a stack of books only this time, I’ll get to watch my friend read him a story. I’ll get to hold onto that image for a very long time and I’m sure that it’ll be just as sweet every time I recall it.

Temporariness isn’t that bad when you think about it like that, I suppose…when you think about it as the decorations in your memory. The art hanging on your mind’s walls. It means you’ve got room to fill your present with just about anything you want and you know you can look back and see how the rest of it has brought you to where you are now. And right now, I’m gonna get some coffee, go peek at my chatting kid, and try to memorize the sound of his little, perfect voice. That would be a painting I’d hang right in the middle of it all.

Wide-Eyed and Waggy-Tailed
Me deciding that temporariness isn’t that bad. Wide-Eyed and Waggy-Tailed, indeed.

West By God Virginia

It’s hovering around 10:00PM and although the sky has seceeded into the most navy of blues, the heat and humidity of a clear, July afternoon still hovers about, sticking to our foreheads. I’m sitting on the railing of the wooden balcony that wraps around the reception hall in which two of my very best friends have just gotten hitched—my feet dangling high above the ground which, looking now, is much farther down than I initially realized. As a native Houstonian, I’m not used to structures on steep slopes like they have here in West Virginia as part of regular geography and especially not when I’m on my third glass of champagne.

Two or so dozen feet in front of me is a line of thick, dark, towering trees and twinkling endlessly in their shadows are thousands of dancing fireflies. Their sparkling song seems endless—over and over the darkness pops with glittering yellow and green flashes and as I struggle to fully exhale the smoke from a long drag I’ve just taken off of a celebratory cigar (I don’t think I even know how to properly smoke a cigar, but I had to try on this night) it dawns on me that this is one of those experiences I’ll remember for the rest of my days.

I’d gone to West Virginia three days before this—before the wedding, the cigar, the balcony and the fireflies—because one of my dearest friends (who I will henceforth refer to as Mountain Mama) asked me to be the Maid of Honor in her wedding. Having never been to West Virginia or really, any of her surrounding areas, I’d arrived with absolutely no expectations—a clean slate ready to be filled with whatever the wilderness held for us. In typical Mountain Mama fashion, we forewent a bar-crawling, explicitly decorated bachelorette party and opted to take her brother and soon-to-be sister in law on a hiking / white-water-rafting adventure in and around West Virginia’s New River Gorge. 

The four of us, Mountain Mama, her brother (The Frenchman) and soon-to-be sister in law (Hannie B) set out across the state at seven in the morning to be the early birds catching the worms on the hike out to The Endless Wall and lucky for us, we caught that scenic worm with hardly another hiker in sight.

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There were several small paths which veered off the main trail, each leading to jagged-rock ledges overlooking the valley and each one of those roads-less-traveled was worth exploring. Each careful step closer to the edge tugged at my gut and at my heart so hard that words, thoughts, worries, and cares about anything escaped me. In other words, the views from The Endless Wall Trail were literally breathtaking.

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We did this for several hours, the four of us, hiking through the wooded paths high above the river. Rhododendron bushes were in full bloom pouring over from the edges of the trail and even sometimes hanging down from above our heads—their light pink and white flowers delicately sprinkling our path…nature’s flowergirl.

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After our souls were fully saturated in the views from way up high, we ventured down low to see the gorge from a much quicker moving perspective—that of the raft.

Of the four of us, only the Frenchman had been white-water rafting so as we geared up and rode down to the take-off point, our nerves and the weight of what we were about to do started to settle in our stomachs. Neither Mountain Mama or I could think of what to say so until we were successfully out on the water, we just giggled nervously.

Lucky for us, we had two other adventurerers ride in our raft: the Miller’s out of Ohio, who, first time or no, did an amazing job rowing on down the river—better than the rest of us most of the time. And we also had the most excellent of tour guides who was completely responsible (and successful!) for keeping the six of us alive on that river. (If you’re ever looking to raft the New River Gorge, might I suggest booking with Adventures on the Gorge. You’ll be especially lucky with Chris as your guide. We sure were.)

This three hour ride down the river was thrilling for two…well….actually three reasons:

  1. When approaching the rapids, no matter how many you’ve gone through, there’s that moment seconds before you steer into the crashing, whitecapping waves surrounded by jagged rocks that you think, “there’s no way I’m getting out of this right now,” and so you clutch your paddle, wedge your feet, and row like your life depends on it—because it does.
  2. The banks and the scenery lining this river in which we rafted were stunning—there were massive rocks (which, according to Chris, are often named based on their shapes) that you could swear have been around since dinosaurs have. Wild flowers peeked from the trees and weeds and birds soared about between the mountains. Not to mention, when you come around the curve and see the New River Gorge Bridge, you can’t help but be humbled by the skill and hands of the humans who built it. 
  3. You make friends with your raft-mates. That’s the thing about adrenaline junkies—you commune in potentially life-threatening situations and, I’m not sure if everyone does this, but I look around the raft (or plane, or boat, or rockwall, or whatever the particular setting is) and think, “well, these could be the last people with whom I share breath” and suddenly, you kind of love them. It’s a connection like no other.

That night, after the rafting and a few drinks with our newly acquainted friends, Mountain Mama, The Frenchman, Hannie B and I drove down into the woods to set up camp. The sun had gone down by the time we made it to our site, and so, using the headlights of our vehicle to light our way and keep clear of stepping on slugs, we quickly set up our tent and settled in for bed. I’ll cut this part short, but, due to a few unforeseen circumstances, we had to pack up our tent in the middle of the night and rush back across the state instead of being able to complete our night of camping. I will say that, thankfully, everyone was fine and really, driving across West Virginia and through the mountains at 2:00AM was quite an adventure in and of itself. So many stars. So many deer. So many odd car conversations.

The following day, we hiked more—this time on the other side of the gorge, down the Long Point Trail. This hike made for much better viewing of the bridge and even more of an opportunity to be stunned and humbled by nature’s beauty.

 

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From there, we traveled even farther east to Mountain Mama’s tiny hometown where we romped in hidden waterfalls and forgot what it felt like to move so quickly all the time.

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This led into Sunday which was the wedding day and all I can say is that it was perfect. I’ll not go into further detail, for it’s not my story to tell but, spoiler alert: I suspect the couple will live happily ever after. They are a couple who redefine what it means to love someone and I am so honored to have been a part of it.

Which brings me back to this railing that I’m perched upon among the chorus of well-wishing fireflies…where I’m choking up because I leave first thing in the morning. I try to take another drag off of the cigar, but I cough lamely and decide to focus my breath on the air that, realistically, I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance to breathe again. I imagine this West Virginia air swirling into my lungs and around my spine in a glittering, white light. It illuminates all the darknesses lurking in my anxious body and as I exhale into the now black night, I’m left cleansed.

I imagine in this moment that a glowing piece of my heart breaks off with my breath and floats on into the wild and wonderful air—that a little piece of my glowing heart floats away leaving a dim, glittering trail tangled with fireflies and settles itself upon the banks of the New River Gorge where it’ll wait for me to come back to retrieve it. It’ll glow, even when the water and the rocks cover it up with the rising tides. It’ll be there, pulsing dimly in the dirt, that piece of my heart that never wants to leave ole’ West Virginia. That little piece of my heart that fell in love and would be damned to leave. It’ll wait there with the ghosts that linger in the mountain mist, waiting for me to return…and I will…someday.

Until then, stay wild and wonderful, West Virginia. Take care of my Mountain Mama and her betrothed…and of that little piece of my heart that’s stuck there. I’ll be back to get it. 

 

 

Summertime Curmudgeon

For some…
Summer is fruit drinks after being tanned,
Walks with popsicles and toes in the sand.
It brings surfboards with tiny two-piece fun
For hours and days beneath that never ending sun.

But for me, no way, I’m not budgin’:
For I am that notorious, summertime curmudgeon.

They run with joy, the summer folk
With coconut oil on their skin to soak
The kisses that the sun sends down
Flipping over any summertime frown.

Except for mine, this frown ain’t turnin’:
For I am that notorious, summertime curmudgeon.

Their speakers blare with top-forty pop
While glasses clink and selfies swap
From person to smiling person so hot
I think I might want to join them…NOT.

I pull my shades closed, my Netflix a-runnin’:
For I am that notorious, summertime curmudgeon.

An eternity it seems that the summer is here
And in Texas it sometimes lasts all year.
I should move way up north where there’s snow and big moose
And I’m far, far away from tropical smoothies and juice.

But that requires effort; I’m too busy being shut-in:
For I am that notorious, summertime curmudgeon.

Only a few more months, I can do this, I can.
Then autumn will come: I’ll make pies with pē-kan!
The leaves will turn colors and die and fall down
And then it will not be me with a frown.

Until then, in ice-blasting A/C I’ll be bummin’:
For I am that notorious, summertime curmudgeon.

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Turtle World

Reread this blog this morning, it being Father’s day once again. I love your little turtle world, dad, and I love that my life has been shaped by it.

That Ranch Life

For three days, I’ve watched a turtle become less and less a turtle and more and more a dark stain on the one road that leads out of town. I wished I had seen the turtle when it was alive: I would have pulled over to move it to the other side.

Once, when I was 10 years old, I sat in the passenger seat of my dad’s car as we drove along a similar country road—two lanes with woods and pastures on either side. I couldn’t tell you where we were headed or coming from, but I remember my dad suddenly slamming on the brakes of his car with a stick shift so that when reached his arm out across my chest instead of shifting gears, the car bucked violently and stalled.

I’d pinched my eyes shut during all of this and when I opened them, my dad was…

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It Bites

Ranch life just got more real.

For over two years now, King Ranch, Little Foot and I have been exploring the ever-offering wonderland that is our small ranchette in nowhere, Texas. We’ve seen the souls of donkeys (although not the bottom of them because to get there would require years and years and probably some NASA made vehicle). We’ve witnessed the one evening in late February where the knockout roses come out to dance their twirling dance and then go on spread their pink petals for the bees and for us all to enjoy. We’ve watched shooting stars and satellites and our hearts glide across the sky at night and the deep love that roosters can actually have for their hen companions. We’ve seen lives turn on and lives turn off just as rhythmically as the fireflies flash their sulfur yellow undersides around the pecan trees.

But like a vinyl record scratching and halting the blinkless stare we’ve had at the glittering world around us, we snapped into reality last weekend when King Ranch got bit by a brown recluse.

Before I go on, I should mention that he’s very thankfully doing fine. In comparison to accounts we’ve read of others who’ve been bitten by this venomous spider, King Ranch’s bite is minor (although it’s still gnarly and painful). No hospitalization has been required. Thank goodness, no vendetta required at this time. 

After we noticed the bite and then went on to spend hours researching brown recluses, their bites, the side effects, their behaviours, and more than I ever thought I’d know about any one kind of spider, I assumed they were these evil, drooling spiders waiting on the insides of cupboards to hop out at you and dig their fangs into your cheek. The thoughts of their long, thin legs intimidated me and even just typing this out, I can feel about 80 of them crawling along my spine.

But what I’ve read is that brown recluses are actually very shy spiders and don’t bite unless provoked. They have sloppy, unkempt, little webs, usually close the floor or on the insides of boxes, but don’t use their webs to trap their prey. They, instead, hunt their prey. They are identified and confirmed by two things: 1) the shape of a fiddle on their backs and 2) their six (not eight) eyes. They’re also called fiddle-spiders (aww!) They bite because YOU’RE big and scary.

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Still, the brown recluse, as shy and intimidated as they are, can do a lot of damage in their bites and lucky for us, King Ranch is fine, but what if it had been Little Foot? So since the bite, we’ve done an overhaul of cleaning out and inspecting our house and garage for any other introverted arachnids and, lucky for us, we’ve only found a plethora of house and wolf spiders which means that the recluse event was either isolated or they’ve all spoken to each other and hidden that much more diligently.

I guess the point of my posting all about this is to be aware—introverted and shy or not, the recluse can really do some damage if it feels threatened, so be careful. Look for brown recluse signs. Don’t keep cardboard boxes around your house or clothes on the floor because they love those hiding spots. If you live out on a ranch or anywhere in Texas, really, you definitely have them around, so be careful. All the rainbow glitter magic that’s swirling about your farm or homestead has an underbelly of creepy-crawlies that really just wants to be left alone. So be safe. 

In other news, if you missed this video on my Facebook or Instagram yesterday of Bunny trying to eat my phone, then here it is again. I’ve watched it at least 8,000 times and I’m still giggling. What a goose.

 

Brown recluse bites. Bunny bites. Nom nom nom.

June Afternoons

Long are June afternoons
Where the sun floats in blurry
Waves above every shiny surface,
Where densely-leaved trees sway
Lazily as if to fan themselves,
Where clouds thinly sprawl in
Wispy, white brush strokes across
Windless, endless blue sky.

Long are June afternoons
Where wonder floats gently like
Wished upon dandelions;
Scattered pseudo petals soaked in
The desires of dreamers and blown
Into directionless breeze.
Where thoughts dangle like dying lilies,
Drifting down petal by once vibrant petal.

June Afternoon

Rain Thoughts

It’s pouring outside. Like one of those real, north Texas, springtime storms that we haven’t had many of this year. I think about how many of my blogs last spring and the spring before were stories about hunkering down in these storms of epic proportions: the kind of storms from which tornadoes and old, forgotten childhood fears spiraled. But this year’s been different…only a handful of noteworthy systems have moved through our little town, most of which have been more wind damaging than anything. 

I’m also laying in my bed right now, typing this blog post on my phone with my right thumb because my left arm is wrapped about a sleeping, slightly snoring Little Foot. He’s started chatting in his two-year-old sleep recently, mostly about dinosaurs, cars, and sharing and it’s downright adorable. I wish, so badly, that I could see his dreams. What do the colors look like there? I wonder how many more times Little Foot will sleep curled up next to me. That’s one of those things I won’t realize it’s the last time until way after the fact. 

The plants outside must be thrilled: their roots are probably chugging the draining water with fury because it’s been that long since they’ve had a drink that wasn’t poured by me and we all know that water from a hose just isn’t the same. I hope that this storm refreshes my struggling garden and peps up the lawn a bit. We thrive on these storms and in their absence, everything’s just seemed…I don’t know…a bit off. Everything has been so tense and tired and stressed out. 

I know there’s a cliche metaphor in there: the whole, “can’t have a rainbow without the rain” concept. Which I mean, it’s true and I love that idea, but what I’m laying here thinking about isn’t what lies on the other side of this storm. I’m thinking about how much we need it and how much I’m loving this rain… The kind of rain that will take days to fully soak into the ground. How grateful I am for the fury of this storm upon us because I think everything needs a good wash out from time to time. A good cry. A purge of the build up that happens when it’s too hot and heavy for too long. 

There’s a meditation technique I learned once where you close your eyes and focus on one sound that you hear at a time. The rain. Little Foot’s heavy breath. The clock ticking in the bathroom. The chimes clanging outside. My own pulse… Can I really hear my own pulse right now? Or do I just feel it that heavily in my temples? 

Pitter-patter, inhale-exhale, tick-tock, clang-clang, thump-thump. 

It’s pouring outside and right now, I want it to last forever.