Saturday, February 26, 2011

Desert Palms

From Sunny Southern California ,  

Where the Palms are silhouetted against a rugged mountain border;
Where the Bougainvillea blooms in sharp contrast to the desert turf;
Where the Rainbows of flowers creep along the garden borders.
They call this the desert.

The weatherman calls for sunny skies
Day after day the temperatures rise.
Then clouds appear at the mountain tips
And rains cascades while the wild wind whips
Filling the valley with chilly temps
Running the tourist to the nearest fire pits.
They call this the desert.

The color changes from shades of brown to patches of crayons.
The cactus gains its stature with glamour and drama.
The desert lives in full glory of nature's beauty.
The sun returns to post guard on its kingdom below.
And they call this the desert.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Natural Calendar

Since the day I was born in sunny Arcadia, California the sun has been an indicator, not a dictator, of how I felt. Although there are days my kids and husband may disagree. I am most content and adaptable when I have the sun on my face. When it's gray and cloudy I retreat and pray more deeply for goodness and grace in my life and for my family. I know without grace those gray days take their toll on the soul.

Now I've entered a time of life when and where I can gloriously relax and track the sun's arch. Moving to Kansas fifteen years ago was a lonely cold time in my life. We'd bought an older home and upon arriving late the night of December 28 with two dogs, bedding, suitcases, and green plants realized that our bedroom furniture, arriving the next day, would not fit into the designated master bedroom.

Late that night weary from two days of packing, a long drive, and the sorrow of leaving friends and family, we toasted to our new life, explored our new old home, and then sank down on the greenish brown shag carpeted floor of an add on room that was lined with windows. Before long we noticed the moon and then our two minds converged to toast, "Let's sleep here tonight." The sun greeted us the next morning rising over the trees and beaming into our windows and bleary eyes. It's glow lifted our hearts and the add on room became our master bedroom. With a few fixes over the next two months we soon had new carpet and a closet.

Our sun/bedroom faces true northeast. The three nearly floor to ceiling windows on the south face a true southeast as do my two half-sized windows in the pink playroom. On December 21 the sun barely touches the left corner of the middle southeast windows. As winter wonders fall the sun begins it's return slowly, window by window. It rounds the corner of the northeast wall of windows by late January. Those two windows face not only the sun but a giant old cedar tree filled with birds and music. By now (mid February) the sun has nearly passed through those two windows. Before long it will touch our full glass door. When it reaches the door I should have bulbs pushing up through the dark Kansas soil. Finally, spring will return and the sun will travel a few more windows till June 21st, giving us light and hope for renewal.

Now, having been writing for three months, I've discovered the sun's playful sometimes glaring arch in my pink room. During the dead of winter it tracks low across the sky glancing in at me through the bottom half of one window, then rising upward through the top half of the second window and the lace curtains. Many of these days the glare is so bright I can't see the computer screen. My problem was solved when I found an old cardboard loom with an uncompleted weave on it left my daughter, Katy's, childhood hobby. Like a picture on the wall, I place it on the window ledge. It fits perfectly giving me the suns glow not glare.

Then yesterday I noticed the sun's dramatic change. As I look out my small windows in the playful room, I realized that the sun has started it's ascent from the top half of my window. By early afternoon its direct light is on the roof not in my room. I've moved the loom upward and only need it now in the first window. Before long I'll be able to look out and see green tips forming on the bushes outside. Splendidly, the birds enjoy the window shelf outside and the food trays below, so I have music and flutter year round. Yes, I know the paper calendar year is January to December, but some of us feel a different calendar and respond naturally to nature.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

S'No Golf

I've spent the day standing, sitting, starring out the window as the snow accumulates. In a more positive mood I jumped out early this morning to shovel snow from the backdoor to the hot tub and out the front door to the drive. Silly me. The blowing snows of blizzard conditions quickly covered my hard work. The noon forecast still read 2-4 inches of snow and we had seven inches already on the ground. So once again I'm content to read in the warmth of my home or to listen to the jazz music in the background and reflect on other snows and memories.

Without hesitation my first memory of living in Hutchinson was the winter we moved here in 1996. I spent our first snow storm unpacking, the second storm was pure wind chill and a touch of snow that set me to peeling baby blue wallpaper from the dining room. The third snowstorm I just stood at the five paned front window starring out into snow that never touched the ground. It went straight south for hours until I discovered the term snow drift! I called my family in Oklahoma numerous times that winter to give updated weather reports from Kansas (not unlike today and other days this winter). Without a job to pull me out of the house I was beginning to think of Michener's book Centennial and the isolation of the dust bowl.

At last in mid February of '96 the sun rose warmly one day. I called the Highlands Golf Course, where we had joined but had not visited, to see if any women played golf there and whom I might meet. The pro said he'd call a lady golfer to get in touch with me. Within hours a delightful exuberant lady name Trish Becher called me and invited me to play the next day if the forecast was true that it would be in the 60's. On that warm winter day I arrived at the Highlands with a small bag of clubs, no handicap, and several layers of clothes to play golf with new people in my life. For three or four days in that week we played golf in February. I was thinking Kansas wasn't so bad after all.

My first and most lasting memory of the Highlands Golf Course was playing hole six, a severe dog leg right, over water if you weren't careful. But on the first two days I was inaugurated the water was frozen, and so those little colorful golf balls (mine being pink, of course) just bounced out on the ice and sat there. Oh, how tempting to walk out on the frozen pond to collect golf balls. I even ventured down the bank one time in a vain attempt to reach a ball, only to figure out it was frozen into the water and probably every foolish golfer who had walked by that day had made the climb downward to retrieve one lonely ball.

The last two days we played there in February the water was thawed except for one small frozen island in the middle of the pond. It had only a few balls sitting on it, but it would have been a great camera shot with the correct lens, fresh pond water lapping at the edges attempting to wash the balls away. In the background a brown bank and trees awaiting spring. Little did I realize that March would soon blow for thirty-one long days and it would be April before I played golf again.
I can see for miles across the prairie.

The few days of golf that February gave me hope that Kansas would be a good place to live for a few years, thinking always that we would move on to somewhere else. Here we are fifteen years later. The wallpaper has all been peeled, we repainted every room twice, the kitchen is new. Gone is the robin egg blue toilet, sink, and tub along with the rose colored toilet and sink from the two bathrooms. Hard wood floors gleam where old Berber carpet had lain. Our new insulated windows keep out the bitter cold allowing me to now sit and watch the little birds fluttered in the snowy wind, and as we learned a few springs ago, the windows are so well insulated that we have to bend an ear to even hear the tornado sirens.

In Kansas it's important to hear sirens and keep out the cold. The weather keeps us on our toes, always alert to changes, always looking ahead to the future forecast. Next week, they say, the highs will be in the 60's. Golf weather for some of us. But in the meantime, I'd like to think I've learned how to enjoy each and every day. And as for Kansas, it passes the test. We've enjoyed these fifteen years and oh, so many friends who have come and gone through our lives and those who grace us with their friendship, laughter, and stories. With any luck at all this frigid winter weather will break long enough to find me out on a warm golf course for a day or two with friends. Out of 150 years Kansas, we've enjoyed a slight 15. Happy Birthday Kansas.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Miami Memories: Norse Stars

Oh, such bitter cold blowing snow outside. The shivering little birds are lined up on my south window ledges hovering out of the storm. Their heads bobbing up and down create an appearance of conversations from facebook. "Golly, can you believe this wind."
"Why didn't we go South for the winter?"
"Too late now, we can't see past the bushes."
"I was too hungry to sleep in. Now here I am foraging for food on the ground."
"What about a zumba or a line dance to stay warm?"

Then just like that they danced, fluttered about and took off. Maybe it's warmer down under the bushes where I stashed their food.
Three Norse Stars who danced in the cold: 
 Letty Watt , Charlotte Rosier, Cindi Lillard

Now I sit and shiver even with a heater at my feet. The cold just seeps in through the glass. Fetching a blanket for my shoulders helped conjure up a frigid memory of being a member of the Norse Stars drill team at NEO A&M.

We were a proud college drill team of well figured young girls. Virginia Lee Wilson worked us hard so we'd be proud to wear the costumes of leotards, tights, vest, fringed skirts, boots, topped with white felt hats on the football fields, basketball courts, or in parades. Our performances took us to such great cities as Coffeyville, KS, Hutchinson, KS, Trinidad, CO, Lawton, OK, and Kilgore, TX. Winter storms during football season or Christmas parades only served to make our performances and travels more memorable. We danced for the big shows at Christmas: Miami, OK; Vinita, OK; Joplin, MO; Seneca, MO.

The college dressed us well in costumes of blue and gold, or for special shows our white Indian guise. One Christmas parade in the tiny town of Seneca we marched in our Indian Headdress costumes. The white feathers on the headdresses were old then and oh, so very fragile. We truly handled them with loving care and only placed them on our heads moments before our lineup. Each of us held our heads high proudly strutting and supporting a full regalia of white Indian feathers that trailed down our backs nearly to the ground. Our white leotards were the base for a highly decorated fringed vest and skirt that didn't cover much. Tan hose covered our bare legs and a pair of socks protected our feet in those golden tasseled white boots.

But on this particular Saturday morning Mrs. Sandmire and other mothers followed our bus to Seneca to help us dress for the bitter winds. It was the invention of saran wrap, laundry cleaner plastic bags, and cellophane that saved our skins and allowed us to march that day.

Oh, what a scene that bus must have been as sixty girls unwrapped themselves from the heavy blue/gold woolen blankets, pulling down leotards and hose, exposing already cold body parts to the world inside the bus. With the help of a few mothers we, one by one, began to wrap each other in clear sticky saran wrap and plastic pieces. The windows steamed over with the heat of anticipation. With the frantic yelling of Virginia Lee and hand clapping of Mrs. Sandmire we at last, one by one, emerged from the bus layered in cellophane, two or three pair of hose, cotton in our ears, and as many socks as our boots would allow. Our smooth youthful bodies looked a bit lumpy under the leotard and adornments of fringe and feathers.

With proper counting, clapping, and training we lined up to march down the narrow main street lined with parents holding blankets around two or three shivering little children. The band's music traveled forward with us in the wind and helped us to keep a steady beat that day. Hearing the crowds clap and cheer kept smiles frozen on our red faces, and helped to propel our legs and nearly numb feet forward with kicks and marched steps. In the end we were greeted by a warm bus, blankets, and a cup of hot chocolate.

It seems only right to say we danced and kicked passionately that day and gave the parade onlookers our best performance ever. Just like the little birds that fluttered away, we, too, fluttered and danced till the performances of our youth gave way to the lives we lead now.

Letty Stapp Watt
storyteller and historian