Thursday, May 26, 2011

Up the Tree (First Contact continued)

Our street ends on the North with a country road. As my friends who’ve visited here have noted, “You really do live at the edge of town.” It is on this edge that my dog, Lucy, and I frequently walk.
Because she runs along the hedgerow with her nose to the ground, we often stir up rabbits, quail, squirrels, stray cats, and some unpleasant critters. Only a few nights had passed since we’d
made “First Contact” with the new cat in town when “Lucy the flying goose” as we sometimes call her, disturbed a cat hiding in the hedgerow and caused quite a ruckus in the neighborhood. Molly the blond lab, Finn the golden retriever, Zoe and Gracie the pound puppies across the street often send out the word that Lucy’s on the run. Their barks cry, “Go Lucy Go. We’re your cheerleaders, wish we could be your backup J.
It was an ever so slight rustle in the bushes then suddenly, the chase was on. I’ve noticed that dogs
Cat is one jump higher on left.

bark with zeal as they chase, but cats reserve their energy for the climb or confrontation. This time the black cat found an old cottonwood with a low outstretched arm. With the grace of a sprinter the cat clawed its way up the tree and then stopped. At another “Y” branching limb with room to perch the cat turned to face the barking chaser.
One heart beat behind Lucy raced, while I jumped and ran with the grace of a cow. Lucy reached the tree barking, then circled it twice giving herself time to create a strategy. I stood a bush away watching and waiting to see how long Lucy would circle and bark. The black cat blended in quite well with the spring branches and leaves. The story might have ended here had the cat not risen on it’s legs, arched it’s back, and hissed.

The challenge was too great for Lucy to ignore. She leaped like a fox straight up into the first fork of the heavily barked old tree. From her new vantage point she could see the

cat. Forgetting that she was a dog she climbed that ‘Y’ shaped branch. Then like the cat a few nights before, she slid back down.
By now the corner neighbor ventured out to see what the commotion was about. “Well, I never seen a dog climb a tree like that,” he laughed. Over and over Lucy climbed, slid, fell to the ground and started again. The cat now in a perched position continued hissing tease and seemed to watch the show with glee.
My mind flashed back to a scene from Where the Red Fern Grows when the boy tried to call off his dog from the treed raccoon. I saw that determined look on Lucy and at last walked over to her. “That’s all girl. Let’s go. You did really well. I’m safe.”
Game is over.
She stopped barking. I put the lease on her collar. This time Lucy walked off with her tail wagging, leaving the cat to watch her swagger.

First Contact

Recently, one of our lazy wistful walks woke the neighborhood with barking that translated to “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!” And hissing that screamed, “Stop or take a slash.” As if the poor black cat that was dumped on our country road didn’t have enough problems, he was now face to face with Lucy again. But this time we were on his turf.

Our first encounter with the black one came a few weeks ago at three o’clock in the morning. Lucy, our devoted Blue Heeler, woke me to warn me of an intruder in her backyard. The whining and abrupt cold nose on my arm roused me to the situation. Since she seemed so intent on saving me from the critter outside, I thought I could at least get out of bed and act concerned. Looking out the window into the moon brightened night I saw the rather large black animal crouched by the hot tub stairs. I checked for a possible white stripe or strange “tale” and saw none. I assured her that we were safe inside the house, but Lucy continued her pacing until at last I opened the door.

The chase was on with lightning speed until the large black cat could not jump or climb over the fence it had once casually crossed to enter our backyard. In a sudden turn of events the cat took a hissing swipe at Lucy then raced, not to the nearest tree, but to a large tall cottonwood tree toward the back of the yard. With Lucy on his tail I watched as the cat climbed straight up, and then in slow motion slide back down toward Lucy’s barking jaws.

When I realized that Lucy might actually catch the cat, I raced to the tree wearing my twenty year old Halston’s blue night gown, screaming nonsense garble like “stop, no, wait!” As the cat’s haunches hit the ground I dove for Lucy like a tackler downing the quarterback making full contact with the dog just seconds before first contact (the bite).

Poor Lucy didn’t know what hit her, and I certainly felt surprised finding myself on the ground. With three of us huffing, puffing, and hissing the chase had ended. The dog and I sat safely by the tree as the cat flipped his tail high and marched off like he deserved a round of applause.

Little did I know that Lucy would once again come face to face with the black cat, but that’s another story.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I've been wondering this week where inspiration comes from for people: writers, teachers, athletes, performers, students, for any of us. Yesterday, I was reminded that I need only to put on the tennis shoes and go for a walk with Lucy to find spiritual, personal, and light-hearted inspiration. As we walked casually along the dirt road, the old grandfather tree in the field north of us set me to thinking about "story." I took pictures and pondered mind full of memories about the field, the birds, the long runs with our husky, Woofer, the holding hand walks with Jack, the hide-n-go-seek games with Lucy, the winter walk with our grandson Isaac, and the delightful surprises that nature gives us.

The landscape of the field changed this spring with a "controlled" burn. I didn't try to stop it, but I certainly thought about running head-long across the field to ask the farmer, "Why, why are you killing our birds, the deer, the wild cats, the opossum and raccoons?" But I didn't. Last year a farmer with a tractor showed up in the field and began plowing the deep prairie grasses and pulling up saplings. With my faithful Lucy at my side I ran into the field that day to approach the tractor, which suddenly became extremely large as it approached me! What in the world was I thinking? the old man stopped, Lucy let him have it with protective barks as he walked toward me, scrawling. I asked first, "What are you doing?" His reply was simple and forceful, "Plowing the field for the government! It's CRP land that has to be turned over and all the trees removed." I actually tried to argue and plead my case for the wild animals. It did no good. He walked back too the two story tractor and started his engine. I had no effect, but luckily the rains came in downpours last spring giving CPR to the remaining prairie grasses.

It's been over a month since the acreage burned. The ashes, that didn't blow into our window sills, and under the tiny cracks in our doors, still blacken the land. But recovery and resuscitation comes in many surprising ways. The grasses are growing again in sharp contrast to the black/barren landscape. The coveys of trees and bushes stand frozen in time, not weaving with the wind like they once did. The grandfather tree in the far corner is scarred, bent, and broken from years of winds, rains, storms, and now stands blackened and
Grandfather tree like a statue in the wind.
crippled. One day, I'll stand at the field's edge and watch as the tree falters in a storm and falls to the ground. That tree knows many of my secrets, and I think those of passing children, too. For when I first came to the field there was a circle of logs around the foot of the tree where people had gathered.

Lucy let me know that the field mice survived the fires, but not so a cat. The birds are gone for now, but perhaps they'll return when the grasses grow high and deep again. Listening is not the same when the land is flat and barren of whispering grasses. I heard only a light crackling of limbs that day, no fluttering of quail in my face, no brushing of leaves, no pheasants screaming, no road runners chattering. I'm waiting on the killdeer birds to find new lands here for their babies, for the kingbirds and red-winged black birds to return, for the sunflower seeds to drift and settle and sprout. I can wait because there is always something out there, living, and changing. I don't own this land, but I love this land and all it provides. Mother Nature's healing effect on the land heals me, too, and offers me inspiration. Chief Seattle was right, "We are part of the earth and it is part of us."

Footnote: After I wrote this story I remembered a children's book that told the story so much better than I. What I found in my basement was a shelf of books dealing with nature. I must have kept all of the books that touched me deeply, as nature does. And so I'd suggest one of the best readings is Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (the words of Chief Seattle) illustrated by Susan Jeffers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Internet Terror!

While typing my latest story my computer shutdown! Now, that's usually a trick that my mind does when I least expect it. One seemingly innocent hot flash can shut me down and leave me wondering what I was thinking. Since my computer skills are minute I tend to panic when my screen disappears, especially when I can't even run McAfee protection. So rather than writing, posting, and adding pictures to my weekly story I went into panic mode and nothing was gained.

An hour with cox communications showed that I, my computer, had the problem. With no skills at computer problem solving I lugged it with us on our trip to Norman. My drive to write and post weekly was amazing. I had no idea that writing had become so important to me. Finally, this morning (Sunday) I made my way to Panera Bread in Norman, OK for Internet connections. Once again my heart sobbed as I could connect but bring up nothing. I made all kinds of promises to the computer gods....I promise I will back up my stories nightly, weekly, whatever it takes, if I can just find my stories. I was afraid to open Windows for fear of infecting it with whatever virus my computer had. (I know, go ahead and laugh at my ignorance and fear.) But alas, I do not give up easily, or at all.

Perseverance comes in many shapes and sizes and God gave me an abundance of perseverance. I looked around for a kind person on a computer and walked myself and computer over and pleaded for help. Guess what, a nice man named David was able to help me get into the Internet and blogspot through Google Chrome. Thank heavens for kind, trusting, thoughtful people in this world. I can write and share once again. Tonight or tomorrow I will finish my writings of last Thursday and add my photos. Then once again, I'll be on track for writing my blog.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Readings, Weavings, and Wonderings

Along time ago my daughter, Katy, and I fell in love with a book character named Gurgi, from Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron. The elf Gurgi spoke in timely rhymings. Gurgi begins by begging his master to take him on the quest by saying, "Clever valiant warrior Gurgi, who joins master to keep him from harmful hurtings." Whenever I had to apply bandaids for Katy's bloody wounds we wished that the harmful hurtings would heal soon. We laughed and cried aloud together as we read those fantasy adventure stories. "Woe and sadness," wailed the creature, loping anxiously to Taran. "Gurgi sees smackings and whackings by strenghtful lord..." For years Gurgi's words became our way of communicating in rhyming lines. We even wrote a fan letter to Lloyd Alexander explaining our passion for Gurgi and his elfish character charm. Mr. Alexander actually wrote back to Katy and the letter arrived on her 8th birthday.
Katy learning the steps of over and under.

This past February Katy and I enjoy a cold winter day, learning the skill and art of basket weaving, at Sandy Springs Farms in Hinton, OK. It was our first venture into the world of "over, under, over, under." As we laughed and giggled at our pea sized brains for having to repeat the weaving mantra of "over, under" my mind wondered in and out of time and memories of motherhood with my delightful creative daughter.

While the very advanced basket weavers sat on the crescent moon shaped side of our table formation, the two of us inexperienced weavers sat at a full table facing them. We felt really special receiving so much attention from our master weaver, Pauline Hogan Asbury. The fact is we needed all of the attention we could garner. Step one of a simple flat weave went well until we later discovered the importance of having the central flat reed turned good side up. Oh well, we had a master weaver in our mists who could manipulate our errors. All mistakes were forgiven and the basket began to take shape. Next, we learned how to make "chicken feet." Low and behold, our design really did look like the term "chicken feet." I began to wonder how many generations ago it was when nearly every woman could weave a basket, stitch the clothing for survival, weave or quilt a blanket, or cook for the multitudes. Did her weaving or quilting give her mind time to wonder?

In one of my wonderings I asked my daughter, Katy, "Do you ever finger weave anymore?" She gave me that look of "what!" I continued, "Don't you remember all those classes at the Firehouse Art Station when you spent the winter finger/hand weaving?" Suddenly, a child like smile spread across her face and her mother's heart beamed. "I do remember the classes, but I don't remember how to finger weave." Once again we were both lost in our own wonderings.

Sandy, the owner of the land, the barn, the buffalo, and co-hosts to some of our memories kept returning to our table to chat about "times gone by." She and I had both taught at Jefferson Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma during the '80's. Each trip by the table was a refreshing stream down memory lane for the three of us. One of the most special occasions was the day we both flew across town on the lunch/planning time and decorated Katy's birthday cake. We had a simple family birthday party that year, but Katy had a once in a lifetime hand decorated cake. Katy smiled and said, "You mean you two decorated it, not someone at the grocery store?" We giggled and I replied, "It was the Sandy Elf who really did the art work. I just filled the bags of frosting. We just wanted to make it special for you."

Then as if on cue I smelled food and Gurgi leaped into my mind. With all of the creative juices flowing I experienced "wiffings and sniffings." It seems as though our energetic hostess was preparing a feast for all of us to enjoy as we finished our weavings. Our fingers took on a new life as our "Muffin Baskets" began to take shape. The flat bottom suddenly had rounded sides. Our t-shirts and sleeves were damp with the squirt bottle in constant use, keeping the reed damp. Our style of hugging the upturned basket didn't look professional but then again we were beginners. "Over, under, tug, pull, fold, press, hold, hug...." the mantras continued interlaced with giggles and memories.

Completed baskets!

At last, with four hands at work, each basket was completed. Our hostess had filled the air with the aroma of "crunching and munchings." The collection of basket weavers filled their creative and tasteful desires that day. Friendships were renewed, memories recalled, and new stories created. When the last of the weavers left that afternoon another weaving of tales began. We were fortunate enough to be guests in that lovely barn for the night, sharing stories for hours with James and Sandy. A toast to another day of weavings and wonderings between mothers, and daughters, and friends.