Burning Leaves

I am finally getting a chance to rake the oak leaves in the front yard and burn them. I prefer burning pine straw. Oak leaves have to be stirred and coaxed and tended carefully if even slightly damp. I want things to be bright and easy and fun. I am not even planning to burn my pine straw. Rather, I am going to use it for mulch under the fig tree. Sacrifice immediate gratification for longer term satisfaction.

Am I talking about yard work? Sounds like life to me. Life needs stirring and coaxing and tending. Life is not often bright, easy and fun. And giving up something now can often mean something with a better return later. I would rather burn pine straw. But, we did work hard to clean out the fig tree. I don’t want to lose that progress. I have fought hard to get to a point in my life where I can write publicly.   Talking about life again, rather than yard work.

I have spent some moments recalling dark hours and years of despair. Despair driven by grief and self-condemnation. The one thing that has been most difficult to overcome is guilt. I have had to get over feeling guilty for being alive. My loved ones are gone. If they could tell me anything at all, I know it would be to live fully in their stead and be happy. To grab every opportunity to laugh and love and be joyous! Not trudging through life like burning oak leaves, but flaming brightly like burning pine straw. Bright and easy and fun at every opportunity. And get out and rake up the straw. Gather up the loved ones, make new friends, round up the old friends. Light the pile with laughter, food and drink, games, boat rides, buggy rides, skeet shooting, fishing, hunting, jumping into the river, snuggling newborns, romancing him.   Smell strongly of the smoke of memories made fresh and new, bright and easy and fun.

Sometime life will need for the oak leaves to be burned again. Meanwhile, burn the pine straw.

burning leaves

Smoldering, smoking.

Glowing, flickering.

Grieving, aching.

Loving, believing.


An Old Place

I like old places.  Old houses, old barns.  Places with memories.  I had occasion to spend time at an old place this weekend.  He and I made some new friends and had a grand time.

It spun me off into my own memories.  I had an old house one time.  Tall ceilings, tall windows, wood floors, separate rooms, each leading off to another and back around again.  I still wake up at night from dreams of that old house.  It still stands, but was relocated and is no longer mine except in my heart and memory and dreams.

My father’s parents had an old house, too.  I loved it very much.  So many places to hide and to sit and to day dream.  My mother’s mother had a garden.  Roses, cannas, bananas, elephant ears, and caladiums beside a houdash pond.  My mother sewed and quilted and cooked and baked and laughed and talked in this very house where we now live.

See how the memories tumble and spin.  One leads to another and I drift along.  I do not allow this type of drift very often.  The ache gets uncovered in my heart and my eyes sting and blur.  It is the very reason my photos sit in piles in boxes.  Every so often over the past fifteen years, I have tried to sort through them and get them all organized in albums or something.  But, the ache comes and my eyes sting and blur and I have to stop.

I still love old houses and flowers and houdash ponds and quilts and photos and memories.




Light and dark.

Sunlight and shadow.

Hope and memory.

Life and love.


Marking Time

Traditions seem to have been discarded in today’s world.  Pseudo-rituals have become the fad.  Going to some restaurant or theme park.  Having a gathering of some sort randomly.  I don’t know what all folks are doing these days out there.

Traditions such as large family gatherings of grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and some family friends added in seems to have gone by the wayside.  I wonder why.  It can’t be due to traveling distances.  Highways and vehicles make even long trips easy.  Not to mention air travel availability.  Houses are larger.  Food comes in forms easier to prepare and serve.

Why are we so tired of it all?  Why did we do it to begin with?  Once upon a time, it was high entertainment.  It was a way to connect and socialize and be part of something.  The year was punctuated by feasts and festivals.  Christmas was only one of many events celebrated with gatherings of people for feasts, contests, dramatic productions, pageants, and parades.  Time was marked by holidays and celebrations.

Entertainment is now so overabundant and cheap, we seem to no longer need a way to mark the passing of time.  Social media, satellite television, cellular phones with internet service.  Movies and restaurants by the dozens.  Sporting and music events.   That just touches the surface of options to fill our time and expend our energy.  There is so much to do, we try to do it all.  Suddenly, another year has passed.  Suddenly, we realize it has been more than a decade and a half since we have seen people we grew up loving and spending time with.

One of my intentions for this year  was to have lunch with a friend each month.  I did January’s lunch.  February’s I did not.  March is quickly coming to a close.  However, I will give myself credit for stopping to see a friend.  One of my best friends.  She was at work, so it was just hugs and a quick so great to see you, how are the kids, kind of moment.  But, it was still a precious moment in time.

So, what else do I want?  I am not sure.  I am not sure if trying to reconstruct the old ways is correct or feasible.  But, surely, we could come up with more solid structure for connections than what we have now.  It is really up to me to make the effort to create a space in time for the next generation to have connection with family and close friends.

I had a lovely few hours with my niece and my two wonderful great nieces this past weekend.  Perhaps they are what sent me off on this train of thought.

In this outrageously disconnected world we live in, I want them to have connection.  I want them to feel as though they belong to a larger group of loving individuals.  Bound by love and tradition and ritual.  Secure in the knowledge that there is always a safe place in this world when all seems to be spinning out of control.  Their parents provide this certainly.  But, the extension of the family group makes a difference when the storms come and when the joys come, too.


More than dishes.

Colored glass shapes for holding celebrations.

Holding foods for celebrations.

Holding memories of celebrations.

Holding hope of future celebrations.

Holding promises of memories yet to be celebrated.


He came in from fishing and over supper asked if I had been “orchiding”.  I was puzzled for a moment.  Then, I remembered that is what he has dubbed my pursuit of personal growth and creativity.  He asked if I had painted and I replied no.  I was still feeling stalled.  I reflected on my day.  I made some discoveries.

What had I done all day?  I cried some.  I wrote down some questions.  I identified some of the myths I believe.  For me they are truths right now, but I want to strike down the myths because they are harmful rather than examples for which to aspire.  Remember that whatever one believes is the truth for them.

I had also spent time scrubbing the stove top.  It was long overdue.  Yes.  Even cleaning house can be considered “orchiding” when it relieves my tension and improves my immediate environment.

I rearranged the clothes in my closet in anticipation of warmer weather.  I recently explained to a friend that I no longer complain about the weather.  The weather is the business of God.  Who am I to complain about His business?  But, I still must prepare to dress for it.  I have tried to get my clothes situated to make easier dressing.  I wear jeans and boots or sandals to work.  I have collected men’s shirts from a resale shop that I enjoy wearing.  I like to add scarves and necklaces to soften my appearance.  Getting ready for spring counts for me, too, as “orchiding”.

I ironed embroidery stencils onto two of those shirts.

I worked out the next part of my flower trio paintings.  I figured out the next step, but I have not yet applied the paint.

I stopped at the cemetery and captured some images of the camellia and its blooms.

So, the answer is yes.  I did do some “orchiding”.  It is not always just about being at the easel or desk working directly on arts and crafts.  It is also taking time to think and to feel and to dream.   I will continually need to remind myself of this.  I appreciate his asking the question.

One of my favorite things:

This is the gravesite of my great grandparents.  Her name was Camilla.  Hence, the camellia over her resting place.






I always expected life to be more like Norman Rockwell’s paintings.  I figured Mama and I would be cooking dinner and taking all the grandkids off on adventures.  Even now, I keep thinking it will somehow materialize.

I have lingering images from prior to 1978.  That was about when Granny and Granddaddy sold their house and moved to Evadale.  There was something magical about that house.  When we would all get together for Christmas and Easter, it was so glamorous.  My lovely Mother and Daddy’s lovely sisters.  I remember Daddy wearing a suit and tie at Christmas.

Even after that, for almost 20 years till Mama left us, we would get together to have dinner all the time.  Sometimes a few of us, but several times a year a whole bunch of us.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends and all.  Sometimes here at this house, sometimes at Honey Island, sometimes at Saratoga.

I always dreamed of seeing the world.  Between stories of Daddy’s sailing days and Uncle Bo’s RV days, travel was always a dream of mine.  I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer or an anthropologist.  I wanted to be a great painter.  Like Georgia O’Keefe.  Famous while alive and not after I am dead.  I wanted to write a great novel that would be on the recommended reading list for students.

I am not unhappy with my life.  I had to choose between things.  Sometimes there really was no choice.  Love and duty dictated my actions.  I have chosen family and home over other adventures.  Life with my family and him has been an adventure!

But, these days, what choices do I have?  The world is wide open in some ways.  In a few years, God willing, I will be retired and still young enough to make a new path.  What will I do with the rest of my life?  What do I need to do now to prepare for the next book in the series of my adventure on this planet?

I keep looking for inspiration and direction.  I keep hoping for a light bulb type epiphany.  But, I know that sometimes all we get is the next moment, the next hour, today.   So, I am doing today.  And, trying to do it well. Even when it feels like I am stalled.  And I am feeling stalled.