“Raise the Glasses, Look Back, and Smile”

(I wrote this eight years ago when I worked for Grimes Publications. So to be accurate, add that number to the ones I mention. In addition, Dad’s batteries ran out Memorial Day, 2016, I parted ways with the paper, went back to graduate school and started a new career teaching at Columbus State University (My life has never been static). But almost 10 years later, the message and my resolve have not changed one bit.  Hope you enjoy).

Birthdays.

Amazing how the word changes with time.

Remember when you couldn’t wait for them to roll around.

“I’m almost 13…can’t wait until I’m 16…finally –18…ah-h-h, sweet 21.”

Remember?

And then it changes.

One day you’re 21, and before you know it, your youngest kid is going to New Orleans to celebrate the milestone.

And that was almost five years ago. Next month, my son will be 26.

Incredible.

But my Dad is the one who really can’t believe the calendar…nor can we.

Last weekend he celebrated his 87th, and he is far from old. In fact, he sets the standard very high for all of us. He’s like that battery bunny…he just keeps going and going.

“You got one coming up yourself in a week, don’t you?” he asked as he looked across the supper table at me Saturday night. “How old will you be?”

“I’ll be 58,” I answered slowly…my voice sounding like fingernails on a blackboard.

“Never thought I’d have chillun’ that old,” he replied. “Seems like yesterday I was a chap myself.”

“Where were you born?” asked my sister-in-law.

“Down there in that white house next to the church. Mother always said the icicles were a foot long that morning. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Eunice delivered me. They lived on this corner where your house is, Pam. He practiced medicine here before they moved to LaGrange.”

Dad talked about the changes…the things and people he missed…the years he had spent here at Jones Crossroads…stories I never tire of hearing.

During the first decades of the 20th century, Harris County was extremely rural and remote. Automobiles, of which there were very few, did not make the scene until the early 20’s. The only paved road was U.S. 27, and the main mode of transportation was the mule-drawn wagon or horse and buggy.

“People didn’t go to town back then. There were little country stores everywhere that sold the staples people used – mainly coffee, sugar, overalls, and work shoes.

“Folks raised hogs for meat, grew all their vegetables, and canned or dried enough produce to carry them through until the next growing season.

“In fact, y’alls great grandfather, Uncle Rob, had a community preserving plant at one time – I guess you could call it a co-op – where the folks in the Hopewell and surrounding communities could bring their produce to be canned.

“But the biggest difference in the Harris County then and the Harris County today is what our claim to fame was.

“During the 20’s and 30’s, we were famous, or should I say infamous, for being the best place around to buy corn liquor – white lightning.”

We raised our champagne glasses in a toast, saluting the fact we were together and that our kids appeared to be doing well.

After everyone left, I continued to think about the changes in my life…about the number of years that have passed since I moved back to Harris County – ‘twill be 30 this fall.

Amazing.

I sat down and opened the photo album I started for my Dad a few months ago. I added the prints I had made for his birthday – photos of Hal and me when we were wee ones,  a picture of our family in Boston in 1958 when my Dad was named “Master Farmer of the Year”, my brother and I posing on the seawall at Panama City when we were tweens.

The joys and sorrows started flooding back…the memories of my youth, the dreams I had, the nightmares that happened, and the blessings my children have always been to me.

I started to feel that familiar wave of tearful loneliness.

“No,” I said aloud. “Don’t look at the scrapbook any longer.”

I closed the cover and stood up.

Memories are just that – memories. You can’t go back.

When ghosts emerge from old photos, it’s time to put them away.

I felt the tears subside.

Yep…I’m a year older and I’ll never be 21 again.

But at least I’m alive.

And I hope to toast my silver-haired chillun’ when I’m 87, tease them unmercifully…

…raise my glass, look back and smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January Promise

 

PROMISE

I see a January promise from a winter sun,

Cold memories fade where the light has begun

To softly hint at visions of spring,

Tempting the senses and trying to bring…

january-promise

…the future to focus while the past remains

A silent tribute to the strength that tames

My vivid memories of every winter sun,

And a January promise I’ve just begun.

p.avery

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Stop the Noise.

I sat down to write a good-bye note to 2016, but those damn words just got in the way.

The noise prevented me from hearing what I needed to hear and knowing what I wanted to say. 

“Ignore the headlines and the tag lines…the news bites, the obituaries, the disappointment, and the despair,” I admonished myself. “Forget the anger and the hate. Find some joy in the grey landscape. It also takes light to be dim. Find it.”

I looked out the window. Since the clouds were coming together for a rain convention, the winter sky was the perfect canvas for the bare branches of an ancient dogwood  tree. We had given her up for dead but decided to prune her a little and wait for another spring. Some of her limbs show signs of dying, but there’s new growth, too.

Three bird feeders hang from her lower branches and attract a lot of visitors when Mamacita the Cat is distracted in the barn.

At this exact moment, there’s a tiny bird, sitting all alone in her topmost branches. Nothing exotic but she’s there — grateful to have a safe tree branch, food, and some water close by.

I looked out the window again and within seconds, at least a dozen of her petite friends from the same tribe joined her.

And then, as if an alarm rang,  the tree was full of cardinals, finches, sparrows and the original tiny scout — who flew closer to the office window and perched high in the pecan tree, observing her friends and neighbors devour the bird seed.

There it is.

last-blog-2016

In spite of the image we humans have as being the most highly evolved form of life on the planet,  we often fail at being the smartest.

The day we stop fighting over the bird seed and welcome to the table those who are different from us is the day all the damn noise will cease.

And then we’ll hear what we need to hear and know what we need to say — if anything.

Shalom.

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Moonrise Over Her Shoulder

sunflower-moon

With the moonrise over her shoulder

And the sunset in her eyes,

She threw the pain to the past,

And flew to the open sky.

She had a picture in her mind

And a song in her heart.

Soaring above the land,

She looked for the missing part

That always eluded her

And escaped her view.

The thing she couldn’t remember.

But what she intuitively knew

Drove her to escape to

Find what she had lost.

Whatever it was,

At whatever the cost.

“Survival,” she said, “is what I want.

To fear no more and finally find

The thing that was taken long ago.

That strong, sure part of my mind

That kept me safe,

And I knew was mine.

That was stolen from me

When fate crossed the line.

But this time I’ll get there.

Cause I’m stronger than before.

The shadows are lifting

And I see more

Than the hole in my heart

And the fear that paralyzed.

I see the missing part

And the thing I realize

Was waiting here,

For me to come home,

And claim the very thing

That was always my own.

My life is mine.

And the pain is, too.

It is very, very real

But it will not do

What it has before.

It will not rule nor will it win.

I will look it in the eye

And stare it down again.

No shadow will hide

The truth I clearly see.

I am strong and safe

Because of me.”

With the moonrise over her shoulder

And the sunset in her eyes

She threw the pain to the past,

And flew to the open sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Straight Lines Don’t Converge

“I gave you that gift. So I’ll tell you how to use it.”

Now how damn selfish does that sound?

But I’m afraid we say or at least act out those words everyday.

My parents’ generation was not too fond of the fact that their offspring used freedom of speech — which they felt was a gift to us from them — to protest things that were not popular to protest 50 years ago. Things like racial, gender, and sexual inequality. Or wars fought for reasons other than what our elected officials told us. Or corporate corruption. Or man-made environmental dangers. Or the sexual objectification of women.

And I completely understand their reasoning.

They lost their jobs, homes and farms but survived  the Great Depression. They endured two horrific world wars and buried their friends and family members. And all was done to preserve freedom — for themselves and their children.

And damn it, they wanted to make sure we didn’t use that freedom to do and say things that did not meet their approval. Period.

Well, the admonitions didn’t work. We kept talking. And doing. Some of the stuff we said and did was brilliant. But other things — maybe not so much. But we tried. And many in the “Greatest Generation” lived to appreciate and join in the dialogue…

…the dialogue that continues, that is.

My 20-something-year-old students discuss race, gender, sex, current events, violence and politics all the time. They definitely have their opinions and they’re not always like mine.

And sometimes, they don’t vote the way us older revolutionaries tell them to vote.

Damn it.

Don’t they realize we struggled so they could grow up in a world different from the one we faced when we were their age? If it hadn’t been for us, they wouldn’t enjoy the personal or professional freedoms they have now.

And that goes for all of them — no matter their gender.

But these young folks, they have their own minds. They think they know of what they speak. Little do they…

And now I sound like voices from my past.

Which brings me back to where I end so often:

Life: it’s a circle, not a straight line. 

We won’t forget today as soon as it’s over. We’ll call it yesterday and put it in a reservoir of reality that becomes part of today when tomorrow becomes today and today becomes yesterday and tomorrow becomes today and on and on.

I mean we are all spinning on a planet that just happens to be round. And there’s a reason for that.

It’s how we survive.

Because straight lines don’t converge.

They just disappear into space. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And He Did

Dad was diagnosed with cancer on April 21, but I had the feeling he was sick the week before. About the same time that my gut began to tighten, the huge oak tree fell at my studio. As soon as I saw it, I knew my father was about to take on his last challenge and that it would probably prove too much for him.

And it was.

He crossed over to be with Mama on Memorial Day. He fought a tough, pain-filled battle for over a month and did so with the same dignity, strength and determination that guided his 94 years in this dimension.

Curtis Avery, Jr. had a great life — one that most of us can only dream of experiencing.

He was married to his sweetheart for almost 61 years and spent a lifetime doing what he loved — raising cattle and taking care of the land.

He was a conservationist long before it was in vogue. He believed that “none of us own land. We are simply stewards of what God has given us to take care of. We are supposed to leave it better than we found it.”

And he did.

In the weeks and months to come, I will share more of his stories with you. His ability to weave a good tale and keep his audience completely absorbed were great gifts. And I will try my best to do them justice.

But today, in his memory, I post again what the old tree said to me.

Said the Old Tree

“I got tired and fell,” said the very old tree,

“but I knew that it was time for me

“To return to the arms of sweet Mother Earth —

the loving one who gave me birth

“From an acorn that fell 200 years ago,

or could it have been 100 more?

“I do believe I lost track of time

during this long and fruitful life of mine.

“Standing majestic, straight, strong and tall

against the storms of spring and the winds of fall.

“Until that day I started to bend

and could no longer resist what I knew was the end.

“So I laid down to rest on the ground from whence I came,

not caring that I will never be the same.

“For another will sprout from my decayed bones,

and keep my eternal spirit from being alone.”

April 10-17, 2016

View image on Twitter

 

 

 

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Said the Old Tree

We lost another old friend down at the studio. I noticed she was leaning to the left just a few days before it happened. I am quite certain another will grow in her place, and the wood will make for many good fires in the wood stove.

Still, I hate to see her go.

Herein follows a poem in honor of all those we don’t want to lose:

studio tree down

 

Said the Old Tree

“I got tired and fell,” said the very old tree,

but I knew that it was time for me

“To return to the arms of sweet Mother Earth —

the loving one who gave me birth

“From an acorn that fell 200 years ago,

or could it have been 100 more?

“I do believe I lost track of time

during the long and fruitful life of mine.

“Standing majestic, straight, strong and tall

against the storms of spring and the winds of fall.

“Until that day I started to bend

and could no longer resist what I knew was the end.

“So I laid down to rest on the ground from whence I came,

not caring that I will never be the same.

“For another will sprout from my decaying bones,

and keep my eternal spirit from ever being alone.”

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