Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beautiful Sadness

"Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives."
~ A. Sachs

My mind is elsewhere this evening, as it has been for a few days now.  My mind should be here; I should be focused on the snoozing puppy, the steaming cup of tea, or at the very least, I should be doing laundry or packing tomorrow’s lunch.  But every now and then, out of a perfect blue sky on the most perfect of autumn days, one’s world becomes forever changed.


I wish I had the words to depict the glowing corn tassels as they danced in the glitter of the setting sun.  They swooshed back and forth, exchanging dance partners, as the gentle evening breeze moved quiet prayers poignantly between the stalks, through the field, over the rolling valley, and onto the next world.  The sight was most magical.


Yesterday, they buried her.  Her children, that is.

In a simple pine box, she was laid to rest, and her five children, along with the father, buried her.  They shoveled and shoveled, covering her with love and blessings, sending her Home. 

Can you even imagine?  The oldest married last weekend.  The youngest is in the third grade.  Mothers are important.  Mothers are necessary.  And I’m quite saddened that they no longer have theirs.


My friend and I drove solemnly to the family farm, constantly questioning the state of the children, their emotions, and their thoughts. 

We rounded the final turn and parked in a field of cut hay.  We waited in the most perfect of barns and we sat on beautifully carved wooden benches.  Neither of us had ever been to a home viewing before. 


Behind us, on long tables, sat hundreds of black hats and bonnets.  In front of us sat adults and a hundred or so very young children.  With our clothing and make-up, we stood out--but no one seemed to mind.  We were welcomed, warmly and with sincere gratitude. 

For about 45 minutes we sat, waiting for the family to return from their evening meal.  All the while, people came and went, exchanging quiet greetings, firm handshakes, and sympathetic expressions.  Never once did a cry echo through the barn. Never once did a theatrical sob break the serene stillness.

Rather, tears found resting places in fine lines and pockets above cheekbones.  Emotions, while present, were expressed with the utmost of composure and reverence. 

Children--young, young children--waited patiently.  Every now and then they would smile at one another, or playfully kick at the ground.  But never once did one of those young, young children express any sign of disrespect.  Never once did they complain.  Never once did they ask for anything. 


Finally, it was our turn.  We made our way through the barn and into the garage.  Inside, we saw them.  All of the children, lined up in order of age (oldest to youngest) at the side of their mother’s casket.  “There’s Mrs. Wheeler,” one of them whispered to the other.  And with that, a tear slid down my cheek. 

A tiny, pious woman, dressed in her white burial frock and bonnet, she beamed with a spirit that most of the living never display.  Her children, clad in their pale pink dresses and plain button-down shirts, remained collected and poised.  I, on the other hand, did my best to hold back tears. 


I’m forever changed.  I’ve never seen such beauty.  I’ve never seen such peace. 


It’s difficult to describe the types of relationships that form when one teaches in a small, rural school.  The children literally grow up with us.  The bonds form and we chat and confide and cheer and comfort.  And, for better or worse, those children—they become our family. 

The loss of such a beautiful life made me a better person.  Seeing their way of life, although so traditional and basic, has only confirmed what I knew all along:  Simplicity.  Relationships.  Nurturing.  Love.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It started out as a Sunday Stroll...

"There are no ordinary moments. There is always something magical going on."
~ Peaceful Warrior

We started the day with a festive mug of pumpkin spice coffee, never intending to stroll through the yard. But as I watched Little One, looking intently through the glass, I found myself open to the idea of a free-range stroll through the lawn.

It started out innocently enough with me walking around the yard, enjoying the small greetings of autumn: golden and maroon leaves fluttering to the ground, crisp air, vibrant moss, and spider webs.

Charlie, on the other hand, enjoyed sniffing about and tracking the scents of invisible critters. She’s crafty, I tell you~ always finding a way to wonder about and get her little paws dirty.

She was hot on the trail of something highly interesting, when suddenly, she stopped. I followed her gaze only to spot the most adorable squirrel running, make that sprinting across the fence rail. Not only was he moving at mock speed, but in his mouth he carried a large breakfast treat.

It was obvious the squirrel had big plans~ plans that included feasting in peace and quiet, enjoying his decadent delight.

I’ve gotta hand it to the little guy. He ran and ran, pausing at just the right moments to case out his surroundings. Then, he was off again, his final destination remaining his ultimate goal.

He spotted the sappy pine tree, the one with the perfect branch and the scenic view. He climbed and climbed, one foot in front of another.

Finally, his persistence paid off. He sighed (I could hear it, honestly), settled in, licked his paws, and enjoyed his morning meal. CT and I simply stood there watching, shaking our heads in amazement.

What started out as a lazy Sunday stroll for Miss Chalie and I turned into a spur-of-the-moment squirrel watching adventure. Ya just never know what the day will hold.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Neighborhood Field Trip

"We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Across the street, the house is for sale. Mrs. Barker has been gone for quite awhile now, enjoying the comfort and convenience of her new surroundings. That being said, as I stood outside, potting some rosemary, I couldn’t help but gaze at the depilated state of her home. The obvious signs of neglect and emptiness reverberated through the property: overgrown shrubs, tightly drawn draperies, and haphazard, sporadically growing weeds.

I love houses, particularly old houses, full of stories and talking walls. I often wonder who the next owner will be and how they will love, change, and nurture the existing structure. There’s just something special about an old home.

But as I gazed upon her home and lawn, my eyes landed upon her small orchard of apple trees. “How long have they been here?” I wondered.

Planted along a split rail fence, the apple trees remind me of something from another era- a time when women wore aprons and gathered their harvest in the parachutes of billowing gingham fabrics.

Somehow I ended up under the apple trees, camera in hand, gazing and wondering and snapping photos. I’d like to collect some of these delicious wonders and whip up a batch of lumpy, homemade apple sauce.

And then, I noticed this little critter. Rest assured he kept a close eye on me, watching my every step and move. No doubt he’s not only guarding the house, but also his bounty of juicy gems.

Hello, Weekend

"Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well."
~ Mohandas Gandhi

As I peered out the window this morning, the skies displayed the color of used gym socks—not the promising type of fall-ish morning I had envisioned. As I stood at the counter, steeping my blooming white peach tea, the clouds slightly parted, sun began to peek through, and a family of squirrels raced across the lawn. “That’s better,” I silently thanked.

I wonder what today will hold. I know what I’d like to do, but here I go dreaming again. Wanna hear, anyway?

Yesterday evening, after a long week of work, I was walking through Lowes. Luckily for me- sad for our local society- Lowes boasts the most interesting and comprehensive selection of books and magazines in our small town. As the husband went off in search of the perfect light bulb, I lost myself in the world of do-it-yourself books. This proved dangerous, on so many levels.

First, I spotted a book on raising chickens. I picked up this grandiose piece of informative literature and dove into the world of hens and coops and brown eggs. And, as if that wasn’t enough, I had to spot the tiny pamphlet, clad with a brown paper cover, depicting numerous layouts for small, cozy cabins. I’m pretty sure, I mean I’m 100% positive, that at this point I was hearing angels sing.

This is nothing new, really. I’ve longed for an organic garden and a rustic place to call my own for quite awhile now. Who knows (wink)? I can tell you this though: I’ve started a little fund (a few months ago, actually). The pennies are being saved.

So, with that, I’ll tackle my chores and get this day rolling. You know what’s on my mind and in my heart. What do you have planned for this lovely day?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Random Somehows

"When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive -
to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

~Marcus Aurelius

Somehow, it’s today.

Somehow, in some type of crazy, unreal, practically unfathomable way, today is here. In the blink of an eye, I’ve found myself far removed from my summer vacation and the little joys it brought. Now I’m knee deep in the throws of a new school year, with fresh responsibilities and high expectations. I’ve traded my flip-flops for leopard printed flats, swapped my elastic-waist yoga pants for tailored skirts, and gave up my wavy hair and pony-tails for a more professional, sleek, flat-ironed blowout. Hello, structured life.

Behind me, Little Peep sits on the back of the couch, gazing out the picture window at a golden sky lit by the shimmers of a setting sun. It’s quite magical, really. I wonder what she sees, and I find myself saddened that color, as we know it, isn’t part of her world. The neighbor’s dogs are barking up something fierce, but Little Peep just watches and listens, her head and ears quickly twitching every now and then.

Her world, although predictable and full of routine, appears so appealing at times. Like this morning, for example. While I stood at the kitchen counter, clad in fuzzy socks and a warm robe, she came to greet me with a little yawn and quiet whimper. Slowly, sleepily, she followed me back upstairs, and then, as if to taunt me with her peaceful life of leisure, nestled herself into a cloud of blankets. Sweet. As jealous as I was, I also found myself happy. She has a warm bed to snuggle in…I love that.
She is lucky. We are lucky.

Somehow, my grandmother, Mamoo, would have been 87 years old today. I found my thoughts continually drifting to her, as I went about my daily tasks. Memories and little snippets crept into my mind as I wrote the date on the board, while choosing my jewelry for the day, and as I listened to the news. I wished her a happy birthday. I actually said it out loud—to see how it would sound. And I wondered if somewhere, somehow she heard me. I hope so. I sure miss her, especially now.

I’m often amazed at the things in life I took/take for granted. Truly, and I honestly mean this, I try to be aware of everything around me. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take time out of everyday to say “thank you” for the wonderful life bestowed upon me. Yet somehow, I miss things. Sometimes those things are little. Sometimes those things are big. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve missed them until they’re gone. I don’t chastise myself for it, because I’m honestly trying. We’re all works in progress, right? Life is a most interesting classroom.

Lately, I dream. I’ve always been a dreamer- just ask my mother. She often tells of how I’d be sitting at home, staring into space, and break into a huge grin. “Penny for your thoughts,” she’d say. I never was big on sharing, so usually my thoughts remained just that- mine. But I sure did dream, and recently it’s become more prevalent. Sometimes I dream of things to come, and other times I dream of things that were. Having such an active imagination certainly exists as both a blessing and a curse. But, as they say, dreams are necessary for life….

Somehow, I turned 30. I like it. It fits. I’m trying to embrace this “milestone” and use it as a steppingstone to better myself. I try to think of all the positives this year will hold. Mostly, I’m excited to finish up my master’s degree. Then, I can resume real life and real learning. I’m excited to write for me, to spend Sunday afternoons with my camera and notebook, to take real classes, to cook quality meals, and to spend time with my peoples. I miss that. My peoples are tops.

I’ve learned that I am continually surprised. My professional life took on a new look this school year. I’ll be honest- I spent the majority of the summer trying to soothe myself. I was “not nervous”. Nope. Not me. I didn’t sit around and make lists of things I would have to do, or dream up projects that I needed to design. I never spent hours at the computer trying to create a curriculum that would align with the state standards and the common core. No. I never did that. (Insert eye roll.) I spent the summer trying to talk myself out of being stressed. I do all of that, because, you see, I refuse to be stressed- seriously. I meditate. I self-talk. I treat myself. I remember the lessons I’ve learned along the way. But, most importantly, I don’t stress. It’s not worth it. Stress does not make anything better. *Note to self—take one’s own advice.

All of my “not stressing” would have been fabulous if I would have been able to follow through. I did stress. I did worry—for one of the first times in a long time. It took its toll on me, though, and I’m quite sure it affected those closest to me, as well. But that’s life, right? We’ve gotta be there to pick each other up, and cheer each other on, and look past the bruises. Thankfully, I’ve got a pretty spiffy support crew. But, you can’t stop time, and like always happens, I watched as the shelves at Wal-Mart slowly filled with notebooks and pencils. I observed grocery stores showcasing lunchboxes and kid-friendly lunch foods. And I secretly cringed when the magazines in my mailbox boasted headlines such as: “Fall Fashion Trends” and “Lunch Box Recipes Your Kids Will Love”. “Fabulous,” I sarcastically muttered under my breath.

Somehow, school started. Somehow, my classroom was ready and organized. A fresh start- I like that. Would you believe I am loving the new change? It’s a ton of work, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I resent it. Sometimes I just want to leave at 3:30, or even 4:00. There are days when I’d love to come home and jog outside or wonder the neighborhood with my four legged friend. But by the time I get home, it’s usually 6:00ish and I’m exhausted. I have dinner to make and a fun boy to talk to and I just want to grab a blanket and nap on the couch. All that aside, I love the older kids. I love that I have the chance to be in their lives for three years. I love that we all work well together. Today, I overheard something that made me smile. Joe Shmoe was talking to his other tough-guy friend:
Joe Shmoe: “This is the best class of the day. It’s so peaceful and calm.”
Other guy: “Yea, man. I like it, too.”
Unsolicited comments like that completely make my day. The two kids probably have no idea I even heard them. Awesome.

And, with that, I’m off to shower and pack a lunch, and if I’m really ambitious, choose an outfit for tomorrow. Thanks for reading. I’ve missed you all.

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