Today, I looked out my front window, admiring the massive pine tree in my neighbor’s yard. It is directly across from my short driveway. I often look at this tree and wonder how old it is because it is so tall. For years I have loved this tree. I have seen many large pine cones among its needled branches and covering the ground below. Sometimes they are so plentiful that some will roll over to my driveway.
Today I noticed bright yellow clusters adorning the tips of its branches. I turned to the trusty Google to learn these are the male flowers of the pine tree, and only the male flowers produce pollen. But I did not need that last bit of information after what I witnessed for myself.
I caught a glimpse of a cute squirrel playing in the big tree. He was having quite a good time jumping from limb to limb, playing on this beautiful Spring day. Then he jumped on top of one of the many male flower clusters. Much to my surprise, a tremendous amount of neon yellow dust went POOF when he did so! Yep, pollen.
Instead of laughing at the squirrel’s clown-like antics, I cringed. Yes cringed, when I realized what I was witnessing was a pollen bomb of sorts. I am highly allergic to pollen, and to think that the beautiful tree I admired daily was full of these pollen bombs made me panic. All I could think was that it was too close to my front door. How can I ever avoid that much pollen? After all, the tree is huge! And its branches are full of this torture dust.
So what did I do? Simple. I took my first allergy pill of the season. I will continue to take a pill daily until the pollen has done its duty and the heat of summer has me safely tucked away indoors with the air conditioning running.
I didn’t see what happened to the squirrel. I wonder if he had an allergic reaction to all that pollen or if he continued to jump and play, setting off bomb after bomb of neon yellow—something else to ponder.
Here’s hoping that wherever you are in this big round world, you are safe from the pollen bombs and enjoying your Spring.
Spring has sprung and I could not be happier. Today I took a drive through my rural community and soaked in, not only the warmth of the sun, but the beauty of the farms that surround my little corner of the world. I passed field after field, dotted with Spring wildflowers, blooming trees and shrubs, and birds enjoying their busy day. But my favorite vision of all had to be the fields that held the newest births of Spring: the baby calves. Nothing makes me happier than to see a newborn animal of any kind. But there is something about a newborn calf that really pulls at my heartstrings.
I passed one field that was a bounty of rolling green acres. The grass was thick and lush. The long fence line was bordered with hundreds of bright yellow Daffodils. It was the perfect picture post card for Spring. I slowed down to take a closer look. Inside that fence, there must have been thirty Mama cows. Each one with their new offspring.
Today I saw a calf for every color known to cows. Lots of rusty red ones, solid black, brown, brown and white, even a pure white one. But my favorite of all was a little guy that I nicknamed Dalmatian. It was a beautiful snow white with black spots all over. I would have loved to have gotten a closer look at that one.
I enjoy guessing the age of the new calf. It’s pretty obvious the ones that are under 48 hours old. They cling closely to their mother, and I often catch them nursing. The ones that are a week or two old still stay close by their mama but are more alert and will turn to look at my car as I slow down. I see older calves playing together away from their mamas and often they will come to the fence line to see what’s going on. Their big dark brown eyes and long eyelashes are adorable. Some of the sweetest faces of nature. This always puts a big smile on my face. They are SO cute!
You would think with my enthusiasm over cows and their offspring, that I was a farm girl. But I am not. My love of baby farm animals is a love from afar. I have never been a part of the type of farming that surrounds my home. My neighbors are farmers through and through. I have the utmost respect for their way of living and their careers. When they have a successful year of farming, I am happy for them. And when they have a poor year, I pray for them and the families for which they provide. It is a hardworking life, and I for one appreciate them.
I hope that wherever you live; you can enjoy all the wonderful new things that come with Spring. Just taking a few moments to stop and listen to the bird’s sing can relieve stress and help brighten and lighten your day. If you are as blessed as I am and live near a rural area, take a drive, and notice the pastures and all the new birth and blooms they hold.
⚽ I read recently that forty of the fifty tallest mountains on earth are in Pakistan. I had absolutely no idea of that fact, showing just how little, I know about our planet’s geography. But, thinking back to my childhood, I can easily understand why I’m so clueless in that area. I was in the fourth grade, Ms. Nichols was my teacher, the Geography book was large with pictures, and I would prop it up on my desk, lay my head down on my hands and go to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, she was a wonderful teacher, caring deeply about her students, but she couldn’t watch everyone all the time and I knew that. I got a lot of sleep in class that year and I’m guessing that’s why my geographical knowledge is deficient. Ms. Nichols was the first person to tell me that I was a good athlete and that I would do well in high school athletics. She was the first adult to be interested in teaching me about things I knew nothing about. I believe most adults are unaware that children want to be taught, to be made aware of things they have no idea even exist. And I’ll bet that all of you had that special teacher that was interested in teaching so that you could absorb what they wanted you to know. Just think of how hard it must be to teach a fifth grader mathematics, or history, and keep their attention. She taught me in grades 4 -6 in our little country 2-room school. Upon completion of the 6th grade I left for our local high school (grades 7–12), about 4 miles away and lost track of her, only seeing her occasionally. Looking back on how special she was, I hope she had a good, fruitful life. Within the last few years I have contacted her daughter, and we have become good friends. I doubt that she knows how many lives her mom touched in positive ways. Her many students owe her a debt of gratitude. Sadly, we only become aware of that as we grow older. I wonder if teachers can intuit a student’s appreciation. After all, it is the teachers we remember when we recall our educational experiences. Quite a few of my high school classmates went on to become teachers and I must admit, teachers make very good friends. I remember being on a cruise ship leaving Alaska and in the dining room, next to our table, was a table of perhaps 20 teachers on vacation. That was the happiest table in the room with laughter emanating constantly. What great fun it was to be close enough to enjoy their enthusiasm for life. So, my suggestion is, if you’re looking for a friend, go out and find a teacher, you won’t regret it.
⚽About six weeks ago I had some “floaters” appear in my right eye so off I go to see my optometrist. He splatters a few eyedrops into it and, using his complex equipment, tells me he thinks they will go away, but I should come back to see him before the end of the year. So, just a few days before the end of 2019 I walked into his office for my appointment, he plops a few more eyedrops in the offending eye, makes his exam and says everything looked great and that he will see me at my scheduled appointment next October. As I prepared to depart, he inquired as to what I was doing to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. “Well doc”, says I, “At my age, my wife and I don’t celebrate the coming of the new year as much as we celebrate being here to see it happen”.
Probably, regardless of our age, we should celebrate in that manner. Instead of writing down a list of 5 or 10 things we want to accomplish in the new year, we should just be thankful we are here to juggle the things life throws at us for another year. I must admit that I enjoy looking back over the past year at the twist and turns my life took. Invariably, there are moments of sheer joy but there are also times of incredible stress and sadness.
My Mother was, perhaps, the best person I knew that handled stress easily. If the problem was money, she would calmly say, “Tommy Joe, it’s only money, we still have our health to be thankful for. God will provide for us”. I was a teenager at the time, and I quite clearly remember thinking, “Mom, we’re almost destitute, are you sure God has the time to worry about us?” If the sadness was because someone dear to us had passed away, her response was always, “they’re in a better place”. That response never helped me much, but she was put to the test when Dad passed away. During that time, she seemed more worried about my brother and I than herself. She passed away 18 months later, leaving my brother, and I devastated.
I know that the arrival of a new year is celebrated around the world, and I want to be part of that if possible.
⚽ I have spent a lot of time recently, collecting the many leaves that fall from our trees and it is a worrisome job. I use my blower to dislodge the ones hiding behind the many shrubs that surround our home, and then I use my Craftsman yard vac to shred then into a thousand pieces before dumping them in a large compost pile my neighbor, Cal, uses for his garden in the Spring. As I have gotten older, the effort has become greater, but I keep doing it because I know the activity it requires is good for me. I think it is important, as we age, to maintain a certain amount of physical activity and gathering up those errant leaves provides me that opportunity.
I have often wondered if I didn’t have that activity, would I remember Fall? Yes, just like you, I enjoy the wonderful kaleidoscopes of colors it presents each year. Spring brings us colors also, but it’s not the trees so much as the flowers. Although, I must admit I enjoy seeing the verdant greens that come forth each time Winter fades, and warmer weather arrives. It has been said that, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. Well, sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I’m going and I’m willing to take just about any road that will get me to that place in life where I don’t have to rake leaves, cut grass, repair everything that breaks down and feel completely exhausted when the sun descends below the horizon. Some may think that only happens after you transition to the other side, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want it to happen while I’m on the green side of the grass. David Thoreau said, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it, and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” I kinda think that’s not entirely true.
⚽I ran across this quote the other day and thought it interesting, “We are rarely proud when we are alone”. I’m inclined to agree with that thought, by whoever wrote it. I have been alone at times in my life, and I believe you can have someone around, but if they are disinterested in you, then you are alone. I remember playing four years of high school football, and doing quite well in that endeavor, but the person I wanted to impress the most was my mother, and she only attended one game. Dad was always there, but he would be drinking and embarrassed my brother and I in front of our classmates. I loved him dearly, but I hated for my friends to see him “high”. Anyway, no matter the success I had as an athlete, my mother wasn’t there to enjoy it with me, so I had a hard time being proud. I remember being single after my ex-wife and I divorced and doing things without someone with me. I would go to a movie without someone there to enjoy it with and I felt the emptiness that comes with being alone in this world with no one to share life’s adventures. Make no mistake, life is filled with wonderful moments if we choose to acknowledge them, but when we are alone, the colors of life are not quite so deep, the air is not quite as refreshing, and our accomplishments not quite as joyous. Some wise person once said, “When we want to ignore something, we don’t look too hard into the sunlight”. I avoided looking into the sunlight a lot as a younger person, but I find myself gazing into it often as I have gotten older 😊.
Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me. I know you will return their love abundantly. That is my intent as well.
On March 31st, one of my very best friends passed over to the other side, twenty-six days before she turned 80. I first met Mary Ann when she was 18, and I was 16 and dating her younger sister. Her sister and I married two years later and my lifelong relationship with Mary Ann ensued. She was more like a sister than a sister-in-law, and it was even more special because she was married to my best friend KD (my mother’s brother, only two years older than me). KD passed away in 2007 after a struggle with cancer and before he died, he asked me to look after Mary Ann when he passed, and I assured him I would. She was very independent until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She won that battle by 2016, but started suffering with mild dementia and could no longer drive, nor pay her bills. Her son and his children looked after her, and I took over her finances. This team worked well and Mary Ann was living a comfortable but restricted life. She really disliked the fact that she couldn’t drive, but her family and friends made sure she was able to get out of the house often. She lived about 25 minutes away from me and I visited her often, but I talked to her twice a week on the phone. That happened every week for four years, unless I was out of town. I have known three very smart people in my lifetime and Mary Ann was the first. Probably, all of us have encountered a few people that just seem to have an abundance of brain cells. It is easily detected. She home-schooled her two grandchildren and ran the local Little League organization for 36 years as their president. It would not be an exaggeration to say that she has touched thousands of lives. But the lives she touched the most, her family and close friends, will mourn her passing for a long time. My opening line to Mary Ann when I called her was, “Mary, this is the fun police and I’ve been called several times about the racket coming from your house. That needs to stop! You’re having way too much fun!” She would always smile and tell me she wasn’t having any fun at all. We would then move on to something else and before you knew it, an hour had passed, and it was time to hang up. She leaves a big hole in my life. I hope she misses me just a little. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it sets down over less worth in the population.” That’s how I feel about losing Mary Ann.
As a lot of you know from my previous missives, I enjoy playing acoustic guitar and my playlist currently has 57 songs. I lean strongly towards “Country”, but I do have some “Country Rock” scattered thru the list. Throw in a dash of “Bluegrass” and you pretty much have me nailed. I try to practice daily and that does happen most days. Last summer when my son passed away, I refused to practice for months, and I lost the callous on each of the fingers on my left hand. They are back now, but it was a painful process. My wife occasionally suggests that I sing along with the music, but I very seldom do. As Bill Anderson says in one of his songs, “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”. I am not a very good guitarist, and I attribute that mostly to the fact that I started playing at age 53 (1994) and didn’t get really serious (I use that term loosely) until I was 70. I am content to allow the original artists to sing their songs as I strum along, struggling with that darn “F” chord. I am guilty of trying to sing occasionally, but not too often, frightened that someone will overhear and then the ridicule commences. Henry Van Dyke said it very well,
“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
Early last month (March) my wife and I visited some old high school friends of mine that live about three hours away. It was a wonderful reunion. We spent two nights with Elsie Dee and husband Rene in their attractive home where they made us feel comfortable and welcome. The four of us enjoyed brunch with two other classmates (Roger/Delores) on the 2nd day of our trip, and we met another classmate (Janet/Lennie) at a dinner theater, had a delicious meal accompanied with good conversation and an entertaining play. The evening covered me with a warmth that only comes when you reunite with old friends.
Janet and I had not seen each other in sixty years. Yes, she and I have changed a lot in all those years, but I could easily have identified her if I had bumped into her on any city street. Unlike me, she has aged well, and it is difficult for a stranger to imagine we are so close in age. On our trip home, I lamented the end of being so close to old friends from long, long ago. The good news is that I have it on our calendar for next year. An old Czech Proverb says, “Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends”. Now that’s a bell I can ring.
Spring is just around the corner for my little corner of the world. We have already had a few days in the 60s and expect some more of the same this week. Some unattractive weeds poked their ugly heads high above the grass so I headed to the shed and retrieved my Husqvarna weed eater, intending to cut them off at ground level. The darn thing would start and run a few seconds and then stop. I struggled with it for about 30 minutes then decided to take the carburetor apart, clean it, and see if that would resolve the problem. But first, I came inside to my computer, headed for YouTube and located a video on how to take it apart and put it back together. A big smile spread rapidly across my face as the thought raced thru my mind, “I got this, it’s gonna be a piece of cake”. Well, as usual, the “piece of cake” thing didn’t work out. After working on it a few hours over a couple of day, I decided to take it to the local small engine repair shop, figuring he would charge around $75. I don’t like the fellow very much, seems obstinate, but he’s the only game in town, so I tolerate him. Suddenly, the thought occurred that I could go online and order the part I need for less than I would pay the grinch to fix it. Sure ‘nuff, I found a new carburetor for $45 (shipping included) and it is on the way to my home as I write this. There are times when I think I’m just too smart for my own good! My children’s mother used to say to me, “I would like to buy you for what you’re worth and sell you for what you think you’re worth!” The way I’m feeling, I’m thinking she could have made a lot of money.
Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me. I know you will return their love abundantly. That is my intent as well.