Tag Archives: writing of place

This is not the way I want to start my day…

Currently (on Thu 5:53AM CDT from Pearland Regional Airport)

Cloudy Temp: 81° (Heat Index 87°)
Dewpoint: 75°
Wind: Calm MPH

I stepped out on the back steps this morning as the coffee pot dripped and ran into a wall of heat. Yesterday at this time it the thermometer was reading 72°. What a difference a day makes. With this kind of headstart, the afternoon high will be brutal. I don’t think I’ll be taking my daily walk in this heat…

Even the avian chorus is subdued this morning. Not a lot of birdsong in the air.

Yesterday’s heat wave caused power outages around Houston. Just minutes ago we had our power blink. The power was out just long enough to cause the router to cycle through it boot sequence. I hope this is not an indication of what the day has in store with us…

Summer Evenings Before Television

Growing up, we spent many summer days visiting my grandparents house in Orchard, Texas. Every evening, after supper was over and cleaned up, we would all grab a folding lawn chair off the back porch and set them up in a rough circle on the east side of the house. We always picked an area of lawn where we had an unobstructed view of as much of the evening sky as was possible.

This memory was brought to the fore today by the poem Reverence in Garrison Keillor‘s The Writer’s Almanac

Reverence

by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

The air vibrated
with the sound of cicadas
on those hot Missouri nights after sundown
when the grown-ups gathered on the wide back lawn,
sank into their slung-back canvas chairs
tall glasses of iced tea beading in the heat

All week I have been reliving those childhood memories as I sit out in the back yard between walking laps. The heat reminds me of late summer and the cicadas are vibrating  the air even in mid morning. The mockingbird’s song seems to come from every tree in sight…Trills overlapping each other as they announce their presence to one and all.

and we sisters chased fireflies
reaching for them in the dark
admiring their compact black bodies
their orange stripes and seeking antennas
as they crawled to our fingertips
and clicked open into the night air.

In our family, the custom was to take a mayo jar…poke a few holes in the lid with an ice pick…drop in a few handfuls of grass…then run about trying to catch a few “lightning bugs” to make a bedside lamp for the evening.

Once all of us kids had filled our jars, we would all gather round, each in our own comfortable canvas cocoon, to watch the stars begin to come out. There would usually be a fight to see who got possession of the butterfly chair. Counting falling stars, trying to catch sight of one of those newfangled satellites glowing by…Listening to Grandpa Sewell, one of the first storytellers I ever knew, spin his yarns from a south Texas childhood we would never know otherwise…Listening to Grandma telling him to quit pulling our legs. Much as Julia Cadwaller-Staub wrote…

In all the days and years that have followed,
I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced
that same utter certainty of the goodness of life
that was as palpable
as the sound of the cicadas on those nights:

my sisters running around with me in the dark,
the murmur of the grown-ups’ voices,
the way reverence mixes with amazement
to see such a small body
emit so much light.

After the days heat would leave the world…we would gather up all of the chairs and return them to their places on the porch before wandering in and taking a washcloth bath before crawling into bed. The windows open the night time breezes bringing the cicada song into your dreams all night long.

Waking the next morning just before sunup and looking out the window, you would see the lawn from the evening before covered with bunnies. Cottontails by the dozen, eating their last meal before vanishing for the day into burrows we never found…In all of our years of exploring the grounds we never stumbled upon more than a couple of rabbits…Yet every morning there they were.

And the day would begin again…Another circle to complete in reverence.

via The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor | Reverence by Julie Cadwallader-Staub.

Summer…The Heat Is On…

Today was John Deere day on the homestead here. Spent the early, cooler half of the day out doing the Texas pinwheel. You know what I mean…’round and ’round she goes. Luckily, the wind was blowing lightly.

The anticipated rain from earlier in the week bypassed us as usual. I doubt we had even an inch fall all told. Lots of clouds…some winds…Not even enough rain to soak the ground. So my riding around in the heat today stirred up enormous amounts of dust. I was covered from head to toe. Needless to say, the shower ran black after I was finished.

I am glad I finished up early because this has become a 90° day. After the “cool” front blew through you would think it would have been cooler…Not happening. Though the humidity is lower than normal. That could explain the dryness of the grass.

My week has taken me over to the northwest side of Houston a couple of times. I have been spending some time killing time waiting for my daughter to visit a friend in the hospital…The first time I spent my time with Fred First’s new book, the second time I visited with Wendell Berry and “the art of the commonplace” collection. A nice way to spend a couple of hours on each day I must admit. Luckily for me I found shaded parking spots to enjoy the time.

I found a neighborhood park in the Garden Oaks area to hang out at…Like a lot of Houston, driving the streets of these neighborhoods is a bit strange. These older tract houses from the 40’s and the 50’s are in the process of being gradually replaced by the McMansions of the newer “master planned” communities further out on the “freeways”. Where the builder has been careful and the style of the house matches the existing homes it doesn’t look too bad. Just bigger homes between the smaller houses. But when you see some of these architectural monsters sitting there between two 1200 square foot, three bedroom, one bath homes…You have to wonder what these folk were thinking.

Oh well, me, I am about ready to say goodbye to these city byways and head to the rural landscape of the blue ridge mountains. Sanity indeed, if not in deed…

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Dog Days Of Summer…In May

Saturday was another 90° day here in SE Texas…The past week has seen upper 80’s every day. The weather prognosticators are trying to tease with hints of a “strong” cool front coming our way. I have even heard whispers of highs in the upper 70’s…Personally, I think they are smoking that silly weedy stuff.

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Friday I attended the funeral of my oldest aunts. She had had her 99th birthday this past January. We were all sure she was going to make her 100th next year…It will not be happening now and I for one will miss her at our upcoming family reunion. I hope I can maintain as much independence and love of life when I start approaching my ninth decade…Bye Aunt Gertrude, you were an inspiration to us all.

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I received my copy of Fred First’s new book “What We Hold In Our Hands, a slow road reader” this week. I’ve been walking along the slow road Fred writes about, one essay at a time. Contemplating the muse that led to each of the individual pieces…Enjoying the visions of nature as seen through his eyes. Listening to his take on the troubles of the world…Sharing visions seen from the front porch swing, or the window by his computer, there on that country lane along Goose Creek. The world looks different when seen from that small valley, along that particular creek, in those ancient mountains of the Blue Ridge plateau of Floyd County in southwestern Virginia.

Fred’s pictures make a wonderful addition to this collection. Some of the stories will be familiar to regular readers of Fragments From Floyd, Fred’s blog. All are worth a re-read. Right up front, even before the preface, Fred begins with this…

The fragments of daily life that we may record in words…show, for better or worse, some small truth about our unique place and purpose in this world. Taken together the trivial threads–a memory, an insight, a hope realized or lost— weave the fabric of our stories. This is what we hold in our hands; we know it well and can speak of it from the heart.

What better way to describe this group of essays. Every essay a vista of a place in time and space. Each is a short trip along a worn path led by the the well chosen words of your guide. His vision finds new vistas at every turn…Vistas that I would probably miss if left to my own muse.

Reading of his first exploration of the high elevations of that piece of Eden Fred calls home, I was almost out of breath as if I had climbed that path myself. Waiting with Fred, watching the building storm over the valley of that nameless creek, viewing “Here’s Home” for that first time from the heights, waiting for the insight…The vision, to come.

Some of the essays are the of the type of monologue you would hear if you were to sit a while on the steps of the front porch of Fred’s house. Visiting as they do in the valleys and the hollows of these old mountains. One side of the conversation you be having were you but there with Fred. Some politics, some world encompassing troubles of the day, some natural history…But all interesting.

Back when Fred’s first book was published I bought a copy even before they were printed. Here is what I had to say then about that book…

Today for lunch I joined a friend I’ve never met. We walked along a creek with no name under hemlocks in a valley I’ve never seen. We passed a barn I’ve only envisioned in painted light upon my screen. The sun I couldn’t see glistened on grasses in the field to dry the dew I did not feel. I wasn’t there, and yet I was, visiting with Fred on Goose Creek in the mountains of Floyd County.

via Join Me For A Visit… | North Carolina Mountain Dreams.

In the time since I wrote those words I have walked with Fred along that creek, under those trees. I stopped at the barn after crossing the plank bridge. I have met the friend I made just those few years ago…Go ahead, take a walk with Fred…Tell him Gary sent you.