THE FRAGRANCES OF OUR MINDS

There are things that triggers memories. Maybe its a song, place, or person. All can bring up memories long-buried, but smells– fragrances really do conjure up strong remembrances for me.

There is a farm about four or five miles from us. When the wind is just right…well you get my drift! I remember the barn lot where I milked cows, held new kittens and waded in sucking mud during the rainy days, of my youth. The images of me feeding my 4H steer and brushing his shiny red coat float above my head.

When our neighbor, up the road, cuts fresh alfalfa in the summer I remember my dad hauling heavy square bales from the field to our barn. Our Mom would bring out fresh squeezed lemonade and sandwiches for the men when a much-needed break was taken. Dad and his hired help, which included some cute-buff teenage boys, would enjoy the short recess under a shade tree.

Fresh brewed coffee brings me back to my Mom’s kitchen, where she would enjoy a cup, or two while sitting at our shiny formica table with its yellow plastic upholstered chairs. Grandma made the old-fashioned coffee–cowboy coffee, we called it. She’d just poured the ground coffee in pot of water and let it come to boil. Problem was…she had to watch it closely, or there’d be hot coffee all over her stove top!

Smoke from the recent fires around here brought back cool fall days of burning leaves in our yard, or a weenie roast with friends. The smokey smell hanging on our clothes and hair long after the event.

This morning my husband brought in some Lilacs. Our bush doesn’t usually produce a lush crop, but this year, for some reason…they are beautiful!

When I took a whiff of the lavender clusters, I was back in my Mother’s yard– to springtime in Iowa, and the sweet perfume floating on spring breezes through the weathered window panes of our farmhouse.

So, I set about trimming the woody stems…a bouquet for the kitchen table and one for my husbands studio. The aroma now floats between our two spaces and make me sigh, and remember.

KRE

WE’RE BEING WATCHED!

The creek, west of our Casa is home to many  transient guests. This is the latest interloper, Canis latrans.  I use plural because there were three of them.

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He/she knew I was watching. Those eyes…so penetrating and mysterious! A little skinny but a handsome specimen. Almost seems as though he has a furrow in his brow.

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The trio continued to sniff and look my way.

I may have to rethink my walks around our property. With these three lurking about, some precautions may be in order.

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We often hear their eerie yips and howls at night…sounds like they are right outside our window. But, out here on the prairie, what sounds close can be miles away.

It does give my husband and I pause. We have grandkids who love to explore on foot or on our trusty golf cart. Now, it might be a little risky. One coyote is interesting…three is a pack. We know they’re capable of doing harm.

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These wiley critters are a tenacious species, adapting as they must, be it here in Kansas or suburbia.

I love that we have wildlife all around us. It’s good to know not everything is domesticated. On this foggy morning they fade away into the late-winter landscape, continuing their search. 

The leader seems to be saying, “Come on, we’ve got rabbits to catch!”

KRE

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

This past week, Kansas and the midwest experienced the grandeur and the fury of nature.
“Beauty and the Beast,” if you will.

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We endured cold, then warm days of rain, anticipating the deluge that was headed our way. Weathermen and women were, “In their height of glory!” As my Mom would say. Minute by minutes reports in pink alerted us to the storm drifting ever closer.

I, like hundreds of others in our town, fought the lines for staples–things that would not require electricity to prepare them if we should suffer an outage. I was thinking of 2005, I think it was, when all hades broke loose and many of us were out of power for days, and some, weeks. Breaking branches and trees sounded like rifle shots in the dark.

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We waited and waited and waited for the ice. It didn’t come the first day, but we had a light coating on the second. It was a long weekend. My spirits were about as gloomy as the landscape framed by my diningroom window.

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But, when I looked outside I was inspired!

When Nature finally did her deed, here, it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, north and west of us was a different story.

Toppled trees, downed power line, no water, no heat, no plumbing…you get the picture.

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So I threw on a coat and went outside to capture the beauty that was left behind. I’m always amazed at the artistic splendor of nature. It’s like she says, “I’m going to hit you hard, but leave a little treat so you won’t feel so bad when I’m done!”

That’s what happens when rain turns to ice and coats everything in crystal. The most drab, dried, ugly bushes, branches and twigs become transformed into a beautiful sculptures.

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Fence posts and gates drip with diamond like jewels. It’s a wonderland. Luckily, here in our county, we didn’t have a lot of wind with this storm which helped to save trees and structures from real damage.

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As I reluctantly creep into a more mature age…a-hem…I am careful to watch my step. Especially when I’m looking through the camera’s eye…not on my next step!

 

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Stalactites of gleaming ice hung, and clung to everything! What was a drab landscape the day before, now glistened and winked like fairy dust. I had to think of my Mom. She loved times like this and loved taking pictures as I do. Thanks Mom, for passing it on!

KRE

The New Baby

It’s January 1954, in Iowa. My Dad says, “It’s colder than a well digger’s ass in Montana.” That means it’s really cold! My brother and I have been waiting for our Mom to come home to us. “She went to get a baby!” My Grandma Ross says.

She’s been staying with us for a few days. I don’t know why it takes so darn long to pick out a baby, but I guess when you’re making a big decision like that, you need to take your time.

Grandma won’t say much about where this baby is coming from, or what it is. I guess we’ll find out when dad gets home.

We live on the river bottom. Dad says, ‘cause our house is real close to the river. Sometimes it floods our barnyard and fields. I think its fun when that happens. We wade out in the yard in our bare feet. The cows are up to their bellies in muddy river water. Dad cusses a lot when it floods.

Our house is big and white, and has two stories. Don’t know why they call them stories, but they do. Grownups have funny words for things. Our windows go to the floor so we can see out really good.

Grandma just said she heard a noise. We all go to look out the North window, and dad’s car is pulling up.

Grandma says we have to be quiet, cause we don’t want to scare the new baby. She’s real bossy…grandma. I guess she’s knows a lot about babies cause she had eight kids. Our Dad is the youngest of the bunch! Grandma says, my Mom got the “pick of the litter!” See…there’s a funny word, for a bunch of kids.

Anyway, I watch dad walk around the Buick and open the door for Mom. She’s holding a bundle in her arms. She walkin’ kinda’ slow.

Grandma hurries to the door and in walks my Mom with the new baby. Dad gives me a wink and messes with my brother’s hair. Mom looks tired, but she smiles at me. She sits down and peels away the blanket. I look at her and say, “What’d you pick out?”

“We have a girl!” She answers. “Her name is Eileen.”

We’re all gawin’ at Eileen like she’s somethin’ real special, but I feel a little mad, cause now I’m not the only girl. But, at least it’s not a stinkin’ boy!

 

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So that’s the way it went, sixty-three years ago today!

 

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Happy Birthday, Sis. Love you!

KRE

 

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY

 

I haven’t written in a while and I’m a little late in posting this but I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year! You’ll probably guess this memory is from my childhood and those of you who know me will recognize the narrative.

Christmas Past 008.

I’m nine, and I live in the southern part of Iowa. The part that looks like Missouri, cause it’s hilly and there’s a lot of timber. That’s what my Dad calls trees—timber.

I live in a hundred year-old house, that’s been added on to several times, Mom says. My Dad is proud of our house and farm. It’s the first place he and mom really own all by themselves. That means that we don’t have a landlord anymore. It has 80 acres and dad’s gonna’ farm it. He’s glad to have a place of his own after renting for so many years.

The barn is huge and should be fun to play in once summer rolls around. I’m going to look for kitten cause I saw this yellow cat run under a loose board the other day. 

Like I said, I’m nine and my baby sister was just a month old. Oh…and I gotta’ brother too! His name is Stanley. I think it’s a funny name, but mom and dad like it. Dad says they’ll call him Stan when he gets bigger. My baby sister is Eileen. She’s still kinda’ red and cry’s some, but I’m glad Mom had a girl. Now I have a sister. I have to watch her when mom goes out to milk the cows.

Our farm house sits a little off a road that runs north and south. It’ll take you to Trenton. That’s where we get gas or groceries if Mom’s in a pinch. I like the store because the Pulver’s…they own the store, are nice to me.

Since it’s Christmas Eve tonight, we’ll get dressed up and go to church. Our church in out in the country, they call it Greenmound. Don’t know why they call it that, but they do. Dad will even go. He only goes on Christmas and Easter, cause Stan and me are in the program. He wears his suit that he saves for funerals. The best part is getting the bag of candy and oranges at the end of the service. You have to wait until it’s your pews turn to head out the back of the church, and then they hand out the sacks.

We’ll come home and get ready for bed, cause Santa will come tonight. I’m not sure if I believe in him anymore, but Stanley does and my baby sister doesn’t know any better. I’d hate to be her, cause babies really don’t get anything for Christmas. They wouldn’t know if they did.

We sleep upstairs—it’s not heated. There’s only two bedrooms up there. Mom, Dad, Stanley, and the baby all sleep in one room… I get the other one. The rooms have a slanted celling and I bump my head sometimes, and then I say something bad like my Dad always does.

The floor’s linoleum, and man my feet about freeze when I hop to my bed. It doesn’t take me long to take off my cloths! Mom has so many covers on my bed, I can’t move. I like to watch my breath turn into steam when I’m falling asleep.

Sometimes I feel like we’re poor, cause we don’t have heat in our bedrooms like my friend who lives in town does. There’s a soft carpet on her bedroom floor. She gets to wear pretty pajamas that I would freeze to death in, if I wore them in my room. But, dad says it’s good for me to sleep in the cold. Sometimes, like maybe tonight, he’ll open the stair door a little before we go up, to take the chill off.

Our back porch always smells like milk, game or manure. I guess that’s what farm houses smell like. That’s where dad leaves his chore boots and cleans rabbits, if Mom lets him.

Oh well, I don’t mind cause it’s Christmas Eve. I can take anything.

Grandma and Grandpa will probably come over tomorrow. Mom will fix a big dinner, but we’ll open presents first. I hope I get the skates I saw in the Sears Catalog. Grandma will probably give me something “practical,” as Mom calls it.

It’s fun cause we don’t have school, there’s tons of snow, and I just might get those skates!

It’s cozy in our house and mom always decorates the tree with lots of tinsel. She lived in California, so she knows how to make things look pretty. Dad says she goes overboard, but then he’s just a boy!

The snow crunched tonight when I walked outside. Dad said, “That means it’s really cold, sis!” He always calls me sis. I like it when my Dad calls me, sis!

I wonder how the baby Jesus slept when it was so cold. He just had cows and sheep to keep him warm. I stood in front of one of our cows one time to see if her breath would keep me warm…no way! Mom says it was a different cold, cause it was in Bethlehem. Mom knows a lot about Jesus.

So I’m going to sleep now, and I’ll say a prayer for all those kids that only have cows and sheep to keep them warm.

I’m a lucky girl!

KRE

COLD SNAP

 

I awoke this morning and glanced at my phone.  It read, 40 degrees.

I love October! It is a beautiful month, warmed with Indian Summer days, with a nip in the air that reminds me of what’s to come.

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Colors of fall–brown, Siena, gold, orange, and subtle green make up the autumn canvas.

Vegetation is weary–trees long to rest. The summer sun and wind have had their way. Its time for the fall fashion show. Soon they will sleep, only springs sun and rain will awaken them.

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Photo by Gary Sneed, Cedar Point, Kansas

I look forward to putting away my summer garments. A soft flannel shirt and worn jeans call to me from my closet. The familiar fit and feel makes me happy and warm. Long sleeves cover my fading tan. I’ve had enough of heat, and sweat.

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My foot steps “crunch” as I walk upon the ground. Leaves are curled and brown blanketing my once verdant lawn. Colors, and sounds surround me–my aching joints a passing thought.

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Squirrels scamper from point A, to B, their cheeks plump with nuts. Tails twitch as I  walk pass. They scold me with their chatter. I’ve interrupted their harvest.

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Cinematic coloration of the prairie soothes me. Her busy production has come to a close. Mother Nature has her blanket ready. Sleep is coming.

KRE

Dividends For Old Age

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My Mother used to say, “My children and grandchildren are dividends for old age!”

I always thought that was a silly thing to say, but as I get a little older and wiser I see her point. That’s not to say that if you don’t have children  your lives are void of dividends.  I have friends who don’t have children, by choice or happenstance, and I know they are wonderful aunts and uncles or mentors to children they know.

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As I watched my kids, and now my grand kids develop and grow from babies to little people, and now teens, I see the traits that mirror their heritage. I feel blessed and concerned at the same time. I hope their temperament is like their great grandma’s, that they have the creativity that my husband and I possess, the kindness of my mother, the smile of this, or that aunt. I hope they love the land and nature. I want them to respect all who cross their paths, but also astute enough to know the value good judgment.

I remember my experiences raising children–the exhilaration, fatigue, and struggles. I feel for my kids going through all that, now. But, the dividends for me as a parent and grandparent far out way the hills and valley’s that they will encounter.

Children, for the most part, give us a sense of what’s right with the world. You look at a newborn’s soft, unlined face, devoid of life’s impressions and you see the hope for new beginnings.

The genetic pool from which they sprouted hold many talents, personalities and history. I hope they will pick up where we left off, completing the dreams we started.

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The possibilities are endless, for a productive life. The choices they make are ultimately theirs, but our influence and legacy will live on.

KRE