"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pretty Prickly

Growing wild all around Central Texas are Prickly Pear cacti.
They aren't very attractive, in my opinion.
And their spines are long and sharp.
Not something you want to get up close and personal with (and I know this from personal experience. So does poor Shoeless Joe.)

In the spring, odd-looking buds begin to swell and grow.

And then the most unlikely flowers begin to bloom .
This remarkable flower has sprouted on a dead cactus leaf.
The cycle of life displayed right here.

These blossoms are delicate, reminding me of the colorful crepe paper flowers my children used to make in school. They even are silky to touch.

After these bright and wonderful flowers are done attracting the bees,
they shrivel and drop off (the flowers, not the bees).
The "fruit" that is left behind grows plump and red later in the season.
This is the source of the delicious jelly.
The brave souls who use them in recipes must wear heavy gloves to protect their hands.

The lovely flowers are a floral oxymoron.

Philosophically, the lesson of the prickly pear and the blossom is much like my mother's lesson, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
The cactus alone is painful and not pretty yet the delicate flower is stunning.
We, too, can choose how to react to life--
we can be sharp and nasty or soft and appealing,
keeping people at a distance or attracting them to us.
I choose to be the flower, what about you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Value of Antiques

Antiques have value, not just monetarily, but by reminding us of the past.
A time when they were "in vogue" and necessary for life.
A time past.

There was a time when the only way to illuminate a space was by lighting a candle.
Candlesticks were often forged to be not just useful, but lovely.

Then electricity was discovered and glass insulators protected the wires
that began to dangle from wooden poles.
(I personally love these things! They come in various shapes and colors.)

Beautiful china adorned tables groaning with luscious food.
Passed from generation to generation, these are a treasure
when placed on our table during special holidays and celebrations.

And finally, a moment of silence for this antique.
Yes Drew, I am ready to relinquish my "little pink phone".
Its sole purpose? Conversation--no internet, no texting, no camera.
Imagine that!?
It has served me well for many years but, alas, the battery is weak
and the charging cord has a short.
So, with great reluctance, I am sending it off to the recycling center.
I suppose I could polish it up and set it in the china cabinet next to the cut glass pitcher
that came over on the Mayflower (or something like that).
I don't have to decide its fate just yet.
For today, I can still hold it, raise the wobbly antenna and feel its weight in my hands
and sigh, my heart full of memories of my little pink friend.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Spelled M-O-T-H-E-R

My dear mother just celebrated her 85th birthday.
And she did it the way she does everything--with grace and class.
She is a most incredible woman.
Isn't she stunning?

For the present my mother lives in Florida.
My sister lives in upstate New York, my brother in Seattle, and I in Texas.
We had not been together for over 5 years and many before that.
Just to test Mother's heart rhythms, we surprised her
by flying in to celebrate this momentous occasion without her foreknowledge.
She was shocked but no defibrillator was necessary and we spent 5 glorious days talking, eating, laughing and loving.

My brother, younger by 6 1/2 years, has an amazing camera
with lenses and such and he took a ton of pictures.
However, PhD and all that aside, he has no clue how to download
these spectacular pictures to email them to me,
so I will have to use the few I took.
On his behalf he is a super guy and kept us laughing from dawn till...well, almost the next dawn. Our time together was so special that we didn't want to waste it with such mundane activities as sleeping.

The night before I left home, my husband commented, "I'm glad I won't be there. You all talk at the same time and no one listens to anyone else. So noisy."
And I agreed. We are noisy, we interrupt incessantly, we get louder to be heard, but--we DO listen! Maybe it's a New York or Long Island thing (where are roots are), but we have mastered the skill of talking and listening simultaneously. And I find it exhilarating to talk, eat, listen, and laugh all at the same time.
There's no waiting for your turn to speak. This is a communication style we are perfectly comfortable with and, if one of us grows quiet, the others pounce to find out what's wrong.
In all this talking, eating (most meals lasted at least 3 hours!), and beach walking , we solved most of the world's problems, of course. No topic was off limits and we are very much individuals with 4 distinct opinions. Remarkably, we argued agreeably and enthusiastically.
It wasn't always that way, but the years and our life experiences have melded into mutual respect and admiration for one another. And, out of love and concern for our mother, we paused from our own responsibilities and united to honor her. She deserved that.
My smile remained on the entire flight home as the delightful memories
of our time together played over and over.

Happy Birthday, Mother Dear.
May God continue to bless each of your days as
He always has until today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Drought--pant, pant

The other day Jack, Shoeless Joe and I took a walk
on one of the many trails here where we live.

Shoeless ran around having some fun but waiting for the BIG TREAT--
a chance to swim in the water. This particular trail crosses Berry Creek
and that always meant a cool dip in its depths for this water spaniel.

But not this spring, old buddy. Texas is having severe drought conditions.
Some reports say it is the worst since the historic Dust Bowl of the 1930's.
Here is the overlook down to the riverbed--now a pile of dusty rocks.

And here is another view of the creek.
Not even a hint of moisture.
Bone dry.

This is a favorite spot from the past where a concrete path formed a bridge
over the creek. There was a time when the water was so high that even
the walkway was covered with fast running waters.
But on this day, poor Shoeless looks to us for an explanation but we have none.
And what happens to the fish?

Don't know if you can see the cluster of twigs in the branches above our bike.
Those are remainders of brush that washed up into the trees when
the water level was so high that it flowed over the creek banks.
This day it would be a steep hike down into that same bank to reach the dry rocks below.

And while Texas is conserving and restricting the use of water,
her poor farmers praying for rain...
These amazing waterfalls provide hydro power and then some.
This scene is from right where we used to live in upstate New York.
Named Rainbow Falls because of the beautiful colors the sun lights in the mist that always rises above the galloping waters.
During the cold winters these falls become an ice sculpture with only a hint at
their majesty from a small spot of moving water at the very bottom of the falls.
But each spring, as the ice and snow melts from the AuSable River and the mountains that fed it, the waterfalls roar and declare their power.
Our home stood but a short distance from the river and we could stand on the back porch and feel the ground vibrate from the volume of water pouring or rather exploding over the falls and charging within the curves of the riverbanks.
Perhaps what central Texas needs is a good, old snowstorm
to alleviate some of this awful drought.
I, for one, would not complain one bit!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A beautiful Soul

This is the story of a beautiful soul.
I hope that reading it will bless you as it does me.

We were requested to visit this lady in her tent as she could not come to the clinic.
She had been trapped under debris when the earthquake hit and is now paralyzed from the waist down. She lives in this tent with children of various ages and other extended family.
She gets around in a broken wheelchair that a tall and strong nephew has to push doing "wheelies" while bumping her along the rocky terrain.

Upon entering, the inside of the tent was dark after the brightness of the sun and white stones outside and it took a bit for my eyes to adjust. She was lying as you see her, sweat dripping from her forehead. Silk flowers adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling and small plaques about Jesus lined the tent walls. It was as hot inside as outside. A very small table sat in the corner but I didn't notice any chairs. Her bed was a mattress sitting on cinderblocks. A young woman sat on the ground just inside the tent doorway washing a pile of clothes by hand.

We needed to change her catheter, placed by a team a month ago. She also required an injection of antibiotics. I shooed away the onlooking children so we could have a moment of privacy and they scattered to an area behind a hanging blanket. Her medical care done, we visited for a short while. When she learned we would not be back (ever!), she reached out grabbed my hand, saying she wanted to pray for us, to thank God for us. I was so humbled. She prayed loudly and with confidence from a relationship with God that was well established.
Her smile was radiant!
Her spirit was beautiful!
Her joy was obvious!

I didn't want to leave her side but the van was packed and the waiting team weary from treating over 250 patients in a stifling tent that day.
As I left this special lady, my step was lighter and my soul rejoicing.
I had been blessed beyond measure by this woman who lived with great faith despite the deplorable conditions and serious injuries that made her physically dependent.
Rather than feeling tired and depleted after such a difficult day, I walked out of her tent rejuvenated and uplifted.
I will never forget her.
Some sweet day we will meet in heaven where we will be able to visit for a long time and even take a walk together. (There is no paralysis in heaven.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


We took one morning to travel into the city of Port au Prince.
Most of our time was spent in Tent Cities just outside of the city.

The city was mobbed with crowds and vendors.
This meant lots of noise, traffic jams that moved by inches and vehicles wedging precariously in and out. I can attest to the noise, heat and fumes since I traveled this trip in the open back of the truck.

Not only was I anxious about the close proximity of the people swarming by and trucks and cars forcing their way next to us, but Angel drew my attention to hazards such as this hole.
"Don't fall in there--there's no bottom" she warned about gaping openings left behind by the earthquake. Large enough for a grown adult to get lost in, I shivered to think what may have dropped down in that darkness!

As is true for all cities, traffic congestion is a huge problem. Add to that no lines in the road, no traffic signs nor stop lights. Many people rode in the taxi cabs, called "tap-taps". I don't know why the name except perhaps it is the sound the overtaxed engine makes when fully loaded.
You can recognize a tap-tap by the brightly colored paint jobs.

The passengers don't flag the tap-tap down but rather run up and jump in the back where 2 benches hug either side of the enclosed (or partially enclosed in most cases) truck bed.
Space seems not to be an issue as they hang off the end if particularly full.
When a destination is reached, the passenger jumps off (or tumbles out) and runs up to pay the driver. I imagine it is one set price as the driver could never begin to figure out when the riders actually get on board. See how the weight has the back riding so low--

The presence of this traffic cop is remarkable and only seen this once!
He is why there actually seems to be a pattern to the traffic at this corner.
But I wanted to show you how the passengers in the tap-tap are hanging on as they perch on the benches. Precarious, to say the least.
Looking back, I wonder the advantage of riding in a tap-tap.
It would be quite faster and more comfortable to walk.