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

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cyber Cousins

Something unexpected and wonderful happened spontaneously tonight.
Gigi read a Christmas story book aloud.
It is a book that is about 35 years old that her Daddy
listened to when he was very small.
It's a scratch 'n sniff book that has been pretty much worn away from years 
of little fingers scratching on each page.
There is a faint aroma of pine, orange and peppermint
that still lingers a bit on several of the pages.  
Just barely.

But that's not the amazing thing.
As Gigi read the story, her loving Aunt Hillary listened.
We are so thrilled she is visiting from New Jersey.
But someone else listened to the treasured old book...

Little cousin Abigail!
Yes, our sweet 2 year old in Fairbanks, Alaska!
Holding the very same book in her lap,
this little tot listened intently to all Gigi read.
She nodded when asked questions and scratched at the pictures when told to.
Then her little blond head dropped down off the screen
 as she obediently sniffed at each picture, 
after which she remarked, "Ahhh!" to each one.
(I suspect she had a newer book that REALLY had the sweet smells 
of Christmas on its pages.)

 I sat in amazement watching these two 
dear little cousins interact as natural as could be.
Abigail, who just turned 2, sat still for 3 books.
Gigi, at the tail end of 7, happily read like a champ, patiently holding up the pages to the computer screen to show her young cousin the pictures.


There is a lot of controversy about the internet 
robbing us of personal relationships and face-to-face conversations.
I've even shared such complaints.
But this is one example of just the opposite!
4,000 miles melted into nothing tonight as these 2 little cousins sat on the same bed and enjoyed old story books about Christmas together.
For me, that's about as magical as things can get!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Arrival of Santa's Elves

The elves arrived!
I'd been waiting.
They played around for awhile first.

Entertained us with some Christmas carols.

Then put their creative energies into decorating
some rather oversized gingerbread men.
Right, I said "men" because they were too big to be boys.
The one poor guy wasn't baked without a leg, by the way.
It was a recent injury.

After a fashion they finally got dressed
and then to the task at hand.
Decorating the tree.
Wow!  They did a super job!

Of course this effort created some hearty appetites,
so we ate our meal beside the newly decorated tree.
(This was a tradition we did years gone by with our own children.)

For some reason pizza tastes better on the floor.
Especially by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

These cute little elves agreed.
Jobs done, they packed up to head home to the North Pole,
or Austin, whichever came first.
We were left with a sparkling Christmas tree full of
ornaments, particularly the bottom half...
I do hope they come back soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Until the Twelfth of Never...


 Repeating digits in a date.
This will be the last time many of us will
ever have the chance to see such an event.
Hard to imagine, isn't it?
But, the next time this occurs it will be 
January first, thirty-thousand one.
01-01-3001 or

That is 89 years from now.  
I'm not even sure my grandchildren will be around on that date.
Sobering thought.
Like comets and solar eclipses
these are rare occurrences.
Like blue moons,
 kindred spirit friendship,
unconditional love,
perfect contentment,
and sweet dogs like Shoeless Joe.

We buried our friend yesterday.
He was not merely a rare occurrence,
he was one-of-a-kind.
The very best kind.
More about this beautiful soul another day,
my heart is too heavy to say much at this time.

Take a moment to think about the 
rare occurrences in your life today.
12-12-12 is almost over.
But each of us have the ability to make something
special and rare every day.
Sow random acts of kindness and love
without asking anything in return.
What you do this day may just be a rare occurrence to someone else that could impact a life.
You just never know.
Like that Johnny Mathis song sings,
"Until the twelfth of never...
and that's a long, long time."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Time to Tune up the Sleigh

I know I've lamented that the flowers still blooming outside my door don't seem to belong  when Christmas is only 15 days away.

However, there is one BIG change in our backyard friends
 that let me know the season is upon us. 
Our deer have turned a darker shade of brown and the bucks show up more often.

During the warmer months we mostly see the Mamas and spotted babies.

But those little spotted babies are now the color of their mothers, having lost those darling spots, and all blend in so well to the browned, dry grasses.
God's protective camouflage.
Can you spy the younger deer behind her Mama as they peered at me this morning?

Since November there has been a good deal of romancing going on out in our backyard.
I think it is all aimed at getting these strong bucks the exercise they need to pull that toy laden sleigh around in just about 2 weeks from now.
Cash and Gigi were examining the individual deer this past weekend, trying to decide which ones were Dasher or Dancer or Donner or....well, you know.
It was quite the discussion to overhear.
So tune up that sleigh, Santa.
 Oil the harnesses and polish the jingle bells.
These deer are getting ready for the big night!
No matter the lack of snow or the color of the leaves here in Texas, they know Christmas will soon be here!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Let the Season Begin

No matter the stores have been selling the holiday for weeks now, 
tonight officially began the Christmas season for me.
We attended the meditative and beautiful Candlelight Advent service 
at our local college, Southwestern University.
Advent is the season of anticipation and preparation leading up to Christmas Day.

The glorious mood I brought home afterwards made me turn on my lights and the fireplace, 
despite it being 60 degrees outside.  

 The annual Candlelight Service is held in the same chapel where it began in 1915, 
almost 100 years ago.
This program is based on a advent service developed in 1934 for the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, England.  Scripture readings intertwine with musical selections.
A Felix Mendelssohn prelude by violins, viola and cello hushed the awaiting crowd.
  In the college choir, the women are on one side facing the men the other, profiles to us in the pews. The chapel's amazing acoustics seem to take these pure and clear young voices and blend and lift them soaring high into the arched rafters then waft them outward toward all of us seated beyond, letting them swirl around each enthralled listener. Only a few of the selections included the organ with its walls of towering pipes; rather most of the songs were accapella,  moving our hearts with crystal clear harmonies. Many of the ancient numbers were in Latin which actually enhanced the sound since the words didn't distract.

At one point I closed my eyes and could easily imagine that the heavenly choir of angels that lit up the night sky above that hillside in Bethlehem might sound just like this.

We ended in darkness save the lights of each person's small candle as the choir members recessed down the aisle, faces bright in the small flickering lights.
We all joined them singing "Hark the Herald Angels".
Oh, that I could send just a taste of this lovely evening to you in this little blog.
Even Scrooge could not remain untouched after such a performance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Mental Calendar VS Reality

This is my ninth (NINTH?????) autumn in Texas.
Still, I'm a bit slow on the uptake as I admire the seasonal
changes happening around me. 
(Autumn has always been my favorite, after all.)
Mexican Mint Marigolds are thick with yellow blooms.
Grass is no longer green but has turned to tan.
 Leaves are turning shades of gold and red
 and starting to fall.

The crispness in the morning air invigorates me 
and just this morning I noted a thin film of frost on the ground.
My heart cries out, "Autumn!  Harvest!" and I rush to the kitchen to chop vegetables for a big pot of soup before searching the closet for a soft blanket to add to the linens on the bed before evening.

All these activities are natural and soothing to my soul.
Autumn connected with me for many years while living 
in the North Country of upstate New York.
Changes like these seen out the windows spoke to me of
the start of school, 
covering the last garden survivors before chilling nights,
drawing inside earlier in the deepening twilight,
collecting fresh hay to warm the rabbits' hutch,
raking pine needles,
digging out the winter clothing and linens from summer storage then hanging them on the old clothesline to refresh them  in the sparkling fresh air,
the sound of Jack's ax as he split the wood that would warm us in the months ahead,
walking in the orchards in search of "dropped" MacIntosh apples that the pickers had left and biting into their crispy tartness, juice trickling down our chins.

Autumn events such as these filled September days and lingered into October.
During the warm weeks of summer, our lives centered outside on the porch, in the pool, 
or under the trees.
Noisy, lively days of late bedtimes, lax schedules and picnics.
When the lonely calls of the Canada geese replaced the robins' warble, our family patterns tilted with the earth. We moved inside, both physically and emotionally.
I always welcomed that pulling inward of our family;
the old house felt safe and sheltering in the earlier twilight evenings. 
 Autumn gave us the gift of a few months of reflection.


But, in Texas the arrival of fall--and I mean the red leaves and chill 
and goodbyes to the hummingbirds--
defies my internal calendar!
I have but a moment to admire the golden glow in the trees because the calendar on the wall shocks me into reality!
So do the holly berries right out my front door!
They have just changed to bright red.
Red Holly!  Oh, wait--that's right!?
They tell me it's time to pack away the pumpkins and fall decorations 
and get out the Christmas ones.
Autumn barely arrives in time for the Christmas season in Central Texas.

 And so my befuddled brain tries to decide where to hang the lights as I linger 
by the geranium at the front door.
Pink and lovely, how DO I fit this pot into our Christmas trimmings?

(I don't think I'll ever get used to this.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thankful Heart

Thanksgiving Day.
Family china, old recipes, loved ones,
turkey and gravy.
Laughter, conversations, aprons, steaming potatoes.
My grown children could each share a different memory of our New York Thanksgivings.  
One daughter just told me she recalled her annual task of polishing the silver that would be used later in the day.  
But it's not the silver serving pieces that live on, specifically.
It is the intangible polishing memory that survives.

I guess I am getting old and more melancholy than ever,
but I would love to gather all my chicks under my wings todayof all days.  
Watch the adult siblings interact (and argue, most likely).
Reunite with the dear friends and family members that no longer walk this earth.
Pause a moment from the kitchen preparations
to sit (SIT?!) and listen to them talk, even ramble.
I didn't do enough of that.
I was always the Martha, resenting that Jesus rebuked me and praised Mary.
That seemed unfair in the past.
But today I would willingly play the role of Mary to smile at my Dad, my grandmother, 
my mother- and father-in-law.
Even the numerous friends that once joined our
Thanksgiving feasts of years gone by.

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Just flip back to all the wandering thoughts in my previous blogposts 
and you will see what matters to me.
But so much of that could be stripped away in a breath.
And strife and misunderstandings mar relationships.
My dad, in his wisdom, repeated these solemn words,
"Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting."
Meaning we all don't sit smiling around the golden turkey 
being served by a rested and happy mother.

The bottom line is that life, even in its best dress, is lacking.
Yet wonderful, all the same.
The only constant that I can truly count on is my God, my Creator.
He cares for me and each of us.
And that deserves my giving thanks to Him.

"Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised."
Psalm 113

The same mighty poet king also penned,
"Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem"
(or in this photo, Alaska)
"so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore." (Psalm 125)

The shortest chapter in the Bible is the middle chapter 
which happens to be Psalm 117:
"Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples,
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever."
And so, as I try to wrap up my mental meanderings,
I am so thankful that I can look ahead to each moment of each day with a confidence that doesn't come from within me and my abilities,
nor of those I love.
God's faithfulness sustains me today, fills in the gaps I have missed in all of my past intentions 
and carries me into my tomorrows.

"Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures."
Psalm 119

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Boats Ashore

When I think of Port Aransas' seagoing vessels,
I usually consider the assortment of large 
and foreign ships that frequent
the channel leading to Corpus Christi.
Sitting on the jetty with an iced tea is one of my favorite past times.
(I posted about this exact thing on Sept 30, 2010.
Some things just never get old!)

But chances are, 
if you live in Port A you have access to a  boat.
Even some of the humblest of homes sport a boat in the driveway.

Some seem to be larger than the house they belong to.

The closeup of the side of this one shows the owner may have been a cowboy
before a sailor.
"No need for tack in the Gulf".

But when Jack and I dream, we dream BIG.
Why not?  It's just a dream, after all.
So we headed out the the marina to choose a boat to claim
as our own.
(For the picture, anyway.)

Jack really liked the looks of the Rebecca
and thought he'd look pretty sharp sitting high in one of those swivel captain seats.

Shoeless Joe and I took a shine to Port Afino
mainly because of the catchy name.
It also was a mighty fine looking boat.
And Shoeless could imagine how nice the wind would
feel blowing his silky ears as he sat on the deck.
Now, I know they say a boat is a hole in the water you throw money in,
but these are some SWEET holes, don't you think?
And it doesn't cost a dime to dream!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Unpopular Electoral College Vote

 It's 3 AM.  I'm awake.
I'm baffled.
I'm a poor study when it comes to government and politics.
I'll admit that freely.
But I do not understand how these election results evolve.

I was watching the whole drama unfold on TV:
the red states, the blue states,
the numbers, the percentages,
the popular vote and the Electoral College votes.
There were still states in the west who were colored gray
since results weren't yet in,
the time change making their polls still open
hours after the east coast had closed.

I thought of my son-in-law in Fairbanks, Alaska.
He had worked all day outdoors, in bitter temperatures of minus 20 degrees,
thawing wells before he could test them.
Yet he still committed to stopping by the polls before coming
home to thaw out his own body.
But, before he could even have a chance to vote,
the media was announcing a winner!
Obama  had gained enough electoral votes,
the coveted 270, to claim the victory!

Good for Obama.  One man was to be the winner.
But to announce such news before ALL states were accounted for--
now that bothers me.
I am just an idealist.  
I like to believe that all votes count.
Right down to the last person in the whole USA.
The final absentee ballot.
The lights-in-the-gym-turned-out-and-door-locked last.

But I am disappointingly aware that it doesn't matter.
What matters is that number of electoral votes.
Once Ohio's 18 arrived, the number reached, it was over.
Though thoughtful and concerned citizens were still making their
choices known, it was over.

The end result would not have changed.
I get it.
Barack Obama is our next president.
God bless him.
That's not the point.
My dilemma is: does that individual vote of each American count?
My conclusion: in some states, yes.
Especially CA, NY, TX, and PA--those with the most electoral votes.
Those 4 states total 141 alone.
And most states have a die-hard, dogmatic pattern of voting Democratic or Republican
and would have the slimmest chance of ever switching.
(No matter how much campaign money was spent,
who the candidates were, or what issues were at stake.)
So be it.
But OBVIOUSLY, by the declaration of the media,
not every vote counts.

Why does this disillusion me?

I'm an old lady, I've seen lots of elections.
I've voted in lots of them.
I remember, as a babe, laughing at my very political Grandmother
as she marched around the house chanting, "We like Ike!"
Those may have been some of my first words.
They made me happy because she was happy.
She, who had come through Ellis Island as a young child,
hand held tightly by her father after leaving mother and siblings across
the sea in Italy.  She was the proudest American I ever knew.
Don't ever hint that her vote didn't count!
Why, she would stand tall-all 59 inches of her- 
and argue you under the table!

Today I am not happy.  I have my doubts, Grandmother.
I am distressed.
I want my America to be about individual people, like you.
Not political blocks.  Not political parties.
Not Electoral College quotas.
"We the people..."
 "All men are created equal..."
Can't we just wait until each vote is counted--
the first as well as the last?
My ignorance and naivete is showing. I know.
I should go back to blogging about sand and sunsets, you say?
That I will do.
if anyone reading this has wisdom or insight to share,
it is most welcome.

Monday, November 5, 2012

No Zoning for Me, Thank You

Living in Port Aransas means you can be a beach bum,
a fisherman, or a millionaire.
And you can live in whatever kind of home you choose,
there is no regulation on size or shape.
While happily biking around the island, we looked at all the ongoing construction
(and the sound of hammering and sawing echoes in the salt air).
Seems the beach bums are being displaced by huge,
fancy and expen$ive beach homes these days.
And lots of pastel colored condos and second homes.

But some of the older domiciles reflect that individual,
quirky personality of the earlier Port A residents.
Like this funny house, painted brightly and offering
"Fishing Stories Told Here".
Can you find the front door?

And this comical trailer up on a boxy base always
makes us stop and take another look.
What is this about, anyway?  Underground garage???

Mr. Pelican at one of the marinas isn't interested in the high rises
nor condos around him, just any fish the dolphins may have missed.

This new house sure seems appealing to me.
I could easily hold the keys to the front door.
Notice how the color reflects the orange, setting sun.

Then there are the old magnificent homes from years gone by.
We have watched this one being renovated, its charm intact.
The big porch behind the house overlooks the Gulf.
Jack is acting the part of the sea captain who lives here,
just returned home from a voyage far away at sea.

 To be honest, I would be pretty content in just about 
any of these houses
 (except perhaps the second story trailer).
I feel ready to enter my beach bum era of life.
I like the feeling of sand between my toes.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let's Revisit Quirky, Shall We?

Living in a beach town is really cool, even if short-lived.
Besides the sheer joy of walking to the sand and waves,
there are other quirky features one doesn't find anywhere else.

How many towns let people drive down the middle of the street in golf carts?
No restrictions, no requirements of helmets or turn signals--
just putt putt along with all the cars.

And since so many of the people are on vacation,
the golf carts are packed with people of all ages and sizes,
often including beach pails, inner tubes, boogey boards.

Usually there is laughter heard from the carts, as well.
Ah, the pleasure of a beach vacation!

Most of the stores sell the same t-shirts, bathing suits,
shells, sunglasses and surf boards.
To stand out, several decorate their doors with creativity--
like the gaping, toothy mouth of a great shark
emerging from waves...

or a second story vanagan...
(Are they still called that name from the 60's?)

or a sign listing some of the things inside 
(that are identical to things for sale in the store across the street and around the corner).
But a little misspelling draws my editor's eye.
If the "suite" is in a hotel near a pool, 
that's a great price!  
Is it $9.99 or $9,999999999?
(The comma can be a bit confusing.)

And just where else must you take a ferry as part of the state road system just to go in and out of the town?
Yes, I love Port Aransas!
More quirky things to come in the next blog.
Stay tuned...