Celebrating 98- Almost a Century of Birthdays

What is almost a century of birthdays?

June 13th, 2019 is a unique and profound day in my life; I realized, almost suddenly that I am looking at life from almost a century of perspective. 98, this birthday was filled with gratitude, excitement, love and intermingled with incredible family happenings – a graduation, a wedding and a whole bunch of important activities. My youngest granddaughter graduated from high school and we were involved in all the attendant activities of such a major event in a young life. Today, June 15th, my oldest granddaughter is getting married in her very own awesome, unique Kera Tucker way. She and her soul mate are rock climbers, love the outdoors and are getting married at the base of the mountains where there is no cell phone or Wi-Fi service. I’m just so sorry I will not be able to attend.

On June 9th, I celebrated my coming birthday with my church family. It was filled with the love, faith and friends that I treasure. We shared cake, memories, prayers and reminded each other of how much our community of a Christian gathering means to all of us. It was very special. That afternoon was filled with celebration of Cassidy, our new graduates graduation party. Her graduation date was June 5th. On Wednesday June 12th, Cassidy had her Senior Presents of the National Charity League. The young ladies are honored for all of their service and community work from junior high to their senior year.

Cassidy and Hailey decided they wanted to celebrate my birthday by having breakfast before they left for Kera’s wedding, June 15th. Colin made a surprise visit from Palm Springs that morning to have breakfast with us and then left immediately afterward to go back to Palm Springs for work. But I was grateful that he could join us. Hailey and Cassidy and Hailey’s friends Luke departed for Kera’s wedding afterward. Much of the day was filled with greetings, cards and the enjoyment of many beautiful flower bouquets. Kim and Bob and I had a birthday dinner that evening. That finished the birthday celebrations.

They left Friday morning for the wedding near Bishop, California. Now they are all getting ready today for the big event, Kera and Nick’s wedding. Kera’s something old will be the same dime that I wore in my shoe at my wedding. I’ll wait for word of the wedding later on this afternoon when they can communicate with me. And the flurry of important events of family and friends will be complete.

It is Saturday, June 15th and I am looking in the rearview mirror of almost a century of birthday’s past. The June gloom cleared away fast this morning. The sky is blue. The birds are out and the trees are swaying gently in the breeze. My California easel is ready to paint the rest of the day. My easel as always is ready for whatever I choose to fill it with. I will continue to paint with the vivid colors that have represented the joy, excitement and happiness of my life and the silver and gold of gratitude and faith. Just think! I have been given 98 birthday easels on which to paint new scenes. I will continue to serve my Creator with gratitude, faith, love and all of the gifts of the spirit given to me. With love and thanks to all who created and helped me celebrate number 98, almost a century of incredible, amazing, awesome opportunities…

Now I want to share the words I wrote on birthdays 92 and 93. They are just as applicable and true at 98.

Birthday 92

Ninety-two and counting is a great place to be.

There are so many beautiful memories, so many lessons learned, such opportunity to grow, and the accumulated treasure of family, friends, and faith. What a privilege to watch my America for 92 years. And at 92 what is a birthday like? Do you have pictures of a granny sitting in a rocking chair, rocking the hours away or worse yet, not even able to sit in a rocking chair? Or of a grey-haired figure just staring into space? If so, you really sell us short?

The sun is up early on these days, these long, beautiful days in June. I imagine my mother was up early in her last days of pregnancy hoping that this would be the day when she would be able to “see her feet again,” and when she would know whether  her daughter, Esther, would have a sister or a brother. And it was June 13, 1921, when Peter and Alvina Boltz welcomed their little girl into this world. It was a beautiful, not-quite-yet-summer day in Iowa.

And 92 years later? What was it like on June 13, 2013, in Bonsall, California? The sun was true to form–it was up early. It was a bright day when the flowers showed their true colors with not even a little distortion from a cloud. The birds were in fine fettle; their songs filled the air with the joyous harmony of the many in the bird choir. I took my usual walk to the end of the driveway. The gratefulness of the scene was overwhelming. My prayers were those of gratitude. The good fortune of where I have the privilege of living, the quick parade of memories of 92 years, and the day before me that would end in a School Board meeting in the evening were all things to be viewed with an attitude of gratitude.

The day was filled with calls, cards, flowers, e-mail greetings and ice-cream cake.

Getting an electronic greeting card from my multi-faceted diamond friend brought the technology advances over the years into sharp images. The  notes and cards were much as they have been through the years. The telephone calls much the same in content, but the instruments and technology were vastly different.

As I was finishing the e-card, I received a call from my oldest granddaughter, Kera. She is the one in the family who is always asking me what it was like when I was a little girl. After singing Happy Birthday and giving all the well wishes, the conversation turned to canning. She is getting ready to start graduate school and plans to have a garden at the home she is renting. Did I help my mother can, she queried? She wanted to can the excess fresh vegetables, and she wanted to know how to make watermelon pickles; sounded strange, she said  That may have been the last question in the world that I expected in 2013 on my 92nd birthday.

Flowers are always welcome visitors in my home. The bouquet from Britt and Diane in Oregon  is beautiful–filled with flowers that I love. Fewer things and more flowers are appreciated at 92, particularly when your home is filled with beautiful things they have given you over the years.

And the dinner of my choice for my birthday from Bob, Kim, Hailey and Cassidy who live next door, had to be delayed until Saturday since the School Board meeting was scheduled for the same day as my birthday.

The School Board meeting was  filled with issues, concerns and the joy that comes with the end of the school year. The normal concern that comes while dealing with important issues was mitigated by the gratitude that I felt that my community just elected me to serve a fifth four-year term. It doesn’t get better than that. The fact that I have been given the privilege of serving on three boards at 92, one corporate, one church, one education, deserves my utmost gratitude to my Creator. The love of family and friends continues to fill my days with joy.

My day ended with a call from my grandson, Colin, who is in Oregon for the summer working at a golf club in Bend, Oregon. It was late when I got home from the Board meeting; Colin’s sunny voice on the recording machine brought a smile to my face. It was too late to call him back. When I call him back tomorrow, the sunny voice will just extend my birthday greetings to another day.

Ninety-two and counting is a great place to be.

Birthday 93

Yesterday was number 93. I found out that like everyday of my life, the next day would be tomorrow and the day before was yesterday. ‘

I found each time I have breakfast with friends that the day has a good beginning. Thank you, Terry and Tom. Friends are such fragile, strong, beautiful, colorful threads in the tapestry of one’s life.

I found that the words of my grandchildren were precious golden bricks on my yellow brick road. “Grandma, thank you for teaching me compassion, strength, faith, and grace. You have touched my life in countless ways.” “You have taught me so much. I will remember all you taught me and use it in my life.” And on the front of one card is a quote from Marcus Aurelius: When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. “I know you already do this every day. Thank you for reminding those around you to do the same. We are lucky to have such a wonderful, loving, and wise soma in our lives.” “I love you” are magic words. What wonderful, golden bricks!

Yes, I believe we all have a yellow brick road that is our very own. And yes, I believe we are given everything we need to make the journey. The roadmap is there at our birth; so are the detours if we miss a sign or fail to heed a warning signal. Just to reach 93 carries its own gratefulness. To be given so many years to follow dreams, to wake up in the morning with more opportunities to make a difference to someone is quite a privilege. It gets sweeter every year. The bricks become brighter.

Yesterday the dome above me was so blue. The breezes were so gentle. The palm fronds graced the sky with special beauty. The flowers were especially bright and welcoming. The music that filled the air from the birds that love my place as much as I do, was special. They must have known it was my birthday.

I found you only know the sky is blue if you look at it. I found you only know the birds are singing if you listen. I found  you only appreciate the miracles God places in your path if you acknowledge the wonders of nature. You only know how much the little green nubbins on the orange trees have grown if you looked at them yesterday or the day before. And if you have forgotten that they came from the fragrance of the orange blossoms that graced your path earlier, you have forgotten too much.

I found the lovely voices of my nieces were as welcoming and beautiful as they have always been. They transmitted the same love and joy as they always have. I found that my gratefulness increases very year.

I found the well-wishes and love of friends grows sweeter very year.

I found the voice of my sons saying, “Happy Birthday, Mom,” filled with the memories of the same greeting over the years. I found the memory bank filled with the tiny voices of excited children with a special present for Mommy, to the changing voices of teen-agers. young men, and now the gentle voices of those watching over their Mom.

       It’s great to have the privilege of living, loving, sharing, and anticipating at 93. Thank you, Lord for  being by my side and for letting such wonderful people inhabit my path.

 

At the End of the Driveway: The Blackberry Bush and the Red-Tailed Hawk

I took my grateful walk this morning; as usual, I stopped at the end of the driveway to contemplate my blessings. The breeze was blowing gently and the palms responded, swaying with gentle precision to the commands of the breeze. The shadows appeared and disappeared as expected. I was struck with the beauty of it all and the calm and natural way the things happened.

I looked through the gate at the mammoth blackberry bush just outside, sprawling and spreading itself at will. This volunteer blackberry plant, the gift of my bird family, apparently knows more about itself than I do. You see, I planted several blackberry vines in another “appropriate place” only to find them never quite happy there. But this vine, now eight or ten feet in diameter, has carved out its own destiny. The berries are almost ready.

I have told you about my red-tailed hawk that has made its home in the palm at the end of the driveway. It comes to visit occasionally. The most amazing visit was a few nights ago when I was sitting on my patio with a friend having a wonderful chat. All of a sudden we were both silent, staring at each other with a look that comes only with special wonderment about an event, sight, or sound.

A red-tailed hawk swooped down to the top of the umbrella pole at the table where we were sitting, picked up its prey and was gone with unimaginable swiftness. What poor rodent, at least my friend said it had a tail like a rat, made the mistake of hiding in the top of the umbrella, we’re not certain.   But the stunning silence of the approach and the quickness of the snatch completely astonished us. It came and went with its prey clutched tightly and we never heard a sound. We both agreed we had never experienced such an amazingly successful hunting expedition. I am stunned daily as I watch them  hunt, soar, and glide across my sky, But as I thought about it at the end of my driveway this morning, I was hoping the hawk would do a fly-over so I could thank it for the untold joy it brings. My friend and I will always be saying to each other,  “Remember the evening that the hawk…”

And there are so many more things at the end of my driveway besides the blackberry bush and the hawk. The most important things that are always in my gratitude walk are my family, especially my incredible four grandchildren, (Colin, Kera, Hailey, and Cassidy), my faith, my friends, and my love of my country that I fight every day to preserve for those I love.

A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – The Capitol Part 2

We enter the rotunda of the Capitol. One of the great moments in American History paintings is of Reverend John Robinson’s prayer meeting aboard the Mayflower before the ship sailed for America. Another is De Soto and the discovery of the Mississippi River with a monk beside him in prayer placing a crucifix in the ground. And there are others such as Columbus and the baptism of Pocahontas. In the chapel is a stained glass window depicting George Washington in prayer with the inscription of in God We Trust above it. The Christian influences are all about. Our Founders were certain about their Divine Guidance and the need for it.

So when the President stands in the Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address, above and just behind the President are the words, In God We Trust. They are there as a reminder to every Senator, Representative, and all the others present. Above the gallery door is a relief statue of Moses. The east entrance to the Senate Chamber has the Latin inscription meaning, God has favored our understanding. And you will find more times when we reiterate In God We Trust.

As we exit the grand edifice that graces the east end of the capital mall, we stop a moment on the steps.  And it is here the President places a hand on the Bible, the Christian Bible, the Bible of our God in whom we place our trust, and pledged to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to serve this nation.

We are what we are: we are a nation that was founded to attain religious freedom. a nation that recognized the role of Divine Guidance in its creation, and the need to trust in that Divine Guidance.

We walk toward the White House, where we started our walk together. When we reach the White House, the people’s house, our footprints will have made a Christian cross.

A Walk to Remind us of Our Christian Heritage – The Capitol Part 1

We leave the magic of the Tidal Basin in cherry blossom time and head for the Capitol. The significance of the three “greats” we have just visited in our walk, Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson, will be even greater as we see the home of the Legislative Branch of our government. This branch was created to make certain that we remained “We the People.”  I thought about the arguments that were present as our Founders struggled and argued passionately about creating a government that would ensure a legacy of freedom. What was needed to insure the continuation of this great experiment in self-government?

They had no pattern; this was not a cookie-cutter government. They had no former path to follow. They knew that power had to always rest with the people; they knew that they had to have checks and balances. They also had to have a branch that adjudicated when differences could be settle no other way. They created our republic. They created this “shining city on a hill.”

They fought; they struggled; they died to create a new birth of freedom under God with justice for all, with the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. They declared their independence from tyranny and abused power. They created this government where the Executive Branch, the president, is one leg, but only one leg of three. The Capitol building we see ahead houses another one of the legs.  The arguments about this branch were vigorous and passionate. Some wanted a strong central government and others wanted the power to be decentralized.

The Founders finally decided on having two groups: to create equality between the small and large states, each state would have two senators; the second group would be based on the population of the state, the representatives.

Our next part of the walk is to explore the art in the Capitol that depicts our Christian heritage.

A Walk to Remind us of Our Christian Heritage – Jefferson Memorial

The stark reality of the Lincoln years do not fade away; the statue of the man decreases with the distance as we walk away. But the magnitude of his contributions to our nation do not. We approach the Jefferson Memorial.

Again our conversation moves to how we honor the past and recognize the lessons the past holds for us in the fast-moving-digital present, let alone the future.

When the cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are in bloom, it is a magnificent sight. The Jefferson Memorial rests on the south bank of the Basin. The neo-classical structure of the Memorial adds to the  beauty of the place.  As we climb the broad steps to the portico, we turn to marvel again at the reflections of the cherry blossoms on the water. We enter the dome of the monument to find ourselves surrounded by the words of Thomas Jefferson, the president, the architect, inventor, musician, and writer.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So avows our Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he authored this document.

We read on. Though there has been much effort to minimize the Christian beliefs of Thomas Jefferson, we see much evidence to the contrary. He was a strong advocate for religious freedom. He took great pride in authorship of The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom passed in January, 1786. The Memorial reminds us: Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to…

As we stand in the memorial, the words of the third President are etched in the marble. Jefferson’s words need to ring out again in our nation each year the cherry blossoms return to adorn the Tidal Basin and add extraordinary elegance to the beautiful edifice, the Jefferson Memorial.

May the return of the cherry blossoms each spring be a visible reminder of Jefferson’s words: we hold these truths to be self evident…

We descend the wide steps from the portico and breathe in the beauty of the cherry-blossom-lined Tidal Basin. Jefferson would approve of the site. His home, his beloved Monticello, was a beautiful result of his architectural skills. But his real passion was to give shape, substance, and essence to freedom for all in the new nation he was helping to bring into existence–this one-of-a-kind experiment known as our United States of America.

A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – Lincoln Memorial

The Washington D.C. sky is blue and as we leave the Washington Monument the monuments of the mall stand in relief against their background. The Washington Monument sends its tall, grand shadow across the water of the reflection pool. As you take a peek back to make certain that this obelisk is as significant as its reflection indicates, you are struck again with the majesty of the structure.

We turn our eyes toward our next stop–The Lincoln Memorial. Even from the distance the figure of Abraham Lincoln is as imposing in marble as it was in life. This tall man is seated in the sculpture, but remains large and impressive. As you approach the scene, the serenity of the place is in sharp contrast to memories of the horrible sights and sounds of the strife and struggles during Lincoln’s Presidency. We climb the expansive steps to the man and his words. The man sits surrounded by many of his most memorable words–statements and expressions of his fanatic search for justice and guidance.

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861, was given when he was facing the secession of the South and the mammoth divide in the nation he loved. Inscribed is: Intelligence, patience, Christianity, and firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are yet competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficultiesIn God we Trust is all around us in the Capitol. Lincoln’s statement confirms his trust.

As we feel the solemnity of this place, we read on. The Gettysburg Address carved in the wall speaks; one cannot read the words without remembering the images of the battle and the terrible toll, the field of dead bodies. Lincoln’s words are not only etched in the walls, they ring in our ears and the tears sting our eyes…that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…  Yes, under God. This same God that our Founders knew provided the Divine Guidance for their deliberations. And it’s the same God we know from our Bible, the Book that has guided our Christian Heritage since its founding. It is the God in our national anthem and our Pledge of Allegiance. Its the God in our national DNA.

When anyone proclaims that we are no longer a Christian nation, they are saying what we see and know of our Christian Heritage is gone, fading away, a myth, or replaced. Has our tolerance for other religions and our unshakable belief in religious freedom made it easy to take our strength, our tolerance, and use it to erase our founding, our Christian beginnings?”

We finish reading the inscriptions on the walls; we stand beside the mammoth statue of Lincoln. The words of this great President fill the air of the chamber; they are carved in stone but they are alive in this place. The Emancipation President knew this nation could only survive the tidal wave of secession and the Civil War that followed with the help of continuing Divine Guidance.

We leave the sculpture of the giant behind us as we walk down the many steps, but we can never leave the teachings and the influence on us and our country of this man. It was during his Presidency that In God we Trust was placed on our currency. How many times a day do we touch a coin or bill that reminds us of that motto?

We take one look back at the enormity and significance of this American President as he looks out across the Capitol. We turn our eyes to the next stop in our journey and conversation about who we are. We make our way toward the Jefferson Memorial. Silence exists for most of the way; the Lincoln Memorial has that effect on its visitors.

A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – Washington Monument

There are constant reminders all around us that try to convince us that we are no longer a Christian nation. There is incessant denial of any Christian heritage to say that we had Divine Guidance at our beginning is ridiculed. Some of our national heroes are declared to be atheists or agnostics. Let’s just take a little walk around some Washington D.C., monuments to see what they still tell us.

As we make our way to the Washington Monument, our first stop, we discuss the spirit in a Christian White House. The many prayers and supplications of the first occupant of the White House, George Washington, must surely live in the walls of the rooms that heard those prayers.

We arrive at the Washington Monument. The magnificent obelisk stands tall against the morning sky. We touch the cornerstone; there the sacred Bible of the first President of these United States has been placed. Prayer was a cornerstone of the life of George Washington. And at the top of the monument is an aluminum cap that proudly bears the words Laus Deo. Those are the first words the sun touches as it shines on our Capitol. Praise be to God, those words say as they attest the presence of God to the sun, the raindrops, the fog, or snow that sometimes grace the monument grounds. But there they are, this declaration of our Christian heritage. If we were still allowed to climb the many stairs, we would witness Scripture. But we can feel the presence of our Creator in the majesty of this tall structure as it reaches toward heaven.

The Monument is a fitting reminder of the man, George Washington. This man was so popular following the Revolutionary War that he could have been King. Thankfully, he was the kind of man who just wanted to return to his plantation and be a farmer. But that was not to be; he became our first President.

From the time that his mother sent him off to war and commended him to the Providence of God and reminded him to private prayer, Washington continued to give testimony to his belief in the Providence of God. He became a legend as a warrior, even to the Indians; it seemed impossible to kill him. He believed that he ” was protected beyond all human probability and expectation, for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me, yet I escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.”

George Washington was a most remarkable man. He was a noble and pious gentleman. But there are many who have rewritten history, and our children may not even know what his birthday is. They have vacation “celebrating” presidents’ day. Yes, there are many efforts to deny, distort, or minimize our Christian heritage.

As we gaze at the beauty of the Washington Monument, I wonder if the president notices the Monument as Air Force One takes off or lands in his nation’s capitol. And if he could read the aluminum cap from the sky, what would it say?

We turn and walk toward the Lincoln Memorial. That will be our next stop on our walk. The cherry blossoms are gorgeous and the sky is blue; the Monument stands erect, proud and maintains its mastery of the sky. And at the top, the aluminum cap still says Laus Deo, Praise be to God.

We never have been anything but a Christian nation. That does not mean that we are all Christians; it means we have welcomed all other religions. We were founded because people sought and fought for religious freedom. Our Republic was established to secure and maintain freedom for all. May Providence forever protect our Christian heritage that was designed to keep us free.

Freedom Requires Vigilance, Courage, and Action–Lessons from Pioneer Ladies

Watching the political happenings lately, I was drawn back to some very courageous pioneer ladies who lived in Yoncalla, Oregon.

In 1920, the gentlemen of Yoncalla had a “gentlemen’s agreement” tnat the incumbents would not hold an election for any of the town offices. They would just skip the formality of an election.

The women of the town decided, “No, No.” They took matters into their own hands and produced a an all-female slate for all the city offices. The slate included Jennie Lasswell who was the wife of the mayor. Can you imagine the conversations at the breakfast table and other places in the Lasswell household when the mayor became aware of the election?

It seems that enough folks in the town agreed with the ladies. The entire slate was elected. Mary Goodall Burt became the town’s first female mayor. Mary was a Pacific University graduate and a former teacher. Teachers played a prominent part. Council members were: Jennie Lasswell, also a former teacher; Bernice Wilson, a teacher; Nettie Hanan, a community activist; and Edith Thompson, active in women’s organizations and community work.

I wanted to name them for you because so many pioneer women remain nameless in the history books. I’m hoping someone who reads this  will carry a name or know someone who might know the area or a name. These ladies stepped forward just a year before I was born. And it was a big step. But they knew it was not right not to have an election. They were living in the struggle for equal rights and the difficult movement to gain the vote. This was just not a Yoncalla Affair. These wonderful women were ordinary women living a pioneer life in Eastern Oregon who stepped up to do what was right.

I am grateful that the baby girl born in New Albin, Iowa a year after this successful campaign is able to tell the story. It is one of the wonderful stories of pioneer women of the northwest that I honor in “Pioneer Women of the Northwest.”

When I think of these women, I don’t dare say or think that I cannot make a difference. I am one, but I am one who has had the opportunity to follow incredibly brave, courageous, and strong women. I hope that I have helped to clear some brambles from the path of those following me. It is still a journey that requires courage. But I am determined to do what I can to make it better for my granddaughters and my grandsons. Freedom always has and always will require vigilance, courage, and action.

Memories of the Garden

A better title might be: Questions my Granddaughter Asks.

When my granddaughter asked me whether or not I had helped my mother can, I was surprised. But not nearly as surprised as I was with the next question. Did I know how to make watermelon pickles?

“I have been reading some material written by a lady who went through the depression,” she said, “and she talked about canning and making watermelon pickles.”

I told her that I canned a lot of fruit and vegetables myself for many years, and of course, I helped my mother can from the time I could remember. The queries started  a flood of memories. Most of what we canned came from our garden.

The Farmer’s Almanac was a family friend in most Midwest households. And when the apple blossoms came in the spring, they were so welcome; a bouquet of apple blossoms brightened every home. The first pink signs were signals; maybe the weather would change, but you knew that it was time–time to start thinking about the early plantings. It was time to get the seeds out that you had ordered during the winter months. I loved those seed catalogs. They were almost like a travelogue.

The Almanac, although consulted all year, in the spring it was always left in a handy place for quick reference; it just stayed on the kitchen table. The suggestions for planting were carefully checked. And of course, some seeds were planted during the winter so plants would be ready to “set out” when the weather was warm enough. Tomato, cabbage, parsley, and kale seeds were planted and carefully monitored during the winter months. They occupied an honored place by a sunny window.

When the time was right and the garden soil was carefully prepared, the planting started. Peas and lettuce were an early planting soon followed by carrots, beets, beans of several varieties, another planting of lettuce and peas, and hills of cucumbers, squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, and a first planting of corn. Several plantings of some vegetables were made throughout the summer to make certain they could be harvested all summer long. Mother and Dad were particular about how the garden looked. The rows were straight and the seeds were carefully sown. This was serious business. These crops were not only for fresh produce during the summer, but also to be canned and stored for the winter months.

Now the plants that were grown in the house during the winter were planted. The tomatoes were planted with sufficient space so they had room to grow, and so the sun could reach all sides of the plant as needed to produce the amazing red, luscious vegetables to eat fresh all summer and the boxes and boxes that would be canned during the summer. In the fall when the frost was due, the green ones would be kept to ripen or made into relish. The memory of taking a salt shaker and visiting the tomato patch, picking a warm red tomato, and eating it in the garden was wonderful. A tomato never tasted better. I guess they were as organic and fresh as anything can be.

Potatoes were stored for the winter, and it was from that supply that the plantings for the next year were taken. The potatoes were cut making certain that there was an “eye” on every piece; it was from that eye that the growth would start. The potato vines were faithfully watched during the summer; as soon as they matured sufficiently, we would dig a hill or two to harvest those “new potatoes” to have with fresh peas in a cream sauce or to put with all the other fresh vegetables in soup.

And of course, my mother had to have her flower gardens and her flowers in the garden. There were packages of mixed flower seeds, larkspur, zinnias, and any others that she could afford to buy. Neighbors shared seeds that had been kept from the year before. The dahlia bulbs were dug, separated in the fall and stored for the winter and planted in the spring. These beautiful flowers were shared in huge bouquets at church services in the summer. These bouquets often were the source of varieties shared with those present. People shared because often they could not afford to buy them. Mother always took ”slips” (cuttings) of geraniums from the plants grown inside and outside to share and to make new plants. Iris, glads, tulips, peonies, and anything that was admired and could be propagated was shared. The depression did not mean that beauty could not be available because you were poor. Our Creator made it easy to share.  Even the fields and hills were full of free plants and shrubs.

The garden was a place of family pride. When I was a little girl, I tagged along as mother or daddy took friends and family to show what was new, how to deal with bugs, or talk about planting tips, and to share the bounty of a beautiful garden.

Kera as we plant, I will share with you “what it was like when I was a little girl.” That’s the question you always ask me.

The Iris and the Hawk – Lessons from Nature

My walk to the end of the driveway always is amazing. The lessons abound with every step. The mysteries of faith pop out at me. Or perhaps they aren’t so mysterious. Perhaps they are so simple we just don’t bother with them.

As I looked across the valley, the foggy sky obscured the twin peaks and the hills they occupy. My first lesson on faith. Even though I could not see them, I knew that they were there. I knew that the houses on the hills that I see on those hills every clear morning were still there. I had faith.

I looked for the iris blossom that was partially open yesterday. I knew that it would be open more today. That’s what flowers do unless eaten by bugs or otherwise destroyed. They are on a mission to grow and become what they were meant to be. I knew there wouldn’t be a daffodil or a rose on an iris plant. I have faith in that process. Sure enough. When I came to the plant in question, it had two fully opened blooms. The path of the iris is a model of faith expressed.

There was another lesson on the way. About halfway down the driveway was a fully-opened iris blossom even bigger than those I had so diligently been watching. There it stood–a single gorgeous, large blossom that reminded me of the great diversity of growth and development within one species. Such an obvious encounter should help me understand the human conditions surrounding the everlasting premise that the Creator is the ultimate purveyor of faith in the created–whether iris or person.

As I sat to ponder the lessons of faith I had experienced on my walk to the end of the driveway, I was treated to a special scene. I have watched the red-tailed hawks swoop to the earth to catch their prey with deadly accuracy. I have watched them soar to heights against a clear blue sky or duck behind a low-hanging cloud. When they just glide across the sky they are especially fascinating and beautiful. Just a little tip of a wing or the tail and the change of direction or altitude is accomplished. Amazing birds, these red-tailed hawks.

But about the treat. As I was piecing together my lesson on faith from the walk, a red-tailed hawk flew into the tall palm nearest me. Wow!! Of course. It had to have a home somewhere. Now I felt I had a different relationship with one hawk. I knew where it lived. As I sat with a big smile on my face and gratitude for the special moment, the hawk flew away and pursued its diving and soaring and doing what hawks do. It too, was being fully faithful to its place in the universal patterns of being a red-tailed hawk.

As I continued my walk, I knew that what the fog obscured in the west, or east, or south would be there when it cleared. Surely I can have as much faith as the bird that sings before the dawn breaks because it knows that the dawn is coming. By the time I continued around the house and back to the end of the driveway, I could see the outlines of the twin peaks. In just another few minutes, the hills and the peaks were clearly visible, outlined by the fleecy white clouds and the blue sky behind them.

Thank you nature. And special thanks to the iris and the red-tailed hawk. Surely I can take the timelessness of their lessons and be grateful that they are present to teach me. Yes, I will use the talents that I have been given to me to make a difference, to serve and grow. Almost 98 years of living should be a good place for new beginnings. New measures of faith should grow well in a soil of gratitude, love, curiosity, and joy.