Thomas Wolfe Redux

I awoke this morning in my childhood bedroom. I am trying mightily to come home.

I loaded up the ’98 GMC Sierra with camper top plastered with the “Love Animals, Don’t Eat Them,” and “Keep the Immigrants, Deport the Republicans” bumper stickers. Mutt, my Dad’s 17 year old terrier with the world’s foulest breath rode shotgun. Vivian the goat, Connie and Roxy, would-be laying hens, and Nell the collie rode in the back. My great big pretty sorrel horse rode in the trailer I pulled. We hauled ass(es) to Davidson County, where I grew up.

At dusk I listen to the tree frogs and at night the hoot owl and am happy as a bug. The horse seems content, the chickens are scratching around in manure, the collie is herding the goat, and Mutt is peeing in all her familiar spots inside the house. Then I run out of food.

On my first trip into town I paid $18.97 for a mango. The cashier had probably never rung up a mango and I had to report to the store’s business office to get my money back. I decided I would buy only vegetables the locals recognized, so I bought a pound of okra (for you non-okra eaters, that’s a lot of okra). I love okra and fried it all. This resulted in spending two days getting off the toilet only to feed the animals.

I got better and life was oh so pastoral once again. Till today. I ran out of food. I tried a new store, one that neighbors recommended. As I shopped I noticed that my cart was tingling like little bells. Others were raising eyebrows. I realized I was the only shopper in the store with six bottles of wine in the cart. Too bad, I kept loading up on staples for country living, like chips and salsa. I pulled my cart into the checkout lane confident that at last my hunter/gatherer woes were over.

The very friendly and helpful cashier welcomed me as a new customer and tallied my bill. I didn’t write a
check (I know, old school) since it bore my Raleigh address. I swiped my credit card. “I’m sorry,” the cashier said, “We only take cash, debit card, or EBT. That’s how we keep our prices so low.” I normally carry cash but not today. I’ve never had a debit card. So I asked what an EBT was. Food stamps. I left the cart of groceries and headed for the parking lot to drive to the nearest ATM and returned with cash in hand. There is food in the house.

So it’s not what I thought would be hard about coming home to the “country” again — mucking stalls or heaving hay or even hauling off trash. It’s going to town that’s tough.

Fear

Where do you feel fear first? Head, heart? I feel it in my feet, as though I’ve just stepped into a mire. My feet feel numb, and the lower parts of my legs feel very heavy, like I want to run but they are so heavy I cannot lift them. And my feet and lower legs, while feeling mired down and heavy, are tingling with fear. I thought it odd that I felt fear in my feet and legs, but I don’t know. Maybe everyone does. Most of the fear that I feel these days is fear of falling off my horse. Or maybe being slung off my horse would be more accurate. It’s a dreadful feeling and I’m trying like crazy to deal with it, get over it, conquer it. I think it has been a problem since my big fall in 2011. Up until then, I never thought much about falling. Everyone who rides knows that a fall may occur at any time, because horses are unpredictable at best and downright flighty at worst.

I remember my first fall like it was yesterday, or even earlier today. I was 6 years old and my Daddy had bought me my first pony. He was a young wild thing (I mean my pony but I’ll bet this could also describe my Daddy at that time) who had never been ridden when my Daddy put him in the stable on that first dark night. That did not prevent me from trying to ride him. He specialized in scraping me against fences, running under low-hanging limbs, all the standard pony tactics.

One Sunday morning when Rusty, as we called him, had been living with us for a while and was about as “broken to ride” as he was going to get, my Daddy decided we would have our first free gallop across an open field. Sounded good to me because I loved going out alone with my Daddy on an adventure and of course, I loved Rusty.

We walked through the woods, Daddy leading Rusty with me perched on his back. We came through a copse of pines and then to edge of a broom sedge field, an open rectangle of brown, with a wall of trees down each side. “Okay,” Daddy said, looking over at me, “You’re going to ride him across this field. By yourself.” He unclipped Rusty’s lead and slapped him on the rump. Like he needed that. What I remember is speed, the pony running, me losing my balance, and falling. Hitting the ground, and then I couldn’t breathe. I tried to, but couldn’t. When I could breathe or make a sound, I started sobbing. Rusty was gone.

Daddy scooped me up, told me I was fine, and walked back to our house through the woods. My Mom, I remember, came running out the door when she saw us.”Aww. She’s alright,” Daddy said. “She just got the breath knocked out of her.” I don’t remember feeling any fear prior to that fall.

There were other falls, of course, some far more memorable than others. When in college, I came home for the weekend and my Dad decided that was the perfect time for a first ride on a two year old filly that was mostly a pet raised from a baby. Unsure of the weight on her back, she reared straight up and fell backwards, her body landing across my pelvis, resulting in a trip to the emergency room and a bruised tailbone.

But the fear was missing; from early childhood on, I would climb onto any horse I was given a chance to ride. When other kids balked, I was right there, eager. I felt no fear of falling from a horse until I was well into my 60′s.

I was not afraid when I took my big fall in 2011: the one that resulted in surgery and metal pins in my ankle. I simply nudged my horse into a canter, the ground was too wet, he lost his balance, I came off and he came down onto my leg. I even tried to mount back up to ride out but quickly learned that my ankle was crushed.

Since then, I admit that I have fear each time I ride. I have a different horse now, and he’s bigger and spookier than any I’ve ever owned. He twirls when he sees something that he needs to get a better look at, or sometimes he jumps and twirls over nothing that I can see or name and it’s really hard for me to stay seated during one of these typically fast twirls.

We have mastered the one rein stop and I’ve watched Buck on DVD for several hours. I see him crack wise in his clinic problem solving sessions in hopes of finding something that will help me. I have attended horsemanship clinics with my horse and practiced loads of groundwork. I’ve hired a vacquero to ride him for six weeks. Still, as recently as last Saturday, he did a couple of very unexpected twirls inside a boxed arena with very little to there to spook him, and I felt myself lose my seat, but I haven’t fallen off this 16 hand bad boy . . . yet.

I thought maybe teaching him to drive and have him pull me in a cart would lessen his anxiety, since he would be harnessed and wearing blinders, and maybe even lessen my fear. I bought a sulky and some Amish harness and we did some trial lessons, just walking along for many weeks and then I harnessed him to a pallet. He pulled the pallet without incident in a round pen, and then I moved to an arena. The day was going well and he had pulled the pallet through the soft sand for a couple of rounds. I decided it was time to add some weight, so I sat down on the pallet. He tried to take a couple of steps, but couldn’t. He went straight down, lying down in harness. I rolled off the pallet and he began to roll over in the harness. He stood, lurched forward and ran toward the arena fence. He barreled through the fencing, taking out two posts and six rails and fell to his knees. He turned and hurled himself back into the arena through the opening he had just made and ran towards a rider on a young Arabian. Her horse spooked and she fell off. That was the worst thing that happened that eventful day, my horse coming away with a few minor scratches. I’m still riding him, but haven’t hitched him back up yet.

This past Sunday I accepted an invitation to take a ride in a wagon pulled by a team of donkeys. These two donkeys were two of the most broke animals I’ve ever seen. They stood calmy for brushing and harnessing, like two huge stuffed animals. They were incredibly gentle. We started the ride uneventually, despite being on a paved secondary road with a considerable number of cars coming up from behind and passing us, as well as coming towards us in the other lane. I was totally impressed with how little the traffic seemed to affect the two as they walked or trotted along, with five ladies and one bulldog in the wagon.

Things were going swimmingly when a herd of deer came out of the woods on our left, several yards ahead of the team, and the deer bounded across the road, single fine, one after another, at least fifteen of them. The donkeys took notice and wanted to bolt. The driver held them as steadily as she could, using considerable muscle to keep them from running. As we took the oncoming hill and reached the spot where the deer had crossed, about three or four stragglers from the herd who had missed the grand crossing came flying out of the woods into the donkey’s path.

That’s when I really felt it: the fear. It started like feet in lead, unmovable against the footledge of the buckboard. From there it worked it’s way up my legs, past the tingling nerves into my shoulders, neck, and head. I grabbed the left rein as my friend struggled to pull the two donkeys under control. They were running and heading for the opposite shoulder of the highway, which meant than any car or truck coming over that hill would be directly in their path. My fear was full blown now, and I pulled mightily on that left rein, as the driver was doing to the right rein, in an attempt to get those donkeys to stop.

They did finally stop, before they and and the wagon left the road. We got them back onto the right side of the yellow line and proceeded with our Sunday outing. The feeling I felt, however, has been slow to leave me. I have questioned myself and wondered about whether I am suited to this horsey life. I love horses, everything about them. Those who know equines, donkeys and mules and horses, will tell you that their temperament is different. Donkeys are the calmest and horses the flightiest. If that one incident on that peaceful Sunday wagon ride terrorized me, what business do I have with harness and a sulky and a spooky horse?

Little Faces

Today I received a package from my sister, who lost her husband a little over a year ago, to a stroke, or heart attack, or whatever takes one aged 59, suddenly.  It was filled with pics from his childhood, which she wanted me to scan.  This after a week of my saying things about reflecting on pictures of little faces who didn’t know their lives were going to end prematurely.  My best friend had returned from a once in a lifetime trip to her homeland, Cuba, with photos of her older brother, Moses.  Moses was killed in Vietnam when he was 20 years old.  The photos, taken in his homeland before the immigration to the U.S., show a young boy full of laughter and promise.  That’s what I had been reflecting on all week, prior to receiving the photos from my sister.  Her batch of black and whites show exactly the same thing:  a little boy excited at seeing a barnyard rooster nearly as tall as himself.  Watching a groom brush a big birdshot grey horse while standing directly in the line of its back feet.  A baby cooing.  A baby smiling. Little faces that don’t have a clue what’s going to happen.

Then, at 4:30 this afternoon, I biked downtown to the First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street, which for non-Capital City residents means it is the “Black” church, there being an uppity White First Baptist across from the Capital Square.  I went for a youth rally against the restrictive voting legislation that our regressive General Assembly just passed.  And as it turns out it was also a memorial to the four little girls (and one boy, who is never mentioned) whose lives were sacrificed in the Birmingham Church bombing.  Again I am faced with the photos of four little children.

The photos for the most part look like school pictures.  Typical smiles directly into the camera. What kind of world do we live in?  Where little girls are memorialized for attending a Sunday School that is dynamited by members of the Ku Klux Klan? I come home to find that the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington DC was visited by a mad gunman, who killed 12 others before himself.  Somewhere there are the school pictures of smiling boys and girls, with no clue as to what their fate will be.

Driving Miss B

I wonder how many folks have ridden as a passenger way up high in a mighty tow truck?  I did today. I was stranded roadside with my 1,000 beast in tow, literally.  It turned out well, all things considered.  Jasper must have known, using his horse sense and all, that something was going to happen, because he popped right up onto the trailer, no prodding necessary.  “Wow,” I thought.  I’ll get to Raleigh in plenty of time for the hoof trimming appointment.”

Then I got into the pickup to start it, but no sound. Just a cluck. Damn.  The person living closest to the barn was a daysleeper, working the night shift and I had never laid eyes on him, though he parked his little red mustang really near where my truck was now sitting.   I remembered how awful it felt when I had little babies and was sleep deprived. Still, I mustered fortitude and knocked on the door and after a bit, I heard heavy footfalls.  He opened the door and I explained that I needed a jump.  I don’t have any cables, he muttered.  “No problem,” I said, holding the jumper cables high in the air for him to see.

“Okay,” he said as he shuffled barefoot, trousers sagging, to his car.  His toes were all bandaged and I felt sorry for him, wondering if he had been wearing ill fitting shoes.

The truck engine started right up with just  a second’s worth of jolt from the Mustang’s battery. Off I drove down the long lane from the barn and onto the main road, still with lots of time to spare.  We had just climbed the first knoll and were gliding downhill when the engine died.  Red lights came on across the dashboard, one message ordering me to “Check gauges now,” and then there was nothing.  I steered the coasting truck and trailer into a long driveway and out of the road.

Recently I had joined a roadside assistance program for equestrians, so I wondered if this constituted a full blown emergency.  I was within a mile or so of the barn, having just left, but it was clear that my truck was not going to start. The sun was in noonish mode and neither truck nor trailer was in the shade. The black horse was sweating. What to do?

I called the roadside assistance service and Malcolm answered. He was direct and persistent, and once he learned that I was safe, he peppered me with questions relating to my whereabouts, the kind of trailer I was pulling, and whether or not my horse needed water. Now that’s a service worth paying for: bringing water to a thirsty animal. Malcolm explained that it would take him awhile to set the service in action, since it would require towing both truck and trailer. What choice did I have?  Once he had everything scheduled, he said, he would call me back.

Meanwhile, I decided to unload my horse and walk him the mile or so back to the barn. Normally I have three saddles and a multitude of bridles in the back of my truck. But not today, because I had cleaned it out to make room for hauling. I didn’t have any riding tack, so it was walking and leading back to the barn, in the middle of the road. My costume is worth noting for curiousity’s sake: Yes, at age 64, I was wearing short running/biking shorts and a halter top. And equestrian boots up to my knees. The only person I expected to see me in this ridiculous outfit was my farrier, and she would not be surprised.  I feared that some passersby would find us an odd sight, but they just glanced our way and gave us the rural salute: a mere flicker of the hand.  The kind lady whose driveway I had coasted into did come find us in her golf cart and asked if I was a member of AARP, and though I’m not, I assumed she meant AAA, nodded yes, and on she went, saying that she had to go care for the sick.

With the horse safe back at the barn, I walked back to the truck and trailer, empty lead rope dangling off my shoulder. Malcolm called and confirmed that assistance was on its way.

Upon the return to my vehicle I took off the boots that weren’t made for walking and donned sandals. I drank water and waited. The tow truck driver called and said “I’m on my way darlin’.” Normally I would have hasseled him for calling me darlin’ but today is was oddly comforting. It is interesting how politics matters so little when you are at the mercy of the world.

A guy in a pickup truck slowed and asked if I was okay. I explained that help was on the way. His brother, he said, had a tow truck just up the road. Was I sure I wanted to wait, or did I want him to go get his brother and the tow truck? I was confused by my choices. “Sure,” I said, “Get your brother.” I immediately regretted saying that, because the assistance service was paid for already, and this stranger’s brother wasn’t. First come, first served, I figured. That’s when I saw that beautiful gleaming tow truck with lights flashing. It was the one dispatched from the equestrian protection plan.  Yahoo, we were in business.

The fellow driving the truck emerged and the first thing I noticed was his upper arm tattoo (he was wearing a sleeveless shirt).  It looked like wild seaweed or tame barbed wire wrapping around his arm. He was friendly, and his shorts  would not stay pulled up over his buttocks when he knelt or laid across the bed of the truck.  I noticed that his rear end was peeling from too much sun near the point where the cheeks met.  He did not have all his teeth, but that did not affect his driving. The man knew how to drive a truck! He loaded my truck onto the tow vehicle with dispatch. Then he hitched up my horse trailer to a 2″ ball, a dimension I could never recall until today and now won’t ever forget.  The tow truck had it all,  the driver Just pulled a lever and the bumper extended the hitch right out to meet the trailer.  Amazing.

I climbed aboard, and trust me, it was a climb, as the tow truck passenger cabin was a lot higher off the ground than the cab of a pickup. It was roomy and neat up there. I don’t know my savior’s name, but let’s call him Don.  Don took my trailer back to the barn and parked it in the space where the grass was brown from being suffocated underneath the trailer.  Exactly the right spot, and he was backing it into a tight space in this massive truck  that was carrying my long bed pickup! Don had skills.

The two of us headed off to downtown Raleigh, about 30 miles away to deliver my truck to a mechanic. Hoof trimming would happen some other day. We hadn’t gone far before we simultaneously spotted an oncoming  tractor trailer, swerving onto our side of the road.  It recovered.   A large snapping turtle was in the middle of the road, heading into our lane.  I asked Don shouldn’t we stop and help it. He barely hestitated before saying “Yes, we should.” Don carried that savage angry reptile, it twisting one way then another, its long neck striking out at him like a cobra. I had never seen anything like it. I’ve heard lots of stories about snapping turtles but had never seen one in action. Don gingerly placed the turtle in the high grass along the shoulder and got back in the truck murmuring  “My hands stink.” Plus the mighty claws on the beast had scratched  him across one finger. I dug around in my purse for aloe vera to mitigate   some of the stink and discomfort.

We drove the rest of the way into Raleigh talking of Don’s Siberian Huskies, him showing me their photos on his I-phone, mimicking their way of talking,  and telling me of their mole digging antics. Then, just as we were nearing downtown, Don turned to me and said, “You know, that big ole snapping turtle I was telling you about, the one with a head this big (Don held both fists together side by side, while still managing to drive). “Yes,”I said, because he had mentioned it to me when we rescued today’s snapping turtle. “Well, my Daddy and me went fishing in a small lake and that turtle ate all our fish and all our bait, everytime we tried to fish.  So we got a ’22 and as long as we carried that ’22 down there, that turtle left us alone. “

“How did he know?” I wondered.

“Dunno, Don replied.

” But then one time we went and he was there and he started eating our fish. The ’22 held 8 shots, and I reloaded it 4 times. We put 36 bullets into him, and he just disappeared under water.”

“What?” I asked, aghast.

“Were the bullets pinging off his shell?” I asked, full of hope . . .

“Oh, no,” Don replied. “They were penetrating, just not gettin’ any vitals, I think. Then a few days later, we saw his shell, turned upside down, like a big bowl, by the side of the lake. Buzzards got ‘im.”

By now we had arrived and Don backed that big old gleaming truck into a tiny bay at the mechanic’s shop with great pride. Rightfully so. He was good.

After I arrived at home, I reflected on the adventure and I think that Don and I would have disagreed on many political issues, but he saved the day.  And, when he carried that turtle across the road, its head twisting violently to get at him, and its beak  snapping wildly, he performed a karmic act by saving its life.  I hope his finger isn’t infected.

First Court Appearance

So this morning at 8:45 I entered the Wake County Courthouse for my first court appearance after my arrest in the General Assembly. I went through the security maze and on to the tremendously long line at the elevators. Thankfully while I was there I spotted a partner in crime, who was older than me with an even older and slower husband in tow. She explained that she had already been up to the courtroom and that we were to be tried in the new Wake County Judicial building. Yahoo, because I was becoming very claustrophobic and obsessive compulsive with thoughts of “What if someone set off a bomb or there was a fire?.” It was a narrow, suffocating place.

On to building 2 where the worst event of the day happened. Even though my bag made it through security in the first courthouse, it failed in courthouse #2. I worried that someone had discovered my treasured penknife, a cherished item I saved from my Dad’s possessions. It’s tiny. The robust security guard asked me to produce my keys. Which I did. “More keys,” she said, “From the bottom of your purse.” I did. Nope, something else, in the bottom.  Oh no, my little red plastic corkscrew for those special occasions when I’m so desperate and nearly willing to chew the cork and glass off the top of a bottle of wine. Purchased from a cute little hardware store in Black Mountain, NC.  Yep, that one. “You can take it back to your car,” she said.  Blocks and blocks away, and the judge was waiting. I handed it over.

Next stop was courtroom #201, very modern, light and efficient looking and the approximate temperature of the meat locker at Kroger. A pleasant girl whom I guessed was a public relations official for the judge took roll and smiled a lot. I liked her, I thought.

My elder partner in crime with the slow husband finally made it into the courtroom where she was clearly upset at the fact that our lawyer was not present.  I was okay with that because I operate most of the time under the motto, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.” I figured I could defend myself, if it came to that.

Slow husband began to read the newspaper and he tried very hard not to make those annoying crinkling sounds by carefully pressing down each page he turned. My obsessive compulsive self wanted to yank it out of his hands and stomp it.  Still no lawyer, but much milling around in the front, near where the judge sat.

I should stop here and describe those of us who were waiting to have our cases heard. But what can I say that you don’t already know? Lots of diversity, mostly black, some Hispanic, few whites. Dress varied from jeans so tight I could see the thong underneath to crocks with socks. Some were way pregnant, some had very young children sitting and whimpering next to them. The young black man or was he a very dark Mexican man? on the bench in front of me had tatoos of little kissy lips snaking up from his shirt collar onto his jawline.

Finally our lawyer, a volunteer, arrives from Durham. She looked dazed. Not a good sign, I thought. She had a young man with her who was also arrested for being at the General Assembly and who, like me and my other compatriot, failed to disperse.

Another lawyer represented yet another of my co-defendants who failed to show. The lawyer explained that there was a wreck on 40. My elder compatriot leaned over and whispered, “Is there ever not a wreck on 40?” She’s not dimwitted, I thought.  The lawyer presented the case for the absent defendant, and all of a sudden, Miss nice smiley girl whom I thought to be in the public relations field turned on him and spouted off the house rules of the General Assembly. Damn, she was the DA and not nice at all.  “No,” she crowed, “The State did not want the defendant returning to the second floor of the General Assembly, where our legislators are doing their business.”  There was a bit of parrying between absent girl’s lawyer and not so nice pretty girl.  The judge seemed kind and asked for a compromise: a written motion. Bingo, lawyer produced it. Pretty girl pored over it, word for word. Took forever but finally an agreement was reached. I knew in my heart that my lawyer didn’t have one of those written motions waiting in the wings.

After about a half hour of a lot of lawyers milling about and snapping and crunching crisp cellophane panes on the front of yellow envelopes, my lawyer stood and approached the mean pretty girl.  She waited her turn patiently and my friend leaned over and said, “Did you see that? She deferred to the blonde woman behind her, and she let her in line.” Nothing got past my partner in crime.

My lawyer conferred with Miss Meanness and then called the young man, the third of we three musketeers, before the judge. It was over in a matter of seconds, with just a little bit of sniping from the DA about the second floor of the General Assembly. Then the lawyer called my elder friend, Ms. Freeman.  The judge looked up and he and I made eye contact. I swear it. He said to my lawyer, “Would you like to bring both Ms. Freeman and Ms. Black to be heard together?” “YES! my heart was singing.”

The lawyer sorta nodded and up I jumped. The judge, by this time, was almost winking at me, I swear it, really. Not in a sexy way but in a “I know a person like you would never get herself into a lot of trouble without a really good reason, kind of way.” He heard the case and when I asked my lawyer about being able to reenter the General Assembly, the judge turned to the DA and said, “Has the State changed its mind in the last 10 minutes?” “No,” Miss pretty girl turned bad said. So the judge instructed my lawyer to draft a motion just like the earlier lawyer had and she looked a little confused. “I’ll help you,” I wanted to shout, but didn’t.

It was all over, just like that. To be continued, next court date October 3.

But wait, there’s more. Just couldn’t get that red corkscrew off my mind. (Did I mention OCD?) I went back to security, and there it was, still resting peacefully between the nailclippers and scissors. I asked nicely if I could have it back. “No,” the security maven snapped. “I can’t lose my job over your corkscrew.” Fair enough, I thought. But what would have happened if I’d just reached down, grabbed it, and run?

Minding Elizabeth

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Stoic, wrote that “Life is like little dogs biting one another.” I thought of that today when I visited the historic Oakwood Cemetary in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina for maybe the twentieth or so time. I began coming to this particular spot on the hillside when I worked nearby in the State government complex and went for walks at lunchtime. I had read the newspaper account of the tragic automobile accident that claimed Wade Edwards’ life and morbid curiosity led me to his grave. There I was awed by the huge angel that clasps Wade’s face in her hands as she pulls him heavenward. She rises, unformed, from a slab of white marble, part stone and part heaven.

So now I am here again, visiting Elizabeth. I was wowed by Johnny Edwards’ good looks and charisma years ago when he spoke to a group of folks at the Poverty Center in Chapel Hill. I attended the kickoff rally at North Carolina State University when he and John Kerry announced their campaign for the Presidency. I found myself actually inspired by  their words of hope that at last, through politics, we could make the world a better place. I was a convert and believer.   That was all pre-Elizabeth’s diagnosis with cancer and pre-Reille. I, like many others, was fascinated by the tabloid drama that played out before our eyes when Reille, Riley, Reale, Really? Hunter caught Johnny’s eye in a bar in New York. When the fall came, I watched with morbid curiosity and disbelief. All those shining images of the two of them, Johnny and Elizabeth, overcoming the terrible grief of losing Wade, smiling and parenting on the campaign trail with their two new little children. It was hopeful. But it wasn’t. It turned ugly and sad. I watched Elizabeth’s funeral service, broadcast from the downtown Edenton Street Methodist Church. It was poignant. I wondered about where she was buried and what marked her gravesite, because it was said that now Elizabeth would join her beloved Wade in Oakwood.

I’ve begun a ritual daily bike ride to Oakwood. It’s quiet, beautiful, and peaceful. It’s safe for me because I’m terrible on a bike and there aren’t many cars.  Sometimes I sit on the granite bench in front of the angel sculpture, where Elizabeth sat in life and read the high school required reading to Wade in death . There’s a small marble slab that’s new. It bears a fitting inscription to Elizabeth, and was placed there by her brother and sister . You’d miss it if you weren’t looking.  A small faded silk hydrangea tilts to one side in its plastic pot. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the site looks abandoned and forlorn.

I thought I’d sit on the bench this morning and think about life and come to a major decision. Then I laughed aloud and realized there were no more major decisions to make, I’d pretty much made them all.  That’s when it occurred to me, there among all those dead, that the stuff of life really rests on all those little decisions we make on a daily, hourly, even minute by minute basis. I believe Elizabeth realized this, and it may help us all to remember it.   That’s why I like the quote by Marcus Aurelius. Life IS like little dogs biting one another.

Building a chicken coop

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Photographic chronology of building the chicken coop.



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