the county fair

Several years ago our community resumed an old tradition – the county fair. It had been discontinued for several years, but a group of civic minded (and agriculture supporting) leaders decided to bring it back. It has been a big success, setting record crowds year after year. It has become a marker for the end of summer, and the beginning of harvest, and of school, and of cooler weather.

However, held the first week of August each year, it has often been so hot that it was hard to imagine even a nighttime stroll down the midway. And our household finds this a busy time with school starting back and annual meetings in my husband’s company. So, all that to say, we had not ever been to the county fair. The lure of the ferris wheel lights has called to us from the interstate, but the line of traffic has kept  us away.

This year however was different. The weather is strangely cooler this summer, and we found ourselves home from the lake one weekend with a few hours to spare. So off to the fair we went. We drooled over the prize winning foods, admired the beautiful quilts and other handwork, listened to the 4-H cake auction, marveled at how the rides seemed smaller than we remembered them from years gone by, and enjoyed watching people along the way.

There were funnel cakes, frozen lemonade, and even cotton candy. And there were games of skill where we could have won (?) a giant monkey. But we passed all those by. We didn’t even play skee ball, which is one of my childhood favorites. But it was fun being surrounded by all those childhood memories.

One exhibit caught our eye but we passed it by the first time because it was set up as a hands-on walk-through for children to experience farm life. Thank goodness we went back and had fun watching others’ children pick apples, shell corn, and pet the animals. Everyone who goes to the fair agrees that this is the best area for all ages to participate in.

As we were leaving we walked by the show ring and saw that calves were being shown then by teen agers. It was fascinating. This world was foreign to me- the clean and brushed calves, the children in western attire and working cowboy boots, the belly-scratching poles used to keep the animals complacent as they stood still. I was enthralled by the way those showing kept their eyes constantly on the judge in the center of the ring (possibly to prove they could handle the animal without looking at it?) Quite a crowd had gathered so we settled in, standing behind the fence, in rapt attention.

It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, though. Once I saw the first class and understood what the judge was looking for, I picked the winner the next several times. My husband, who has far more agricultural background and knowledge than I do, was amazed. “But it’s about the showmanship,” I told him. Sometimes I had the blue ribbon chosen as soon as they all walked into the ring. I told him what I was noticing and he started to catch on as well.

calf show ring

I did miss the call on the last one, though. I was trying so hard to pick between two girls that were both talented yet each with their own drawback that I missed the real winner. And he was probably the most impressive of all the rounds. His calf was twice as big as him, yet he had the style and the heart to show who was really in control.

I hope we get to go back to the fair next year. I will check the schedule for the show ring when we first go through the gate.

it is still summer at the lake

In our town it is definitely time for school – you see the signs everywhere. Back to school ads fill newspapers and commercial minutes. The big yellow buses are rolling every morning and afternoon…

But it is still summer at the lake:

   Iridescent dragonflies light briefly and weightlessly,

   Minnow ripples move across the water,

          hinting of fish swimming in harmony beneath the surface,

   Herons sit in frozen concentration on docks and shores, waiting…


   Fish jump high and splash often, just beyond the places where you watch,

  Turtles poke heads above water and stretch out legs below for a

          sunlight warmup

   Ducks are skimming the water and – suddenly – diving beneath


Back home students wear new tennis shoes and carry backpacks with working zippers – no rips or holes, yet. Alarms sound earlier each morning…


But it is still summer at the lake:

  A mother teaches daughter to balance and paddle the YOLO board

            in the cove

  The paddleboating sisters are checking for turtles in the shallow water

            and for neighbors on docks for chats,

  An older couple backs their cruiser out of the boathouse,

            loaded with lounge chairs and refreshments for a sunset cruise

  A father weaves his boat ahead of his towing load behind –

            the tube holds squealing daughters and their friends

  Boathouses continue their creaking and moaning,

           screeching and groaning,

            moving with the waves and the wind.



Back in town homework fills the nighttime hours and lunches are packed for the day ahead. Bedroom lights are turned off earlier and new schedules are filled into charts and committed to memory.


But it is still summer at the lake:

  Bullfrogs create their nightly symphonies

  Wisps of smoke from firepits filled with fallen branches

              dawdle in the evening air

  Aromas from grills make mouths water

               for a taste of sizzling hamburgers

  Fireflies continue to light the night, still lingering

             in this surprisingly cool summer

  Low voltage lighting outlines paths to the water,

             otherwise hidden now by evening darkness

  Night birds are calling, telling their secrets and gossip

            to feathered friends,

  Deer nibble away the new growth on bushes,

            and raccoons scavenge for tidbits of trash,

  Moths are swooping and swarming,

            surrounding windows and lights on the porch


In town the establishment of routines becomes reality and to-do lists take over thought processes. Creativity and relaxation are memories of a distant time.


But it is still summer at the lake:

 Fans circulate breezes on the screened porch

 Wind chimes hint of outdoor early morning breezes

 Sunlight sparkles in shimmering points on the late afternoon waves

 Moonlight dances across the nighttime ripples

 Boats skim across the surface, jet skis spray their plumes

             in loops and circles

 Feet dangle off docks and fish take the bait in those trusty fishing holes

 Clouds drift lazily by



the height of celebration

This year my husband Wayne and I celebrated our 35th anniversary. It is hard to believe that many years have passed in our marriage. We feel blessed with family, friends, and many years together.

Last year my aunt and uncle celebrated their 70th anniversary. They have been married twice as long as we have.  Now that’s an accomplishment! They have also been retired almost as long as I have been working… but that’s another story.

Our anniversary (August 12th) falls at a very busy time. For years we had children getting ready to go back to school during this same week. Not to mention me, the teacher, preparing for a new school start. This time of year my husband has two large meetings for his work, too. And my husband and daughter share the same birthday just four days later, August 16th.

So some years we have celebrated briefly, or at another time, or with a simple dinner out together. But ten years ago, on our twenty-fifth anniversary, we decided to do a little something more. We took a hot air balloon ride.


This was totally my idea, and that is ironic, since I am scared to death of heights. But it was something I had always wanted to do, and Wayne was excited about it too, so we decided to go for it.

I enjoyed reading Margaret’s description of her trip last week. I had forgotten some of the details of the set-up needed for lift off, but her words and pictures brought it all back to me. What I remember most are the feelings of nervousness, excitement, freedom and delight.

The lift off was smooth and seemed effortless. Our basket was large – there were three other couples, the pilot, and a friend of his – a total of ten people. Interestingly, two of the other couples were also celebrating anniversaries (although not as many years as us). One of them brought wine, cheese, and crackers to celebrate, and they generously shared with us all. The fourth couple made it a very special day – he actually proposed to her on the balloon ride! So it was a very happy day for us all.

As you know the balloon moves with the wind, so you as a rider, don’t feel the breeze. It seemed magical, rather wizard-of-ozish, to be moving so quietly above roads, houses, and fields. The familiar took on a new perspective when viewed from this angle. Given the choice, we decided to travel up, up, up, and saw our corner of the world from a mile high. And yet, not once was I ever afraid.

When it was time to land, our pilot chose a neighborhood near our home. As we descended, boys and girls came running, adults stared and waved, and we briefly felt like someone important as everyone nearby rushed to greet us. The mother of one of our daughter’s friends was working in her yard, and we called her name as we came down. She told her husband, “They know me!” and he just rolled his eyes – until she later said, “I told you they were calling my name.”

We had a great ride but it was all over too soon. I am thankful we had that adventure, though. It was a great way to celebrate the years together that have also flown by.

morning walk

each silent step,

moving through the mist –

the pathway divides, then

seals up behind


the fog is thick


familiar territory,

yet transformed…

a predawn walk in blurry darkness

circles of familiar sights,

spotlighted by lampposts


high above

another circle

surrounds the fingernail moon


cool dampness seeping …

around, between, and into

clothes, bones, and thoughts


a solid wall with secret passages

yet …

a beam of light shows

mist moving in the glow



A gracious friend in my book club has a lovely lake house where she hosted our June gathering. We were treated to her hospitality of delicious food, gorgeous views, warm sun, pop-up showers and storms seen from a protective screened porch, comfortable beds, and special times of friendship. What a lovely way to spend summer days!

At times like these we often let our guard down and share our innermost thoughts and dreams. One of our single friends revealed that she would like to find a different house before she retires. We thought about several options and places for her to consider.

On our way home the next day, a friend and I decided to take a different exit and drive through one of those neighborhoods that we had suggested to our friend, who was also riding with us. The three of us saw that there are several new homes that looked so nice and would be just the right size and price for her to consider. We drove down several streets multiple times just to get a good feel for the place. My friend that was driving commented that the people there would wonder who we were and what we were doing going around in circles like we were.

Then the daughter of the friend who was driving sent a text: Where are you? There are tornado warnings in south Franklin. That is just where we were. We had noticed some dark clouds but nothing too concerning. Another message: The storms are moving through the Goose Creek exit on I-65 now. We were just south of there. That is the exit we would normally have taken had we not been touring this neighborhood.

We weren’t sure whether to stay or go, but the school where I teach was very close, so we decided to drive towards home and pull in there if we needed to. Along the way we saw some frightening clouds in an ominous sky, but we were driving in a direction away from the storms – so we kept going.

After we dropped off our friend we saw the most eerie sight beside the road. Three vultures were standing in a line on the ground, facing away from the road, with their wings spread wide. I wish I had made a picture, but I did find this one (even though it is in a tree):

vulture spreading wings

Imagine seeing three lined up like that. Creepy! What did they know that we didn’t? We took it as a storm warning, although I have since read that is how they often dry their wings. Perhaps, unlike us, they had gotten caught in the storm. Nevertheless, we continued to hurry home, even though we were in full sunshine by then.

The next day my principal shared this image that was taken off the deck at her home – in the same neighborhood where we dropped off our friend:



I have told several people that although we were clueless, our Gps was working well that day – GOD’S positioning system. I firmly believe that He guided us through that storm – or more accurately steered us away from it. Had we not taken a different exit to go look at houses we would have driven right into this dangerous weather. How lucky – how blessed – we were.