soulshine

Now that we are real empty nesters we are thankful that our children’s “nests” aren’t too far away. Last year we had gotten in the habit of meeting for dinner together 3-4 times a month, just to touch base and to enjoy each other’s company.

During the week of Valentine’s Day 2014, we had chosen to eat at Soulshine Pizza in Nashville. My husband and I had never been there before, so we all decided to meet at our daughter Beth’s home and ride together.

For once I was thinking ahead and decided it would be a great time to schedule our summer trip to the beach. Knowing that I would be retiring at the end of the school year, I checked the dates in August after the rates dropped from their summer high dollar mark. I had two weeks selected for us to choose from, and planned to return home that night to make our reservations.

When we all arrived at Beth and Jamie’s house I was anxious to talk about the week at the beach, which seemed so far removed from the cold bleak days we were having at that time. But when I started, Beth suggested we head on to the restaurant. After we got there and ordered, the next order of business was to exchange the small presents we had for each other in honor of Valentines Day.

Here is the precious gift that our daughter and her husband gave us:

baby announcement

They had been married 7 ½ years, and we had always hoped for grandchildren, but we knew better than to ask. There had been a bit more talk of it from them lately, but honestly, this took us totally by surprise.

We were completely thrilled and overwhelmed with trying to grasp this blessing that God had given our family. There were hugs and tears all around and joy filled us deep inside.

Then Beth said, “So we’ll still have to go early to the beach this year before the rates drop, since I can’t travel towards the end of the pregnancy.” Ha! I had totally forgotten my vacation planning. Such a minor detail in this grand scheme of things.

Now it is February once again and my thoughts turn from these cold days to the warmth of a trip to the beach. This time we will have another family member to plan around. What a joy!

photo 2

By the way the pizza we had after the big news that night was delicious. And what better spot than a place called “Soulshine”?

persistently consistent

I have always said that an important part of being a parent – and also the hardest thing about being a parent (or a teacher) – is being consistent.

Important because all living things thrive on routine and regular expectations.

Hard because those same living things fight against those regular habits and long to break free – either to find something new or to do nothing at all.

A while back I got all fired up about returning to my writing. There had been many distractions – I will write about them in separate posts – but I felt that the time was right for a return to writing, and consequently a return to having that feeling of discovering (uncovering) the real me. I have learned that the key is to be consistent and persistent in writing – write every day – and I had not been doing that.

SO a return to that pattern sounded good to me. I had even promised to share a good example of consistency in my next post, but sadly that didn’t happen. Today when I looked back for that post, I was shocked to see that it came from APRIL of last year!!!

But now it is time. Now – over the river and through the woods – I’m b-a-a-a-a-c-k- and hoping that I can truly be more regular in my writing! Hopefully, better late than never…

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Our neighbors at the lake have a steep back yard just like we do. Unlike us, though, they have a tram to ride on down the hill to the water for easier access.

stone stair replacement

But they also have an older route. Years ago someone laid a stone stairway from their house to the ramp that goes to their boathouse.

stone stairs side

I cannot even begin to imagine the work that was required to put that stairway in place.

To begin with (I can only guess), the builders had to locate the stone and cut it into blocks of fairly equal sizes, with at least one level side for the top of the tread. Unlike carving wood, however, these rocks were heavy and solid and strong. No doubt they offered much resistance to the stonecutters.

Then the foundation had to be dug for the placement of the stones. Of a certain width, and a predetermined depth, and shaped in a sort of staircase of dirt, to fit each stone in the right position. And this is not a short passage.

stone stairway

Working with these materials on a level plain would be hard enough. Navigating the slope, starting at bottom (with no steps yet to carry materials down), made every action twice as hard. The builders had to insure that each step was level and secure, and that each one made a steady foundation for the ones to be laid on top. Step after step, up and up, settling into a pattern of permanence for years to come.

Our lake has many properties with such stairways. But of course few are used any more. It takes a lot of effort to climb such a stairway. And the original ones had no handrails for support, though some have been added more recently. Now other methods, such as trams and winding paths or roads, are used instead.

It would take an almost equal amount of effort to remove these steps as it did to set them in place long ago. So the stairways endure. They remain locked in place, still offering a safe passageway, more often for small animal paws than for human feet. They gather moss, and lichens, and plant debris, and they do not erode or shift.

Isn’t this an encouraging metaphor for consistency and persistency? No matter the weather, the stones remain. Even when seemingly irrelevant, the stones persist in their duty. Still they linger, and time has no meaning to them.

And through this consistent persistence, the stones live on. They provide a space for new life to take hold, assured in the fact that this is a safe place, something to depend on. Forming a link from the past to the future. Carrying on.

stone stair closeup

 

 

a longing

Recently I was out on a wintry day and I noticed workers braving that cold and doing, of all things, landscaping work in preparation for spring.

They were mulching, and digging out old plants, and putting in hearty pansies for color, and trimming back the growth on leggy bushes, and work such as that. Of course they were wrapped in layers of warmth, so thick it must have been difficult to bend or move easily. They often huddled together, to discuss their work, no doubt. Sometimes you couldn’t see their faces as they were covered to keep out the cold. Premature? I wondered. Is winter that close to being part of the past?

Yet seeing this made me remember that it IS February, and I reminded my husband that we have to cut back the monkey grass this month (before the new shoots come up) as we always do. And I looked at our own crepe myrtles and thought, “The next warmer day I will get out there and cut those back, too.”

Also, I have read back through some of my writing in past years and noted how often I wrote about the coming of spring, and my impatience for its arrival, and the signs that give us hope for the coming warmer days. Was that overkill I wondered? Much ado about not-so-much? Shouldn’t I take what is here for the present and rest in the knowledge that, in time, spring will come?

Of course our winter so far had been relatively mild. Our highs were usually in the 40’s, interspersed with that tease of a day that hit 60 or even 70 degrees. With weather like that it is easy to think that winter isn’t so bad after all, and spring isn’t too far away.

But now we are in the midst of a wicked ice storm, layering our streets and ground with a thick crust of cold and slickness. The birds and squirrels seek shelter out of the wind and out of sight. Those eager buds on some plants will be history now, and the green spots on the lawn will become brown once again. Perhaps some of that yard work was premature, but hopefully not damaging in the long run.

So now I remember and feel deep within that longing for warmer days, for signs of life, and for the feeling that the world is awake and not sleeping. And again I hold on to the hope:

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

sympathy and empathy

Recently there have been scenes on the news because of the winter storms those places are experiencing and the huge snow amounts they have received. Each time I have seen this on the TV I have thought how glad I am not to be there, in those areas. The older I get the more I appreciate warm weather.

When I was younger I loved the peaceful sight of snow covered ground. I still value those scenes, but now I have a better understanding of the hardships that can be caused by such weather.

As a teacher I ruthlessly wished for snow – enough to get us out of school for the ever-longed-for snow day. Sometimes – most times – that was a selfish request, not considering what slippery roads meant for those who did not have their work cancelled due to inclement weather.

This year, even though I have retired, I have still longed for snow. For the beauty of it, and for a day off for my former colleagues. But I have not wanted it too much or too intensely. Things change…. I have had sympathy for those who are in the Midwest and Northeast, suffering through, literally, tons of snow.

Today, instead, I have empathy for those folks, because today, in southern middle Tennessee, we are in a mess. Today the predicted snowstorm has materialized instead as ice – sleet and freezing rain, pellets that bounce and beat the windows and accumulate to look like snow but produce a much more dangerous surface for driving and walking. The downtown area of our small town was without power for a while, and there have been numerous wrecks on the slippery streets.

icy branch

Where once I felt sorry for those folks experiencing tough weather, I now lament with them for the hazards we are all experiencing.

It will only get worse tonight.

icy branch night

May we all stay safe and warm.