My grandfather was born and raised on his family’s farm in south central Georgia.  I imagine in his early years he lived similarly to my children, in that he probably spent a great deal of time outdoors.  He developed a fascination with reptiles – turtles and snakes specifically.  It was a lifelong enthusiasm that knew few boundaries (there are some stories to tell here).

He remembered for us a story of a playmate from his neighborhood who moved to Florida.  When she returned for a visit, he asked her what it was like down there.  She remarked on the abundance of snakes and turtles, and it planted a seed in his mind that Florida was a place he would like to live someday.

So, years later, when he was in medical school at Emery University and met my grandmother with her sweet way of saying “yeah-yuh” and family in south Florida, he knew he had found his path to paradise.  When she agreed to his engagement proposal one winter’s day, he ran outside in his shorts and bare feet and celebrated in the snow, so the story goes.

aren't they lovely?

aren’t they lovely?

He and my Nana went AWOL while they were serving as medics (he was a doctor, she a nurse) in WW2.  They took off for some beautiful spot in France and got married.  And they stayed that way (not in France, or AWOL, but married for sure) for more than 65 years – the rest of their long lives.

My grandfather really loved life.  He liked to explore.  He drove fast.  He learned to fly an airplane, and flew regularly.  He rowed and sailed on little Lake Isis, where he and Nana lived in central Florida, and took an annual Christmas day dip in the lake, always emerging refreshed, saying he “felt better already”.

flying themselves out to Wyoming to visit their son...

flying themselves out to Wyoming to visit their son…

He also loved to serve.  He was a family physician in the small Florida town where they lived – and that was his entire career.  Each and every time I visited my grandparents in their “home town”, we would go out to eat or make a shopping excursion around town.  It was unavoidable that at least one person, and probably more than one, would walk up to me and pat me on the shoulder with a statement such as… “Well, hunny, you must be Sally Beth’s little girl!  Your grandfather delivered ALL my babies!”.  There’s an official number somewhere on record, no doubt, but I have been told by reliable sources that my grandfather assisted the births of over 2,000 babies over the years.  He probably attended to the final illnesses of many of the townspeople as well.  He was a family doctor, the way that family doctors used to be.

In his final days, he continued, in his dreamy, drifting way, to sew stitches and do the occasional surgery, asking my mother to find someone’s file for him, years and miles away.

And he loved his family. He was a generous and loving grandfather.  Even though we sometimes fumbled in our understanding of each others’ worlds, there was never a doubt that he loved us all faithfully, so much.

this is a funny picture - but look at his smile!

i can’t stand my fuzzy hair – but look at his smile!

As a child, my grandparents’ Florida home was a magical place.  The house was large and full of dusty, fascinating family relics, and the grounds were a jungle of flower and fruit, with the lake sparkling, beckoning in the background.  I remember getting lost in the tangerine tree branches, eating so many tart and sweet fruits, the tremendous variety of texture and flavor, and the amazement of finding my first ripe mulberry.  It felt like Eden sometimes.  Until I met some fire ants, anyway.sam and pat in yard

Nana and Grandpa left their personal paradise nearly ten years ago, when it became clear that they could not maintain their house and grounds, themselves, without assistance.  I’m sure it was difficult for them.  But they made the most of it, and I am grateful that they came here, close to us.  It was precious, to have four generations, together.  They became GG (Great Grandpa) and Big Nana (which is funny cause she was a tiny little old lady) to Lulah.  Nana passed away when Levon was a tiny babe.  It has been difficult, since then especially, to watch my Grandpa slowly fade.11-21-10 002

My mother has tended to him faithfully, beautifully, and I have learned so much from watching her about graceful change in the course of life.  The approach of death is as trans-formative a process as the approach of birth.  The energetic charge of it is different, but no less powerful.  With birth, we make room for this new person in the fabric of our family.  With death, we absorb the memories, the life story, of our elder into us, then bind ourselves closer to those we love, to close the hole that they make with their departure.

Rest in peace, Grandpa.  Thank you for your great love.  We love you too.sam and pat on trolley

out there

{First off, friends, I just want to say a word about this lovely new artwork on the blog’s header. Awesome, huh? It was created by our sweet friend, Hannah. One of the sweetest people on the planet. I feel so lucky to have her as my closest neighbor. She’s a mighty talented person. We all thank you so much Hannah!}IMG_8521The stars this evening were pure magic. I went outside after the rest of the family was tucked snugly in their beds and oh, my, those stars. No other lights to be seen. Not in any direction. Just the darkness filled with glitter. Who needs party dresses when you can step naked out the back door and be clothed by all those shimmering stars?

I went out into the world today. The first time in a while. I can go for very long spells without leaving the farm. I feel best surrounded by trees, or sheep. But I needed some apples and chocolate. What a woman will do for chocolate. Geez. I actually bought some frozen pizza, too. I’ve never done that before. I figured a peace-offering to the kids for allowing me to fly solo might be a nice gesture. They all agreed to stay home and split wood with Papa. Well, maybe they didn’t agree necessarily. Maybe they were not given an option. Town trips with three side-kicks are rarely smooth. But they were thrilled with the pizza. It would have been awful if we hadn’t topped it with our own hamburger, roasted red peppers, pesto, and minced hot peppers and garlic. There’s my forgiveness.IMG_8528

There were a few other things I needed in town, too, but I can’t talk about those things right now. Some one might hear. I keep my secrets. My kids can’t stand how good I am at keeping secrets.

So, when I make a foray into town, I can function for a spell in the midst of the current, blending in. Only for a spell, though. And maybe I don’t blend in at all because I don’t have a device in my hand. Am I the only person that is not talking on the phone, texting, or browsing the internet while I shop? (When I was in college, the internet was in its infancy and cell phones were behemoth things only for the rich and famous. That has not even been twenty years and now look at us. Some say “progress” but I’m not convinced.) I mean really. I find shopping in stores overwhelming enough as it is, but to then try to hold a conversation while reading labels and navigating the myriad options? Goodness. Sure, I understand that cell phones and such have their place in our modern world… but all the time? Constantly? Really?IMG_8536

And another thing. I have cow shit on my boots. Perpetually. Even my “good” boots show the signs of my true existence. I did go so far as to put on a clean pair of pants, but there is dirt under my never-manicured fingernails and my hair probably smells like Lilly where I lean into her as I milk. I wonder if any other person in the store started their day off by milking a cow? Probably not, which is so unfortunate. It’s such a lovely way to start the day.

But the clock ticks and the crowds start to overwhelm me. So does the stuffy grocery store with blaring music and too many options and fluorescent lights and people perpetually in a hurry. Running, running, running in the hamster wheel. While texting.

Just like everyone else, I suppose I’m in a hurry, too. A hurry to get home to the trees. The sheep. The stars. My forest children. My husband that smells like wood smoke and clean air and chainsaw oil all at the same time. I’m in a hurry to get to the place where cell service still doesn’t quite reach.

I know where I belong.IMG_8537

hands on. hats.

Tis the season… for hats. I’ve found a new pattern, for a balaclava, that I’m a little obsessed with. I made one for Eric first, because he was in need of something just like this… close-fitting, not bulky, warm, and versatile. Kind of like a good pair of long underwear. He can wear the hat alone, but it’s stream-lined enough to put an additional hat or hood over the top of for an extra layer of warmth. The hat can be worn many ways, too. It can be worn as it was designed to be worn, as a combo neck and head warmer. But, it can also be folded up to wear as a simple hat. You can also pull the neck part up over your face to block the wind, which is perfect for when he tools around in the golf cart or on the tractor. IMG_8560IMG_8561

I found myself so envious of Eric’s hat, that I just had to make one for myself as well. I wore it for the first time this morning when I went to milk Lilly, and it was just perfect. IMG_8544IMG_8545IMG_8542IMG_8551

And then, we have the most prolific hat maker in the household… Opal. She can whip out hats at a fairly brisk pace. And they are all of her own design. She improvises as she goes. Sometimes they fit, sometimes they don’t. But when they don’t fit her just like she wants, she quickly decides who the lucky recipient of her creations will be. I have a feeling that our dear friends and neighbors, Jesse and Hannah, who are expecting their first child very soon, will never be short on hats for their new baby. IMG_8509IMG_8550IMG_8552One can never have too many hats!!!! And I think Sparrow might be a little jealous of Opal’s fashion statement…