The Home Front

EnchantedFairyHouse2

I never intended to raise a house full of girls. In fact, I think I can remember several occasions where I apologized for not giving my husband a boy to carry on his name. His answer was, “Have you SEEN my side of the family? We’re good.”

Be that as it may, just because there were females under the roof does NOT mean that there was a quiet, happy joy within the walls. Nope. No doubt there are Marine barracks full of rowdy males that were QUIETER and more sanitary than our home. From “fairy houses” of sticks, stones and mud to chickens (yes, I said CHICKENS) and the occasional kitten, there was always some sort of Chaos bubbling just under the surface of what appeared to be normalcy.

From birth, my girls were just itching to be into everything. Not a single one of them waited until their first birthday to walk, no run. At about 6 months, the urge to merge into bipedal freedom rose up along with their diapered little backsides. By 9 months of age, it was time to grab onto the curtains and cruise the furniture until “SURPRISE!” balance and locomotion made that little connection and it was time to run Mother ragged with squeals of glee and baby chuckles.

The firstborn had 3 acres and a pecan tree stump to wander over as she toddled into childhood from infancy. Not that she didn’t find enough mischief to get into; but dandelions were so much FUN to blow into her Papaw’s beautifully manicured St. Augustine lawn. A span of 8 years and then she had a sibling to join in on the domestic affairs, but Kat, the middle child, decided that living in the cupboards with the pots and pans was infinitely more enjoyable than just blowing dandelions into the manicured greens of the townhouse community we lived in.

Two years later and the last of the Celtic Warrior Queens Reincarnate came aboard just in time to celebrate with fireworks, watermelon and 100 degree temperatures in a very rural setting. We welcomed our first Great Pyrenees into our lives at the same time and of course he aided and abetted the baby’s first steps. What child could resist all that long white fur and gentle nature?

It appeared that the stage was set then, for all the antics and memorable moments to come. The move back into city life and the tiny apartment that barely managed to contain all the life within. The Yule tree that came with its own Squirrel; which didn’t reveal itself until the Dane was cutting off the 8 inches off the top to make it fit and managed to cut off the tip of his thumb when the squirrel made a panicked attempt at retreat down his body length. It gets better, the squirrel managed to find a way OUT of the apartment under the kitchen sink, but not without disturbing the bat that was sleeping/hibernating in the exit. When the sink door was opened to retrieve the dishwasher detergent, the bat fled the confines of the cabinet and all females of the household ran screaming for the relative safety of the master bedroom. This left Sir Bloody Thumb to capture the menace and expel such from the dwelling, immediately with no further assistance from the royal residents. You could almost HEAR his wish to fly free with the creature as he released it into the clear blue skies of a Texas twilight from the bat capturing shoebox.

The next move came with a backyard, an 8 foot privacy fence and a beautiful willow tree. It also came with the youngest daughters being ever-so-eager to go camping disappearing into the dark of a Yuletide Eve with a laundry bucket, their pillows, cans of food, but “No sharp knives, Mama!” The local constabulary were left with a Christmas story and had them all chuckling into their coffees the next morning as the paperwork was written and filed. There are also pictures of children wallowing in the mud of a drainage ditch where the only way their parent could discern lineage was by the blue of their eyes. Mad posse’s of children on bicycles when they weren’t at the neighborhood elementary also framed these years; as did the first of many sleepovers with children piled into heaps of air mattresses and blankets on my living room floor. This was where the practice of counting heads for pancakes began on those Sunday mornings way back when.

The next move would be marked by fields of bluebonnets accompanied by a little Welsh Corgi that had joined the household before the previous move, but now he was in his true element as the duplex bordered on a cattle holding. Retrieving Gizmo would become a household chore until a sane way of bolstering the fence line could be established.

Then, the eldest child graduated high school and was about to discover college. Time, it seemed had flown by all too quickly. True, there were two more daughters to get through the system, but this event telescoped the eventual happenings for the younger children. Once more, it was time to move. This time, into a house.

We were to lease/purchase a beautiful, two story home on what appeared to be a quiet cul de sac. Never doubt that appearances are deceiving, especially on a deal that seemed too good to be true. But, this was the house where the youngest child would set the sofa on fire with her laptop’s power brick and send her sisters screaming “FIRE” into our once quiet bedroom. This would be the home and final resting place for “Midnight- the Wonder Chicken.” This would be the home for what would become the starting set of kittens that grew into the “Crazy Cat Lady’s Starter Kit” I now know, love, feed and protect. This would be the home wherein I would watch a 20 pound Corgi ‘tree’ a 190 lb. electric meter reader up a 12 ft. oak sapling. This would also be the home that we would lose because of the shiftless, worthless lying greed of a ‘real estate investor’ and his inability to make the mortgage payments we’d been sending him for over 4 years.

I’d planted roses here, raised young girls into young ladies who attended their first proms here. Welcomed with open arms the eldest child back into the fold when a lying consort had beaten her and crushed her dreams. I planted morning glories and moonglow vines. I’d established an herb garden on the front porch, had plans to paint the bedrooms, created our first office, and managed to find a job that I could hang onto during the worst economic environment since the Great Depression. Now, with a single knock at the door and a visit from a confused Wells Fargo representative, it was going to be gone. Where was I going to shelter my daughters?

It all turned out better in the end, in its own way. Cat’s Paw Acres is not much; just 2.5 acres and a singlewide mobile home with a built on addition and a HUGE back porch, all covered by a wonderfully massive tin roof. In the past 5 years, we’ve made incredible memories here; the middle daughter’s High School graduation, but not before that fateful morning one late April afternoon when she received her acceptance letter into Cornell College. Then there was Batu, the wedding anniversary yak (an Anatolian Shepherd/Great Pyrenees puppy) who grew into a 150 lbs of lap dog. And last, the youngest daughter asking to go live with her godfather in California, thinking that he wouldn’t be as restrictive as Mom and Dad.

Before I knew it, the homestead is quiet. I can hear the winds sigh through the ash tree, the crepe myrtles, and the ligustrums. I’ve perfected the art of watching grass grow. I miss the insanity of having children underfoot. I miss waking up to piles of children between the Dane and myself. But I’m beginning to understand the term ‘golden years’ because like the golden light of autumn, while there may be some bad memories back then, they’ve faded with the light of happier times.

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Ghosts of Gustatory Gesso

Samhain 2

The seasonal Gods have decided to bless us with unseasonably cooler weather than most native Texans are used to. Yes, it’s a standing joke/sad fact that any weather that takes the temps below 50 degrees Fahrenheit sounds a statewide weather emergency, and ice of any form will shut down Texas completely. To me, it opens the memory vaults where family recipes are stored and comfort foods of every occasion come out begging to be reborn on the table and palate. As the cats of the farm know, when Mama starts building cold weather nooks and crannies, it’s time to look forward to the organ meat rich gravies added to the kitty kibble.

I finally got the time to view the movie “The 100-foot Journey” yesterday. My heart sang when, in the opening there was the reference to the ghosts created in the process. It’s a simple Truth; in order to eat/cook something must die. We honor the spirit of that sacrificed when we appreciate the meal. Let me taste your food, listen to your music and bathe in the laughter of your people. In this way, I will know your people. To those who can appreciate the wine or brewed spirits of an area are reserved the remains of sunnier days, sunshine in a bottle so to speak. If we wish to truly educate our children, we let them taste the happiness of a beloved relative’s home-cooked meal. We must expose them to a pot-luck supper created by close friends. We share the joys of a family reunion with all the legendary dishes and recipes that are guarded as closely as the hand stitched quilts and handmade furniture.

This morning, it was quite chilly and all the cats were gathered in the living room cuddled together on the sofa and the old blanket stretched out there just for their comfort. They sent a spokes cat, Luufy, to cry at the door in order to awaken the Giver of All Things Yummy. I wasn’t going to stir; the hubby was a wonderful radiator of body heat and the delicious luxuriousness of naked skin. Luufy’s insistent cries at the door became more and more plaintive and with a grumble I woke to slide toes into slippers and arms into a robe. The slight breeze carried the scent of woodsmoke, and my mind went instantly back to childhood when that scent was reminiscent of the bacon rashers and ham quarters being readied for the holiday table. The memories of buttermilk drop biscuits being pulled fresh and fluffy from the oven and the jeweled delights of muscadine grape jelly jars being released from the depths of the panty spring from my mind as fresh as the frigid morning they arrived on the breakfast table.

I have a mother’s instinct that tells me that not long from now, I will be hearing from my children. Their requests for Mama’s recipes for dishes that bring them comfort while far from home will make me both happy and sad because I know of the valuable memories created with the sacred ties of an apron’s strings. I remember the magic that begins with the crack of an egg, the careful measurement of ingredients, the steady hand on a whisk, spoon or fork. The sense of accomplishment that is created by the removal of the perfectly done creation just beyond an oven’s door or under the lid of the stew pot on the stove. The incense of love that wafts through the house because of the joy cooking in the kitchen.

It is only apt that the so-called “Holiday Season” is marked by the arrival of a day intended to honor our beloved dead. It is truly their memories we invoke when we recreate their recipes on the canvas of our family’s hearts and memory. Perhaps, in this very simple way we can school our very errant attentions to the importance of “Be ye mindful.”

Gentle hugs, everyone. From my hearth at Cat’s Paw Acres to yours – wherever your heart finds you; may the blessings of happy memories being made and joy-filled feasts grace your life and the lives of those you love.

Transitions into Winter

I wrote the following about 2 weeks before the world as I knew it exploded into a Chaos of ICU and cognitive therapy. I was in that stage of life that a mother reaches when her children are in far-flung places creating their own lives, and she is left with the leftovers; forgotten socks, discarded shoes, and well-read books in unexpected places.

In late October, the sun stretches shadows in the afternoon into shaded hues of mauve and purple that contract with the sere and faded grasses of summer. It could be a melancholy symphony, or a simple reminder that life as we know it goes on, and in each stage we have our part to play. However, some of us have forgotten to accept the role with dignity and grace; we want to dance with our darker selves in the shadow of another life.

This poem describes my transition into the acceptance from the sorrow of leaving what was, because it no longer exists. If you ever wonder what whispers in the heart of a woman walking into her later years, perhaps this will illumine you.

France Autumn

When the Sun is Long – a poem by Rhae Camdyn
My children dance all on their own
In sun gold fields long overgrown.
My beloved tarries in his mind
And thinks I care not for his time.
My hand wanders over ancient craft
The needles plied thru weave and waft;
The days stretch out in times’ sweet song
Like shadows when the sun is long.
The house is silent with memories full
Cobwebs hidden from duster’s pull,
The bookcase stands with sentient tomes
That summon comfort in our home.
The kitchen waits its’ daily rhymes
Of coffee, tea and toaster time;
The tumbled cares of forks and tongs
Like shadows when the sun is long.
Outside the garden grown is spent
Remembered color, shapes and scent.
The trees with whispered windy breath
Now speak of cold and icy death.
The lawn stretches toward a paler shade
A stem of grass, forgotten blade;
The rake now moves to right all wrong
Like shadows when the sun is long.
And now I turn to find the dawn
Beyond the shadows when the sun is long.

My Brother’s Keeper

Some time back I wrote this piece while ‘learning’ about blogging and the fact that the Evil Day Job was a soul-killer. There are so many other ways for us to ‘lose our way’ and I was awakened this morning with the inspiration that today, Veteran’s Day, of all days, was a perfect gateway to re-blog what I’d written earlier. The memory this brings forward still shakes/stuns my soul; never have I just suddenly been brought to tears by another’s plight so nakedly shown before me. The plight of America’s veterans (and I include myself in that category) is an ugly gaping, festering wound within our society. Not unlike the metaphor, if attended to properly that wound may leave a scar but the patient is still intact and functional. If allowed to fester without proper attention, it can become a deadly infection that can kill and or spread disease to another.  We were once admonished by those older and wiser than ourselves that we are “Our Brother’s Keeper.”  Let us not forget.

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He sat there on a milk crate, bundled up against the north wind on a street corner in the bright winter sunshine of a Texas February noon. At his feet was his obviously beloved Golden Retriever; the animal nestled as close to his master as he could sit, furry face turned up to watch every move, every breath.  In the hands of this man was a sign that went straight into my consciousness; a cannon blast of lettering that overwhelmed me and sank my gut with the wave of helpless compassion it generated.  “Homeless With Cancer – Anything Helps.”  One look at the gaunt, unshaven face and you knew that this was not a ruse; this was a summary judgment against our current society and the safety net that no longer exists after 40 years of political decimation. Four decades of pathetic ennui and lack of political will to rise up against the selfish self-centeredness that gained a foothold in the cocaine inflamed 80’s and continues today.

Look at the language we tolerate regarding the safety net against poverty in old age, Social Security. We allow the political language of the elitist rich who fling the term “entitlement” like it’s something as filthy as rotted flesh. We allow terminology to become watered down; made politically correct because we lack the backbone to define reality in naked terms that would expose our collective shame.  We allow the repression of Puritanical ethos to defame the natural sexuality of each person within our society such that young children are encouraged to become Lolita’s, but group shame descends upon the female that finds herself pregnant without the “blessing” of a life mate – male preferably.  There is no wholesale acceptance of the human condition in its beautiful and terrifying entirety in this country, save for the small pockets of free-thinkers who keep themselves anonymous for the sake of personal safety.  Those that made their forward-thinking and evolutionarily advanced beliefs public ages ago are being systematically decimated through government sponsored genocide.

The mentally ill in this country have had to learn to navigate the fierce jungle of intolerance to their many and varied conditions by adapting “societal masks” of acceptable terms. If your psyche is tormented by the roller coaster of a bi-polar disorder, you must swiftly amend your statement to include whatever treatment you’re trying so that you “fit in” to the landscape you find yourself traversing. If you or your body or your lifestyle doesn’t meet the expected norms, you are expected to provide a reasonable excuse as to why not. Further, if the gnawing beast of depression haunts you, rather than address the muted anger/rage that creates the problem, your employer would rather you pop a pill and get back to work.

Once upon a time, there was an uprising and a beautiful cry of “I’m not here to meet your expectations.”  There was an acceptance that what once was, was broken and needed to be replaced because it was too broken to fix.  Somewhere before the overhaul could get more than a foothold, an evil reptilian presence inserted itself and self-delusion replaced self-examination.  I’d like to think that it’s not too late. It’s not too late to take that young, very ill gentleman off the street corner – along with his dog and offer him treatment or at the least palliative care until his days upon this Earth are no more.  I’d like to think that we can re-open the mental institutions and half-way houses and encourage all who need the gentle touch of a listening soul, as well as those who need a structured oasis from the everyday Chaos the rest of us navigate, to walk through the gates.

I almost despair that we’ve forgotten how to care for our elderly, that we’ve adopted a learned indifference to the cries of the very young, and plaint that those from pre-teen to college graduate have no sense of responsibility or values. We’ve forgotten the rich values of community in favor of selfish ends. Young children crave the gentle attentions of family and elders who teach so much more than just behavioral bounds, but are isolated within artificial crèches of commercial daycare.  The length of marriages is rapidly dwindling because there are no committed couples willing to share the wisdom of compromise woven with tolerance and compassion that creates the reality of long-lasting relationships.  The elderly are expected to live out their waning days in the sad relative isolation of retirement communities.

A healthy neighborhood should be a layered structure of ages and backgrounds that weaves itself together in acceptable societal tension; young and old, married and single, teens and younger kids, all claiming with a sense of pride in belonging. Those that experience tragedy, illness, or misfortune would find a willing hand to help, wisdom to find their way out, many hands making light work of the heavy realities that Life can hand out. Education of the young and old happens best in an integrated community, because ignorance and fear are beasts best slain by truth and trust: the hands of wisdom crafting a vision of the future seen by younger eyes but guided by elder hearts.

We’ve forgotten it seems that we are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s handmaiden, our mother’s steady guide when her steps falter, our father’s eyes when the eyesight begins to dim. We are the gentle support of a toddler learning to walk, we are the ears of the deaf, and we are the listening heart of those who struggle emotionally.

Once pointed out, a problem should become the burden of the society it affects; a burden that can then transform into a solution that becomes second nature by those who adopt the change within their community.  This isn’t an impossible dream; this is a possible reality for those of us with the intestinal fortitude to say “Why not?” If change only occurs because the status quo is so painful that we cannot maintain it, then why haven’t we changed?

We are told by many different tales of ancient wisdom that our lives are Gifts of the Eternal, what we do with them is our gift back. Why are we so insistent on trashing this precious gift by not doing all we can to make another’s  life better? Why are we turning a deaf ear on our own? Further, will someone with a bit more resources that I, please reach out to my brother and his dog on that cold street corner? I’d be so appreciative to know that he was able to go Home in peace.

The Change that Follows…

In the name of domestic transparency, tranquility and with a nod to the CDC (who has their hands full) I must admit to the rest of my immediate neighborhood that I cleaned out my refrigerator for the first time in several months. I know of the time period (last summer) from the items that I disposed of: half raisined grapes, bananas whose identity was only known by the rough shape of the roughage scraped off of the glass panel shelf that was their last resting place, several bread ends from gluten free loaves that were morphing into some previously unknown fungi, and containers of leftover hummus that were….well, less than fresh. That being said, in the spirit of “if you’ve grown it, you must own it” I’m admitting that I am not a domestic goddess per se.

Yes, I can make a pork loin that would make your tongue lap your brains out, I am famous for chili that will light your intestines with a glow that can be seen from space, and I can whip up a pot of chicken and dumplings that sends the swine flu virus screaming into remission…but cleaning up after these wild orgiastic bursts of creativity is not my strong suit. Therefore, my latest efforts in refrigerator hygiene will be, no doubt, growling in the depths of wandering goat guts for the next week or so.

In the immediate retrospect, after looking at the weather forecast for the next week or so, the monsoonal rains predicted may well drown any struggling bacterial phage and life form accidentally created by cross contamination of cleaning compound and dead organic “whatdafuqwuzthat” tossed into the compost heap. Further, since we’re in a burn ban until after the rains, there will be no airborne contaminants to terrify the local avian populations of mourning doves and cowbirds. However, if you’re starving field mouse, here’s your final chance this year to climb the ladder of evolution – at your own risk of course.

The cat populace here on the farm have wisely chosen to leave whatever field mice survive the compost heap well alone, but the barn owls are another story. So aside from genetically modified garbage eating goats, the other life forms I may have to claim responsibility for will be those lovely silent predators for whom I have immense respect but no way of warning off.

Ah, well….seeing as how tomorrow is Election Day, it seems that this week will be well annotated by the change that follows – in multiple venues. Be forewarned, apathy has its consequences in more than just one venue. What color was that goat this morning?