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IMG_7000“It was one of those March days
when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:
when it is summer in the light
and winter in the shade.”

- Charles Dickens. Great Expectations.

 

 

DSCN7096 - Version 2What’s a gal to do when she’s just finished a book, for the second time, whose ending she knows and whose author will be visiting the Cutoff when the very next day dawns?

Well. she sheds a puddle of tears for, though she knows how the story ends, it is the journey that is the protagonist in an adventure that is both funny and sad, painful and celebratory. It is the story that is both physical and personal for the author, and it reminds the reader, perhaps, of one’s own long travelled road; of memories made, bridges crossed, battles fought (some won and some lost), of lessons learned and of those lessons she keeps learning. It brings to home and to heart the value of family and friends, and of those who have cheered us on and had our back along the way.

 “Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace”, is the book and the author is none other than the remarkable and gifted Andra Watkins.

Andra’s name often appears in the comment section here on the Cutoff, for which I am grateful. Her name also sometimes appears in the body of a post, especially when one of her books is published, such as last year’s “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis”, which I wrote about here.

I was delighted when I won an advanced reading copy of Andra’s second book, “Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace”.  “Not Without My Father . . . ” is Andra’s memoir of her trek along the Natchez Trace, promoting her first book. It entails how she drafts her father to be her “wingman” on her journey – the angst and pain, frustration and hilarity that occurs along the way. Roy Lee Watkins is bigger than life, a natural storyteller, and a bit of a character, to say the least. The book is the story of her journey along the Trace, as well as their personal journey as father and daughter.

In the book, we also meet her mother, Linda, her friend, Alice, and others; from the innkeepers that provide a nest’s rest, to the National Park workers she meets along the Trace, as Roy sells her book from the trunk of his car and weaves his own tales.

It was in my second reading of Andra’s book, once it was published, that I realized I was mentioned in the acknowledgments, along with a host of other readers, for song suggestions, which are used as chapter heading in the book. What fun it was to discover.

So, in honor of Andra, who will be wending her way to the Cutoff as part of the Chicago leg of her book tour, here’s a little Ray Charles and a lot of hope that she does come back some more, some more, some more, some more . . .

 

Turning Point

“How often it is a small, almost unconscious event that makes a turning point.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

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On Monday, the Elmhurst Garden Club celebrated our scholar recipients with a festive, delicious, nourishing “spread”. Tables were adorned with bookish centerpieces and the names of the scholarship recipients. The meeting’s highlights were the creative and informative presentations by these worthy scholars. They give me hope for the future.

On Tuesday, I put a few bits of our home back to order; the “this” and “that” which  become jumbled when one has been laid up for a spell. It feels good, does it not, to slowly get back to normal – whatever your normal may be?  I then doused some “fires” that had been simmering, learning a few new tricks of the technology trade as I did. While I whimper over how many issues seem to cross over my virtual desk, I do love a challenge and the opportunities to still grow and learn and be useful.

On Wednesday, as I wended my way down the Cutoff, a Cooper’s Hawk caught my attention. He was perched on a branch, not ten feet from my car. As I rolled down my winter-smudged window, we stared, eye-to-eye, for a few pregnant moments. He then he tilted his head, shrugged his shoulders and rose, his magnificent feathers barely whispering in the crisp wintry air. I so love the sound of a bird taking flight; that almost imperceptible instant of take-off that catches the air.

On Thursday, which was colder than cold, the Antler Man and I spent the afternoon at the retinologist, heading home as the sun was setting. I iced my knee, then headed back in the same direction I had just come from. Sometimes I wonder if my life isn’t just making a rut in the road with my tires. I nibbled on a few crackers (I’m telling a fib; they were Oreos) parked my car, and was greeted by Marilyn, who always make me feel good just telling me hello. We were headed to Hammerschmidt Chapel at Elmhurst College, picking up other friends along the way, with Bev driving . Like the good little pilgrims we are, we filled two pews and chattered away, not missing a beat, from one conversation to the next, turning left and right and behind, as only women can do.

Our rewards for venturing out on a frigid night were twofold: the first being the rising of our faithful friend, the moon, who crept up over the roof of the student union, round and full, casting its reflection upon the sleak slate of icy snow on the college’s quad. It brought to my mind Corrie ten boom’s “almost unconscious event” as we oohed and ahhed, greeting others who also stopped to look at the moon before heading inside for a most remarkable and challenging lecture by Sister Simone Campbell. Also known as the Nun on the Bus, she was the second reward and the reason for our evening’s adventure. She made us laugh and challenged all in attendance with her faith and her life’s mission of justice.

Now, it is Friday. The week is nearly spent. The sun is shining, defying the mere 10th degree. There are deceptively thin sheets of ice to navigate and shards of icicles hanging from eaves; weapons of nature to avoid. We are still bundled up beyond recognition and so weary of winter we could cry – but our tears would freeze. Our mothers told us so, many full moons ago.

We are, however, at a turning point. There, in the snow and ice and rotting leaves of last Autumn, low on the ground and ever-so-tentative, are the precious tips of daffodils pushing through frozen soil, poking and shoving, demanding this winter to cease.

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One Fine Day

DSCN6961 - Version 2One of my errands, on one fine day, was a trip to one of the libraries in my inter-library loan system. I was on a mission to find “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh, intrigued by an essay he wrote that Marilyn commented on in my previous post.

After a little late night wandering around the online catalogue, I found a copy at the La Grange Park Library and mapped my day’s route so that I could conveniently stop there.

I am pleased to say that once in the library, I was able to climb the stairs to the second level, hoping the old knee continued to hold up and not hurt. I found “Peace is Every Step”, as well as another book, then another, rounded the aisle and perched upon a comfortable easy chair under this wonderful rounded ceiling, next to a two story window.

As I perused the books, I noticed two males of indeterminate age out in the snow covered field below. Each had a large pallet, wider than themselves, and were pushing them through the snow. They would shove off, pushing, then one would get stuck. It’s driver would step backward, then forward with a little more push, rather like rocking a car out of a ditch, until he could move a bit further. Soon,  the snow was banked on the sides.

I went back to another book; Judith Dench’s memoir. What a beautiful woman she was; and still is. I thought about checking the book out, but, I’m knee-deep in reads, have a few big projects I’m juggling, and a very special houseguest coming next week.  I put Dame Judi’s book down and looked out the window once more, noticing two cages on either end of where the pallet pushers had been. Wondering where they went, I scanned the ground two floors down. There they were, sitting on the ground, in the snow, doing something I couldn’t see.

I found Thich Nhat Hanh’s short commentary, It is a Great Joy to Hold Your Grandchild, read it and knew I would be taking “Peace is Every Step” home. As I arose, there were the pallet pushers, now on ice skates with hockey sticks cutting through the air,  dancing around and around a black puck.  I realized that, by their size and time of day, they were probably middle school lads, emulating the Chicago Black Hawks, and having some good, if cold, fun.

Back in  my car, I drove past the rink the boys had determinedly cleared, and noticed a few other lads lacing up their skates and gliding onto the ice, shouting to each other as young boys will do, and I thought to myself that it was, after all’s said and done, one fine day.

Special Edition

DSCN7506 - Version 5The Good News 

The good news
They do not print.
The good news
We do print.
We have a special edition every moment,
And we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
That the linden tree is still there
Standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
To touch the blue sky.
The good new is that your child is there before you,
And your arms are available:
Hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
And help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
Smiling its wondrous smile,
Singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
And preoccupation
And get free.
The latest good news
Is that you can do it.

The Good News by Thich Nhat Hanh

Problem Solving

2_Abraham_Leon_Kroll_American_artist_1884_1974_The_ConversationIs there anything more satisfying than solving the world’s problems with one’s hands cradling a warm cup of traveling steam – and whatever floats inside it?

I am one of the fortunate ones. I have friends and family who are ready and often waiting for a good sit-down chat, whether it be at the kitchen table, in a coffee shop, lunch in a quiet restaurant, or on the ether pages in this modern world.

I think, these days, with family and friends oftentimes far away, or too busy to catch their breaths, that the internet has become a virtual clothesline. We hang our laundry up to dry and hope that, perhaps, a neighbor or two will wander by for a spell while we clip the clothespins on.

While I am writing, I often have a cup of tea or a mug of coffee at my side, and I think about you, dear reader. Do you read with a favored cuppa nearby? Are you in business attire, your pajamas, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt? Do you chew on a cookie or a piece of fruit as you turn your virtual pages with a click that comes as sure as your next breath, traveling here and there around the blogosphere?

I am a “people person”. I love to strike up conversations with my best of friends – or the librarian checking out my latest read. You never know what you will learn on these verbal forays. For instance, the cashier at Walgreens, who recognizes me as the lady who sometimes comes in to buy their dollar molasses cookies, shared with me that a local fast food/ice cream stand purchases the very same cookies to make the ice cream sandwiches they sell. The gals and guys at the Jewel always take the time to ask how I am – and care.  Once, my address visible while paying with a check, a cashier asked me if I knew Jim and Connie who live on my street. Indeed, I did. It was their house we bought. I swear, if there had not been other customers in the queue,  we would be talking still about what nice people they are.

Well, the kettle is whistling and I need to ice my old knee, so, I guess it is time to stop.

Thank you, forever and always, for wandering by for a spell. I always enjoy our chats.

On bended knee

Well, not really on bended knee; just a short while before my knee wouldn’t bend. It sounded like a catchy title, so, here you have it. I blame it on the pain medication.

DSCN7478We often stop in the Ginkgo Restaurant and Cafe at the Morton Arboretum for a cup of coffee or chocolate, sometimes breakfast or lunch, depending on what’s on the docket for the day, and we’ll sit at one of the tables, looking out the long expanse of windows that afford a view of Meadow Lake, with its mile or so walking path.

In summer, there are baby strollers – and those who stroll – taking the footpath around the lake, looking for sunning turtles and enjoying the lush colors of the season as the prairie plants reach a crescendo.

In spring, grackles may be nesting. They dive-bomb those walking along the path, especially those wearing red. I always want to jump up at shout “take cover” and bang on the windows, warning walkers of eminent attacks. I don’t, of course, and the birds are just warning passers-by.

In fall, there are the magnificent colors that remind me of why we must suffer the cold of winter, in a “to every season” sort of way. The Morton is ablaze in the brilliance of nature come fall, and the cafe is just the place to stop and catch one’s breath.

In winter, there is a coating of snow and a sheet of ice on Meadow Lake. Whiteness and quiet and the hush-a-bye beauty of snow in its more peaceful mood lend a perfect hand to reflect on through the windows.

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On Sunday, with a pocket of time in our schedule, an unplanned moment, we decided to drive out to the Arboretum after church. I needed to be home by noon in order to meet up with a friend to see her young granddaughter’s art in an exhibit. As we drove through the Piney Woods, all dusted in snow with the ascending trunks reaching toward heaven, it felt like a cathedral. My unsung prayers drifted upward as we slowly drove about.

You know the rest of the story, from my previous post, so, I won’t repeat it here. I am relieved to say that my knee seems to be healing, I’ve made progress in mastering the cane, and am hoping to slowly resume activities and begin to look to what more I made need to do. All that knee jerking activity is what it is and what will be will be. Thank you all for you kind words, thoughts, and prayers.

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Before I turned on a dime (so to speak), while enjoying refreshments in the Cafe, the world outside seemed to glow in possibilities, large and small. The lake before us, just outside the glass. A couple, one with cane and the other helping him along, slowly made their way around. A premonition?

Between the lake, the glass, and me, was the back of a chair with the signature cutout of a ginkgo leaf, just waiting for me to gaze through it, to share a different view of the world.

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