Meeting with Ghosts and God at Roadside


From the car window, travelling at forty-five miles an hour on a lonely country road, the building appears plain. As in plain-spoken, plainly designed, devoid of flourish, uniqueness. Gravestones are glimpsed between trees. It captures my attention instantly but we go on.

“Turn around,” I say to Marc, who is intent on getting to the Oregon coast.

He frowns. I often ask him to slow down or stop and let me get out. My cameras are in my lap, readied.

“What now?”

“That old cemetery back there.”


“Didn’t you see it? A white building with a tidy graveyard. I feel pulled to stop there and take pictures.”

“Tidy graveyard. Really?”

He turns the car around and we pull into a narrow gravel road. Two other vehicles are there, a black truck and a Washington vehicle, an ivory Cadillac. Our car idles, half-off the road.

“I don’t think we should be here… maybe there was a funeral. These people look like they’re here for very private reasons.”

“I suppose so but no funeral from what I can see. I’m getting out.”

Marc sighs heavily, sits back as I open my door and step out. I sense he doesn’t care for graveyards. I’m not one to make a habit of routinely roaming burial grounds, either, but they are what they are. Purposeful. And I am so drawn to this country acreage full of lemony light and mammoth, arching trees, and places marking lives of those passed. To this church with no cross.

I notice a sign but continue. There are voices coming from the unadorned building so I enter quietly, not wanting to interrupt. Inside there is a large rectangular space filled with wooden pews. At front there is a raised platform where one might hold forth on the one who has departed or everlasting life. But there is no pulpit, altar, cross here. Instead, a little girl of about four in a pretty spring dress and matching shoes is sitting there. She is asking an older woman, likely her grandmother, about water in a big jug.

“Is this water for Jesus? For the children he loves?”

“No, for flowers outside by the markers. I suppose Jesus, too. Don’t drink it, dear! Let’s go now.”

“Amen!” The child shouts enthusiastically. “Say amen!”

“Amen!” I respond and she laughs, waving the rose in her small fist at me.

The woman turns to me, embarrassed and impatient. “She’s picked up some things at her pre-school, their chapel.”

“Seems so,” I agree, smiling at her but she turns away.

The little girl loudly dissents as her grandmother picks her up and exits the building. I can hear her screaming and the grandmother being very stern. Then, after a car door opening and closing, quietness.

I am alone.

Or am I?








I take a seat on a back pew. There is a wafting of breath from one end to the other, time heavily woven from past to present with people stung by grief and connected to lives made, then unmade. Such agedness in these walls, on this hill. The place is made of history, pioneers who huddled and prayed in the dark of winter in  this space, then buried those who could not survive. The centuries passed and more arrived with those long-lost, abandoned, taken by illness and age. The perished. Yet the large room vibrates with life. Light scours hardwood floors, warms the bare wooden pews. I can see gravestones through smeary windows. Yet there is something left of themselves, collective energies that linger.

How much resilience does it take to return home without child, wife, a dear neighbor whose company and skills were valued? To adapt to a wild land that demanded as much as it shared? Then the twentieth century dawned. Life kept moving on: big and smaller wars, civil rights marches, asssinations, famine and pestilence, free love, “God is Dead”. Terrorism. Inventions and equal rights, moon landings and holograms and life-saving discoveries. Virtual love. Such changes, yet so much sameness. The devastation and also progress people must endure! We are as fragile as we are mighty. The brevity of life is a flame, powerful enough to instigate shattering change, brilliant enough to illuminate the mysterious dark. But always flickering, finite on this earth.

My mind stills. I am breathing in words spoken by others, sitting where tears have freely fallen and hands were tightly held. I am moved, one more to tarry in this place.



I have not sung in ages, not in a large open space, not with intention and from a place of raw need; I am a singer who lost much of her voice long ago. But I begin to sing. The old chorus wells up in me, a force that must be released.

I can almost see the lights of the City,
shining down over me…
Well, you know when I see
those lights of the City,
Well, then, I shall be free…
yes, then I shall be free!

The room echoes, resonant with a power I have not experienced vocally in many years, as though my voice and that song were waiting to find this room. Tears spring from my eyes.

I understand I am meant to meditate here, open my heart and soul further. Be in peace. Honor living and the dead. This life I am given is just one more life, but it needs to be shared without fear, generously, before my own time runs out. I register this without sound or language; God’s presence lights me up within. Vibrates in the room.

I seek out Marc. He is reluctant until we read the plaque and then he is impressed. The site of Miller Church and Cemetery is on the National Historic Register. The land for the cemetery was given to the Abiqua community in 1860 by Richard Miller in “love and consideration” for a public burying ground. The structure was built in 1882, and is a good example of a pioneer burying church. We like that it has been a democratic cemetery, not just for those of note or wealth.

Inside we move and speak softly and then I again sing the gospel tune, his tenor harmonizing. It is recorded and catches a subtle tearfulness that is not born of grief so much as tenderness. Some day I may share it with my children and grandchildren, this space, the song and feeling. That God hears seems clear as my flesh and being are touched by gentlest sorrow and undercurrents of ecstasy that linger the whole day.

Outdoors we find notation of abbreviated lives on many tombstones from long ago to the present. I stop before Jane Jett, who died Dec. 31, 1876 at 49 years. I feel a poem for her coming on and want to write. It is time to leave. We listen to the wind in treetops and ponder lives once endowed with weakness or vigor. Which ones were shaped by pain, perhaps revenge or the persistence of hope? How many were altered by profound longings, love and wonder?

Someone comes near. Edna Kelly. My mother. My breath catches in my chest. On this day thirteen years ago she left our worldly realm for God’s other places. I close my eyes until she passes on once more. The intensity of my recognition must also slip away before I go forward with my day.

I watch church and graveyard recede from my car window. I feel myself deepen. Become a little freer. Humbled. Glad to have made another seemingly random stop along the road.




(Note: All photographs are mine. Feel free to share but please note I am the photographer, or kindly direct others back to this post.  And “Poem for Jane Jett” can be found via the link on this blog to my poetry blog, poetryfortheliving.)

Red Oak, Red Parasol


The Callahans came to Red Oak at the wrong time, Ginny thought. School wasn’t quite over. Neither was it August when most people moved to start anew. She watched from the porch swing, legs reaching out so her bare toes gently nudged the back of her younger brother’s head. He was bent over a Superman comic book. When Ginny paused to twist around and get a better look at the moving van, Brian said, “Don’t stop, it feels kinda good.” She placed her foot between his shoulder blades and pushed, but he just laughed as he flattened out. Brian was too good-natured to satisfactorily tease sometimes.

The moving van had license plates from Texas, which Ginny found intriguing. No one she knew had been there nor did they desire to. Ginny knew it was a big place with too much heat. Everyone wore cowboy boots and hats. Nothing like Michigan. They didn’t have snow or endless lakes. Or autumn color or cider mills with cinnamon cake donuts every fall.

Ginny had already decided the family of five had limited experiences and were likely boring when Evie walked down the sidewalk with a red Chinese paper parasol. It was held high to shade the palest skin Ginny had ever seen. She had white blond hair. Her eyes were hidden behind blue sunglasses. Her white shorts were very short. Ginny’s mother would say “not enough to sit on.” Her shirt was shorter yet. She was about the same age as Ginny, maybe fourteen.

It was spooky watching the girl glide up their walkway, then stop midway. She was like a ghost with weird fashion tastes.

“So,” she said, “are you somebody I should know or vice versa?”

Ginny frowned at the way her vowels bent and slurred. She could just make out the words, though, and shrugged.

“You’re the new one. You’d have to say the first, so be nice.”

Brian was watching from the wooden floor but popped up. “Yeah, or she’ll run you over with the porch swing someday.”

The girl nodded at them and floated up the steps. “Cool. I’m Evie.”

She held out a small hand. Ginny noted silver nail polish, and gingerly took it, thinking the girl too white to be out in sunlight. Maybe she was a vampire.


“What’s going on in this little burg?”

“Where are you from, anyway?” Brian scooped up his comic book and sat beside Ginny.

Evie eased onto the top step, parasol folded. “Dallas, Texas, the only city in the U. S. of A. worth noting, Mama says. But, then, she would say that, having only lived in Dallas, London, and Stockholm. Daddy could care less, as long as he has a home base.”

“Stockholm, that’s in Norway, right?” Brian asked. “We’ve studied the globe. So she’s Norwegian?

Evie lifted her shoulders up to her ears, took a deep breath, and released it. “Swedish. Stockholm is in Sweden, kids. I’m Swedish and Irish, oddly but happily. But enough about me. What about you two?”

“I’m Brian.” He didn’t extend his hand as he rolled up his comic book and batted a bee away. “Ginny’s one and only brother and sibling.”

He said this proudly, as though showing off vocabulary or specialness. Ginny put him in a headlock, then let him go since decent behavior was expected when meeting someone new.

“How fortunate. I have two sisters. Maybe we can come over and throw a football around with you.”

It was hard to tell what this Evie really meant. Was she laughing at them or being serious? She didn’t look like she got those blue- and-silver sandaled feet dirty much less tossed a ball of any sort.

“Our dad is a Production Manager at Thompson and Teegen Furniture Design. Our mom stays home but used to be a nurse.”

“Well, what a coincidence! Mama’s a doctor. But no job here yet.”

Brian stared at her. He hated doctors and dentists. “Doctor? For what?”

“For horses, dogs and others, of course. Humans are apparently just too ornery and irresponsible.” She made a face indicating distaste of her mama’s attitude. “Daddy is going to work for Thompson and Teegen, CFO. It’s killing mama to have to live in a northern suburb of Detroit.” She smiled wryly. “No doubt we’ll be seeing each other a lot more.”

Ginny pumped her legs. “Yeah, we already heard about your dad. So what about school? How come you’re here before summer?”


“Okay, sorry I asked.”

Evie lifted an eyebrow. “I meant I went to a private school. The year finished two days before we moved.”

“Like St. Catherine’s?” Brian elbowed Ginny. “Religious stuff, right? We go to Methodist church.”

“Oh, my, Protestants. Well, don’t mention it to Daddy or he’ll worry about the company I keep.” Her laughter was bright and tinkly. “I won’t be in Catholic school any longer. Red Oak has public schools only, which is one of the few happy things about coming here.” She fixed her clear ice blue eyes on Ginny. “I’m hoping, anyway…how do you like it?”

“Nobody gives a fig what church you go to or if you do. I don’t know if that’s what you’re hoping for or not. We’ve got a great soccer coach. And our choir is the bomb; we won regional this year. If you get good grades, you can relax.”

“And the boys? Are they worthy of our attention?”

Ginny tried not to grimace. Not the sort of neighbor, then, to play soccer with or listen to her dad’s collection of jazz records  or watch mysteries with during long winter nights. The conversation was tiring already.

“They’re boys. Some are stupid and some are pretty good to know. You’ll have to find out for yourself.”

Brian rolled his eyes. “Here we go! Time to read my comic again.”

Across the street Kenzie, Tina and the others started up a game of hopscotch. Ginny had told herself she was done with jumping rope, hopscotch and making forts but now she had an overpowering desire to join in. Instead she turned to Brian and pushed him off the swing.

“Buzz off now that you’ve met her.”

“Aww!” He threw a wad of bubble gum at her but it missed, bouncing off the porch railing and into bushes. He went inside, waving at Evie. “Later ‘gator!”

“Want to swing?” Ginny motioned to his vacated spot, thinking she’d decline.

Evie fully smiled for the first time and her cheeks pinked. “Sure. We had one in Dallas, on the patio. It was a white metal slider, though. One more thing to miss. But this is good.”

They swung in silence and watched the neighborhood girls tossing a hopscotch stone, hopping and jumping. Behind Evie and Ginny, furniture was being taken off the truck and voices called commands. The Swedish woman’s accent was apparent when she shouted for them to be “very, very careful with that Tiffany lamp! My mother-in-law will faint if you so much as chip it!”

Ginny stifled the urge to turn around and get a good look. Later she would acknowledge the new adults as needed.

As if reading Ginny’s thoughts, Evie said, “Don’t look now. She isn’t at her best. Jet lag and too many drinks last night at the hotel lounge. Stress is plain unbecoming, I always say. And Daddy commanded she drink only iced tea for the rest of summer. We’ll see how that works out.” She shuddered. “He’s flying in tonight, thank goodness. So do you play with those kids or are you beyond that now? You’re at least twelve.”

“Turned thirteen in January. Eighth grade next year.”

“Ninth here. Or tenth; we have to meet with school people, I guess.”

“You do seem older. Anyway, I really like sports. But those are baby games. I can bike ride ten miles. And as far as school– I just want to get through middle school so I can get to high school–”

“–and then finally leave home, am I right? But biking? Too hot in Dallas. I’d sweat to death and nasty things like big spiders and fire ants to avoid. Major arteries are choked with traffic. This place seems better to navigate, so far. I hope.”

“Texas doesn’t sound that great. But I guess you’ll miss friends.”

Tina waved wildly at Ginny. Ginny sat on her hands.

“It’s different. It was home.”

“Evangeline Therese Callahan, where are you?”

She turned around and sat on her knees. “Right here, Mama, introducing myself–I’ll be there soon!” She slumped in the swing. “Mama ruins many pleasant moments, often by saying my full name.”

“Mine’s worse: Virginie Jessamyn Leigh-Kent.”

“Oh, I don’t know, it’s rather classy.”

“Huh. Way too much.”

They swung back and forth, spring heat cooling on a sudden breeze. Mud wasps hovered above them until Evie opened her parasol and shooed them off.

“Well, want to play some hopscotch, Evie?”

“My, I was hoping you’d ask, Miss Ginny,” she said, drawing out her vowels to a ridiculous degree. “Let’s show the ladies how it’s done.”

They played two hopscotch rounds, Evie doing much better than Ginny had expected and encouraging the younger ones. Tina and Kenzie took to her exotic accent and manner after the first few minutes of shock, asking too many questions. Then Evie’s mother’s high-pitched voice directed Evie to immediately help with her younger sisters. Evie picked up her red parasol and opened it, spinning the dragons and flowers around and around from her shoulder. She beckoned Ginny to come along with a rightward movement of her head, luxe hair swinging.

“We may as well get it over with. Have to keep grown-ups and siblings pacified. By the way, I love music, too. We have a grand piano that better have made it without a scratch or a sour key or I will just die of outrage! I’ll play and you can sing–maybe we’ll create a whole damn-fantastic musical and blow everybody’s minds. What are your thoughts on that?”

“I’m in. Welcome to Red Oak, Miss Evie Callahan. ”

Ginny felt cheered by the twirling parasol and stepped into a sliver of shade. It cast a reddish glow on their tanned and ivory skin that was strange. It was an excellent color on them both.






Firelight Magic: Silver Salmon, Azure Heart


The sky above the ocean took its time to fully darken. Striations of color and cloud floated against an indigo backdrop. The air was still balmy from a few days of unseasonal heat. Between my toes pale sand welled up in soft, miniature hillocks. The moon was rising and it was full, partially veiled for a few moments, seemingly with a swatch of chiffon. The vaulted, infinite canvas opened up as I walked. Waves rushed forward then pulled away, lit by moonlight. My bare feet were washed and cooled. Soon darkness would cover us all with its vast and mysterious cape. I felt protected, embraced.


We had come down from the beach rental with two bundles of crackling dry wood, just as many others had. My husband built a good fire and soon it roared to life, its heat almost too strong for the May evening. We watched the stars show themselves and bear witness to our earth activities. The moonlight soon cast shadows on the beach and I longed for a camera that would capture such magic. To our left and right there were small groups of people tending their fires, as many as twelve that I could count. Except for the sea, there was no distinct sound. In the distance, lights from beach houses winked. The fires burned bright. If people were speaking at all they were likely murmuring, as were we. No one seemed moved to carry on with the carelessness of revelers. Their presence within the warmth and dark felt natural, needed, as though we were all of one family, separated by short distances but little else. No other experiences needed to be shared at that moment. I considered how we had made our camps for the night, past travels good but tiring, our bellies now full. What was left was rest, companionship, availing ourselves of nature’s offerings. I felt our humanity a part of the universal whole and shivered. What else could we possibly want?


I languished awhile, then an idea came.

“A story. Tell me a story. I will share one, too.”

“Of course you would think of that. Just make one up?” He poked at the fire with his stick, happy.

“Yes, like we used to when too wide awake in bed or when tucking the children in so long ago. Remember how much fun that was? Just give me any story that comes.”

“Hmm. Okay, but first let’s look toward the moon for inspiration. The moon shadows are amazing tonight.”

We stood up, turned around and the moon threw her light on us as if a queen tossing silver streamers. And this time, she wore raiment made of colorful halos.



After we admired the lunar coronae (not halos as we later discovered), caused by a diffraction of light by small water droplets, and I tried to capture them with my camera, we sat back down and settled at the fire.

“I guess I have a story now,” he said, and began.

                       The Boy and the Silver Salmon

There was a boy whose people often fished by moonlight, so he found his quiet spot by the cool stream and cast his line. He had no luck for awhile and felt discouraged. He couldn’t go back without food. He tried again and again and finally he felt a hard tug on his line. It was a very heavy fish, and when he pulled it out of the stream he was amazed to find an enormous silver salmon on the hook. It shone like something precious and dazzled him when he finally brought it up to the shore.

Ecstatic, he held tightly onto the fish as it flopped around, its eyes wild, and started to run back to the village. They all would be so proud of him. They’d have a feast and invite their friends and neighbors. He might get extra food or a better reward. For all time they would tell stories about how he landed the biggest, most fantastic salmon ever.

He panted in exhaustion as he reached the end of the forest path. Then he stopped. What if they would be angry that he caught such a rare salmon? There might not be any others like it. Maybe he had done the wrong thing to keep the salmon, after all. He looked at the gasping fish and thought it better to take it back. But it was really too late for that. Instead he tossed it up into the sky and asked the Creator to keep it in a special place. And the Creator took the fish and put it around the moon.

And that is why we can now see the moon’s radiant corona.


I clapped heartily. “That was wonderful!”

“Now you.”

I felt my attention pulled to the darkened ocean, its white-crested waves rolling in and out. Majestic and powerful, it taught, fed and lulled us while carrying out crucial work for all creatures. I felt humbled by its mystery.

“Okay, I have my story.”

                       The Woman and the Sea Heart

The Woman walked by the sea waters night and day. She had worries about her like maddening birds. Her silent words were captured by the sky and held there, waiting to be heard by the Loving Being. The Woman had charted the stars and followed the sun’s travels for decades yet she still sought wisdom. She knew her days left were not as many as she had imagined. Her strong back had begun to round like a worn rock. But she had not quite finished what she had to do.

She had a daughter, Linga, who had long left the old hearth. She had gone off to seek her fortune, which she did find. There was word that she had spanned the earth and done things that brought her favor and accolades. It had been many years since Linga had been near the home of her childhood, for she was engulfed by works of the world.

The Woman knew her daughter had gifts to give, had ways that were needed, and had let her go without a complaint. She knew that mothers gave life to let it go and find its own way. She wanted to once more find Linga’s shadow on her doorstep. She wanted her to remember to nourish her soul, not just mind and body. It was getting late. The Woman felt time was like breath, here and gone. She needed her daughter close to her before the sea was no longer seen by her human eyes.

As she walked she was captivated by sparkling crests of waves, how blue and bright they were, and how gaily they danced. She sang her deepest prayers until the glittering lit up the horizon, then transformed into azure orbs that rose up with her song’s longing. The Woman watched them float and when the night sky covered her, then hid the orbs, she went home to bed.

In the morning she was pulled to her senses by a magnetic light coming from her table. She eased her way toward luminescence, full of a small hope. Then she discerned the pulsing azure heart. She held it with tenderness, pressed against her own blood and sinew heartbeat.  

There was a loud rap at her door. The Woman flung it open. There stood Linga, her nearly lost daughter, for whom the great sea heart beat. They fell into each other’s arms. The azure heart found Linga, and kept her always close. And the Woman was at peace until her very end on earth.


“Ahhh…” my husband said. “Very good, I really liked that.”

The moon, stars and ocean, the fires scattered like jewels across midnight sand–we were all snared by the enchantment of a spring night. And it was better than I can tell you here. Go out into the soft night. Build a good campfire. Let the stories come.










Views from Ona’s Clearing


Of the many chores she had to finish each day, laundry was something Ona looked forward to doing. It was work that would come to something, tattered shorts or jeans made presentable, the shirts Arliss wore rinsed of grime and a rich tang of sweat, her own blouses brightened. Things were made right again. Ona hummed to herself as she filled the washer tub with suds. She wondered if Arliss suspected she occasionally washed a few clean things just to feel the satisfaction that came from washing, drying, folding, stacking. It was one more thing that replenished a well of peace for days when she needed more.

They had replaced the machines during winter, money that could have gone to other things, Arliss liked to remind her. She often hung the damp items on a line behind the house, less to appease him than to give her more reason to be outdoors. Spring had brought breezes that grazed her skin, butterflies that teased. The bees were like noisy royalty though she closed her eyes if they circled her too long.

“I’m going down to the alpacas,” he said. He slapped his leather gloves on a calloused palm and frowned. “You’re not done?”

She closed the washer lid on the last load. “I still have the garden. And clothes to hang.”

He left her with the familiar refrain. “I told you that dryer was a waste. But that garden will help pay for it.”

But it was spring going on summer, not winter, Ona wanted to retort. It wouldn’t matter. He was in one of his moods again. If she was lucky it’d pass sooner this time. He’d smiled at her in the morning. She’d been close to sitting down and chatting with him. Then he’d gotten up and taken the strong coffee, along with a plate of eggs made with dill and onion, to the porch. Hank trotted after him. The loyal mutt had been named after his brother, serving in the Army. Ona knew he loved that dog more than her, though he might deny it on a good day. It was his brother he missed.

It hadn’t always been this way. Arliss Jameson had been a different person in high school, all tousled hair and smiling eyes, quick to make a friend, slow to stir things up. She’d come from the city and knew how to play basketball hard and well. That impressed him, as did her unfettered laugh. But by the third year of their marriage he’d turned surly. The house was filled with silence and anger for days, sometimes weeks. She’d patiently waited for it to pass. Ona understood he’d hoped to leave like his brother, but to do bigger things, though she was never sure what. She had a few other dreams, too, but was pragmatic about it. After some research she’d suggested they get alpacas–she’d heard they were smart, good-natured and would make them money. His haunted look was replaced by a benign acceptance; dark introspection was curtailed. But it hadn’t ended. It could come back like a bad wind from nowhere over the years. He didn’t mean to be hard on her but being caught in his long shadow of misery made her feel caged. Uneasy. He forgot she was there or threw words at her that landed like small stones. She increasingly wondered why she’d fallen in love.

Ona settled the clothes basket on her hip and pushed open the back door. A rush of warm wind unfurled her long auburn hair. Treetops swished, rustled. The sunshine smelled like a small slice of lemon. Arliss would’ve told her that was foolish but nothing was impossible, she thought. If caterpillars became butterflies, why not lemon-scented sunlight? She pegged white socks and t-shirts, her flowered panties, his slacks and her long mint green skirt. Watched them flutter. They were already drying in an unusual May heat wave. And waiting for bodies. For a minute Ona imagined Arliss and herself slipping inside pants and skirt, swinging away. Two fools dangling, toes grazing the earth.

She smiled and shaded her eyes with her flattened palm. She could barely make out Arliss as he passed their oak grove. He’d be with gone an hour or more. If she just made a big salad with leftover chicken she’d have time to slip away. She grabbed her sandals and headed to the other side of the house.


The Clearing is what she called it even though there was more open land elsewhere. But that is what it did for her–cleared her mind and soul. This was where she put aside work and financial worries and a thorny fear that snagged her when she wasn’t on guard. There was her little pond, really a muddy puddle until rain filled and sweetened it and frogs proliferated. There were the oaks and elms growing in such a way that they sheltered without isolating. She had seen deer graze here before moving down into the meadow. Ona suspected God paused here, grasses and wildflowers welcomed her, frogs sang out for her ears. She kept all this close. It delivered her.

On the other side of the white fence was the Evans’ ranch. She sometimes saw the owner, Charles’, riding or his Appaloosas and Andalusians grazing. He rode every day, usually earlier, but sometimes later. He sat on his horse as if custom-made to fit. He was perhaps fifteen years older than Ona, his wife long gone to New Mexico, his son in the family horse business. Ona was attentive to Charles Evans’ maneuvers when he was in the field; he was said to have an uncanny way with horses. Her observations were unschooled. Ona wouldn’t have known what skills he had except that she felt his calmness and confidence as she watched from her perch by the pond.


This time she went to the fence, saw nothing but green pasture dotted with trees, topped by rich blueness, white clouds. It felt as though summer was taking over already. Heat found her and held fast. She knew she had only a few minutes so absorbed everything. She turned to face the clearing and leaned back against the fence. The verdant landscape cast its spell. Her eyelids lowered. The creek on the Evans’ side rushed and tumbled through its banks. Blue jays, robins, crows and those still unnamed called to each other in earnest.

Her chin hit her chest and she fell forward. Something had pushed her. She swung around, then stepped back so fast she fell to the ground. A mammoth gray horse was staring at her, thick mane half-covering intense eyes, heavy tail switching back and forth. Ona fought the urge to run. She had never been so close to such a large animal in its own element. Its muscular presence profoundly unsettled her. The horse exuded condensed power, a deeply quiet elegance. Its intelligent face was rugged but noble of design. She took one step forward and gazed back more calmly. The gray horse nodded at her, loped away, then began to trot, strong legs carrying him farther afield until hidden beyond tress.

But Evans was walking toward her. Where had he come from?

Ona thought she should go back to the house. She had the garden yet and dinner to make. Arliss would be looking for her. They knew of each other but they didn’t socialize. The Jamesons were just getting by, the Evanses thrived. And really, what did you say to a man who could speak the language of horses as if it was his own tongue? She had trouble enough with Arliss, the alpacas and a shaggy named for her brother-in-law. In fact, she didn’t talk much, anymore, and found it caem easy. Her aloneness had become a habit, and silence was an aura that surrounded them both too often.

Evans gave her a small smile, but his eyes were a friendly brown. He was tall but not as tall as Arliss, bulkier with muscle.

“That was an Andalusian, but you probably knew that, living out here.”

His voice was softer than she expected. She shook her head.

“I’m not a homegrown country girl. That horse scared me, to be honest.”

“That’s a shame, but if you aren’t familiar…I know you and Arliss live there. Alpacas are good animals. Nice place.” He gestured toward their red house and the barn, then adjusted his hat lower on his forehead. “I’ve seen you here sometimes.”

She felt embarrassed. Did he think she was spying on him? She didn’t mean to intrude; maybe she should stay far from his fence.

“My quiet place. I love this spot.”

Evans turned back to his land and she thought he was done so she looked back at the pond, finished as well.

“How about you and Arliss come by this week-end for barbecue? My son, Jack, knows your husband. We should’ve asked before.”

Ona took a breath and it stuck there a second. She looked right at him. Dinner at his ranch? She could make her coconut cake. She might peek at more terrifying, beautiful horses. Arliss and Jack and Mr. Evans could talk country business. She’d listen well.

He held out his hand. “Charlie Evans. Ask your husband and we’ll set a time.” He smiled widely. “And maybe you’ll make friends with my horses.”

“Ona here, sure, yes I will, Charlie. Ask Arliss, I mean. And check out your horses.”

Charlie Evans tipped his hat and strode off, whistling. The gray horse stepped from shadow and galloped toward him.

Ona returned to the pond–a swampy spot, really, but she liked it–and sat on a nurse log. Honeyed light streamed through the canopy. Spring peepers were in full chorus. The view of their house was nice from here. In truth, she hadn’t noticed for a while just how good it was. It could all get better. The alpaca business was turning a profit thanks to Arliss’ hard work and her research. She had to keep planting, hanging out laundry in fragrant air, visiting her Clearing but also reaching out to Arliss. Remind him she did still care even if he could be a hard case. Get to know those lovely alpacas better. And maybe Evans saw something in her, a hidden potential that suggested she might one day scale a horse and learn how to ride with it. Ona was so ready to round up more excitement, gather her courage. She still had what it took. Life was just waiting for her to say the word.



Off for a Mosey

Mother's Day wk-end (Yachats) 2012 020

This time of year I like to head out and immerse myself in some fresh Spring-into-Summer experiences. It is Mother’s Day week-end, and my mother passed away during very close to Mother’s Day, so it seems appropriate. Not because I am yet burdened with grief–it has been thirteen years and she is still with me in countless ways–but because little could more excite her than getting out to meet new people, absorb  new sights, and return with more stories to share. It was like she carried a cache around with her into which she would nestle bits and pieces of many places and faces, whole conversations, moments of insight, detailed descriptions of all she felt and observed. A treasure chest is what she had within her, and she passed much on to me, to all who knew her.

Curiosity is one thing I got from her (and, of course, my father, if I need to be inclusive). She was usually aglow with something that happened on the way to the store or what she garnered when interacting with a stranger or friend or perhaps after reading something. She sometimes would stand at the kitchen window while cooking or wasjing dishes and gaze into the distance as though she was catching sight of something marvelous. It could be a songbird or sunlit leaf or shape of the clouds–or her own imaginative thoughts. And, I must note, her prayers for us all and many more.

I, too, have a very large appetite for learning, doing, rooting out the unusual or interesting if ordinary moments, people that render and reflect lives that are deep and complex. Life is noteworthy in its infinite varieties no matter where one goes in this world. Sometimes that is just down the street and around a corner. I want to see what is there, too, though I may be uncertain of the outcome. Or perhaps because of that.

But this time it is a bit farther afield in the jewel of the Pacific Northwest that is my home. So I will not be writing blog posts this coming week but shall return with a broader, refreshed viewpoint and my own smallish satchel of new stories and ideas. And quite simply, the pleasure of any travel is its own reward.

So, to those of you who are practicing mothers, have mothers you are not always thrilled with (are any of us, every single moment?) or deeply love your mothers or profoundly long for a mother…I send you good will and kindnesses. Remember to care for yourself, too–we are all our own mothers in the end.

Talk to you after next week!