The Pond in the Woods

Several weeks ago, Mira and I planned a morning adventure as soon as I arrived at her house and we set off before she had even eaten breakfast. She was too excited to eat so I packed her some food, drinks and snacks.  No telling how long we’d be gone when we hit the trail together.

But we did know our destination. It was our favorite place to visit…the pond in the woods.  This pond was hand made by its owner and was heavily concealed by the surrounding flora and large stand of beautiful bamboo nearby.  We loved visiting it because it was just enough of a walk to make you feel as if you’ve gone somewhere and many fish and small but full-grown mud turtles resided there.  Pure fun!

Today, though, our adventure was added to by a new dimension to our interacting with the fish and turtles. We got out our bread I had packed for them and started feeding the fish and before long large groups of mostly minnows were hungrily crowding around the pieces near the edge of the pond.  Sometimes we’ll bring along a few of Mira’s plastic cups or beach toys to try and scoop some of the fish up for a closer look.  This day we hadn’t so I decided to try my luck at scooping them up in my hands and I was surprised when I caught a few.  Mira and I watched as they flopped around in my palms as the water drained through.  I quickly lowered them back into the water.  I did this repeatedly and was successful most times.  Then Mira wanted to give it a try as well.  I told her to wait until there was a large school around the bread pieces and then she quickly dunked her tiny hands in and brought up some wriggling fish!  We both were thrilled at her triumph…yay!

Soon we spied a mud turtle swimming our way and Mira asked if she could wade into the cold water and try and catch it. I was surprised at her request because most of the time it’s Grandma who catches them as she watches.  So I answered, sure, go ahead.  She waded in and in no time had grabbed up that small turtle.  She proudly held him aloft, watching his tiny, webbed feet claw the air as we got a closer view.

Mira ate her breakfast after the bread had been dispersed and then the owner and her large, red cat came by for a quick visit before she headed out to run an errand.

When getting Mira ready to go that morning we chose the new shoes that I had recently bought for her. She informed me that one of her heels had a blister on it from the shoes and that she only needed one sock because the other foot had no blister.  Okay, I agreed, only one sock for the one foot.

Early afternoon as the sun began to heat up, we headed back home and stopped at the swing that hangs from an ancient oak across the dirt road from the pond. We swung awhile enjoying the shade and quiet breeze under the tree.  For once, I had brought my phone with me and asked Mira if I could take a photo of her.  Many times she refuses, so I was happy when she agreed.  This time too, she said wait a minute Grandma, and then posed with her eyes shut and her palms pressed together in pranam, her legs crossed in lotus pose.   This is a reverent salutation used in Indian cultures.  The photo is charming not only because of her reverent pose but because if you look closely you’ll see only one foot is with sock, the other without.

Mira Rose;
Photo by Gayle Walters Rose, All Rights Reserved

“The Snowman”; Happy Holidays!

  I want to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday and may you enjoy peace and prosperity in the New Year to come.  I posted this last year and thought I would share it again…it’s a favorite story of mine and I love the haunting song in this movie which you can hear on the video below.

     In 1978,  English author, Raymond Briggs, published the story “The Snowman”.  It is a wordless book using only illustrations to tell the story.  The pictures are in full color and are in a hazy softness that hints of the falling snow that brings about the story that unfolds.  A movie was made of the book in 1982 and has a different ending than the book but is also wordless except for one song that is sung, “Walking in the Air”.  The movie is 26 minutes long.

     The movie (and the book) came to my attention in 1982 when I was approached by our family hairdresser who asked if our two daughters, then 9 and 7, would like to assist her husband in the review of a new children’s movie.  Her husband, Jay Boyer, was the movie critic for the Orlando Sentinel at the time.  He would interview each of them for their opinions after the screening and they would be quoted in the subsequent write up .  The girls were very excited about getting to see the movie before it opened to the public and were accompanied by two other children and Jay on the day that they went to do their “job”.  They also missed a day of school–even more fun.

This is the movie version:

     A small boy builds a snowman after a heavy snowfall.  He continues to look out at it as he joins his family inside at the end of the day.

     However, the boy can’t sleep and he goes downstairs and opens the front door to check on his friend.  The clock strikes twelve and the snowman magically comes to life.  The snowman joins him inside as the boy shows him around the house and the wonders of TV, a light switch, running water, etc.  He doesn’t care for the fireplace…the refrigerator, he loves!

     They return outside and the snowman decides to show the boy his world and gently they glide up into the sky.  They fly over London and off towards the North Pole to meet up with Father Christmas.  Father Christmas greets the boy and gives him a gift of a scarf.  The boy and his friend return to the boy’s home.

     In the morning, as he awakens, the boy runs to the yard and finds that his friend has melted by the morning sun.  As he puts his hand in his robe’s pocket, he finds the scarf.

     The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Animated Short Film.  It was scored by Howard Blake who wrote the music and lyrics and conducted his own orchestra, Sinfonia of London.  “Walking in the Air” was sung by St. Paul’s Cathedral choir boy, Peter Auty.

     You can watch it in it’s entirety on Vimeo.

I’m “Hear” for You

I’ve never shared the elevator with another person in all the weeks I’ve been coming to help her. It has a musty, stagnant odor like most of them do, I suppose from mostly being shut tight while waiting for passengers. The worn carpeting probably doesn’t help either. Only two floors up but I can’t help wondering—what if this thing stops between floors and I get stuck? I eye the notice with instructions to call 911 in case of emergency. Ok, I have my phone, can do that. Hope help arrives quickly and I don’t go into a panic…

The doors open and I take a right and let myself into the first apartment where St. Francis stands guard on the porch. It’s dark and quiet…most likely she’s still in bed finishing her afternoon nap. I see that the sliding glass door is open and am thankful for the fresh air. The apartment smells of old age, illness and too many skipped showers. I reach her bedroom door that’s always open and see her small face haloed with white hair, layers of sheet, blanket, and comforter and her new favorite, fake, unidentifiable-animal-fur that her daughter sent for Christmas, pulled up under her chin. It’s soft as a bunny however and I’ve joked with her that it’s the perfect “pet”…no feeding or bathroom duties necessary. Careful not to startle her, I gently call her name and she quickly opens her eyes and asks…”is it that late already?”

Immediately she starts talking and pretty much doesn’t stop until I leave 2 ½ hours later. She tells me that she had a bad night…couldn’t sleep and her digestion is bothering her again. “Don’t know if I can eat, you know I don’t have an appetite anymore…I don’t care if I eat or not.” Her small, blue eyes look at me for sympathy and I give it to her. “I’m so sorry.” She changes the subject and points out her family members in frames scattered throughout the room. This son has two daughters who are successful and talented…and beautiful. This grandson now has a baby that I haven’t seen yet, and my daughter hasn’t visited me in almost 2 years. The stories have been repeated to me many times but I listen and nod and ask questions that I already know the answers to. She’s so happy and proud when speaking of her family.

We settle on a small, fresh salad with chicken strips on top with a balsamic vinegar dressing. I cut the strips into bite sized pieces. She finishes it all. Being a vegetarian, I hadn’t cooked meat in decades before agreeing to prepare her daily dinners. The chicken strips are pre-cooked and I just have to heat them up but the turkey burgers that she likes are bloody and have a strong “animal” smell. Took some getting used to…

Victoria C. Slotto has a prompt at The Bardo Group asking writers to integrate the senses in our writings: http://intothebardo.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/common-senses-writers-wednesday/#comment-5749

Adventures in Babysitting

For several days last week, I stayed at my sister and brother-in-law’s house while they went on a few-day visit to Savannah with some friends.  I was taking over the care of two small children that she has been watching out of her home and also caring for their dog and cat.

In preparation of this endeavor, I had gone over to her house on several occasions to let the babies get to know me and I them.  One was two months old and the other nine months at the time and already starting to walk.  The older one is there only half a day.  But there was a complication–both babies are very demanding and my sister was feeling the pressure herself. I was feeling very nervous.  What do you do when both are screaming?  My sister tried to think of someone who could come over for a few hours during the time they both needed care…and then our mother came to the rescue.  She offered to come over each morning and give me a hand.

As it turned out, I only needed Mom one day.  The older baby was teething and a little feverish so his parents kept him home for two days.  But on that fateful third day, the morning started out with the newborn and I having to evacuate the house for a few minutes when I smelled something burning after turning the light on in the nursery.  I looked for smoke and didn’t see any but immediately called 911 and asked for fire rescue and told them I was taking the baby outside until they arrived and could find the cause of the smell.

With sirens wailing, two trucks came barreling around the road that runs alongside the pond on the golf course down at the end of the street.  I waved to them to let them know of my location.  About eight men descended from the two trucks, most in full fire-fighting gear…some carrying axes…ready to tear my sister’s house to pieces, if need be, to find the cause of the trouble.

I led them into the house and to the nursery.  One asked if that was the only room that I smelled the burning…yes.  In a short minute, they had discovered the source of the problem.  One of my sister’s four year old grandson’s socks had somehow become wedged next to a light bulb in the chandelier and had started to burn.  I was asked if any children lived at the house and I told them of my sister’s grandson, Nicholas, who visits frequently and often spends the night.

The firemen had a chuckle about finding a tiny sock wedged up there and I was left wondering how that sock actually got up there.  To “wedge” something, a ladder would have been necessary…wouldn’t it?  Before they left, I was advised that the child should have a talking to about the dangers of hot light bulbs and was handed the culprit as they left…one small charred sock.  I was very grateful that the baby and I could safely return to the house and that chopping it to pieces wasn’t required.

This all happened before the second baby showed up and my mother arrived to help.

Still puzzling over how that sock got up there, the mystery was solved after I questioned Nicholas when his father brought him over that afternoon.  He told me that his socks had gotten soggy wet when he and Dad had been washing the car two days prior at Grandmommie’s house.  True to form, he had flung his socks off his feet in taking them off in the nursery and one had become wedged up in the light fixture.  Because it had been so wet, it had taken a couple of days for it to dry out and then be able to “smolder”.  Aha!

The remainder of the day went as well as could be expected with one baby going through separation anxiety and the other thinking he was starving to death all day long!  My mother was a champ.  She sang and talked to the babies and wheeled the one around the house in a stroller…the only thing that seemed to soothe him.  Both children loved Mom’s attention and I was so grateful that she was there to help.

My sister asked if I would come over half a day and help her with the care of the children.  I would love to.  I’ll make a little money and do good service in helping raise two children of the world…it’s my pleasure.

Nicholas is being more mindful when removing his socks.

Nicholas at his Uncle Taylor and Aunt Lizzie’s house with their dog, Cooper.  His Grandmommie took this photo.

Red-Shouldered Hawk–Setting and Description

Drying my hands on the vintage-style towel, I left the kitchen with dinner’s simmering, potato leek soup on the stove,  sending curlicues of steamy aroma into the air, and headed toward the bedroom to make the bed.  A mundane chore but one I did daily…I couldn’t stand a rumpled bed. 

Passing through the living room, I asked my husband if he would keep an ear out for a “boil over”.

“Richard, could you keep an eye on the soup for me; I’ll be back in a few minutes.”  He was sitting on the sofa scanning the day’s newspaper while keeping one ear tuned to the news on the television. 

“Sure,” he mumbled absentmindedly. 

The newscaster’s voice trailed behind me as I headed down the hall…”Another homicide victim discovered…” 

As I entered the bedroom, my eyes followed the path from the sliding glass door to the birdfeeder hanging under the Bay Laurel tree. A small gasp escaped and my eyes widened at the sight of the Red-Shouldered Hawk standing beneath the feeder.  Even though I’ve seen them numerous times, their sheer size and impressive vocals always astonish me. Positioning myself on the edge of the bed, after quickly making it, I had a clear view to watch her every move.

She stood nearly a foot and a half tall, her yellow and black, hooked beak and quick, black eyes were standard for this species of hawk.  I identified her further by the ruddy brown on the breast and shoulders and the barred tail.  The females are larger than the males and I was sure that this large one must be a female.  I studied her for ten minutes, lost in fascination, while she casually groomed herself… until I heard Richard calling me.

“Where are you, what are you doing!” 

“I’m coming,” I shouted, jumping up and hurrying towards the living room.  “Wait until I tell you what I just saw!”

Write2Day–Setting and Description:  http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/write2day-setting-and-description/

Cinderella’s Close Call

          She had only her memories of that astonishing time, as she perched on what was once the magical carriage which had transported her that night long ago to that fateful ball.   She sipped her raspberry leaf tea and reflected on the state of events that had led her back to her roots and ultimately to her peace.

          Yes, she had met her Prince Charming and yes, they had tried to make a go of it, but she soon realized that she preferred an unfettered life.   She had left the palace in spite of loving the Prince. Her overbearing and tyrannical mother-in-law would have kept her enslaved and downtrodden as she had once been before.   No, thank you!

          She lived alone and was free of the manipulation and control of her step-sisters and selfish stepmother.   She enjoyed tending the pumpkin patch and had no one to answer to.

          Now her days were spent as she chose, leisurely and lovingly tending her pumpkins, sipping tea and having all her needs met through her own hands.   The glass slippers, hung from a low tree branch–are a reminder of what she almost lost…again.

Entry for Bluebell Books:  Short Story Slam # 17:  http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2011/12/short-story-slam-week-17.html

The Traveling Dad

     For probably a couple of years before my Dad passed away, I had tried to get him a copy of “The Traveling Wilburys” Vol. 1, the collaborative effort by George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison.  My father was a huge music buff of all types of music, from current rock and roll, to jazz and rhythm and blues and I knew he would have loved this music.  However, during this time, the music had gone out of print when the group’s contract with Warner Brothers ended and the rights went to George Harrison and the music was never reissued before his death in 2001.  So I had no luck finding him a copy.  Now, they have been in print again for some time.

     My boyfriend, Tom, had an old copy of the group’s first CD which was stored in a stack of others against the wall in our home office waiting to be filed away.  One afternoon, not too long after my Dad passed away, I went into the office and found “The Traveling Wilburys” CD lying in the middle of the floor.  I looked to the stack against the wall and it was undisturbed.  There was no way it could have dislodged itself from within the stack and “rolled” (in its case) over to the middle of the room.  I questioned Tom and asked him if he had gotten that CD out–no he hadn’t.  I was dumbfounded as to how it happened and then realized that it was Dad again–paying me a visit–letting me know he was still around and that he knew of my intentions.

     He had visited me multiple times after his death, getting my attention by “bouncing” and then “stepping” across my bed at night just as I was going to sleep.  At first, I thought for sure my cat, Sita, had somehow gotten in the room and was pouncing up on the bed to have a snooze with me but no, that wasn’t the case.  I knew instinctively that it was Dad saying hello.

 

Pictures from Google Images

Sacred Music

     Sacred music has taken different forms throughout my life.  First through the Christian church of my parents, I learned hymns that I was taught as a child in Sunday school–many of those ancient songs touching my heart more deeply as I grew older.

     But as a teenager, I made a different choice for my spiritual path and with that came learning mantra chanting, especially kirtan (devotional chanting).  Much of this music that I learned was sung in Gurmukhi, the Sanskrit-based language of the Sikh scriptures written hundreds of years ago.  It is said that if you chant the verses in their original written form, the specific tones can actually raise the vibration of the different energy centers in the body and can promote healing and stability.

     There is a vibratory frequency that corresponds to everything in the universe. Happiness or sorrow, joy or regret are vibratory frequencies in the mind. When we chant a mantra we are choosing to invoke the positive power contained in those particular syllables. Whether it’s for prosperity, peace of mind, increasing intuition, or any other possible benefits inherent in mantras, simply by chanting them, we are setting vibrations into motion that shall have an effect. It doesn’t actually matter if we understand the meaning of the sounds or not.

     Learning to chant had a profound effect on my life.  Still to this day, many years after I have left the ashram life where I learned so much about spirituality, I can chant along with the sacred songs written by ancient masters and be propelled into a space of heart opening and gratitude.

My entry for Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Sacred Music:  http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/monday-morning-writing-prompt-sacred-music/

A Head Case

     I knew right away they were barking up the wrong tree–he would just pass the buck.  After all, he always has a chip on his shoulder.  His recent girlfriend had dropped him like a hot potato because of his bad temper, always having an ax to grind and he drinks like a fish too. 

     Someone needs to give that boy a taste of his own medicine, otherwise how is he ever going to learn that you treat people the way you would like to be treated?  Make no bones about it; I don’t think that lad is playing with a full deck!

     He has a knee-jerk reaction to any type of conflict–he’s a real hot head–flipping the bird willy-nilly.  He never stops to think before he acts and flies off the handle at the drop of a hat.  And it’s not like he’s a new kid on the block, he grew up here and has a lot of flesh and blood support who have given him everything but the kitchen sink.  There’s no excuse for his boorish behavior. 

     It seems he often ends up with just a slap on the wrist when being confronted.  He can be very charming and manipulative to wheedle out of paying his dues.  He’s loud and obnoxious, and always tries to steal the limelight.  I say, pick up your ears buddy, put a sock in it, and straighten up and fly right!

Entry for dVerse Poets:  Idioms   http://dversepoets.com/2011/11/12/poetics-what-did-you-call-me/ and The Purple Treehouse:  http://purpletreehouse.blogspot.com

 

St. George Island

   Perhaps now, November will bring  memories of the time I spent with my three sisters for a getaway on St. George Island in the Panhandle of Florida.  Only one of us had visited that part of our state and we were eager to see what it would bring to our stay on the island.

     Our youngest sister, Mary, came from Kansas and our sister Tracy joined us from her home near Boulder, Colorado.  The four of us had never taken a trip together before and we looked forward to spending the time with each other.  Mary and I drove the six hour trip from Orlando and settled in on our check-in day of Saturday afternoon.  She and I had the spacious, three bedroom, three bath house to ourselves until Jan and Tracy joined us on Tuesday.

      We explored the nearby, small town of Apalachicola, home of roughly three thousand residents.  (St. George Island is mostly inhabited by visitors.)  We met one that first afternoon, John Lee, who ran a small shop in the historic downtown district.  He had run the newspaper there for years and now could come and go as he pleased being semi-retired selling t-shirts with historic figures on them and offering the popular Tupelo honey that was made locally.  He knew much about the area and we received quite a history lesson that day.  He told us about Dr. John Gorrie and other historic notables.

     Driving around on the outskirts of downtown, Mary and I spied an old cemetery and decided to walk through it and see some of the resting places of well-known past residents who had made this fishing port their home.  We were looking for Dr. Gorrie’s grave site as well.  He was known for inventing the first ice machine used for helping keep yellow fever and other illnesses at bay.  His discovery later led to refrigeration and air conditioning.  We also learned that his remains rested across the street from a museum in his honor and not in the town cemetery where we had been looking.

     We also drove down to one end of St. George Island to St. George Island State Park where camping is popular and trails are numerous and there are many undeveloped beaches to explore.  Pure white dunes, covered in state-protected sea oats populated the area along the beach.  The length of the island is around 38 miles and we drove from one end to the other at times driving with the Gulf of Mexico on one side of the road and Apalachicola Bay on the other.

     The four of us hiked Tate’s Hell State Forest a tract of land covering over 200,000 acres where we saw black bear tracks (large and small) in the sandy trail that we followed as well as cat prints–bobcats or Florida Panthers?  I was very glad that we didn’t come across a bear even though I was told they were usually quite timid and would run if they heard voices.  I didn’t want to test out that theory!  We all had our binoculars at the ready looking for a new bird to spot but didn’t have much luck throughout the trip.  Timing seems to be very important when bird watching–apparently we were a little early to spot any new “snow birds” arriving to the area.

     Cape San Blas was a destination another day where we all stopped for a picnic and walked along yet another beach looking for shells.  After lunch, we continued on our drive to St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park where we came to the end of the point that looked out onto a small island in the bay which could only be accessed by boat.

     We made most of our meals at home but my sisters enjoyed some of the fresh seafood made famous by the area waters when we went out for dinner a few times.

     The weather was perfect for hiking and sightseeing during the week.  The days were mostly clear blue, sunny skies in the low to mid 70s with the nights in the 40s to 50s.  It became quite blustery at times and a heavy but fast-passing rain hit one night as we played Scrabble.  The house of three levels, which was built on high stilts, shook with the wind.  We felt a little disconcerted but our feelings passed quickly as the storm did.

     Apalachicola was hosting its 48th annual Florida Seafood Festival and was expecting thousands of attendees this weekend.  This is Florida’s longest running maritime event held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River.  Mary and I saw some of the preparations as we went into town the day before the festival began but we left Saturday morning as it was getting underway.

     Yes, this trip may become one of my favorite memories of all of my Novembers. It was a very memorable time had with four very special sisters.

 

Monday Morning Writing Prompt:–November:   http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/

Cheesy Vegetable Soup

Légumes

Image via Wikipedia

There was no measuring when cooking this comforting dish.  I made it up when my daughters were elementary school age.  It’s a vegetable-filled and cheesy-sauced soup accompanied by hot homemade corn bread.  Just about everything was homemade by me when the girls were growing up–even their baby food.  I never bought one single jar of baby food for them.  It was so easy to take a bit of fresh steamed veggies or fresh fruit and puree them to make the ideal food with no added sugar, preservatives or additives.  But I digress–I was talking about that soup that they loved so much–that we all loved so much. 

            I started with cooking the diced potatoes, carrots, broccoli, yellow squash, celery, onions, and garlic altogether in one large, deep pot.  I may have used vegetable stock.  Then I started the cheese sauce by heating milk on the stove, grating the cheddar cheese and dusting it lightly with flour before adding it to the pan of hot milk–not boiling.  It always came out perfectly smooth–the grated cheese melting lump free and the flour adding just enough “bulk” to thicken the sauce to the perfect consistency as I gently whisked it in the milk.  When the vegetables were tender–I drained most of the cooking water off and then added the sauce–salt and pepper were the only spices.  Although sometimes a splash of tamari may have been added too.  Served with a side of hot cornbread with butter and jam or honey, it finished the dinner off just right. 

            And another thing that made this dish so particularly enjoyable was using the special soup bowls that we had bought at the Mikasa outlet.  They were a beautifully pleasing deep, cobalt blue ceramic that had a handle on one side in which you could use to keep from burning your hands on the hot surface of the bowl.  The girls loved those bowls and I think I mainly used them when I made that favorite, nourishing soup. 

          I cherish the memories of bringing those girls comfort.

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Comfort Food:  http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/monday-morning-writing-prompt-comfort-food/

Darkness

Autumn
Image by Blakkos via Flickr

In spite of living in sunny Florida, when the days of the autumn equinox draw closer, even we can’t escape the shorter days and the longer nights that arrive with it.

Even though the temperatures are still reaching into the mid to high 80s these early days of October, the sun is hanging lower in the sky and a perceptible shift has been in the atmosphere for a few weeks now.  Just this past weekend, we had the first change in our evening temperatures and the humidity has dropped markedly.  It’s no longer stifling muggy when the air hits you as you step outside.  It’s been a long time coming and very welcomed.

And there’s another feeling that comes with it for me too though–one of loss, of sorrow and despair that permeates me when the cool weather arrives.  Even though, for the most part, our fall and winter months come with bright, sunshiny days–I can still be affected by a pervasive feeling of anxiety that sweeps over me.  So it can’t be blamed on Seasonal Affective  Disorder (SAD).

I feel it is tied in with my life growing up in a problematic home ruled by alcohol.  We were thrust together even more closely than usual during the cold months and it was an especially difficult time for me.  So I believe, still to this day, I am feeling those days– imprinted in my DNA–emerging most often on the darkest and most bitter, cold days that will soon be approaching–reminding me.

Those feelings have lessened their grip as I’ve grown older, perhaps I’ve let go of and put behind me much of that time–but still I notice and feel their presence.

 My entry for Monday Morning Writing Prompt:  Darkness  http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/monday-morning-writing-prompt-darkness/

Afternoon at the Wildlife Refuge

     When I want to get away for an afternoon, Tom (or other family members) and I like to head over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge specifically to travel the slow, winding seven mile Black Point Wildlife Drive located on the eastern coast of Florida.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from our house.  Nearby is the Haulover Canal waterway which connects the Indian River to Mosquito Lagoon.  Most often we stop there on our way home to visit the Manatee and watch Bottlenose Dolphin swimming slowly in the canal.

    On one particular winter visit to the refuge, the place was heavily populated with not only the usual Florida residents but many wintering species of birds.  We saw large groups of Roseate Spoonbills, you can’t miss their brilliant pink feathers, White Pelicans, bobbing on the surface of the water like small sailboats, and many species of ducks including Northern Shovelers with their unmistakable, large, broad bills.  We spotted charming Belted Kingfishers darting quickly through the scrub, which we commonly see well before we arrive at the refuge, perched on the telephone wires–their unique, large, crested heads easily identifying them.

                                                              Roseate Spoonbill

Belted Kingfisher

     Very common bird sightings at this wildlife refuge are Great Blue Herons, Green Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Snowy Egret, Moorhens, American Bittern, White Ibis, hawks, eagles, gulls, terns, snipes, sandpipers and coots.  Binoculars at the ready, we can zoom in on many of these birds and enjoy them more close up and personal.  Florida is fortunate to be such a haven for so many species.  Most everyone in my family are nature lovers and birders and take the chance whenever we can to watch and listen to see if we can add another bird to our long list of sightings.

     We almost always see alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the narrow canals that line the Black Point Wildlife Drive.  On one recent visit, I did my best impersonation of a baby gator cry and the large alligator we were watching, lifted his head up and looked back at me.  I’ve also had alligators swim towards me, attracted by the sound.  They may have been interested in a meal–they will eat their young.

     Native plants are also abundant there and we often spot the colorful, daisy like, coreopsis or Tickweed, catching our eyes by its bright yellow.

     My sister and her husband have seen the elusive Florida Bobcat several times,  sometimes catching them walking nonchalantly down the middle of the road barely paying attention to them as they follow.  I’ve yet to see one, although I have seen their tracks on the walking trails.

     Near the end of the seven-mile drive is a platform built partially over a canal with a device attached to it pinpointing an enormous Bald Eagle nest in the distance.  The mating pair raises a family there yearly–the nest seemingly growing more expansive as the years go by.  It’s held high in the branches of a huge oak tree.

     Then it’s over to Haulover Canal to see if we can spot a manatee or dolphin.  We usually do.  Last week, when I was laid up with my bad back (and couldn’t go), my brother and sister who are visiting here, went with another sister and a friend to the canal after completing the wildlife drive.  They had the most astonishing encounter with a manatee as they sat on a boat launch.  Our friend had heard that if you splash the water, the manatees may come over to investigate.  They are known to be very curious.  So my sister, Tracy, took up splashing her feet vigorously in the water and a huge, 800 pound manatee (by my brother’s estimation) swam right over to them.  They each took turns “petting” him as he brought his head up out of the water and peered at them.  My other sister began scratching his back, which he obviously seemed to enjoy, and then turned over floating on his back and allowed her to scratch his belly–even holding her hands gently with his front flippers at one point.  I’m getting over there as soon as I can!

     Needless to say, this is one of my most relaxing ways to spend an afternoon.  Immersed in nature–surrounded by Florida’s untouched beauty.

My entry for Monday Morning Writing Prompt–A Day of Refreshment:http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/monday-morning-writing-prompt-a-day-of-refreshment/

Silence

Sanyas Ashram

Image via Wikipedia

     You may think that an ashram environment is one of peace and tranquility and it certainly can be at times, but the truth of the matter is, wherever human beings gather, there can be drama.  This popular spiritual commune was no different.  Located near the foothills of the Himalayas, it is one of many scattered throughout India and is presided over by a prominent guru.  It is a retreat destination of many worldwide as well as home to several devotees.

     An issue facing many of the pilgrims that make their way to this spiritual haven is one of privacy.  The lack of private, individual lodging for the enormous influx of visitors make it futile for some to remain comfortable.  Much grumbling, sulking and complaining would ensue with sometimes inexcusable, heated arguments breaking out.

     Finally, this brought about a strict and decisive mandate.  Silence.  Within the walls of the compound, silence would be maintained at all times unless otherwise authorized.  Meals would be taken in silence.  All darshans and yoga classes would be held in silence by the attendees.  No more chit-chat or other conversation within the ashram would be tolerated.  Any questions needing to be asked of personnel would be done in private quarters.

     The change was immediate.  A rapport quickly could be felt between the visitors when they had only the use of inference and “sign language” to communicate with each other.  Now, the attendees could more easily absorb the discipline and teachings with their full attention and not with distracted bickering with their neighbors.  Ah, peace at last.

NOT A TRUE STORY

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Random Creativity:  http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/monday-morning-writing-prompt-random-creativity/

Gaslighting

This screenshot shows Ingrid Bergman being gas...

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I can’t remember when I first watched the 1944 movie, “Gaslight”, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, but it quickly became one of my favorites to catch on the Turner Classic Movie channel.  Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury costar in this second adaptation to be filmed. It was Angela Lansbury’s screen debut at age eighteen.  She plays the surly maid in the household.

The story opens as Alice Alquist has been murdered in her London home.  The murderer made his escape when interrupted by a young child, Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman).  Alice Alquist is Paula’s aunt who is a renowned opera singer and who took in Paula to raise after her mother’s death.

Paula is sent to Italy to study opera with the same teacher who made her aunt a star and there she meets Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) and soon falls in love with him and they marry.  Gregory soon persuades Paula to return to the home that her aunt has left to her in London.  She gives up her voice training and returns to the home where her aunt’s murder had taken place many years earlier.  Gregory encourages his wife to store all of her aunt’s belongings in the attic to be locked away with the door blocked.

Soon thereafter, strange occurrences start happening.  The gaslights in the house go suddenly dim and then brighten for no apparent reason.  Paula hears footsteps overhead in the attic at night.  When she reports these things to her husband, he scoffs at her and tells her she’s imagining things.  Pictures start disappearing from the walls–Gregory accuses Paula of taking them down and when she denies it; he says she just doesn’t remember doing it.  She “loses” a brooch given to her by Gregory.  Many odd happenings continue to take place all blamed on Paula’s increasing forgetfulness or figments of her imagination.  She starts to doubt herself and becomes ill with worry and anxiety.  She is subsequently kept from her friends and from accepting any outside invitations by Gregory’s attempts to “protect” her.

Paula doesn’t know it, but her new husband is her aunt’s killer.  He had wooed, married and brought her back to London so he could continue what he had started to do many years prior–find Alice’s fortune of jewels.  His plan is to slowly drive Paula mad so he can have her institutionalized.  He wants her gone so he can continue his hunting unimpeded.  He knows the jewels are there but has looked through all the belongings in the attic night after night and his searches have turned up nothing.  Yes, those are his footsteps overhead and it is he who is turning the gas on in the attic thus making the downstairs gas go dim and then bright again as he turns it off.  He is behind all the unexplained mysteries.

Self doubt and anxiety is taking its toll on Paula.  But by a chance meeting with an inspector at Scotland Yard, played by Joseph Cotten, she allows him to follow up on his hunches with the cold case crime of Alice Alquist and he catches his man.  Just as Gregory finds the jewels–that had been sewn into Alice’s gowns–he is arrested.  Paula gets her revenge by mocking him as he’s bound to a chair awaiting the police.

This movie took on even more significance to me when I realized that my own husband (now ex) was using some of these same tactics on me.  I came to see how he undermined me and led me to doubt myself.  My anxiety grew as he used many common abusive methods on me–“only” verbal–though insidious and malicious.  I was fortunate that I woke up and got out.  This movie became my banner of freedom and symbol of triumph.

 I even learned that there is a term called “gaslighting” to mean manipulating and detrimentally influencing others to believe they are losing their minds.  Oh, wow!

Musing  By Moonlight:  Women Escaping a Violent Environment

Monday Morning Writing Prompt:  Art Inspiring Art  http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/monday-morning-writing-prompt-art-inspiring-art/

Padmini

It was dark.  The sky was already twinkling with stars in the lavender-hued sky.

Padmini was lost.  Padmini was a young Asian elephant.  She could not find her mother, Noor, or the rest of her herd.  She had already looked in the bamboo grove.  There were only a few monkeys scampering about.  “Have you seen any elephants?” she had asked hopefully.

“No, there are no elephants in here,” one small monkey had replied.

“Thank you,” Padmini said.  She moved down the trail.  Let me try looking in the grasslands, she thought to herself.

The grasslands were a favorite gathering place for the herd.  Her grandmother, Amala, the Pure One, was the herd’s leader.  Perhaps she had led them there to have an evening meal.  Padmini’s favorite mango fruit could also be found there.

She rounded the bend that the path took towards the grassy plain and came face to face with Minnie, the Mynah bird.  She and Minnie were great friends.

Padmini was so happy to see a familiar face.

“Minnie!” she exclaimed, “Have you seen my herd?”

 Minnie smiled warmly at her friend but answered that she had not.  “I’m sorry, Padmini,” she said.  “I can’t stop and help you look for your herd; I have an important flight to make.”  And with that, she quickly flew off.

 Padmini felt even more lost now–and alone.  She walked on with her head held down.  Not even the lovely, full moon and the cool breeze of the night could lift her spirits.

 She could clearly see the outline of the grassy plain ahead with the shining brightness of the moon’s light.  She could not see her family.  Now, she began to feel quite worried.

Padmini continued on for a short distance, feeling very glum.  But then, from the dark shadows under the stand of banana trees, the outline of a massive animal caught her attention.  As it moved slowly into the moonlit edge of the forest, she recognized it as Kanja, the Water Buffalo.   He too was known to her family–she knew she could trust him.

She began to tell her story of being separated from her family and how frightened she was but then stopped suddenly as she spotted something in the distance.   A small, white, fluffy object was bounding towards her.  It was Misha!  Misha was the puppy that lived at the nearby wildlife camp with the nice humans.  She and Misha had recently become friends.

“Padmini!” Misha cried, “Your herd has been looking all over for you!”  “Where have you been?”  “They’re all just over the hill at the watering hole!” she continued.  “Come on, I’ll show you the way!”

Padmini was filled with delight!  She threw her trunk high in the air and gave a long, relieved trumpet!  She could hear her entire family as they answered back with their own joyful trumpeting and low rumbles in response.  As she ran to join them, she vowed that she would never let them out of her sight again!

 

My entry for Bluebell Books:  Short Story Slam Week Six–Children’s Literature  http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2011/07/short-story-slam-week-6-childrens.html

Buddhists Today

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama brings togeth...

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          Having been chosen to interview His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama by “Buddhists Today” magazine, I am overjoyed.  I’ve been requesting an assignment to be able to meet with him for years now.  The opportunity has finally been proffered.

            Packing my bags, I’m preparing to come face to face with someone I have deeply admired for his humility, grace, wisdom and perseverance through the myriad challenges of being spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists of the world while being the most well known of Tibet’s exiles.

            I am flying to Washington, DC where my visit will coincide with a sacred ritual that he will be performing over several days during “Kalachakra for World Peace” from July 6 through the 16th.  He will be guiding student monks through Kalachakra Initiation and will be transmitting authority to them to practice certain spiritual teachings in tantra and other practices.  This process includes bestowal of the Bodhisattva vow.  The actual transference of power begins July 14th.  After the ceremony, I will be granted some time to speak to him before he heads off to his next speaking engagement.

            I arrive at the Georgetown Double Tree located on a quiet, nondescript street not far from the infamous Watergate Hotel and am subsequently shown to a very comfortably appointed room.  I am centrally located and convenient to my appointment with His Holiness that I will be having the following day.

            After a fitful, erratic night’s sleep, I prepare the next morning for my meeting–a car soon arrives to take me on the last leg of my journey that has been a dream of mine for years.  Shortly, we arrive at another hotel not far from where I am staying and enter an underground parking garage and then through an entrance to where I will soon be led and find myself opposite the Dalai Lama.

            My legs begin to tremble as nervousness vibrates through my body.  But as soon as I am escorted into his private quarters and look into that beaming face welcoming me, my fear evaporates and I am at once calmed and at ease.  He is wearing his familiar saffron and maroon-colored robes.  He nods at me, still smiling broadly, and gently takes my hand and motions for me to sit in a chair positioned next to him.   I place my hands together and touch my forehead with them as I give a polite and respectful bow of my head.

            He listens with attentive consideration as I ask my first question of him:  What can we, as individuals, do to help bring about peace between the different peoples of the world who seemingly have such vast disparities and ideals?  His response:  Peace can only be brought about through individuals.  It is through our individual compassion and understanding for one another that we can realize that all people have the same basic requirements of life–to be acknowledged, respected and loved.  It is up to each individual to make that commitment to look upon his fellow men of the world as himself.  When you start to look at differences and focus on external, mundane distinctions, this is where you will lose your humanity.  It is your choice–within each of your hearts. 

            Sir, I am familiar with a quote of yours that really personally resonates with me, “My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness”.  Would you please expand on that?  In his quiet, sincere voice he offers–I mean that you don’t need to follow strict rituals or dogma as spiritual practice; simply treating others that may cross your path with kindness and respect is all the practice one needs perform.  I am a simple monk and follow this guidance in my everyday life.  Also, let me just add that you Americans are a very worried society.  You are unwittingly creating much more suffering in your lives by your needless worry.  If there is something happening in your lives that you cannot make better or change then there is no need to worry about it.  Worrying is a waste of energy and will not accomplish anything good in your lives.  This is very logical thinking and can alleviate so much suffering if you will let go of worry.  You should read my book, “The Art of Happiness:  A Handbook for Living.”  He followed this statement with the high-pitched giggle for which he is known.

         Our meeting ended with a bow of the head and a hearty laugh by His Holiness.  I leave changed–transformed just by being in his kind presence.

 

NOT A TRUE STORY

Wordsmith Wednesday:  Cultivating Imagination

http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/wordsmith-wednesday-cultivating-imagination/

 

 

 

 

The Golf Course

     Having grown up right down the street from a popular golf course and club, I am an authority on the entertainment and great fun that kids can have using it as a vast playground.  It was like our own personal recreation center.

     Most of our fun took place after the golfers vacated the links.  It would be very difficult to do much of anything if we had to dodge golf balls.  We often would feel quite put out if there were late groups of golfers that we would have to wait for to finish their play in the afternoon or early evening.

     During the long, summer months, my brothers and their friends often used the fairways as a football field.  There would be groups of kids on the sidelines watching the action–some waiting to have a turn in the game–others just cheering on their favorites.

     My girlfriends, and sisters and I would practice cartwheels and cheers and my best friend taught me how to do my first backbend out on the golf course.  We also took our batons out there to practice our favorite twirling moves.  We would oftentimes lie up on the slope between the fairway and the green and stare up into the air watching the clouds shift their shapes and move across the sky.  We saw so much…

     My best friend and I also had a favorite tree on the golf course.  It was a tall, wide and sturdy oak with broad, thick branches that we would lay on and feel the breezes blowing through.  It was so calming and relaxing to lie there–hidden in the leaves while watching the world go by from our protected vantage point.

     We also loved to dig in the bunkers (sand traps) and make castles or cover ourselves in the fine, cool, white sand.  We always used the rakes left out there to smooth over our creations after we were done.  That was fun too–raking the sand.  On occasion, one of the neighbors would come out and yell at us to get out of there–we had no clue as to how we could possibly be bothering her.  Years later, after becoming a golfer myself, I realized that what we did was probably not the best thing to have been doing.  But all we knew was that they were like a giant sandbox just screaming for us to jump in.  If there was a pile of dirt anywhere, we were drawn to it like a kid to a candy shop.

     It was a favorite place to find lightning bugs on late summer evenings too.  Their bright, twinkling lights showed up very well in the wooded areas on the outskirts of the fairways.  Those bugs gave a magical, fairyland feel to our neighborhood nights.

Another fun thing to do in the summer was to watch the bats come out at dusk.  They could very clearly be seen in the open space of the golf course.  Their erratic flight while they looked for bugs thrilled us.  Sometimes we would throw our shoes up and watch them dart quickly after them thinking they may be a food source.

     We explored the water hazards, sometimes wading in to find abandoned golf balls that we would then sell back to the golfers.  We would find minnows and tadpoles, crayfish and other interesting things in the water.  Many wading birds and ducks could be found in the waters too.

     One of my brothers went through a snake hunting phase and would bring various snakes home that he had caught–many of them found around the lush, wooded areas around the golf course.  He wasn’t allowed to keep them for any length of time but I do remember a wooden box with a screen-covered top that he had made to temporarily house them until our mother would finally command him to turn them loose.  I wasn’t afraid of them and would touch their smooth, sleek, scaled skin while he gently held the head well away from me.  On occasion, he would find one that was shedding its skin–we were particularly fascinated by that process.  None were poisonous of course.

     The club house had a swimming pool to which my best friend and I would ride our bikes to on blistering, summer days.  It cost fifty cents for an all day swim in the pool.  It was bliss.  We would explore the clubhouse, maybe buy a Coke or snack and swim until our eyes were bloodshot–we got our money’s worth.

     That same pool was the object of some of our late night adventures when we were teenagers.  We would put our swimsuits on, grab a towel and walk up to the clubhouse in the late hours of the night and slip into the cool water of the pool if we could get away with it.  One big obstacle to this plan was Cottentop.

     Cottentop, as we kids (un-affectionately) called him, because of his bright, white hair, was the grounds keeper in charge of the golf course.  He was the bane of our fun.  He patrolled around in a golf cart–his shock of white hair could be spotted from quite a distance and we would sound the alarm with a scream that “Cottentop’s coming!” if he came towards our direction.  We would take off and scatter until the coast was clear.

     We also would play in the gigantic sprinklers used to water the course at night.  Donning our bathing suits, we would scamper around and dash in and out of the cool, spraying water.  There were no boundaries to the fun that we would take advantage of.

     When we became older and had outgrown the digging in the bunkers, sprinklers, etc, we would spend time gazing up at the stars with a sister or brother or two.  We would recline out there in the darkness and observe the thousands of stars in our view and occasionally spot them shooting across the sky.  And later, when we came to be interested in our spiritual nature, we would spend hours contemplating life and sharing philosophical ideas with each other, lying out there in the moonlight.  Some of my dates would end up out there too–we would lie in the soft grass, gazing far up into the sky while cuddling.

     The golf course was such a fundamental part of my growing up.  So many good memories are bound to it–hiking, exploring, observing nature and looking for God–I found Her there.

This is a postcard picture of what the pool looked like when I swam there as a child.

Protected

Hitch-hiker's gesture

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 There have been a few times in my life that I feel as if I have narrowly escaped something really bad happening if things had gone in another direction.  I’m not sure why I was spared, but in hindsight; I am deeply grateful for having been.  Here are three instances:

 

            As I recall, a couple of my sisters, a girlfriend (she drove) and I, all went out of town to Tampa one night to attend a rock concert.  Tampa is about an hour and a half drive from Orlando where we all lived.  All of us were in our late teens.  I can’t even remember who was performing that night–the drama afterwards erased it from my memory!  After the concert, we left the auditorium, started on our way home and soon found ourselves stranded, out of gas!  Young, silly girls!  Eventually, a couple of guys pulled over and offered us their assistance.  A ride to a gas station was offered and the use of their empty gas can.  We gratefully agreed and all piled into their large, creaky station wagon and rode with them to get gas.  The can was filled and placed in the far back of their “wagon” and we headed back to our car.  It soon became evident that the gas can, which had been filled to the brim and had no cover on it, had started sloshing out a bit–fumes filled the car.  We were choking and freaking out!  Horrified, we then noticed that the driver was smoking!  We become terrified that the car was going to go up in a ball of fire created by the fumes and the lit cigarette.  We started yelling (begging) for the guy to throw his cigarette out and to slow down.  He laughed and ignored our pleas.  We miraculously arrived intact back to our car and after fueling it, our “rescuers” pointed us in the wrong direction while trailing after us.  We quickly realized we were going the wrong way, our friend turned her car around, and finally we found I-4 and eventually, home.

 

            By God’s grace we were saved from being the victims of having been blown to bits or who knows what else!

 

            On another occasion, after having moved down to Miami, (barely 20 years old) I hitchhiked home from work one day.  My ride had not shown up and I had no way to get in touch with him.  I was new at the job and didn’t have it in me to impose on anyone.  So out on the street, having waited over a half hour or so, I decided to “thumb” my way home.  I had never hitchhiked before (except that crazy Tampa fiasco).  It was a hot, summer day with daylight lasting well into the early evening.  I think that gave me some courage too–that it was still broad daylight.  So I stood by the curb and stuck out my thumb–I don’t remember standing there very long before a small car pulled over with three or four guys in it.   They were very friendly and asked me where I was going–I said Kumquat Avenue, Coconut Grove–sure, they said, get in.  I got in.  I didn’t think a thing of it.  Nothing in me told me I couldn’t trust these guys.  And after a friendly chat with them all the way, they dropped me off, in complete safety, at my front door with a cheerful “take it easy”.

 

            Today, I don’t think someone could pay me to hitchhike!

 

            One dark evening, as I stepped from my car after pulling into the driveway, I was approached by a man walking very quickly towards me.  He was talking excitedly as he swiftly closed the gap between us.  He was telling me that he had run out of gas and that his wife was back in their car and asked if I could help them.  Something inside me made me put my hand up in a “stop” position.  I then told him to stop and that I was uncomfortable with him coming closer.  He stopped in his tracks and said he understood.  I told him I would go inside and tell my husband of his trouble and that we would get help for him.  I went inside and told my husband that someone was outside needing assistance.  We both immediately went to the front yard where I had left the man moments before and found that he had vanished.

 

            I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t had the intuition to “stop” him.

 

            There have been some other near misses through the years that still leave me in awe when I remember them.  Clearly, I have been protected from harm and I don’t for a minute take it lightly.  I always whisper a prayer of thanks.

 

 

Rest in Peace

On Tuesday of this week, the Casey Anthony first degree murder trial started.  Casey Anthony is charged with first degree murder in the death of her two year old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, almost exactly three years ago, in June of 2008.  The media coverage went wild after this young mother, 22 at the time, was found to be continuing on with her partying lifestyle for the entire month that her toddler was discovered to have been missing.  Not a word was uttered to friends or family as to the baby’s whereabouts during that time.

Casey and Caylee lived with Casey’s parents at the time but Casey would often spend nights away from home with boyfriends with the baby so it took her parents some time to realize that the baby was missing.  And when confronted, Casey put them off with the explanation that the child’s “nanny” was keeping the child.  Casey had never identified the father to her parents and then later told them the man had been killed in an automobile accident.

When the grandparents were finally told by Casey that the “nanny” had taken Caylee and she didn’t know where she was, Casey’s mother called the authorities and reported the child missing.  It had been thirty one days since any one had seen Caylee.

This story was on our local news for months and months while volunteers tirelessly searched for this baby.  The media was also camped out in front of the Anthony home for several months watching their every move and adding more stress to the grieving grandparents who not only had a daughter in jail but their grand baby was missing.

Caylee’s body was discovered sometime in December of 2008 by a meter reader, blocks from the Anthony’s home.  Her body was found in a wooded area, badly decomposed, in a plastic bag. Duct tape had been covering her mouth and nose.  Her mother had already been arrested and charged with her murder months prior to her body being found.  Dr. Jan Garavaglia, our Chief Orange County medical examiner  who is also the lead of the television series, “Dr. G: Medical Examiner”, conducted an autopsy and found that the child had died of homicide although she was unable to pinpoint the cause of death.

Now the jury is sequestered here in Orlando for the trial which is estimated to last six to eight weeks.  It took about a week and a half for the jury selection which had to be conducted in Pinellas County, Clearwater, Florida because just about everyone here in Orange County had heard of the case with all of the media attention.  It would have been nearly impossible to find an impartial jury here.

I have been watching the trial a while each day–live coverage.  TruTV covers it from 9AM to 3PM and one of our local television stations carries it live from about 9AM until around 5PM when they recess until the following morning.

I’m captivated by the entire process.  There have already been dramas and twists and turns beginning with the jury selection when a woman spectator yelled out in the courtroom “She killed somebody anyway!” and had to be escorted out of the courtroom by deputy sheriffs.  She ended up tainting two of the potential jurors who had to be excused and was sentenced to two days in the Pinellas County jail for contempt of court.  Judge Belvin Perry, a Chief Judge of Orange County, Florida is presiding over the trial.

My thoughts are with the beautiful child who lost her life.  May justice prevail.

“Whoosh”

We had just finished breakfast and were clearing the dishes from the dining room table.  The girls were excited about getting their bathing suits on and heading down to the apartment complex’s pool downstairs.  We spent many early mornings or late afternoons there during the hot summer months.

Suddenly one of them called to me.  What’s that sound, Mom?  I stopped what I was doing and listened.  A loud “whooshing” sound met my ears.  The sound came closer–I had no clue as to what could be causing it.

I followed the noise from the kitchen and looked out through the sliding glass door that led down to our back stairway.  To my amazement, I saw a hot air balloon gliding slowly over our rooftop!  That “whooshing” sound was the burner that heated the air and kept the thing afloat.  As I watched it slowly (and lowly) go overhead, I saw another one go by following in the other’s path.

I shouted to the girls to come look.  We stepped out onto the small balcony and watched in wonder and delight as they passed by, barely skimming the treetops.  It seemed as if we could almost reach out and touch them they were so low.  They were the typical brightly colored balloons and we could see the people standing inside the wicker baskets as they drifted past.  We exchanged waves.

We ended up watching several of them go soaring over our heads and later found out there was a festival in town where several hundred balloon aficionados had gathered to go flying that weekend.  I never did find out why they were so incredibly low but perhaps they were nearing their landing places nearby.

What a thrill to see them so close, floating soundlessly by (except for when those burners kicked on).  I’ve never forgotten it.

This is a true story.

Entry for Bluebell Books Short Story Slam:   http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2011/05/short-story-slam.html

Rumi’s Healing

Mikao Usui 臼井甕男 (1865 – 1926)

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My friend, Kumari Mullin, is a Reiki Master (pronounced ray-kee).  Reiki was developed by Mikao Usui in 1922.  He was a Japanese Buddhist.  It is a healing modality that uses energy to correct deficiencies in patients.  I’m not going to go into all the details of this practice but I have seen the miraculous healings that have been achieved through Kumari’s work.

Kumari is also an animal communicator and has the ability to intuit an animal’s distress or needs and bring about their healing or well being.  I witnessed this healing with my adult daughter’s cat that had become seriously ill when he was between one and two years of age. 

My daughter, Mahan, and I lived together for several years and I saw firsthand the suffering by her cat, Rumi, and she both.  His first symptoms showed up as severe vomiting episodes and lethargy.  Then he started having seizures which would leave him dazed and refusing to eat.  Many trips to the vet and many thousands of dollars spent on tests, blood transfusions, etc. never gave us a definitive explanation as to what was causing his trouble.  Many times Mahan and I would prepare ourselves to let him go but somehow, miraculously, he would pull through and be seemingly well until the next incident.  He was put on a steroid which helped stabilize him but it never stopped his periods of decline.

During the time of his extreme illness, my daughter and I would feel tremendous stress and worry over Rumi’s wellbeing.  He was so sick and it tore at our hearts to see him going through so much but then he would bounce back and seemingly come back to health.

Mahan knew of Kumari’s work and so decided to give Reiki a try.  Kumari was able to work long distance over the phone so they set up a time for a session.  Mahan and I were very hopeful that Kumari would be able to pinpoint the trouble and get to the root of the problem that Rumi was experiencing.

When Mahan spoke to Kumari, she was intrigued by the messages that Kumari was conveying from Rumi.  Kumari told her that Rumi was very affected by Mahan’s reaction to his illness and that her fear was only hurting the both of them.  She needed to detach herself from the experience and not project that something dire was going to happen.  Rumi was accepting of his illness and appreciated all that was done on his behalf.  Kumari said Rumi was not ready to go.  She also found some physical blockages which she “moved” through Reiki to assist with his “life force energy”.

After Mahan had several more sessions over the phone with Kumari, Rumi has been overall stable except for the occasional mild seizure and some minor “down time”.  He is a very sleek and healthy cat who is very social and loving.  He’s been a wonderful companion to Mahan and we are very grateful to Kumari for the healing she facilitated.

Best Boy Ever

Hi Jan–Nicholas and I had a wonderful time together this morning.  He’s the sweetest, best boy ever.  First, he informed me that you had said when Aunt Gayle gets there that he could eat his chocolate Sponge Bob Square Pants–so he couldn’t get to it fast enough when I walked in the door.  Yum, yum!  Then it was on to basketball–where we got continual “overtimes”.  We both made some baskets.  Fun!  Sad Mishap number 1:  wayward basketball hits Grandmommie’s glass, gold-colored hummingbird feeder and breaks it.  Nicholas immediately apologized profusely–I told him it was just an accident and was not his fault.  I left it on the kitchen counter–picked up broken glass from porch and threw away.

We then went for walk/bike ride around block.  Michael came out and let Nicholas have two small, whopper eggs.  Yum, yum!  Came in and looked at the Highlights magazine and searched for hidden things in a picture–read a couple of stories.  Then he piled pillows up on couch to sit on–Gayle said, be careful that you don’t slip and bonk your head on the table–he asked “Why?”  Two minutes later–slipped and had Sad Mishap number 2:  head bonked table.  Small boo-boo.  Gayle held him while he cried and then asked if he wanted to put some ice on it to help it feel better–he said yes.  All better!
He wanted to take me to his school and got his backpack and said “come on” and that he knew the way.  Talked him out of it.  Spent much time telling him why I wasn’t going to let him eat his M & Ms and/or his lollipop!  He was very persistent, but I won!

Went outside to smell gardenia flowers and watched two squirrels eating from some plants–they got close and we liked them.  I told Nicholas maybe he could take his teacher a flower the next day.  Then spied wasps buzzing around–I told him those bugs will sting and to be careful around them.  Saw hawk fly low towards us and go over the rooftop–cool!  Watched other birds in the trees and commented.  Soon heard Dad’s car coming–Dad’s home!  Dad spots a small grasshopper on a toy out front, tells Nicholas go get his bug catcher and bug house–Dad catches grasshopper and puts it in house.  Nicholas wants to show Grandmommie when she comes home.  Gayle hugs and kisses the best boy ever and says she loves him so much.  Hug and kiss in return.  Successful mission completed!

I babysat for my nephew’s three year old son, Nicholas, this morning.  The above is the email I sent my sister recapping the busy morning we had together.  Nicholas and his Dad live with my sister and her husband.  Nicholas has been playing basketball since he was around 14 months old.  He is an accomplished player.  And he’s the best boy ever!

Entering this for The Purple Treehouse:  Funny Bunny Week Five:  http://purpletreehouse.blogspot.com/2011/12/funny-bunny-fridays-week-5-december-2.html

Baptismal Awakening

Here’s a dream I had many years ago when I was still married.  I started having all these dreams towards the end of our marriage that were very blatantly letting me know what I already knew was true about him.  I wrote many down because they stayed in my mind so vividly:

My husband and I had gone to this building where we were looking for postings on activities around the community.  It appeared to be a church.  Then, I found myself sweeping the floor in the room where we had entered.  There was a smaller room off of this main room and I went to sweep in there.  I saw three steps leading down into this area which reminded me of a baptismal room.  I decided to sweep down in the space below and as I go to jump down in it, I immediately realize that it is extremely deep and I will die if I fall all the way in.  So as I leap, I catch myself and am holding on with my arms while my toes are pressed tightly against the inside wall holding myself up.  I begin yelling for help–for my husband to come help me.  I yell and yell and he doesn’t come.  Finally, he appears and I say get some rope or something to get me out of here–I need your help.  Instead of helping me, he sits down by my head–where I’m desperately clutching onto the edge and he quietly (patronizingly) says to me– if you would just give it some thought you could figure out how to get out of this predicament.  I instantly felt this flash of anger and thought to myself–“fuck it” and with a great, heaving push I was able to pull myself to safety.  I then found myself at the top of the steps and my husband was holding me while I cried.  I was crying because I didn’t want anyone else to fall in there and feel the fear and helplessness that I had.  My feeling towards my husband was neutral.  I wasn’t comforted by his presence.

Entry for Monday Morning Writing Prompt-Dream Symbolism: http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/monday-morning-writing-prompt-dream-symbolism/

Thunderstorm

A fierce thunderstorm just blew through.  Tornado watches were being broadcast and we were warned to stay indoors.  The winds were clocked at 50-60 miles per hour with hail reported in the surrounding area as large as golf balls.

The weather report pre-empted my tuning into the Oprah show this afternoon.  I watched through my living room windows as the wind picked up and started swirling around in squalling, gigantic rotations throughout the tops of the trees in my yard.  I actually felt a surge of fear–I remembered the infamous summer when three back-to-back hurricanes churned through our lives.

 

Thought I would write this short 100 word story on the fierce thunderstorm that blasted through here this afternoon.  They’re very common here in the warmer months.

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