step by step. Do you have any idea how quiet you have to be to sneak up on a sleeping turtle? I was thrilled to get within thirty feet of this one yesterday. When I got to within ten feet I actually wondered if it was dead! Then its little head moved ever so slightly. Three steps closer…then it heard me and dove into the water.
I reflected on the way back to the house about how much my life has changed over the years and yet has remained anchored securely to a few key essentials:
Quiet- My father often said, “If you ever work as much as you talk, you’ll be rich!” I guess I haven’t worked enough, because I’m certainly not rich. But even though I was always an outgoing child who often got into trouble for talking too much and at the wrong time, I also craved quiet and peace and usually found it in the limbs of a tree or the rows of a cotton field. I spent hours reading, daydreaming, wandering the woods, or simply sitting with my cat. Today I find that even a short walk outside calms me and a trip down to the pond erases the stresses and cares of the day. My ability to be quiet comes in handy when photographing animals.
Animals-I truly cannot remember a time when there wasn’t an animal in my life. I don’t know if I really remember it or have just been told it so often that I can visualize it, but we had a dog who kept me from crossing the street by holding onto my diaper until my dad picked me up! I was not quite three years old. There were always dogs, cats, birds, horses, goats, guinea pigs, chickens, pigs, cows, rabbits, sheep, fish, geese, or ducks around. Some years it seemed like we had everything at once! And we often moved with a dog or cat, even from CA to OK or back again. My grandmother kept a parakeet for twelve years. My grandfather always had a dog and for years kept guinea pigs. I’ve had a cat, or ten cats, since I was a toddler. One of my favorite photos of my mother as a child shows her holding a cat! I remember trying to raise baby birds that had fallen from their nests, holding a feeding bucket for a calf whose mother had died, feeding mulberries to the pigs, herding sheep, riding horses. Living with animals and caring for them taught me responsibility and patience. Today animals are still teaching me lessons!
Beauty- I used to think that beauty was something I could attain. Then I turned six and my uncle informed me that I was ugly. Later my grandfather told me I had ugly feet. Then my friend informed me that I was too short to be a model. She also told me I had “well, you know, that nose”. Another friend told me that my forehead was “so high!” And what was that thing next to my eye? And “gee, your hair is so frizzy!” By the time I was a woman I had learned to appreciate beauty in places other than my mirror! But I was certainly surrounded by beauty. My grandmothers and great-grandmothers were wonderful gardeners and always had the most gorgeous flowers. I saw my first amaryllis at my great-grandmother’s house, my first rose at my grandmother’s. My great aunt grew poppies. And despite our many moves and our poverty my mother always managed to grow a few flowers. Nurturing beauty, rather than trying to be a beauty, became my goal. And today gardening is one of the great joys of my life.
Each year when we get to spring and I have become well acquainted with my students I try to “see the future” by observing the things they hold dear and the activities they return to time and again. I don’t spend time with them at home so I have a limited perspective of their lives, but I see glimpses and their conversations often reveal strong likes and dislikes. My experience with previous students tells me that most of them will remain true to the personality traits they have today. I may be sixty-one years old, but I’m still essentially that little girl who loved to sit in a tree and read a book to her cat.
I wish you peace and joy today!