I am a
I’ve been sorting, scanning, filing, deleting, tossing, and storing photos for a month. It’s part of my “finally clean and REALLY organize the office” project this summer. At first it seemed like an overwhelming task. But once I broke it down into specific tasks and began devoting an hour a day to at least one of them, it finally became “doable” and I’m happy to say that I’ve made significant progress.
As you might imagine, I have thousands of photos on my computer. I’ve uploaded some of them to photo services that do not delete them. I have some in albums on other sites. I’ve shared some with family members. I have some on flash drives and even old CDs. Since I currently take about 50 photos per day and save at least ten of those, I also delete about 75 per day from my old files- because unfortunately there were a couple of years when I didn’t delete anything!
I also have old negatives, slides, and photos in storage boxes. I just finished taking many of my older photos OUT of their albums and transferring them to photo storage boxes. Most of them were in old albums with plastic pages that were damaging them.
I approached this project as something that needed to be done and be done quickly. However, it hasn’t quite worked out that way! Lol I failed to realize how entertaining it would be to see some of our old family photos again. There have also been a few photos that I somehow completely forgot that I had- even though I had taken them myself.
Of course it’s fun to see photos of my grown-up offspring as infants and children. Interesting to see old houses, pets, cars, etc. However, it’s also somewhat depressing to see so many photos of family members and friends who are no longer with us. My trip down memory lane has been a bit painful, yet cathartic. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I began this project just before my dad died.
I’m sure I’ll be sharing more photos in the near future, but I’m going to start with these two. The first one is my granddaughter (now in college) sitting in an old desk that I’ve had since about 1992. The other is my great-nephew sitting in the same desk when they visited after Dad’s funeral. Perhaps one day I’ll share a photo of my great-grandchild sitting in it. (Not encouraging anyone yet!)
I took my camera with me when I went out to water early this morning. I’d already decided that because I had some morning errands to do in town, I wouldn’t try to pull weeds or remove any more Bermuda grass today. Besides, I’ve pretty much given up any hope of ever having a wonderful weed-free visitor-friendly garden with winding paths and inviting places to sit. Not going to happen. Perhaps when I’m retired. Perhaps never. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve decided to embrace my garden, weeds and all, and start calling it my “wildlife refuge”. LOL It’s all a matter of perspective. After all, weeds are just plants we don’t like. I’ve decided to like them!
There was definitely a lot of bird activity this morning. No less than twenty doves greeted me when I filled the bird feeders! Kind of creepy in a way…reminded me of “The Birds” movie. The white-winged doves are a bit aggressive anyway and they make a lot of noise and scare off the smaller birds. Thankfully I have several hanging feeders that they can’t hang onto. At one point a dove and a bluebird appeared to declare a bit of a truce.
Then there was an argument of some sort between the woodpeckers. One of them seemed quite happy to finally reach the top of the power pole.
I watched a mockingbird catch a grasshopper. Then another one grabbed a stick and carried to her nest.
The scissor tails were out and about.
The heron was on his stump.
It was a morning for the birds and I enjoyed spending time with them!
Grief is a roller coaster and today the ride hasn’t been all that enjoyable. I’ve been scanning some photos and of course they bring back memories…but also the knowledge that there will be no more.
I was drawn to Job this week, not because I feel that I’m suffering, but because he so clearly describes the worst part of losing a loved one.
7 At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
10 But man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
It’s the permanence of death, the finality of it that is most troubling. There are no “do-overs”, no chance for one more visit or one more discussion or one more anything. Death is a reminder to us all that if we want to do something or say something or go somewhere we’d better do it today. There may not be a tomorrow for us or for the person we plan to see. Someday in heaven...but not here.
Mary and Calvin Banta
As many of you know I am privileged to descend from a long line of writers. Grandpa Banta was known as “Rufe Bolts” to readers of the Caddo Herald. His daughter, Della Banta Springer wrote for the Caddo and Atoka papers for many years. She and my mother also wrote for other newspapers and magazines from time to time. I like to read their stories and I am humbled by their dedication to the written word. I ran across this story today while I was working on some family history. Just thought I would share it with you. I don't think I've posted it before, but if I have you can just enjoy it again!
Lesson of Old Mother Hen
by Colleen Simmons (published in the Orbit in 1974)
“Is that you, KooLee?”
No matter how quietly I tiptoed to his rough hewn door and waited for the clackety clack of his typewriter to cease, he knew I was there. I carried my egg basket for our daily walk to the hen house.
When he opened the door and took my small hand in his gentle, rough one, I squinted up at him and marveled anew at his beautiful brown mustache. It curled up at the ends- the way his mouth did.
As we followed the path worn between the yellow blossomed bitter weed, words weren’t needed to bridge his 70 years and my seven.
The rickety lean-to we called our “hen house” was lined with hay filled boxes and kegs wired or nailed to the rough split logs. It was hard for Grandpa to get in or out. He leaned on his cane at the door and warned, “Be careful, KooLee. Watch for snakes now.”
“I will, Grandpa.”
Barefoot, I stood just inside the door and waited while my eyes adjusted to the dim light. A few hens squawked their complaints as they flew past me out the door.
I went form nest to nest and gathered the eggs. Some were still warm. I placed them carefully in the basket because they were precious.
The last nest was close to the ground in an old nail keg. I squatted down and looked in. “Hi Specky. How’er you doin’?”
A quarrel rumbled deep from the speckled hen’s throat as she ruffled her breast feathers and slightly spread her wings.
“Be careful, KooLee. She’s apt to peck you.”
Outside, I held the basket for him to see the fat eggs. “I feel sorry for her sittin’ there all the time hatchin’ them babies. I ain’t never seen her leave her nest. Reckon she’ll starve?”
“Naw. She leaves her nest when she knows it’s safe. She takes care of herself so she can care for her babies when they come peckin’ out of those eggs.”
On the way back to the house I thought about fluffy baby chickens and I’m sure Grandpa thought about platters of golden fried chicken.
Every day while he waited patiently by the door, I peeked in and said “Hi!” to the speckled hen as she sat in waiting. I’d bring along an ear or two of corn from the shed and shell it close to the keg. I put a watering pan near. Now she didn’t have to leave her nest to eat and drink.
“You’re spoilin’ her,” Grandpa told me one day.
“It’ll be worth it when I see them babies. With all them eggs we give her, there’ll be yellow ones and red ones and speckled ones.”
“You’ll just have to wait and see.”
A few days before the hatching date marked on the calendar I looked in on Specky and cried. “Grandpa, she’s dying!” I sat down and bawled into my skirt tail as he managed to get inside the small door and over to the keg.
“Now stop that snifflin’. She’ll be alright. She’s a little bald and bloody lookin’ from a fight with maybe a weasel or a ‘possum. Don’t you worry about her. I bet she pecked the puddin’ out of something!”
I couldn’t keep from giggling. “I bet she did too.”
“She’ll be good as new, just wait.”
And she was. Not many days later, she met us on the path with a multicolored, fluffy cluster behind her. We watched as she scratched for seeds and bugs and called her babies to dinner. She loved them.
Weeks passed and one day we heard the pitiful sound of “Cheep, cheep” coming from the tall weeds. We found the babies, but no mother hen.
“Something’s happened to her! She’d never leave them!”
“But she has, KooLee. Look over by the plum thicket. She’s hiding herself from them.”
“Why?” I couldn’t believe it. Despite his warning, I shooed them in her direction, only to see her peck their little heads, and send them crying away from her.
“I hate you, old hen!” I screamed at her. “I hate you!”
“Don’t say that. She loves them now more than ever, and that’s why she’s teaching them to take care of themselves. She knows she’s like your old Grandpa and won’t live forever. You’ll understand some day. Just wait and see.”
Years have passed and I’ve waited Grandpa…and I see.
In the middle of a discussion about my high school homework, my father offered what would turn out to be the most profound advice he ever gave me: “You can be beautiful, or you can be smart, but you probably won’t be both.”
At the time I thought he was just being critical of me…again. Nothing I did as a teenager seemed to please him.
And I thought he was being stupid…as usual. Mom was certainly beautiful AND smart.
And of course he was being controlling…as always. He wanted me to do my homework and I wanted to go see my friend. I had NO doubt I could finish my homework any old time.
It took me several years to figure out exactly what my father was trying to convey to me that day. There are only so many hours in the day so the time and effort we devote to one aspect of our life subtracts from all others. There is no other way to do the math. I think as I transitioned from a serious, studious child to an attractive teen my father feared that I would let my yearnings for popularity and peer approval lead me astray. And for a time I suppose he was correct. I tried to fit in with several groups, I behaved badly, I even attempted to hide some of my abilities. I fell in love, married early, and left home. Thankfully I didn’t quit school!
Dad spent my whole life encouraging me to read and learn and study the things that interested me. I stood next to him in the front seat of the car and we read billboards and signs long before I was old enough to attend school. He told me the names of things and made me count money. He took me to the zoo. He bought encyclopedias and story books. He took me to the library. He always said that my brain would take me places. And he insisted that I take my school work seriously.
Being a guy, my dad thought a lot of the things women did to be more beautiful were just a big waste of time. Oh, he admired the results, but you’d better not let him know that it took two hours to curl your hair. And money…for makeup and shampoo and perfume and two different face creams??? “Do I need to get a second job?” “Do you think money grows on trees?” He could be sarcastic AND unreasonable.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that women generally do fall into the two groups dad told me to choose between. I’m not talking about genes or the natural gifts God gave anyone. In terms of effort, commitment, passion, motivation, money, and especially TIME most women must and do choose between one lifestyle or the other. Neither is inherently good or bad...there are just so many hours in a day and dollars in a bank account.
I made my choice years ago. I try to conform to the basic norms of cleanliness and clothing so that I’m not odd or an embarrassment to my family, but I no longer worry about my appearance. In fact, sometimes I don’t think about it at all. Dad would be pleased to know that I as I drove down the driveway today I had to stop for a moment to recall if I had combed my hair!!
This morning I looked out the window and was pleased to see that the light pink hibiscus had bloomed. However, I was in the middle of doing laundry and decided to wait to take a picture.
By the time I went out mid-morning to feed the birds the grasshoppers had taken several bites of the new blooms. I chastised myself for not going out earlier, but I still didn’t go back inside to get the camera.
This afternoon I returned to the yard to pick tomatoes and to put out dog food for our evening visitors.
I finally had the camera hanging from my neck. However, the grasshopper had not only devoured more of my plants…the heat had curled the edges of the blooms. Much of the garden looked a bit worn and weary and I’d obviously missed the opportunity for pretty photos!
I almost returned to the comfort of our AC, but I decided to go ahead and wander around the yard for a few minutes.
Thank goodness for that decision. Because I stayed in the yard I had a new opportunity…to see this tiny praying mantis!
Much of my photography is about creating opportunities-being outside in the first place, being very still and quiet, taking the time to look around. I find that many people go through life at full speed. They may accomplish a lot more than I do, but they also miss many of the tiny details of life. And the details can be so rewarding!
So…I may be slow and plodding. I may sometimes procrastinate to the point of missing a great shot. But if I go outside and look around, my lens may still find something wonderful to share with you.
Something bad is going to happen to you.
No, I don’t have a crystal ball or anything else with which to predict the future.
And I’m not trying to alarm you.
I don’t want you to be unhappy, even for a day.
I don’t want you to be in pain or consumed by worry.
I don’t want you to mourn.
But what I want or you want won’t prevent the inevitable- bad things happen.
It doesn’t matter if you are a good person.
It doesn’t matter if you have money.
It doesn’t matter if you spend your time helping others.
It doesn’t matter if you are cute or thin or tan or funny or famous or anything else deemed by society to be politically correct.
Bad things happen.
However, the fact that they happen to everyone, is our blessing in disguise. Imagine if you were singled out for pain and problems. Imagine NOT being able to talk to anyone who has ever experienced the same pain or loss. Imagine NOT knowing anyone else who is troubled, confused, or sick. We wouldn’t survive the first crisis we encountered!
It’s our common experiences and our willingness to share them with others that gives up hope and strengthens our faith in the “big picture” of our lives. The blessings of life far exceed the bad things that happen, but when you are in the middle of one of those bad things it can be easy to forget your blessings. Thank goodness we have friends and family and even strangers to remind us.
As I sat on my brother’s couch yesterday drinking strong coffee and watching my great nephew play with his dog, it occurred to me that our father will live on forever in heaven AND on earth. The next generation carries his genes and even though they are mixed with those of another family, some of his traits will surface. Someone will say one day, “___ reminds me of Dad when he does that.” One of my nieces already reminds me so much of mother that it sometimes takes my breath away.
I mentioned the strong coffee because drinking it takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. She made coffee that could “stand a spoon up” as granddad was fond of saying. When my aunt was here for Dad’s funeral she drank coffee at my house and commented, “You must like strong coffee.” Yes, I do! And at least one of my children loves coffee as much as I do.
My brother likes to garden and is much, much better at raising vegetables than I am. His orderly rows and abundant harvests immediately bring back memories of walking in our grandparent’s garden in California when I was a young girl. I’m sure he will try to pass those skills on to his grandson and perhaps find a receptive audience.
My father loved to fix things and often “figured things out” without instructions or plans or help. I see those traits in all of my brothers and my son, and although I know the basic inclination is simply a “guy thing”, some of the creativity and stubbornness that goes along with it is pure Bob Simmons.
Of course we don’t even have to discuss talking and story-telling. There are a couple of men in our family who already have the “Simmons gift” of entertaining an audience. You know who you are! Part of their appeal is that grin that lets you know right away you’re going to be glad you listened.
Each generation slightly alters and refines the family mold, but no one can completely transform the set of genes that makes us a unique group set apart from all others. Bits and pieces of our ancestors go forward with each generation. Memories of habits and traditions modify how we do little things each day. Behaviors taught by our parents and grandparents guide our conscience, even though we may choose not to obey. Our health, our habits, and our happiness are all affected by the generations that have left us and will influence the ones we will never meet.