Tag Archives: land sky sea

taken to the trail

I’ve taken to the trail again. The season is perfect for woodland walks.

I  leave out about 4pm, the sun shining slightly yellow and filtering through the fading green leaves still clinging tight.

I say I am back training for greater journeys. I say it is about the exercise and stretching my body…but I come more for this kinship, and the resurrection of my nine-year old soul.

My path begins on zoysia and dives down into a draw. There the beauty of waist-high grasses, still supporting blue and crimson blooms, slows, but does not hinder me. I press through them and climbe upon a small ledge anchored and carpeted by pines whose scent sends me back to wood romps and straw sweep-ups in our yard. I run/slide down a little worn away trail and into a deep vale – where wet and sanded soil is blanketed by violets. They mush under my feet and buoy me along. An arch of green welcomes and I duck under sweet shrub, at once I am toddling  in my Nana’s yard…then chasing around corners and beneath hedges.  The ground grows hard where it has been driven over, parked upon and ornamentals rise before me, long too large for their once appointed station. Now the ground is graying, and my steps feel Georgian, middle, centipede grass grows scarcely and pine straw is strewn within its fingers. The scent of Camelia falls from the now great tree, I am eight and walking up from the lake.

The trail disappears back into the woods where once supple summer plants stand spidery and crisp. They reach out at me, the hands which one held their flowers, stand stark and grab gently. The temperature falls as does the elevation…the creek is not far beyond. As I near, I can see reflection. Summer’s shoals are sunken. The water is dark, deep and still, full of all the colors above: blue and golds and greens. I end my sojourn, turn my eyes and see sky  through the arms stretching to touch and connect with all brothers. I spin ’round under the canopy that covers and behold breathtaking beauty in every direction. How could I ever improve what surrounds me?



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Jumpin’ Jack (hot) flash

“Today we played our energy game. Everyone became a country and labored to gain the energy each would consume in a  year. Various forms of energy were sequestered all about the room. Forest fuel low to the ground, hydroelectric required a bit more of a reach. Wind and solar were born on high beams just a jump away and nuclear was settled high above our somewhat demonized sanitizer machine. ( If you get near on a day bad, you can get contaminated…) We built a shrine to fossil fuels, set an altar, lit candles to NOW and paid our penance: one jumping jack per unit required. We did lots of jumping jacks  in our “the air ain’t running ’cause man can heat up but not cool off the earth” room. It was hot. Our 25 bodies quickly made it hotter. Add a few thousand jumping jacks, 25 lit candles and an Alabama afternoon and you have quite an object lesson.

As the parade to the cleaner resources and fossil altar continued, the more and more hungry mouths sought satisfaction…I saved the US and China for last. China jumped and jacked forever and then cleared the decks of available fossils fuels, save just a few still on the open market. China jumped high to get all the nuclear possibilities…they will be constructing  a great many more plants soon. China garnered all the open market oil…and much which the black market in Congo, Columbia and Equatorial Guinea give up. Finally, China sat down to grow more populous and hungry.

The US was last…she quickly scooped up our home production wind, water, sun…and stared at the wall of oil, gas, and coal before her…”How many units do I need?”

“498,” I answered.

“Mrs. Sullivan, that’s a ton of jumping jacks. I don’t want to do all those. And even if I pay for them, those sources left are too high on the wall for me to reach. What else can I do?”

I looked down the exterior wall, then high to the rafters…solar and biofuels were draped elegantly along them. It was a tough leap, but she was a gifted and skilled jumper. She glanced at them and then ran her eyes around the room…they opened wide. Slack, sweltering students sat caressing their candles,  their energy receipts on the floor before them.

“I can get them, they won’t see me coming,” she whispered.

I shrugged my shoulders. She took off and snagged most of their energy before they could even sit up straight.

The game was over. 

I asked the students to tell me about the energy I had metaphorically placed about us. “Why had I put forest low to the ground? Why was hydroelectric just slightly higher? What was the danger of pursuing the even loftier goal of nuclear energy? Why was wind energy above the door? Why was biofuel just above hydroelectric? Why were only rich nations allowed to worship before the  fossil fuel altar? Why the jumping jacks? Why did we light the candles at the altar of Now? And finally, what were those sheets of red – biofuel, and yellow – solar, material all on the outside of our windows?

They looked at me shocked. In sight and just outside was enough energy for everyone, more than enough. One girl offered that she had noticed it.

“Why didn’t you go get it?” I asked her.

She said, “I knew that I would have to get up and walk outside to get it. Too much trouble, you know. ”

“It would have stopped the game, all of you would have been winners,” I replied. The jumping jacks would have been over, forever…  the air restored to normal temperature… It was right there.

Dumfounded stares.

“Why didn’t you all see it, get it?” I continued. You can get that. You can get it.

For those of you who ask, “Can we?” Take a look. Here. Here. and Here. Then  I suggest you go to TED and find another 100 or so equally interesting energy ideas that work now or very soon will.

Let’s lift our eyes from our worshipful stare and look up and out.

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the beach

The beach blocks out…pseudo-life, from life. Just the sounds, wind and water’s surge, seem to drown the sounds so often in my ear, “You have to remember to do this, at 3:30 you have this, at 4:00 she has that, remember to pick up this” and others less routinely benign, but who circle now regularly as well. I am a worrier by nature and an over-thinker. I imagine potentialities of every variety and deal with plenty of realities as well. Somehow, the beach stops that in me. It’s the only place my mind seems unable to spin. So I run there, time to time for that kind of stillness, even if I am playing games or interacting with others. I am somehow still at the beach.

I drove by lots of little cottages near our retreat center. The church camp isn’t exactly located in a resort district. The little places wedged against one another along our access road don’t have landscaped lawns, they don’t have pristine pools in back or a shed full of play pretties. They aren’t beautiful, but they do seem sturdy. Most have been there at least 50 years. Lots of winds have blown through that coast these 50 years.

Someone asked me on the way to Publix if I would like living at the beach – this beach. It’s really hot at this beach, there seems no natural shade for miles at a time. It’s not my beloved Golden Isles, replete with oaks and their deep shade. It’s open and bare and what grows is armed. The land makes me shudder. But, I stared on at the little paint deprived cottages, concrete block and squat, no flags of welcome flying, no lush St. Augustine to bear my own bareness toward an entrance…and I realized, it could be enough, to drown the sounds I so need silenced.

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a bit of my story

When I was six, I got to wear the uniform. I became “one of them,” the students at St. Joseph’s School. I had class in the modular classroom with the other first graders, with Dear Sister Loretta, who I loved. Everyday, weather permitting, we went out for what seemed like a lengthy recess. A six grader would stand at the bottom of our added-on wooden steps and sell candy wares, our snack for the day. So much for healthy, this was 1972.

We had a huge playground area. Up a little rise from the plateau of our modular’s, was spread a city block sized field that once was the “backyard” of a columned lady, much like the ones that stood guard just beyond our play domain and housed the brothers.

The soil was clay-like, as everywhere in Clarke County Georgia and green grasses, not domesticated, grew in tufts about it. The grass was worn thin near play equipment and it grew fairly thick along the peripheries where we ran less often.

All of us were let loose at once, the first graders…but I only remember playing with other uniformed ones a time or two. People weren’t unfriendly, at least not people other than me. I pretty much kept to myself. I would play quietly on the parallel or monkey bars or just walk the periphery of the field. I really liked walking that periphery.

An old wire fence held jungly kudzu and honeysuckle at bay. I liked to get as close to that divide as possible. I probably caused Sister Loretta to murmur quite a few Hail Mary’s in my regard, seeing me traipsing around by myself like that everyday. But, I was fine, I was totally content to do so. When I was in that field, I never even paid attention to the other children in our class who were my friends, who played with me at home on my swing set, who chatted with me at lunch. I wasn’t lonely out there in that field, I didn’t even think to miss my friends…I was in my element.

No adult ever asked me if I was okay ( and therefore, scarred me with thoughts that something might be wrong with me.) Surely Sister Loretta had read a little Francis or Ignatius. No one ever questioned my choice of quiet and beauty over noise and people. No one.

One day, this cute little blond-haired, pig-tailed girl from 2nd grade, I think her name was Emily, asked my if I wanted to play some game with a group of girls and her. It was some patty cake sing-song game or something. I played, we all giggled, but nice as they were to me, the next day I struck out on my quest for quiet again.

I remember that day with them, playing and laughing and thinking all along, “Is this what I am supposed to do at recess? Is this what the other little girls do?”

It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t me.

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We have a couple of fairly large oaks in our front yard, one reason I liked this house in the first place. The largest was on the north corner of the house, just outside of Meg’s window.  It was a beautiful tree when we moved to this home now ten years ago. The soaring thing housed all kinds of animals. There were birds that feasted and woodpeckers that dug out a home in the old tree. Squirrels nested and launched themselves for roof runs from that old tree. Our cat, not a creature to be tangled with, once treed a raccoon up that oak. Cicada’s songs filled it in summer months and mistletoe glowed green way up it at winter’s undressing.

As if leprous, the old tree began to lose a few fingers, not too long ago. Extremities lost leaves and then gave in to gravity’s pull. The armour about  its trunk began to yield, break away and expose its entrails to enemies…insect and illness alike. The old girl looked twisted and tired. Ready to go…

Yesterday, we attached a steel cable, cut a few notches and laid that old lady down. It was a relief. Sleet, the first to fall in over ten years is sprinkling down, clearly covering my yard and trees this very minute.

Nothing looks the same. The whole yard seems empty. Everything seems unbalanced by the removal of the mass that once anchored that corner. My view of my neighbors is now unobstructed.  I will not have to leave my porch to view of the moon’s rising each evening. Tonight, I will not have to pray mercy toward the branches that stretched out over our lives. It is better…it was right to cut her down. I even have hot burning firewood enough for me and neighbors to warm ourselves if winter is callous. I should feel relief…great relief…but grief rises in its stead.

So few things of the ground and earth speak to me here. I would be lying to say that this tree didn’t a little, at times..whisper a peace to me. So I, the child of a wood-cutter, one who survived a long season of ice storms, and is aware of their ravages, let her live on…I didn’t force her down. I let her linger long as I could. Until, goodbyes could wait no longer…until time took her from me.

As I looked over my shoulder, ready to pull the truck tied cable taut, I saw two woodpeckers circling about her, the red of their heads flashing stop as they called out their goodbyes.


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My dear friend, Kathryn, you all figure out which one, sent me a text today. She was on route to some Christmas gathering in the- middle-of -nowhere, Georgia and passed a long chain of pecan trees. She said it made her think of me. ( Writers hold connections like that well)

I’ve always said that one day I might just have that house in the country with some pecan trees. Funny thing, I don’t really even care that much for pecans, except salted, and roasted at Christmas. I don’t even like pecan pie, I know, un-southern; I don’t like sliced (raw) tomatoes either, a definite disqualifier, don’t tell anybody. I’m hoping my taste will change like it did for greens when I hit 40. I’d bout kill you for some good ones right now. Surely by eighty I will eat them both, nearly exclusively.

Only one of the houses we ever lived in as kids had a pecan tree, my parents’ present one. But the tree is kinda an after thought, one that just came up from seed and that grows in an inconvenient place for a pecan tree. It doesn’t have space or honestly care enough to grow good pecans. So I have never considered it a bona-fide pecan tree.

Anyway, I love pecan trees…They remind me of home, not my parents’ house. Home. From before I was, in a place where the soil was basically sand and life. There are pecan trees everywhere in Middle Georgia, where my parents were born and raised. My grandmother’s sister’s house in Thomasville, further south and back in time, excuse me, out from Thomasville, was the closest to anyplace my Nana ever associated with home. Her parent’s small sharecropper place fell in years before I came to be, I’m sure.  I went to South Georgia with her a few times but she never spoke of or showed me any land that she ever lived on. Her sister’s place was a two-story farmhouse in the middle of a pecan grove. I remember being little and staring out at all those trees, just a lined up and the folks there telling how many pounds of pecans that they’d sold that year – their living. I remember my cousin, Tracy, a boy a few years older than I had a mini-bike that we got to ride on, with him, between the long rows.

And of course, Nana had a pecan tree, too. Properly planted, with a wide domain of its own, and defended from pest, it did bear fruit a plenty, even in the North Georgia clay of Clarke county. That tree was my lookout, where I spent countless hours just thinking, considering this and that, watching birds on telephone lines against the falling sun and listening for the train not too far off, rumbling and whistling just behind Normaltown. I could get up and out pretty far in that great spread of branches, it had its space, remember. I climbed up in its strong arms, nearly to the top of the house which Nana also let me keep swept of the Great Pine’s straw. Nana never did trouble herself about my getting high enough to see and hear and take care of those things that might need some attention.

So, she let me go on as high as I might, knowing that old tree would take good care of me… just they way its brothers and sisters had taken care of hers.

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deep greens and blues

I grew up going to Panama City Beach every summer with my parents and sister. There is nothing like the squeak of that sand, the brilliant  greens and blues of its sea and sky. Panama City is brightly beautiful. Sun glasses are a requirement at PC. My older eyes cannot exit the room anything but blind apart from them.

My kids are getting old enough for me to let them play in the waves: boogie boarding and body surfing, while I sit on a bluff carved by the morning tide. Usually, I ride every wave as well. But yesterday, I took the opportunity to sit and stare out into the deep greens and blues. The sky was cornflower colored with wisps of white and the water had that sunburned brilliance that is so hard to communicate to those who have never seen our gulf. I tried to drink in those colors, stain my mind with the pigments…afraid that the sea will dim, will be dank the next time I make my way there.

I have stood along the stony shores of Maine, the waves dark and threatening. I have tiptoed the cool waters of Cape Cod’s finger. I have ridden good, strong waves at Myrtle Beach, seen the brown, sandy trails of sea turtles at Hilton Head, come to know the specific briny perfumes of Jekyll, St. Simons, and Cumberland. I have driven down Daytona, searched for shells at St. Pete and found sanctuary from a named storm at Madeira. I have dug my feet deep into gray-brown sand above Santa Rosa and felt the 747 sounds of the Pacific roar through me. I love the beauty of all of these beaches…New England’s steel grays, the South Atlantic’s muted blue greens, the Golden isles sepia tones, but nothing cuts through like the color of our gulf – blinding beauty – stronger than even our sun.

I have also seen the foam and stain that is Mississippi and Texas. Motor oil is my favorite color plastic worm, but my least favorite color ocean.

God, please continue in your mercy.

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