Volunteer at Montezuma Castle

He is 94 years old and still enjoying his job as a guide at Montezuma Castle, home of ancient cave dwellers in Arizona. We came upon him as we explored the cave dwellers’ park and were so fascinated by his stories we hung around his post way past our turn.

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Charles and Will talking to our 94 year old guide

He readily took time to explain to us what we’d see if we could climb far up the limestone cliff and enter one of the caves occupied six centuries ago by people seeking safety from marauding neighbors. Yes, we would see hieroglyphics and handprints of the women and children who plastered the walls periodically. We would see various rooms and added ledges. We would see storage areas where the folks placed their dried meats and vegetables.

This tough yet amazingly smooth-faced gentleman explained how the cave dwellers lived. The women worked the crops and kept the home caves while the men went hunting. The hunt was not over in a few days. During the weeks or months they were gone, the women had to pull the ladders up the cliffs each night to keep enemies away. The cliffs are high and sheer.

Our guide waxed very enthusiastic describing the mens’ hunt. First, they had to secure a supply of salt mined from a deposit a few miles away. Then, armed with sharp knives and some jerky from the last hunt, they would strike out to find game. They might have to walk many miles before they found anything. When they made a kill of antelope, lion, or bison, rabbit, bear, or muskrat, they had to butcher, salt and dry the meat into portions that would keep. This took weeks, even months.

He went on to tell us there were inner storage chambers which could only be entered through a hole in a cave. This is where they kept some of their supplies. Our guide himself some years ago, heard about a hieroglyphic sample in one of those underground storage rooms and proposed to fellow workers that they put him down through the hole so he could take a picture. He isn’t a very large man but even so his going down became quite difficult. His helpers were lowering him by his hands until the opening narrowed so much he had to release one hand and wiggle himself on down. He took the picture, he said, and then faced the challenge of climbing back out.

Before we could hear the end of his climbing-out story, our guide was surrounded by a new group of interested inquirers and we had to move on. We only heard a chuckle as it was implied he might have had to strip and grease himself from head to toe.

In the midst of his very in-depth explanation of early Indians’ life, this gentleman told us a little about himself. He had retired because his wife had begun falling and he felt he needed to stay close to her. Then he grinned as he pulled a small electronic device from his pocket. “I found this miracle solution to our problem. She can buzz me on this and I’ll go straight home. I think she was as pleased as I was to get me out of the house again.” He went on to tell us how he drives himself to the park and walks a good distance every day, maybe only a couple of miles as compared to five before his retirement. “These young people in their seventies,” he said, “don’t exercise enough and they get old way too young.”

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Here are some of us at the Cliffs: Charles,  Nana, Mattie, William Jr., and Thomas in hat

Our time at Montezuma Castle National Monument, part of our wonderful National Park Service, was fun for adults and children. The trees and plants were well marked so we learned names of several, or verified our speculations. Shady big sycamores made walking in the Arizona heat more pleasant. Mexican Bird of Paradise was the most colorful in bright orange, but thick growths of pink and cream, yellow and orange lantana invited butterflies to blink amongst them. There were nice sturdy benches where we could sit and gaze up at the lofty Montezuma Castle caves.

The gift shop was, of course, a must before we left. I purchased a jar of prickly pear jelly and some blue corn pancake mix with prickly pear syrup. It was fun trying them out for breakfast this morning while we remembered the cliffs–and the 94 year old man who made it all so interesting.

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Scenes in Europe

I could hardly believe it when, back in February, Harley and Debi Rollins invited us to travel to England with them. We are just back now from three weeks in England, Scotland, and France, an incredible journey for anyone, especially for us at our mature 75 years!

My mind is full of strange and lovely, grim and dark, soothing and stimulating images. Of course, Charles and I both took pictures, lots and lots of beautiful pictures. But the best ones are in my head where I can bring them up for chuckles, exclamations and reviews whenever I please, without batteries, without buttons, swipes or cyber skill.

In this short blog today I’m only going to pull out a few of those images that I see in my head. There are many more! And first of all, my biggest point of gratitude is that God was with us all the way. I’ve been on lengthy journeys before but am most definitely not a seasoned traveler. I had a few fears leading up to this trip: becoming lost from my group, losing my passport, falling on one of those mile-high airport or train depot escalators, getting locked in a bathroom, or being arrested for shoplifting because I started out the door with a postcard in my hand. None of those things happened (though a few scary moments did occur!) and I’m so thankful.

As I flip through the images in my head, I’m thrilled again at seeing English country gardens so perfectly trimmed, redolent with roses, peonies, red hot pokers, sweet Williams, hollyhocks and green, green grass. I’m smiling in the rapture of viewing 75 Claude Monet paintings in the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square. I’m laughing in eagerness as Charles and I board a boat for the Thames River cruise. We’re all four–Charles, our friends Harley and Debi Rollins with whom we travelled, and I–stunned and amazed as our driver friend Dave Armstrong unexpectedly treats us to an adventurous ride through hectic downtown London late one evening. He even drove us down the wide avenue straight towards Buckingham Palace. When he saw a helicopter about to lift from the palace grounds, he whipped into a parking space so we could watch for a minute.

Visions of Portsmouth come to view: the stony shoreline, the carefully preserved ship Victory where Lord Nelson, though winning the battle, lost his life in the battle of Trafalgar, our laughter and Christian fellowship as we enjoyed that day with Gerry and Jean Davy and their family.

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Left to right: Harley Rollins, Gerry Davy, Debi Rollins, Jean Davy, Dave Armstrong, and Charles Graham. In the background beyond the rooftops is the English Channel.

 

The coast at Deal was so exciting I almost went rolling into the sea walking on the deep layers of water-smooth rocks. And the flowers! Imagine bright wildflowers so thick a little child walking through them was almost hidden, and beyond the flowers the shore, and then waves rolling in.  Dave and Pam White, dear wonderful missionaries, welcomed us there into their sweet bungalow.

We rode to France via the Chunnel. I’d been apprehensive about going so far under tons of water for the crossing. But it was quite fun, like riding an underground car ferry, and I didn’t even have time to worry. We spent two nights in a lovely little French village called Honfleur, a day visiting memorials on Normandy Beach and enjoying the French countryside. Then Paris for one day! What can you see of Paris in one day? You can ride a double decker bus and see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the river Seine, the Louvre, bridges, busy streets, shop windows, and then even enjoy dinner afterward at a lively corner café.

Our trip to Scotland by train was a joyful experience even if I did almost get train-left. The Scottish countryside is full of surprises: high smooth green hills dotted with a thousand sheep, craggy cliffs, curves that dip down to streams, high overlooks, clusters of farm buildings ready for a cold hard winter, little cozy villages with busy markets. It was a thrill to drive into the city of Edinburgh, to see the majestic dark castle atop its “unscalable” cliff, to see the old kirks, the cobbled streets and round-abouts. John Lewis was a great driver that day and seemed to take pleasure in showing us things that had meant a lot to him, like the “three bridges” at the Firth on Forth, an estuary of several Scottish rivers, or the Devil’s Beef Tub, an amazing very deep valley where legend has it that centuries ago Scottish men stole English cattle from across the line and brought them to that valley until they could make a profit on them.

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the cathedrals, the city sights, I see the faces of wonderful new and renewed friends: Jeff and Janet Rushton (?), Robert and Ann Smith, John Lewis, all the folks at Langham Publishers, Dave and Mathilda Armstrong in Keston, Kent, and Andrew and Rachel , our hosts at Manna House in Bromley (the OM Mission House). These are all disciples of Jesus, involved in some way or another in sending Christian literature to third world countries as are the folks I mentioned in Portsmouth and Deal. It was inspiring to catch even a glimpse of their networking endeavors. It was a joy to hear Harley and Debi connecting with so many they have worked with their whole career as missionaries with Operation Mobilisation, Send the Light, and more. Many of their friendships go back to serving together on the Ship Logos in the 1970’s.

Yes, I bought postcards (and didn’t get arrested!) and souvenirs, and took tons of pictures. But when I close my eyes I can see fields of lavender, craggy cliffs, and narrow curvy cobbled village streets.

Soon, I hope to write more on what we saw and experienced, perhaps “An English Country Garden,” “Winchester Cathedral,” “Walking the White Cliffs,” “A Village Named Honfleur,” and details about  “A Cold Day on Normandy Beach.”

 

 

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Basket Weaver

She was sitting on a bench outside a busy little gift shop in Grand Cayman. Her hands gracefully wove flat rushes in and out as we talked to her. Beside her were numerous baskets she had made. I asked if I might take her picture to which she agreed, giving me a warm smile.

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I examined her baskets while Charles fished in his pocket for a tip to give her for posing for me. The baskets were so neatly made, all of the same dried pale green reeds. She told us her grandson goes to a swampy area to pick the reeds for her. All the time she talked her fingers danced in and out, in and out, creating strips she then wound together and sewed. She didn’t have to look at what she was doing–like a knitter creating a familiar pattern.

Others in our touring group were inside the shop tasting samples of rum cake and buying tins of it as well as other souvenirs. We had tasted the cake and were happy now to be talking to this beautiful island lady. I just wish we had taken more time with her. I didn’t even learn her name, nor how long she’s been weaving, nor whether she works at the same shop every day, nor just how long it takes to make a basket.

But I did learn something very important about her.

I asked her if she knew Jesus in her heart. The most radiant smile lit her face. “Oh, yes!” she said. “I couldn’t live without Him. He helps me through every day.” Charles gave her a little booklet about eternal life suggesting she might give it to someone else. She hugged it to her chest and fairly bubbled with glee.

I purchased one of her baskets and now I’m wondering to whom I’ll give it. I really want to keep it myself! Not that I need it for remembering her face!

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When we left, I wanted to hug her but knew it would be too bold and so I refrained.

Only a few minutes we spent with this bright lady on Grand Cayman whose name I do not know. But I will always remember her and I know she is my sister in Christ.

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Tools That Really Work

IMG_0167Among the things I’m thankful for are simply those tools/gadgets/machines that do what they’re supposed to do. I heard about the PC user who threw a computer out the window because it wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. And there was the “little moron” joke about the roofer who threw nails away, one after another, because they were upside down. But what about the faithful can opener which, time after time, neatly opens a can? Or the mixer that mixes, the juicer that juices, the iron that heats and the fan that oscillates?

We have an apple slicer. Just position it with apple stem in the center and press down. Voila! A beautifully cored and sliced apple perfectly portioned. Such fun! This is something the children really like. Charli likes to slice an apple and take it to school in a zip-lock. Good thing about that thing-a-ma-jigger is it doesn’t have to be plugged in.

Same for my trusty funnel. No strings attached. Place the funnel in a jar and ladle jelly in with no mess. I even made my own enlarged funnel from an upside down gallon milk jug with its bottom cut off. And, oh my goodness, the right ladle, how nice that is! Or the right spoon for a stirring job. I have an old Dollar Store spoon that is stained and scarred, apt to break any day. I’ve looked and looked for a replacement and there simply isn’t one out there, even at the fanciest kitchen store. I handle that poor old spoon with great respect. It’s just the right size for stirring a small pot, for dipping from a mayo jar, and for scooping flour into a cup.

But of course there’s a need for things that require power.

There’s the blender, good for making lemon slush, kumquat marmalade, and smoothies of magnificent concoction. When Charles Douglas is in the mood he can make a mean smoothie. He throws in almost everything but carrots and mushrooms and watches our faces to see if we like his latest recipe. I recently discovered a new use for the blender. I was making loaves of herbal bread and needed parsley and rosemary chopped very fine. Yes, the blender made green snippets in seconds!

I had a crepe maker for several years. A smooth rounded surface heated perfectly, then dipped in thin pancake batter turned out such neat little crepes. We could roll almost anything up in a crepe and the children would eat it! (We didn’t try mush-rooms!)

Thomas, one of my Birmingham grandsons, noticed I really like shoulder massages. For Christmas he gave me an electrical neck massager. It fits around my neck like a dog collar and, while I’m reclined in my chair, will give me a luxurious workout. A cup of coffee adds to the luxury.

And I mentioned a can opener. What is more satisfactory than a can opener that works? I remember the fights and groans and blood and tears using those old cranky things. Then there were all kinds of “dreamy” can openers, some of which worked if you held your mouth just right. My mother gave me a can opener (a nice simple one) and a paring knife not long after I married. She said I would never survive without those two things. I think she was right! When you find yourself cooking in someone else’s kitchen those are the things you simply have to locate. My present can opener is a jewel of a utensil and I don’t care if “she” hears me bragging on “her.”

Oh, did I say anything about the coffee maker? Who can carry on without a coffee maker? Of course coffee makers never give off the totally friendly aroma that a coffee pot on a wood cook stove does. But the brewing is mighty quick in the mornings.

A waffle maker is a really fun device. If I just remember to spray top and bottom with baker’s spray and spoon the right amount of batter in, I can produce a near perfect waffle. I remember fondly my mother making waffles. She made hers in a waffle iron that she set over an open flame on her wood burning stove. It was a trick to know just when to flip the iron over to put heat on the other side. I loved to watch her. And, even better, loved to eat some waffle drenched in honey or molasses. Since there were many hungry mouths for her to feed, we only got a small portion at one time. Hmmmm. I wonder if she ever did get even a scrap of waffle!

All this being said about tools and gadgets, it’s easy to complain about things that don’t work. I just thought today was a good day to praise the ones that do what they’re made to do.

And I had this thought too. Are we, as God’s instruments/utensils/tools, doing what we were intended to do?

Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

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A Dirty Job

I watched Charles taking blood and pregnancy testing Jenny and John Ratts-Harrisons’ Hereford cows. Actually, it takes a whole team to do the job. Charles’ main large animal employee, Val Brock, was keeping records for the office and checking the cows’ eyes. A pre-vet student from FSU was helping fill tubes with blood for testing when Charles handed her each syringe. John worked the head catch and  herded the cows, and seasoned herdsman Carey Humphries drove cows down the lane and into the chute. Jenny herself kept the farm records, passed empty syringes to Charles as he needed them and kept ear tags up to date.

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Jenny in blue shirt checking an ear tag while Val looks on

Jenny is a neo-natal nurse fulltime but the cows are a very strong “hobby.” She’s very interested and involved in the family cattle business. Her husband John and the help call her “the Boss.” I’ve seen her at work at Archbold Hospital in Thomasville when our great grands were born. She showed the same efficient energy and authoritative capability there as she does with her 1200 pound mamas. But her attire is quite different. Here on the farm she had on a billed hat almost hiding her sparkling grey eyes. Pants smeared with green and brown were stuffed into tall boots caked by the time I arrived with mud and manure. Her loose fitting, blue long sleeved shirt came almost to her knees and was decorated in barnyard stuff.  But whether at the hospital in sparkling scrubs, or with her cows, her petite wiry figure is in constant energized motion.

It had rained a lot so the areas inside the pens and lanes were soggy. But no one minded the mud, either bovine or human. As each cow came to the chute (not voluntarily, of course, but with help from a whip and a cattle prod), there was a pause as she recognized she must put her head forward, horns and all, before she’d be freed to go back to her friends. These are not polled Herefords; they have long, amazing horns. Fitting her head into the opening took a certain twisting motion. But these cows have been through this many times as this testing is done annually. They know what to do. Not a one of them bawled, kicked around in the chute, or otherwise made a pest of herself.

Once the cow was secure in the chute, Charles went to work on the back end while Jenny worked back and forth, paying close attention to each cow’s health and status. Charles felt to see if each cow were pregnant and, if so, how far along, calling out the results. He also determined whether or not she needed an additional blood draw and, if so, Jenny was right there to pass him a syringe. Jenny looked at the eyes if Val noticed something, being very careful to catch any abnormality. If there were any spot or blemish on an eye, Jenny then called Doc to make a judgment. Hereford cows are particularly prone to eye cancers because of their white faces. Jenny would also attach ear tags to those who had lost them, and check ear tattoo numbers before writing in her farm record book concerning instructions and follow-up.

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Dr. Graham drawing blood. “It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.”

Charles had gained permission for me to do this photo op by promising I would bring drinks and snacks for everyone, which I did. During the break, there was time for joshing and socializing before everyone went back to their posts. Jenny showed me on a smeared and cracked cell phone a picture of her second grandchild, a precious little baby. I said, “Oh, Jenny, isn’t it fun having grandchildren!” She raised her eyebrows and said, “I don’t play with the baby much. Get enough of babies at the hospital. But now–the three-year-old. We have a great time!”

Speaking of children, Jenny has been dealing with cows since before her first son, Coleman, was born. In fact, Charles remembers a Monday morning years ago when he arrived at the Ratts-Harrison Farm to work some cows. There came Jenny with a tiny newborn in a papoose. He’d been born on Saturday and there she was out with her cows on Monday! Now that son is in the cattle business also, dedicated to giving cows a good life and to selling healthy, tasty beef to consumers. John and Jenny’s other son, Peyton Tyler, is also in agribusiness.

Charles said of the morning with the cows, “It’s a dirty job. But someone has to do it.” Obviously, he and his crew enjoyed the barn “party” to the fullest.

 

 

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Let the Trumpets Sound

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Our mystery trumpets

The month of May is a time of celebration, especially along a stretch of our driveway. Well, you won’t be hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” or Mendelssohn’s wedding march or any of Sousa’s heart stirring marches. These trumpets are silent. But on each tall flower stalk there are eight or ten little red horns fringed in green. If all one hundred horns, or trumpets, were to play, great would be the sound. I think maybe a hundred cute little toy soldiers would march right out of the woods and down the driveway!

 

I’ve been trying to discover the name of this flower. In addition to its tall stalk, it grows a pretty thick ground cover with lush green leaves that come back every year. When we realized the flower went with this growth, we proceeded to protect both. We’ve been rewarded with a nice multiplication of blooms so now, instead of a few mysterious flowers, we have a large bed of them. They enjoy the partial shade of an Indonesian cherry tree.

I have shown pictures of the little trumpets for two years to friends and family members but until today had not found anyone who knew what they are. Finally, I went to see Beverly at Annell’s Flowers with a couple of samples in hand. She said the flowers look like alstromeria lilies. Pulling one of hers from a cooler, she and I compared them and, though hers come in many colors and are larger, we think it is a match.

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Alstromeria lilies, Inca lilies, trumpets tuning up

 

Alstromerias are native to South America, specifically Peru (where grown in the winter) and Brazil (grown in the summer). It is also called an Inca Lily. I like that. I was calling it our mysterious flower and, even now that I know its name, it still seems mysterious–and exotic. Inca lilies growing under an Indonesian cherry tree beside a Japanese maple.

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Luke 12:27

 

 

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Conversation

One day Charles and I dropped by the Mitchell County Animal Hospital on a day Dr. AlexGreenberg was the veterinarian. His Great Dane named Sir was trying to be a pal to the orange hospital cat. I took a series of pictures of Sir’s attempts at “conversation” with While Drs. Greenberg and Graham were conferring with each other. Later, I showed five-year-old Kaison these pictures and made up a conversation between the dog and cat. Kaison became the cat, I the dog, then we switched roles. Following is a semblance of the conversation we made up.

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