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The Woman at the Wake

When my father died in 1959 it was the custom in our neck of the woods to hold a wake for the deceased. Somebody was designated to sit up all night, never to leave the coffin unattended. As was often the case back then, my father’s coffin was in our living room from the time the mortician finished his job until the funeral two days later. All that time someone, usually family members, would be expected to stay close by, taking turns, two or three at a time talking quietly, maybe making coffee in the middle of the night.

As a sixteen-year-old I didn’t really question why we did this. It was simply the way things were done. It was no problem for us since our family was so big and, in fact, it was an honor to be part of a group who “sat up” with my Dad. It was a way of showing him respect even though he was gone from his body.

As I said, our family was large, not only Mom and Dad’s own ten children but the extended family of relatives some of whom we young ones didn’t even know. Neighbors were in and out of the house bringing gorgeous casseroles, cakes, stuffed eggs and salads. We never seemed to be alone which was sometimes frustrating to me. I hungered for the intimacy of our very own family. It didn’t seem right to cry in front of people I hardly knew.

With so many people coming and going, no one at first noticed this one little wiry woman who simply sat quietly with her hands in her lap except for occasions when food was set on the table. Though others came and went she stayed in the corner she’d chosen from the beginning. We began to question each other about which relative this might be. She was very solemn, speaking only when spoken to. All day and night she kept her vigil, always partaking of cake or anything that was available, otherwise just sitting there.

Mamma realized we were puzzling about the identity of this woman. She, who was wise from many years of wakes and funerals, already knew who the stranger was. It seemed she had been talking to her when none of us noticed.

Mamma told us this woman was a mourner, no relation to any of us, not a member of our church, not a neighbor, just a self-appointed mourner. In fact, she lived ten or fifteen miles away in an abandoned cabin. Mamma didn’t know how she’d gotten to our house.

“Be kind to her,” Mamma told us. “She has little to eat at home and she goes to wakes to help people mourn and to get food.”

As I remember it, the little woman left before the funeral. I was too caught up in my grief to notice her slip away and start her long walk back to her cabin.

We have sometimes laughed about the interesting little woman at the wake. Did she have her ear to the ground to learn whenever there was a death and head towards the wake? Was this all she did, help people mourn so she could enjoy the abundance of food?

I’ve always remembered, along with the curiosity about the little woman, Mamma’s words about her. “Be kind to her,” she said. Even in her grief, it was of paramount importance to Mamma that we practice hospitality.

Use hospitality one to another without grudging. I Peter 4:9

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Water Angel

The sun shone brightly, a beautiful afternoon in Fort Meade, Maryland. A perfect afternoon for a swim. I couldn’t wait. I was visiting my older sister, Jackie, and her husband, Fred, a second lieutenant in the army. At thirteen, I was all long legs, a bundle of shyness but eager to take in everything. This visit had been full of adventure already–a tour of Washington, a boat ride on the Potomac River to enjoy a concert at Watergate (before it was famous), a trip to Fred’s home in Virginia. And now this. Swimming in the officers’ pool.

“A little different from our old muddy pond at home in Georgia, isn’t it?” my sister stated rather than asked. We were standing at the deep end of the Olympic size pool considering our next move.

“It’s so full of people,” I said, a little anxious.

“We’ll just be two more,” said Jackie. “Come on, let’s swim to the other end!”

She jumped in and I was right behind her.

It definitely wasn’t like our muddy Georgia pond. Almost immediately I was in trouble. Someone splashed water right in my face and I strangled. Instinctively, I tried to touch the bottom, to stand up, but of course I couldn’t. I tried to swim faster to get out of the crowd but the crowd was everywhere. I panicked. My flailing arms and legs turned to pudding. I gave a gasping call for help as I went under.

Rather than the beautiful bright afternoon, it was dark to me down in the water. I was desperate to breathe but couldn’t find my way up. I heard someone yelling “Help!” It seemed as if it was my voice but of course I couldn’t yell. I couldn’t even breathe. It was Jackie.

I surfaced but only for one panicky moment. It was when I went under the third time that Jackie took hold of me. I gripped arms and legs around her until she couldn’t move. We were both drowning surrounded by happy splashing swimmers who didn’t notice these two girls locked in each others’ arms.

It was so dark. And so deep. For months, it seemed, we were fighting to surface, our lungs ready to burst. Then, we felt it. The bottom of the pool, the grainy hard concrete floor of the pool. There were voices in the distance, happy voices, everyone still splashing and playing tricks on each other.

In a stupor we found ourselves with feet still on the bottom but with heads above water. We couldn’t even speak as we staggered and stumbled to the edge of the pool, then stood there so weak we couldn’t pull ourselves up the steps.

What had just happened? We had been drowning somewhere in the middle of the deep end of an Olympic size pool. Jackie, with absolutely no training in lifesaving measures, had allowed me to take a death grip on her so she, too, was immobilized.

Yet here we were. Neither of us had felt an extra hand on us but both of us knew there was no way we had walked out of that pool without help. The lifeguard was sitting beside his chair playing cards with some giggling girls. God had sent a water angel to save us that day and we have never forgotten.

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Blakely’s Fears

When we adopted Blakely, our second beautiful Irish setter (the first one having recently died), he was fifteen months old, lively and gangly and bright. What we didn’t know until we got home with him was that he was full of fear. Blakely was afraid of white men, big sticks, any loud noise, and especially storms. We quickly learned Blakely would run from anything that threatened him, even if it was an innocent mop being shaken. Charles made him a nice pen to keep him safe. He dug out from under it. We set it on a concrete slab. He leaped over the high sides. Finally, we laid down radio wire around our huge yard and we thought that was going to do it.

Storms were his biggest fear and he could detect one long before we saw a dark cloud or heard a rumble of thunder. If Blakely was indoors he hid behind a toilet, under a bed, or in a closet. It was a sure sign a storm was coming when he started rooting for a safe place. He was known to be quite destructive during his panics. He might chew a plastic trash holder to bits, shred a rolled-up sleeping bag, and cause irreparable damage to rugs, window screens, fresh folded laundry and dryer lint hoses.

If we were gone when a storm came and Blakely was outside he would leap over the high sides of his pen and run. That was the way Blakely faced his fears. He ran. We found him several miles from home sometimes, sometimes in a neighbor’s dark shed. Even though he normally would stop short of that radio fence whose buzz hurt his ears, when he was afraid, he ran right over it.

Once, after Blakely had been gone about three days and we’d almost lost hope of seeing him again, we heard him barking. Running out, we saw our big red dog standing just beyond his radio fence line pleading for reentry. I went to him and, with my hand on his collar, he stepped across the dreaded buzz. As we fondled and fussed over him we found all four of his feet almost raw from his fearsome run. After a big meal and more petting he settled in his favorite porch corner and looked at me as if to say “I’ll never do that again.” But we both knew he would.

I’ve often thought, when remembering our dear old Blakely, how we are so much like him. We let fears take the joy out of our lives. We lean on our own ability to run or otherwise overcome, then, finally, we return whimpering to our Master to take us back in. And, just as we always welcomed Blakely home, so does our forgiving God open His arms to us.

Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. Psalms 89:33

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Immeasurable Treasure

Last week I wrote about treasure that is marred, yet still a treasure. I wrote that we who belong to Him are treasures in God’s eyes, no matter how flawed. We are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8), the sheep of His pasture (Psalms 100:3), the hidden shafts in His quiver (Isaiah 49:2), and even His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

This week I’d like to turn the telescope around, so to speak, and focus on the immeasurable treasure we have in God and His kingdom.

Jesus told a parable (earthly story with a heavenly meaning) about a man who discovered a plot of land that had something extremely valuable on it. Could have been oil, I guess, or gold maybe. The man went and sold everything he had to buy that plot of land. Jesus said this man’s story portrayed how much the kingdom of God is worth, immeasurable treasure, worth so much a man would give anything for it.

You’ve found treasure before, maybe not digging at your back door the way we did when we found the old saw. But treasure, yes! You found your car fob after frantic hunting, you found your phone underneath your car seat gone stone dead, you found a $100 bill you’d dropped in a WalMart parking lot thinking never to see it again. It is such a thrill to get those things back in your hands. Even if the finder is someone who makes fun of your stupidity in leaving your car fob stuck in a cup of pencils, or your glasses in plain view on the foyer table, you can take the ribbing because you’re so glad to have your object, your treasure, back.

There are unnecessary but precious treasures you find again after many years. For me it was a letter to me from my Dad, the only letter he, who died when I was sixteen, ever wrote me. It had been packed away in a box of teenage keepers to be found so many years later. I was looking at my recipes one day and found a postcard, penny postcard, with a recipe for making cornbread sent me by my mother when I was a new bride in 1966. It might be a picture we’d not seen in forever, or a pair of special earrings, maybe one special earring lost from the other.

Then there are treasures you didn’t know existed but you come upon with a burst of joy: a hand size petoskey stone on the shore of Lake Michigan, a whole beautiful star fish right at your feet as you walk the St.George Island beach, or simply a sunset that makes you exclaim, “Thank you, God!”

Some of the very best treasures are the intangible ones like the sunset. You can’t hold them in your hand but you can hide them in your heart: the hugs of grandchildren (well, children too!), a phone call from a friend at just the right time, a word of encouragement, an answer to prayer, the sight of a bird making a joyful flight.

No matter how precious, for which of these would we sell everything we had in order to possess? It’s a probing question. Would we give anything?

I had a music teacher once who said to me, “Don’t tell me you would give anything to be able to play as I do. Just go ahead and give anything.” St. Paul yearned over the unbelievers around him and said “I would give up my own place in heaven if then you could take my place.” A sign tucked around in various places at our church reads something like “What would you give so others could hear the gospel?”

Immeasurable treasure. The kingdom of God within you. Would you give anything to have that? Yet, it is free! Jesus did give anything, everything, so that we might have this treasure. Our works are good only to express our gratitude to Him and, hopefully, lead others to trust Him. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8

You are God’s treasure. And He is our immeasurable treasure! “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Greater is He who is within you than he that is without.

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Treasure, Nevertheless

A saying by Albertina Walker many of us taped to our mirrors years ago or tacked to our bulletin boards says: “Be patient with me please. God is not finished with me.”

Those words came to me as I was remembering the day Charles and I were digging and came upon a very unusual quarry.

We were digging one spring day in a lily bed near the back door of our 150-year-old log house. The lilies needed dividing and resetting. At first when one of us struck something hard under the surface we thought it was a rock even though Grady County does not claim to be rocky. (I have looked in vain for interesting small rocks to use in children’s crafts.) Still, what else could it be? When we realized that over an area of several feet we were hitting something hard, something level, I began to get excited.

“Maybe it’s a big treasure chest,” I exclaimed, “something buried before the Civil War, maybe silver, ancient relics, maybe even gold medallions!”

We dug harder, striking again and again this very hard, wide something. Surely it was treasure of some kind. Charles wasn’t completely enthusiastic, always approaching everything with a practical viewpoint. Whoever living in south Georgia in the 1850’s would have even possessed silver and gold? But even he began to get curious as we uncovered more and more of a rusty metal surface.

Finally we exposed the very edges of this curious object, not smooth edges, no old lock or hinges, not a square box but a circular object about 4″ across. The edges all around were spiky with sharp teeth. “An old circular saw blade,” Charles said with a touch of awe in his voice.

After we’d wrestled the thing out of its place we discovered an open boxed-in cavity underneath and could only surmise it was a grease trap for this old house whose kitchen had been converted and even moved more than once. The saw blade had been “recycled” as a cover for the grease trap. “Smart thinking,” remarked Charles who then began to speculate about how old the blade might be and its life before burial. He leaned it up against the rugged wall of an old shed left over from farm days and showed it off proudly to everyone who showed interest.

I was disappointed our discovery wasn’t hidden treasure but I began to catch Charles’s enthusiasm for the historical value of the rusty artifice.

When we moved across town there was no doubt we would bring the saw blade with us. Charles leaned it against a big pine tree where it receives curious looks and we can tell our fragmented story.

Not a chest full of gold medallions. But a treasure nevertheless. It reminds me often that I, even rusty and rough around the edges, am treasured by my Master who sought me and bought me. That goes for you too. Think of yourself today as a treasure.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

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Long Afternoon

That title–Long Afternoon–may not have any appeal to someone experiencing medical difficulties, hospitalizations, longtime care of patients. But north Georgia artist John Kollock made it very appealing in his book “Long Afternoon,” (Copple House, 1978) as well as in his painting by that name. John had a rare and delightful talent for bringing the past to life both in words and in the rich mountain scenes he painted or depicted in his pen and ink drawings. In “Long Afternoon” are scenes that take one back to the days when the afternoons melted from bright sunlight on a barnyard to evening shadows in a peaceful valley, from a grist mill to a quaint small steepled church. Of course life in those slower paced days were not just fun and games. There was the gardening to tend to every day. There were long afternoons behind a stubborn mule and a plow; there was the horrid time for little boys when they had to be scrubbed from head to toe in a tin tub. But there were weddings, quilting bees, and Sunday dinners–and swinging from a high limb into a cool creek.

I remember my own long afternoons roaming the woods with brothers and sisters when our most serious thoughts concerned lunch and suppertime.

There were long afternoons of building dams in the creek, freezing our toes, then climbing a bank to warm on soft moss. There were long afternoons of hunting birds’ nests, following rabbit trails, climbing trees to see out yonder. There were long afternoons of reading, of singing arias from a stump, of building a village with stones and clay. There were long afternoons when the sun shone past supper and the fireflies came out while there was still time to play.

You may, as I do, wish for our children and grandchildren those “long afternoons,” times of totally free play, of building, and reading, singing and just being children. And, yes, we wish for them some hardships, like picking squash or cutting okra, something they can tell their own children about someday. As everyone says, times are different now. But there is still time for children to play, just in a different dimension. I see them tumbling with each other in the grass emitting giggles and squeals of laughter just before a fierce fight. I see them climbing trees, studying butterflies, planting a peach seed to see if it will grow, sitting down with cats climbing their arms and necks as if they were mountains, and just relaxing in a porch swing with not a care in the world.

It may not be a book your child is glued to in that porch swing. Probably it’s his cell phone with games and videos galore. He may not be free to climb in and out of creeks, lie on his back in the broom straw interpreting the clouds. But wherever children are, they will find a way to play.

We want so much to protect our children, all our children not just those kin to us, to give them the building blocks they will need for the rest of their lives, to instill in them a love of God and country. We try to pull them away from electronics and give them a craft to do, or send them into the sunshine to run off their energy. These, too, are things we can do: we can listen to them, cheer them on, and, mainly, love them real good. But we cannot give them the long afternoons of our youth. What we can give them, at least some of the time, is the long afternoons of their youth, here and now–a game of Uno here, a conversation about fossils there, a session on riddles, and answers to questions like “If God knew Adam and Eve were going to sin why did He make them?”

There are still moments that add up to Long Afternoons, not the ones such as illustrated by John Kollock. But I thought of John when I came upon Kaison lying tummy-down in the porch swing, one foot kicked up in his utter enjoyment of the moment. I wish you were here, John, to draw this picture of a Long Afternoon.


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One afternoon a few weeks ago Charles and I took a short trip from north Georgia up to Highlands area in North Carolina. Pictures I snapped that afternoon take me there again when I get homesick for the distant blue slopes and the splash of waterfalls. South Georgia is beautiful with its live oaks and pines, its meandering roads between fence rows, its great fields of corn and soybeans, its sudden showers and heart stopping sunsets. And, contrary to when I first moved here, I now recognize rolling hills here in southwest Georgia. But I still miss the mountains. To change an old saying just a bit–“You can take the girl from the mountains but you can’t take the mountains from the girl.”

Folks used to ask me “How could you leave the north Georgia mountains to live here in the flatlands?” I would laugh and say this is where Charles Graham was, and that was answer enough.

But I do love to go the mountains when I can. Charles’s dad didn’t have much use for mountains because he wouldn’t be able to plant his nice wide fields there. In fact, after one trip we took him on he said of the mountains, “I’ve done that now. I don’t need to do it again.” But, whether he ever thinks that way or not, Charles wouldn’t dare express himself that way in front of me in other than pure jest. It would be highly disloyal, unpatriotic, almost a sacrilege. Instead, he takes me there when he can.

So when I asked to drive on up from Clarkesville, Georgia to Highlands, North Carolina his response was something like “Have we left yet?”

It was a sunny afternoon with drifting puffy clouds casting shadows on shoulders of the mountains. We drove up through Clayton and Dillard and Mountain City into Franklin spotting signs to Sylva, Cashiers, Bryson City, old familiar names. As we climbed higher up the winding road towards Highlands our ears popped with the changing altitude. We pulled over at every lookout to absorb the beauty of sky, mountains, a butterfly hunting its favorite nectar, springs trickling down rocky banks. Unlike my brothers, I never learned names of all the peaks we were viewing but they had such a sweet familiarity, like faces of dear old friends.

We came upon the sign to Dry Falls, a place rich with memories for both of us. As a child, my family (as many as would fit) piled in the 1934 Packard at least once a year and took a mountain trip (from way before dawn to deep dark) sometimes all the way to Mt. Leconte in the Smokies, sometimes rambling around these very roads including an hour or more at Dry Falls. It was absolutely amazing to me as a child that you actually could walk behind that very vigorous falls and only feel a cool mist in your face. Last time we visited it with other family members we found you cannot walk behind it any longer because of the danger of falling rock. On this sunny afternoon recently we decided against even attempting the steep descent to Dry Falls because of my temporary dependence on a walker. But we wouldn’t miss another much slighter falls named Bridal Veil.

The old road still winds behind the graceful falls but the new road now passes it by and a sign warns anyone from taking that behind-the-falls adventure. We parked and took pictures. I’m sure there are other bridal veil falls elsewhere but this one has to be the prettiest and most appropriate for that name. The filmy slip of water catches a gleam of afternoon sun as it ever splashes from black rocks like liquid lace. Again, memories flash for both of us. I remember riding behind the fall in the Packard, remember brothers jumping out to feel the splash. Charles and I together have visited it a number of times and it never loses its beauty, just changes with different times of day, weather, and seasons.

We took Road 106 back down to Dillard without going into the quaint little town of Highlands. The mountains and the waterfalls were our priority. In remembering that afternoon excursion I find the song about the Scottish Highlands singing in my head to the tune of “On Top Of Old Smoky.”

My heart’s in the Highlands,

My heart is not here.

My heart’s in the Highlands

A-chasing the deer.

A-chasing the wild deer

And hunting the roe,

My heart’s in the Highlands

Wherever I go.


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Triple Threat: a book review

Jason Rash, first time author and son of my good friend Sue Rash, has achieved something many writers yearn for: a surprise ending. His novel, “Triple Threat,” written with young adults in mind, is a page turner for the rest of us too.

Chris is a lonely misfit who has endured pretty ugly stuff for a high school senior. She has been abused by an uncle, has lost both her parents, and now is facing the trauma of a new school. She lives with her aunt Kathy who is good to her and hopes her niece gets a great new start in life. But, though Chris is befriended by Alex, handsomest boy on campus, he happens to have a very snobbish and selfish girlfriend named Laura. The girlfriend and her two buddies, proud of their nickname “Triple Threat,” set out to make Chris’s high school days a nightmare.

When Chris becomes desperate in her loneliness and rejection she turns to an option way too many teens are now turning to: suicide.

When the principal reports to the student body what has happened to Chris, the Triple Threat and Alex all recognize they were responsible for the girl’s depression. Even ten years later their lives are still affected by heavy guilt, though Alex and Laura are married and, to all appearances, they are successful and happy.

The twists and turns of the story become more and more stunning until the climax leaves the reader hoping the author is writing a sequel.

The opportunity to write this book came to Jason unexpectedly, though he says he’s long wanted to write. With a background in physical education, Jason is an avid basketball and pickle ball player. Recently he has discovered he has a birth defect causing great pain in one leg. He is having prolonged surgery for receiving cartilage from a donor. His hopes of starting an athletic business have had to slide to a back burner. So there is time to write and Jason has grabbed it.

Jason lives in Birmingham with his wife, Jennifer, who is editor of The Alabama Baptist.

Triple Threat is available on Amazon as well as at the publisher, Suncoast Publishing,

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Fourth of July Quilt

I love to celebrate the birthday of our country, the United States of America, without a doubt the most wonderful place in all the world to live! Whether grilling hotdogs and hamburgers, playing yard games, cutting a watermelon, churning ice cream or, of course, watching fireworks after sundown, we are in a celebratory mode. We celebrate differently at various stages of life. No more lawn games for me, but I can enjoy watching! At one time putting up flags early in the morning was part of our day. Now we have a handsome two-flag flagpole furling always the U.S. flag on top and under it one of either the Georgia flag, the Georgia Bulldog flag, or the Christian flag. If we don’t have a crowd of youngsters we don’t drag out the ice cream churn. But, whatever chapter of life we’re in we always celebrate, even if we only hear fireworks from afar.

This year, the Fourth being on Sunday, we worshipped our great God of all freedom with friends at Cairo First Baptist Church. In the afternoon we oven-roasted a London broil cut of beef, cooked green beans and Charles’s whole crop of Irish potatoes (one small bucket of cute little brown potatoes), and baked a blueberry pie with blueberries from our own trees. Did I say we took a nice nap? Of course at this mature chapter that’s a pleasant activity. But in between all this I was making a Fourth of July crazy quilt. No, not sewing one. I was writing it. Well, I almost finished it but became caught up in the televised “Capitol Fourth,” wonderful celebration with singers and bands on the Mall and from around the country. Then we sat on our porch and watched fireworks explode over the tops of our bamboo hedge, numerous neighborhood displays. I didn’t quite finish the quilt. So please help me out here! You add your own words or phrases as we write our quilt blocks.

My blocks for the quilt will be made up of things pertaining to life in the U.S. There will be a block of famous heroes and heroines. We will make another list of those heroes and heroines who never get any particular notice, see their names in the headlines, or carry home any interesting trophies. One block will be American foods, just brief descriptions or mentions. Another block will be covered with names of places, some of which you will know, some you may not. Remember to add your own favorites! And another could be musicians and their compositions. You get the idea. Thing about it is, I’m not going to do significant research. Everything will be “sewn” in place quickly like notes in a journal, higgledy piggledy, if you know what I mean. This is a crazy quilt, after all!

My American heroes include George Washington, John Adams, Lewis and Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Eli Whitney, George Washington Carver, Henry W. Grady, Rosa Parks, James Habersham, Billy Graham, Susan B. Anthony, General/President Eisenhower, Wright Brothers, Louisa May Alcott, John Philip Sousa, and Margaret Mitchell.

You’ll notice statesmen, generals, innovators, authors, musicians, and others. All these are famous people, part of the very fabric of our dear country along with many, many others.

Then here’s my list for the block on non-famous people. (I’m not doing a block on infamous people, though Al Capone comes to mind.) I’m thinking of First Responders, men and women in blue, veterans (especially brothers, brother-in-law, nephews and uncles), grocery store clerks, children who have worn masks to school all year, teachers who pour themselves into their students, every honest upstanding citizen doing their job, the pioneers in their soddies, all settlers trying to build a life in strange and scary places, railroad builders, ever vigilant airline employees, sellers at fruit stands, farmers who watch the skies anxiously but never give up, keepers of the home fires everywhere, those who lovingly tuck their chidren in at night and urge them awake the next morning. Could I add here particularly my “fairy godmother” who helped me through college, the lady who picked me up every Wednesday night to take me to choir practice in her business’s hearse, and my artist friend who would not let me give up on my dream to write a book?

American foods–hot apple pie (of course!), Chicago pizza, hamburgers slurpy with lettuce and tomato, Coney Island hot dogs, Louisiana gumbo, Alabama barbecue, Maine lobster at one of their quaint lobster pound shacks, fresh Alaskan salmon bake, baby back ribs at a small restaurant tucked on the back street of a little town, church “dinner on the grounds,” turkey leg so big it could walk off with the boy gnawing it at the country fair, big succulent shrimp straight from the Gulf, fried okra, black eyed peas, and cornbread–to name a few!

Don’t you love to collect names of towns, rivers, roads, if not on paper, at least in your head? Well, these days, if it’s not written down I may not remember it, and if it is written down I’m certainly not going to know where. But, like popcorn popping, here come a few. Old Egg Road (I’ve always wondered whether the road is old or the egg is old since I’ve never seen a New Egg Road), there’s Stove Creek, Little Tired Creek, Hard Labor Camp Ground (who wants to go there?), Triumph, a very nice tiny Louisiana town on the Mississippi River. Speaking of rivers, the Colorado and Columbia come to mind and closer by the Coosa, the Cahaba and, known to all Georgians, the Chattahoochee made famous by Sidney Lanier. I’m thinking of Three Rivers Park on the Florida Panhandle, Coon Bottom, and a town just over the Tennessee line, I think, from Georgia named Cherry Log. I went with a friend at Young Harris for a weekend at her home there. Some places bring up an image just by their name: Murder Creek, Black Snake Road, Moose Jaw, or maybe Six Mile or Climax. Then there are cozy sounding places like Good Hope, Homewood, and Apple Pie Ridge.

Historical dates? Let’s just smatter on a few dates and let people guess their significance: 1620, 1776, 1860-1865, 1898, 1918, 1929, 1941, 1945, 1963, 1968, 1969,1976, 1990-1991, 2001, 2008, 2020.

Some names of musicians I’d want to remember using maybe two or three blocks since it’s hard for me to narrow down my list: George Gershwin and his “Rhapsody in Blue,” Johnny Cash singing “I Walk the Line,” “A Rhinestone Cowboy” sung by Glen Campbell, a favorite of our little five year old daughter Julie when we adopted her. Also, any marches by John Philip Sousa which always remind me of our son William’s high school and college band career. I’d add Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” Carrie Underwood or George Beverly Shea singing “How Great Thou Art,” Francis Scott Key and his “The Star Spangled Banner,” sung by Marian Anderson in the 1960’s. “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” would have to be included and that’s not to mention the beautiful musicals like “Oklahoma,” “Annie,” and “South Pacific.” I’d have to include, too, the crooning voices of Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis as well as The Beach Boys and the signature sweet light music of Hawaii.

Well, I think we’ve done it, finished writing our crazy July Fourth quilt. Let’s put it together with lots of red, white, and blue with flags around the border. Happy Fourth on the Fifth!

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Sunflower Story

Who wouldn’t like to be cheered by sunflowers along the fence or by the mailbox? Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a bouquet of sunny faces on their breakfast table, a perfect centerpiece for a big breakfast of eggs and bacon or blueberry waffles?

Sunflowers are growing under our bird feeders, planted by the birds. Our birds like black oil sunflower seeds the very best, much better than the mixed bird seed. They sit on the edge of the feeder cracking seeds held firmly between their feet or hauling them in quick flight to a nearby tree. A lot of seeds fall and then sprout. What a cheerful sight they make! Most years we have a few stalks but they only reach two or three feet. We had one this year that now, as it’s dwindling, is still six feet. It ‘s tall enough to smile in the window at us! Sometimes it’s fun to think the cardinals are considering what an amazing thing they’ve grown, like Jack’s beanstalk.

At the same time ours have been growing our great granddaughter Candi is raising a whole row of sunflowers. She and I have compared sunflower growth along the way, sending pictures back and forth, describing the size of flowers, maybe sometimes with a little fun exaggeration. Ours bloomed first but hers are bigger and there are many more of them. We’ve exchanged fun facts about sunflowers, as well as ideas, legends and such.

Sunflowers were so named, it seems, by Grecians of old. The Greek word “helios” means sun and “anthos” means flower. The name was so appropriate for a flower that turns all day toward the sun.

The name refers to more than a casual resemblance to the sun. Sunflowers actually do absorb and emanate energy. They might be described as some of the first agents of solar energy. In fact, there is an invention called “fake sunflowers,” manmade flowers that turn all day toward the sun thus reproducing energy.

Candi and I have talked about how the sunflowers face east in the morning, then turn toward the sun all day. I remember seeing a large field of sunflowers years ago. I drove past them many times during the flowering season and was amazed to see that they really did all face the sun. But our few are not in such harmony. They usually face different directions, west more often than any. Candi’s, however, really follow the legendary pattern. Consistently, they all face the sun. Supposedly, the flowers follow the sun until it sets in the west, then slowly through the night turn back east to be ready for the sunrise.

We think our sunflowers are not adhering to the directional story because they get very little morning sunshine. I guess they’re confused. Whereas a field of sunflowers “follow the leader” and all turn the same way, our pitiful few have no such firm examples. I love the idea that a row or field of sunflowers can consistently turn faces sunward, just as Christians, led by the Spirit, turn faces Son-ward and remain in harmony like a choir, even turning toward Him during the night times of the soul.

Sunflowers have ever been a source of great fascination. A number of famous artists have repeatedly painted vases of sunflowers and fields or fence rows of them. Monet, Gaugin, Picasso all painted the happy flowers. But the one who seemed most obsessed with sunflowers was Van Gogh, the Dutch artist who moved to France. He persuaded Gaugin to join him at The Yellow House in Arles, France to start an art museum around 1888. Paul Gaugin painted a picture of Van Gogh painting a picture of sunflowers. Van Gogh loved nature, especially flowers, and considered sunflowers to represent gratitude and, so important to any artist, light itself. He painted many pictures of “Twelve Sunflowers in a Vase” (yes, same title, many paintings), as well as five sunflowers in a vase, wilted sunflowers on a table, and fields of sunflowers with faces toward the eastern morning light. He must never have been satisfied with his sunflower attempts since he continued to do more and more. Or did he, like Monet with his water lilies, continue seeing intriguing differences he wanted to capture?

I asked Candi what she would do with her sunflowers when they bloomed themselves out and started to seed. Being a busy college student, she may not be able to do very much with her crop. But she’d like to harvest the seeds, save some for replanting, roast some, feed some to the birds.

Sunflower seeds are highly nutritious, high in protein, rich in antioxidants. They can be enjoyed sprinkled on salads, vegetables, and even pastas. They are delightful as a snack and are very healthy unless they’re laden too heavily with salt.

It’s obvious Charles and I lost the sunflower competition as to size and number. But we feel like winners having happily watched the progress (inflorescence) of our own tiny crop. More than that, we have so happily enjoyed interactions with great grandchildren, particularly Candi. I wonder if we’re going to be munching her roasted sunflower seeds this winter!

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