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Always a New Crossroad

This photo is from Ocean City. I like the crossroad of land and sky and water. There’s an old couple who struggled together up the dune to look. They, too, are at a crossroad. I like to imagine they have come to the ocean for years on vacation and played in the surf. Now they stand and remember.

I’ve often stood at a crossroad. My crossroads usually read STOP on the side I can see, but the destination is written on the reverse side in ink fated to remain invisible for an unknown span of time. I stop, reconfigure, and head off somewhere, not knowing where or why I’m going, but trusting I’ll eventually understand.

You’ll see a page for Workshops. My college teaching ended, but I like teaching, so I’m glad it’s evolved.

The Services page offers us as presiders at weddings and memorial services. I’ve been a Spiritual Mentor/Counselor for more than twenty years, in person and through online consultations.

Feel free to wander with me.

My Least Favorite City (although you wouldn’t know it from the photos)

 

I’m staggering back to what passes for normal after a week in Las Vegas. As a rule, I love cities: the structures, people, old shops, twisting roads. I do not love Las Vegas. It’s miles and miles of sameness: same style of houses/same color of houses/gigantic, confusing, under-construction-everywhere freeways/and impossible to spot landmarks (all streets/houses/shopping areas look the same–thank goodness for Google maps!). However, our grandson was graduating from a grueling year of nursing school and flying back and forth to San Diego where home and wife and newly born son were, and we are proud of him.

Ergo. La La Las Vegas.

Cliff and I ran away from the family one night and went to The Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris Casino. From the top of the Eiffel Tower, I can deal with the city. And when I’m graced with exquisite food, I’m even nicer.

The tower restaurant has floor to ceiling windows and Cliff reserved a window table across from the dancing waters of the Bellagio; the same dancing waters made famous in various movies, especially Oceans Eleven and twelve and thirteen. At any rate, we had a ringside seat to dancing waters without having to stand with throngs of people on the sidewalk.

And the meal was extraordinary. I chose Dover Sole and Cliff, Veal Medallions. We shared a spring greens salad, which, instead of being in a bowl, was heaped inside a ring of paper-thin slices of zucchini, and a final souffle desert. And champagne and a perfect Negroni. Oh. My. Goodness.

Here’s the video that drew us in – watch it all the way and you’ll learn from a master chef how to make a perfect Dover Sole. You’ll also get a better view of the restaurant in general.

The first shopping trip we made after coming home? Trader Joe’s for Dover Sole. I followed the Chef’s directions from the above video. Not quite the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, but just as good and quieter.

So, all in all, a lovely dinner which, along with a fine grandson graduating from a tough program with a 4.0 and an eleven month old great-grandson and his mamma and visiting with son and daughter-in-law, made Las Vegas worth while.

Maybe that’s also why I’m still recovering!

 

A New York Story

Here’s a New York bartending story that doesn’t fit into the memoir but it’s a funny true-fact story so maybe it will make you laugh. It always does me. This happened before I went to Mexico for the movie and was working at a place called Molly’s in Hell’s Kitchen, a true neighborhood bar.

That night, the bar was crowded. A full moon, still two days away, built a noisy rush of energy. All the tables were full, even after eleven on a weekday when things usually calmed down. The jukebox was cranked up loud. Somebody had gone Chuck Berry crazy, and since only four of his records were available, the same four played over and over. I’d given one of the waitresses quarters to play Billie Holiday but that relief hadn’t come up.

I scooped ice into a class and listened to an order at the same time. Rita understood how to talk under the noise instead of trying to outshout it, so that helped. I nodded before carrying the freshly made drink to the other end of the bar.

“Smile! Things ain’t that bad.”

“Dino, I get paid $350 a day to smile. You want to match that, I’ll smile,” I said.

I picked up his money and went to the cash register. Dino was a local, born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen. He sounded like West Side Story without the music and he drank Jack and Coke. His friends called him Ding-Dong but he hated that old nickname. Probably always had. I took his change back. He never tipped, none of the neighborhood guys tipped. They’d grown up in this bar as a second living room.

“Come on, baby. Smile. Wanna hear a joke?” Dino had lots of jokes, most of them bad. “You hear the one about the Buddhist and the hot dog vendor?”

“Not now, Dino. Rita needs an order.”

The good part about being busy was that I didn’t have to talk much. Things would calm down after midnight when the kitchen closed and the late night regulars wandered in.

I stayed in a work rhythm that didn’t require thinking–ice, shot, soda gun. Simple. No one wanted daiquiris tonight, although Nikki had a table drinking tequila sunrises and Rita was selling margaritas. A tequila night. They’d start on straight shots soon. That would clear them out.

I glanced down the length of the bar. Two glasses empty: the scotch and soda couple sitting next to Dino. I walked down and lifted the glasses. The man nodded.

Dino finished his joke. “Make me one with everything. Get it? One with everything…..”

My glare didn’t stop him. “There. You know who you look like?” he said. “That Lauren Bacall. Remember, she always looked at Bogart under her eyebrows.”

Now there’s a trick, I mused, walking to refill the scotch and sodas–looking at someone under your eyebrows. Sort of like a hidden pocket…oh, I just keep him under my eyebrows.

“You know, you do look like Bacall,” the scotch and soda man said when I set their drinks down. The woman studied my face.

“See? I told you,” Dino said, nodding. He was getting drunk. That meant he’d leave soon.

“Yeah…thanks,” I said to the scotch man, taking his money to the cash register and punching the buttons a little harder than necessary. I’d heard it so many times. “Do you know who you look like” followed me from bar to bar, state to state. “No, who?” I always said, feigning surprise. The answers ranged from Bacall to Julie Christie to Faye Dunaway. Once, from an older man, Deborah Kerr. When I’d first started bartending, I’d been flattered. Now I was thoroughly sick of it. Show biz and bars. They went together. In this town anyway. Most of the people in here were either unemployed actors or singers or dancers or playwrights, including the employees. Dino had started talking to the scotch and soda man; the woman stirred her drink, looking bored. Another woman’s looks were probably not her favorite subject. I returned the change and slid away quickly, back to the ice bin and the waitress orders.

If Duffy could see me now. He’d rescued me off a bar stool and put me behind a bar. That was seven years and four moves ago: Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York. They’d given me a big going away party when I left the Rio Club in Austin. I’d been heading for La La Land, sure the breaks would go my way. “Don’t forget we knew you when,” they’d said.

Billie Holiday’s voice rose over the clatter…God bless the child…she sang. God bless us all, I thought as I glanced along the bar again. A near empty glass was pushed forward. JB and water. I knew the man it belonged to had been watching me but I didn’t want to talk to him. I retrieved his glass, filled it, and set it back down, reached for his money.

“Do you know who you look like?” he said.

“No,” I said, as anger crinkled along the corners of my eyes. I folded my arms on the bar and leveled my gaze at him. “You tell me.”

“You look like a female Clint Eastwood,” the man said.

My sudden shot of laughter surprised us both.

“You win,” I said and slapped his money back on the bar. “I’ll even buy your drink for that one.”

The man seemed taken aback but he nodded his thanks. What did he expect? A denial?

If all of them could be that easy, as smiling, I moved back to the ice bin.

The kitchen closed; the bar began clearing out. The couple next to Dino left, abandoning the woman’s half-full drink. She must have prevailed over Dino’s fascinating conversation. He nodded over his Jack and Coke.

“Dino, go home.”

“Hmmmm.” He finished his drink and stumbled out. The man who had named her Clint Eastwood’s double also slipped out without finishing his drink. He’d left a $5 bill under the edge of his glass.

I glanced at the front door and beside it to the plate glass window. Snow fell as soft as a whisper.

 

 

 

Waking Up in Mexico #3

Dear Girls and Boys, sorry for the long delay for chapter 3. I’ve decided not to use the I/You format and so have spent time revising. As usual, if you run across a clumsy sentence or an un-spotted “you” I’d love to hear from you.

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III

            “Freedom!” I sang in a bad imitation of Richie Havens as I thumped my hand against the car’s steering wheel. I repeated the word twice, couldn’t remember any more words so switched to a childhood song: “Yippee ki yi yo, git along little doggies. It’s your misfortune and none of my own.” My side window was open and the road stretched in front of me. It hadn’t been easy to convince Sergio to let me go even for the day. I’d wanted to drive across the mountains to Mazatlán and the sea for a few days, but he’d nixed that plan. There were bandits in the mountains, he’d said. And the dailies weren’t back. I wasn’t sure he was worried about me or about the film. Looking back, he was wise. Likely those bandits were the precursors of the cartels.

Franco, the location scout, had told me about a mountain balneario above Mezquital. I wasn’t sure what a balneario was except it was a pool where thermal water surfaced. At least it was water if not the sea. I left early, armed with maps and dire warnings: don’t stray off the main highway; don’t pick up anyone along the way; watch out for burros. Mezquital only an hour south of Durango, Franco said. But there you were, driving more than forty miles into the mountains with nary a sight of a pueblo or a solitary burro. No anything for that matter except a curving road and rock strewn mountains.

The road made a sharp switchback. A white cross reared from the rocks above. Farther on, two more crosses. Striations of ocher marked the sheer red rock looming on my right. On my left, the mountain dropped precipitously from the road and I could see a valley and a glisten of water. Around another curve, the road widened with a dirt turn out on a platform ledge, and I saw a blur of white against the rock wall. A shrine? I pulled onto the turn out and parked. Where was I?

“Probably not headed for Mezquital,” I muttered as I got out of the car and crossed the road. I hadn’t seen any traffic for miles. The shrine was a simple structure of gray and white concrete set on a pedestal and nestled into a niche carved from the rock. The glass-paned wooden door no more than a foot high. I peered through the smoky glass. A framed picture of The Virgin leaned against the back wall, a bouquet of white zinnias at her feet. Tiny woven baskets held something but I couldn’t make out what. Two small plates held a bun and two cookies. The plates had tiny, blue flowers around the rim and looked like something from a child’s doll house.       Burning candles made a syrupy golden glow. I reached out to open the door, but my hand arrested itself. Solitude pressed against me.

The heavy growl of down-shifting gears rattled against the rock walls. Something big was coming. Flattening myself against the mountain, a wide truck nose loomed around the curve and a fully loaded logging truck thundered by, the driver’s expression startled as he spotted me. The back-draft whipped hair across my face and he was gone, rumbling down the grade. Was the shrine for truckers to make an offering on the way back from safely snaking heavy loads down the mountain? If so, they seemed to trust the Virgin’s good sense more than their own.

I stood in the middle of the quiet road and studied the shrine. This wasn’t about controlling life. This was about trusting the curving road to take you where you needed to go. I walked back to where the ledge dropped away. The glint of water below traced a river, winding along the valley floor. My gaze traveled across the valley and up the side of more hump-backed mountains against the blue sky; my eyes filled with sunlight.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows God’s handiwork. How unbidden those old verses popped into my head from time to time. The memory accompanied by a vision of standing with my sister, singing in church.

A long scream jerked my eyes up. A hawk circled overhead. My laughter broke the heavy silence.

“I’m not your prey,” I shouted. The long wings flapped once, lifting the bird on a higher spiral. I heard one more scream before it drifted behind the mountain at my back. In the silence, my heartbeat sounded loud. The space above me was so infinite and I was so small.

Where did I go from here? Wherever the road went, I decided.

Farther up, the land changed and the road wound into a tall pine forest—which probably explained the logging trucks. As I craned my head out the window to glance up at the tree tops, the car wheels thumped off the edge of the pavement and scuttled into deep ruts and loose rock. I realized the yellow and black sign I’d seen a few yards back, and which my less than fluent Spanish had failed to translate, had been a caution warning.

I braked. The car rolled to a stop nose to nose with a loaded logging truck. Two young men stopped tying down ropes to watch me get out of the car.

“Buenas dias.”

            “Buenas dias,” they said in unison. Caution shielded their faces.

“Donde está Mezquital?”

“Allá,” they said, in unison, waving vaguely across the mountains to the east. Everything is allá in Mexico. First rule broken. I had wandered off the main highway.

There were no shortcuts across the mountains to allá. I drove down the winding highway and found the road to Mezquital branching off from the busy traffic circle I’d escaped from earlier. This flatter road ran straight, bordered on each side with cultivated fields. In one field, a farmer walked behind a horse and plow, the plow no different from the one I’d used in the movie. Someone should have been filming him: the freshly turned furrows uncovered a feast and a flock of black birds wheeled, settled, stalked, pecked, and rose again to circle the farmer’s head, wings glittering in the sun.

I slowed behind a horse drawn cart piled high with firewood where two small children perched. They waved. I passed burros grazing loose and another that resembled a stack of firewood propelled by spindly legs. A boy followed it. Cars and pickup trucks filled the road on the other side, heading for Durango. What an odd juxtaposition of 19th and 20th Century living.

My musing ended abruptly. A burro stood crosswise in the middle of the road, his head turned to stare at my approaching car. I slowed, honked, stopped. He wasn’t moving.

I honked again, bleating the horn in short bursts. The burro stared. A showdown between a burro and a car and the burro was winning. As I inched around his head, the burro turned his head to watch me. I left him behind and in the review mirror, saw his head turned to watch my receding car.

Passing a sign I recognized, a black zigzag line against yellow, I slowed. It warned of a tope ahead, a concrete hump across the road and high enough to scrape off the underpinnings of a too-fast vehicle. Low adobe buildings straggled alongside the road, the overhead sun cast deep shadows under an open portal roofed with poles. At one end hung a battered Coca-Cola sign. A glaringly white church, white steeple jutting into a cloudless sky, stood along the road. Villagers huddled in the sparse shade cast by church walls and watched the circle of dancers shuffling in the dusty yard. I pulled off the road and got out of the car to watch.

The dancers, strips of red and white fabric fluttering from their waists, moved in a circle. Shells, wrapped around their ankles, sounded a slow rattling cadence like a field of crickets on an August evening. A solitary dancer erupted from the circle, a blur of color from multi-colored ribbons around arms and legs. This dancer wore a mask and probed and taunted the others, who ignored him, and continued their slow measured tread.

The dance ended. Spectators drifted in and out of the church; the dancers gathered under a lone tree and wiped at sweat. The one in the mask sauntered across the yard and leaned against the front fender. I matched his casual stance, but mines was fake. His mask, covering his head, lent him anonymity. I felt bare.

“Buenas dias,” he said with customary politeness.

            “Buenas dias.” The impersonality of the ritual a protection. He was slim, no taller than me. “El baile estaba bien.” Oh, ugh. What an inspired thing to say—the dance was good. His eyes measured me. What else could I say? I could ask his name.

“Comó te llama?”

“Hule.”

“Hule?”

“Hule,” he repeated and kicked the car tire. “El Dios.” He said something about trees, and waved his arm toward the mountains.

Trees? Car tires? He was the god of rubber? Here?

“Bueno,” I said. “Y el pueblo. Comó se llama?”

“Santa Gertruda.” Each time he spoke, his eyes laughed. If his job was to disrupt a placid, stamp, move, shuffle, he did a great job with me.

Villagers, made brave by their devil’s approach, crowed around. They knew Hule, weren’t intimidated; he was the gate for their curiosity. The interrogation began: who was I; where was I going; was I from the United States; why was I in Mexico? I answered in stammering, broken sentences. The clamor of questions was suddenly drowned by the insistent clamor of church bells. Words shifted. Come to church; come to the special service; a feast day for the pueblo. In the confusion of questions, invitations, and church bells, Hule disappeared. The flock urged me toward the church doors, but once inside, I was on my own. The villagers hurried forward.

There weren’t any pews except for two small ones near the front. I leaned against the back wall. A simple church, whitewashed plaster and washed stone floor. Pink and white streamers hung from the walls, the same twisted crepe paper we used in grade school. These had paper flowers spaced along the loops, the streamers draping to a peak above the altar. A blood red bouquet of fresh flowers lay at the feet of a statue of The Virgin set into a back niche. Sandals whispered across stone.

Stillness slid past the barrier of my skin. Layers of memory woke as if my cells were expanding into something familiar. What could be familiar in a little whitewashed church in a dusty little town where I’d never been? I was Hannah and Anna and Janet standing there.

More villagers entered and divided as they came in: men and boys on one side, women on the other. I’d stood on the men’s side so crossed the room to join the women. A black-cassocked priest entered from the door near the altar.

As the service began, I knelt and stood with others on the cold, stone floor. A girl brought a chair, but I smiled and shook my head. The girl took it to an old woman standing ahead of me. Women glanced at me and nodded.

I thought about the church I attended in New York, High Anglican Episcopal, swirling vestments, incense, ritual. I wondered if ritual defined a boundary or opened a pathway.

A dog wandered in at the back and flopped on the cool floor. Children meandered from one side to another.

In the middle of opening ceremonies, the dancers filed in, ankle shells rattling in counterpoint to bless us for we have sinned. The dancers carried baskets or clay pots or an armful of flowers. The two end dancers carried staffs of corn stalks. They arranged their offerings around the altar, the service continued. The priest raised his hands in blessing. The dancers filed out. You looked for Hule but didn’t see him. He had remained anonymous, refusing the safety of belonging.

A young couple stood in front of the altar, the woman’s arms filled with white lace and baby. The long trail of the christening gown streamed over the woman’s arm. Another couple joined them and the priest blessed the baby. Maria de la Luz they named her: Maria of the Light.

A boy and a girl replaced the adults at the altar, the boy dressed in a starched white shirt and black pants while the girl wore a miniature wedding dress and veil. All this white lace in a dusty town, treasures wrapped in tissue paper and stored in some corner of a small adobe house, treasures of anticipation and dreams. We buy the dreams. I’d married young in a white dress and veil, leaving high school, leaving the farm. And after fifteen years, left the marriage. But I hadn’t left the dream of being swept into the saddle of a true one.

If the boy dreamed of rescuing a fair maiden, at least he didn’t have to do it encumbered by yards of skirt. A starched white shirt and new black pants would do.

I felt a pressure on my leg and glanced down. A small boy leaned against me. The mother stood behind, holding a baby. I didn’t move. It didn’t matter who I was; I was a safe leg to lean against.

The service ended and I followed the others into the hard, bright light. The villagers wanted to talk again, their conversation fast and the words slipped from my grasp like weeds in a murky pond. I rescued myself by pulling out my camera.

“Por favor?” I said, showing the camera to the mother of Maria de las Luz. The woman nodded, stood formal and stiff, displaying the baby like a trophy. I took photos of the new communicants, expecting childish delight, but they, too, stood in unsmiling formality. I moved on to two old ladies wearing lace mantillas.

“Que bella,” I said, and they giggled.

Families left and I followed the old women back into the church. They began cleaning around the altar, re-propping flowers with square, sure hands, smoothing a corner of the altar cloth. Their bodies swayed under layers of heavy skirts. The petals on the paper flowers, formed of layered pink and white tissue, grew twisted paper stamens from the center. I remembered a Joseph Campbell line I’d hung above my desk in New York: “Divinity is pleased to regard its own glory and this pleasure is inducement to the act of creation.”

I recalled women sitting around a quilting frame in Grandma Sunderland’s living room, the rise and fall of needles punctuating conversations and stories. When I’d married at seventeen, no one approved, but Grandma didn’t say anything. She gave me a quilt as a wedding present, the pieced squares bordered in pink, the same pink as these Mexican paper flowers.

An old woman joined me.

“Muy bonita,” I said. The old woman smiled and touched a flower, trickling gnarled fingers through the stamen.

“Venga,” she said. She led me to a little niche on a side wall. Inside, a doll, a male child, dressed in purple velvet and lace collar sat on a throne. The doll’s velvet gown embroidered in tiny fine stitches.

“El Niῆo,” she said.

We moved down the wall to another tiny niche and a dark faced woman doll, dressed in white satin, enclosed in a glass box. I smiled. That was one way to stay safe: become a saint and live in a glass box.

“Tengo que ir,” I told her. I really had to go if I was to have any time swimming.

“Vaya bien,” she said, probably used to people leaving: children grew up; people came and went.

“Que le vaya bien,” she repeated.

As you drove out of the village, you wondered if you’d become part of another story: the day of celebration when the gringa came. At least, that’s what you’d call it. But the villagers wouldn’t know about a pink quilt, or about the dreams you kept packing away in invisible tissue paper.

The mountains edged closer to the road. From the map, I knew the road ended in Mezquital so when the car wheels bumped off pavement and onto a cobblestone road, I figured I’d arrived. I stopped and read Franco’s directions for the road to the balneario. Spotting the turn ahead, I drove onto a rough and rocky road, rising in switchbacks across the mountain face, Mezquital far below. Making another turn, the road topped the edge of a plateau and stretched out flat, losing itself in an expanse of brush. The far mountain peaks were almost at eye level. No sign of habitation, just wide, dry, empty space. I had no idea where the road led, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go.

An old pattern, following a road to nowhere. I used to follow cow trails in farm pastures the same way, not paying attention, my head filled with dreams. Nothing much has changed.

I spotted a hand-lettered sign nailed to a fence post: BALNEARIO. I turned onto a narrower track and stopped at the edge of a gorge. I got out to look. Far below, spread along the bottom of the gorge, five swimming pools stared back at me like round blue eyes fringed with trees. Flat-topped roofs crouched beneath the branches. A bigger building sat on slightly higher ground, its peaked and gabled roof resembling a misplaced Swiss chalet. Ragged red mountains cupped the site in an incongruous dream quality as if the collection of odd bits and pieces were meant to mean something else.

I plucked my sweaty shirt from my chest, shaking it a little, and got back in the car to drive down a track and through an open gate. One lone man worked alongside the road, piling up brush with a font-end scoop. He paused long enough to accept the pesos I offered from the car window, pointed to a parking lot, turned back to work. Mine the only car in the lot.

The swimming pools, graduated in size, were separated by narrow bridged walkways. The last pool the largest and on the other side, I saw a stone building that might be a dressing room, reached by a concrete bridge. Inside the huge building, my footsteps echoed in the emptiness. As I changed, I pictured young girls, preening at the bank of mirrors, flipping long hair over perfect shoulders.

The day played itself back as I swam in the pool’s warm water, a kaleidoscope of disjointed images. So many new scenes that seemed so familiar. I stopped at the far end and propped my elbows on the rim. A short waterfall bubbled from a cleft in the canyon wall, sending puffs of steam into the dry air. I pushed back from the wall to float on my back like a cork in the mineral water. A hawk circled overhead, riding the air currents as I rode the water. Why did Mexico feel so familiar? What was holding me, spinning me in a web as surely as a spider spins a fly? I’d be returning to New York the next day. That’s where my future lay. Stretching my arms sideways, I prepared to swoop them down through the water and propel myself, but instead, they rested idly as I tickled the water with my fingertips. Would I be different, now, in New York? Why did I feel I was leaving something unfinished in a land that did not belong to me? Flipping my body, I swam hard, pushing at the water.

The Farm….again

This is what the farm looks like, looking west from the little house. You may have seen this photo before. It is not, however, what the land looks like at this moment when I’m writing. Now it looks black. So here’s the story.

Actually, it’s this story because I can’t yet add to the memoir in the last couple of posts. That’s because said memoir wasn’t working with the I/you bit and I’ve had to revise. In the meantime, I’ve been reading Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and John Banville’s new memoir, Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, to see how other writers have dealt with the past/present conundrum.

At any rate: the burned farm story. Actually, the farm has been much in my consciousness, phone calls, thinking, and doing for the past several months. It began in January with the taxes. That was the easy part. Okay, done. And then, since the farm is in a conservation reserve program (CRP) and has been lo these past forty years since Dad retired from farming, I had to follow up the taxes with more pressing farm demands. The FSA (farm service agency) rules are such that every few years, I need to get the prairie burned off, all one-hundred-twenty-acres. I recently posted an old story on burning the prairie which adventure convinced me not to try to do it myself again. The other piece of FSA rules was that I needed to get someone to cut trees out of said prairie because once trees get hold, they prosper, and the prairie is no longer prairie. And then one takes these invoices, which we’ve paid, to the FSA and have them logged in so the fall payment for CRP, which supports the farm, will be paid.

So. It has taken me countless hours on the phone to find someone to burn and to cut. Hours and hours. For months and months. Keep in mind, I began the search in mid-January and only now is it done. We had the local fire department do the burn the past few times and gave them a donation of around $1,000 (having a farm in conservation is a pricey business) but they can no longer do it. 1. the men are too old; 2. Kansas law now prohibits fire departments from doing it.

After many many calls and just as many estimates, I found a man who would cut out the trees for around $1100. It turned out to be closer to $1200 but it was done. And at the same time, I was calling leads to find someone to burn off the prairie. One estimate was $5,000. I mean, really???? I finally found a guy with whom I’d been in high school, but he was across the state line at the Liberty Fire Dept. and had several ahead of me in Nebraska and they had to come first but he’d do what he could. Keep in mind the farm is 1/2 mile from Nebraska.

And then, by a happenstance I can’t really remember, I found the Linn, Kansas, American Legion who were burning prairie to raise funds for the Legion. Whew! Linn is about 45 miles from the farm, so I sweetened the pot by adding $400 for a total of $1400. And they burned it and did a great job.

Now, after all that backstory, Stephen, my son, and I went to the farm over the weekend. Cliff had school papers to catch up on so he stayed home, did laundry, and had a good dinner ready for us when we returned on Monday evening. Which, all in all, is a fair trade. Our primary goal was to plant grass and put straw over said grass in the hopes that it would keep away critters and birds until it sprouts.

I’ve no idea where the essay is stored in this copious record of my life on WordPress, but there is an essay, perhaps the one where I pumped out the basement, on what a mess the area around the house became after construction. I’ve been struggling with the five feet times 90 feet of ground around it since. Earlier this year, I guess over spring break, Cliff and I went up, cleared out all the weed stalks/sunflower stalks/weird red berry something or another that seems determined to root, and left bare ground. Which Stephen and I covered copiously with grass seed. A neighbor brought up two bales of straw which we then used to cover said seed. No doubt, at some point in the future, I will update the story on whether or not I finally have grass instead of very tall weeds around the house. In the nonce (doncha love that word) it’s done.

And Stephen and I drove into Marysville, turned in papers to the FSA, re-certified the CRP for the next three years….and learned that the end of 2020 may be our last year in the program as the government has cut funding for conservation and instead is buying bombs and airplanes. I have no idea what we will do then, but as Scarlett O’Hara said, I’ll think about it tomorrow. What I know is that prairie roots are 12-14 and more deep and it’s hard to put it back in cultivation. (Which I don’t want to do anyway. It’s one half section of wild in the midst of corporate farming.) Stephen and I had lunch at the Wagon Wheel Cafe which has done steady business since I was a kid, and then we drove the three hours back to Kansas City.

However, I have to tell you one more story which Cliff said I should tell. Cliff, a city boy from Baltimore, is somewhat tool challenged, in a kind way of putting it. He also began wearing a C-Pap a few months ago which, as all C-Paps do, has a harness. It has strong magnets on the harness which tend to clasp onto themselves and usually, I help him get the harness adjusted. Well. I was on the farm. He had to do it himself. He said it took a while as the harness kept tangling and at one point it was in a knot on top of his head and he said, “I looked like a Polish grandmother with a babushka on my head!”

He was glad I was home.

…..

 

 

Introducing Nick Owchar

Some of you may be acquainted with Nick Owchar from his blog Siren Calls. You may or may not know that he’s an extraordinarily competent editor and worked many year as the editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Below is his post, telling us what he’s up to now.

I worked with Nick a couple of months ago and can recommend him unequivocally. He zoned in on where I needed help and I appreciate his eyes and talent.

If you’re working o a book or stories or even poems, I expect, and need another pair of eyes. He’s the man.

 

via Why the ‘Siren’ Changed Her Name to IC