Photo Story: Again With The Running Away

My history of running away has nearly as many photos as stories. One photo is missing: the first running away. At least the first one I know about. That was on my tricycle in Arkansas on a dirt road. But there are other photos–and other stories. Whenever a place, city, home, people became claustrophobic, for whatever reason, I packed up and ran to some other place with a view.

Then I bought a house. Well, we bought a house and we married. It’s exponentially harder to pack up and leave your own home and a happy marriage. So I get in the car and drive.

Last week, I felt trapped by city. As many of you know, most of my growing up was on a farm in Kansas. But even before, in Arkansas, in the small Kansas prairie town where we moved before the farm, my eyes ranged through miles of space.

prairie night 2 (1280x638)That’s what a horizon looks like. Ergo, one week ago, the urge to run-away-to-space strong, I got in the car and drove south. I got close to Belton, Missouri, south by some fifteen miles (by the way I was going on back roads) before I got to country.

Here is the transition point. I’d passed a large tree farm and into open land when I came to railroad tracks. And there I was, between an open field with dried grasses and city graffiti.

2rrcars (1)The car and I ducked under a railroad bridge and kept driving south.

trees pondI stopped here, on the side of the road, and watched the wind–it doesn’t take much to make a willow dance. The weather warm and sunny and the humidity pulled from the pond fuzzed everything like an Impressionist painting. I could live here. There’s even a little dock and a boat for Cliff to go sit in the middle of the pond and fish. That would probably change the painting from a Monet to a Renoir. My shoulders softened and my breathing deepened. This is what I’d come to see although I couldn’t have told you that when I left my driveway.

On down the road, I reached the real destination: someone who talked farm stories.

siloI stopped because it was such a great shot: tree etchings across the sky and old rust etchings on machinery and everything softened in the warm afternoon air. I’d parked at the edge of the driveway leading up to this scene and taken my shots when I heard a tractor behind me. The driver slowed alongside and pulled around my car to get into the driveway. I couldn’t resist. Following him up the driveway, I put the car into park while he got off his tractor.

After we introduced ourselves, our talk rambled through farm and family stories and books. Because he’d grown up in a storytelling family, he read books; because I’d grown up in a storytelling family, I wrote stories and poems. He pulled out a little brown notebook and wrote down the name of my book. He’d have to get it, he said. So that was nice, but what was even better was talking story and history. People who live on the land talk about land. Oh, yes, and weather. We talked about weather.



Being Willow

The purple iris, peonies, and roses are blooming in the backyard. I’m proud of them – far prouder than I am of myself who seems to have gone into hibernation after daily reflections during Lent and Easter. As if my fingers fell asleep. Or my head. That, actually, seems to be the crux of the matter – a mind that gets through the day and follows the path necessary and even gets papers read and graded, but no exploding creativity.

Someone wiser than I am said something to the effect that it’s just as important to be as to do. I have been being. 

I’ve picked spinach and put it into the refrigerator – spinach does not like 90 degree days and has decided to bolt. Bolt. An interesting word. The asparagus is also bolting if I don’t remember to go out each day and cut it. Bolt – as in to gallop away fast. A colt bolts; so do plants when it’s hot. The rest of us wilt. The peas are wilting. I’m not sure they are going to produce anything this year – too cold and wet earlier to flower, too hot now. The iris and peonies like the heat however – the purple iris the ones I remember from my childhood, smelling of grape pop. Kansas iris rather than hybrids. Kansas peonies.

I’ve been wondering where the “spiritual” in this reflection lies since I’m sounding more like a farmer than a preacher. You may be wondering too.

I suppose it’s too facile to say the earth nourishes all of us if we pay attention. Each day I look out the window here in my little office and measure the day by the willow that’s grown from a 12 foot adolescent into a lady beginning to droop her arms in a most elegant fashion. Today it’s quiet – barely a breeze ruffling the top leaves.

I also suppose it’s possible that Spirit, in whatever form it takes, ruffles our top leaves one day and gusts us over another. Sometimes the change is hourly rather than daily. We humans are being tossed from one extreme to another. But right now, today, I’m sitting quietly watching willow leaves and remembering to be as flexible in my dealings today as this young willow is to the gusts of wind.

I will DO later today – a full day of teaching ahead of me – but now, remembering to BE helps. Maybe that’s enough for all of us – slowing down enough to be rather than do. The doing is never-ending; being ends.

So today I will enjoy the being and avoid feeling guilty for what does or does not get done. The doing will wait for me another day, I’m sure. For this little while, for you, too, we can simply be flexible and bend with the winds.