"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Skillet Memories

My friend, Judie Brunson, wrote
a wonderful memoir about her
mother's cast iron skillet.  I thought about her story when I was leaving my sister's house yesterday and noticed this huge skillet hanging next to the back door.

"Is that the one Ronnie gave you?" I asked.

"Yep," Peggy answered.  "I use it all the time -- and I think of Bruno everytime I use it."

Our mother cooked in cast iron.  The best biscuits ever made, brown on top and bottom, fluffy in the middle, were baked in her old skillet.

 I don't even have a cast iron skillet anymore.  I'd cooked in them for years, but never could adhere to the age old rule "never wash them with soap."

Cast iron is bad to rust if you wash them with soap because that washes away all the oil that has permeated the iron so they have to be dried completely before storing.

I'm all into quick and easy so after washing my cast iron, I'd put it on a gas burner, turn it on and dry the pan that way.  One day something got stuck  so tight I couldn't get it all out with a Brillo pad, so I got the bright idea to boil soapy water in it.  Maybe that would loosen the hard cooked food.  Oops!  I forgot about it, and let it boil away and the soap permeated the skillet.  Ruined it.

When I was working at Bruce Flowers, Fred Hill said the pan just needed to be "cured" again, so he took it home and did that for me, but as soon as it heated up, it smelled like burnt soap.  I eventually threw it away.

Back in the '70's and ''80's when the first "stainless steel" pans came onto the  market, the promoters for those lines would stir around in a cast iron skillet and then dump the loosened particles out onto a piece of paper and say, "And you thought that was pepper in your gravy!" leaving the potential customer with the impression that whatever that was that had come out of the pan -- might - just - kill -  you.

I always wondered why that was supposed to be alarming.  I'd eaten out of cast iron all my life and I wasn't dead yet.

But I did eventually buy some stainless steel pots and pans.  They are much easier to keep clean -- but they don't fry taters like cast iron.

One day, many years ago, Ronnie and I were out walking in our neighborhood .  Next to a trash can across the street from Cunningham School, we saw the enormous cast iron skillet.

Ronnie picked it up.  "Good Lord! Feel how heavy this thing is."

I checked it out.  I was already having trouble with pain in my forearms, so I said, "That's way too heavy for me to use."

"Would Peggy want it?"

"I don't know.  I guess we can take it home and call her."

We were at least a mile and a half from our house.  We switched off carrying the 14 inch, 10 pound monster, wondering, all the way, why we didn't just lay it down and come back in the car to get it.  It's hard to convince yourself, though, that no one else is going to want your "treasure" so we persevered.

The Skillet has had some hard times, though.  Peggy dropped it and the handle broke off.  But her husband, Joe, was able to weld it back on, so it can give a few more years of service.

I don't cook much these days -- but I might have to buy me another cast iron skillet. Lord knows I don't need any fried taters -- but just for old time's sake. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Medicine Park Flute Festival

I'm sure most people have those experiences where you want to do something, see a certain movie, go some place special.  Over time you build it up in your mind. You look forward to it with every ounce of positive expectation you can muster, but when it happens, it isn't all that you expected it to be. You come away from it feeling disappointed.

That was not the case with the Medicine Park Flute Festival this past weekend.

Two years ago, after my husband, Ronnie, got back to walking again after his surgery in August, he, my daughter, my one year old grandson and I went up for the festival.  It was miserably hot that day so after a walk down Main Street, we got back in the car, drove up Mt. Scott, then came home. We talked about how pleasant it would be to take a seat along the river in the late evening and just listen to the spirit healing music.  We planned to do so next year.

We didn't get another chance.  Ronnie passed away less than a year later.

This year, the Medicine Park Flute Festival was slated for Saturday and Sunday.  My friend, Dotti, said she'd go with me but she was selling raffle tickets at the Derby Dames on Saturday, so we didn't go until Sunday afternoon.

For those of you who are not familiar with Medicine Park, it is about fifteen miles northwest of Lawton, nestled in the Wichita Mountains.  It is one of those places that can't be described or explained.  It has to be experienced.

Mt. Scott in the background
Medicine Creek runs through the heart of the community.  There is a platform out in the river, which I believe previously was used primarily by swimmers as a place to sunbathe.  In recent years, the Medicine Park community leaders have constructed a bridge over to the platform for easier access with such things as musical instruments.

It was still pretty warm when Dotti and I arrived, but we found a bench in the shade near the waterfall and sat down.  We'd seen clouds in the distance on the way up.  They came on in and overcast the late afternoon sun.

Terry Frazier was the first musician we heard.  His music was awesome. It had the very traditional sound of Native American music that I have grown to love listening to Alice Gomez's cd's, "While the Eagle Sleeps" and "Journeys of the Flute".  Frazier is also a flute maker.  On his website:  www.frazierflutes.com  I found this: "It is not necessary to be a “musician” to learn to play a Frazier Flute. We believe that anyone can learn to play. We encourage you to learn in the traditional way. Separate yourself from all distractions. Preferably a place where you find beauty and wonder as your companions, then listen to the Earth and a song will rise up within your spirit. Often the voice of the flute itself may inspire your song. This is the best way to learn, your songs are then very personal private creations. The flute is then what it was created to be, an extension of your spirit."

Also on his website, he had samples of his music and, of course, his cd's are for sale there.

The sun was sinking below the hills across the river by the time the next musician Jonny Lipford (www.jonnylipford.com) walked out onto the platform in the water.

Between songs, he told us a little bit about himself. He lives in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. He grew up on a farm in Florida and began his music career at thirteen.  He is a stay-at-home dad for his four month old baby.  He talked about the inspirations for each song including the orange dragonfly.  For those who don't know, dragonflies come in all colors.  Lipford's favorite is the orange and he said one lit on him one day and stayed long enough to have its picture taken.  He composed a song inspired by that experience, "Orange Dragonfly".

Lipford's website says this: "Jonny Lipford takes an age old instrument and uses it to create not only the traditional sounds, but also sounds that are new and not commonly linked to the Native American style flute - a voice all his own. In every song you hear, you’ll experience the unbridled passion of an individual who has experienced far more than many people his age. Jonny’s innate sense of composition and mature understanding of melody touches the soul. Jonny’s hands play out melodies that are uniquely pure, invoking a variety of emotions that will warm your heart and leave you astonished at his musical technique."

I find all that to be true.

As Lipford played one delightful song after another, the sun went down, a cool breeze blew across the water. The visitors sitting along the river were quiet.  A few folks were swimming. The lights along the Riverwalk came on.  Two flocks of Canadian geese flew low over the water.  The locusts started their own chorus and behind everything we could always hear the waterfall.

I thought about Ronnie, and how much he would love this.  Then I noticed cars coming down off  Mt. Scott in the near distance and realized he is never far from me.

 Main street in front of the Old Plantation
Dotti and I finished off our evening with dinner at The Old Plantation.  We had the most delicious chicken quesadillas I have ever had.  These were different.  Besides the chicken, onions and cheese inside, they also had sweet corn.  They were served with "woodroasted salsa" that was to die for and sour cream.  We also ate the scrumptious light fluffy rolls with honey butter and shared a piece of apple pie a' la mode.

Leaving the restaraunt, we had the opportunity to stop and say hello to Mr. Lipford, and to thank him for the excellent music presentation.

A beautiful night sky accompanied us back to my car.  I bought three of Jonny Lipford's cd's. I put one in the player for the trip back to Wichita Falls.

I couldn't ask for a more perfect evening.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Poets in My Life

Sitting out here on the patio, enjoying the thunder, lightening and rain a few mornings back, I was reminded of a poem I read when I was a child, "I Saw God Wash the World Last Night".  I looked it up in the old, old book of poetry my mother gave me, "Best Loved Poems of the American People" and read it again.

In 1980, Mama gave me my own leather bound copy of "101 Famous Poems". Together, we had worn out the volume she had when I was young, so she gave me a new one.

Mama loved to read and write.  She wrote short stories, some of which I still have copies.  She wrote poetry, one of which was published in the Texas Public Employee Association Magazine.  She wrote a beautiful, heartfelt poem when my sister's husband was killed at the age of 26.

Mama read to us before we were old enough to read, "Miss PiggleWiggle's Magic," "No Children No Pets" among many others.

She led my sister, Peggy, and me to share her love of words.

Listening to my writer friends talk about the books they read as kids, I wondered "Why have I not read those books?" such as "A Wrinkle in Time", the Nancy Drew mysteries etc.  And the answer came to me one day, " because I was reading poetry."

My dad usually worked the 2nd shift at a bowling alley so evenings were quiet around our house.  Peggy had more friends to run around with than I did, so Mama would sit with me and we'd read to one another, the poems we liked best.  As I grew older, she'd have me read her favorites myself, then we would talk about the meaning often hidden deep in the poet's lines.

Looking back, it seems we lost our poetry connection when boys became more interesting to me than anything else, and Mama and I never re-established it.  Maybe more than losing the connection, it just shifted to books, kids and day to day problems.

Mama's been gone a long time now and suddenly I have new poets in my life, Monica McCawley, Gail Wisdom and Deborah Kegley.  Though all these women are poets, they are as different as night and day.

Monica writes what she calls, "Poetry Portraits" for special occasions -- or no occasion at all.  She has the customer fill out a questionaire and from the information on that form, she writes a beautiful, completely personal poem.  Along with a photo supplied by the customer, she prints the poem and frames it.

I ordered a Poetry Portrait from Monica for my husband on our last Valentine's Day.  In a nutshell, she captured our forty five years together perfectly.  With tears in his  eyes, Ronnie told me "That's the best gift you have ever given me."

I can't remember now exactly what the questions were on the form, but I do remember wondering what in the world Monica would do with the snippets I gave her.  I didn't expect much.  Was I ever surprised!

As if Gail Wisdom was here in Wichita Falls on Tuesday, April 10, 1979, she captured, in free style poetry, the terror, the horror and the hope of that day of devastating tornadoes, which she only experienced from looking through photographs of before and after.  Her poem "Terrible Tuesday" will be published in the upcoming edition of the Wichita Falls Literature and Art Review.  Congratulations, Gail!  I am so proud of you!

Deborah Kegley writes the deep, thought provoking poetry much like that I read and discussed with my mother.  I don't write poetry, so I have no idea what makes poets "tic", how they handle inspiration so that it ends up in the form that it does, but I know there is something magical about the creation of poetry.

Deborah found inspiration in an unusual "fortune cookie" which said something similar to, "for true love, dip a red rose in gold."  She wrote two poems.  In each poem, she makes reference to the gold covered rose -- but in two different ways.  One poem left me feeling alarmed, the other made me feel sad.

 I'm looking forward to hearing more of Deborah's poetry.

Tomorrow night, I will attend the "Evening Interlude at the Forum".  We will have snacks and wine and hear James Hoggard, Antuan Simmons, Sheri Sutton and Steven Schroeder read their poetry. Kenny Hada will play his guitar.

I didn't realize how much I missed the poetry until it starting coming back into my life. I picked up "101 Famous Poems" yesterday and began to read Renassaince, by Edna St. Vincent Millay and suddenly, I felt like was back in our living room on Buchanan Street --  reading with my mother.