Autumn


dramatic weather changes

one day cold, next one almost hot

late blooms, gayfeather, groundswell,

native grasses blowing in the wind

owls hooting, robins on the patio

praying mantis, walking sticks

working on their last hunts,

other insects singing night songs

IMG_3507

IMG_3510

IMG_2867

 

 

 

Advertisements

Flowers–Texas Panhandle Tough


In spite of only one inch of rain since last autumn, many flowers persist:  sundrops, black foot daisies, chocolate flowers, wine cups, primrose, desert (Mexican) birds of paradise, red yucca, salvia, catmint, native grasses, milkweed.  I took these photos after feeding the horses this morning.

IMG_3332

IMG_3334.JPG

IMG_3335.JPG

IMG_3336

IMG_3337

IMG_3339

IMG_3340.JPG

IMG_3341

IMG_3342

Memorial Day–Memories


While I was growing up, my mom grew peonies by the side of the vegetable garden.  Red, pink, white, huge spectacular blooms that always arrived around this time of year just in time for Memorial Day.  We would pick many, put them in mason jars and take them to my father’s and her family’s cemetery plots.  She has created a metal apparatus to hold them so the wind would not blow them over.  We took water to fill the jars.  We did this every Memorial Day always.

No one lives close any more.  There is no one left to take flowers there.

My mother’s family members are buried in the Mound City, Missouri Cemetery.

SAM_1160

My mother’s parents’ gravestone.  She was Nellie Narcissus Kaiser before she married rather late for back then–in her late twenties.  I never knew my grandfather.  He was so much older than she that even though he lived to be 80, he died long before I was born. My great-grandfather Kaiser was born in Switzerland and brought here as a child.

SAM_1159

The gravestone of my mother’s grandmother.  I know she lived with my grandmother and grandfather a lot of the time from family photos, but I also know that she died in San Diego.  No one ever told me how she got there or why.

SAM_1161

The gravestone of Aunt Julia, Mother’s sister.  She never married, loved fancy antiques and china.  I frequently use some of what she left me.  She came to see me rather often and we visited antique stores when she visited.  To say she was an independent woman is an understatement.

SAM_1090

My parents’ gravestone is on the right and Dad’s parents’ on the left–in the cemetery in Fillmore, Missouri.  My grandfather, Pleasant Lightle, had walked from Illinois to Missouri as a child according to family stories.  My parents met dancing. I always smile when I see the peonies planted at their graves.

SAM_1094

This is the gravestone of my great-grandfather, Dad’s mother’s father, who came to the US from Switzerland when he was 18.  According to my dad, he did not want to be conscripted into the Swiss army because at that time Swiss soldiers were being hired out as mercenaries.  His mother stood on the roof of their house waving until she could see him no longer.  They never saw each other again.  I grew up on the land he homesteaded in Andrew County, Missouri.  Andrew County is filled with descendants of immigrants who came from Switzerland.

SAM_1097

The old carriage house near the house where Dad spent the first ten years or so of his 90 years.  It is all that is left standing.

SAM_1098

The house where Dad lived the last 80 years of his life and where I grew up.

SAM_1167

When I was a child, the building in the foreground was used at various times as a farrowing house, once for Rhode Island Red chickens, and to store various farm supplies.  When I went to visit Dad after Mom died and we were at the cemetery on Memorial Day, a man came up to Dad and asked if he was Doyle Lightle.  They started chatting and I learned that when Dad first built it during Prohibition times, he held dances there.  The sheriff would send deputies to watch and make sure no one was drinking.  I had lived there and visited there for decades and had never heard this story.

SAM_1134

I took this photo standing on the levee next to the Missouri River looking toward the Rulo, Nebraska bridge.  This is the land my mother’s family owned.  On some Sundays as a treat, we would cross the bridge to a restaurant on the Nebraska side.  It was famous for its fried catfish and carp.

SAM_1150

This is country with lots of water and trees.  This picture was taken near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  Several times in my life, I have seen flooding from the bluffs on the Missouri side all the way to the bluffs on the Kansas and Nebraska side of the river.  When I was a child, my uncle and aunt lived on the river farm until a flood reached half way up the second story of their house.  They gave up and moved to town.

SAM_1145

When I was a child, there were trees like this in lots of places on Mom’s family’s farm.  About this time of year we would hunt for morels and often pick a bushel basket full.  Mom dipped them in egg and cornmeal, then fried them.  We practically lived on them for week or two.  I was shocked as an adult to go into a fancy market and discover that dried morels were 95 dollars a pound.

 

 

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–La Finca


After sitting in the airport in Iguazu for four hours because the plane was delayed over and over, we finally arrived in Cordoba around midnight and rushed to La Finca, the family place out in the country, for dinner.  Yes, dinner.  Gaston’s family, including his 92 year old grandfather, uncles, cousins, aunts, everyone had actually stayed up and waited to meet us.  I could hardly believe it.

I know Argentinians are the biggest consumers of beef in the world.  We did not have beef; we had leg of lamb grilled over the special grill his father and uncles had built–a separate house just for grilling and eating.  It was a warm night and we ate outside. It is a family ritual for everyone to congregate on weekends, but especially Sunday afternoons at La Finca to eat and socialize.  Gaston and I went there both Saturday and Sunday.

IMG_3100

It was the end of summer (Southern Hemisphere in March).  The crop in the distance beyond the trees is potatoes.  Gaston’s grandfather, who is 92 now,  bought this land, planted the trees, created this peaceful get away in the country.  Gaston’s uncle and aunt now live there with their college age children.

IMG_3104

The building in the background houses the grill–chimney on the left–and the dining area I mentioned earlier.  We ate inside once around the table that must sit at least twenty.  The rest of the time they hauled the tables outside and we ate under the trees.

IMG_3095.JPG

Gaston’s grandfather and I standing before the trees he planted decades ago.

IMG_3110.JPG

The same trees upclose.  Yes, those are very sharp protuberances sticking out all over the tree.  You see these trees in cities too, but there they have cut off all the sharp pieces so people cannot get hurt on them.  I could just imagine what would happen if a person pushed another person against one of these.

IMG_3108

The drive from the main road to La Finca.  Sunday afternoon Gaston’s mom and I strolled up and down this drive while Gaston with his dad and uncle and a cousin installed a drip line to water the bushes on each side.  Like here, they are suffering a drought.  They did not want years of work to die.

IMG_3093

The original house where Gaston’s uncle and his family live is on the left.  I loved it here and felt very privileged to spend a weekend with the family doing whatever they do on weekends.  On Saturday, the men all went to help someone move while I sat with Gaston’s aunt, her friend, some cousins.  We chit chatted, drank mate, took naps, ate pear tart and other desserts, and whiled away an afternoon.

IMG_3101

Occasionally the peace was disturbed by the raucous chatter of parakeets.  The huge nest in this tree is shared by many parakeets.  They do not build individual nests.  When they get going, they are really loud.

IMG_3107

Just as in New Mexico in the US, water comes through acequias.  The drive goes over this little bridge in the foreground.

IMG_3106

Near this acequia the family grows lemon trees, vegetables, flowers, and other delectables for family use.

IMG_3103

It was so lovely and peaceful here, I did not want to leave.

IMG_3094

IMG_3099

Gaston’s aunt and mother love succulents and flowers.  This is only a tiny portion of the plant collection growing everywhere around Gaston’s aunt and uncle’s house. His aunt is very proud of her plant collection. Many of her plants were familiar.  Some even have the same names in English and Spanish probably due to their Latin origins.

 

 

My Mother–Barbie Doll


Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mother’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one and nothing.”  They married late:  34 and 38.  He adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love, cornfields, hay rides,      books, ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed, I was going to possess:  piano lessons, a college education.  Her father, who died long before I was born, loved                 fancy, fast horses.  So did she.  During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing with stories of run aways horses pulling her in a wagon.      With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them,               a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.

Note:  this poem is in my book “On the Rim of Wonder” and was also recently published in “Inside and Out”, a collection of writings by women.  It is available on Amazon and published by the Story Circle Network.

Addendum:  My mother loved horses and flowers.  When I look at the flowers around my house I think of my mother.  And, yes, I have horses.  The following photos are dedicated to my mother’s memory.

 

IMG_2230 (1)

IMG_2866

IMG_2373

IMG_2318

IMG_2304

SAM_0947

My mother’s mother and father.

 

Iris Tough


In spite of less than 3/4 inch rain since last fall and minimal watering from the 400 foot deep well, iris bloom everywhere–even in unamended caliche, a glorious reminder of nature’s resilience.

IMG_3323

When I thinned these a couple of years ago, I had so many that I stuck them everywhere, even here at the end of the driveway.  I have watered them only once.

IMG_3324

A friend gave me just one.  I planted it by the barn among others of the color in the first photo.  In spite of the drought they multiplied a lot this past year.  Probably all the rain from last summer helped before it quit raining.

IMG_3325

I planted these a couple of years ago in front of the barn.  I watered them a few times this spring but none during the winter.  This particular iris reblooms in the fall and multiplies so fast it is difficult to keep up with separating it.

IMG_3327

Possibly because of their location by the retaining wall near the barn facing west, these are always the first to bloom.  I did water them a couple of times this spring. Insects have found them.

 

Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls


Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.

IMG_3052

IMG_3084

Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.

IMG_3082

Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.

IMG_3081

Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.

IMG_3053

IMG_3088

Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.

IMG_3085

IMG_3050

Where you have flowers you have butterflies.

IMG_3078

Butterflies love Gaston.

IMG_3031

They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.

IMG_3079

IMG_3048

A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.

 

Walking Among the Flowers


After feeding the horses, completing chores, a late afternoon walk to look for the last of the wild flowers took my fancy.  Here in the canyon country of the Panhandle of Texas, the majority of wildflowers are three colors:  yellow, white, purple.

IMG_2856

Butterflies feeding in the gay feather.

IMG_2857

At first I thought this might be bitterweed but now, not sure.

IMG_2858

Although this one and the last one may resemble each other, they are different.

IMG_2859

Looked up, the sun decided to shine–at my place four inches of rain in the last week and more than seven inches ahead of normal.

IMG_2860

Black foot daisies and prairie zinnias bloom from early spring almost until frost.

IMG_2861

IMG_2862

Athena among the flowers.

IMG_2863

Prickly pear can grow almost anywhere.

IMG_2864

I almost missed this one hidden among the grass.

Unconditional Love


IMG_2222

IMG_2300

IMG_2238

IMG_2180

IMG_1548

img_2385

IMG_2318

All the beautiful flowers I see today, Mother’s Day 2017, make me think of my mother.  She loved flowers, especially roses, horses, music, beauty.  When I think of her, I also think of unconditional love.  Even when young and I sometimes thought she expected too much of me, I still knew she loved me no matter what the circumstances and always would.  For this I feel unending gratitude.  As a teacher, it has become very clear to me that many children do not experience the kind of love my mother gave me.  She died suddenly many years ago.  Her love will never leave me.  Thank you, Mom, wherever you are!!