First Sign of Spring Tradition

This afternoon, a lovely warm “teasing us with the promise of spring” day, our Princess came bouncing in from the backyard, where she and Cooter had been playing with Miss Sophie.

Bounced.  Yes.  She hardly goes anywhere that she doesn’t bounce. Or skip. Or dance.

I think walking might not be quite joy-filled enough for her.

She had something behind her back.

“Mama, do you have a little vase or jar?”

I shook myself out of the fog that the migraine had me in.  “A jar? Ummm.  Maybe.  Why?”

“Because!” and with a “tada” flourish and a great big smile, she held out a handful of purple flowers picked from our backyard.  A little bouquet of them.

Bless it.

IMG_7119

I knew where the perfect little jelly jar was and when she had them all arranged, oh how lovely!

And so filled with memories.

These are the same little flowers that she has picked every year when Spring starts pulling out her best dress and showing off a little, giving us a little taste of what we can expect when she decides to move in and stay with us for a while.

The same flowers I remember Aub and then even more years ago, my baby brother, picking for Mama.  She always ALWAYS put them in the little vase and set them in her kitchen windowsill.

And the same flowers I picked for her way before that.  And for my Granny.  And the same ones I believe I might have seen yesterday in a bouquet picked for my Aunt on her birthday by her sweet grands.

Picking those purple flowers has become quite the “first sign of Spring” tradition in our family.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of young ones in finding just the right bundle of flowers for the ones they love.  I’m thankful for the sunshine and the warmth and the thawing of toes and fingers and noses and–here’s hoping–of hearts.  And I give thanks for the Artist and all the ways the color purple is used to bring joy and Light, and how that reminds us that the cold darkness of winter will soon pass.  And the birds will keep on singing.

Love to all.

IMG_7120

 

Y’all just look at that purple!

Sunday afternoon found us at my Aunt’s house.  A place of sanctuary and peace for me.  Maybe partly because it’s a place to go that Mt. Washmore doesn’t threaten to take me down nor is the sink threatening to erupt from all the dirty dishes.  But mostly I think it feels that way for me because it’s a place where things settle and grow–flowers, vegetables, fruit, animals, children, and souls.  It’s a place to set a spell and just visit.  And I love that they let me do that.

It was a beautiful day.  The littles always head immediately to the swings.  My Princess had already been told by my Cousin to ask his Mama, my Aunt, if she could pick the flowers.  They have such beautiful daffodils around the trunks of many of the pecan trees out there.  I was sure she wouldn’t want them picked, but when Princess asked, my Aunt told her to pick all she wanted.

Gracious.

Princess smiled the biggest smile and headed off to pick some flowers.  She passed by every bunch of daffodils and headed straight for the purple “flowers” over near the garden.  She skipped as she went, the bounce in her step showing her joy.  She had no idea she was about to pick what many would call “weeds.”

My Aunt looked astonished and then we both began laughing.  That’s how it goes, isn’t it?  You put time and energy and effort into something and it’s the thing that you had very little or nothing to do with that knocks people’s socks off.

Been there.  Some nights I sit and ponder and edit and worry and obsess and really pour sweat and tears into what I write, and it sits there commentless and nothing happens.  And then I write something about an earthworm on the sidewalk outside or vent about things when I have a splitting headache and folks respond whole-heartedly.  I’m not complaining, mind you, and neither did my Aunt.  It’s just one of those things that makes you laugh about how the world works.

It’s been a while, maybe even two years ago, since my Pastorfriend shared this but it stays with me, especially this time of year.  She shared a line from “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about.  But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back. –Alice Walker, “The Color Purple”

I think she’s right.  About it all.  And ever since my friend shared this with us, I have made it my job to notice purple fields.  Weeds or no, they are beautiful.   When I see them, I call out, “Purple!” and inevitably one of us will say, “Good job, God!”  I love the fields of purple.  Beauty coming from an unexpected place.  I embrace that and give thanks for it.

Just like today.

Our Princess' bouquet she picked for me today.  I don't have a picture of the beautiful purple bouquet from Sunday.

Our Princess’ bouquet she picked for me today. I’m sad I don’t have a picture of the beautiful purple bouquet from Sunday.

We stopped by my Aunt’s again this afternoon, and I hope it becomes a habit.  (Hope they mean it when they say y’all come back now.)  We were pulling carrots and talking about nothing and everything and swinging and picking more flowers.  Princess thinks she might become a florist, and I think she has an eye for it.  As my bag was nearing full, my Aunt asked if we’d like any onions.

Onions?

That makes me tear up.  And not because they’re, well, you know, onions.

I love onions.

I love their bottoms and their tops.  I love the way they taste and everything about them.  When I was in college two of my classmates were cooking in the dorm kitchen on second floor.  It smelled heavenly.  When I walked by and said so, one said, “Oh, it’s just onions so far, but we’re adding meat and making spaghetti.”  The other said, “My Mama always said, if you need folks to think you’re cooking something delicious but you haven’t got it together yet, throw an onion in the skillet and you’ll buy yourself some time.”  (Usually for me it’s time to figure out what exactly I’m going to fix for this crew, but yes, someone always says, “Supper smells good.”  Thanky, thanky very much.)

When we pulled up the first one, Cooter came over and said, “Can I pull one too?”  These were a little more stubborn than the carrots had been.  My Aunt pointed out that maybe she should have brought the trowel to make it easier, which made so much more sense than what I first thought I heard her say–a towel.  (Well, maybe it would have helped us grip a little better and not pull the greens off?  I’m just sayin.)  I helped him get one out of the ground, or maybe he helped me.  Anyway, I stood up and offered it to him.

“Smell it,” I told him.  “That’s what springtime in Georgia smells like.”

And it does.

The beautiful onions we pulled today.  The smell of spring.

The beautiful onions we pulled today. The smell of spring.

The flowers are lovely and beautiful and their smell is pretty.  But I’ll leave that nectar to the hummingbirds and bees and yellowjackets and Billy bees that will be buzzing around all too soon.  As far back as I can remember, I have loved the smell of wild onions growing in a field behind Blackberry Flats.  Or out at my Granny’s.  Or when I’d catch a whiff of them, going down a highway, with them growing in the median or on the shoulder of the road.

It’s almost as a good as a tea olive–it’s a balm for the soul.

Today, a day that started off with rain and worries over numbers and things that set my head to spinning and my heart to craving simpler times, by afternoon was filled with the things of soul tanning.  Sunshine, gorgeous cerulean sky straight from a Maxfield Parrish painting (oh y’all), green is starting to show more and more, folks helping other folks, laughter (thank you Lord), and the smell of fresh picked onions.

"Ecstasy" by Maxfield Parrish from maxfieldparrish.info  I once had a sweatshirt with this painting on the front.  This work of art has always touched my heart.

“Ecstasy” by Maxfield Parrish from maxfieldparrish.info I once had a sweatshirt with this painting on the front. This work of art has always touched my heart.

Oh me.  What a day.

On the way home the purples were more vivid, and the sun was more golden, and it occurred to me that this time next week, we will have more sunlight to enjoy.  Well, maybe not, but still…..as much as I love me a gray, rainy day, I do love me some beautiful barefeet weather.  And not to have to rush to have time to get supper done and walk Miss Sophie because we have more time in the evening? Well, I say bring it.

Wishing you all a purple field and the heart and soul to appreciate it.

Love to all.

The Sound of a Bee’s Laughter

I find myself falling for a fella who’s long and thin and, well, can be a little bristly.  But when we are together…..add a little magic, a little color, a bit of creativity, and who knows what we can do.

My paintbrush.

And today, after taking a few painting classes with instruction to create a picture similar to the one by the teacher, but with my own flair, I was in a class called “Art Mind and Soul.”  It was about reaching back to the creative people we were as children before we worried about it being perfect or what colors would be “right” or how it looked compared to the work of others.  I was there with my oldest and with our sweet friend.  We started the class by using crayons to color a sheet from a coloring book or playing with clay.  After a few minutes of quiet listening we set about creating the pieces that were on our hearts.

At the beginning of this year, I selected my “word,” what I wanted to focus on in 2013.  Open.  I wanted to be open to all kinds of things, but I have just about decided that I was supposed to be open to change.  Not my favorite of things by any means.  When I was choosing the word, I looked for a photo of a gate or door that was somewhat open to remind me to open my heart, my mind, my eyes.  I never found the perfect one.  So this afternoon I decided to attempt to paint the picture on my heart of “open.”  I was a bit nervous, but the wisdom of our instructor from Thursday night echoed in my ears, and I began.

I quartered the canvas, sketched it out, blocked my colors and then began working on the detail.  I was intimidated and wondered if I could do it, but as I did one small bit at a time, I found my heart lifted and I actually giggled out loud.  By the time I added the bougainvillea I was downright tickled with it all.  It was not photographic, but it was mine, and it was full of what was in my soul today, and in that I was joyful.

I wanted the gate down my path to be open; that was my main idea.  But as I drew and painted, I found other ideas creeping in.

The red clay path that was much like my Granny’s dirt road that led to her home and so many happy memories.  The big cauldron that Granny had hanging from a wooden beam, always filled with beautiful flowers.  My Granny’s old place, much like my great aunt’s house and Blackberry Flats (my parent’s place), speaks to my soul and grounds me.  The memories soothe me and remind me of a carefree time of chasing fireflies and late night Monopoly sessions, holding snoozing puppies on my chest as we sat quietly in the swing, sleeping on pallets of old quilts, going fishing, and sopping up syrup with Granny’s delicious biscuits.

The tiny, delicate purple flowers in the grass remind me of a quote from The Color Purple that my friend and pastor shared one night at Evening Prayer: “I think it [ticks] God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  Ever since she shared that I try to notice and celebrate the colors in a field, the beauty of the cardinal, the multitude of colors in a sunset.  When my oldest was little, she had a friend who was known to call out, upon seeing a beautiful sunset or something equally as striking, “Good job, God!”  I never want to forget to appreciate and admire.

The birds in the sky remind me of the old hymn written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”  It was inspired by a couple Mrs. Martin and her husband had met on their travels.  The wife was bedridden and the husband went to and from work in his wheelchair.  Their bright hopefulness despite all of this touched the Martins, and they asked the couple their secret.  The husband answered: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”  From there a beautiful hymn was born.  The first time I heard it, our college choral group, the Wesleyannes, performed it.  The lyrics floated through the air and landed in my heart and soul, only to be revived recently as words of comfort.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

The bougainvillea reminds me of beauty and strength.  It is a beautiful yet hardy plant.  Strong.  I like it.  And it reminds me of sitting with an elderly woman in England who told me once, “Oh dearie, someday you will sit around with your friends and talk about plants and flowers and such.  I suppose it sounds silly to you now, but one day…..”  And she was absolutely right.  I never could have imagined, but now I’m there.  Talking about what herbs to  plant to last year round, planting butterfly bushes and lantana and roses and the like.  Such joy that brings me!  What a wise and sweet woman.

The little bees remind me of the fragility of our world, and that I must work to protect it and to be a good steward of what we have around us.  The bees also remind me of the intricate workings of nature, how it’s all inter-dependent, just like we are.  And what an amazing creature the bee is, flying against all the odds…..do you suppose anyone has ever told a bee he couldn’t fly, that it’s actually pretty much not possible?  I would love to hear a bee laugh with glee.  Much like I did as I was finishing the painting I told myself couldn’t be done.  It was too hard.  And yet…..laughter.  Joy.  Worship.  Remembrance.  Grace.

pic of my painting

Tonight I am thankful for finally having my picture of Open.  It is all the more dear to me because of the journey, the path to get there.  To that completed picture.  I am grateful for the gift of time to do this, given to me by my sister, Mess Cat.  I give thanks for the laughter and stories and encouragement that floated around the room as we sat and created together.  And I appreciate the peace that has settled in my heart and soul tonight.  My heart and spirit and faith has taken a beating over the past couple of years.  I find myself seeking, searching for a way to worship that makes sense and resonates within me.  Today brought together my thoughts, what was on my heart and mind, and my appreciation for what is in the world around me.  Holy ground.  And for that, I am most thankful.  Amen.