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Ada Speaks

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Such a string of dizzyingly beautiful days, all in a row, have graced the end of May. It's the perfect time for me to get back into running in a big way. So much has been going on. I'm feeling pulled in many directions. When I feel like that I have to take a few hours each day for my body and spirit. It's always more than worth the time. Saving oneself, always worth it. :) What's that they say about the oxygen mask? You put yours on first,  and then help your kids with theirs. It's not a selfish thing. It's how it's done. 
I never know where I'm headed until faced with the decision at the T intersection at the end of the driveway, then at the end of the township road. Regular route or long run? If a long run, to the old farmstead or down Dean's Fork? Off to visit the grasshopper sparrow, the red-spotted newt pond, the bluebird trail or the Waxler Church? How about all of them? There are destinations, and decisions must be made. 

As always, my hardy companion leads the way. He deeply appreciates the long runs, the new places, and he'll take the lead instead of lagging behind. Dogs get bored with routine, too! 

I feel incredibly blessed to have so many different possible outcomes to a morning's jog, all reachable on foot. It pains me to think of the years I did not explore my little patch, the years I wore a rut in the same 45-minute hike around our land. And yet I got a book (Letters from Eden) out of that, and that route I called The Loop seemed incredibly rich to me then, tied as I was to nap and meal schedules for the kids when they were little. My mind and horizons have expanded some since those infant and toddler days. I now have a 7-mile radius that I explore, which is still a fairly modest home range for a large omnivore.

How lucky I am to have this vista to contemplate! The hill's bowl acts as a perfect amphitheater for birdsong. By the time I reach here, only 1.3 miles from home, I'm usually up into the 50's on my bird species count. It's a game I play. I let the birdsong pull me along. I know where I can "get" each species, and I wait to hear them call or sing. It may seem silly, but as a result of this little game, I have an incredibly detailed mental picture of exactly what species breed where in this landscape. I usually beat 60 in May, and may hit 72 before the day is over. Huzzah!

 I think one could do this almost anywhere, map a series of runs or walking routes. My home in Appalachian Ohio just happens to be a place where the routes are painfully beautiful, especially in May. 

A golden--backed snipe fly, Chrysopilus thoracicus. It's always a good omen for me. They're my little F-16's, bejeweled fighter planes. Predatory on other insects. Often found coupling on sunny mornings on the ground or low leaves. Luucky.  He's got a scary monster shadow, this one. 

I stop to inhale the grapey aroma of Mr. Funk's irises, and remember that it is high peony time, and I have some peonies to visit at the Waxler cemetery. Old peonies, maybe special ones.

The first thing I find is some iris that have been discarded, probably from graves, off to the side. Oh, how sad. They're lovely. But probably too weedy and too much work for whomever maintains the cemetery to bother with. Lifting iris every year to get the weeds out of them is a huge drag. Which is why the only iris I currently grow are the slim dark blue Siberians.  I'll think about adopting a few of these waifs. I like plants with history.

The Stauch peony is out, and it's just like my heirloom from Dean's Fork.

A shell-pink outer ring of petals, and a rose-scented white pouf in the middle. Mmmm.

No need to come get an eye off that one. I've got two at home.

The Bruny peony isn't out yet. I can't wait to see what it will be. Probably like the medium pinks I have at home. But you never know.

And then there's Peter Gruber's peony. Might be the same as the Bruny peony. But again...the mystery pulls me along. They're not out yet. I'll have to come back. Darn.  

I remember I need to visit Ada Hune, my friend, forever 14. I tell her her rose is leafing out, despite the horrible winter it endured. I tell her about the indigo bunting that's singing nearby, whose mate probably built last year's nest that's peeking over the left corner of her stone. I kneel to shoot a photo and go on exploring without looking at it.

And Ada sends me a sign. Once again, I don't see it until I get home and upload the photos. Five pink orbs that I definitely did not perceive as I looked steadily at her headstone. The granite is dull. It's not reflective at all. The lights are simply there, dancing on its surface, perhaps for only my iPhone to see. Lucy from Minnesota looked at this and says Ada may be sending me a sign that she and her family are with me as Phoebe prepares to leave.  It's one interpretation, and I trust Lucy, but I can't be sure what it means. Maybe she's just telling me the Peter Gruber peony will be pink.

 There is something very special going on at Waxler Church Cemetery with me and Ada Hune. Why I am privileged to behold this phenomenon I don't understand. Maybe it's because I stopped to talk with her in the first place. I never have the hubris to expect it. Like the song of a grasshopper sparrow in an unexpected place, it happens or it doesn't, and I'm thankful either way.

I turn around and see some cornsilk yellow iris, also discarded in the back lot. I see a photo there.

 It's as if the tableaux wait for me, for the perfect day, the perfect light, and reveal themselves. My spirit, kept wide open to the thrust of grace. Nothing in my head but the beauty, flowing over and around me. It's a peace that goes beyond describing. It has nothing to do with anything, but it is essential for me to imbibe, so I can keep going with all I have to handle. The oxygen mask, descending mysteriously from above. 

I don't know how I would survive without all this useless and utterly essential beauty.

I still haven't cut that piece of white landscape fabric. It's part of the composition now. I'm starting to like it.

On the way home I climb the high hill where the grasshopper sparrow has been singing for more than a week now. And he's singing still. I look down on The Three Graces dancing far below, and know that, at least for me, it doesn't get any better than this. A grasshopper sparrow,  a hilltop, three graceful trees, those ranks of clouds, marching away into forever. My home is way out there, where the horizon goes white.

But my home is here, too, in these places that sustain me.

Phoebe Fledges, Part 2

Monday, May 26, 2014


There was such a rash of photos taken in the aftermath of Phoebe's graduation on Saturday, May 24, that I had to split the post in two. Just too much sweetness for one post.

There were 77 graduates. Not a huge class, by any means, but a very nice one. 
After the ceremony, we gathered all the available Thompsons together for a group shot. 

Then it was Phoebe in her blinged-out gown. Which, she said, was polyester and extremely hot. It was a gorgeous day, upper 70's, and the sun reflecting off the aluminum bleachers gave us all a bit of a burn. Everyone was scrambling for shades and hats and sunscreen.

There followed a parade of shots. Phoebe's dear friend and cross-country and track teammate Alex, who had also collected bling, cords, stoles and accolades:

Katie, Alex, Phoebe, Alyssa and Natalie. All teammates, all dear friends.  One of these things is not like the others...

Brennan. These pictures just make me happy, because the love shines through.

Matt, who gave the perfect, touching closing remarks, and Phoebe's Granny Elsa.

Jessi, friends since kindergarten! and an animal husbandry whiz.
I think it was around this point that I turned to Bill and said, "These kids sure do know how to have their pictures taken." I do not recall any supermodels in my high school class. 

Quintin. J'adore. If I had my way I'd have a houseful of these teens. I love it when Phoebe and Liam's friends come over. I like feeding them, like big baby birds. I like smooshing them with hugs.

Matthew, he of the Roller Coaster choreography in previous post. Almost as big a Pittsburgh Pirates fan as Phoebe. They're giving the Zoltan sign. Phoebe just patiently explained to me that it's a signal from the movie, "Dude, Where's My Car"(a movie I must've missed) that has been adopted by the Pirates. Whatever. They're cute doing it.

Where, you may wonder, is Liam in all this? Why, getting his supersoft platinum blonde hair fondled by girls, that's where. And not hating it. He likes to keep it long. But I've noticed that they mess with his hair when it's short, too. Everybody loves Liam.

Beaming with pride for his sister. Whoa. He's not her little brother any more...

Basking in her love and reflected light. She won't be able to do this much longer. He's gonna pass her in height by the time she goes to college. Maybe tomorrow. And he's going to miss her something fierce, and she'll miss him. Thank goodness for FaceTime!! We'll have to queue up Broski and Chet Baker regularly.

Selfies with Daddy. 

I'm chagrined that I didn't think to ask someone to take a picture of me with our fledgling. A moment, lost. The photographer in me is always much too busy documenting everyone else's moments to think of it. 

I did get a rare shot with my beloved and dearly missed friend Clarence, who drove our kids' bus for several years, and whose stories of his Viet Nam experiences I drank in every chance I got. Clarence is made of awesome. 

As we parents and family and friends left the football field, grinning like fools, a red-tailed hawk wheeled over.

A grackle took issue, and dove on the hawk, who sideslipped each time it tried to connect. I knew there was a metaphor in there somewhere, about Phoebe taking flight and sailing off, but I tried just to get the hawk in focus instead of thinking about it too much. 

We went to an afterparty at Matthew's house. It was perfect. Delicious barbeque in the garage, Frisbee tag and cornhole in the yard. Phoebe didn't get the memo about shorts, apparently.

She played Frisbee tag in her dress.

I was shooting these kids as if they were a little band of deer, melding my outline into that of a little outbuilding. They had no idea they were being photographed. That's how I like it.

Because unconscious beauty is the heart-stopping best.

Sharing a laugh with Natalie.

Making Matt retrieve all the lost Frisbees. There's another one! Go get that one!! You're the one with pants!!

There was a little old church cemetery right next to Matthew's house. I couldn't stay out of it. Sigh. There's the garage in the background, with all the life and laughter. I could only think the spirits were smiling and talking amongst themselves auf Deutsch as the perfect sheepclouds sailed over and the sun grinned down on us, celebrating our lovely children.

We stopped for a moment while coming home so I could take my zillionth photograph of The Three Graces, this time on a postcard-perfect day. And just across the road, the grasshopper sparrow who I discovered singing over a week ago sang again. My heart was already full, but that simple insectlike buzz, instantly and intensely reminiscent of the North Dakota prairie I love so well, about burst it. Oh, please stay, here by these trees that light my days. Find a mate and raise more grasshopper sparrows for me?

When we got home, my beloved but rather fussy Hibiscus "The Path" had finally (after months of trying and failing) opened a full-sized blossom, all the way. What timing! That flower, a six inch saucer of awesome, took my breath away.

Fixing some little zipper on her gown, she did, too.

Phoebe Fledges

Sunday, May 25, 2014


It was the most perfect May day. As if the heavens looked down on a bunch of sweet kids and their families and said, "Let's do this right."

I got up early and went for a bird-counting run. Though it was only four miles and change, I had 62 species by the time I got back. 68 for the entire day. Imagine that, hearing and seeing so many birds without really trying. Just noticing. There are so many birds here where I live. It's one of the things I love most about living here, the chorus of voices all around me. And knowing where they all live, and going to see them.

Chet Baker and I sat at the old farm we love to visit, worked on our base tans, and gathered our energy for the huge day ahead. Phoebe's graduation ceremony was to start at 1 pm. It was the best way to start the day, to move fast and blow some carbon out of my pipes; to think, write, listen, notice. For this is a day I've had to work up to. 

Phoebe, as Valedictorian of her class, got up and gave a speech right off the bat. She made music the central theme, and she spoke of the songs she and her classmates heard and sang, and of the many kinds of music they all made together as friends and teammates. 

Her voice was clear, her diction was perfect, the speech was lovely, and she let Bill and me have absolutely nothing to do with it in the days leading up to its delivery. Same deal with the essay that helped her get into Bowdoin and four other colleges. And that, I realize, is as it should be. Even if we wanted to be  helicopter parents, she wouldn't let us.

She's a redhead. 
She'll do it herself.

Waiting with the other "T's" for her name to be called.

She read half the class's names. It must have been wonderful to read her dear friends' names, to call them up to the dias to get their diplomas. She looked like she was savoring every moment.
Somehow I don't think she'll have any trouble with public speaking going forward. The bigger the crowd, the better she does. It's an irony I've come to know well.

Here comes a medal.

There's the diploma.

Child had a lot of bling on by the end of the ceremony. The pale blue stole is National Honor Society. The cords are Spanish Honor Society. There are two medals, one for International Thespians, and the other for Class Valedictorian.

Our dear friend Matt gave the closing remarks. He was grateful. Grateful people are my favorites of all. His voice gave out on him as he wrapped up his appreciation of the school's wonderful principal, who is leaving. "Mrs. Rauch, thanks...for...(long pause)... everything."

It was the perfect ending...soulful and sweet and sincere.

Then our other beloved Matthew led the new graduates in his trademark pep rally Roller Coaster.

That boy can get 'em whipped up like nobody's business. Love our Matthew.

HAT TOSS!!! Note tall redhead, far right. She had written her name in her hat so she could find it again, and she did.

Graduating felt like this:

 and this:

and this.

Because there is way too much beauty and joy and sweetness for one post, and it is in danger of leaking out of your computer screen and ruining something, I'm going to stop now. It's very late, going for midnight, and it's been a big, big day. More to come on Tuesday.

Big, happy sigh. I didn't cry. Much. I was too happy, and grateful.

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