The Red Ranger

She’s not much to look at on the outside; bare bones on the inside; stick shift on the floor; no cruise control; no heated seats; no automatic nothing. On her tail gate are two bumper stickers. I’M A VIETNAM VETERAN and NO FARMERS. NO FOOD. What she lacks in appearance appeal is made up in the heart that pounds under her hood.

“She” is a red 1995 Ford Ranger, Reggie White Signature Edition, complete with floor mats bearing the Green Bay Packer “G” emblem. Reggie White played defensive end for the Green Bay Packers football team in the early 90’s. He helped the team win Super Bowl XXI with a game-ending sack. Green Bay, Wisconsin raised his standing in the community to sainthood after that.

I’m borrowing her from my brother Eddie while my daughter is home from college during winter break. She was fortunate to have the opportunity to earn money during her time off but we unfortunately are short on vehicles. Thanks to my brother’s generosity purchasing another vehicle can now be put off until spring.

On the first morning behind the wheel, I spilled most of the coffee in my mug trying to find the cup holder. Its awkward position almost completely under the dash and behind the stick shift on the floor created the dilemma. No worries. When I tried to wipe it up I couldn’t tell where the coffee spilled. I found it’s quite difficult to drink coffee driving a manual transmission anyhow. Every time I reach for a sip it seems I have to shift.

Adjectives to describe the complex interior aromas cover a wide range of essences. The prominent odor emanates from the three-inch long, one-inch round cigar stub balanced on the edge of the ashtray. I don’t think they put those in vehicles anymore. Do they? I love the scents that swirl around inside an old pickup. The Little Tree air freshener dangling from the rear-view mirror is long past its freshening stage. I was a little sad. I wondered what Black Ice X-tra Strength smelled like. My brain is constantly deciphering the potpourri of airborne wonders wafting past my nose. One deep breath in and all those cherished childhood memories bumping around with my Dad in his pickup truck were revived.

A two-inch round chip in the windshield with an uncanny likeness to a bullet hole, lines up squarely between my eyes. Highway speeds give me a palpable feeling of vulnerability as my body slowly slouches down into the well-worn hollow of the seat on the driver’s side. Seventy mph seems like I’m exceeding her engine boundaries so I keep her five miles under the speed limit. Traffic passes me; make that everyone in the slow lane behind me, with an aggressive attitude. I notice their vehicles roll slightly from side to side from the sharp steering maneuver to cut in and out of the lanes at Nascar speeds. “How rude of them,” I think to myself. With a quick glance from the passing lane they think they know where the Red Ranger and I stand in the world. I take her daily doses of humility to heart.

I’m going to genuinely miss driving her when Sophie goes back to college at the end of the month. I didn’t expect the driving experience to be so fun. Her energy was more zoom zoom then chitty chitty bang bang. She’s slowed me down and sharpened an awareness with my surroundings. Every shift in our lives, up or down, is impeccably timed to slow us down or speed us up. On the winding road of life freewill may be doing the steering but a higher power is working the clutch and stick shift. Getting us where we need to be. When we need to be there. We are all vehicles of Spirit.

Recipes for Love

Ever holiday I find myself seated at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, sifting through a drawer of recipes. The search is as much for family recipes as it is for memories. It doesn’t take long before I find them both.

Before my Mom and Aunties passed they gifted me a few of their kitchen secrets and well-used kitchen items. There’s Busha’s (Grandma’s) hand-forged, three pronged fork. The stubby handle fits perfectly in the palm of a hand when cutting in shortening. Busha cooked on a woodstove. Any meal was a laborious monumental task. I don’t think the stove was ever cold to the touch.

I treasure Mom’s solid wood rolling pin and flour sack towels. Mom always rolled out her dough on a well floured flour sack. Thin from two generations of washings, I handle them with extreme care and use them exclusively for rolling out dough. To find one of Mom’s recipes with actual conventional measurement is not the norm. Her measurements were by feel or taste. It’s probably why Mom would call me up to come over and “watch” her make something. She would often tell me, “I’m not going to live forever. If you want to learn how to make this keep watching.” I’m glad I did so her love can nourish the next generation.

There’s Auntie Anna’s substantially cracked and chipped blue speckled enamelware pan. It must have been a favorite based on its condition. I’m so happy she held on to it and passed it on to me. Believe it or not nothing ever sticks to that pan! Auntie Anna’s cooking instructions were loud, clear and concise. Her stern direction carried over from her many years running the kitchen for the local church’s annual picnic.

Then there’s Auntie Rosie’s titanic sized cast iron frying pan. In her later years, arthritis prevented her from lifting the heavy weight. The pan than became a permanent fixture on her stove-top. Cleanup was a wipe or two with a paper towel. Still is.

I can’t forget Auntie Vickey’s delectable dessert recipes. The handwritten recipes have yellowed with age. Torn edges of the fragile paper taped together several times. The tape too has yellowed. A busy farmer’s wife, Auntie Vickey’s countertops and kitchen table held much of the overflow from her cupboards. She could make a meal fit for king in minutes!

If you haven’t guessed, I am descended from a long line of amazing Polish women that knew their way around a kitchen. Ever since I’ve been old enough to hold a  wooden spoon in my hand, they pressed me into service at some task that was age appropriate. Any gathering of the family cooks ended with a meal. Crumbs on the table were never casually wiped to the floor. Licked fingers firmly pressed the bits against the tabletop. The finger with moist crumbs attached was promptly licked clean. Ever last crumb of life’s deliciousness was savored.

The strong Polish women in my life grew up in a generation that didn’t say, “I love you,” out loud very often, if ever. Words of love may have not been shared but what they did share was the recipe’s to taste it. What else could be created in the heart of the home—the kitchen—but love?

Heart of Pine

As a child I would steal away time from my farm chores to play among the white pines that grew wide and tall next to our land. They grew best in the coarse, sandy, well-drained soils on the top of small hills. On windy days the sway of the boughs motioned to me like the repeated curl of an index finger beckoning closer. This time of play among the peaceful pines strengthened my spirits gentleness. Many people wish for a heart of oak but I long for a heart of pine.

Nothing escapes pine’s restful rapture. In their company the spirit wanders free and easy. Whose soul isn’t soothed by the faintest tang of pine scent? Gazing at the whorl of branches rise and fall my consciousness slides effortlessly into the flow of creation. In the gentle whisper of the pine, listen for the silence. You will hear things.

Many people wish for a heart of oak but I long for a heart of pine.

Seeing Rainbows

Rainbow sightings excite childlike feelings of wonder and awe in me. Intuitively, don’t we all recognize the mystical energy rainbows emanate? The bridge between heaven and earth open before our eyes.

If only people could perceive the facet of our diversity like the millions of water droplets in a rainbow. Reflecting, refracting and dispersing light, creating a rainbow of humanity by bending our beliefs without breaking them. Something I call compassionate compromise.

Within us a rainbow exists. The seven colors of our chakras correspond to the seven colors of the rainbow. Held within us is also a vessel that holds unimaginable treasures. The riches of the heart can’t buy a single thing but it can connect you to priceless feelings of love. Love is a powerful unifying force. I find it interesting that the “pot of gold” in our internal rainbow isn’t at the end but in the middle. Our heart center is the source of a great treasure—compassionate love.

Seeing rainbows gives me hope that one day humanity can bridge the diversity gap with the colors of compassionate compromise. Both ends of a rainbow bend. Where they meet in the middle is the heart of humanity.

“In my world, everyone’s a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!”~ Dr. Seuss