Wally Walks

Everything about Wally was big,
his paws,
his head,
his heart,
his presence,
his Spirit,
his love.

It’s hard to write this without blurry vision and the keyboard getting pummeled with teardrops. Wally our beloved yellow lab, my constant companion for nearly 12 years, crossed over on September 15th. Near the end we forbid him to ride in the four-wheeler wagon because of the discomfort it caused, both putting him in and taking him out. Well, I did give in to his insistence a few times.

Wally was given one last ride in the four-wheeler wagon but this time it carried the heaviness in our hearts too. His grave sits on a little hill under a sapling oak. The healing will take time. Like everything else about Wally, the void he left behind is big.

Below is re-post from a year ago or so with a few minor variances.

Walks with Wally in the open field are unconstrained. His boundary tethered to trust. Obedient to ghostly trails of scent, nothing stops the pursuit except one thing. My booming voice echoing, “BACK!”, over the land. He seemed to know the precise moment to come in my sights. Right before panic could set in. It was the way he returned, his joy knowing no bounds, that made me believe love and not fear returned him to me.

I often followed him to that place of freedom. Flushing out unopened places in my mind. Meandering through tight thickets of thought. Like Wally I went about it unhurried and unworried.

Now that Wally carries the heaviness of age, he’s more often than not a few steps behind than a few yards ahead. In his energetic youthful days, he’d pause occasionally to glance back. Confirming my pace as either keeping up or falling behind. Adjusting accordingly. I now faithfully return the favor to my dear friend.

Wally’s devotion runs as wide and deep as an old river. Together we have walked in beauty, in the darkness that haunts the light and in each other souls. Together is all Wally and I have. Our time together is all I will remember.

Believe in love and not fear.
Return to each other.
All of us—together— it’s all we have.

The Salesman

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
― Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

I became acquainted with Robert during my search for an affordable alternative to ag lime. Soil tests the previous year revealed that most of the ground our hay fields grew on had turned sour. Their PH levels were under 7. Calcium is what you apply to the ground to correct the PH. It was the cause of our dwindling harvests. If you are a wise farmer you understand the sacredness of soil and do all you can to preserve and protect it.

Robert worked for a company that sold liquid calcium. Liquid calcium had many advantages over dry lime but I had never used it before. I had questions. Lots of them. I needed to educate myself on the product. After receiving Robert’s initial response to an email, I could tell he was a salesman through and through. The email was pages of information and customer testimonial’s singing the praises of his product. As I sifted through the information I had to wonder, was it all smoke and mirrors? Or was his perceived confidence trusted truth?

Then the phone call happened. His sentences strung together like a fine pearl necklace. I could tell the sales pitch was recited hundreds, if not thousands of times, locked in his memory from the repetition. He drew out the vowels of his words in typical southern drawl fashion. By its tone and fluctuations, I guessed he was close to retirement. Here and there his words slurred together into unintelligible sentences. Even so, it was a pleasant voice to listen to. That was fortunate because Robert did most of the talking. True to his old school sales techniques, he peppered the conversation with sweetheart bombs and young lady references. I didn’t mind. They lightened the scientific nature of the conversation and ever so gently tickled my heart. Occasionally, to make sure I was still a captive audience there would be a quick, “You follow me dear?” He had me smiling at the first sweetheart.

Questions came about long I’d been farming and the animals we kept, the joys and tribulations that come with bringing in hay. We lamented briefly about getting older. More questions came. How long had I had the horses and their names? Did I ride often? They began to reflected a genuine concern for the land and the people that tended to it. I didn’t feel any pressure. I wasn’t wasting any of Robert’s time. Whether he got the sale or not.

It was near the end of the conversation that I learned Robert was 73 years old with no plans to retire. At the conclusion of the call I was reading off my credit card number. My encounter with Robert brought to mind a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

As it turned out, Robert was just the person I needed to educate me.

Songs Pray

Dew holds tight to the bushes and berries
Its grip loosened by the soft caress of dry cloth
Mornings these days are early and damp.

Flower faces reflect the sun’s smile
Standing tall above them all
a perfectly pink Phlox bloom
I pause to savor the sniff
Heaven dreams of a smell so sweet

In the patch worry rests
You can hear songs
Ancestral songs
The kind that come on their own
The kind that sing themselves
The kind that pray

Hollow bones hold the songs
I sing the praises of mobility and ruby red raspberries
Oh, the voice may crack and pop
But it carries the tune well enough

Handfuls of delight dangle from the tips of grateful fingers
I’ll harvest all I can from this juicy life
Fill my bucket and then some
Before I’m dead ripe

Patch Ponder

It’s how I will begin every other day until the harvest ends in August, on my knees next to dew covered blueberry bushes, filling first my belly then a small bucket with berries. Its a humble prayerful posture. I seek the plump soft berries that hide among lush green leaves and bowed branches. I take only those ready to relinquish their attachment from tiny stiff stems. I always come to the patch with an attitude of gratitude. Anyone that helps pick has to be willing. No one is forced to pick because I want the bushes to feel nothing but appreciation for their gift. My movement in the patch is slow and easy. I know I will be returning many more times in the coming weeks. Great care is given to do no harm or hurt to the bushes that surrender their fruit.

When you pick blueberries there can be a large cluster but only a few will have color and of those few only one or two will be blue through to the stem. You can feel they’re ripeness by their willingness to release. I look too but each year I feel more and look less or my back yells at me. Blue to the stem are sweet. All other’s have a tang of sour.

Many of us are working on releasing negative experiences, thoughts and people. The blueberries reminded me this morning not to force this process. It’s OK to wait for the healing to be whole—ripe for the picking. You will be able to release AND relinquish attachment to the experience. There will be a willingness on your part. You will feel it and be Okay with whatever place the other(s) are in their healing in that shared experience. Only then can you move forward consistently. Healing can hide. Feel for it in a gentle way. You may have to return many more times.

Wish you all have ripe—sweet—healing!

Sky Kiss

Father Sky came down to kiss Mother Earth this morning
Reassured by the sacred union,
the hard worry in my heart softened.
The affection walked beside me around the field.

I let it inside.

Opened wide and deep,
my lungs embraced the cool moist air.
Momentarily I held its love,
Then gradually I released it to the life around me.
Going, going, gone.

A minute ago, a glance at the woods outside my window was clear and now tiny white specks are falling from the sky like powdered sugar shook through a sieve. All I see is covered in a dusting of tiny white specks. There is a soft sweetness that comes over me when I watch snowflakes that fall in straight and true lines from above.

The snow comes after a sharp cold snap. The bitter cold reminded me to appreciate the warmth in life. In words, deeds, the saffron orange flames lapping at the wood stove glass and snowflakes floating down like powdered sugar.

Below is an excerpt from the book I wrote, Sweet Wisdoms. The piece was written during a grueling period of below zero temperatures that stretched all living creatures to the limits of their breaking point.

Keep a warm heart in a cold world and you won’t become a bitter person.

Cruel Cold

Here in Wisconsin, it’s freeze-your-nose-hairs-together and turn-your-whiskers-frosty kind of weather. As I make my morning rounds of chores, I keep pulling my hat down and my long underwear up! You can feel the landscape’s bones on these sharp cold days. I delight in the simplicity of winter~ stay warm. Bitter cruel cold, you can’t make me a bitter cruel cold person!

Apples and Onions

Rainy fall Saturdays put me in the mood to bake. It’s the rest year for our apple orchard but hidden among the Wolf River and Cortland branches I managed to find a five-gallon pail full. Enough for a batch or two of applesauce and a family favorite, Apple Cinnamon Cake. I don’t know of anyone whose dull spirit isn’t polished to a shine when the scent of apple and cinnamon greets them at the door of home. Perfect choice for the mood my relative, Weather, is in.

While the apple cake was baking, I decided to string up the onions I had laid out on the dining room table to dry for a few days now. I hang the onion string in my kitchen. Easy access and I think they are pretty.

I struggled with tying them at first. But then I began to tie them like my prayer ties. A loop knot slipped over each dried tip. Each onion is now a prayer for our family; good health and well-being, peace, joy, laughter, abundance, good relationships. I’ll probably wonder which prayer the onion I’m using is and cry while I’m wondering. The purest form of prayer is crying.

As I stood back to admire the onion prayer tie’s prettiness a teaching came. I’m going to have to use whatever onion is at the end of the string. No picking through them. Just like life you have to take it as it comes. One onion at a time. Layer by layer.

Bee Kind

Honey Haiku

Thick drop of honey—
What flower do you taste of?
All of them at once.

Like a river of sun, the honey pours from the extruder’s spigot. I’m preoccupied licking sticky places on my hands and forearms but I pause to be fully present during this glorious moment overflowing with gratitude.

From a summer of frequent rain came unrelenting blooms. From unrelenting blooms came an abundance of life’s sweetness. I taste it in friendship, in a sunrise, in a soft-spoken word of encouragement, in a door held open, in a smile… kindness sticks sweet to everything it touches. Bee kind.

* If you look closely at the featured image you will see the honey bee on the sunflower 🙂

Heart Speak

On a recent day trip to Door County with my family I found a heart stone along the path we hiked. My daughter Sophie found one a little further down the trail. Seeing a heart shape in anything sends an immediate surge of love through me. Love is a universal language all of creation speaks.

Caressing those two heart shaped stones in my pocket made me stop and think about all the experiences, people and beliefs that have shaped my life. Some were wild scribbles. Others intrigue beautiful designs. None of which can be erased. The shape of my life effects everything around me. Whether that’s positive or negative is up to me.

As Sophie heads off to college I know the shape her life takes is in her heart. She just needs to follow it.

Heart Speak

I see past your words
I feel what you are saying
Shape words into love

Pie Potential

Early in its life a rabbit nibbled away the tender bark at the trunk base. Exposing a swath of naked wood, the length of a fully extended rabbit body nearly all around the tiny trunk. I did my best to care for the wound. No apples this year but she lived.

A late Spring cold snap brought snow. Delicate blooms fragrant and supple the day before were now vacant of scent. Frozen stiff. Some leaves anxious to begin again followed the sun’s subtle cue to unfold. The cold hardness of the world nipped the new growth. When touched the scarred tips disintegrated into a brown powder. The potential to taste pie crumbled like the dry brown leaf tip pressed between my fingers. I witnessed the vulnerability of opening. I witnessed how not to let the hardness of the world stop you from growing. No apples this year but she lived.

By all appearances last summer seemed to be the year we’d taste pie! July brought pests of biblical proportions, hell-bent on devouring every last tree in the orchard. The August sun melted summer’s green into the earth. Each day the mother tree struggled to continue her simple life. Beneath her laid the enormity of her sacrifice to do just that. Dozens of immature apples carpeted the ground. To sacrifice is to make sacred. I knew one day I’d harvest apples. The only question was when. The horses appreciated the taste of apple. No apples for pie this year but she lived.

Last week I made two pies with apples from the Prairie Spy tree in our orchard. As I peeled and sliced the sweetness of life in my hands, I reflected on the tree’s many teachings over the years. What I saw was pie. Potential In Everything life takes from us to give us what we need to grow.

And that first bite…heaven never tasted so good.