Counting My Blessings

image copyright Fred First
November 2001. Our only grandchild, Abby, was less than a year old, barely enough hair to tie a ribbon around , fat-cheeked, speechless. My how she’s grown into a bright, stuck-on-go little gal, just like her momma. We see her once or twice a year–and if she doesn’t remember us down the road, she’ll remember the white house in the woods, splashing in the creek, and she’ll remember the dogs, Buster and especially Tsuga, her hug-buddy.

Mike and Holli, SIL and daughter, we thought were living far away then–in North Carolina. Now we wish they were so close, having seen how much country passes under the shadow of the plane between Goose Creek and South Dakota. Both are thriving in their respective therapy professions of PT and OT. I’m afraid we’ll never get them back this way, now that Holli has a horse again. That was the only thing we could tempt her with that she didn’t have out there. She’s never forgotten Beauty, and her clubhouse in the barn loft–the blessings of a country childhood I’m thankful we could give her before wisking both kids to Birmingham so I could climb my professional ladder.

Nate soon lost the beard he had brought home from Belfast a few months before. If I’m keeping my calendars right, at Thanksgiving that year he was finishing his bachelors at Maryville, finally, after first taking a semester off to walk home from Bar Harbor in April through July 2000 on the back roads of 8 states, and then there was the stint at Queens College and after that, busking his way around Europe and a few months on a dairy farm in the Swiss Alps in 2001. His flight was scheduled to bring him home on September 13, 2001. There were some unsettling complications in air travel about that time. We were so thankful to have him home for Thanksgiving. Now he is married almost a year, moving even today somewhere on the road, from Vancouver where he finished a Masters in Theology to a few months in St. Louis. Now only God knows what and where the boy will go from here, and He isn’t divulging what comes next just yet.

Ann was working at the pharmacy at the V.A. in Salem then, and didn’t know at the time that it wouldn’t be a forever job for her. Six months later, her first choice job, not available when we moved here in 1997, opened up. She started it the same week I left mine. And she’s still there, more than four years later. She’s to credit for the lovely table and meal.

I can’t remember how we talked mom into joining us. I’m pretty certain it had to do with the rare conjunction of her son, his children and their child in one place. I don’t think she’s been back since. We’ll get to see her for a short while when we pass through Birmingham soon.

The photographer behind the camera on this day was a fortunate fellow, with a fine family sitting down together to a warm meal in a snug old house far out in the woods. But six months after this picture was taken, he came home from the clinic and told his wife he needed to do something different with his life. He found blogging as a way of speaking out his uncertainties, but also as a way of sharing his blessings–and they were, and are many. And to this day, he finds this picture of the last time the whole family had Thanksgiving dinner in this old house, and it makes him feel mighty satisfied. Yes sir.


This morning’s blogging focus has been pre-empted by a brainsucking, late-night committee meeting. The blogger slept in and woke up behinder than usual. With regrets, we inform you that there will be no blog post this morning. Except for…

* Our motel in Mobile has a Business Center! Oh, I read it consists of one computer in a coat closet. No wireless in rooms after all. I expect I’ll be drinking lots of coffee at B & N down the road, and maybe blogging from there if I can find something nice to say.

* Upon returning home, I’ll need to not collect two hundred dollars and not go to jail. Here’s the skinny: the truck, since getting the Subaru in August, has been farm-use only, just to haul firewood. That is, until it began getting balky and would or wouldn’t start in unpredictable fashion. I took it in thinking it would be a one-hour fix; it turned out the part took four hours to get. So after a totally wasted day in town, I’m driving home at almost-dark when from behind me comes a blue flashing light. Seems my state inspection sticker expired in September, a fact that, in driving it up the pasture to pick up some oak I had failed to notice. I think this falls under the heading of irony.

* Got 150 sets of 5 notecards ready to pick up the end of next week. Thanks to all who have put their name on the list for one or more packets. I hope they find a little market; I’d like to have a half dozen different sets by this time next year. I’ll also be considering bundling Slow Road Home with a set of cards for a special Christmas deal, details to follow after I have the cards in hand, or at least more time to think about the details first of next week. Oh, and I should add (and will probably mention again) that the card images are 4 x 6, edge to edge, and would make a fine framed wall hanging with some simple mat cutouts. Collect them all! For your wall!

* The studded tires go on Ann’s Subaru next week. Last year, it was the first week of December that we had that hellacious ice storm of the entire winter. This year, at least I have the Outback. The truck, even with 4WD, wasn’t so trustworthy on our road without some weight in the back. And the weight just added momentum when the rear end fishtailed toward the ravine that held the frozen creek, far below the road. Oh dread. Old Man Winter loometh.

* Anybody else having problems with MSIE7? The danged program (which I kept loaded only because the MT edit window didn’t like Firefox) insisted it be updated, and ever since, every time I close Control Panel or any other XP Explorer window, up pops MSIE. Makes their browsers usage stats look really good though, to have it automatically launch at random times in the normal use of a computer where Firefox is the default browser. Grummmble…

Mixed Nuts

NOAA Wx Radio’s Greatest Hits

We call him Jose because he seems to have a south-of-the-border ESL quality to his robot speech as he reads the weather synopsis, forecast or current readings of conditions around the area. He came out with a good one yesterday. Of course he just reads what the statisticians put before him:

November 19, 2006. Blacksburg Virginia set a record for snowfall amount of TRACE which exceeds the former snowfall record for this date of ZERO recorded in 2002.

Words Fit to Print

Drove to Wytheville yesterday to make final arrangements for the notecards. They are spot-on and will be ready for me to pick up on Friday, December 1. But the best part of the trip was the guided tour of the facility at Wordsprint, owned and operated by Bill Gilmer. We knew Bill when he moved to Wytheville in the mid-eighties, a young man with the purpose to live away from town, and write–short stories. He took in typing by the page because it was something he did well. He now has both floors of the old Leggetts building on main street, twenty employees, and a thriving regional print and mail business. I’m pleased with what he’s produced for me, and more than that, with what he has produced for himself and the community by persistence, character and hard work.

Words Fit to Finesse

Two words were added to the Fragmented Fred lexicon at the writers workshop in Tennessee a few weeks back. I’ll share: 1) efreet (or afrit) — an evil spirit, especially in Arab mythology. It came up in a bit of science fiction poetry that was read, and everybody went HUH? and 2) ekphrasis, which poets are more likely to know, perhaps, than other flavors of writers. And I guess it deserves more, because without knowing it, it is this kind of one art leading to or enhanced by another that is inherent in my “images in words and pixels” relationship between photography and the written word. Here’s the fuller description of what the word means:

Ecphrasis has been considered generally to be a rhetorical device in which one art tries to relate to another art by defining and describing the essence and form of that original art, and in doing so, “speak to you” through its illuminative liveliness. A descriptive work of prose or one of poetry, a film, or even a photograph may thus highlight through its rhetorical vividness what is happening, or what is shown in, say, any of the visual arts, and in doing so, may enhance the original art and so take on a life of its own through its brilliant description. The kinds of art described in this way may include painting, photography, sculpture, architecture, etc.

And a third word often used, never dissected by me until someone did so in church a couple of weeks ago. The word is SARCASM, and I claim it reluctantly as a perverse gift of mine, pulled out when threatened, wounded or frustrated, usually with family. And I should have picked up on the word root long ago; it is well-known in medical terminology (e.g. sarcoplasm). It is in the word sarcophagus. In the word sarcasm, too, sarc– means flesh. When we use sarcasm in our language, it causes the hearer to bite the flesh of their lip in pain, is the original meaning. I’ll remember this, next time my words risk wounding another.

Lost in Let’s Remember

Image copyright Fred First We’re very different, Ann and I, in the source from which we take our bearings. Hers are from the demands and obligations of the moment. Each day is the first day of the rest of her life. Mine come from the stepping stones of what has come before–the places and people we have been in our own rights, and to each other; from the people and influences that have guided or misguided us all along our swerving path together since this picture of innocence was taken in 1970. I revisit my image archives often with this view of the present in mind, and finding this wedding picture this morning set the wheels turning, turning back, turning forward.

Soon, we’ll travel far south to her past. I won’t share it. She’ll become who she was in 1966 and before, seeing old girlfriends, prom dates, teachers, places she’s kept locked up in disremembrance all these years until the prospect of this gathering took shape in the spring and carried her back to more hopeful times. Now, for the first instance in our long history, she has become nostalgic. Now, she wants to remember. This full immersion in the places and faces from long ago will be a powerfully exciting and probably powerfully unsettling experience for her, and from far outside the experience, for me.

Funny how, after so many years, you know so much about each other. And so little. In some ways, we are still those two smiling souls living behind today’s tougher exteriors, beneath the scars, having survived hopes met or failed, good times, hard times, lots and lots of times. I still see the June bride in her face at unexpected moments. I imagine I’ll catch a glimpse of it again when she becomes the girl that lived before the young woman I met by chance or fate in college so long ago.

So, she’ll indulge in let’s remember. I think I’ll just move over to the edge of things and have a cold beverage.

Now I told you my reasons for the whole revival
Now I’m going outside to have an ice cold beer in the shade, oh
I’m going to listen to my 45’s, ain’t it wonderful to be alive
When the rock ‘n’ roll plays, yeah
When the memory stays, yeah
I’m keeping the faith, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah — Billy Joel

To Nap, Perchance to Dream

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care, The death of each day’s
life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second
course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast. — Shakespeare, Macbeth

“Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, and Presidents Kennedy and Reagan had something in common? In fact, each of them enjoyed a regular nap.”

They know my routine, the girls at work. And, as the token male, I get picked on. But I am undeterred: even against the threat that they might yet again startle me from my dozings behind the wheel by rocking my parked car out in front of the clinic at lunchtime, I will nap on!

I’ve been a faithful napper for as long as I can remember. When I was teaching in my first real job at the community college (was that a real job?) I either walked home for lunch and a 15 minute nap, or closed my office door, made a pillow of my arms, and woke up in time to get the sleep wrinkles out of my forehead before lecture. (Hmmm…those sleep wrinkles don’t seem to go away these days. What gives?)

My watch timer is now set for 14 minutes (15 just seemed too indulgent). I eat my sandwich while I do paperwork during my lunch break, so that there will be time to get out to the Subaru and let that seat way back. I have the routine down so pat that the ritual itself leads inexorably within two minutes to the first signs of total relaxation: the jaw drops embarrasingly open. So I put up my sunshade to spare passersby the look at the fillings of an unconscious, drooling man gone limp.

But if you read this article called 5 Reasons to Nap, it explains why this apparent sign of motivational lassitude is really the key to creativity and vigor!

So Rock on, ladies. You can shake my car, but you can’t shake my commitment to the Noon Snooze!