“A Cup of Kindness, Yet”

I find the song Auld Lang Syne to be haunting and a bit sad. While hopeful it makes me think of loss. It may just be my emotional instability rearing its head. The tune causes the same reaction I have with the abused pet commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing. 

To make sure I get a good dose of sorrow, there is an American Express commercial using the old Scottish ballad,  sung by India Carney. Her voice and the arrangement were created to make people stop and reflect…and maybe shed a tear.  It’s a commercial Don, wipe your face.

I’ve been fortunate.  I have lost no close friends or family members to Covid-19 in this terrible year that threatens to run on into the new year.  This is not to say I have been unscathed. I have lost folk I didn’t want to lose, both family and friends. I have lost former acquaintances, coaching and teaching peers, and have had family and friends who were sick but should recover. ”We’ll take a cup of kindness yet” together, I hope in the near future.  If you can read this, we have reasons to be optimistic and hopeful for the coming year and yet the commercial is on again and I’m misty eyed.

I battle with myself; the fearful me who wants to live as long as possible even if it is in isolation and the defiant me who thinks “Damn the torpedoes”. There is a small part of me who still thinks he is bulletproof.  I check too many “bad” boxes on my health sheet, so I am most assuredly not bulletproof.  I should remain the fearful…the smart one. Still my daughter and grandbabies call to me…as does the BBQ and beer at Green River BBQ.

Christmas is a few days behind me and the New Years a few days ahead.  I am conflicted and a bit melancholy.  I long for the days of childlike wonder when my father and mother were responsible for my happiness.  I do not like being the responsible adult…the adult in charge, the adult responsible for my happiness.  I turned the Christmas Eve responsibilities over to my daughter but the mental vision of social distancing and face masks on seven- and four-year olds is not the last vision I wish to have. 

I am old enough for my wants not to hurt me and will spend the New Year’s Eve with my bride attempting to stay awake for the New Year’s toast and kiss…maybe I should set a twelve am alarm.  A fire in the fireplace and a Jack Daniels instead of champagne, I will toast the new year, kiss my bride, eat a sausage and cheese ball, and then say a prayer for the coming year…before sleeping my way into it.

Auld Lang Syne began its life as a poem attributed mostly to Robert Burns and written in what has become such an obscure Scottish language that most English readers can’t comprehend it.  It is quite possible Burns was motivated by an earlier ballad written by James Watson.  The tune is an old Scottish song of unknown origin.  The standard version, what we sing after the “ball drops”, is much easier to understand.

The first verse goes

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne?

Chorus:

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

While it does not specifically translate, Auld Lang Syne translates loosely to “for the sake of old times” and old times is where my mind goes.  My visions are of old friends or family gatherings, making a toast to those we have lost and those who remain.  A toast to the better times we hope will come. 

I visualize party goers on black and white film, the ladies dressed in shimmering gowns of unknown colors and the men in old high collar shirts, tuxedos, waistcoats, and narrow bow ties.  They hold champagne flutes and kiss as balloons fall before singing Auld Lang Syne. 

I seem to be captured in an old Thirties or Forties movie from “the good old days” of the Great Depression or World War Two.  I don’t believe New Year’s Eve 2020 will be considered one of the good old days any more than the days of the Great Depression were, and I fear 2021 will simply be a redux of 2020.  Like those from “the good old days” there is hope.

Maybe we will be able to safely gather next year but whether we do or not, let us raise “a cup of kindness yet”, not just at twelve am on January 1st, but for all of 2021 and the time we have remaining.  We are in control of our kindness and it cost nothing.  Kindness is free but is worth its weight in gold.

I offer you the following toast credited to Alfred Lord Tennyson.  In a pandemic year with a contested elections and conspiracies theories on galore, it seems appropriate.

“Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow.

 The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.” 

I repeat, “Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

Happy New Year my friends, Happy New Year.

India Carney from YouTube

One of your New Year’s resolutions should be to read more starting with “Long Ride to Paradise”, my latest release. Download to Kindle or purchase in paperback. As usual it is free with Kindle Unlimited.

If History Repeats…Another Spring Day in January

If history repeats itself, we are in for our coldest days of winter yet…of course, this global climate change “thingy” might have erased any previous history.  Still, I have faith.  I predict our coldest days will occur on or around February the Third.

Why am I so sure?  Since the early Seventies, I have kept a close watch on the weather of late winter.  Spring sport’s practice, a misnomer in this part of the world, begins in the late winter.  For thirty-eight of the forty-five years that I coached, I coached baseball.  Usually, the coldest days of winter occurs around the start of baseball practice in South Carolina.  This year’s start date, February 3.  Sleet, freezing rain, snow, and winds are sure to follow.

Truth be known, the cold start of baseball practice is what finally convinced me to retire.

If history repeats itself, Mother Nature will be bi-polar in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and in the Piedmont of South Carolina until April…or maybe early May.  We will have days of teeth chattering bitter cold with howling winds.  We will have frigid rains bordering and sometimes crossing over to the freezing variety.  We will have sleet driven by icy winds or huge, wet snowflakes that are here today and gone tomorrow.

If history repeats itself there will be spring days as well.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weather with lows in the twenties and highs in the fifties or sixties.  Days that defy the calendar of January, February, March, and early April.  Days when crocus, buttercups and Scotch Broom are confused and punch out of the winter ground and bloom.  Days when my Red Bud begins to show pink only to be nipped in the bud by Jack Frost and Old Man Winter a day or two later.

Yesterday was the day that proves the rule.  With daylight hours lengthening enough to recognize, I was greeted with deep blue, cloudless skies.  Redtail hawks caught the thermals in the brightest of sunshine, whistling to each other…sharing their joy with me.  A purple finch stopped by my feeder showing the spring color that gave him his name.  A day so bright I felt the pull to search seed catalogs and almanacs to see when I should plant.

Don’t get me wrong, the feeling passed.  Yesterday was a deceptive day.  All spring looking but… There was still a nip in the wind making the low fifties seem like low forties and with no nighttime cloud cover, the lows have dipped into the high twenties before thinking of rebounding into the mid-fifties.  It looks like spring even if it doesn’t quite feel like spring.

This crazy season in the foothills of the Blue Ridge seems a lot like life.  It’s the good times that make life livable and the bad times less so bad.  Days like yesterday and today make the winter more survivable until the rains come tomorrow.  According to Longfellow and The Ink Spots, “Into each life, a little rain must fall”…but the sunshine makes it survivable if not likable.

Here is a toast for more spring days in January…and February….

The 1944 song by the Ink Spots took its title from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Rainy Day.   If you listened you might think you hear Ella Fitzgerald.  You did.  She had a voice like a springtime too.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

Running Delight

 

A simple joy?  I ran…I jogged…I shuffled my feet…slowly.  Call it what you want but “jogging” seven minutes out of fifty-six brought a river of “good” endorphins and a bit of hard breathing.  Little “feel good” opioid peptides that have raised my spirits at a time when my spirits have been quite low.

To think, I sooooo hated running…I still hate the actual act of running.

I flirted with exercise my entire adult life.  Flirted like the unsure introvert gazing wishfully at the beautiful homecoming queen from across the room.  I’d contemplate asking her to dance and then take a good look in the mirror as I straighten my tie.  Why would she be interested in dancing with me?

Similar to the pain of rejection, running was painful.  Aching muscles, being short of breath, the queasy stomach after strenuous exercise…and…left to my natural state, I’m basically lazy.

The mirror suggested, “You don’t look like a runner…you are too round, your legs are too short, your feet are too big.”  Compared to a thoroughbred horse, I was at best a mule, at worst a donkey…built for carrying burdens not speed.

A birthday gift from hell changed the way I looked at myself in the mirror.  I embarked on a running program six weeks after a birthday heart attack in 2006.  After the heart attack, I decided the homecoming queen could be damned.

Four stents overcame a life filled with Southern cooking, I completed cardiac rehab and embarked on a walking program.  An old school coach, I just didn’t feel the “no pain, no gain.”  I needed to hurt…and I did.  I needed to pay for those caloric indiscretions of my youth…and I did.  I used the “Couch to 5K”1 workout and found the pain to be manageable.  I also found there were unforeseen benefits.

My feet were still too big, my legs will always be too short, but I wasn’t as round…sixty-two pounds less round.  Those changes or lack thereof were foreseen.  It was the changes in my mind I didn’t foresee.

I have battled depression for over forty years and suddenly my broken kaleidoscope of a brain seemed to reset itself.  There were days I still battled but the din of battle had quieted.  The voices in my head whispered instead of yelling.

There were (are) still days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but they were less numerous and harsh.  I had a reason to get out of bed…my early morning run.

Running for me was like the guy hitting himself in the head with a hammer.  It hurt like hell while I did it but, “It felt so good when I stopped.”

I wasn’t satisfied with 5Ks and continued to push through 10Ks and half-marathons.  I even wrote down a marathon on my bucket list and began to train.  For five or six days a week, I battled my body instead of my mind.  I was addicted.  I wasn’t fast and would win no races.  I might win in my age group if everyone in my age group had died.

My running wasn’t about competing with others it was about competing with myself.  My running was about finishing a workout or finishing a race.  I could put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my Jeep and look in a mirror and say, “I am a runner!”

And then I wasn’t.  On my last run before a half-marathon in 2015, a misstep opened a can of worms.  For two years I hobbled through workouts, tried to prepare to run only to reinjure myself until I decided I was being hardheaded and put my pain into a doctor’s hands. A torn meniscus was an issue…also the discovery of early-onset osteoarthritis.  “A knee replacement is in your future,” he said.  I wish I had never gone.  I wish I had never found out.

For two years I have walked or rode a bicycle and mentally bitched over every mile. Walking doesn’t do it for me.  Cycling doesn’t blot out the voices in my head no matter how much I crank up the volume.  Walking fails to reset my brain.

This winter season has been the worst.  The SAD and depression had laid me low until the New Year.  I decided to run…jog…shuffle my feet.  A different program, a thirty-second jog out of every two and a half minutes the first week, a minute out of three the second, the same next week.2  Twelve weeks to a 5K.  I feel like a baby taking his first steps, but I am hopeful.  Even my walking days have been…hopeful.

I am also going to be smart.  Three days a week only, on the grass, not the pavement, no back to back days no matter how many workouts are rained ut.  Good shoes and braces.

I scratched the marathon off my bucket list.  It will never happen.  I do hope to do a 5K even if it is a walk/run…jog…shuffle.  Anything to reset my mind.  Anything to keep the negative voices at bay.  Anything to repair the broken kaleidoscope.  Anything to get my mojo back.

1 Couch to 5K  http://www.c25k.com/

2 None to Run Plan https://www.nonetorun.com/

Don Miller writes on many subjects, fiction, and nonfiction.  His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Hope

My holiday wish is hope.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”  ― Shel Silverstein

***

Humanity is capable of such good.  Humanity is capable of flight, capable of putting people on the moon and returning them home again.  We can be so amazing.

I hope we can find our amazing light and shine it throughout the Universe.

Music, art of all types, the application of human creative skill and imagination…mathmatics, science,..we’re problem solvers.

I hope we put our collective minds together, solving more world problems, making life better for all.

Amazing breakthroughs in medicine, evolution in technologies.  Testaments to what humans can do when they embrace a positive goal. 

It is my hope we come together and embrace each other and find a positive goal.

So many people in need.  In a world with so much plenty, so much wasted with so many hurting for necessities.  In a world with so much opulence and wealth, we have people starving or lacking for clean water.  This is despite the verse, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

I hope we invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind to our table.

I have hope we will see the light and channel our amazing abilities toward ending those pestilences that plague us…regardless of who “us” is.

My fondest hope is the “goodwill toward men” we traditionally embrace during the holiday season will continue into and through the new year.

I hope all a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas.

I hope all a warm and prosperous New Year.

More than anything I hope for peace and healing to all.

“Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”  ― Shel Silverstein

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The featured image is from the charity, Hope for the Holidays Program, https://charity.lovetoknow.com/Hope_for_the_Holidays

The nativity scene is from Trinity Store https://www.trinitystores.com/artwork/light-world-nativity

Santa Clause and Reindeer are from Pinterest.

The Day Kennedy Died

 

I was six months past my thirteenth birthday when I learned of President Kennedy’s assassination, and I admit I had the political awareness of a rock…a very dumb rock.  I knew Kennedy was big dodo but I’m really not sure I completely knew why until I became a history major five years later.  I still had the political awareness of a rock but at least I came to understand the political history of the past.

We were called back to homeroom from our eighth grade PE class.  We weren’t happy.  During those days PE was a welcomed break from the academic day.  When we arrived at Mrs. Biggerstaff’s room we could tell something was wrong just by the look on her face.

I’ve tried to remember the feelings.  Can’t quite conger up what they were.  My age and cynicism are interfering.  I remember how quiet the class grew, quite unusual for an eighth-grade class full of hormone-driven early teens.  Sounds seemed muted.  Even the bus ride home was quiet.  Quiet as “inside of a tomb” quiet.

The young Kennedy was a handsome man with a beautiful wife and family.  He spoke in that “funny Yankee” accent but for some reason made people want to listen.   I remember reading accounts of his bravery during World War Two and later attending the movie made about his exploits.  I remember feeling sorry for his wife, especially after seeing her in her blood-soaked dress as a solemn LBJ was sworn in.

Fridays were “go to town day” normally a family adventure.  Monroe, NC, was the destination only because there was a bank that stayed open longer than any in much closer Fort Mill.  Mom, Dad, Nannie, and little brother Stevie joined me inside our nearly brand new ’63 Galaxy 500.  I can remember how we sat, and I can remember the faces on the people we met as we drove the eighteen miles to town.

My grandmother, a staunch Protestant Republican who worried the Catholic Kennedy might steal the White House silverware couldn’t believe someone would assassinate him.  Catholic or Protestant it was just wrong.

Maybe I am merely projecting but everyone seemed to have a pained look on their faces…even on the main street of Monroe.  There was a kind of reverie to the day.  People moved as if in a trance.

I’m sure Kennedy’s legacy has grown over the years.  He attempted much and was thwarted, much of his New Frontier collapsed under the weight of Republicans and Southern Democrats.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not be implemented until after his death.  There was also the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of Diem and the beginning escalation of the Vietnam War.

On the plus side, he championed Civil Rights, stood up to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, established the Peace Corps and challenged us to leave our earthly confines.  Some of his New Frontier proposals were implemented after his death.

There was a hope with Kennedy that we could be more, do more, that we could be a type of Camelot.  An idealism that we could make a difference.  Maybe that was what I was feeling…a simple loss of hope for a world that could be better…or maybe I’ve gotten old and cynical.

A very conservative acquaintance stated that Kennedy was the last great Democrat.  I countered with “and Eisenhower was the last great Republican.”  It was a somewhat argumentative conversation.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was my youthful idealism and propensity for chasing windmills…something I am happy to say I haven’t put aside.  I wish we had another Kennedy or Eisenhower…and the political parties who supported them.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  His author’s page is at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is a picture from the Chicago Tribune.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere….

I see signs, not those signs.  I see and hear true believers espousing the nearness of the apocalypse; wars, and rumors of wars, national disasters, the anti-Christ, prayers for the rapture.  Those are not the signs of which I speak…mainly because doomsayers have been warning us since the book of Revelations was written, I guess.  The doomsaying is probably warranted but I have hope and believe humanity will come to its senses before we self-destruct.  Regardless, the Earth will continue to make its trips around the Sun whether we are around to enjoy the change in seasons or not.

No, not those signs but signs of changes none-the-less.  Here in the South, it is hotter than forty hells even in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Not the pressure cooker heat of the lower Southern states but plenty hot for me.  The heat will continue for the foreseeable future if the weather gurus are to be believed.

Image result for melting in South Carolina

Still, the signs of fall are upon me.  Years ago, I promised I would never protest the heat due to a particularly cold baseball season and my depression which intensifies as the days shorten.  This summer is taxing my promise, but I realized yesterday, the signs are everywhere.  The days are shortening, and dark days of winter will be too soon be upon me.

First, there will be Autumn, maybe a whole two hours of it…but there will be Autumn.

Many years ago, I noted the change when football practice and school began.  Since my retirement, I monitor the changes in more subtle ways.  The writing spiders spinning their webs, vees of geese flying south, a pair of wood ducks I haven’t seen since spring, bees and butterflies working the remaining blooms as if their very lives depend on it…or upcoming generations lives.  Damn the yellow jackets, the little bastards are working too.

animal-beautiful-bee-266731 (1).jpg

My wild birds have returned to the feeders from the mid-summer break as they fed their young juicy bugs and worms instead of my sunflower seeds.  New birds, small and quick, are flitting hither and yon.  There seems to be a bumper crop of gold and purple finches.  A new generation to enjoy our symbiotic relationship…my viewing enjoyment for their food.  Despite the cost of sunflower seed, it seems to be a fair trade.

Image result for yellow finch sunflowers

The turkeys are on the move too.  Hens followed by Jakes and Jennies and even smaller poults are passing through my backyard.  I didn’t see a Tom but there must be one somewhere…although I didn’t get much of a chance to see.  Despite Mr. Carlson thoughts on WKRP, “Turkeys can fly”…at least wild ones.

Image result for wild turkeys on the move

I stepped outside last night to partake of one last puff on my cigar…the one I have been nursing all day.  The air was filled with the smell of citronella from the torches I burn to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  I watched the smoke dissipate into the freshening breeze…a breeze that seemed different than the humidity filled breezes from earlier in the day.  There was a hint of fall in it, just an underlying current of cool.  The best sign of all despite my wish not to wish my life away.    Pumpkin pie and ripening persimmons are just around the corner.

bright-cake-cinnamon-sticks-248469

If interested, more of Don Miller’s wanderings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image of geese at sunset is from https://blog.theclymb.com/tips/signs-autumn-northwest-enjoy/

All photographs were legally lifted from Pexels.com.

 

Skeeter Killin’ Season

 

Got my first one of the season! March 26, 2019.  A little after nine in the p.m.  Little bastard flew in front of my computer screen and I squished him flatter than a toad frog on a four-lane. I had to clean him off the screen, but the screen needed cleaning anyway and I got him before he got me.  Let the war begin.

I am eccentric for many reasons, one of which is, I welcome Skeeter Killin’ Season with a smile on my face.  I celebrate Skeeter Killin’ Season like Christmas.  I drink toasts with Myers dark rum and tonic while doing a happy dance in honor of Skeeter Killin’ Season despite living in a target rich environment.  Not as rich as our coastal regions but still, very rich.

I live in the foothills of South Carolina and for most of three seasons we have the little bastards along with gnats, no see ums but you feel em, deer flies, horse flies, chiggers, ticks, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets.  All bite, sting or fly up your nose and at their best are just annoying.  At their worst, they are damn painful.

Why then, am I doing a happy dance?  A better question might be, why do I try to dance?  My dance resembles Joe Cocker holding on to a live battery cable and gets worse as I continue to toast the season with my adult beverage.

Skeeter Killin’ Season coincides with the sun rising higher and higher in the sky and staying there for longer periods of the day. Yes, it coincides with rising temperatures and humidity.  I don’t care…happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!

Never will I gripe about the heat.  I have found over the years I tolerate heat and humidity much better than the short, gray days and the cold temperatures of winter.  If this country boy has Deep Woods OFF, he will survive…and an air conditioner he can escape to.

I can’t escape the short days of winter.  I can’t escape the cold seeping into my bones and the depression quashing my will to survive.  There will still be the occasional depressing day but the sun, high in the sky, will beckon and the melancholy will be as short-lived as a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It is the season of rebirth, blooming colors of white, yellow, gold, pink, orange and purple.  Green leaves, green grass, green mold, and green mucous discharges.

It is the season of planting and playing in the dirt while anxiously awaiting tomato sandwiches running in Duke’s Mayonnaise, garden fresh corn on the cob and fried okra.  It is the season for rising spirits despite the stinging insects, heat, humidity, and allergies.

I still must deal with the skeeters and have tried about everything except a Bug Zapper…homemade traps, bombs, and sprays, lanterns with the smell of citronella wafting through the evening air…mixing with an aroma of OFF.  All with limited success or to no avail.

When the bloodsuckers are thicker than a cold bowl of cheese grits,  I try to forget a winter drive along the coast when I battled both the low winter sun AND the little sucking bastards.  On a lonely highway through black water swamps and pine forests, I felt the call of nature and pulled off onto a double track dirt road leading through a turpentine camp to relieve myself.  Damn, little bastards tried to take off with my man part while my wife laughed and laughed and laughed. 

Further musings and a book or eight can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

My “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

This is a re-write, one I look forward to writing every year. My heart seems to sing and my hopes soar as I hear their call. I know spring’s rebirth is just around the corner and with it, mine.

Return of the Red Tails

I heard a shrill whistle from above and looked up into the February sky. It was a beautiful February day after a gray, rainy yesterday. Warmer than normal although the day felt cooler with a bit of a breeze blowing from the northwest. The sky was cloudless and of a deep blue color that poems are written about. Circling in the middle of the blue expanse was my red-tailed hawk.

I know she’s not mine any more than I’m hers but it’s the way I think of her…if she is a “her.” I believe she is her because of her size. She and I met several years ago when I got too near her nest and was dive bombed by either “herself “or her mate. A bright reddish-brown flash had me ducking low to the ground while uttering several expletives as I scurried to safety. For several days, I searched with binoculars until I found her nest high in an oak tree on the high hill behind my house and made a note to stay clear until her clutch had flown.

For the past several February winters, the red tails have returned to make repairs to their nest before beginning their courting flights as the days lengthen in the early spring. Soaring high into the blue sky while twisting and turning, the male makes steep dives around his mate before soaring back into the “romantic” blue sky. Soon they will retreat to their evergreen boudoir behind an ancient hemlock tree and their “acte d’amour” will begin for another season as the “circle of life” continues with an egg or three. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate it.

I once wasted several cool, early summer mornings watching the red tail teaching her one offspring how to hunt field mice. Standing at the kitchen sink, a wide picture window affords me a view of a small open area between my backyard and one of the streams cutting my property. Sitting on a dead “stick up”, the red tail and her charge would wait patiently for movement, then, after erupting into a violent dive, return to their perch with the bounty of their exertions and share…until the fateful day when they returned and mommy hawk brushed the little one aside as if to say “This is mine, it’s time for you to go get your own.” There comes a time when we all must spread our wings and go off to do our own hunting.

My red tails are one of the harbingers of spring I check off as I await my “most wonderful time” of the year. Winters are tough on me and have become tougher as I approach the winter of my years. Soon everything will be green and colorful with rebirth. Despite my allergies, mosquitoes and the emergence of yellow jackets, it is the “most wonderful time” of the year.

As I knelt in my backyard, digging at some dormant plant needing to be moved, I paused to watch her catching thermals, soaring higher and higher. I realized we had survived one more season. It is a season of rebirth for us all. My grandmother lived for spring. In her nineties, I expected every winter to be her last but every spring she would rally, be re-born like the jonquils, to enjoy her “most wonderful time” of the year. In the February of her ninety-eighth year, winter won out as it will for us all. Until then I will await the return of my red tails, her memory, and my own rally and rebirth. My “most wonderful time.”

For more of Don Miller’s writings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Ode to February

 

Not really an ode…I’m not a poet…some would say I’m not even a writer…but that may just be my depression kicking in…or not.

Too many days of long dark nights, cold and crisp, with the stars twinkling brightly…clear as a bell…seeming so close you might touch them.  Too many days with the sun low in the Southern sky…if it can be seen at all due to the gray days full of winter rains.

I’ll take short summer nights, hot and humid, with the stars obscured by the mosquitos in the air…a thunderstorm rumbling in the distance.  That was almost poetic.

February gives me hope…I know it is cold and crisp this morning and a polar vortex has the mid-west in its deadly, skeletal grip…but there is hope…here in the foothill of the Blue Ridge.  Long range I see afternoon temperatures in the upper sixties.  A chance of the low seventies?  “Hope along Sweet February hope along.”

If previous winters teach us anything, there will be plenty of cold crisp days in February but there will be many “Chamber of Commerce” days too.  Days to live for…sandwiched around days of “I wish I were dead”.  Just enough bright and warm days to keep me alive until late spring.

Soon the cyclist will come out of their winter cocoons, dressed in the newest, natty attire, mimicking colorful butterflies…sorry butterflies, I know you would not dress like you were on an LSD trip on purpose.  Golfers will don their own form of garish fashion and head to the links in hopes of breaking one hundred.  Lines of bass boats in gaudy metal flake will make the trek toward Lakes Keowee, Jocassee or Hartwell, searching for trophy bass.

All will converge on Highway 11, joining pulpwood trucks and farm tractors, creating a slow parade in front of my house.  A parade I will watch from the comfort of my garden.  Maybe I will put on a flowery Hawaiian shirt in gaudy honor of the colors I see slowly passing my home.

My garden has laid fallow since the first frost…way back in late October.  February will give me hope.  Tilling and amending, the smell of cow poop in the air.  Dirty fingernails from digging in the dirt, with sweat pouring down my nose.  The aching knees and muscles of time well spent.  Hopefully, the effort will lead to sweet and tart Cherokee Purple tomatoes dressed in Duke’s Mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, served between two pieces of Sunbeam Bread.  An ear of corn on the cob, or five, on the side…if I can beat the raccoons to it this year.

February makes me hopeful…hopeful that I will flower like the early spring jonquils and crocus.  There will be plenty of “Oh, damn you cold” days in February…and then there are the winds of March on days seemingly left over from January.  But…there is hope and where there is hope, there IS life.

The image is from Deb’s Garden, http://debsgarden.squarespace.com/journal/2016/2/28/early-spring-conquering-weeds.html

Books and further musings from Don Miller can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Hope of Spring

It is a lovely spring day…in the early winter.  We are only seventeen days past the Winter Solstice.  There will be many cold and gray days ahead before spring truly arrives.  Days like today give me a reason to hope.

The days have lengthened five whole minutes since the solstice.  Five more minutes of beautiful, bright sunlight.  I am still waiting for the sun to appear above the hill that shields my view.  The sun’s ascent shows pink above the pines.  It is a hint of the spring that will not truly come until late March…or early April.  Spring’s arrival will not come soon enough but there is nothing I can do about the calendar except hope.

As I walk, the morning is cool but not cold.  Bracing?  The lake I walk around seems welcoming as the sunlight finally touches it.  Flashing light shows in the ripples caused by a gentle breeze.  The sunlight is not warming yet, but there is hope for later.

Yesterday and today are those wonderful days, days that a person hopes for during winter.  Blue, cloudless skies following a wet week in a wet month in a wet year.  Temperatures will climb above sixty under bright, clean, blue skies.

Birds flitting and playing around their feeders.  Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, a couple of woodpeckers.  They seem hopeful too.  Squirrels chase each other around the base of a hemlock tree.  A truly glorious morning in what is going to be a glorious day.

A ride in the mountains and a stop at a nearby BBQ joint after church seemed in order.  My bride agrees.  The people on the streets of the small town seem happier than usual…maybe it is because I’m happier than the usual on this unusual January day.  They too bask in the sunlight.

There will be other hopeful days during this unhopeful season until warm and humid breezes find their way here to chase my blues away.  What a lovely spring day in the early winter.

Image of the winter sun is from https://www.thelocal.de/20180301/report-berlin-and-brandenburg-sunniest-german-states-this-winter

For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM