“Be the Man My Puppies Think I Am.”

For four of the previous five years, I’ve limped into the new year.  Physically for sure and mentally…maybe.  Recently I wondered if it might be tied to the trials and tribulations associated with the age I live in…or the life I’ve aged into.  “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”  Thanks, Matthew, the end is not yet but sometimes I believe I can see it from here and livin’ in the Age of Trump ain’t helpin’.

This is not about resolutions…I don’t think.  I don’t do resolutions…I do have ambitions like certain fitness goals, and once again I have fallen short as 2018 closes…as I did in 2017…as I did in 2016…. I’ve actually lost most of the weight I gained from my last bout with prednisone.  Unfortunately, that was an additional ten pounds on top of the ten pounds I originally wanted to lose…a net loss of…nothing.

My body just doesn’t absorb doughnut calories as well as it used to…could be that bone on bone rubbing in my knee slowing calorie absorption down.  It also keeps me from doing any kind of running so the “bucket list” marathon is probably out.

Back to the subject…if there is one.  I don’t do resolutions anymore, but if I did, I would use the trite, too often used, “Be the man my puppies think I am.” I am good to them, I treat them better than I treat my fellow man.  Not a bad thing…but not the best thing.  I realize I need to be a part of something bigger than me and my puppies…something I go out and do rather than just pointing my finger at it while stating the obvious, “There is something wrong there.  Someone should do something.”

Our world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket…I know there are many people suffering despite the “trickle down” we received.   My puppies don’t think their world is going to hell in a handbasket.  If Mommy Linda is around, their lives are pretty good.  If there is reincarnation, I want to come back as one of Mommy Linda’s puppy dogs.  Maybe I should treat the world like my puppy dogs.

I watch the people I interact with and if I watch closely enough, concentrate enough, it is easy to see there are still good people in this world…trying to do go things.  Their efforts transcend race, sexual orientation, politics, and religious affiliation.  I see what their love can accomplish…even on the microscopic level.

My best friend, Mike Hawkins, carries blankets around to give to the homeless he runs into…runs into on purpose.  He doesn’t just avert his eyes in hopes the panhandler won’t see him.  Hoping to be invisible to those less fortunate.

My brother, Steve Miller, saw a need and works to support a soup kitchen.  A soup kitchen that has expanded into its own building, feeding and clothing hundreds a week…making life just a bit more livable for those in need.

Church friends Leland and Emily Browder model what it means to be a follower of Christ and have passed on their beliefs of service to their God and humanity to their children and grandchildren.  Mission trips to foreign countries or foreign communities in their own country.  I give thanks to them and others.

In a climate breeding boorish behavior, an atmosphere extolling disrespect for those who you disagree with, when your humility is portrayed as a weakness rather than a strength, men, and women like Mike, Steve, Emily, and Leland go about their daily business of doing good while thumbing their noses at those who believe showing humanity or empathy for others are weaknesses…or that somehow “these others” deserve exactly what they are getting and deserve nothing from them.  Putting action to their words.

Watching their efforts has made me aware of my shortcomings as a caring and gracious human being.  It is time to get off the sidelines and quit watching.  We all need to quit spectating, get into the game and leave our political beliefs in the stands.

At a “meet for coffee on Friday” with Hawk, we met a guy.  Another older fart, just a smarter old fart.  “Forget about national and state-level stuff.  If you want to do something positive if you want to help if you really want to effect change, do it at the local level where it has the most effect.”

As I said last year about this time, I’m not going to attempt to start a movement, run for office or pontificate ad nauseum.    I’m just going to try and make a difference, one person at a time…for real this time.

If interested in donating or volunteering and live in the foothills of South Carolina, I suggest Daily Bread Ministries.  Their webpage may be found at https://www.greersoupkitchen.com/

The verse was Matthew 24.6 KJV

For more of Don Miller’s pontifications, you might be interested in clicking on the following link:   https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Crescent Moons, Puppy Dogs, and the Universe

My puppies have interrupted my sleep.  They are blind and if you are blind, I don’t guess you know it is three in the morning instead of three in the afternoon.  It is cold for early December and I don’t guess we got them out enough during the day…maybe we didn’t get me out enough during the day.

I let them out, not to go “wee-wee”, but to lay down in the backyard.  “Girls…it’s twenty-eight degrees.  What are you doing?  Geez…will I ever get back to sleep?”  No, not much.  There is an afternoon nap in my future.

My wife’s flowers are housed in a makeshift hothouse.  At five I decided to walk up and make sure the heat had them toasty.  It was a tropical fifty-five.  I may have to mortgage the farm to pay the winter electric bill.

As I turned to return to the warmth of my home, I looked up into the southern sky and saw a sliver of a crescent moon framed in the leafless branches of a walnut tree.  Low on the horizon, the outline of the dark side was clearly visible as was a shining Venus above it.  The air was clear and the sky cloudless.  A morning an astronomer might dream of. The scene took my breath away and I paused, despite the cold, to bask in the reflection of both the moon and my thoughts.

I struggle with my beliefs.  I do believe in an afterlife…” energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be changed.” Changed into what, I do not know, but I believe the law works for the universe and everyone in it.  I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, but…I struggle with the universe and our place in it.

Divine creation?  Big Bang?  A combination of both.  Are they one and the same?  And “God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”

I struggle with the concept of God…or god.  Despite my struggles, my lack of faith, I talk to him often…I just wish he would talk back.  Just prattle a bit.  There doesn’t have to be an answer to my questions, just answer back.  “I’m here, I hear you.”

Looking through the clear crisp air at the heavenly scene it is hard not to believe in some type of divine plan.  How could something as beautiful as the scene I was viewing not be a part of a divine plan?  As if to add weight to my thoughts I noticed the pinkish glow of dawn approaching.  A most heavenly picture on display and I had been in the cold too long.

I returned to the warmth of my home and found my puppies asleep, Maddie on her back on the couch, Tilly chasing rabbits in her sleep beside her.  How could these two beautiful animals have been created by chance?  Again, God is silent, but I’m not concerned.

Bible verses my Grandmother recited come to mind.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” and “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  And this morning, any morning, in the heavens too.

Further musings can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came, interestingly, from The Tree of Knowledge Coven at https://treeofknowledgecoven.com/2013/08/12/my-love-affair-with-the-waxing-crescent-moon/

 

Knocked your Noggin’

 

“Watch your head!” followed by “Oops! Knocked your noggin’.”  My beloved says it a dozen times a day…mostly to our blind puppy dogs…but sometimes to me.  With blind puppy dogs, we have had to “puppy proof” all the sharp edges inside and outside our old farmhouse.  Feed bags filled with feed bags to guard and cushion sharp corners or narrow pasteboard boxes turned on their side to keep lost puppies from wandering where they shouldn’t.  I should probably just dress in bubble wrap.

The puppies, Maddie and Tilly, do well considering their disability.  Much better than their master.  I have my vision and still run into things.  I seem to bark my shins or forehead with an increasing frequency.

Coming in and removing my cap, I hear, “What did you do to your head?”  My beloved’s voice is fraught with faux concern, a mischievous grin plays on her lips and an impish twinkle flashes from her hazel eyes.

I’ll have none of it, “You know damn well I scrapped it on your cartop day before yesterday.  It’s just taken this long to scab over.”

If it had not been her canvas convertible top, it would have been something else.  It seems as my birthdays have increased and the hair on my head has decreased I can’t keep my scalp intact and unmarred.  Some mornings I awake and, while brushing my “tooth”, find I have been mugged during the night if the mirror is to be believed.  “Where the hell did that come from?”

I am my father’s son and he and WKRP’s Les Nessman could have been brothers.  Dad would come in from work wearing a band-aid, bandage or dressing on something, usually on his nose or forehead.  The wounded area was usually somewhere not easily camouflaged and in a different spot from the previous one.

Working with him at Springs Mills during my high school days I remember an early morning shift after a late-night football game.  I had dragged a beaten and bruised body into work and found myself emptying quill boxes, quill being the bobbins after they had been emptied of tread.  It was a job I could do on autopilot but probably shouldn’t have.  My father would agree.

I pushed a quill buggy up and down the long allies of looms working myself into a sweaty rhythm.  Push the buggy down the ally, stop, turn to the right, pull out the heavy metal box, carefully empty it into the quill buggy, carefully slam the box back into the loom, turn to the left and repeat.  Yep, autopilot…until you hit something that shouldn’t be there.

If I had been paying attention I would have seen him sprawled in the ally in front of me, but I was on autopilot.  The buggy bounced back at me, both startling me and waking me from my walking nap.  I was soon facing an angry father with blood dripping down his face.  I had startled him as he worked under the loom causing him to sit up quickly.

There are a lot of sharp and hard angles with metal gears under a loom.  Ernest’s forehead had found one and blood was already dripping down his nose…”Oops! Knocked your noggin’” never came to my mind.  The gear teeth left an ugly mark until covered by his pre “Les Nessman” band-aid.

Now, where did I put those band-aids?  I’m going out to work on my tractor.  I’m sure I’ll need one before the day is done.

The image is of Les Nessman sporting his trademark band-aid from the late Seventies comedy series WKRP in Cinncinati.

For more musings by Don Miller https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Ghosts

I do believe in ghosts.  Why shouldn’t I?  My home and the surrounding land is full of them.

A ghost, by definition, is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.  Whether the appearance is a sound, like the creaking of my old house settling or a critter treading on the old pine floors. A fleeting glimpse of some unknown something out of the corner of my eye, just beyond my periphery, triggering a long-forgotten memory.  The way certain shadows fall in the moonlight or an old song that conjures up a ghost from the past.  It’s a ghost even if their spirit resides only in my head.

My favorite quote about ghost was made by NCIS agent Mike Franks, a favorite reoccurring character on the long-running TV program NCIS.  In a conversation with Gibbs about ghosts, Franks allows that ghosts were “But the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”  Well, there is only one memory in my living space of a naked woman and thankfully she is not a memory.

But there are other memories….

I arose early as is my infernal habit.  Standing in the dark, also an infernal habit, I looked through the broad window beyond my kitchen sink gazing into the bright moonlight dappling the flat between my home and my stream.  There was a huge full moon, rapidly setting just above the tall trees on the ridge above casting long shadows that danced in the open space below.

Just off to the side, away from the direction I was looking, I saw her in the mottled moonlight.  I saw her white and black markings…as I often do.  When I looked directly at her…she was gone.  She has been gone now for thirteen years…roaming somewhere on the hillside above us.  Ghostly in the way she continues to remind us of her, lost but not forgotten at all.  A ghost never to fear, only to remember and smile.

Sassy Marie came to us, not us to her.  She left the same way…on her terms.  Everything about Sassy Marie was to be savored on her terms.  If she wanted to be petted, she came to us.  If we wanted to pet, she ran away, leery of what our motivation might be.  If she wanted to come into the house, which was very rare until late in her life, she came in, with or without invitation.  Sassy Marie invited herself through the back gate of our hearts and stayed for sixteen years…until she decided it was time for her to leave.

She was a black and white, border collie mix, a discarded puppy or a runaway.  For several days she survived on the small lizards or road kill outside of our little piece of heaven.  If I tried to make friends…she ran away, only to return later in the day.  Linda Gail enticed her through the back gate with morsels of food and the then-unnamed Sassy Marie decided to stay.  I probably should tell that story differently.  Sassy Marie enticed Linda Gail to open the gate and give her food is a truer rendering of the story.

Sassy Marie was the most infuriating, a contrary, disobliging, lovable, caring, wonderous paradox I have ever encountered…well…next to my bride.  She had the uncanny ability, a type of sixth sense, to know when we were talking about giving her a bath.  She would find a way to disappear into our small, fenced in backyard until that bit of foolishness passed.  Put a leash on her?  Not on your life.  She would look at us as if to say, “I was born to be free of the shackles of life…and no I ain’t wearin’ no collar.”

She realized how well she had it.  No way she would ever walk out of an open gate, invited or not.  Even when we had to tear down a part of the fence during renovations she still refused to set foot outside of her kingdom…until she did.  Again, it was her idea…not ours.

We walked an old logging road and prowled over our kingdom.  Every ravine, every stream that cut it was an adventure.  After thirty plus years the adventures are still there.  Sassy Marie would wait patiently for our return, laying at the back gate, next to the torn down sections.  One day she decided to go with us…she decided and enticed Santana the stray, adopted cat to come with us too.  It was an odd caravan.  Santana yelling in cat, “Wait, wait on me,” until she got tired and laid down refusing to go one step further.  Sassy Marie would lead…until she grew tired or aggravated.  We would find ourselves alone and worry when there was no need.  We would return and find her laying at the gate…with Santana close by.

Sassy Marie had grown weary by her sixteenth year…her sixteenth year with us.  She was older, we just didn’t know how much older.  We knew she was not long for our world and so did she.  On the Christmas Day Linda Gail and I were to drive to visit family in Texas, she disappeared.  We got a late start.  We searched high and low, the ridges and the stream beds, as darkness and our feelings fell.  We knew but we hoped and called our house sitters almost hourly.  Sassy Marie had made her decision to leave us on her own terms…just as she joined us.

Flat rocks, cypress cedars, small clumps of daffodils and a birdhouse on a post mark resting places for our special, animal children.  Lovely goats, a one-legged rooster, bunny rabbits, black cats and a slew of puppy dogs rest in special places…around our grounds and in our hearts.

There is no special memorial for Sassy Marie, except in our hearts…and the marbled shadows of the moonlight or the green shaded leaves moved by the wind.  Her spirit moves along the ridges above our house, in the valleys along the stream beds and in the periphery of our vision and our hearts.

Ghost is a selection from Don Miller’s new release “Cornfields…in My Mind.”  It may be downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CBSV237