Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I Still Know What To Do, Grandpa

Some weeks ago on the way to work, I crested the first hill going north on Vera Road and found an entire herd of cattle making a break for it through a gate that had been left wide open. One little group was already far down the hill, and one slightly larger group was in the road and moving north. The entire rest of the herd was gathered at the gate ready to make their break.

It was easy enough to herd the cows still in the pasture away from the gate. They slowly ambled away toward the north. The group directly outside the gate was a bit of a problem. As I slowly inched my car between them they moved north, too. Eventually I had parted their little group. I got out of the car then and quietly "shooed" at them. They turned and made their way back into the gate. That left the brave rogues who were already far down the road, enjoying the greener grass.

I was sure one of the Orc's big mining trucks would be coming from the north soon enough, and that would cause the cattle to move back toward me. If I just backed the car up south of the gate, any oncoming car or truck would hopefully pressure the cattle toward me and I could direct them back into the gate. But no traffic was visible. I finally eased the car past the wayward cows. By getting out, I was able to move them back toward the gate. Luckily,they entered the gate instead of continuing on past it. Though I was careful to not scare them or cause them to run, once the stragglers entered the gate, they decided they were in a hurry to join the rest of the herd over the hill to the west, so they loped over the hill. Out of sight. Not a single cow was visible.

I struggled with the barbed wire gate. I was not strong enough to close the gate all the way and could only get one end or the other into the wire loops that hold those wire gates taunt. I at least had the gate across the opening though it would fall down at the first pressure from the cattle. At least none of them were on the road now.

As I was walking back to my car I had left a distance to the north, a truck came hauling toward me. Turns out it was someone coming to make sure that gate was closed. I explained I had moved the cattle back into the pasture but was unable to close the gate. I explained there were about 25 cattle out. When I looked up toward the gate, there was not a single cow in sight. Not one.

I just hope that the guy did not think I was telling a lie, as in "Yeah, that broken-down old woman claimed to have herded 25 cattle back but there were none in sight!" Or that he thought I was exaggerating, like maybe only one or two were out. I was raised around beef cattle and helped herd the gentle beasts many times. As long as you do nothing to scare them, it only takes a little pressure to move them. They can be contrary, and sometimes a cow with a calf will match wills with you, but most often, just as that morning, they all graciously agreed to move back into their pasture at an old woman's bidding. Honest.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


There will most certainly be a last time I post to my Spiritcreek blog - either I will have dropped my earthly robe or I simply will not be interested/able to continue posting. The posts get fewer each year even though I still have plenty to say - I am an opinionated liberal redneck from Kansas, after all. My most loyal and faithful reader, Kit, is gone and sometimes it feels as if I am writing into the void. I can hear him in my mind's ear right now, giving me a hard time. (He was always so bossy!) But today is Thanksgiving, and this morning, through the programmed magic of Facebook, a photo of the foundation of my house appeared as a Memory from four years ago. Here I am today, sitting at my computer looking out the windows opening to the bend of the little creek, just as I had always imagined I would someday do. I paused for a moment to appreciate what is good and right in my world. First, however, there must be bitching and moaning!

On the first day of November I suffered a wound to my leg when a weed stalk ripped a hole in my skin. It certainly hurt but it wasn't until I got back to the house that I realized it required stitches. Aside from childbirth and a bar fight that required 17 stitches in my ear, I have never needed stitches. My stomach was full of butterflies anticipating the medical torture.

The doctor called it a "gruesome wound" - a bit dramatic but it was ugly. Getting stitches was not pleasant, especially since the doctor complained the entire time about people coming in late in the day. She was quick to add an accident like mine was different. I think she must have been under a lot of stress. I missed the good Dr. Keirnan O'Callaghan, the general practitioner I went to my entire adult life. He would never have complained to a patient. I am certain his stitches would have looked a hell of a lot more careful and precise than the Frankenstein attempt of the stressed Med Assist physician. (Good thing I am not overly vain.)

The worst part has been the actual healing. It has been messy and inconvenient and eventually required two days off work. I do not know how people with serious wounds - a gunshot, for instance - ever heal! I have spent $45 in bandage supplies alone. One little weed stalk hidden in the grass at the barn caused all of this. A few days ago, none the wiser, I suffered a puncture wound just inches from the big wound. It did not require stitches but I am still bandaging my leg and waiting for both wounds to fully heal! My body must certainly have passed some aging threshold because I have cut, sliced, scraped, abraded and scratched myself countless times but never sustained damage like this - not even when I wrecked the family Harley in Salina! 

The entire experience made me reflect on the ordeal of people who face major physical healing - combat soldiers for instance. What must they endure? I am grateful mine were minor wounds. I am grateful for truly professional, dedicated doctors like Dr. O'Callaghan. He was a class act I took for granted because I did not know any better. Now I do.

I am grateful for a million and one things - but the point is sometimes you have to bleed into your shoe before you realize how grateful you are for the things you have taken for granted.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

More Misty Morning

The portal to hell shrouded in the mist...

Here comes the sun...

The prairie continues to be lush and green

Still so much water, welcome after the long drought

The supreme beings...

Wally's graceful neck

Song sparrow

One of many big ol' fat spiders, their webs bejeweled with tiny beads of mist.  All of them were surely dead by that afternoon when the county mowed the ditches 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Mists of Vera Road

A beautiful foggy fall morning lured me out with my camera, though I took all of the photos with a wrong setting on the camera. It would not have made much difference since I still do not know what the hell I am doing with that camera!

Thanks to the County failing to mow this summer, the sunflowers were allowed to grow to maturity on both sides of the road. These last few weeks the ditches have been alive with doves and sparrows and insects and a lush profusion of all manner of plants that I observed through their entire season's life cycle. I found it particularly beautiful to see the rich colors and textures, and to notice the myriad lifeforms harbored in the deep vegetation.

While taking the pictures this morning in the wonderful fog, I was grateful the County had neither sprayed nor mowed. The sunflowers would be available to the birds all winter. I took almost one hundred pictures within a mile of my house - photos taken in the nick of time. Later in the day I heard machinery but thought it was the limestone miners (the Orcs) across the road. When I left for town late in the afternoon I discovered the County had finally made it through with the mowers. I felt just a little sick when I saw the destruction.

Mordor, at the end of my driveway
North on Vera Road
There's always that last one...
Not a very well constructed web
A perfectly constructed web
Beautiful small plants that glowed red in the misty light
A large spider was in the center of each web
This web was in better shape than the others
I marveled over the sheer beauty of this grass, though I believe it is an undesirable
And hidden in the fog and foilage....

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Mystery of Fate

Earlier this summer, while waiting for the light to change, I noticed twigs with green leaves stuck in the holes in a sign post. I casually wondered what the circumstances might have been that caused someone to do that. Passing the corner several times a week, I soon realized it was not a random, meaningless human act but a living tree growing within the sign post.

I drive past this corner several times a week and I continue to consider the fate of this tree. The definition of fate is: the development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power. Was it a supernatural power that allowed the seed to take root where the tiny shoot could escape the mower and the weed whacker by improbably growing inside the relative safety of the sign post? Most would argue it was mere chance, but chance is a synonym of fate.

Every time I drive by, a verse from a Paul Simon song comes to mind:
"It was a dry wind
And it swept across the desert
And it curled into the circle of birth
And the dead sand
Falling on the children
The mothers and the fathers
And the automatic earth"*

The "automatic earth" might refer to the processes of life established and programmed within the DNA of all living things, the impetus for the dogged determination of survival. Despite less than optimum circumstance, a seed, following it's automatic programming, germinates and grows in an attempt to fulfill its destiny. The destiny of the seed is to sprout given the merest chance. If this tree is left to its fate it may slowly and surely engulf the post within its trunk, or it may reach an unnatural limit within the confines of the post when it cannot sustain itself and perish. It may be killed by a human being in defense of city property. Any number of other fates could befall the tree but its seed could not choose not to sprout.

Corporeal human beings, inhabitants of the automatic earth, are powered by this same programming, though we believe we alone, of all living things, have free will - that our lives are guided by a higher purpose, or a higher intelligence, or have a different fate than trees... or insects... or animals... or bacteria. We can at least choose not to live but we honestly have no idea to what extent all living things may possess free will. Some world views acknowledge physical existence itself is not possible without some level of consciousness - that all physical matter contains consciousness. Perhaps by dint of consciousness any physical matter also falls into a spectrum of possible action that can be considered some form of free will.

It is tricky to think my way through such ideas. Far better minds have wrestled these concepts and it is all written somewhere. For all I know, my life as I have lived it is a human version of living despite unnatural confines, just like this tree. Or perhaps a chance of physical life is so precious to tree and human alike that growing within a prison is desirable. Rather than read what another person has decided, it is better to reach my own conclusions on such matters. In the end, I am not sure it matters either way.

*from "The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon, copyright 1986

Attempting to assume its ultimate form despite the limitations

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hello, Helianthus Annuus and Helianthus Maximiliani!

The Kansas State Flower, the common sunflower, spectacularly adorns the country roads now - at least those that have escaped county mowing. What a sin it is to waste such a beautiful and generous gift of nature! They feed and protect the prairie soil, provide food and shelter and mating sites for innumerable insects and cover for birds, and fill my heart every season with their beauty, blessing my beloved Kansas landscape.

Helios, the Greek mythology personification of the Sun, born of Hyperion, the god of wisdom and light, and Theia, the goddess of sight and heavenly light. Helios drove the golden chariot across the sky into Oceanus, returning to the east each morning. Thousands of years after the mighty Grecian culture waned, Europeans found the common sunflower in the New World, giving it the Latin name helianthus annuus. 

A cloudy day does not do justice to the banks of bona fide yellow

Almost every blossom has mating beetles, in addition to bees, bumble bees, and other insects visiting

Sunflowers come into bloom and stay that way for weeks.  I waited almost too long to take pictures

Still yellow at night!

I think these are Maximilian Sunflowers, also in great abundance right now and also bona fide yellow

And they remain bona fide, even at night!
Beautiful  from any angle

I cannot help myself - I post something about sunflowers every year!  Here is the first one:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Possession is 9/10ths of the Law

For almost two full weeks, this little tree frog and I have been battling over possession of my mailbox. I have left the mailbox open several times but he always returns. Once, when I was trying to remove the mail carefully so as not to disturb him, he jumped out of the mailbox. I was not sure where he landed so I carefully and very slowly backed up the car, causing him to jump into the grass where I knew he was safe. The next day, he was back.

It was incredibly hot the first time I opened the mailbox and received a minor shot of adrenaline from the unexpected pair of eyes calmly looking at me. I left the mailbox open. I even went up there about 4 am in the rain to see if he had left. The box was empty then, but he returned. He has returned almost every day, no matter what, so as far as I am concerned, he's welcome to poop on my mail. Almost all of it is junk mail anyway.

The strip mining has progressed to directly across the road. I am sorry that the prairie is being ruined like this but honestly, this area is no longer real prairie. If the owners are not strip mining it for limestone, they are spraying it to kill everything but grass. The time of the true tall grass prairie is gone forever. All that remains is a tiny, tiny percentage that white people are just now beginning to value because it is vanishing and rare. Too late.