About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The old oak tree

I grew up swinging from the limb on an old oak tree in our yard. I loved that tree. 
I would leap off the porch; swing out over the driveway, past the staghorn sumac, above the flowering dogwood, until my toes touched the low-hanging hickory branches beyond. I sat, for a moment. Suspended at the pinnacle of the pendulum. Reaching for the sky. The inevitable force of gravity pulled me away from the hickory canopies, the flowering dogwoods, past the staghorn sumac, back over the driveway, and as I leaned backwards as far as I could, my long blond pony tail would lick the roof of the log cabin my father built.
But like all things, the tree died. She stood for years as nothing more than a skeleton, beautiful even after death. It was hard to cut her down, like pulling the plug on my own grandmother.
Finally we felled her. But it wasn't easy. All of the branches that reached for the house had died recently and the far branches were hollow. She wanted to fall on the house.
In those final moments, the tree swung. She swung back, paused, and swung out.
She licked the roof of the log cabin my father built with her long bare branches. She balanced for a moment at the pinnacle of the pendulum. Reaching for the sky one last time. The inevitable force of gravity pulled her away from the cabin. Shadowing the driveway, crushing the staghorn sumac, splintering the flowering dogwood, and breaking those low-hanging hickory branches, she fell. 

For the past two years her massive body has been sprawled across the yard. Her wood is dense and massive. I told myself we would use her wood to build my son a bedroom. I told myself this over and over again even after I stopped believing it would ever happen. But watching her rot pained me. I hated to admit that I might have to watch her decompose in my yard for years to come.
Yesterday, the process of turning a log into a board finally began. Her body will be honored and her beautiful red wood will be used as walls in my son’s room. 

It was a bigger job than any of us imagined. First John chained the tree to his truck and drug it across the yard. Then he and my father rolled it. Trying to roll something this big took all their might. Levers and wedges were used to control the beast. They rolled it up to the ramp of the saw mill. 

Getting it on the saw mill took a while. They tried various tools. They pushed it with the truck and pulled it with a wench. In the end a system of sticks wedged into the ground to keep it from rolling back and a wench with a chain pulling it up got the log onto the mill.  

At last it was time to make the first cut. None of us knew what to expect. The battery had to be jump started and the engine warmed up. The blade drove itself through the wood. Slowly it crawled through the log, cutting a layer.

They were pleasantly surprised at the smoothness of the cut. The red grain was left undamaged and the cut came out perfectly even. 

They quickly set up the machine to make another cut.

It drove itself, but a little pushing helped the process.

          The first board was lovely, wide, symmetrical, and smooth. So useful. You can’t buy something like this, it is priceless. This is a step towards sustainability. We can cut a tree off our land and turn it into wood that can be used for building. It is a small step, but an important one

For me, it is just special to know that the oak tree I loved so dearly growing up will be part of my son's life.
 A board for my son's room from the tree a grew up swinging on. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring Peepers

            The spring peepers began their annual chorus. All night and throughout every foggy or overcast day, they chirp, trill, and croak. Our small Koa ponds (which harbor no fish) are brimming amphibians. Mating frogs float on the surface and climb up the black rubber lining the shores. Lonely males sing to humming females. They float suspended on the water's reflection with arms and legs extended, like a sky diver feeling the sky.

Friday, February 18, 2011

First Flowers of Spring

Yellow Crocus

  Winter's snows were heavy. 
The final storms of February
 left the yard barren. 
But snow melted into spring. 

The first flowers bloomed yesterday, 
even as dirty ice stuck to the shadows.
Golden petals, among dead leaves, vibrant
 like the sun against a grey sky. 

I knelt, smelling the earth. 
I sat my baby's floppy figure 
in this very spot last year. 
Here he saw his first flower.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Just days ago almost two feet of snow blanketed the Ozarks and the night's temperatures were in the negative digits. Winter encompassed us. We looked out across the white wonderland with dread. It seemed that winter might trudge on forever. The cold was creeping into our bones and the flu was going around. I was shivering and sweating in bed, unable to move. My muscles cramped, my head throbbed, my lungs ached, and my stomach twisted. Like the snow, my sickness lingered. I cursed the virus and the cold wind it rode in on.
Today the sun is shinning bright; the last remnants of snow have retreated to the untouched shadows on northern slopes. From the wet soil I can see crocus leaves poking up to make their early spring debut. Likewise, my health has returned. My nose is clear and my head is steady. Slowly my appetite is returning. 
Once I live in California, were every day was perfect. There were no seasons, no cold nor hot. And I didn't appreciate it. There was nothing to compare the days to, no contrast. So the perfect days were wasted.  
Therefore, today is extra special to me. It shines brightest in contrast to the recent bad weather and my poor health. Without such contrast, I'd have less appreciation for the simple things. So in retrospect, I thank those terrible winter storms and that awful virus.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011


         This is the season for sickness. The 60 degree days betray us when they are followed by negative temperatures. Our bodies go into shock. The virus spreads from person to person. In isolation, the spread does not have this affect. But since us country folk are not use to being sick, we have less immunities and get sick easier when exposed. Here, in the city, we are canaries in the coal mine.
        For the past 48 hours I have felt the claws of a virus, crawling down my throat, ripping away at my lungs, and tickling my muscles. I am hot and cold all at once, shivering and sweating under blankets. My son feels the same. He curls up with me and groans softly. We can't eat so we try to keep liquids flowing in. We don't want to move, so we sleep. Dreaming that such illness will pass and we will soon be whole again.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Two Feet

          My toddler wants nothing to do with the cold white stuff outside. He looks at me with betrayal, closing his eyes and burring his face when the wind blows. But my dog loves the winter terrain; she was made for it.  I take them out together, hoping they will learn from eachother.
          My dog swims in two feet of dry snow.  A scent drives her down. With her snout deep underneath, she searches for a trail. Only her wagging tail is seen, until she resurfaces with light flakes lacing her furry face. Pure joy glitters in her eyes.
           My son watches her digging and searching. As if she is a big sister, he follows her lead. He toddles to a snowbank that could envelope him. With a sock covered hand, he scoops up some snow. He observes it carefully before shaking it off and diving in again. Bewilderment turns into curiosity which becomes joy. But only for a moment before cold moisture seeping through the cotton on his hands makes him cry again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

           As the snow fell, robins decended, searching for berries. Among cedar foliage, holly leaves, and the tangles of miseltoe, the red breasted birds hop. They are often too quick to catch with my camara, so busy trying to collect food before another night's cold snap.  

This year ice frosted the berries but did not incapsulate them. When winter fruits are cocooned in ice, the birds go hungry. But as the sleet transformed into snow, the birds sung out in relief.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


     The wind is howling like a starving dog at the harvest moon, desperate and ghostly. Snow is spinning against the grey horizon. Ice clings to naked twigs and forms narrow droplets frozen in time. The wind chill is in the negative teens and the hidden sun provides no warmth.
     Yet, our southern hardiness pushes us outside, to brave the bitter cold so that we can experience the wonders of a white world, an rare event at our latitude. Even with blizzard conditions, the hill at the park is filled with anxious sleds, red smiling faces, and laughter. All types of 4 by 4s journey to the streets; vehicles that are too big to be daily drivers, venture out for the opportunity to show off their over sized tires and loud engines. Young people bring out not only their sleds, but also their skis and snowboards. If they have no such winter accessories, they slide on trash can lids and plastic storage boxes. Last year I saw  a flat bottom boat to the sledding hill but found it was too heavy to slide. This year I saw a kayak tied with a rope to the back of a new Camry; but when the car started sliding backwards on a hill, daring to run over the person ride behind, the cops shut down their fun.
     Despite all the people exploring the frozen world, stores, shops, and schools close. Shopping centers, parking lots, and sprawling industrial areas are as quiet as ghost towns. At night no traffic touches the treacherous roads. Sometimes, when there are power outages, the darkness reveals the stars. Without televisions to distract or jobs to hurry off to, people read books to their children, tell stories near the fire, and visit friends who do not have electric heat. Cold weather can open hearts. The "bad" weather brings out the best of the city.