Have a Seat

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In one of my earliest memories, I am rocking my dolly in the corner of our kitchen. Mama is hurrying around preparing dinner, and I hear her Mixmaster (today’s version would be called a Kitchenaid) whirring the lumps out of mashed potatoes. My chair had a permanent spot in that kitchen, and by the time supper was ready, my daddy had come home from work, scooped me up into his arms, and set me in my booster chair at the table.

What is it with chairs, anyway? I remember an overstuffed armchair with upholstery that resembled big fronds of fern, and a large wooden rocking chair my kindergarten teacher brought to class to sit in when she read stories to us.  My visits to my town’s public library, where my best friend’s mom was the head librarian, often involved a quick spin in her revolving chair.

Then there were the matching recliners my parents ordered for themselves when they built a home and moved from the country into town. Side-by-side chairs where they cuddled fussy grandbabies, read the day’s news, and watched The Carol Burnett Show, 6 o’clock news, documentaries, and sports–always sports. When the recliners wore out, they tossed a blanket over them until the time came when they decided enough was enough. In came a replacement pair.

My favorite chair is now a creaky rocking chair that once belonged to my great-great grandmother.  It earned those creaks through years of rocking babies–first my great-grandmother, then my grandmother, my mother, and my children during visits to their house. When Mama reached her 80s, she surprised me by passing the rocker on to me. I rocked all four of my grandbabies in that creaky old chair. When my mother-in-law suggested that I could find an upholster who would “restore” it, I explained that I actually like it the way it is. Why would I want to replace the faded upholstery or remove those marks on the arms where tired mamas rocked their little ones? I love the marks–they’re like a wordless journal to me.

The chair in this image was one I spotted at a public garden recently. Adirondacks sat all around the ten acres, painted such pretty colors. I watched one person after another sink into those wooden chairs for a brief rest before continuing on their tour of the beautiful flowers.

Do you have a favorite chair? I’d love to hear about it!

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The Beauty of Naivety

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Scallop Shells

When I was a little girl, my grandpa visited one summer. He was a carpenter by trade, restoring older homes and building new ones.  Like most contracting work, his job was seasonal, so every now and then he’d travel to our state for a visit.

One summer he visited for a few days before he took a long road trip. Shortly after hauling his suitcase into his room, he came out to where I was sitting on the couch.

“Here. I brought you something,” he said, plopping down beside me.

He handed me a big, bulky lump wrapped in newspaper. I peeled away the paper and found the most beautiful sea shell I’d ever seen. Its insides glistened with a pearly lining–blue and pink areas that sparkled in the light when I moved it back and forth.

“Put it up to your ear,” Grandpa said with a grin. His blue eyes crinkled at the corners. He reminded me of someone who had a secret to share.

I heard a muffled sound that grew louder when I shifted the shell against the side of my head.

“What do you hear?” he asked.

“It sounds like a roar,” I told him.

“Exactly!” he said. “That’s the ocean you hear. Listen and you’ll hear the waves crashing to shore.”

Naivety is a beautiful thing when you’re a wide-eyed third-grader. I must’ve sat there twenty minutes with my ear glued to that shell. I closed my eyes to picture the scene, and could see the ocean just as surely as if I were wetting my toes in the surf.

Today I photographed shells. Funny how memories like that roll back when we least expect it.

It’s a Small World

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Every year, I look forward to getting up at dawn and joining hundreds of others on a dew-dampened field. There we watch crews prepare to launch colorful hot air balloons.

This year I sat next to a lady in her eighties, who was comparing the event to her childhood.

“Never saw this type of thing when I was a girl. Riding the train to my grandmother’s…now that was a big deal.”

She got me thinking about how the world has shrunk since I was a child. I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere without seeing someone texting or talking on a cell phone. The world is connected 24/7 and it takes seconds to send an email or text between home and Wherever.  It’s an exciting age we live in.

But sometimes I wish, just for an hour or two, that we could travel back to a slower pace, when people talked more and texted less. Wrote real paper letters with postage stamps, and waited eagerly for a reply.Apps were unheard of, and the thought of calling someone moments before taking off on a plane was out of the realm of possibility. People watched tv on tv and kids played in the dirt instead of on iPads.

Technology has shrunk our world. I use it every day for my art. Before art, I worked on my Mac, cranking out book manuscripts for my publishers. I’m not against technology. In fact, I like the idea of posting an image on Facebook that relatives in Germany or friends in Virginia can enjoy. I like knowing that friends are just a click away if I have a problem to discuss or a note of encouragement to send. It’s been a blessing to watch people come together in prayer for a young mom who was comatose for ten days, or for a little boy born with serious health issues. A real community is thriving online, and there’s something for everyone.

This great big world doesn’t feel so big anymore. Yet, we’re still wired for hugs. Handshakes. Up-close-and-personal eye-to-eye conversations.

When’s the last time you unplugged for an entire day?  I personally can’t remember, which makes me think it might not be such a bad idea every now and then.