In one week, I am leaving the house on the cove in the center of the Ozarks.
We have lived in this home for over 18 years and in the Ozarks for over 30. This land is one of the great loves of my life.
But now we leave.
Moving one thousand miles to the east. To the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and a new life.
I will miss this land of steep ridges and deep fern green hollows. And I don’t know how my writing will change. This beloved land has been my muse for now much of my adult life.
I am excited for this new adventure. And it has all happened with such suddenness and energy that I have no doubt it is exactly what and where we are supposed to be.
And with that certainty, I have little grief over leaving. I know I am being given another great love of my life in our new home. A home very much like my beloved shack in Arkansas, but this time tucked into the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in a small village in western North Carolina.
My husband is going home to the state of his birth and home to his family.
We are both going home to a place we never dreamed of until a few months ago.
I will keep in touch, Dear Reader, and I will find a voice in that new place and my writing will follow its course – The Course of Our Seasons – a new and beautiful adventure.
I am from breakfasts in the watermelon shed
Dr Pepper and pear preserves
made of the knobby fruit from the side yard tree
Hot humid summer nights with pallets on the floor
populated by long legged, freckle nosed cousins
From sturdy Texas stock and dog people, mostly English setters
and crazy long tailed pointers
I am from Baylor homecomings and tearful home goings
I am from Albertine and LeeRoy
I am from tall pines, dark swamps
and paper mills with their pungent smell
Fish fries in Crossett Park and tea parties with delicate china cups
I am from church on Sunday crowded with great aunts and uncles
and quarters to place in the collection plate
From armadillos, white tailed deer and tail-less blue jays
And from trips to the graves at Promise Land
I am from the kids table at Thanksgiving
I am from John Henry and Marie
I am from prairie dog towns and bluebonnet Springs
From family dinners and station wagon road trips
Moving boxes and new school rooms
From brothers and beagles and capture the flags
I am from swimming pools and man made lakes and creosote creek
Home movies and John Wayne and Swiss Family Robinson
I am from Tammy and Old Rugged Cross and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
From special occasions and occasions made special
I am from her songs and his laughter
I am from Rose and John L.
*** I publish this poem again today in memory of my parents,
John L. Gresham 8/1/30 – 4/10/94
Rose A. Gresham 6/1/31- 4/26/16
I miss them everyday but I am proud of their legacy of love for their family and friends.
The moon makes me laugh.
Her face pink-gold with exertion
Pushing past the horizon,
Filling the constellations,
To rise in her nights journey.
As she climbs, she prays
in the voice of my mother,
“I see the moon, the moon sees me.
God bless the moon and God bless me.”
The moon makes me laugh.
Her bright face silver with light,
Gracefully easing into space,
Moving in celestial dance.
As she rises, she sings
In the voice of my father,
“Don’t the moon look lonesome,
shining through the trees.
Don’t the moon look lonesome,
when your baby packs up to leave.”
The moon makes me laugh.
From the dark bedroom
My sleepy voiced husband calls,
What are ya’ll doing? Come to bed.
We can’t, I answer.
We have moon sickness.
As the dogs and I moon-bathe,
Naked on the back porch.
*** this is a poem written a long time ago But I thought with the lovely moon this weekend, I would dust it off and share it again.
The lyrics are from
Sent For You Yesterday by William Count Basie, Eddie Durham and James Rushing. Warner Bros Music, publisher.
The clouds stand still in the early winter sky
As if a breathless wind held them close
Looking to see if you withdraw your hand
I reach for you and always find you
Red maple leaves scattered across the path
Dried bits of life once vibrant
I search your eyes to see if our love
Has dried to dust
And I always find it
Winters chill settles deep into the landscape
Sharp frost rings the rattling grass
I lean in for protection against the cold
Longing for your warm embrace
And I find it
We were walking with friends
behind their Minnesota farmhouse,
fields of cornstubble stretching to the winter gray horizon.
Suddenly from under our feet-
a heart stopping flash –
all feathers and noise and wings,
a vision of gold calling in alarm.
With our pulses pounding,
we watched the pheasant disappear.
We laughed at our fear
and marveled at the beauty and wonder
of what we had seen.
This must be what the shepherds felt
in a field a long time ago,
when they flushed
a covey of angels.
***This is a poem written many years ago but still one of my favorites. May you be surprised by joy and wonder during this Christmas season – K
The first of September has always been the opening of dove season in Texas. So all of my young life, that week before was the time Daddy got his shotguns out to clean and rummaged around to pull his hunting vests out of the closet. And many times it meant heading to my grandparents in Waco for the weekend.
Daddy, his dad, my Pampa, and maybe an uncle or cousin, and my brothers (when they were old enough) would wake and head out in the dark of the morning to the leases – property where they had permission to hunt. I imagine they would begin their day at a truck stop or small cafe for a big breakfast, stock up on vienna sausages and saltines for lunch – the beer and cokes were already in the coolers-and then head down a dusty dirt road to a likely spot to start the day.
The dogs would be let out of the cages or the trunks of the cars, given a drink and turned loose to scent the birds. And they would find them.
Dove are ground feeders, so the best leases were grain fields with stock ponds, where there would be plenty of food and water. And doves make a whistling sound as they rise up from the ground. The sound of their wings, loud and furious, as the dogs startled them from their hiding places.
And so the hunt would begin.
It would be dark thirty, as we say in our family, before the sweaty and dusty hunters would be back from their day. And I loved that smell (I know its an odd thing to love) the dust and sweat, the smell of stale beer and cigarettes, the heavy canvas bags, the dead birds, the blood. I would sit on the concrete steps and watch the tiny feathers float in the air as the men cleaned the birds.
Mom and Mamma, my grandmother, would always do the final cleaning, trying to get the very last piece of birdshot out of the meat (though most of the time somebody would bite down on a tiny piece of lead!)
Then it was time to start the cooking. The birds were pan fried with just salt and pepper and a dusting of flour. Mashed potatoes, cream gravy, biscuits and fruit salad rounded out the feast.
On a good hunting day, everyone would get their fill of dove – with the hearts a choice treat. It was a special time for our family.
I guess I am telling you this story because its that time of year and I miss my dad and that sense of belonging in that particular autumn ritual of our family.
And the dove are feeding in my yard.
Here is a poem I wrote years ago about –
My people were dog people.
Hunting dogs, mostly,
Shorthaired pointers, lemon and red,
With royal names, Duchess and Princess-
English setters, liver and white,
Each successor named Zip.
September was dove season-
Guns would be cleaned,
Trips to the leases planned.
Daddy and PamPa, with uncles and brothers in tow,
Leave in the dark morning
With dogs, guns and coolers in the trunk.
Late afternoon in the deepening dusk,
The hunters arrive home
Smelling of fields and gunpowder and beer.
Small still birds spill from canvas bags,
Tiny feathers and the scent of blood
Float in the air–
A pitying of dove.
for the word to come down
her train is leaving soon –
and held tightly
in her beautiful hands.
(parchment pale hands,
thin and strong,
that once held such powerful music.
And in all the keys,
she played our lives
so that we were formed
by the sound of her heart)
She waits for the bells to toll
and for the band to start –
she is easy in the going
for the gentle rocking of the rails.
… My mother caught her train yesterday morning and arrived in heaven as the angel band played a loving welcome. She was easy in the going and for that we are eternally grateful.
Our Lenten season continues.
Daily rituals of sacrifice and penance are observed
as we struggle with the mysteries of life.
This life filled with –
well, with those things life is filled with –
things that we love and suffer-
faces of loved ones, song, sun and moon,
food and warmth, the aching of need
We hold fast to breath
and heartbeat, far past the time our legs
and body have become undone.
I repent of all the sins I have committed
Just as each child is guilty and must be forgiven,
I also forgive her
for all those common sins that mothers commit
against their children
out of habit
We both repent
and with ashes marked on our foreheads
continue on with her morning ablutions
and daily baptism of water