Last weekend, a book launch. This weekend, a boat launch.
Or at least thoughts of one. I’m ready to carve out a river between rocky cliffs!
And here’s the boat I’ll be doing it in! A Heritage Featherlite 9.5. Leah gets to sit in it first.
I love the water, I love the idea of floating down a quiet river, I love doing outdoorsy things. After a recent canoe trip and a deep-seated need for the last year to do something wild and crazy and different, I decided to buy a kayak. My very own kayak. I’ve shopped and compared and looked around, and then my son found one on sale in Hickory, North Carolina, and drove over and picked it up yesterday.
Both sons are chipping in and giving it to me for my birthday, along with me chipping in and giving it to myself.
For right now, my boat is in Asheville and I am up a creek without a paddle. Meaning I don’t have one! Paddle, that is. I’ll be going accessory shopping soon. For now, I’ll be happy just LOOKING at my pretty yellow boat!
On an August Saturday between two and four, more than two hundred guests showed up at Otey Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, to celebrate the release of a new Williamson County anthology.
“In celebration of our tenth birthday, CWW presents Gathering: Writers of Williamson County as our literary legacy, offering a showcase for the creative works of our members and Hall of Fame honorees — a blend of emerging and established authors. This volume is a gathering of writers, all 31 of them distilled into this one Place in time — those who are homefolks and those who came here with experiences of elsewhere, those who are published and those previously unpublished. ‘Above the slumbers’ of this once-tranquil, now teeming town, their voices rise and mount the hills and ‘ride astride the swells of dwindling pastureland.’ ”
“This volume is a gathering of words and lines that form fiction and creative nonfiction — 42 titles rich in qualities readers treasure in Southern literature: a sense of place and character; a love of the land; an appreciation of language, humor, and tradition.”
This book reflects the richness and depth of talent in Williamson County. It is my hope and desire for Gathering to become an ambassador for this Place we love and live in, and that the book will travel well outside the borders of our county and show and tell who we are.
“May Williamson County be proud to proclaim of our gathering: ‘These too are yet mine.’ ”
I will long remember how Otey Hall buzzed with excitement on a hot Saturday afternoon, as folks flowed in and through and lingered at author tables for signatures. I will remember the energy generated, the smiles and laughter, the support of loved ones and townsfolk, and the shiny cover of a new book that will long be with us!
Gathering. Buy it, give it, treasure it. It is mine, it is yours, it is ours.
August 6. What a day. It has once again stretched the coping ability, now like old, worn elastic. Please, God, no more like this one.
He’s gone… I’d pushed OK, and this text message lit up the screen of my cell phone. I thought I should check it when there was no blinking light on the land line. I knew this was coming. In fact, I had gone outside and walked around Wimbledon Circle once, twice, then I rode my bike, and then ran. I knew it was happening. I just didn’t want to face it. After I got the text, I walked again around the circle and let the acid and anxiety bubble up to my throat and the tears wet my face and drip to the concrete under me.
Bailey was my “granddog.” His appointment with destiny was scheduled for Saturday, but he couldn’t make it. He was diagnosed with Cushing’s years ago, took the chemo treatment at $80 a month, along with Mannatech immune-strengthening products, and lived longer than most dogs with the disease. Then diabetes set in, then kidney failure. Bailey was suffering and ready to go.
She’s in! I could tell my sister was driving. I could hear the road noises as she headed north up 61. I sat at my desk at work and clutched my cell phone tighter. I just left her. And she’s not happy. She was getting her purse, ready to walk out with me. Her voice was strong, a little shaky, but determined. It was a hard thing to do, but she drove down from Memphis and did it.
Our mother was admitted to the Senior Care unit of North Sunflower County Hospital. It has been coming a long time, but particularly in the last month, things have gone drastically awry. Her pain, persistent over the last six months, has intensified; no doctors, no tests have shown anything wrong. Her confusion has increased, she has lost her words, her short-term memory has failed.
She’s the matriarch, she demands to stay in her own house, she has threatened to sue us if we challenge that. She’s a fighter, a wildcat, and everyone understands who and what she is, and we’re all slow to cross her. She has refused help, until now. She knows she’s not what she was.
Before Bailey, my son had a wolf, a pure-bred wolf. He kept it in my parents’ backyard while he attended college in the same town…and neglected to tell them it was a wolf. Then he married, the wolf got a home in the country, and the young couple traveled to Okolona, Mississippi, and got this tiny white puffball Maltese. Bailey had to be tough, following a wolf. My son would put one end of a rag bone in Bailey’s mouth and with the other end, swirl the puppy around the hardwood floor like a dust mop.
I took my brand new cocker spaniel to visit Bailey. She was standing in one corner of the living room, and he was sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the room. All of a sudden, with no prompting, he jumped straight up in the air and far across the room, landing ten inches from her, and shouldered roughly into her side with a growl that could bring down an army. She cried. She stewed on it for months, and at the next visit, she watched and waited for an opportunity and took it, barking, growling, snarling, pushing him backward across the kitchen floor, and though he was one-third her size, he stood his ground to make it clear he was the alpha dog.
Dad was alive and healthy back then and rode a bicycle every day — an old one with a big fat seat and a basket on the front handlebars. He was determined to put Bailey in that basket and take him for a ride. “No, Dad, it’s not a good idea,” I said. “He’ll be fine, he’ll just sit there and look around,” Dad said. No sooner than they got to the next block, a Great Dane ran out in the street viciously barking at them. Bailey, all of four pounds, bravely leapt from the basket and chased the monster dog down Deering. Dad dropped the bike and ran after Bailey. “Come back here!”
“You come down here and get me or I will hate you forever.” My heart flips over and rolls around, feels like a dog lying on dry grass, scratching its back and kicking its legs.
I never thought Mama would need any help. Last summer she was mowing her own yard and doing all the weed-eating and at 87, was still driving and going to church by herself.
As a girl, Mama lived by and swam in the Ohio River. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps during WWII; she was making her way to the parade grounds on the army base the day President Roosevelt came to inspect the women, and she stood curbside all alone — three feet from the leader of the free world — and saluted him, and shortly thereafter, he made the WAACs the WACs, an official part of the Army. Mama went to college on the GI Bill, got a BS double major in social studies and graduated with the highest average in her class. She also got a BS in elementary education, an MS in special education, and an MS in Supervision/Administration. She taught school for 33 years. She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi.
She’s always been a strong, independent woman because she comes from a famous pioneer family. Her third great grandfather was a first cousin of Daniel Boone.
“I don’t belong here,” she says. “Tomorrow, you come get me.”
The vet arrived at the house and did the deed as the dog lay on the couch in the living room. A half hour later someone from the crematory came. The ashes would be returned in a cedar box the following day, along with a paw print and a lock of hair.
How can life take one so vibrant and strong and reduce it to something unrecognizable? True, a newborn baby goes through change after change on the path to adulthood. But then why at a certain point do things start going backward? Why is life so complicated that its processes of movement and growth and flow just stop altogether?
It’s time. This weekend I must clean out the drain in the master bathroom. I’ve been putting this off. I can’t any longer. I’ve never had to do this “dirty job” but now I am alone and it falls to me. It is surely clogged with my hair, the dog’s hair, soap residue, debris from plants at its corners, and lint that floats in the air. The tub doesn’t drain, the water just sits there, no gurgling sounds are apparent, like when something bad happens and the breath is knocked out of you and you can’t get air because it cannot come in or go out so you struggle with it and gasp and suck in what you can while you can.
Mint is growing out of its bounds and into the fescue. I mow some of it as I follow the defined line of grass, and the scent of fresh, wet spearmint lifts and spreads. The pepper plants are small, but the peppers are long. The tomato plants are spindly, yielding nothing of worth.
The red trumpet honeysuckle vine is thinned out, and there are no trumpets. Ferns that once were on the forest floor of my family land now grow under my stand of old trees and sway in a warm August breeze. The trees are dropping yellow leaves that mix with mulch and keep the flowerbeds from looking neat. Birches have a neverending supply of twigs that they give up willingly. I’ve already said it — I’ll never plant another birch tree. I’m tired of tripping over their droppings and picking them up for disposal in brown paper bags they don’t fit well in.
The rose bush has no leaves. Nothing but thin green arms sticking out like those of aliens. I think the squirrels have eaten the leaves. They do this in August. First they eat the Christmas cactus my mother-in-law gave me years ago to care for. I curse them and bring the plant in sooner than I want. I can’t stop their careless destruction.
The abelia is wild and flowery, forsythias are crazily growing, and a blue wildflower is running rampant through the flowerbed. Nandinas and monkey grass are lush.
The fountain in the pond bubbles anxiously and sends out waves that move as fast as time.
And weeds grow where grass fades.