“Incoming.” I sat on the couch cradling my thirteen-week-old puppy.
BOOM, crackle, fizzle.
Neil and I were going out to New Year’s Eve dinner in Brentwood, and I’d be leaving puppy Heidi for a while.
I had just taken her out to potty, when I heard a thunk, and a mortar went off, spearing high into the sky over Wades Grove, with beautiful colors sparkling and cascading down, all accompanied by a boom loud enough to rock the earth I stood on.
Too big for a neighborhood, I thought. Houses too close to each other for this.
The puppy writhed and wiggled and screamed. I put her down, and she ran to a corner between the fireplace and back wall and tried to burrow herself into the ground.
“She was digging a foxhole,” Neil said. He’s a Vietnam veteran who spent a lot of time in foxholes yelling, “Incoming!” I edited his book last summer about the war and remembered some of the lines:
“Then I heard the whump. Then another and another. Mortars firing. Incoming. Be on our heads in seconds. I yelled . . . ‘Incoming! Getcher ass in the hole!’ Others in my platoon were now yelling . . . A mortar round exploded behind me . . . More mortar rounds exploding, more whumps of incoming. Big explosions . . . Tracer bullets spearing red lines through the blackness both directions from M16s and AK-47s. Flashes of explosions.”
It was like we were at war in Wades Grove.
The puppy refused to go outside the rest of the evening. I tried to take her a few times, and when I neared the back door, she screamed and writhed in my arms. She kept looking up at the ceiling, like something was going to fall and harm her. Neil, a teddy bear of an old veteran, watched and understood how she felt. We were both saddened because a tiny, happy, well-adjusted puppy will carry some PTSD with her for hopefully not too long.
I’ve heard others talk about how their dogs were deathly afraid of fireworks, but I’ve never seen anything like what I experienced the last day of 2015. My previous cocker spaniel was sixteen and deaf for three years, so she slept right through every fiery-celebrated holiday.
Fireworks are legal in my town. It doesn’t matter that some of the houses in neighborhoods are ten or fifteen feet apart. Your neighbor is allowed to shoot mortars and rockets that land in your yard or on your roof. Some of the warnings on those rockets even talk about re-ignition.
I love fireworks. I go to planned celebrations, and I’m there on the sidelines if and when neighbors are shooting off fireworks safely. But I’ve been a little nervous since in my previous neighborhood, where fireworks were not legal, several years ago someone a distance away shot off a big, fat rocket that stuck five inches deep in my front yard only five feet away from my porch and roof. I tried to pull the stick up and could not. “I’m calling the police,” I told my husband. “If this had landed a few feet shorter, we’d have the hose out trying to extinguish a fire right now, and we’d have roof damage that somebody would have to pay for. This is too much.” He agreed, and he never agreed to anything that was over the top. The policeman struggled a bit to pull the rocket stick up, then drove in the direction of the shooters. Not sure who they were or if he ever found them.
This morning, I found a Fire Dragon 8-oz. rocket in my driveway. Nobody on my street was shooting fireworks. It came from afar.
No wonder my puppy was afraid. It was in her yard! On her property!
There are some fireworks appropriate for neighborhoods and some that are not. The problem is that sometimes people don’t know the difference. Laws happen because people aren’t smart enough to determine which is which or responsible enough to make good decisions.
And they put their neighbors at risk.
I wonder who is going to clean all this up and return the sidewalk to normal.
I hope one day soon our mayor and aldermen will get up with the times. It’s no longer the day of firecrackers and those little fizzly, sprinkly sticks of fire sparks. It’s war, with mortars and rockets and big stuff.
I’m for pretty, but I’m also for safety.
It’s Easter Sunday, and I hike once again to that old cemetery—the one that’s in my neighborhood. I want to see if the lilies-of-the valley are blooming yet. They weren’t last Sunday.
In Wades Grove where Lequire Lane abruptly ends just past its intersection with Dubose Court, there’s a field full of dandelions and clover off to the right. Across the slope is a wide path that goes up a hill between saplings and tall trees just barely getting their leaves. I trudge up the steep incline, going higher than the houses on Dubose. A blue heron flies over.
She’s a solitary bird, looking for peace within. The great blue heron brings the message that I should listen to the inner callings of my heart, follow my own unique path in life, and co-create my own circumstances. And then rise and soar when I choose.
At the top of the hill is the cemetery surrounded by an old rock wall. A black iron gate is the way in. The Wades and Duboses who used to walk this land now reside here under it, yet above all of us who have houses down in the real world in a subdivision named for their family.
The ground is covered with periwinkle, little blue flowers everywhere. Snowdrops are just beginning to bloom in tiny, white, bell-like flowers. Daffodils stretch in a long line, tossing their yellow heads in the wind. I wonder if someone from an olden age planted them here. It used to be this way long ago when all old homeplaces had daffodils around their yards, and little children laughed and played inside them and trees towered over them, and when the folks died off and their house rotted into oblivion, the daffodils remained, returning every year and lining up in a square to announce the season of rebirth and new life.
Now old trees rise up inside that gray stone fence—trees that speak of long life. Three giant walnuts, maybe a century old. An ancient spruce and two dogwoods in bloom. In one corner, a magnolia stands the tallest with its thick gnarled limbs stretching out over the people here. Someone cut down another magnolia in front of the old one, and five new trunks have grown up from it. No leaves, but the tree has long slender velvet tips at the ends of each branch ready to bloom out in fragrant satin flower.
The gravestones are all lined up, like school children getting into formation to go outside for recess. Patty Ann, Elizabeth, George, Harriet, Henry, Mary Lou, Lucy, Carolyn—Wade people, adults and children, who lived and died in the 1800s and early 1900s, a century ago. The last time someone was buried here was in 1936.
I walk by Lucy Wade and her husband William Dubose. Lucy died at thirty three, leaving an eleven-year-old daughter, Carolyn. Carolyn, born in Spring Hill in 1883 and died in Atlanta in 1912, was “A Perfect Woman,” according to her tombstone. She was only twenty-nine and didn’t have a chance to become colored by life. Henry Pointer Wade, 1828-1907, was “A Good Man.” That’s what my Charlie wanted people to remember about him.
I sit on the bottom concrete ledge of Burke Bond’s tall spire. Burke died in 1889, and according to his inscription, he knew that his Redeemer liveth.
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” Job 19:25-26 NIV
The sun filters in through new spring leaves. I watch the shadows fall—the old walnut and spruce lay across the aging, blackening tombstones inscribed with names and spans of years people walked and worked and played here.
I walk over to the eastern wall of rock and look out over all the newly built houses in Wades Grove. Earth in the distance has been cleared of old trees—cherry, cedar, crab apple, sweet gum, sycamore—for even more homes. And farther out beyond the neighborhood’s reaches is the school our children are zoned for.
Children here inside the stone fence, children over there in the brick building. People up here under obelisks, people down there on grazing land mowing grass. Land that moves forward.
I think of my own family land down in Mississippi. Five generations have owned that red-clay dirt. I’m up now, and when my time comes, I will pass it on to my children. I imagine the Wade children played on this land like I played on ours during summer visits to the grandparents when I was a little girl. I wonder if the Wade children went with their grandpa late afternoons to bring the cows in. I imagine the children played in Aenon Creek—maybe they even dammed it up and built a pond like my cousins and I did on our stream. I wonder if the Wade children ever tried to dig up a grave with a tin can here, like my cousins and I did in the family cemetery on our land. I wonder if their grandma took them to the cemetery and showed them the stones and told them the old, old stories of the ones passed.
There is peace here in the sleep of the old. And quiet, except for a lawn mower on the court below. The lilies aren’t blooming. Yet.
Sometimes this is my church. I come here Sunday mornings, sit, meditate, think, write, silently sing a song. “When I walked through the door I sensed God’s presence . . . And I know that there are angels all around . . . I am standing in His presence on Holy Ground.”
From up here high on the hill, I can see how it was, how it is, and how it will be.
There’s something about standing here on holy ground between heaven and earth and seeing who used to be here and who is here now, and there’s a sense of comfort that life’s long lines go on.
This morning when it was still dark I poured a cup of coffee in my shiny brown mug from The Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge, Montana, and took it out on the deck. I sat in one of the Adirondacks and watched the sky lighten. I saw a strip of red through the thinning September trees at the end of my street, and I felt an autumn chill on my arms. There is no greater peace than watching a morning begin.
Light and puffy clouds in gray and red filled the eastern sky and kept getting lighter and brighter. I was afraid that if I took a drink of coffee, I’d miss something. I didn’t even want to blink. I wanted to take it all in.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
I’ve been so busy working and writing a book at the same time that I missed a lot of sunrises. I pushed myself from the time my feet hit the floor at five in the morning, or earlier, till night when I couldn’t stay awake any more. That leaves a person with a little anxiety and a lot of not seeing the world around her.
Now I want a little time to sit and watch and to know my world. I want some time to be still and let my heart rest.
I swear I’m going to stick to my previous schedule of early a.m. writing — sitting at my computer beside an upstairs double window, where I have a tunneled, limited view. Where it’s safe. And I don’t know what’s going on around me. No more six o’clock walks! It’s dangerous out there!
The Crossing is under construction. I was the fourth one to live on my street. Three other neighbors moved in weeks after I did. Now, there are three more houses, one sold but not occupied yet, two not sold. There are houses going up all over the neighborhood, and there are some empty lots — with tall weeds, Johnson grass that loves this drought and shoots up higher and higher after a rain — and things lurk in those high weeds! (We all have to keep our yards looking nice — not sure why the builder doesn’t mow the five-foot weeds!)
Walking this morning, I saw turkeys. Just across and down the street. I’ve seen them feeding across the intersecting street at the end of mine, in the cleared fields that butt up to a creek and woods. Dozens of them. But this morning they were in the middle of the subdivision. They walk through empty lots with high weeds, cross streets, and go into yards. Nicely groomed yards, with low grass, cut to perfection, flowers, shrubs, all clean and well taken care of. Wild animals! There were about six that went into my neighbor-from-Missouri’s yard. Three more paraded through the high Johnson grass in the lot next to hers and … disappeared.
I’ve seen feral cats in our neighborhood. They live in the sewers under the street and then feed off what the construction crews throw out. McDonald’s leftovers, cantaloupe rinds, sweet sugary remains in Coke bottles, tortillas (yes, you heard me!), chips, and all sorts of menus remain on the ground for weeks, or until the house is finished. Yep, nobody’s mama of all the men who work for this builder taught them to throw their trash in a garbage bag and dispose of it properly.
My friend down the street tells me that deer walk up our street at night. “It’s about one or two in the morning. And they have these big horns.” Coyotes, too. I hear them when a fire truck sounds its siren. Looks like they could catch the feral cats. Crows, they’re here, too. They fly in every morning to see what the construction crews have left them for breakfast.
The worst of it, though — skunks. My next door neighbors say they see skunks at dusk when they walk their bulldog, Spartacus. I’ve smelled skunks in the night. My neighbor, Jim, told me a skunk lived in a lumber pile in my backyard during the time my house was constructed.
As I rounded the circle on my morning walk, I saw movement in the Johnson grass in an empty field to my right. Black and white movement. A skunk. Hell. Yes. A skunk. Twenty feet from me. Damn. What do I do? Keep walking. No, run. I turn around and run backward as it is crossing the street. It is standing up watching me. Will it chase me? I run a bit further.
I stop and watch. The skunk runs between an apparently occupied house (I’ve never seen anyone there) and a house under construction. It runs all the way around the new house and then into the crawl space. Those construction crews have probably been throwing food under there. Come Monday morning, those men are gonna wish their mamas had taught them how to throw away their garbage!
Then, next door! Turkeys. Nine of them, that I could see. Some might have been hiding out in the tall weeds on the adjoining construction site. There were young ones! Those birds have been having sex in the Johnson grass! Male turkeys mate with as many hens as they can. And there are many out there! They’ve got the best of all worlds here. Privacy in the weeds for making love. A creek only feet away. Woods as shelter to sleep in. Rubbish, or um, dinner, provided by the building team on a daily basis. Turkeys also eat insects, amphibians, reptiles like lizards and snakes, seeds, nuts, berries, roots, and even from backyard bird feeders! Thank God, I have a fence! Well, but I hear they can climb a bit, or fly a bit. Oh my! Turkey populations can reach large numbers because of their ability to eat different types of food — from a Big Mac to frog legs to a juniper seed. What more could a wild animal want?
Me, from now on, I’m staying home, inside, and working on that book!