OUTSIDE MY FRENCH DOORS
It Takes a Thief
It’s mid July and 6am is warm but not unbearable outside my French doors. The dogs and I amble to the barn. McGyver, our old shepherd is the slowest and I check my speed to match his trembling haunches. I have a hard time watching this brave, determined soul. His mind is bright, his heart is willing, but his body has shifted into that gait that leads to the end. He has been part of our family for 13 years. I take a few minutes to let him rest, stroke his head and remember the moments we’ve shared.
I wanted a large dog to discourage in house break-in, Bob traveled a great deal. I went to the local shelter and picked a long, lanky puppy. He leaped against the bars of his cage and the staff seemed surprised, but happy, when I picked the hyper shepherd mix. He was mine the moment I saw him. I’ve always been a sucker for a long, lanky fellow. The shelter employees knew more about him than I did. I named him McGyver, after the main character in the old series “It Takes a Thief”.
He was ours for one day; we’d gotten him at four months old, when he ran under a horse. The horse stepped on the pup’s toe and when he wrenched away, McGyver broke his hip. He threw up in the car on the way to the vet. He threw up on the way home after surgery. A sensitive dog, his demeanor told us he was embarrassed. He disliked car trips after that and his world has pretty much been the parameters of Misty Hill. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.
McGyver spent 2 months confined to a small space with the broken hip. Puppy bones are like butter and it was important that he not run or jump. We went on short walks so he could relieve himself twice a day. That was it. Never did he complain, never did he have an accident in the house. The wild child seemed to realize he had to behave.
Once he was released from confinement, McGyver morphed into a farm dog. He had a deep respect for the horses, rolled in manure, and tumbled after squirrels. At that time, we were having the house remodeled and workmen were in and out. The uncoordinated pup became their friend. They shared their lunch with him, and threatened to take him home after work. I began to worry that this dog I’d bought for security would turn into one who would hold the door open for crooks. He was certainly not the ideal protector I’d envisioned.
I shouldn’t have worried. Once he matured, his bark became fierce when a stranger approaches. Though his hips tremble, he scrambles up right, and still presses against me, making sure he is the barrier between visitors and myself. Once I tell him it’s okay, he becomes the welcoming host
McGyver chases tennis balls for the grandkids. On this visit, the balls were more dropped than thrown, but both children and dog still loved the game. He’s never eaten off a plate, even those right under his nose, or begged for food. He stays off the furniture and thrives on pleasing. A gentle no is the only correction he has ever needed. We are his whole world. He was always, even during the silly puppy days, and still is, the perfect dog.
In the next few days, weeks, who knows, I’m sure he will tell us when, it will be Goodbye day. I will do as I have for those who came before him, give him all the things he loves; our undivided attention, quiet time sitting on the cool earth watching him doze, gentle words of praise, one last tennis ball. We will feed him beef and chicken, each bite cut small and tell him how perfect he is. We will stay on the farm, go nowhere. I’m glad he will have no pain and doesn’t have to travel by car to ease out of this world.
As we do these things I will think about how I did not realize, so many years ago when I spied the pup no one wanted that I had not acquired a dog that would protect me from those who stole, but one who would rob me. For this I know. McGyver will steal a piece of our hearts to take with him over the bridge.
Sometimes, it takes a thief for one to realize what is valuable. Enjoy the moments, all.
My brother Michael letting me tag along. This created a memory, that became a story about the power of love. https://www.facebook.com/DeborahKBundy
Trapped By An Angel https://dkbfox.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/trapped-by-an-angel/
Dim shadows flit like ghosts across the snow. Of course I don’t believe in ghosts. Don’t believe Santa, and don’t believe in signs, except for the real ones, like the imprints in the snow left by wildlife. Don’t believe in anything much at all. The world is a tough place and you have to be tough to survive. There’s no reason to pretend otherwise. All I can see in the world is stark, dark trees against a wall of gray in the forest dusk.
“Hold on Janie. Another hour and we’ll be at the barn,” I say. “Need to finish the trapline, stow the game.”
My sister Jane will never make it alone in this world. She believes in everything good, and never even sees the bad. So, I have the extra burden of watching over her. Carry it like I’m carrying her, nothing I need, but something I’m tough enough to handle. I try to teach her, but… “Your fault you got hurt,” I say.
“Is not,” she says with a giggle. “My Mickey, Mickey, Michael.” One of her red mittens pats the top of my head, while the other grabs my collar. She’s always so damn cheerful.
“Humph.” I shift my shoulders, toss her abruptly upwards, and will myself to keep moving. Janie is six, a real, sweet as carnival cotton candy, brat. Can’t do a darn thing by herself. Mom treats her like a baby. Took care of myself by the time I was her age. She should too. Does nothing but cause harm spoiling her like this.
My legs tremble and my arms feel as if someone’s pulling the muscles apart strip by strip. I’m strong for fourteen, but she’s like a pack full of empty traps, nothing but dead weight. The burden numbs me to the sights and sounds of the forest. I trudge on through the cold, wet woods.
Janie’s hands clutch my jacket, her legs twine with my arms and I feel her breath against my neck. The only sound is the crunch my boots make as they break through the ice that borders the stream. I stare at the ground looking for tracks, and don’t see the glittering world she chatters about in my ear.
“Michael, my ankle hurts so bad.” Janie’s tone changes as we near my game line. I close my mind, like the steel trap that swings from my belt. Her arms tighten around my neck.
“Loosen up. You’re choking me.”
I look down at her ankle. Appears normal, hard to tell through the red boot she wears. Probably another one of her tricks.
“Ain’t gonna keep me from collecting pelts. You should’ve stayed home.” I stop, drop her on the snow.
She scowls. “Didn’t have to dump me!” Her voice changes to a whine. “Please no more traps.”
Then, being cotton candy Janie, she falls back, smiles and flutters her arms and legs.
“What’re you doin’?” My hands clench, my jaw muscles jump. Can’t the kid tell I’m aggravated?
“Making angels.” She rolls back into a sitting position. “It’s almost Christmas.” Her cheeks are bright red and her eyes gleam with excitement.
The ice thickens around my heart. “Ain’t nobody giving you nothing. Quit trying to slow me down. I’m getting my traps.” I kick out, spraying snow in Janie’s face, and then start down the trail.
She’s followed me everywhere this year and Mom makes me take her. That’s all right if I’m going fishing. It’s kinda funny watching her squirm when I put a worm on the hook, but not when I’m trapping. She cries over every animal I catch. She doesn’t understand that the pelts mean money. I crash through the underbrush.
“I don’t have time for fairytales and Santa ain’t visited me, ever.” The words come from my mouth on large bursts of steam. I mean for Janie to hear them. Branches shower white flakes on top of my parka and against my neck. My shoulder blades jump toward each other as icy wetness runs down my spine. I wish I had a muffler. Can’t afford one. As I draw my head into my coat, I admit Janie’s arms sheltered me from the icy bath as I carried her.
“Still ain’t worth the trouble you cause!” I holler.
Reaching into my pocket, I pull out a piece of gum, hesitate, tear it in two, and put half in my mouth. The brat will want some. It smells like winter and tastes like wild mint. My eyes scan the bushes. Janie’s voice fades into the distance. She can sit there all night for all I care. She knows the way home. She’s no more hurt than I am. I’m filled with the righteous bitterness of a misused soul.
There should be a trap here somewhere. I drop to my knees and dig through the snow. My hand hits against something hard. I grasp it and drag it to the surface. Chain clanks. The trap appears, crusted with whiteness, its jaws pressed together like a demon’s fangs.
“Damn.” I throw it down. Empty, just like the others. Someone’s triggering my traps. “Janie, did you do this?” My voice is loud. “Answer me!” I wait, beating the trap against my leg, thinking of what I’ll do when I see her. No sound comes from up the trail.
Limbs snap against my thrusting arms as I trudge back. I’m out of breath when I reach the spot where I dumped Janie in the snow. She’s gone. The imprint of the angel is clear, makes me uneasy. I look around for tracks. There they are, small waffle boot prints leading off to the deep woods, headed not quite towards the house. I turn to head back to my trap line and then hesitate. Mom will kill me if I leave her little angel out here alone. I sniff the air. It smells like more snow coming. The sky is a somber, ugly gray. I better find her and get home.
“So much for the sprained ankle,” I mumble to myself as I examine the evenly spaced footprints. “God, why’s she always messing up my life?” I glare at the menacing sky and follow her trail.
Janie’s crouched in a group of holly bushes, one finger held to her lips. She crooks the finger, luring me to her.
Thirsty, I pull a glove off as I approach and scoop up a handful of snow. It tastes like pine. I spit it out and wipe my hand on my pants. The cold bites at my fingers. When I reach Janie, I squat behind her.
“What is it?” My words are no more than a soft breath.
“Santa’s reindeer.” Her voice is high, yet a whisper.
I blow against my hand to warm it. It’s red and rough from work. I tuck it under my armpit as I peer over her shoulder. A huge buck stands not fifteen feet away, next to a doe. He paws the ground by her head. With her front feet spread, neck stretched, nose to the ground, the doe quivers, but doesn’t move. Strange, they aren’t running. My fingers twitch. I wish I had my rifle. The buck’s rack of horn must span eight feet.
A metallic clank fills the air. The doe stumbles back as if released from a tether, and then lifts her head, her nose red with blood. My trap. She had her nose caught in one of my traps. The buck’s pawing must have released her.
Janie gasps. I try to cover her eyes. She jerks away. The sudden movement startle the deer. In great leaps they disappear into the deep woods. Janie turns to me. I brace and watch for her accusing eyes. Steal myself against the words I expect she’ll say.
“Michael, Michael did you see them?” Her voice bounces off the trees. “The reindeer, even Rudolf, right here in our woods. Did you see his red nose? Santa must be near. He’ll come this year. I know he will. You knew, didn’t you? That’s why you left me. So I could see. I love you.” Her eyes shimmer with excitement. She falls back into the snow laughing and begins to make another angel.
There’s a hole in the sole of her red rubber boot. Emotion freezes my throat.
I look at her and wonder when I lost the magic of believing. I feel so old. Seen through her eyes the woods are a fairyland, reindeer are possible and traps are always empty. I pick her up and nestle my nose in her hair. She smells of soap and things I’ve buried deep, under a layer of ice. She smells of hope.
My baby sister believes and that is enough. “Santa’ll come,” I mumble. I don’t know how, but he’ll come. Cold seeps through my coat. I ignore it as I set Janie back on her feet.
Then I fall into the snow, trusting. It feels awkward this trusting, as my body pummels toward the earth, still I’m determined. The snow engulfs me like a soft winter comforter. My arms and legs struggle to make an angel. The sky no longer looks gray. I see it through the shining light of Janie’s eyes. I stand up and my feelings burst forth in a great laugh. It sounds strange, but good.
“Let’s go home.” I unfasten the trap attached to my belt and let it drop to the ground. “No more trapping this year. My gift to you.”
She grins broadly and then frowns. “But I don’t have anything for you.”
“You alone are enough. Climb up and keep my back warm.”
She giggles as she climbs on my back and then becomes still, her arms strong as my traps and warm as a muffler around my neck.
“Trapped by an angel,” she whispers.
I nod my head and turn toward the barn and home. My legs swing easily, for I come bearing a true gift. I carry a snow angel on my back. The only sound I hear is the ice as it cracks around my heart. I swipe at moisture in my eyes. The world sparkles and I watch with care for reindeer in the woods.
OUTSIDE MY FRENCH DOORS
Outside my French doors, autumn is sharing the days with winter. She chills the air, grays the sky, scatters gold and red across the pastures. A flock of nine turkeys cross in front of the barn, peck through the fallen leaves. Horses graze near by undisturbed. Deer nibble next to them, and now and then all gaze into the distance. I realize in this moment that it is a time for reflection. There is a doorway to peaceful existence and hope of continued life, as the season of dying crouches close on the horizon.
In our country, friends gather for Thanksgiving during the end of November. Many cook, polish and share love, but, to me, fall feels less peaceful than those in the past. I think about all the fear induced hate spewing across Facebook and realize I want to withdraw into gratefulness for what I have, isolate myself as the United States did until December 7, 1941. Deep down, I know it would be wrong to do so. Isolation was a false sense of security then, as it is now. The world is round. There are no walls against evil, except to stand united with our fellow humans who believe in and offer hope.
A man with a caring heart posted on Facebook about France using the words of Winston Churchill from the year 1940, where Churchill speaks of a shining dawn to come. I read his words and thought; did Churchill have any idea of how long it would be before that morning would come? Such hope and such sorrow followed his speech, but he never lost his way, never devalued the value of all people. Thank goodness. He knew that such evil couldn’t be allowed to grow in his own country, that fear induced hate and such a false rant of superiority could not become a part of the country he loved. His people, deep down, knew it too and they took in those persecuted, gave of themselves to make a better world.
Hope didn’t die during that awful time, and love for our fellow man shined the brightest. I am thankful that there were people of vision, who cared about more than only those within their borders.
The turkeys join six crows. I expect the turkeys to overpower with their size and the crows to do their usual territorial fighting, but this morning, they share. Each seems to know that in this transitional season they can’t survive if they don’t all share the Earth’s bounty. I have to believe that we, as a people know this, too.
In this season of reflection and hope, when the fear of death hovers near, be brave enough to care, always.
September 11, 2015
OUTSIDE MY FRENCH DOORS
Morning comes quiet and peacefully outside my French doors, as it did fourteen years ago. My day started, as this one will, with walks though fields, the scent of horses and doing the things that bring me joy. What will be added is the knowing. Knowing that things can turn upside down. Knowing people can be here and then they can be gone. Knowing that each moment is precious, very precious.
Sometimes, it is easy to resent that we’ve been robbed of the innocence that coated many of our lives before 9/11, easy to get lost in the chaos, easy to cave to the evil wished upon us. But, we Americans are not known for taking the easy route. We are a brave people, believers in hope, and pursuers of happiness.
On this day of remembrance, I will let the acute awareness received on that day bring into focus something worth keeping. Buildings crumbled, but our country’s foundation, built on the spirits of true Americans, is stronger. Those who lost their lives on 9/11 are now part of that base. Their memories remind me that the United States of America is my land, my hope, my children’s future and it is good.
We live in a wonderful country, are blessed beyond measure, and can honor those gone with love, openly and freely. We can express ourselves without fear, we can live our lives, we can simply be. It is a good day for moments, precious moments. Find one and make a memory.
OUTSIDE MY FRENCH DOORS
The world is questioning my beloved country, the United States of America and what we stand for. They wonder if our country has changed, many here wonder if our country’s values have changed. Has our understanding of the word freedom become distorted?
I believe the majority of we Americans still keep the faith alive, that most agree freedom is – loving that each individual has the right to become the best person they can be-. It’s true freedom has been pushed to some far limits in recent years, and when freedom is distorted in to an excuse to express hate in such a way as in the church killings, it no longer can be called freedom, it can no longer be called a “Right”. That type of expression is called hatred of self spilling over onto others. That is not the American dream and I believe I’m not the only one who thinks such behavior can not be allowed in a free country such as ours. We need to stop listening to expressions of hate of others different from ourselves, question the reasons for believing such vile thinking. We need to protect our true freedom.
When you step outside your doors, do it with love, all. Be free to enjoy our world, feel free enough to enjoy others doing so, too. This is what I believe.
Yesterday, up on the mountain.
In the wee hours of the morning before the light of day, my Mom left this earth. As the hours passed I found myself wandering through the years gone by, sorting pieces of a life. It is a sad, happy, I miss you thing to do, especially when a loved one’s final years have been filled with the bitterness of memory loss and ill health. By afternoon, tired and in need of peace, Bob took me to our away place on the mountain.
It was a warm day for February and I settled in a chair on the deck overlooking the Piedmont. Below me the world lay in the tarnished shades of winter. Fallen trees, broken limbs, icy rivers spoke of the season of dying. Yet, it was a scene that also spoke of peace, of an ending that would lead to a new beginning.
My eyes rose upward and I felt closer to my Mom than I had in a long while. I could see her, though the sky was empty. I knew what she was up to, now that she’d shed the weight of illness.
Lazy angels had been tumbled from their beds, and the white down of clouds they had lain on swept away. Each molecule of sky was spit polished, as only my Mom could do, until crystal clear, then stacked in perfect order until all I could see was the celestial blue shine of perfection. It reminded me of the way my Mom kept house.
The sun, teased into perfect position warmed the lump in my throat until it melted and I found the peace I had been seeking. Only a Mother could produce a day like this, I thought, and smiled a thank you.
My Mom is at peace. How do I know this? She told me not long ago, she would be happy when she went home and she is there.
Bettie White April 14, 1924- February 7, 2015
My Mom is at peace. How do I know this? She told me not long ago, she would be happy when she went home and she is there.
Night Of Nights
On this night of nights
Snow squeaks under my boots
Sounding like little Christmas mice
Fighting over cookies and milk
I remove one glove, then the other
Loosen the girth, slide the saddle off
Give my chestnut mare a quick brush
Several pats on her warm thick coated neck
A blue glow from a bright star
Forges a path across the winter landscape
Reveals neat hoof prints that mark the way
From whence we have come
Though I traveled undetected
Upon the broad back of my companion
Could I prove I was there
Take it on faith I will say if challenged
The place journeyed to
Found several years ago
When I dropped the reins
Gave my mare her head
Feels close to Heaven
Tonight, this night, I left prayers
She trimmed around the tombstone
Upon which the light always shines brightest
Infant boy-A child of God- the inscription reads
Each year it is the same and each year
I marvel at the sight
My mare moves so unerringly to
Animals in the stable talk at midnight
Or so it is said
In honor of a birth long ago
Does my mare speak of the wonders we have seen
I do not know
Will have to take it on faith
Our yearly trek complete
I lead my mare into the barn
Settle her in with sweet feed and carrots
Gloves back on, I give her one last pat
Pull the heavy wooden door closed
Shut in the incense of horses, hay and miracles
Snow squeaks under my boots
On this night of nights
Outside November 6, 2014
Outside my French doors, most would describe this early morning hour as dark and silent. I stepped across the threshold, released the human chatter in my head and listened. My awareness more acute, thanks to a piece about the connection of all things that I read at 4AM.
One lone frog sang his song. The predawn kept him well hidden, but I could see him though his message. “I’m over here, near the pool searching for a winter sustenance.” Trees clattered their drying leaves, a bustle of warning. “Get ready for cold. It is coming.” The Earth breathed, “Live softly upon my surface.” The wind crooned, “Keep my sky free, free so I can dance across your skin.”
There is a reason Holy Ones go to the wilderness to learn about existence and come back with strong messages. “This Earth is a gift. Protect this sacred world and give thanks,” they preach.
Go outside your abode, listen, get back in touch with all that matters. Life feels more perfect when all move with conscious caring, and life will perish without it.
Let the wind hug you, the Earth hold you, the trees speak, and the frog eat, today, all.
Taking a chance and trusting my fellow Americans
I am stepping out on a limb here and talking about politics. This is risky because politics does something crazy to people. It makes good friends argue. I don’t want to start a debate. I’m not really a political person. I simply want those who have not voted yet in this election to pause and think, and read “facts”, not news blurbs, before marking their ballots. I am worried about our country, about my state, my little county, about us. Why? Because…
I am an American, a person with EQUAL rights in this country, a woman, a mother and grandmother of the future generation. I am also a registered Republican who is voting the Democratic ticket in this election, and I want to get my party back to being a true Republican Party.
The Republican machine has become something I am not, that the party I grew up in is not. The Republican spin machine is filled with filthy water and has contaminated even small town politics. Our country can’t progress while spewing dirt and lies across the land. The only way to stop this squalor is to not support it with my vote.
What has this big money funded machine done?
The machine funds those who will do its bidding, finding those to whom money talks. It is not above buying people. It has enticed otherwise good men to vote for and push programs they know are not in the best interest of my state, as it has done in other states. Look at West Virginia. Why? These programs are in the interest of BIG business, and if the politician wants money to fund his campaign he has to do the Machine’s bidding. This is scary and sad.
By pouring “thirty pieces of silver” into the hands of politicians the Machine buys legislation, working from the bottom up. It has bought news media and has lied to “we the people,” knowing most won’t check the facts. Why? Because we have been raised to trust. It has robbed us of that wonderful quality by its actions. A Machine has no morals. A Machine does not care.
It has nothing of its own doing to be proud of, so the strategy is to drag the country down to its level, then the Republican machine, not we Republicans, can be in control. It’s scary to think of a future with this machine in control, especially for those who care about equal rights, schools, the environment, and children.
It knowingly and maliciously maligned the sitting President. Why? Not because he is black. Not because he is bad. The Machine has done this to take a charismatic man out of the picture during the campaign season. It’s strategy. Why? Because the Machine knows, if his rating is high, their agenda will fail. This President has worked hard. The Machine doesn’t care. Be thankful, if it isn’t you that the Machine has targeted to take down, because it will try to take down whatever and whoever clogs its gears.
The Machine’s bottom line agenda is making money for the few who grease its wheels. Both parties have Machines, but the Republican Machine has become a Monster and has taken over our party. I want it back.
I am a woman, a mother and grandmother of the future generation. Because of this, I am also a registered Republican who is voting the Democratic ticket in this election. I want to take my party back from the Machine. I hope I don’t lose friends over this post, but sometimes, you have to step out on a limb to save the forest. Anyone who knows me knows I love the land.
Please, if you’ve read this far and haven’t voted yet, think about these things, do some real research, before going to the polls on Tuesday.