Tag Archives: Place

August 28 – Floodables

by Kayann Short

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A week after the flood, I woke early. My first thought: Are they gone? We’d heard rumors the day before that the barricade behind which our farm was corralled would be moved further west on Highway 66. The barrier had been hastily assembled to protect our nearby town of Lyons, Colorado, until its evacuated residents could return. Because our farm borders the highway over which the floodwaters rushed, we were caught within the restricted zone, even though we’d had no flood damage and no reason to leave.

I dressed quickly and walked down our driveway toward 66. No traffic on the normally busy highway suggested the barricade remained. We’d been to the checkpoint many times to negotiate with guards as we tried to conduct normal farm business. Officials weren’t happy we’d remained, despite crops and animals that kept us in place.

Now I turned onto the highway and looked to the rising sun.

The road was empty as far as I could see. No gates, no guards, no guns. During the night, they’d disappeared. Nothing remained but grey concrete vanishing into the horizon.

“Whoohoo! They’re gone!” I yelled, pumping my fist into the air that 66 would be open to our farm again. Then I glanced around. The road was clear of trucks and equipment. I was glad no one had seen me celebrating in the midst of our town’s devastation.

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But the highway wasn’t completely bare. In the middle of the road sat a brown paper sack. I’d seen workers handed a similar lunch each morning. Figuring no one would return once the day’s work of rock and rubble began, I took the bag back to the kitchen without looking inside and forgot about it until John came in at noon. “What’s this?” he asked. Curious what some agency had packed for a laborer’s lunch, we found a tuna kit; small bags of treats; pita bread, a pear; and a Twix bar.

As organic farmers, John and I don’t each much packaged food, especially of the plastic cubicle variety. Still, someone’s hands had prepared this meal and some worker would go without. It didn’t seem right to waste food in these post-flood days when thrift seemed a virtue and feeding people was on our minds. Food seemed a gift, whether from the soil or a brown paper bag.

John ate the peanuts; I ate the pita, craisins, and Twix bar. The chickens loved the pretzels. Later, we told friends we’d composted the pear because it wasn’t organic. “Like the Twix bar was!” they teased. We’ve still got the tuna kit. It’s our take-away that life can change instantly, leaving you choices you’d never considered.

When disaster hits, people have little time to grab what’s most important. Loved ones–human and animal–come first; computers, photos, and family heirlooms next to preserve our lives before. But if memories were objects, which would you take as you rushed out the door? I’d take that morning’s call to an empty highway, “The barricade’s gone–and we’re still here.”

OWD_KayannShortKayann Short is a writer, farmer, teacher, and activist at Stonebridge Farm in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. She is the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography (Torrey House Press), a memoir of reunion with her grandmothers’ farming past and a call to action for local farmland preservation today.

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August 25 – Home of Uncommon Histories

by Diane Sward Rapaport

Four years ago, my husband and I sold our home in Jerome, Arizona and moved to Oregon. Jerome had been home for 35 years.

Last May, while visiting friends in Jerome, I received an email from Barbara Beneitone, who lived in the house before the mines closed in 1953: “My Mom, sister brother and I are going to be in Jerome next weekend. Would it be possible to see the old homestead?”

We agreed to meet there. It was the first time I had been back to see our old home since we moved. The yard was full of foxtails and neglect. No one had lived there since we sold it. The Beneitones hadn’t been back since 1951.

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Ninety-one year old Doris and I stood in the driveway. “The house was built in 1926 by Marguerite and Nikolai Domjanovich, my parents,” Doris told me. “They were Croats from Yugoslavia. They lived there with my brother, sister and I. When I married, my husband moved in with my parents, and we had four children. When my sister married, her husband moved in. We were one big happy family living in a little house.

“For the first two years, we had seven people and two dogs living here: my husband, a teenage son and toddler, my husband’s best friend, George and his son and George’s girlfriend–a hippie commune in a town full of them.”

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The Beneitone men were miners. A decent job for them left a mountain of pollution for future residents to cleanup.

The apricot tree their family had planted was barely alive. “We buried our cat under it,” I told Doris. “My husband and I heard the ghosts of the house whispering, ‘Thanks for giving us a cat to be our companion. We’ve been wishing for one for a long time.'”

Doris smiled and pointed to a spot where her family grew beets, turnips, cabbages and carrots. “I made barrels of sauerkraut,” she told me. “The kids loved to eat pigs in blankets–sauerkraut and hot dogs.

“My father made copper railings and set them in iron pipes. It kept is kids from falling over the wall to the patio below.” The railings had tipped and loosened. Where my peace roses bloomed held the coal bin for Doris’ cook stove.

There we stood–two old ladies with uncommon histories, rooted by our memories. Neither of us had any desire to go down the steps. Lifetimes had passed, not to be measured in years.

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We held in common our love of Jerome, the home that meant so much to us, and the memories of our children that scrambled the town’s craggy canyons like goats. We understood without words what it was to feel the tug back of Jerome when we left for life in another city and a different set of people and circumstances.

Jerome is a favored place on earth, and we shared an almost supernatural attachment. For us, this lovely town would always be home sweet Jerome.

Diane Sward Rapaport is author of Home Sweet Jerome; Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City, published in 2014 by Johnson Books, Boulder, CO. Rapaport is a published author in three fields of expertise: music industry, soil and groundwater contamination, and Taoist qigong and tai chi. She has a Masters Degree from Cornell University in Renaissance Literature.

February 20 – A Big Red Bird is all that Remains of My Past

by Pat Bean

“It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.” — Barbara Kingsolver

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Today, I hung all memories from the past on my wall.

The year was 1978 when I found myself single with two of my five children still left to support. It wasn’t an easy time, especially that first month when I had to borrow money to pay rent. Although there have been many difficult times since that day, as there are for all who occupy this planet, my life from this point forward only got better and better.

I spent the next 26 years finishing up a 37-year career in journalism, following it–and twice where my heart led me to go.

My career took me to the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, for three years, then to Ogden, Utah, as features editor for the Standard-Examiner. I stayed for three years here before love took me to Las Vegas for eight months that included a stint working for the Las Vegas Sun.

When love betrayed me, I took myself away from the neon lights to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I stayed for two years as regional editor for the Times-News. It was then back to Ogden, where my former newspaper offered me a job as assistant city editor.

In 1987, I answered my heart once again and moved to Erda, Utah, and undertook a daily 56-mile commute to my job in Ogden. But in 1989, I moved back to Ogden alone, and happily stayed there until 2004, at which time I sold my home and bought my RV, Gypsy Lee.

With few exceptions, everything I owned was either packed into my 22-foot home on the road, sold or given away. The exceptions, mostly books, were eventually stored at my youngest daughter’s home here in Tucson, where I recently moved into a small apartment after almost nine years spent living on the road exploring America from sea to shining sea.

Sunday, my daughter brought me a few of those bins. And this morning, I hung the only remaining possession that remained from 1978 on the wall of my apartment.

As I stood back and looked at this simple sketch of a cardinal, which belonged to my grandmother, whom I adored and whom died when I was only ten years old, tears came into my eyes

The colored-pencil drawing, which even for a while accompanied me in my RV travels, held a lifetime of memories. It is the only thing I own that connects me to my past. As a person who prefers to look forward not backward, I have no regrets that there is nothing else.

But my heart tells me that this red bird may be the most precious thing I own today.

Pat Bean, who thinks of herself as a wondering-wanderer, is a former journalist who lived in an RV for almost nine years and recently moved into a third-floor apartment in Tucson. Her passions are writing, reading, hiking, birds, art, family and her canine companion, Pepper.

January 21 – A Daughter, Sand Angels, and the Sun

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by Tania Pryputniewicz

I woke curmudgeonly grumpy from a tangle of blankets, one son’s knees grazing my spine, husband and Husky hugging the far wall. At my feet, my middle son. Parallel to the bed on the floor, my twelve year old daughter, hair smothered by pillows as I turned off the alarm. Transplanted from northern to southern California, I should have been overjoyed after three years of two-city living without my husband to be reunited under one roof.

But I’d acquired a hyper-vigilance due to raising our children alone–a “too-little-to-go-around” self whose reaction to any sentence starting with, “Mom” opened with, “What?…can’t you see I’m….” x, y, z. My daughter, with infinite patience last year, drew note after note decorated with rainbow letters, “Can I come down for tea with you tonight?” Fatigued, as hard as I tried, I felt locked in internal sorrow, afraid I’d never rise above our circumstances to be larger of heart.

I feel my shortcomings as a mom most intensely in relation to my daughter. Because we are both firstborns? Female? Because her brothers’ needs seem easier? I only know I’m more conflicted with her. And she has no qualms about letting me know how I’ve failed her. Which took me to some dark places last year (given the struggle to raise the children, work, hold down the fort, and stave off the ever present poet’s dream of writing a poem worthy of eternity).

But even as we wrangled, I understood the only way was “through”–not over, not around, not under, but through. The sun would rise; I’d try again. Some nights we had tea; others I deferred to stacks of student papers, dishes, or her brothers, especially during the month the littlest broke his elbow and needed surgery.

We’ve only been in the new city for two weeks, but my shoulders have dropped several inches now that two adults absorb the field of the kids’ needs. The one place that soothes all of us remains the ocean, mercifully close by here as it was up north, so instinctively, we keep the ritual.

Within moments, I’m photographing patterns–the retreating waves make sand angels below each beached pebble everywhere I look. My girl comes abreast of me and delights in the find. My husband salvages a purple bucket and one tiny green plastic soldier; the boys catapult down the sand dunes. The Husky runs leashless in wide arcs, nipping at the waves.

Dusk finds my daughter and I walking together. She’s willowy, lovely, inching towards adolescence. Hard to believe soon she’ll yearn less and less for my attention. I ask her to stop long enough for a double self-portrait. Finally, we get it right, shoulder to shoulder, positioning the setting sun so it crowns half of her face. We found that when you tilt just far enough apart, the light of the sun breaks into a gold-red fan of spokes across both faces like a blessing.

Tania lives in southern California with her husband, three children, husky, and two disoriented housecats still recovering from the move. A poet by night (MFA, Iowa Writers’ Workshop) and a writing teacher by day, she is heading into her second year of teaching Transformative Blogging for SCN (next class starts February 4th) and is writing a book for women bloggers.

August 29 – A Slice of Prairie Heaven

by Carol Kunnerup

The end of July and the farmland surrounding us is still lush due to the  unusually heavy rains and humidity this year. The crops got in late, but with
the rain and warm weather harvest will go on as planned.

The skies have been amazing sunrise to sunset and I am working in the studio to render them in fabric or watercolor. They are just so gorgeous and contrast so fantastically with the greens, yellows, browns and reds of the surrounding land. And stormy skies, don’t get me started. Everything in nature just naturally
coordinates.

The creeks and low lands are full of water, still. Not flooding, but full. Blue sapphires set in the golden prairie are home to turtles and frogs and other creatures I have yet to name. I need to go get a field guide. There  are a variety of colors of dragon flies, orange/gold and gorgeous blue. An assortment of biting flies and insects also populate the grassy wet lands.

The air is warm and some afternoons it gets downright hot. We had one wicked
hot day, the humidity was 100% plus the 96 degree temp made it quite the day for air conditioning. Standing outside for even a few minutes felt like just getting
out of the shower. Most days, though, have not been so extreme. It has been a
lovely summer for walking and exploring and just enjoying being where we
are.

This is the most rural of the 29 addresses I have to my name. Rolling
hills and prairie as far as you can see surround our little farmstead. From our
porch we can see the shadows, the shapes of other buildings, but none are close
enough for any detail to be discerned. A neighbor, or we, could be standing on
the porch in our underwear and no one would ever know. Maybe I need binoculars, haha.

68th St SW is a running stitch through the prairie. We have the only
mailbox on this five-mile stitch. We are 8.5 miles from town. It is peaceful and
gives the illusion of isolation. Living without close neighbors is a good thing.
We are granted solitude.

Three calves keep us company in a small pasture on the property. They are invited guests. Native inhabitants who tolerate us are rabbits, ground squirrels, pheasant, meadowlark, hawks, gigantic owls and we spotted a buzzard the other day. I need that field guide because there are so many birds I cannot name that share this space with us. We have yet to see snakes on the property.

It is time to hit the treadmill. Why you may ask, do I hit the treadmill, when I have thousands of miles of infrequently traveled gravel roads to walk? Well, I get my work out on the treadmill. I meander and daydream and just exist and absorb on walkabouts through the prairies. It is  awesome to be only in your own skin and in the moment out in the natural world.

I am a mother, a wife and a woman who is rediscovering her artist within. I have lived many places and find that my home is always with me; my children and my husband are the heart of me. We are in North Dakota on a lovely farmstead. I teach preschool and am working towards my masters in special education.

April 24 — Shine

by Georgina Mavor

Like Geoffrey Rush in a scene from the movie ‘Shine’ I found my seven year old daughter jumping on her trampoline in the rain, naked except for knickers and a bright yellow raincoat. Her face alive, eyes gleaming, blonde hair ‘stringy’ and wild, she was relishing the first drops of rain after a very long, hot, endless, dry, summer. Living close to the ocean, any summer storm rain clouds tended to pass over the rooftops, dropping their precious loads when they hit the hills further inland. There is a silence in the air here, rain hasn’t broken that space since Winter last year.

I raise my seven year old daughter in an eclectic suburb originally built upon European migrants and the vegetables they toiled. The market gardens have been taken over by later generations of Vietnamese refugees and moved further afield. What remains is the architecture and lifestyle of (formerly) Yugoslavian, Greek and Italian peoples. Terrazza porches, fig trees, broad beans, the odd white lion or pillars at the front gate, the outdoor living areas around the back of homes, families often still living next door to each other, speaking their native language or its regional dialect.

In a rough attempt at self sustainability I converted my original English style front lawn into a vegetable garden. But with increasing shortages in water and time, I have replanted with native trees and plants, a small food source for a rich local birdlife. Brightly coloured red, blue, green and yellow cockatoos, pink and grey galahs, endangered black cockatoos, singing wattle birds, greeneyes, black and white magpies, their smaller cousins the mudlarks, the cheeky willy wag tails and the endlessly procreating doves. Of an evening, with the sun setting behind the Eucalyptus trees in front of my home, I sit and enjoy the cacophony of this birdlife in my raggle taggle garden while I write and reflect.

But my soul wrestles with this place. The colours are vivid, the light intense and the air filled with the oil of the Eucalypts. They are a pivotal counterbalance to the unsettling feeling that prevails here. Perth is the most isolated city in the world, but I don’t think this accounts for it’s aloofness in spirit. Those closest to some of the Aboriginal Elders say it is rich in Dreaming energy here. Our homes are built within 50,000 years of indigenous terrain.  Trees and huge stretches of native bush interspersed throughout the built environment, transmitting their energy to confuse and unsettle us.  Like my daughter on the trampoline flying high in the air, her face calling to the heavens, her feet searching for the earth below, I often experience the same, vacillating between one or the other. Maybe my home really is part of a built environment plonked in the middle of Dreamtime, maybe that accounts for its quirkiness. And maybe it’s just all the eucalyptus oil in the air sending us all a little bit dreamlike as we meander about our day.

Georgina Mavor is a Psychologist and Book Artist combining her love of words, writing, art and story with healing. Visit her blog at: http://www.georginamavor.blogspot.com