Hillbilly Zen – That’s me in the corner….

Having lost my “religion”, it’s time to focus on regaining my Zen.  I wish I had some big honking epiphany to share with you, but I don’t.  It feels as though I’ve been asleep, ala Rip Van Winkle, and just now am starting to wake up again.  So while I clear the cobwebs, here’s a quick update.

The battle with the tourist spot was won – farm management is now in new and much more capable hands.

My “old man”, Tuck, passed away.  I’ll write about it later, because even though my heart is still broken, he left this world on his own stubborn terms, and it’s a damn good story.  There are a couple of new additions of the canine and feline persuasion, and the three red-legged devil horses are fat and sassy.

Me, I’m just fat, but I can see sassy from where I’m standing.  Talk to you all soon.

Advertisements

Hillbilly Zen – Annie in the Fog

 
Annie in the Fog

My old girl Annie on this foggy morning. She’s the one I wrote about in Cold Comfort – The Solace of Solstice.

Hillbilly Zen – Temporary InZenity

images (1)More often than I care to admit, my inner hillbilly overcomes my attempted Zen. Today was a prime example.  One of the blogs I follow is Week Woman, which features feminist topics.  I’ve found some other feminist writing to be strident and accusatory, much like a revival preacher in all-out “hellfire and brimstone” mode. That’s not the case with Week Woman, whose posts are well written, containing healthy doses of irony and wit.  Today’s post, “No More Silencing”, really got me stirred up.  I mean full tilt, righteously indignant, panties in a knot, screeching like a howler monkey stirred up.  It was hillbilly vs Zen, and hillbilly opened up a Costco-sized can of whupass.  Poor Zen never stood a chance.

Normally when I post a comment it’s with the feelings of the author in mind.  I try to be complimentary (but only if I mean it), and/or funny.  I was neither in my reply to “No More Silencing”.  I was wound up tighter than an 8-day clock and more concerned with what I had to say than how it sounded.  I suppose I thought it was implied that I agreed with her post.  In this state of complete self-absorption, however, I inadvertently offended the author, who understandably thought my scathing comments were directed at her.

I didn’t realize my error until I read her reply to my comment, in which she calmly and surgically cut me off at the knees.  I apologized immediately, which was the least I could do. The most I can do at this point is to ask those who read this to click on the links above.  Best case scenario is added readers for her blog, bestest case scenario is an “Aha!” moment for those who read her post.

I could blame it on menopause or too much caffeine or rusty blogging skills, but ultimately I can only blame myself for offending her.  I meant every word of my reply, but my diatribe was directed at the subject of the post, not the author.  I am deeply sorry for my failure to make that clear.  So readers, please visit the links above, and hopefully the author will come to see that although I am sometimes an ill-tempered old heifer, I’m not a complete ass.

Hillbilly Zen – The Way Of The Turtle

There’s a small suncatcher hanging in my kitchen window that reads “You’ll Always Be My Friend – You Know TooTwin Turtles Much!”  It is a gift from Vicki, who has been one of the best friends I’ve had for over 25 years.  Although she would deny it, she’s one of the most resilient individuals in existence. She’s survived breast cancer twice, a brain tumor, and has dealt with a host of family issues that would make most of us curl up in a fetal position on the couch and stay there.

I love her like a sister.  She’s a kindred spirit who can grieve for what is lost, then show a sense of gallows humor that sends sorrow on down the road with her footprint on its hind end.  She’s one of a kind, a blessing in my life and the lives of everyone who knows her.  She’s our rock – that one friend that can be called on for any reason, any time, who will always be there for us.

We met on her wedding day, which happened to be the same day I rented the other side of the duplex she and her new husband owned.  The reception was being held in the backyard as I moved in, and was without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had relocating.  The wedding guests, many of whom I’d never met, pitched in to help lug boxes and furniture, then we all pitched in to help empty a keg of beer.  After a few days of a tentative, landlord/tenant relationship something just clicked between us, and so began one of my most treasured friendships.  Since then she’s been one of the most loyal, trusted friends anyone could possibly hope to have.

Fargo, felons and felines

One of the first things we discovered about each other was a mutual love for critters.  Vicki’s dog Fargo was a massive Doberman, whose muscular frame and formidable, shark-like smile combined to create a completely intimidating first impression.  Once I got to know him, however, it was apparent that beneath all that fur and behind all those teeth was the gentle soul of a lamb and the timing of a comic genius.

Once of his favorite stunts was to drink from his water bowl in the kitchen, then saunter nonchalantly back into the living room.  There he would present his very best “I’m such a good boy, don’t you want to skritch me behind the ears?” demeanor to a seated guest.  When the unsuspecting visitor complied, Fargo would rest his huge head in seemingly blissful repose on their knee, then release the water he had stored in his mouth all over his victim’s lap.  Sitting back on his haunches, he would survey the ensuing reaction with the smug expression of a successful jester.  With very few exceptions, anyone allowed into Vicki’s home was an animal lover so Fargo’s prank usually resulted in laughter, especially from those of us who still had dry laps.

The years spent living next door to Vicki produced a wealth of cherished memories.  While relaxing in the back yard, she and I had ringside seats as a gun-toting felon fled from police through our backyard.  In our defense, we didn’t find out until later about the gun-toting or the felony thing, or we’d have hauled our butts out of those lawn chairs right quick.  We once found tiny kittens clinging to our front porch lights, one on each side of the duplex.  To this day we haven’t figured out how the little critters managed to climb up there.

Laughter through tears

One of our all-time favorite incidents is losing our breath and our dignity with our dear friend Eileen.  Having indulged in some…umm…herbal enhancement earlier in the day, the three of us piled into Eileen’s tiny car and headed to Parkette Drive-In for po’ boys.  Eileen’s a natural comedian, so when she spilled her Coke in her lap, her subsequent gymnastics and commentary sent us all over the edge. We were literally howling with laughter, tears streaming down our faces as we struggled to catch our breath.  This so amused the folks in a neighboring van that they brought us Kleenex and smiled knowingly, stating simply “Been there.”  Of course that set us off again.  If laughter truly is the best medicine, we released enough endorphins that day to ensure immortality.

The tears we wept were of an entirely different nature as we witnessed the birth of Vicki’s granddaughter, overwhelmed by the sheer miracle of new life and the incredible courage of her daughter.  There were tears shed for sorrowful reasons too, but somehow they seemed easier to bear when shared with Vicki.

Turtle Tracks

Some of the best times we’ve had have been on our road trips.  Several of them have been day trips and a few were overnight, but they have all, without exception, been adventures.  We refer to these expeditions as “going The Way of the Turtle” because invariably, at some point in the journey, there is a turtle involved.  Sometimes this entails risking life and limb to rescue a confused box turtle from the middle of the road, irritating other motorists and most likely confusing the poor turtle even further.  At other times the turtles just seem to find us somehow.  Impromptu excursions to obscure little festivals in tiny, out-of-the-way towns, taking off for a weekend to the lake, even mundane shopping trips are all likely to include the slow moving reptiles in one form or another.

So we’ve been through a lot together, Vicki and I.  There are a multitude of other memories I could share, but I’m not sure the statute of limitations has expired on some of them, and some are just too personal.  You get the idea, though.

We don’t get to see each other as much these days – she’s still in Lexington and I’m down here on my hill.  But even though we’re distanced geographically, our hearts still live right next door to each other and always will.  We are Lucy and Ethel, Mary and Rhoda, Thelma and Louise.  Okay, so we’re not likely to drive off a cliff, but don’t tailgate us – we are women who journey The Way of the Turtle and we will not hesitate to slam on the brakes if there’s a terrapin in jeopardy.

We are sisters, therapists, confidants and partners in crime.  We are friends who know too much.

Post Script

When Vicki read this, she reminded me of another bout of helpless laughter.  When we coined the phrase “The Way of the Turtle” we discussed getting matching tattoos.  Failing to find a design we liked, just getting the initials of the phrase was an option….until we realized it would read TWOTT.  Say it out loud, and you’re in on the joke, too 😉

Hillbilly Zen – Nipper Belly

Nip was a good dog, except when he wasn’t.  He was one of those critters that we humans feel blessed to have in our lives, even when they’re not being exactly obedient.  His face could convey his emotions better than some people I know, and I swear that dog could smile.  He used that smile to his advantage, whether it was when he wanted me to be goofy and playful with him or when he’d been bad and knew I couldn’t scold him because I was laughing.  His favorite ploy was to flop down right in front of me on his back, wriggle like an excited child and present his belly to be scratched.  It always worked – I was powerless to resist.  “Ooooh, gimme me some of that Nipper belly!” was always my response, accompanied by vigorous skritches and pats.

Certain other maneuvers were not nearly so entertaining for me.  Nip, his brother Tuck and sometimes Jack (my one-eyed, bobtailed bird dog), would blow through the fence and take off over the hill, usually after spotting deer or some other critter on the far side.  I always worried myself nearly sick when they’d do that, because there are some sadistic wingnuts down here who get some sort of twisted thrill from killing dogs.  But I digress.

When they finally returned home, the escapees were invariably muddy, hungry, covered in ticks, sometimes reeking of skunk and trying really, really hard to look contrite.  While they didn’t think twice about stampeding through the electric fence in hot pursuit, when they reappeared they’d sit outside the perimeter and whine for me to come let them back through it into the yard.  While I covered the distance from porch to gate, they all got an earful about the dangers of coyotes, cars and rednecks with weapons.  The culprits would slink apologetically through the gate with heads down and tails between their legs – well, except for Jack, who could somehow tuck in his entire rear end to compensate for his abbreviated tail.

Once safely in the yard, it was usually Nip who took it upon himself to get me back in a good mood.  All he had to do was give me that smile, accompanied by a nudge with a wet nose and a quick slurp on my hand as if to say “Aww, c’mon Mom, lighten up!”  My anger dissolved to relief that they were all back safely.  Reprimands trailed off, replaced by loving admonishments not to scare me like that again.  All was well, at least until the next time they made a break for it.

As you may have guessed, I’m one of “those” people who talk to and treat their critters as if they were human children.  Despite the eye rolls and derision from the woefully unenlightened, I am sublimely unrepentant for such behavior.  Those who treasure their pets as family members will understand, and those who don’t understand don’t know what they’re missing.  People exhibit both good and bad human nature, but I think it takes animals to teach us how to be a good-natured human.

Until the last couple of weeks of his life, Nip was one of God’s creatures who was just plain happy to be alive.  His exuberance lifted my sagging spirit more times than I can count.  I’d often look outside to see him flat on his back, legs akimbo, modesty gleefully abandoned simply because the breeze felt good on his body.  What a blessing it would be to take such effortless joy in scratching an itchy spot on your back against the warm grass, with complete and total disregard for the opinion of anyone who might be watching.  Whether motivated by sirens, coyotes yipping on a distant hill or just to hear their heads rattle, my dogs will sometimes burst into baying “song”.  What they lack in talent is more than compensated by their volume, and Nip put heart and soul into each and every chorus.

While I haven’t yet reached that state of careless bliss, I’m a little closer to it because of Nip.  He showed me the pleasure of simplicity, that it’s often the most uncomplicated acts that bring the purest form of happiness.

I don’t know exactly why Nip died.  He was a little under nine years old, still relatively young and healthy.  He got a bad ear infection but seemed to improve a little after a course of antibiotics and eardrops.  He really hated those eardrops but bore the twice-daily regimen without too much complaint.

Then, one sunny Friday afternoon I found him collapsed in the front yard, seizing and unable to rise.  There was nothing further that could be done except to make that final escape as comfortable as possible for him.  We spent those last hours together, lying on his favorite blanket in the sun-dappled shade of our back yard.  Some of the other animals (his “brothers and sisters”) seemed to know what was happening and would often join us, keeping vigil, saying goodbye.  Nip died in my arms early Saturday morning during those black, lonesome pre-dawn hours when time seems to stop and grief waits in the shadows.

There is a beautiful quote by Irving Townsend – “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.  Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.  We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.”  So I don’t want to remember Nip’s death.  Instead I will try to remember the lessons he taught me about living, remember his part in my necessary plan.  My inner child and I will continue to believe that there is a Heaven for dogs where the kibble is made from prime rib, and the water is cool and sweet.  Belly rubs are plentiful and there are lots of hills to roam, free of danger and filled with exciting scents.  There are no fleas, ticks or scary bumblebees and the ravages of disease hold no sway.

If you are one of “those” people who believe that too, please put your arms around your critters and say a little prayer with them that my Nipper is there, among all the other beloved pets that have found their final home.  That he is waiting for me; liquid golden-brown eyes sparkling with mischief, tongue lolling, big old hound dog ears flapping gently in the breeze, smiling that smile I miss so very much.

Even after all these years, I still strain to hear his comic contralto when the dogs sing; still half expect, half hope to see him loping across the grass to greet me.  His grave is under a young maple tree at the edge of the yard, overlooking the hills that he loved to ramble.  It is the exact spot that he and his brothers would slip through the fence in their quests for adventure.  It is a fanciful notion, perhaps, born of a broken heart, but I buried him on the other side of that fence.  In life, such a mundane assembly of wood and nails and wire could not contain Nip, as he had proved so many times over the years.  Accordingly, it seemed only fitting and proper that his spirit be unimpeded as he began his final journey.

So if you happen to be in my neck of the woods and see a round, middle-aged woman flat on her back in the warm grass, singing loudly and off-key, don’t be alarmed.  It’s only me, practicing the lessons learned from an unforgettable friend.

Nip Shelton

8/99 – 4/08

Good dog.

Go home.

Hillbilly Zen – All We Are Is Ducks In The Wind

 

They came to me as gangly, fuzzy little yellow nuisances.   I didn’t want them – I was only supposed to serve as the chauffeur for the last leg of their journey to new homes.   A friend’s daughter had used them as living props for her photography business during the Easter season, and her father asked me if I would be interested in adopting them.   I told him no thanks, I already had way too many animals and couldn’t take them, but I’d find folks who could.   When you own a farm, you become a sort of clearinghouse for critters, and I knew some people who would give them good homes.

This act of kindness became only slightly less of a logistical nightmare than say, invading Normandy.   It was for the sake of critters, though, and baby critters at that, so there was no way I could refuse to help.   At last the deal was struck; willing owners were found, meeting places mapped out, date and time of the transfers scheduled, pickups and deliveries arranged.

Pimping Poultry

Twelve chicks and twelve ducklings in varying states of hysteria arrived in the back of a mini-van, and were unloaded, unboxed, and doled out to their new families.   They were then re-boxed, reloaded and off they went.   Except, that is, for those last six little ducks, one of who was blind in one eye.   They were riding with me to some friends’ nearby farm.   I would drop them off and my part in the Great Poultry Pass-Off of 2007 would be done.

It was a long drive home.   The poor little things were totally freaked out by this time, and I did my best to soothe them in a calm, quiet, Mr. Rogers voice, telling them that they were going to love their new home and their new owners.   They weren’t buying it, and kept trying to flap out of the box.   This proved quite a challenge to my hand-eye coordination at times, to say the least, but we managed to finally make it to the home stretch.

I called ahead to alert their new owners that we were on the way, only to be told they wouldn’t be home for several hours. By now, some of the ducklings were becoming lethargic, and knowing they hadn’t been fed or watered all day, I worried about the lack of nourishment on such little bodies.   Okay, I thought, we’ll make a pit stop at my house and I’ll give them some food and water, they can rest a little, and I’ll take them on down to my friends’ farm later that evening.

A New Act Joins The Circus

My critters provided their usual exuberant welcome when I got home, the dogs meeting me at the gate like they hadn’t seen me in years, jumping and barking and sniffing and vying for my attention.   Several of the cats typically join the welcoming committee, and Toonces, named after the cat in the old SNL sketch, likes to jump in the truck and ride with me down the driveway.   This usually makes me smile, reminding me how glad I am to be home.   It did this time, too, but it also roused the ducklings to renew their shrill peeping and fluttering escape attempts.   I must have looked like some sort of deranged ringmaster trying to get back into the truck, holding off the dogs and preventing a very persistent cat from jumping into the middle of the box full of baby ducks.  Getting from the truck to the house was equally festive, but at last the ducklings were safe inside.

After laying down plastic and newspapers in the half-bathroom, I tipped the box slightly and the weary little ducklings tumbled onto the floor.  Laughing as I watched them stretch their tiny wings and jostle for position around the water bowl, I wondered what in the world I was going to feed them.  I finally decided to cook them some oatmeal, and after some initial confusion they gobbled it up and promptly fell asleep.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen sleeping baby ducks, but they should be pictured in the dictionary beside the word “cute”.

I still had every intention of giving the ducklings to my friends.  Really, I did.  Then I noticed that the little half-blind one would cock it’s head and swivel around so it could see me when I spoke, weaving slightly back and forth as it peeped a reply.  It reminded me of Stevie Wonder, so I laughed and crooned “Hey, little Stevie…”  Realizing what I’d just done, I clapped my hand over my mouth in dismay, and anyone who has ever rescued a stray critter knows why – it’s nearly impossible to relinquish an animal once you’ve named him or her.  The ducklings were here to stay.

Duck Therapy

I’ve come to realize that keeping those little varmints was one of the best decisions I ever made.  They are the undisputed comedians of the farm, never failing to make me laugh.  I don’t know where that expression “Like a duck takes to water” came from, but whoever coined it had obviously never tried to teach baby ducks to swim.  Sitting beside their pool has become a favorite way to relax in the summer, watching their aquatic antics and giggling like a fool.

Watching then during a storm is funny too, but there’s a lesson in the laughter.  They take obvious delight in the pandemonium, facing the turbulent wind and driving rain head-on, extending their wings and quacking loudly.  It’s as if they’re daring the storm to defeat them, absorbing the energy and reveling in it.  They take something scary and negative and turn it into a test of will and perseverance.  When it’s all blown over and everyone is accounted for, they congratulate each other with smug little peeps and quacks and go on with their day.

They’ve got the right idea, I think.  Like the old Kansas song says, “…nothin’ lasts forever but the earth and sky.”  In the grand scheme of things, we’re only here for a short time, every moment counts, and those moments slip away quickly.  Face adversity with a fierce resolve to beat it, learn what you can from it, then go splash around in the pool for a while.

I taught my ducks how to swim, but they taught me how to fly.  And now that y’all will be humming that song for the rest of the day, my work here is done.

Contizental

500 words or less

the_tovarysh_connection

Gentle Reminders

On The Heath

where would-be writer works with words

Jnana's Red Barn

Come view the world from my loft

smilecalm

Life through mindful media

Just A Crazy Dreamer

Simply sharing my craziness & hoping its infectious enough to spread

All Romance Reads

Get Your Swoon On

Tipsy Lit

the publishing imprint of author ericka clay

Ginger's Grocery

Come on in and browse. The biscuits were made fresh this morning, the Slush Puppie machine was just refilled with a new bottle of red syrup, and we have the biggest selection of bait this close to town.

Waggin' The Tale

Love Stories About Dogs

The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

Examining the Ordinary and Extraordinary

THE COASTAL CRONE

Tales, Trails & Connections to Almost Anything

Zen Doe

down to earth spirituality, down to earth mediumship

Simple Pleasures

Visual Poetry, Photography and Quotes

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy

jhubner73

Midwestern groaning since 2011

Me and the Boss 2013

Motivation and life......lived and loved one day at a time.

Sufey

Inhale Joy, Exhale Gratitude

Automattic

Making the web a better place

All These Horrors and more

NOTES ON A DISINTEGRATING WORLD

William Ricci

A Student of Nature & Zen

1pointperspective

NOT just another WordPress.com site

Geo Sans

“right answer, wrong question”

Shoeful of Drool

Adventures of Louie and his friends

Likeitiz

Do come and chat with me about life's twists and turns. We will laugh, cry, question, commiserate, disagree, but in the end, we will become friends.

seapunk2

MUSINGS & AMUSINGS

rachelmankowitz

The Cricket Pages

dlightblog

non potete fare affidamento sui vostri occhi se la vostra immaginazione è fuori fuoco (mark twain)

Radical Totality

an experimental creative laboratory by Mark Snyder

mlewisredford

almost indefatigable and quietly militant naïveté ...

Chris Martin Writes

Sowing seeds for the Kingdom

Humbled Pie

Southern Livin' and Travelin', mostly photographed with some Home Cookin' and only slightly embellished Storytellin'

Wandering through Time and Place

Exploring the world with Curtis and Peggy Mekemson

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

Masako and Spam Musubi

Short Stories about World War II. One war. Two Countries. One Family

Army Of Awesome People

Named by Google as one of the sites on the internet

The Real Janna Hill

Just living out loud and flinging cake against the wall...

Mythic Bios

Writing weird stories, strange articles, creative reviews, and learning along the way. Expect updates every Monday or Thursday.

lovinchelle

LIVING LIFE AND TAKING PICS ALONG THE WAY.

undeaddad

explorations of mindful fatherhood

%d bloggers like this: