Category Archives: Notes from the Apex

The longer we live, the more we realize our entire lives are like hiking through a series of peaks and valleys. Going downhill is easier. Getting to our peaks requires more energy. But once we reach the apex we can relax, catch our breath and take in the view.

Different Beauties – Walk #17

For weeks we’ve walked about at first light in shorts and bare-armed against the heat.  This week I wore jeans and covered my arms from the chill.  Still, by mid-afternoon temps were in the high 90’s to low 100’s again.

Change is in the air.  Around my neighborhood rich greens are already fading.

Late Summer.

 

 

 

 

“As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Genesis 8:22 (NLT)

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Smoke on the Waters

News of wildfires are not unusual this time of year.  This week the news came to us live; smoke – filling the Columbia Basin for days. Literally.

The worst of the flames were far enough from us that I could appreciate the beauty in the midst of hardships and troubles.  Smoke subtly displayed colors I couldn’t actually imagine before.

On Day Two:

Sunrise through smoke over the eastern neighbor’s house,

 

from the barn looking over the shops and the main house.

 

Sister Roan and I came to call the following God With Us Curve. The road turns sharply and drops to the left (north) winding down and around the steep hill. ‘Not gonna lie, our first winter here, ice covering that drop intimidated us. In the photo this week the continuing road is visible through the smoke from the center of the house near the top of  the hill – almost like the road winds from the chimney.

 

 

Late morning, Day Two, Smoke obscures the river view from God With Us Curve.

 

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” ” Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT)

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Pressed On – Walk #16

I awoke to peaceful quiet. In fact, a nano-second before steaming my latte I noticed the distinct absence of WordPress app notification sounds from my cell – on a new blog post day.

But the forecast is for 108 degrees (42.22 C), it is only day two of a new pasture routine, the hens are laying like they’re supposed to, and so I didn’t have a moment to look into it.

Four hours, six tiny, light brown eggs, and lots of fun and games later, I discovered I’d inadvertently scheduled the wrong publish date. {I sighed with a relieved, contented and slightly embarrassed smile}, Silly Ol’ Roo.

This morning’s antics

 

Ol’ Dog and I paused a moment to admire the neighbor’s haircut. Of course, out of earshot we snickered. Llamas can actually spit long distances.

Suzy has taken to swinging on the fence as the sun rises. When she falls on my side she’ll run to me even across the lot. Her squawking interpreted; “Did you see that! Am I great or what? I fully rock that stuff.”

Later Suzy couldn’t figure out how to get back in the chicken yard. She went in the tool shed door and the other hens (ahem) couldn’t open the coop gate for her. Poor, silly Suzy.

Suzy runs to me – likely admiring the teal flip flops.

Suzy was happy in my arms for a few minutes. She wasn’t upset – just chill…

Silly Suzy still trying to figure out the shiny-boxy-thingy.

 

Notice at no time are eggs ever laid in the nesting boxes:

 

Then on to games before it gets too hot

Follow the leader

Hide and seek

Simon Says

Finally we play Roo’s Done

 

“How joyful are those who fear the Lord— all who follow his ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!” Psalm 128:1, 2 (NLT)

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Pretention

A part of all the moving around this month involved juggling items between the main house and my cottage. My 2′ x 6′ long table is now stored and replaced by a far more accommodating 41” round table. It’s not the drop leaf kitchen island cabinet with pub height chairs I envision – yet – but this certainly frees up more floor space.

And then Brother announced he must find a place for his mammoth treadmill.


After a quick flashback, me longing to walk during the last brutal winter and wary of the upcoming summer heat, I told him, “I’ll figure something out.”  I was thinking it best to move stuff around before the floors are refinished. Besides, he could’ve sold the thing.

With all the bells and whistles of a gym-quality machine, his Healthrider Soft Strider Pro is wide and sturdy, so it’s heavy. And with the handy space-saving fold-up track it’s awkward to haul – especially over the gravel driveway.

After two days of the treadmill and its electronic controls waiting in the heat, the voices in my head got loud, “She canna take any more, Captain.  She’s gonna blow!”

Not willing to risk ignoring Scotty, I pushed at the dolly that my strong, fit brother used to ease it down the porch steps (I’ve learned not to ask things like why it stopped there). I decided to not risk another injury, threw a moving pad over it and reminded Brother the heat can ruin the electronics.

Ten days later I’d had sufficient time to obsess over a plan to move it myself.

With some boards over the gravel, an appliance hand truck noseplate positioned between the wheels (conveniently located under the heaviest part of the machine 😉 ), I slowly, carefully rolled the treadmill through the car door into the cottage. Don’t be impressed – it’s all about leverage. Fine. Leverage, balance and the luck of the Irish.

Once inside I needed to position that monolith for use with the least amount of effort. This was tricky. I need it where I can view my 32” television/computer monitor, but not obstruct the flow. Feng Shui, people.

So, this is the part where I realize the wheels that would ordinarily move the thing easily over the concrete floor are jammed, immovable. “Where’s the damn antimatter inducer, Chekov?”

That’s when I remembered a technique a friend described years earlier after her family had purchased a somewhat dilapidated farm house. After repeatedly asking her husband to fix stuff, and after a reasonable period, she’d craftily take matters into her own hands.

Like Farm Girl instructed, I pulled out my tool box and every power tool I could get my hands on, strategically placed them around the treadmill, close to the door only slightly obstructing the entry, and then I waited.

As Farm Girl said, “nothing motivates men faster than the sight of  a woman with power tools.”

I’m not sure if I would actually have tried to fix the wheels myself or not, with or without the circular saw or grinder. But I am now convinced that sometimes a good pretense makes the best offense.

That evening, after a pitcher of iced tea Brother had the treadmill rolling easily so I can now jog to my heart’s content – while catching up on my favorite audio books, programs and movies.

 

“The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25, 26 (NLT)

 

Featured Image courtesy ABSFreePic.com

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Wrestling

I’m new at farm and ranch life, so I’m learning a lot. Much of the new lessons provide great insights to everyday life.

  • As entertaining as they are, chickens are silly, entertaining creatures, but they eat weeds, bugs and provide good protein food.
  • Smelly as cattle can be, among the other benefits that will come later on, they now provide excellent fertilizer.
  • The mare was trained for herding cattle. Even without a saddle, bridle or a rider, when she sees me carrying a rope toward the pasture, she brings the cattle in. I especially appreciate her late in the day when I’m tired.
  • And did you know cows rub against anything that stands still – especially the ever-available sprinkler heads? Unless I want to toss hay, checking for broken heads is kind of big deal.

Brother and company back in the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no pigs on this ranch. Aside from seeing them at the county fair and driving through pig farm country on a humid afternoon, I’ve never been around pigs. But I’ve learned some about them from Brother. He raised and showed them in his youth. He knows about pigs.

Recently, as Brother mulled aloud his concern for an anonymous friend that’s going through a wringer in a romantic relationship, my mind kept returning to something I heard some years back.

“I learned long ago to never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”  George Bernard Shaw

After assuring him he told me that, he stared at me blankly for several moments. Once the point set he said, “Yep.”

Today I overslept. After coffee I quickly began scrambling to catch up with the day. Out of nowhere I remembered where that conversation with Brother went;

“If you don’t mind the slime and the smell you can go wrestle that pig. It’s a workout. But when you realize you’re not getting what you want, you get outta the pen.”

Sometimes life not going the way I expected weighs on me;

  • not seeing my offspring, my sisters and old friends feels lonely sometimes,
  • having to wait on the order of projects to finish settling in to my cottage,
  • not having the funds for things like a new mattress and a good storm door (without running up debt).

I wish I could honestly say I always keep a firm grip on reality, my expectations are consistently reasonable, I’m constantly in balance, and that I don’t worry. But like Brother’s friend, I waste a lot of time, do myself discredit by fussing and fretting about things I can’t control.

It’s all good. My new experiences and some old lessons are setting up well. Aside from recognizing when the water troughs need a power spray, I hardly notice pasture smells anymore. I’ve been close enough to pig farms and other people’s squabbles I know to keep my distance. And when prayer and quiet time with Father God remains my first priority, I can enjoy life so much more:

 

  • Gazing at the stars after a hard day’s work, enjoying the fragrance of petunias and sweet alyssum,
  • Brother’s company,
  • a relaxing walk with the mare,
  • clucking around with the chickens,

And I lose weight without wrestling pigs.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7 (NLT)

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Wonder – Walk #15

The world is indeed wonderful.

Looking at the beautiful bull in the next pasture, I wonder about their mean reputation. He can nap anywhere in his pasture, but he likes lounging, practically nose to nose with our calf (the wire fence between them), naturally Momma stays very nearby .

The sweet, beautiful bull next door.

 

Ewe, the bull and a lamb.

 

Girlfriend willing me to open the gate

 

After Pepper passed through the open gate, the hot wire dragging her back, to get to the fresh, green grass, I didn’t have the heart to bring them back in.

 

The four-month-old “Rockers” thanking me for the fresh greens.

 

Ever vigilant “Dog” keeping watch.

I also wondered why all the goats are gone from the neighbor’s pasture. Then again, they had a huge barbecue last month. 😉

 

“O LORD, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24 (NLT)

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The Ties That Bind

We’re undergoing some changes at the Ranch. Among others my brother Cole and Kendra have called it quits. Aside from the inevitable odds and ends that might remain, her relocation is about done.

I’ve done this myself a few times, so don’t ask me why I assumed I’d return to my regular routine while Kendra and Twelve-Year-Old settle into their new home – and Brother wraps his head around it all in the main house. Silly Me.

Yesterday was a landmark. It was trash collection day. Lifting the trash can lid to check for room to empty any overlooked wastebaskets, I found the curtains from the second bedroom sitting on top. Most people would probably think nothing of it. I saw a remnant of our late brother Richard’s life.

Roan, Richard and Cole in 2012

Since Richard vacated that room to occupy the cottage in which I now live, the bedroom had been the workout room. Now it will be Cole’s bedroom. Today, from the ever-open folding closet doors one can see seasonal clothes on one side and several guitar cases on the other. Though the guitars are actually Cole’s, the cases looked the same, covering half the closet floor exactly as Richard’s once had. That and the curtains hadn’t changed.

Maybe it’s just me, but leaving the window dressings in the trash simply felt wrong. I don’t know if the curtains had actually been Richard’s. It didn’t really matter. Still, I thought hard before reaching into the bin. I reasoned that they are pretty, still fashionable and seemed in good condition, so even if Cole actually didn’t want them somebody could use them.

Whatever the case it was getting hot and chores awaited. I dove in – no, not literally. The whole set was there; the four sheer panels, four valances, even the two matching ties.

Later on I looked more closely and found a few sizable paint drops on one of the sheer panels. Brother had painted the day before, so it made sense that he thought the set was ruined. I considered it well worth the time and effort to try removing the paint. A few hours later they looked new again.

Then for the rest of the day I wondered what I would do with them. Storage space in my cottage has been scarce for months. This morning I still hadn’t decided. I was behind on my work from all the time I spent helping out in the main house, so for the present I carefully folded the clean, fresh-smelling pieces into a clear, zip-seal case from another set of drapes.

Happy memories came flooding back as I handled each piece:

It was my first night in the main house with Roan and Richard. I’d flown in from Chicago, and we were all exhausted early. Roan and Richard had said goodnight and gone to bed. I was still in travel mode, hardly ready to retire or sleep yet.

About ten minutes after their doors closed I began knocking at Richard’s bedroom door calling, “Hey! Whatcha doing? Are ya sleepin’ yet? Let’s go outside. Let’s play…” like when we were kids. After a few minutes of this incessant pounding his voice boomed from the door at the end of the hall, “I have a gun!” That’s when I realized in the dark hallway I’d been banging on was my niece Opal’s bedroom door. Giggles resounded throughout the rooms, and I went outside to gaze at the starry array I hadn’t seen in years.

The next morning I intended to pounce on him to wake him (as we’ve done since we were kids), but found his room open, light pouring through the sheer panels so the olive green valances appeared beige. As I took in the immaculate space and enjoyed the sunlight filling the hallway, I was abruptly clutched around my rib cage and a loud, sudden, “Whacha doin?” startled me nearly out of my skin. There in my personal space Richard towered over me, grinning ear to ear, clearly pleased with himself for sneaking up on me.

 

Then there was the time Richard left his laundry in the dryer. Just for fun I seized the opportunity and turned all his clothes inside out, folded them neatly and set them on his bed. The next evening I went to get something from my one dresser drawer, but it didn’t slide open easily as usual. Yep, I’d been pranked. Richard had wrapped the drawer in clear plastic wrap and placed a Got Ya sticker dead center at the front of the wrapping.

It was on. Ice water over the shower door, short-sheeted beds, double-sided tape on flip-flops, reversing everything on his bathroom vanity (that really jacked him up, I was delighted), hair gel on bike seats – for days, yo… Sometimes being creative while not risking harm (or depressing messes to clean up) can be a challenge, but we rock that stuff.

 

On our last night before Roan and I departed for Texas, Roan, Opal and I shared an air mattress together on the living room floor. I wanted to go to sleep, but Roan and Opal were wrestling, playing keep-away with a bag of candy. About the time I was going to jump in, Richard entered the room. Blowing a whistle, he tossed a white hand towel announcing, “Personal foul, defense. Five yard penalty!” Yeah, the night went on for much longer than was prudent.

 

As I write I miss my other siblings more than ever. Life happens, siblings grow older but not apart, regardless of the miles between us. Our loss hasn’t changed that.

After I finished packing the curtains with lavender and cedar flakes, memories continued to flow. I wrote the about my experience with the curtains, printed the story, placed it in the package and zipped it closed. I’ll make space for it. Perhaps someone will enjoy finding the package someday, read how it got there and better understand what an amazing family we are.

This just in: Roan now wants the curtains.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9,10 (NLT)

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Neck Up Check Up

I’ll just say it; I crack me up.

This morning began even earlier than usual for me. It’s hot, so I didn’t sleep as well as I typically do. I rolled out of bed thanking God for another day with Him. But soon I grumbled and complained about the dead bugs here and there from the summer’s quarterly spraying. Disgusted, I tied a frozen bandanna around my neck and stepped outside.

Instead of heading for the pastures first as I usually do, I walked toward the front yard and the gardens. It didn’t occur to me that the cattle and the mare would notice me in the pre-dawn light. They did. Loudly. Their calls to me actually warm my heart most days, but it was very early. Silly me, I worried the premature noise might disturb the neighbors – the nearest one being too far to hear. After I walked the other way, out of sight they quieted back down quickly.

I adore growing my own food. Over the weekend we’d placed Sevin baits to help reduce the earwig overpopulation. Still finding the live, slithering masses under everything I touched (checking for squash bugs or eggs) annoyed me. So did the screen door banging against the planter – someone left it open after using the grill the night before. As the first sun beams streaked across the tree trunks I felt taken for granted noticing the empty bird feeders. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Clearly I desperately needed coffee.

Once the coffee began pumping I felt revived and happier with the world. I followed the cattle to the pasture to see how the new controller program I’d set the day before went. That was a long process in itself: find a manual on line, find the information I needed rather than read every jot and tittle about the device, hand write the step-by-step instructions (of course the printer cartridge emptied at that particular moment, and forget a WiFi signal in the metal barn), walk back to the cottage for a flashlight since the new lights in the barn aren’t connected yet… I already had half my daily steps in.

Then I noticed two swamp spots in the first sprinkler zone – yep, the cow’s knocked off two more sprinkler heads so the water pooled around a two-yard radius instead of the 20 yard circles they should have soaked. Stupid cow.

I shot a text off to Brother reminding him to bring more replacement heads home with him and headed back to my desk. I pulled fresh weeds to feed the chickens – killing two birds with one stone (the young hens will just have to get over that expression – or start laying soon).

Within minutes at my desk, my brand new wireless keyboard had me wanting to punch something. Does anyone actually use F keys instead of hot keys? How is learning to stretch the fingers higher better than CTL+S, CTL+A, CTL+C, CTL+V, etc? I literally walked away after the fifth or sixth time a Save As dialogue box popped up rather than the cursor back spacing over yet another key error. Grrr… And I saved to buy this device for months!

The sound of Old Dog sniffing around my open door was all it took to push me over my threshold. Time for a walk.

Before we’d walked fifty yards I noticed Senior Neighbor Lady waving her arms and calling me. Walking past our three dogs noisily engaging in their daily fence fight I finally heard her tell me, “Honey, I don’t have my hearing aids in and couldn’t hear what you were yelling to me.”  Hmmm… I only waved hello as I do every morning – usually two hours later.

I easily find patience with seniors – sowing what I hope to reap, so I hugged her and wished her a nice day.

As Dog and I rounded the first bend in the road, I heard what sounded like angry voices nearby. Dog paused, his aging ears pointed toward the source of the sound. It appeared one half of a young couple was loading a pick-up truck bed and the other half was getting her wounded, parting words out. He wordlessly pulled items out of the pile she’d created next to the garbage can before the collection truck arrived.

Been there, done that. I prayed.

I continued to pray as we continued our walk. Dog doesn’t mind – he can’t hear my lower register anyway. God does.

As we headed back up our driveway I noticed the fruits of my labors in the pretty, colorful, well-trimmed yards, and the unmistakably peaceful atmosphere of the place. Yeah, the lots between the main house and the pastures seem chaotic, but that’s what Brother’s business going in good a direction looks like.

I realized how silly I’d been earlier. Though I never expected to be unmarried, my life now is what I’ve always hoped and wished for. Despite the daily annoyances that are certain to arise as I learn about ranch life, with such a benefactor as Brother, my life has become a story I want to write. Most important, I realized how quickly I suffer for discounting my relationship with God.

Today I’m humbled recalling one of Daddy’s iconic expressions, “How soon we forget.”

Today I’m grateful for the reminder to never step out the door before prayer time – or without my latte.

Now I’m off to get the rest of my steps in before it’s too hot!

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

 

Image courtesy MemeGenerator.net.

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Still Workin’

Yeah, it’s been a while. Originally I imagined this imposed hiatus would be a week or two.

We plan – God laughs.

It turns out I’d carried a lot more baggage home with me than I’d realized. And surprise, I’d gotten so used to carrying it all I hadn’t noticed the the weight. As it happens, hurting my arm and shoulder wasn’t entirely a bad thing. I had to lay a few things down and I’ll tell you, sometimes doing that right can be a long process. I’m determined to stick with it and not need to do this again!

 

Still, I enjoy my new life on the ranch, despite how it humbles me – daily. So much to learn, such astounding lessons.

 

 

I finish the chores early in the day so I’m back to work on my chapters now: Write – edit – edit – edit – submit.

I don’t have my head around my new What’s Next format – yet – but I don’t want anyone wondering if I’ve gone off the rails either.

So for now, enjoy the link to what feels like my life’s sound track from Mandisa and keep checking in!

 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

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Passed St. Pat’s

No matter where in the world my siblings ever were, on St. Patrick’s Day we always celebrated our heritage, our family and our life together. ‘Tis tradition, don’cha know.

I admit, I did not celebrate this year, my first year back home. Three years ago, almost to the minute I’m now writing, my younger brother Seagh’s heart ruptured, he laid down his Harley, shook himself off and then walked into The Great Beyond. That moment changed everything.

We all adore our darling Seagh. Even as a small boy, he demonstrated extraordinary wisdom. We all came to depend upon him, especially when emotions ran rampant or hard times made our choices seem vague.

Over the years Seagh was always my greatest comfort, my touchstone, helping me make sense of the madness that seemed to be constantly lurking nearby.

 

 

After the years he roamed the globe he came home to the family and finally the ranch. For the brief season we were all here together I was entirely contented. I wanted us to stay together and to never leave.

But Seagh always knew something, saw something the rest of us missed. He insisted I stay close to our baby sister, Roan; “She’ll crash and burn without you.” Eventually I resigned to move on to Texas with her. Weeks later I understood why he sent me. Seagh already knew he too would be moving on soon.

Two years after his passing Roan and I were settled in Texas. Then I moved on again. We remain connected across the miles and continue on together – but differently now. Seagh dying when he did seemed to make the world a darker, sadder place and I couldn’t fix that.

It seemed.

Cole and Seagh 2012

Now Roan has Opal and her entourage in Texas. I am at home here at the ranch. I walk where Seagh walked along with Cole, Kendra and Eleven-Year-Old.

Sometimes I believe I can see the world as Seagh saw it. Very often I think I can see his unmistakable stance in the lot or where the patio used to be, one hand in a pocket, the other holding a mug, always taking in life deeply. Sure, I miss hearing him speak his few, pointed words daily. But I hear him.

I can’t conjure up his image on demand. But in the still, quiet of a peaceful day and in the midst of turmoil, I remember his words. When I don’t expect it, they come to me like rain on parched ground. Looking skyward, I soak them in, “You shouldn’t wonder about my soul. God and I are good now.”

Seagh’s death did not end him. Love lives on.

Absolutely.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. … And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1: 3, 6 (NLT)

For Seagh:

Feature Image courtesy of Gigi @ A Warm Hello.com

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