a heart full of…

I’m tender
I’m small
hardly anything at all
but a heart full of…


I’m quiet
I’m soft
hardly anything at all
but a heart full of..

I rise from the darkness
the invisible place
with hardly anything at all
but a heart full of…


will you slow your quick pace
will you see my gift
my hardly anything at all
but a heart full of…

or will you rush
will you flee
from hardly anything at all
but a heart full of…


my gentle soul stills
your hurry your strong
bring hardly anything at all
but a heart full of…

You find me
I smile
hardly anything at all
but a heart full of…



Jump in!

August barrels past me in a sideways rush of steam and heat.  I’m convinced that it’s flown in on the backs of mosquitos, at least in East Texas.  Early mornings are so humid that you wish it would give up and rain.  By noon it’s so dry the slightest air movement kicks up a cloud of dust to rival an old Saturday western double feature.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to sit serenely in a frosty theatre at this time of year.  If you even make it to the end of the day then it’s just plain hotter than hot.  Many counties have enacted burn bans by now.  Their signs flank the roadsides where one county gives way to the next.   Burn ban – they remind  gently.  What they mean is – Absolutely Positively No Fire!


In 8 B.C. August got its name from Augustus Caesar.  I won’t pretend to know much about him, only that he graciously gave his name to this month and he is not the Caesar from Shakespeare’s tragedy.  That would be Julius from last month.  I stopped myself just now from calling it “this awful august”. Clearly it is not my favorite month of the year.  A melancholy settles in on me about now.  Ellie feels it too I think.  Her mild grumpiness reaches a peak in the dog days of summer.  The other dogs keep a healthy and respectful distance most of the time, except Huckleberry who can get by with almost anything.  Ellie is even known to skip walks in favor of a cool soft spot on the sofa.  Can’t say that I blame her.  Cool inside nap?  Hot outside walk?  She always has been a smart dog.  


Why the melancholy? 

Could it be the snakes?  No, I see more snakes in April than August. In spring they seek the warmth of the sun as much as I do. In August they welcome the cooler forest shade well hidden under the leaf litter. Our paths don’t cross so much this time of year for which I’m grateful. I have no wish to share a chit chat over an iced tea with them. Jack j juice box however, would probably love to have a snake friend. He has an uncanny way of looking for things that others try to avoid.


Could it be the heat? I don’t mind the heat all that much though.  With it comes a built in excuse for so many things.  Berry blue sno cones.  Dashing through sprinklers.  Slow meditative swinging in the shade.  That cool inside nap.  Waking early and catching the sunrise.  All things that I love.

Could it be that back to school days are fast approaching?  Remember the countdown of those final days of summer.  But, I’m long past all that.  And anyway, I liked school.  To this very day I’m crazy about new school supplies!  Empty spiral notebooks in my favorite colors.  Fresh pencils sharpened to a fine point.  The unparalleled joy of a new box of crayons.  Yep, I totally love school supplies.  Dobby likes them too.  They make nice chew toys.  He feels strongly about the benefits of shredded paper strewn about the room just so.  


Could it be that I miss putting together a new fall wardrobe?  That’s definitely not it!  I grew up wearing a school uniform. I still shy away from plaid skirts, oxford shoes and knee socks.  It’s hard to get excited about buying new clothes when they are exactly like the ones you wore last year and exactly like everyone else’s.  I didn’t realize it at the time but there’s a real freedom in wearing a uniform.  You put far more effort into who you are than into what you wear.  Plus…I don’t like shopping.  Bo would probably adore shopping.  He would overfill his cart with cheetos and bacon treats.  And he would nudge himself up under every free hand in the store.  Go ahead, you know you want to pet me.  

It seems there are an awful lot of good things hidden in August…


There’s nothing quite so wonderful as sitting still on a hot afternoon and reading until your heart is content.  I’ve been thinking of reading Harry Potter from start to finish…again.  August may be the perfect time to begin such an undertaking.  Rain showers of all shapes are a refreshing surprise. It’s lovely to walk beneath the trees in a light summer rain.  Cicadas hum loudly overhead and make grand company as you walk the woods.  Toads who find themselves trapped in a backyard water offering hop gratefully away after being rescued by a scoop of the hand.  Huckleberry snuggles up next to me as I write.  You’ve never seen such a happy furry friend.  He has good reasons though.  I’m pretty sure he just wants to be close enough to get first dibs on any cheese I might be snacking on.  

I’m sure there are a dozen reasons to feel melancholy in August or any other month for that matter.  None of them can hold you captive without your permission.  There is only one month filled to the brim with 31 long hot lazy August days.  I have 27 left. I think I’ll make the best of them and jump right in with all four paws just like Sweet Sonya Sue! 

Without the words 5 and Final

On my daily walk I often see a single feather abandoned by its owner.  Some are more captivating than others. I am surprised at times by their odd placements.  They all have one thing in common though.  “Hope is the thing with feathers…” springs instantly to my mind when I see one.  I smile inwardly.  I stop long enough to take a photograph.  Maybe I gather it up and take it home with me to adorn my  kitchen windowsill.  A graceful reminder.


For months I have known that one day the timing would be just right and I would post about this.  But it has turned out far different than I planned.  I imagined it as one feather in one photo with one stanza of poetry by one Emily Dickinson. One.

But recently feathers began appearing more often than usual.  And they were in such amazing places!  Agitation set in.  Faced with so many images, how would I ever narrow it to only one? I considered posting them together.  That would be too much.  I feared their individual beauty would be lost and none of them would stand out.  That wouldn’t do at all.

Since Bobolicious had made such a spectacle of himself I decided that his photos should definitely go first.  It’s always good to begin with a bit of good cheer.  Dobbs was included in this group for obvious reasons.  Mostly because he stopped long enough to notice the feather.  No matter how exuberant he can be, Dobby is far too short to pull off a Bo jumping type move.  He soon lost interest and wandered up the trail in pursuit of something more entertaining and closer to the ground.

I received a nice compliment and have fielded a few questions about this particular feather, the Bo feather.  How ever did you manage that?  Did you toss the feather into the air photographing it as it floated to the ground?  That sounds rather peaceful and manageable, now doesn’t it? Here’s the thing.  My real life in action goes something like this…  The very second that four medium to large dogs (because let’s not forget my furry constant companions) catch sight of me throwing Anything into the air, Everything would go south.  And quickly.  Including and especially Me! There would be no photos.  No feather.  No grand moment in time.  There would be only me mangled and bruised on the forest floor under a massive pile of dogs hoping for something yummy.  Something like…I don’t know… bacon treats maybe.  So yeah.  The first Without the words definitely did not occur by my gently tossing a feather and capturing beautiful photos as it descended gracefully to earth.  Not happening.

For now I’ll leave it as a beautiful mystery.  However, I will share with you that the photographs I post are my own and they’re quite real.  Each one is what I see and how I see it when I see it.  No computer enhancements and such.  In fact, I’m lousy at that and have no interest in becoming unlousy at it.  In a couple of the suspended pictures I even surprised myself.  It looks as though some enormous dinosaur of a bird dropped a feather into my very own woods on a random Tuesday.  How did that happpen? And what’s flying around up there that might want to eat me?! All about perspective I suppose.

Ok, I had narrowed down the photos to the first group not really knowing what I would do with the rest.  Take care of today and let tomorrow take care of itself, as I always say.  So… Since I was quoting an actual poem written by an actual person I thought it best to double check myself on the actual words.  And, that’s when I was gloriously reminded that there are two other stanzas to the poem.  I love the first stanza.  I love it so much that I usually forget that there are two others.  Even when I am reminded that they exist I breeze over them absentmindedly wondering – why didn’t she stop after the first one.  I mean it’s perfect.  Nevertheless, Agitation turned to inspiration! I was off and running with a series! A series? Ugh.  I shy away from posting too often.

I grew a great deal this week.  Sharing each morning gave me a joy I wasn’t expecting.  Readers will read  when they want to I learned. I needn’t worry about that. Write when the words come.  Publish when it feels right to you.  Leave the rest up in the air.  Divine Providence! Joyful Happenstance!  As one day gave way to the next I found myself aloft in a sky of feather images floating on a cloud of words set to paper by a woman I’ll never know, and wondering about Hope…

Hope is the thing… Emily Dickinson wrote 3 stanzas, 12 beautiful verses about hope.  She didn’t call it Hope. But then she didn’t title any of her poems.  She simply numbered them. This is number 254.   I wonder why she wrote them.  I wonder how it came to her.  Hopeless days seem so long and bleak.  Was it one of those times  for her? Was she searching for something to pull her through an unnamed sadness? Did she struggle to gather the words one by one out of a dark night by the dim light of a candle or a gas lamp?  Or… Did she watch a sunrise as the first birdsong of the morning floated through an open window? And there were the seeds of Hope full and rounded with promise.  Was every word an easily unwrapped gift to her soul on that day?

There are moments in life that are heavy.  My steps are slow and unsure.  You know the ones.  Your shoes feel laden with stones and your vision is clouded over.  No matter how much good is right in front of me, I’m just unable to see it.  I don’t really know what to do with myself in moments like that. I muddle through.

I’ve been writing on wordpress for a few months now.  Most of my posts are tucked contentedly away and I don’t think about them at all.  Except one that I cannot quite shake loose.   I return to it occasionally and remind myself that it was written with heart to give hope.  Still, I have come close to pulling it several times.  So far, I haven’t.  That post has been on my mind all week long.  I hurt for the struggles of others, the ones they graciously let me see, and the ones they keep quietly to themselves.  What can I do for you? How can I help? And sometimes there isn’t anything I can do…  That’s not completely true.  I can always hold them in my thoughts and prayers.  As intangible as that sounds I believe it’s by far the best thing any of us can offer one another.  When I see with my heart the pain that others bear, my own struggles seem so small.  In those moments I feel Inadequacy and Blessing.  It is an odd combination perhaps, but there I am.

I feel inadequate to fix it.  I want so badly to fix things in this life.  But many things are fine just the way they are even if I don’t understand them.  There is something graceful about the broken.  Visible scars are earned in invisible places.  Been there.  Done that.  Have the gold plated tee shirt to prove it!  Inadequacy gives me compassion.  Blessings bring me hope.  I am humbled by my own blessings.  How many good good things are all around me! Dare I say, around all of us?


Sunrise is a universal gift to everyone everyday.  Gentle breezes on a hot summer day don’t discriminate between rich and poor. Clouds are not selective.  They hold the promise of life giving rain for young and old alike.  The tallest redwoods stretch to the heavens as a reminder that strength is earned over time.  Whether you are man or woman makes no difference. The  monarch butterfly journeys inspiring distances. It does not matter if you move slowly or fast, just as the monarch, keep flying.  Although I cannot carry a tune, the birds sing for me as much as for the one who raises the sweetest voice.  Flowers bloom for everyone to enjoy!  They never stop to ask if you are happy or sad.  They offer themselves gracefully for all alike.  My blessing often comes barreling in on four legs leaving a heap of shedded fur behind.  What does yours look like?  

That is where hope resides, in the blessings. In the daily things that we overlook or forget to see. The feather, the beloved pet, the morning glory… These tiny wonders are the homes of hope.  Sometimes they arrive as words.

I write because I don’t know how not to write.  My thoughts come clearer on paper with pencil.  I write because the tiniest thing in my day is so often the most important of all.  Maybe it’s the same for you.  I measure my thoughts and words carefully before I abandon them here leaving them for you to find and do with what you will. Perhaps in this odd collection of feathers you’ll discover a smidgen of a forgotten something that will give you wings and carry your own thoughts to a place of hope.  I hope so.

Without the words? Are you kidding?!  Miss D accomplished that far better than I have. My story has rambled up a tree, through a nest, and across a wide open sky only to sing the same tune.  Hope is a song that is Always with You.  It is as close as your own heartbeat.  Be still.  Be quiet.  Listen.   What does your song sound like?

Hope is the thing with feathers

that perches in the soul,

and sings the song without the words,

and never stops at all,

 


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

and sore must be the storm

that could abash the little bird 

that kept so many warm.



Ive heard it in the chillest land,

and on the strangest sea;

yet, never, in extremity,

it asked a crumb of me.

 


Love Song of the Butterfly Pea

Nothing is so strong as gentleness.  Nothing is so gentle as real strength.  –  Frances de Sales

However does she do it?  Withstand the dangers of the forest floor? Paws trampling rough shod within inches.  I cringe at how close they come to harming her.  Little ones scampering the forest floor tearing at the leaf litter and digging for nourishment and treasure.  Summer storms showering her with debris from the heights of the woodland canopy.  She has brought joy to my path for three glorious days now.  How blessed am I?!  She will never see the ocean.  She will never travel to far off lands. She has only one tiny place to tend to in this great big world. Whatever may come to her on this one day, she cares for it with a beauty and grace that staggers my imagination. She moves as gently with the breeze as she stands strong in her place.   But how?  How is it so?  Has she something unseen deep within her petaled heart?  yes, my love…always…my love…

Both…

I Love the way day and night, night and day, melt so softly into one another. A pure moment. Bold strength in the way everything is a silhouette as all colors fall away or are yet to be awakened. Mystery hidden in the shadows. Disguised hope of what may come next. Or a veil slipped over the glory of what has just been. If you’re not in the moment of the passing, if you see with your eyes just what I share, You are free to let go. Let your imagination fly with possibilities. Is it this one? Or that one? What has been? Or what will be? Your choice. Neither is wrong. Both are exquisite…There is only now.  Whatever you choose, open your heart… don’t miss it…

What are you hungry for?

“When I write of hunger, I’m really writing about love and the hunger for it, and the warmth and the love of it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.”  M.F.K. Fisher

 

I’m so so hungry this morning.  For food?  Yes and no. We hunger for so much more than sustenance. The foods we love and the foods we don’t love all have stories for us, about us. When we share a story about our food life, if you listen closely you’ll hear more than a recipe for the perfect turkey.  Today I’m hungry for the food of childhood summers reminiscent of long lazy days. I want the foods that tell stories and satisfy with love even more than with calories. This week that means chocolate sheath cake! 

 In my family as in most there were fine cooks and simple cooks. People tell me that my Mother was a great cook. But as I remember her kitchen she didn’t cook very often and then it was food food because one should eat.  She used to say – we’ll play like it’s done. By the time I was eight years old she was cooking for only the two of us.  And after all, a little girl doesn’t eat that much. Once in a while she would conjure up a feast. Mostly though, we ate simple fare and spent our time on other pursuits. My Mother could tear the whole house apart when she was inspired by a project. She wasn’t afraid to try anything even if it made a horrible mess.   Although Mother gave up cooking for the most part she loved food and miraculously never gained an ounce.  I think she was too busy for weight.  It just couldn’t get a grip on her.  She moved too fast. 

 Later in life when I was grown and she moved more slowly, after taking her to the doctor I would ask – what would you like for lunch, Whataburger or Mexican? Mind you, we still had donuts left from our morning pre doctor stop. Without skipping a beat, she  always answered – Both – and she meant it. I would make a few mild attempts at encouraging her to choose one or the other. Both, she insisted. And so, Both it was. First, we would have a sit down lunch of Mexican food where she cleaned her plate as I struggled with how full I felt. Then, I’d drive through Whataburger to pick her up a large burger, fries and coke which would be enjoyed and gone before the day was over. Mother loved food, all food. I’m not sure if it was sheer gusto for the enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life. 

Or Perhaps she remembered what it was like to be without. There were times when I was a girl that work was hard for her to come by and the fridge was pretty bare. A few slices of cheese and a jar of pickles doesn’t offer a great many choices. She was so clever that she once made tomato soup from saved up ketchup packets!  I assure you we never went hungry.  And Mimi’s house wasn’t far away, with something always simmering on the stove. We’d leave her house with a full tummy and Tupperware laden with leftovers. 

 That is probably why I try to feed everything and everyone who comes near me. You think I’m kidding? Just ask anyone who’s been in my kitchen. Seriously.  there’s bird seed for the wild birds. Nectar for the hummingbirds. Crumbs for the fish at the lake. Even my composted scraps are offered to the animals.  They’ve been gobbled up by raccoons, opossums and coyotes now and then. Those animals, the wild ones, sneak up at night and drive the dogs crazy! Why are you at my house? Why?! Those egg shells belong to me! 

 Where was I…oh yes… So, although I have good strong food memories of my Mom, they aren’t so much to do with her actually cooking. For that I only have other people’s stories of her skill in the kitchen and a handful of treasured recipes.  Yesterday, I baked her Chocolate Sheath Cake in the same silver pan that she always used.  Ah, chocolate cake you say.  That’s nice.  I must have a dozen chocolate cake recipes.  Wait, no, no, you don’t understand.  As a girl I didn’t like chocolate.  That’s right, I didn’t like chocolate.  I can hear you gasping in horror.  When you’re a kid chocolate is everywhere!  It’s the thing! Chocolate cakes, chocolate frosting, chocolate ice cream, chocolate candy, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate is Everywhere.  All I could think was – oh, chocolate, do you have anything in vanilla or maybe some refreshing lime sherbet.  Why does everyone want chocolate? Are you still with me? Have you passed out and hit your head on the pavement? It was hard to be a kid who didn’t like chocolate.  You’re instantly different in a rather odd sort of way.  What do you mean you don’t like chocolate? Everyone likes chocolate.  Not everyone.  Not me.  I learned not to share that part of myself, the part that other kids didn’t understand. 

 You will be pleased to know that I’ve grown to the point where I like chocolate fine now.  A nice piece of dark chocolate after a meal is perfect and yes I can be satisfied with just one.  That’s only because it’s not my be all, end all, go to food.  That would be cookies! Did you hear my deep sigh of contentment.  The world’s most perfect food – Cookies! No plate, fork, or napkin necessary.  When things are bad and getting worse, keep a cookie in your purse! I am utterly convinced that if you slather on peanut butter and add a side of milk or maybe fruit you have a perfectly well balanced meal.  When I’m having one of Those kind of days I even bake them warm for dinner.  The veggies can wait until tomorrow.  This terrible horrible no good very bad day will be redeemed by cookies for dinner.  I’m off topic again…but seriously, cookies, I’m just saying.  Now you know why one of the names I answer to is Cookie.  I can live with that.  

So… a Mother who didn’t cook much, creative meals now and then, a kid who doesn’t like chocolate, and cookies Rock.  What does all of that have to do with my Mother’s chocolate cake? Why is It so special?  Cookie, You don’t even like chocolate for goodness sakes.  Chocolate Sheath Cake is one of only two cakes I recall my  Mother baking.  And, until I was rather grown it was the one and only form of chocolate that I liked.  The only chocolatey food that made me sigh with ease and light up my face with joy.  The only form of chocolate that made me like everyone else, my mother’s cake.  Although these days my pantry is blessedly full and my choices are many,  Mother’s Sheath cake still does that for me.  Is it the chocolate? I doubt it.  When it comes to chocolate I can take it or leave it.  It’s my Mother, of course.  She did something for me that no one else could.  She loved me whether I liked chocolate or not.  My first gift of unconditional irreversible love. 

 

I don’t like chocolate.  You don’t like broccoli. She doesn’t like soccer. And he doesn’t like football. Not everyone will love you unconditionally.  But, we’re each lovable just as we are no matter what we don’t like to eat or to play.  Jack is different from Huckleberry is different from Ellie is different than Bo.  My Ellie girl loves cookies just like me!  Huckleberry is crazy for cheese, all kinds, and pancakes.  Bo is a bacon aficionado.  And Jack j juice box, well, Jack likes a little taste of everything. Don’t you Jack?  I love the ways they aren’t like each other.  I love the silly things that only they can do.  We needn’t hide that which makes us different.  Rather, share it and see how much fun there is in another way.  Bo doesn’t like rough play so he climbs up on the picnic table and watches instead.  The other dogs like him just the same.  

From time to time when I’m hungry for something more, for something undefined, then I bake Sheath cake.  My Mother’s cake in my Mother’s pan.  I love the way the lid slides on and off.  It gives a satisfying click when it’s closed up all the way.  I love the window that lets me peek through to see the goodness inside.  I love to leave a fork in the pan so I can easily snag a bite every single time I walk through the kitchen.  No, it doesn’t last very long that way.  But yes, if you should arrive before I’ve polished it off I will share with you, from the opposite non fork side, of course.  When the pan empties, I’m good.  I’ll go months without making it or even thinking about it.  Then all of a sudden I am missing something… hungry for something I cannot quite define.   A secret anniversary of the heart perhaps. 

There is food that fills our tummy.  There is food that provides a well balanced diet.  Then, there’s the food that speaks to your heart.  Whatever yours is, eat it slowly, savor the taste of it, recall its story, and please, share it with someone you love.  


Chocolate Sheath Cake


In a bowl mix


2 cups flour
 
2 cups sugar

In a saucepan bring to a boil


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

4 Tablespoons cocoa

1 cup water


Pour over dry ingredients and mix

Add in  


1/2 cup buttermilk 

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla


Mix well and pour into a greased 9×13 pan

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes 


Five minutes before the cake is ready make the icing

In a saucepan melt 

1/2 cup butter

4 Tablespoons cocoa

6 Tablespoons milk


Stir in


4 cups powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 cup chopped pecans


Pour the thin hot icing over the hot cake.

Let cool

Enjoy!