Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Memories of Spring Cleaning

The sun is shining so brightly this morning that, even though it is only 27 degrees outside, it warms my soul.  It made me flash on a memory from when I was a child of around eight-years old. 
            It spring time and one of the first truly warm days after a cold winter had arrived.  To my mother spring meant cleaning.  Not just sweeping and moping cleaning, this meant deep, deep cleaning.  This was when the living room furniture was hauled out onto the front lawn.  The room was stripped bare of furniture, pictures, curtains and me.  I was exiled to the front yard with the furniture.
            With a cotton cloth over the straws of the broom, Mom would sweep the ceiling and walls.  A dry cloth followed by a wet cloth wiped away the dust from the window and door frames.  The baseboards got the same treatment while she crawled around on hands and knees.
            The windows were cleaned with white vinegar and gave the house a pungent smell that lasted for days.  The outside of the windows would be cleaned the same way at a later date when the storm windows were taken down and stored away in the cellar.
            The walls were inspected and spot scrubbed before a general wipe down with another damp towel.  Touch up painting might follow the cleaning or possibly they would get a completely new color coating of fresh paint.  That year no painting was needed.
            The wooden floor was swept and then a well soaped scrub brush was applied to the floor, again on hands and knees.  The floor was then rinsed several times and then a few coatings of liquid wax were applied.
While this was taking place inside the house, it was my job to clean the furniture.  The cushions came off the couch and Mom’s chair.  This was a special treat because I got to keep any coins found in the couch.  I usually came up with more pencils and small toys than I did money but it was still a treasure hunt.  And then I got to whack the stuffed and upholstered furniture with a rug beater.  What young boy could pass up a chance to beat up a couch?  Of course in my imagination I was taking down a buffalo or some such beast with my bare hands.  Clouds of dust would come out into the bright sunlight and sparkle like flecks of gold in the air.  Sometimes they were stars as I went hurling through the cosmos in my space ship.
            The wooden furniture got a dusting and then I was allowed to rub them down with furniture oil.  This was long before I ever heard of lemon scented furniture polish.  I don’t know what kind of oil it was but it had a pleasantly earth aroma.  With the warm sun soaking into my skin I was transported to the old west where I was wiping down my horse after a long ride through the desert, where I had been tracking down rustlers.
            I was always done with my job before Mom finished her cleaning.  Sometimes I would transform the couch into a car and go for a drive.  Sometimes I would be chased by spies! I might be held prisoner in a jail cell formed by the back of wooden chairs. 
And sometimes exhausted by all my adventures I would lay on the cool green grass and be filled with the smell of earth, the sounds of robins and cardinals, and the heat of the sun with the feel of the breeze tickling the hairs on my arm.  And then I would sleep.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gray Flannel Sky

      Gray flannel sky this morning.  The slight breeze turning thirty degrees into a wind-chill of 24.  After days and days of rain, a little overcast sky looks pretty good to me.  We’ve needed the rain, so I won’t complain.  However, I’d like a little sunshine sometime before snow falls.
      I’m amazed at the number of trees still holding tight to their leaves.  It’s like their afraid to let them go.  Maybe they’re cold!  Soon enough they’ll look like black skeletons coated with white cotton.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dry Bones

         I was reading from Ezekiel, "The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’  I said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’"
I thought to myself that if the Lord had asked me that question I would have replied, "Are you nuts?   Of course not!"
I realize that this is meant as a symbolic story to help visualize a lesson that God was teaching Ezekiel.  I can easily accept the story of dry bones coming to life as an allegory but not as a true event.
Strange thing is, there was a show on the Discovery Channel about "gene hunters".  These guys are trying to piece together the genome of saber-tooth tigers to be implanted in modern day lion or tiger.  Another set of scientists is working on recreating mammoths.
Hmmm!  ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thinking On Rain

Today it rained. I had driven my wife to the mall. Not feeling like shopping, I sat in a parking lot for a while listening to the gentle rain on the roof of the van.
I was trying to think of a way to describe the sound it made. It was so faint. So soft. Sometimes there seemed to be almost a rhythm like butterflies marching on the roof. Sometimes it was as chaotic as ants using Q-tips to do battle!
I reclined the driver’s seat to better hear the rain on the roof.
My wife woke me when she returned from shopping!
I like rain. I particularly like gentle, windless rains. Those are the best rains for walking in. Not bent over, collar up, running through the rain. Walking head back, mouth and eyes open, twirling in circles, laughing at the sky!
Of course, since I’m nearing sixty years old and a rather large man, that may frighten some people!
Have you ever noticed how rain changes the smell of things? Oddly enough when it first starts to rain the air smells dusty (if you’re in country). In the city the rain, at first, seems to bring out the smells of hot sidewalks and old oil.
Usually you can smell the rain coming before it arrives.
During the rain, smells are suppressed. All you smell is rain!
Now! After the rain! That’s when everything smells fresh and cool and clean.
Except the dog!

Remembering Gran’pa Coons

I have been thinking about my grandfather.  There are some things that I remember and there are some things that I know about my grandfather.  My memories of my gran’pa are few.  He was in his nineties when I was born, so I remember him as a frail old man who had big gaps in his memory.
What I know of him paints a different picture that is hard for me to visualize.  Trying to picture him as tall, lean and muscular is difficult.  I know he was these things, because he had to be. 
He made part of his living digging wells.  This was before big drilling machines.  This was in the day when they were dug with muscle and sweat.  He was what was known as a well witch or water diviner.
I remember that he showed me how to cut a forked branch from a sapling to use as a divining rod.  He held it in an overhand grasp and then walked with it in front of him. When the end dipped of its own accord this is where there was water.  He could tell by the pull of the rod how deep the well would be.
I’m not sure that I believe in diving for water, but I’ve held it in my hands and felt the pull for myself.
They other thing that he did was fiddle for dances.  All of my grandfather’s relatives played various musical instruments.  These are things I’ve been told by my mother.
These things I remember: I remember gran’pa sitting at the table just staring and not saying a word.  This was his way of letting us know that we needed to pass something to him.  I remember him eating peas with his knife and saucering his coffee for it to cool. 
I recall his mustache.  I’m, at the time of this writing, fifty-six years old and I still envy that mustache.  It was a glorious, bushy thing that completely covered his lower lip. 
I can still see him sitting in his easy chair with his feet propped up in the open door of the oil burner.  The oil burning stove sat in the living room and was the only heat for the two story house.  Gran’pa would sit there and go to sleep with his eyes open.  That both fascinated and scared me.  Once he’d gone to sleep, his pipe would fall out onto his chest.  I think every shirt he owned had burn holes in it.
He had holes in more than his clothes.  He also had holes in his memory.  He knew I was his grandson, but he didn’t recognize my mother as his daughter.  He always called her “that woman”.  I remember how much that hurt her.