May 29, 2016

Living the Layered Life: What I'm learning from Grandchildren and Easter Eggs

It seems just moments ago the year began with all its possibilities, yet here it is already the end of May and we find ourselves turning the corner on half the year gone. It’s tradition to assess life at the beginning of the year, to look back and look forward, to set goals and hope for the best. Because life moves at such an incredibly fast pace, I think we need to stop at mid-year to check on our progress.

Today, I scanned some of the photos I’ve taken so far this year. They are mostly of the grands because they are my faves. They give me all kinds of gifts when I’m with them like stick drawings of our family and bouquets of weeds. They’ve given me another gift too that isn’t so intentional. Being with them in their small lives has opened up my memories. It’s a strange thing to say that since they aren’t in my memories, at least not the distant ones, but now as I live again as a witness to their childhood, my own childhood memories have been loosened, as well as those of not so distant days when I was in the thralls of raising their mother and their uncles.

I was thinking how life is layered in the same vein as an oil painting, fat over lean. We start small and fragile and over time our lives build until we are people who can care for ourselves in most ways. We also learn how to live with others, those very much like us and those who are nothing like us. Life is built layer by layer through our experiences and interactions. The beauty below the surface may be hidden as we add to the painting, but every layer has significance. Each is still a part of who we were becoming, the foundation of who we are and will be. All this is directed by the sovereignty of our Creator God who paints the skies and seeds the forests and valleys with flowers.

My iCloud holds pictures of our Easter egg coloring days this past March. Leanne (my twin) and I stumbled a few years back into a tradition of finding an Arkansas cabin to spend part of spring break in each year. We find one on a vacation-rental-by-owner site and make our plans. We try to find one close to water. We haven’t been back to the same cabin twice. We’ve liked them all, but the need to explore the new is so compelling that we only revisit our past cabins in our memories, usually around a new campfire where storytelling and memories rise into the spring air with the smoke. This year we had all of our girls. Our days away were during the days of Holy Week so we took advantage to undertake an Easter egg hunt in the wooded area between the cabin and the creek. It was a no-brainer since we had the little ones this year.

One night after the sun fell behind the bluff, we gathered around the dining table to color eggs with traditional dyes, the kind with the color pill you drop into water. My niece was sure that the color would set better if we had vinegar to add. We didn't have that but we did have pickles so we drained a bit of the juice into our dye and it seemed to work. Before long we had a dozen and a half of colored eggs, no two alike. Hannah organized them in an egg carton by graduated colors like a true art student would, and the rest of us girls beamed with pride.

The next afternoon the party kicked into full gear out on the picnic table near the fire pit. The big girls and the little girls set out their supplies for part two of egg decorating. This time, they would be decorating with brushes, paint, and Modge Podge, the craft glue. The girls had collected little mussel shells from the sandy beach by the creek and they had a paper bowl of dried beans— black-eyed peas and lentils, maroon kidneys and great whites---taken from the bean art project supplies. The eggs came out to the picnic table, the colored ones from the night before, and few we boiled that morning that didn’t make it onto the breakfast menu. 

Soon the eggs were transformed again. On a breezy spring afternoon, we hid them beside tree trunks careful to avoid the poison ivy. The girls ran for them like kids do at Easter egg hunts even though it was just the two of them.

The older I get the more I am learning about the beauty of a layered life. No one else has lived my life—only me. I am an original just like those two curly-haired girls that bring me such joy, and those bean covered-eggs we hid in the woods during Holy Week. There’ll be more layers to add to this life in the half year ahead. I’m counting on it.

May 7, 2016



Her lips like a puckered kiss,
My hand cupped,
an offering of seeds—
corn, wheat and oats.
The old chestnut mare slid into my arms and I slid on her back.
Wearing her white socks and a pair of steel-toed shoes,
she was good for nothing really, except for 
racing nose-down as if we had entered the Kentucky Derby. 
No one was placing bets on us out there on the back forty.
Didn’t matter---we always won. Then one random day, 
with no thought of past nor future, 
I left her behind the gate, locked the chain,
turned my back on Xanadu
and lost my freedom.
       ----Deanne Moore 

I was writing from a prompt this week on the word freedom. The idea was to dig deep into memories and connect the word with something from the past. I’m not sure why I went to the memory of the last horse that was “mine.” She was tall, close to 17 hands. I couldn’t get on her without a shove on my backside. If no one was around, I’d stand on a overturned bucket and throw myself over her back before I straddled her wide girth. She looked to be part workhorse, part quarter horse with a good confirmation and stout, but pretty. Xanadu was a gentle, agreeable sort. I remember afternoons when I’d slip on her bridle and ride her bareback through the pastures out behind the house. We would run and wander around in the slow afternoon and get lost together. There are no guidelines for bareback riding. You do it because you want to and because you can—freedom. That kind of experience shouldn’t be taken for granted.

But I did take it for granted. I realized as I was writing about Xanadu that I had not a clue what happened to her. I don’t remember the last time I rode her or when she left the small pasture out back where the horses were kept. I just grew up and went on. All these years later how I wish I could crawl on her back again, grab a fistful of her wiry mane in my hand and head out into the pastures.

It occurred to me how we lose things when we aren’t thinking, when we aren’t connecting our experiences to what is important. I was a teen. Life ahead was calling me. Apparently, the call was so great that I just turned and walked away from the life I had. There was no closure, no appreciation for what had brought me to the place to move on. It wasn’t a good transition because the transition wasn’t acknowledged.

I do feel regret over not ever knowing what happened to Xanadu. Maybe, I did know when she was sold and have forgotten? I hope so.