Keeping Step

My daddy walked along
so fast and steady in his step,
while I skipped along
like a butterfly
just trying to keep step.

He went on walks for healing,
for you see, he nearly died.
I went on walks to be with him
and to see the clear, blue sky.

We walked along and talked along,
he tried to lead the way,
while I broke out with little dances
and delighted in the day.

Daddy’s feet were fifty five,
while mine were only seven,
but we both enjoyed the walk
each day,
it seemed a lot like heaven.

As our feet have carried us
through thirty years since then,
I have aged and so has he,
but I’m still trying
to keep in step with him.

D. Elaine Wood-Lane
7/30/99

My dad, L.D. Wood, about whom this poem was written, died on November 24, 2006. Although he is gone now, I still try to keep in step with him. He was a good man, a faithful man, and a wonderful father. He taught me about life, both the joys and hardships. He taught me how to maintain a car, do well on job interviews, get a boy to notice me, and how to approach emergencies and crises. He taught me how to stand courageously through tough times and how to laugh through tears. He even taught me how to farm cotton and how to treat animals, our earth and other people with respect and consideration. Most importantly, Dad taught me about Jesus and God, not only with the bible and the talks we had about them, but also by his quiet manner of serving others and his generosity of spirit. His footsteps through life followed Jesus’ steps I finally realized. When I was trying to keep step with Dad, I was also following Jesus’ steps. Even though Daddy isn’t here any longer for walks, he didn’t leave me alone. He left me with someone I can walk with forever…Jesus.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there today. I pray your influence on your children is as great and good as Daddy’s was on me.

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Memorial Day 2014

Memorial day…again. They seem to come so fast now. In the past, they seemed very far apart, but one thing I’ve learned through growing older is that a year, as a percentage of the whole of one’s life, gets shorter and shorter as time goes by. There have actually been scientific studies on this very subject of time and space. I can’t quote them or any such thing, but I do know that I believe it’s true.

In the “old” days some 30+ years ago when I was young and very young, we had developed a fun tradition of going to Joe and Evelyn’s house for summer holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Joe loved to grill meats of all kinds, primarily beef, of course, because we are Texan, after all. These warm weather holidays were the perfect excuse for the Wood family in Texas to get together, cook, eat, visit and laugh together. I always enjoyed these gatherings because Joe would get into storytelling mode and, although he repeated some stories, usually there were new stories to hear and enjoy. I also enjoyed being around my nieces and nephews, my sister-in-law, sister, parents and whoever else happened to come by. This tradition abruptly died on a cold Christmas Eve in 1986, however, when my brother Joe was killed in a terrible car wreck. Four months earlier to the day, August 24, 1986, my older brother John had died of cancer. 1986 was a rough year to say the least, but that’s not my point. You know that song called, “The Day the Music Died?” That’s the way I felt in the summer of 1987. We had lost our tradition in one fell swoop when Joe was killed. We lost the cookouts, we lost the stories, and we lost our joy for a while.

Memorial Day, 1987 was the first year that the hundreds of tiny American flags on graves in the cemeteries really came to represent real people who had fought for our country so that we could have freedom, traditions, happy family times and…a way of life so rich and full. I went to the cemetery that year and saw the flag on Joe’s grave. Joe had been in the Army and had fought in Vietnam, you see, so he was one of those flags. I knew there was another little American flag flying in place on my brother John’s grave in California too. The pain was great that Memorial Day of 1987. So much had been lost, but through that pain, so much was gained. I gained a greater insight into what Memorial Day was really all about. It was about remembering and honoring those brave people who had served in the Armed Services of the United States, both in war and in peace. It was about not letting the lessons learned from the war and the peace slip away so that they won’t have to be repeated.

Fast forward to Saturday, May 24, 2014. Alan and I and our friends, Becky and Paul, had taken a drive in the mountains. We had seen the purple mountains’ majesty topped with new white snow. We had seen the fruited plain below. We had seen all manner of American citizens throughout the day. We had even taken a tour of the South Park History Tour that told about the miners, the farmers and the ranchers who had first come to Colorado. Then, on our way home, we came up Wilkerson Pass, which is a lovely drive. We stopped so our friends could see the Collegiate Mountains in the distant west, which are absolutely stunning. We got out of the car and realized there was a table set up in front of the Visitor’s Center. The sign in front of the table identified the people there as members of the VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars. A man and his wife were manning the table and were offering free coffee and homemade cookies to guests. Of course we stopped by (you never pass up free cookies, right?). As I was speaking with the man, I learned he was in the Vietnam War. I responded, “My brother Joe was in Vietnam too.” The man immediately reached behind him and grabbed a button and handed it to me.

Vietnam Vet button

As he handed the button to me, he said, “Give this to your brother the next time you see him and tell him thank you for serving.  It’s important that we remember all veterans, but especially those of Vietnam.  We didn’t get remembered for a long time you know.”  I choked up and couldn’t speak for a moment.  I couldn’t find the words to say my brother was no longer alive.  I finally managed a thank you and also thanked him for serving our nation.  We shook hands and, as I couldn’t say another word without weeping, I hurried inside to the Visitor’s Center.

This simple interaction reminded me, once again, what Memorial Day is really all about. It is about remembering and honoring those brave people who have served in the Armed Services of the United States, both in war and in peace. It is about not letting the lessons learned from the war and the peace slip away so that they won’t have to be repeated.

Our family has many people who have served in the military.  My uncle, Clyde Gill, served in the Marines during World War II.  My brother, Joe Wood, as previously mentioned, served in the Army during the Vietnam War.  My brother, John Wood, served in the Navy during the Cold War, but thankfully saw no conflict.  I have several nephews who have served in the military:  George Cummings, Curtis Wood, Ray Wood, and Jesse Wood.  Now it’s a new generation’s time of serving and I have great-nephews serving:  Jhett Wilcox and Jacob Wilcox.  I’m proud of all these men and am thankful for their service and for all the million others who serve or have served in our military.  The next time you see a United States flag flying, think of all those who served in winning our freedom and defended our freedom.  Think of all the men and women who are serving now.  Don’t just see this as a day to carry on a tradition of barbecuing.  See it as a day to remember.

 

Joe in Vietnam
Joe in Vietnam

John D. Wood, Seaman
John D. Wood, Seaman in the U.S. Navy

 

May 11, 2014 MOTHERS DAY

I meant to write a lot today.
I didn’t, but
I meant to say,

Thank you God,
for my wonderful,
funny, impatient,
brilliant, beautiful,
sweet Mother.

Thank you God,
for the sweet, perfect
bundles of joy,
you gave me to hold,
to love and cuddle,
to teach how to play,
but to stay out of most puddles.

Now Mother is gone,
and my boys are
so grown,
but I’m still so
grateful for the love
I’ve known.

It’s not over yet,
my life is so full,
of love, of joy,
of blessings from You.

Elaine Wood-Lane

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Curbside Memoir

I love this poem. I’ve actually felt this way about mattresses, especially my parents’ mattress. A lot of life happened there and even, in the end, the death of Mother.

A Thing for Words

This morning, in front of Number 47,
a mattress leans against the pine boughs,
waiting with all the enthusiasm
of a sullen teen for the school bus.
But this is trash day and the only lessons
learned here might just be history,
with a dash of psychology.
Its edges and corners are frayed,
there’s a tear in the bottom
and it dips and droops after
last night’s rain like a soggy taco.

How many mattresses do you have
in a life? Three? Four? Like dogs,
hunkering against you for a decade
until they just can’t go on anymore?

Is that why the owners decided
to put it down, putting aside
remembrances of toss and turn,
of his angry back to her hurt feelings,
of making love and making babies,
of stormy nights when the whole family
would huddle on the lee side, Dad’s side,
of this Sealy pillowtop queen-size island?

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Posting by Email

I try to keep up with the

latest and greatest

of technological advances.

I’m sure I don’t know why,

but surely I do!

When things started moving

So fast and so true,

I couldn’t keep up,

It became quite a zoo!

My mind started stalling,

My tongue became tired,

I couldn’t keep up,

With all that was wired.

So now I am trying,

To do what is right,

And know how to post,

From email at night.

If this doesn’t make it,

to my page with great care,

well, big whoop-tee-do!

I’ll just start all over,

and try it once more,

or give up the fight,

and head for the door.

©Elaine W. Lane 4/29/14

Attention Span of a Gnat

I’m proofreading and editing the draft of some minutes and come across a reference to Linked-In.  I decide to look it up online to see if that’s the proper way to write it or if it’s LinkedIn.   (I like to be accurate, you know!)  I open up my browser and it gets stuck while opening up a new page.  When I finally get the new Google search page to open, five minutes later, I think, “Why am I on here anyway?  Hmmm….oh look, a story about a squirrel!”
Fred

I look over the page, smile, feel all warm and happy, close my browser and then go back to my minutes whereupon I see a reference to Linked-In and think, “I should look that up!”

Hoo, boy!  I do, indeed, have the attention span of a gnat some days!  On the plus side, it only occurs while on electronic gizmos….that I’m usually using only, I don’t know 12 hours a day?  Hmmm….  We’re in trouble folks!

Things I Love–A Poem

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I love springtime anywhere,
but I think the longhorn cattle
in the Texas bluebonnets
love it even more.

I love music by
young people.
They rearrange notes
that come out
fresh and young,
sounding like hope.

I love Oikos
apple pie yogurt.
It’s health and home
in every bite.

I love new babies
and their sweet smell,
freshly minted in heaven.
(Do you think angels
dust them with that
right before birth?)

I love a baby
sinking into me
in the rocking chair,
while I hum a lullaby
until we both sleep.

I love poetry,
writing words,
feelings out loud,
to share my heart–
so someone can
feel it beating.

I love Alan’s kiss
hello each morning,
and my kiss
goodnight to him
right before sleep.

I love all
of my sons and daughters,
those of my flesh
and those of my soul.
I pray for them all
each day.

Most of all,
I love God.
I’m thankful
He still listens, because…
I talk to Him,
ALL. THE. TIME.

If I were God,
I’d break up with me
for so much talking,
but He assures me
He loves our talks
and would be heartbroken
if I stopped talking to Him
and telling Him what I love.

God is so lovely,
Isn’t He?
He IS love, completely.

He loved me first.
So I love and love,
and hope to be,
more love,
so someday, when I die,
all that will be left of me
is a sunbeam of love,
shining on the floor.

©Elaine Wood-Lane      4/16/14

Poetry in Motion

Great article on teaching poetry now! I love the movie Dead Poets Society because it put poetry and life in motion, which is as it should be. Poetry isn’t dead. Poetry isn’t dry, boring words we simply read in a book. Poetry is the passion, life and glory of our souls connecting with the world. If you ever want to understand yourself and your feelings in a situation, write a poem about it without editing yourself. The words that flow from you will reveal you to yourself in a way that is quite startling. Yes…I love poetry! Can you tell?

Poetry is as important and alive now as it ever was. What will your verse be?

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House Ghosts

Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts. 
 Image credit: “love don’t live here anymore” – © 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

I came upon the old house in the field almost by surprise.  I was hiking through an empty cotton field, letting my bare feet sink into the soft rows of hot, dry soil to the dampness underneath just as I did as a child with my cousins.  We loved playing in the hot cotton fields before the little sprouts of cotton came up and cracked the soft rows of furrowed soil in a million different directions. I loved those times playing at my aunt’s farm in the fields.  There was so much to do and see and a million possibilities for make believe adventures.  I was just remembering the big wooden cotton trailers we used to climb around in and the old small shacks that housed large farming implements when I came within a foot of the red brick wall ahead of me before seeing it.

I felt a chill come out of the empty front door and realized the same chill was drifting down from the open windows on either side of the door.  In 102 degree heat, feeling any kind of chill was just plain spooky.  The fact that it was oozing out of this old abandoned red brick house struck a shiver down my spine.  I had been in dozens of these types of houses as a child, some abandoned, some not.  My cousins and I weren’t supposed to ever go near one of these abandoned houses, but we felt if we were careful and didn’t get hurt, what difference did it make?  Ok, I felt that way and since I was the only girl among a group of boys, if I went into spooky places, they followed along.  No girl was ever going to do more than they were!  It wouldn’t be fitting at all!  It’s funny, but as a wee girl growing up, I bounded into houses like this with no fear at all.  I was girl, I was invincible, I was…stupid sometimes, but we sure did have a lot of fun!  Now, standing in front of this old house in the heat with chilled air coming from inside it, I must admit my heart trembled.  What was this feeling of caution and trepidation?  Was it because I had lost my childish sense of adventure or was there another cause?

Taking a deep breath and saying a little prayer, I stepped over the threshold into the house.  The entire house creaked…not the floor but the whole house!  Dust and cobwebs floated down from the ceiling, or what passed as a ceiling.  There were huge gaping holes in the ceiling where the years had worn their way through.  Sunbeams shone through the holes and dust motes were clearly visible.  At least I thought  they were dust motes! As I stared at the floating motes I suddenly perceived a shape forming.  It was a woman in a long, old-fashioned dress, her hair in a prairie bun and a bitter slash of a mouth.  Where her eyes should be I only saw dark spots with pinpoints of light.  Lord!  Was I having a sunstroke or just losing my mind?  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and slowly re-opened my eyes.  She was still there and had been joined by a little boy in old overalls full of patches.  He was grinning.  Good grief!  I really was losing my mind!  I’ve always been accused of having an overactive imagination, but this was right round the bend.

I’ve often wished, going through old houses and buildings that the walls could talk and tell their stories.  Had I conjured these shapes of people from that deep secret desire?  I was feeling a little lightheaded, but was afraid to close my eyes again.  Ok, I was terrified of closing my eyes and something awful happening to me.  I opened my eyes wider and pulled out my water bottle.  Maybe if I drank some water, my flights of insanity would abate.  As I took a deep swallow of water, the air became more chilled.  I slowly looked up and the shapes were staring at the water longingly, desperately and they were moving closer!  That’s when I noticed the frost on the walls and the floor forming.  I backed up.  The shapes came closer.  I started to scream, threw the water bottle at the shapes and tried to turn around and run back out the door…

“Honey, are you okay?  I’ve been looking all over for you!  You look awfully pale.”  My husband was kneeling beside me.  I was all tangled up in myself.  My legs looked like pretzels and felt like jelly.  I started to sit up, but Alan said to stay put while I drank some water.  “What in the world happened?  You look like you’ve seen a ghost!  I was looking everywhere for you when Buddy came running back, having a fit.  I’ve never seen him so agitated!  He led me over here to this old stack of wood and bricks.  Must have been a house at some point, but not much of it is left.”  I sank back on the hot, soft Texas dirt of a cotton field, staring at the house that once was.  I’ve always wondered, did I have a sunstroke or did I really see ghosts in the house that was no more?  I guess I’ll never know…

 

I was given the photo above as inspiration and decided to write a little short story with it.   I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.