Song of the Rain Crow
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A day of introspection: I've been thinking of all the sacrifices made in the name of good and joi de vivre.
Today I walked outside with my simple, homemade poplar walking cane, traded it for my trusty hoe, and planted a few vegetables and fruits in our very compact garden. Back to tending the first mother, the earth that feeds us all. I came inside, sat down, and from the corner of my eye saw motion. Something dark against my light gray t-shirt. Fearing a tick, I examined the visitor.
It was a tiny inchworm, "measuring off a new shirt" for me. ;) The creature was safely released outside, to live its natural life as earth intended.
Each day is a gift. In the end, the earth takes us back into its cradle, where we might return in the guise of any living thing.
I find that thought comforting. No life, loved or unloved, is ever wasted.
My mother died on Saturday, after a long illness with a predictable pattern. She had spent long years on a trach-and-vent in a distant respiratory care facility -- the best of two that exist in our state -- continually hoping to be able to leave, or at least to see visitors.
Imogene K. McIntosh was almost 89 years old, a lonely woman who had a lot of pain due to severe scoliosis and other related conditions. The only thing that troubled her more than the pain was her fear of death.
Mom's mother and her mother, in turn, my matrilineal ancestors, lived to beyond 100 years old. Mamaw Bowen, as we called her, was born in 1881, though her headstone has her "official" birthdate as 1882... when I was a small child, I sat in this woman's lap and listened to stories that I didn't understand until decades later. Mamaw Pearl was a feisty, petite blonde, round as a small barrel, and tough as a dozen old goats; her primary art and function in life was to produce food and see to it that no one in her range of influence ever went hungry. I was raised by people who knew hard times, not the least of whom was my father, a man raised as one of 12 born to yet another powerful female soul.
The people who brought me into being were often confused by my ways of thinking, yet recognized that stubborn was bred into the package. In their wisdom of hard experience, they accepted me, for the most part, while others simply tried to pretend they hadn't really noticed. There's a good, wry sense of dry humor built in, too, thanks to Dad's lineage.
Farmers, gardeners, cooks, horse people, and adaptable to a fault, to say this region isn't capable by genetic cause is to declare open war, for we all know better. Younger generations, alas, are not quite as willing to throw their everything into the fray, blood, sweat, and tears... even bits of flesh... keeping the spirit in bodily housing.
Mom was tired. I watched her fading slowly, each time we went to visit and check on her. One major medical error turned the tide. I wasn't surprised when the hospital called and laid out the facts: she had been found "unresponsive", they would do all they could. Between the lines lay the silent warning of mortality on all grounds. I was asked to make a decision, and I made it. No heroic measures. Comfort and aid, but no extreme and possibly dangerous measures.
Elderly bodies are fragile, and I didn't need a reminder after seeing three generations of geriatric family pass on. It wasn't my first call, either. All souls deserve peace at some point.
Ronnie and I spent as much time sitting with her as we could, and arranged for visitors as best we could. Great-grandchildren dropped in a mere three hours before Mom passed on. Meanwhile, we talked to the nurses and to Mom, to each other, and tried to stay out of the way of the physically capable caregivers who stood in for us for so long. I read bits of my work, news articles off the cell phone, literary bits including poetry.
I was writing a new lyric prose fragment to read to her when the swarm of nurses descended on their fragile patient. Her heart had stopped. They verified the death as we sat watching, one of them using my pocket flashlight to see if her pupils were dilating. Still, the respirator pushed air in and out of her severely pneumonia-tortured lungs. The ER doctor came across the road to her unit about an hour later to unplug the machines and call time of death... more than an hour after the truth of it.
This is what I was writing as she passed on into a realm of peace:
"We are born in blood and tears, washed in the waters of nature's own creations, often entering the world with a crown of caul. The journey of ages begun generations ago merely leaps into a new pattern, new fuel cast into the great fire.
"Endless universes sprawl and dance through a darkness so intense it burns, feeding on and producing more and more of a kind of miracle beyond comprehension. Worlds rise and fall, stars come into being and fade, and the concept of time changes. "And yet, for an infant gasping its first of life, wet and cold, the immediate is centric. Constellations of living begin, community spiraling around the one, illusive truth just beyond grasp. Waiting just ahead, the first pangs of being other than the center of being, and the seeking of connections that expand as the roots of a great tree entangled with more of its own kind.
"The great all, the great fire, calls us all home. Veils of streaming reality alter and twist, and for a while, the darkness is less. Perspective is the seed of enlightenment, the pivot on which all truth turns.
" ... When death comes on its soft, merciful, dark wings, we leave this reality alone. If we're lucky, someone is there to escort us to the portal, someone who forgives our frailties and imperfections, and merely offers quiet companionship to the very end.
Our thanks goes to the devoted nurses of Rockcastle Regional Hospital's Respiratory Care wing, in Mt. Vernon, Ky., and to Dr. Saylor. We all tried to make the ending a peaceful one.
Funeral arrangements can be found on the Hearne Funeral Home web page. Cards and letters may be sent to the family in care of our post office box, as shown below.
R. Lee Tipton
P.O. Box 1225
Stanton, Ky. 40380-1225
(Posted by way of cell phone. Apologies for errors or typos. ~ R.)
|This image is from a photo I took of a yearling colt I groomed for sale on a Paris, Ky. horse farm. |
Copyright 1985, by R. Lee Tipton
Appalachian weather lore quietly abides despite climate changes which seem to be escalating. Each switch from cold season to spring is flagged by plant or tree growth across the entire region, the gradual resurrection of field and forest appearing as a dance of veils swirling to a dervish of summer's heat in flickering layers of green.
The last cold snap coincides with the blooming of wild blackberry canes. Savvy gardeners watch for the predictable chill, prepared to plant the last of cold-tolerant vegetables, and to cover and protect the early, more vulnerable plantings. Cabbage family plants will thrive throughout, yet much-beloved tomato plants need tender, loving care.
Within mere weeks, the care pays off in lettuce, onions, beet leaves, and other early greens. A month or so sees corn, beans, and ripening tomatoes, while "Irish" potatoes (Kennebec, Pontiac, etc.) and sweet potatoes settle in for a slow sort of production culminating in autumn's last hurrah.
"Putting up" food is a tradition we practice regularly, including herbs we use as seasonings and as foods. Blackberry winter is here in eastern Kentucky, Serviceberry ("sarvis"), dogwood, redbud, and the like have passed. The crisp nip in the air promises hot days and humid nights close at hand.
It's time to count the canning jars, stock up on supplies, and settle into the job. History requires remembrance and perseverance. Tomorrow will thank us for today.
For the local folks in particular, or anyone interested in buying some of my books, and in answer to certain queries:
This is my current/available inventory.
NOVELS by R. Lee Tipton...
The Glimmering of Scotch Whiskey (1)
The Glimmering of Mountain Mists (0)
The Glimmering of Foxfire (13)
NONFICTION by R. L. Mackintosh...
The Tooth, Claw, and Hoof Stories
#1... dogs & cats - (14)
#2... farm (15)
#3... horses (7)
#4... wildlife/off-grid life (19)
#5... Best of, plus new (0)
It's doubtful I'll have any more on hand for some time, due to personal considerations (health, housing, basic needs vs. advertising/marketing costs). I apologize for any inconveniences. All of these books are available through Amazon.
For those who have asked, yes, I do have one unpublished novel complete, and several others in various stages of completion. I am not doing nonfiction at present. No new publications are planned at present.
Thank you. <3
It's an early late spring day in eastern Kentucky, well above normal temperatures sweating the stolid populace. Yet the blackberries haven't bloomed, the last cold snap, or "blackberry winter", as this round has been called for generations, hasn't happened. In a neighbor's yard blooms a fancy sort of iris, one appearing black to the casual eye. Up close, the flower is a deep, deep purple, rich in pigment, with a center of arterial red. Bloody at its heart, the bloom nods in the breeze, listless and tired even in its militant upright stance.
I wonder how many this summer will kill. From here, the heat will escalate. People and animals of all kinds will slowly creep to a halt. The Red River already carries itself in sluggish roils, the forest zones near it taking on an unmistakeable jungle atmosphere.
On the first day of May, high summer has cast out warning flags. Blackberry winter is upon us. In a tiny, ramshackle cabin tucked into a ridgetop cove of regrowth red cedar and juniper, there sits an old military field desk, a comfortable if ancient chair waiting. The book of memories exists as a stack of fluttering notes to the side of a hand-me-down, loyal Mac laptop.
Time is a paradoxical phenomenon. All that matters is where you are going, though the truth of that is rooted unavoidably in the past.
It's time, and then some, to travel on. Let the Circle turn.
“There has always been a song in the hearts of my people, and of my peoples' ancestors. From sea to shining sea and beyond those great salt waters, the song has changed and grown. The soul of flute and bagpipe twine in the strings of an old fiddle, pain and joy are like birth and death: inseparable, each of them whole only when conjoined. I would have it no other way.”
And so, though hard times haunt us, I will persevere. To do otherwise is not permitted by the past bred into heart, soul, and weary bones.“I hear my grandmother's voice in my ear, sometimes, like a whisper of leaves, a light, soft pattering of foxes' feet. I smell memories of her ways when cornbread rises golden in the pan, or a pot of strong coffee steams ready. I can feel her work-toughened hands on mine, knowing and calloused, when I walk among the trees and see their varied bark in the flicker of morning storm-light. Here, I too have come for solace. I cleanse my soul in these waters the mountains give freely, I come where I know home will always be as I touch the hard soil that gave me roots, that which still keeps the corn, the squash, and the beans growing for the next generation.”
Ego is a steel-jawed trap almost any human being will leap into with a silly smile on their face. Over and over, pride does indeed go[eth] before a fall.
Watching this country during these times, it is plain that society is endlessly inhumane, that caste systems exist in every culture (even where deemed illegal), and that immigration is not merely history, but also the future. The nature of the beast is the direct cause.
Yes, we are beasts. Verbal conversation, opposing thumbs, high falutin' philosophical or business ideas not withstanding, we humans have both similar physiology and similar needs as any other species of mammal on the planet. We're newborns as the earth mother's get are figured, the evolutionary tree gnarled in root and branch, yet spitting out prideful seed to grasp "dominion" with hands that are capable of so much more and better.
We're an interesting species. Like wolves, we're capable of socialistic behavior, like working together to find food. Unlike wolves, beasts we often revile as such, we use "spiritual" and/or "practical" excuses not to feed or care for the young, old, disabled, or sickly, and using similar logic, we try to prolong life once the body has utterly failed.
Our thinking has become so convoluted that something as basic as healing those who are ill has become the basis for greed. Willow bark tea (merely a random example) eases pain? Let's find a synthetic version, build factories, and put people to work making it, then sell it at prices beyond the means of those who hurt too badly to work there. Can't use willow bark? Oh, yes, we sell a version inspired by pineapples.
It goes on and on, ad nauseum. Population growth is a problem. Let's start a war, then stop women (even if they're ill, have been raped, or are victims of incest) from getting abortions or other forms of birth control. Let the storms roll in, the sky cry fat, sweet tears. We'll set out a pan of water, and ignore the drought neighbors suffer under.
Meanwhile, we choose up teams. Not just baseball, football, soccer, but also this church or that, this political party or that, and even the genetic accident of color of one's skin. If it's not our team, it's the wrong team. We even try to make other species conform. They're the wiser, in the end. A cat knows it isn't a cow, a bear doesn't consume what nourishes a carrot.
The truth is, we're not a species which is self-contained. We're all parts of a gloriously intricate planetary multi-entity, a god-like "his eye is on the sparrow" awareness beyond our limited capabilities as a single species. There may be billions of similar entities throughout the many universes we cannot imagine. And we are not gods.
We're frail, ignorant, flawed miracles... humans. Creatures of the whole, with our own limits to overcome.
Dream a little. It's not terrifying, once you realize this is... you.
|My mother's old home-place on Spaus Creek, near the Red River Gorge of eastern Kentucky. |
It was burned down by firebug vandals several years ago.
Copyright 1995 by R. Lee Tipton, author/artist.