The days are getting shorter. Even with a clear sky, the dawn was darker at 6 a.m. than it was a week ago. Finley and I even beat the golf course grounds keepers out which was an added blessing to an already gorgeous morning. The world was silent and shrouded in a light fog. There wasn’t even a breeze to make the trees talk. The only noise was birds calling which is music to my ears anyway. As we made the turn to start back toward home, I saw two deer at the edge of the woods. They are hardly visible in this picture but I can see them — in the little grassy area on the left a bit higher than the base of the lone tree, there is one deer standing and one lying on the ground. Finley didn’t see them. He is looking the other way. But they saw us and bolted. As we approached the spot where they had been, Finley picked up their scent but it was too late. They were gone.
On September 27, 2015, I photographed an eclipse of the moon called the “Blood Moon Eclipse” because the moon appeared red when fully eclipsed. I took my camera and tripod out on the golf course behind our home and took photos. At one point as I was standing with both hands on my camera, I saw movement and a beautiful SKUNK came strolling out of the darkness. I told myself to stand completely still, pretend to be a tree and don’t breathe! He came up and sniffed my right ankle and then continued on. I had no idea if he stopped a foot behind me ready to aim his lethal spray or if he had disappeared. His movement was completely silent — or maybe my heightened adrenaline just masked all sound. At any rate, eventually I slowly turned my head to look over my shoulder and he wasn’t there. Whew! Close call! But the photos were worth it.
One year ago this morning, my dear father, Harold Eugene Fitch, died in his sleep. He was 93 years old and had lived a long and productive life. He had reached the point where his only remaining joys were seeing his family and friends. Selfishly, I would have loved to have him stay in this world but I know that death was a friend to him. At his memorial service, I asked our pastor to read something I wrote several years ago to share my feelings about my precious dad. Here it is.
In all my life, the truest, warmest, deepest, most loving and most accepting message of love I have felt has come from you, my dad. I have never once doubted how much you loved me, how much you valued who I am, how much you wanted me to be safe and happy. I never felt any pressure from you to perform or to be something or someone I am not. I always, always felt safe and loved exactly as I am.
Some of life’s most important and most useful lessons, I have learned from you:
I cannot imagine having a better dad than you – not even one with perfect pitch. Thank you for the warmth of your big hand, the comfort of your strong arms and the joy of being your daughter.
Until I read Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers I had no idea that such a concept existed. Then we went to see the new Angels & Tomboys exhibit at Crystal Bridges and there it was again – individual flowers have specific meanings which was really popular a couple of centuries ago. The artists used flowers in many of their paintings sometimes to indicate gender and other times personality traits. So here is the bouquet I choose: black-eyed Susans (justice – had to have that one), bellflower (gratitude), Gerbera Daisy (cheerful), purple coneflower (strength and health), lupine (imagination), freesia (friendship), phlox (our souls are united – and John loves phlox), baby’s breath (everlasting love), orange (generosity), elder (compassion), oregano (joy).
My reading in the last few days has included some notable synchronicities. First, I read this in Terry Tempest Williams’ book When Women Were Birds:
“But what thrilled me most was the fact that millions of meteors burn up every day as they enter our atmosphere. As a result, Earth receives ten tons of dust from outer space. Not only do we take in the world with each breath, we are inhaling the universe. We are made of stardust.”
Then one of my daily readings from Inward/Outward (www.inwardoutward.org) was William Wordsworth’s poem, “Intimations of Immortality:”
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home….”
That leads me back to Miriam Therese Winter who once said, “From stardust we came, and to stardust we return.”
And . . . tomorrow night the moon will be full. Somehow, it all seems connected and makes such sense to me. I feel such a connection to the life around me that is so easy to miss because it is so ordinary. The next time I have to dust my house, I will remind myself that I am gathering stardust. But then what do I do with it?
A week from today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 88. This is a poem I wrote shortly after her death. It is my tribute to her on her birthday.
My Mother’s Hands
By Jean Fitch Justice
My mother’s hands were graceful ‘til the End.
After her sight dimmed,
her memory fractured,
her hearing diminished,
her sense of taste and smell died,
her strength left,
her voice rasped,
her muscles atrophied,
her hold on reality unraveled,
After so much of life had abandoned her,
Her hands were graceful ‘til the End.
Those last few days, her hands were seldom still.
She lifted her arms and linked her hands
as if she embraced someone dear.
Her slender fingers worked busily at unknown tasks.
Was she folding laundry?
Was she preparing dinner?
Was she sorting papers?
Was she searching for all she had lost?
Those of us who loved her stayed by her side.
We held her hands.
We spoke soothing words.
We moistened her lips.
We synchronized our breath with hers
Willing her to let go,
to simply stop,
to follow her sight,
In the End, I held her hand
and sang the songs she had taught me,
wetting each word with tears.
In the Beginning, she was present for my first breath,
she whose heartbeat was my own,
she whose voice sang to me before birth,
she who loved me first and longest
though perhaps not best.
In the Beginning, we two were one.
In the End, I watched her leave this world
with wonder and grief.
I held her still graceful but now stilled hands in mine.
I traded my first breath for her last
And she was gone.
October 27, 2012
Every morning we see from one to four Jeeps or ATVs going along the waterline and several people out poking in the sand and putting things in nets. John finally talked with one of them and learned that they are patrolling the beaches looking for tar balls left over from the BP oil spill. That morning, in one mile they had picked up 13 pounds of tar balls. We haven’t seen anything looking at all like oil or tar but they know what to look for, I guess. The sand is really light colored – not quite white but pale beige. Yesterday, I sat on the beach in my chair and watched the dolphins diving. They kept going back and forth in front of me so there must have been a school of something yummy there. At one point, about 20 gulls also showed up right at the water’s edge and started diving into the water catching small fish 2-3″ long. I took this shot of a dolphin as he dived – just wish it were a little better focused. I’ll try again today. The other photo is sunset over Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores, AL. We are having gorgeous weather this week – our last week at the beach. Sunday we head for home.
This morning I went on a birding walk with two volunteers at the Bon Secour Nature Reserve. We saw lots of birds but only one or two water birds. The two most exciting sightings for me were a brown-headed nuthatch and a ruby-crowned kinglet. This is not good a good time of the year here for bird-watching but we found plenty to look at anyway. In March, the migrants would be here in droves. If I ever come back, that’s when I want to come. Here is my bird list for Gulf Shores: Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Hooded Merganser, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, American Coot, Snowy Plover, Willet, Sanderling, Herring Gull, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Forster’s Tern, Gull-Billed Tern, Mourning Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Brown-Headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrust, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Red-Winged Blackbird. Photos below are of the brown-headed nuthatch and of a heron showing his reflection in the water.