Highlights in the Dark

People say that you learn so much by traveling and experiencing different cultures. That’s true. But it isn’t always necessary to leave home to do that. Try just changing your schedule. While you are getting your eight hours of shut-eye (I know…who REALLY gets eight hours of sleep?) a lot is happening all around you. The world keeps turning while we’re dreaming –  and lives begin, continue and end while the moon reigns just as much as when the sun is marking the hours.
This was displayed very clearly about a month ago when we woke up and found that a young man had wrecked his motorcycle and died within a few hundred feet of our house…and we were all blissfully unaware. That’s a strange feeling.

Last night was also a reminder of that…but in a much happier, more adventurous way. 

As I said before, it’s been a horribly hot and dry summer here. Hay is almost impossible to find locally, but my brother needs hay to keep his little menagerie alive over the winter. Goat lives, sheep lives, donkey lives, cow lives…all looking to him for their every need. Trusting him. Depending on him. Forcing him to order hay from out of state. 
Forty-two round bales, to be exact. 
After a few back and forths about what day it would come, John was told to expect the shipment around 3:00 in the afternoon. Then the time got pushed back. And back. And back. Finally he was told the driver left Missouri and should be here around midnight. 
Midnight? Really?

“Could he just wait a few hours and come at daybreak?”

“If you don’t want that hay, we sure can find someone else who does!”

…..”Midnight it is.”

Tera and I volunteered to help however we could, John thought some flashlights might be useful, and we settled in for a late night. And waited.

A call at 11 to see how it was going informed us that the load was two hours away in Tulsa. Hmmm…to sleep or not to sleep? Nah, it wouldn’t be worth it. But at 12:30 he hadn’t quite REACHED Stillwater yet, and another call at 2 revealed he hadn’t LEFT Stillwater.

AND….he was lost. Very lost. The poor guy thought he was going north when he was going south and didn’t know where he was and couldn’t understand why the people he tried to flag down wouldn’t stop and direct him. John spent 30 minutes talking him down to the highway he needed to be on. I think it was about then we realized we’d be pulling an all-nighter. John served up some ice cream and the three of us started to snicker…and then chuckle…and then laugh as we lay on his office floor updating facebook with crazy comments and wondering how in the world this poor guy could make a 5 hour trip into a 10 hour trip and speculating  about where the directionally challenged trucker would end up and when. “Enid at 4.” “No…Witchita.” “No…Dallas.” “I think he just keeps pulling over and sleeping…and then acting like he’s on his way.”

As we got word that he was finally getting close we made our way up to the road. Slowly, slowly…..slllloooowwwwllllyyyyy, we watched his headlights crawl up our street. So timidly. So hesitantly. So explanatorily. Doooooowwwwwnnnnnnn thhheeeee hhhiiiiillllllllllllll. Oooooovvvveeeerrrrrr ttttthhhhheeeeee bbbbrrriiiiiddddggggeeeeeee. Paaaaasssstttt tttthhhhhhheeeee neeeiiiiiggghhhhbbbboooorrrssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. With some roaring and chugging and groaning the monster of a truck with it’s massive, looming load hissed and shuddered to a stop…at 3:37 AM. Precisely.

I looked up. And up. Forty-two round bales…on a trailer that was at least as high as my shoulder. With the lights of John’s truck shining on them, and the lights from the semi, it was all so weird and so eerie and so not a part of my normal routine.

Ever so slowly, the diminutive driver with a scruffy gray beard and a squinty, scrunchy face climbed down from his cab and ever so slowly he started to undo the strong, wide straps that held the bales in place. Ever so slowly he told us how a 65 year old woman loaded that trailer of hay, and it took her 5 hours to do it.

Our favorite neighbor came to help with his bigger tractor that could reach the top layer. John drove our smaller tractor. Tera was tractor traffic control on the other side of our gate and I took it all in from my post near the truck where I stayed ready to help where I could. 
Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Maybe it was the contrast of the spotlights and the darkness. Maybe it was just the craziness of it all. But the tractors took on personalities. “Uncle” Ron’s was bigger, steadier, a bit clumsier. He reached what the other couldn’t…was the more experienced and more cautious. John’s was smaller, quicker, more agile. His spryness enabled him to get into spaces and twist and turn with lightness and ease. Ron’s would powerfully stab each bale. John’s would handle each with grace and finesse. 
The bright sliver of the moon peeked in and out of the scattered clouds…but persistently glowed in spite of it all. The wind picked up at times and blew loose hay into our hair and eyes and mouth. Cool raindrops felt fresh on our hot skin and shone in the streams of light. For two hours I smiled, Ron whistled, Tera directed, John hustled. The driver…ever so slowly…did whatever he did. We worked together. And it was fun.
I headed for my room as the sun started to come up. 
Sleep? Nah. I’d have missed an adventure if I’d have slept. And and crystal moment or two to boot.
Live is full of adventures. This world is full of characters. Some of that is highlighted in the dark.

Crystal Moments

Ever have “crystal moments”?
{Side note: (Not sure this is really a side note. More like a PS…but I don’t want to put it at the end of the post, so I’ll call it a side note. Back to the side note.)
It’s so funny…I thought several times this week, “That was a crystal moment.” “For SURE a crystal moment!”
And then I was like, “What do I even mean when I think “crystal moment”? I don’t know where I got that. Must have picked it up somewhere, cause when I googled it just now, I found that others have crystal moments too. Ah well…so much for brilliant original thoughts. }
Back to what I started writing about. Maybe we should just start fresh?
Ever have “crystal moments”? Moments that are so beautiful you want to freeze them so that they will last forever. You know…those times that take your breath away and put tears in your eyes and give your heart an extra beat or two. Just because they do. They can be big and grand. Or simple, everyday somethings that you suddenly don’t take for granted.
This week I had three in one day.
Grandma has a fig tree…a BEAUTIFUL  fig tree that is full of loads of delicious bites of bliss.
This was a couple months ago. They’re ripe now.
She went out, picked a bowl full of them and asked if I wanted to go take some down to the neighbor’s with her.
This particular neighbor is a sweetheart. Being one of the younger generation in the neighborhood (under 70) she is so good at taking care of everyone, checking in on people, willing to do anything as soon as anyone asks. Yep, a sweetheart.
She met us at the door with a jar of freshly canned tomato sauce. Lovely. Bright. Red. Homemade. Tomato sauce.
“From your garden?” I asked. “Have you gotten many tomatoes this year?”
“Yes, they are from the garden, but we’ve hardly gotten any. I picked them all and canned them today. Ended up with four quarts.”
“TING!” (That’s the sign of a crystal moment. You know…that beautiful “ting” that only crystal can produce.)
Only four quarts…and she was giving one of them to us. A bit overwhelming, really. All that work…from planting and weeding and watering to picking and canning. And she was sharing it with us so generously.
I made spaghetti and meatballs with the sauce that night. It was the most delicious sauce I’ve ever eaten.
Earlier that same day I sat down with Grandma to have coffee. She likes to have coffee everyday, usually using her fancy tea cups. I love that. There was something about it that day….sitting there with her, drinking coffee out of the lovely tea cups that have been around for decades, laughing with  her about anything and nothing…
Can’t these moments please go on forever?
Grandma always likes to have something sweet to eat with her coffee. We make cinnamon rolls and she freezes them…bringing them out one at a time to have with her coffee. One batch lasts her a long time, but that day I realized she was out, so I made another batch. Always like to leave her with lots in the freezer when I go home.
I needed to cover the dough so it would rise and went to the linen closet, pulled out a dishcloth, wet it and laid it over the bowl. Grandma has stacks and stacks of dish clothes. Until recently she ironed them all, because she always did, and “it kind of hurts my feelings when I see them not ironed.”
The towel I had taken had the initials “JD” embroidered on it.
“Grandma, who is JD?”
“Julia Danielson.” she said with pride. “My mother.”
My mother loves cinnamon rolls. She taught me to make them. My grandmother loves cinnamon rolls. I make them for her. And here I was, using a cloth that my great-grandmother who I never met embroidered her initials on…years and years and years ago. I wonder if she ever thought about who would use her towels when she was gone…or what kind of granddaughters and great-granddaughters she would have? There were at least four generations in that kitchen at that moment. Four generations of bread-baking, cardamom-loving women. I love that. In fact…..
That was a double “TING!” for me.
“Remind me of this with every decision. Generations will reap what I sow. I can pass on a curse or a blessing to those I will never know….To my great-great-great-granddaughter, live in peace… ” Sara Groves 

Hot Thoughts

It’s hot. 
So hot that if my brother doesn’t gather the eggs at least twice a day, some of them will be soft boiled when we crack them open. Not joking. Not exaggerating. Ask my mom if you don’t believe me. 
So hot that people can’t talk about anything else. And since there is nothing to say that will help the situation…and because it’s really hard to think intelligent thoughts when your brains are turning to jerky inside your head…they feel bound to ask the question. Yes, THE question. “Hot ‘nough for ya?”
So hot that cows are giving already dry, powdered milk. 
That IS an exaggeration.
So hot that the lake here is reaching temperatures of 93 in the afternoons. 
So hot that people are pulling precooked fish out of said lake. 
Another exaggeration.
It’s so hot that when we go outside, even for a few minutes, we come in flushed and exhausted. The air is so heavy. It sucks the life out of you. The very breath. It’s just so…dense. Yes, dense. Like a black hole. So hot. So dense. So crushing. So heavy. Very much like a black hole.
I thought maybe this video would help give some perspective. You know…remind us that we are just itty bitty people on a smallish planet that’s part of a big galaxy in a HUGE universe. Did it help you?
It didn’t help me. 
But this evening, in the middle of this oppressive heat, I heard booming thunder. I mean BOOMING. Cracking across the sky like a bowling ball thrown by a big, burly veteran bowler that looks like a mountain man and has been number one on his bowling league for 20 years. I’m not just talking about a strike. I’m talking about a “BLOW those bowling pins to outer-space” kind of a strike. That’s what the thunder sounded like. 
And then again. 
And again. 
And each time, my heart responded with life. The life that was being snuffed out by the relentless aforementioned heat. Of course I couldn’t stay inside. Not with that powerful, defiant, alive VOICE of awesomeness calling me. I stepped out of the air conditioning and into the fierceness of the summer world. I told myself that being out there was worth the chigger bites I might end up with. (I may feel very differently about that tomorrow).
There was a constant, turbulent rumble in the billowing clouds…as if the storm were raging all inside of itself. I wanted it to open up. I wanted it to pour down that much needed moisture, but also to feel that sweet release that comes in a storm. I wanted relief from the blazing bubble that we are trapped in. 
As I watched, I became absorbed in the clouds, and I felt myself longing with all of myself to be right in the middle of it. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be transported up into such awesomeness! Yes. It would be amazing. 
And I was reminded of that verse in Psalm 19…
And that helped. 

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.