Autumn, Pecans, And Attitudes

For me the best time of the year is autumn. The church sits in a valley and the pine needles and leaves, roll down the driveway and pile against the perimeter fence in back. Birds and squirrels rummage through the pile, collecting bugs and nuts. On alternating Saturdays, one of the Deacons would come by to blow and bag the autumn collection. For a few days, the birds and squirrels go elsewhere to shop for their groceries and the sweet smell of mowed grass, weeds, and late blooming flowers fill our little valley.

An assortment of nuts returns with the leaf debris. Sometimes I will walk the ground, and pick pecans from the debris. Squirrels accompany me on this meditation walk. They dart about lifting up leaves and checking to see if the pecan trees are dropping their fruit. This is the best time of year!

One Thursday as the setting sun colored the western sky orange. I was picking up pecans that had fallen on the churchyard. Daniel rode a shiny mountain bike into my comfortable little valley.

“Pastor Richardson,” he shouted and rode closer. “Pastor Richardson, can I go on the trip with the other youths?”

I knew Daniel because his sisters were members of the church. He seldom came to church services. But, his younger sisters are regular participants in youth activities. He climbed off the bike and stood less than a yard in front of me. His body and bike blocked my forward movement and access to the scores of pecans lying near the fence. The squirrels were stuffing their cheeks and running up trees with their harvest. They would stop on a branch, look down, and laugh.

“If we have any room, you can. You will need twenty dollars and it must be ok with your mother,” I said, dryly to him. Maybe now he would move so I could get back to harvesting my nuts. There were still enough pecans in front of me to fill up my Braves cap.

“Cool,” he said, then stuffed his pockets with pecans and rode off.

Sullenly, I hoped that he would not get the money or permission to go on the trip.

Daniel did not stir within me a desire to be a caring and understanding pastor. He mostly moved me to stand taller and smile less. My intention was to let him know I was the alpha dog in the pack. The twenty dollars or his mother’s permission, I thought would save me from saying no to him. He is not disrespectful to adults, nor did he bully the children. However, he is older than my youth group, whose ages range from twelve and under. I did not want the additional task of monitoring his behavioral quirks on this trip.

Two weeks later as I was mopping the floor in the fellowship hall, Danny stopped by.  “Here’s my money,” he said, knocking and entering the closed door at the same time. “And this is for my sisters.” He playfully slapped the money in my hand and walked over to the water cooler.

As the day of the trip grew closer, my anxiety level was rising. Two of the chaperones had to drop out. I was scrambling to find replacements. The day before the trip, I had to speak with Danny about the language and loudness of his music when he was on the church grounds. He debated with me until I told him if he brought that type of music on the trip, he would not be allowed to go. My attitude had reached the testy stage. That night I asked the Lord to make this a fun and safe trip for the children.

He heard my prayer.

When I arrived at the church at six-thirty that morning Daniel and his sister were waiting. By seven-thirty, we were traveling up I 75 to the amusement park. More than a few times, I turned around to see if Daniel was behaving appropriately. He was either asleep or looking out the window. At the park, some of the children would not turn me loose, but Daniel came to my rescue. He rode with them on rides and helped me keep them all together. After lunch, we talked about his future. He wanted to join the Air Force and work on planes. We talked and ate with all the other children hanging on. I was glad he came. On the return trip, he sat beside me and I thanked him for his help.

After the trip, he began coming to church regularly. He helped the Deacons with chores and joined the choir. Sometimes he would ask about a book I was reading, his questions were so insightful that I eventually loaned him books. We talked about him attending a Bible college after graduation.

Fall had come again and we were picking up pecans off the yard when he told me he had enlisted in the Air Force. I looked long and deep into his eyes and then place a hand on his shoulder and prayed that God would protect him. (I’m going to miss him.) Afterward, I poured my pecans into his bag and we went inside the church to help the Deacons.

For Christmas, I got a card from Danny. He included a note about how he was doing. He ended the note by saying I was his pastor. I closed my eyes and thanked God for calling me to this church.

(I wrote this in 2008 and Danny came by to visit me in 2017. He was married with a child, living in Virginia. We talked and he reminded me that wherever he goes, I’m still his pastor)

 

 

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TOO MUCH LOVE

There is an abundance of rain this season. The daisy, Chrysanthemum, and Pansy are drinking deeply. Mud was under my fingernails and on the cuff and knees of my pants. If I had thought I was going to do more than pulling a weed or two, I would have dressed for the occasion. About a half an hour into the weeding task; my neighbor, Calvin walked out on his front porch.

Farmer Curtis, do you like playing in the dirt?

Man, I did know I had so many flowers sleeping in this dirt; they are beautiful.

Let me put on some shoes on and I‘ll join you. I made a pot of coffee, want a cup.

Yeah, I said, one sugar.

When Calvin got back, I was in the garage looking for yard waste bags. Look under that pile Calvin and see if any bags are under there.

Here’s a couple, he shouted.

I pick up a digging tool and some gloves. The coffee smelled good, so I set the things down and grabbed the mug and lean on the trunk of the car.

I haven’t seen Beri in almost a month, I said. Is she traveling?

No, she left me.

What!       Why?

Well, the reasons she gave are confusing. It has taken me some time to understand. Her leaving hit me hard. I just got to the place where I can talk about it.

You two have been together three years. Couldn’t you work it out?

That is what I asked her. Whatever happened to trying to mend things that are broken? All Beri would say is she had done all she can to see things my way, but she has given up trying. She was leaving because I love her too much. Can you believe that? She left me because I loved her too much.

That is hard to understand Calvin. What did she mean by trying to see things your way?

You know our situation Rev., I was ready to marry her, but she was not ready. When she first moved in, we were going to save our money to buy a bigger house and have a wedding in Cancun. A year ago, she thought she was pregnant. Two months later, she said it was a false alarm. After that, she started talking about getting her own place.

Why, did she say that?

She said she needed some space and time to think. At first, I thought it was another man, but that was not the problem. She would not talk to me without snapping at me. Sometimes I snapped back. She would put pillows between us in bed. I started sleeping in the other bedroom.

You two seem like you would have been a good family. Why didn’t you and she come and talk to me?

What was I going to say to you, Rev.? Would you have helped me and Beri to stay together?

No, I would not have helped you and her to remain roommates. But, I would have helped you and her to understand the kind of commitment to the relationship that would weather the stresses of marriage. The kind of commitment that is necessary to wed, to build a home, and to raise a family. I would help you and Beri to find what is important in your spirits. What other commitments are important to her; besides marriage? It takes more than a Cancun wedding and a big house to make it through the long termed commitments of marriage successfully.

Where is she?

She got a promotion and moved to Arlington, Virginia. She took her clothes and said I could keep the rest. She left me. Now I’m sitting in that house, hurting. For all her explaining, I still don’t understand how you can leave someone because they loved you too much.[1]

Well, Calvin, some people leave when they realize that it is more painful to stay.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Mykal Kilgore https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OGX3LehE1s

Goodnight Emily

My feet are hurting. The walk today was a little farther than usual. But, now I could feel the cool effect of the witch hazel sinking in around my calloused toes. The telephone rang and spoiled my ecstasy. I let it ring; my feet were wet. Once they dried, I checked the caller id, and then redial Emily’s number.

When Emily answered, I could tell she had been crying. Her son died two years ago and she has a select list of friends she would call when her sorrows were heavy. These are friends that had heard her stories about Boyd many times and knew the difference from an end of a sentence and a sob. We were close enough that she had incorporated our memories into her stories.

She sniffed and drew air into her nose. I waited for her to speak; the wait was long. I almost said something. Then she called my name, Curtis. Yes? Curtis, did I tell you about the time Boyd got that job at Nolands?

What about it, I said?

He liked that job because one day he wanted to become a plumber.

(Actually, he liked the job because he liked driving the forklift.)

He was so nervous that he was late his first day, he made a better impression the next day.

(He forgot his wallet and badge and had to return home twice.)

He was a good worker, I said.

She got quiet. It doesn’t hurt like before, but it still hurts.

The coolness of the witch hazel was gone, so I splashed more on my feet waiting for her to speak.

She said I’m too old to have another child. I certainly don’t feel like starting parenthood over.

Have you talked to his Dad, I asked?

He says I bring him down.

He won’t talk to me if I mention Boyd. He let my calls go to voice mail. I saw his wife at Kroger; she said he’s drinking again. He better watch himself, he knows depression runs in his family.

I am trying to let go; I gave away Boyd’s things. The only thing I kept was a pair of Jordan’s. If only the memory would come at night, then I could take a pill and sleep. All day long there are thoughts about him that weigh me down. I can’t get out the chair.

I was in WalMart and they displayed three artists that he had bought. As soon as I got home, I put them in the trash and cried.

Did you bake anything this week, Emily?

Yes, I started to bake a Key Lime cake but caught myself, that was his favorite.  I made a strawberry cake instead; I’ll bring you some to church Sunday.

Girl, you are going to make me fat.

You!

Even my fat jeans are tight; the baking calms me.

She got quiet again; I waited.

Why did he have to kill himself, Curtis?

The depression was too much, he was hurting, and he would not take the medicine.

You did all that you could. Your pain will ease; the worst is over. You will learn to live with what’s left.

I’m trying Curtis; I’m trying.

Tell you what, I ‘ll put an extra hole in my belt, bring me two slices of that cake.

Ok.

Goodnight, Emily.

Goodnight.

STRIKING ROCKS

Why is it so difficult to write? I went out on the internet to find motivation but lost two hours researching tree stories. The reason for my interest in tree stories is because I want to do a podcast on children stories. Trees are tonight’s indulgences. I wasted time two nights before researching the cemeteries of Atlanta, especially Westview Cemetery. Westview has enough famous people buried there it could become a historical site. The cemetery is close enough to the Wren’s Nest to make a tour between the two a possibility.

The desire for stories was prompt by another one of my urges to do something. All my projects and dreams should sport a warning label “this project will die from neglect.” Trying to get passionate about these late night project is like striking two rocks together and hoping for a spark. So, what shall I do with dreams that don’t catch fire? Maybe, I should douse them with water, or smother them with dry straw. It will either put out the cinder or build a flame to keep my dreams warm and passionate.

Who know what idea will catch fire, so I will keep writing ideas on 3x5s for the day when I understand what is there to say about the subject. From this point on I will put a date on each card. By the time I get around to writing on the idea, I want to know how long it took my muse to activate.

Looking at these 3x5s, Maya Angelou name appeared thrice. The what for is not clear, but I remember that it was hearing her quote is how I discovered the “Conscientious Objector by Edna St Vincent Millay.” The line that stayed with me from the poem was “I shall die but that’s all I will do for death.” There should be some lingering words from Angelou’s writings but none are up front in my mind.

Flipping through the 3x5s a couple of writing prompts caught my eye. What was I to write about on the subject of monetizing livestock manure? Just where was I to take the idea of being attack by a rabid raccoon?  My notes cite This American Life as the source of these stories. Was the raccoon story to be told as funny or as a scary story?

Written in the margin of one card was another great idea gone nowhere. Why was I interested in becoming a professional reviewer? My initial research said reviewers do more than review books. They report on products such as phones, cameras, and other electronics. There is not much money to make if you are not with a big publishing house but you get a lot of free books and products. That last sentence reminded me of why I looked into this for a week; being a reviewer is a chance to get a better understanding of what people are writing about for current market.

These 3x5s have a lot of my curiosity, but not any with an urgent need to know the subject. Oh well, I might as well go to bed.

THE PROPOSAL

A woman had three men that loved her. They all wanted her hand in marriage, but she always declined their proposals. 

“No,” she said to the first lover. “No,” she said to the second and third lovers.

Each day they came with their proposals and with gold and other riches.  Still, her answer was the same, “No.”

treasure-chest-

If the first lover brought a bag of gold, the second lover brought two bags, and the third lover three bags.

Still, her answer was the same, “No, No, No.”

About now you are wondering, is there a problem with the woman’s thinking? Why not go for the gold, the deepest pockets?  Is there something wrong with the men?

Consider this: maybe she does not want to be a wife. Maybe, she has greater wealth than the men and is not impressed with their inferior offerings. Could she be seeking a commitment from them that can only come from the deep recesses of the heart?

working Woman with muscles

She could be thinking this is not time for marriage. “I have a mind I want to develop, other lovers to know, and adventures to explore.”  “So, my answer is No.”

“To be the wife now would shortchange me. Too much of the responsibility of bring up a family would fall on me.  What becomes of my dream when motherhood drains out the color? How much more encouragement can I give my children if I knew more about me?”

Mother_(Motherhood

Oh, my children feel my passion, for the distant lands that I have visited.  Hear, my heart pounding as I recall running from a charging elephant. Dance with me to the thump, thump of the drums in at village wedding. See fields of flowers stretching beyond the horizon, see the snakes at their feet, see the killer bees suck their nectar.  No, my children I will not forsake life before marriage.

What can she be thinking of the three lovers?

Men who seek a heart should bring more than trinkets and precious ornaments. “Tell me your dreams,” she says. “Woo me with a passion for life that matches my own. Do not believe my heart is up for bid. Think that my Self seek to unite with another Self that has drunk the living waters.”

“If you bring me your joys, sorrows, your devotion, we can prosper together.”

But, each day they come with their proposals and with their gold and other riches.  Still, her answer is the same, “No, No, and No.”

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