Posted in Photography

The Hummingbird

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In grief as in life, we often say, see or do things that make us feel better or more connected to our loved ones.

“Oh, there’s Dad again,”  someone may say while looking out the kitchen window at a cardinal sitting on a fence post.  While another might notice yellow butterflies on their morning walks, declaring, “I know that’s Mom.  She loved the color yellow.”

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It’s not so much that I believe my loved ones are reincarnated into insects or birds, but it does feel like a gentle embrace from the other side, meant to comfort and bring peace.

My friend, Mary, passed away last year, rather suddenly.  She always loved dragonflies and was drawn to their vivid colors and flighty paths.  She had dragonfly notepads, nightgowns, and tote bags.  She adored all things ‘dragonfly.’

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Try as I might, I am not convinced that every dragonfly I photograph is Mary.  “Hold still, little beauty,”  I whisper to them.  “Let me take your picture.”  I know Mary would have loved my photos and might even have asked for a framed one for her walls.  While I do not feel that these dragonflies are Mary, I do believe that it is her spirit that beckons me to seek the beauty in nature, urging me to take time to enjoy God’s creations.

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We recently put up a new hummingbird feeder in our backyard.  I made the nectar and as we hung it I fully expected hummingbirds by dusk.  Two weeks later my little friend arrived.  Flighty, thirsty, and perfect, although not flashy in color like the butterfly or dragonfly.  Every day she drinks the nectar and then flits to an adjacent branch to hang out for a bit, then over to a flowering plant, then back to the feeder.  Then, without warning, she flies away until another time.DSC_0436

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds, yet they can travel up to 49 mph.  Their heartbeats nearly 1200 beats per minute and they get their name because of the humming sound of their beating wings.

I feel like a hummingbird sometimes.  My attention goes from details to musings.  I flit from rigid routines to spontaneous creations, photography, or writing.  My concentration varies.  My observations bounce.  When I’m dead and gone, will my daughters see a hummingbird and say, “ Oh, there goes Mom.  She never could sit still.”?

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There are six large blue jays that visit our bird feeder every day.  Occasionally they are raucous and loud, trying to dominate the backyard.  I’d swear one of them is my Dad, just trying to get in the last word.  Trying to control, even from beyond!

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It behooves me to wonder who would want to be remembered as a squirrel or pesky fly, but every family has one of each.  Maybe our loved ones visit as birds or maybe a Higher Power nudges us to notice the beauty in nature, helping us to slow down and feel a connection.  Whatever is true and whatever is your truth, enjoy the noticings and remember your loved ones from beyond.  And if you receive a hummingbird feeder from me for Christmas, keep it.  Someday, I may come for a visit.

 

Posted in Family

Daddy Was A Saver

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written by Nancy Malcolm

Happy Birthday in Heaven to my daddy, J.C. Claughton, Jr.

My Daddy was a “saver”.  A procurer of particulars…a frugal forager.  It was probably because he was a product of the Depression, but for whatever reason, if you needed ‘it’, he had it, at least one and an alternate.

 When Daddy passed away we found boxes full of souvenirs, balls of twine, ink pens, jars of nails and business cards.  We found his report cards, measuring tapes, hundreds of bank statements and thousands of photographs labeled neatly into chronological albums.  There were boxes, bags and myriad other containers full of his mementos.   

 My brother and I waded through his things sometimes laughing …sometimes crying.  Towards the end of our sorting, we bantered across to each other, “You take it!”  “No, YOU take it!”  Still, we filled large, black Hefty bags with things to give away or dispose of.  His obsessive ‘saving’ wore us out. Sometimes, as we discarded, I whispered a prayer, “I’m sorry Daddy, we just have to let this go,” hoping he understood.

Last year I was going through a box of Daddy’s things that I had ‘saved’ from ten years ago.  When I brought it home, I thought I would go through it right away. But, ten years had passed and I had just found the strength to open the box.

 Inside were our report cards, Baptism announcements, college essays, school pictures and more.  I found an old, faded manila envelope, sealed with a piece of tape and enclosed were letters and cards my brother and I had sent Daddy through the years; Father’s Day cards, poems, and notes we had written him.  Behind those cards were letters tied with a string….our letters to Santa Claus.

I unfolded one pristine piece of notebook paper and I was transported, as I read my brother’s childish handwriting. 

Dear Santa,  I hope that I have been good enough to deserve these things I want.  I would like a bulldog tank, an electric football game and a boy scout nap sack.  My sister would like a jewelry box, a ballarena doll, a girl cowboy suit and play doe, please.   From: Jimmy and Nancy. December 16, 1958

This letter was written the Christmas after our mother died.   My brother was nine and I was five years old.  Not all of our letters to Santa were saved, just this one and one other.

My Dad wasn’t always good at professing his love.  He wasn’t the sentimental, mushy type. But, after he was gone, I saw his tender side amongst the 14 retractable measuring tapes and boxes of Navy war memorabilia.  The cards and notes his children had sent and letters to Santa obviously touched his heart, although we never knew it.

His heart was inside this box that took me ten years to open. And, suddenly, all of this stuff he had ‘saved’, became a piece of him…a bridge to the other side, where he was standing, arms open wide, saying, “See?  I have always loved you.” And finally, my heart whispered back, “I know, Daddy. I love you, too.”

Posted in Family

Don’t You Worry about that Mule

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by Ginger Keller Gannaway

One of Dad’s favorite sayings makes me both nod and scratch my head: “Don’t you worry about that mule. That mule ain’t going blind.”

I totally get the essence of his advice, even if I don’t fully understand the specific imagery. A mule is a hybrid of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare).  A mule has more strength, patience, intelligence, and longevity than either of its parents. Darwin has said that with the hybrid mule’s superior characteristics, “art has outdone nature.”

I suppose my persistent and powerful worries can be compared to the superior pack animal –  the mule. As I age, I have too much time to obsess over my endless list of fears:

Will my son get the new and improved job he seeks?

Will the ceiling slash in our living room turn out to need major roof repair costing thousands?

Will my car’s weird electrical issue where the doors automatically lock and unlock when I make a sharp turn or go over a train track one day keep me trapped when my car gets forced off a highway that crosses a deep river?

Will my dad’s nurses ignore his buzzer calls for help?

Will the latest global virus turn into scenes from the movie Contagion?

I’m not sure why Dad’s saying is about the mule’s eyesight, but maxims do not have to be logical, e.g. “Happy as a clam” or “Hunger is the best pickle.”  They just need to suggest the essence of a piece of wisdom.  Momma’s explanation to me of the Cajun phrase, “Tonnerre ma chien! (“Thunder the dog!”) was , “Well, it just means, ya know, ‘Thunder the dog,’ like you say, ‘Tonnerre ma chien!’ ya know.” There’s a feeling of an unexplained exclamation there, like a “Oh my God!” I guess.

So sayings can hold an abstract wisdom using concrete imagery, whether we’re talking about a dog in a storm or a mule with sight problems.Worry Head 1

My worries sometimes tangle me in knots of fear. I lose sleep or overeat or snap at my pets and my husband. Then my senseless concerns never come close to reality. My son did not start holding up a cardboard sign on the corner of First Street and Ben White Blvd. when he was between jobs. My car has not trapped and drowned me at the bottom of Lake Pontrachain on my way to New Orleans.

Dad’s saying involves a mule because worries have strength and a sturdiness that stays with a person. However, mules also are known for being more affectionate than their parents. Therefore, I  accept the fears of my nonsensical brain and remember that my head makes unlikely predictions.

Mules may get stuck in mud-filled ditches but they do not despair because they believe what Dad knows, “Don’t you worry about that mule. That mule ain’t going blind.”mule 1

Posted in Family

East Texas Livin’

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I’m forever turned around when we travel to East Texas.  Every twist and zigzag, every highway or county road seems to melt into another.  I never really know where I am, until we round a corner leading to the lake, Lake Tyler.

Being an Amarillo girl, I still marvel at the number of trees lining these roads and properties.  The tall east Texas pines are standing proud, guarding the secret beauty of the land.DSC_0347 (1)

 

As we make our way to my brother-in-law’s home, we see glimpses of the lake around each bend.  In between the beautiful homes is a peek at the water, with a promise of more. Everyone has a boat it seems.  Lake life is The Life!  DSC_0327

 

Ahhhhh, finally I begin to know where we are and as we swing into the long straight driveway, tranquility takes hold.  Everything slows down. The family dog and the neighbors’ dog race out to greet us. No leash law here, only welcoming barks and wagging tails.  “Pet me first!” they say.DSC_0342 (1)

The family home is facing the road but as you enter the house you see the true focal point with windows all along the back, showcasing a lush backyard leading to the water.  Gorgeous, large trees make a statement as even the woodland creatures check out the new arrivals. The covered back porch is probably my favorite spot, as it is the length of the house with large fans and comfy rocking chairs.  The porch is your morning coffee shop and your afternoon happy hour, encouraging you to sit, sip and stare…no other requirements needed

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I admit I was once skeptical of the East Texas lifestyle.  But, I’m a believer now, as I breathe in these Piney Woods and hear the friendly clerk at the gas station say, “Thank Y’all, come again and have a blessed day!”

The complete genuineness and country easiness lure me in and ask nothing of me but to appreciate the beauty of the land and the people.  I can’t believe I was once so chichi that I eeked at the bugs and was fearful of gophers and anything else too woodsy. I thought my city ways were safer and much preferred.  I was wrong.

This East Texas life has grown on me and each time I visit, I feel more at home and peaceful.  I see more beauty and gain more respect for the honest family values and sincere friendliness. I am truly grateful for my tie to these Piney Woods.  And to borrow a phrase from the Stop and Go,

“Thank Y’all for reading, come again and have a blessed day.”

 

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Photographs by Nancy Malcolm

 

Posted in Grandmother

Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Big Jim

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Liberty Theater, 1927

My siblings and I in a way grew up in a movie theater.   Grandma Keller owned our hometown’s two movie theaters, and she let her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren get in free.  My brother and sisters and I saw every movie that came to town. That lasted until 1968 when the ratings system began (G, M, R, and X). My parents viewed the Liberty Theater and Queen Cinema as free “babysitters.” We sometimes were dropped off at the show with paper bags holding hamburgers from Ruby’s Cafe if Momma and Dad’s night out began early. I remember strolling past a line of movie customers and waving at Miss Pearl (the ticket seller) as we made our way inside. A new ticket taker would get, “Our grandma is Mrs. Keller,” if he tried to stop our jaunty picture show entrance. Continue reading “Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway”

Posted in Friendship

Happy Birthday, Sue!

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Dear Auntie Sue,

I miss you something fierce!  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of you or see something that reminds me of you.  I think of you every time I go to Walgreens and remember how you loved to get out and just look around.  How you always bought a new Farmer’s Almanac and a Revlon lipstick, Wine With Everything, even though you had two in your purse.  “Just in case, “ you would say.

 

I think of you every time I go into my closet and see the Rhinestone pins and necklaces you gave me from your overflowing jewelry box

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I hear your voice when the weatherman flashes Oklahoma City on the map.  You would call and ask, “Are you having any weather down in Austin?” And then proceed to say, “It’s so windy here it would blow the hair off a dog!”

 

I think of you every time I don’t want to go for a walk, because you braved the elements every day, even using your walker.  You had a path inside and out at your retirement home, where you would walk one mile in the morning and one in the afternoon.  “I’ve got to walk or die,” you’d say.

 

I miss the way we would laugh, especially at ourselves and tell the same stories over and over again, each of us acting as if it were the first time!

 

I miss you telling me how much I look like my mother; how much you love me and can’t wait to see me again.

 

I tried to come for a visit every few months or so.  At the end of our time together, you would ask me when I was coming back.  You didn’t like to say goodbye and didn’t want any long farewells, tears or fuss.  As I would make my way to my car, I would turn around and look for your face in the window and you were always there waving back.  We would stand there and look at each other for those few seconds and my heart would ache, already longing to return.

 

I like to think that maybe on your walks upon the streets of gold, you might pause in front of a big picture window looking down on us all.  I like to think you are smiling and waving, your hand pressed to the pane and you hear me say, “I miss you something fierce.”

 

My dear Auntie Sue was the Original Sittin Ugly Sistah!  She was funny, sweet, loving and true to herself.  She loved God, her family, eating a good steak and Bob Wills!

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Posted in Pets

Muffy

 

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Muffy:      When my youngest daughter was twelve, we went to the pound to find a puppy.  A man met us as we came in and offered to show us around and tell us about the available pups.  We hardly noticed the tiny ball of fur tucked in the crook of his arm.

As we walked from cage to cage, we mentally scored each dog…too big, too small, too old, not cute, too much hair etc.  After seeing each dog probably more than twice, I told my youngest, that perhaps today was not the day for a new puppy.  The man casually said, “Well, of course, there is this little guy, “ as he held up the black and white fur ball in his arms.  “His family moved away and left him.  He does have a little issue with his right paw, but…..”, and he handed him to my daughter.  I won’t say it was love at first sight, but close!  She looked at me, I looked at the puppy, we both looked at the man and said, “We love him!  We want him!”

Before we took him home, the worker explained, “You see here?  This little guy has an extra paw on his right foot.  He might have been hurt or maybe born that way, but he should be just fine.”  I think he was named before we left the parking lot…’Muffo’ was ours!  All ours!

I won’t say Muffo was perfect in every other way, but almost.  Moving into an all-female household, his name quickly morphed into “Muffy”.  I don’t know why, but it did.  Some of our family and friends refused to call him Muffy, so he had other nicknames like Murphy or Mufster.  But, Muffy was a ‘metro-sexual’ male and didn’t mind the girly name!  He was secure in who he was.

 

Muffy was loyal, sweet, good natured and calm.  We babied him and loved him for 13 years.  He was an endless source of laughter, stories, and entertainment.  Sadly, as time went on, not only was his extra appendage more prominent, he developed cataracts and became blind.  He adjusted very well to his loss of sight, but there was this once…….

I had finally been able to afford new den furniture and so we gave away the old and had a two-day window until the new couch arrived.  On this day, I opened the back door to let Muffy in and as was his practice, he jogged to the den to leap up on the couch for a nap.  It was slow motion…..as I shut the door, turned and saw Muffy in mid air….aiming for his usual spot on the couch, which was NOT there.  Thud!  I always did feel terrible about that, but how could I have explained, what he could not see?

When Muffy knew you were eating something delicious and he was not, he would sit up, balanced on his hind legs, and hold his wounded, extra paw with his good front paw, and quietly beg.  He was never pushy or loud, but he always got our sympathy with his pitiful little beg and two paw wave.

Muffy was with us through thick and thin; holidays; vacations; moving cross country; and empty nesting.  I never felt lonely as long as he was around.

Muffy was the OG of K-town and the NKOTB in Austin….he was the epitome of a perfect pet.  Charming, cute beyond words, sensitive because of his handicaps, loyal and an excellent judge of character.  In fact, 15 years ago, Muffy convinced me that my then boyfriend would make a great husband…and he was right.  Muffy knew a good person when he met one.

Our Muffy was agreeable but not a pushover; caring but not overbearing.  He was precious and we loved him.  In fact, everyone who knew Muffy, loved him.  Afterall, wouldn’t we all love to be admired like that?  He had it all and more!  There will never be another Muffy!

We love you Muffy and miss you terribly!  RIP little guy!

 

Posted in Holidays

Nannie and PaPa’s Guide To A Hoppy Easter

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Nannie and PaPa’s Guide to a Hoppy Easter:

Hippity Hoppity Easter’s on its way!  Every year we host our annual family Easter extravaganza.  Our children and grandchildren convene at our house for this eggstra special time and we pack in a full weekend of fun!  Here are a few of our must haves:

DSC_0401    Eggs, eggs, and more eggs:  Plastic eggs filled with candy, money, gift cards, stickers, toys, and chocolate!

Eggs, eggs, and still more eggs:  Dyed eggs and the contest to see who has the most creative; deviled eggs, egg salad, quiche and the most popular among the little ones….Cascarones!

Bunnies:  Blow-up Bunnies in the front yard, bunny plates, napkins, and cups; bunny coffee mugs, bunny candy jars, bunny chair covers, bunny magnets, bunny garland and a small ceramic bunny village!DSC_0377

Church:  We always go to Church as a family and cherish this time together.

Baskets:  Everyone has their own special basket….a tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket!!!

Outdoor activity:  We usually enjoy some type of outdoor activity whether it be a long walk, letting the kids play in the park or taking a family bike ride.  With our crew, it’s a must to get outside!

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Food:  We have our big family meal on Saturday night.  It varies with turkey or ham, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, cake, veggies etc.  But, one of our must haves is Sister Schubert rolls!!!!  Sister Schubert’s dinner rolls, and then her cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and the ones with sausage.  If you’ve never tried them, you must!  Run to your nearest grocery store and check the frozen food section!  

The Hunt:  After Church, after brunch, after pictures and after a change of clothes…we have The Hunt.    The younger kids hunt just with themselves and we divide the yard, so each one gets the same amount.  But then, the “older” kids have their hunt.  No child is too young or too old to hunt!     For these kids, we fill the eggs with money.  We line them up oldest to youngest and hunt the backyard first.    After all eggs are found, we line up by the one with the fewest eggs found going first and the most found go last, then we head to the front yard.  We have our usual hiding places, but my husband and I like to shake it up by finding more creative spots each year.   Then we come inside and count!  It’s not really tooooo over the top, but it gives each child a little extra fun cash for whatever they want.

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After the festivities….everyone goes home!(that’s a must!)  While we are all together, it is fast and furious.  We hop, scamper, hide, munch and laugh!  But, after all the excitement, my husband and I prop our feet up, finish off the chocolate, enjoy the quiet and begin planning for next year!

Happy Easter Everyone!

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See Soulspeak2016.wordpress.com for “What Happens at Nannie and PaPa’s Stays at Nannie and Papa’s!!!!!”

Posted in Friendship

Poems to Ponder by Ginger Keller Gannaway

For April, National Poetry Month, I offer you a few Poems to Ponder:lake house

  1. “I Spy Babies” by Shane Gannaway (my son)

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    Shane Gannaway
  2. “Spring and Fall”  by Gerard Manly Hopkins (probably my favorite poem)
  3. “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes (strong advice read by Viola Davis & the poet!)
  4. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (in memory of poet philosopher Ric Fox)nothing Gold can stay
  5. Hearts Under a Microscope by Gary Gannaway“Tis true. Science says it’s so.
    Each heart muscle cell
    Beats to its own rhythm.
    Under a microscope
    It looks like a tiny heart,
    And it sounds likeYour heart Your heartpoem love
    Your heart Your heart.Put another heart muscle cell
    Onto the same slide.
    And it will beat to its own
    Independent rhythm,
    And it sounds like

    Heart my Heart my
    Heart my Heart my.

    Once the cells touch,
    A miracle occurs.
    The two cells begin to beat as one,
    And they sound like

    Your heart My heart
    Your heart My heart
    Our heart Our heart
    Our heart Our heart.

    ‘Tis true. Science says it’s so.(Valentine’s Day, 2010)

    “Shoulders”  (cool class video)by Naomi Shihab Nye ( what the world needs now)

  6. Shoulders
    A man crosses the street in rain,
    stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
    because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

    No car must splash him.
    No car drive too near to his shadow.

    This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
    but he’s not marked.
    Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
    HANDLE WITH CARE.

    His ear fills up with breathing.
    He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
    deep inside him.

    We’re not going to be able
    to live in this world
    if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
    with one another.

    The road will only be wide.
    The rain will never stop falling.

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Posted in Friendship, Travel

Top 10 Vacations by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Top 10 Favorite Vacations

I love, love,love to travel with family and friends.   Here go my favorites using the “Six Word Memoir” approach.

  1. Pensacola Beach:  Waves of sun and seafood smilesBEACH2

2. Big Bend: Desolate hikes intrigue 4 adventurous boys.

3.Yosemite: Heavenly balance connects green with gray.yosemite1

4. Gubbio, Italy: Pasta, gelato, wine paint our walks.GUBBIO

5.New York City: Stage lights amid millions of stories.nyc

6. Granada, Spain: Palace of mystery joins summer souls.SPAIN

7. New Orleans: Jazzy bursts of decadently spicy timesnola

8. Hawaii: Sun-shaded eyes sip umbrella-clad cocktails.

9.Haciendas Las Trancas, Mexico: Free-time, fiesta, food fireworks for friends!mexico.jpg

10. Neal’s Cabins on Frio River: Kids share frigid splashes of drama!neals

Laignappe:  Keller Camp at Indian Village: Diggin’ sand bar Good Times, Cha!

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What are your favorite vacation spots??