It wasn’t a rafter or a flock, but my heart soared to see two wild turkeys and at least six big-enough-to-fly poults strolling the clearing between house and woods last Sunday.
For years, so many turkeys lived in our hundred-acre wood that I collected enough dropped feathers to share with an artist friend who treasured them as do I. Several years ago, however, the population dropped precipitously due, I conjecture, to coyotes, bobcats, foxes and feral cats. Last year I caught a glimpse of only one lone hen.
It was pure luck that I was able to snap several fuzzy pictures. Two curious does emerged from the clearing, adding to the bucolic scene.
I don’t know the ways of nature well enough to know for sure why the turkeys disappeared or why they have begun to reappear and raise chicks. Perhaps they have been here all along and I have been shuttering myself in the house too much rather than walking the woods and observing as I used to.
I went a little crazy at the beginning of this year (so what’s different about 2019?) and signed up for two art jounal/mixed media year-long experiences: one is the gifted, irrepressible and kind artist and teacher Tamara Laporte’sLifebook 2019, and the other is the equally gifted and welcoming artist and teacher Kasia Avery’sWanderlust 2019. Both are phenomenal. They have gathered a remarkable array of teachers for these journeys.
I’ve also joined the Bancroft Collective, a brave and talented group of creative folk who, in the words of founder Georgina McClure (a nom de plume of creative guru Heather Blakey) “have taken up residence in Bancroft Manor because they are passionate about the power of the expressive arts to heal”. At Bancroft Manor, Georgina leads an online Writing for Wellness course.
Am I waaay behind? Absolutely. Am I happier, more creative, learning like I never thought I could at my (ahem) somewhat advanced age, and writing more as I stretch old muscles and find new ones? YES! Oh, yes.
I dreamed last night of my long-dead father. One of those rare dreams I’ve learned to call a major gift.
Standing on a sidewalk at a busy intersection, I was waiting for a car or a bus or a taxi or something to take me somewhere. It was crowded. Lots of people. Many of them seemed to know me. They waved and shouted friendly greetings.
I remember adjusting the shoulder strap of my heavy bag that was filled with notebooks and sketch pads, craning my neck to look for my ride, when someone called out: “Wait! Don’t go yet. Your Daddy is coming to see you!”
My head snapped up and sure enough, a man who could not be anyone but W. T. Jones was striding through the crowded sidewalk, pulling off leather work gloves as he walked. His crack-the-dark-world-open brilliant smile went all the way to those flashing bright eyes that never left my face.
Before there was time to think or react or, thank God, wake up, I was wrapped up in those dear arms. “Baby girl!” he crooned, nearly waltzing me around, his joy my sunbeam path.
I awoke then and nearly sprang out of bed with energy and a smile, still feeling that loving affirmation from my sweet, long-missed Daddy.
In the dream, Daddy was slightly heavier than I remembered, still sun-browned with crinkles around his eyes and a light sheen of sweat as though he had just come off the construction site of one of his subdivisions in central Florida, circa 1964, the year his heart suddenly stopped.
Tough blow for a thirteen-year-old to lose her dad. My older brother was sixteen; our younger brother only nine. Mother was fragile and unbalanced. Tough all the way around. The lodge pole of our family structure was jerked away and the roof quickly fell in.
For weeks, now, I haven’t been sleeping well enough to dream, much less to remember a dream. Several hours have elapsed since the dream. I’ve walked to the gate with Lou, fed her breakfast, and brewed coffee.
Cutting strawberries and oranges for Sunday breakfast a few minutes ago, I laughed to realize I was whistling Daddy’s favorite song.
Brilliant yellow slime mold on a fallen log. Photo-bombed by Lou. Maybe she was interested because the common name of Physarum polycephalum is “Dog Vomit Slime Mold.” Find a fascinating article on it by Eve Broughton of Northern California’s Lost Coast Interpretative Association here.
Time is strange. I walk, trudge, even run a bit when the path is briefly level. Has it been hours or years since I was at Longleaf? Was I ever there at all? Will I ever return to Buck and Lou-Lou and all the sweet familiarity of home?
Mountains rise around me. The path grows rocky and narrow. The air is thin and I am grateful for the bottle of water in my pack. Fog rolls in and I remember a time lost in frightening sea fog in a small boat in the Gulf of Mexico. I think of Yann Martel’s book, Life of Pi and the tiny boat so filled with life — terrifying and wondrous.
But I am not in a boat and so far as I can tell, I am alone on this fog-shrouded, rocky path.
What’s that? It sounds like squeaky hinges, then a bang. Metal on metal. It grows louder. The path widens and the fog begins to dissipate. I see the source of the sound now. It is a huge solid wood gate swinging on iron hinges. I see a key still in the lock. It looks just like the one in my pocket. Someone else is here!
I turn back to look at the path. It has disappeared. Rather than being alarmed, I feel light, curious, and eager even though the old mansion beyond the gate looks as though it has been abandoned for decades. I see vines draped over the stacked round stones several stories high.
I step through the gate and laugh out loud. The mansion and grounds have transformed. Instead of old vines draped over broken walls, I smell dusky climbing roses and the heady sweet scent of gardenias. Italian cedars line a circular cobblestone drive, and in the middle of it a fountain splashes.
Over the huge open double ebony front doors are the letters: BANCROFT.
The light inside is filtered. I don’t see another person, but I hear low laughter and conversation. I start to move in that direction, but the fragrant, yeasty aroma of baking bread draws me toward what must be the kitchen. I am suddenly famished.
Following my nose, I start across a wide hallway, but am stopped in my tracks by the faint tinkling sound of a piano. Is it coming from outside? I follow my ears this time, out the tall French doors , past a lovely gazebo, the strangely familiar music growing louder with each step.
How curious! The source of the music is a small structure built to look like a Grandmother clock. It sits just at the edge of a small lake, barely more than a pond. The music stops. Is someone inside? I walk around the structure, but cannot find a door anywhere.
There is a discreet name plate beside the clock face: GRACE ANN RINGER. Grace! What is she doing here? Grace is the main character in the novel I have been writing and putting away, writing and putting away, for at least five years.
II knock timidly on the clock, but don’t hear a sound. That’s when I notice the small red box at my feet. I am startled. It looks just like my red box of dreams.
I kneel down and open the fragile hasp.
It’s an old clock key. I like puzzles, and this one is pretty cool indeed. Within minutes I find the small winding hole, insert the key and start turning it. A trapezoid-shaped door silently opened and I stepped inside.
And a piano that looks like one where I spent many happy hours years ago.
And a screened porch actually hovering over the little lake. How had I missed that when I was looking for the door? I see Grace’s bright green running shoes on the porch, but no sign of her.
Now, I’m really hungry and eager to meet the others who have found their way here. But first, I really must play the piano for a few minutes.