Following The Muse

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April 1, 2001: In our home when I was growing up, music was greatly appreciated and our parents saw to it that all three of their children had piano lessons. Did I ever have piano lessons, for eleven years, and I don’t play a note. My sister, on the other hand, loves it and plays beautifully. I never had the foggiest notion what it was all about and it wasn’t the teacher's fault, she had students who went on to Julliard School of Music and others who majored in music in college. I don’t have the piano gene. I never enjoyed practicing and absolutely abhorred recitals. I do have a greater appreciation of music than I would have, had I not suffered through all those years of taking piano. I even took an elective class in music appreciation in college and that was a joke. The professor was enchanted by ancient Hebrew chants and spent most of the semester on them. I certainly know what they sound like. I found better knowledge of music history and appreciation in our encyclopedia than I did from that course. My deeply buried interest was in fine art, a subject that was not talked about much in our family and was not taught in our schools. My interest was buried because it was dealt a couple of discouraging blows when I was a small child and in first grade, stories too boring to tell here. 

In fact, in my era  women, particularly women in the South, often were not encouraged to try any but the most mundane so-called women’s jobs. In high school, restless and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I went to the librarian and asked for information on careers and was frustrated when she gave me books and brochures on becoming a secretary, teacher,  librarian, or a nurse. Period. I was under pressure from my pastor and the church to be a missionary and Dad to find a nice safe job that I would probably leave when I married, anyway. It never occurred to me that I could strike out on my own and find something really unusual to do with my life.  I remember even when I was getting my master’s degree years later, the head of the school proudly stated that the women who were getting their MSW degree would have more negotiating power when they got their MRS, the assumption being that all those women would marry. I fell into what career I had by accident. And I was middle aged before I began to write for publication and it was several years after that before I admitted my deep-seated desire to learn to paint. I then pursued it with single-minded dedication, but I wish I had started back when I first became aware of my interests in writing and art.  

 I did not want my children to feel such limitations. We saw to it that they were surrounded with as many good books as we could find and toys that encouraged creativity and I tolerated the activities, usually messy, that go along with creativity. Some of our neighbors’ children liked to come over to our house because we would get into messy things such as finger painting and easel painting that their mothers would not tolerate at home because of the mess.  In fact, Mitch and Camilla both became so creative it was sometimes frustrating for them to fit in the ordinary school mode.

 I remember Mitch’s frustration with me at age four when he wanted me to hang a bag of salt from the eave of the house so he could see the pattern the spilling salt would make on the ground as the pendulum swung (Farris was out of town). Just getting the bag hung from the eave stumped me. He is still pursuing  his early interests in astronomy and photography and computers and has melded them  by taking pictures of the planets and stars, nebulae and clusters through his telescope with his new CCD camera.

I admire more than I can say today’s young women who pursue their interests with dedication. Our daughter Camilla is an example, but I could name a number of other young women her age that I admire for the same reason. She has a demanding full-time job, but she loves animals and when she can, she volunteers at a no-kill animal sanctuary. She volunteers to read and record textbooks on tape for an organization that produces the tapes for the blind. I put those in her good deeds category. As for her personal interests, she loves to dance and to be on stage and she was in some Little Theater productions while in college. After completing her college courses, both her undergraduate and her master’s degrees, she took acting lessons off and on over the years and now is active in the Live Arts organization where she lives. She actually thinks it is fun to audition for parts (!) and has been in two productions this past year. She was Raven in “The Robber Bridegroom” and in that part she sang and danced as well.  Here is a picture of her as Raven


 and another of her dancing with her partner.


She also was in a presentation of “The Women” recently. Now she is beginning to work backstage to learn stage-managing. 

She has a talent for creative writing and in addition to that she has found a marvelous teacher and is taking oil painting lessons. Here are some of her beginning paintings, some still in progress:

oil painting

oil painting

  I cannot say how happy I am to see her starting her training this young. She will enjoy these activities her whole life. 

I take such pleasure in watching her and her friends as they develop their interests. My son and daughter-in-law and their friends amaze me with what they can do. There seem to be no limits on what they are willing to try and I am glad that the barriers, either self-inflicted or cultural that slowed me down are gone. Life is such a celebration when one dares to pursue one’s dreams. 

March 31, 2001, NATURE NOTE:  I am sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch enjoying the first pleasantly warm afternoon we have had in a long time. It is ten minutes until six in the afternoon, the skies are  full to partly cloudy. I came out to read and soak up the atmosphere, but there is so much to see that I put my book down. I am writing this on my little Jornada as happenings occur. 

We have had a male hummingbird here for several days. The hummers are late this year, but yesterday another male appeared and this afternoon a female joined them both. The feeder is about ten feet from my chair and they are zooming all round me. The original male tries to keep the second male from the feeder and while they are chasing each other the female slips in and takes a very long drink. They are chattering madly at each other and I think how nice to have them back; they are such delightful company and superior entertainment for our guests and us. 

A Red Admiral butterfly flutters around me and lights on the stone column nearby, spreading its wings in the sunshine. I immediately run to get my camera and return just in time to see it fly away. 

I look up to admire the salmon colored clouds near the horizon by the lowering sun and the Tyndal effects,  or light rays stealing through the clouds are particularly lovely.


 Wait! What is that formation of enormous birds making their stately way across the sky in my line of sight? They are too large to be geese and I dash into the house for my binocular calling to Farris to come help me identify those birds (I only came out to read, remember? I should have known to bring all my equipment out as well). Their formation is loose, fluid, now a vee, now a line, again a vee. We decide they are a flock Sandhill Cranes heading north. 

Redwing blackbirds are dominating some of the feeders and their raucous croaking call, almost a caw, contrasts with the soft sifting sound of shedding oak leaves as they fall to the ground. A vivid cardinal is helping himself to a drink and a quick bath before calling it a day. Oh, the beautiful red-bellied woodpecker is at the platform feeder now.

The sunlight is quite warm in color, yellow, slanting sharply and casting ever-lengthening shadows over the yard that is peppered with the lovely yellow daisy-like flowers called Parralena, a member of the sunflower family. I gathered some yesterday and mixed them with a sprig of rosemary, lavender and thyme.

Fairy Bouquet

 Now the blackbirds have gone and the house finches reclaim the feeders. The pine siskins and goldfinches have left the thistle feeders and the cardinals, male and female, begin their late evening snacks as they like to do. A new sound wafts up from the fairy brook; the tree frogs are beginning  their evening celebration of abundance of water. Farris said we had wild ducks in the pond again today. 

My favorite time of day is approaching. Just as the sun sets all of nature seems to become still, perhaps in tribute to the beauty of the setting sun, perhaps in gratitude for the day; that magical time is so special I have named it the Sacred Hour of Sunset. 

Lazy Rio, Phantom and Graycie are sleeping nearby and missing this unique enchantment, as is Farris who is watching the news on TV in the house. I have no doubt that for me at least, I have made the best choice. Even as the light gets weaker I see a pair of wrens tucking a few last twigs inside the wren house they have chosen this year. Now a raccoon comes moseying up the path from the savannah and stops to eat sunflower seeds that have fallen from the bird feeder. I am sure his ultimate destination is the cat food we have out, and I must pick it up before he gets to it. Oh, he has just discovered that I am here and stands up on his hind legs, looks and then resumes his foraging beneath the bird feeder. He is a cool character! Now he is climbing the big oak tree. Usually a pair of them make the rounds much later after dark and I am chagrined if I have forgotten to get the cat food inside in time, for they become pests if fed. I need to go feed the fish in the sugar kettle fountain before the day is completely gone. The sun is sinking behind clouds on the horizon. A fragrance wafts up from the creek. I wonder if the Agarita are blooming? Ah, here come the deer. I will go feed the fish, pick up the cat food and leave the night to those most familiar with it.

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Last revised: November 26, 2010

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