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DECEMBER LAIRLIGHT

Fragrance of grass and juniper
wafting sweet welcome in the breeze.
Purposeful movement of hawkshadow
gracing the sunlit hillside.
Bright tambourine ribbons streaming across
the horizon
celebrating the sunset.
Winternight sky a creamy broth of galaxies
capturing me in infinite beauty.
Moonshadow draped across hillside and savannah
creating a nightscape surreal.
Owlsong lending soft music.....
sending melody into the cool night.
The solidity of this house of stonestrength,
So well-fit onto this land.
The brother-and-sister-love dwelling within
bringing warmth and connectedness.
The senses so deeply filled in this clean place...
The glory of God so well-displayed...
Here lies the power to awaken the grieving soul
once more to the Light.

Jene Kramer
The Lair
Christmas, 1994

Jene is our sister-in-law and was our first guest at The Lair. She is a frequent visitor and has written some lovely poems, several of which we will share with you in the future.

This poem appeared in "Free Indeed" magazine, and proved to be popular with the readers.

Woman

No more sunbathing on the edge
of life. I'm going to plunge in,
make waves, make waves,
spit out the brine, ride the surf
to the shore, step out proudly
without pulling down
the edge of me in false modesty.
I am made in the Divine Image
and I am walking in who I am!


KRAMER MITCHELL

Some people have asked, so I will explain that I am Rheba Kramer Mitchell, and I write and paint under a combination of my maiden and married names, Kramer Mitchell.

~~~~~

The following story was written in response to a request for submissions for a new online magazine called Sea Stories at Blue Ocean Institute. Although I got an email acknowledging receipt of my entry, somehow the
staff lost my entry. I decided to simply publish it here instead.

Beaks, Belicans, and Funny Brown Pelicans

Rheba Kramer Mitchell

Last summer my husband and I packed the car and left The Lair, our Texas Hill Country ranch. We were bound for that birding Mecca, the Texas Gulf Coast, specifically Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Seashore at
North Padre Island. My goal was to gather as many pictures of shorebirds as possible during our four day stay. I have a new digital SLR camera with a 400 Millimeter lens that for the first time lets me get good pictures of birds and animals.

I am relatively new at photographing wildlife, and I learned a valuable lesson as we sat in the car on a ferry on our way to the National Seashore. My two cameras reposed safely in their padded cases since we weren't  yet at our destination. Suddenly my husband said, "Rheba, where is your camera?" I looked up and line of five Brown Pelicans were floating toward me (pelicans, awkward on land, seem to literally float when they glide in the air). I thought they were going to pass through the front windows of the car right under my nose! I felt dejected. I had missed an unexpected fantastic picture. From then on I traveled with a camera in hand, ready to shoot whether I expected to see anything or not.

Those Brown Pelicans began a nostalgic train of thought. I grew up in Louisiana and the Brown Pelican is the state bird. A very old limerick goes like this:

A wonderful bird is the Pelican
His mouth can hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
I'm damned if I know how the helican.

My mother taught me a rather sanitized version of that limerick when I was a child and the bird in her version was a Brown Pelican. That is how I learned and remembered the State Bird of Louisiana. Thinking of this, I set a goal of getting some pictures of Brown Pelicans. I didn't know I would get a demonstration of more information about the pelican's beak than I expected!

As soon as we arrived on  the sands of the National Seashore, there they were: a group of beautiful brown pelicans poised at the edge of the surf, posing for anyone who wanted to photograph them.

pelicans

They pretended to ignore me as I slowly crept closer, but they knew I was there. Notice how the second one's eyes are looking directly at the camera. I think of them as the clowns of the seashore. They have a certain dignity, but their appearance makes one smile and they rewarded my patience with some funny antics.

The tide was coming in and they stood stoically as the waves rolled in, but sometimes they were knocked off their dignity.

pelicans

After the surf receded, they returned to their complacent poses, looking out to the water and keeping their eyes on me as well.

I spent over an hour photographing these birds and I began to wish they would do something more entertaining, when suddenly one of them lifted its beak to the sky, revealing the pouch that was not expanded.

pelican beak extended

Notice bird number four in the photographs below. Note how it curled its neck.

pelican curved neck

 

To my surprise and amusement, it then pulled its pouch down over its neck, turning it inside out!

pelican pouch inside out

 

How many of you have seen the inside of a pelican's pouch? Well hang on, there is more to come! I cropped the photo and left this picture fairly large so you can see clearly.

pelican throat
 

That picture reminds me of a fourth grade kid in the school lunch room opening his mouth so his classmates can see more chewed food than desired.

Later a volunteer searching for Ridley sea turtle nests rode by on his three-wheeler and the birds took flight.

pelicans flying


Periodically I need to return to the ocean, the place of our origins and I am always rewarded with wonderful images that I consider special gifts from the sea.

~~~~~

I have been reading the latest issue of a magazine on journal writing and it is  full of ideas. Especially interesting to me is an article with prompts to help one recall childhood memories. It triggered some of my own and I put them here for lack of a more appropriate place for them. 

Boot Pants and Bootless, Tortured by Chocolate

Kramer Mitchell

Grace Ann, one of my friends in school from first grade through graduation had long, thick, rich dark brown, shiny hair and her own way of flipping that beautiful mane over her shoulders. She lived in town, a city mouse. I was a country mouse. She went home for lunch. I brought mine from home in a lunch box and ate with other country mice in the lunch room. She was the ultimate in sophistication to  me, especially in high school when she got a shiny black roadster with a rumble seat!

After lunch I always went to the corner of the school campus where the town kids returned to school and I would wait for Grace Ann. That is how I discovered I might need glasses, she had to get fairly close before I could be sure it was her coming back. What a surprise to me when I got glasses and could see Grace coming from blocks away! We would join our other friends and play games or, when we were older, stroll round and round the school building until the bell rang to call us back inside.

Grace often wore black boot pants and black boots with a white blouse to school and I thought that was the most magnificent outfit I had ever seen. It was so different, so cool, so with-it, like Elizabeth Taylor wore in the movies. I begged my mother to get me some fawn colored riding pants (I had read about fawn colored riding pants in a book), and shiny dark brown boots. We are not talking cowboy boots here. We are talking fitted riding boots that go almost up to the knees. Mother was not inclined to put out the money for the boots, but she did get me a pair of khaki twill jodhpurs, riding pants cut flared from the hips to the knee then close-fitting from knee to ankle, with a strap that went around the foot at the instep. Boot pants had no straps although they were cut much the same way as jodhpurs. Now, no one else had jodhpurs, and I should have been delighted to have something so different. Alas, they had no magic for me! In my mind they were riding britches and riding britches required boots. The magic was lost when I had to wear them with the straps under my penny loafers. I felt the tiniest bit second-class in my bootless jodhpurs. Factor into this important equation the fact that Grace owned a horse she loved and I never was fond of horses, was always a bit afraid of them; they are so big! What does owning a horse have to do with wearing riding pants and boots to school anyway? Grace Ann remained the queen of the riding pants. 

She was also queen of the candy. Mother was strict about how much candy we could eat in a given day. It was doled out, not left around for us to help ourselves at will. Grace's parents owned a grocery store. When I spent the night with her, on the table between the twin beds was a huge bowl full, and I mean piled-up full, of every kind of chocolate candy bar imaginable: Snickers, Hershey Bars, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, Baby Ruths, Mounds and others. They were full-sized then, not the cut-down variety sold now for more than twice the money.  Grace Ann, who had the candy in her room all the time, never even glanced at the bowl. I don't remember ever seeing her take one of the candy bars out of the bowl to eat it. Neither did it occur to her to offer me one, and I had been taught never to ask for food when visiting at my friends' houses. 

Can you imagine what it was like for a chocoholic-in-the-making to lie in bed at night trying to go to sleep with that pile of aromatic chocolate bars just in reach? I wonder if that is why at least twice a year I compulsively buy the miniature chocolate bars in packages and bring them home to put in our candy bowl (I call it our addiction center), never mind the 18 or more grams of fat?

~~~~~~~

The following is a devotional article that appeared in "Praise Digest," published in the United States and was reprinted in "Manna Digest," published in Canada.

Honeysuckle and Mourning Doves 

Kramer Mitchell

Green tendrils of honeysuckle vines shimmer in my memory today as they shimmered in the heat of the sunshine during the days of my childhood. The yellow and white flowers beckoned with their fragrance, calling me from the shade of the screened porch into the heat and dust of the path, from shelter and comfort to exposure and vulnerability, though I scarcely grasped that fact as I pattered barefoot toward the sure reward. 

Often it was early morning and the dew rising became a dreamy mist that I could feel against my face if I ran, pin-prick kisses urging me on to the fence along the bayou where the honeysuckle vines grew. I would pick a flower or two and with a skill that can be learned only from another child, I put the fragrant blossom to my lips. With a popping sound so satisfying to a child's heart, I would extract the tiny drop of moisture, that nectar that draws hummingbirds and butterflies and children of all ages, and calls forth the name, honeysuckle. I would sigh and lie down at a deliciously dangerous angle on the bayou bank, contemplating the sky and the fields, claiming the world as mine with deep satisfaction.

There was a price to pay for growing still. For then I could hear softly but distinctly the call of the mourning dove. Her cooing was gentle and distant--always distant--like a dust swirl on the back roads of my mind, evoking multiple responses in my heart. The cry of the mourning dove has the same lure of the train whistle in the night--calling me to venture forth, to seek the dove, knowing full well she was beyond my boundaries. I always hung back, timid and hesitant, caught by training and security and familiar surroundings. I think, too, I was reluctant to run to her for I knew not how to comfort her.

I am older now and a little wiser, but no less subject to the pull of the call of the mourning Dove. Only now, I hear her call in the sob of the broken heart of a loved one or friend, sense her sigh in the eyes of one being crushed by her own sin or the sins of others. Now when I hear her gentle call I go swiftly to speak the Word of comfort, to softly whisper the healing balms of Jesus. As I watch the bruised reed slowly transform into an unfolding flower, I catch again the fragrance of the Vine. Responding as a child to the honeysuckle, my spirit runs eagerly to gather the pure sweet nectar of Sacred's love.

~~~~~~~

Like a Song

Kramer Mitchell

(Excerpt from "Moondust," Rheba's journal.)

January 8, 2001: I am playing my Hit Parade CDs this morning, music from the forties and fifties. I am thrust back onto the shifting sands of my feelings of my late teens and early twenties. We had such fun as a class at Lecompte, and all these songs bring back memories of good times and special classmates and friends. I value these bits of nostalgia. 

These tunes bring back vivid memories of high school slumber parties at girl friends' homes where the boys were sometimes invited to come dance with us until around ten or eleven. Or we would meet the guys at the bridge over the bayou for a late supper of hot tamales and Cokes. When it got really late, Uncle Tom, the night Marshall would walk by on one of his rounds and say "Time to go home, boys and girls," and we went. I am probably repeating myself from former writings, but one of the perks of getting older is the freedom to forget so we can enjoy the stories as fresh and new when they are retold!

"It's Magic" with Doris Day is playing now. That recalls memories of sitting on the front porch of my family home at Bend Field Farm in a rocking chair, sipping iced tea, looking across the bayou to the cotton or sugar cane fields and on to the puffy white clouds drifting like blobs of meringue floating in a sea of blue, thinking how I loved living in that beautiful place and dreaming about the future.

"Slow Boat to China" takes me to Baker's Cafe in Tigertown at LSU in Baton Rouge, having a hurried lunch between classes, listening to a slow version of the song and wondering if that someone special was going to invite me to the football game Saturday night. In those days we dressed up for the games and always, always had the huge globe of a golden or white football Mum pinned to our lapels. The flowers were real, no artificial ones for us.

"Now is the Hour" with Bing Crosby reminds me of Johnny whom I dated during high school and the first two years of college. He was the first boy ever to ask me for a real date and he told my brother he wanted to date me. I remember how utterly astonished Ed was that someone actually wanted a date with me! Alas, I was only fifteen and was not allowed to date until I was sixteen, so we had to content ourselves with visits together at home until I was old enough to be allowed to go out on dates. Johnny was in the Navy and after a visit, when it was time for him to leave, he would have the disc jockey at the local radio station dedicate that song to us. I listened to my trusty brown boxy Philco radio (It had merely an on and off button, and a tuning and volume button, not thirteen steps just to turn it on like our present sound system) while studying or after going to bed, and the dedications began about ten PM. Our song was usually played around eleven o'clock. "Sentimental Me," I remember feeling sad that he was leaving again for such a long time and glad that he would participate in this ritual of ours. Do you remember the words? "Now is the hour when we must say good-bye. Soon you'll be sailing far across the sea. While  you're away, oh then remember me. When you return you'll find me waiting here." I thought that was so romantic! Of course, I was the one waiting while he sailed all over the world, sometimes sending me neat presents from various ports.

Radio was especially important to us because we had no television. Late night music programs were listened to faithfully when we were home in hopes someone would dedicate a song to us, and it was fun to hear our friends dedicate songs to each other. Sometimes we learned of new couples that way, or even discovered a secret admirer. 

"Sentimental Journey" reminds me of swimming in the icy cold stream at Shady Nook, not getting out of the waters until our lips turned blue. It reminds me of the pavilion with the juke box where I danced to that song over and over with my steady boy friend my junior year of high school. We cooled watermelons in the icy waters while we were swimming and groups of us would sometimes spend the entire day there. "Near you" was the song of my best friend and one of her beaux in high school. "Always" is playing now and that brings to mind Ben, that handsome rascal at LSU who used to take me to little lounges to dance on Friday nights and always tipped the combo to play that song for us because he knew it was my favorite.

I must also include other songs I am listening to this morning. Songs such as "Heartaches," and "Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside," and "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," for some of these beaux left me, or I left them. Others married someone else. Nonetheless, I am glad I saved pictures, notes and letters, cards, ticket stubs, napkins, corsage ribbons from all these people and occasions that were such an important part of my life even if relatively briefly. They all helped me become who I am today and even though I kept the pictures and other items out of sentiment, now I view them as part of the history of who I am. 

Of course, a lot of my classmates are still very much a part of my life. I had nice notes from several during the holidays, a phone call from one and unexpected gifts from two others. What really surprises me is how the guys keep in touch. I expect it of my female classmates and they don't disappoint me, but I think it is unusual for so many of the guys to keep in close touch with us. We have gained lovely friendships with their wives, too. All of that keeps our class still close after more than fifty years. And these communications take on more meaning with our advancing age; we don't take them for granted. They are like nuggets of gold or little jewels to keep close to our hearts. Yes, "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song, a song that keeps saying Remember," a gentle, lovely song that never fails to warm my heart and make me smile.

Aids to memory are so powerful. I think the strongest, even stronger than nostalgic music, is scent. Old Spice aftershave reminds me of my first boy friend at LSU my freshman year. Bay Rum cologne reminds me of Dad and living in the tropics. The almond scent of Jergen's Lotion reminds me of Mom. Vetiver was the scent on the folding fans my grandmother Kramer wielded when I went to church with her on special holidays, and it was also the scent of the powdered sachets she kept in her hanky drawer. Carnation is the aroma associated with my maternal Grandma Shows.  The smell of roses reminds me of the Rose Tea Room in Baton Rouge where as college students we went occasionally, and where the songs "Room Full of Roses" by Sammy Kaye and "Roses, I Send You Roses," and "Red Roses for a Blue Lady" played softly in the background. 

Seaforth aftershave and cologne will always be special to me. I wonder if it is still made? This was before the day of designer labels. It was my favorite because Farris wore it from the time we first met and many years after. I identify that scent with him. Now he wears Stetson, appropriately enough, since we live on a ranch.

What sparks all this nostalgia? (See "Nostalgia and Nature" in the Lair  Archives for other examples.) I face a birthday this time every year and that usually sets in motion a mental recapitulation of my life, a reviewing of goals, of whether I am living up to my values, and so on. This is one of the dread decade ones. Camilla suggested I list the same number as my age of things I want to do and do them all this year; that will keep me busy, indeed! A friend suggested I stop celebrating that I am X years old on my birthday and begin simply celebrating the day I was born. Yes. I like that. I am going to celebrate that moment at 5:30 AM on January 14th so many years ago when I was privileged to appear on this planet earth and begin to experience all the rich, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful encounters of my life. The best parts are nearly forty five years with Farris with whom I now share such a special time here at The Lair, and the privilege of knowing my two precious children, Mitch and Camilla, and those whom they love, and my Indra's Net of family and new and lifelong friends. 

Happy, happy was and is my birthday!

Last revised: November 26, 2010




Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.