Together We Are Home

Sometimes, in the midst of our comings and goings, pausing to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we find ourselves, serves as a reminder:  It matters how we choose to live, and how those choices can impact the lives of others.  Such a walk down memory lane happened at the 61st Wedding Anniversary for Apache & Joy Adams of Bronte, Texas on Saturday September 21st, 2019.   Cowboy story-telling (a central theme of the occasion), good eats, impressive displays of historic photos and newspaper clippings, hosted in a hall big enough to accommodate hundreds of well-wishers, set the backdrop for a well-planned celebration embracing extended family and closely bonded “work ‘til it’s done” hands.

As a last-minute guest arriving ahead of the pack, after dodging Edge-of-Night skies coming south through the Texas Panhandle, a sign entering town greeted at least one wayfaring stranger: “Welcome to Bronte Where Living is a Pleasure!”  Expectations for the day ahead could only be positive from that point on!  Crossing over North Kickapoo Creek, another whimsical sign for “Southern Fried Sisters”, a local restaurant, kicked another smile into forward motion.  Stopping at a Stripes gas station for directional assurances, stepping down into dirt with red ants and sticky burrs was quickly compensated for by two corn dogs, an egg ‘n potato wrap, and Cherry Coke in a can. (Two dogs in tow agreed that corn-dogs anywhere in Texas taste better than McDonalds burgers or Chicken Nuggets nationwide.)  After identifying the Bronte water-tower as a landmark and directional guide, a few minutes later we pulled into an open parking lot near the “Singing Winds” Golf Course up on a hill where a shady spot under a Texas sized Mesquite tree seemed to waive us in.

Identifying a rancher who’d extended the invitation was easy.  He was sitting near other hands diligently cutting lean goat meat off bones, skillfully focused as they bantered.  David Adams, who’d accompanied and protected a group of canoeist and rafters on a Lower Canyons float trip down the Rio Grande in 1975, was soon introducing legends of the west sitting around long folding tables in cowboy hats, whose freshly sharpened knives prepared a ranch-hand delicacy for deep frying.  Inside a nearby community hall, ladies busied themselves setting up buffet-style tables for various side dishes and desserts arriving as guests appeared throughout the afternoon.  Story-telling circles became a kind of “rope and release” rodeo of words and hugs and head-nodding handshakes, as the aroma of history gained momentum at the Adams’ celebration corral.

Metal tubs holding water bottles nestled in ice under shade trees, offered outside circles of folding-chair story-tellers and their impromptu audiences some reprieve from the Texas heat.  Pick-up trucks began filling the parking lot, as storm clouds appeared on the horizon only to dissipate, but not before mercifully contributing steady breezes like an attic fan on high, tussling mesquite tree limbs fanning the tenders of sizzling deep-fryers.

One family set up tables to lasso onions, lemons, garlic, and Cajun seasoning into mesh bags, then immersed them in garden-hose filled hot water baths, along with potatoes, corn on the cob, sausages, and the biggest shrimp available.  It was at this preparation station I learned “Crawdads take longer to absorb spices than shrimp”.  Timers stood by to check the simmering stew, before it was drained into coolers and hot melted butter was poured over the top, ahead of serving.  Three young teenage cowgirls, who’d just returned from a rodeo where they’d competed in leading, roping, and barrel-racing showed off their shiny belt buckles and explained details of their craft.  While anticipating the finished culinary delight simmering in front of them, they matter-of-factly described the thrill of competition to a more than middle aged Mom, who’d only dreamed of doing what they were experiencing as youth, accompanied by horses they loved.

Apache Adams, who was celebrating 61 years of marriage to his wife Joy (a legend in her own right known as a strong and savvy businesswoman), had been hired as a 19 year old cowboy to manage the “remuda” (herd of broke horses) during the 1958 filming of “The Alamo”, starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett.  Born on 9-11, he was also celebrating 82 years in the saddle from birth, it was said.  Apache’s biographer, Don Caddon of Alpine, who is a poet and musician as well, stood by with his wife, Pam, nodding assurances as others shared their versions of stories about which he’d already written.

Joy, the wife with whom he was celebrating over 60 years of marriage, had been captivated by the charismatic Apache when she married him at 16 year old.  Until he whisked her away to a ranch with hungry farm hands, she’d never cooked in her life.  Not only would she learn to cook, but Joy would go on to nurse a resilient but not unbreakable husband back to health when “cowboying” tested his physical limits, time and again.  Apache, himself, told about a time he’d put the reigns of a horse he was breaking in his mouth, and how when the horse began bucking most of his teeth came out!  A trip to Mexico to have his remaining teeth pulled, and a new complete set of teeth made overnight, was the pragmatic solution to him, in consideration of the high cost of dental work in the states. “I lost ten pounds on that trip!”, he confided. A loving son, Dustin, recounted a day his mother had driven a pick-up over to a horse breaking pen where her determined husband, Apache, had mounted a horse, against doctor’s orders to let his spine and ribcage heal.  Her exasperated instructions included:  “Shoot the animal if he falls again.” (and she wasn’t referring to the bucking horse).  One example of many, demonstrating how “grit to get to the pearl” had earned them this anniversary.

Talk about breaking horses brought up: “Once we used to just throw a saddle on an unbroke horse, turn him loose, and when he came back at night after running crazy a few hours in the open, he was considered ‘broke and fit to ride’. Now that’s considered inhumane and in some places it’s just flat out illegal!” (followed by a guffah).   The term “smok’in rope” came up as what Hispanic cowboys introduced after a long day of work when they’d cut off ends of hemp rope to smoke around a campfire.  Recycle, reuse seemed like a contemporary theme, as well.

A first-hand account of the infamous “Wild Jenny Rodeo” days was told by a young man, Cody Northcutt, who described accompanying his Dad, Rick Northcutt, on wild jenny roundups.  Powered by an ’85 Chevy 4 WD single cab pickup fitted with military issued tires to handle the rough terrain they’d traverse to accomplish their mission, the round up sometimes took two weeks ahead of the annual “Wild Jenny Rodeo”. It was an Internationally famous event hosted for 16 years on the Adams Ranch.  It  had drawn cowboys from all over the world, who were willing to pay for an opportunity to participate in unique events like: “Wild Jenny Milking” (into Coors Lite bottles),  “Wild Jenny Dressing” (bloomers and all), “Wild Jenny Bareback Racing”, and “Wild Jenny Team Roping”. During the annual one-day event in Marathon, Texas the father and son team would prepare and serve food from a home built “Laughin Jack Association” bar-b-que grill they’d made.  Among the imaginative events earning winners a cash prize, one awarded a shiny belt buckle to the cowboy who roped the most feral donkeys in a prescribed time.  “Legitimately”, it was said, Apache Adams earned eleven out of sixteen of those one-of-a-kind buckles, over the sixteen year Wild Jenny Rodeo run.  When asked what he did with so many big buckles, he answered: “Change ‘em out and wear ‘em!”

Observing the right hand of Apache’s best friend, Dean Ward, as it rested on a cane with a curved handle, his explanation for the end of the missing digit was that he’d “dallied too long” during a team rope.   Basically, this meant his thumb had gotten caught between a rope and saddlehorn after being first to “tie off” the head, before his team-mate came in to rope the rear legs and drop the steer.  Evidently, you can always tell old team-ropers, because many have the end of their right thumb missing.  Apache had been a proponent of tying “hard and fast”, meaning you had to fight to the end, even with a run-away wild bull.  Other cowboys from southern California and Mexico had eventually introduced “break-away slack roping”, which gave the cowboy a chance to release a catch if it got too wild and wooly, thereby safe-guarding certain parts of a cowboy’s valuable hands.   For veterans like Dean Ward, though, it now seemed like a badge of courage to be missing a part of his thumb.

More serious conversations followed, about lawsuits filed against power companies where dried brush had been allowed to accumulate around transformers and spark wildfires that had consumed homes and thousands of acres of grasslands used to pasture cattle, more recently.

A father and son recounted their efforts to drag firelines and soak ranch structures with water pumped from wells, sparing them the devastation of wildfires others had not successfully quelled.

While fryers tended their vats of flour and salt-coated goat meat, David Adams stood by to be a taste tester.  Not wasting a lick of time, he introduced his college-days friend, Alonso Robbins from Bronte, Texas.  David said he owed his life to Alonso, who’d saved him doing CPR after a metal cul-de-sac pipe contacted a power line as they were lifting it up so his older brother, Apache, could pull a rabbit out of the pipe for his dog.  Having just celebrated his 80th birthday, David had nothing but gratitude to offer his life-long friend.

A young man, accompanied by his wife, shared about being taken in by the Adams when he had no place to go or live, as a teenager.  His appreciation for having been taken under wing and taught real life skills on a working ranch could not be diminished, even in the presence of living legends hearing his testimony.

Blessings over the meal by a local pastor summarized what all had already been demonstrated by those in attendance:  “Come with an Attitude of Gratitude”.  Finally, the buffet-style food tables had lines of family, friends, and extended family waiting patiently for supper that seemed like a full dinner.  A husband and wife team played and sang favorite country songs from a low stage near the Anniversary Party’s table.  Conversations at other tables included: “Neighbors become family working cattle”, and “He’s good for his word”.  Some took advantage of the open space near the stage to dance the Texas Two-step or slow waltzes.  (As an unofficial photo-journalist for the occasion, I even had the privilege of dancing a short piece with David Adams, on whose back I’d shot a boulder rapids 44 years ago in the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande, on yet another historic group adventure.)  Jean Prescott sang a yet-to-be recorded song, “She sang when she felt like it, and she felt like it a lot”, before closing with an original tribute to Apache and Joy Adams, whose daughter, Robin, had put together a top-notch celebration for her parents.

Closing out the evening, among the many gifts present on a table near the entrance to the hall, a plaque summed it all up for those who had been reassured of the value of community:

“Together We Are Home”

Gift from Robin's twin son, Matt and his wife

(Epiphanies come at the most unexpected times, and in places some might consider detours on the long road of life.  My personal “Thanks” go out to David Adams, Apache and Joy, and all of their extended family who readily accepted the presence of a stranger with a camera and questions at every turn.  It was a day in a virtual “candy shop” for me.  One I won’t soon forget as a Traveler and collector of peoples’ stories.)


Window to Another Realm


Waking from a vivid dream of people preparing to celebrate with freely flowing gifts, it was a few days before Christmas, ahead of the dawn.  I had been sick in bed for three days and nights.  Between pushing hard to work extra hours, interfacing in closed spaces with the public, and trying to prepare a few Christmas gifts for mailing before post office deadlines, I had blocked out annoyances of others’ frantic preparations humming about me.  Taking a break, due to a sudden illness I hadn’t chosen, had left me feeling more like the Grinch or Scrooge than Father (or Mother) Christmas this year.

It was also clear, I was back in Florida where people rich in retirement time and resources could try extra hard to “make the season bright”.  Holiday parties and concerts, events like the annual “Surfing Santa” competition, and neighborhood glow-in-the-dark light shows, were of little interest to me, as I simply hoped to breathe freely again.  More than three days “off” without a doctor’s note that would cost me a considerable co-pay to acquire, loitered in the back of my mind.  Time in every way seemed to be shortening, so I was making a point of separating out the necessary from accessories.

It had been a very windy and cooler than usual December in the “sunshine state”.  Not that I minded the cold or dogs snuggling in bed next to me, but in a semi-awakened state, I’d begun hearing music unlike anything I’d ever heard before. The windows above the bed had been opened an inch or two for fresh air, so the wind whipping palm tree branches, and the cooler air had amplified ocean waves crashing throughout the night.  But the sounds coming through the windows now were different.  It was still before sunrise, and none of the neighbors here had their boom boxes set to a classical station, I could be assured.  No lights where on except the almost full moon that had been like a gigantic night-light hovering over the chilly coastline, growing brighter and fuller, as it rose and over-powered lesser stars in the constellation.

I’d propped myself up with an ear to the sliver of opened window at my head, but heard nothing unusual, as I tried to identify the source of the other-worldly sounds I’d been hearing.  Lying back down, bundling myself under the comforter and an extra blanket, three dogs reconfigured around me, as I closed my eyes hoping for another hour of needed sleep.  Then the ethereal tones returned.  For several minutes, a soothing stream of soft orchestral music, seamlessly blending layers of hymns, cord progressions of Christmas songs, and soothing harmonics, washed over me like a soft breath.  I purposed to be still for as long as it lasted.

Abruptly, as the sun began filtering through the closed blinds, everyday sounds like the garbage collection truck coming down the street, construction machinery from the condos beach-side, and coastal roadway traffic, transitioned me out of a more soothing state.  Opening my eyes, I wondered if this window to another realm had been my imagination, or a glimpse of what truly exists beyond daily perceptions.  All I can tell anyone, is that from that morning forward, my health began to improve.  After another day of rest, finishing a gallon of fresh juice, and emptying a honey jar with the last of the lemon-ginger tea,  I was back to work.

On Christmas Eve, when I was tempted to feel the most alone, I was well enough to walk the brightly lit sidewalks of a neighborhood with hundreds of other sight-seekers, and later attended a church service where the message by a young female pastor was about “Expectations”.  It was a reminder:  Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and to heal a broken and sick world, but He came in a way unexpected by many.

I hope the New Year proves in small and significant ways:  A King in heavenly realms does indeed exist, whose angels direct and encourage, whose Spirit can heal, and whose assures reveal there is a Home beyond the influences of those who boast about their power and authority here on earth.  In the interim, Merry Christmas to those who already (or will) believe in miracles.

Grassroots “Positivity”




Waking to crisper air and refreshingly overcast skies, today the long-awaited fall temperatures where Snowbirds and retirees prefer to mosey at their leisure, became a belated reason to give thanks for those of us chomping-at-the-bit to “step it up”. Willey and Tilley, my two faithful dogs, had been super-charged by the brisk breezes.  However, when they saw me heading to the car, after an invigorating morning walk, they’d looked longingly at me, as if to say: “take us for a ride too!”  Unable to deny them such a simple pleasure in their current uneventful circumstances, I loaded them in the back of the same car that had recently carried us cross-country.  (Dogs get bored too, especially after grand adventures, if they’re stuck “at home” too long.)  The only condition was their willingness to be content with limited space beside a printer on its way to the “returned for annoying non-performance” cart, a new bag of economy sized dog food (yet to be unloaded), and a size-able Goodwill drop bag.  Their wagging tails and noses pressed upward to the cracked windows, affirmed they were fine with any temporary compromise of wiggle-room.

Despite the fact my errands weren’t all about pleasantries, they seemed oblivious to any inconveniences in their realm.  They weren’t bothered by the fact my time was being encroached upon to deliver copies of a recent pay-stub, highlighted with errors and omissions, to an employer who’d unwittingly shorted my pay-check,  or the aggravation of  finding receipts to return flawed office equipment for a refund.  I am not a dog, so I was reserving the right to resent “time eaters”, consumer watch-dog exercises, as if I had nothing better to do with precious hours away from the stresses of working within a corporation being restructured.

The saving grace of the day was the lighter mood of other post-Thanksgiving travelers and service agents, whose paths crossed ours. A lingering turkey- induced, tryptophanyl-bliss, in combination with the arrival of cooler temperatures nipping at the heels of a heat wave, impolitely loitering into late November, helped to soothe the irritation of making extra trips to places I didn’t care to visit on a “day off work”.  I had thrown on a bright pink sweatshirt with bold white lettering across the back, in defiance of the need to complete unsavory tasks, while also hoping for protection against daydreaming drivers, shot in the arm by a zestful Floridian “cold front”.

Feeling justified and emboldened, after successfully  delivering documents to insure reimbursement for uncompensated work, and securing a refund for a returned ink- spitter, I walked confidently back to the car where my two trusty travel-companions waited anxiously to see where our next stop would be.  Before pulling out of the parking lot, a gentleman approached the car with a hope-filled look and a question:   “I’m going on holiday over Christmas and I have a small dog needing care. Are you the owner of Kenneland?  He had misread the lettering KEENELAND on the back of my sweat shirt, so I smiled and explained: “I do love dogs, but it’s the name of a horse-racing track in Kentucky!” (At that point, I was reminded of a part time job I once enjoyed at a reputable dog-boarding and grooming facility in the same state.  The owners were building a third complex, but the commute to Frankfort would have been a long haul for the man seeking pet care.)  Amused, I wished him well in his search, after explaining I wasn’t in a position to dog-sit another fur-baby at this time.

Next destination: Starbucks.  A Gold card’s points had earned me the privilege of sampling the new Juniper/Sage Latte!  No disappointments there, as the drive-thru attendant held dog biscuits out the window for my “kids”, who would have licked the whipped cream off the top of the savory hot beverage pacifying my day, otherwise!

Once more I was reminded of everyday people determined to go about their business cheerfully, whatever the mess our world seems to be in, and how it’s contagious. A candidate for local office had recently run on a platform during the mid-term elections, advocating for “Positivity” with a spirit of cooperation to get our country back on course.  She hadn’t won the seat, but her visibility in public had made an impact on many, including me. I thanked my angels for allowing our paths to cross people with positive outlooks, especially on a day that was supposed to be for rest and recovery, when loose-ends needing resolution could have easily been a reason for upset and discouragement.

The “take home lesson”:  Whatever is going on in the world, we are in it together, and we still have the ability to choose how we interact with others.  Exposing deceptions and holding people accountable is one thing, but going on witch-hunts to find a devil under every rock, is not the way to stability or civility.  Those who choose to find and shine a light on common threads, and encourage one another at the grassroots level, are the ones who will redeem time lost to divisions resulting from distrust and polarized perspectives.

Grass-Roots “Positivity”—-maybe it’s a bumper sticker waiting to be made and applied.

Maybe we need to learn from friendly and appreciative dogs,  about being eager to go on adventures,  finding joy in simple pleasures like meeting, greeting, and expressing gratitude when shown a kindness.

Grass Roots Positivity—- let it be a contagious prime mover, out of  spinning-wheel ruts in a mud-slinging world.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the darkness that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of darkness.”     (Hebrews 3:13)


We do not travel alone in this world. For each depends on the other for completion.







The Least of These


Rising early, before sunrise, has never been an easy discipline for me, especially after working the night before well past sunset.  It’s always been a curiosity how waking just before a deliberately set alarm seems to be an unconscious attempt to avoid hearing the predictable “you’ve gotta get up” ringtone, annoyingly repeating itself until a sound sleeper complies.  The last day in October, after a restless night of waking several times before daybreak, was no exception.  Thankfully, I awoke before the “rise and shine” signal bypassed the airplane mode setting of my phone.

Cooler temperatures and more refreshing ocean breezes had recently helped dissipate the lingering heat and humidity of a summer refusing to move on.   In previous years, early September had not only meant Back-to-School time, but it had also brought a welcomed relief from the incessant summer heat of the most southeastern state of the US.  However, this year, Red Tide had been hanging about with its deadly algae blooms, causing fish and manatee kills, and numerous beach closures, after a major hurricane.  There seemed to have been a canopy of noxious air and irritants trapped by an invisible hand, making it hard to stay outside for long, much less enjoy fall festivities, as Trick-or-Treaters poised to brave Halloween, taking booty from treasure chests of teeth rotting, hyper-activity inducing candy.  Heading into November, one could only hope the worst of Florida’s summer was releasing its death grip and transitioning into a more welcoming mode for returning Snowbirds and seasonal tourists, who’d been keeping their distance.

On track to make my way back to work, after nightmares of not being able to clock in on time, I considered it was October 31st when the work of demons and divisive spirits stir their brew.  Opening the back door to let my dogs out in the yard, before I put my own mojo on to kick- start the day, I noticed something small and dark on the top step of the scallop-shaped stairs descending into the cool waters of a small inground pool guests have referred to as a “Texas-sized bathtub”.  This morning it appeared to be a Texas-sized bird bath for a seemingly frozen 8- inch bird with iridescent indigo feathers and a small hooked beak. Steady eyes stared back at me from a slightly turned head, though its body remained motionless until I bent down to look at it more carefully and determine whether it was dead or alive.  Its smalls eyes blinked and its hooked beak opened in silent warning, summoning all its strength to slowly spread saturated wings, revealing brilliant blue spots beneath the splayed tail feathers.  As I spoke to it calmly, telling the little bird I meant to help, its wings retracted and its beak closed, though it continued to stare at me.

Going inside to find my gardening gloves, an old hand-towel, and box where the bird might rest until I could take it by a wildlife veterinarian (not exactly on my way to work) but now a priority, I wondered what had happened to the small creature.  The dogs hadn’t made their usual dash to chase squirrels up and down the electric lines or up into palm trees, and they hadn’t seemed to notice the bird in the pool.  Could the small bird have intended to take a bath, but found the water deeper than imagined, or was the water too cold?

As I reached down around the bird with gloved hands, it didn’t struggle when I lifted it onto the old blue hand-towel.  It seemed to slump to one side, so I bunched the towel up to give it support.  Its feet seemed limp and dysfunctional; and as the bird’s breast became visible, I saw a small thin bodied black wasp hanging.  Pinching the wasp off the bird and smashing it with my sandal, I then lifted the bird to a shaded spot on a table under an umbrella.  It blinked and looked at me, but didn’t seem to be able to upright itself, so I gently bundled the towel around its limp body and placed it in a small box.

I found myself saying aloud:   “Lord, you care even when a sparrow falls to the ground. Please heal this young bird.”  I placed the box in another shady spot on the front porch where I planned to collect it on my way out the door, anticipating the unexpected event would make me late for work if I didn’t get moving.   As my Mom headed to the front door with her dog on leash, I called out to steer clear of the box on the porch.  (She later told me the bird seemed to be resting, as she’d left to walk her small dog.)

Periodically, I’d look out to be sure the bird was all right, but after showering and getting my lunch together and finally hurrying out the door, thinking I’d have to make a stop at the animal sanctuary, I turned to pick up the box but the bird was gone.  The impression of the body was still in the towel and only a small blue and white feather remained.  I quickly looked around the front yard, up in the sky and in nearby trees, but didn’t see the small bird anywhere; all the while my heart leaping inside me with gratitude and amazement.

Believe what you like, but what I thought and still do is that God healed the fledgling bird and it found new strength to fly away …. or an Angel came and took it to a safer place where it was given a new song to sing.  (An interesting fact:   Since none of us at work had a first appointment, all of the employees where in the waiting room as I entered, excited to tell the story about the rescue of a small bird and how God hears simple, heart-felt prayers in the midst of our busy schedules.  There was no fear or concern about what they thought when I said: “God healed that little bird….or sent an Angel to take it home!”)


Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”        (Matthew 10: 28,29)


“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these ……of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)


According to Native American legend:  feather from a falcon symbolizes soul healing, speed and movement.  Hawks symbolize being able to see the bigger picture with spiritual discernment and clarity of vision.  The appearance of a hawk means to trust your inner guidance, gut instincts, and the evolution of a “higher self” calling you upward….to be keenly aware through observation, then act decisively when the time is right.


“If not now, tell me when?  If not now, tell me when?

We may never see this moment of place in time again.

 If not now, if not now, tell me when?

I see sorrow and trouble in this land. I see sorrow and trouble in this land.

And though there will be struggle, we’ll make the change we can;

If not now, if not now, tell me when?”

                                   (lyrics by Carrie Newcomer, “If Not Now”)

Sky Above the Trees

Today has been one of those rare, invigorating, cooler days in Florida when sturdy breezes shake nappers from their slumber. The sun coming through even shade-drawn windows makes it impossible to ignore a prompting to get out and let wet hair be unruly, as it’s blown dry by nature, or take a brisk walk off a beaten path, before sitting undisturbed to survey others living their own momentary bliss. Cyclists spinning their wheels on paved walkways, dog-walkers gathering at fenced in playgrounds for their four-pawed companions to have a taste of freedom, kite flyers catching updrafts while steadying crosswinds as their airborne toys spin and dive, or a young girl in a large corral putting a well- groomed horse through it’s paces—-all a part of what makes a beautiful Sunday afternoon worth stepping out of a weekly routine.

It may not be everyone’s response to these vignettes of recreation, but I found myself singing songs welling up from some deeply guarded internal reservoir. Everything from “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (Mary Poppins) to “There is within my heart a melody , Jesus whispers sweet and low: Fear not I am with thee, peace be still, in all of life’s ebb and flow.” (That one came from pretty far back in the memory archives!). Needless to say, there seems to be a random recall button in the juke box above my shoulders, in response to events in the most unexpected places and settings….not all because of a picture-perfect day at a park!

I’ve become aware though, after letting melodies run their course by phrases or in their entirety, I resonate on a different plane. I am not performing for anyone, or needing anyone’s approval. It’s more about allowing spontenaity to recover something of value when so many things in life require a cooperation to conform to and meet others’ expectations or standards.

An osprey gliding over a lake caught my eye as it descended quickly to snag a fish with it’s claws, then rose above the glistening waters with it’s next meal trying to wiggle free. A ball cap with a race horse’s name sat on the picnic table beside me where I’d paused with my dogs for a drink: “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day) was embroidered in purple on the white crest above the brim. (A few years ago this horse had qualified for the Kentucky Derby when he won the Tampa Bay Derby.)

I sensed a need to be “fully present”—-soaking in moments that offer a restoration of balance to recover from the trauma of recent tragedies and unsettling world events.

Lyrics to another song by duo, Nathan & Christy Nockels, who recorded “Gloria” as Watermark in 1997, summarized the feeling of days like today:

“Wish I could crash like the waves or turn like the Autumn leaves, in effort to praise You.

Wish I could smell like the forest, a fragrance lifting a mighty chorus, in effort to praise You.

Wish I could roll like the thunder, to leave the earth below in wonder, in effort to praise You.

Wish I could fall like the summer rain, and every drop would sing Your name, in effort to praise You…

But I’m such a limited creature, and my words can only paint so many pictures….but I must try…”

Today I was reminded of a larger sky above the trees, and how important it is to give ourselves permission to be more than cogs in a work machine; to go fly a kite, catch a breeze with a sailboat, or imagine what it’s like not to be earth-bound.

There is a sky above the trees, where spirits soar and songs keep them aloft.

When the Train Whistle Blows

Trains, and memories etched in my mind of experiences and stories whose subjects included trains, had been floating in a cloud above me for days, waiting for a saturation point to release them like a gentle rain.   Picking up a book this morning, intent on recovering from a super-bug I hadn’t banked on catching, my cue to find an undisturbed space and time to write, looked back at me from a page I had started reading in a new chapter :   “Allow me a train metaphor,” author Madison Taylor began, “….the mind is used to being stuck on a certain track, and the writing process takes you off that track and on to a new one.  On the new track, you will find the answers that you need in order to get to the station.” (Unmedicated, pg. 51).   No more delays leaving this station, I thought, so I packed a couple of hydration drinks, collected my writing tools, dog leashes and two dogs to go with their water bowl, and headed for the car.  I had to get far enough away from all the construction work, traffic congestion, helicopter noise from a nearby military base, and conversation-starved people to give my thoughts a chance to congeal.  (I don’t sit or think well in concrete jungles where even complete strangers seem to approach as if you’re their long-lost buddy.)  I wish I’d had a shirt to caution unwanted intruders:

I’m sick! Don’t bother me today….and besides, I’m THINKING!

Working in a spa where a train track runs behind the building has resulted in an interesting phenomena, I HAD been thinking.  The “woosh” of tension leaving rooms as trains steadily rolled along their intracoastal route, within yards of the building, was noticeable.  Though out of sight, the muffled “clickety-clack” and gentle vibrations of each train’s passing, seemed to serve as a reminder that everything comes and goes, like seasons, rolling past, heading somewhere new.  The mere thought of a destination beyond a darkened room, if one could just “get on board”, added quality to the assurance. (The Universe knows I’m ready to get on board one of those trains soon, so maybe I’m just creating the interpretation, you say?  Welcome to the world of creative writing and progressive thinking!  To stay in one place and be content with sameness equates with stagnation and eventual death for some of us in this world.)

One of my favorite scriptures from the New Testament is John 3:8 , addressing spiritual rebirth and how the Spirit of God blows through peoples’ lives in different ways, effecting visible change whose long-term effects cannot be foreseen:

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

I’ve thought about trains in this way too.  We don’t always know what station they’re coming from or their ultimate destination, but we see and hear the effects of their coming and going, and we are somehow changed.

Some say this passage gives credence to a wanderlust or gypsy-spirit, endorsing rootlessness.      I wonder how the Disciples of Jesus would feel about that interpretation.  They might agree, since they left all to follow a Teacher they recognized as greater than themselves, to do the will of a God they couldn’t see, but whose power they were experiencing.  If the goal is to be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17), implying action, as well as a place seated in the heart and soul of its host, “taking root”, doesn’t always mean staying in one geographical place and never moving beyond it.

Another memory of trains from my youth comes from a Grandfather’s love of trains.  In his lifetime, he told stories of riding on stock trains between Texas and California during WWII when his future father- in-law, George Washington Brumley, was the largest supplier of pork to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.  (Evidently it was a kind of test to see if he was worthy of the daughter he was proposing to marry, because this also happened with one of my grandmother’s sister’s suitors!)  Descriptions of walking across the top of cars to check on livestock, and riding in the caboose with other train-workers on the circuit sounded like great adventure to my formative mind.  Later in his life, he’d invested in toy train tracks, train cars, and villages displayed on a ping-pong table in a loft above a garage.  He delighted in making a steam-whistle blow as the engine pulled it’s scaled down load in large circles, sometimes navigating sharp curves.  (A right-of-passage for his grandchildren was being handed the controls, along with instructions to take care and not go too fast, so the payload wouldn’t derail!)

It was also wonderful when schools let out for the summer, and my siblings and I would ride with our mother on a passenger train from Illinois to Texas.  Eating in a dining car, sleeping in berth-cabins, and putting our patent-leather or saddle-shoes in a little hallway cubby before bed to find them newly cleaned and polished the next morning, enhanced a feeling of privilege.

As a pre-teen, living far from the place where those fonder memories had their origin, my parents’ rented house with a large unfenced backyard, also had a train track behind it.  The trestle, rising high above the mown lawn, had provided a challenging hill to climb, while underneath a cement bridge section, a shady stream with crayfish and minnows provided hours of after-school entertainment when we’d catch and release them back into their free-flowing habitat.  When no one was looking, we’d follow the train track’s cross-ties as far as we dared—-sometimes to a little “Whistle-Stop” store—once a small train depot.  Other times we’d walk along the rails like a balance beam, always listening for the distant whistle of an engine’s warning.  Adrenaline producing vibrations, felt in our feet, became a fine-tuned warning to get clear of the tracks and slide down the steep embankment to the safety of our backyard.

In the years to follow, it would become a place associated with danger, because drug dealers and addicts cruelly demystified the creek under the overpass with their darker, clandestine exchanges.  Then the train’s allure for me was totally lost the evening a beloved dog didn’t follow us quickly enough descending the trestle.   She had been sniffing at something and lingered behind, long enough to be hit and killed instantly, not by a train, but by a motorcyclist who’d appeared from the brush, gunning his motor to race along the shoulder next to the tracks.  Misty’s limp body was enough to make me start having nightmares in the second story Cape-Cod bedroom where I tried to escape the sorrow thru sleep.  But after the tragic loss of our beloved family pet, whenever a train or motorcycle barreled down the tracks behind the house after dark, a depressive dream-state trapped me in the top of the house as it seemed to sway and bend towards the ground, paralyzing my cries for help, while its pendulum motion swung back to the roof, before it’s next elastic arc sent me back down to the ground.  From that point on I wanted to get away from the mind-numbing drone of trains, motorcycles, and household discord.

Before High School graduation, on a family trip to western Europe, Eurail passes enhanced our mobility between several countries for weeks.  Backpacks, instead of suitcases, had been welcomed on buses, as well as the trains, taking us on an incredible sight-seeing journey with stops to see friends and family, occasionally.  There’s nothing like being rocked to sleep by a train, a conductor waking you up to check a passport, and receiving a new stamp at another country’s border.  The only stop that cast a somber mood on our group was when a couple of those stops included Concentration Camps where the Nazis regime had delivered railroad-cars full of people to workcamps and extermination chambers (now museums).  In my sorrow and through some kind of communal guilt that came with a German heritage, I  was thankful my memories of trains had been much kinder.

Fast forwarding to a time in my adult life when my own family of six lived near a commuter train, Amtrak connected the suburbs with our nations Capitol, and the Light-Rail saved us in downtown areas where parking spots came at a premium cost, if they could be found.    Trains also became a friend when taking breaks from section-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I’ll never forget seeing New York City from a train window, after getting off trail, following an extended time in the woods.  It was like waking up to a more benevolent form of travel, still regarded in some cities as a valuable form of public transportation.   I was gaining an understanding of trains as passenger-friendly with the added luxury of “wiggle room” not found in planes, and the benefit of sight-seeing from huge windows as diverse scenery rolled by like a movie. There was a certain romance gifted back each time I rode the rails to and from a destination.

Trains and their whistles had been given some of their innocent allure too, when my Grandad who loved trains taught me a mournful song, “Please Mr. Conductor, don’t put me off this train”, as a child.   Later in life, my own Dad, whose eclectic taste in music always intrigued me, introduced me to contemporary folk-singers and songs-writers.  One song in particular resonated with my spirit, then as it does now: “Morningtown Ride” by Malvina Reynolds.  Written the year I was born, it is a lullaby of reassurance to children in uncertain times.  (Malvina was also well known as the writer of “Little Boxes”, a social commentary poking fun at the standardization of the American Middle Class.  Now I understand why my Dad used to sing it with a note of sarcasm in his voice.)  Only recently I learned she was also a political activist, born in San Francisco (1900) and a resident of Berkeley, CA until her death in 1978.   Never the less, “Morning-town Ride” remains one of my favorite songs to hear or sing at the end of a long, tiring day, in uncertain times.

Train whistle blow’in

Makes a sleepy noise

Underneath the blankets

Go all the girls and boys


Rock’in, roll’in, rid’in

Out along the bay

Heading now for Morning-town

Many miles away


Driver at the engine

Fireman rings the bell

Sandman swings the lantern

To show that all is well


Rock’in, roll’in, rid’in

Out along the bay

Heading now for Morning-town

Many miles away


Maybe it’s a rain’in

Where our train will ride

But all the little travelers

Are snug and warm inside


Somewhere there is sunshine

Somewhere there is day

Somewhere there is Morning-town

Many miles away


Rock’in, roll’in, rid’in

Out along the bay

Heading now for Morning-town

Many, many miles away


     A few years ago, while living in Kentucky, I visited a town called Paris in Bourbon County, initially built and occupied by people who developed the railway system instate to accommodate the movement of coal and livestock. (Bourbon and Thoroughbred horses are a part of Paris’ history, as well, so trains most likely moved them about too.)  In one part of Paris there is an old railroad bridge arching over a road descending past a fork of the Licking River.  While driving the road on one occasion, a train blew its whistle and a conductor waived from the engine— a friendly gesture I once recalled seeing as a child.  It was almost as if the train was asking for a second chance to be considered a “friendly” relic of history.  It made me think about references to trains in songs, and about preachers who admonish their listeners to “Get on Board the Glory Train” (bound for Heaven).  In any event, trains represented forward movement and work to get to a new destination.


Now, a different kind of train has arrived and new tracks of a different sort need to be lain.  Receiving news from a close friend fighting for her earthly life against a silent disease, she is preparing to step out of the comfort zone of one station and get on board a new train of clinical trial protocols.  She is a pastor, who has faced all of her life challenges with a positive outlook and faith inspiring many.   In a recent writing, she referenced God’s promise to give people a “hope and future”—a new destination,  if you will.  She suggested that we are not always put on the track we had imagined for ourselves, but that grace is given for times we need to be at a resting place, before being given a push to forge ahead. (OK, Pam, I paraphrased.)  She believes in a “kind God who takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into radical life-change” when needed.  The premise being:  God knows the how and where of our journey and the new destination.  She further interprets Jeremiah 29:10,11 to remind herself and those following her posts: “God will not abandon me, but I might not have the same future I had once hoped for—-but it will be okay.”

Etched in my mind from multiple readings of the classic childrens’ book:  The Little Engine Who Could when I was a young reader and then years later read to my own children, the benevolent engine with a simple hard-work ethic, backed by her friends, made the biggest of challenges surmountable.  Somehow the virtual memory-cloud above me isn’t so daunting as before, acknowledging the past, and allowing a refreshing wind to blow new thoughts and possibilities into air space we share.  Sensing the Universe is preparing a time “When the Train Whistle Blows” again, I choose to stay open to a new course, towards a “radical life-change”, and a new story-line for those in a friendly caboose behind a cheery Blue Engine to write about.

Reclaiming a More-than-Middle-Aged Body

Much of my youth and young adult life, gymnastics training and coaching dominated waking hours when I wasn’t studying to maintain an Honor Society status. No less was expected. And as hard as I tried to deliver, there was always a feeling of “falling short” coming from some internalized, elusive standard of perfection. After becoming a mother, those previously held standards, especially with regards to staying “fit and trim”, fell by the wayside. I no longer chose to keep food journals, count calories and submit to weigh-ins, although there remained an unspoken desire to achieve and maintain a degree of health, whether or not a coach, judge, athletic trainer, or internal voice of condemnation approved. I was free of it –for a while at least.

Less punishing forms of recreation, like gardening, hiking, walking my dogs, or horseback riding filled the spaces once dominated by the vigilant and unforgiving voices ingrained from my youth. For years it had been a deliberate choice to reject organized groups, exercising to please others and earn a particular body-type to be considered “good enough”. So it was an unexpected curiosity, while walking my dogs at a park, to be intrigued by a small band of women with state-of-the-art strollers designed for walk/run outings. On more than one occasion, I’d seen them jogging around the park’s field and pond, pausing intermittently to follow a leader prompting specific muscle group workouts. They were all tuned-in to fun music with words of affirmation and encouragement as their guide. It was easy to appreciate their efforts and wonder: “Where was this kind of group when I was managing with four small children?!”

Granted, a few decades ago I had been involved with a wonderful home-schoolers collective, —an essential part of my support system at the time. I had also made a conscious habit of loading up children, accessories, and coolers to go on day-adventures to parks or for field trips, if not simply taking long walks with four small children, who rotated between available backpack or stroller space, if not running alongside our little parades. However, this group of ladies seemed particularly dedicated to the process of “taking back” their bodies after having had children, and they seemed to be having fun doing it together. I found myself drawn to them and their mission, while challenging my own sense of well-being.

(As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I’ve found joy as a professional in sessions with pregnant women, as well as new parents coping with new stressors. It is a sacred trust. An affirmation. An investment in a new generation. I‘m continually amazed by the beautiful and unique atmosphere created by women bearing and caring for formative lives; or young parents learning to be selfless and other-centered, while maintaining their own identities and adult relationships.)

Giving in to a prompting on one of these dog-walking-at-the-park-days recently, I asked to join one of the smaller groups to test my presumed level of “acceptable” fitness. “Just for fun”, I’d thought. Let’s just say finding a place in the shade to tie off my all-too-ready-to-take-a-break-from-the-heat dogs, was the easier part. After an hour of trying to keep up with these “FIT4MOM” ladies, I was ready to find a place in the shade next to my furry children and stretch out for a long afternoon nap! The take-home lesson for me was not to stop moving until I could shower and recline for a while before work! Also, not to drink a “Bullet Proof Coffee” concoction before exercising in the outdoor heat. (It was the first time I’d ever felt nauseous since early stages of pregnancy, decades ago! Empathy – 1 Reality check – 1 )

In retrospect, part of the reclaiming-fitness motivation came in the form of being able to laugh out-loud at myself, as I tried to keep up with a group of women half my age or younger. Perhaps the most freeing part was knowing my effort wasn’t being judged by anyone else’s score or approval. They laughed along with me and only had words of encouragement in response to my participation attempts. As one of the ending meditations suggests, it’s about creating space to let go of what no longer serves us, leaving room for what inspires us to grow.

Yes, I signed up for a few more get-togethers with these inspirational Moms, as my work and budget allow. Why not? I am the mother of 4 young adults, and I’m still trying to keep up with them! What better way than to pursue a fitness advantage?! I guess you could say I’m taking advantage of the youthful energy in a new “Village”, trying to navigate a “More than Middle Aged” Mom ‘s course. Be patient with me, Ya’ll! I’m coming from behind! Keep moving forward! FIT4MOM is one on our side!

Anyone interested in more information regarding FIT4MOM programs may reference/contact:

Rebekah Coates, Space Coast (franchise owner)