After a week or two of rainy days, we finally had a brief few days of sunshine. They didn’t come all at the same time but were welcome none the less. Yesterday was one of those. Well, it wasn’t raining anyway. The sky was cloudy and overcast but there was no precipitation falling from the sky and I could go without a coat. So I decided to put on a light sweater and make the most of the afternoon after my morning errands were run. I took my camera and I went to the park.
We have several parks in my town and a long walking path called the Greenway where you can pretty much walk through two-thirds of the city. I chose Fletcher Park because it usually isn’t as crowded and there are more wild spots left. If I wanted to drive further I could have gone to one of the nearby National Parks, but yesterday was just about relaxing for a few hours. I didn’t have time for a full-blown exploratory adventure. I just wanted some down time with nature.
Today the chill is back in the air and the overcast skies are pelting the world with cold rain once again. The brief respite has allowed some of the flood waters in the area to recede just a little but I am afraid that won’t last long the way the rain is falling today. The forecast for the rest of the week looks just as gloomy. The squirrels and other animals will once again be safe from my amateur paparazzi attempts for some time.
I’m writing this on a Tuesday morning before getting ready for work. I have a new coffee mug that states “Mornings are for Coffee and contemplation”. It is actually from the Netflix show Stranger Things, but I have wanted one ever since I saw a character drinking from it. Not because of the show but because I liked the mug. I like the show too of course, though I haven’t seen the second season yet. I am waiting to watch it with my eldest child and teenagers rarely have time for moms.
Anyway, I am rambling about the wrong thing. What I wanted to ramble about is the tree in my neighbor’s yard. The reason I like my new mug is that it reminds me to set aside time just to be, to sip a cup of coffee or tea and look around the world instead of just rushing through it. I am trying to be better at doing that.
So, I was sitting in my favorite chair with a hot cup of coffee and my front door wide open. The only light was from the door and the windows because I wasn’t quite ready for artificial light yet. I heard the cicadas singing and there was a light breeze rustling the flag still attached to my porch from the 4th of July. I had the passing thought that these five minutes of my morning sound like the beginning of some sort of patriotic commercial or political ad campaign. Then I notice the gentle trembling of green leaves.
My across the street neighbor has a huge tree in her front yard that squirrels delight in. The wind this morning just teased its boughs while it was bathed in early sunlight. I waxed poetically inside my head about how pleasant the morning was and how nice it was to watch the oak tree across the street, and then promptly tripped over my own thoughts. Was the tree across the street an oak? Maybe it’s a maple?
I got up from my chair and moved to the door with my coffee so I could squint at the foliage, trying to make out a single leaf. The wind picked up just enough to toss a couple of yellowing small ones from a top branch. They twisted and danced as they fell to the ground, making it impossible for me to tell what they looked like. My morning contemplation has been filled with: “Is it a maple or an oak?”
I am pretty sure the tree is a oak. Maples around here aren’t usually so big. If it is a maple tree it is very old. I could just walk across the street and look but that feels too much like giving in.
This morning I let the dog out into our fenced in backyard and turned my attention to feeding my demanding felines when I heard him bark. It was different from the bark he uses when the neighbors are out and about. It was just a single bark with a couple of seconds pause before he did it again. Curious, I stepped out on to the back porch to see what he was barking at.
By this time he was back to sniffing clover and his normal routine. However, as I stepped out onto the back porch a big gust of wind ripped through the yard, disturbing the fluff from some dandelions. The fluff took flight into the air as a big cloud that slowly dissipated into individual seeds dancing on the wind. It was amazing. It was like dozens of tiny white fairies swirling around the sky.
So while I still don’t know exactly what caught the dog’s attention, I am glad he barked so that nature could attract mine. The cats, on the other hand, were unimpressed about the delay in serving breakfast.
We have been enjoying a couple of nice sunny days recently. Yesterday, I took advantage of that to pry the kids away from their electronics and take a trip into nature. We headed north toward the Great Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove.
Cades Cove was settled by Europeans in the 1800’s but had long been roamed by Native Americans before then. Now it is a national park with a scenic drive, white tail deer, and restored rural dwellings and churches. The views are breathtaking and inspirational. Walking the trails, it is easy to see why settlers came to the area and decided to go no further.
My kids complained a little about the lack of their usual entertainments, but my son soon forgot about mine craft when he handled actual quartz found in a cold mountain stream. We marveled at the height of the trees and stood just a few feet away from deer grazing in a field. Then we found a little twisting dirt road with a sign that announced a rural Baptist Church so we decided to follow it.
The road was a narrow bumpy ride through the trees and ended in a gravel parking lot with a little white wooden box of a church. My son remarked that: “It looks just like that Church in that show Nanny always watches.” (That show is The Waltons, and Nanny being what he calls my mom.) I agreed the two did look similar.
The gravel lot was crowded with cars. Other visitors were snapping pictures of the church set among the trees and some wandered the old fenced-in graveyard. I thought the graveyard would be a good way to encourage my daughter out of her no wifi/phone signal funk. (She is a teenager.) She likes slightly creepy things.
That was when I noticed several people exiting the church dressed in black. I was a little confused at first because, while it was Sunday, it was a bit late in the day for a church service. We were near to the little gate that lead to the graveyard when I heard one of the women who had come down the steps say, “I wish they would stay away at least until we close the casket…” It all suddenly clicked into place. The freshly dug grave and the huge pile of dirt next to it helped to tip me off.
There was something the little white hand-painted sign hadn’t told us. Not only was the Baptist Church still in current use but the graveyard behind it was as well. Realizing that we were trespassers at an emotional time, I quickly herded the kids back to the car. The other tourists snapping pictures; were still oblivious to the intrusion we all represented.
As we made our retreat as discreetly as possible, I heard the lady address two teenagers also dressed in black. She asked them if they were visitors to which they replied yes with wide-eyed confusion. I don’t know if they were visitors to the park, or for the deceased. I left before finding out.
We passed two more churches on our scenic drive. They didn’t appear to be in session. The parking lots held only a few cars and there were no fresh graves that I could see, but we didn’t take any chances.