Wednesday, June 19, 2013


My father and I were picking blackberries off the mountainous vines that engulfed the back half of the barn.  This, an annual event that produced both jelly jars of jam and a few moments of easy peace between us.  He kept threatening to raze the labyrinthian prickly mess, but each year passed and the mass of brambled vines grew larger.  I am not sure if it was the enormous, nasty labor that it would take to bring them down, or simply the hour or so we would have with each other out there each summer, that leaves them arching up, ten feet thick, over and around the rafters of the cowsheds.   But here we were again, risking the pokes and scratches of a plant that trades battle wounds for sweet dark fruit. We filled those little green plastic berry baskets that my Dad hoarded all year for just this event.

I told him again about leaving soon to do our kayak paddle on the 125 mile wild section of the Upper Missouri River in Montana.  He doesn’t appear to remember this plan.  Possibly the shadows of his recent stroke has wiped this corner of his brain clear of the image.  I can tell that he is covering his  not remembering by staying quiet.  I sense his confusion and and say that I am looking forward to seeing Montana for the first time.  He perks up and says he remembers how beautiful it is.  I cannot think in my lifetime, of he or the family traveling there so I ask him about it.  He says it was when he was still pretty young.

“So it was after the service?”
“No, before.”
“What were you doing there?”
“I was going to pick apples up in Washington, we went up there every year as farm workers.”
“Did you live in California?”
“No, I was still living in Arkansas.  We would pool resources for gas and head up there each summer for field work.  There wasn’t much work  during The Depression, and there were more people from Arkansas up there during picking season that there were Washingtonians!”

I had a sudden picture in my head of my father as a young man.  It came from a photo that I had seen of him around that time.  He was young, thin, and unlike most of my lifetime, he had a dark head of hair.  He looked like a lanky farm boy, somewhat shy in front of the camera.  The picture had the look  of Depression era clothes and attitude.  He looked dry and hot, and his clothes mostly fit, larger collars, and lose pleated pants.  I tried to imagine him as a 16 year old orphan piling into a lumpy fendered dusty car from the thirties and traveling about 2000 miles to pick fruit.  What was he like?  Was he nervous with those people in the car, or did he know them?  Where were they from?  What did they talk about and do on the trip?  And then, what would he think about when he lay in his bed in the bunkhouses on the orchard ranches?  It was one of those pieces of a person’s history that lets you know just how little we really know of someone else.  Just how much we miss, even when we live decades in the same house with them.  I wanted to ask more about this, but just then he moved his ladder to the back side of the barn to pick from a different spot.

Later, as I was driving back to Nevada, with flats of berries, dripping inky color, awaiting the mash and heat of jam pots, I did the calculations and determined that the years he was talking about had to be in 1937 or 38.  Just as I had done this figuring, the jazz station that I was listening to shifted shows and I began to listen to a program called “The Swinging Years”.  It was music from the 30’s to the 50’s.   The first piece was a gravel voiced black woman singing about the Depression while picking occasionally on a guitar, and it was followed by other tunes from the same era.  I was given an opportunity to hear into Dad’s past, to some of the songs that may have been on the radio in that big clunky car, lumbering up the road to the Northwwest.  I imagined him sitting in the back seat tapping his fingers on his knee, or maybe just leaning his head against the window and watching the land go by.   It was a good moment we shared.  Even though he might never know.

I wrote this in 2007 two years before he died.  His birthday is coming up this week.  He would have turned 91 tomorrow.  With all the postings around Father's Day I went hunting for this piece to share. I was talking to another friend this week, one I have known for over 40 years, and I referenced a period in my life that he had no knowledge of.  The conversation that  followed  reminded me of this moment with Dad.  It reminded me that  even our best efforts to get to know someone leaves us often short of truly knowing them.  

Although there are great and wondrous things it, I think the current culture of social media, which is so "me" oriented takes us even farther from the possibility of a deep connection.   It seems to me that we have all gone into the publicity business, personally advertising who we wish to be known as.  In the case of the conversation with my Dad, it took standing next to him, and allowing for the conversation to wander down the wind and find this topic.  To me some of the best conversations occur after a long period of silence between two people.  In these moments, things can rise to the surface that stay out of sight in the "touch-you-are-it" world we live in.

Try this..    find someone you care about and just sit with them, on a bench, in the kitchen, on a walk.  Don't, for a minute listen to music or have the TV on, and do not pick up that phone.  Just see what happens.

Other than that................Happy Birthday Dad!   love, Misty

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Courageous Failures

                                       There is the possibility of bravery in disappointment.

All of us come to that bend in the road, where we have to choose how to proceed with this experience.  When our love is not reciprocated, when we feel loss, and when the world just seems bad.  We all choose.  We choose to become cynical, and have that pass for discernment, or we choose bravery, keeping our hearts open to the next delight.  We can do this even if we know it may be a bit of time before it appears.   I was thinking about all of this and found some lovely quotes on bravery and decided to pass them on.   Today….BE OPEN,  BE GRATEFUL, and BE BRAVE!

 “We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.” Anais Nin :


Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”

“Those who can truly be accounted brave are those who best know the meaning of what is sweet in life and what is terrible, and then go out, undeterred, to meet what is to come.”

“Daylight is an amazing boost for bravery.”
Debra Pickman

A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more.”

“Be brave. Things will find their shape.”

“...if you spent all your time being protected, you never got to find out anything new.”

“You have to be the bravest person in the world to go out every day, being yourself when no one likes who you are.”

“I was a lot braver when I was eight.”