Hurricane Donna

As a newbie to southern Florida in 1959, one of the first hurricane’s we got to experience was named Donna.  Though I was very young, it was memorable.

It started actually several days before Donna hit land.  At that time, the categories did not exist as they do now, nor did the exacting information on what was coming.  We did know it was going to hit, mostly the Keys, and from there we were not too sure.  We lived in the new community of Margate, so we were fairly certain our home would be safe.  Having never been through a storm like this, my parents listened and did as much as they could to prepare.

The first thing was that anything not nailed down outside was brought in.  Planters, lawn chairs, and yes, even garbage cans.  Any empty container that could hold water was filled, including the bathtubs and sinks.  Then Mom and Dad did a check on other supplies.  Food, candles, sterno-stove and fuel, flashlights, batteries for the flashlights and radio.  Making a list, my father took his car to fill it up, and Mom and I went shopping.

I had gone shopping with my mother many times, but this time it was surreal.  People with multiple carts, just grabbing anything and everything they could get off the shelves.  Really odd things to survive, even to my young mind.  Why would you need 3 shopping carts full of Saran Wrap or Comet?  People grabbing things right out of other people’s hands.  One woman had a cart filling with ice cream.  My mother got the things as best she could that we needed, and we left.  It was wild not only in the store, but in the parking lot. Getting gas for her car was next, and we waited in line for almost 45 minutes.  People yelling and telling others to hurry up.  Bad words were flying. I started to cry, and my mother never took me on a pre-hurricane shopping trip again.

We got home, and Dad was putting masking tape in strips across the sliding glass doors. We unloaded the car, putting the ice into the ice chests.  We had gotten several loaves of smashed up bread, peanut butter, jelly, fruit, chips that had been ground almost to a fine powder.  It was very scary to see adults act like they did in the store.  We listened to the television, something unheard of during the day in our home, to get instructions on what was to be done, and where the best idea of time and landfall would be.

We had a good hot dinner, and as we ate and cleaned up, the storms outside started.  Lots of wind and rain.  Nothing at that time that was too unusual for Florida.  As Mom put me to bed, the storm raised a bit more.  I did fall asleep.  I kind of woke when my Dad came and opened the windows just a crack in my room by my bed.  I asked what he was doing.  Dad explained that the wind was coming from the other side, and would not come in my room, but that cracking open the windows on the opposite side of the house would keep the roof from blowing off the house.  He gave me a kiss and said to go back to sleep.  I rolled over, and tried.

There was a horrible smell, that I later grew to understand was the destruction of the plants, and the wind and rain hitting the house.  After a while, I went out to the livingroom to look out the windows at the storm.  It was both exciting and terrifying.  I still remember the wind making the rain go perpendicular to the ground.  I wondered where the water was going if it was moving like that.  Everything outside was in greys.  Darker grey was plants being whipped and torn, lighter fast-moving grey was water.  The wind howled in an eerie manner, and the sound of the rain water and wind was a constant driving sound.  I was totally enthralled. My mother caught me watching, and pulled me back from the jalose windows to sit and hold me in a large chair in the living room.

Then, all of a sudden, there was silence.  Such a silence as I had not heard before. No wind, no rain.  Just that terrible smell.  Then I heard neighbors outside.  My father said that it was not over, but we were in the eye, for me to try to go back to bed.  He then closed my windows and cracked open the windows on the other side of the house.  Somehow I got back to sleep again before the eye was over.  When I woke, we were in a bad rain storm, but the hurricane was ebbing in our area.  None of the electric worked for a couple of days, and we ate a lot of peanut butter for lunch.  Mom kept the refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible, but as food melted, we ate it cooked on the sternostove.

Several days later, we went to Key West.  I remember seeing boats inland, upside down, the remnants of what were buildings, some missing all but on partial wall.  Trees and plants shredded and with root structures in the air.  One building had a tree right through the boarded up window.

Over the next years, we would go through several hurricanes a year.  Donna was our introduction.  Betsy and Camille were our last ones.  I never got to the place where I feared the hurricane too much, but never liked them either.  The one thing I have always wondered, however.  What happened to all the ice cream the one lady bought during Donna.

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Snakes

My mother shared one of her earliest memories with me. This was when she was just about three years old, and was in Estes Park, Colorado.  If you have a fear of snakes like my Grandmother Hannah McLean-McCreery did, you may want to skip this one.

As a young woman, my grandmother Carolyn Hannah (nee McLean) McCreery, was granted permission to go to Sudan area of Africa as an unmarried woman missionary.  She had longed to go to China, but the Presbyterian Church saw fit to send her instead to what was then called “The Dark Continent”.  Her task was to help start the girls boarding school in Khartoum for missionary children, and advanced native students.  In her adventures there, Hannah developed a deep fear of all snakes.  The major reason was that most of the ones she encountered there were deadly, large, and came seemingly out of nowhere.

It was here that a man that she knew from back home who was also a missionary, but to Ethiopia, courted her.  There married in Alexandria, Egypt.  When they started having a family, the church sent them both home and her husband, Rev. Elbert McCreery, introduced his bride to Estes Park, Colorado.  It was then the 1890’s.  Estes Park would be the summer residence for the growing family – a haven and a refuge from the rest of the world.

Martha was around 3 years old and the family was staying in the cabin called Snug Down the summer of 1920.  Hannah was again carrying a baby, one that would unfortunately not survive.  Snug Down was across the new road of Devils Gulch from the property that had the rest of the cabins on in, but at this time, Snug Down was the most modern and easiest access cabin.  Hannah had sent the children out to play.  Martha was playing in an area not too far from the cabin called The Grove. She had her dolls and her dishes with her.  They were having a tea time.

Ruth, her older sister was helping her mother in the house.  Ruth was about 5, and was learning how to sew and clean a bit.  The boys were across the road, climbing on the family part of The Lumpy Range.  The boys had to cross a stream and a wooded area down from The Big Spring.  The Big Spring was an above the ground spring that was sheltered by an ancient rock slide, and the run off from Gem Lake above it.  At this time, the water was clean and pure to drink.  The children would take aluminum mugs back and leave them on the rocks to get drinks when ever they desired and were in the area.

From this natural spring, there was a stream that wound through an Aspen Grove.  The moist area produced many beautiful flowers, and some wild version of onion and other edible foods.  It was also the area that was habitat for many kinds of animals and wild life.  One wild life was Garden Snakes.  A totally non-venoimous type that primarily ate insects.  In the summer, they would slither through the tender marsh grasses that grew along the banks of the Aspen shaded stream at the foot of the Lumpy Range on the McCreery property.  The boys would delight in picking up these hapless creatures and chase the girls.  However, this day, there were no girls to chase.

Hannah’s fear of snakes was well-known, even to her children.  Wouldn’t it be fun to give Mom a scare somehow became a plot to the boys.  So with snakes in hand, the boys went back across the road to the Snug Down area, and found their small sister, Martha.  They got her to leave her dolls “just for a minute” and the four children went stealthily up to the cabin.  There the boys put one snake in each hand, Martha holding it behind the head, and draped two over her shoulders. They told Martha that she was going to give their mother a big surprise. The boys then sent Martha up the step to the screened door to call for Mom, and they ran and hid around the corner.

Hannah came to the call of her then youngest child.  She opened the door to see her toddler with four snakes, saying “Look Mommy.”  Hannah then screamed, and slammed the door shut yelling (an unusual event for her), “You get those things off your sister.” Hannah knew Martha was unable to do this herself. The boys laughter echoed up into the house, and very puzzled Martha let her brothers take the snakes off her, and away from the house. It was several hours before Hannah would allow any of the children in the house, as she not only did not trust them to be without the snakes, but she wanted to make sure the snakes got far enough away from the house to not enter on their own accord.

“Bringing in the sheets…”

It was a very rainy summer, according to my mother, in Estes Park Colorado around 1940.  The McCreery family ran two summer businesses, of a sort.  They rented cottages, and they ran a dairy.  The cottages had names, each that described something about the cottage.  Snug Down was in a protected area with a view of a field and a grove of trees.  Honeymoon was so named as the first people to stay in it were honeymooners.  Do Come In was the largest, and most modern.  Granpas Retreat was up on the hill-side and it was a favorite of the McCreery children’s homesteading grandfather.  Ravens Nest was high up on the mountainside.  Log Cabin was one of the orignal log cabins, and oldest existing cabin in Estes Park.  Home Cabin was where the family was spending the summer.  It was the homestead cabin. All six of the available rentals were rented, which entailed daily runs to clean bedding, floors, and making sure all was in good shape for the visitors to Estes.

This summer, the most of the boys ran the dairy.  Sam, Bill and little Bob doing what he could, were in charge of milking the cows. John did little as he had no taste for the work, and had already basically gone on with his life.  Martha, her mother Hannah, sisters Peggy and Ruth would help with the cleaning and sterilization of the bottles, as well as delivery with the boys.

In addition, to the women were in charge of cleaning the rental cabins.  Being a particularly rainy summer, there was a lot more dirt and mud than usual, inside and out.  This increased the work, even though most of the renters were good about trying to keep the dirt outside.

The sheets and towels were washed in a modern wringer wash tub out back of Home Cabin.  There was a clothesline strung from several trees outside the Spring house, just across the road from Home Cabin. This season the roadway was filled with slimy mud due to the rain, and sometimes even ran with water after a storm.  Martha on this particular day was washing the rental sheets.

This was not as easy as now.  The old wringer washer was operated by human power, and the majority of the water was wrong from the sheets by hand operating the wringer.  Sometimes the sheets needed several times through the wringer before it was ready for the clothes line.   The start of the wash day was getting the sheets from all the cabins, putting clean linens on, the washing the used, followed by the clothesline, and when dry, folding and putting them away.

Martha was down to the moving the sheets off the clothes line.  As she approached the roadway, she realized it had become a flowing stream and knew it was slick under the water.  In the time it took her to get the sheets down, the water had started to flow.  As she looked at it, she wondered how she would get across.  Her brother Sam came up from the barn and saw her dilemma.  “I will carry you across, Marty.”  He told her.  the water came well up his lower leg, not small thing on a 6 foot plus man.  He lifted her and the sheets, and slid into the now creek roadway.  About half way across, he lost his footing, and started to fall.  Down went both of them into the muddy water.  So much for the clean sheets.  They got up, laughing, and took themselves and the now muddy sheets to be laundered again.

The second time, the road was clear, and the sheets made it to the cabin safe and sound.  Sam was again coming up from the barn from the evening chores as Martha was bringing the load into the cabin.  When he saw her, he started singing to the tune, “Brining in the sleeves”  changing the word sleeves to sheets.  From then on, when Martha would be caught by Sam bringing in sheet, he would sing “Bringing in the sheets.  Bringing in the sheets.  We will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheets.”

A Wall

On the way home from a meeting at the local school district, the news came on my car radio.  Mr. Trump is going to hold up the federal budget unless he gets his wall built.  Wow.  Nevermind that this will negatively impact every citizen in the United States, but it has some other effects that I doubt Mr. Trump has considered.

This is the wall Mr. Trump promised to build during his campaign, that Mexico would pay for, and now we are going to pay for it.  I am not surprised by this, as I knew Mexico would never do this.  In all honesty, I understand why Mr. Trump is so insistent on this.  It is probably the only campaign promise he made that has a viable chance of happening during the next three and a half years.

I live in southern Arizona, so one of the most interesting changes since last November is that illegal immigration is down.  Since Mr. Trump was elected, many people are not considering the United States as a haven of refuge, so are electing to not come here.  Reported in the news yesterday, us many as 250 refugees a day from the United States are now fleeing to Canada, as they fear deportation. With these trends, I wonder about the need for a wall.

Additionally, the problems the Trump campaign cited as the wall stopping, (illegal entry, drugs, gang violence) has now for the past decade not been making most entry over land.  Most have either come through air drops, drones, tunnels under the existing walls, through border crossings in commercial and private vehicles, shipping and other like ways.  All one has to do is go to the American/Mexican border and see that only the most desperate people would try to enter through this most inhospitable area.  Heat, no water, hundreds of miles of desert wilderness, and mountain terrains where the border does not go just from peak to peak.  Border towns are rare and the only close to civilization for any people.

To my thinking, this wall is an ugly mirror that we as Americans will have to face for many generations after it is built.  It is a divide between us, and a neighbor country that their society of indigenous people, the Aztec and Mayans, have given much to the immigrants from Europe. The mathematical concept of zero and negative number, plus foods such as corn, tomatoes, and squash, to mention a few.  There is greatness in their cultures that predate European entry into the Americas.  We will be shutting all this out.  We will be telling them that they are irrelevant and not good enough for us to see.  It will not stop the evils; evils that are actually due to our own culture.  It does additionally promote a racism against Hispanic and Latino people’s.

This wall will be the monolithic perpetual reminder of Mr. Trump.  Maybe that is what he wants.  It will not be on The Mall, but it will be on the border.  It will help several endangered species of animals probably become extinct due to migratory issues.  It will be there, ugly as racism is, and keep Americans from seeing into Mexico, and vice versa.  It will cause hard feelings and more division among all Americans as we grapple with the multigenerational bill it will cost. It will forever remind us of how racist some of America is by blaming Mexico for issues that have been in the United States proper since before even Arizona became a state.

Looking at walls world-wide, the Great Wall of China was a work of art, and is revered as such still.  It is from antiquity, and was along only part of the border.  The Berlin Wall was ugly, did its job only as long as military presence was there, and finally taken down in 1989.  Israel has walls with Palestine, and again, only work with military support.  Tunnels, which our current wall with Mexico has, are a constant issue in Israel.

I see no good purpose for this wall and it will do nothing to stop the issues unless it is monitored 24/7 by the military.  Even then, with the other ways drugs and people are coming into this country already in place and active, that too is a waste of human power and money.  The only good purpose for this wall is a monument to Mr. Trump, and to create further diminished good relations with Hispanic and Latino countries and people’s.

The wall will be a non-reflective mirror.  It will however reflect a peroid of time similar to the Civil War and when we fought for human rights.  A fight that still is ongoing, apparently.  A fight we need not more walls for, but less.  Let’s build a mirror on the border, so we can truly see who we are.

Remembering My Mother

Yesterday would have been my Mother’s 100th birthday.  I could not bring myself to talk much about her on that day.  It was too much for me.  I loved my mother very much, and I remember the doctor telling us she should live to see 100.  She made it to 94, almost 95.

Memories of my mother are plentyful.  Her standing with me telling me the KKK cross burning in our yard was people telling the world we were good people.  Breaking her brandnew Fuller hairbrush giving a discipline swat to my brother for quoting my father. Hiking with me ther Fern Odessa trail in Rocky Mountain National Park just a few days after I had a bad fall off a horse. Washing dinner dishes together, many memories here. Sewing together. Shopping together.  Sitting for coffee in Estes Park while my girls were at vacation Bible school.  Hiking around the family land in Estes.  Her helping me after my foot surgeries.  Making Peach Honey together.  Christmas and New Years-especially the Rose Parade. Going to church in the old building in downtown Estes, that my mother told me about how it was built, and then shopping in The Church Shops when it was converted. My mother toward the end, and the truths she told me that I wish I had known younger, but she kept secret to not cause pain.

My mother told me so much family history, and history from her youth in Estes Park, Colorado and Pasadena, California, I have no idea where to start putting it down.  History that should be recorded.  Maybe my blogs will start to contain some of this.  Not a bad idea.

I became the holder of my Mother’s secrets.  Stories I will probably put somewhere along with mine, and these will stay hidden until death.  My mother had her secrets.  Things that she wanted noboday to have to carry in their soul, but she had to leave behind before she died.  “You are and have been the best daughter I could have asked for.”  Her last words to me, and she looked into my eyes, held my hand, and drew me in for a kiss.  This after she told me her last and probably saddest secret.  It was the middle of the night, around 2 AM.  And I still do not feel worthy of what she said.  I wish I could have done more.

My mother was a true lady.  She was a peace at any cost, don’t let the children see marital discord, if it hurts someone it is not worth repeating person.  She carried herself with pride, was a little preoccupied with how she looked, and cared about how others saw her.  She had deep convictions and deep love for her children and siblings.  She always fancied having luncheons, dinners for her husbands business associates, and would have loved being a stay at home mom.  She tried to do that along with teaching full time, but mostly was a successful elementary teacher.  I never remember her having anything more than a few dinners for my father’s students at the end of the semester.

I miss her.  I miss her telling me the same stories over and over of family.  I miss her telling me to sit up straight and hold my shoulders back.  I miss hearing her call my name.  Mostly, I just miss her presence.  I told the winds to take her birthday wishes yesterday.  I love you, Mommy.

Is it really Wednesday again? Change.

We all have our favorite day of the week, and our not so favorite day.  My not so favorite day is Wednesday. I don’t really know why.  Maybe because it was the day during my working years that was neither the beginning of a  new week or the ending of an existing week.  Just a day.

Odd, as everyday in the vacation time was a day that just was a day, unless I was doing something special.   Then, if I was doing something special on Wednesday, my whole week was skewed.  That is something that is kind of funny, when you think about it. Change a perception, you change the view.  You change the reality, and you change the attitude.  It is a step in changing what you want.  In breaking habits, or creating habits.

There was a day I was on a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, a hike around a lake that to me was so easy.  I was young, and if it was too easy, to me it lacked beauty.  The failing was on my part.  I took the hike about ten years later with my mother, and she struggled with getting around the lake.  But in that slowing down, I saw the beauty of the lake and its setting.  Something my impetuous youth missed  in going to find the wide open vistas in the tundra.

Is there anything wrong with either view? Not at all.  Neither is better or worse.  They both have beauty.  One may say that in learning to appreciate the beauty of both, the person gains the perspectives  needed in life, and patience to discover beauty.  It is something that we all have to a greater or lesser degree to learn, depending on who we are.

I have stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, and marveled at many things.  Taking in its very different beauty.  In doing this, others have come by and said, “I don’t get it.  This is a waste of time.  Nothing even pretty here.” It is not a good thing for us to get too far removed from nature, and finding the beauty in life.  We can so easily do this.  We miss the beauty in a piece of music, in poetry or literature, graphic art, in the face of another person, but more importantly, we lose the ability to see the beauty in ourselves.  Then we lose our humanity.

Hate then fills the void that loss of humanity leaves.  It brings its friends of loathing, racism, xenophobia, and all the rest to help fill the void.  We can each day take the time to find and fill the spot where appreciating change and beauty reside, or let it erode, and over time fill with the things that rob us of our humanity. Instead of seeing something beautiful in each moment, we only see ugliness.  Instead of healing, we see rot.  Instead of finding personal joy, we find great dissatisfaction.  We chose this and chose to change this.  We have this choice every morning. What will I chose today?  How about you, what will you chose?

Waking to Beautiful Chaos

Waking up is something we all have to do.  Sometimes it is easier than other times.  This morning, I had been dreaming about somethings I need to do, and the dream was very on point about this.  But it clashed with what is reality.  Getting grandchildren ready for school.  Getting chores of animals taken care of.  And seeing the things in disarray that if I could walk would have been put away last evening before bed.  Beautiful chaos.  The chaos caused by living with family of any sort.  The kind of chaos created by little ones learning.

One place of chaos is the coffee table.  Filled with school papers, both information and school work.  Seeing the progress daily of each child is impressive and makes one reflect on how much we all are capable of learning.  The odd fact is much of the information that comes home on copious papers that seems eerily similar to what I brought home over fifty years ago.

Another place of beautiful chaos is in the food making area, where due to making things quickly and making things both to eat before leaving and to go, is then cleaned up when I come home and they are gone to make room for the next moment of beautiful chaos.  Having the boys old enough to help, and willing to do so, is also satisfying, as they are learning some skills.

Some of the other chaos, while not my favorite, is the getting out the door and to school.  Dogs bark protest of family leaving, boys saying, ”Wait”, and trying to lock the house while unlocking the car simultaneously.  This part is more beautiful in retrospect.

In the car, buckling seats, stowing backpacks and projects, and the daily getting on the road.  Then there is the fighting over the radio, noise level in the car (talking and radio) and the general double checking that things were put into the backpacks, and will be turned in on time.  This goes on until the last child is out at his school.

Even with the radio still going, the level of energy is immediately down.  There is both relief and sadness.  The children are now being trusted in the hands of others care.  They are learning the ways of the world, some in class, some on the playground.

Beautiful chaos is the best.  As a grandmother, I now realize just how much I loved it with my children, and it is what I miss the most.  It is when the personalities of the children are most visible, when the children have the chance to learn self-expression with freedom, and yet within the ability for us to teach them appropriate responses, or other ways to think about something.  While their minds are open and working creatively.

It is probably the one thing that keeps me young.  I hope I never become such a crumugine that I lose my appreciation for beautiful chaos – created by children being creative.