“Be selective with your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.” ~ Unknown
Dad has taken to sunbathing. He’s so not a sunbathing kind of guy, but there he is. He just sits in the sun. If he doesn’t have a chair, he’ll sit in the grass. I suspect that, if he didn’t have grass, he’d sit in the dirt or gravel or blacktop or whatever there was to sit in. He refuses to use sunblock even though he’s had one bout of skin cancer. He really can’t do much work anymore, and since he was always an outdoorsman, it makes sense that he’d be drawn to anything outside that fills him with joy. That would be the radiance of the sun. I often do the same thing when the weather turns warm in spring and the bugs aren’t yet unthawed. I’ll come home from work, park that same chair in between the apple trees, and soak up the warmth until the sun goes down. Yes, skin cancer is a very real threat, but our elderly have few joys left, so if he wants to bake in the sun, fine by me. It sure won’t be the thing that kills him, and if it gives him a little happiness, that’s just what the doctor ordered. Wally, on the other hand, prefers the shade.
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” ~ Rumi
The church building where Connor and Corinne were married no longer functions as a church. It was converted to an event site for things like weddings where one can hold the ceremony and reception in one location. Before that, it was the St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church. Though it did not align with this denomination until 1924, the original church was formed in Over-The-Rhine as a German speaking mixed congregation (Catholic and Lutheran) for greater Cincinnati as early as 1814. By 1867, after many arguments and a few splits, they finally managed to erect this building. The University of Cincinnati Rare Books and Archives Library provides excellent history on Sacred Spaces around the Cincinnati area that includes St. John’s. I love sacred spaces so much. They’re steeped in all manner of mythology, personal designs, and divine inspiration. What’s not to love?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” ~ Aristotle
A very kind man approached me at Connor and Corinne’s wedding and asked, “Are you Kopana?” I thought, “Oh Lord. What have I done?” It turns out I hadn’t done anything wrong at all (whew). Quite the opposite. Robert Horine, said very kind man, is Craig Barnes’ best friend. I’ve heard about Bob for years – only wonderful things – but our paths somehow never crossed until the wedding. He reads the outhouse and wanted to introduce himself. He totally, absolutely, 100% made my day! And just like I would expect from Craig’s best friend, he is an absolute gem. Stacy agrees. I must be living right.
“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.” ~ Unknown
Dad hasn’t been able to participate in DAV activities the way he used to, but this year, despite having pneumonia, he was able to lay the wreath at the DAV Memorial Day Event in West Liberty. It was hot, too. Real hot. While he did his thing, with Jill standing in the wings watching over him, mom and I went to decorate at Malone. We came back for them, then went to Dairy Queen to cool off with some sweet treats. It’s really important that folks, any folks no matter their age or infirmities, be able to participate as long as they’re able. And when one is able to make it happen, one must. It feels good to help. I’m grateful everybody in the family, including Jill, was able to do something to honor our vets and ancestors this year. Here’s to many more banana splits with my two favorite vets.
“It’s okay to not be okay all the time.” ~ Unknown
It’s not just that I have ancestors buried at South Fork in Malone, it’s also that the land surrounding the hillside cemetery used to belong to my great, great grandparents, Patrick H. and Rebecca Patrick Risner. I talked about them just last year. Their house sat near the curve at the far end of the straight stretch in the photo below. None of those other buildings existed then. It was all farmland and the railroad would have still been running. The house remained standing until sometime in the 1990’s (I think). The Risner’s came to Malone from Magoffin County around 1900 and settled this large stretch of land. One of their four daughters, Minnie, married Douglas Adams. They were my great grandparents. Their house sat very close to the basketball goal in the photo above. I don’t remember that house at all and they both died before I was born. Another daughter, Ada, married Elbert Sparks, and they lived in a house where the white house now sits in the photo above. Unlike my great-grandmother, I knew Ada very well, except I called her Nannie. No one knows why. She taught me to play piano and baked the best apple pies you ever tasted and heated her house with coal and kept my ponies in her barn. She and Elbert never had children, and he died a fairly young man. She didn’t remarry and remained in the house until long after she should have. She died in 1984 at age 86. Her house and property was sold in the 1990’s as well. It was torn down, along with her barn, her garden, and the maple trees along the road, and replaced with the house sitting there now. The valley saw a lot of change in less than 100 years as the Risner’s came and went.
Sitting opposite Nannie’s house is Larry and Ella Ray Evans’ home place. Larry’s parents are buried right behind my grandparents in the South Fork Cemetery (you can see their headstone in a photo from yesterday’s post). I grew up with Larry and Ella Ray’s two sons Larry Scott and Barry. Larry Scott and I are the same age. We’re also really good friends, and have been since before we started first grade together. Facebook has allowed us to stay in near-daily contact with each other, but even before social media, we somehow managed to keep up with one another as we both travelled the world then settled in different states. Even now, I can almost see the huge paper maché Statue of Liberty Larry Scott built beside their house. It was probably 8-9 feet tall. He was always gifted and he was always kind. He helped Nannie a lot when she got too old to do some things for herself. One of my favorite Larry stories was the time a bunch of us high schoolers went to the cemetery at night for a seance by the now dead tree. I think Larry conducted it, not that he could ever get a bunch of high school kids to cooperate, but he tried. He’s nothing if not patient. Despite his best efforts, we didn’t see the dead, talk to the dead, or even hear a hoot owl as I recall, but we had a lot of laughs and some good clean fun. I’ve got more stories about Larry than I’ve got time to write, but suffice it to say, he is an integral part of my life. I am more thankful for him than I can say.
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo
Today, Mom and I decorated ancestral graves in South Fork Cemetery at Malone. This enormous tree – I’m not sure what it was, perhaps an oak – has overlooked the graves for as long as I can remember. Last year it wasn’t looking very good. This year revealed its end. It’s both sad and beautiful, not unlike life at all. And, not unlike life, I find its beauty far outweighs the sadness of its demise. Such is the cycle of life.
I don’t know when we began to decorate all graves at Memorial Day. Shoot, we don’t even wait for the actual day. We decorate on the Saturday of the holiday weekend, sometimes before if we have to (but never after – people will talk). The holiday was meant for the decoration of fallen soldiers’ graves, but in Eastern Kentucky at least, we decorate everyone’s grave, whether they served in the military or not. In fact, Mamaw always called it Decoration Day, and it’s a big deal for many families. I never gave it much thought one way or the other, but with age, of course, I am rethinking the tradition. Yes, it’s meant for those who served in the military, but civilians serve their families and communities, too. I don’t have a problem recognizing everyone. We all contribute in some way or other, and we should always give thanks to our ancestors. It won’t be long before the tradition falls to me. Mom and dad are both ill, and they won’t be able to do as much as they have in the past. But perhaps that’s what middle age is about. It’s a bit like the changing of the guard. Such is the cycle of life.
“We do not have to improve ourselves; we just have to let go of what blocks our heart.” ~ Jack Kornfield
While the newlyweds were off being photographed by the professionals, a much shorter and younger couple was being photographed by everyone else. Remember I said Lucy loved everyone? She may have loved her cousin Jackson Bick a little more than the others during the wedding reception, Gigi notwithstanding. It was the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen. She wrapped her little arms around him and they seemed to dance a slow waltz without music. “The look on his face is like he’s not sure if this is okay,” giggled Jackson’s proud dad, Brett.
Everywhere Lucy went, she had hold of Jackson’s hand and took him along. Not too reluctantly, he followed. And when she stopped to get Gigi for a walk (last night’s opening photo), Jackson grabbed his Gigi, Pam, too. The four of them walking down the hallway was just about as beautiful a thing as I’d ever seen (photo below). Pictures couldn’t do it justice, mine certainly don’t. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful thing to see adults and children engaged in soul-level bonding, and it should not be overlooked that most of my favorite men also have/had important grandmothers in their lives. It’s not a girl thing. It’s a grandma thing.
I gotta say that photographing tiny people is hard when you’re not a tiny person yourself. They’re really tiny and I’m really not. But, boy, what fun!
“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” ~ Joyce Meyer
Lucy Barnes-Gilbert loves her grandmother Kelly “Gigi” something fierce. She loves everyone else, too, but she really, really loves Kelly and hardly leaves her side when they’re together. I think this bodes well for Lucy as an adult. Virtually every woman I know had a strong grandmother in her life. Someone who could dispense nothing but love with all the sugar and spice and everything nice a little girl can handle. Someone she loved like Lucy loves Kelly. It’s adorable. There will be more on Lucy in the coming days, but for now, just let the light of this little girl brighten your day and remind us all to not sit on the cactus.
“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” ~ Tony Robbins
Even though there was plenty of daylight during the ceremony, the church was dark at last weekend’s wedding. Jackson Bick, Stacy’s oldest great-nephew, son of Brett and Lisa, grandson of Pam and Joe, was in the row in front of me. He’s always been joyful with the camera, but this time he pretended to be camera shy. But not really. He just wanted to play, and so we made a game of it. He won, of course. I didn’t come away with anything fabulous, but he’s so stinkin’ cute that even my bad photographs didn’t dull his shine. Jackson might be the best behaved, most generous hearted little boy I’ve ever met. He has a smile for everyone he meets. But, then, his parents are brilliant human beings, so it would be hard for them to have anything but a sweet, loving child. He’s going to grow up to do great things.
“Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul.” ~ Unknown
Cassie dropped me a note asking if I’d snapped any pix of her and hubby Jeff at the wedding. She was having so much fun that she forgot to take a pic of them on their night out. They’ve got a toddler and an infant now, and date nights like the one they had for the wedding are super rare. Naturally, I didn’t pop-off the typical couple photos of them, but hopefully I caught enough of their happy to count. In case I haven’t mentioned how cool The Whitehouse’s are, let me rectify that. They’re way cool. Plus, they’re sweet as the day is long with the most beautiful babies imaginable. It’s always a pleasure to be in their company.