Posts

Showing posts from 2014

Our Life in Letters

Image
About two weeks ago I was looking through paint samples at Lowe's. We've been in this house for seven and a half years and for seven and a half of those years, I've wanted to change the paint color in the library from pool-hall parlor red to something else. Something that wouldn't require I wear a lighted miner's helmet just to see the books on the shelves. 

But before I paint, I have to empty those bookshelves. Eight shelves, seven of which are close to seven feet tall, are filled with books. Three of the shelves are topped with twenty-two full photo albums and two have five photo boxes full of photos to be sorted. Then there are letters and cards...

I'm an orderly person but over the years have found stray photos or duplicates left by the kids as they moved away. I can't throw them away and so into a box they go until I've the time to figure out which decade and to which volume of these albums they belong.
Dad didn't leave  much when he died, but Mam…

Dear Johny

Image
In the months before she died, my mother started documenting old stories on any scrap of paper available. Going through her things, I found notes scrawled on the back of electric bills, notes on tablets and detailed notes on the back of cards and photographs. Boxes of photographs. Those that had belonged to my grandmother were separated in a yellow manila envelope along with embroidered handkerchiefs, dried flowers and a love letter written to my second great grandfather John Madison Pigg by Miss Lucy Davis of Missouri City, Clay County, Missouri. The year was 1864 and John had opted to join the Pony Express in Idaho rather than fighting his friends and relatives in the war between the states. He was eighteen.
September the 15th 1864 Clay County, Missouri Mr. John Pigg
Dear Johny,
I received your kind epistle this day three weeks ago and would have responded before this but have had so much trouble that I could not have written to no one.  We have lost our dear Mother, she died on Monday t…

Ghosts

I killed a snake yesterday. Its long, black diamond-stamped body coiled in ropes on the deck railing I was staining. The dogs alerted me to its presence by saying nothing -- noses pointed they stood like stone carvings at watch. I set my paint brush across the can, motioned the dogs into the house and retrieved a long-handled linoleum scraper from the lean-to.

The snake watched from the deck, its belly rippling a mouse-sized bulge to the center of the coil. A great white mouth opened with malice as it adjusted the shifting mouse weight. That's probably why it didn't move when I returned with the linoleum scraper, I reasoned.

Snakes don't die easily. Although it was the right thing to do, killing anything is unnerving and like the dogs I circled the ghost on the railing long after the carcass had been tossed into the woods for scavengers.

Courtney video called and the sight of Tucker's two-year old smile as he shuffled in and out of view a thousand miles away cleared th…

I am not my ancestors.

Image
NPR has been writing this week about the Race Card Project, an effort started by Michele Norris to understand the American public's views on race. She explains that while on tour to promote her first book, The Grace of Silence, her "idea was to use these little black postcards to get the conversation started...I asked people to think about their experiences, questions, hopes, dreams, laments or observations about race and identity. Then I asked that they take those thoughts and distill them to just one sentence that had only six words...The submissions are thoughtful, funny, heartbreaking, brave, teeming with anger and shimmering with hope..."

My ancestors included indentured servants, sharecroppers and slave owners. I've worked on my family genealogy for over 14 years and find both the goodness and harshness of humankind interwoven throughout the generations.

Today, I'm working on the 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules. It's rather a grim and dark chapter of Amer…

Tradition

Image
I was never one for New Year's resolutions thinking that a resolution is simply the outcome of a personal continuous improvement process. I managed large departments and projects ensuring that continuous improvement processes identified defects, measured the effectiveness of the improvement and ensured the resulting processes were implemented as culture. But to measure success, you must first document the thing to be improved upon and so began 2013's Bucket List.

I figured I'd start simply: handwritten letters versus email, go someplace new with Walt, paint something. I've refined 2014's Bucket List to be a more specific: handwritten birthday cards to my relatives, go someplace new with Walt outside the 50-mile ring encompassing NW Arkansas and paint the house.

New Year's celebrations began with the Babylonians in March. The Romans later changed the beginning of the new year to January, named for Janus, the two-faced god who looks both back to the previous year…