I called my friend Ray this morning.
I’ve never actually met Ray. I only know what he looks like from the Christmas cards he’s shared over the years.
Ray and his wife Kathi live in Wisconsin. On the day of Wisconsin’s primary I was thinking of Ray and how I needed to call him. That very day I received a postcard from Ray, just checking in as he does every so often.
Like so many, Ray and I first connected after he had read my memoir. Hard to believe that memoir came out 15 years ago now. Fifteen years and 8 books ago. Crazy. I always say a rolling stone gathers momentum.
Ray is a salt of the earth kind of guy. He laughs a great deal, which I love. We don’t talk politics much, since we are pretty much on the same page, but he did give me his opinion about the current voting situation that took place in Wisconsin this week. Fortunately, he and Kathi have the good sense God gave Democrats so they called up their local clerk a month ago and requested mail-in-ballots. She was hesitant at first. “It’s early for that isn’t it?” she asked. “No,” they assured her. “Not if this virus thing keeps going the way it’s going.”
Salt-of-the-earth kind of people still read the Farmers Almanac for their weather and pay attention to the signs all around them.
We don’t have to worry about mail-in-ballots in Oregon because we’ve been mailing in our votes for decades. We are prepared to vote no matter what viruses might be lurking come Fall. All the rest of you should take Ray and Kathi’s advice: Request your mail-in-ballots as soon as you can. Make sure your vote counts. As Republicans in Wisconsin proved this week, they would rather see Democrats and Indies die than vote.
I was sitting on the porch Tim built as Ray and I were talking this morning. It’s a beautiful day in Central Oregon. We are supposed to be in the 70s today. After a couple of weeks of grey skies, this is a welcome relief. Tim and I hiked out to the local Cline Falls with the dog the other day. It’s near the house and more of an easy walk than a hike.
Our porch overlooks a grove of trees. I’ve hung bird feeders in those trees, and several different wind chimes. I wish I had a dozen more wind chimes to hang out there. There is almost always a breeze blowing around here, sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle. When I sit on the porch and the wind blows gently, it’s like the trees are singing to me.
One of the reasons we moved to Central Oregon was for the natural beauty of the place. Snow-capped mountains surround us. Looming pines scent the air, taking me back to the Georgia of my youth. Not long ago I taught my grandson how to build a house from pine straw, a trick I learned and practiced as a Georgia child myself. I also gave him permission to go pee on a tree. He laughed at me at first, not sure if his Mimi was serious or not.
“Go on,” I said. “You can pick any of those trees.”
He looked at his mom and giggled. She giggled back. Then he said, “Like when we go camping. Daddy and I go outside.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Just like camping. People have been peeing on trees since man was made. It’s okay. Go on.”
“Mom!” my daughter exclaimed. “The things you teach your grandchildren!”
“What?” I asked. “I peed on rubber trees in Vietnam. He ain’t going to hurt anyone.”
He picked the biggest tree, stood behind it, dropped his drawers and aimed. Then he stood there for awhile, enjoying the thrill of peeing out in the open, until both Tim and Konnie yelled at him to hike up his drawers.
As his momma handed him a wipe to clean his hands, she asked him, “Was that your favorite part of the day?”
“Yeah,” he giggled. “It was.”
I thought of a thing Leo Tolstoy once observed: “How strange it is that when I was a child I tried to be like a grownup, yet as soon as I ceased to be a child I often longed to be like one.”
I hope you have a place where you can sit and visit with folks and enjoy hearing the trees sing.
A healing place where there is laughter and love and light to fill you.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of MOTHER OF RAIN (Mercer University Press).