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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Love's Lookout

Love's Lookout, Jacksonville, TexasJoe and I grew up in the same small East Texas town.  Jacksonville is located in Cherokee County surrounded by rolling hills and pine trees. The scenic overlook in the photograph (not mine, one I found online) is called Love's Lookout. The scenic bluff was used for the location of a large ampitheatre formed from  red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater.

The ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.

In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful. When I was a child, we often drove on the highway between Jacksonville and Tyler because both sets of my grandparents lived in Bullard, about halfway between those towns. Typically, scenes that are so familiar and frequently seen tend to be taken for granted.  Not until you are far away do you remember those sights and realize just how lovely they were.

There is yet another fond connection for our family with this place and its name. In 1982, we bought the home built by John Wesley Love and lived there long enough to research and write its history, receiving a designation for the significance of the home with a State Historical marker. By that time all acreage but the 3 acres where the house was located had been sold (or donated, as the land for Love's lookout is located), but the oaks and magnolias and pines that were there were  lovely reminders. When I did the research for the historical commission I learned that there were earlier connections between our family and the Loves.  My father and uncle once worked in John Wesley Love's peach orchards picking peaches.  Joe's father had done work inside the home as a painter.

When we do go back to Jacksonville, our itinerary usually includes a trip to the Bullard cemetery where so many of my ancestors were laid to rest. The highway is bigger and better, but the sides of the road are still lined with red dirt and pine trees.  There are still remnants of the watermelon colored crepe myrtles which were always full of summertime blooms.  And Love's Lookout still beckons us to stop and look across  a green valley.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Porch Time

When we have moved into various houses over the years, I always like finding spots that become favorites, places in or near our home that I return to frequently for quiet times or just because it is a joy to be there. In our new house, one of those places is our back porch, a wide tiled area with a cedar roof and ceiling fans that extends almost the width of the house. After we spent our first night here, I went out to this porch early the next morning in time to watch the sunrise, which has become a habit.
There are rocking chairs and places to perch my coffee cup. The view is an entirely different one from our previous back porch, which led onto a wooded back garden with our herb beds, rose arbor, and fish pond.  This house sits near the edge of a small lake, fenced only by open wrought iron, and the few trees only break the skyline slightly. Since the back of the house faces north, I have an expansive view of sunrises and sunsets, both reflected over the water, changing daily and by the hour. I never tire of being there, but our Texas heat does drive me inside. All our gardening is done right now in our front flower beds, or in containers, but soon we will add some raised beds for a kitchen and herb garden and a few other green growing things like roses to clamber on the fence. I look forward to welcoming new garden friends. But even more, I look forward to sharing our porch with others.  Already, family gathers and we hope that soon friends and new neighbors will join us as well. Porches have a history of being good gathering places, and this one is just waiting for others to discover it as a favorite spot!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 4th Flags 2016

 Fourth of July in our new home means bringing out flags and finding new places to put them.  Nora calls them kites, so we have many kites in many places. I love seeing our big flags waving in the breeze of this summer weekend. Today there are even clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds for their background. We also have tiny flags that for years have lined our front sidewalk and in this home, Nora and Kristen lined the edges of our front flower bed with them after Nora had her own parade with one.
We also have some new ones, crafted one evening last week with a group of friends from our church.  A dozen or more women, young and old, gathered for good conversation, good food, and fun with scraps of denim, ribbons, lace, and torn strips of fabric.  Every single flag was different, all were lovely.  Kristen and I both made one. The most beautiful I saw was being crafted by a young woman from the Congo who with her husband and 2 small children has only been in our country a few weeks. I watched her as she chose ribbons and lace and deftly attached them to create a flag for a country that must not yet feel like her own. I thought how she must feel, the refuge she has sought here, and what freedom looks like to her. 

As the night skies fill with bursts of fireworks, we hear patriotic songs that we have sung since childhood, and as we pray for our country and its leaders, I am thankful for our flags, and the freedom to proudly wave them.

                                 AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
O beautiful for spacious skies,
   For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
   Above the fruited plain!
      America!  America!
   God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
   From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
   Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
   Across the wilderness!
      America! America!
   God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
   Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
   In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
   And mercy more than life!
      America!  America!
   May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
   And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
   That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
   Undimmed by human tears!
      America!  America!
   God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
   From sea to shining sea!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hope Floats

Signs of recovery and restoration are in many places in our county following the Brazos River flood. While the river is still high, the area labeled as a Federal disaster and many homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, many more have been cleared out and cleaned so that some can return to the places they lived. Our church's Red Cross shelter has been closed; the remaining residents have received assistance to go to relatives or hotels. Agencies have come together in the previous shelter location (ordinarily our church gym and kitchen) for access by those who need help and direction. Friends, neighbors, and generous volunteers have helped to do the hard work necessary to clean and organize.  Fields that were under water show green beginnings under brown, withered foliage.  I have chosen to post photos and story of one of our favorite places as an example of the stories of many.

 Enchanted Forest is one of 2 garden centers owned and operated by the Linderman family.  Before our recent move, we lived near Enchanted Forest, so for 24 years have loved going there, stocking our garden and leaning on their advice in many ways.  Gary Lenderman and Danny Lenderman, his son, have in particular been good friends who have helped us over and over. We shook our heads sadly as we learned of the flooding at this beautiful place and saw pictures of what looked like a river instead of the place of beauty we have enjoyed with our family and friends.  So when they announced they would reopen on June 18, we were there along with others expressing the same "We are so glad you are back!"  Without exception, every Linderman family member there along with every employee smiled and welcomed us. We learned that all the plants floated away and all the plants now displayed were new ones. There was extensive damage to buildings, offices, and gift shop. But there were still smiles (along with aching backs, I am sure.)

Not every story of loss and grief will have the beauty and message of green growing things and poetry of flowers, but almost all the stories I hear contain somewhere a glimmer of one thing in common:  HOPE.  Last Saturday, T shirts were being sold at Enchanted Forest's reopening with this message:  "Even when the river gets high, hope always floats."  Typical of their generosity and gifts to this community, the proceeds all go to Fort Bend County charities.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Home. Again.

In over 52 years of marriage, we have moved many times - almost 2 dozen in fact. We have lived in apartments, duplexes, rent houses, hotels, and have owned 10 homes. 2 weeks ago we moved again. This time we are sharing ownership with our youngest son and his wife and daughter. Their baby son will join us by December. We are all excited about these changes and working to bring the best of both our families and homes to make this blended home a blessing for all of us who live here and all of those we will greet in hospitality. Our extended family and friends will help us celebrate.

Our new place has a porch where I have been going out each morning with my coffee to watch the sunrise. That has quickly become a habit, and my favorite place to spend my morning quiet time. As I think of homes in our past, there has always been a place like that for me. I am blessed to begin my days now in this place, in this way. I am grateful for home. Again.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

2016 Memorial Day Flood

I took a break from all 3 blogs last week.  We continued to work on clearing out and cleaning our previous home and garden, worked our way around boxes and boxes stacked everywhere in this house, helped with a sick grandchild, and I developed a bad case of bronchitis that slowed me down.

 At the same time, our area is experiencing a historical flood.  Most of Texas has had huge rains off and on for weeks. Then, on the Memorial day weekend (exactly one year since the last major flooding in Fort Bend County) the Brazos river began creeping out of its banks due not just to our area heavy rains, but because the rains north of us drained into the Brazos watershed.  The river has crested at a record breaking 54.81 feet and there is some subsiding, but many roads remain impassable.  So we are driving longer distances around to finish our moving work.  This may sound like a complaint but it is not, because everywhere I look I see the evidence of the destruction of homes, livestock, businesses and loss of livelihood.  Our church is a Red Cross shelter for evacuees who are devastated and still do not know if they will return to homes or what they will find when they do. So stories of our new home that we share with our youngest son and his family will come later, but I wanted to post a few pictures of the magnitude of the flood.

Joe and I were in the truck, driving toward the house we are selling early one morning. Suddenly, an air boat whizzed by the side of the truck.  They closed that road right after we went through. I saw a herd of maybe 3 dozen deer stranded out on a high place in a pasture. There was a cattle drive down Hwy 90 as cattlemen relocated cattle to drier land. Snakes, alligators, and balls of fire ants are spotted out of their habitat. There are so many heartbreaking pictures. But there are also beautiful ones, of all those who have helped.  The community leaders have diligently been here to assist, rescue, use social media to keep everyone as informed as possible. Neighbors have helped neighbors. These pictures of generosity, hospitality, and genuine caring are the ones I will remember most.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Retro Date

This week we took a day off from packing and moving for fun!  We rode off for a Retro Date in this 1966 GTO, windows down, fifties music turned up, and loving it. Sean and Teion gave us this fun Christmas gift and we waited this long to do it! Thank you, and thanks to Josh Meh who owns Lone Star Classic Motors and his wife Elizabeth who donated this item to Shady Oak Christian School's silent auction in December last year.

Our hair blew, we sang along to tunes like The Great Pretender and Good Golly Miss Molly. Heads turned on busy streets as we roared by. We stopped for lunch at the Railroad Cafe in Rosenberg.We drove by First Baptist Church in Richmond and the staff came out and cheered us on. We learned how much more classic cars cost now than they did when they were purchased so many years ago. And it was all over too soon. 

I will admit climbing in and out of the back seat of a very low 2 door car was challenging.  And I am definitely spoiled to air conditioning!