As I walked back along the road this Monday, Dusty’s soft horsy nose and whiskers tickled my hand. We plodded in the quiet spring afternoon, tiredly content from the ride. The weather was warm, but breezy and pleasant. Wide grassland stretched out on either side, the once-flaxen waves of grass turning wonderfully green in earnest. I sigh, and breath in the air, filling my lungs as one can only outside.
Suddenly I was arrested by a soft, commanding scent nestling into my nose and head, echoing in shadowy corners of memory. It hinted of flowers, of earth warmed in sun, of the green things breathing and shooting up after the past week’s rain whispered “Spring!” But it’s more. Something about the smell made me think of a certain little house on a rutted back road, on the edge of a small thicket surrounded by fields. It was the place of walks with grandparents now gone, of their deep laughs and solemn prayers. The smell calls me back…
In cowboy hat, boots, and gentle blue eyes, Granddaddy would sit on the porch with a coffee mug every morning hours before the sun peeped up. I don’t think he usually brought a book. He just sat there. When I was little I thought that would be so boring. I was an early riser too, but it only meant more time for my current Black Stallion book or historical fiction adventure!
Now I can admire that stillness.
What went through his mind? Did he reflect on years of farming, hunting, growing girls, growing algebra students, Sunday school and choir practice? Was it his special time to talk the Creator as he watched His world come alive? Granddaddy was normally stiller than any wild creature who might wander across the yard. Bird, fox, deer, coon, he knew them all. Even the hunter in him was loving, tender with all wild and growing things, never killing recklessly or wastefully.
I learned early on that Disney and I could never agree on the inherent badness of hunters and guns.
Grandmother, too, loved the outdoors. She went on walks every day, until soon before she died. Oatmeal was cooked every morning without fail. When we grandkids visited, she fed us well. But sweets or ice cream were only the rare treat Granddaddy brought out. They were hearty, healthy, going on hunting and hiking trips in the mountains with their Jeep Cherokee even in their mid-sixties. It was a surprise when they left within about a year of each other. Her raven-black hair was only beginning to gray, and his mind has been sharp and active only months before.
Grandmother may have been wrinkled, but she could shoot the shuttle across the warp of the loom like a marksman. Which she was. She helped Granddaddy with whatever he was building at the moment, and always amazed me when her thin arms lifted what I thought heavy.
When my family came to visit, some time was spent inside, watching Granddaddy’s beloved collection of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and other classics. Or we would lie on beds, on the couch, and read. The hardwood floor was fun, especially slippery in socks.
But outdoors was the place of adventures. There were the huge tangled pines to climb, our clothes and hair getting all sticky with sap and scratched with the rough bark that called us to go just a bit higher. There were the wandering paths, weaving between mesquites and brush and around prickly pear patches, not long, but enough to make us brave explorers.
My heritage has grown in odd twists. Rather like the mesquite trees around here. It’s no coincidence, no mere chance that I've grown up with delight in windblown hair and dusty clothes, seeing reflections of my Creator God’s genius and imagination in every spider’s web or wildflower. Even in smells, and a horse's breathy soft nose.