My Window Gallery

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Many of my friends in the Open Group for Bedlam Farm, an online creative fellowship of writers and artists of all disciplines, have been posting photos and stories about their windowsill “galleries.” This trend was started by NYT best-selling author, founder and chief creative cattle prodder of the Open Group, Jon Katz (and I mean that cattle prodder comment in the KINDEST way). Jon and Maria, his lovely former girlfriend, wife, and partner in all things, curate lovely little art galleries on the windowsills in their farmhouse. As a tribute to Jon, who is offline for a bit handling some health issues in true Katz form, people are sharing their versions of the window gallery. My gallery is, by necessity and design, a tad different. It is not delicate, well-kept, or always pretty. It is entertaining. Always entertaining. This one is for Jon and Maria…enjoy!

ImageMy window gallery is not particularly artistic at first glance. Well, not artistic unless you can visualize images in the layers of smears as if you were studying the sky on a perfectly cloudy day. My window gallery does not feature fragile figurines, delicate bud vases, or lacy sheer dressing. Any such carefully planned display of treasures would be torn and swept to the floor repeatedly; likely shattered in an enthusiastic attempt to be the first in line to see a leaf blowing by.

My window gallery could actually be better defined as performance art. It’s a living, breathing, always changing display of beauty, drama, frustration, and joy. It’s the place where life on the inside, which we refer to as “barely domestic,” is separated from nature’s canvas on the outside by a relatively thin and fragile barrier. It’s a barrier where noses, yes at times mine too, press firmly as if the force exerted against it will somehow allow a better whiff of the activity transpiring beyond.

My window gallery is a place to daydream. It’s a place to sit as the winds whip up a glorious thunderstorm. It’s the first thing I look to every morning, generally over the top of a dog’s head, and the last thing I see through heavy lids at night, again through the frame created by my cattle dog’s alert, perfectly pointed ears. I swear she never sleeps. She just stays right by me on the bed, keeping vigil in case something should stray into our gallery that I might need to see.

windowMy window gallery is a showcase for the birds that come to feast on the bounty that I provide each day without fail. It’s the place where the dogs sound the alarm to let me know that James Squirrel Jones and the other squirrels and bunnies have gathered knowing that I will emerge from our fortress bearing nuts, fruit, and carrots. It’s the place where nimble garden spiders weave artistic webs born of necessity, but delicately decorated by morning dew or frost creating a display that no human hand could mimic.

Sara windowMy window gallery is not something I create, or even control, but it is a source of constant wonder, amazing sights, frequent hilarity (when, for example, one of our delinquent donkeys presses his nose to the outside of the window as an early morning salutation), and occasional over-stimulation (say when a raccoon is out there thumbing his nose at my herd of wolf-wannabes).

No, I can’t have a window sill filled with small treasures that glow in soft light and cast soulful shadows in the golden rays of evening. But what I do have is quite beautiful, always changing, always captivating. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have it any other way. Image

 

Unexpected Beauty

ImageHurry, hurry

have to get there

schedules, commitments

things to do.

Put your head down and go, go, go

move quickly through the world.

But wait.

For those who are willing to see

willing to notice the slightest flutter

there is profound beauty.

Unexpected

fleeting and fragile.

Life

Should not diminish the art of living.

Wonders

are hidden in plain sight.

Be willing

to be blissfully tardy.

 

While racing across the parking lot to head into my place of business yesterday, a quick flutter caught my eye in the parking lot. I glanced in the direction of the movement and was treated to this breathtaking sight. A beautiful Luna moth, likely near the end of a too-brief seven day lifespan. I stopped in my tracks to enjoy this rare visitor; to spend a few moments appreciating him. You just don’t see them every day…I certainly don’t. Suddenly, getting to work at that very minute didn’t seem so important. I snapped photos with my phone and sat on the sidewalk feeling blessed. People passed behind me, most not even realizing why I was there. How important it is to stop to smell the roses…enjoy the skyscape…or enjoy the beauty of a Luna moth. Made my day so much better. 

How I May Have Stolen a Donkey. And How He Stole My Heart

ImageI have been participating in a rather hysterical online conversation about kissing donkeys. The thread has been playing out in the Open Group for Bedlam Farm, an online community comprised of creative souls who also have wicked senses of humor. Come on now…it’s nothing kinky. We do not need to ask said donkeys to show us on the doll where the human touched them.

It was just a funny conversation inspired by a photo of people…well…kissing a donkey on the nose. This was followed by author and group mentor Jon Katz making a public proclamation that he is, indeed, also a donkey kisser. He kisses his donkey Simon on the nose every single day.

I too am very fond of donkeys. Jim and I share our world with a menagerie of animals and prominent among them are five miniature Imagedonkeys, one standard donkey, and one fabulous mule. All are very kissable. Jim might argue this point—the donkeys can be a tad mischievous and occasionally destructive—so let me rephrase that, “I” find them all very kissable.

Anyhow, all the talk about the smoochability of donkeys made me reflect on how my love of long ears was born. And it’s a bit of a tale.

Many, many, oh-so-many years ago, I lived on just three acres with just one horse and a rational number of dogs. It seems like that was a lifetime ago. In many respects, it was.

One warm spring day I received a call from a friend who lived on a horse property not far from my place. She was on a mission to save an injured donkey and the donkey needed to enter the witness protection program.

She believed he actually belonged to a neighboring ranch, but the donkey knew no boundaries and easily scooted beneath pasture fences in search of a better life. The little guy, a bit starved for attention, had always spent more time at my friend’s ranch where her daughters would hug him and where he knew he would be offered feed and carrots.

On this particular day, the little donkey needed help. He had shown up a couple of days earlier and had a very swollen, painful back leg. My friend (yes, names are being withheld to protect the not-so-innocent-but-very-caring) had called the ranch where she believed the donkey lived and left messages that he was injured, that he needed immediate help. There was no reply. There was no donkey ambulance dispatched.

At this point she believed the donkey was abandoned. If not abandoned, certainly neglected and she did not want to see him returned to his former home where his injury might be left untreated.

Would I rescue a cute miniature donkey? Do I really need to tell you my answer?

Of course nothing is really simple, is it? You see, neither of us had a horse trailer. And there were several miles betwixt point A and point B.  And the donkey’s leg appeared to be broken.

Ok. We were intelligent donkey thieves rescuers. We could figure this out.

So, we called a friend who had a small pickup truck. We backed the truck into a ditch and lowered the tailgate as a makeshift ramp. Perfect! What donkey wouldn’t want to hop right in to head off to a new and wonderful life?

This donkey.

Apparently an open-air ride in the back of a truck was not on this little man’s bucket list. So we slowly convinced (aka: pushed and pulled…ok, my friends pushed and I pretty much fell in the bed of the truck laughing hysterically), our little friend to make his way into the truck and quickly shut the tailgate.

Of course the donkey would not move to the front of the truck bed and instead insisted on leaning precariously on the tailgate. Could this be how you guys got a reputation for being a tad stubborn? You think?

We obviously couldn’t risk having the donkey flip out of the back of the truck as that would certainly defeat the purpose of rescuing him, so my friend sat on one corner in the back of the truck and I sat on the other. She sat on the corner with the butt-end of the donkey. I got to laugh a whole lot more from my vantage point with the front-end of the donkey (there is no photo evidence of this event…so it may or may not have happened).

You see, as our other cohort gingerly inched the truck onto the road, the donkey, feeling the motion, decided that he should sit down. And he did. On friend one’s lap.

Now, let’s paint this mental picture once again…we have a small pickup truck. We have a tiny donkey sitting on a woman’s lap in the back of said truck. We have another woman holding the donkey’s head with tears born of unrestrained laughter streaming down her (my) face.

Add to this little calamity the fact that we wanted to circumvent the ranch where our little runaway donkey may have (did) actually belong. Though the probable (actual) owner had been given every chance to claim his donkey and failed to do so, we still thought it might be a bad idea to parade directly in front of the ranch.

So yeah, we had to go a few extra miles out of our way with friend one’s legs losing all feeling. Miniature, yes, but he still weighed 250 to 300 pounds. This is kind of like Santa Claus deciding he should change things up and sit on the kids’ laps to hear Christmas wishes.

Oh and we could only drive about five to 10 miles per hour because in reality we (one partially paralyzed person, one sobbing with hysterics person, one very content, enjoying-the-ride jack) were all still in danger of flipping out of the back of the truck.

A drive that should have taken 15 minutes took well over an hour. It might have felt like five hours.

And we got looks. Lots of looks. It was not exactly a subtle getaway.Image

But we did get our little donkey buddy to his new/my home. I had a veterinarian out to check his indeed-it-was-broken leg. I gave the little guy a comfortable place to rest while his leg healed (which it thankfully did!), and so a new love for long-eared, loud yodeling, heart-stealing little equines was born.

So how did I end up with five more miniature donkeys? I bought him a girlfriend, of course. I’ll let you figure out the rest from there.

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Donkey Dad meeting his first son, Harry Ass Truman. To give you perspective, these babies weight around 30 pounds and can easily be held. They are the size of a medium sized dog.

donkey babies 2 (2)

Lulu with Stormin’ Norman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: In the event that you are reading this and find the story familiar…in fact feel sure I may have absconded with your miniature donkey…I assure you this is just another exercise in fiction writing. Yes. Fiction. And I’m pretty sure they don’t hang people for stealing broken donkeys these days.   

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! STOP!

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Two cute girls with “the better to hear you with” ears. Throwaway puppies? I think not!

It was my day to be at work early yesterday. My business partner and I alternate schedules so that one of us is at our dog care business from open to close.That means getting up, getting myself showered and ready, caring for our small colony of dogs (I know, define “small”), and making the 30 minute drive into Tulsa.

All of this needs to be accomplished in time to allow me to arrive at Pooches, by around 7:00ish am. Oh, and you need to toss five minutes in that routine for a balanced breakfast. It IS the most important meal of the day (I say that about all of the meals).

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My morning drive

So, while I do have my morning routine down to a semi fine art, I still tend to rush, rush, rush because I also tend to hit snooze, snooze, snooze when the morning alarm sounds. I have no problem getting up at 6:00 a.m. Any time that starts with the number five, however, is painful for me.

Yesterday morning it was off to the races once again. I can feed 20 dogs in five minutes—it’s a mad skill that involves very cooperative dogs. Breakfast is also their most important meal of the day.

I got through the whole routine and hit the road, even remembering to grab the bag ‘o trash by the door to take it up to the trash can by the road. I was ON. Unstoppable. The day was off to a great start.

As I hopped out of Duke (that’s my Jeep) to remove the bag ‘o trash from his roof (and yes, I often forget to do that and drive alllllllllll the way to Tulsa with my trash along for the ride), I noticed a truck pulled to the side of the road just over a quarter of a mile north of my driveway. I didn’t really think much of it…just noticed it.

Trash safely deposited, I was back in Duke and ready to go. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Stay on schedule. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go…etc.

The truck I had seen took off in a cloud of gravel dust. Hmmm. In a bit of a hurry, there. Perhaps they dumped some trash. That happens on our road.

As I reached the spot where the truck had been, I glanced over into the tall grass lining the road. Two sets of terrified eyes met mine. STOP!

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First photo…from weeds into the Jeep. Nervous little girls.

There, hiding in the weeds, were two young dogs with very big ears and very round, stress-filled eyes. I kissed my morning schedule goodbye and stepped out of the Jeep to meet my new best friends.

Now. It’s easy to get mad at whoever dumped the dogs RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE. I get mad too. But I have learned that getting mad isn’t very productive. It doesn’t change the fact that the dogs need help. It won’t bring the guy back to apologize and take responsibility for his puppies. It won’t change the fact that dogs get dumped here…and everywhere… all the damn time.  “Mad” is an emotion I have to chase away very quickly.

Instead of mad, I choose to focus on gratitude. I’m grateful that I am often at the right place at the right time. I’m grateful I have a life that allows my somewhat well-orchestrated morning schedule to blow up in the interest of saving two cute dogs with comical ears. I’m grateful that I have a wonderful staff on the job at Pooches…they really don’t need me. I’m grateful that I have a relationship with veterinarians who don’t bat an eye when I show up unannounced to deposit two skinny, tick-covered young dogs in their hospital for a check-up and shots. I’m incredibly grateful that I have a spousal equivalent (sounds more grownup than boyfriend) who can’t wait to meet the new foster dogs instead of complaining that I am bringing two more home. And, in the vein of positive thinking, I’m grateful for the future people who will give these cute girls wonderful homes.

So the morning schedule blew up. I didn’t get to work until after 8:00. But no worries, I can rush another day. This screeching stop?

Totally. Worth. It.

Anyone want a cute puppy…or two?

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New best friends!

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First kiss.

The Night I Narrowly Avoided a Life of Crime.

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Jim’s most excellent photo of the blood moon.

This is my contribution to “Throwback Thursday,” except I’m actually posting it on a Friday. Following is a recap of a meeting held several years ago when the city Mounds attempted to overtake my life in the country. Please note, I have nothing against the fine citizens of Mounds, Oklahoma (especially the nice man who owns the Dollar General, the only store in town, and the fine folks who make tasty pizzas at Simple Simon’s, the only restaurant.)  However, beyond having a Mounds mailing address…because our mail has to land somewhere…I don’t want to live there. Or in any city, for that matter.

We gathered at the community center in a room that reminded me of my elementary school cafeteria—unflattering fluorescent lighting, colorless walls and lots of plastic chairs. We just needed some rows of folding tables, some hair-netted lunch ladies, and some sticky P,B&J to complete the flashback.

We—I shall dub us “The Outsiders”—had  been summoned to the meeting by very official letters on very official stationary. Now we sat together facing a podium flanked by a long table. There, the city officials of Mounds, Oklahoma, filed in to face us; smiling and united in an obvious attempt to convey an image of friendly, Andy Taylor-style authority.

On the agenda was a proposal to annex nearby land into the city limits of Mounds. The land in question included some newly established neighborhoods as well as some pastureland and some homes on acreages, my 72.25 acre piece of the earth included.

“There will be no additional taxes.”

“There will be improvements.”

“You won’t have to pay an additional fee for fire department service if you are within the city limits.”

“We will give you street lights.”

“No one will be allowed to fire a gun near your homes—it’s illegal to fire a gun within the city limits.”

“We’ll look into paving the gravel roads if you agree to be annexed.”

All of the reasons why we should be jumping at the chance to become official citizens of the city of Mounds were carefully presented. Some in the audience agreed to the annexation. Many did not. Most did not.

I did not.

We were each allowed a few minutes to voice our opinions.

“If you pave the roads, we’ll see more traffic on them. We don’t want more traffic. The gravel roads are fine.”

“It only costs $3.00 per month extra on our water bill to have service from the Mounds Volunteer Fire Department. I’m good with that.”

“I bought my property and moved to the country to live in the country. If I had wanted to live in Mounds, I would have bought a home in Mounds.”

“What about my animals? The city of Mounds has restrictions that don’t exist in the county.”

“Why do you want to annex families that clearly don’t want to be annexed?”

The majority of my neighbors rallied in thoughtful protest. Then it was my turn to have a say. Oh how I love having my say. For once, I kept it short, but oh-so-sweet.

“If you annex my property, I will get arrested,” I said in my most serious tone.

“Arrested? Why do you believe you will be arrested?” one of the city council members queried with obvious concern.

“Because I will use my gun to shoot out the new street lights so that I can still enjoy seeing thousands of stars on a pitch black night. I believe you just said it is illegal to fire a gun within the city limits.”

Silence.

Laughter.

Meeting adjourned.

I still live in the country, just outside of the city limits of Mounds. Good job, fellow outsiders.

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Another one of Jim’s most excellent photos. Geese in the moonlight on our pond. In the COUNTRY.

The Magic of Dad

ImageBeing a dad means a lot of things and, looking back at my Dad’s parenting career, I’d have to say that one of those things…a HUGE thing…was learning to compromise. Especially when you are the only man in a houseful of girls.

My dad was a manly, power-tool loving, football cheering, John Wayne doppelganger kind of guy. He was a funny, strong, outspoken, smart, you-don’t-have-to-ask-his-opinion man. A man’s man through and through.

He and my dear mom first had sweet baby Cindy–Daddy’s girl. Then, I’m sure everyone thought baby number two would be a boy. But no, they had cute little Terry. Daddy’s second girl. Now technically, “Terry” with a “y” is considered the boy spelling, so maybe dad was going for something there…but no, he was thrilled with his two pretty girls.

A few years later, in a didn’t-plan-it-didn’t-prevent-it accident…wait, they called it a “pleasant surprise” to spare me years of therapy…Mom and Dad were blessed with another pregnancy. Everyone was absolutely sure this one would be a boy. Even the doctor said it would be a boy, though there were no ultrasounds at the time. I’m guessing Doc must have done the spoon tied to a string dangling over Mom’s belly test or some other completely unreliable voodoo procedure.

I say unreliable because I am, of course, Daddy’s girl number three. Dad did not regret his three girls one tiny bit. Of course he did bolt out to get a vasectomy immediately after I was born, but without regret. Too much information? Sorry.

So I’m pretty sure my Dad’s life was in no small part about compromise. A big manly-man doesn’t live in a house with a wife and three girls without a little give and take. And there was a lot of give on his part. A lot. He was that kind of dad.

On this father’s day, I’m reminded of one huge check in Dad’s give column. The take-the-entire-family-to-Disney-World give, and at this point, “family” included spouses and four grandkids. If you knew my dad, this gesture deserved more than the obvious “wow, that’s a lot of people to treat in Disney” reaction.

Let me give you a little background. Dad was not exactly a family vacay kind of guy. Not that he didn’t enjoy spending time with everyone, he loved family time more than anything. It’s just that he loved family time at home. Preferably HIS home.

So, on Christmas Day, in 1990-someodd (I am not particularly good with dates), my father made the grand announcement, to a gathering of his children and his grandchildren that in June, just after the last day of school, he was treating everyone to a Disney World vacation extravaganza.

Everyone said YAY! I sat stunned and said, “Really?”

Then I said yay too…because I didn’t want to appear ungrateful. But REALLY? The man who didn’t care for travel. The man who didn’t particularly care to fly. The man who most loved being home, tending his amazing veggie garden, was going to go to Disney? In the heat of the summer? At the peak of tourist season?

Well there’s that compromise part. Big time. Dad probably NEVER really wanted to go to Disney World, but he knew it would be the trip of a lifetime for all of the kids (adult and actual).

My mother had worked with a travel agent and the whole trip was in the bag. Piece of cake. Take eleven people to Disney. Sure. Easy. Yikes.

At this particular phase in my life, I was working in Corporate America for CITGO Petroleum. We had annual conventions for all of our branded marketers. I helped plan them. The one place on earth where it was easy to find lots of space and entertainment for a couple thousand of your closest friends, was/is (drumroll) ORLANDO! So let’s just say I had been traveling to and from Orlando several times a year for several years. Let’s just say I knew the route. Really well. Really bleeping well.

I was, however, completely on board with Dad’s vision of the whole family strolling hand-in-hand through the Magic Kingdom. It was going to happen and it was going to be awesome. Dammit. Awesome.

So fast forward to June. We all checked in at the airport on time. That went well. We all got on the airplane. The same plane. That went well. We all made our connecting flight in Dallas. That went well. We all made it to Orlando. That went well.

If it seems to you that this is all going too smoothly, you’re a clever one. We all went to claim our luggage. That didn’t go so well.

Whose luggage do you suppose did not make it to Orlando? You guessed it. Mr. Compromise. Dear old Dad.

Since I had the most/most recent travel experience at that time, my family parked in a lovely airport seating area while I headed off to file a lost luggage report on Dad’s behalf. The suitcase was described…tracking was underway…I was given an 800 number to call to check on the progress of Dad’s delinquent suitcase. The suitcase with EVERY essential in it. The suitcase that was likely off on its own vacay in Tahiti or some such destination.

Soooo…Dad was a bit OCD when it came to organization and preparedness. We were the family that would never run out of foil, toilet paper, or toothpaste. There were cabinets in Dad’s garage filled with the stuff. And it was all exactly in place. Labeled.

With this background information, you can well imagine how Dad’s stress level might have started to ratchet up a tad. However, after a few moments cursing the airline under his breath, he took a deep breath, plastered a smile on his face, uttered the obligatory “it’s no big deal,” and we all headed out to board the bus. In Dad’s world I suspect that mass transit was just another rung on his personal ladder to hell, but he took it all in stride. Without his suitcase.

We made it to the hotel. It was late afternoon at this point, so I suggested that we stop by the gift shop to purchase a few essentials for Dad in case his suitcase did not appear that night. I was met by Dad’s wide-eyed “what do you mean it might not be here tonight” expression, which he quickly traded for his “no big deal” forced smile. He then purchased a few toiletries, an incredibly expensive pair of boxer shorts, and a Mickey Mouse golf shirt.

I am pleased to report that Dad’s luggage did arrive later that evening. Much later. After midnight later.  And they knocked on the door. Waking my parents. After midnight, after a full day of Gallimore Family Vacation travel. I’m pretty sure Dad greeted the bellman in his new Goofy-themed boxer shorts without a smile plastered on his face. “No. Big. Deal.” (It was becoming somewhat of a mantra at this point.)

ImageOk. Let the vacation begin! While it may seem that things got off to a little rocky start, and despite the fact that I was initially a little jaded after so very many business trips to Orlando, the Gallimore Family Disney Extravaganza was actually a magical time.

Though Dad’s vision of the whole family strolling off to find Mickey together wasn’t totally realistic considering the 40 million other families that had the same vision; we did improvise with a well-orchestrated divide and conquer strategy. My sisters and I devised a quick plan to alternate hanging out with Mom and Dad while the other two-thirds of the family would bolt off to hit the two-hour-wait lines that would eventually lead to rides that Dad would NEVER step foot on.

The third of the family on “Mom and Dad duty” would stroll casually, enjoying sights, parades, and characters. The on-duty third would make well-planned visits to various big attractions just in time for Dad to see the grandkids screaming in delight.

At midday, we’d all meet up for an air-conditioned lunch and then Mom and Dad would often head back to just enjoy a little quiet time at the hotel pool while their little darlings turned into sweaty, wonder-filled bundles of Disney adrenaline/exhaustion. Then we’d all meet back up for dinner followed by oooo-ahhhhh fireworks.

ImageAnd you know, Dad’s Christmas dream really did come true. The Gallmore Family one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated Disney Extravaganza (a guy can only give so much!) was awesome.

Dad compromised, he took the entire family on a trip that probably had little to no appeal for him, and he was our hero. Though it was certainly not his ideal vacation (his ideal vacation would have been a week at home to catch up on his DIY projects), his joy was in seeing his family have fun. Nothing made him happier.

And Tigger. I think Tigger made it a pretty good vacation too. He and Dad definitely bonded over the course of the week.

Thanks Dad. For making so many big and little dreams come true throughout or lives, I thank you. Happy Father’s Day. I love you. I miss you.

 

The Storm

Moody sky

My photo of a storm rolling across our landscape, this version turned from a color snapshot into this wonderfully moody “calm before the storm” moment by Glenn Curtis.

She rolls in
Like a surly teenager
Dark
Brooding
Emotions roiling
Hot fury and cold disdain colliding
Everyone around her
Falls quiet
Still
Anxiously anticipating the inevitable
Suddenly
Her temper flares
She stamps her feet
Her arms flail wildly
She dissolves into uncontrolled tears
She throws herself to the ground
Pounding her fists with unresolved angst
She inhales savagely
And immediately forces the air from her lungs
Over
And over
A tumultuous roar of swirling anger
Then
As quickly as the tantrum began
It subsides
A soft breeze crosses her brow
Pushing her fury aside
Caressing her with a cool compress of hope
A promise of life renewed

If you life in Oklahoma, you get to witness some impressive thunderstorms. Tails You Win Farm is perfectly situated to allow us to see these impressive storms build and overtake the landscape. This morning I stepped outside into the calm before the storm. In these moments, the trees, the wildlife, the farm animals…everything seems to go very still with a sense of nervous anticipation as we all hold our breath while the storm develops. I wanted to capture the feeling of a thunderstorm in this poem. I hope you felt a little of the thrill this native Okie feels every time these storms develop and explode forth. It never gets old. Nature–she is beautifully powerful and awe-inspiring every single time. 

Jim's lightening

One of Jim’s amazing storm photos. Borrowed without permission…but I think he’ll be ok with it!