Approaching Pike’s Peak

June 26, 2007 at 2:03 pm | Posted in 4th of July, blogging, Blogroll, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gifts, health, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, volunteerism | 7 Comments

From Sea to Shining Sea

Thank you to everyone who gave me a warm welcome home. You are such good friends; your well wishes always make my day.

Pikes PeakBeing home again is an interesting experience, considering this has only been “home” for a little over a year now. What a feeling of “home” though. Oddly enough, knowing this place as home helped me feel more relaxed and happy visiting Los Angeles. The traffic jams did not annoy me in the least (and I drove in much traffic); the heat didn’t get me down (in fact, it was cooler in LA than it was on the farm much of the time I was away); and the people did not seem so cranky after all.

Whatever LA was, whatever it had to offer, I knew I was only a visitor so I did not resist what I was experiencing and it was not bad at all. (My eyes did sting from the smog, but that is my only complaint.)

What you see in life, truly is dictated very much by what you project … even when it doesn’t seem to be so. I am much more in control of my life, my feelings, my joys or concerns, than I would have thought at times.

While I was in LA I stayed with my son at his home in Studio City, north of Ventura Blvd. I loved the feeling of that neighborhood because there were always people walking by, riding bikes, walking dogs, taking children to and from summer school. Happy, friendly people who often paused for a moment to smile, admire my son’s adorably feisty English Bulldog, and say to hello. The work I was doing was very hard and stressful, but I loved the moments of decompression in his yard with the pooch seeing the happy, healthy people going by. Of course, the best decompression time were the evening times I spent just hanging out with my son.

View from Pikes PeakWhen I returned home I found the hard drive on my computer had crashed. That was scary, but we managed to get it repaired. Now we are awaiting the arrival of two very large hard drives, one to replace this one that faltered (just to be safe) and one to use as an external hard drive for photo storage.

Between staying an extra few days in LA and coming home to a hard drive crash, I am now behind on blogging, writing emails, and coordinating the Pike’s Peak Project. However, I will be emailing each of you over the next couple of days (“you” being those readers who have left comments over the past couple of weeks and have received no reply as of yet).

Meanwhile, here is an update on the Pike’s Peak project:

So far, 19 21 states out of 50 are represented. Some states have multiple writers–which I think is awesome. I would love it if there were half a dozen writers for each state so that there would be plenty of variety. Although it is unrealistic to get there by this 4th of July, we can make it there over time.

Pike’s Peak Project 2007 LogoI have posted a page with links (where they are available) to those who will be writing “From Sea to Shining Sea” posts on July 4th. Each writer should send me the actual address of the specific post for their “From Sea to Shining Sea” post, so that others who direct people to their pages will send readers to that specific post.

The Pike’s Peak page will remain a permanent page on my blog, so if you write for the project you should get some traffic over time to your blog from mine in addition to the traffic generated from other writers in the project.

I have made a logo for the project as well; if you would be so kind as to display the logo on your blog in order to direct others to the project I would appreciate it very much. I’d like to get as many states represented by this 4th of July holiday as possible. Beyond that, I would like people to continue joining in the tribute after the holiday has passed. So, spread the word if you would.

Summit at Pikes PeakKnitting News: I will be posting two patterns later this week for very cute little scarves that would be enjoyable summer projects in preparation for winter gifts. I am in the midst of knitting a pair of socks of my own design, titled “fireflies” appropriately enough. Photos will be posted later in the week.

A note about today’s photographs: they are not my work. Here are some photo credits in the order the shots appear:

  • Pike’s Peak Panoramic View: Chris Hutchison
  • Pike’s Peak with rock formations in foreground: Steve Krull
  • Beautiful view from Pike’s Peak: Lange Photography
  • Summit at Pike’s Peak: Gary Hampton

Have a beautiful week. May you create beauty in the world around you.

~firefly

Forgive the messes and inconveniences

February 15, 2007 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Blogroll, charity knitting, country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, health, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, Valentine's Day | 25 Comments

Fireflys Barn the day after Valentines DayMy Valentine’s Day was beautiful, how about yours? One year ago, on Valentine’s evening, I sat in a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles having dinner with my sister. I told her about this guy in New York who had emailed me. He was interesting, we had all kinds of things in common … and he lived on a farm but wasn’t a farmer. I told her it was too bad he lived in upstate western New York, because there was no way in the world I would ever even consider moving to New York … for anything, period.

And here it is one year later. Last night I spent Valentine’s evening in a restaurant in upstate western New York with my new husband, about fifteen minutes from our farm.

My, how life can change so very much in one short year.

What a trip.

Fireflys Barn after the snow on Valentines DayThat’s one reason Valentine’s day was beautiful for me.

The other was the snow. About one foot of snow fell. It was peaceful and thrilling, all at the same time, watching it as the day went by, from any of the forty windows in our farm house. The wind blew, so there were snow drifts building as well. The most lovely drifts were those on the east side of our barn.

Okay, so I still can’t get over the fact that I can now say something like, “our barn.” Is this wild, or what?

This has been a very, very big year in case I had not mentioned it before.

I was thinking yesterday as I watched the snow how forgiving we are of beautiful things and events. Snow is so beautiful, and so magical as it falls, that we forgive it the inconveniences and messes that will certainly follow. All we see is beauty, and magic. At least that is how it is for me.

This Valentine’s day I created a little lesson for myself, and it is just this one simple thing: It would be beneficial to look at other things in the life the way I look at snow. Grant someone or something the kind of beauty and magic I automatically grant to snow. Forgive that someone or something any inconveniences or messes that may accompany their presence or arrival. Focus on the beauty and the magic, it is inherent in all things.

Fireflys River the day after Valentines DayI seek to find that, and value that above all others.

I believe that is what love is really about. Not romantic love, but the love that mankind and life on this little blue planet needs if we are going to make it, together.

Have a beautiful day, whatever you may “see”.

~firefly

Copyright © 2006 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

He wanted a nose warmer

August 15, 2006 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Blogroll, country living, knitting | 4 Comments

Last evening after dinner it rained here for hours. For me, this is autumn … or the beginnings of it. If the weather in Los Angeles became cool with rain, it would be autumn. For my husband, it is still summer. Perhaps next year I will have learned new seasonal sensors but for now it is too soon to change. Autumn is my favorite time of year, so I am in good shape and enjoying the weather quite well.

Fireflys Cornfield in Golden Hour after RainThe lighting here is different too. Golden hour lasts much longer, and morning has a golden hour all its own that is even more golden still. Morning golden hour following an evening of rain is the loveliest of all. We wake up early; my husband goes to work at five in the morning so we wake up at four. From the windows near my computer, up on the second floor of the farm house, I can see the barn and the corn fields beyond it through one window and a stand of trees by the road through the other. The trees and the corn field are aglow with golden morning light, sparkling from the rain touched by glinting sun.

Such beauty, such opportunity for aesthetics. I sip steaming tea from a china teacup I bought at a garage sale and feel a little bit melancholy but not terribly so. I am very, very happy here but I do miss my family. I come from a large, loving family and I have two children who are in their twenties now. My daughter moved out this way and is only a few hours away, but my son remains in California. I miss him terribly sometimes. Raising the children on my own most of their lives, we became quite close. As they became adults our relationship expanded to include “friend” as well as family. I miss my friend and hope to see him soon.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I learned to knit when I was about eight years old. I was fourth of five children … three brothers, my sister and I. My oldest brother was four years older and he loved teasing me about any number of things. On the subject of knitting his favorite, on-going tease was, “When are you going to knit me a nose warmer?” It is strange when you are a kid how a tease like that can get to you, make you giggle or squirm or pout. Mostly his teasing made me giggle even if I pretended to be annoyed.

When we were teenagers I finally knit a nose warmer for him. It is the silliest project I ever undertook or designed. It was black; a miniature cone-shaped hat with two long crocheted ties coming off of either side. I still remember the grin on his face when I gave it to him. He had a great grin, and a sense of humor that aged well along with him. I am fairly certain I have not personally known anyone who could come close to being as funny. Quite a story teller too, and a passionate one at that. His stories are the best and the funniest, with the most terrific sprinkling of willful adjectives and witty observations.

Last year he passed away; just short of his 52nd birthday. He had cancer that had spread too much by the time they caught it. We learned he was ill in early February and by early April he passed away. I had a strong premonition that I had to get to Denver to see him in late March. He was being treated and it seemed he had a good chance for survival, but I had this feeling. I was going through a very rough time financially at the time, and had been for a couple of years. I literally only had about $250 in the bank and that was pretty much it. But, I loaded up the car, took my daughter and her husband with me and we drove to Denver in the snow and made our way to him.

Over a period of a few days, the entire family came to see him. Some from the Denver area, others flew out from California. It was a terrible and wonderful thing to be with him at that time and for us all to be together. My son and daughter were there, my parents, all the brothers and sisters, wives and husbands and nieces and nephews. We were afforded this extraordinary opportunity to say goodbye to him and to let him know he could go in peace with our love and support.

Fireflys Fushia Barn FlowersOne morning we were told he might possibly live only a couple of hours longer. He was heavily sedated because of pain, but somehow managed to ask for my sister and I to come to his side. We were standing on either side of him, holding his hands and wondering if he wanted to say something to us but he did not. I remembered my sister saying that he told her “America the Beautiful” was his favorite song and that they had sung it together in the hospital room a few days earlier. He loved the story of how the song was inspired by the view from Pike’s Peak, a view he treasured as well.

As we stood there beside him, for some reason I started singing “America the Beautiful” softly and my sister joined in. Soon he too started singing as best he could. He could not open his mouth because of the medications he was on, but he was making the tune and forming the words behind his closed lips. One by one the other family members in the room began singing as well. It was the most poignant moment of my life, one I doubt will be matched by another.

We sang a few more songs together, all of us. The last one was “Zippity Do Dah”, which he also sang with us. Within an hour or two he regained full consciousness and everything seemed to be turning around. It was actually confusing and disconcerting because of what we had been told earlier. He sat up, had someone help him to the restroom and suddenly he was a man who seemed to be on the mend rather than one who was on his deathbed.

He didn’t pass away that day, in fact he said he felt as if he had reached Nirvana. He was transferred to a hospice and had several more days to say his goodbyes, to hear and feel the love we all expressed.

Fireflys White Barn FlowersI was very fortunate to get to spend the last fourteen days of his life with him in the hospital part of the time, the hospice the last few days. We spoke of some important things, and I got to hold his hand. I got to see my other brothers minister to him, hold his hands, rub his feet, tell him they loved him. They are manly men, and such expressions and gestures of love were not their normal way.

I miss him, but he said, “Life is for living, and you have plenty of that left to do.” I promised him I would not be sad thinking of him, and would not dwell on grief. I have cried plenty; it would have been unhealthy not to have done so. But I rouse myself from the tears and look out toward life and think of him and smile. He loved farms and farming and rural life, even though he was not a farmer. He always had a garden of some kind growing, starting from way back when we were kids in North Carolina. I would like for him to know the happiness I have finally found in my life on this farm with a very good man who I love and who loves me, in a sweet and lovely part of the America.

I am grateful to have knitted that nose warmer for him; grateful for the opportunity to have known such a good boy and such a very, very fine man.

The past few years have been a time of upheaval and change for me and for my family. The passing of my oldest brother set certain things in motion that changed our lives forever. For me personally, the experience inspired a series of life-changing epiphanies I intend to share as I continue forward with this blog. Before long, those epiphanies and the changes they instigated brought me to this place, and for the first time since I was nine years old I have been able to relax deep inside myself.

I have been holding my breath for forty years and finally … peace.

Knitted Dish Towel with Sugar'n Cream YarnThe flower photos are some I shot last week out by our barn. Those flowers are growing rather profusely with wild abandon right about now. The knitted project is a little dish cloth I knitted last night as it rained. The Sugar’n Cream yarn was soft and enjoyable to work with; I used size eight dpns, which were a bit crowded to work on toward the middle of the piece … but that part didn’t last long. I wonder if I will be able to bring myself to wash dishes with this cloth.

Have a beautiful day.

~firefly

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