From whence this rain cometh?

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The gray skies hover about, crowding the skies above me. It’s not that I don’t like rain, or the chance of rain… because sometimes rain is good and needed. It’s just that I’ve noticed lately that it keeps following me around. There’s no symbolism here, so put that out of your mind. I’m as happy as a jaybird on a sunny day, but when the clouds start rolling in, I get annoyed. The thing is, I like the sunshine. People are happy when it’s sunny. They smile more, laugh heartier, and do activities that encourage friendships… like going to sporting events or picnics. 

When I was living in Hawaii the first time, it was sunny all day until around 4 pm. It was great! Then, right on time, it would shower for fifteen minutes and be gone. It was refreshing and made the flowers seem even more beautiful. But on my third trip living there, it was as if someone forgot to turn off the shower. Days on end it would rain without mercy. My bones began to ache, my head throbbed and I sat at the window like the kids in The Cat in the Hat, just waiting for it to end. I did not get depressed, but I must admit I was a bit grumpy. There’d be no hiking, paddle boarding or golf that day!

I often wonder what people see in the rain in places like Oregon and Washington. Oh, I get that the forests are gorgeous and the rivers and lakes are always full, but to have a black cloud looming overhead most of the day would get old. I imagine hiking and playing in those lovely rivers and lakes on a sunny day must be like heaven… but oh, the rain!! I’d be as fat as a cow if I lived where it rained all day. I’d feel like I needed to bake. Oh no, that would be disastrous!

Its the first day of summer and I must admit, I awoke aching and annoyed! How could it possibly rain on the first day of summer, for Pete sakes? This morning was the third straight day of rain in my Southeast corner of Virginia. Hasn’t someone told the big guy up there that it’s summer?? I slipped on my flip flops and reminded myself that I would have to change shoes if I was to go out later. What a way to start the day… and then, as I fiddled in the kitchen and stretched out my aching bones, a ray of sun slipped through a cloud. It danced upon my face for just a moment before is hid behind a light gray cloud moving across the sky. I smiled. Could it be that sunshine was in my future? 

You betcha!… Suddenly I’m as happy as a frog on a log singing his favorite song! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and even my favorite squirrel is out collecting nuts. No time for writing now, the sun is calling my name and I’m out the door. Isn’t it great when the rain disappears? Gotta love rainbows!

A Change in Landscape: A Tribute To Military Members

I thought this was the perfect time to re-share this for Memorial Day.

vikkilynnsmith

ocean view from Ford Island at Sunset, Oahu, Hawaii

Sun beat down upon the decaying pavement as I padded towards the water’s edge. The air was clear and the skies moved about with the changing island breeze. I had walked this way many times before, and today, with music filling my ears of piano and violins, I slipped away from my busy world. My arms found their way in a swinging motion, like snow-skiing across the vast concrete before me. I was out to replace my previous walking time, and my steps became urgent with purpose. But the truth was, I was distracted by a sudden change in landscape. I tried to push the thought of the island’s transformation out of my head, and raced on past the military patrol boats in the harbor and the once vibrant military buildings that now looked all but forgotten.

Out in the distance the clouds rolled in over the mountains and rain…

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I Did It All

Vikki on a tour busThe ray of sun beat down through the car window as I moved across the pavement in my hurried state. I wasn’t going anywhere, but the feel of the car beneath me felt better as the peddle pushed further to the floor. I smiled, and knew I should behave and drive as a fifty-something year old and not a twenty-something year old. But what the hell, I felt like twenty, so why not act like it? Today the tunes rocked the small leathered compartment of my new wheels, life was good.

Around me, I looked at fellow drivers as they went by, old and young, going about their business as if no one noticed. But I noticed. I looked to see their smiles, their frowns, their flapping mouths as they droned on to an uninterested listener, and children even, singing in the backseat of a car at the top of their lungs. Watching people and knowing people is what life is all about, and there is no better place to witness life than speeding down the highway. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But boy, the stories I could write about the people I see in cars!

The truth is, it wasn’t the people in the cars that made me smile today, it was the song playing on the radio. The beat grabbed me the moment it came over the speakers, and before I could stop myself, my thumbs turned into drumsticks. Then the lyrics entered, and I realized One Republic was singing about my life. How could this be when I have never met any of the band members, especially Ryan Tedder the writer of the song? But yet, with every word, they sang a song I would have penned for myself if I had songwriting abilities, “I Lived.”

Oh, I know I’m not anyone special, and probably have minor life experience compared to most, but living is not about how many unusual experiences one has, but how one lives! For me, life is finding the positive things around you and learning to experience everything life has to offer.

Part of being successful at living life to the fullest is having confidence in yourself to try something new. I don’t believe that being a person high on life is something you are born with. I’m pretty sure I was a timid little girly-girl when I was young and growing up with four brothers.

But as I grew, and my confidence began to grow, I found that experiencing life was exciting.  I could meet new people without feeling uncomfortable. I sought out strangers on trips and tried to get to know and learn from them. I would travel, and not just to famous destinations, but to out of the way little places like Wall, South Dakota or Artesia, New Mexico to see what was there… just for the heck of it. If there was an adventure park, museum or monument, I stopped and checked them out too. I even stopped once at a strange rock formation in the middle of the desert. Trust me, it was worth the stop. Isn’t that living?

As I got much older, I found more courage than I have ever had before. I began to 10400128_10153299641386671_4670492881694448979_n.jpghike and do sports that I always wanted to try. I even snorkeled in Hawaii’s waters without drowning myself! I’ve climbed lighthouses, traveled Europe, hosted dignitaries at my home, and sat quietly on my porch as birds filled my head with music. Isn’t that living?

I’ve held a new born baby in my arms, comforted a grieving friend, rejoiced at weddings and sang in the shower (even when I knew someone could hear me.) I’ve laughed so hard that my laughter turned to tears, cried till I had no more tears to shed, and marveled at the beauty of a sunset on a cool fall evening. Isn’t that living?

I think “doing it all” is a subjective statement to many, but to me… it’s living every moment, in the moment, with purpose and feeling. It’s taking a chance in learning something out about yourself that you never knew before and embracing the idea that until one’s death, you have the chance to change and grow and live life in ways that you never imagined. For this, I’ve lived.

I’ve lived each day, loved by my family, encouraged by my peers and am now eager to see what is waiting out there for me to explore. For when I pass from this world, those who surround my casket will not mourn me but celebrate and say, “she lived.”

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived

I, I did it all
I, I did it all

My Mother’s Hair

 

daughter and mom smiling at camera

Her wavy silver hair flipped up at the ends as she ran her hand through the top of her hair.

“How’s that?” she asked me before we took another selfie.

“Better,” I replied with a smile.

Her hair had always been an issue for her, and finally she was figuring it out after 77 years. I remember telling her on more than one occasion not to cut it so short, but then I would see her and she had cut it down to the quick. Oh, for crying out loud, I would think. She had amazing hair and she was always chopping it off! Until now, she finally convinced a beautician to just trim the ends.

I can still recall my mother when she was young, and how her jet-black hair fell across her shoulders. There were no barrettes to hold it out of her eyes, just maybe a headband occasionally. Thick as a down-filled coat, her heavy curls pulled down upon her back. I loved the smell of it and her.

When we lived in Spain, in the sixties, she had it made up by a hairdresser who came to our house. I couldn’t imagine how so much hair could stay piled up on top of her head. It was brushed and sectioned, teased and bobby-pinned. There must have been ten pounds of hairspray holding it all in place. But gosh, was she beautiful. At night, she wrapped it in layers of toilet paper, like the wrapping of an ancient queen upon her death. Then she would sleep half-sitting up trying to keep herself from crushing it. In the morning, I was always amazed as she unwound the crushed tissue, and there without a hair out of place was my mother’s beautiful hairdo.

As I grew older, so did she. Her hair took on a special accent of its own that always intrigued my friends. From her temple, a stripe of silver began to grow. I often wondered how she felt about that stripe that mimicked the tail of a skunk. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but she was only in her twenties when it appeared. She never said anything about it. But ironically, it became her and would represent the dynamic person she would become over the years.

I’m not sure when it happened, which came first, but she dyed and cut her hair all off. It was a shock. I suppose she didn’t want that gray strip spreading since she was only in her thirties. She had always had young looking skin, and to have a head of silver would clearly age her beyond her years. So rightly so, she dyed her hair. But to cut it? Oh heavens! Her beautiful curly hair was butchered, leaving her with a type of pixie that was easier to manage for a mother of five. By then I was a teenager and having my mom cut her hair was just something that happened.

I suppose her short hair fit her. With a thin face, hazel eyes and thin bones, she had more energy than six moms combined. She was the ultimate mother, running here and there for every child and every event. I never saw her worry about her hair, it IMG_7831was as if it was just there like her eyebrows or mouth. But still when she kissed me good night, she smelled like my mom.

Then it happened. I was departing the plane in Hawaii, coming home from college for Christmas, when I saw my mother. With arms stretched out and a smile on her face, she ran to greet me. But I had to stop a second to take her in. She had a whole head of silver hair! How could this be? Wasn’t it only six months since I left? I tried to smile, but I was confused. Her soft loving arms wrapped around me and she whispered how she had missed me. Submitting to her, I could smell the sweet scent of home upon her skin and I knew it didn’t matter what color her hair was. She was my mom.

When I got married, my mother was not even forty-five years old. Unlike her, I wore my hair long, determined never to cut it. So, when years had gone by and my mother aged gracefully with time, she grew into her grandmotherly silver hair. And, oh boy, did she have beautiful silver hair. My children loved it along with strangers who marveled at its brilliance. But still, she wore it shorter than she needed to.

Then one year she decided she needed a change. She let it grow like she had never before. She struggled to tame her curls that now had a life of their own. She plastered barrettes above her ears to hold down the heavy strands that threatened to    

lady with long silver curly hairblind her while she cooked or read. And when she arrived at her granddaughter’s wedding, her long beautiful locks were the talk of the town. How lovely her hair looked against her matching top of silver and blue.

But it wasn’t long before she was letting some crazy beautician chop it all off! I wasn’t happy. It was so gorgeous and free.

To me, her long hair was everything she was as a woman. She was wild and funny, soft and edgy, creative and opinionated, everything I loved about her. Oh, it didn’t say how smart she was or how loyal, but it did say she was a lioness amongst her pride.

And then I realized, after the initial shock, that again, her hair did not make her. She would remain the vivacious woman everyone has known her to be. She is going to continue to be the out-going, full of life person her children and grandchildren know her to be no matter how short she cuts her hair. She’s still going to love her husband. She’s still going to love her children. She’s still going to bebop around town, piddle in her kitchen and babysit grand-dogs. And she is still going to smell like my mom… even when she is putting the peace sign above my head in a perfectly great selfie shot. Because she is and always will be the best mom a girl could ever have…. Hair or no hair.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom…. I love you!

A Change in Landscape: A Tribute To Military Members

ocean view from Ford Island at Sunset, Oahu, Hawaii

Sun beat down upon the decaying pavement as I padded towards the water’s edge. The air was clear and the skies moved about with the changing island breeze. I had walked this way many times before, and today, with music filling my ears of piano and violins, I slipped away from my busy world. My arms found their way in a swinging motion, like snow-skiing across the vast concrete before me. I was out to replace my previous walking time, and my steps became urgent with purpose. But the truth was, I was distracted by a sudden change in landscape. I tried to push the thought of the island’s transformation out of my head, and raced on past the military patrol boats in the harbor and the once vibrant military buildings that now looked all but forgotten.

Out in the distance the clouds rolled in over the mountains and rain showers replenished the earth with much-needed water. Smiling, I marveled at the vibrant rainbow that soon followed. Still, the sun bore down on my shoulders and beads of moisture dripped from my brow. I loved to walk here on this hallowed land that once experienced perhaps the greatest tragedy in American history. The smaller island found within the confines of a larger one was full of secrets and surprises, and it was perhaps this reason I so enjoyed my walks here on Ford Island.

rainbow behind the USS Missouri in Hawaii

USS Missouri

Today this side of the island seemed quieter than usual. The tourists had all but disappeared and families residing nearby were nowhere to be seen. The Oklahoma Memorial stood like a forgotten ship upon land, while the USS Missouri clanked against the dock, reminding itself that it remained as strong as it ever was.

 

USS Arizona Memorial and USS Mercy in Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona and USS Mercy in Pearl Harbor

 

 

Like a long-lost friend, the old banyan tree with its names proudly etched upon it, welcomed me as I made my way up the street past the house with nineteen cats. Its foliage shaded my overheated body, and as much as I wanted to stop, I did not. For not but a few steps away lie a beautiful memorial of white, and its appearance was always changing depending on the day. I looked forward to seeing the USS Arizona each time I walked, and today was no different. Its flag flew strong and vibrant against the island trade winds, reminding me once again of those that had fallen in time of war.

I did not stay long to recall the reason for the memorial, for still I was haunted by the change of landscape found within the confines of the island. Moving past the deserted playground with the sun blurring my eyes, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was upon the site that most troubled me before my walk.

With the sidewalk bending its way through uncut grass, I found myself suddenly upon the main road. Long and straight, hot and silent. I stopped as if at Arlington or Punchbowl to take in the sight before me. Boots. Not just one pair or two, nor twenty or one hundred, but thousands. Each with a name tag, photo, Date of Death and an American Flag. Stopped like a wooden statue, my eyes scoured the main roads in and out of the island. As far as I could see, they were all still there, boots… calling to me to pay attention, to stop and read and remember those that gave all.

rows of military boots lining the roads of Ford Island with tags and pictures of those that have given their lives since 9/11

My phone found its way out of my pocket and I lowered myself to the level of the first boot. Taking a photo, I stopped suddenly, remembering that this was not just another photo-op of history but a memorial to a real individual. A Marine who gave his life in 2004. He was young, like my own son… Catching my breath, I righted myself and watched as cars moved slower than usual down the once img_4732WWII runway. How strange to have a boot of a fallen soldier upon the same soil of fallen WWII airmen.

As I began to walk, my eyes caught each ghost soldier, sailor and airman’s eyes as they followed me down the long stretch of black now radiating heat greater than usual. I zigged and zagged across the street reading names and learning about loved ones who would never forget their lost brother, sister, husband or wife. Replacing flags and righting boots I mourned for those left behind.

And then I saw them. Two boots laced together, a husband and wife. Choked up, my hand could not bear to take a photo. Three boots of MP’s, buddies till the end… Four boots, forever together. I began to run along the road, seeing for the first time the faces of people standing in a long line waiting for something…. Their vacant eyes searching mine, their smiles urging me on. Not a runner, my breath was not labored nor quick, but steady as I passed each individual. They reminded me of my freedoms, my family, everything that was good in my life. My eyes moistened and my brain began to scream at the horrors of war. And then I stopped, crying in the street with lone boots at my feet. I would remember. How could I not? I would remember them all as I should, as we all should…. And why wouldn’t we?

Boots of fallen MPs4 boots strung together

 

 

 

 

 

As I turned towards my car, I stopped and glanced one last time down the two long roads before me. Boots stood at attention as others followed my footsteps, reading, remembering and crying. The boots won’t be here for long, but the memory of them will be here forever.

Boots lining the road as far as one can see

Imprisoned

View of mountains of North Shore Oahu with clouds rolling in.

In the quiet of my room, I do not hear the sirens blaring or dogs barking. I cannot see the walls that surround the  unlikely fortresses on an island of sand and tourists, nor the cats that stare from beneath the bushes. But I know they are there, and just that fact makes me sad. I didn’t know they were there when I first arrived on the island, nor when I entered my shiny new house on the hill over-looking the city. But one day, while I was out exploring behind my house, I saw them hidden just at the base of the hill, nestled in a small valley out of sight from the world…the penitentury and the animal quarantine center.

I had been looking over the valley at the neighboring mountains when the alarm rang from below. Echoing off the canyon walls, my eyes instinctively traveled to hence the sound came, now loud and clear. There amongst the red dirt and blue sky, barbed wire dotted the tops of the secured white facility, running into the small towers thatprison hidden in a valley stood guard over unwanteds, criminals the world wanted to forget. Watching as best I could from my perch, I waited curiously to see if there had been a jail break or fight in the yard. But there was nothing…just the steady siren sending a message to someone somewhere that all was not right within the walls. Nearby, businesses crowded an industrial complex. Cars sped down the road just in front of the prison as if it were simply not there. No one seemed to mind the blaring sound that still wailed from within the walls. With a heavy sigh, I continued on the path I had begun in the direction of the city.

IMG_0328The sun now rose high in the sky and perspiration dotted my forehead as I caught myself from stumbling down the steep incline in front of me. If only there were a breeze, surely the path would be more enjoyable, I thought. A cat scurried across the path before me and as I came upon it, I found several sets of eyes peering out from under the brush. I had never seen a group of cats congregated in the middle of the day, and as sweet as I said,cat hiding in bushes “Hi Kitties,”I felt uneasy as their stares urged me to move on. Having only taken a few steps beyond the unfriendly felines, I got the first notion that up ahead something unusual was occurring. My steps quickened as the first barks grew in volume. Was there a hunting club nearby? I wondered. But, of course, that would be silly since there was nothing on the island to hunt.

As I rounded the bend, a site that I will never forget came into view. Stopping in my tracks, my breath caught in my throat as I froze in utter surprise. The sound grew as one after another dog joined in chorus, as if calling me to rescue them. Before me rows and rows of brown outdoor kennels lined the floor of the valley, each with its own chain-linked outside area. The hair lifted on my neck and then the tears welled in my eyes. How could these poor dogs be forced to live like this, a voice inside me shouted. I realized that I had found the island quarantine center.dog quarantine kennels

Suddenly my feet were moving quickly across the now paved road that ran along the hillside. Pushing myself up and away from the animals, I rounded the bend and headed home in almost a sprint as the howls and barks chased me from behind. Not until I was half-way home did the sounds fade within my ears, and I slowed my pace dog kennelsfor the rest of the climb back home. Reaching my door, thankful to be home, I heard a new siren belt its way up the hill, and I quickly opened the door and escaped inside my walls of silence.

Leaning against the counter, my labored breathing settled to a steady pace as I shook my head in confusion. How could two totally opposite facilities be sitting next to each other, one that housed animals that people adored and loved and couldn’t wait to have in their homes, and one that house a different kind of animal that no one wanted and hoped would never be released? And as I stood there in my quiet kitchen, I suddenly realized that the cats were unbelievably caught between the two opposing sets of animals, for they must have escaped the quarantine but had no one to love them. I moved to my patio window and looked out across the valley. From my view I could not see the two facilities below me, but I could see the cats scurrying past my yard in search of something I knew not what. I pulled the blinds not wanting to see.

And yet, here I sit in the quiet of my house, the sounds of sirens and barking dogs lost in the darkness outside. I know that somewhere a cat awaits someone to love, a dog barks for its owner and a prison mate wonders if he will ever be free… and me, I am imprisoned by that which surrounds me. For I am a tender heart, and knowing that each of these animals suffers makes me no different than them.

 

Golden Retriever

In memory of Sequoia

Author’s Note: As an animal lover, I encourage you to help through donations or volunteer activities at your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter. You might even find a Quarantine facility nearby that needs your help too. For more information following the links below:

Humane Society

ASPCA

US Quarantine Stations

The Boy on the Beach…

 

Handicapped young man standing at the shore break

The tide crept in as the sun shone high over head.
The waves steady and loud crashed upon the shore with each roll of the tide.
Shifting in our seats as perspiration found its way across our skin, we watched silently at the lone figure just at the shore break.
His thin body dancing as sea-foam touched his toes.
His arms flailing above his head, mouth screeching with excitement.
Next to me my husband straightened and placed his hands upon the arms of his chair.
The waves grew with each approaching tide, and yet, the young man remained at the edge of the water.
My relaxed feet upon the sand, now steadied themselves into a standing position, I too shifted in my chair.
He was not your ordinary teenager… he was special.

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Why was he alone at the beach? Surely there was someone nearby…
Crashing at his knees, the waves rose towards the young man.
His unsteady legs beat against the sand as he charged the slope of the beach.
“AAAhhh,” he screamed in desperation.
Stopping, he turned to eye the water and without pause, chased the receding water to the rocky edge of the shore.
Eyeing my husband in silent conversation, we watched worriedly.
My husband shifted uncomfortably forward, preparing himself to rescue the man-child should the ocean catch him off guard.

IMG_0206A splash of red caught our eyes as a woman quickly descended upon the beach.
Her eager hand caught the teenager as a wave perilously charged overhead.
Rising we watched, ready, worried.
Giddy and energized, the boy stumbled behind his mother, she smiling through her panic.
Falling, the water tumbled across their bodies as they crawled haphazardly away from the shore rocks.
Her voice was lost to us, but her smile remained throughout her rescue.
He, unaware of his peril. She, fully committed to his safety.
Holding onto one another, they weathered the wave one after another.
Laughter rising above the waves, easing our worry.
We lowered ourselves into our chairs…
Watching as mother guided, warned, encouraged, and loved her son while embracing a day at the beach.