I read a lot. Most of my reading/writing is performed, orchestrated, conducted in the early morning hours when my mind is fresh, there are no interruptions, and I’m at the peak of creativity. To Ginnie’s amazement and a little consternation, I arise around 2 a.m., without an alarm, pour water through the Bunn coffee maker and read the daily Bible meditation. It is positive reinforcement of a faith I already possess.
High on caffeine, this is a spiritual time, a magical time. One morning, as I listened to Ginnie’s father’s grandfather clock chime Westminster Abbey and then strike four times for 4 a.m., I looked down at the book I was reading, and the title of the new chapter was “4 O’clock.” I knew without a doubt that there was more going on than just a caffeine buzz and imagination. There was a presence that was directing my thoughts, words and reading. I raised my arms to the cathedral ceiling, closed my eyes, and felt the warmth of God’s love pour over me.
Around 6 a.m., after getting Ginnie off to work, I usually lean my head back on the soft covering of the recliner, and nap a little, my book still in my hands. In my sleep I enter the book and interact with the characters, like writing myself into the story. Sometimes my parents or an old friend, all of whom are deceased, will appear. We tumble through the story together as if it were meant for us. I awake gently, my hands on the book, my finger tips touching the printed words. I realize I have been visited by my parents or the old friend. It’s a nice feeling, as if they stopped by to say, “Hi.”
I look up and see the sun shining on the articles of Ginnie’s and my life, like a beacon into the past and the future. I see the bad times for what they were: periods of darkness that were necessary for growth. The worst times were not almost dying of alcoholism, or the loss of a love, or a divorce (although they were bad enough), but were the times when I was living alone in strange cities, not knowing anyone, or who I was, feeling lost. These were desperate times of survival, grasping for anything (alcohol) or anyone who came along.
My gaze focuses on our plants. We have a caladium plant that’s also known as “Heart of Jesus.” It did well for awhile, in the picture window with the other plants. But it started to wilt and die out. Thinking it might be root bound, I re-potted it, twice, and it is now in this huge, over-sized clay pot. Still, it drooped and withered. As a last resort (it’s dying anyway), I took it out of direct sunlight and put it in the shade. Heart of Jesus is now thriving.
After exercising, I slog out in my farmer boots to do chores. Is this the real world or am I dreaming? I do not always know the difference between a thing and the shadow of a thing.
Our two-and-a-half acre Empty Nest Farm is a reenactment of my youth. However, at age 13, I despised chores. At age 70, I love them. Why? Because they keep me grounded.
Barney the barn cat, runs with me, full of sass and recriminations, getting in the way and causing me to stumble. Blossom, our Angus heifer, moos, awaiting her ration of feed and hay. She pokes her head through the gate for an ear scratch. I accommodate. The smell of manure is comforting. Blossom got out the other day and I didn’t even know it. A neighbor driving by saw her and politely herded her back into the pen.
The chickens come pouring out of the hen house for their morning bread crumbs and corn, cackling, excited for the adventures of the new day. I gather the eggs—beautiful, farm fresh, brown eggs, still warm.
This is the real world, and I’m thankful for it. Happy Thanksgiving.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.