When we were kids, we’d capture fireflies in a jar, hoping to bring them inside to light up our rooms. Somehow it never worked. Fireflies aren’t meant to be captives. They’re meant to be free spirits, slipping through the evening shadows to bring delight to a child’s eyes for a fleeting moment before moving on to brighten up someone else’s darkness.

Little Georgia finished her work this afternoon and left us all richer for having known her.

It came to me that she and Adeline are like fireflies, sharing their light with us for an instant before fading into the twilight.

This hymn has been running through my thought all day:

Mother’s Evening Prayer

O gentle presence, peace and joy and pow’r;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s falt’ring flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.

Love is our refuge; only with mine eye
Can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall:
His habitation high is here, and nigh,
His arm encircles me, and mine, and all.

O make me glad for ev’ry scalding tear,
For hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain!
Wait, and love more for ev’ry hate, and fear
No ill, since God is good, and loss is gain.

Beneath the shadow of His mighty wing;
In that sweet secret of the narrow way,
Seeking and finding, with the angels sing:
“Lo, I am with you alway,” — watch and pray.

No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;
No night drops down upon the troubled breast,
When heaven’s aftersmile earth’s teardrops gain,
And mother finds her home and heav’nly rest.

Mary Baker Eddy

Godspeed, little fireflies. Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with us, if ever so briefly.

Aunt Emily



My mom says every rainbow is a promise. I’m claiming this one. It’s a special one. I saw it on my way back from St. Louis just before sunset Sunday evening. It was huge and very intense when I first saw it, but before I could find a place to pull over so I could take a picture, it faded and nearly disappeared. Just as I approached an exit ramp, it came back, maybe even brighter than before. It reminded me of little Georgia, fading and then rallying over and over again all weekend.

Before I left for St. Louis on Friday, I spoke with a friend about the twins and my concern for them. My friend advised me to keep my light on, spiritually speaking. He said something to the effect that as long as someone is keeping a light on in some room, the house can’t go totally dark. He told me to keep supplying a warm, welcoming light. He talked about candles, but the vision that came to my thought was of a familiar neon sign cutting through the darkness to welcome a weary traveler.

Coming across western Missouri on I-44, I caught sight of no fewer than four churches with neon crosses glowing softly through the night.

Waynesville cross

I was hurrying at the time, but I promised myself that I would stop on the return trip and photograph them if I had the energy. The one above is at a church near Waynesville. I want to say it was a Baptist church, but I forgot to write down the name of it.

The one below was outside a Methodist church in Sleeper. Both are quite large — probably 30 or 40 feet high — and visible for a long, long way.

Sleeper cross

I made it only as far as Lebanon on Sunday night. I’ve never appreciated the Mother Road more. My mom called just as I was approaching the Lebanon exit and asked me to stop for the night so she wouldn’t have to worry about me driving late at night when I was tired. Normally, I’d argue with her, insist on making just a few more miles, and then end up driving all the way home, but I figured she had enough to worry about Sunday night without adding me to the mix, so I kept talking to her until I was safely ensconced under the canopy at the Munger Moss Motel.

I’d left St. Louis wishing I could either get home and sleep in my own bed or stay with family. When Ramona, the owner of the Munger Moss, greeted me in the lobby, it occurred to me that I was staying with family. I’ve known Ramona for several years, and she was very sweet to Oliver and Ashley when they stayed at her motel one night during their honeymoon. She asked me what I was doing out on the road, and I told her it wasn’t a pleasure cruise this time. Of course she was very understanding and very kind when I explained the situation, and she added her own thoughts and prayers to those going out on behalf of Georgia and her parents.

I checked in, went to my room, and slept well for the first time in days.

I slept in this morning, got up around 9:30, and headed home. Despite a long, deep sleep, I was emotionally drained and wasn’t quite ready to face my everyday life again, and I really wasn’t ready to face the traffic on the interstate, so I took the old road from Springfield to Carthage and paid attention to the small blessings along the way.

Still waters

This is not a spectacular shot. It is not even a good shot. But it is a meaningful shot. I was getting out of the car to take a picture of a bridge, and I was listening to a CD that I’d picked up in the Reading Room a couple of weeks ago. On the CD is a version of the 23rd Psalm. I left the keys in the ignition, as this would be a quick shot, and I could hear the music as I walked toward the bridge. Just as I heard the line “he leadeth me beside the still waters,” I caught sight of this perfectly still creek.

I went ahead and shot the bridge while I was out there:

Spencer bridge

For those interested in such matters, all these images were taken with a little reconditioned Kodak EasyShare C310 that Ron picked up for $85 on a couple of weeks ago. I’d grabbed his camera on the way out the door because my Canon EOS Rebel (which is a much more expensive piece of equipment) is insured against damage but not against loss or theft, and I wasn’t inclined to leave it inside an unattended vehicle in the middle of a major city for hours and hours. The Kodak has its limitations, but for a cheap little point-and-shoot camera, it performs remarkably well.

I hope someday we’ll have the opportunity to see how well it works at capturing images of my beautiful niece running and playing with us. Please continue to lift up Georgia and her parents in your thoughts and prayers.


Georgia on my mind

Sorry for the silence lately. I made a fast trip to St. Louis this weekend to be with my family at the hospital.

Adeline slipped away from us Saturday morning.

Georgia is still hanging in there. It looks like a rough battle for such a tiny girl, but she’s a fighter. She’ll be a pistol when she gets done growing. I’ve already decided that with those long legs and that tenacious streak, she’s going to grow up to be a distance runner. And I’m sure someone in our family will be willing to coach her.

Until then, you know that she and Adeline will both be riding shotgun across all my finish lines.



We have pictures of the girls. Mom says their little ears are ’bout a half-inch long, and their footprints on their birth certificates are, like, an inch and a half long. It’ll take them a little while to grow into those Lightning McQueen surf socks I want to get for them. 😉

This is Adeline.


This is Georgia.


They’re the cutest little things I’ve ever seen. I love their itty-bitty little fingers. I can hardly wait until they’re big enough to come off the ventilators so I can get a better look at their faces.


Double handful

I am pleased to report that as of this afteroon, I am the proud aunt of twin girls: Georgia Anne and Adeline May.

Arriving in a convenient pocket size (about a pound and a half apiece), the girls have already demonstrated that they are true petites Ya-Yas: impatient and capable of making a grand entrance in dramatic style.

Evidently they felt 24 weeks was quite enough time to spend sharing a stuffy, cramped womb, thank you very much. I don’t blame them. If I had to share quarters that tight with my sister, I’d be ready to bust out after about 24 minutes, so I admire their patience.

We’re told the next 24 to 48 hours will be crucial, but the girls are breathing on their own and seem to be in fine condition, and I would ask that you focus your prayers on gratitude for the blessings we have and the blessings that will surely follow in the next few days.

And on that note, the Red Fork Hippie Chick has to dash back to the office to finish out a crazy day that just got a little crazier … but much, much sweeter.


Toads and stools

Two quick smiles:

1. As I was leaving church tonight, I saw a huge toadstool growing in the middle of a landscaped area in the parking lot. The cap had opened out completely and was at least as big around as a softball. Two more toadstools were growing nearby, but they hadn’t opened yet. We get giant toadstools around here. They just pop up overnight after a good rain. I wish I’d had the camera with me; I would have taken a picture.

2. On the way home, my headlights caught something moving. I stopped just in time to watch a frog leaping across the street. It was really cute.


Searching for Orion

It’s interesting to look at the search terms people use to find my blog. The three most popular are “Cars the movie,” “Cow killer wasp,” and “Orion is a-rising.”

Several months ago, I made reference to a song I’d learned in sixth grade that went:

Orion is a-rising
You can see his stars a-blazing
In the middle of a clear-eyed country sky
And it’s never too surprising
That the sky is still amazing
Way out here where nothing hides it from my eyes
And sleeping outside in a bag as a kid
It seems like the best thing that I ever did
And chasing the shadows and the tracks in the snow
Don’t you know?
The moon is on the wane
And it looks like it might rain
Or maybe snow
And how are we to stay here
If there’s no room left to play here
Or to grow? Don’t you know? Don’t you know?

Several people have posted questions and comments about the song, but nobody seems to know who wrote it, who originally sang it, or where to find the sheet music for it.

I e-mailed my junior-high science fair partner, who has been one of my dearest friends for more years than either of us is likely to own up to, and whose mom happens to be a music teacher. I’m hoping she’ll be able to track down the book that had the song in it and shed some light on the subject for us.

If not, ASCAP has an online database containing song titles and publication information. No lyrics, but I may just take some comp time one of these afternoons and start calling the phone numbers listed for the publisher of each “Orion” on the list and see if I can track down the information that way.

Search engines turn up a few references to the song — always in blogs or listservs, and always with the same theme: “I remember singing this great little folk song when I was a kid. Does anybody know how it goes or where to find the music?”

It seems to be the great mystery of my generation. If I can solve it, I expect my blog stats will go through the roof.

The bad news is that I still haven’t tracked down the song. The good news is that while I was searching for it, I came across a different song with the same title by an artist named Gary Moon.

I liked the song — and Moon’s voice, which sounds a LOT like James Taylor’s — so much that I went ahead and downloaded it even though it’s not the Orion I was looking for.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to search for the real thing. Stay tuned….


UPDATE: The composer has surfaced. Please click here to read what he has to say or to find out how to contact him.

UPDATE 2: Click here to hear the song.

Right ‘Angle


I made one of my infamous whirlwind trips west this weekend to help out with a historic preservation project the Texas Old Route 66 Association was doing at the Triangle Motel in Amarillo.

The Triangle is a stunning property — very Deco, with Streamline Moderne curves at the corners and a wonderful old neon sign announcing its presence.

A man named Alan McNeil has purchased the building — which has been used for nothing but storage for the past 20 years — and is trying to restore it to its original glory. It’s a daunting task even if you have an enormous amount of money and time, but Alan is in the position of working on a shoestring while playing beat-the-clock with the city, as the building was slated for abatement (that’s bureaucratese for “demolition”) and has been granted a one-year stay of execution, during which time he has to show significant improvement to the property.

He indicated to me yesterday that the task seemed less overwhelming after our crew descended on the property. It’s amazing what a few dedicated roadies can accomplish in a short time.

I left Tulsa a few minutes before 5 p.m. Friday and headed for Booker, TX, where I was to spend the night with my friends Croc and Cheryl. Croc is president of the Texas Old Route 66 Association.

I rolled into their driveway right around 11:30 p.m. We’re all nightowls, so we sat up for a little while, talking about my trip and the next morning’s project and what they’d been up to recently. I tumbled into bed at 1 a.m.; I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Four hours later, I was back up and enjoying a cup of Red Zinger tea. You know you’re hanging out with the right sort of people when your host fixes you Red Zinger for breakfast and gives you honey instead of sugar to sweeten it. 🙂

On the way from Booker to Amarillo, Cheryl and I saw a coyote loping across the road. I’ve never seen one that close before. It was beautiful.

We got to the Triangle around 8:30 a.m. and spent roughly six hours on an eight-man volunteer crew, dragging 20 years’ worth of detritus — waterlogged furniture, boxes of broken household appliances, and all sorts of discarded rubbish — out of three rooms.


If you can imagine spending a day moving the contents of five or six houses and mucking out a half-dozen stalls, that’s about what our crew (including my friend Willy from Colorado, pictured above) did yesterday. We completely filled one of those giant rollaway trash bins, and we weren’t even putting the furniture in them — we left most of that outside for Alan to move with a bulldozer later, because it was too large and heavy to lift up and chuck into the bin.

It was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it was also some of the most satisfying.


Alan’s dog, Rocky, wanted to help, but Alan wouldn’t let him. He’s a good dog. I think he liked having lots of people around to pet him.

At the end of the day, I got Alan to sign my historic jeans. I didn’t add any stains to them that I could see, but I ground a healthy amount of dirt into the fabric. I ended the day exactly the way I like to end a day at a work site: Sunburned, exhausted, and ecstatic.


When I finished up at the Triangle, I zipped over to Adrian to get pictures of the Bent Door to go with an article Ron wrote for the Route 66 Pulse, then put my foot in the proverbial carburetor and rolled into my driveway at 12:30 a.m. — in plenty of time to take a desperately needed shower (that’s easily the filthiest I’ve been in 20 years!) before I collapsed in a heap.

Our next work day will probably be at the Bent Door sometime this fall. I can hardly wait. 🙂

Hope your weekend was as wonderful as mine. When I get time, I’ll post the pictures I shot here in Tulsa this afternoon.


Amarillo by morning

I’m headed out of town after work tomorrow. I’m going to Texas for a work day at the Triangle Motel on Route 66 in Amarillo. Should be back sometime Sunday. I suspect Ron will probably post something about the project on his blog.

In the meantime, you can entertain yourself with a new WordPress blog created by my snarky and utterly hilarious little sister. Swallow whatever it is you’re drinking and then go read it. (This precaution is absolutely necessary if you don’t want to get started laughing and end up with soda coming out your nose.)

She says she was inspired by my friend Sandy’s blog, Fear and Loathing in the Diaper Pail. I recommend both. Great entertainment.


A must-read

The Christian Science Monitor is running an absolutely fascinating series of stories, accompanied by short video clips, on the captivity and eventual release of Jill Carroll, the correspondent who was kidnapped in January while working for the Monitor in Iraq.

It’s long, but it’s absolutely riveting. Don’t pass up the video clips, either — they provide great insight into how Carroll managed to humanize herself to her captors, which helped keep her alive. She comes across as a bright, engaging, and eminently likeable woman.

As a Christian Scientist, I was of course aware of and absorbed in this story from the moment it broke in January, and like millions of other people of many faiths, I spent many hours praying for Carroll’s release.

As a journalist, I stand in awe of her professionalism and attention to detail — in the face of incredible danger, she not only kept her wits about her enough to stay alive, but she remembered what she had gone to Iraq to do in the first place: Get the story. As far as I’m concerned, she’s up there with the New Orleans Times-Picayune staffers who set aside their own concerns about their own losses and focused all their energy on getting the story out last year when Katrina sent Lake Pontchartrain over its banks and into the city.

Go read the Carroll series. It’s a stellar piece of journalism.