Category Archives: Mysteries

Hellos and goodbyes

Sorry for the long delay between posts, but things have been a bit out of hand around here. We had early deadline last week because of the holiday, and as soon as I got things under control at work Friday, I handed the reins to another editor and lit out for Southern Illinois.

Ron and I took U.S. 60 across Missouri. We saw several fireflies playing above a ditch alongside the road. I wasn’t sure whether to smile or cry when I saw them, so I did a little of both.

We attended Georgia and Adeline’s funeral on Saturday morning — a sad but beautiful farewell to two beautiful little girls.

On Saturday evening, my friend Brandey, who happened to be in town for the weekend, stopped by to lift my family’s spirits with her unique brand of comedy. She and Oliver bounced off of each other and provided the whole family a much-needed dose of laughter. It was good to see Oliver and Ashley cracking up at Brandey’s outrageous stories. As long as they can laugh, they can get through this.

As we were saying goodnight, I noticed this little creature on the front porch. I’m not sure what sort of bug it is, but it was awfully pretty:


The camera didn’t do its color justice; in real life, it was sort of a sea foam green.

I got up early Sunday morning and wandered outside to find my parents, who were tending the yard at the rental property they own next door to their house. I hadn’t planned to bring the camera outside, but this caterpillar sent me dashing back in to get it:


Once I had the camera in my hand, I started to pay attention to my surroundings. These are just a few of the inhabitants of Mom and Dad’s yard:







On Sunday afternoon, Mom and Grace and I attended a baby shower for my oldest friend. I have known Margaret since I was three days old. She lives in Kentucky, and I hadn’t seen her since my wedding, but time and distance mean little to two noisy, fidgety little girls who grew up together and shared enough laughter and tears (mostly laughter) for a thousand lifetimes.

You know the scene in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood where Teensy sticks the pecan up her nose? That could have been Margaret. Or me, for that matter. We were always pulling stuff like that. Crazy little girls who grew up to be crazy women. Margaret’s son is lucky. He’s getting a mom who understands — and remembers — what it is to be a child and understands the importance of letting a kid be a kid. Theirs will be a house full of laughter and mischief.

Ron and I got up Monday morning and took the long way home. I wasn’t paying attention to the road, so I didn’t notice when Ron overshot a turn and wound up several miles off-course. We ended up taking Illinois 148 to Mount Vernon, where I insisted on stopping to visit an old friend.

Before Wal-Mart took over the world, Margaret and I would tag along with our moms on trips to Mount Vernon to buy craft supplies and Christmas decorations and cake decorating supplies and dollhouse furniture and all sorts of other delights at Dobb’s variety store.

Odd that I should have ended up there today.

Dobb’s is closing. They had signs up all over the place advertising a 60 percent off liquidation sale. The playground of my youth suddenly seemed dark and dusty and sad. Was it always that way? Did I just forget? I looked around the store, and the last two weeks suddenly came crashing down on me. It took every ounce of strength I had to keep from bursting into tears in the middle of the store.

I bought four cookie cutters. Someday, Margaret’s son will stand in my kitchen and use them to cut out sugar cookies, and I’ll tell him about the good times his mother and I had shopping together at Dobb’s when we were his age.

I slept most of the way to St. Louis. My spirits lifted when we pulled off the interstate and onto Route 66. By the time Ron and I finished splitting a concrete at Ted Drewes’, I felt much better. A brief shower and the accompanying clouds made for some interesting lighting effects this evening:


Sunset Motel, Villa Ridge, Mo.


Beacon Motel sign, Pacific, Mo. (recently restored and installed atop a car wash).


Restored Phillips 66 station, Cuba, Mo.


Witmor Farms, near Waynesville, Mo.

Incidentally, the Sunset Motel and Witmor Farms are both for sale. The Sunset has been closed for a long time; Witmor Farms closed just this year. I hope someone buys them and restores them. I’ve spent enough time saying goodbye lately. I don’t want to do it again right now.



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.


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.