Sunday, March 19, 2006

Alone At Twig Forest

I went out to Twig Forest today ...ostensibly to rake pinestraw for garden mulch. With 20 acres of planted pines, we have an unlimited supply of this most excellent stuff.

No one went with me today, no paintball warring kids or trail cutting machete crews. Just me, a rake, a wheelbarrow and a pickup. The pinestraw is thick with lots of pine cones and twiggy sticks mixed in, not like the storebought bales that have been raked and gleaned by crews of illegal immigrants. Mine has rough parts and me.

Raking, like other mundane tasks, allows for deep thinking since none is needed to accomplish the task at hand. I was thinking about two dear friends who will almost certainly pass away this week. I'm optimistic to a fault sometimes, but when hearts and kidneys begin to fail in the elderly, a true recovery is rare. I'd love to be wrong about this.

These two people, both in their 80's, are not family, but they have always filled every requirement of that title, except for the direct DNA link or legal contract that makes it official. They have lived full lives, raised kids, and been a huge part of my life.

She, my mother's best friend has always been "Aunt" to me. I don't know if that's a southern thing or not, this tendency for very close non family members to be labeled aunt or uncle. Widowed twice, she is a sweet lady who has had so much trial and tragedy in her life that I used to joke, "Aunt R. must have done something horrible in another life, because she just can't get a break in this one."
I'm not joking anymore.

The wheelbarrow is full, overflowing actually, and I push it around the pines, down through the ditch, and up onto the dirt road where the old pickup waits patiently rusting. At the bed of the truck, I reach into the pinestraw and toss mounds of it over the tailgate. Then back into the woods to rake more...

He was the next door dad in the "Leave It To Beaver" type neighborhood I grew up in. His daughters are like sisters to me, we grew up together and share Godparent duties between our own kids. Our parents stayed together, in love, in the same houses they built in the mid-50's as newlyweds. Our families could not be closer if there was a blood link. His wife is very frail also, and I fear for her if he should go.

It's quiet out at Twig on this spring afternoon. Hot enough to work up a sweat, I notice it because it's been months since that has happened. The flitty warblers that had rustled among the palmettos and gallberry are gone north or south, wherever LGB's go. Their busy twittering is noticeably absent. The only real sound is the swish of the rake and the wind in the tops of the young pines.

Eventually, the truck is full of brown gold. I pile the wheelbarrow and rake atop the needles and wonder what the week will bring.


OldHorsetailSnake said...

Golly, Cracker. Just...golly.

Floridacracker said...

Thank you Hoss.

Alan Thomas said...

Hi,cousin, my dad said you had a site up about Florida and the interesting things you do. I found it be very neat and I am glad to see you and your family doing well.

Cousin, Alan

rick said...

I didn't know they were so ill. Like hurricanes that come in cycles so do deaths.I am afraid we are aproaching another cycle in the lives of our families.

rick said...

I didn't know they were so ill. Like hurricanes that come in cycles so do deaths.I am afraid we are approaching another cycle in the lives of our families.

John Cowart said...

Hi Cracker,
I'm glad you have a place like The Twigs to go. Raking and thinking go together.
I wish you peace.

doubleknot said...

The cycle of life goes on. We are the sad ones because we miss them.
Like the other comment said it is a good thing you have The Twigs. I was very touched by your post. Letting go is the hardest thing - we watched my father for eight months struggle but it wasn't until Mom told him it was OK she would be OK that he let go and was released from his pain.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

How sad, FC, to be losing both of them. We are at that age where we'll face those losses again and again. Learning to say good bye is a heartbreak.

The Fat Man said...

What do say at a time like this Cracker?

Getting older has it's down side, the ones you love get older too...

Celebrate the time you did have with them and as long as you hold them in your memory they are still with you ...

Leslie said...

You portray thoughtful melancholy without becoming maudlin. I find that singularly appropriate. That is how I would like others to consider my last days - and with a huge helping of happy celebration of my life thrown in, too!

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

So sorry about the sadness that you must be feeling at this time...It's hard to see loved ones so sick.
Your Twig Forest seems to be your refuge...a place you can go to be alone and to think while you accomplish the task of collecting mulch. We all need quiet alone time to contemplate things.

Floridacracker said...

Hey! How good to hear from you. Keep in touch.

Well said.

You're right. Who can rake blankly? I think like crazy when I sand, rake, paint...

Just the way it is. Thanks.


Thanks. You can't be sad for a good life well-lived, just sad to say goodbye.

It was a convenient escape that afternoon. I guess I was multitasking...

Hick said...

Nice job of writing. Very thoughtful.

roger said...

you do use your idle time well.

Floridacracker said...


Idle crack me up.

benning said...

Up north, where I was reared, family friends also became our Aunts and Uncles as we grew up.

What a nice post! Very nice. Sad, but refreshing all the same.


thingfish23 said...

Yeah, man. Those mundane tasks do allow for some deep stuff to come to the surface of one's thoughts.

I don't know from much, but I can tell you that my Dad has been dealing with heart/kidney issues for a long time now, and he's still kickin'.

I guess I am trying to say that I hope your predictions do not come true - unless they would be a release for the people you speak of.

And if release they be, that'll at least mitigate the pain of the loss.

(not like you didn't know that, but...)

Floridacracker said...

Yeah, I thought that habit was more than just a regional thing. Thanks.

Well said. Your Dad does offer some hope. Thanks.