Waiting on the Bus

waiting for the bus

Have mercy, been waiting on the bus all day.

I wait for the bus.  I don’t know when it is scheduled to arrive, but I know that I have an express ticket.

I come from a long line of bus riders.  I suspect most were not waiting as I do.  They may have been surprised when the big silver dog pulled over, air brakes exhaling in a big sigh, boney hand on the chrome lever that opens the last door.

Have mercy, old bus be packed up tight.

I’ve done what I can over the years to delay the arrival.  Tried to manage the risk factors.  Do this, avoid that, get checked-out, watch your numbers.

One thing you can’t manage, though:  genetics.  Your bloodline is uniquely yours, and in the end it punches your ticket.

Cardiovascular disease.  Heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, embolism, etc., etc., etc.  Not many old branches in the family tree.

The stories are part of the family lore.  Great-grandfather on my father’s side, dead in the outhouse.  Great grandfather on my mother’s side, home for lunch — walked by the kitchen window but never made it to the back door.

The latest is a first cousin.  Healthy guy.  Watches his diet, marathon runner, great shape at age 50.  Heart arteries clogged-up like a toilet in a day-care center.  Six bypasses.  Got lucky, that one.  Works in the medical profession, and only had to walk across a parking lot to get to the emergency room.  He followed his dad, who was also 50 when he had the same experience.

My dad was 50.  He was working outside, and didn’t come home for lunch.  Appeared to have sat down on the tailgate of his pickup truck to try and catch his breath, then laid back for one final fine view of that sweet blue Alabama sky.

I’m 53 now.  I figure the bus is running a little behind, so I try to remember to enjoy the wait.  Read some, write some, work some, and look at my baby grand-daughter with wide-eyed wonder, as one might rightly examine a Michelangelo or a Renoir.

I realize some will read this as morbid.  Not at all.  You’re waiting on the bus too.  We all are.  You might not like to think about it.

I’ve got my ticket in my hand, just in case she rolls up.

Well I’ll be ridin’ on that bus till I Cadillac.

 

Words from ZZ Top, “Waiting for the Bus.”

 

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Signs and Wonders

buzzard

An old hillbilly is always on the lookout for signs and wonders.

It comes from a Biblical raisin’.  Bible stories taught me that God often reveals spiritual things in this manner.  God is a poet, among other things, and He never seems to miss the opportunity for a good symbol or metaphor.

For example, the Bible teaches that when Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended on Him in the form of a dove.  A visible sign of a spiritual matter for those present to understand (or not, as it were).

I came across this one (pictured above) just today.  If you can’t make it out clearly, let me explain:  it’s a buzzard, sitting on top of a church.

I reckon it’s what John the Revelator might call a “dead church.”

Signs and wonders.

 

Hill Walker

clay county hole

I like to walk the hill country.

Most of my time in the woods is not as peaceful as you would imagine.  Like the “seed that fell among the thorns,” too often my mind is “choked by the cares of this world.”  When that happens, it becomes difficult to see the forest for the trees.

Occasionally, moments of clarity.  A tired old mind that spends too much time chasing its tail can still examine and explore with all the wonder of a child.  It is mystic when it happens, and I am like a kid at a magic show who pleads with the magician:  “do that again.”

There are miles and miles of woods like these in north central Alabama.  Trees standing quietly, open ground underneath except for sporadic patches of greenbriar, mountain laurel, and sparkleberry.  Years of collected hardwood leaves, pine straw two feet thick.  No tender herbs at ground level.  No sunlight or exposed soil to encourage new beginnings.

The land, like the settlers who once inhabited it, is poor.  Shallow soils over ancient rock.  Steep slopes where a misstep might send you on a two-hundred foot backside ride right down to a rocky-bottomed creek.

It is quiet.  Too quiet.  Quieter than it should be, at least in my mind’s eye.  Not enough birds, not enough deer, not enough squirrels.  Some acorns in the Fall, but otherwise no groceries to feed the critters.

Like I said, it is poor.  Scrub oak and scattered longleaf pine, probably untouched for a hundred years.

The pine that once dominated these hillsides was cut sometimes between 1900 and the Great Depression.  Hauled by narrow-gauge rail down to Hollins, where a Chicago yankee had a big mill that cranked-out tight-grained lumber.  All that is left now is a remnant, scattered trees the loggers missed.

The forester in me knows there is not much that can be done, at least from an economic standpoint.  There is not enough money in cutting these trees to pay for restoring what the land could produce.

The artist in me cannot help but ponder the possibilities.  Leave this cove, cut that patch on the ridge, a little fire here, a little planting over there.

This should be more than a patch of ground that is simply holding the world together.  But these are not my woods, and they will likely remain just as they are for the next hundred years.

I sigh, always a slave to the harsh master of what might have been, or at least could be, if only…

Yet there is still wonder to be found.  Like in the photo above these rambling thoughts.  A hole in the forest, as if God reached down and gave this forsaken ground a good finger-poke.  Limestone table-top slab and crystal clear water.  I calculate my odds of closer look, but there is no descent possible without rope that offers the possibility of ascent when my curiosity is satisfied.

Maybe I will come back another day.  But more likely, no one will lay eyes on this spot again for decades to come.

Unless you want to go…

A Pre-Spring Spring

clay creekSome days are better than others for a forester.

This one was not too bad.  Lots of peace and quiet on this mountain in Clay County, AL.

Spring has not arrived in the little holler where I took the photo above.  No sounds except the wind and the gurgling from the creek.

Sometimes that’s all you need.