An old-fashioned newspaper personal column, from a curmudgeon cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, with readers in more than 130 countries, and 1,400 posts.-- Sunrise on the old Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kissin' cousin

Sandra Gail Gee Russell's funeral was today in Lake Charles. We Culps mourn.
She was as close as I've ever had to a kissing cousin. She arrived with her sister Charlotte and husband at our home in Albuquerque in the late 195os on a road trip, them driving a 1959 white Chevy convertible. 
Sandi and I went out on a date in it, full of teenage hopes and hormones. I was always "Terry Mike" and she was "Sandra Gail," because we all called people by their first and middle names back then. That was mainly because that's what our folks yelled at us when we were in trouble, but it stuck, forever.
This photo was taken by my Dad at one of our summer vacation trips to Silsbee in deep East Texas. There are so many memories. I couldn't make the funeral, but I will toast her royally at our cousin reunion next week, and remember the cute girl with the reddish hair, arched eyebrows, and captivating  laugh, forever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tragedy brings out the memories

The Gee girls, three years ago, Brenda, Charlotte, Carolyn, and Sandi, whose laugh we will always remember. There might be better photos, but this so captures her personality.
I lost a first cousin this week, a spirit of laughter and humor and East Texas charm, shot by her husband, who then committed suicide. Sandra Gail Gee Russell was just 69, and I was counting on seeing her at a Culp first cousin reunion in two weeks.
When something like that happens, I start rummaging through old photos, photos from childhood and before, up through the last reunion three years ago. I don't know what I'm looking for, perhaps just trying to cope, or to understand, but also to remember the good times. Tonight there are family photos from albums and boxes scattered across the floor as I search through those memories.
It's hard to write about it, but I need to, because in spite of the years and miles, she's been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and before.
We were not close, geographically or otherwise, because it had been years  since we really knew each other well. But we were close, as families used to be growing up after WWII from common grandparents and parents in East Texas. 
My brother and I lived farthest away when my Dad and Mom moved to Albuquerque, but we stayed in touch, and most summer vacations were spent visiting our aunts and uncles and cousins. 
Sandi and I as teenagers. Just found this slide after writing the post.
The old black and white photos taken when some of us were babies show that connection, sitting on pallets in the yard or gathered with grandparents and parents.
Visits  through the teenage years strengthened it, until we started having our own families and time slipped away. 
Our first cousin reunion was about 20 years ago, down on the Texas Gulf coast, and then a few years ago in Livingston, Texas, and three years ago in Cleveland, Texas. Those were times to get reacquainted, to share old photos and memories, to see their children and grandchildren living their own lives.
We will miss her, because we are cousins.
Sandra was always the life of the party with her laugh and smile and good natured humor. She'd worked hard all her life, as that family of four girls had to to survive, with their Daddy dying when they were young. 
Sandi's 7th grade yearbook photo
There was not much money, but there was love and family, and they could laugh and enjoy life. Charlotte, Carolyn, Sandra and Brenda Gee, daughters of Ervin and Ima Culp Gee. She deserved so much better than the way she died, and we'll miss her, because we are cousins.
These photos and memories make me realize how important cousins are as time goes by, and it's evident on this blog with many articles and photos from the last reunion or other posts. Just click on these links: The delicious taste of memories. East Texas Cousins. When a Cousin Dies. Cousins part 2. Redheads and Cousins. East Texas Cousins Chapter 3.
I wrote this poem a few years ago when attending the funeral of their mother, my mother's baby sister, and changed it a little for my cousin Sandi. 

"East Texas family"

Swamps and steeples.
Pines and pickups.
Barbecue, beer, bayous and Baptists.
Holiness and honky-tonks.
Wildflowers and wandering roads.

In East Texas, springtime feels like it just rained, or is about to.
There's no horizon, and humid skies are  Confederate gray 
as the warm Gulf air sticks  to you.
More than the air sticks to you.

 Driving in East Texas is like going back into the womb.
It's warm, and wet, and ... green.
Where families are born, and grow, and spread out like runners 
from the ivy growing up the trunks of the hardwoods, 
across miles and years.

Go back for a reunion, or the funeral of an aunt,
your mother's youngest sister and her friend.
You sit around in lawn chairs 
visiting with cousins you hadn't seen for years.

The memories of earlier years come flooding back,
drenching you like the soft Texas rain 
Beginning as a mist and then saturates 
every green plant before moving on.
Without horizons you can't see the rain coming or going,
Pools of standing water and wet pavement and water-dappled leaves
Mark its passing, like the memories, like the years.

Memories of playing mud pies as a child with cousins,
aunts and uncles doing magic tricks, 
playing the guitar, or playing 42.
Memories of a nearby Mom and Pop store 
Of 5-cent Cokes and 3-cent candy bars. 
Memories of  grandma's house
cornbread in old cast iron forms. 
teen-agers going to the corner drug store.

Sitting on a porch with a summer girlfriend, 
watching the rain come down and the moments sweep by. 
Memories of aunts and uncles and parents and cousins now gone.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prophecy of Oklahoma's end time

"Yea, verily, in the fullness of time these were the signs of the end of time where the earth and rulers were red.
"Forsooth, the great bear began eating quiche while war and luna gobbled the night before the ransoms were due.
"A vagabond's abandoned pouch shall raise alarms and loud sirens disrupting learning.
"The earth will surely tremble with the twisting sky as hope of spring turns to ice and despondent winter on every breath of a bitter north wind.
"Henceforth, let those who have eyes and ears heed the signs prophesied by the seer of sooths, Heebie Jeebies, and abide by the insight of my servant Okuspokus."
      --First Heebie Jeebies, 5:1-5, (Okuspokus translation)

Yea verily and forsooth, I, Okuspokus, servant and scholar of the Great Sayer of Sooths, Heebie Jeebies, being in the spirit of the sooth, hereby reveal the sooth truth of the end of time for the place called Oklahoma (red dirt and rulers):
"The great bear eating quiche is Russia devouring Crimea and Ukraine, a clear sign of the coming wrath.
War is Mars being the closest to earth  and luna is tonight's lunar eclipse, all happening before April 15, income tax deadline (ransoms).
A mysterious suitcase causes evacuation of a university building, swarms of police cars and flashing lights and vacant parking lots, amid fears of bombs.
Oklahoma's earth quakes every day, and yesterday's warm spring weather with threats of tornados brought hail and turned to snow.
Unbelievers will surely scoff, but Okuspokus knows all these events could not possibly be coincidence in any sane place. 
Forsooth, there are only two interpretations of Heebie Jeebies' prophecy.  Yea verily, the sayer of sooths poses a choice--It is the end of time for Oklahoma, or Oklahoma is not sane.
I, Okuspokus have written.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Look at that watercolor sky

Great Plains spring, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140# d'Arches
Wild skies today, as the constant weather changes act out the drama in the clouds and wind. 
We may get rain, violent thunderstorms, tornadoes, then a freeze, perhaps a dusting of snow, then warm humidity again. What beauty in such beastly uncertainty. 
How can you not love the skies out here on the Great Plains, where the landscape is not really plain, and the skies never are.
It doesn't take much to imagine an old shed, out in the greening up rolling countryside of the Osage or Flint Hills or many other places in Oklahoma.
"Out here, there's the sky," wrote Willa Cather in Death Comes for the Archbishop. Out here, the skies are made for watercolor. 
"Look at that watercolor sky," I said to myself when I looked out the window this morning. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Redbud reflections II

5 by 9 watercolor, 140 pound d'Arches
Another attempt..better composition, but still not satisfied. It's so bad that I'm distracted while driving, because everywhere I go, I keep noticing  Oklahoma's state tree blooming in profusion, and I'm trying to figure out how to paint it.