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Home Planet

Posts tagged: home

The Sweetest Season: Summer in the Northwest

    I haven’t set the kitchen table in weeks.

    Each morning I wake up, pour a cup of coffee, open the back door and step out onto my patio. Usually it is cool enough to wear a robe or the heavy man’s denim work shirt I sometimes slip over my gown when I'm too impatient.

     Lunch might be a salad while I work at the big table on the patio or idle in the shaded corner of my backyard. Dinner is eaten late, on the patio again, just as the sun slips behind the trees on the horizon. After the meal I leash the dog and walk to Manito Park to take a stroll around the gardens, where it is always at least five degrees cooler and the air is thick with the heady perfume of flowers. Then, at night, after the dishes are done and the dog and the cats have been fed, I slip out the back door again for a few more minutes. I sit on the glider, pushing myself back and forth with my toes against concrete that still holds the warmth of the sun, and I mark the end of another day.

    This time of year, my living area is always turned inside out. I eat, read, relax, work and daydream outdoors. When my children were all still at home, before we moved out of the big house in the country and into the cottage in town, I set up a daybed on the patio. During the day they would sprawl over it, reading for hours, surrounded by newspaper comics, crossword puzzles, Barbie dolls, Breyer horses and empty Popsicle wrappers. At night, after dinner, after the last bit of daylight had faded, my youngest and I would lie down together on the summer bed. Often her sisters and her brother would join us and we would lie there like puppies in a basket, gazing up, watching the stars come out and the Milky Way spread like spilled paint across the black night sky. We pointed out the Big Dipper and called out when shooting stars streaked across overhead. We counted satellites. Sometimes we spotted the flash of the Space Station’s solar panels as it orbited, and once an owl startled us as it flew low and silently over the backyard.

    Eventually the others would wander off and the youngest would drift off to sleep in my arms. But I would always lie there a bit longer, breathing the shampoo-and-green-grass fragrance of her hair, reluctant to let her go.

    Finally, around midnight, I would rouse her and help her stumble up to her bed and then climb into my own.

    Anyone who has ever lived where the humidity chases the temperature up the thermometer and the mid-summer air—day or night—is as uncomfortable and heavy as a damp blanket, will understand the way I delight in the season here. I grew up in the South. Summer could be long and cruel. But here in the Northwest, where the season is short and sweet, mornings are deliciously cool, afternoons are hot and bright and the twilight is long and slow and luxurious.

    I can’t bear to waste a minute so I take my cup of coffee out to meet the sun and I’m there to watch the moon rise. And one by one these beautiful days go by while I sit and watch, and think of children whose hair smelled of green grass and lavender shampoo.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

The urge to fly and the need to nest

    (Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

   The wind had picked a bit up the night before, sweeping through the tall pine trees, taking with it loose branches and needles, dropping them to the grass below.


    I noticed something else in the litter on the lawn and as I got closer I could see it was a small bird’s nest, still intact after its long fall. I picked it up and studied the way it was made. I have never seen a nest that isn’t, in some way, beautiful.  A marvel, really. But this one was exceptionally so.


    Made almost entirely of long strands of dried grass woven around what appeared to be wool or even dryer lint, the inside was lined with a soft, golden, feathery material. At first I thought it might be the bird’s own feathers but then I realized it was a layer of shredded cattail blooms, the tall plant that grows in ponds and marshes and bends and dances in the breeze. The compact bloom had been pulled apart and separated into downy fibers.


    I held the nest for a long time, thinking about what an engineering and artistic accomplishment it was. And to what lengths the birds had gone to to create it.


    Grass and lint are all around us. That could have come from any house nearby. But the cattail had to have come from the park down the hill, several blocks away. It would have been no small feat to bring home, bit by bit, enough of the fibers to fill even such a petite shelter. What compelled her to use that particular plant? Surely there must have been some easier way.


    I carried the nest home and set it on the mantel in my living room. For days, every time I walked by, I would stop for a closer look. One afternoon I sat down on the sofa—a piece with a new slipcover, sewn by a friend who does beautiful work. I searched and searched for just the right fabric before settling on the natural cotton and now every time I look at the sofa, it pleases me.


     Still cradling the fragile thing in my hand, still puzzling over the curiosity of it, I reached behind me to adjust the cushion at my back and felt the fine weave of the soft linen pillow cover under my fingertips. Immediately, I remembered the day I’d purchased it in a small shop in Estonia. I’d spent an hour pulling out cover after cover until I found a pair that were exactly right. 


     I glanced at the curtains hanging at the window and recalled discovering them in a second-hand store in Reyjkavik. I hadn’t given a thought to how I would get the four panels home, I just had to have them. The eight yards of material had stretched my already-full luggage to its limits and when I got to the airport I was told it was overweight.  The gate agent listened as I told him how I’d found the curtains. How they were old and soft and the color was perfect and that I would never again find such beautiful fabric. Still looking at me, without saying a word, he tagged my heavy bag and sent it away without charging me the extra fee.
   

 I turned to look at the small Native American rug behind the glass doors of the secretary standing in the corner. I’d spotted it in a weaver’s studio outside of Chimayo, New Mexico, picking it up and putting it down twice before committing. I tried to be practical, but I simply had to have it.


    My own nest is filled with soft things from unlikely places. Things which, although I stumbled onto them at the time I was, in some sense, seeking. Who am I to question a bird’s choice? After all, exposed to the elements, at the mercy of wind and rain and sly predators, she had fragile eggs to protect and tender fledgelings to care for. I have four sturdy walls and a roof over my head.


    The delicate nest is still on the mantel. I think I will keep it there as a reminder that the real difference in a shelter and a home is what surrounds us when we are there.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Traveling Mothers

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

  My son has been on a boat out on the Pacific for weeks now and every so often a few lines arrive by email.     
    “This has been a great trip,” he writes “The hurricane turned so the seas are not so rough now,” he writes. “Work is going well,” he writes. “Saw some whales today,” he writes.
    

   I see one word: Hurricane!
    

   I’d just settled into my usual routine of vague worry and superstitious bargaining with fate when, and, as usual, it was the last thing I expected, my daughter—the brand new geologist—was assigned to a job on a boat off the coast of Greenland. (Wait, isn’t Greenland melting?)
    

   Already living 200 miles away from me, with less than a day to prepare, she packed and flew away without my being able to see her face or hold her close. Now I’m left to wonder how two little land-locked children could grow up to sail so far away. At the same time.
    

   My friends point out I shouldn’t be surprised. Don’t I fly over oceans every chance I get?  Why would I expect any less of my children, especially these two adventurers? Stop worrying so much, they tell me.
    

   Of course, I have an answer ready. I’m not green. I’m not confident like my son. If anything, I’m overly cautious and too careful. I’m not young and beautiful and vulnerable like my daughter. I’m just another middle-aged woman on a train or in an airport, hugging her purse and keeping one eye on her luggage.
    

   But, truth be told, I finally had to admit to myself that what’s bothering me as much as worry, is guilt. I’m consumed with guilt. I can’t shake the feeling I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. I’d already booked a work-related trip to Alaska before I knew my children were going to be traveling; not that it even occurred to me to ask. And now, thanks to me, we’ll all be scattered across the globe. How will they reach me if they need me?
    

   Children are meant to fly, some tiny voice inside me whispers, mothers are not. It’s our job to be home base, the place our children come back to. If I am not here, what will become of us? What kind of home base goes to Alaska where cell phones and computers don’t work? The swallows only return to Capistrano because it’s there waiting for them.
    

   Before my children came along, even after I was married, I came and went as I pleased.  I bought plane tickets and train tickets at the drop of a hat. But after the babies, when the occasional chance to travel solo came along, I usually let the opportunity pass.
    

   Occasionally, when I would mention some place I’d been or adventure I’d had before they were born, they would look at me, confused, trying to imagine me anywhere else.
    “Well, Mommy wasn’t always Mommy,” I would tell them, laughing at their confusion. “I used to be another girl.”
    

   But if I'm honest, what held me back was that I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving them. Overwhelmed with love and responsibility, I wasn’t just afraid of something happening to my children. I was terrified something would happen to me. How would they survive without me? Who else knew them so completely?  If something happened to me and they asked their father or grandparents ( or their new mother!) for a Sadie Sally story, no one would know the world I’d created for them in my head. No one would know that Johnny was the little boy who kept a dragon named Jimbo or that Sadie was the sister who always discovered magic dust in her pocket just when it was most needed or that a road divided the enchanted forest and one side was a wonderful, magical, place but the other was dark and frightening and no matter how hard they tried something always lured Sadie, Sally and Johnny into that dark place where they had to rely on their wits and the dragon and a little magic to escape. Who else could tell Sadie Sally stories? Nobody but me.
    

   Only I knew who preferred her milk warmed. Who was afraid of the dark. Who liked to talk about dreams first thing in the morning. Who needed an extra kiss and glass of water before bed. I knew them on a cellular level. After all, each had peeled away from me, physically dividing us at birth. We were, at least in the beginning, two parts of one.
    

   Imagining the possibility of not being there for my children unhinged me. Just thinking about it, I whimpered and paced like an animal separated from her young. I didn’t put my traveling shoes back on until the three oldest were out of the house and on their own and the youngest showed an independent streak I wanted to encourage.
    

   I thought I’d left all that worry and guilt behind me, but again they’ve exposed me for who I really am.
    

   Mommy is always Mommy.
    

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

There Are None So Blind

This is a repost of one of my favorite columns. I recorded it for Spokane Public Radio several years ago and it is available on Public Radio Exchange. This year, the audio essay was broadcast by Delta College Public Radio in Michigan.

 


November 22, 2004

Giving her thanks for a gift of insight
Cheryl–Anne Millsap
Correspondent




   When I was a girl, an old blind woman lived in the faded white house with peeling clapboards and a shaded, vine–covered porch, next door to me. Mrs. Miller was small and wiry, and very old. Her thin white hair was always pulled into a tight bun at the nape of her neck.
   

   She lived with a little Chihuahua named Rocky – a strange and exotic pet at the time. The dog was ancient, barely able to walk on his thin matchstick legs and he, too, was almost blind.

   Sometimes, Mrs. Miller’s son, John, lived with them. John was a loud and angry man who worked nights – when he worked – and either slept or watched game shows on the television all day. John drank. And when he was drunk, he wasn’t very nice to his mother.

   I was afraid of that house and everyone in it. To me, the old woman was a person of shadows, living a dark and shuttered life. John, whose angry voice I could hear through the closed windows, frightened me and I was wary of the odd little dog.

   Occasionally, when John wasn’t home, my grandmother would send me over with a baked sweet potato, a couple of ripe tomatoes or a slice of homemade pie. I would knock on the back door and listen to her shuffling through rooms, calling out to me in a thin, rough, voice. Rocky would totter across the linoleum floor, coughing out a dry, raspy, bark.

   As quickly as I could, I would leave the food on the kitchen table – the sticky oilcloth–covered surface crowded with salt and peppershakers, paper napkins and bottles of hot sauce and pickled peppers – and run back out into the sunlight.

   One Thanksgiving Day, my grandmother asked me to take a meal next door. I drooped, but I knew better than to argue.

   I carried the plate, piled with turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and ruby–red spiced apple rings across my back yard. I walked up the bank and past the little grove of plum trees to her back door, and knocked.

   “Mrs. Miller,” I called. “I brought you some Thanksgiving dinner.”

   I listened to her slow, painful, progress through the cluttered rooms. I imagined her reaching out for familiar doorways, feeling the edges of the furniture with bent and arthritic fingers. When she finally opened the back door, I thrust the plate at her, anxious to deliver it and leave.

   But she didn’t take it. Instead, she put her face down to the steaming plate of food and inhaled deeply, breathing in the warm fragrance.

   “Oh, Lord,” the old woman said. “That’s good.”

  And she didn’t move. She just stood there, lost in thought. Finally, as soon as she stepped aside, I set the plate down on the table and ran home.

   Just today, when I thought about what we will have for our Thanksgiving dinner, and my mind remembered, and replayed for me the taste of roast turkey and cornbread dressing, I recalled that day so long ago.

   Thinking about it now, I understand that at that moment the old woman and I traded places.

   I was blind to everything but my desire to run away, but for an instant Mrs. Miller could see. Through clouded eyes, she looked back at other Thanksgivings, long gone. Happy days before she was old and blind, and trapped in a dark house with an angry son.

   In the years since that November day, when the trace of a scent or the sound of a voice leaves me gazing at ghosts, I’ve learned that time gives back as much as it takes away.

   And for that, like the old woman, I’m grateful.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Celebrating Another Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

 

 


    I turned the corner, down an unfamiliar street, my mind so oblivious to where I was going I might just as well have been a dog with its head out the window, lost in the delicious rush of mysterious and fragrant air, just happy to be out and about with no thought of what might be ahead.


    Most of the leaves had fallen from the trees, swept down by the wind and an early snowfall, and the sidewalks and street were littered with the russet and copper remnants of a spectacular autumn. But at the end of the block a scarlet tree still blazed, a burning bush, bright and vibrant against the faded landscape. Even the sun could not ignore it and sunlight danced in the tree, painting the leaves with subtle shades and shadows.


    It was impossible to look away and I didn’t try. I gazed at it as I drove by and even looked back at it in the rearview mirror. 


    Thursday my family will sit down to our Thanksgiving meal and for the first time one of our small group will be absent. My son is away, working in Japan, and we will miss him even as we celebrate his success.


    We are so fortunate to have made it this far without an empty seat at the table. Even in difficult times—and I have never pretended there weren’t some truly difficult days—we gathered, held hands, and spoke aloud the things for which we were most grateful.


    Each year I compose a mental list but when it is my turn to speak, the words fly out of my head. I tear up and can say only that I am grateful for the love of those around me. But what I can never seem to get out is that I am filled with gratitude for the gift of a million small moments.


    There were quiet Sundays spent reading, curled in the big chair beside the fire, my husband stretched out on the sofa. There were Saturday morning feasts that lured home grown children who filled the house with the sound of laughter and the smell of bacon and coffee.
   

  There were quiet walks through the park with my dogs and the rapturous look on my daughter’s face as we stood in Notre Dame Cathedral on a rainy January day in Paris. There was the afternoon my son turned to me and recited a poem I’d read to him when he was a boy, and my firstborn’s secret smile when she told us her news.
    

   There were shooting stars glimpsed from my back door and my youngest daughter’s shining face as she sat in the saddle, flying on horseback. There was, just this week, the chance encounter with a beautiful brilliant tree in a landscape that had already surrendered to winter.
   

 On Thanksgiving Day I will blink back tears and fumble the opportunity to say what I feel. But in my heart I will celebrate the quiet gift of time and the chance to have lived one more extraordinary year of ordinary days.
   


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is a contributing editor at Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Seeking a Sense of the Right Place

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

Like someone who had looked straight into the baking sun, the hot New Mexico desert, a landscape of painted sand and strange towering rock formations, was burned into my mind’s eye. Even as I settled into the window seat of the airplane to fly back to my own home in the Northwest, the people and places I’d encountered filled my mind.

The effect of the light and climate and otherworldly terrain of New Mexico on visitors is the stuff of legend. And it isn’t just the rich and famous who feel it. Or the artists and intellectuals who crave space and freedom to create and find it in the vast empty state. There is something in the place that strikes a chord with people of all walks. Everywhere I went along the road from Santa Fe to Taos, I met people who had left the crush of big cities in the east or the lush green overgrown vegetation of the south or the frenetic pace of southern California. People who, after spending a few days in the desert, pulled up stakes and moved there for good.

Traveling teaches you a lot about yourself. One of the most important revelations is that each of us has deep, deep, inside a kind of internal temple bell that can only chime when struck by a certain place. For some it is the sea, the churning surf and the taste of salt in the air. For others it is the dark forested mountains or wide views from soaring peaks. Many can’t focus or think clearly without the pounding pulse of a city built of skyscrapers and asphalt grids.

Most of us never know what kind of bell we carry until we step into the landscape that resonates within us.  The lucky ones who hear the tone, feel the vibration and realize they are living their lives in the wrong place, can act. They have the means or sometimes just the determination to make the move and settle where they feel most at home. Others find a happy place in the middle, spending most of the year where they have to be and a week or a couple of weeks in the place that fills them with happiness. Saddest of all, some either cannot or will not ever find the place that makes them sing. They flop on the surface like a fish in a shallow pool and never know exactly why they are not happy, just that they can’t find peace. Because of circumstances beyond their control they never get the chance to discover where it is they feel most at home. Or, worse, they are deaf to the ring and never know the source of their restlessness.

We are each born with a kind of spiritual divining stick that sends us out to see the world, or, at the very least, new corners of our familiar world. We have what we need to find the spring that sends a shiver through us, that pulls us down to the right patch of earth. It’s up to us to dig the well.




Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

The Green Grass of Home





    When I was in my mid-20s, I spent a summer in New York City working and studying. I immediately fell in love with the city and found my pulse danced to the constant rhythm of traffic and people; to a compact space filled with people that was alive and moving at any hour of the day.


    It was a world away from the relatively quiet way I’d lived up until then and I couldn’t get enough.
    I was staying in an apartment on the campus of Columbia University and working at New York University, at the opposite end of the island and I spent most of my days traveling up and down Manhattan by subway or taxi, sometimes by bus.


    One day I was lost in thought as I walked several blocks from the subway stop to  my apartment, already accustomed to the noise and crowded sidewalks and the heat, when, suddenly, something arrested me. I stopped, confused. I didn’t know why, but I was instantly and deeply, homesick. I missed my husband. I wanted my grandmother, my cats. I could think of nothing but the important people and places in my life, a life that was a thousand miles away.


    I noticed the man pushing a lawnmower across Columbia’s wide quadrangle, a place always populated by students and others moving quickly from one place to another, or lounging, relaxing, socializing and realized it was the scent of freshly mowed grass that had hit me. It was the familiar fragrance so closely associated with summer where I was from that had overpowered the smell of asphalt baking in the sun and garbage in the dumpsters and food from the tiny bars and delis lining the street.


    It had found me and wound around me, capturing me the way such things do in cartoons.
    I’ve never forgotten the way I felt that day and I was reminded of it again last night when I stepped out my back door to enjoy the last light of the day. My husband had just mowed our tiny back yard and the air was heavy and sweet with the smell of green summer grass.


    And, in the peculiar way life has of taking the years and turning them over and inside out, and then at the most unexpected  moments handing them back to us to examine, I was assailed by the memory of being young and brave and foolish. Of being so hungry for adventure and experience I would jump at almost any opportunity to go and do and see.


    I am now, I realized, a product of the joys and heartaches; the babies, the jobs, the moves and the experiences that have shaped me since that hot August day in New York. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve seen a few things along the way. But long ago I surrendered to the knowledge that wherever I go I am always, inextricably, drawn back to the green grass of home.





Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons.”
She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Waking up to an ordinary day

   I flew into my day on autopilot. I turned off the clock radio and stole an extra fifteen minutes in bed. I made a lunch for my daughter and called up the stairs to stop dawdling so we wouldn’t be late. I shoved the dogs out the back door and tapped my foot, waiting for them to finish and come back inside.  I dropped her off at school and drove away.
   

   This is how I start too many days. Cruising without really paying any attention to the horizon.
   

   Yesterday, I took a different route, down a side street I don’t normally travel. I joined the queue of cars waiting to merge onto the busy street that would take us downtown. The wintery morning was overcast and dark, so I could see into lighted rooms in the houses on either side of the street. A movement caught my eye and I noticed a man sitting at the table in his kitchen. He was having his breakfast, munching through a bowl of cereal, looking around the room as he chewed. The way you do when you see without seeing rooms that are as familiar as your own hand. He looked up at the ceiling, took another bite, back down at his bowl for another spoonful, gazed to his right toward the clock on the wall and then to his left at the window and, startling us both, straight into my eyes.
   

   At that moment the traffic opened and I drove away.
   

   I thought about  the man as I went through the rest of my day. He had looked so content. I wondered if the rest of his day had been as peaceful as the few minutes I’d witnessed.
I wondered if he appreciated the splendid ordinariness of his morning. Probably not. I know I hadn’t.


   For all I know, as soon as I looked away he choked on his Wheaties. Or the furnace, with a great shuddering, gasping groan, gave up the ghost. Or the toilet overflowed. Or, his wife walked in and said, “Charles, I’m leaving you. I can’t spend another minute watching you chew and swallow.”
  

   The man had caught me watching him. Did he wonder about the nosy woman in the car? For all he knew I could have driven straight into oncoming traffic, or had a flat tire or run out of gas. Did he wonder if I appreciated my reliable car or the short commute or a life easy enough to let me fritter away time staring at people in houses?

   Ask any of us and we can provide the details of the times when things were bad, when we were caught off guard and left stunned by bad news or bad situations. We can narrate, again and again, the highlights. The awards, the surprises and the days that we got the recognition we deserved.

   But most of us, like me when I’m late for a meeting or the man who sat down to his breakfast, forget that every day we munch and drive and daydream our way through irretrievable moments that disappear as quickly as they arrived.
 


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Start the new year on a new note

I know you’re not really in the mood to listen to your mother, but I can’t help it. I have something to say. And, since I don’t want to chase you around, texting and calling, nagging and whining into your ear, I decided to put it down in this note. So, here goes:

December is drawing to a close. A new year is only hours away.  This calls for some kind of recognition.
I know it sounds old fashioned, but I am one of those people who believes in new beginnings. Even after all I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, I continue to cling to the idea that old mistakes, old habits and old heartaches can be left behind and that each of us, without the weight of what can hold us down and hold us back, has the potential to do amazing and wonderful things.

I believe that for you, too.

So, do me a favor. Take a minute and think about how just fortunate you are. You have the luxury of having a family and a home to push against. You don’t have to worry about where your next meal will come from or whether you’ll have a warm place to sleep or what kind of disaster tomorrow might bring. You have a home base. No matter how far you wander or how many mistakes you make, you will always be welcomed back into the fold.

Try to find a minute in every day to remember those things.


You have a brand new year ahead of you. Our sunrises and sunsets are numbered. Every square on the calendar is a gift. Unwrap it carefully. See something rare and wonderful in every day. Find a new way to experience the world around you.


Feel the sunset. Taste the music. Listen to the mountains and take hold of the sky.
Read a poem, go to the symphony, see a play. Learn everything you can. Be brave. Be kind. Be available to those who love you.

Remember the good times and let the bad times go. Learn what you can from them and then toss them into the air like so much dust. Do your homework. Take your vitamins. Call your mother.
Every once in a while go through the photo albums. Watch old home movies. See those kids? The ones who had no clue what they were doing, who dressed in dorky clothes and smiled those big goofy smiles? Show a little mercy. We were young. We were in love with our babies and nothing has changed that in any way.

There, that’s all I wanted to say. The next 365 days are yours. They are a blank canvas. Go out an paint them with colors your father and I could never have imagined.



Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com



  

Small world

This morning I watched the sun rise over the Great Smoky Mountains. The historic Grove Park Inn, at Asheville, North Carolina was already humming, preparing for the Obama visit.

Four airports, 2,000 miles and 9 hours later I walked in my front door and am about to put my head on my own pillow.

I love to travel. I love meeting new people and seeing new places. But most of all I love coming home to my own corner of the world.

Anchored at home

     Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap


     I am, and I have to believe it is true of most others, two people in one body.  On one side, I am a contented hermit. I love nothing better than time at home surrounded by the rooms full of furniture and paintings and books that I have collected or been given, with the telephone, television and computer turned off.   I love the warm tones of the paintings on the walls, the deep crimson rugs on the oak floors, the soft silk of the curtains that frame the window’s familiar view, the bright colors of the pottery and pillows.

      Some of the things around me have been with me for as long as I can remember. They are, when I close my eyes and think about it, the inanimate images that come to mind when I think about the word home.

     But on the other side, I am a wanderer.  I am restless. I want out of the armchair. I want to go places and see new worlds and do things I haven’t done before. I read what other travelers write and I get itchy feet. I covet their freedom. I follow their blogs and turn down pages in books and magazines and long for a chance to follow in their footsteps. I want to blaze my own trail.

Waiting Out a Fickle Winter

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap

Special to PINCH

January 13, 2010

  Winter weather, when it doesn’t behave as it should, leaves us confused about where we stand. And this January, living in a place that by now should be deeply frosted with snow, like a layer-cake covered with heavy white icing, that is the literal truth. I have to be careful about where I put my feet.
    My small backyard in the city, a frozen, snowy, Dr. Zhivago landscape this time last year, is in this rainy El Nino year, frequently a swamp. A soggy patch of sloppy lawn and boot-sucking mud. A mess. Then, in a few days, when the temperature drops again, it becomes a frozen tundra, as hard as concrete.
     It is also a place where three hens scratch and parade in the cold drizzle.
    My young urban chickens were last spring’s peeps. Three tiny balls of fluff, warming under the heat lamp, that have grown into plump, comic, egg-producing machines.
    All summer, watching them grow leggy and brave, watching them molt and then sprout new feathers, I worried and fretted about how to keep those hens healthy and happy when the bitterest part of winter descended on us. I plotted the route the shoveled path would take from the backdoor to the henhouse. I anticipated tender combs burned by frostbite and gray days so cold the hens would be happy to stay in the coop under the warmth of the heat lamp. I bought a heat lamp. I filled the nesting box with an extra layer of hay.
    What I didn’t expect was a winter that can’t make up its mind; that drops in and then melts and retreats only to sneak in another day or two of shocking cold before going back into hiding…

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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