Published in the Rains County Leader on May 3, 2016:
The last couple of weeks have been a time of counting blessings at the Brendle house. Nothing really big, but like dynamite, blessings often come in small packages. I’d like to tell you about three of ours.
The first was poke salad. Until we moved to Emory, all I knew about poke salad was that it was the subject of an Elvis song from the late sixties. Then, two years ago, someone brought some poke salad to the Senior Center. David and I checked it out and realized we had lots of it growing around our back yard. I had heard a lot of stories about the dangers of the green, so I did some on-line research and harvested some. Both of us enjoyed it, and neither of us suffered any ill effects, so I added it to my list of menu items.
For some reason, I didn’t pick any last year. However, someone brought some to the Center recently, and David looked wistfully at it, so that afternoon I visited our back yard patch. I filled one Walmart bag and part of the second, expecting it to cook down a lot. Not so much. Thankfully, we both like leftovers, because we had poke salad for three nights.
The next blessing came last week after I wrote about my plans to provide Kitty with some personal space by putting a carpeted pedestal in one of her favorite windows and clearing nearby surfaces. As usual, I received a few comments about the on-going adventure of being owned by a cat, and then on Wednesday, one of my friends at the Senior Center called me over.
“I read your column this week. I’ve been working at Good Samaritans this morning, and they have a cat tree that you really need to get for Kitty. It’s one of those three level things.”
It sounded interesting, and I told her I’d be at the Thrift Store at 8:00 am Saturday to take a look at it. Then, I found out that David had made an appointment to have some repair work done on the car at 8:00 am in Sulphur Springs. That might have been a problem except that our neighbors, Dirk and Pat, go to the “Saturday sale” every week. I asked if I could bum a ride, and they picked me up at 7:45.
When my friend had described the cat tree, I envisioned something with three posts with three carpeted platforms. I wasn’t prepared for a homemade stair-stepped Kitty condo with three cubes on the bottom, two in the middle, and one on the top. There were round openings in the walls between the cubes, and all the edges and surfaces were carpeted. Some of the edges had been well used by little teeth and claws, but it was a steal at ten dollars.
Dirk graciously loaded it into the back of his truck, delivered it to my house, and helped me put it into place. Kitty spent the next thirty minutes sniffing every square inch of her new playhouse. Since then, she has spent many happy hours checking out the view from various cubes and roaming from level to level. The new may wear off eventually, but for right now, she’s been even more of an angel than she was last week.
The third blessing was the blackberries. When we bought our property, there was already a small slab at the back where a previous owner had intended to build. So far, we haven’t done anything with it except park our tow dolly on it – but in the Spring, it becomes a focal point, because there are blackberry vines on the north and west sides.
Saturday, after I had arranged Kitty’s condo and David had returned from the car dealership, he suggested it was time to go berry picking. I agreed, so we donned our rubber boots and sloshed through the puddles from Friday night’s rain. David loves blackberries, but all the bending hurt his back, so I don’t think he had a very good time. I’m closer to the ground so I don’t have to bend as much, but my legs did tire after a while. Still, I love the idea of going out in our own back yard and finding something good to eat, so I had a great time. We harvested enough for a cobbler, a jar of jam, and a few berries left over to share with Connie and Charles across the street. (The recipe was supposed to make three jars, but this was my first attempt, and I guess I left too much berry on the seeds when I ran them through the sieve.)
Grace is often described as the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. I’ll leave it to each reader to decide whether God really cares about Kitty condos, poke salad, or blackberries, but as for me, I’m grateful for every bit of grace and for each blessing, even the small ones.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore…to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant…be careful that you do not forget the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:10-12
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos