Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little House on the Prairie

On a stretch of highway, south of Mooreland, Oklahoma is a modest, faded yellow tin building.  It has a large window, a small porch, and a mailbox out front that tell you that this is actually a house.  The unpaved driveway that leads to the back has ruts that get deeper each year that the paint fades just a little more.  We call it "The Little House on the Prairie", or just "little house" for short.

The little house sits on the corner of 160 acres of farmland.  This land belonged to my grandfather, Nelson Peach.  While he coached basketball and taught school in Elk City, he leased it to his brother to farm.  In 1973, after seventeen years, he decided to take over the farming of his land again.

That year, during hay season, my grandfather and dad drove from Elk City to the farm every weekend to tend to the hay.  The problem was there was no little house at the time.  They spent that hay season sleeping in the hay shed.  After one season of this, they decided to build the little house. 

They built it for function, nothing fancy.  There are two bedrooms, one without a closet.  There is a kitchen, breakfast area, living room, and bathroom.  There is a small shed out back for storage and laundry.  For the most part, they built it themselves.  To this day, Dad prides himself on how air tight the place is.  He's proud of what he built, as he should be.  And, he loves it there.

The summer between fifth and sixth grade, our family moved from Sentinel to Mooreland.  We were building a new house in town, but in the meantime, we moved into the little house.  My sister, Kristi, and I shared the one room without a closet. 

We only lived there for the amount of time it took to build our house in town, but strangely, it felt like years.  We all felt that way.  Maybe it is because we had so many good memories from our time at the little house on the prairie.

I remember the time Mom was out front screaming at me to bring her a broom.  There was a tarantula in the yard and she was trying to kill it.  But it freaked her out, so she'd hand me the broom and tell me to kill it.  Then she'd worry that the tarantula was going to get me, so she'd take the broom back.  We went back and forth like this several times.  I don't remember if we killed the thing or not.  Most likely it walked off during all the commotion, shaking its head at the crazy humans with a broom.

Then there was the time we had some people over.  Everyone was in the living room, talking, having a great time.  I left to take a shower.  When I got out of the shower, the house was silent and only one person was left, Sonja Peach.  I looked around and asked where everyone was.  She said Kristi had been running and slipped on a magazine and broke her arm.  Everyone had left to take her to the hospital.  Sonja stayed with me.

One day, Tawn Merklin and I decided to ride our bikes to Boiling Springs State Park.  As we were riding, we came across a small deer caught in a barbed wire fence.  We stopped and tried to help it, but we were scaring it even more.  We decided to just leave it alone and hoped it would be able to free itself.  I think it was gone when we came back by but that image of that frightened deer is still vivid in my mind to this day.

In later years, after my parents got divorced and moved away from Mooreland, the little house was used as a hunting "lodge".  My dad would come up from Texas during quail season to hunt.  When I started hunting with him, I'd come up and stay for a few days as well. 

Those were amazing times, being there with my dad, hunting with him.  The evenings were spent talking for hours.  Usually, Elmer Ansley would come over for a while.  That's when things got really good.  Dad and Elmer have been friends for years, ever since Elmer built our house in town.  Those two old farts always had stories to tell.  Apparently they were quite the hell raisers in their early days.

In the mornings we'd go to town and have breakfast at the Mooreland Cafe.  The place was always packed with locals having their breakfast.  We'd get our bellies full, go back to the house where I'd get the hunter safety talk, again, grab our guns and go.  We drove and walked for miles and miles looking for quail.  I loved that time in the fresh air, out in nature.  Wildlife was abundant...deer, owls, sparrows, and even quail.

After walking off our breakfast, we'd head back into town for lunch at the Mooreland Cafe.  Dad would talk to the other diners.  They talked about the harvest, the rain or lack of rain, caught up on how everyone was doing.  They were all so laid back easy going.  Everything is like that around Mooreland.

Recently, my dad and sister both moved up from Texas to Mooreland.  Dad has officially moved back into the little house.  This is where he'll be the rest of his life.  Kristi and her family are living in town, next door to the Mooreland Cafe for now.  They are all just giddy.  They've left behind the stress and chaos in Texas and are beginning to live their lives in a quiet, peaceful, slow-paced way.

Being out at the little house has always had a calming effect on me.  The air is crisp, fresh, filled with the smell of the sagebrush that blankets the landscape.  The night sky becomes a deep midnight blue and the stars slowly make their entrance onto the stage, illuminating the countryside. 

The sounds you hear are mostly those of nature.  The gently mooing of the cows grazing across the road, a coyote yelping in the distance, or more often than not, just the sound of the wind whipping through the trees.  There is the occasional sound of a passing vehicle.  Sometimes they honk to say hello as they pass.

Other than that, there is silence.  Just beautiful silence.  And that's why I keep returning. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Live Life the Way You Picture It

Sitting in my recliner this morning, laptop on my lap, drinking my coffee and seeing what new things I should pin on Pinterest, I came across a website that had this as their tag line, "Live Life the Way You Picture It".  The company sells camera bags for women so it's very catchy for them.  As I perused their site, that tag line kept playing in my head like a broken record...."Live life the way you picture it....."

Live life the way you picture it.

It dawned on me that my story for years now has been that, "This is not how I pictured my life."  Or, "I never thought my life would be like this."  Even, "If this is what life is going to be daily, why bother." 

It's time to start telling a new story.  It's time to start living my life the way I picture it.

Last weekend I drove to Mooreland early Friday morning.  My 4-Runner was loaded with dozens of paint brushes, numerous cans and bottles of paint, sketches, camera, computer....everything I needed to start a mural on the walls of my sister's new barbershop.  She had asked me to paint a mural with images from Mooreland...the old water tower, the Co-Op, the Mooreland Cafe.  Even though I said yes, I was scared to death.  I haven't actually painted anything realistic in a long time.  I had NEVER done anything on such a large scale before.  And I certainly hadn't done any work that I knew people would actually see every day. 

Nervously, I started painting the "sky".  The already tan walls showing below the sky gave the impression of an unfolding landscape.  Next, I gave the walls a coat of a golden yellow.  Now I had sky and earth.  Oh God, now what? 

I began sketching in the buildings that Kristi wanted in the mural...the old Mooreland water tower, the Co-Op, and the Mooreland Cafe.  Ok....this is starting to look like a real mural.

Then I started really painting, filling in details.  I had my headphones on, listening to my music.  I would step back occasionally to check my work.  I had my hair pulled back, wearing just a tank top with an off-the-shoulder t-shirt draped over it, no bra, my comfy yoga pants, and tennis shoes.  No one was there but me.  Me and my art and all my stuff. 

Throughout the process I would stop and just smile.  Not just at the progress I was making, but at what I was doing.  I was happy.  I was just plain giddy standing there in this tiny barbershop, painting, listening to my music, no one else around.  This is what I love to do.  This is how I picture my life.

My brain didn't hurt from barking at kids who won't listen or pay attention.  My stress level was zero compared to days at school spent trying desperately to get kids to learn when they couldn't possibly care less.  I spent the day going at my own pace instead of at a break-neck speed just trying to keep up with all that needed to be done at school but that couldn't possibly get done.  There was the occasional interruption from family stopping by to check my progress or get something from the shop.  But that was good.  I'm used to non-stop interruptions in my classroom whether it is from students being pulled out or discipline issues interrupting everything.  I didn't have to eat lunch at 10:45 in the morning.  I could take a break when I needed one.  Oh, and I could go to the bathroom any time I wanted and as frequently as I wanted.  That's huge.

This day was exactly as I pictured it.  Relaxed, productive, creative.  It was stress-free.  I still had challenges to face and I stood on my feet all day, but at the end of the day, the tired feeling that I had was a good one.  I didn't want to just go home and collapse into my bed.  The next morning I woke up feeling rested, refreshed, ready to go again. 

After a great breakfast of biscuits and gravy at the Mooreland Cafe, I was ready to get to work.  The mural started to come to life.  Adding layer after layer of paint, it began to turn into what I envisioned in my head.

After working for several hours, I still didn't finish on Saturday.  As usual, when projecting completion time for a project, I didn't factor in all the "thinking" time I'd need.  Time to work out details or time to move things around.  To top things off, Saturday I started to get a really sore throat.  That worried me.  Would I be able to get up and finish on Sunday?  If I was going to be getting up and going to school it would be a huge issue. Sore throat...barking at fourth graders...not good.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling better.  I still had the sore throat but didn't have to do much talking.  I went back to the shop and continued working.  Even feeling somewhat under the weather, I was still happy to be working.  What a contrast from when I am at school feeling under the weather.  When I am at school feeling sick, all I want to do is go home and crawl into bed.

I realized I wasn't going to finish the mural on Sunday.  I'd have to come back the following weekend.  Road trip to do something creative!  Whoohoo!  Talk about living life the way I picture it.  This is exactly how I envision my life.  So maybe by taking the baby steps I've been taking, I really am on my way to that life I see so clearly in my head....a creative, productive, fulfilling, less stressful life.  We build momentum with each of those baby steps which turn into longer strides and occur more frequently as we go along the right path. 

Below is where I left the mural.  I like it so far.  I'm pretty proud of it, considering it is my very first one.  It makes me happy and that's really all that matters to me.

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