May 17 – Farm Meditation

Pop-Up Rainstorm, May 16, 2023, 6:45 p.m., Johnson Funny Farm Eastside

In reflecting on Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood after rereading the chapter on Bachman’s Sparrow this week on the heels of hearing one of these rare birds on Global Big Day, I find that I’m perpetually drawn to her words, her style, her sentiments. In Wild Card Quilt, Ray writes

     A farm's is a meditative kind of existence.  One could live many places happily, but some situate you closer to nature and the intricacies of survival; closer to the seasons and the cycles of moon and sun and stars; closer to the ground, which chambers water and is host to essential ingredients of life. 
     To pay attention to the world, where forests bend according to the wind's direction, rivers bring baskets of granite down from the mountains, and cranes perform their long, evolutionary dances, is a kind of religious practice. To acknowledge the workings of the world is to fasten ourselves in it.  To attend to creation - our wild and dear universe - is to gain admission into life. One can live at the bone.  This I wished to do.
     Details define the farm: the arrival and departure of birds, wildflower blooms, habits of animals, ripening of fruit, passing of cold fronts.  The more attention we pay to a certain place, the more details we see, and the more attached we become to it.  ("A Natural Almanac," Wild Card Quilt)

I’ve often thought we might retire on the island where I grew up. Until I was 40 years old, I lived life at the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. When I married my husband, I moved to middle Georgia and fell in love with the rural setting so charming it’ll give you the tickle-shivers. He considers going to the beach a vacation. I consider the beach home. We’ve had to focus our lens and have some deep discussions about what constitutes a vacation, and all the differences between vacations and traveling and trips.

Beaches these days are too people-y. When you have to plan your grocery shopping at 10 p.m. to get a parking place and be able to move through the aisles and not wait in line six carts deep, it gets old fast. When you work all the time and are too tired to go to the beach and have your first basal cell removed from your nose and are warned to stay slathered with sunscreen just to go check the mailbox, being outdoors below the gnat line means you alternate between insect repellent and sunscreen. And when you have to wait in line to eat in a restaurant for over an hour because there is no “resident pass” to the front of the line, the charm fades because unlike everyone waiting, you’ve worked all day and have to get out of bed early and go do it all again the next day.

Plus, no one knows how to drive. There’s a perpetual crowdedness like being on a packed out elevator, just waiting for it to stop on your floor so you can squeeze between everyone to get out the door before it closes and breathe.

That’s why I think the beach will remain a place for us to visit, but not to live. I’ve gotten too attached to the wildlife here on the farm – the birds, the cows in nearby pastures, the goats and occasional donkeys, the roosters crowing at all hours, and the hens that give us fresh farm eggs – the kind that many people would find surprising to see and smell and taste for the first time after eating those that come in cartons.

I’m not sure how I would feel about moving to a place where I didn’t get the occasional opportunity to see my husband, tractor running, standing off to the side in his wide-brimmed hat and t-shirt, with his jeans unzipped, peeing on a tree as he has done all his life here, as all little boys in the country grow up doing, never outgrow, and find that even into their later years there is no sheer pleasure like drawing a urine face on Loblolly Pine tree bark. Country boys pee like our ancestors did, au naturel and wholly Biblical, before all of this indoor plumbing.

I would miss driving down the long driveway, my camera always on and ready because I never know what will pop out of the next shrub around the corner before I get to the road. Could be a cute bunny, as it was yesterday with its paper-thin membraned ears up – or a mob of deer with their little ones, or a coyote, or a fox, or a fox squirrel, or a raccoon or possum or our resident hawk. You just never know what you’ll see next out here, because every trip to the road holds a story or two, a real adventure, some actually wrinkled with risk.

And the fig tree, the little clearance turkey fig I bought for $3.00 from the scratch-and-dent rack at Home Depot that now towers above the roof line and yields more fresh figs than I could ever use, so I end up calling my fig friends to bring their containers and use the garage ladder to pick all they can take.

Then there’s the bird and butterfly garden that we planted when we first moved in, where our beloved dachchund Roxie is buried and where the Black Swallowtails hang heavy on the fennel each summer before spinning themselves into chrysalises, emerging, and flying off to lay eggs and keep the cycle going. I don’t want any neighbors messing with my baby birds or my caterpillars; they’ve come to enjoy a quiet life of solitude with plenty of wayward fennel to transform them into creatures of flight.

And right now, it’s raining. I knew it before it started because we aren’t covered up in asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks. The earthy scent rises like coffee steam from the ground right before a good rain, announcing that showers or storms are imminent. You don’t even have to be outside; it’ll barge in right through your car vents if you’re on the road. The thunder is absolutely magnificent, too – – it sounds like the end of the world, it’s so loud sometimes. And just as suddenly as it pops up, the trees will stop dancing in the wind and it’ll go away and the sun’ll come out, making you wonder if you actually dreamed up a storm.

I could close my eyes in the summertime and tell you exactly where I am on the driveway – from the wild roses at the entrance to the wild honeysuckle along the edge along the middle, to the jasmine at the garage, and the gardenia at the porch. There are certain smells in the country that naturally take to the breeze and GPS-footprint us exactly where we are standing.

And the Saturday Market. I don’t know where I would get my fresh vegetables if not for the farms here and Gregg’s Peach Orchard, where we not only buy our peaches and watermelons, but where we also go to sit under the silo in the rocking chairs and eat their fresh peach and strawberry swirl ice cream. Sometimes we pick blueberries while we’re there, and we rarely come home without a loaf of peach bread to butter and toast for weekend breakfast in the summertime.

I’m not sure where we’ll retire, but the beach and all the people packed onto islands like sardines in a little peelback-lidded tin can can’t hold a candle to the space and solitude of a farm. Indeed, this is a meditative kind of existence. Once it begins to grow on you, it takes off like Kudzu vines, hugging you tight in a forever kind of way, never turning you loose to think life could be better anywhere else.

Because it doesn’t get any better than farm life in the country.

7:33 p.m, after the storm May 16, 2023, Johnson Funny Farm Westside – I came home from camping this past weekend to find this glorious flower blooming on my back porch. I have no idea how in the world it grew there – I didn’t plant it, so the only guess: a sunflower seed from the bird feeder fell into a planter pot and received Heaven’s touch from my mother.

#VerseLove April 30

Sarah Donovan is our host for Day 30 of VerseLove and our host of this space each month for writers who crave togetherness each month as we come together to celebrate our words and thoughts ~to share the joy of writing. She helps meet a deep need in each of us. I adore the prompt today, and I ran for my journal from 2019 when I saw the topic. I thought back to the first year I participated in VerseLove and looked for that first prompt that changed the trajectory of my life from grief over my mother’s death to connection with others whose pain shone through their heart holes, too, who showed me how to use the sunspots to write and heal. To every writer who shares the journey, thank you for all of the inspiration you bring. This morning, my grandson writes along with me as I revise my first-ever VerseLove poem, Blackberry Winter.

Blackberry Winter, Revisited

It’s a Blackberry Winter I wrote in 2019
beginning a poem about all the good things

later this morning, my first grandson 
               will make elderberry jam toast
                         plus cheese omelettes 
                                   on the Lodge cast iron griddle
   wearing my apron 
         (he doesn’t know about the apron yet)

but first: raindrops on rooftop, fresh coffee,
wi-fi (stronger than coffee, finally), computer charged,
comfy chair, whisper-soft pajamas,

thoughts ready to materialize
three schnoodles tussling on grandson’s 
sleepover mattress as we write together
in the living room

words forming on pages: his pen, my keyboard
to the first #VerseLove prompt of 2019 from Sarah:

….the good things in our lives….

there are those who bring
more warmth than raindrops and coffee,
more comfort than chairs and pajamas,
more joy than words ~ 
   ancestors whose cast iron presence
      and apron strings linger in kitchens
       hugging us tight about the middle

and those we ancestor ~ grandchildren 
who write right next to us
about all the good things in our lives
on this elderberry toast and cheese omelette morning.

– Kim Haynes Johnson, April 2, 2019 and 4/30/2023

#VerseLove April 29

Our host today for Day 29 of #VerseLove at is Scott McCloskey of Michigan, who inspires us to rewrite the script of a time we wish we’d given a different answer. You can read his prompt and the poems of others here.

Kernels of Truth

ten months after

she died

four months after

he died

you asked me

what I thought

of y’all

and I told the truth

you’re nice

she’s nice

but y’all don’t fit

you thought

it was that woman thing

that I 

just didn't like her

you had it all wrong

there were those

I thought would be a

great fit for you



lovers of wine

whose blood runneth blue

this one wasn’t for you

you’ve held my 


against me all this time

made me the 

unaccepting one

and now after

seven years

of frustration

figuring out


you finally realize

all those reasons

y’all don’t fit

so next time I’ll

tell the only truth

you want to hear

marry her

then I’ll go 

make popcorn

My February Goal Update

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers!

On the last day of each month, I update my goal progress in the areas I chose for the year. Monthly goal updates that began a decade ago in 2013 in the Notes app on my phone are now kept in table form on my blog, giving me a way to remain focused on my goals and holding myself accountable in actionable strides. Today, I’m sharing my second goal update of 2023.

CategoryGoalsMy Progress
LiteratureRead Around the USA
Give Away Books
Send out Postcards
Blog Daily (For March plan to participate in Slice of Life Writing Challenge)
I gave away another 5 foot shelf of books.
I mailed recipe postcards to my grandchildren.
I blogged daily throughout February, marking two full years of daily blogging today.
I wrote with Open Write this month.
I read my February selection from Colorado: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
I plan to participate in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge each day during the month of March
CreativityImprove blog photos
Indulge in photo excursions
I continued working with my Middle School Writers, and one submitted a piece to the Young Georgia Authors contest
I designed a prototype of a story walk planter for our town square
I am planning Bloom! for National Poetry Month with our L4GA community partners
SpiritualityTune in to church
Keep OLW priority
We’ve tuned in to YouTube channels for Dad’s sermons this month in the two churches where he is preaching as a rotating interim.
I’ve prayed daily and kept my One Little Word at the helm
ReflectionWrite family stories
Spend time tracking goals each month
I’ve written some family memories, and Dad has written as a guest blogger, sharing some of his experiences
Self-ImprovementMaintain goal weight
Maintain Weight
Give away too-big clothes
I cleaned out my pantry and my medicine chest this month, following my closet in January.
I still take clothes to donate when they give me any room to take the temptation and eat the cake.
I am in weight maintenance range.
GratitudeDevote blog days to counting blessingsI continue reading in Simple Abundance and counting blessings, especially on family birthdays.
I remain grateful for my health, family, and the simple pleasures of life – like savoring Saturdays with coffee and having farm fresh eggs for supper.
ExperienceEmbrace Slow Travel
Focus on the Outdoors
I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count
I traveled to Kentucky to visit family over my winter break (slowly – I broke up the trip into manageable driving segments, put the window down, and admired the Kentucky rolling hills and greening spring grass)
I traveled to Savannah, Georgia and spent time with my grandchildren strolling along River Street and eating ice cream at Leopold’s.

T-Shirt Poetry ~ Your Story Matters

Britt Decker, our host at today for the Open Write, shares a prompt that proves that we walk by thousands of writing opportunities everyday. We walk in them, past them, heck – we wear them! She shows us how to take a t-shirt from our closet with words, a picture, or a memory that will inspire poetry.  It's as simple as going to the closet and considering all the possibilities.  I love how her t-shirts inspire a poem about her own need of distance between work and play. Read the prompt here, and consider writing with us.  I bought a t-shirt at the NCTE conference in Anaheim, California last November with a message I enjoy sharing – your story matters.  My poem is a 3x5 today - short and simple like an index card - three lines, five syllables.  

Your Story Matters

you’re a child in God’s
great universe so
your story matters

I Can’t Be The Only One

Today is the second day of the February Open Write at Our host today is Britt Decker of Houston, Texas. You can read today’s prompt and other poems here. And you can also share your own! Britt inspires us to write a “Me, Too!” poem. I’m writing mine in memory of and gratitude for my mother, Miriam Haynes, who would have been 80 today. She died in December 2015 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.


I can’t be the only one whose mother sewed her own formal dresses,
    who made matching clothes like in the Sound of Music, only not from drapes
    who was known as the crab lady on the
    pier of St. Simons Island, Georgia for her fisherwoman skills
    who could fly fish and deep sea fish and throw a cast net, too
       all while driving the boat.
I can’t be the only one whose mother could wiggle her ears, making us laugh
    who could bring a dead plant back to life
    who rescued dogs and made them family
    who knew all the answers when no one else did.
I can’t be the only one whose mother didn’t have enough superlatives
    for all the things she did so well.
I can’t be the only one wishing her mother a happy heavenly birthday today
    missing the phone calls that made the world right again.

And I’m not.  

My brother loved her, too
    and our dad, who still sends us random pictures of precious moments,
         reminding us how blessed we all were


forever will be
    because of her. 
Text and photo from Dad this morning: “She made the dress.”

Valentine’s Day with The One and Only Kona

Today’s guest blogger is my dad, Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr., sharing the story of his best Valentine’s Day gift – and his deep love and gratitude for his best girl!


Dad with Kona on her first birthday in the dog park

Two key words on Valentine’s Day are BE MINE. Kona has officially been mine now for two loving years!

I celebrate her surprise appearance into my life on that Sunday afternoon of Valentine’s Day 2021 when my children conspired and collaborated on this life-changing rescue. Kim rescued an 8-month old Schnoodle from Tallahassee, Florida and drove her to Tifton, Georgia. There, she met her brother Ken, who drove the last leg of the journey to my home on St. Simon’s Island.

Ken Facetimed his sister as he disclosed the terms of the deal for me.

“Dad, Kim rescued this dog, and you have 48 hours to decide on whether you want to keep her. No pressure. We had you in mind, but Kim fell in love with this sweet puppy, and I did too.”

Within thirty minutes, I knew she was mine! Kona remains the love of my life! She is the best gift ever and the best definition of true Valentine love! I couldn’t let the day go by without celebrating my cherished girl – Kona! My Valentine!

Within a few days, she had already put me on a strict routine. She makes sure I get a walk to the pier and village area every morning at 5 a.m. She licks my face and breaks into the full body wag, her nub of a tail a language of joy all its own.

Time to Go!

I grab our gear and leash. She’s more excited than a kid on Christmas morning as we step out into the fresh morning air – – a beautiful start to every day for both of us. She eagerly greets a couple of other wee hour canines and their walkers as we make our way toward sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.

When we return, she leads me to the kitchen to fix our breakfast, still vigorously wagging her tail. I move to the easy chair with my coffee, and she cozies up beside me, snug and warm, bringing complete peace and love into my heart and home. 

She takes me on rides in the car, mid-day walks, and quick trips to the grocery store, where she accompanies me inside on the leash and sets an example for me to behave as well as she does. Cashiers and customers alike know Kona and shower her with attention and praise as we make our way down the aisles shopping for each item on her grocery list.

She brings me home to rest in between our outings. We recharge our batteries and sit a spell as she climbs into her very own chair – – the one covered with the big beach towel. She knows when I feel tired or stressed and cuddles up to say, “It’s Ok.” 

My Valentine is the queen of the dog park family. I take her there each afternoon, and every occasion is one big family reunion. We meet people from all over the country who fall more deeply in love with St. Simons Island because of the dog park. Glynn County acknowledges that the Mallery Street Dog Park has been the number one amenity they have provided through the Recreation Department (pickleball courts are a close second, but even pickleball can’t compete with dogs).  Kona and her buddy Seamus, a pug, are two of the most present magnets of this fun loving community.

Dog Park Family

Kona knows when I dress up (by which shoes I put on) that she is not going with me on the occasion. She asks with her inquisitive eyes, “Why can’t dogs go to church?”

Her intuition is astounding. When I see Ken arriving and announce, “Kasa is coming,” Kona runs to the door to welcome her cousin canine! Any time I return home, she hears the distinctive sound of the car door and waits by the door to welcome me back.

I cannot even begin to enumerate the moments of love that Kona provides. She is simply the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. I can surely say how much I love my children( their mother raised them so well), but I love them a thousand times more for the gift of Kona.

Pet Rock Relationships

Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

In 2006 when I was going through a divorce, I did a lot of self-help reading as I climbed out of the rubble to begin a new life. Somewhere in all of those books, I came across a line that still causes me to stop and reflect: Trust is more important than love.

Apparently, several different authors have used the line, because it’s attributed to a list of names on a Google search. For nearly 20 years now, I have wondered about ways that the trust vs. love question could be true.

The Aha! moment came in a conference on building community partnerships that are categorized as connecting, cooperating, and collaborative. The speaker said, “Collaboration is built at the speed of trust.”

I’d never really considered the foundational position of the trust factor. A roof is as important as a foundation of a house, but without the foundation, the roof cannot stand. The Faith, Hope, and Love Bible verse tells us the greatest of these is love. I’ve returned again and again to this thought-gnawing statement about trust and love. But being the greatest, being the most important, and being the most foundational are pivotal superlatives.

So when the speaker explained the development of community partner relationships, the importance of trust became clear all at once. Trust is foundational. It happens first. It’s the prerequisite for relationships to grow. If there is ever a chance for love to bloom, it must first be rooted in trust.

No marriage, no friendship, no partnership will ever be anything more than a pet rock relationship without trust.

Finally. Finally, I have chewed long enough to reach the marrow of truth. I’ve grappled long enough to be satisfied that trust is more foundational than love, but that love is in fact the greatest of these. And that the importance of each may simply remain a matter of perspective.

January 23 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the third day of five days of January’s Open Write at Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about today’s host, Barb Edler of Iowa, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt:

Today’s poem is about reflecting on our goals. I think this prompt was designed just for me! I’m reflecting on my goals the last day of each month in the areas of creativity, experience, literature, gratitude, reflection, self-improvement, and spirituality that I spent the first days of the year crafting and describing on my blog. Today, a Haiku is a great way to celebrate the journey:

I'm in No Hurry

praying for answers

wondering about outcomes

I'm in no hurry

seeking my weight range

closet-eating M&Ms

I'm in no hurry

Reading Around the

U.S.A - savoring words

I'm in no hurry

counting my blessings

focusing on gratitude

I'm in no hurry

Route 66 plans

dreams in the making: someday

I'm in no hurry

creative touches

camera-ready journeys

I'm in no hurry

family stories

capturing the past in ink

I'm in no hurry

slowing down the pace

seeing more of it ~ not more

I'm in no hurry