Category Archives: News from Turtle Ridge

The Homeplace: Fragments from the Past

2016 1-27 Fragments - Cast iron garden furrow tool and well-worn horseshoes. (2)Jill HendersonShow Me Oz – On the ridge behind my house is a small meadow encircled by towering trees.  A short, but well-worn path leads to a small pond clinging to the steep slope.  The pond is circled by a grotto of ancient oak trees with branches so big around they dwarf the trunks of almost every other mature tree on these 42 acres.  As I sat and stared into the massive reaches of these ancients, I wondered why this handful of trees had been spared from the saws of men when so many on the property clearly had not.  Obviously, the pond had been here a very long time – perhaps even as long as the trees themselves. And judging from their size, they had been there for about 200-250 years.  It wasn’t long after that first encounter that answers to my question began to emerge from the land itself.

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A Journey of Seasons

2011-12-24 Christmas Eve frost (1).jpgI recently lost my oldest brother, Patrick, to brain cancer. His quest for life at the fullest was one thing that the cancer could not take from him. He was a beautiful soul and his passing leaves a hole in my heart that I just can’t seem to fill with words. So, I will reminisce about our talks, and walks, and profound conversations on the meaning of life with these excerpts from my book, A Journey of Seasons, on the relationship between life and death.  I think we both saw that relationship best in the beauty of nature. 

…I like to think of winter as the Great Sleep. For while the landscape appears dull and lifeless, it is anything but.  Like the circle, a sacred symbol for many ancient cultures, winter is but one part of the never-ending journey of life.  The seasons follow the sure path upon which all things move from beginning to end from birth to death to birth, over and over in an endless circle we call life.  With so many more exciting months to choose from, December seems an unlikely place to begin a journey through the seasons.  But when you think about it, winter is literally the womb of nature and the catalyst for the vivacious eruption of new and hidden life come spring.  It is said that circles never end and seasons never die.

In memory of my brother, Patrick.
I’ll bet the sunsets are amazing from heaven!

2012 11-15 Sunset (4).jpg

…There is something of an analogy between spring and death and I search for its meaning among the bursting oak buds and the dragonflies darting about in the sun.  I see it in the bright blooms and hear it in the small chirps of newly fledged birds.  I feel it in the way my heart aches, both with the beauty of this place and with the unending search for the meaning of death.  I stand in the midst of the fervent life brought on by the spring rain and think about the inevitable death of our dear, old friend.  Humans question death in the deep, secret places of their hearts.  Yet, while it is difficult to love that which is most painful, death in itself can indeed be a joyful thing.  However, this can only be so when one truly believes that life is a never-ending journey in which the body is but a temporary vehicle for the soul.  When the earthly body dies, we are at last truly and completely free.

2013 4-17 Tulips (4).JPG

…. Our hearts heavy after many days of constant grieving and long sleepless hours, we made our way back to the clearing of the house in silence.  Despite our lack of sleep, neither of us felt tired.  We took our coffee and sat facing the woods; towards the place where we had just laid our last boy to rest.  We talked for hours about living and dying and what it all means – and we laughed.  We laughed harder than I ever thought possible in this overwhelming moment of grief.  We laughed remembering Buck and Milo’s antics and the many tight spots they wrangled out of.  We laughed about their cunning manipulations of the weaker members of their pack (us).  They had always made us laugh and it only seemed appropriate to celebrate their lives and their new freedom with more laughter.

All in all, it seemed to me a fine time for dying, or for being born, depending on how you look at things.  All around us life was pulsating and breathless in its own race to eventual death.  So many things live only a short time before a new seed is planted – and beauty and marvel and mystery are all rolled together into the fabric of time.  For us, it can seem eternal, but from heaven, it is but the brush of a butterfly’s wing.

2013 5-19 North Fork Float (21)  Butterfly Lick.jpg

Ozark History: The First Inhabitants

osageShow Me Oz – Excerpted from the Introduction to my book, A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country

The Ozark “Mountains” are an anomaly – an island in a sea of plains, a bump in an otherwise flat road. When viewed from the air the folds and contours of the Ozarks resemble a human brain; an interesting comparison, since the Ozarks also represent one of the most ancient and diverse landscapes in North America.  Among the unique and dizzying array of flora and fauna, caves, sinkholes, crystal clear springs and toe-numbing rivers is a rich and tangled history of human habitation.

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Moonshine in Missouri

IMG_4301By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Quite a few years back, on a beautiful fall day just like this one, a bit of unpleasant news filtered down through our village grapevine. Apparently, an elderly and well-known gentleman in our little community had been arrested for bootlegging moonshine.  That the man in question made and sold corn whiskey was no secret to many in the surrounding area, for he had been doing it for the better part of his life and made little secret of it. Some of the first official reports claimed that this gentleman and his immediate family made and sold up to 9,000 gallons of moonshine each year.  And while that may sound like a lot of ‘shine, it didn’t come as a surprise to me or to anyone else living within a 100 mile radius, because this fella had a reputation for making absolutely top-notch hooch and everyone who drank alcohol wanted a jar of their very own.

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Buck: A Short Story (part two)

2001 - 11 - Peace Valley - Buck scenting the windThe continuation of a short story about our beloved lab, Buck, whose life was much too short.  Continued from Part One: 

He had around his neck a dirty old blue bandana that had been folded up like a collar and tied on when he was but a pup. That bandana was like an announcement that clearly said he belonged to someone. Probably one of the local Salish families here on the Rez. But whoever it was hadn’t noticed, or cared, that the puppy they’d strapped that thing to was not a puppy any more and now the damn thing was nearly choking him to death. It’s a wonder he could even swallow; that thing was so tight around there. Kinda irked me to see it, but he wasn’t yet sure of me and I thought twice about pissing off the wrong person. Continue reading

Buck: A Short Story (part one)

1993-1 - Gafield, AR - Buck see's snow for the first time! editBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

I wrote this short story many years ago.  Our beloved 12 year-old lab, Buck, lay dying on a pallet in the middle of our living room as Dean and I and Buck’s best buddy, Milo, comforted him until his time came.  It was sudden and wrenchingly painful and left us with a hole that could never be filled.   But even as we mourned, we laughed.  For Buck’s life, and ours with him – and with Milo – were joyous and filled with adventure, laughter and lots and lots of love.  This is a short story about a dog whose life was too short.  From my heart; in Buck’s voice.  This hasn’t been edited thoroughly on purpose.  Buck would want it that way.  I hope you enjoy. Continue reading

One Woman’s Journey Through Oz

2002 - 5 - Caney Mountain Herb walk - vistasby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

I am not an Ozarker by birth.  I was actually born in  the West, grew up in the Deep South, and spent 10 years or so roving about the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana and other points beyond.  I love them all.  But when the day came that I first laid my eyes upon the rocky and rolling hills and hollers of the Ozarks, something deep in my bones told me I was home.

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