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- In the Company of Tire Tracks
On the morning after the rain, the day-after-day rain, a man on a Ford tractor drove slowly down the road in front of Sandhill. Pulling a blade, he scraped away the evidence – flattened the ruts into smooth planes, filled and leveled the puddles. He sat the way farmers do, one hand on the steering wheel, the opposite arm propped on the back of the seat so that he could swivel between watching the road ahead and the work of the blade behind him. The sun was just high enough to throw a spotlight on his back; his face was in shadow. I raised my hand in greeting, in acknowledgment of his presence, his offering. Slowly and smoothly he drove out of sight toward the river, the road transforming as he went. Gratitude for this man I did not know rose from the soles of my feet, which had been sucked into ankle-deep mud when I had tried to walk the day before. This man I did not know was making the road walkable. There are places, though, where the road was still a little slick, places where a wrong step could send me flailing, so I paid close attention to where I stepped, which is how I became mesmerized with the tire tracks. The most obvious were the Vs of the tractor tires. They curved out a little at the top like they were designed by an engineer with an affinity for fancy fonts. They were wide and thick like the thighs of a weightlifter. A little closer to the middle was a tread made of square links, large alternating with smaller, that made me think of the Greek key pattern often used in textiles and architecture. I decided that the one with two sets of matching curves on either side of a straight line that looked like waves breaking over a seawall was my favorite. There were lots more. One that looked like rows of ric rac trim on the hem of a little girl’s dress. One that made me think of a herringbone blazer I had once. A grid of tiny squares, a set of parallel lines. Importantly, it seemed, I – someone not familiar with such things beyond knowing that occasionally I have to buy new tires – could not tell from looking at the tread which way the cars, the trucks, the four-wheelers had been going nor how fast they had been traveling. There was no way to know what or whom they carried. The mystery made me thoughtful, sent me wondering about the other things I can not know. Over the past year we have been reminded endlessly that “we are all in this together.” But the truth is that none of us knows what our neighbor carries, how fast our co-worker is moving, whether our friend is arriving or leaving. What we see of each other is only the tire tracks left behind when we travel over hard terrain. Mud, snow, ice. We can guess, but we can not know. This is what I’ve learned in this time that is not over: Miseries are not written in comparative language. Trauma can not be categorized. Tragedies are not ranked on a scale. Pain is pain. Loss is loss. The rain always stops. The sun eventually comes out. Somebody scraps the road. And then the travelers show up, an endless line of people to whom we raise our hands in greeting, in acknowledgment, in gratitude for the company along the way. Copyright 2021
- Lovely As A Tree
Was it third grade? Fourth? When did we widen our eyes and open our mouths in amazement at discovering that the age of a tree is determined by counting its rings? And why did it never occur to us, to me that the only way to count those rings is for the tree to die? Owen and I are walking down the field road toward the pond. To our right a deep flutter of wings breaks the quiet, but not the sky. Whatever bird has been rustled from its rest by our approach remains within the keep of the woods. A softer scurrying close to the ground, a sound that would normally send my hyperactive dog bounding into the underbrush, goes ignored and fades. We have already walked two miles, to the crossroads and back, but the brisk afternoon has beckoned me again, a reminder that February days of temperate weather and light wind are outliers, that the cold and rain that mark this shortest month will not be denied their rule and tomorrow I am likely to be imprisoned. So I am walking again, strolling really. Purposeless but for the intention of being as close to the world as possible. Tossed to the side of the road, having laid there long enough for scrub grass and various vines to have grown up and around it, is a tree trunk. It was a couple of years ago that the tree fell in a storm. It’s hard to tell why a tree falls. This one may have been old and rotten. The wind may have been, as the meteorologists call it, gale force. I suppose it’s possible that a tree can just get tired and want to lie down. For whatever reason, this one fell and in its falling took out a power line. In the otherwise complete darkness, the rotating yellow lights of the linemen’s trucks threw strange shadows into the woods as they sawed the tree off near the ground and tossed it to the side before restoring power. They didn’t, however, toss it far enough. They left it in the path of the center pivot irrigation, which necessitated another assault, a carving of the trunk into pieces that could be pulled completely out of the way. From where I stand I can see the tree’s rings. They are uniformly narrow, indicating the sandy nature of the soil, and, while I’m not dressed to go tramping into the sharp deadness of the branch to count them, I can guess that there are somewhere between 75 and 100. Staring at the rings, endless circles with no beginnings and no ends, I remember something about a tree growing from its center. How the outermost ring is the oldest and how it stretches as growth takes place deep inside. How the tree remains healthy as long as its heart is vital, producing the sap that sends water and nutrients to the branches and limbs and leaves. I am not a tree. I compute my age not with rings, but with months and years. Not with endless curves, but straight lines that begin and end. But what if I was? What if I was a tree, my heart wreathed with love received, friendships made, beauty observed, obstacles overcome, tragedies survived? What if each beat of that heart pumped sap into the farthest reaches of my hands, my thoughts, my words? And what if on the day that I am felled by wind or lightning or fatigue those rings remain visible to passers-by? Glistening in the light of the sunset, testifying to a life measured in far more important ways than years. Copyright 2021
- Of Pine Trees and Merit Badges
I tried to walk today. Despite the fact that the humidity was 87 per cent and the temperature was 74 degrees and the sky was gray and low. I tried to walk, but I didn’t get far. I was no more than half a mile from home when the pine trees on either side of the road began singing. They sing a lot, these trees so tall that on a sunny day I have to squint my eyes to see their tops. They catch the breeze in their topmost branches and begin swaying like young girls on the edge of the dance floor sending their needles swishing like taffeta ballgowns. On clear days, they sing in the high-pitched voice of schoolchildren inviting me to sing along. On cold days, they run the scales of a baritone, in a range I can not reach. On days like today, warm and humid, they tend to be silent, as though the moisture in the air is too thick to penetrate with their voices. Unless rain is on its way. And when it is, the singing begins at the edge of the woods and builds as it sweeps across the forest, down the fire breaks and across the hills. It swells like an aria, seductive at the start and then frightening in its passion as it reaches the final notes. That’s what I heard today, the beginning notes of the aria. I called for Owen and turned to head back home. “I know your voice,” I said to the woods. “I have lived here long enough to recognize that song.” It was 47 years ago this month that we moved to the farm. I was 17 and, despite a sash full of Girl Scout badges, woefully unprepared for farm life – the acrid smells of animals and diesel fuel, the rules of the road on meeting a tractor pulling a twelve-row plow, how to drive on dirt roads after a three-day rain. I had never seen a field being burned off, flaming tongues of orange and red reaching halfway up the sky. I had never gotten a pick-up truck stuck in a plowed over field and walked home two miles in the dark. I had never heard a fawn crying for its mother. And I didn’t know that pine trees sing. There have been hundreds of lessons in those 47 years, but just a handful of truths: The closer you live to the earth, to the seasons, to the sky, the smaller you become. The smaller you become, the bigger becomes the world. The bigger becomes the world, the clearer becomes your perspective. And with perspective comes freedom. Freedom to and freedom from. I don’t always remember that. Sometimes those truths are drowned out by angry politicians, each of whom espouses the faulty idea that he or she alone is the guardian of civilization. Sometimes they are overshadowed by my own arrogance in thinking that if I work, argue, pray hard enough I can overpower another’s free will. Sometimes they are buried under fear and duty and laziness because it’s just easier to give in. But when I do remember I find myself gasping at the grace of a ladybug dangling from my fingertip, crying over a full moon pulsing almost within reach, stopping my stride to listen to woodpecker’s telegraphing far above my head. When I remember I can hear the pine trees sing. Copyright 2021
- Books | Kathy A. Bradley | Author and Writer in southeast Georgia | A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley is a writer in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center. |
Breathing and Walking Around Kathy's first book, Breathing and Walking Around is a record of four years’ worth of observations of common people, everyday events, and the natural world made from her home in the coastal plains of South Georgia. In short, personal essays she shares with precision and layer upon layer of sensory image "simple tales that emerge, in the end, as parables." Read More Wondering Toward Center In her second book of essays, Kathy Bradley continues her examination of the natural world as a prism through which to understand the human experience. With her family farm serving as the anchor, Kathy uses her observations of animal life, agriculture, and the seasons to create what she calls “a map key or decoder ring” for some of the dilemmas of twenty-first-century life. Read More Callings: A Story Corps Book In 2009, Kathy and her father Johnny participated in a Story Corps interview was later featured on NPR's "Morning Edition" and in 2016 it was chosen for inclusion in Callings, a compilation of interviews by Story Corps founder Dave Isay presenting stories from people doing what they love.
- Kathy A. Bradley | Southeast Georgia Author | www.KathyABradley.com | A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley is a writer in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center. |
Beauty is everywhere. Join Thanks for subscribing, stay tuned! Let's Keep in Touch! Subscribe to our newsletter. Kathy A. Bradley A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley has been writing from her family farm in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center, for which she received Georgia Author of the Year Awards in 2013 and 2017. She has also received the Will D. Campbell Prize for Creative Nonfiction, was a finalist for the Foreward INDIES Book of the Year Award in Essay, and was a nominee for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA). Meet Kathy Book Kathy Books "Beauty is everywhere. Simple is better. Quiet is a gift. Let’s embrace what we already have, where we already stand, and who we already are.” Website Designed by Beola Le'Shaun Consulting Website Design by Beola Le'Shun Consulting
- Meet Kathy | Kathy A. Bradley | Author and Writer in southeast Georia | A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley is a writer in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center. Meet Kathy, |