Weekly Update: 5.13.23

The Ozarks are bubbling over with springtime this week. The weather has been warm and balmy, with almost daily rain pouring fertility into the ground. The birds wake up the sky every day, and the fireflies are making their first evening appearances. There are little gooseberries ripening in the woods, and the blackberries are blooming.

In the middle of all this brazen life, we are in mourning. We lost our grandma, Aloma Reid Akins, this week. It’s hard to think about anything else as I turn my attention to a weekly update. She was so much more than just a grandma. She was a friend, always ready to talk about anything. She was a teacher, passing on sewing and handwork skills to all who wanted to learn. She was a light, with a smile that brightened the whole room. And more than all of that, she was a family story-keeper, tying us to our deep-rooted Ozark history.

Aloma Reid in the late 1950s.

I can’t give a full account here of the influence she has had on our lives. Suffice to say, it’s hard to imagine us being where we are today without her. The values of family, homespun skills, and a deep desire to reconnect with our history are all legacies of our Memaw, as we called her. I’ve written elsewhere about her parents, Lavola and Cova Reid, and how they were so at home on the earth. My Memaw was a product of their culture, and no matter what she went through in life, she never lost her down-to-earth goodness. She raised my mother with her own simple family values, often visiting the Ozarks cousins scattered around the San Joaquin Valley in California, where so many had settled after their Great Depression migration. These cousins were country people, some still living on farms. My mom was steeped in this love for family and hospitality, and she was inspired by her ancestor’s earthy lives. These are the values my sisters and I were raised with, and these are the stories that called our family back to these Ozark hills.

Once Grammy Lavola passed away a decade ago, my Memaw became the last keeper of those stories. She remained mentally sharp until the end. During our last phone discussion a week ago, she was telling me a story about climbing trees with her cousin when they were little girls, taking their books up with them to read. She was having one of her good days, and I will treasure that last exchange of joyful chatter forever. I’m so thankful she is waiting for me in heaven, and that our goodbyes on earth are not forever.

The loss of Memaw colored most of our week, as it was expected days before it happened. We made a little progress on our projects, but we were not as productive as usual.

In true Ozarks fashion, we went from needing the wood stove one night to sweltering in the humidity just days later. We have kept cool as best we can, often getting wet in the hose in order to keep going. We have especially enjoyed our spring-cooled drinks, and last weekend we even made some homemade frozen custard.

One evening, we cooled off by cleaning out our spring creek, which was overflowing with watercress. While this is an edible resource, we get more than we could possibly use, so most years we start with a solid clean out. The rotting watercress always smells terrible, so we drug it out into the woods to compost. During this project we spotted a mama and baby snapping turtle, and several very large crawdads, not to mention dozens of spiders.

The hot weather brought in several thunder storms, two being severe enough to drive us into our storm shelter.

It was quite crowded down there with all the camp chairs, which inspired us to get busy on some benches to make it more functional. I spent yesterday taking measurements and drawing up plans. My dad and I will go into Springfield today to pick up supplies. Hopefully we will get back early enough to work on the benches for awhile.

In the face of death, it is a balm to see the life of the world all around us. I finished Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter this week, and as we have grieved, I am reminded of a quote from the book. When the Coulter family is overwhelmed, Nathan repeatedly reminds them, “We’re going to live right on.”

3 thoughts on “Weekly Update: 5.13.23

  1. Yes
    What a touching tribute to a beloved family member and the richness of Ozark life. Despite the loss, it’s heartwarming to see how the family is finding solace in the beauty and vitality of the natural world around them.
    Eamon O’Keeffe
    Live Free Offgrid


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