I may have been walking down our dirt road where a sight like the one above could easily appear, but my mind was somewhere else through most of the walk.
Gradually intensified light from the sun rising in the east made the walk easy this morning. No worries about ice.
The usual morning traffic, including two school buses making their rounds, had not yet started their parade down South Center Valley Road.
And, of course, no doctor's buggies coming up from behind.
So, my mind was free to wander as I walked. And, it did.
This morning's mental scene occurred mostly at the facility where my mother lives, and she was the star.
Mother's mind wanders from time to time, and she sleeps a lot more at 91 than she ever did in past years.
Sometimes I visit and watch her sleep. Sometimes she mumbles something to me, suggesting that it's okay to leave cuz she'd rather snooze than look at me.
So, I go on my way.
Sometimes she's doing a little mind traveling herself, often to the days at Nazareth College where she earned her double degree in art and French back in the early 1940s.
One day a few months ago she told me she had not shown up for class for three weeks and it seemed that nobody missed her.
"I'm sure they'll let you know how much they missed you when you show up next time," I resassured her.
These visits used to be disturbing to a daughter who's used to a lifetime of influence from a strong, intelligent, talented, outspoken mother.
Now, I relish them, even if some days take place in the 1940s.
The past two days with Mother have been delightful.
On Monday, just when I thought I was going to walk in one more day to find her in deep-snooze mode, I spotted her sitting in her room surrounded by photos of her family with a lot of horse and dog shots.
She greeted me with a big smile. Then, we moved out to the dining room to visit.
That day I had brought her a Reece's peanut butter/chocolate wafer bar. She happily accepted a piece, chewed on it, approved and then embarked on a commentary about the lunch they'd served that day.
"I think they took everything left over from the past week and put it on our plates," she reported. "A lot of it was left on our plates."
On this rare occasion for my mother, she even lowered her voice to tell me just how bad the food was.
Kinda like the days at the University of Idaho when we wondered where they got the "slop" they put on our trays, I thought.
As Mother was telling me "confidentially" about the food, a staff member overheard her.
"She wants hotdogs and potato salad," the aide told me.
Note to self: plan a day to visit before lunch and bring on the hotdogs and tater salad.
I told my mother I'd try to do that some day.
"But you have to be awake if I bring it," I advised her.
Monday's visit included a trip around the premises with her wheelchair and some visits with faces from Mother's past who happen to live at the same place.
Yesterday I took my banjo along, just in case Mother was awake and alert two days in a row.
She was seated at a table with a drawing of hummingbirds and pansies. Next to the drawing were about a dozen colored pencils.
"I think I'm done coloring this for the day," she said, showing me her hands, 91-year-old arthritic, wrinkled hands and fingers, that don't work the way they did when she sketched that doctor's buggy up above in 1980.
Mother said she'd like some softer pencils so she doesn't have to push so hard when she does her coloring exercises.
Then, I pulled out another Reece's wafer bar. She gladly accepted and enjoyed the flavor. This time she shared no commentary on the worn-out food served for lunch.
"Would you like to see my banjo?" I asked.
With a big smile and beaming eyes, she responded with an enthusiastic, "Yes."
I went to the car, brought it in, opened the case and she sat watching me carefully remove it.
"It's a real banjo," she remarked.
"Yeah, it is," I said.
Then, I demonstrated to her my assigned exercises and my unique rendition of "Old Joe Clark."
She smiled the whole time, and said she liked listening, but then a shade of my typical mother came out with the words, "What tune is that?"
"Well, it's not quite a tune yet," I said. "Maybe some day."
"I've never played a banjo before," she said, still admiring the instrument as I strummed.
"You wanta try it?" I asked, getting up and placing it carefully in her lap.
"It's a bit heavy for me," she said.
"I'll hold it. You go ahead and pluck some strings," I said, holding each end as she laid her hand on the strings.
At first, like most people, she was a little shy about getting started.
First, a few soft plucks, then a little louder with each subsequent attempt.
"Why don't you try to strum it?" I said. No instructions needed, she strummed.
And, her focus? imagine the Border Collie eye. She was focused, and she was strumming and plucking and having fun.
"It would take me a long time to learn this," she said. Later, she suggested a more melodious instrument might be better.
I said maybe we'd put batteries in her Caseo keyboard and bring it down. She liked that idea.
I asked Mother if she'd like me to bring my banjo again.
"Yes," she said with a smile.
As my mind continued to wander during my morning walk today, I figured to myself: if I never ever learn a whole song on that banjo, yesterday's moments with Mother made it all worth the purchase.
She played some beautiful music on that banjo, for sure.