Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Images Left Behind

Two thousand one hundred seventy-three: Miles driven on our road trip.
Fourteen days: Time we were away from home.
Memories: Countless

     Our road trip has sadly come to an end. In retrospect, we played in mountains, sea, and cities. We saw some old friends and much of our family. We enjoyed time alone as a couple and we enjoyed time among thousands of strangers. It was perfect in every way.
     The final leg of our trip took us to our New York home. As I've mentioned before, my third cousin Matthew bought my parent's house. It is right next door to his parents' house (who would be my second cousin). My mother and two of her sisters first built in that neighborhood in 1952. One of the sisters is Matthew's great grandmother and her sister was my mother. The generations now continue  living there through Matthew and his children. Last week the cousins invited me and my sister over to see the renovations Matthew did on the house. It's still a work in progress and so far it's a beautiful a transformation. Most of the work has been exterior and structural and the entire exterior of the home now looks new. However, when we entered the kitchen it looked the same as the day we left it one year ago. It felt as though my mom might walk in at any moment and I had to pause to think of her and give my sister a hug. Otherwise we were thrilled to see everything being updated and restored.  
     What shocked me the most was when we saw the basement. My cousin had gutted all the paneling, shelves, and partitions that my dad had built over a span of fifty years. The basement I grew up with had been divided into four 'rooms' with various sorts of paneling covering all the walls. That basement was an extension of our home and we played down there for endless hours during our childhood.We had a wood stove to heat the area in the winter time so we could play down there year round. Now, what we saw was an empty shell and our eyes were able to scan the basement in its entirety. As we walked down the stairs and adjusted to the space, our eyes were drawn to colorful paintings on the foundation walls. Slowly turning, we saw not one wall, but three walls all painted in a mural. I couldn't believe the endless scene that spanned three walls of the basement! As I stepped closer, I saw paintings of bomber planes and paratroopers dropping over snow covered mountains. I realized it was a scene from my father's war. I was in shock. I had never seen this mural before, nor had my sister. Obviously the magnitude of what he saw in the war was forever embedded into his mind's eye. From what I've read, this scene depicts one of the biggest drops into battle during WWII. I'm sketchy on the exact history, but I thought they were dropped into France, not Italy as this painting implies. It was a scene he could not forget and felt compelled to paint onto his basement walls. And then cover up. My mind tried to calculate when my father could have painted this. The best I can figure is that he painted it sometime between 1953 and 1961.
     My father is no artist. He was a musician and a creative man but, his painting skills were  untrained. In his retirement years he took up painting as a hobby. His older sister, my Aunt Isabelle, owned an artist supply store and she kept him supplied in canvases and paints. He had a good time painting things to hang around the house and he and my mom enjoyed them. This mural is a good example of his painting technique. His impetus was to get his idea painted and not so much on how he did it.
     My cousin said is going to leave the mural there. I admire him for the respect he has shown for my parents throughout this past year when he purchased the house and now in its renovations. He's a great guy and I am proud to call him family.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Road Trip Continues: Jazz Festival, Saratoga Springs, NY

     We said goodbye for now to Chelsea and Simon in New Hampshire and continued our road trip across their beautiful state, into Vermont. Along the way, we stopped at The Dorr Mill Store in Newport, NH to shop for wool fabrics and rug hooking supplies. I was overwhelmed by the size of their store and the variety of woolens. They had everything from bins and barrels of wool scraps for one dollar, to fat quarters, to yardages. They had patterns, hooks, books and backings, and so much inspiration. We spent close to two hours exploring the store and I made a few purchases of wool for  rugs I would like to make over the winter. It was a little hard to accept that this store is so far away from where I live and I won't be able to return to it any time soon. They have everything online to purchase, but it's so much nicer to see and feel the wool in person. Anyway, I am grateful to have even this one visit and I hope for a return visit one day.
     We stopped overnight in Vermont and continued on our way the next morning to Saratoga Springs, New York for the annual Jazz Festival. Saratoga Springs was our home for a couple of years in the late 80's and it is a city we love to return to when we can. It boasts the famous Saratoga Race Track for horse racing and it is the summer home of the New York City Ballet. It is also steeped in history. Because of this, it is a vibrant, beautiful city with many ongoing cultural events.
     The Jazz Festival runs for two days every year and folks come from states away to enjoy the music and the atmosphere. It's a fun, party-like weekend where everyone is friendly. One example of this is the lady we met who offered two large thermos coolers with free drinks in memory of her late husband. He came to the festival every year until he was shot and killed in a random terror attack. His framed photograph sat atop one of the coolers. One cooler held vodka and lemonade (his favorite jazz festival drink) and the other had Sangria. We stopped and chatted with her for a bit and I accepted a taste of the Sangria. It was very good. Steve is the jazz lover in our family and the festival is really his thing, but I enjoyed the live performances and I had a great time throughout. I was particularly amazed by the Joey Alexander Trio. Mr. Alexander celebrated his thirteenth birthday on the day of his performance here.

We had tickets for inside seating but we spent most of the day in our beach chairs in the shade or walking around between venues. There were all kinds of foods being sold including a spit with a roasting pig and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. There was an indoor air conditioned bar and even a cigar shop. Below is a clip from another band I particularly enjoyed.

We lived out of the backpack from noon 'til night except for our little excursion to downtown Saratoga where we dined in an air conditioned restaurant for dinner. It was a very warm day and the cooled air was a welcomed oasis.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Canterbury Shaker Village

     I'm a romantic... and most definitely an idealist. Walking the grounds at the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire gave me a longing to live in a utopian society. The Shakers, correctly known as The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, built at least eighteen communities in North America and are best known for their beautiful furniture and simple, communal lifestyle centered on worshipping God. They were considered one of the most successful utopian societies, having survived for over two hundred years. Their deserted villages remain intact, preserved by historical societies and museums. Visiting one of their villages is like taking a step back into time. As we strolled along the grounds at Canterbury, Chelsea and I tried to work out how we could make this simple, pure lifestyle happen. Steve quickly burst our bubble, realist that he is.
     The Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire is the third Shaker village I have had the opportunity to tour. (The previous two being New Lebanon Shaker Village in New York and Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts.) Their website suggested allowing three to four hours to tour the grounds. We spent six hours there and still didn't go into every building. It was purely fascinating. 
A beautiful allée of Sugar Maples leads to the Meeting House

The only intact, first-generation Shaker Meetinghouse, built in 1792

The Sugar Maples are ancient and so big!

Soapstone tubs in the laundry building. 

In 1942 only a handful of sisters remained in the village so they bought a Maytag and closed the laundry building. We're told the soap has remained there since that day. 

I liked these interior sliding window shutters 
Their handwork was the finest, including these wool socks.

Simple, clean lines

Rear view of the village from the herb garden 
Oh, if only...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Concord, New Hampshire and Franconia Notch

     Last week we headed to parts north! Aside from the patience-testing drive which should have taken twelve hours, but took fifteen, each day has been great. The main purpose of the trip is to see Chelsea and her family. They live in such a beautiful area that our trip will include mountains and sea. While we're up this way, we'll extend our visit to see family in New York, too.
     Our first day was spent walking to downtown Concord. It's the state capital, so there's a very nice downtown area with every little shop and eatery you could want. We browsed the shops, checked out the architecture of the state buildings, and found shady courtyard areas to enjoy a coffee break.

     On our second day, we drove about an hour north to Franconia Notch State Park. We hiked/walked two miles to the Flume Gorge and then we took the tramway up Cannon Mountain for a 360 degree view of the White Mountains. The weather was perfect to be at four thousand feet with the visibility at seventy-five miles. Across the valley we could see the Appalachian Trail skirting along the ridge line where Chelsea walked two years ago.

Heading into the Flume Gorge at Franconia Notch

Hugo was a happy hiker.

The covered bridge was built over a giant fir tree that had fallen in the early 1900's across the gorge. 

The Appalachian Trail follows the ridge line from the center of photo to the left.

Views of New York, Maine, and Vermont

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Time to Reflect

     As my family knows, I can be a fussy person, prone to anxiety and worry, and easily agitated. As a doctor once described my mother "always like a racehorse at the starting gate", so am I. It takes a great deal of peace and sanctuary to counterbalance the stress I perceive in life. Even preparing for the enjoyment of travel will kick me into compulsive mode, as I am now. Knowing this about myself has made me realize one of the reasons I have been so taken with rug hooking. (Knitting or crochet or other such hand crafts would work equally as well, I think.) The reason being, I expend an exorbitant amount of energy into hooking that rug. While I am hooking, my mind is free to wander and think and pray, and work stuff out. It's a beautiful thing. An hour will go by without my even realizing it and during that time I've accomplished multiple things... mostly in my head of course. There is the added outcome of a pretty hooked rug to show for it as well. : )
     This weekend, I hooked a lot. I also sewed, mowed, laundered, ironed, cooked, gardened, and vacuumed. I told Tess that I destroyed a lot. (This, in noticing that a lot had to be destroyed in order for something to be created. I'll think more on this another time) ... and I did a lot of thinking. The shocking terror attack in Orlando left everyone speechless...for a minute anyway. After that, everyone had something to say and the sheer volume of opinion overwhelmed me and I felt compelled to switch to radio silence on the subject. I needed time and space to have my own thoughts form. When I resurfaced, I read an article our pastor shared. I appreciate his gentle shepherding and I admire his heart. Here are two beautiful and very true quotes to ponder:

"Let’s make sure that God’s kindness is tasted not only on the pages of Scripture, but through our lives and through our loving. Because the more we are into Jesus, the more conservative we are in our belief that every single word of the Bible is right and good and true, the more liberal we will be in the ways that we love."  -Scott Sauls

"As Dostoevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov, love in practice is a dreadful thing compared to the love in dreams. But the real and messy love—the kind that leads us to maintain conviction while communicating love and compassion and empathy to those who might not agree with our convictions—is better than the love in dreams, which is a sentimental love that has no roots. The real and messy love, not the love in dreams, is the love that Jesus entered into. And we must follow."
Thinking it out.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday Singing, Times Two

Tess taught me how to put music on my iphone. Woo hoo! I've got a whole new musical world at my fingertips. On the way to church we listened to one of my all time favorite songs.

In church, our voices harmonized beautifully on this song. To me, it sounded just as beautiful as this choir. : )

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Cascades Waterfall, Pembroke, VA

     This is, by far, my favorite local hike. I waited too long to come back to the Cascades with my last hike here being six years ago. The weather was picture-perfect today with temperatures in the low 60's when we arrived at 10:00 AM. They gradually climbed into the upper 70's as the day wore on. We had clear blue skies and a light breeze.
     There are two trails leading in and out of the waterfall. The lower trail hugs Little Stony Creek and provides a steady climb to the lower falls, pictured above. It's fairly rocky and there are many stone steps to climb. Mossy rocks, dappled sun, still pools, and large rock features provide ample opportunities to stop along the way and take in the beautiful forest. Our conversation often turned to the rock formations and the tumbled boulders that obviously fell from the walls above. There are  many car-sized boulders strewn in the creek along the way. At the falls itself, folks spread out across the flat rocks and wade in the pool. The rocks in the water are very slippery and it is easy to fall if you're not careful. Obviously climbing on the rocks is plain stupid and there are warning signs which the young man in my photo chose to ignore. We sat and enjoyed our packed lunches and walked around a bit to take in the sights. We climbed up the stairs to the left of the falls for more photos and then chose to hike the upper trail back down. The upper trail still allows you to hear the rushing creek below, but it provides a wide open, rock-free highway of sorts back to the parking area. The hike is about 4 miles round trip, maybe slightly more. It took B. and I about an hour and fifteen minutes to hike in and another hour to hike out.
     There is the option to continue hiking another two miles to Barney's Wall and a view of the New River Valley. There is also an upper falls about a half mile from the lower falls which I have never seen. maybe next time!
     In my opinion, difficulty scale ratings for hikes are hard to go by because everyone has a varying level of what they consider easy or difficult, but I think a moderate rating for the lower trail is fair for this hike. The trail is rocky and you must watch your step all along the lower trail. There are also many series of steps to climb and for these two reasons I would rate it 'moderate' for me. An avid hiker might rate it more towards 'easy'.
     Spending the day in this fashion was a huge boost to my spirit and energy. I wish every summer day could be suspended in reality to give us these temperatures and experiences. At the least, I look forward to more hikes like this and more time to put the routine on hold... just for a day.

One of several pools with little, pebbly beaches

Approaching the falls

The trail is paved in this little section and hugs the creek with mossy rocks.
My first selfie! #oldladieshiking


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Blue Skies

     It's that time of year again. The sound of tractors floats through open windows as they pass back and forth over the fields. The aroma of freshly cut hay, warmed by the sun, fills the air. It is peaceful and it is orderly. It is preparing for winter. It changes the landscape dramatically, going from waist high grass full with seed to flat green carpet. It's similar to when a man shaves off his full beard and how different his face appears. You do a double take and stare for a minute to process the change.
     I was outside gardening these past two days as the farmers were mowing. Two different farmers were mowing at the same time. They were off in the distance, but it I felt like I had someone co-laboring with me. Each of us was manipulating the landscape by our own hand to suit our needs, growing and harvesting, coaxing something out of nothing, and always fighting weeds. We all work hard to recreate our little piece of Eden. The weeds and decay remind us that we are far from Eden, but how nice it is to have that one brief moment when we step back, admire its fleeting beauty and store that sweet aroma in our memories for when winter comes.
    As you can imagine from this photo, we had a break in the humid, rainy weather pattern. The skies cleared and a fresh breeze blew in. It's perfect weather for a hike and I am super excited to have one planned this week. Snakes and bears stay out of my way, I'm coming into your woods!
     I feel like I should celebrate having the curtains all sewed and hung. Just like the transformed fields, the curtains have transformed the bedroom. It's the same room, yet not the same at all. I buy all my linen from  I ordered Optic White. It's whiter than their Natural White, which looks off-white compared to the Optic White. We have three windows in the bedroom. I made each panel 100" long and kept each panel the width that of the fabric, which is 57". Curtains are all straight stitching, so there's no real skill needed here, it's more about ironing and pinning and marathon sewing than anything else. I first hemmed all the sides with a 1" hem. Then, I hemmed the tops with a 3" hem and the bottoms with a 5" hem. For six of these panels I used 17 yards of linen and went through one 274 yard spool of thread (haha!). I hung each panel with 10 curtains rings and used  rods that we already had. I want to be able to easily slide the curtain panels open and closed. All-in-all, they were cheaper than the IKEA curtains and the least expensive option out of all the linen curtains for which I searched, which were many.
     Like the garden, we mold and manipulate our home with our hands to our liking. Steve and I are  hands-on when it comes to building and doing things for ourselves, within our abilities . Our families and many of our friends are the same way. Part of the pleasure of achieving something is the sweat equity we pour into it. For the bedroom, Steve drove to New York and bought the maple flooring, installed it and finished it. While he was away to get the maple, I prepped and painted the bedroom walls and trim. He painted the ceiling. While I was sewing the curtains, he tore out the bathroom vanity, sink and toilet and will install new vinyl flooring (it's our preference over tile). I will paint the vanity and Steve said he will paint the walls. He'll re-install everything and voila! The do-it-yourself route may take longer, but we enjoy the process and the reward, for us, is satisfying. I have also found that tasks like weeding, painting, ironing, and mowing open up my mind to wandering thoughts, the working out of niggling dilemmas, and talking to God. All time well spent : )

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Deer, Bears, and Wild Things

     Henri and I have been taking our longer walks in the evenings, sometimes as late as eight thirty. Late spring gives us long and luxurious evenings with dusk teasing out the day long beyond what is appropriate. It fools us into thinking we can go out to garden at what would normally be our bedtime in winter. It's wonderful.

     I snapped this photo with my cell phone. This is typical of the banks along our road. It shows one of many well-worn deer paths that bring the deer across the road. My first thought when I see these is that they are a perfect example of why we should not speed down our country roads. Eventually you will hit a deer. A few evenings later I peered into this trail from the road and saw a doe grazing just inside the tree line. It took her a few minutes to notice my face and when she did, she stood stock still. I smiled and said, "I seee you!" That's when she bolted. I must have looked like Jack Nicholson in The Shining to her. Haha!

      The wild honeysuckle is another thing that makes our evening walks so pleasant. It vines and trails all over the road banks, up telephone poles, along fencing, everywhere. The aroma is truly intoxicating. Many times I have to stop dead in my tracks just to breath it in. Henri might hear me talking to the honeysuckle now and then, mainly making declarations of my love for it. What can I say, it's overpowering.
     On a last note, Steve saw a "big" black bear cross our road one morning this week. He said the bear was moving quickly, going down the mountain. I heard another bear story from three AT hikers I picked up yesterday to give a ride. They talked about one of the AT shelters being closed because of bears. They said a bear or bears are stalking hikers on the trail. They had one that followed them from about seventy five feet away and made them quite jittery. The shelter has been closed for a couple of weeks already and was reported in the news. It sounds like there's a section of the AT trail in Daleville where the bears have grown accustom to finding food. Once they find easy food, they are drawn back to that area.
     I knocked off many projects these past two weeks. The blue bench is done, seat cushion sewn along with two more pillows I sewed for the porch. I finished my little hooked rug and I drew my next pattern to start. I also finished planting the foundation bed under our bedroom windows and I have only three more Little Lime Hydrangeas to plant in another bed. I've almost finished sewing Mari's prairie dress (Yay!) just in time for the delivery yesterday of seventeen yards(!) of pure white linen. Tomorrow I'll be sewing curtains. It's a good thing there is rain in the forecast this weekend...