Friday, April 28, 2017

The Happiest Day by Linda Pastan

     On this day, our final daughter (#4-Tess) and I drove to Appalachian State University for a visit and a meeting to finalize her plans to transfer there later this year. It was a picture perfect day to drive from our section of the Blue Ridge Mountains to a more southerly section of the same mountain chain in North Carolina, three hours away from home. We chose a route that would take us through lazy little towns and winding country roads. We crisscrossed the Appalachian Trail, past abandoned farmsteads, tiny country churches, rushing, rocky streams, and deeper into the heart of the mountains. By my estimation, this college visit was the tenth in my parenting career. Of them all, I can see why this is Tess' choice. Appalachian State, or App. State as it's called, is nestled in the mountains. It has an outdoorsy, hip and happy vibe, and it offers the International Business major that Tess seeks along with a Fine Arts minor should she so choose. As we walked around campus and around the town of Boone, North Carolina I could see in Tess' expressions and body language her interest and excitement in pursuing her dreams here. She needs to be independent of me, of us. Our youngest daughter is ready. She is looking outward and away from home... as it should be.
     As any parent will attest, raising a child to become independent, and successful, to leave home, is  our basic purpose. We strive to present the world with an asset to humanity. In retrospect, I can humbly say that my husband and I have accomplished this and we present the world with four gems. I say 'humbly' because they are precious gems despite our parenting blunders, psychological and genetic baggage, discipline mistakes, attempted do-overs, and the lack of any parenting experience whatsoever, to name just a few challenges. By God's grace they are beautiful, kind, gentle, intelligent, miracles. : )
     So, as I begin to mentally prepare myself to let go, to release the white knuckle grip I have on our last daughter, I'll post another poem that reflects my heart today.

The Happiest Day
by Linda Pastan

It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered 
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn't believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn't even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day-
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere-
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then...
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Garden in the Rain and A Poem for New Mothers (After a Conversation With Chelsea)

Forsythia, flowering plum,Creeping Germander, BrazelBerries Dwarf Raspberry (in pots), Magnolia 'Butterfly' (top)

Viburnum, 'Nantucket'

Cranesbill Geranium, Boxwood 'Justin Brouwers', Knockout Rose

Boxwood 'Justin Brouwers', Hydrangea, Daffodils
Day Bath by Debra Spencer

Last night I walked him back and forth,
his small head heavy against my chest,
round eyes watching me in the dark,
his body a sandbag in my arms.
I longed for sleep but couldn't bear his crying
so bore him back and forth until the sun rose
and he slept. Now the doors are open,
noon sunlight coming in,
and I can see fuchsias opening.
Now we bathe. I hold him, the soap
makes our skins glide past each other.
I lay him wet on my thighs, his head on my knees,
his feet dancing against my chest,
and I rinse him, pouring water
from my cupped hand.
No matter how I feel, he's the same,
eyes expectant, mouth ready,
with his fat legs and arms,
his belly, his small solid back.
Last night I wanted nothing more
than to get him out of my arms.
Today he fits neatly
along the hollow my thighs make,
and with his fragrant skin against mine
I feel brash, like a sunflower.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rain: Days One, Two, Three, and Four

    Dawn breaks on day four of rain. Incredible. It is a steady, endless, pouring down rain that barely breaks for dog-walking and will not relent for parking lot crossing or mail retrieving. "Embrace it", is what I keep telling myself. It really is a wonderful rain.
    So, what does one do in four days of rain? Read books, watch movies, hook rugs, and clean out closets and basements! I've read three good books. Two of them took place during WWII settings: "22 Britania Road"
and "Salt to the Sea"
The third, a sad story about a dysfunctional family, but written so well and compellingly thoughtful that I could not put it down and I give it a rare, five-star rating, "Swimming Lessons".

I read the first book on the Kindle that Claire gave me for my birthday. I am a book lover in the sense of cherishing books, longing for books, and enjoying the real paper and glue versions, but I completely enjoyed holding and reading a book on Kindle. Firstly, I was able to download the Kindle version immediately from my library. No waiting for it to come in or driving to town to pick it up. I wanted a book to read and Bam! There it was. Secondly, the Kindle is so light and easy to hold and carry around. I could turn the pages with the tip of my pinky finger. It was a joy to use and I am quickly sold on it. I expect I will be reading a combination of formats from now on.
     Steve and I watched a good movie, "A Man Called Ove". I read the book last year and then John recommended the movie. It was very good and followed the book perfectly. It's all about a man named Ove who lives alone and is the bane of his neighbor's and his own existence. He dreadfully misses his dead wife and the story goes on from there. It is a foreign movie, so be prepared to read captions.
     Next up on a rainy Saturday was the monthly hook-in of the Wooly Sheep Farm Rug Hookers. Each month twenty or more hookers gather for the day at a fellowship hall to see what everyone has been creating on and to work on our rugs while we chat and break for lunch. It's a fun, chatty group and I love to see everyone's rugs. My friend, Georganna is a retired art teacher and a prolific hooker. She is working simultaneously on the two rugs below- the large village scene and the love birds. Another hooker is hooking the smaller version of the village. I started working on a new rug but I can't show it because it is a gift for someone. : )

     Lastly, aside from running through rain showers to get to church, the neighbor's, work, and the market, I am purging closets and basement for items to donate to our church yard sale on May 6th. I ventured  into some of my parent's boxes, had a huge cry, and came up for air feeling much better. I played some of the cassette tapes my dad made of he and my mom playing music together and I laughed at the back of one of my dad's paintings of Hibiscus flowers. In his bold handwriting, it's dated, 1/16/85 and it says, "Cold Bastard Day! Spring's Coming!" Oh, how I miss that grump. It's raining again today, but tomorrow has the promise of sunshine.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Carpet of the Sun

Early morning commute about two weeks ago.
Renaissance was one of the bands I followed in my high school years. I still enjoy their music. This song always sounds fitting as I drive along our Botetourt roadways.

Come along with me
Down into the world of seeing
Come, and you'll be free
Take the time to find the feeling
See everything on its own
And you'll find you know the way
And you'll know the things you're shown
Owe everything to the day
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving
Come into the day
Feel the sunshine warmth around you
Sounds from far away
Music of the love that found you
The seed that you plant today
Tomorrow will be a tree
And living goes on this way
It's all part of you and me
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter- Now My Soul Cries Out Hallelujah!

     It's been a joyous week to be on Spring Break. Nature treated us to beautiful weather which lifted winter weary spirits. I neglected the gardens last year. Grief is all I can say about that. I recall planting stuff, but I don't remember much about it other than that it was more of a chore than a joy. Thankfully, the joy and wonder for the garden has returned. That magical feeling that spring brings, of seeing bright colors, of discovering new patterns in flowers and leaves, of hearing the bird's songs and watching their antics, it all feels brand new. My heart feels light on more days than it feels heavy. The process has been so slow that it was almost negligible. It's only by looking back that I realize how far I've come. So, how appropriate that today is Easter Sunday! This beautiful week has culminated in the most precious celebration of all time. All day, in my head I am singing,  ♪ "Christ! Christ! He is risen indeed! Oh sing Hallelujah..." ♫

It's hard to tell where the Redbud ends and the Dogwood begins. They are so pretty together.

Maybe there will be sweet cherries this year after all.
The Viburnum I photographed in my last post have now burst into full bloom. The purple under the maple tree is the Ajuga Chocolate Chip, shared from B.'s garden a couple of years ago.

I found a good sized violet patch out in the field. When I was growing up in New York, I would dig wild violets just like these and present them to my mom for Mother's Day. In NY, they always bloomed around Mother's Day. I decided to try and transplant some of these to the rock garden (below).
The Dogwood leans a bit. It is windblown and we leave it. I think it adds character.
This man had just finished digging a 3' by 2' hole in the hard clay for me. He changed his clothes and was waiting for the neighbor to finish mowing so they could enjoy a beer together. He earned it! Next up- paint the shed and build a door and cupola for it. The raised beds contain herbs (on the right), horseradish (on the left), asparagus (out of range), hops (back left), and two and a half beds still free for tomatoes, green beans, and peppers.
The lay of the land just after sunrise, Easter morning.
The lilacs are also in bloom now. We're going to be on sensory overload here pretty soon.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring (Break) Is Here!

     I have been very excited about this Spring Break. The thought of an entire week left wide open for me to use however I please leaves me feeling giddy. In reality, so much has been let go around the house all winter that I feel compelled to regain some order. So, my ideal Spring Break, the Spring Break that excites me the most involves spring cleaning and gardening. Woo Hoo! I am all in!
     After I stripped the master bedroom of all linens and curtains and started the washing machine, I went outside to take stock of the garden. The sun was just rising over the tree line, setting such a pretty glow on everything that I went back inside to grab the camera. Mockingbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and House Finches were all over the yard, singing and searching for breakfast. I realized how much I have missed mornings by rushing out of the house every Monday through Friday at 7:30. Mornings become a blur after that point. How nice to be able to slow down once in a while and savor a morning.
     I ended up spending the morning out in the garden. I planted more asparagus in the asparagus bed and some Dahlia bulbs in another raised beds. I also moved the sage to the herb bed and moved Steve's horse radish from a tub into a raised bed. I divided the Ajuga from under the Dogwood and planted it back under the Flowering Plum where I didn't like the look of the Pachysandra that was growing there. I took that Pachysandra and transplanted it under the Maples. I planted two pots of Pansies in the wall planter and took two adorable Primroses given to me by a friend and planted them in a terracotta pot where they can live in the shade. Then, I got out the lawnmower and mowed paths for Henri and me to walk through the fields. The grasses are growing quickly now!
     By 11:00 I needed to get back inside and keep the washer and dryer going for the bedroom linens. After I got cleaned up, I wrote a shopping list and ran some errands and did our weekly shopping at Kroger. All-in-all it felt like a productive day and I can't wait to get outside again tomorrow.
     On a side note, we still have a problem with mice getting into everything. Steve brought the lawnmower out from winter storage in the shed on Saturday. He had covered the motor area with mothballs and the mice still made a winter nest in there! They chewed the foam around the air filter but luckily left the wires alone. I also noticed they (or something) had nibbled the Irish Spring soap that we left out in the shed. I see neighboring cats hunting in the field around the shed and I'm glad for that, but we are otherwise flummoxed as to how to keep the mice out of the equipment. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We thought for sure the mothballs would handle it, but no.
     Here are a few pictures I took first thing this morning. The Mockingbirds were singing to me while I was out there, but in my head I was hearing "Spring is Here" by Ella Fitzgerald except I was hearing it in my mother's voice which was very similar.  : )

Facing the sunrise. Suddenly everything is green!

These Viburnum, Nantucket are ready to burst into bloom.
Happy daffodils along the driveway

A little friend in the Crabapple tree

They're sweet until they start singing at 4 AM.
I planted these Pansies last October and here they stayed all winter.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Apple Orchard Falls- A Walk in the Woods

      Oh, the beauty of Botetourt County! In celebration of spring birthdays, we took to woods and trails and hiked to Apple Orchard Falls. It's located right in our own backyard and steps away from both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail. We accessed it from a parking lot at the base and hiked up to the falls. Then we crossed a connector trail and hiked back down along Cornelius Creek. (see map below) It was a perfect day, starting out cool with light jackets which we soon shed. There were brief areas of trail where the rushing waters provided natural air conditioning and we'd don our jackets, only to shed them again farther up the trail. We passed only nine other hikers all day, which gave us a sense of having the trail almost all to ourselves. 
     My favorite thing about this hike is that it follows beautiful creeks both going up and coming down the two different trails. There are several bridge crossings over rushing waters and two creek crossings on Cornelius Creek to be made on your own footing. One of us rock hopped across, one of us removed shoes and socks to wade over and two of us used walking sticks to assist our rock crossing. (An experienced hiker passed us by wading right through with his hiking sneakers and socks still on. He didn't blink an eye and carried his girlfriend over on his back.) Along the way, we passed a multitude of little falls that fell into inviting pools. We made mental notes of a few, thinking they would be the perfect spot for a summer picnic and swim. We've already planned the picnic menu and we look forward to our return in a month or two. 

Apple Orchard Falls

View looking out from the falls and back to where we began our hike.

Steve and John in young forest growth. John is a forester and he pointed out many interesting tree and forest facts for us.

A lean-to beside the creek. It was a perfect spot to camp.

One of many fallen trees.
Little falls and a pool in the woods.
Our hike started at the yellow "P" at the top (which is really the bottom), across the connector trail, and down the Cornelius Creek Trail. A total of 5.8 miles with a gain of about 1,000 feet in elevation. I would rate the trail moderate with some steeper climbing to approach the falls and lots of small rocks on the trail.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mountain Retreat

     Our women's retreat was held at a wilderness survival school this year. Mountain Shepherd Survival School is located in Catawba, Virginia on a beautiful, winding, back road, about fifty minutes drive from my house. We had heavy rain the morning before the retreat which caused the streams and creeks to swell considerably. I glimpsed many such creeks at the base of the mountains along the drive. By afternoon, the rain stopped and the sun shone through the cloud openings like spotlights dotting the mountainside. It was a beautiful drive in.
     The overnight retreat was a wonderful opportunity to relax and enhance relationships with friends, old and new alike. We enjoyed excellent food, thoughtful scripture time, and jolly, good laughs. I wouldn't mind returning to the school to participate in the actual wilderness training. (that wasn't part of our retreat). You can read about Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School here.

Our beautiful group of attendees.
The view from the upper deck of the lodge.

The dining hall.
The meeting room.

 Catawba roads, a beautiful vista at every turn.