Tag Archives: Appalachia

The Year Without a Spring

a lot of workLenora Swann felt a great wave of sadness while in the midst of the downward dog asana. She tried to breathe through the stretch while straightening her legs and arching her back, but the sadness threatened to overwhelm her balance.

She strengthened her resolve with self-talk and successfully walked her hands up to her feet, wrapped the fingers of each hand around its respective ankle and brought her nose to her knees. The burn in the back of her thighs was intense yet satisfying.

She straightened up, brought her hands into position and silently said Namaste to her reflection in the mirror. With that, her yoga was done for the day.

The sadness persisted, however.

The rain wasn’t helping. Today, it was freezing rain and chilling winds. Tomorrow would be 85F and humid. It was the year without a spring.

Lenora sighed and embraced the sadness while hugging herself.

Lenora delighted in spring. That season in Appalachia was almost unbearable in its sweetness and beauty. The sky would be a crystalline blue, the greens magnificent in their intensity, and the daffodils, Lord the daffodils, could make one weep with their joie de vivre.

Yes, the daffodils bloomed at the appropriate time on the calendar. And the rains provoked the greening. But without the blue sky and mild temperature, the beauty of it all was subdued. The rain beat the peonies to the ground and the humidity wilted the green leaves.

Her feelings were similar to those of an unrequited love affair. She simultaneously hoped for mild zephyrs and brilliant sun while mourning their absence. To hope, to mourn. The sadness threatened to overcome her.

Lenora fought against the tears and braved the chilling rain to cut irises to put in a vase. With disgust, she picked a snail off the bright yellow bloom and wielded her shears to cut more. She would fill the house with blooms. She vowed to beat the sadness.

There was green. There were flowers. The scent of the peonies was no less intense for the weather.

She moved through the garden like a human combine. Peonies, irises, roses and mock orange. Ferns, Lily-of-the-Valley. She would requite the love affair through her own efforts. If spring couldn’t be bothered, she could.

The cut glass vase an old lover had given her was quickly filled. Lenora pulled more vases from underneath the sink. Yes, she would fill the house with the colors and scents of spring. While the weather outside belied the calendar, it was comfortable in her home.

Soon her jeans were soaked from the hem to her knees. Her hair was ropey from the freezing rain. Her shoes muddy. She was cold and shivering.

She did fill her home with flowers in each of the rooms. She took the teakettle off the stove and brewed hot, strong, sweet tea to sip from a flowered Wedgewood teacup. Another gift, but this one from an old friend who had since died.

She filled the old clawfoot tub, took off her clothes, turned off the lights, lit a candle and slid into the warm bath. She listened to the rain on the old tin roof.

The candlelight lit the white petals of the fragrant peonies and Lenora’s spirit soared.

It was going to be okay. It was. She stood in the tub, turned and positioned herself in Namaste and bowed to the flowers. She whispered, “The spirit in me bows to the spirit in you.”

The year without a spring couldn’t kill the hope in Lenora’s heart. The year without a spring taught Lenora the power of resiliency. The year without a spring provoked Lenora to bloom and create beauty out of the mundane routines of a cold, rainy day.

Lenora, wrapped in her robe, wandered through her home visiting the flowers. She felt a quiet joy that replaced the sadness. Lenora, once again, was enjoying the season.

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Filed under May 2018

The Winter of My Content

march snow 034The past four days have been an adventure.  Between Wednesday night and Thursday, I found 10 inches of snow outside The Barn.  With great glee, I celebrated the announcement that a certain community college was closed both Thursday and Friday.  At my place of employment, this means we are also closed and I don’t have to burn vacation days due to heavy snow.  It doesn’t take a lot of snow to trap me on the hill and nearly a foot was way overkill.

We had eight inches of snow over the President’s Day weekend.  I ended up with a full week off of work.  It was a lovely respite, but I did nothing but sleep, eat, read and watch Downton Abbey.

I had big plans for these four days off, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”  I seem to be in major nesting mode – I want The Barn to look as wonderful as I think it is, so a thorough cleaning was in order.  I also was looking forward to cooking.  After not cooking for most of the past ten years, I’m suddenly interested in it again.

march snow 003Day 1 of my four-day weekend, Thursday, I did some triage cleaning (Chez Barn was/is a Superfund Site) and finally finished putting all the Christmas stuff away.  Yes, yes.  I know, March, but, hell, it was July one year. I’m ahead of schedule!  It was so nice having my living room back that I wallowed in that room and admired the gorgeous snow and sunshine out my window.  It was very Dr. Zhivago-ish.  I also made the starter dough for a new sticky bun recipe.  I’m on a quest for the perfect sticky bun.  The potato soup I made for dinner was spectacular!  I could win a soup contest, my potato soup is just that good.

Friday morning, I woke up with a head of steam to clean and bake.  I turned the starter dough into finished dough and had it set to rise when the power went out at 9 a.m.  I trundled my butt-that-doesn’t-need-even-a-single-sticky-bun-much-less-a-dozen down to my folks’ house to see if they had power.

march snow 057They didn’t.  But they had a fireplace and the hearth proved a perfect spot to make old-fashioned percolator coffee.  After visiting with them for awhile, I took the big camera out for a photo shoot of Ma Nature’s glorious handiwork.  I tromped around Onafork and took some stellar photos, some mediocre, and some just bad.  (See the gallery below.)

When I returned, I called Appalachian Power and reported the outage.  I was told it would be repaired at 10 p.m. Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I was miffed.  One cannot clean and bake in a cold, dark house with no electricity.  I mean, really, it already looks like I clean in the dark.

potato soupBy the afternoon, The Barn was getting cold – 55F, to be exact.  I trundled back down to my folks’ after defrosting the windows of my car and cleaning off the snow.  I wanted to be ready in the event of an emergency.

We all sat around drinking coffee, laughing about how we were out of wood and having to burn old software manuals, and eating the leftover potato soup I made on Thursday.

Software manuals put out a great deal of heat.  We were comfortable and told stories.  Eventually, I went back home to sleep.  I have a heavy down comforter on my bed as well as a heavy bedspread.  I was confident I would be warm enough.  And I was.

march snow 006Saturday, I went back down to the parents’ house, because the only way to be comfortable in my then 42F house was to be in the bed.  One can only stay in bed alone for so long.  Plans were made for them to go to a hotel.  I decided to stay here and tend to critters.  By that time, we were down to broken furniture to burn in the fireplace.  A cheesy “wood” chair made in Yugoslavia doesn’t burn nearly as well as do software manuals.  Surprise, surprise.

Nonetheless, I was all zen and accepting of life’s curve ball when I discovered I had left my car running, ran the battery down and my phone was down to 10% power.  The only way I had to charge the phone was the car charger and that wasn’t going to work with a dead battery.  I lamented on Facebook and my friend/contractor sent his son over to jump my car.

I have been so blessed with the people in my life.  My boss texted me often to see if there was anything she could do to help.  Other friends called.  My Facebook world fretted about my well-being.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the friendships I have, but I’m very grateful.

at my parentsSaturday evening was spent in a haze of wine and contentment.  It would have been nice to have had some music, but, alas, I was short of that perfection.  I left my folks’ house at about 11 p.m. and returned to my toasty bed.  If nothing else, I did get a lot of sleep.  I drifted off convinced that the power company was lying to me and I would wake to power on Sunday morning.

Well.  I woke up this morning and I still didn’t have power.  Zounds!

Back like a boomerang, I went to my parents’ house yet again.  The fire had gone out and I couldn’t get that Yugoslavian chair to light to save my life.  Besides the cold factor, the more important problem was that I couldn’t make coffee.  I have a serious coffee addiction.  It was a dire situation.  After about an hour, in walked my parents with coffee and sausage biscuits.  Again, I was suffused with gratitude.

And then the power came back on, well before 10 p.m.  There was great celebration and I returned home to bake and clean and blog and upload photos and do laundry and put emergency light sources away…and…and…

It’s been a wonderful day.   The sticky buns turned out a tad gummy, but recipe tweaking should take care of that.  The house is still a mess and laundry isn’t even half done, but I am happy and content. These days  it’s good to be me – the winter of my content.  Contentment may well be the best state of being.  I know I’m certainly enjoying it.

 

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Filed under March 2015

Sunday Morning Gospel

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Filed under September 2014

Sunday Morning Gospel: West Virginia’s Carpenter Ants

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Filed under September 2014

Throwback Thursday: My two favorite things

My two favorite things:  my boy and my mountains

My two favorite things: my boy and my mountains.

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Filed under June 2014

A desert, an oasis, green hills and home.

029 (2)I’m home from the Great Ash Dash of 2014.  It was such a good trip and I hated for it to end; however, driving up the hill on the way home from the airport, my heart just thrilled.  It is so good to be home.  I’ve wallowed this day away for the most part.

I did manage to do some laundry and sort through the nearly two-thousand photos that one of my traveling companions took.  With my bum foot I found it hard to take photos.  Balancing a heavy camera to focus puts more stress on a body than the fully-able realize.  Fortunately, Mr. Paparazzi took care of the problem.  Some of the photos I did take were of one of my childhood homes.

746 (2)1047 Bluegrass in Vista, California was my stomping grounds for 1st and 2nd grade.  While I have few memories of that time, I do have some.  I can remember attaching a quilt to the chainlink fence in the backyard to make a tent.  I can remember a scary goose following me home from school and I can remember playing with snails in the side yard.  I can remember posing with my brother in front of the house.  I was wearing a pair of my mother’s high heels.  (Even as a small child, I was into shoes!)

743 (2)When my parents bought the house it was brand new and the show house for the neighborhood.  Bluegrass was a cul de sac of new construction.  Behind our house was a small orange grove and farm replete with chickens.  The neighborhood itself was lush and green.  Most of the residents on the street took pride in their yards and the masses of geraniums were planted so that a ribbon of them undulated through all the yards.

My mother was an avid gardener and I can remember apricot roses and calla lilies taller than me.  I also remember their scent and her dislike of the snails that intrigued my brother and I.

Returning to this place was interesting, but also a little sad.  The neighborhood is run down and evidence of California’s long drought showed in the absence of gardens, geraniums and lush grass.  Still, it was a treat to visit.

756 (2)I haven’t been in California, the state of my birth, since I was 10.  Going back with adult eyes all these years later was sweet.  Besides the house in Vista, we also visited the town of my birth, Twenty-nine Palms, California also known as 29 Stumps.

We stayed at the 29 Palms Inn, established in 1928 and the site of the oasis for which the town is named complete with the fabled 29 palms.  In the middle of desert, there was this oasis with turtles and humming birds and lush vegetation.  No wonder people think oases are mirages.  This beautiful, verdant spot was set against the spare, brown desert.

764 (2)HMO’Keefe once wrote at length I a letter to me about his love for the desert.  In the letter, he lamented ad refuted the idea that the desert was empty and dead.  His eloquent words made me love the desert I couldn’t remember.   I was disappointed on this trip to learn that I don’t love the desert.  I want to.  It seems that I should.  But the desert did seem empty and dead to me.  I kept thinking that with a little compost, some seeds and water, the desert landscape could match the sky for sheer majesty.  Perhaps the fact that I was born in a town named for an oasis explains why I so love the green of West Virginia and its mellow hills as opposed to the browns and rusts of the flat desert.

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Filed under April 2014

A Hallelujah Chorus in Leaf Mulch

I love windows.

I love windows.

It did my evil little heart good to get outside in the garden today.

I hadn’t attended to any of the leaves until today because of the cataract surgery. When one lives in a forest, this is, perhaps, not a good idea. I am not exaggerating – I had fallen, unraked leaves that accumulated on their own into 1’ and 2’ piles in the fenced area of the garden.

I did a lot in the garden this past spring. Doug was recently discharged from the hospital and not well enough to be left alone for several weeks. That time period coincided with a streak of beyond-gorgeous weather that makes a body’s heart hurt.

I’m reading a book by Julia Keller titled A Killing in the Hills that is set in West Virginia. I’m not very far into the book, but she astounded me on pages 27-28 with her description of an Appalachia spring. I’ve spent years trying to develop a concise, accurate description that could be conveyed in writing without accompanying photographs.

Keller wrote:

It was a beautiful place, especially in the late spring and throughout the long summer, when the hawks wrote slow, wordless stories across the pale blue parchment of the sky, when the tree-lined valleys exploded in a green so vivid and yet so predictable that it was like a hallelujah shout at a tent revival. You always knew it was coming, but it could still knock you clean off your feet.

leavesImagine if you will that the acres surrounding my barn exploded into a lengthy mountain music version of the Hallelujah chorus. That was this past spring. Imagine now, piles of leaves waist high being mulched with a lawn mower. Can you hear the closing strains of those Hallelujahs as they shelter the plants for the winter under a blanket of leaf mulch. Yes, the wheel turns.

Gardening and writing keep me sane. Last spring, my sanity was hanging by a thread. Some would argue the thread broke. That stretch of spring, with its soaring melody, kept me grounded. Since Doug slept a lot, I spent a lot of time outside – often working by lantern light.

My long-time readers know that my garden is a work in progress – one that began with acres of packed gravel inches deep in unblastable clay. In the beginning, to plant a daffodil required a pick axe and sometimes an auger. After 22 years or so of waging battle against bad dirt, I was sure this year was going to be The Year My Garden Landed on the Cover of Southern Living.

a lot of work

During the 2013 Garden Palooza

By my standards, I poured a ton of money into the ground out back. I painted lawn furniture, bought new cushions, planted a dozen or so shrubs and bushes, and planted flats and flats of petunias and impatiens. I babied a patch of Irish moss, let lavender roam free, and lost all sense of prudence when I bought the fountain and the super-duper-big planter to hold a tropical, vining plant. This was going to be the year.

And then the rains came. The news described them as “scattered storms.” Every one of those scattered storms stalled over the top of my piece of heaven and monsooned. I joked and quipped and carried on about building a lotus pond combo moat to try and keep my barn from sliding off its foundation in a mudslide.

I measured daily rains in inches. Really. If memory serves, we had one of the wettest Mays and Junes of all time and I got more of those scattered storms than most.

Marine Corps Veterans - Daddy and his Good Officer's Wife

Marine Corps Veterans – Daddy and his Good Officer’s Wife

And then Doug went into the hospital for the last time. As I moved into my role as psychopomp, the garden boiled in the wet heat. And then it was overrun with weeds. And then the lawnmower broke. And then I was grieving.

The garden is a mess. A passerby (if I had passerbys) would swear it’s been neglected for decades.

I’m hoping the weather holds for the rest of this Veteran’s Day weekend. I could do some serious cleanup, weeding, this-and-that’s and have a garden ready for frolicking come March. Last year was the first spring I was able to just leap into planting mode without having to spend on weeks on winter clean up. I’m hoping for a repeat.

petunias in november

Petunias in November!

It’s been abnormally warm.  I found blooming petunias today as well as a climbing hydrangea with buds. It’s too much to hope that this weather will hold for long, but I’m enjoying it.  My serotonin levels are enjoying it and I’m pretty sure my Vitamin D got topped off today.

Four months.  I can hang on until then.  Happy Veteran’s Day Weekend, y’all.

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Filed under November 2013