Category Archives: Pisgah Picayune

Wordless Wednesday, cat’s-eye view

Wordless Wednesday: It’s hard to talk with your mouth full

Everything’s coming up tulips


(Whenever he’s in baseball mode, he looks like a happy kid)

After that last whine, the only sensible thing was to fix as much as possible and leave the State. We did stay long enough to go to the Half Century League baseball banquet. It’s hard for me to know how people can talk about nothing but baseball but that’s what they do, endlessly re-living home runs, injuries, won and lost games, bad plays that someone else made. Still, it was fun, mostly because Rich just loves playing baseball with these guys and it’s good to see him so happy. He was so happy he almost cried when they surprised him with the biggest trophy of the evening: the Sportsmanship Award. He gets to have the trophy on our mantel for a year and then it gets passed on but he has a little one, also with his name engraved on it, that he gets to keep. Rich really is a good sport about just about everything and I know that is especially true on the baseball field. I watched his team play the Pennsylvania Amish All-Stars a couple of months ago and as he’s the catcher he made it a point to welcome everyone personally as they came up to bat and wished them all a good game. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.

The next morning I couldn’t get in the car fast enough to drive north and at the Florida/Georgia border, when the car told me it was 96 degrees outside, I felt like I was fleeing that unbearable heat and humidity. We do love our neighbors there and I miss them terribly and I love my felt classes and the birds at Boyd Hill but that harsh sun is just too hard on this pale complexion. Also I have discovered that I really crave, need, long for Spring and autumn. Without living with the clear demarcation of seasons I’m just not right. We drove as a caravan and I got the best of that deal; Rich was missing the Masters and I’m fairly certain he would have found a sports bar and stopped to watch if not for McCloud who was fussing and panting. Sophie settled down right in my lap and spent all but the last 18 miles there. She’s a great driver, tensing and relaxing in tune with the traffic and digging her claws into my thigh if I go above 79 mph or change lanes too quickly. Mostly she purrs, bathes and naps. We exit hwy 26 at Mountain Home. I kid you not, that’s the name of our exit and at that point Sophie is up, on high alert and at the windows. She goes to whichever window is in the direction of the house so for 18 miles there is a lot of dashing back and forth across the front seat. Watching her is like tuning in to a little satellite or GPS system and I don’t wonder a bit at tales of animals finding their way home across vast distances.

Here, it is beautiful. Sunny mild afternoons and cool nights. We are seeing this home for the first time in Spring and it is more beautiful than I had hoped or imagined. The mountains are all shades of light and brilliant greens with the mountain tops still bare in places. At the foot of our long drive there are a dozen mature white dogwoods in full bloom and all around the house there are pink and red dogwood, azaleas and all manner of bulbs. Clearly, a lot of the daffodils that have lived in the woods for years had already come and gone but all of the 1000 bulbs I planted last fall are up and in various stages of bloom. (okay. The 1000 bulbs Rosario planted last fall)  The daylilies that were given as a gift from a stranger mid-summer last year have emerged strong and thick and I’m excited to see them flower.

The first day back I went with friends over to Madison County for a book club meeting. Talk about Appalachian Spring! Many of the houses look as old as the hills and show generations of character, with silvered wood and mud for grout between the logs. It’s hard to know how things like the economy affect people who have been living, literally off of and with the land for their entire lives.

The second day back I was giddy at the prospect of putting leafy greens in the garden, perhaps a bit too giddy because I wrenched my ankle flat sideways in the mud and heard a dreadful noise. My first thought was that I had cracked the same ankle I broke 24 years ago but after a couple of minutes of gasping and deep breathing I decided that it was the sound of ligaments giving way rather than a break. I did exactly as the doctor would have ordered, if I’d gone to a doctor- iced it and bound it and kept it up. It was miserable for about 48 hours, both because I couldn’t be up and down the hill, plus it hurt like the dickens but it is much better now, on day four. Still colorful, still braced but mending.

The bears are here- we see evidence of them in our woods and the neighbors report that their feeders are being raided and destroyed. We have ours filled and it is covered all day long with all manner of birds but we take it down at dusk. I had just downloaded iBird Pro in anticipation of the trip to the New River Birding Festival the first of May and now I find myself ticking off bird after bird right here at home. Sophie is not so fond of the audio feature on the application, especially when I try out raptor calls.The hummingbirds are back and all the feeder birds are busy nest building. (A good use for odds and ends of wool and silk. I stuff them in empty produce bags and hang them from the trees. They are a big hit right now; sometimes there is a bit of a set-to over who will get the scrap of sari silk. Luxury living for baby birds, yes?)

All day long they are flitting about with construction materials; the goofy Carolina Wrens have built a nest in the eave near the downspout where I fear it will wash out with the next hard rain. I put up this little felt house this afternoon and within an hour the chickadees started flitting in and out. I’m fairly cautious at the moment and not quick enough to snatch the camera and focus fast so I’ve been missing some great shots. Yesterday in the late afternoon a very playful red fox was in the yard pouncing on things- bugs?- and then chewing them up. (S)he took time to roll around and at one point made a great leap at a butterfly. The shots I did get were pretty blurry. I was hoping the fox would be back today but I got busy hammering a project together so that was a deterrent I think.(Our lawn would be good as a  “before” shot for a Chemlawn advertisement. With the acreage we are content to let the meadow portion run to violets and dandelions and grubs for this lovely (blurry) creature.)

So, we are happy and the cats are happy and it’s both peaceful and humming with life here at the mountain house.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life…

... It turns what we have into enough, and more.

(The day started with mist hanging over the mountain but became bright and sunny by 10 am)

This Thanksgiving was the first time we were all together at the mountain house. I had those urchins here for the long weekend- Dan and his Sarah came from Ann Arbor. Abby came over from Duke and Misha flew up from Florida where he is finishing his final few weeks of a business degree before he too moves to Durham. I hadn’t seen Rich for a couple weeks as he’s been in Florida and Melissa also came from Michigan. Lots of snuggling! Added to that our best friends from Chicago, Donna and Larry, flew in especially to join us so, all in all, it was one very grand reunion. And if your Thanksgiving was half as wild, fun and high calorie as ours, you’ll be recovering for days. Nine bodies, three meals a day for four days gave the new kitchen a real workout. Plus, all five starter people graze. Constantly. Always. Never on a schedule. Endlessly seeking food (the goopier or crumblier the better) and drink (the stickier the better). Never ending. And then they slept at odd hours and went out at odd hours.  Just to mix things up they dragged out five giant rubbermaid tubs of family photos and spread them absolutely everywhere, screaming with laughter at each other’s bare-naked toddler antics, weeping over dead cats and chinchillas and whining about who had the best baby book (Dan. Abby’s consisted of a calendar with four stickers: Baby Arrives! Baby Comes Home! Baby’s First Smile! Baby sleeps through the night! Poor Abby. I told her she was the better for the second child neglect.) And then they played euchre, played the piano and watched comedy central on TV and then they got restless and went out to listen to Blue Grass music. And came home at 3am to eat more.

(Making cheddar dill scones for, oh, about a hundred.)

Melissa has typically spent Thanksgiving with her mother and family in Missouri. We lucked out having her here with us this year. She works so hard in her life that it was wonderful to watch her relax, sleep, knit, play with McCloud (who is the cat of her teen years) and enjoy the commotion on this side of the family. I still remember her first family meal with us years ago; I think she was sort of shell-shocked with the rambunctious nature of her soon-to-be step sibs. Donna and Larry were our front condo neighbors in Chicago and we miss them constantly. Donna thinks that they may be about all I miss of Chicago. I enjoyed seeing how much they marveled at the peace and quiet and views from here, in contrast to big city life. On the other hand, sans children, they don’t typically have so much indoor noise…(The lot of us, taken with the camera precariously balanced on a mountain of boxes of old photos.)

Everybody went home again Sunday and Rich drove back to Florida with McCloud. (We re-unite in a week when I go down to teach another workshop and then he comes here for half of December  and Christmas and then we return to Florida for the winter, where I will teach at the Morean and get back to those rascally raptors I’ve been missing.) Yesterday I tackled the laundry. Lots of sheets, towels, tablecloths, napkins. I really didn’t mind at all; I used the time folding laundry to reflect on my family and all the life that was in this house over the past few days. This year was a real treat because, although they are all now adults in their own right, they still came together with the energy I loved in them as children. I hope they never flip completely over into the dark side of too-serious adulthood.

(Dan and Sarah. She is so wonderfully calm and a perfect balance for Dan, who sometimes is not. It’s probably because she’s a teacher of children, don’t you know, as well as being a gifted artist. Dan makes her laugh. He makes us all laugh.)

Several things were striking about the weekend, not the least being that my two children are night and day different and yet curiously similar. We say that Dan is completely right brained and Abby left and isn’t it too bad that they each got just half a brain but that is just a joke. They are, of course, well- rounded and delightfully full of personality. Also, intensity. Have I ever mentioned that these two are quite intense? Yes, well, together they almost spontaneously combust as they feed off each other’s humor and wisdom and talents.

(Abby and Misha have spent a semester apart as they continue their educational pursuits and they miss each other a lot. Just a couple more weeks to go and Misha, with English as a second language, 40 hours a week of outside work and credits mangled in transition from Russia, will graduate from USF.)

When Dan first chose the saxophone as his instrument of choice in 5th grade I would often suggest that, really, there was no need for him to practice and if he had to, could he please do it in the garage. I was such a nurturing and supportive mother. I missed this entire episode until I was downloading photos; I must have been down in the garage bringing up more food and drink. When I realized there was a little video on the camera I watched it and laughed and cringed and laughed and cringed. This was so much our life when we all lived under the same roof. With Abby on piano and trumpet and Dan on sax plus anything that he could use to generate sound, there was always a lot of music bordering on noise or vice-versa and I was always on the edge of squealing, “Enough! Stop! Go on! Get!” Actually, not so much on the edge. And yet, despite my efforts to suppress their energy and enthusiasm they appear to have grown up unfazed. And right when I realized they were leaving and Rich fortuitously dropped into my life, that energy and enthusiasm came back. Now, when children and husband unite, it’s a virtual overdose.

The other thing that really hit home was that they have all successfully, happily and responsibly made it into adulthood. They all contribute to making the world a better place as they create music and art, teach children, protect the earth, care for themselves, each other and those in their circles of life. Amazing.

Today it’s raining and gray, the two of us cozy and quiet. Sophie has been sleeping off the commotion and I’ve begun to turn my attention back to my big project of the moment: getting my fiber arts website up and running. I do believe I’m really going to do it within the next few days. Since last we visited, I’ve been to St. Petersburg for a weekend, completed my holiday inventory for the Florida Craftsmen Gallery and turned that over to them. I planted close to a thousand Spring bulbs here in the woods and on the hill. The bears haven’t hunkered down for the winter yet, the birds are lined up endlessly at the feeder and I’m excited to go get a fine North Carolina Fraser fir later this week. Even though I’m not always around here at this haphazard blog (thank you for the nudge, Bonnie dear), life is full and I am too, with gratitude.