Category Archives: The Mountain House

Lost in a dream

Time passes slowly up here in the mountains
We sit beside bridges and walk beside fountains
Catch the wild fishes that float through the stream
Time passes slowly when you’re lost in a dream

I remember saying to someone a while back that I was considering getting tickets to a Bob Dylan concert and she commented, “Doesn’t that only encourage him to sing?” I woke up with this songworm today, for no apparent reason and considered pulling it out and putting it on the turntable.  But then, I think because of all the lovely condolences about McCloud left by friends on FB, I started mulling over how some of those friends go back such a long way  and we began here in the blogging neighborhood. Time for an update.

I remember when I published this photo of McCloud right after my mother died and it was in the context of his being such a comfort when I was grieving. Yesterday we said our goodbyes to McCloud, splendid cat that he was. He was Rich’s “big-boned” friend (not to be confused with obese, mind you) but in the past 18 months the big bones were becoming more and more apparent as he would ever more slowly lower himself down for a nap. Most recently, his life was one long nap under the deck punctuated with interludes of digestive distress and incontinence. His hearing and vision were seriously impaired. He had taken to coming up to us and tapping us on the leg and when we would look down and ask, “What do you want? You have food. Water. Pats. What? ” and he would give a silent meow. Even his voice had left him, all except the purr. We talked it over and felt that he was confused and uncomfortable enough that he wasn’t sure what he needed but he hoped we could help. In the end, after a feline lifetime of mutual love and affection, we’ve done the best that we could.

When I arrived here at my page after not even looking for a month I found this from Bonnie:

Humbly, Ms. Bennett, I must presently beseech thee:
Compose a new post before mold grows on my French brie.
For you to write something new, must I create a silly poem?
(You’ll drive me to drink wine by the jeraboam!)
Lastly, from me (I can be such a pistol):
For Heaven sakes, Vicki, update, Sistah!

How can I not post? Facebook is making bad bloggers out of a lot of us, as we take the cheap and easy way out with little snappy one liners, but I realized this week as I enjoyed following Mary getting her room together for her first graders that it’s really not fair to simply eavesdrop on your friendships. A big part of what I struggle with is taking the time to sit and communicate with people I can’t see and or hear as we share our stories, but it’s still true that in the debate over “real or virtual” friends, I have meaningful and strong friendships with people I can’t snuffle up live.

Ain’t no reason to go in a wagon to town
Ain’t no reason to go to the fair
Ain’t no reason to go up, ain’t no reason to go down
Ain’t no reason to go anywhere

Here on the mountain, we’ve made new good friends. A day doesn’t pass that we aren’t happily surprised all over again by the good news that we find ourselves in such a beautiful place among such a wonderful group of interesting people. It’s a true neighborhood here. Everyone knows and cares about everyone else but no one’s porch light is hindering your view. We have musicians and artists and woodworkers and authors in our small neighborhood. We have the best farmers in the world, educated and experienced and young and so full of hope they have many beautiful tow-headed babies and children. We have conservationists and environmentalists and educators. Most of all we have new and good friends. We really feel as though we’ve turned around and come down where we need to be.

One my friends, Sydney, works with Molly to raise and milk goats and then turn the milk into soap for Farmer Jane Soap. I work with them now, felting some of the soap for sale at two tailgate markets each week. (Felted soap is extra special, don’t you know, because it’s a loofah and soap all in one with no slime and no waste! When I felt bars of the “itch witch” goat’s milk soap with jewel weed extract it’s the perfect gardener’s soap, kind of like your own Felt Naptha. And so forth and so on, with you getting the idea that I am now thoroughly ensconced in the practical esthetics of life here on the mountain.) Sydney was recently linking to a short film about people choosing to become farmers here in Western North Carolina and she made a comment about why she chose to leave her previous lifestyle to come make goats milk soap. She wrote, “Over time the importance and the beauty of living close to the land and letting go of the things I could not change became my dream.” I can’t imagine a clearer or better articulated statement of how I had been feeling since ending my practice as a psychotherapist. During my professional life I worked with people to affect change but at some point the overwhelming parts of life that I can’t impact started to get to me in a serious way. Narrowing my focus has been a good change; now I’m happy just to be living locally, shrinking our footprints, enjoying the view, helping out in small ways where I can.

Here on the mountain in Sugar Hollow I stay inordinately busy. I grow a large garden. I teach felting. I work at my own feltmaking. I observe the snakes and bears and birds and coyote and insects. Last week I was flipping the lid on the grill and felt something under my finger that I knew in my heart I did not want to be touching. Even before I saw it, I shrieked and jumped back and then, there she was: a wolf spider with her entire brood on her back. To the degree I was working on my arachnophobia, this was a major setback.

We’ve had lots of our not-so-new good friends come to visit and we enjoy showing them around. This summer, in the course of exploring our area, we’ve discovered some great waterfalls and one of them has a jump off into an ice cold mountain stream. It’s pretty scary, to stand on top of that high shelf contemplating a leap- first and foremost the leap of faith that you won’t end up in a vegetative state by crashing onto the rocks below. I did it, finally, and since then have taken pleasure in goading others. Actually, it felt like quite an achievement; I try not to compare it to the times I kayaked the Inside Passage or scaled the Tetons or hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. Things change.

Time passes slowly up here in the daylight
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
Like the red rose of summer that blooms in the day
Time passes slowly and fades away

Wordless Wednesday, cat’s-eye view

I was going batty, now I’m going birding

The transition to life in Asheville has kept me going full tilt. The cats made it with ease: Sophie helped me drive by sitting in my lap and digging in her claws if I went over 79 mph or changed lanes too quickly and now they are both happy to be here watching the constant cluster of hummingbirds who appeared the moment I hung their feeder. We unpacked two cars worth of stuff, mostly wool, before I sprained my ankle running up and down the mountain ala “Sound of Music.”  I love it here and the view from every window is of native azaleas, dogwoods, daffodils, poison ivy…I’m thinking there’s a market for felted bars of Fels Naptha. I could call it Felt Naptha, yes?

The first week I rushed to finish some birdhouses for the Grove Park Inn Annual  Bird House Competition. First place went to a master wood carver and his bird house was absolutely fantastic. I was pleased with my entry other than one minor issue that arose the night before during assembly. I had done a series of four barn swallow nests and Rich and I went off in search of a suitable piece of barn siding on which to mount them. It was all completed and just before going to bed I went out to photograph my entry sitting on the dining room table. I was at first annoyed and then alarmed to see ants crawling about and it took less than two minutes to figure out that we had constructed the support base with a termite-infested 4 x 4. Midnight found me in the garage spraying the backside of my artwork with “Mountain Fresh Scent Raid” and gnashing my teeth as an entire colony of winged insects staggered out of a crack in the board. I was thinking that no matter what, Raid smells like Raid but when we delivered it the next day to the competition the woman at the desk exclaimed, “Beautiful! And it smells so nice!” Since then I’ve had a couple of recurring nightmares that the historic arts and crafts era Grove Park Inn is being consumed by termites and it’s all my fault.

(This was the first place winner. Well deserved, I think. I would like to live in this house!)

The next big project was to get some felting batts ready to market at Friends and Fiberworks and Asheville Homecrafts. I’m excited that these two great shops are going to be carrying my fibers. I’ve dropped off one big batch and another is being delivered today before I leave for a week to go birding. Rich and the cats will stay here in a house full of wool bunnies; that much drum carding makes a lot of tumblin’ tumblewool and there’s no time to clean before I head out.

(Do I still think of my Ann Arbor peeps? You betcha. Every day.)

Birding, you ask? Yes, I am one of those lucky ducks heading for New River, West Virginia for the Birding and Nature Festival. There I will tsay in a farmhouse with some of the best birding bloggers (The Flock) and go on daily birding hikes with some of the nation’s leading ornithologists and biologists. I’ll send a post, with photos of some bird I think you’ve never likely seen. The camera, binocs, knitting, iPad with iBird application downloaded, and rain suit are all packed. New waterproof hiking shoes have been broken in. Today is pack, oil change and plant all the herbs purchased yesterday at the Asheville Herb Festival.

If I posted more routinely you would see some interesting things here because most of my days on the mountain I encounter new and beautiful things and make great discoveries. Like last night in bed, when I went to fondle affectionately pat Rich goodnight and he squealed, “Don’t give me that poison ivy!” we had a eureka! moment and realized out is was that we are both getting it in exactly the same places, on the bases of our thumbs, near our wrists. This despite constant hand washing, wearing gloves and long sleeves and so forth. It’s those damn cats! They hang out under the deck where there is a lot of the stuff, walking around in it and rolling about and then they come in and nuzzle our wrists for attention and feed, especially as we work on the computers. Sophie, especially, is one to plop down and grab your hand at the wrist and start rubbing and treading. Arghhh. I never thought RoundUp would be in my life but lately I wouldn’t mind winning a enough to clear a football field.

Instead of photographing my poison ivy which looks pretty gross, I leave you this image (which some of you have seen on my Facebook page already.

We went into Asheville and these two were “doing it in the street” as my grandmother used to say (referring to hippies, not turkeys) and stopping traffic. We watched for about 3 minutes until someone honked and ruined our fun. But he was determined and chased her down the sidewalk.

I’ll put up bird photos and see you on the other side of a week of birds, nature, interesting and learned folks and a whole new adventure. Have a great week at your place.

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