Thursday, December 29, 2016


Christmas, as it turned out, was lovely. Everyone arrived mid-day and we did the usual coffee and sweet rolls while we opened gifts and emptied stockings. The last gift was to my husband and me from my older son and his girlfriend. It was this shadow box they'd made for us. In the wedding, instead of tossing my bouquet afterwards, I had my son's girlfriend walk up during the ceremony and I gave it to her to keep. She had taken some of the roses and ribbon from it and framed it with our wedding invitation. And my son, who had found a pewter salt shaker tucked way in the back of a junk drawer while he was looking for a knife, had the foresight to think we might want a souvenir from the old church building.  A nice bit of synchronicity, actually, because several years ago on our final summer visit to the same apartment we always stayed in on St. Simon's island, I found a ceramic monkey salt shaker in the back of a drawer and, since it also had no match, brought it home to serve as the guard monkey my younger son had suggested we get to protect our house. At any rate, my husband and I were deeply touched by the gift and it sits in our room near our wedding photo now.

And then dinner - I roasted a couple of chickens (yes, I know, but I have sons who haven't yet outgrown the ability to eat an insane amount of food with no change to their lean bodies), and we made potatoes and carrots, green beans, and beets with sweet onions. And there was pie. Bourbon-chocolate pecan and pumpkin and the surprise addition made by my younger son's girlfriend of a dark chocolate/coffee/red wine pie. Sounds odd, but it was rich and delicious. The best part of Christmas, though, was just having everyone there. We sat for a long time after dinner, talking and laughing, and I felt like my heart was absolutely filled.

Friday, December 23, 2016

And yet, life keeps rolling along.

And in fact, it brings me some comfort to just immerse myself in the holiday traditions. I got my traditional white pine, and this year our younger daughter helped me decorate.
We'll have a full house, this year, with the four kids and my son's girlfriends. Plus a stocking for the cat (who gets cat treats).
Last weekend we had already committed to be the first stop of the neighborhood progressive Christmas party. We had a big variety of appetizers we'd made and a pot of hot spiced apple cider with bourbon. I'm glad we didn't bow out - it was nice having people in when the house was looking so festive.
I admit, I like decorating for Christmas. I love the annual appearance of the snowfolk, the poinsettias, and the flying reindeer.
And I especially like all the lights.  Candles, strings of bulbs, glowing glass spheres. It just makes me happy to have so much light around me.
Thank you for the kind thoughts about my brother. It means a lot to me. Whatever you celebrate, I wish peace and love to you all this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I always assumed, as one of the oldest of my siblings, that most of them would outlive me. But I lost one brother in 2001 when he was only 23. And now another, at 48. I have good memories from when we were young. A mishievous, adventurous soul, he was generally hell-bent on defying all authority. His was a troubled life and his passing grieves me. I wish it could have been easier for him. But it was not, ever. And now I can only take comfort in the knowledge that he was loved by many of us in the family and by hs wife, who I am grateful to be getting to know now. Rest peacefully, little brother - your sorrows are behind you.

"Mine has a hood and I lie in bed
And I pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes and I curl up small
And nobody knows that I'm there at all."
- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I've seen fire and I've seen rain.

Last week, I left my office around noon to run an errand. It was unseasonably warm, so I was startled to see that it was snowing. I reflexively held up my hand to catch the snowflakes and saw that it was actually ash falling steadily from the sky. This photo was the soot-covered hood of a white car parked next to me. The wildfires in the Smokies were rapidly spreading due to the drought.
The sky was, literally, brown. I did not alter this photo in any way.  In the end, almost two thousand homes and businesses were destroyed, 14 people died and another hundred or so were injured. Some 17,000 acres burned, in all.

On the day when it finally started raining, while our beautiful temperate rainforest was still ablaze, there were flash flood and tornado warnings for the surrounding area. And this is just my neck of the woods - I know that tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, floods, droughts, blizzards and ice storms have amped up everywhere. What are we doing to our world?

Friday, December 2, 2016

"She was a day tripper, Sunday driver, yeah."

Last Sunday, when we were kidless, my husband proposed a three-part day trip. At my suggestion, he'd recently read the Catherine Marshall book, "Christy," a fictionalized account of the author's mother who was a mission teacher in Tennessee in 1912. He wanted to see the setting for the book, so we drove up through the mountains to Del Rio (El Pano in the book).
Del Rio is one of those pure Appalachia towns. Poor and uneducated and set in the midst of often breath-taking beauty.
But this tiny town, connected to the outside world by a railroad, was quite civilized compared to where the mission was located.
 We got out a couple of times to explore around the community.
Then on up a narrow winding road to the community of Chapel Hollow (the book's Cutter Gap). The buildings are mostly in ruins, often only a crude stone fireplace left standing sentry.
After we'd walked around, we started to head back past an occupied house and a woman came out to chat with us and give us a pamphlet about the mission. I wish I had a photo - she was in a fuzzy bathrobe and pink wool cap, with a cigarette in one hand and cup of coffee in the other. And just as friendly as she could be, as she told us about the area and invited us to come back in the spring for their homecoming dinner. "It's free," she said, "and y'all don't have to bring a thing - just come on and eat with us." I believe we will.
 From there we drove on towards North Carolina.
We stopped once to let a big flock of wild turkeys amble across the road and up into the woods.
We hiked up to Max Patch, on the Appalachian Trail. It's a short, easy hike and with the recent drought, a little dry and dusty.
We settled in a clear spot on the top for a picnic. Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey sandwiches), of course.
It was such a gorgeous day that we expected more of a crowd. But we ended up having no one in our view for most of the picnic.
 We still had a stop to go, so we headed back down to our car.
I love when the world is green, but there is an interesting beauty to the plants heading for their winter sleep.
We drove from Max Patch to Hot Springs, and after a walk around town, we went into this store for a raspberry-lemon sorbet and cup of coffee.
And then the best part - a soak in our favorite tub on the little spit of land where Spring Creek joins up with the French Broad River.  I love this place - it's peaceful and private and soaking in the spring-fed tub is heavenly. We ended the day feeling relaxed and ready to plunge back into the work week.