When It Dawns On You

I’ve placed this photograph in this blog post I’d say…oh, 10 times or more. I’ve taken it out. I’ve put it back in, smaller, taken it out. Put it back in, made it larger, made it smaller, walked away.

And here it is now. Large.

Why the angst, I wonder? Why the need to get it just right?

Perhaps it is because the moment I snapped the photo felt so right, so perfect, so awe-filled. Perhaps what I want is for you to be there, too, to step with me into the early morning cold, the world dark and still, the mountains starting their glow. I want you to feel and see and know, as I did, in that moment.

 

 

My dear friend, Jay, is there, too. He doesn’t say a word, just stands there with me while I take it all in. Then he says, oh so quiet, See the star? I look again. I look closer.

Sure enough there it is, up and just to the right. A star.

 

 

I turn to the left. West, toward my beloved Mother tree.

There is this.

 

 

Good heavens, I think, how beautiful is the gift of another day.

How awesome it is to be reminded in such a beautiful way.

 

XXOO

 

I’d love to send a note each time there’s something new on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here!


 

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Remind us.

 

 

Like so many people, I’ve spent the last two days in a stupor. I cannot process the horrific events of the Las Vegas concert; I do not understand how such can happen. I cannot believe we live in a world in which individuals have a need–and heaven forbid the legal right–to own any weapons with the power to cause such destruction.

It does not make sense to me.

And I have no words of consolation.

~~~

These smart men and women do, and so I will turn to them and what they’ve offered over the past two days. May their thoughts/prayers bring you a little bit of whatever it is your soul needs. (And may they forgive my sharing of their words during this time of such heartache without official written consent, although there is a link to each.)

From Winn Collier:
Lord, we woke this morning to another wave of sorrow. More of us are dead. We had to tell our children, once again, of the evil we’ve done. We have to face another grieving day, added on top of all the other grieving days. We have tears. We have anger. We are hellbent on destroying one another. You’re going to have to help us see the truth. You’re going to have to give us courage to be something different. You’re going to have to help us. Amen.

~~~

From Jen Hatmaker:
I have so many things to say about the Las Vegas mass shooting. So many that my blood is boiling over and I want to run screaming into the streets. I feel like we are standing in the middle of a violent, endless nationwide crisis swirling all around us, and we keep “sending thoughts and prayers.” I want to rip my hair out. I feel so alone in my outrage, because the polite thing is “not right now.” When? When? When??

I am not going to write out of fury and despair, so for this morning, I will simply say that my heart is shattered for Las Vegas. Every single mama and daddy and brother and sister and daughter and son who lost a precious person deserves better than a normalized culture of violence and death. They deserve more than our thoughts and prayers. 

We love you, Las Vegas. We love you, first responders. We love you, community members. We love you, victims and friends of victims and family members of victims. We love you. We are bearing witness; you are not alone. This is not okay, it has never been okay, and it should stop being okay. There is no polite response to this level of constant tragedy. You deserve our collective outrage. You have mine.

~~~

From Brene Brown:
1. Prayer + civic action are not mutually exclusive. Join me in both.

2. Step away from social media coverage and toward real people for support, action, conversation, and being with each other in collective pain. Keep informed, but don’t stay glued. Our secondary trauma will not make us better helpers – it shuts us down and sends us into self-protection and blame-finding.

3. Adding this for our kids: All we can do is acknowledge the pain and fear, create space to talk about what’s happening in an age-appropriate way, and own our own vulnerability and uncertainty. Also important to put down some guidelines for watching and talking about it. We want them to ask us and depend on our answers, not those of their peers. And, of course, love them as hard as we can.

~~~

From Emily P. Freeman:
My hands are still shaking after merely watching a few minutes of footage from Las Vegas. I cannot imagine what so many are going through this morning.
.
For those who have witnessed scenes that could haunt for a lifetime, we pray for a sanctified memory and a holy imagination. Release them from the haunting, we pray.
.
Let grief do her sacred, invisible work. Soothe the jagged edges. Bring relief.
.
May Your presence fill up and overflow the gaping holes left in the wake of tragedy.
.
Remind us You haven’t left us alone. 

~~~

From Glennon Doyle:
Reminder to my beloveds today: It’s a terrible, heartbreaking day – and it is okay to feel that deeply. There is nothing wrong with you – there is just something wrong.

We will rise and we will work, but today, today it is okay to stop and rest and hold our hearts and people close. Stay soft. This world needs people who are strong enough to stay soft.

Take tender care of yourself and others today.
I love you.
G

 

holding on tighter and holding you closer than ever,

cathy

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In Space

I WON’T BE ROCKING the universe when I make a statement about travel’s profound ability to broaden horizons. (There is so much wrong with my decision to keep that kitschy sentence but there it is.) Park yourself some place new and wonderful things happen. Your view changes. Your thought patterns are interrupted. Your priorities shift.

It happens to me regularly these days as Tim and I spend pockets of time at our weekend place high in the Blue Ridge. The contrast between that rural lifestyle and the urban one we enjoy in the flatlands of South Carolina is pretty dramatic. When we are in those mountains we find ourselves considerably more focused on the land, on each sunrise, on the sheer passing of time.

(None of this comes as a great surprise as I’ve written about it here and here and here on The Daily Grace.)

But the last time we were there something new happened that I’ve thought about a good bit since. We weren’t long before bed when Tim suggested we plan to get up a little earlier than usual the next morning. The International Space Station would be crossing the sky over our house just before dawn, he said, and this would give us a great chance to see it.

Yes! I said, with so much enthusiasm you’d think I’d been waiting my whole life for just such an opportunity. (I sort of knew there was a Space Station flying around up there. Maybe? Kinda?)

Rise we did.

 

watching and waiting

 

THE VIEWING OF THE THING was not as dramatic or impressive as you might imagine. It was a bright little white dot that appeared just where Tim said it would, lifting right out of the trees that stand over the chimney and our roof. It moved at rather a quick clip north to south finally disappearing from view over Big Butt ridge and the Black Mountain range just behind.

 

There. Over the trees.

 

the International Space Station moving across the sky

 

We observed and marveled and I questioned. Were there people aboard? (Yes.) How many? (Six.) How long have they been up there? (Varies, depending on the astronaut, but the space station has been manned continuously for 16 years.) How far away is it? (220 miles) How fast does it go? (17,227 miles per hour)

What were the astronauts doing right now? Were they looking down at us, commenting on the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains?

I also found this little tidbit particularly interesting: We could see the Space Station in the sky at this moment because it was positioned such that the sun reflected off its surface, thus making it look like a fast moving star in a dark-enough sky. Then it disappeared from our view before it actually went out of sight because it slowly disappeared into the earth’s shadow.

 

the space station, gone from view in that pretty orange sky

 

And just like that, in less than two minutes, the entire thing was done.

We stayed put to watch the sun rise, we surely did, then we went back inside and I immediately jumped into an online search for photos in reverse: the earth from the Space Station. There are many incredible collections, like this one. But I was most fascinated by those from Commander Randy Bresnik, a Citadel grad who posts on Instagram as @astrokomrade. He had just given us a from-Space view of Charleston, post Irma, on which he wrote:  After #Irma. Charleston, I have swum in your streets before, I know you will recover quickly again to the city we all know and love.

That there is powerful stuff, my friends.

 

THE EXPERIENCE HAS STAYED WITH ME, I’ll also tell you that. I think about the fact that Space Station (with its people) circles the earth 16 times a day. It has done this every single day for the last 16 years. And all that time I have been right here, fully and completely not paying attention.

It’s the kind of thing a person should know, is what I think. It’s the kind of thing a person should know and celebrate and from time to time stand back from, in awe.

How happy I am my husband–and those mountains–made sure I did just that.

 

XXOO

NOTE: If you are interested in the International Space Station, NASA has an app that will tell you when the best viewing times are for your location. Click here for more information.

 

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heart lights

WE WERE GATHERED around the dinner table, our feast consumed, our wine glasses refilled, when Linda brought out the box. She moved casually, nonchalant, the action drawing no attention at all. Then it sat there–just sat there, that box–seeming so insignificant as to have hardly been worth the effort it took to get it to the top of this mountain.

We carried on unknowing, the eight of us, caught up as we were in some other silly story about some ridiculous situation we found ourselves in thirty, forty, even fifty years ago.

We’ve known each other that long, you see. We are women who grew up together (in every sense of that phrase) in the 60s and 70s in a tiny mountain town on the remote southwestern edge of Virginia. It was a place buffeted from the world by ancient ridges that both nestled and isolated us. We did not realize the significance of this geography at the time, our worlds extending only as far as away high school basketball games required. We had little sense of a big world beyond that, in the years since, has flung us from South Florida to Louisiana to Maine–and many, many cities, large and small, in between.

And still we come together once or twice a year to reconnect and recharge and re-establish our roots. It’s a vital practice that brings light and love and nourishment to our souls. It makes me think of that scene in ET where the sweet creature’s chest LIGHTS UP when he is in silent communion with someone he loves, a soul connection with another who understands. It  happens when we are together. Our heart lights glow.

 

the ancient oak on the mountain we call Mother

 

SO ANYWAY the thing is sitting there, the very quiet box, and by some miracle there is a tiny, tiny break in the conversation, and I think it was Julie who said, What is that, Linda? What have you got there?

Oh, this? Linda says. I was clearing out some things. Wondered if you guys want them.

This got our attention, you bet it did, and all of a sudden that little vessel became a magic box from which an endless supply of memories came flooding over and around that table.

Oh, my, the stuff that box held.

 

(There was this much joy.)

 

PERHAPS IT WOULD BE more accurate to say the memories had to be excavated, because lord have mercy it took every one of us working together to reconstruct what may or may not have led to and resulted from the memories that box contained. For instance Linda produced two letters I wrote to her when I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman in college. I’m not kidding I have no memory of ANY of the things I wrote her about. Suffice it to say there was a great deal of detail and Every Single Sentence revolved around one boy or another, or what some girl said about one boy or another, or how I felt about what the girl said about the boy who may or may not have had anything at all to do with me. In a million years I’d never have believed that’s what we found significant in our lives back then. Sixth grade, yes. But seriously, not at 18. (Let me state for the record Julie was a bit more profound in her letters than I.)

Good heavens did that stuff make us laugh.

 

Case in point.

 

(We were also quite pleased we actually wrote each other letters. By hand. On paper. That we then had to go to the post office to mail.)

 

IT WAS a glorious weekend together, time filled with so much love and laughter I am still trying to recover. And I’m thinking hard about that hidden-away world in which we twirled batons and hosted sleepovers and knew every word to every Eagles song ever recorded (which we sang at the top of our lungs).

How grateful I am for the blessing of a happy, happy childhood.

 

Amy, Vickie, Cathy, Sharon, Lisa, Suzann, Linda, Julie

How grateful I am for these women.

XXOO

 

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June, July, August

JUNE
The Dry, by Jane Harper
Police investigator Aaron Falk returns home for the funeral of a friend and old wounds resurface in this “page-turner of a mystery set in parched Australia.” I loved everything about the set-up, plus this baby got 4.07 stars on Goodreads (and lots and lots of great press as one of this summer’s Must Reads.) I found it not as compelling. In fact, I sped read (is that a word?) the last half of the novel. But clearly, that’s just me.

My Southern Journey, by Rick Bragg
A collection of essays from the beloved Southern writer (and pulitzer prize winner). Okay, friends, I got this on audiobook and the introduction alone–read by Rick Bragg–is Everything To Me. His voice is thick and rich as maple syrup (the real kind) and his writing? I underlined every sentence in my head, then got a printed version to study. Plus those stories of his Mama and front porches and good heavens all the cats–this one will stay with me a long, long time.

Heat and Light, by Jennifer Haigh
We live in a world of opposing interests, and the struggle between two of them is at the heart of this book about a dying West Virginia coal town and the massive deposit of natural gas that lies beneath it. Jennifer Haigh brings fire and heart to this story through the complicated, very human characters that live it. She’s a master storyteller with an uncompromising voice.

JULY
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
I heard about this novel from a podcast I love, What Should I Read Next. Hostess Anne Bogel (AKA Modern Mrs. Darcy) suggests you not read anything about the plot, including the book jacket, and that you just jump in. I followed her advice and totally agree. And I loved this book. It’s smart, poignant, and beautifully written. Oh, those family secrets.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollen
I bought this book because it was a great Kindle deal and I am so glad I did. Practical, insightful advice and a perspective that was actually a bit new to me. Amazon says: Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion–most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become. Good one.

AUGUST
Trampoline, by Robert Gipe
I had heard many people I respect call this the best Appalachian novel in years and so it was on my radar. Then I met Robert Gipe at the writers’ workshop at Hindman. He is such a nice guy and LORD IS HE A POWERFUL WRITER. So I bought Trampoline on the spot, asked him to sign it, then cracked open that cover. I have never read anything like it and cannot recommend it strongly enough–particularly if you are interested in Appalachian literature or if you just want to be pushed. Intense, heartbreaking, fresh. Here’s the synopsis: Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings, it is above all about its heroine, Dawn, as she decides whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or ruled by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life.  I do love me some Robert Gipe.

(Man, August was a good reading month.)

Fallen Land, by Taylor Brown
Gorgeous and oh so heartbreaking. Taylor Brown writes sentences that make you want to crawl up inside them. The synopsis: Fallen Land is Taylor Brown’s debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. His descriptions of a decimated South* will leave you breathless. Plus the book jacket (hardback) is just so gorgeous.

 

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help with the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

I also share great book deals on my favorites via Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: March, April, May

I launched this What I’ve Been Reading Lately monthly book series on The Daily Grace in January and made it all the way to February. (That’s so me.) Which means the list is now very long. Still we should catch up, right?

Here goes Part 1.

 

MARCH
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
An unexpected (and rather undramatic) kiss at a party changes everything not only for the individuals involved, but their families. Patchett shares the next 50 years as their lives weave this way and that.
I liked this book. Didn’t love it. But it was certainly highly acclaimed critically.

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh
Three women marry the same charismatic opportunist: Ken Kimble. 
I had the great honor of studying with Jennifer Haigh at the Appalachian Writers Workshop this summer. This is her debut novel, so needless to say I read it with great interest. Enjoyed it.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
The true story of Chris McCandliss, a young man who graduated from college then abandoned his car, burned his cash and walked into the Alaskan wilderness, alone. His body was found four months later.
There is so much to this story of independence and survival. I found it fascinating. (Great on audiobook.)

APRIL
The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Poole
Set in 1916 in Tennessee, two flawed yet endearing grifters pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.
I loved this debut novel. Loved it–one of my favorite books of the year.

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
It’s 1977, and the body of teen Lydia Lee is found in a local lake. Her Chinese-American family tumbles into chaos.
Heralded as a literary thriller and one of the best debut novels of the year. I thought it was…okay.

MAY
Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry
Publisher’s description: “Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”
This book served as my introduction to Wendell Berry, who is without a doubt one of the finest writers living today. Quiet, beautiful, and so powerful, Hannah Coulter will live in my heart forever.  READ THIS BOOK.

Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
Over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.
Oh, I want every young woman every woman of every age I know to read this book. Loved, loved, loved. (Fantastic on audiobook, read by Shonda.) In fact, I wrote an entire post about it: Introverts Unite, which you can read here.

Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott
A powerful little spiritual guidebook for helping you rediscover mercy in this messy, difficult life.
I love everything Anne Lamott has ever written, and this little book is no exception. Plus I got to hear her speak in Charlotte, a night that brought so many insights and heart whispers I still think about it. I wrote a little bit about that here: The Gift of Mercy from Anne Lamott

UP NEXT: June, July and August

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help with the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

I also share great book deals on my favorites via Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

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Totality

Total Eclipse Day, in Total Eclipse Zone: Columbia, South Carolina

August 21, 2017 arrived as a perfect day, something difficult to pull off when there’s so much expectation, so much build-up, when there’s been so much prelude.

I mean there was a countdown graphic during the news, for heaven’s sake.

No wonder Tim and I could hardly believe our good fortune. We hadn’t needed to travel at all to experience the depths of mystery, and the heights of splendor as lovely Annie Dillard wrote in her classic essay, Total Eclipse. It was sunny and gorgeous and we were on the lake and our dear, dear friends were there, three boats-full. We were swimming, and laughing, and eating pimento cheese, and buoying it all was this magical (if unavowed) sublayer of thrill rising.

 

Then just like that it started, the carving out of the sun. Smaller than I expected. Slower, and less dramatic. And yet it was also more wondrous, more fascinating than I had ever considered.

Look at that, Mike, I said after a while. The shape is like the regular quarter moon but not. Because the dimensions are wrong. 

Even if I understood this, it actually took a minute for my brain to comprehend the fact the bright shining crescent I was seeing was the sun.

What time is it? someone hollered.

2:10

2:23

2:37

Then:

That temperature is dropping.

It’s getting darker.

Look at the light.

And finally

Two minutes to totality! 

 

That’s when the clouds came.

No, no, no, no, no, we all said, our breath getting shallow even if our hearts were joined in unbelief. (There was no way that could happen, right?)

Please, please, please, please, please, we thought, our hands moving unconsciously to our chests.

Not in prayer, exactly.

But not not in prayer either.

We looked to the sky. We looked to each other.

We looked all around.

2:41

It was happening. The sun and the moon and the earth were in perfect alignment. There would be 2 minutes 30 seconds of the nothing-like-it, once-in-a-lifetime magic of a total solar eclipse.

And all we were seeing was the big fat cloud covering it.

 

2:40 pm

 

It’s hard to describe the feeling of that moment, disbelief eclipsed by disappointment eclipsed by pollyanna who jumped in quick with a multitude of reasons this was not nearly as heartbreaking as it seemed.* I mean we’d seen most of it. 128 minutes worth. And I was on the lake, with friends, with a fantastic eclipse playlist. We were grilling hamburgers later. There was a red and white checkered tablecloth. Cindy made moon pies!

And then the thought came to me: God must want you to see something else, girl. Look around.

And so I did.

 

 

It was indescribable, the twilight, the colors of that lake and the horizon and the low clouds, experiencing sunset not from the west but sitting smack dab in the middle of it, 360 degrees, dusk in every direction. My friends were laughing, still having fun, each and every one looking in awe even if it was a bit more tempered.

 

 

(Plus you could look up at the sky without safety glasses. There was that.)

Then a hurray as the clouds began to part.

 

2:45 pm

 

The eclipse slowly reappeared, this time in reverse order. But totality was totally over.

It felt sad, too bad, like missing a field goal and wishing by golly you had one more shot at it, one more chance to get that ball through the uprights. We moaned a hot minute then carried on with our fun, getting another beer, another handful of pistachios, jumping back into the water one more time.

~~~~

When you get home later your precious daughter is there, telling you she saw it all, she’ll never be the same, the moment of totality left her weak-kneed and awe-stuck and changed. (I really am thrilled for her.) And you click on Instagram and see the corona and Bailey’s Beads and the diamond ring and the crescent shadows all over Columbia and the depth of your sadness begins to grow.

Seriously, God? is what you think.

It grows and grows.

It becomes a late game field goal in a tie in the Super Bowl.

It has no limits, your disappointment, now that you understand, now that you know.

It was right there, the glory and majesty and wonder of a Total Solar Eclipse.

Right there.

 

I cannot believe we did not get to see it.

 

XXOO

*Forgive me the indulgence of this sentence; I feel like I earned it.

 

 

I’d love to send a little note each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

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for Mamas and Daddies taking a child to college

I feel it new every August, the heart-sinking dread of Mamas and Daddies facing a college freshman year. Oh, there’s a bit of excitement in the preparation, from college acceptance joy to the realization (during a push-the-boundaries summer) that good lord it is time for this child to move on.

And yet the moment comes.

The dorm room is fixed. The bed is made, and the clothes are put away. You hug hard. You take her face in your hands and say, one more time, I am so excited for you. And you get in the car, and smile and wave, and you drive away leaving your baby standing on a college campus, alone.

Ten miles later the tears begin to fall. And no matter how much you tell yourself to stop, this is silly, you are grateful she has this wonderful opportunity, you still can’t make them stop.

You put your phone in your purse. In the back seat. In the very very back so you cannot reach it to text her. And you begin to practice the one thing you know you must do for the next four years, for the next 10 years, for the rest of your life:

You let her work it out herself.

 

(I wrote about this at the time, and about the great blessings that came to balance my angst. God was insistent in this even when I had trouble believing.)

And so I want to say to you, now, whether you know it or not, whether you can believe it or not, this time of change is as much about you as it is about your deeply beloved child.

We send you love and strength and perseverance, those of us who have been there. And we hope this time of growth–for both of you–ultimately makes your world bigger, more colorful, and more filled with all the things that bring you joy.

Godspeed.

 

XXOO

I’d love to send a little note each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

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Okay then.

Y’all.

You know how I love the animals around Bickley’s Pond.

All the animals.

But I do not love it when the squirrels get to the bird feeders. Tim has made an art of bird feeder placement, determining just the right position with just the right hood to stop the nonsense.

Then just last night I looked out the big window of my studio to see a squirrel plastered to the lower feeder.

How on earth???? I wondered.

Then I found out.

 

 

I watched him do it five or six times. Then I decided any creature with that much ingenuity, that much gumption, that much fearlessness deserves all the birdseed he can eat.

Carry on, my brother.

 

XXOO

 

neighbors

There are so many things I love about the new friends we’ve made since buying a mountain place high in the Blue Ridge. First, and it is so true, we lucked up with the most interesting, intelligent and generous neighbors a couple new to the area–and the lifestyle–could imagine.

To which I would also like to add: It is genuinely a surprise because the location is remote, the houses are few, and the land between each equals acres and acres.

Still there is something about the place that attracts folk whose values resemble a new-to-me hero, Wendell Berry.

I had the immense fortune of hearing Berry speak in July when I attended the Appalachian Writers Workshop in Hindman, Kentucky. I’d never read Berry until learning he was offering the keynote; may I just say Hannah Coulter, my introduction to Berry’s fiction, has taken residence in my heart in a sweet and lovely way.

That story of farming and neighbors and community, with its quiet, gentle voice, shifted something in me.

It also made me keenly aware of the value of neighbors who not only live close but who take care, who watch over and help out.

I have been fortunate at every phase of my life to have this type of neighbor. God realizes I am a needy human and has provided support beyond belief, from sweet Ree who practically raised my child (and made her eat vegetables) when I was a crazy Single Working Mom to the Copes who give and give and never ask anything in return.

But the point is on this remote mountain, where life centers around the land and our caretaking of it, the gift of neighbors who love and guide and support and teach and share…well, it is a gift beyond measure.

 

 

Two weeks ago I had a conversation with resident flora and fauna expert Leon during which I mentioned my intention to learn about the wildflowers growing on the mountain. There is a new crop every time we’re there–I am not exaggerating–and it is one of the great joys (and challenges) of this property for me to not only learn their names but their folklore.

Leon knows about such things. So he rattled off a comprehensive list of the native flowers and bushes and shrubs I most need in our meadow. And then–because it wasn’t enough to simply suggest–he and Gus and Greg spent a good bit of time stomping through the woods digging up varieties for Tim and me to carry over the ridge and put in the ground at our place.

 

 

Then yesterday I got this text from Jessie (of the Ramp Hunt and garlic harvest, among so many other gracious things):

There is an area of wildflowers in our meadow where all the butterflies come together. As hard as I try I can’t get a good shot of it. Come over sometime if you are up for the challenge!

I’m glad I went.

 

 

There are a thousand examples, from the time our sweet little dog escaped from the driveway and Sue stomped through scary Narnia in search of; to Tsa dropping off Burnsville Literary Festival info because she thought I might be interested; to Vicky’s gift of a book on the history of the Black Mountains; to Linda graciously serving up Happy Hour (time after time) with absolutely no notice.

~~~

Wendell Berry said this.

A viable neighborhood is a community, and a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what they have in common.

 

Yes, I have learned. Oh yes.

 

 

XXOO

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