22. Joy at 5200 Feet

An advantage to being at this elevation is the ability to see weather coming from miles away. The temperature and conditions also happen to change every few minutes, so a glimpse into the future can be a pretty helpful consideration.

Except the weather sometimes comes from behind us. It blows in from the North, up and over the house to find us on the back deck blissfully unaware, our gazes set on the three other directions.

It’s just what happened the other day. Dear friends had just arrived for a long weekend–and along with my precious Eliza and one of her besties, Jillian–the six of us were out back to soak in the broad mountain vistas.

 

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eliza, leslie, cathy, jillian, tim and scott–all sun and smiles

 

Then tiny raindrops began to fall. From nowhere. We looked around disbelieving our luck.

Then someone looked left.

 

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above the (almost double) rainbow

 

It was hard to believe, a rainbow so perfect, so close you could nearly reach out and touch it. We giggled and rejoiced and stood in the rain admiring its beauty, its intensity, and the perspective of actually being above the rainbow.

And we gave thanks, each in our own way, for the promise.

 

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20. The Bear Hunt

We decided to go on a hunt*, Tim and I, now that we’ve had our appetites whetted with two confirmed Black Bear sightings on this, our work/play mountain vacation. It’s become a bit of an obsession, if I’m telling the truth, our need to see more. They come and go quietly is the thing, at least according to our limited experience, no movie-style snapping twigs, no shaking branches. Just big, silent, gorgeous black bears moving across the meadow.

So we gathered the gear required–two cold beers, one pair of binoculars, and most important of all, my camera with the big zoom lens–and we climbed the slanting walk to the roof deck.

 

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There was a better view.

 

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But alas, there were no bears.

 

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the happy hunters

 

No worries. Tomorrow is another day!

 

*To be clear, no guns were involved!

 

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19. When You Decide To Go Big

 

When we vacationed in Costa Rica, I was surprised to learn the country is rather serious about its cattle ranching. This first came to my attention the morning we went on a flat-bottom boat tour of the Tarcoles River, an adventure that gets you up close and way-too-personal with the crocodiles that live there. To distract myself from the horror, I kept my eyes on distant shores, where the white Brahma cows hung close and seemed just as befuddled with the entire crocodile exercise as I was. I developed a little crush on those cows, snapping photograph after photograph after photograph.

 

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Then I had this oh-so-fun idea. What if I painted one of those cows…five feet tall!

A few hours and a lot of great music later I was on my way.

 

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in progress

 

She’s still in the early stages, but I’ve got my joy on and can’t wait to get back to her. I think I’ll add some color and whimsy.

Who knows what might happen next?

 

 

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18. The Bear

 

My dreams have come true in the form of a mountain house high in Western North Carolina’Pisgah National Forest. My soul is at home here, there is no doubt.

 

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Our meadow. Our view.

 

But it didn’t taken long to come to the realization this is a wild kind of country for which I am not prepared. I am a child of the mountains, yes. But I grew up “in town,” even if that town had a population less than 3,000.

Not so here.

There are 18 homes in our mile-high neighborhood, exactly none of which are in sight and two-thirds of which are uninhabited at any given time. It is glorious–mountains roll on for miles and miles and I promise you, you hear nothing but wind and birds. How we love it!

How blessed we are.

And still I have a healthy respect for the natural world here on this mountaintop. Snakes, yes of course. And Black Bears that roam with such freedom it doesn’t take long to understand why they’re a part of the decor of every WNC mountain home. Tim and I have been a little obsessed; we’ve caught bear glimpses from the safety of our car as we’ve moved around the mountain during these, our first summer weekends here. And we watch for them every time we step outside (particularly when our sweet dog, Little Bit, is in tow). With the wild blueberries in season–and the currently overgrown meadow that lies just below our back deck housing so many bushes–we know we’re likely to have regular bear visits.

It didn’t take long.

 

our first bear
our first bear

 

We’d just been in the meadow, out there making a quick check of the blueberry crop. And two minutes later–maybe?–we’d come back to the deck when I looked out to see this guy.

 

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He seemed to have a healthy respect for us, too, as he watched us watch him for a while, then he turned to go.

We’ll be here a few more days.

We’ll all be keeping an eye out!

 

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17. That Time A Surprise Guest Joined Us for Happy Hour

It’s more the end of the story, if you wanna know the truth, something that happened to add a jolly exclamation mark to the end of our already joy-filled weekend.

We’d come for Dabo’s Women’s Clinic, you see–the collection of 10 college friends gathered at Sarah’s lake house and another handful across town. (There is a great football lesson there, and I shall get to it by and by. I hope it’s one you’ll want to hear.) Anyway, our day of football over, we loaded a couple of snack trays, filled a cooler or two with drinks and made our way down to the water’s edge. There we sat for an hour or more, talking and laughing, laughing and talking until someone looked up to see a white duck strolling right up Sarah’s dock toward us.

 

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That duck nosed around the cooler a while, then took herself a big fine seat right on our edge. And she sat there a good long while, leaning in, listening, laughing along with the thousand funny things we remembered from our college years together.

 

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Then dusk started to settle. Our chatter turned toward dinner and a possible return to the house, and that sweet white duck got up, turned on her webbed heels and headed back toward the dock.

 

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We were sad to see her go. But we were mighty pleased she had come!

 

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Day 15: the fine art of buck dance

 

 

©Rebecca Stout, flatfootandfancyfree.com
©Rebecca Stout, flatfootandfancyfree.com

 

What we lacked in form we made up for in enthusiasm.

I’d bought the Rebecca Stout Buck Dance lessons for myself at Christmas, but I’d still not carved out the time to watch the CD. But I am quite serious about finally properly learning this native dance of my beloved Southwest Virginia mountains, which we always called Flatfoot*. So when we found ourselves in the mountains, a long, gorgeous summer afternoon stretching before us, I thought these fun gals might be game. And were they! We moved the furniture right on out of the way, and we took to that wood floor like nobody’s business.

 

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Yes. Flatfoot is as much fun–and Becky Stout and her daughter are as adorable–as the CD promises!

 

Julian, Teresa, Carleigh, and Cindy. Forgive the flip-flops. No one knew this was coming when they packed!
Julian, Teresa, Carleigh and Cindy. Forgive the flip-flops. No one knew this was coming when they packed!

 

Lordy it was fun. And by the end of the afternoon? Why, we girls could Flatfoot a respectable step or two!

(If you’re not familiar with Flatfoot or Buck Dance, click here to see Rebecca Stout give a very fine demonstration. Your heart will be so happy you did.)

*I am sure my Wise County friends can speak to the difference between Buck Dance and Flatfooting. I’d love to know if you’d care to send me an email (cathy@thedailygrace.com. Or comment below!

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Day 14: The Ultimate Summer Playlist!

I asked for your favorite Summer Roll-Down-The-Window-And-Sing Songs and boy-oh-boy did you guys deliver. I used your suggestions to create the Ultimate Summer Playlist on Spotify and you can play it via my Spotify profile here. (If you’re not a registered Spotify user, click here to sign up. It’s a great free music app and it’s totally worth it.) Then turn up the volume and get out there for some summer fun this weekend.

(And if you’d like to add to the playlist, just comment below and it shall be done.)

Enjoy, my friends!

 

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Day 13: Sometimes You Just Have To.

 

A weekend in the mountains and a fridge of cold IPAs will make a group of friends do some interesting things.

We discussed–at length–the Ultimate Summer Playlist you guys are helping me build. (If you haven’t added your favorite to the list, do so on my Facebook page.) It’s coming soon!

But then things really heated up when we did this:

 

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WE ROASTED OUR OWN PEANUTS!

This was something new for Tim and me and we couldn’t believe how easy it was! You just toss raw peanuts with a little oil, sprinkle liberally with salt, spread into a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them–you’ll probably want to stir halfway through. As they cool they get crunchy, and man oh man oh man are they good.

Yummo!

 

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