Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fused Glass Artwork

Among the gifted artists and potters here in Transylvania County, we have some unique and outstanding artisans who specialize in kiln-fired fused glass. The Glass Feather ( is a family-owned business that displays and sells Travis Fused Glass.

The Travis family has been in business in our county since the early 1980s. Their works are breath-taking and have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution. The process is very tedious, with layer upon layer of glass, fused with multiple firings in the kiln. Fusing glass began about 3,500 years ago. Layers of glass with colors in between are fired in a kiln until the glass gets hot enough to fuse together. Depending on the complexity of the piece, several firings may be required to meld all the glass pieces together into one piece. There are platters, plates, bowls, oil jugs, and decorative outdoor plaques. All of them are lovely.

No photographs are allowed inside the Glass Feather, but plenty of artwork covers the gardens.

One of their outdoor plaques, with an assortment of wildflowers:

A Cardinal perches atop a deck rail:

This very large piece is really impressive.

A moving work of art, the glass sculpture is designed to catch the wind and turn, providing a kaleidoscope of color:

The happy little wren greets visitors to the gardens:

And there must always be a chickadee:

Glass boxes surround a cardinal:

While we could not take pictures inside, I can show you one of Patricia Travis's large bowls. We bought this one last year and it gives us great joy. The piece is very heavy and while it could be used for serving (it's even dishwasher safe), we keep it as a work of art.

We are so blessed to have such unbelievable talent in our area. Imagine...the mountains, the birds, the waterfalls, and all the artwork you can imagine. It just doesn't get any better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fridays are Golden

I do hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The weather here was beautiful, the warmest day we have had in weeks. Reaching almost 60 degrees, the day felt balmy. After a long brisk walk and a romp in the woods, Ellie and Lucy spent most of Thanksgiving snoozing. It seemed everywhere I turned, I ran into a sleeping dog.

One of Lucy's favorite snoozing places is the most expensive rug in the house. Suitable for a little princess, I suppose.

Ellie usually prefers the hard wood. At least there she won't have to share her bed with Lucy.

Lucy often snoozes with her head up. She nods much like an overly tired toddler.

Ellie enjoys the warmth on the deck.

We grilled the turkey on the deck. The warm sunshine felt so wonderful and the golden girls did not want to come back inside. What a lovely Thanksgiving. No fuss, no bother, just the two of us and the dogs. We didn't even watch any football. The day was too nice.
How can it be Friday again so soon? And almost the end of another month. I'll spend today putting away Thanksgiving decorations to make room for the Christmas tree and decorations. Whatever your plans for the weekend, have a safe and happy one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's About More than a Turkey

Every now and then something happens that fills you with such joy you have to share the story with others. This is one such story.

Beginning November 1, all food purchases at our local grocery store accumulate "turkey points." If you have sufficient points by Thanksgiving, you receive a free 12-14 pound Butterball Turkey. I always receive the points, but I never need the turkey. Since we aren't having guests, we will grill a fresh turkey breast. Nonetheless, I pick out my free turkey and give it to a neighbor or to the church.

On Monday, I did some grocery shopping, picked out my turkey and got in the queue to pay. A woman in her mid-forties was in line in front of me. She was in jeans and sweatshirt (like most of us) and was well-groomed. There was nothing in her demeanor to suggest she was in need.

But some inner voice prompted me to speak. "Pardon me, but do you know anyone who might be able to use a turkey? I have one of the free Butterballs, and I won't be able to use it."

The woman looked at me with such surprise that at first I feared I might have offended her. Then she asked, "Are you serious?" I responded that I was, and a tear slowly came down her cheek. While we waited in line, she told me her story. She is a single mother with three children and had recently come on hard times.

"You have been sent by an angel! I told my three children this morning that we didn't have enough points for a turkey, and I didn't have the money to buy one, so we wouldn't be having turkey this Thanksgiving.

You mother had cancer and this summer I had to quit my job to take care of her. I had to apply for food stamps for the first time in my life. I've never taken charity in my life."

The story poured out of her as if she had been needing to tell it for a long time. She went on,

"Mom died last month and it has been really hard. I haven't been able to find another job and this has been so hard for my kids. They try to keep a stiff upper lip, but I overhead my son telling his sister that it just won't be Thanksgiving without a turkey. I told him we could go to the Methodist Church for a turkey dinner. He told me Thanksgiving was for families and we are a family and we should have Thanksgiving dinner together at home, turkey or no turkey. Then he said, 'That's what Grandma would have wanted.'

Now you have miraculously filled my have a turkey for our very own Thanksgiving dinner. May God bless you over and over for what you have done for me and my family."

By now, everyone in the checkout line was listening intently to the story even though she had been speaking softly. The man behind me in line pulled out his wallet, handed her a large bill and told her to get anything else she might need for the Thanksgiving dinner. Several other people (including myself) did the same. The cashier told her, "Don't worry, honey. I'll put your turkey aside. You go get what you need."

When she protested that this was too much money and she couldn't accept it, the cashier said, "You're gonna need some for Christmas."

The woman was sobbing by this time, and hugging everyone in the checkout line. She looked at me through the tears and said, "You may not know it, but you are an angel. I know God sent you here today. I promise that when I get back on my feet, I'll do something like this for someone else."

Such a simple thing. A free turkey that I did not need suddenly brought a group of strangers together to help a woman temporarily down on her luck. I left the store feeling quite humbled and with a much lighter step. For this family, on this Thanksgiving Day, life will be back to normal. Those three children will enjoy a real Thanksgiving feast, together as a family.

And so, it really is about more than a turkey. This turkey represented hope for this woman, in a time of grief and pain. I feel blessed to have played a small role.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oldenfields, the Lilly House

On our recent visit to Indianapolis, we toured Oldenfields, the home of the late Josiah K. Lilly Jr. and his wife Ruth Brinkmeyer Lilly. J.K. Lilly was the grandson of the more famous Eli Lilly, founder of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company. The 26-acre estate and home are now considered a National Historic Landmark.

The Lillys owned several houses, but always considered Oldenfields as their primary residence. The house is spacious and very typical of the country estates owned by the affluent in the early part of the 1900s.

Despite the late fall weather, the grounds were beautiful. The landscaping was done by members of the famous Olmstead Brothers architectural firm. [The Olmstead firm did the landscaping for the White House grounds, New York's Central Park, The Biltmore House, and many other famous sites.]

At the time of our visit, the house was decorated for the Christmas holidays, all in keeping with the era. It was a very nice tour.

Ruth Lilly died in 1965 and J.K. the following year. Upon their deaths, their children gave the estate to the Art Association of Indianapolis. In 1970, the Indianapolis Museum of Art was opened on the Oldenfields grounds.

Because it was pouring rain during most of our visit, the outdoor photographs are limited and were taken from the car. Despite the weather, it was an interesting tour.

I was amazed at how many leaves lingered on the trees. This photograph was taken November 15.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Birds in the Backyard

At any given time both in summer and winter, we have birds in our backyard forest. Our winter friends include the usual goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, Carolina Wrens, woodpeckers, and the occasional Cardinal.

Sometimes we take these birds for granted as we seek to find unusual migrating birds. So this post is to honor our "bread-and-butter" birds. The faithful ones we can always count on. Even in the coldest weather, they come to see us and sit puffed up on the bare tree limbs.

So, continue to enjoy the migrants. Continue to chase after exotics and rare birds seen in your area. Continue to travel for birdwatching trips. But also look around you and be thankful for your winter birds. Dull as they are compared to summer plumage, they bring lightness and joy on the most dreary of days.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Critter in the Garage I discovered I really am a blogger.

My husband was taking the dogs out at 10:00 pm. Suddenly he re-opened the door and shouted, "C-A-R-O-L-Y-N! We've got something in the garage! Come out here. H-U-R-R-Y!"

I ran out to find him standing near the door, holding the leashes tightly so the girls wouldn't move. Without saying anything, he was pointing to the workbench. And that's when I saw the little critter.

That's also when I discovered I really am a blogger. My first thought was not, "We've got to get this thing out of here." Oh, no. It was "I've got to try to get a picture for my blog." What a difference a few months can make.

"Put the girls in a sit/stay and don't move a muscle," I whispered. I ran back into the house and quickly grabbed the camera.

And this is what I saw: a very small opossum climbing out of the boxes holding the bird feeders.

Oops! Busted
He crept to the edge of the workbench.
I gotta get out of here.
He made his way down the same way he had come up.
Take it slow and steady. They are not chasing you.
He took a final glance at me.
All right, lady. I'm going. Just keep those dogs still.
At that point, my husband eased the dogs out of the garage on the opposite side. I put the camera down to make certain our little visitor actually left the garage. There are lots of places to hide in a garage and I didn't want him to spend the night.
-----I didn't get a photograph of the dogs, but they sat absolutely still, totally fascinated by this little critter. They clearly did not care to go after him and didn't even make a muffled "woof" much less bark. I'm not sure why. But when they came back, Lucy had to be pulled away from the area. She also checked out that corner the next morning.
-----We always bring the bird feeders inside the garage at sunset. We have too many nocturnal animals who would otherwise feast on our deck. What we have not previously done, is to close the garage door as soon as we bring in the feeders. Well, lesson learned. We not only close the garage door, we check the garage before taking the girls out at night.
-----This time the visitor was a 'possum. He was a very little one at that and I do worry about his size in the approaching winter. A little 'possum is one thing...a skunk, racoon, or (gulp) a black bear is another.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fridays are Golden

We were extremely fortunate when we moved from Wisconsin to North Carolina. A dear friend who is also a dog trainer, kept the girls in her home for two weeks and then drove them down to North Carolina. By coincidence and lucky for us, she and her husband had planned a trip here near the time of our move. We will never forget her kindness.

The girls had not spent a night away from us since our move. We have a dog walker who will come over and take them out during the day, but we haven't been away overnight.

We interviewed several dog sitters "just in case" and found one that we really liked. We took the girls over to see the place (and for the sitter to see them) and the visit went well. The sleeping area was spacious and the two of them would be together. The grounds and yard are lovely, and the sitter has several dogs of her own. Lucy and Ellie got along well with the sitter's own dogs.

So we felt as comfortable as one can feel when leaving pets in someone else's care. When we picked them up, they were clearly happy and healthy, although they were just as clearly glad to be home.

The sitter sent us some pictures of the girls. She thought it funny that every time she got the camera out, Ellie immediately sat and posed while Lucy approached to find out how to work the camera. That is so typical.

We took the girls for a long run and they settled down, pretty exhausted. Lucy plopped down on the bed Ellie was using, but seemed determined to stay awake and watch the goings-on.

She tried so hard to stay alert, but actually fell asleep with her head up.

The next morning, the girls were really frisky. The weather much to their liking, (about 16 degrees) they had really enjoyed their walk and then romp in our woods. They sprinted up the stairs to greet me. Then, they heard my husband putting food in their dishes and remembered they hadn't eaten breakfast. So they scurried down the stairs again.

One of the most rewarding things about having dogs is the way they greet you when you come home. This applies whether you have been gone for 10 minutes or 10 hours. For the first day after we got home, the girls followed us from room to room more than usual, but things are back to normal now. They did well, and we truly enjoyed our vacation. But I can't tell you how often my husband and I mentioned the dogs while we were away.

Friday again, coming so quickly. It's only a week until Thanksgiving if you can believe that. It gets dark at 5:00 and we all look forward to December 22, when the daylight hours will increase in miniscule increments. It's the thought of it that counts. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. It may be the last quiet weekend you have until the holidays are over. Enjoy it and stay safe and happy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shelley's Other Blog

Did you know that the marvelous bird charmer, photographer extrordinaire Shelley (AKA the Loon Ranger) also has a blog titled Building a Log Cabin

And on the Log Cabin blog, she has a giveaway. The prize? A loaf of cranberry pecan bread from a marvelous deli called Zingermans.

So, please go check out Shelley's other blog. Read the archives and enjoy. Just DON'T ENTER THE CONTEST! I'm really wanting this loaf all to myself. I'm giving you the address to get "bonus" points, NOT to encourage you to enter the contest yourself.
So remember, read the blog (it's great) and comment, but (I repeat myself here) DO NOT ENTER THE CONTEST AND REDUCE MY CHANCES!!! It's really cold here and I can just taste that wonderful bread. I can almost smell it with my morning coffee.

Back Home Again

The weather was terrible. We drove the nine hours from here to Indianapolis in the rain, with high winds and occasional snowflakes. The weather was no different when we arrived, except that it might have been a little bit colder.

Never mind. At the end of the trip we were welcomed by our son and daughter-in-law and suddenly the weather didn't matter anymore. Our son had planned a lot of outdoor activities, but the weather decided differently. We did some sightseeing from comfort of the car, and did more indoor activities.

We visited the Indianapolis Art Museum to see the special exhibit on the Ming Dynasty. The museum's photograph policy basically indicates that one cannot take a photograph of anything interesting inside the museum. But we could take unlimited photographs outside.

The ubiquitous "LOVE" quadrangle is one of the prized outdoor exhibits. Robert Clark (who later changed his name to Robert Indiana), created the LOVE for a Christmas card for the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in the 1960s. Interestingly enough, the artwork was never copyrighted, and immediately became public domain and an instant art hit around the world.

Despite the rain, we photographed the fountain in front of the museum. There were some remaining leaves on the sheltered trees around the fountain.

The numbers scupture, another Robert Indiana creation, is often used by couples to make "Save the date" cards for upcoming weddings, or birthday parties.

There seems to be a "mother and child" sculture at every museum. I especially liked this one.

The most important place we visited? The house my son and DIL bought. It is a perfect house, one that will meet their needs for as long as they remain in Indianapolis. They have cleverly decorated the traditional house with some non-traditional ideas that enhance rather than detract from the beauty. They bought old church pews and joined them together to make a lovely bench for the dining room. They upholstered the pews and even covered one wall with the same material. Not only comfortable, the pews are quite attractive. The drop-leaf table can be reduced in size and the entire area opened up for guests.

Our son is a great cook and we enjoyed some really good meals here. Isn't it nice to have someone else do all the cooking and cleaning?
-----We did have one indoor activity. My husband and I were introduced to the Wii. We bowled, played golf, even boxing. The thing is totally addicting!
-----What a wonderful and relaxing time we had. We sat by the fireside and chatted about old times and plans for the future. I can't wait to visit again.
-----The drive home was a bit harrowing with cold wind and bits of snow. We left very early in the morning so we could get home in the afternoon. We arrived in time to pick up the Golden Girls. Much as we totally enjoyed the visit, it was nice to be home again, sleeping in our own bed.
And I have some wonderful blogs to read. I've missed all of you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hike to the Base of the Falls

[NOTE: We're going on a short vacation, so I will be offline for a week or so. I will miss reading your blogs and promise to catch up when I return. Look for a new post from me on Wednesday or so.]

As regular readers know, our community is full of wonderful hiking trails. One of our favorites is the Amakola Trail which leads to the base of Lower Batson Falls at the confluence with the larger and more impressive Connestee Falls. The trail declines steeply and runs along Batson Creek with three waterfalls and some lovely cascades on the way.

These photographs were from a mid-October hike, so the foliage does not represent the bare trees we see outside today. Enjoy the hike. You are lucky. You don't even have to make that climb back up.

This is the reward for the steep hike. Connestee Falls, a cascading waterfall with a 100-foot drop. (If you click on the picture, you will see the woman near the railing. That gives you some size perspective.) We have to take a breath and a drink of water before heading back up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Veterans

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States. Previously called "Armistice Day," Novemer 11, 1918 is the day the Germans signed the Armistice, ending World War I. Our friends in other countries call this day "Remembrance Day." It is one of the few Federal holidays not celebrated on Monday. It is celebrated on November 11 unless the date falls on a weekend.

Regardless of our feelings about our current wars, we still honor those who fought, especially those who died or returned injured.

Reflect on this day and give thought to the men and women still fighting under the American Flag. We honor and salute them today.

If you have three minutes, listen to today's edition of NPR's Morning Edition, "A Soldier's Refrain: Going Home."

Monday, November 10, 2008


They met on a blind date and took an instant liking to each other. Much of their courtship consisted of hiking in the mountains. She was three years his senior. They were married in 1949.

He became a lawyer. A lover of animals, she became a veterinarian, rather unusual for her time. Her quest for knowledge led her to take courses in forestry, icythyology, and she studied all things living. She would later give up her veterinary practice to take college-level courses in science full time.

They lived in Montana and in New York, but their love was for Western North Carolina where they always intended to retire. The couple were passionate lovers of the outdoors. When their children grew up, they traveled extensively, hiking some of the most rugged mountains in the world. They always stayed in hostels or inexpensive lodging because, as he said, "You meet so many more interesting people that way."

When they were in their 50s, he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia. She joined him for much of the hike and they celebrated with champagne at the end of the trail. Other hikers were delighted by her ability to identify every tree, bush, flower, etc., along the trail.

In 1990, they moved to the North Carolina mountains they loved so much. She was an avid gardener and an award-winning quilter. Their passion was hiking, especially in the lesser known trails of Pisgah National Forest. They were stewards of the land, purchasing land in their community and donating it to be a nature sanctuary.

After 58 years of marriage, they were deeply committed to one another. They continued to hike together at least once a week in all seasons. If the sun came up, they went hiking.

In October of last year, they were found to be missing. Their car was found near a trail head in Pisgah National Forest, here in Transylvania County.

A year ago, on November 9, 2007, her body was found not far from their car. He was still missing. Telephone records showed that she had made a 911 call from her cell phone, but the signal was insufficient to relay beyond the tower. Their bank card was used in nearby Tennessee. Autopsy would later show that she died of blunt force trauma to the head.

In February, 2008, the skeletal remains of his body were found on a forest service service road in upstate Georgia. He had been shot in the head.

Evidence links the senseless killing of this wonderful and loving couple to Gary Michael Hilton, who pleaded guilty in the equally senseless murder of Meredith Emerson in Georgia.

John and Irene Bryant left behind a legacy of love. Love for each other and their children, love of nature, love of the outdoors, and love of these wonderful North Carolina mountains. The entire county grieves for them still, even those of us who did not know them personally. They left the world better than they found it. We can all take a lesson from the Bryants. They are an inspiration to all.

Photographs from the Transylvania Times

Only when you drink from the river of silence
shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your
limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Kahlil Gibran

So this post is in remembrance of John and Irene Bryant. They lived life to the fullest. At ages 80 and 84 they were still too young to die. They are no doubt singing together now and they have reached the mountain top and are dancing at this very minute.