Monday, November 29, 2010

A Rather Unusual Vase

One of the best things about living in the NC mountains, is that I am surrounding by an amazing variety of artists.  Something about the mountains seems to draw authors, sculptors, photographer, painters, potters, and artisans of all types.

I cannot tell you how much I admire the work of these wonderful people.  I was born completely lacking a single artistic gene.  My most dreaded childhood memories were those days when the teacher said (to everyone else's delight),  "Now class.  You may take out your paper and crayons and draw anything you wish."  I hated that.  I never knew what to draw and worse yet, I knew that whatever I DID draw wouldn't look right.  And I wanted so badly to be artistic.  So even though (or perhaps because) I lack the talent, I am blessed with an overabundance of art appreciation.

We purchase a lot of NC pottery.  Each new purchase is my instant favorite.  Our most recent purchase is an unusual vase.  I don't know the process, but during the potting and firing, pictures are drawn onto the clay and some parts are cut out, creating a beautiful effect.  The areas that appear black in the photograph are actually areas that are cut out.  The bottom of the vase has a wonderful finish and the entire piece begs to be touched.

On this side the children play "Ring-around-the-Rosy."

A fiddler and a banjo player are on the other side.

Between them a dog romps through the woods.

I have given some thought to taking pottery classes.  I have strong hands and I always did love to play in the mud.  I'm told that softening the clay is as therapeutic as kneading bread dough.  Who knows?  I know I could never learn to paint or sketch, and I don't have the words to write anything meaningful.  But I just might be able to shape a bit of clay into something useful.  After all, I learned how to knit, didn't I?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fridays are Golden

So what do you do after a big Thanksgiving feast?  Well, at our house we snooze in our recliners while pretending to watch football on television.  No company; just the two of us but we had a 12-pound turkey with all the trimmings.  Fortunately my husband loves the Thanksgiving turkey and will happily eat turkey and turkey sandwiches until the bird is picked clean.

Ellie and Lucy don't even pretend to watch the ball games.  They are content to snooze all evening.

Actually, we're not so sleepy...we're depressed.  All those wonderful smells and we got only dog food.

Remember all those things you thought about yesterday as you gave thanks for your blessings?  Think of all of them again today, and tomorrow, and every other day of the year.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Little Gift Makes a Big Difference

We have a lot of Thanksgiving decorations and this has become my favorite.  It isn't the most expensive or the most attractive but it is my favorite.  The history of this little figurine makes it important.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina has always been a special place for us.  In fact, my husband told me we were going to the Outer Banks for our honeymoon.  The wedding announcement in the newspapers said, "after a trip to the Outer Banks, the couple will reside..."  So I packed sweats and sneakers appropriate for being at the beach in early November.  Imagine my surprise when we headed north.  My husband had arranged a week in Colonial Williamsburg.  Nice surprise, but I wasn't exactly the best dressed person around.  But I digress.

For the first 10 years of our marriage, we took trips to the Outer Banks to celebrate our anniversary.  We stayed at the same motel, ate in the same restaurants, spent endless hours at the National Seashore and evenings fishing on the pier.  We didn't have much money back then, and limited vacation time but the off-season rates allowed us to continue the yearly trips.  After the children were born, we left them with their grandparents while we enjoyed our time alone at the beach.

When we began to earn more and finally had a few more nickels to rub together, we planned more elaborate vacations and family vacations with the kids.  As a result, we hadn't been to the Outer Banks for more than 25 years.  Last fall we decided to go there again.  We were appalled to find that the charming quiet areas were overrun with large colorful beach houses.  There were houses on land that we had known to be inlets in years past.  The only things that resembled our memories were the National Seashore and the lighthouses (and actually one of the lighthouses had been moved further inland).

But the beach was deserted and we knew we would have fun, even in the rain and chill.  And then it happened.  I got food poisoning!  The first time in my life.  And I was as sick as I had ever been.  No fancy restaurants...just ginger ale and crackers.  I felt terrible physically and I felt terrible emotionally that I had ruined our trip already marred by the weather and the changed atmosphere.

One afternoon while I was resting, my husband went out to look at some of the shops.  When he came back, he had a box for me.  Inside was this sweet little figurine, "The 1st Lady of Pie."  For a few minutes I actually felt better.

So that's why this is now my favorite Thanksgiving decoration.  She was the best thing about the trip.  When I look at her I forget all about the disappointment about the growth, the rain and the cold and reflect on the early years when we went to the Outer Banks.  But try as I may, even looking at the 1st Lady, I cannot forget those days of misery following the food poisoning.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving decoration?  One that you always put on display even if you don't bring out all the other stuff?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maybe There's a Hole in my Bucket List

A friend of mine recently hiked to the top of a tall mountain.  One of those all-day hikes to a lodge at the top.  Dinner and breakfast at the lodge and then a box lunch for your hikes during the day or back down the mountain.  There are no roads to the lodge; only trails.  Food and all supplies are brought to the lodge by llamas.  There is no electricity in the spartan "cabins" and guests must bring their own towels and washcloths.  I'm not at all surprised that this is something my friend would do.  It's something I would like to do as well.  But I admit I was a bit surprised when she told me the hike was on her "bucket list."  My surprise was not that this hike was on the list, but that my friend had a bucket list at all.

You see...I've never had a bucket list.  It never occurred to me that I should have one, even after the successful movie was made.  As I have talked with other friends, I find that many of them do indeed have bucket lists and delightfully cross off the events one-by-one.  Now that I've become more aware of bucket lists, I find them often in sidebars of blogs.  Click on the icons and you can read their bucket lists.

Bucket is not my bucket.  It's from Wikipedia.  My mop bucket is far more attractive.

Should the lack of a bucket list concern me?  Or the fact that I have no desire to develop one?  Does this mean my life is stagnant and I have nothing more to look forward to?

As I looked more and more into the issue, I have found dozens of Websites about bucket lists.  Perhaps the most extensive one is this one.  On many of these sites, you can read the bucket lists of other people and even follow them as they cross off the items.  You can "join" some of the sites and publish your own list and chart your progress.  The sites will even help you create a bucket list.  Excuse me, but isn't there a little bit of a problem if you can't create your own list of things you want to do?

Do I have goals in life?  Yes, I do.  Are there places I want to visit?  Yes there are.  But none of them are so important that I feel compelled to do them before I die.  I can die just as easily without those experiences.  In short, is there anything I can think of that would come to my mind in my last hours on earth to which I would say, "Gee, if I'd only done (insert item from bucket list)."  I simply cannot come up with a single thing.

I should provide a disclaimer that I have never been a keeper of lists.  When I was working, my life was consumed with lists and I couldn't have survived without them.  Now that I'm retired I manage to maintain a grocery list, and I do write appointments on a calendar, but I don't have any other lists.  Not even a bird list.  But I still know if a bird is a "lifer" because I know I've never seen it before.  My husband, on the other had, keeps a regular office desk "day-at-a-glance" calendar.  He tucks notes on his dresser and reminders on his bathroom mirror.  But even he does not have a bucket list.

Perhaps it's because we are physically and financially able to do most everything we really want to do.  And we do make plans.  One of our plans is to drive the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it's not sufficiently important for a bucket list.

I think perhaps I have taken the bucket list further than it was meant to go.  Perhaps it's more of a "want-to-do-sometime" list than "things I want to do before I kick the bucket." YOU have a bucket list?  If so, is it ranked from most to least important?  Do you share it with other people?  And most important of all...Do I need to worry because I don't have one?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Hard to believe it's Friday again already.  And November is more than half over.  Next week we Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving Day, one of my favorite holidays.  Not any more stressful than you allow it to be, it is a day for eating, relaxing, and giving thanks.

Lucy and Ellie practice the "relaxing" part.  As usual, Lucy has plopped on Ellie and taken most of the bed, gradually shoving Ellie under the chair.

Now at least Ellie has the bed, but what a price.  Lucy is using her for a soft pillow.

If you have read a newspaper this week you are no doubt surprised at what we Americans seem to think constitutes "news."  We seem to have lost our common sense, paying undeserved attention to such superficial things as who wins on "Dancing with the Stars," or whether that person was fairly chosen.  It's even getting political.  There is more interest in the details of the upcoming Royal Wedding than there is in our economy or the suffering of our fellow human beings.  We are following the wrong things, folks.  And we are praising the wrong actions.

I don't often wax religious for several reasons.  But this is my blog and so I can drift in whatever direction I so desire.  I grew up Southern Baptist and consequently I know the Holy Bible through and through.  Why, in fifth grade I won the Bible Sword Drill competition and I attended church camp every summer.  In spite of my Baptist background, I converted to Catholicism when my older child was a toddler.  Now, why would I do that?  Very simple.  I wasn't all that religious a Baptist despite my thrice-weekly meetings at church.  My husband, on the other hand was a devout Roman Catholic.  And feeling that religious experience is good for children no matter what, if any, religion they choose to embrace in the future, I became a Catholic.  That said; do I believe and follow all the tenets of the Catholic Church, and believe all the dogma?  Not by a long shot.  Neither did I believe and follow all the teachings of the Baptist Church.  Truth be told...there is only one church I can totally embrace.  That would be the Eternal and Truthful Church of NCMountainwoman.  And I must be the sole member, because you might have even one idea that differs from mine.

In watching the things we are focusing upon these days, I have often thought of one of my favorite Bible verses.  Doesn't matter if you read or believe the Bible.  These words from St. Paul ring true.  Read them, and follow them.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;  if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Let's hope we can turn away from all the things that distract us from the truth and think on these things.


Now look at that!  That NCmountainwoman has done gone to preaching and meddling.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Years Now and No Arrest

[The following post is an annual update to honor the memory of a wonderful couple.]

They met on a blind date and took an instant liking to each other.  Much of their courtship consisted of hiking in the mountains of western North Carolina.  She was three years his senior, a fact that brought many laughs in years to come.  They were married in 1949.

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

The lived in Montana and in New York, but their  passion was for western North Carolina where they always intended to retire.  The couple were true 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 parts of the hike and they celebrated with champagne at the end of the trail.  Other hikers were delighted with her ability to identify every tree, every bush, and every flower along the trail.

In 1990 they moved to the North Carolina mountains they loved so much.

Both photographs from the Transylvania Times

She was an avid gardener and an award-winning quilter.  Their passion was hiking, especially the lesser known trails in Pisgah National Forest.  They were stewards of the land, purchasing land in their community and donating it to be a nature preserve.

After 58 years of marriage they were deeply committed to one another.  The continued to hike together...she in her 80s and he almost 80.  They hiked at least once a week.  If the sun came up, they went hiking.

Their last Christas card.

On October 21, 2007 they went for a hike in Pisgah National Forest.  Their son who lived out of State was concerned when he didn't hear from them.  He contacted neighbors who also were concerned that they had not returned.  The son called the local police.

The car was found near a trail head here in Transylvania County.  On November 9, 2007, her body was found near the trail.  Telephone records showed that she had made a "911" call from her cell phone on October 21 but the signal was insufficient to relay beyond the tower.  Their bank card was used in nearby Tennessee.

Irene Bryant had died of blunt force trauma to the head.  Her husband John was still missing.

In February 2008 the remains of John Bryant were discovered near a forest service road in upstate Georgia.  He had been shot in the head.

While no arrests have been made, evidence links the senseless killing of this wonderful and devoted couple to Gary Michael Hilton.  Hilton pleaded guilty to an equally senseless murder of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson in Georgia.  Under the terms of a plea bargain he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.  At the present time he is awaiting trial in Florida for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap, a 46-year-old nurse.  When that trial is completed, the NC Attorney General will determine whether or not to file a case against Hilton on behalf of the Bryants.

This post is not about Gary Michael Hilton.  It's not even about justice.  There is no justice here.  There can be no justice for such heinous actions.  This post is about two of my heroes...John and Irene Bryant.

They left behind a legacy of love.  Love for each other, their children, their fellow man, and the future.  Love of nature, love of the outdoors, and love of these wonderful North Carolina mountains.  They are together once again and after three years we still grieve for them.  They left the world better than they found it.  Let's all take a lesson from John and Irene Bryant.  Live your life to the fullest and give back to nature and to humankind.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fridays are Golden

We have been blessed this week with beautiful sunny days.  Temperatures have been at near-record highs and the skies have truly been Carolina blue.  Time to run and play!

Lucy sprints until she is out of breath.  Ellie paces herself and could go on forever.

At the top of the dam, Lucy just decides to take off towards me.  Ellie can't seem to figure out what makes her take off all of a sudden.

The woods in back are always a good place to sniff those wonderful smells of the creatures who have passed by.

Lucy takes a moment to decide which way to go.

Ellie checks out the bench made from the trunk of a fallen tree.
It's been a grand week and while we need rain, I was happy to see such great weather.

My mother has one remaining sibling.  My Aunt Ruby is 83 years old and I call her at least once a week.  She is extremely conservative so we never discuss politics.  Well, I never talk politics...Aunt Ruby talks a lot.  She does not like President Obama (we're just not ready for a black President and besides that he wasn't even born here).  She is certain the health care reform will mean her untimely demise.  "I sure hope I don't have to go to the hospital for anything.  One of those death panels might decide I'm not worth saving."

My Aunt Ruby considers herself to be well informed since she listens to the radio and watches the "news" every evening.  Unfortunately, Aunt Ruby never exposes herself to any truly objective news sources...she has a steady diet of the conservative viewpoint with which she is in total agreement.  While I never verbally disagree with her (for heaven's sake...she is 83) I think she knows that I don't always share her political opinions.

Last time I talked with her she said, "Wait.  I want to get this paper."  After a short while she came back on the phone.  Then she said to me that the "news" reported that President Obama spent more than 200 MILLION dollars a day on his recent trip to India, China, Korea, and Indonesia.  He took an entourage of 3,000 people with him.  Forty US planes were in the air and 30 warships in the waters.  "Here we are suffering and he is spending our tax dollars like that," she said.

Aunt Ruby had been so anxious to impress me, she had actually written down all those numbers.  When I told Aunt Ruby those "facts" were not accurate, she said, "Well, they HAVE to be.  I heard it on several different programs.  They couldn't all be wrong."

Well, Aunt Ruby, yes they can.  "Someone" says this or that, then "someone else" repeats this or that, and it goes around the circles of her "news" programs.  My advice to Aunt Ruby (who would never follow it even if I actually told her) is to keep an open mind and get information from more than one tightly-knit group.  So many voters this year believe something to be true.  Why?  Because that's what they believe.

Here I am again waxing political, but we Americans cannot take for fact everything we see on television or hear on the radio, or read in a newspaper.  That applies to both liberals and conservatives.  If all you hear is Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman, or all you hear is Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh then your views are likely jaundiced.  Keep an open mind and look at all sides.  At the very least, recognize that what you are watching or listening to is indeed biased one way or the other.

Buddha said it best:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many....
After observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Pumpkins Are Back

My husband came in to make the announcement.  "The pumpkin people are back."  I had lamented the fact that the place where the pumpkins stood every year had been purchased and was an unsightly detail shop.  The people who had previously owned the space have opened up a little coffee shop near us.  And they continued the annual practice of having the pumpkin people wave as people traveled US 276 through the mountains.

They are a bit different this year.  Always a male and female before, it seems to be two guys this year.  Well, either that or she has quite a growth of "lip hair."  Before I could get a picture, we had heavy wind and a few of the pumkins shifted on their legs.  But no matter, I am happy to see them once again smiling and waving.

Hello everyone!

They don't seem to mind at all that they have lost the gorgeous mountain view.  Perhaps that's because it was behind them and they never got to see it anyway.

It's mid-week again so quickly.  Sometimes we feel as if we are simply passing time, or watching time pass us.  This sign expresses it well.

As Lewis Carroll said, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."

For many years I hated that phrase because it was invariably used in those annual Strategic Planning sessions I had to endure.  It seems one cannot go through that tedious process without hearing it at least once, and usually more often than once.  Since retirement, I've come to like the phrase once again.  So often we get in the car without a particular destination.  Simply driving through the beautiful countryside is destination enough.  When we do that, almost any road will take us there.

To wax philosophical, life is not about getting there.  Life is about enjoying where you are.  As some wise person observed (this is from one of my favorite tee shirts), THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION.

BTW:  Whoever said the Pine Siskins would not be irruptive in our area got it all wrong.  They came in such huge numbers and were throwing birdseed all over the place and totally disrupting our other birds.  So we brought in all the feeders except for the suet.  Too bad for the cardinals and the finches, but we still have our chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, titmice and woodpeckers.  We'll put the feeders back out this weekend.  One or two Pine Siskins are cute.  Dozens of them are not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'll Miss the Craft Fairs

We recently went to a small outdoor craft fair.  It's likely the last of the outdoor fairs this year.  I do so enjoy them.  We will have plenty of indoor fairs, but they just aren't the same.  I love walking outside, mingling with the other customers and talking with the artists.  Some of the work shows great creativity while others are a bit mundane.  I stand in awe of some of them because they are so beautiful.  I stand in awe of others because they are so tacky.

Gourds are popular and we even have a guild of gourd artists in the area.

There's no end to what can be done with rebar.

Old shovels become works of art.  I liked this wolf and the other animal figures, but I must admit I didn't care too much for the Jesus on a shovel.

The slogan is, "What you see is what I saw"  Use of many different woods in different patterns.

A complex work looks at the forest.  It was a very large piece.

There's always lots of stained glass.  Stained glass panels, ornaments, even night lights.

Some of them are just lovely.

I continue to be amazed at the talent of these people.  At this craft fair, most of them cannot devote full time to their art.  They work regular jobs and do the crafts in spare time.  That makes it all the more amazing to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fridays are Golden

I started to take some pictures of the girls in the den.  Ellie wanted me to play with her and was in no mood to pose for a picture.

Ellie glares at me with evil eyes.

She really looks vicious here, but in reality I caught her in mid-yawn.

Little angel Lucy is snoozing in comfort.

She is not at all interested in me or my camera.

I couldn't leave you with an evil picture of Ellie.  This is more like her, although she still wants me to play.

We are definitely changing seasons here.  Cold and frosty mornings greet us and the sun takes its own good time rising over the mountains.  When we lived in Wisconsin, I dreaded the November mornings.  I didn't mind the cold and snow, the worst of it was the long number of gray days.  Here, we don't worry about a dreary day or two because we know the sun will be bright before long.

The following phrase is carved on one of our tables.  I don't know the origin, but it is one of my favorites:

The secret to life is to enjoy the passage of time.

How true that is.  Far too often we lament the passage of time.  Our children grow up, the seasons change and we get older.  For some reason we always regret time's passing.  Instead we should embrace and enjoy it.

So enjoy the passage of time as we move back to Standard Time this weekend.  Think of those who are less fortunate than we are and don't get caught up in your own misery.  Enjoy the passage of time.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Didn't That Used to be Mack's Place?

It's not at all uncommon to find sudden change along our highway.  One day a business is open and the next time you go by it has closed.  I ran across a new establishment the other day.

Since we moved here there has been a vacant service station.  It's near the Cedar Mountain post office and has been abandoned for years.

I was surprised to find that the building is now a church, The Well.  It is a Baptist church, which in North Carolina means very little except that it is protestant.  Only the Baptist churches belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention are remotely organized.  [There is another organized group of Baptist churches within the group called The American Baptist Church, but we don't have any of them in the mountains.]  Otherwise, one is free to found a church and call it a Baptist church.  I have no idea why the terms "Methodist" or "Presbyterian" are not so widely used.  The terms "freewill," "hard rock," "pentecostal," "hard shell" are sometimes used to identify the type of worship.  In many cases the pastor is a farmer who is called to preach.  Sometimes the entire membership is composed of family members.

Here is the new Well Baptist Church

At the corner of the lot, the old sign for "Mack's Place" still hangs.  It has been painted over an Exxon sign.

I hardly ever print a photograph without credit to the source, but for the life of me, I cannot remember how the following picture came to be my computer.  I am printing it for some of the people of Wisconsin (where we lived for 20 years).  Proof positive (as if you needed any) that enough money and enough lies will buy an election.  Senator Russ Feingold was defeated in yesterday's election.  It matters not what political party he belongs to...he is the most honest, conscientious, patriotic Senator in Congress.  Never willing to follow his party blindly, he often reached over the aisle when the other party was right.  He held listening sessions in every county in the State to hear what the citizens had to say.  He is a "Senator's Senator."  So why do I care what happened in WI?  Because senators represent the entire country, not  just their individual states.  Truly, one of the best will not be serving next term.  I hope the new senator-elect will lose some of his partisan stands and work with all the other senate members, not just the ones in his party.

Salute to many (not all) voters in Wisconsin

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomorrow is an Important Day

Tomorrow is Election Day here in the United States.  The stakes are high and every single one of us needs to vote.  Sick as we may be about all the negative and ugly television advertisements, and appalled as we may be that any candidate would say in a public interview that he doesn't want the President's endorsement and that the President of the United States can "shove it,"  there WILL be an election tomorrow and there WILL be a winner in every category.  So you must vote even if your candidate is not ideal.

From the Atlanta Journal/Constitution

There is a saying, "Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote."

This election is so important to me that I took advantage of "early voting" in my State.  I much prefer to go to the precinct on Election Day, but I wanted to make absolutely certain my vote would be cast.