Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From Street Singer to Legend

Our Nation has lost a legend.  His name was Arthel Lane Watson but everyone knew him as "Doc."  Doc Watson died yesterday at age 89.  I first wrote about my interaction with Doc Watson in 2010 and I will repeat some of it here.

We moved from rural Burke County, NC to live in downtown Boone when I was ten.  While I would never have admitted it to my new friends (country wasn't cool), I loved country music.  Late at night my radio would pick up stations far away and I would listen to country music until I fell asleep.  I loved watching country music shows on television.

My mother had a friend (I will call her Janie) who help Mom with heavy cleaning.  They became good friends and many weekend evenings during the summer Mom and I would drive out to Janie's house in Deep Gap.  Janie played the guitar and on most of our visits Janie's porch was filled with neighbors and friends who played and sang country music.

Oh, how I looked forward to and loved those evenings.  The music made it worth every mosquito bite I later scratched.  I was fascinated with one of the musicians.  He was blind and I loved to hear him and watch him play the guitar.  He was the same man I had seen singing on the streets of Boone.  He wasn't always at Janie's porch gatherings, but when he was I sat and watched him all evening.  I especially loved the laughter and the conversations in between the songs.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed that this blind musician would become a legend in my own lifetime.  The man was Doc Watson.  And as a child I often stood very near him and heard him play with Janie and the others on the porch.  Imagine.  As Doc Watson became more and more famous I began to realize what an amazing childhood gift I received in being able to listen to him and the others.

Doc Watson won numerous Grammy awards, sang with almost all the famous music stars and was presented the National Medal of Arts.  He remained a most humble man who credited his music to his blindness.  He said that had he not been blind he would have been an auto mechanic living in Deep Gap and he would have been just as happy.

Photograph from The Transylvania Times
Doc Watson was the star attraction at the Mountain Song Festival here in Brevard in 2010

Doc Watson recording.
(Photo from the Web)

Last June,  the town of Boone unveiled a life-sized statue to honor Doc Watson.  It sits on the corner of Depot Street at King Street, the very place Doc Watson used to sing.

Doc Watson and his statue

In the days of singing on the porch, Doc Watson called me Carolyn and he teased me about the time I whispered (far too loudly as children are prone to do) "Mom, he is blind."  When my mother shushed me, Doc Watson said, "Honey, that's all right.  I already knew I am blind."

I'm sure Doc Watson never remembered my name.  He never knew how much his music means to me still.  I'm fairly certain he did remember the evening songfests at Janie's house.  Maybe he even remembered a little girl who so enthusiastically sang along and clapped to his music so long ago.

The following words were written by Doc Watson and his wife Rosa Lee in the song "Your Long Journey"

God's given us years of happiness here
Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pains of grief tug at my heart

Oh my darling...
My heart breaks as you take your long journey

Thank you for the music, Doc Watson.  You will be missed by many.  Godspeed on your journey to your new gig.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Will It Always Be So?

Another Memorial Day.  A day to reflect on those who gave their full measure.

Photograph from the Internet

Another Memorial Day and we are still at war.  Our country still has men and women in harm's way.  Our country suffers in many ways because of it.  Will it always be so?  Will we ever see peace in our day?

As in the words of the folk song, "When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fridays are Golden

This has been a quiet week for us.  The weather has been humid but tolerable.  We haven't taken the Golden Girls anywhere this week.  My husband has a new SUV and we don't yet have the seat protectors.  No way are we going to have scratches on the leather.  My husband has had lots of fun learning how to work all the commands and get familiar with the bells and whistles.

So while we have been on long walks in the neighborhood, the girls have pretty much been hanging around the house.

Ellie catches a few winks.

Lucy conks out completely.  The Princess has two speeds...zoom and zzzzzz.

Ellie has a thought but she doesn't share it.

Lucy's thoughts are so deep she has to close her eyes.

So here we are kicking off the start of summer with Memorial Day weekend.  Whatever you are doing, I hope you are safe and happy.

Today's quote is from Jane Goodall who reminds us:

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what difference you want to make.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Traveling to the Highest Mountain

The highest elevation east of the Mississippi is right here in North Carolina.  Our mountains are old, perhaps as old as any others in the world.  Through the millenia they have been eroded and rounded.  They do not have the sharp peaks of the relatively newer Rockies.

Mt. Mitchell is the highest mountain in the east so it naturally became a travel destination for my daughter and me on her recent visit.  Mt. Mitchell is so named in honor of Rev. Elisha Mitchell, a Presbyterian minister and professor of math and natural philosophy at the University of North Carolina.  Elisha Mitchell measured the mountain in 1835.

Mt. Mitchell State Park became North Carolina's very first state park in 1915.  I remember visits to the summit during my childhood, including the more primitive path and the steps up to the top of the tower.  A new observation tower was completed in 2009 along with a wide paved path that allowed handicapped access to the summit.

A view of the observation tower from the path below.

The weather was ever changing and by the time we reached the top the clouds were beginning to encircle the summit.

This is the tomb of Elisha Mitchell.  The cloud cover obscured the mountain views.

The marker noting the elevation of 6, 684 feet.

The clouds moved briskly and we got one decent shot of the mountains from the summit.

This is the road below with a cloud band sweeping past us.  Soon we were in the midst of the cloud.

As you can see, the tomb is situated near the observation tower.  It was not moved or disturbed during the construction of the new tower.

The wide ramp allows handicapped access to the top.

Controversy about the mountain's elevation began almost immediately after Mitchell first measured it.  Senator Thomas Clingman challenged Mitchell's measurements and insisted that he (Clingman) had measured another mountain that was taller.  Several years of loud public arguments followed.  Admitting the possibility that his measurements could be inaccurate Elisha Mitchell took his son and others on a return trip in 1857.  With better instruments he planned to measure the mountain height again.

The group gathered on the mountain and on June 27, 1857, Mitchell left the camp alone to visit the men who had served as his guides on his first trip.  A search party was organized when he failed to return to camp.

Eleven days later a searcher found Mitchell's hat.  The searchers saw Mitchell's footprints and followed them.  Apparently he had tried to walk around a waterfall.  Moss was torn up at the area where he slipped and fell into the water.  His body lay in the crystal clear water in the basin of the falls.  He was found lying face up with outstretched arms.  The waterfall is now known as Mitchell Falls.

Elisha Mitchell was buried in nearby Asheville, NC.  The following year his body was moved and re-buried in a tomb on the mountain's summit where it lies today.

In 1882 the US Geological Survey upheld Mitchell's original measurements and officially named the mountain Mt. Mitchell, declaring it to be the highest peak east of the Mississippi.

General Zebulon Vance (1830-1894) wrote a poem about Mitchell which says, in part:

On the highest peak of a mighty chain
Of hill and mountain fastness,
Where Nature doth per primal rule maintain
Amid their solemn vastness,
There's a lonely grave that the mountain gave
Which the sorrowing moonbeams gently lave.

Whenever we go to Mt. Mitchell I always take a minute to pause at the tomb.  Few people give it more than a cursory glance and perhaps a photograph.  I stand there and wonder about the brave man, his life and his death.  While I have never seen the moonbeams gently lave, the clouds flowing past did indeed seem to refresh and soothe Mitchell's tomb.  And me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Travels With Our Daughter

We so enjoyed having our daughter for a visit.  She lives in Milwaukee and we don't see her nearly as often as we would like.  She loves the mountains almost as much as we do, so we took a mountain drive every day.

I had heard of a place in nearby Henderson County called "Jump-off Rock" but had never gone there.  The weather was "iffy" with intermittent clouds and rain but we decided to give it a try.  So what if it rained?  We would still enjoy driving and talking and stopping for lunch.

Have you ever driven somewhere and been totally surprised to find that you are driving to a place you have seen from the valley below?  Part of this feeling was anger because we drove past large homes built right on the ridge line.  You know, the ones who cut down all the trees so they could have panoramic long-distance views?  The ones that you would like to blow up when they glare out of the top of the mountain?  Safely of course, and with no harm to anyone...just a little green lesson.

As we approached the rock outcropping, we saw only clouds.  There was no hint of the beauty to come.

A sign pointed out the various mountains in the distance.  I would love to know the names of all the mountains but there are obviously too many of them.

And the view!  Oh, the view.

I can only imagine how beautiful it would be on a clear day.

The very definition of a panoramic view.

This is obviously not Jump Off Rock.  We were standing on the rock in front of a fence discouraging jumpers.  But other rock outcroppings surrounded us.

Jump Off Rock is located up the mountain from a little community called Laurel Park.  The mountain road rises more than a thousand feet from the community.

Of course there is a legend.  How can there not be a legend about a place called Jump Off Rock?  And the legend is the ubiquitous Indian maiden and her lost lover.  The maiden (not a Princess this time) and warrior met daily at this location.  When he was called to fight in a tribal war they promised to meet at this spot when he returned.  Day after day the maiden climbed to the rock to see if she could view the returning braves.  The warriors finally returned, bringing the tragic news of her lover's death in battle.  She went to the edge of the rock and jumped to her death.  Had the event taken place in our county, the jump would have been from a waterfall.

Our son completed the Cleveland Marathon yesterday in the heat and humidity.  He has run in other races but this was his first marathon.

WAY TO GO, SON!  What an accomplishment!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

It always starts with a silent signal between the two of them.  And suddenly they are wrestling.  This time it was in front of the garage and it was a half-hearted match for sure.  No teeth baring, no growling.  It was almost as if they were expected to go through the motions.

Lucy readies herself for the attack.

They swirl around one another.

This is more of a pushing and shoving tryst than a wrestling match.

The two dogs blend into one.

And now it's over very quickly.

Lucy snoozes with her head on the hard hearth.

While Ellie catches a few winks beside the coffee table.

I will be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks.  Our daughter is coming from WI for a visit and we have a lot of things planned.  I'll try to spend some time dropping by your blogs during the week.

Thanks to all of you who strongly disagree with my feelings verbalized in Wednesday's post and yet you have shown up again to see the Golden Girls.  And thanks as well to those of you who commented positively on the post.  I love all of you whether or not we disagree on some things.

Today's quote is from Ted Koppel:
"Aspire to decency.  Practice civility toward one another.  Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it.  Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail as you surely will...adjust your lives, not the standards."

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Matter of Civil Rights, Not Marriage

Yesterday the citizens of North Carolina voted in favor of Amendment One to our North Carolina Constitution.  I do not plan to criticize any voter, but I have plenty of criticism of the media.  This amendment was referred to as an amendment to ban gay marriage and lumped NC in with 32 other states who have already banned gay marriage.  This amendment was far more than that.  Many citizens thought this to be an amendment that defines marriage between one man and one woman (at a time).  But it was far more than that.

To set the record straight, gay marriage is already banned BY LAW in the State of North Carolina.  The amendment goes much further than that by defining a marriage between one man and one woman as the only domestic LEGAL UNION that is recognized by the State.  This applies not only to same-sex couples, but to heterosexual couples living together without being married.  These civil unions have been recognized by employers to provide health care benefits to the partners and children of such unions.  All unions between gay couples (whether married in another state or not) and unions by heterosexual couples who choose not to marry are no longer recognized as legal unions.

The results of this amendment will be far-reaching.  The faculty of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Law School published an extensively researched paper when this amendment was presented, outlining the potential legal impact of passage of the amendment as it read in its final form.  I read the entire thirty-one page document which is very frightening indeed.

The amendment would remove civil rights now provided to gay partners no matter how long they may have been in a deeply committed and loving relationship.

Did we really want to take away the rights of these two women to determine the disposition of the remains of the other partner in case she died?
(photo from a anti-amendment Web site)

If you tell me there are ways to circumvent the obstacles to civil liberties contained in the amendment I must ask you why certain individuals should be forced to fight harder than others to obtain the same rights given others in the same area?  And why some civil rights are now forbidden to them by this amendment?

Did we really want to take the health care insurance from so many children of domestic unions?  (Oh, pardon me...these are no longer legal domestic unions.)

From a personal standpoint, why on earth does this matter so much to me?  After all, I've been married to the same man for forty years now.

This matters so much to me because we have amended our State Constitution to remove civil rights and not to promote them.  It grieves me to think that we are moving backward rather than forward; to limit rather than guarantee the rights of all of our citizens.

As you might imagine, the opinion pages of the newspapers have been filled with comments.  It is of interest that every single pro-amendment letter included the words "God" or "The Bible."  Honest...I looked at each one.  Every single pro-amendment television ad also included those words and many quoted scriptures.  It's always useful to find a good sound bite and "Protect the Sanctity of Marriage" was a winner.

I'm not criticizing the Holy Bible.  Remember, I was raised Southern Baptist.  I know the Bible quite well.  I can recite the names of the books of both the old and new testaments.  I was frequently a winner in the "sword drills" in church in which the quest was to find a given verse in the bible and quickly step forward.  I loved it.  I can recite hundreds of verses and can find one to contradict almost any position you might put forth.

My criticism is that religion should not have been the driving force in this vote.  And it was.  Our own church included "Vote Yes" literature in every Sunday Bulletin for the past two months.  Most of the full-page advertisements supporting the amendment were paid for by religious groups.

Tell me that all marriages and all unions must be sanctioned by God (and must be defined based on a single quote from the Bible) and I will ask you how then, can non-Jewish non-Christians have a valid marriage?  How can you have a valid marriage if it isn't performed by a member of the clergy?  My own son was married by a lawyer in his wife's firm who got a "Judge-For-A-Day" license in order to perform the beautiful non-religious ceremony in her lovely backyard.  Neither God nor Jesus were mentioned in this moving and lovely ceremony.  If their union is legal then exactly how did the Bible enter into this discussion?

Or should I say how did the Bible DRIVE the vote on the amendment?

If you are still reading, I will leave you with the words of Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ.

"Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people.  Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all his children.  Before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors.  In the end I'm not as interested in what you have to sell or tell as in how you choose to live and give."

Just how much does the overwhelming approval of Amendment One tell us about our compassion and how much does it tell us about our continued bigotry and intolerance?

Monday, May 7, 2012

He Watches the Earth and Animals

He was born in the twelfth century in Italy.  The son of a wealthy merchant in Assisi, he had a vision in his early 20s.  At that time he abandoned his money and all his worldly things and lived his life in poverty and service to others.  Born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, he later became known as Francis of Assisi.  He respected all plant and animal life, valued the worth of every person and was declared a Saint only a few years after his death.  His achievements are far too numerous to list here, but his life was an inspiring one which everyone should research and learn from.  St. Francis of Assisi is considered the patron saint of animals.

We left our (very heavy) statue of St. Francis behind when we moved back to North Carolina.  And for six years we have looked at various statutes but didn't find one that quite suited us.  Far too many were so cluttered with Disneyesque animals that one expected Snow White rather than St. Francis.

For several years we had only our Carruth Studio St. Francis mounted amongst the leaves of a vine circling one of our trees.

On a recent visit to the Biltmore Estate we happened to browse one of the gift shops.  There, among other statues and fountains we found "our" St. Francis.  The statue's simplicity was the main attraction.  So we bought him and brought him home.

Holding a single bird in his hands, he personifies our perceptions about this saint.

And so he stands in our yard reminding us to live more simply and love all animals.

What on earth are these two up to?
I suppose it's only fair that they sniff around the vines of our other St. Francis.

Tomorrow is our Election Day.  I usually prefer to vote on the day itself but this year I voted early.  There was a vote I needed to make and I didn't dare risk not making it to the polls.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fridays are Golden

This has been a hot and steamy week.  Our temperatures have averaged thirteen degrees above our normals.  High humidity has made it even worse.  Needless to say, our Golden Girls do not do well in the heat so we haven't taken them on any trails this week.

Our Lucy has always had a "delicate" GI system.  Several times a year she will pick up "stuff" during her walks and will have urgency and diarrhea.  For quite a while the episodes would last several days.  Thanks to a recommendation from another doggie blogger (sorry I can't remember who), we now have a perfect system that resolves the symptoms much more quickly.  When Lucy has a loose stool, we omit her next meal.  Then we give her canned pumpkin for several meals rather than her usual food.  We also give her a probiotic every day.  Now the episodes resolve in less than twenty-four hours and we don't have the middle-of-the-night urgency to go outside.

Since the weather has been so hot and Lucy has not felt well, we have not gone further than our neighborhood walks and hanging around the yard.

Ellie sits as soon as I put the camera to my face.

You can see that Lucy is still not quite herself.

She starts to climb up on a rock but decides not to complete the climb.

This little rock is just the right size for Ellie.  She looks out in the waning sunlight.

 The girls are quite anxious to get back inside.  You's almost dinner time.  I'm glad to say that Lucy is back to her active little self again.

The quote for the week comes from French author and Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide as he wrote about respect:  (which seems more and more lost in our society)

"There are admirable potentials in every human being.  Believe in your strength and your truth.  Learn to repeat endlessly to yourself, 'It all depends on me.'"