Archive for August, 2008

Unsung Heroes #1: Ode to My Recliner

August 29, 2008

(My beloved)

I thought it was high time I paid homage to one of my dearest and most faithful friends—an unsung hero in my life—my recliner.   We take our recliners for granted, I think, but when we pause to ponder the pivotal part they play in our lives, we realize how often we overlook these stalwart and steady companions.  They demand nothing—yet give so much—never complaining about the…ahem…heavy burdens they bear.  They’re always there, waiting to comfort us at the end of a long, hard day.  They rock us to sleep, bearing us away to the Land of Sweet Slumber—like a magic carpet ride, only better.   So…all hail to thee, my beloved friend, my staunch and steadfast comrade.  I dedicate this poem to you…

(To any high-brow and high-falutin’ academic types out there who might read the following poem and be appalled at the sheer banality of “Ode to My Recliner,” well….it was meant to be funny, in case the preceding paragraph doesn’t clue you in.   I almost never write “serious” poems any more because I’m completely intimidated by those of you who sniff at poets who are accessible, especially those of us who haven’t taken one of your high-brow college poetry classes.   I would especially like to thumb my nose at those of you who disparage poet Billy Collins because you feel his poems are trite because regular people like me CAN ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THEM!   Because when I read a completely obscure and ambiguous poem (like so much of modern poetry),  I feel as though the person who wrote it is showing contempt for us ordinary folks by willfully seeking to obfuscate.  I like poetry that leaves room for joy and delight and surprise, and poetry that we can all take pleasure in.  I love Billy Collins.  He got me reading poetry again.)

Sorry, I got carried away—I’ll step down off my soapbox now.  Perhaps I should do a post on that. 🙂  Anyway, here’s my tribute to my beloved Barcalounger.  Hope it gives you a laugh:

Ode to My Recliner

When the world seems hopeless and cold
You give blessed rest and console
My body and soul again made whole.

When I feel your soft touch on my weary face
And you enfold me in your sweet embrace,
I rest in your soft and welcoming grace.

As, weary, I gaze upon setting sun,
When my body and spirit are quite undone.
You carry me away to sweet oblivion.

Without judging, you greet me
Stout seat, you complete me
My retreat—my dear, sweet settee.

So let the world maltreat me,
Deplete and defeat me.
You receive and relieve me—sweet reprieve.

So give me a day of peace unencumbered
Please ease my way to the sway of sweet slumber,
My soft chairiot of sleep—my heart’s ease.

Oh, there is nothing finer than to be in Carolina
Supine in my recliner (oh, nothing is diviner!)
For none can outshine her—my beloved recliner.

[If my legs look huge here…well, please bear in mind perspective…where things closer to you appear larger than they really are  🙂 ] 


My Soul Always Dreams in Color

August 26, 2008

(Swallowtail on my petunias)

Like most people, I have an image of my dream house in my mind.  It has evolved over the years, but right now I envision a two-story Victorian with a turret.  The turret has windows all around and window seats with reading nooks where I can curl up with a book and gaze out at the birds singing in the huge oak tree out front and wave at my neighbor who’s coming up my front steps with a freshly-baked loaf of banana bread…oops, sorry…I got carried away.  Anyhow, in my dream, my Victorian is painted a sunny yellow, with white gingerbread trim and old-fashioned roses climbing up the latticework and railings out front.  There are window boxes in every window with a riot of bright flowers tumbling out and a slightly unkempt English garden to the side, where hollyhocks and gladiolas and hydrangeas and pansies and zinnias and Johnny jump-ups grow in mad profusion.   And the porch—it’s huge—a wraparound porch, with a bead board ceiling and ceiling fans turning lazily in the cool morning breeze. There’s plenty of room for rockers and gliders and a swing or two.  And in my dream, there I am, in the swing, moving languidly back and forth, drinking a glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade and reading a new book of Lee Smith or Tim Gautreaux short stories. 

Yeah, that’s the dream.

The reality is that I live in an older doublewide trailer with low ceilings, low doorways, vinyl siding, vinyl trim, vinyl walls, vinyl floors, and vinyl shelves.   One word: Plastic.   But at least, we have a porch.   Not a wraparound—in fact, it’s rather small. And when we moved here, it was a very plain porch indeed.  The people we bought the place from even took the attached swing with them.  But my philosophy has always been that you really can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  Or lemonade out of lemons.  Whichever cliché you prefer.

So soon after moving in, I set to work.  We found some reasonably-priced rockers and a swing to match on sale at Lowes.  I found some cushions with an old-fashioned flowered print on clearance.  We put Victorian gingerbread in all the corners of the porch.  And when spring arrived, we installed window boxes all across the front and sides of the porch and I planted petunias, vincas, and snapdragons in them.  There was almost no landscape in front—just weedy grass growing right up to the front of the porch.   So I planted some tiny lilacs I found on sale at Kmart and some bee balm and catmint and zinnias and purple coneflowers, as well as some of the plentiful daisies I found growing in the fields.  And I bought a packet of morning glory seeds and planted them at the base of the porch lattice, with the idea that they’d grow enchantingly up the lattice.  🙂  And they grew very, very well.  (Caveat:  When it tells you on the seed packet to thin out the morning glory seedlings, believe them.  Lord have mercy, they grow like kudzu!)

(This is what happens when you don’t thin your seedlings.  My porch, my porch steps…)

So, whenever I get the chance, I sit in my porch swing, moving languidly back and forth, drinking a glass of freshly-made-from-concentrate lemonade and reading Lee Smith or Tim Gautreaux or whatever new author I’ve discovered at the library.  I swing and I dream.  And I gaze out at the distant blue mountains and watch as the late-summer wind sends the clouds tumbling across the sky. 


And, sometimes, I can almost imagine that I’m living in my dream house after all.  My lovely Victorian doublewide.  (Did I mention that I have a very vivid imagination?)  Well, at least…I’m living my dream.  When I was young, growing up in sandy, flat, swampy eastern North Carolina, I dreamed of living in the Appalachian mountains one day.  And here I am.

Perhaps not in the place of my material dreams.  No, definitely not.  But I’m in the place my soul has dreamed.  At last, I’m in the place my heart has always lived.  And I am so grateful.  Glory be.

So, I was wondering…does your soul dream? What does it dream?  Are you living the sweetest dreams of your soul?

(The fairy dreams of morning glories)

Morning Glory

August 23, 2008

Morning Glory from my porch

Morning Glory near my porch

Morning Glory on my porch

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Psalms 30:5

Mea Culpa or…My Bad!

August 21, 2008

I have a confession to make.

Back in March, soon after we moved to our doublewide estate, I posted the picture above here, describing our “flowering cherry” tree.  It’s always so much fun when you move to a new place to discover, bit by bit, what’s growing there.  I feel about plants the way I feel about computers—the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know and the dumber I feel.  But I keep trying.  When this tree began to blossom in the spring, I googled “cherry tree blossoms,” compared the pictures I saw to our tree, and decided it must be a cherry tree.  Hence, my rapt description: Our flowering cherry humming with honeybees.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man came in and said, “Honey, the cherries on that cherry tree sure are big and fuzzy!” 

“Huh?” I said stupidly.  I didn’t recall ever hearing about any known variety of fuzzy cherries, so I excitedly went out to see our “rare” cherry tree.  I should have been more suspicious when I heard Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man snickering behind me.  This is what I saw when I went out:

And this is what it looks like now:

So, now you know.  I’ve come clean.  The truth is…I really don’t know much about anything at all.   What I mean is…I’m kind of ignorant.  But I don’t mind.  Not to sound corny or anything, but I find it exciting to know that there’s so much more out there in our big, wide world to learn. 

So, I’d better get cracking….

But first, I think I’ll go pick some of those “big, fuzzy cherries.”  I’m thinking a big, fuzzy cherry cobbler for supper would be mighty tasty. 🙂

On the Trail to Truth and Beauty

August 14, 2008

(Ariel and Tom on the bald at Craggy

When I was a child, my Mama could walk.  And some of my best memories are of the long walks we’d take together.  My love of hiking came from her, as did my love of the Appalachian Mountains. 

Although we lived in eastern North Carolina, near the coast, we made our way west to the Blue Ridge every chance we got.  Daddy loved the mountains, too, and he and Mama used to talk and dream about moving there someday, after they retired.   But in a particularly cruel twist of fate, Mama was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also know as Lou Gehrig’s disease) the day after Daddy officially retired.  Mama was just a little older than I am now.  She was soon confined to a wheelchair, and although she and I had some grand adventures during the wheelchair days (I could push that baby up to about twenty MPH!), our mountain hiking days were over.  But the memories linger, and I still smile to remember her striding, strong and true, up the steep trail at Craggy Gardens.

Craggy Gardens, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, was just about my Mama’s favorite place in this world.   No mountain vacation was ever complete without a trip to Craggy.  Though it’s known for the Catawba rhododendron that grows there in profusion in May and June, we never saw them blooming.  But it didn’t really matter—it was a special place any time of year.

And it still is.  We went there a week ago on one of our roadtrips.  Although Craggy Gardens itself is closed to Parkway traffic due to the collapse of a retaining wall, you can access it via a trail from the picnic grounds.  And it is all the more special without the noise and smell of cars and motorcycles.  It was heavenly.

(We hiked up the Craggy Pinnacle Trail for this view.  The body of water you see is the North Fork reservoir, which is the water supply for the city of Asheville)

I won’t even attempt to write about our day there.  But I’ll tell you that both of my children said it was one of the best days of their lives, and I felt the same.  And I’ll tell you this:  my Mama was there.  I felt her presence as we hiked across the grassy bald, as we walked up the rhododendron-tunneled trails, and as we sat at the top, breathing deeply of the cool, crisp air and not saying much at all.  

Because, sometimes, words are superfluous.  At times like that, when you are away from the din and clamor of the world, you connect with what is pure and essential, and you realize that we talk way too much.  Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in that surfeit of words, and I need to come up for air.  Because, sometimes, words cannot express the purest, the truest, and the deepest things that we feel.  And, sometimes, when you stop and listen and pay attention, you will find what you are seeking.  You will find…truth.   And, as Nadine Gordimer says, “The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.”

(Ariel contemplates truth and beauty)

(Atop the Craggy bald)

(Grasshopper in camouflage we saw off the trail)

(So many butterflies we saw that day!  This is a Painted Lady on Joe-Pye weed)

A Beautiful Bounty of Butterflies

August 11, 2008


(Swallowtail butterflies on bull thistle [just off the Blue Ridge Parkway] )

Since Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man got a job, we’ve celebrated by taking a number of short roadtrips with our kids, who are soon going to be heading back to college.  More details and photos of our roadtrips to follow, but, for now, I wanted to share this photo I shot on one of the many trails we took.

Yesterday, as we came to an intersection of trails, we came upon a fellow who was taking a picture of Joe-Pye weed.  I excitedly told him of the bull thistle covered with butterflies on the trail we’d just come from, thinking he’d want to take that too.

“Butterflies!”  he spat out, almost in disgust.  “I’ve taken so many shots of butterflies.  I’m sick of butterflies!”

We all looked at him with our mouths open in surprise, then burst out laughing.  We didn’t mean to be rude–it was just that the thought of being sick of butterflies seemed so ludicrous.  Sort of like being sick of rainbows, or bluebirds. or a baby’s giggle.

One thing for sure:  I’ll never get sick of butterflies.  Or the bright magenta of bull thistles against deep blue skies.  Or the sweep of blue mountains that stretch to infinity.  Or the sound of my children laughing.  Or road trips along the Blue Ridge Parkway with my favorite people in this world.

101 Things to Do with Squash

August 7, 2008

(Drawing by my daughter, Ariel (aka Lucky Pennies) when she was in high school)

The best thing about Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s new job (besides the paycheck) is that now we have a place where we can foist off gladly share our ridiculous glut blessed abundance of squash.  His second day of work, he took in a bag of squash and after looking furtively about, put it on the community table and ran.  I mean, there’s only so much squash you can unload on bestow upon  your neighbors.

That being said, we love summer squash.  Good thing, too, since we’ve eaten it almost every single night for supper.  I’ve become a master of disguising squash in a dish so that my family doesn’t realize they’re having squash…yet again.   It’s a very versatile vegetable—you can add it to almost everything.  And I have. 

Squash and chicken pasta salad; squash, bacon, and egg pasta salad; squash, parmesan, and ham pasta salad; the old reliable casserole with eggs and cheddar cheese; squash chicken teriyaki; squash with chili beans and rice; and, of course, squash sautéed in real butter with vidalias.  I even made a squash cake (one of my less successful experiments, I might add).

One of Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s co-workers told him a scary squash story about his brother-in-law, who planted a garden for the very first time.  He loved squash, so decided to put in 64 plants.  Yes, you read right—64.  Poor fella.  I reckon he pretty much did nothing this summer but harvest squash.  Because after he finishes harvesting the squash off 64 plants, the plants he started with would have produced squash again.  So he’d have to start all over picking, and the cycle would be endless. Sort of like Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill.

So, how’s your harvest this year?  How do you fix squash?

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

August 4, 2008

(One of many tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway we went through yesterday)

As I wrote in a post here, I love reading (in my stats) the search terms that bring people to my blog.  A few days ago, I found this one:  “being broke empty nest job sucks blues.”  Now I’m not sure which of my previous posts brought that person’s search to my blog, but let me say to them, “My friend…I feel your pain.”  Except in our case, I’d replace the “job sucks blues” part with “no job blues.”

Yep, we’ve been without a job for seven months.  But not for lack of trying.  Lord knows, our job hunting has been almost a full-time occupation in itself.   And, without a doubt, being fifty (and over) makes it far more difficult to find work.  Apparently, youth trumps experience.  But that’s for another post.

So we’ve been a mite discouraged and disheartened when weeks have gone by without so much as an interview, not to mention being a little stressed at seven months without a paycheck.  But the good news is:  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man has a job.  The bad news is:  It’s temporary.  But the good news is:  it has a good chance of becoming permanent.  But the bad news is:  It only pays $12.17 an hour.  But the good news is:  we are really, really good at being frugal.  As they say, we squeeze those pennies ‘til Abe Lincoln hollers. 

Not only that, but Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man has rebuilt the collapsed closet bemoaned in my last post with shelves made from salvaged wood and a clothes rod made from the top rail of a chain link fence.  Those shelves could hold a tractor engine.  I’ll never have to worry about closet collapse catastrophes in our bedroom again.   Then my intrepid and clever handyman took the back off our broken television, removed the stuck videotape, tinkered around, and got our TV working again.   In addition, he jacked up my Camry and poked and prodded until he figured out what was making the strange noise when I turned the wheel.  He made a few adjustments and now she’s purring like a kitten.

So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can breathe again.   Sure, gas is still almost four dollars a gallon, but at least we have a job to drive to.  And, sure, George W. Bush is still in office, but it’s only a few months longer.  Praise be. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, we have a front porch to dream on, and we have a garden with flowers for the soul and food for the body.  How can I not feel hopeful?  How can I keep from singing?