Archive for the ‘Thirty Days of Grateful Praise’ Category

(20) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Birds

July 21, 2012

Here’s a rather bedraggled and disheveled-looking cardinal holding an unidentified avian food item in his beak. He’s still beautiful, though. I think he’s a young fellow.

In my last post, I used the phrase “songbird sanctuary.”  I meant, of course, that I like to think of the Doublewide Ranch as a refuge for songbirds, where they are loved and appreciated and where I plant shrubs and flowers specifically to provide berries or seeds for their dining pleasure (plenty of juicy bugs, too!)

But when I think about it, it’s a sanctuary for us, as well.  When the ways of the world don’t make sense (and they’re really not making sense these days), I can think of nothing more soothing and peaceful than wandering about, watching my avian friends.   I know I’ve written about it many times, but It’s worth mentioning again since there’s no way I can make a list of Thirty Things I’m Grateful For without acknowledging the joy and tranquility that birds provide. And I think the word “sanctuary” is appropriate in more ways than one.  There’s nowhere I feel more of a sense of the holy than outside watching birds dart and soar in the heavens.

I’m going to miss my fellow bird lover, Benjamin, when he leaves eight days from now.  Not only does he share my pleasure in watching birds, but he can almost always name the bird we’re seeing or hearing.  And since I gave him my camera, he has taken some amazing shots and videos.  Here’s one he made of two pileated woodpeckers in our back yard. (No, that’s not our house you see in the background—wish it were.  And, by the way, the “Mr. B” who composed and played the “Woodpecker March” was none other than Mr. Benjamin himself).

I am grateful to the songbirds who make the Doublewide Ranch a sanctuary for us, where our spirits are revived and where we find peace and solace for our weary souls.


(19) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: The Fierce Courage of Animal Parents

July 20, 2012

A very brave mockingbird

Here at the Doublewide Ranch, we often hear the loud, raucous caws of many crows and look up to see them chasing away a hawk that’s dared to venture into our songbird sanctuary.  Occasionally, a few mockingbirds and even bluejays will join in to chase off the intruder.

We recently heard the sound of crows and mockingbirds in an uproar and looked out to see that a broadwing hawk had landed on the bamboo bean poles in the garden next to the grape arbor.  We were astonished to see two mockingbirds bravely dive-bombing the hawk.  We  took a couple of pictures before it dawned on us that the mockingbird’s fierce courage in facing down the hawk very likely meant that they had some babies nearby, perhaps in the grape arbor.  I could see that the broadwing wasn’t going anywhere and the mockingbirds seemed more and more distressed, so I put down my camera and ran towards the grape arbor with my mightiest and most savage roar.  Benjamin said I sounded like a Viking warrior.

I don’t know if it was my Viking war cry or the crazed look in my eyes, but the hawk lifted off quickly.  The mockingbirds chased him until he was a small dot in the sky.  It was gratifying to feel like I’d played a part in saving the little mockingbird babies…and it felt pretty good to roar like that, too. 🙂

I was most impressed, though, by Mom and Dad Mockingbird.  I am grateful for our animal parents and their fierce courage.

A future brave mockingbird

(18) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Our view

July 19, 2012

We’ve had autumn, spring, and summer rainbows aplenty. I don’t recall any winter ones, though. We can often see the entire rainbow arc.

When we bought the Doublewide Ranch, I asked the folks we bought it from if they’d miss the view.   “Oh no…not at all,” they said. “Sometimes you just get tired of seeing the same old thing every morning.”

I was astonished.  The view is the reason we bought the place (and paid way too much for it).   Our doublewide sits atop a small hill where we can see, not only the skyline of Asheville ten miles away, but much of the surrounding valley, as well as the tall mountain ridges that rise up from the valley in the distance.  Not to mention the vast, endless expanse of sky.  I have to laugh remembering what she said about “seeing the same old thing” because even though we do see the same mountains and the same valley and the same trees, it is never the “same old thing.”   Even now, in just the last five minutes, as thunderclouds moved in from the northwest, the sky has gone from bright blue to blackish-grey and the mountains are partially obscured by what appears to be a rainstorm about ten miles east.  The colors of the hills, the trees, and the grassy valleys are ever-changing with the seasons, and even the skyline of Asheville is transformed as more high rises are constructed.

Sometimes, I’ll lie awake worrying about this and that, occasionally even thinking of how we spent our nest egg on this place shortly before the economy went bust, and now we’ll never get it back. As it is for so many families, our place is now worth much less than we paid for it.  But at first light, as I stand on the porch seeing Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man off to work (as I do every morning), I am amazed anew at the vista of mountains, fields, trees, and sky before me.  I still sometimes can hardly believe that I get to wake up to this every single day.

Sure, in some ways it IS the same thing every day.  But it’s wonderful to depend on those mountains, those hills, and those trees (for the most part) being there every day.   Really, though, it’s never the same because nature’s many-hued palette changes from hour to hour, from day to day, from season to season.  I am grateful for the ways in which our view never changes, and I am grateful for the ways in which it does.  I’ll never, ever take it for granted.  And I’ll never, ever get tired of it.

I watch the sun rise over the mountains almost every morning.

Sometimes, when the mist is thick, the mountains look like islands in the sea of fog. Here, the fog shines with an almost holy glow.

Full moon sky

In winter, after the rain

Asheville from our porch–late afternoon

From our porch…in summer

(17) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: The Chance to Explain

July 18, 2012

Seems like Andy was always having to explain something to Opie—often because he’d made a mistake and wanted to make things right. He was a good dad.

I  sometimes wonder, when folks who have read my writing meet me for the first time, if they are surprised at how inarticulate I am in talking.  Yes indeed, I definitely write better than I talk.  Sometimes, especially lately, carrying on even the most ordinary conversation is daunting to me.

This lack of lucidity sometimes leads to misunderstandings.  If I’m lucky, the person I’m talking to expresses their confusion or, in the very worst cases of my incoherence, when someone takes offense, they tell me outright what I said that offended them.  I appreciate that because it gives me a chance to make things right. I am always horrified when I discover that I’ve hurt someone’s feelings, however unintentional it was (and it is ALWAYS unintentional).

So I am thankful for a chance to explain myself.  Sometimes, even in writing, I don’t quite get my point across.  Even here on my blog.

So here’s where I want to say that yesterday’s post (about the joys of wordplay) praising my lovely limerick commenter was not meant to exclude my other commenters or to suggest that I valued that comment over the others.  I didn’t (although, of course, I was delighted by the limerick).  Seriously, I am STILL amazed that people take the time out of their busy lives to read what I write and even better, to comment on it.  I truly treasure every single comment I get.  You really have no idea what they mean to me.

So, thank goodness for the chance to explain, for the chance to make things right.   As one of the sometimes tongue-tied ones, I am grateful for second chances.

(16) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Wordplay

July 17, 2012

This picture has nothing to do with wordplay, really. But it makes me laugh.

Like most bloggers, I love the comments I get on my posts.  Sometimes, I’ve even thought that the comments were better than my post.   Sometimes they move me to tears; sometimes, they make me laugh out loud with delight.

This afternoon, a comment on my previous post made me laugh out loud with delight.  It also inspired the idea for today’s Grateful Praise.

Alert readers may have noticed a wee bit of alliteration in my previous post— a plentiful plethora, a playful plural profusion of “P’s”:

one of the perils of persistently posting daily is the propensity to ponder the possibility that your readers will tire of hearing about your quotidian life and be coming to your blog only out of a sense of obligation.”

Yes, I love words, and I love playing with words.   I always have.  Back when I used to enter poetry in contests, judges would write things like, “Alliteration in poem is intrusive and distracting!”  That always made me laugh, because I thought a poem should be the very place you could feel free to play with words.

And speaking of wordplay and poetry, I’ve always loved limericks.  No, not the vulgar kind, though I’m sure some of those are very clever.  I like the silly kind.  In fact, one of my favorite limericks ever was the very first one I learned:

A flea and a fly in a flue

Were imprisoned so what could they do?

Said the fly, “Let us flee!”

Said the flea, “Let us fly!”

So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

When I learned this around the age of seven, I could not stop saying it.  I thought it the most brilliant thing I’d ever heard.

So imagine my delight when I found in my comments today a limerick that someone wrote just for me!  And not only did they write me my own personal limerick, but they alluded to my alliteration and found it alluring.   An alliteration ally!   Here’s their wonderful and altogether winsome wordplay:

The burden of browsing a blog
Is hardly so much of a slog
When the erudite author
Betakes of the bother
Of a six-word alliterative jog.

 They signed simply as “A poet,” so I’m not sure I’ll ever know who they are.  But whoever you are, I am grateful, my illustrious alliterative ally.  I loved your lovely lighthearted limerick.

(15) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Taking a Break

July 16, 2012

Living in a trailer is not so bad when you have a place like this to be.

If you’re an insecure and neurotic person like me, one of the perils of persistently posting daily is the propensity to ponder the possibility that your readers will tire of hearing about your quotidian life and be coming to your blog only out of a sense of obligation.  Especially since I have the nicest readers in the blogosphere, and nice people do things like that.

So Benjamin, who is a Man of Much Wisdom, suggested that I take a break midway through my Thirty Days of Grateful Praise and give my readers a break, too, and I think that is an excellent idea.  So today, I’d like to say that I’m grateful both for my Very Nice Readers AND for the liberty to take a break. And in case you didn’t get it, this abbreviated posting IS my break.  I’ll be back tomorrow.

After all, I DID commit to thirty days…and we neurotic people REALLY hate to break a promise. 🙂

(14) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Trillium

July 15, 2012

This is the Catesby’s Trillium that we saw on our hike at Whiteside Mountain.

The first time I ever saw trillium was on our mountain honeymoon just over twenty-five years ago.  It was late in the day when we got to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one of the first things we laid eyes on was a whole forest filled with trilliums.  The slanted afternoon light illuminated the trilliums, and they shone a radiant white in the gloaming.  They were enchanting, and I was smitten.

I don’t know why I love them so much.  Maybe because of the magical honeymoon association.  Maybe because they’re one of the first flowers to bloom in spring.  Maybe because there are so many kinds—40 to 50 species, I think.

Or maybe because some of them look like little botanical pinwheels. 🙂

I love, too,  trillium’s alternate names–wakerobin, birthroot.  And Stinking Benjamin.  Actually it’s only the red trillium that called Stinking Benjamin.  We saw a lot of it on our spring hikes, and it was fun to tease Benjamin by hollering, “Stinking Benjamin!” every time we saw one.

It doesn’t matter, really, why I love trillium.  It only matters that I realize how blessed I am to live here in the Appalachians, where it blooms so profusely in hidden forest glades.  It only matters that I am grateful for the enchanting, charming, and altogether lovely little wakerobin.

(13) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Electricity

July 14, 2012

Oh no! The electricity went out! Whatever shall we do??

(the above picture from this post:

I was going to write about something else, but guess whose electricity went out?

On a bright, sunny day, no less, but that seems to be the way of it out here in the country.  I generally take it in stride, but today, I was in the middle of so many things, all of which require electricity, so it was a little more troublesome than usual.  For those of us with wells, losing power means losing water, so perhaps this would be a good time to express my thanks, too, for the clear, cold, fresh water that normally flows so freely through my pipes.

We take so much for granted in this country.  So I think it’s good for us to be inconvenienced sometimes, to be startled out of complacency.  I was.  And even if I felt a little cranky, it did make me more aware of how blessed I am, so it was a good thing.  And I think I can say that I’m grateful for it, too.

(12) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Benjamin Gets a Job!

July 13, 2012

Benjamin takes a big bite of a big cookie. (It was the birthday cookie I baked for him, and he ate every crumb.)

There is great rejoicing in the Blue Ridge Blue Collar household tonight.  We have even broken out the Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice for a toast.  Benjamin got a job!

I have mixed feelings, of course.  The job is in Charlotte, NC, which is a huge city with a very high crime rate.  A big change from his deep country roots.  But I’ve always prayed that Benjamin would land just where he is meant to be, and although I’d hoped it would be nearby, God had different plans.

God, it seems, often has a different road for us to take than the one we planned to travel.  And so it is with Benjamin.  But he’s excited about the new journey he’ll soon embark on, and so are we.  We are truly happy for him.  He’s come so, so far, and I think he’s now pretty well-equipped for traveling.

So, I am grateful for Benjamin’s new job.   I am grateful for your kind thoughts and prayers for him, dear friends.  I am grateful to know that God will be with him every step of the way.  And I’m grateful, beyond measure, for Benjamin.

(11) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Shared Laughter

July 12, 2012

This is how I sometimes look in the morning before makeup and coffee. Minus the hat.

Benjamin drove me to the post office this morning, and while we were sitting in the parking lot, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t looked in the mirror before I left the house.  So I had no idea if I had egg smeared on my face, mascara ringing my eyes, lipstick on my teeth or something else out of place. So I asked him, “Hey, Benjamin…is my face askew?”

He looked startled and said, “WHAT??” I realized what I’d said, and we broke up laughing.  We both pictured one of those Picasso paintings where one eye is where it’s supposed to be but the other is down where the nose should be and the nose is where the ear should be, while the other ear is only vaguely ear-like.  We imagined my face like that which made us laugh even harder.  Then after we got home, we were in the kitchen when this fly that’s been bedeviling us for days landed on the edge of the counter.  I said, “Mister Fly, your days are numbered!”  And I got the swatter and whacked that fly as hard as I could.  Post whack, we peered at the edge where the fly had been. There was no sign of him, but a closer inspection revealed the unmistakable evidence (fly guts and a little whiskery leg, if you must know) of a direct hit. But we could not find the…umm, rest of the fly.  Anywhere. We looked high and low—in the stove burners, in our morning coffee cups, on the floor, and in the sink.  It’s always nice to know where a big, squishy dead fly fell, but seems particularly important in the kitchen (especially if you have, say, cookie dough nearby with chocolate chips and raisins shaped very much like flies,heh heh).  Alas, no fly.  So I got the fly swatter and we started re-enacting, in slow motion, the killing of the fly with Benjamin using his knowledge of physics to determine what arc that the dead fly’s body might have taken.  It was then that we fully grasped the ludicrousness of the situation and we cracked up again.  As we laughed, I felt one of those little rushes of love that mamas are prone to with their children, and I hugged him.

Afterwards, I realized how much those little everyday, ordinary moments of shared laughter bring you closer to those you love.  For the most part, you’ll later forget the details, but the impact and cumulative power of those moments is far less fleeting.  Warm shared laughter, I think, just strengthens the already strong ties that bind you to the ones you love.

I think I’m particularly mindful of how profound these moments are for us because it hasn’t been long since Benjamin and I were not doing much of anything together but talking and crying. Things were very difficult and intense in the months after Benjamin got out of the hospital.  His breakdown was devastating—both to him and to those who loved him and helping him towards the light was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  So I savor our easy laughter, our gentle teasing.  They are sweet, blessed moments of grace, and I am profoundly grateful for them.