Saturday, January 31, 2009

Only the Beginning

I thought I'd share the start of my memoir. This is probably the only part of my memoir that I'll share on here. I've been working on it heavily, and the more I write, the more I find that I NEED to write in order to explain exactly what happened!

The decorations, the lights, and the piped- in carols that were meant to gladden the heart, brighten the spirit, and create a festive atmosphere, seemed to be making mockery of my inner pain and confusion. I sat on a bench that was hard and unforgiving, pressing into my aching back; exhaustion turned my bones to lead. Christmas shoppers, usually in groups of two or more, passed me by, smiling and talking with one another, seemingly happy and content. They barely gave me a glance. Was I really even there? Then, in a panic, I suddenly realized that I didn’t know where I was - what town, what state? I knew I was in a mall, but what mall and how did I get there? Where was my car? How would I find my way home, wherever home was? My heart raced in my chest that seemed gripped in a vice closing tighter and tighter. I felt that I would either suffocate or have a heart attack. I began to shake uncontrollably and tears blurred my vision and coursed down my face.

That was a few weeks before Christmas 2001. My life was in chaos and my future uncertain. I had willingly taken on so many changes in my life - divorce, a new job, a move to an apartment in a new city and state, where I knew absolutely nobody - and I was lonely, overwhelmed, and on the verge of a breakdown. There was no undoing the changes I had made in my life. I couldn’t go back, didn’t want to go back. This was the journey that I needed to take, whatever valleys lay before me or dark-shadowed mountains stood waiting for me to scale, and whatever the ultimate outcome might be.

This is a story of choices that we sometimes make in order to move away from the darkness, forced down a path of turmoil and uncertainty, in order that we can embrace the light. In some ways it is an appalling story, in many ways romantic, but in all ways it is mine.

Thank you, my blogger friends, for letting me share this!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ah, Bluebirds!

Aren't bluebirds lovely? Their voice is so cheery and their presence in the winter time lends a bit of color to a drab landscape! The bluebirds in the last picture came around the other day. There are two couples. Can you see all four birds in the trumpet vine arbor? Maybe they're doing some house hunting. We have four bluebird houses and the bluebirds use two of them for nesting and when they are done, the tree swallows and chickadees move in. The other two houses aren't used at all from what we can tell, so this year we plan to move them to a more desirable location! Gotta keep the birds happy! The other pictures were taken in the spring and summer, last year and previous years.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Writing Memoir

In September, Doug and I attended the AARP National Event Convention in Washington, D.C., and we had the privilege of meeting Abigail Thomas, the author of her memoir A Three Dog Life, which was named Best Book of 2006 by the Washington Post. Ms. Thomas held a workshop on writing memoir at the convention and presented her book Thinking About Memoir for sale. At her book signing, Doug and I briefly told her about the unique situation that brought us together and how we first met. Her response was "Oh, you HAVE to write that!" And I agree. So -- I am writing it.

I tend to lose focus in my writing and in everything I do, actually, and so I have several writing projects started, to include two novels, several stories, and one memoir. The memoir has been waiting for me to get back to it and I have decided that it is time I did. I plan to get this done and published, even if I go with self publishing.

Abigail Thomas' website is
For those of you who are AARP members (or maybe you don't even have to be a member), she has a group about writing memoir on the Online Community section of their website.

No matter how mundane we believe our lives to be, we all have a story to share - about growing up, coming into adulthood, marital ups and downs. These stories are great fodder for developing memoirs that are interesting, satisfying, and inspiring! A few of the memoirs and non-fiction accounts of people's lives that I have read and enjoyed are:

Private Front and Center by William Fletcher (this was a memoir written by a soldier who fought in the Civil War)
Light is the Color of Suffering, by Melissa Green
The Glass Castle, by Jennifer Walls
The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad (this is not a memoir, but a journalist's account of the day-to-day life of an Afghani family that she lived with)

Has any of you written a memoir, and if so, can you offer any advice or suggestions for the writing and publishing process?


I guess you could call me the stereotypical scatter-brain. I put something down, then totally forget where it is. I am constantly searching for things that I know I have in the house - somewhere: books, knitting needles, needle cases, pens, etc. I am also scattered in my interests. I love to do SO many things: read, write, sew, felt, crochet, knit, garden . . . and the list goes on and on.

I am retired and so I have nothing but TIME on my hands. Yet, time does run out! If I don't get focused soon, I will not reach my goals, and my computer is not cooperating with me in this. For some reason, it is getting slower and slower. Perhaps I need a new one. Perhaps I have too much on it. I've been removing pictures and will next go to my favorites and delete those that I don't want anymore, but that's another problem - EVERYTHING is a favorite!! Hopefully deleting these items will speed things up, but I believe that, in order to get some other projects done, I will have to limit my time on line.

In light of my new resolve, I will now only be blogging on Thursdays. I will still be checking the blogs on my list for updates and will occasionally post to my own blog, but probably not as many pictures - unless I have something awesome that I MUST share (we only have dial-up, so uploading pictures takes up an enormous amount of my time) - but all activity will be on Thursdays!

Thankful Thursday, as Fiona says! I'm so thankful for you all of you who take the time to read my blog! I just wanted to make you aware of my new blogging schedule in case you wonder about my"silence"!

See my next entry to see how I'll be making use of my extra time!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cedar Waxwings

The Cedar Waxwings are here today in flock, eating the blue berries from their namesake, the Eastern Red Cedar trees. These elegant birds are beautiful to behold, with the mix of green, bluish gray, yellow, and a spot of red on their wings and a black mask across their eyes, but I find them difficult to photograph because they just won't sit STILL, and they are here one moment, gone the next! This is the only time of the year when we are blessed with their presence, when the berries on the cedars must be at their yummiest. Occasionally we see one in the summer.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Appalachian Quilt Trail

The area of Tennessee in which we live (Hancock County) is rich in cultural history, ecological treasures, and crafting skills that are celebrated by the Appalachian Quilt Trail. Bledsoe's Barn s located near us and is one of the many "quilts" displayed on the sides of barns throughout the area. You can view Bledsoe's Barn and the other quilts by clicking on this link.

Snowy Ridge

Yesterday we awoke to snowfall and looked out to see the trees on the ridge adorned with snowy robes!

More Old Structures

When we drove around the other day, we passed a charming old house that had a flag on the wall outside the door. It was the only shock of color against the weary white of the old siding and the barren winter landscape. There are many homes like this in our "authentic Appalachia" area, passed down from generation to generation, still being used, as this one is.

On our way out from the waterfall, we visited the barn which is owned by Inky Bear's owners. Although the barn is old, someone installed concrete blocks under it and thus helped to preserve the siding boards against rotting away into the damp earth. The log supports in this barn are hand-hewn.

Waterfall Revisited

Two days ago we hiked back to the waterfall that I wrote about in my December 11 entry, to see the effects of our abundance of rain. It was gushing like crazy, and the little streams around it that are usually just a trickle, were high and difficult to navigate. To get back to the waterfall we had to cross a raggedy bridge that I'm sure one of these days will fall into the creek. A neighbor's dog, Inky Bear, came with us. Sadly, poor Inky Bear gets left alone a lot - for days, weeks, and months at a time - and he loves to be with people. He had a blast swimming in the pond that we passed along the way, splashing in the little pool below the falls, and then running out to shake himself near us, jumping around gaily at our shouts of protest! He just ate up the attention!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Water, water - everywhere!

We have been dumped on with rain the past few days and yesterday Doug & I decided to check out the Clinch River. It was up 6-8 feet and the steps that we use to walk down to the river where we swim in the summer, are underwater, between the two trees to the left of Doug in the first picture. It was blustery and cold and sleeted a bit during our excursion. We drove around on a back road and then out to the highway where we were surprised at the amount of flooding along the road. Where there once was a stream that you couldn't even see, now for as far as you can see, it looks like a lake or river! One of the effects of global warming is the extremes in weather: we have been in severe drought conditions for the past few summers and now we are getting inundated!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tracking Precipitation

Betsy had a post about weather on her blog and it inspired me to share information about the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (COCORHAS), a "grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities. " We read about COCORHAS in the Tennessee Magazine, a monthly magazine that our power company puts out. We've been participating in COCORHAS for 13 months now. We purchased the special rain gauge from COCORHAS, as required, and every morning at 8:00 Doug goes on line to report the amount of precipitation that we had in our guage. We can look on the map and see how much rain fell in other parts of the state, or in the country if we choose. Right now we are the only station in our county. Up until a few months ago there were two of us but the other guy must have stopped doing it. Other than the purchase of their special rain gauge (and hail pad if you choose, but we chose not to since we seldom receive hail), to keep things standard, there is no cost, and it is fun! COCORHAS also has a blog.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ground Pine; Old Barn

Still at the top of the ridge, we take a path through ground pine and visit the old barn that seems to be deteriorating more each time we see it. Now it is too unsafe to go inside and view the names, initials and dates that for decades visitors have carved into the logs of the pen in the middle. It is intriguing to read the scratchings and wonder about them -- who wrote them, where were they from, what are they doing today? The barn was built in the 1940's and for many years served the owners well when the ridge was used for farming tobacco and for pasturing cows. It is hard to believe that there was once a garden there by the barn, and the story goes that the woman of the household hiked up that ridge everyday to hoe and weed it. This barn goes with the old house in my posting of November 19. It is sad to see what was once a strong, useful structure, neglected and falling down to its knees.

At the Top; Virginia

Finally our struggle paid off -- we made it to the top of the ridge. On the other side of our ridge is Lee County in the state of Virginia. (We live in Tennessee.) Many "no hunting" signs remained on the trees where Doug posted them last year, but some have to be replaced.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Up to the Top; Lost in the Woods

Yesterday we decided to climb up to the top of one of our ridges - definitely a challenge! At 2,000 feet elevation, the top of the ridge is 600 feet above our house. Heart pumping, legs screaming for relief, sweat dripping down despite the cold, we made it to the top.
We wanted to make certain that our "no hunting" signs were still up, and put markings on the trees at a particular "trail" to make it easier to find the best way up and down the ridge.

We make good use of our hiking sticks. My name means "little winged one" in Spanish, and so when my DH made my stick, he carved the word "hummingbird" on it. His name (Douglas) means "dark waters" and that is what he carved on his stick.

In some of these pictures, you can see our house down at the bottom of the ridge. At the point when we took those pictures, we were still a good ways from the very top.

Now and then I go up there by myself. That ridge is one of my favorite spots on our property, although I have favorite spots all over our property! On warm days, I love to find a "comfortable" rock up on the ridge and read, write, and meditate, surrounded by nature. The only problem is that I have a terrible sense of direction. Last Spring I went up there hunting morel mushrooms. I know that we have tons of them but I seldom get any; our neighbor is good at locating them and I think he gets most of them, or maybe I just don't see them, but either way its okay because it is more the hunting of them that I enjoy than the eating of them, although they ARE good... At any rate, on that particular spring day last year
, almost as soon as I got up there, my walkie talkie fell out of my bag and I had to retrace my steps to find it! Through the woods, through the leaves, around the trees - as I looked, I figured it was lost forever, but miraculously there it was wedged against a log. That should have been my first intuition that maybe I ought to give up and go on home for the day. The walkie talkie is the way that my DH and I communicate when one of us is out on the property and the other at home. But I pressed on. Moving about looking for morels, after awhile I realized that I didn't know which side of the ridge was to the north (Virginia side) or south (where our house is). Every direction looked the same. All of the trees looked alike! It was around 4:00 p.m., but I couldn't use the sun for direction because clouds had moved in and completely covered the sky. There was a flock of buzzards flying around above me (NOT a good sign if you use old westerns as a reference!). I figured if I got on my walkie talkie and told my DH to look out the window and at those buzzards, he could tell me which way to walk to get home. To my great distress, my walkie talkie had died! Panic began to set in. No longer was I looking for morel mushrooms (I hadn't found any anyway!), but now I was looking for the right way to just go down! The day was waning as quickly as I was becoming too tired to walk. I sat myself down on a rock and closed my eyes, breathing in, out, calming myself, using my internal Eye to guide me. Finally after a few moments I ignored the darkening sky, ignored my weary legs, ignored my "poor sense of direction" and just went home. That's all I had to do - just go home. Don't think that you don't know the way; you do. That's what I told myself, and I made it.

My DH gave me a compass for Christmas.