I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Poet Named Jane Kenyon

I learned of a poet named Jane Kenyon when I first came to the mountains and began studying poetry with Nancy Simpson. I don’t remember where I found the first poem I read by Jane Kenyon, but I know I immediately felt a kinship for this woman. Her poems spoke to me like no other poems I had read. I bought her poetry books, and I read them over and over. That was in 1996. She was my favorite modern poet.


Jane Kenyon
I learned she was married to noted poet, Donald Hall, and then I learned a terrible fact. I learned she was dead. She died from leukemia in April, 1995, the year before I discovered her. I felt as though I had lost a dear friend, and no one had told me about it. Jane was too young to die, only 47 years old. I realize now that her poems reflected her feelings about her illness. I sensed the depressed woman she was when I read her poems, and I felt such empathy for her.

Donald Hall has written many poems about his wife. He published a collection about her after her death. I hated it. He seemed to be angry, a common emotion after losing a loved one, and I didn't like the foul language he used or the mood he was in when he wrote that book. I felt Jane deserved better. I know from losing my own beloved, that fresh grief doesn't make one the best writer, only a writer who needs to  pour out his pain on paper.

When I discovered the following poem by Hall in a book of  poems collected by GarrisonKeillor, Good Poems, as heard on TheWriter’s Almanac, my displeasure at Donald Hall and his book I had hated, dissipated like early morning fog. I hope you like it.

Her Long Illness
        By Donald Hall
Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced. He worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
When it snowed one morning, Jane gazed
at the darkness blurred
with flakes. They pushed the IV pump
which she called Igor
slowly past the nurses’ pods, as far
as the outside door
so that she could smell the snowy air.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Favorite Computer and Why I Love it

January 10 already. Christmas came and went and suddenly we are into 2015. My calendar's white space is filling too fast. I have enjoyed my down time this winter--no pressure, no deadlines unless you count the deadlines of poetry contests I was determined to  make.


For two days I found myself organizing my documents on my old laptop. I  have done my best to go paperless, but I have problems finding what I filed. Maybe it is the way I title my files. Or, maybe it is the way I change the title several times before I'm finished with it. 

My problem might be that I use three different computers - my Windows 8 desktop, my small Dell basic laptop, and my older laptop where most  of my writing is stored. I had hoped to transfer all my work to the new desktop, but I hate that system - Windows 8. I now  hear there  will be another system coming out  in the fall, hopefully  like Windows 7 or XP,  because the majority of the people who use Windows hate Windows 8. It is a poor combination of the popular tablet method and a computer. The genius who thought this up should find another  line of work.

Also,  my new desktop computer has become inhabited by gremlins that pop up and freeze the page when I try to use Google Chrome or try to get into my blogs. Now I avoid using that computer for blogging.

There was a time when I felt I was on top of new technology, when I urged my peers to use the Internet to promote their books and help them build a platform for their work. I even garnered the admiration of a young nephew who was impressed that a person my age, and I was much younger then, administered a couple of blogs. 

I have a Facebook and a Twitter account and a  Pinterest account and a LinkedIn account and a Google plus account. But  there is no way I have time to use all those things. I try to get to Facebook once or twice a week. That is all I can or want to do.

Recently it dawned on me that my favorite computer in my house is the old dinosaur that sits in my studio. It is not connected to the Internet at all. My genealogy program and my Word program is all I use on that old relic, and it faithfully opens and endures for as long as I can sit and use it. I also have a good photography program to use with my scanner. I spend hours scanning old family photos stored in albums that are falling apart, hoping to save them for future generations, and hoping they will care. 

I don't remember when we bought this computer, but I smile when I sit down to use it. It is like an old friend that I know will not fail me. No viruses, no mal-ware, no danger of being hacked. Like an old pair of shoes that are slightly out of style, it feels comfortable to me.

Writing is a way to learn about ourselves. Often when I begin, I don't know where I will end up. 
The lesson I learned today by writing this post is that it is the Internet that stresses me, that gives me a headache. Less time on the Internet and more time on the word processor is my  goal from now on. 


The following poem comes from my interest in family history and many trips to old cemeteries. Tell me what you think.

A Southern Family Cemetery  
by Glenda Council Beall      

The creaking wrought iron gate
breaks the silence on the hill
like thunder warns of summer storms.
I feel the breath of gentle winds
that nuzzle long leaf pines and leafy oaks. 

They surround sleeping ancestors
lying in the dust of caskets facing East,
buried deep, blanket green. Lichen-covered
crumbling stones etched with family names
are barely seen through overgrown azaleas.

My great grandfather, John, veteran
of the War Between the States lies
bordered by two wives; Fanny,
dead at fifty-three, worn out
from birthing seven children.

Missouri half his age, presented 
seven more to complete his second
round before he passed away at seventy-five.
My family men are strong
and woman-wise.

This deathwatch lends my mortal
soul continuum. Strung together
by our veins, like roads on a map,
century to century, suffering the same
finality, enduring the same foreverness.


(Previously published in a different version in Stepping Stone, 2000)

Friday, January 9, 2015

100 year old enjoys her party

Monteen celebrating her 100th birthday with her brother, Earl Council
Monteen Council Hayman of Palmetto, FL celebrated her 100th birthday last weekend with 100 guests, many of them members of her family. She and her husband, Hollis, had a son and a daughter, aned she had four brothers, Walter, Earl, Charlie and Paul. Descendants of her siblings were also present. Beverly, Monteen's daughter, sent me photos taken during the party. Walter and Paul have passed away, but Earl and Charlie Council were able to attend this occasion.


Earl, Monteen, laughing, and Earl's wife, Nadine




Friday, January 2, 2015

Who says 100 is old? Not in my family.

Today, January 2, 2015, is the 100th birthday of my cousin, Monteen Hayman, in Palmetto, Florida.
When I was compiling information on all my Council aunts and uncles for my book, Profiles and Pedigrees, The Descendants of Thomas Charles Council (1858-1911) Monteen wrote the history of her family. The details she supplied about her father's life, his early years in the south-central area of Florida that was emerging in 1906, created an  interesting insight to the history of the area as well as how her father and mother were respected leaders in their community. He was a carpenter and often built coffins for families when they lost a loved one. He worked in a shipyard during WWII, but returned to Palmetto and bought an acre of land near the Palm View region where he built a house. Later he bought more land to farm and the family moved there. My own father, as a young man, worked for Uncle Charlie on the farm.

Monteen described how the "truck-farming" was done. I found that an interesting part of the story, as well. When I was down in Palmetto last year, I saw where Monteen taught elementary school for many years and where her brothers attended school. She took me to the church where she met her future husband, Hollis, when they were kids, and to the cemetery where many of the family is buried.

I could visualize from the stories I've heard, my father, aunts and uncles back in the early 20th century, the parties on the beach, the dancing to the record player. Monteen wrote that only Uncle Charlie's home had a telephone. When neighbors needed to make a phone call, they were welcome to come to Charlie and Verter's house. Verter was nurse and midwife for the community. Several of my aunts lived with Uncle Charlie until they could get a place of their own.

Monteen is devout in her faith, and I believe her faith has kept her going through the rough times, the losses of her husband and other family members, as well as broken hip bones and such. Her eyes twinkle when she smiles and her sense of humor is very much intact. She is a pretty lady.

Monteen at age 99 and her brother who was 89 at the time of the photo.
Happy Birthday, Monteen. I wish I could be there to celebrate with all your family. I heard that this has been a wonderful day with calls, cards and flowers, and newspapers will be interviewing you and your daughter, Beverly. I hope the coming year will be healthy and happy for you and that next year at this time, we will be wishing you another happy birthday. .

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

We have come  to the  end of another Christmas Day. When I was a young girl, the end of Christmas left me feeling sad, even crying sometimes. I didn't understand why I felt such sadness. My sister didn't feel sad. No one in my family seemed sad  but me.

Now I understand it. During Christmas season, everyone I  knew was happy. Mother was extremely joyful because all of her children would soon be around her table again. She  never minded all the cooking a
nd cleaning, the shopping and gift wrapping. Her cheerfulness rubbed off on all of us. Daddy smiled more. Christmas was a family time, a time to show the love we had for each other. 

We sang Christmas Carols, played Christmas music on our record player, and gift giving for the children was a big thing. Anticipation is often more exciting than the main event. My husband said he believed I had rather plan a vacation than actually go on the trip. I think my sadness at the end of Christmas Day was because of the let down, the drop of the  adrenaline, the end of preparation for that special day. 

And part of it was disappointment. The Big Day never measured up to my high expectations. My family didn't behave as I had hoped. I wanted a Hollywood Christmas, just like the ones in the movies. My family laughed and told stories, but kept serious feelings under wraps. No one uttered words like "I love you." 

This weekend while I was away, a couple of young people stayed at my house. They were visiting my neighbor and she didn't have enough room for all her company. One was a young Muslum who was so excited that he would have the  opportunity to be part of a real Christmas holiday celebration. He asked his friend, "Will it be like in the movies?" 


Barry and I were big fans of Andy Williams and I loved his Christmas TV specials.

I don't know what the young visitor expected or if it met with his ideas of what  it should be. I never  had a Christmas like in the  movies. The happiest were with my beloved husband who never outgrew his boyish love of giving and receiving at Christmas. He deliberately and very slowly opened each gift, taking as long as he could while everyone waited. The kids complained loudly and begged him to  hurry, but he liked to tease them.
His passing has affected my enjoyment of the holiday and it affects my sister and brother-in-law with whom we always spent the day.

Now, six years after his death, I can say I really enjoyed  this Christmas. I missed Barry and we talked about him with love and laughter. The pain has lessened enough that I can find joy in being with friends and family so dear to me.

Barry Beall


Tonight I am excited about the coming new year. 2015 is going to be a good year. I feel it in my bones, and I am not crying tonight. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Present and Christmas Past

Dec. 14, 2014
The minute I enter this house the Christmas spirit lights up in me. The classic holiday music by Perry Como and Johnny Mathis fill each room. I see the traditional decorations that I've known for most of my life. A perfect Christmas tree, cute animated snowman and Santa Claus, and artistic portrayals of angels throughout the main rooms.                                           


The mantel over the fireplace looks like a Christmas card from olden days. Garland and poinsettias border high shelves. My sister Gay’s big smile and hug take me back to our childhood when Christmas was the most important time of the year for our family.
All seven children, even June who often lived in a distant state, gathered at our family home on the farm. Mother was prepared to cook for any size crowd that happened to show up for a  meal in the days preceding December 25th, especially after June and her family arrived.

I sit here beside this Fraser fir that emits a scent of freshness and remember. Gay loved Christmas so much she wanted to have a Christmas tree farm. Stu, her husband came on board, Barry and I reluctantly joined in. It was an adventure we will never forget. We called it Santa’s Forest. The first day we opened for people to come and cut trees our hearts beat with happiness each time a vehicle arrived with a family of excited kids who couldn't wait to cut the perfect tree.

No one knew how we had sweated in the hot summer sun, pruning twice each year, spraying for insects and fire ants. Gay worked harder than any of us. Soon all the work and the chemicals we used took a toll on me and Barry came to hate giving up his weekends to work at Santa’s Forest.
Glenda and Gay heeling in little trees in winter. Will plant them a few weeks later.

Eventually Gay ran the farm all alone, hiring young men and training them to prune correctly, to form a perfectly shaped tree. We had to plant Virginia pines instead of Fraser firs which would not grow in the heat.

When Gay sold the business she had five acres in trees with one acre ready each year to harvest. Even our father, a man who seldom praised anyone in his family, was obviously proud of her. She had built a successful business.

Since Barry is gone now, I spend Christmas with Gay and Stu in their house that exudes Christmas. This morning they are at church where they sing in the choir. I am sure their rendition of the Messiah, which the choir will sing for two services, is beautiful. If I didn’t have MCS, a serious sensitivity to perfume, I’d try to be there, but a church filled with people is not healthy for me.

I hope you, my readers, have delightful holidays wherever you live around the world. We need to turn our thoughts to love and peace, to cherish people in our lives and reach out to those less fortunate, even if they are different from us, to remember “Christmas is not just a day, but a frame of mind.”*

Millions of people, even those who don’t know the original Christmas story, celebrate life at this time. I think that is wonderful.  




*From Miracle on 34th Street

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Holiday Tour of Homes to Put One in the Christmas Spirit

This weekend our local Clay County Historical and Arts Council is holding a Holiday Tour of Homes. Six families in our county will open their beautifully decorated homes for us to visit and enjoy. The tour starts at 1:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

One of the places on the tour is the Tusquittee Tavern, a friendly place where people gather to have a drink and visit with their friends and neighbors. Unlike a big city with pubs and bars all over town, our county was dry until a couple of years ago. Few places serve alcoholic beverages.

For the tour, the tavern, located away from town on a scenic route, will be decorated for Christmas and will offer apple-pie cider as well as music and some history. The couple who own the tavern made me feel welcome when I dropped in one day to see the place I'd heard about. On the front porch, a group of adults sat in comfortable chairs sipping cold drinks. I promised myself I'd drop by there again, but it is out of the way from my house.

I plan to have lunch with my friend, Joan, and we will spend the afternoon driving through our scenic landscape here in the Appalachian mountains.

Anyone who lives near Hayesville, NC can come into town and purchase tickets for the tour at almost any business around the town square. The Chamber of Commerce, Moss Library, Tiger's Department store and many other places will have tickets. The cost is small, $15 and the proceeds go to the Arts Council for the many activities offered to our community. 

One of the most popular events held by the volunteers at the Historical and Arts Council is the huge Festival on the Square in downtown Hayesville each July. I try to never miss it. Hundreds of vendors come with art of all kinds and thousands come to shop with them.

CCHAC also sponsors an Arts competition for the high school students each year and a poetry contest for adults and students. I won the adult contest soon after I moved here. Later, I was proud to be a judge of the poetry contest.




Above see the brochure with the places you'll see on the tour. The first one, the Ward home, has six bedrooms, six and one half bathrooms, with many interesting and unique rooms including one for meditation. This is a mountain-style lake front home with a 12 foot Christmas tree.

Another house on the tour, the Nichols home, sits on a mountain top and has a magnificent view of Lake Chatuge and Brasstown Bald, in Georgia.

I am delighted that the people who own these houses will go to all the trouble to make them inviting and welcoming to strangers, folks like me, who come to admire their tastes, maybe steal a few ideas to use in our own homes this holiday season, and help us get into the Christmas spirit.

I hope all of our local readers will come out and enjoy the Hayesville HolidayTour of Homes this weekend. Don't let a little rain stop you. It won't stop me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Write for your family. Leave a written legacy.

At holiday time, we all look back on those times when we were young and had parents, grandparents and family that gathered around tables at someone's home. We remember the stories we heard, the faces of those who are gone now, the laughter that roared from the adult table as everyone remembered a favorite narrative and heard it again from a  brother or another dear family member.


We all have family stories. Some might be sad or bad, but we also have many stories of our family history that make us who we are. My father was a story teller. My uncles were also story tellers and my brothers told stories I'll remember all my days. 

Those of us who like to write have a responsibility, I think, to keep those stories alive. The days of several generations sitting on the porch or around a dinner table listening to family stories are fading away. Families are scattered all over the world. Grandparents get to see their grandchildren on Skype for a few minutes, but that  is a far cry from conversing face to face with plenty of time to share.

That is why I am passionate about writing those stories, leaving a written legacy for the future. Even though I have no children, I have always been the family historian and have documented many of the stories of my father's family in a  hard bound book: Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas C. Council and  His Descendants.
I have also written a collection of short stories based on stories about my immediate family -- father, mother and my sisters and brothers. One day I hope to publish them for my family.

For over a week I have been listening to a memoir by Pat Conroy, the southern author of The Great Santini and Prince of Tides among other excellent books. He writes a detailed story of the life he has led with his abusive father, mother he adored, his siblings who all suffered from growing  up in the dysfunctional family. One of his brothers killed himself. A sister seemed to suffer from mental illness. Pat, himself, had several breakdowns and several marriages. All of this made for interesting reading, but those are not  the stories most of  us want to tell about our families. 

My students want to tell about how life was when they were kids. They want to tell about living without electricity, going to school in one room with all ages of students, the games they played when they were kids, their first car, their first date and many of those turning points they would tell their grandchildren if their grandchildren were available. They also want to tell about  where they went to school, their military lives, their work, the accomplishments and even their failures. I hope they will also tell the sad stories, the hard times that helped mold them, the loss of loved ones and beloved things. I hope they will  tell about the time they spent with grandparents, what they remember about those family members. 

One of my students told me he decided he should write about  his life when his little grandson said, "Grandpa, I know about your life. You had to  fight Indians and live in a  log cabin."

It is hard to entice young people to care about anyone or anything but themselves once they are in their teens. But those kids will grow up and one day they will be so happy to read about their family history. 


In March, 2015, I will teach a class on writing life stories at Tri-County Community College. If you are local, check with the Community Enrichment department, Lisa Thompson, to register. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm back and blogging again

It is so good to be back! For a while I've had some interlopers on my computers that popped up every time I tried to post or read my blogs. My great computer guru, Bob, spent about two hours last evening cleaning up the mess.

We have a local paper, Clay County Progress, in Clay County, NC where I live. It is published only once a week, and by the time I get it, many of the events are over. But this week the paper has two articles about the Tour of Homes here December 6 and 7. It includes five homes and a stop at the Tusquittee Tavern for music, history and refreshments. I’ve been to the tavern and it is a friendly place I look forward to visiting again.   
  
One of the homes will be that of Mary Street who lives in the Elf community. The photo of her house in the snow reminds me of a Christmas card with a wish for all the warmth and love of home. The house is filled with her own paintings, quilts and other handmade designs sewn by Mary. Also in Street’s house will be woodturnings and carvings by local men. All the homes will be beautifully decorated for the season. 


I look forward to the tour this year. In years past, Barry, Gay and Stu and our friends, the Clarkes took a tour of homes in the area each Christmas. I miss those times. The homes are always decorated with Christmas trees, and seasonal colors. I don’t decorate much at all now since I don’t have family coming. I go to my sister and brother-in law's house for Christmas. When I walk in their door, I feel like Christmas has arrived, and I get that joyous but melancholy feeling I've always had at Christmas.

The Hayesville Holiday Tour of Homes goes on from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. both days and only costs $15.00. The proceeds will benefit the many community and school projects the Clay County Historical andArts Council  sponsors each year. Tickets can be bought at the Chamber of Commerce in Hayesville, Tigers Department store and other places in town.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Final Goodbye

Lee, my niece and writer of this touching post, Saying Goodbye, expresses the pain of burying your mother. She talks about the mundane and the deep feelings of not wanting to  let her go.

http://littleleeway.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/saying-goodbye/

Her mother was my sister, June. For days I've thought of her and what I owe her for the life I lead today. I've thought of what I can say at the burial, if I can hold myself together enough to talk. There is  no way to sum up the long life of such a special person. I will tell about my admiration for her from the time I was a small child. 

Imagine that you have someone living  in your house who is as pretty as the movie stars on the  covers of the magazines. And imagine that she loves you dearly and will do anything for you. So different looking from my sweet mother who had lost her figure long before I was born, but just as loving as my mother and as kind and caring for her young siblings. 

She was meant to have a happy life because she sacrificed so much for others, but as a young woman with two teenage children, she faced the death of her husband. Her world fell apart and the weight of raising the kids alone seemed overwhelming. She had not  held a job for fifteen years. 

She was a resilient woman who persevered under grueling circumstances. The family had to move where she could find work that  would support her family. The children didn't fare well in the new school and June had to rethink her situation again. 

All I wanted to  do was save her from the overpowering grief and sorrow that had stolen my sister's smile, her love of life. But I could not fix her problems. Now I know that grieving is a personal and private matter that no one can ease  for another. 

She raised her  girls and they are both doing well. She finally found another man that she could love and who adored her. But their happiness was short lived. Less than ten years of marriage before her health deteriorated. She knew when it was time to go, and she passed away with her family around her.

Now we must say a final goodbye. I can hardly bear it.

My sister, June


Friday, November 14, 2014

“I am so glad you are my friend.”

  
Recently a friend said to me, sincerely and quietly, “I am so glad you are my friend.”
I was moved almost to tears by this simple sentence. She and I have been friends for a number of  years, more so since my husband died. She has other friends, old friends, from many years ago. She has certain friends she spends time with each week. I am not in that circle and it doesn’t matter. I have friends that don’t include her.
How many times have you stopped and counted the people you can really call friends, not acquaintances? Are they  good friends, best friends, or occasional friends?

In my life I have had only a few best friends. When I was a young teen, my best friend was Joyce. We rode horses together and told each other our deepest secrets. A couple of years older than I, she graduated high school and entered college before I did. But we always tried to stay in touch. She and her husband, her high school sweetheart, were our first visitors in our furnished apartment right after Barry and I married. What a surprise to find that she and Barry had known each other at the university. Like many women in the sixties, Joyce dropped out of college and got married. We  never would have imagined that mistake would haunt her to death.
Joyce and Barry going to a  Georgia-Florida football game. I miss both of them.

One reason I had few close friends when I was growing up is I had a built-in friend, my sister, Gay. While we both had occasional friends, neighbors, girls we met at school, I reflect now and realize that my two friends in high school drifted away after their marriages, where I served as bridesmaid. Neither of them pursued higher education. One was eventually divorced, but the other raised a family in her husband’s home town in Wisconsin. We visited them once, and she was still the funny adorable girl I had known at sixteen, faithful to her Catholic upbringing.

In college, a girl’s school in Georgia, I met some classmates I enjoyed. We had great times laughing and talking  late into the night, trading our stories. I was awed by one girl, Peggy, the sophisticate from Washington, D..C. Dark-eyes heavily lined and mascaraed, she was crowned with a  head of jet black hair. She was independent and courageous. I had grown up with a strict father and seldom broke any rules except when I was out with Joyce who sneaked cigarettes from her family’s store and impressed me with her ability to smoke and drink when she was still in high school. 

Peggy was similar but took even more risks. She could have been sent home for slipping out of the dorm after hours to meet her boyfriend and then slipping back in after curfew. She couldn’t have done that without my help, of course, and in return she let me be her friend. I was used, but it had its rewards. Through Peggy, I met Richard, the first real love of my life. I felt extremely grateful to travel in the same circles with Peggy, who was respected all over campus. She had street smarts, but she was super intelligent and earned top grades. Her goal was to become a doctor. I heard that she reached that goal.

When I left the girls’ school to attend the university, I lost touch with Peggy and all the girls I had known and liked for the past two years. Several moved on to other schools to complete their education. Some went home to get married. I entered a school where I knew no one but my younger sister. We lived in different dorms and she made friends right away. I did not weather the change too well and wished many times that I had stayed where I was to finish my education.

Coming from a large family that enjoyed each other, much of my social life involved my siblings. My sisters-in-law often turned to me as a friend and I loved them, warts and all, but was burned when my brothers cheated or divorced their partners. How could I make a choice between a friend and a loved brother? I hated the sin, but loved the sinner.

I like the metaphor that life is a sailboat and at times the winds come up strong. We have to navigate them carefully, even changing our course sometimes. Friendship is a large part of a healthy life. Having social ties has been proven to lengthen our days on this earth. But I also believe people come into our lives and go out of our lives when they are supposed to do so. For that reason, I have no desire to seek out old classmates on Facebook.

I am so very fortunate to have my sister who will always be a huge part of my life, and a small number of good friends in my life now that I know will never turn on me or hurt me. I am glad they are my friends. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wildacres Retreat - Fall Gathering

Wildacres Retreat is a place I like  to go to find freedom from everyday responsibilities. This lovely place on top of a mountain in North Carolina has rustic bedrooms, no telephones or television sets. The quiet is only broken by the wind whistling through the giant oaks, maples and other hardwoods that provide the visitor with myriad leaf colors in fall.


Photo
My room mate and friend, Mary Mike hiked most of the trails around the campus and brought back a  bouquet of small limbs filled with leaves of gold, red, orange and magenta. She put them in a pitcher and sat on her bed and painted them with watercolors. I just enjoyed looking at them. 



Mealtimes are fun at Wildacres and the food is delicious. We sit about ten people to a round table and we are served a meat dish in a  large platter with a couple of side dishes. A salad  bar is set up in the center of the room. Dessert is placed beside each plate. It is good that we have to walk a ways to the dining room and back up a  hill after we eat hopefully using a  few of the calories we take in.

I love almost every person I have met at this retreat where I came for several years in the  past. Lots of hugging goes on when we see each other  again. This year I was very happy to see Sidney again. I met her the first time I went to Wildacres. It was  her first time as well. It was good to see how far she has come with her writing in the past five years. Her novel is almost complete.

One pleasure for me is visiting the studios of the painters and potters. Dorothy, from Asheville, is a potter. One day I'd like to try my hand with clay. I think the process would be most therapeutic, molding and creating with my hands. I think writing is creating with my mind, but I was once an oil painter and I remember the deep satisfaction I received from watching a scene develop on canvas. I remember the contentment that crept over me when I saw something I created with brushes and paint. 

Mike House, Director of Wildacres, is amazing the way he knows all the details about the place. One windy evening he called out to someone leaving a studio, "Be sure to close that door real good. It doesn't always latch, and the wind will blow it open and it will bang all night."

He is dearly loved by the guests and so is his family. His beautiful wife, Kathryn, is on staff and she played balaphone for us one night. Mike plays keyboard and usually entertains us on the last night of the Gathering. This year I requested Forever Young, a song he sang the first time I came to Wildacres, and he sang it for me that cold snowy evening before we left the next morning.

I kind of wish The Gathering was not so popular because now you have to register early or be put on a waiting list. I used to be able to get a private room but now we are told there are no private rooms available.

This year I had the opportunity to talk at great length with Jan Parker, writer from near Raleigh. She is on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers' Network. I introduced her to NCWN West, our writing group here in the mountains. She gave me a copy of a book of poetry published by Main Street Rag. I gave her a copy of Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, the anthology published by our group. We discussed her visiting us in the coming year.

Wildacres holds many events during the year and there are two gatherings where you are on your own to do what you love best. Check them out.  www.wildacres.org  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Estelle Rice

I had a birthday this  month and celebrated in the best way I can imagine.


My friend, Mary Mike and I hosted a lunch for our dear friend, Estelle Rice. Estelle is celebrating a big one, but we don't talk about numbers.

The group that gathered was just large enough and not too large to carry on some great conversations.
Some of Estelle's oldest writer friends attended, including Paul Donovan and Glenda Barrett. Paul read a cute piece that had us laughing at ourselves. Mary Mike read two poems by Estelle from her book, Quiet Times. 
Age has no bearing on following your passions and continuing with what you enjoy doing as long as you are healthy enough to pursue your goals. Estelle is still writing poems and revising short stories. She still works on her family history, the genealogy of her lines. And  most importantly, Estelle keeps smiling and stays positive even when her life is not as cheery as her voice. 
From left: Paul Donovan, Glenda Barrett, Estelle Rice, Glenda Beall,Carole Thompson, 
Mary Mike Keller, Staci Bell


Friday, October 24, 2014

Clay County Historical and Arts Council

I am happy to see that our local Clay County Historical and Arts Council has local artists who are members listed on the home page.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Home from Nova Scotia

October  7.
Flying in an airplane for hours is not my idea of a fun way to spend my time, but that is what I did today. I have been vacationing in Nova Scotia, Canada for the past week with  my sister and  her husband, Stu. He is one great guy. My going along makes his job harder. He makes our travel plans with airline reservations and rental car. He makes sure our luggage gets where it needs to be  and that we all get to the gate where we need to board.

On a trip out of the country we must have our passport up to date and be sure our bags don't contain anything that is not allowed. Since I don't fly that often, I need instructions and some help to be sure I don't cause any trouble with the security folks. Gay, my sister, knows the rules and teaches me what to do. 

View of Bras d'or Lake from restaurant in Baddeck where I ate fresh halibut fried to perfection. Seafood chowder is a  popular item on almost all menus. I had scallops, fish, and a whole lobster during my week there.
Our trip began in Atlanta at the busiest airport in the world. We flew to Toronto, Canada where we had an hour and a half to connect to our flight that took us to  Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was unanimous among the three of us. Toronto airport is not very well organized. 

We had to go through immigration so we stood in line for a half hour until an airline employee came by and asked if anyone needed to  make a connecting flight. Once she realized that we were going to be late, she rushed us along and we made our flight, barely. 

Once we arrived in Halifax and loaded into our rental car, we drove to a hotel for the night. That was when I began my love affair with Canadians. No one seemed surprised when I asked for a chemical free room with no scented products. Unlike American hotels where the artificial smell of chemical fragrance hits me like a brick to the head, the Canadian hotel had no odor at all. My room was very clean and had not been sprayed with "air freshener" so I slept well. 

I remembered there was a hospital in Halifax for those with chemical sensitivities such as I live with. Throughout the week we were all impressed with the cleanliness of the house we rented and the places we visited, while none of  them smelled of  synthetic scents. The ALTA hotel at the Halifax airport where we stayed Monday night, a  modern futuristic building, had no odors in the elevators or hallways, nor in our rooms. We were told that only sanitizers were used in the rooms, not artificial fragrances to cover smells. I could breathe safely.

As I have felt in the past when visiting Canada, I hope, if  I come back in another life, I come back to live in Canada, preferably in the Canadian Rockies or in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. 

We stayed in a rural area of Cape Breton Island, above Baddeck in a house right on the water. At night I opened my window to hear the waves lapping on the rugged shore. Far over the water we could  see a blinking lighthouse The only sound other than the waves was the wind whistling around the  corners. The only light was the moon streaming across the black expanse of lake. 

The house had beds and a bath in the loft where sun spilled in through a skylight. The entire living and dining area looked out through floor to ceiling windows giving a view of endless water that opened to the Atlantic Ocean. My bedroom on the first floor held a most comfortable bed that begged me to climb in each night and held me captive in  the morning even after I woke up.
Here I am under an apple tree, little green apples all over the ground, bright flowers bloomed all over the place, in pots and wild along the roadside. 

If I could have, I would  have stayed another week or a month. The peacefulness of that  place and the friendly people we met in restaurants and shops convinced me that those who make their home on this island are very lucky folks. Though the economy is  not too good in that far north country, they enjoy life by making and listening to their own kind of music, Gaelic or Celtic, made with piano, guitar, and fiddle. The fiddle is king and the kids learn to play when they are very young. I could not keep my feet still as a pretty dark haired girl and a boy entertained at the Red Shoe Pub. Those memories will stay with me for a long time.

We spent an hour at the Glendora Distillery where these men made mighty fine music. The fiddler first played piano. The musicians pound the floor with one foot, hard, no matter what instrument they play. It seems to be an important part of this kind of music.

Click on this link to hear some Cape Breton Fiddle music .


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