Appalachian Thursday–Valentine’s Flowers

Bloodroot in bloom

Do you remember those days in high school when Valentine’s rolled around and you waited to hear your name called over the intercom to come pick up flowers sent by an unknown admirer? Then you’d carry your vase from class to class so that the whole world (meaning the cool kids) would know someone loved you.

Yeah. Didn’t happen to me, either.

Well, there was that one year my mother sent me flowers. Sigh. How uncool is that? I knew it was sweet and thoughtful, but it wasn’t cool and that’s what I was after.

Thank goodness I’m not a teenager anymore. And as an adult I know something I didn’t know then. Flowers from my mom are WAY cooler than flowers from some boy I’ve long forgotten.

My mom loved me from the moment she knew I’d been conceived. And sending me a rose with baby’s breath in a bud vase on Valentine’s Day spoke of pure love. So did the bouquet of flowers Dad hid in the fridge (he took out the food and the shelves so it would fit) to give to me the day I graduated college. So did the florist-delivered flowers my husband sent pretending they were from Thistle to thank me for all the dog walks.

Those flowers said LOVE more than any teenage, February 14, hothouse flower ever could.

But the very best flowers I’ll ever receive come from my Father each Appalachian spring. It won’t be long now until crisp, white bloodroot pops up along woodland trails. Next come the dwarf iris and showy orchis. The trillium and honeysuckle. Mountain laurel and rhododendron. They just keep coming from the first crocus pushing up through the snow to autumn’s Joe Pye weed.

God is forever giving me flowers. More than I can count or hold or appreciate. He gives me flowers without my asking and whether I thank him or not. He gives me flowers because he loves me. Already I can see the tips of daffodil stems peeping through the snow and the Lenten roses are defying winter. Now that’s the best Valentine ever.

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The Approach of Lent

Holy WeekEaster is early this year. Which means tomorrow is Fat Tuesday and the next day is Ash Wednesday.

It’s time to spend 40 days preparing for the death and Resurrection of Christ–to get my mind right for the celebration of the greatest moment in history.

Typically, this is done through prayer and fasting. I do plan to fast. It’s hard for me, which in a way makes it extra worthwhile. And I’ll refocus my prayer time. But my primary plan for Lent is to focus on Philippians 4:8–to really try to live with it week in and week out.

You could say I’m going to spend the next 40 days resetting the way I think. Here’s the scripture:

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I plan to dedicate five days to each of these things. I will think about what is:

  • True
  • Noble
  • Right
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Admirable
  • Excellent
  • Praiseworthy

We’ll call it a meditation. Or a study. Whatever we call it, I hope you’ll come along with me as I try to understand and live out this scripture as we move toward Easter.

 

 

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Appalachian Thursday–False Spring

While folks living further to the north have no illusions about winter being over and folks further to the south rarely get the full-on winter experience, we here in the middle–the Appalachians–are suffering that in-between season.

We just had a major hit of snow and while we KNOW spring is a long ways off today is . . . warm. It’s downright mild. The sun’s been shining, the snow is mostly gone, and those fool robins keep dancing around in our yards.

It’s enough to give a person hope. At least for a minute.

FALSE SPRING

The yard is full of robins.
Fat and quick they flutter
like snowflakes falling before
the storm really arrives.

Just enough to draw my
attention—to make me look.

A frog is awake in the pond
below the house—he sounds
like a chicken clucking, like
children squabbling, like spring.

Just enough to turn my head—
to make me listen.

A neighbor works in his yard,
moving rocks and dirt and sticks.
He stirs the soil like plowing, like
planting the first promise of the year.

Just enough to tickle my nose—
to make me breathe . . . again.

But the calendar doesn’t lie the way
a day in February can. Those tips of green
will soon send their regrets and bow down
under the weight of stillborn hope.

And the robins will scatter to the wind.

Posted in Appalachian, Nature, Poetry | Tagged | 4 Comments

A new, favorite book review

Olivia in snow

When the snow’s too deep–READ!

In case you didn’t hear, a week or so ago the east coast was covered up in snow. Which is bad for driving around, but great for reading a book under a blanket.

My brother lives on the family farm in West Virginia and had my five-year-old niece to entertain over the snowy weekend. Playing in the snow would normally be a great option, but when you have almost two feet of the stuff it’s hard to actually DO anything in it.

So they read. For me, reading with a child conjures images of lap sitting and looking at pictures and lots of different voices.

Not for me niece. Nope. She’s at the “I can do it” stage of life.

So while my brother kicked back with his book, she proceeded to pull novels down from the shelves and “read” each one. It took about five minutes for her to finish a book. She’d put that one back and get another.

Eventually, my brother noticed she’d pulled down one of my books. He watched as she flipped through the pages, finally turning to the back cover with my picture.

“This is Aunt Sarah’s book,” she announced.

My brother confirmed that it was.

“Aunt Sarah writes good books.”

I’m going to check with my publisher to see if we can put that on the cover of the next one. Maybe with a photo of my niece and I. Because, really, I can’t think of an endorsement I’d like better.

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Appalachian Thursday–Power Outages, Hog Killings, & Memories

IMG_0094I have fond memories of the power going out when I was a kid growing up on a farm in WV.

I was reminiscing with my mother about one winter outage when I was particularly delighted because we got to play cards by lantern light, keep a fire going in the fireplace ALL day, and sleep in the living room wearing toboggans to keep our little heads warm.

Can you say, FUN??

Mom laughed. She has different memories of that particular outage. Here are the parts I don’t remember:

  • We’d just finished butchering a hog. Mom and Dad finished packaging the meat and left it on the porch to freeze since the chest freezer wasn’t working.
  • Hot water had to be heated by fire. Imagine a kitchen after processing a hog. Pig fat everywhere and on everything. Mom had to wait until the power came back on to clean up properly.
  • That cheery fire blazing hour after hour? Every so often we had to let it go out, remove the hot ashes, and dispose of them safely. By “we” I mean Mom and Dad.
  • And let’s be honest, sleeping in the floor with wiggly, giggly children holds MUCH less charm for me as an adult. I’m guessing it was the same for Mom.

We laughed together over the disparity in our memories. Mom said she finally gave up and packed us off to Grandmas while Dad stayed at the farm to keep the pipes from freezing. That was probably fun for us kids, too!

This is why I appreciate my parents so much. That power outage wasn’t any fun for them. As a matter of fact it was deeply frustrating. But until Mom told me her version, I had no idea. Maybe I was just oblivious, but I like to think Mom and Dad did a good job of insulating me–cushioning me from too many of life’s trials and tribulations too soon.

Reality is something we all need to face. But when you’re a kid it sure is nice to have parents who let you revel in sleeping on the floor beside a crackling fire. Safe, and warm, and loved.

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Memories | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

SNOW – To fret or to . . . go sledding!

IMG_0461While I think last weekend’s winter storm didn’t pack quite the wallop forecaster’s feared, it did cover us up in quite a bit of snow. Which is lovely and terribly inconvenient if you want or need to go anywhere.

Thankfully, we haven’t had a pressing need to drive anywhere, but once the sun came out we were itching to at least get out and walk around a bit. Especially Thistle!

On the one hand, this snow is quite the disruption to my regular schedule. On the other hand, it’s a delightful respite, forcing me to just sit back and take in all that glittering whiteness.

And then go plowing through it!

Thistle ran and jumped and played. I made a snow angel. My husband demonstrated his snowball throwing accuracy. And I thought back to those wonderful childhood days when snow meant one thing–sledding!

SLEDDING

Walking home at dusk,
dragging the runner sled slow,
we look back and see the wonder
of snow-broken field criss-crossed
with track of sled and dog and child.

Here is evidence of a winter’s day—
setting sun catching in a far trail
curving down the hillside—
a sudden glint of ice brighter than
diamonds or stars or tears.

Before us a single track leads home,
left much earlier, in another light,
when the sun stood high
and a pure hill of unbroken white
sparkled with promise.

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The Feathered Bone Winner

I appreciated all the folks who commented on last week’s review of Julie Cantrell’s powerful and moving novel, The FeatherPattyed Bone. And the winner of free a copy is . . .

pattymh2000!

Patty, e-mail your mailing address to salt96@charter.net and I’ll get your copy to you. Thanks for commenting!

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