Appalachian Thursday–Dogs That Live Forever

SammyThistle is four now, which means my sweet Sammy has been gone for more than six years. But like any good, mountain dog, he’s taken on a certain mythological quality. That’s what we do with our dogs in Appalachia–we mourn them and then we tell their stories so that they do, indeed, live as long as we do (if not longer). Here’s a memory from Sammy’s last year.


He’s an old dog and sometimes
I think he knows it. He stretches out
in the sun and rolls his belly skyward—
submits to something bigger,
something older than himself.

And then there are times . . .

Like that day we walked in the woods
where turkeys stirred the leaves,
uncovered new shoots pushing through
last fall’s rotting russet and gold.
That’s when he heard it—a rustle,
a whisper of feathers, a twig breaking.
And he leaped from the trail, down
a steep hillside to where he flushed
two turkeys into the treetops.
Who knew they could fly so high—
could forgo that clucking strut to glide
through tall trees and land beyond sight?

He is an old dog now and knows
he will have to climb back up this hill,
heave arthritic hips over fallen limbs,
regain the trail and continue on with me.

But first he gazes long and hard
after two turkeys that have flown.
He lifts his muzzle into the air, knows
that though earthbound and old,
he is the one who sent them flying.

Posted in Appalachian, dogs, Love, Nature | 6 Comments

The Power of Palmolive to Improve My Writing

dish washingIt’s my day to post on the front porch over at SouthernBelleview. Please swing on by to read about how washing the dishes reminded me of the importance of including the sense of smell in my writing.

Posted in Family, Writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Appalachian Thursday–Savoring Leisure

Resting I posted at last week about whether or not West Virginia is part of the South. It’s a point of contention in some circles. While I didn’t suppose we’d resolve the question once and for all, I did get some interesting comments about the difference between southerners and mountain folk.

My own baby brother swung by and left this comment. “[Southerners] take their time with whatever they are doing. Mountain folk hurry through their work and stretch out their leisure.”

As soon as I read that, I realized how true it is in my experience. For example, when I get home from work I want to immediately change clothes, walk the dog, tend to any chores, make supper, do the dishes, and then . . . relax. None of this resting a spell before diving into the evening’s tasks.

Leisure has always been something to store up and savor. Get the work out of the way and then kick back with your feet up on the porch railing and talk ’til the dark runs you off to bed. Get the hay in the barn, stacked and ready for winter, then you can go swimming (don’t forget to take some soap–Ivory floats).

It’s almost as thought I can’t relax until the work is done. I want to take all those little breaks and rest stops and save them up for the end so I can enjoy my leisure in great, long drafts instead of wee sips.

I’m not saying it’s better. I’m just saying maybe, as a mountain girl, I can’t help it.

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Waiting | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

That Funny, In-Between Time

FabricThe first novel has been out almost six months. The second novel isn’t due until May. The first round of excitement has died down and it’s too soon to get pumped up for round two.

I’m facing the in-between time.

All the flurry of being a debut author is over. And some of the mystery is gone. There’s less anticipating the thrills of authorship and more anticipating the work I’ll need to do to support my second novel.

There are some things I can do in advance, but a lot of the work will come later, closer to the release. And so I wait in the in-between time.

These are the thumb twiddling days when I’m waiting for galleys of book #2, waiting to hear what my editors think of book #3. Starting book #4, but not having the pressure of a deadline to urge me on.

Plus, it’s January. No holidays, no celebrations, no events–just 2015 spread out in front of me with several future months so jam-packed I wish I could move some of those days to now.

My Mom has a saying (she has quite a few!). When I was bored or impatient, wishing Christmas or my birthday or summer vacation would hurry up and arrive, she’d say, “Don’t wish your life away.”

I usually rolled my eyes and kept wishing.

But now, a grown-up myself, I remember what Mom said and I guess she was smarter than I knew. It’s tempting to sit in the in-between time wishing something exciting would happen. Wishing my next novel would release or I’d win an award or I’d be invited to speak somewhere.

But then I might miss Saturday’s two-hour hike through a rhododendron ravine where a bold stream curled around mossy rocks. I might miss sitting around after dinner, sipping wine and talking about LIFE with my husband. I might miss watching dogs play tug-o-war in the sunshine while the wind kicks up last fall’s leaves. I might miss reading an extra novel or two just because I have the time.

Life isn’t the exciting bits, I think. The exciting bits are just sequins and beads and tassels stitched onto the background of a rich fabric we weave each day. And the in-between time gives me time to appreciate the weight and heft of the pattern I’m blessed to weave.

Posted in Family, Miracles, Nature, Reading, Waiting, Writing | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Appalachian Thursday – a WV Workout

Winter trailIt’s that time of year when resolutions start falling by the wayside. Of course, one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight/get in shape. So I’ve been thinking about my own workout regimen.

Okay, I don’t have one.

But there’s a reason for that! I grew up a WV farm girl. The idea of doing an activity just to stay fit was a foreign concept. When I was sixteen I weighed 117 pounds and I had some muscles. I won’t tell you what I weigh now, but it’s more than that. And I’m not any taller.

Growing up on a mountain farm we didn’t go to a gym. In the house we cooked, cleaned, and hung laundry on the line (denim is HEAVY). Outside we worked in the garden, the hayfield, and with the animals. We toted, tossed, heaved, walked (shoot, the mailbox was a hike!) and ran if we had to.

For fun we swam, played yard games, built hay forts in the barn, climbed trees, and explored even if the place we were exploring was well-known. Oh, and digging came up more than you’d think.

We didn’t have computers. There were three channels and watching them was a big deal. No video games, no cell phones . . .

Which is why it’s kind of hard for me to exercise if I’m not doing some sort of work at the same time. So I mostly hike. As long as I’m taking Thistle with me, I’m caring for the livestock. Sometimes I take clippers so I can maintain the trails. It’s an extra bonus if I can, say, move some fallen branches or use a stick to dig out drainage where water has puddled. Plus, it hearkens back to those days spent exploring.

Now, if I could just see yard work in the same light . . .

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Nature, Thistle | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Join Me at Southern BelleView

I’m delighted to be the newest Belle over at Southern Belleview Daily. The site includes weekday blog postings from a variety of Christian authors all located in/writing about the South. There are two authors for each day of the week, alternating posts.

Mondays – Lisa Wingate and me
Tuesdays – Jolina Petersheim and Denise H. Jones
Wednesdays – Julie Cantrell and Amy Hill Hearth
Thursdays – Rachel Hauck and Eva Marie Everson
Fridays – Shellie Tomlinson and Nicole Seitz

Topics vary widely and input from readers is always welcome. So please swing on by and let me know you visited. I’d love to see you there!

Posted in Writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

A Winter Poem

Sarah Thomas:

First week back to work. I’m running late on today’s post, so here’s a look back, two years ago, to another COLD January.

Originally posted on Sarah Loudin Thomas - Author:

SnowI don’t know where you are, but here, in Western North Carolina, it’s COLD. Oh, I hear you Canadian friends–a day above freezing is balmy to you. But to me? It’s COLD.

The problem is, we had temperatures in the 70s two weeks ago and I caught a bad case of spring fever. I don’t want to go back to the cold (she whined). But it is January. And winter is very much with us. So here’s a poem celebrating winter. Because if you can’t escape it–you might as well write about it.


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…

View original 32 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment