Appalachian Thursday–Final Flowers


Blue Aster

It’s October–my favorite month. I realize the first day of fall was back in September, but October is when I KNOW the seasons are changing in these Appalachian mountains. Leaves are just starting to color, the mornings require a jacket, and the sky is getting ever bluer. It’s the bittersweet time of year when the weather is wonderful (barring hurricanes), nature is at her loveliest, and I know it will all soon turn to bare branches and ice.

But before we have the glory of the foliage, there are the last of the flowers to savor. Goldenrod, asters in blue and white, thistles, jewel weed, and all the lovely ditch flowers whose names I don’t know. Here’s a sampling from my hikes. You’ll find thistles of the flora and fauna variety mixed in there. Enjoy!

Fall Flower

Jewel Weed


Thistle of the canine variety

Fall Flowers

Maiden's Bower

Maiden’s Bower



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Worries, Expectations, and Reality

CreekI’m over at SouthernBelleView today writing about hurricanes and the futility of worry. I even worked in Winston Churchill, so you know you’ve gotta read that! Come on over and say, “Howdy.”

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Appalachian Thursday–The Golden Horseshoe

Golden HorseshoeI make it a policy to avoid regret as much as possible. It just doesn’t do any good. But there is ONE thing I regret.

I wish I’d studied harder for the Golden Horseshoe Test when I was in eighth grade.

I am NOT a Lady of the Golden Horseshoe although my father IS a Knight of the Golden Horseshoe. He studied harder than I did. And now I am the keeper of his horseshoe pin, which is almost as good as having won it myself.

Of course, you’re wondering what the heck I’m going on about. Here’s the summary from the WV Department of Education’s website:

One of the highlights of the eighth-grade year is the opportunity for a student to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. This prestigious program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia. In 1716 the Governor of the Virginia colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men, all of whom adopted the pledge, “Sic jurat transcendere monte,” which means “Thus he swears to cross the mountains.” Governor Spotswood presented each member of his party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia, beginning the Golden Horseshoe tradition.”

Pretty romantic stuff, right? If you’re one of the recipients you even get knighted with a real sword.

Now, lest you think I just wasn’t bright in eighth grade, here’s a sample question: “On June 24, 1776, Virginia’s Committee of Safety sent 13 prisoners captured from the British sloop Oxford to this present-day West Virginia county.”

Yeah, yeah, you knew right away it was Berkley County, but trust me this will trip most people up.

Or how about this one? “This Barbour County community was named for the son of Henry Gassaway Davis.”

I actually guessed that one correctly as “Junior” since my mom lives near there. I wonder if she knew that’s where the name came from?

It’s too late for me to go back to middle school and study harder, but I have learned that the state typically hands out a few honorary horseshoes each year. So now that’s my dream. If this writing gig pans out, maybe I’ll get famous enough to earn an honorary Golden Horseshoe.

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Waiting | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Best Laid Plans

BearI like to make plans. I like for things to fit neatly together–preferably in an attractive pattern. For example, over the weekend I bought fried chicken at a deli for a church event. I really, really, REALLY wanted to suggest to the clerk that he should put the breasts and wings in one container and the legs and thighs in the other.

It would have been more equitable.

But this is NOT how life works. (In case you didn’t know.)

I took Thistle for a walk up Bartlett Mountain on Saturday. The road starts out paved, switches to gravel, and then becomes a dirt track. If you’re determined, you can go all the way to the top of the ridge on a bear trail.

We went high enough to get a good view of the mountains with their first tinge of autumn color, then turned around and headed back down. I was walking along making it a point to notice how delightful life was right at that moment. It was a soft, misty afternoon with the smell of autumn in the air. I had my dog and an evening to do as I pleased. Idyllic really.

That’s when Thistle spotted the bear. Thankfully, she’s a smart dog, so she just sat in the road and waited for me. I called her back, leashed her, and proceed to encourage the bear to move along. The bear wasn’t being aggressive, but neither was she leaving. Mostly, she seemed curious about us. While I wasn’t afraid, neither was I eager to satisfy the bear’s curiosity. So we backtracked, found a bear trail through the woods (ironic, right?) and pushed our way through the trees down to the gravel section of the road.

Bear behind us, it occurred to me that my afternoon idyll had been disturbed. There I was, appreciating a simple pleasure, when a bear threw a wrench in the gears.

And ain’t that like life.

You’re on the downhill, coasting along, taking in the scenery and–wham–bear. Talk about unplanned. Talk about a piece that doesn’t fit the pattern.

I think God is working on me in this area. I want Him to lay out His ten-year plan for me (twenty would be even better) so I can check each item off my list and feel the satisfaction of a to-do list that is DONE.

But bears keep popping up. They’re not necessarily scary, just unexpected and often inconvenient. But maybe, just maybe, they’re meant to push me toward the path I should have been on all along . . . And maybe, just maybe the unplanned path is the better one.

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Appalachian Thursday–People Like These

goldenrodThistle and I often hike in the national forest near our house. I never know who we’ll run into up there–hikers, hunters, cyclists, foragers–there’s quite a variety of folks. Yesterday, though, was unique.

We pulled into the gravel lot and I noticed some people poking around in the tall weeds. If it were July, I’d assume they were picking blackberries, but this time of year I couldn’t think what they’d be after.

Thistle hopped out of the car and headed straight for the closest human being, since human beings are her favorite thing. Next to treats. I followed and saw that our neighbor was a young man, hair in a topknot, cigarette dangling from his lips. And he was . . . picking flowers.

And not just picking flowers–he’d assembled a gorgeous little bouquet of blue and white asters, goldenrod, thistles, and ferns. It was straight off of Pinterest. I exclaimed over how pretty it was and commented on the thistle, telling him that was my dog’s name.

He got excited and called out to his two friends, exclaiming over knowing the name of the flower that was the same as the name of the dog. Now, his friends were also, um, not stereotypical flower pickers. T-shirts with no sleeves, cigarettes, a beat up cowboy hat–and a handful of purple asters.

They greeted me, cocked wary eyes at Thistle, and climbed into their car. Three good ole boys and their perfect nosegay of autumn flowers.

I wanted to ask them who the flowers were for. Someone’s mother or grandmother? A girlfriend? Their own pleasure? I wanted to take a picture of a redneck boy holding a bouquet suited to a flower girl at a wedding as ash fell from his cigarette.

But I didn’t do any of that. I just tucked the image away in my heart. Because those were my people. Mountain people. Contradictory people. People who will bring you flowers, but would rather you didn’t ask any questions.

Posted in Appalachian, dogs, Nature, Thistle | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Southern BelleView Monday – Friends


Behind the Southern BelleView booth was the place to be!

Come on over to Southern BelleView and revisit our weekend in Raleigh, NC, at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show. It was SO much fun hanging out with the ladies from the front porch. I’m pretty sure I could call any of them to come pick me up at the airport and they’d drop everything to make it happen. Love these ladies!

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Appalachian Thursday–Imagination

Bed rock?The calf lot was just beyond the backyard, adjacent to the barn when I was growing up. This was the “nursery” for the milk cow, so it was often empty.

Inside the fence there was a rock. What I thought of as a massive, huge, immense rock that lay flat and was vaguely heart-shaped. I would play house there and it often became my most luxurious bed.

The rock is still there, although the fence is gone and there aren’t any milk cows these days. But somehow that flat boulder of a play bed has been reduced to a mere stone. Largish I suppose, but nothing impressive.

It’s the same rock–I know it is–and yet it isn’t. That childhood lens has disappeared. I suppose I’ve grown out of it, shed it like old skin.

But still, I can stand on that rock in the morning sun looking down the lens of the years and remember what it was like to make a magnificent bed of stone.

Now that’s a skill worth remembering.

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Miracles, Nature | Tagged , , | 4 Comments