Happy 154th Birthday WV

pond house
One of my FAVORITE spots in all of West Virginia.

Tuesday was West Virginia Day. And I’ve been celebrating all week. We ate Oliverio’s peppers over pasta on Monday. I gathered a bouquet of rhododendron on Tuesday. I’ve been singing the state song all week. Now if only I had a pepperoni roll . . .

Part of the annual celebration is coming on my blog and educating y’all (I should probably say you’uns) about the incredibly interesting way in which WV became a state.

Once part of Virginia, western Virginia became its own state in 1863 thanks to a seriously convoluted secession process. Many residents of Virginia who lived west of the Allegheny Mountains weren’t exactly happy when the entire state seceded from the Union in 1861, siding with the Confederate South. Action had to be taken.

A group of mountaineers decided that the government of Virginia–the one that seceded–was illegal. Then they declared all state offices vacant and filled them with representatives from west of the Allegheny mountains. These “elections” were pretty sketchy, but President Abraham Lincoln didn’t pick nits.

Lincoln seemed to appreciate the western government and worked with them on the condition that they renounce slavery. Which they did. The division ultimately caused a permanent separation and West Virginia was recognized as a state all its own on June 20, 1863. This makes WV the only state to secede from the Confederacy. And the only state in the Union to have acquired its sovereignty by proclamation of the President of the United States.

My novels are set in this VERY special state. My family has lived there since it was Virginia–since 1800 or so. And having roots that deep makes me feel connected to something so much bigger and wider and deeper than me.

Something worth celebrating all week long!

An Abundance of Riches–Vacation

Rain galleysI know lots of folks who plan wonderful, far-flung vacations to exotic locales. I’ve never been one of those folks. Vacation for me means time to do whatever I want. Which typically includes eating some really good meals (cooking in and going out), extra dog walks, watching a movie or two I’ve been meaning to get around to, reading, and WRITING.

Oh, the luxury of writing without having to squeeze it into the margins. Now that’s my idea of a good vacation.

And this week, as I take my own little summer break, I not only get to write, I get one last chance to edit The Sound of Rain (releasing in November). The galleys arrived on Friday, as if I’d planned it.

And if I need something else writerly to do, there’s the back cover copy of The Sound of Rain to be finalized, and the first draft of a novella to read before submitting. An embarasment of riches, indeed!

I’m almost giddy with the pleasure of an entire week to focus on doing one of my favorite things.

So how about you? What’s your idea of a great way to spend some time off?

Appalachian Thursday – Storms as Entertainment

 

 

Rain swollen Creek

Growing up on the farm we didn’t have a ton of electronic entertainment. No video games, no Internet, and even television was limited to just a few channels. Summertime entertainment included lots of time playing outside, games around the kitchen table, books, swimming (in a creek), catching lightning bugs, and a healthy dose of being bored.

And then there were storms.

Gentle rains often meant a chance to play in the wet–running through puddles, catching water under the downspout and dousing each other with cold water, mud between our toes.

But storms meant showtime. We’d gather as a family on the covered back porch and watch the weather come rolling in. Thunder, lightning, pouring rain–it was thrilling!

My favorite spot was under Dad’s lawn chair. I felt completely safe there. I think it was the contrast between the raging storm and the safety of the porch. I felt insulated, protected, connected.

Once, lightning struck the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the pasture. We watched fire shoot along the wire in both directions. Such danger and excitement! And yet we were safe and protected at the house.

We’ve been having stormy weather in NC lately. Thunder rumbles, lightning flashes, and my dog ducks under my desk. I hope she feels as safe and protected as I always did.

Writing Stories & Walking on Water

Desk

When I first started writing, I had a character who could . . . maybe . . . walk on water. I came to realize the story line didn’t work the way I wanted and I gave that idea up. But I read the Gospel account of Peter walking on water many times.

Many times.

Then on Sunday morning our pastor mentioned that water walking passage in his sermon. And suddenly, I saw an entirely new (to me) aspect to those verses.

When Peter doubted and began to sink, Jesus took him by the hand and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then in Matthew 28:20b he sends the eleven disciples ot to make more disciples in every nation saying, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Peter did the seemingly impossible so long as he had faith in Jesus who was with him. I don’t think Jesus was admonishing Peter so much as he was suggesting that if only Peter had faith he could do so much more.

I doubt all the time. I doubt that I can meet my goals at work. I doubt that I’m meant to have a career as a writer. I doubt that I’m doing all I should for my family. I doubt that I know enough to lead Sunday School. I doubt.

But what if none of that depends on me? Or rather that it only depends on my having enough faith to do what God commands? What if I simply followed His lead–even when it’s hard?

What if I stopped trying so hard and simply had faith. Hmmm.

 

 

Appalachian Thursday–Strawberries!

strawberry jamStrawberry season is actually winding down in the mountains of Appalachia, but what a lovely time of year!

There are so many little, strawberry-related memories from my growing up years.

  • Tiny, wild strawberries growing on a bank under the chestnut trees. My brothers and I would practically knock each other down to get at them.
  • My aunt and uncle growing strawberries to sell each spring. Any time we went to visit our cousins during strawberry season, we’d have to pick a flat of berries before we could to play. Nothing will keep you from eating that fruit like a quota.
  • My great aunt putting up one of those strawberry tower beds in her yard. It was covered with straw, the green leaves would poke through, and then came the fruit. I seem to remember “rabbit” being a curse word.
  • Mom making strawberry jam–oh the sweet smell of sugar and berries followed by sparkling red jars of jam!

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from Atlanta when I saw signs along the highway in SC advertising fresh strawberries. I’d have been a fool not to stop. I meant to buy a quart, but came away with a gallon. We ate as many as we could, mostly straight from the bucket, but I soon realized I’d either have to preserve some fruit or toss it.

Well. I wasn’t going to toss it.

So I made jam. And since my mother couldn’t pop over from West Virginia on the spur of the moment to walk me through the process, I did the next best thing. I used the recipe in the box of Sure-Jell. It’s basically strawberries, sugar (LOTS), and pectin. I think fancy folks add a little butter to cut down on the foaminess or lemon to “brighten” the jam.

Bring on the biscuits.

A Poem to Welcome Summer

grassesI recently wrote about putting up hay in the summertime. When I was little, my job was to carry a Mason jar of ice water out to the men working in the field. I can still so clearly feel the heat of the day and the cool, slick jar n my hand, ice tinkling against the glass as I tiptoed through hay stubble.

Mom filled the jar with water and ice, but wouldn’t it be Romantic if I’d actually drawn the water from the well? Ah yes, I wrote a poem about that . . .

THE WATER BEARER

In June,
when nature’s bread oven
bakes ripe heads of grass
farmers take to the fields.
After day has drunk the dew,
men mount tractors
and ride summertime roads.
I dangle from an apple tree,
growing.

At noon I am sent to the cellar
where empty jars line shelves,
glimmer in the light of an open door.
I take one brimming with damp
to the well my father dug.
Men lift my sparkling gift
to labor seasoned foreheads,
cool their heat in satisfaction
of hand-dug cellar and well.

In June,
when days are sun-sodden, I remember
nights always follow difficult days
when cicadas sing and grass roots
grow deeper.

Appalachian Thursday–Lost Summers

rocksRemember when June meant school was over and you had long, hot weeks stretching out ahead of you before you had to think about having a schedule again? Of course, I grew up on a farm, so there was plenty to DO with gardening and haying and general choring. But even so, summer seemed like such a FREE time.

I can even remember–are you ready for this? Being bored! Yes, I got bored on occasion and soon learned not to complain to my mother about it. “Bored? I can give you something to do . . .”

And boredom bred creativity. Out of boredom came the idea to transform a rotted out chestnut tree stump (American chestnut–HUGE stump) into a playhouse. We also had the idea to carpet a clearing in the woods with moss, carefully transplanting sheets of the stuff and then trusting the Good Lord to work his magic (and He did!). We also roamed and rambled, built dams in creeks, got dirty, skinned our knees, read books in the hayloft, went swimming, and a hundred other country summer things.

Of course we got in trouble, too. There were bad decisions and mistakes were made, but I don’t think any of my ER visits happened in the summer. (I do remember a broken toe, but you just wrap tape around that.)

The upshot is we survived and I think we were better for having summers to fill with our own schemes and plans. We worked hard when we had to and played harder when we didn’t. It was wonderful and it gave me such rich material for my writing.

What’s one of your best summer memories?