My older brother and his family came to the mountains from their home on the coast of South Carolina for spring break. Of course, dogwood winter showed up to greet them with a blast of cold air that pretty well froze their thin, southern blood! Nevertheless, we got out to enjoy a hike with some spectacular views. Then, having earned […]
It’s finally March and while we still have redbud, dogwood, and blackberry winters to go (at a minimum), country folks are thinking about plowing the garden. When I was a kid my father and one of the more mature ladies of the church would have pretty much the same “discussion” every spring. She believed strongly in planting by the signs and Dad was determined to convince her it was not only silly, but un-Christian to do so. As far as I know, neither one ever came around to the other’s way of thinking. I suspect it would have spoiled the fun they had rehashing the subject every spring. There are still plenty of folk who plant by the signs in Appalachia. Here’s a quick primer, in case you want to give it a try this year: Plant ABOVE ground crops when the moon is waxing (getting bigger). Things like peas, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, etc. Plant BELOW ground crops when the moon is waning (getting smaller). Things like potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc. That’s the BASIC rule. Now, let’s look at the signs. Each month, the moon passes through each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which can be divided into four elements: Water – Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio Earth – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn Fire – Leo, Ares, Sagittarius Air – Gemini, Aquarius, Libra Water and Earth are FERTILE elements while Fire and Air are BARREN elements. Generally speaking, you want to plant […]
North America has Bigfoot. Nepal has the Abominable Snowman. Ireland their Banshees. Everywhere you go, there are monster stories. Well, West Virginia is not one to be left out. My home state has several mythical monsters of its own. Our uniquely Appalachian monsters include . . . The Mothman – This is the legend that inspired a 2002 movie starring […]
The Appalachian Studies Association held their annual conference in Asheville this past weekend. Can you believe it? An entire association dedicated to the study of Appalachia. While I didn’t have a chance to go to the full conference, I was able to attend the keynote event. It featured Appalachian author Wiley Cash interviewing fellow authors Lee Smith and Ron Rash. […]
I got to spend a few days last week back home at the farm in West Virginia. While trips are usually steeped in family time, I did have a solitary morning to soak in the peace. I thought you might like a little dose of that as well . . . Just me, the morning mist, and a few deer for company.
A friend and I were talking recently about our families–mostly the senior ladies in our Appalachian families–and how they can take a single word and communicate a wide range of meanings. The perfect example is the word, “well.” Depending on the accompanying tone and expression, “well” can express a variety of messages. Here are a few: Well. (Short, clipped, with lips pinched.) An expression of disdain suggesting that you can think that if you like but you’re completely wrong. Weeellll. (Smiling, drawn out, sly sideways look.) I know what you’re getting at you devil, you! Well. (Blank expression, flat tone.) I never would have thought it of you, but there you have it. Well-ell-ell. (Laughing with a jolly expression.) Aren’t you the cutest thing I’ve ever seen? Well. (Downcast eyes, soft voice, a little breathy.) I guess that’s all there is to say about that. I don’t suppose this is exclusive to natives of our mountain region, but it’s surely been perfected here. And it’s one of my frustrations in writing. It’s so hard to share the full range of meanings on the printed page. I often end up editing out a slew of “wells” that really don’t convey what I’m after without the finer nuances of body language. Which is frustrating. But oh well.
I had no idea something as common and everyday as a pocketknife could stir such passion. Last week I posted a link to an essay in Appalachian Magazine titled “The Kind of Men Who Carry Pocketknives.” Man–the clicks that link got! Since I don’t see men whipping out their knives so much these days, I guessed maybe carrying them had […]