Facing Fears . . . By Accident

Thistle in the creek

Thistle only likes KNEE deep water.

Over the weekend Thistle and I headed out for our usual hike. It was a rainy Saturday, but dogs don’t much care about a little wet and neither do I (so long as it’s just a little!). There was only one other car in the parking area and it belonged to a family with two dogs. They didn’t know the trails and I did, so we headed out together for an impromptu hiking party.

Poking around in the woods with kids and dogs is always entertaining. They see things adults miss and they’re much more willing to stop and investigate. Which made hiking a trail I’d been on over and over again a whole new experience.

At one point we stopped to check out a spot where the creek runs down a sort of rock slide. The older of the two girls threw sticks in the water for Reba—one of the dogs. Which meant Reba was faced with a quandary. She really wanted that stick, but she’s not a fan of water. She’d wade in ankle deep and stretch her neck to reach the stick, snatching it and running back to land.

Most of us had moved on down the trail when the eldest daughter came running to join us with Reba by her side. “Reba faced her fears!” the girl crowed. “She went all the way in the water!” Then the girl added, “Well, by accident.”

Reba’s desire to retrieve that stick won out over her desire to avoid the water. And she went swimming.

Which got me thinking that “by accident” is a pretty great way to face our fears. Sure, it’s wonderful when we can set our minds to something, persist, and overcome. But what about the time I meant to avoid driving over the Cooper River Bridge into Charleston, SC, took a wrong turn, and found myself ON the bridge? I had no choice but to face that fear and I was all the better for it.

Maybe the trick is to find the desire that’s stronger than the fear. For Reba it was a stick. For me it was she-crab soup. And when we focus on that desire–that longing–to the exclusion of whatever scares us maybe then we can overcome our fears.

Even if it seems to happen by accident.

Appalachian Thursday – Turkeys, a dog, and poetry month

April is National Poetry Month. You probably knew that 😉 I think MOST of my poems fall into the Appalachian category in some form or fashion. Here’s one inspired by a walk in the woods with a dog and some turkeys . . . Sure do miss my Sammy . . .

Sammy

HOLDING BACK

He’s an old dog.
So, when he spies the turkeys
he tries to run like a nightmare
of running with leaden feet
and his goal fast receding.

I hold him, make him sit
and watch the turkeys fade
into the forest with a rustle of leaves
and soft calls of indignation.
I rub his head, massage aching hips,
scratch his panting, heaving side.
But his bright eyes are on the trees
and he would gladly give chase
if only I would let him.

I call him to my side
and head home.
He limps beside me
because it’s what I ask.
But he does not choose,
would never choose,
this holding back.

Close the Laptop and Enjoy Some Family Time

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 our lunch, we went to Wild Thyme Gourmet Restaurant in Highlands followed by a trip to Kilwin’s, because fudge and ice cream are delicious no matter how cold it is outside!

Some days you just need to put the laptop down, put the “out of office” sign on the door, and enjoy some family time!

 

Appalachian Thursday – Early Spring Blooms

Autumn used to be my favorite season, but as I get older I’m enjoying spring more and more. Maybe it’s the relief from the cold. Maybe it’s more hours of sunlight. Or maybe it’s the wildflowers!

As kids we’d keep an eye on the daffodils growing above the house so we could pick them for Aunt Bess or Grandma. Although I suppose they were tame once, they’d gone wild over the years and were my first sure sign of spring. Now, though, I’ve come to realize that the woods are full of flowers as early as March with a steady progression carrying us through to late fall.

I don’t often pick woodland wildflowers, but I do “catch” them with my camera and if you follow my author Facebook page you likely know I post those pictures most Wednesdays.  And, of course, I’m especially partial to the beauties that are native to my beloved Appalachian mountains. So if you aren’t blessed to live where you can go on daily wildflower hikes, here’s a selection to satisfy your spring-in-the-mountains cravings.

Appalachian Thursday – Autumn Treasure

I didn’t think we were going to have fall this year. The weather stayed summer so long. I figured we’d get a few mild days and then winter would pounce. And as for the autumn color? The prediction was that we would go from green to brown to gone.

Which just demonstrates how bad our ability to predict what nature will do really is. While autumn has lasted maybe two weeks instead of four to six, it has been SPECTAULAR. I was fortunate to spend some time at home in WV just as peak color was hitting. Which meant I got back to NC just in time to enjoy it here.

I love fall. The tobacco, caramel smell of the woods. The russets and golds of the trees. The incredible blue of the sky. Crisp, sunshiny days. Ahhhh. This year all of that seems to have been condensed and intensified. Here’s a sampling for you:

 

Appalachian Thursday – Shin Rippers

shinIf you follow my blog and/or my Facebook page you know that I spend time tromping around in the woods almost every day. In theory, I’m taking Thistle for a walk, but I also just love being in the woods.

Which is not to say they’re a perfectly safe place to be. It isn’t the bears, the snakes, or other critters that give me trouble. It’s more the flora than the fauna tripping me up. Turns out there are plenty of plants that will challenge you if you go off trail in this part of the country.

Last week I headed up the mountain behind our house. There are some critter trails back there that we’ve trimmed back enough to allow human passage. Mostly. I hike these trails mostly in the winter when the leaves are down and the undergrowth is minimal.

I jumped the gun going up there in October. While the poison ivy had largely died back, the shin rippers were plentiful. What’s a shin ripper? It’s a briar or other prickly, vine-like plant growing low across the trail. You’re tromping along, you catch one of those briars, and it rips across your ankle or shin. I ran into several. As you can see. And I had long pants on!

Other prickly Appalachian flora challenges include:

  • Hollies – these are basically just prickly, although if you step on a leaf barefoot, it can be pretty awful.
  • Stinging nettle – what looks like tiny hairs on the leaves and stem are actually needle-like tubes that inject chemicals onto and even into your skin. It will burn, itch, and maybe even cause a rash. The best thing you can do is NOT touch it. If you do, DON’T RUB IT!
  • Chestnut burrs – these will be from the Chinese chestnut rather than the American chestnut that died in blight decades ago. Again, BAD to step on barefoot. Also, tricky to open the burrs with your hands without getting stuck. We pried them open with our well-shod feet.
  • Wild parsnip – what looks like a friendly yellow flower has a photosensitive chemical on its leaves. Think chemical burn.

Still, I say it’s worth the risk to get out into the woods where I can enjoy the beauty of even prickly things.

Appalachian Thursday – Fleeting Summer

I’ve loved Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay since I first saw The Outsiders movie. I think that’s the hardest I’ve ever cried at a movie. The poem is so gorgeously bittersweet. To me, it’s always spoken of that moment in autumn when nature is at it’s most perfect. You just want to seize the instant and somehow preserve it. Well, Robert Frost did and every time I read his words my throat tightens and my eyes mist.

I love autumn in the mountains. The temperatures cool; the lush, summer green of the woods begins to thin; leaves change color; sunset comes earlier; and you wear sweaters even when it’s too warm for them.

And the flowers fade . . .

If you follow my author page on Facebook, you’ve likely seen my Wildflower Wednesday posts. I’m such a wildflower fanatic, I take pictures all summer. But there are fewer flowers as summer wanes. So, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at a summer’s worth of nature’s glory before we step fully into another Appalachian autumn.

NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

-Robert Frost