It’s going to be a spectacular/muted autumn

Living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the fall leaf prediction is heralded with shouts of joy or cries of dismay. Kathy Matthews, an associate professor of biology at Western Carolina University has the dubious honor of predicting fall color for our region each year. She says 2011 should be spectacular due to a dry summer and a mid-August cool spell. This is good news for the tourism industry, counting on lots of leaf peepers staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and buying up regional crafts in September, October and November. Matthews’ predecessor was known in tourism circles for his less than optimistic predictions. Apparently the worst Kathy has predicted is a “muted” fall. I find this admirable. Here’s the upshot. No one knows how pretty the fall leaf color will be. Just like the weather, there are indicators–dry summers, cool autumns, sunny skies, frosts–but ultimately, it’s a guess. And why not err on the side of a good show? I’m an optimist. What’s the worst that can happen? The leaves aren’t quite as vibrantly red or gloriously orange as we’d hoped? There’s still that nip in the air, the smell of dried leaves and an incredibly blue sky that makes everything look good. I like Kathy. I hope she predicts a good show even after a soggy summer followed by a warm fall. God’s creation is lovely–no matter how vibrant the Maples are this year.

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Wooly Worms and Other Omens

I saw my first wooly worm on Wednesday. I was walking Thistle and she wanted to examine it pretty closely, so we stopped to consider it. I can report that he had four black rings on his nose, a brown middle and two black rings on his tail. That’s four weeks of harsh weather to kick off winter starting on December 22. After January 12, we should enjoy a stretch of seven weeks of mild weather taking us through March 1. Those first two weeks of March will be harsh again and then we’ll be in the clear after March 15. So says the first Wooly Worm. In The Memory of Drowning, the main character writes a children’s book titled, Fred the Christmas Caterpillar. I tweaked the wooly worm legend so that each worm predicts the weather over the course of a single day (this explains why there are so many different ones!). Fred’s day is December 25th. Through his struggles with being different he comes to appreciate the wonder of Christmas. I love folk wisdom like predicting the weather based on caterpillars. And I’d like to point out that a light acorn crop this year seems to back-up my wooly worm’s prediction of a relatively mild winter. Here are a few more: When it snows while the leaves are still on the trees in the fall, it’s a sign of a long, hard winter. The number of snows in […]

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A Poem for September

FIREFLY FLY AWAY HOME I didn’t notice when they left, the fireflies that danced all summer in the yard. But on a September night I saw the last one lying in the grass, glowing steady. Unblinking. An accusing eye that would not close. Frozen wide in shock, or wonder, or dying. Then as the dark grew darker and the first of the cold, colder, I saw it was more than unblinking, it was slowly burning out. Like leaving home in a car at night, the local radio station fading, gradually, into static.

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If a tree falls in the forest . . . will you write about it?

My husband and I are fortunate to live in a particularly beautiful part of the Appalachian mountains. It’s pretty common for us to come around a turn or crest a hill and call the other’s attention to a lovely view. Foggy morning mists, distant snowy heights, lush pastures, sunsets, sunrises, old barns framed by cow-dotted fields . . . the list goes on. While those views are just as lovely when I’m alone in the car or on the trail, my enjoyment of them goes up a notch when my husband is with me. The pleasure we take in drawing one another’s attention to whatever has caught the eye amplifies the object. And that’s a big part of why I love to write. I have all these ideas, stories, pictures and thoughts running around inside my head and while I enjoy them, they get so much better when I share them with other people. Hopefully, one day, I’ll have books out there and people will read them and by reading them will share those experiences with me. Ultimately, that’s why I write. To connect. To nudge readers and say, “Hey, would you look at that?” So we can marvel at it together.

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