Saturday, December 31, 2016
Snowy is sleeping on an oval braided rug on the hardwood floor. I can hear the cattle lowing in the valley by the stream, silhouetted by the dark foothills of Pisgah. Rain is pelting melodically on the tin roof over the porch of the cabin.
It's not the first time I've filled a floorboard up with books to read on a trip. But it is the first time everything has come together to complete this nirvana.
The smell of toast and Neece’s Country Sausage wafts from the kitchen threatening to wake up my gently snoring hubby. As the 3 Bear's would say "Everything is just right!"
I am in love with Mountain Springs Cabin's in Candler, NC. The cabins are located about 15 minutes from downtown Asheville and minutes from Pisgah forest. The cabin we are in is called the "Cricket's Nest." And yes, it is as adorable as it sounds. One of the most private of the cabins offered, it sits on a 3/4 acre lot and is butted up to a stream with mountain views and pastures.
We were greeted by a chalkboard sign near the front door that read "Welcome Renae, Don and fur baby Snowy." Chilly and damp from unloading in the misty rain, I migrated right to the lamps and to the gas log fireplace. I did everything that the manager Kate told me at check in NOT to do in less than five minutes. I flipped switch’s and mashed all the buttons to no avail, the toasty fire eluded me. THEN, I read the instructions. I called the office and confessed my crimes to the Kate who gently scolded me and then sent help to light the pilot.
After the room got toasty I explored the cabin. I jumped on the bed, turned on lamps, opened drawers and started unpacking. The layout of the cabin, it's lighting, furnishing, all of it was very well thought out. Everywhere that I needed something to be, it was. If I took something off, there was a hook to hang it, if I went to put something down, there was a place for it. I deem this good cabin chi.
The living room wasn't spared of timeless antique furnishing and was perfectly cozy with minimal yet serviceable pieces. A bag of popcorn and the movie we ordered were sitting on the antique singer sewing machine TV table.
The kitchen has an old adorable enamel top table with two old cane bottom chairs. Every single utensil is provided and right where my hand would go if I were home to get one.
The bedroom was consumed by an awesome king bed. Quality bedding and lined curtains made for a perfect early morning sleep in. The headstand was full of books to select from and then much to Don's delight a closet opening revealed a small fan. He likes to have the whir of a fan to lull him off. It was actually one of the best nights sleep I can remember away from home. The light from the gas logs glowed from the living room onto the bedroom walls, the room was just far away from the heat to keep the covers pulled up.
The bathroom, shut the front door! A HUGE tiled and benched walk in shower. It was amazing! I have been in high end hotels that didn't have a shower this nice. The cabin was modern where it needed to be and rustic where I wanted it to be.
I eventually pulled myself from the couch, wrapped myself tightly and went exploring on the property with my camera. Snapping pics of an old barn, the yurts (so cool) , streams, cows and chickens on the adjoining property. The air smelled of spruce and hams, possibly smoking next door from plumes of smoke seen across the stream.
Mountain Spring property is laid out like a mini version of it's mountainous community. 50 acres of twisting and hilly paved drives lead to the cabins. The cabins, all with unique names blend beautifully with the flora of the land. The land and later cabin retreat have been passed down to the women in manager Kate King's family since before the Civil War. Kate sold the property in 2010 to RVC Outdoors, but stays on as general manager and part of the awesome team that maintain this beautiful cabin retreat. I walked up to the lodge office and talked with her for a bit, I wished already that we had more time to spend together. I sense a kindred spirit in Kate.
The next day we drove into downtown Asheville and checked out some shops and realized quickly that we just wanted to be back in the cabin. We bought some groceries on the way in and cooked up some crab cakes with a salad for dinner.
As we packed up the next morning and pulled out I told the Cricket’s Nest goodbye and that I hoped to be back soon — I was. Like one hour later. We got down the road, stopped and ate breakfast and I realized while we were eating that I left the Neece’s liver pudding and sausage in the frig. “We’ve got to go back” I told Don. I was scared that the cleaning team would throw it out when they discovered it, so I called Kate.
“Kate, I left my food in the refrigerator, I will be back in about 45 minutes.” I told her.
“No need Renae, we will throw it out.” she replied.
“No! We want it.” I told her.
When we got back to the office to get a key fob. Kate asked if we really came back for liver pudding. I told her that we indeed had. “We can’t find Neece’s anywhere near Charleston.”
She said that she had never tried it and asked what it was like. I told her to think Redneck Pate’. She laughed and we left Mountain Springs once again.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
We actually could be bare footing in the low country this week, but thankfully the weather outside was seasonally delightful! We donned mittens, scarves and boots and cozied up close in the pews of a stoically quiet historic church for an awesome Christmas show! What? You missed it? Don't worry this line up will be back by popular demand soon, I am sure.
STAC House and Awendaw Green's presentation of Christmas with the Barefoot Movement & Finnegan Bell at the St.Thomas & St.Denis church off of Cainhoy road was mesmerizing, once again. How could it not be? A leaf strewn and root traversed church site off the beaten path with history dating three centuries, musicians young and younger oozing with talent, food, wine and spirit's of Christmas past.
I've been to several of the STAC House events and have never been disappointed, but — my hubby sure was! He came down with a terrible cold or bug the day of the show. I tagged along on a surprise date night with my friend and her gracious hubby! I believe he knew immediately he had lost the "date" aspect of the night to the chattering friends the minute that we both climbed into the front seats of the vehicle together to come to the event.
When we pulled off of the dark two lane road onto the pine strewn property I could see the busy elves of Eddie White and his Awendaw Green crew bustling around with Pastor Hamilton Smith of STAC (St.Thomas Anglican Church) performing their last minute preparations. One by one, more vehicles found the narrow drive and gathered together before the show. The crowd mingled, ate grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken bog, sipped wine and warmed themselves near the outdoor heaters until Hamilton Smith rang the cowbell to signal us into the candlelit and strobed sanctuary.
The show started with Finnegan Bell, Charleston's very own. I loved their selections, a particular favorite is Carolina Line, but they had a few interesting compilations, which had us all grinning. One in particular played by Shane Williams and sung my Warren Bazemore was called Mathew's Begats by Andrew Peterson from his Behold The Lamb Of God album. Yes, you guessed it, a full 2 minute chronological lineage to Christ. Their melodic voices and instruments primed the crowd for The Barefoot Movement who wowed us with their "just try to be still in your seat" foot stomping, roof rising, bluegrass version of Christmas favorites.
I watched the reflections in the candle lit church panes and imagined those who sat here over the centuries. At the stroke of a clock sometime later tonight the huge red doors will lock and silence will fall over the quiet church of non-parishioners once again, but — tonight, it is filled with light and love and joy and laughter.
Thanks Finnegan Bell, The Barefoot Movement, Eddie White of Awendaw Green, Hamilton Smith, pastor of St. Thomas Anglican Church and all of the wonderful elves that put up the lights, heat stands, sound systems and food and beverage tents. I am grateful for their creative enthusiasm. East Cooper is very fortunate to have this awesome venue, church outreach and musical trifecta in their community. This nostalgic encore event was magical and I am already looking forward to the next one.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Friday, December 9, 2016
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
That silly little bug made my morning, that is so crazy! Then as I was driving on down the road, it came back, just as real as it had been 50 years earlier. I recalled a memory crypt neatly filed under the heading teacher and bug.
When I was in second grade, I had a teacher named Miss Joy. And, what a joy she was, both to me and my classmates. I remember lot’s of smiles and fun projects; role playing our way through the Dick and Jane book series, counting with found objects, egg shell art (you can’t do this today, because of the threat of salmonella.) Everything was an adventure in her class.
When she announced the Christmas classroom door decorating contest, we were so excited. Our work was praised as we painted and glittered our individual contributions for the entry. Our art went to the door just as it was on our table, a mish mash of of creativity. Miss Joy’s addition was a garish silver tinsel border. We were proud, but then we started looking around at the other door’s down the hall. I remember thinking that ours was definitely NOT going to win. There were some beautiful foil wrapped, bowed and blitzed doors down that hall that looked more like Macy’s window creations rather than those of the classmates.
On the day of the judging we were instructed over the intercom to close our classroom door and stay inside until summoned. Hall judges caroused the corridors, we were quiet as mice. Miss Joy, stood at the door with her ear to it and grinned while holding up her shush finger. It seemed like age’s but finally the principal came over the intercom to announce that the 3 winner’s had been picked. He asked that the students come out to see if their door had a ribbon, congratulate the winners and then come quietly back to their classroom. We walked out to my foretold expectation of a prize-less door while shrieks of glee came from several of the gallery worthy classroom’s. We congratulated and filed back into our class. I remember wondering about Miss Joy, why is she still smiling? And — she’s passing out bags of candy to each of us with a ribbon tied to the bag that says “Winner.”
We were too young to understand her logic even if she had tried to explain it, and she didn’t. But now I do understand her. We really were winners, and not in the sense that “Everyone’s a winner.” We did what was instructed. Our teacher supplied materials and we each individually created the door. And — we had fun!!
Life moves forward and winter turned to spring. I don’t recall anything about Miss Joy until the last day I saw her. We started each school morning by lining up single file on the cool concrete wall until the teacher arrived to open the door at the ring of the bell. One morning as we walked into our classroom Miss Joy found a huge dead palmetto bug on the floor. She was an expressive teacher and I remember that she was sad. She reached into her pocket book and brought out a box of matches. She dumped the matches out and scooped the dead bug up with a piece of paper, put it into the matchbox and closed it.
At the recess bell she asked us to stay with her for a moment as we exited the double doors into the playground. She reached into her pocket and brought out the matchbox. We followed her over to the edge of the playground near the fence. She knelt and dug a hole in the sandy dirt and placed the roach coffin into the dirt and covered it. Then we were excused to go play. I remember stares from other teachers as we left the fence.
The following morning as we filed up to our classroom door, another teacher opened the door for us and the next day, and the next. The class by now wants to know where Miss Joy is. The principal came in one morning and leaned back onto the desk and called us to attention. “I know that you are wondering where your teacher is. Miss Joy has become ill and won’t be returning.”
Days later one of the girls in the class told me at recess that her mama told her that Miss Joy was excused from her job because she had a mental breakdown. I didn’t have any idea what the word mental meant at this time, I did know breakdown could be anything from the furnace to the car. So, I was in limbo, with most of the rest of the class I am sure.
Later I learned what a mental breakdown was. But I have to say that IF, she was indeed “insane”, she was by far more sane than what I had encountered so far at that age in the “normal” world.
When I came home, sure enough the bug was gone. I don’t want to know if a raven swooped down for breakfast, an irony not impossible after it’s 3 day suffering while looking up at the world, but I am satisfied that he was upright and alive when I left him.
Now I was too young at the time to know if there were other signs that suggested true mental illness, but I do wonder if this dear teacher was classified as mental because she didn’t fit protocol.
Friedrich Nietzsche: And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Monday, October 17, 2016
About 15 years ago I walked into an art gallery in the quaint town of Germanton, NC. As the heavy door closed behind me so did the bright October light outside. When my eyes adjusted to the soft light and beauty, I felt I’d slid down an exceptionally nice rabbit hole.
Bottles of wine laden with award winning medals beckoned me to their counter but it was only 10 o’clock so I sashayed through the aisles of local and world renowned art while listening to beautiful Celtic & Indian music.
David Simpson peeked out of the back with a Cheshire cat grin and welcomed me to his Wonderland. It was the first of many visits to Germanton Art Gallery. I would pop in periodically over the years to check out the latest art, buy a bottle of wine, or just talk. We have similar interest - his Lumbee Indian heritage, my Cherokee and — a mutual love of history.
David and Judy Simpson own Germanton Art Gallery, established in 1981. They are lovers and creators of art, gentle activists of the land who advocate preserving the earth’s resources and — they grow some mighty fine grapes.
We moved back to Charleston 6 years ago, but I still keep up with David via Facebook and visit when we are in the area. I love to share his jewel in the hills and took a friend with me on a return trip 2 years ago. David was piddling around and getting ready for an art show, possibly their annual Plein Air exhibit.
Per usual as we browsed David filled me in on the dispositions of various artists’.
While doing so his eyes lit up and he said, “You need to come look at this!” He led us to his frame shop in the back and stopped. “It’s a Lakota/Sioux medicine man’s war bonnet.” he told me pointing to a full Indian headdress cascading off of a frame. He smiled when he saw my mouth drop. I was totally awestruck. Buffalo skull cap, eagle feathers affixed to a French fur trader blanket, U.S. Calvary buttons sewn onto the blanket and tied to right horn, intricate bead work across the front band and lastly, Porcupine quills spaced between the two horns which means it was worn in battle.
“Where in the world did you get this?” I asked him.
“I frequently displayed paintings of my friend and painter Gordon Phillips. Gordon was a painter of all things American west and later in life - depictions of Civil War life. Gordon actually lived with the Sioux Indians on their reservation in South Dakota for a time, he painted tribal members and depictions of the Sioux lifestyle during that period. Because of rising crime on the reservations elders were hiding and selling many artifacts to keep them out of the hands of thieves. This headdress was a trade during this time of his life with the Sioux. Gordon had quite a historical collection at his home. Gordon noticed how fond I was of the headdress when I was visiting him once and told me that if I sold a significant piece of his work that he would give it to me. I didn’t think anything more of it. Well, apparently a piece that I’d shown a friend sold a bit later.
Not too long after Gordon died, my shop door opened and his son walked in with a box. He placed the box on the counter and said “My dad said this is yours.”
It was this headdress. Judy and I kept it at the house for a while but discussed returning it to the Sioux nation. We have taken road trips every year and decided this year the headdress was going to return to it’s native home.
I contacted Aileen Maxwell at NAMU Smithsonian to help up research the headdress’s origin. They in turn passed the information on to Emil Her Many Horses who is the Senior curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.
We can’t thank Emil enough for the research and helping us to find out where the headdress came from. Emil Her Many Horses called one day to tell me that they identified the headdress as belonging to the Sioux nation and then helped us arrange contact with the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge South Dakota.
We enjoyed our annual road trip out west with the headdress in the vehicle. It felt so good to hand over this important piece of history to Mary Maxon. It will be restored at the Heritage Center and remain there for exhibit.”
David sent me an update to the story, the forensic analysis of the headdress! It is determined to be about 150 years old. Check out the link below.
David & Judy Simpson, thank you! I hope your story becomes part of it’s history. You’ve made the world a better place for me and I hope that the Heritage Center will consider the trail from NC back to South Dakota as part of it’s history.
As Hurricane Matthew whips up the coast tonight, I finished this essay. I tapped it out slowly throughout the day, savoring gratitude —both mine and possibly of spirits long since gone. It’s kind of staggering to think of the twists and turns in life forged years ahead that allowed me to be in the art gallery at this exact time to participate in this historical event.
I look forward to seeing David and visiting the gallery once again. I hope to take him a signed copy of Charleston’s own Josephine Humphrey’s, “Nowhere Else on Earth.” He will love this story and it’s reference and history to his own native Lumbee heritage.
Preservation of heritage isn’t separatism, it is survival — unique to each culture. .
Monday, July 18, 2016
When we baby-boomer’s woke up to that first day of summer vacation, we had two options. Either go outside to play or just go outside. “If you don’t find something to do out there, I’ll find something for you to do in here.” the phrase was a resounding echo down both sides of the street. Short of a family trip or a week of summer camp, there were no reprieves, 8 long hot weeks of home living.
I was a yard girl though, you didn’t have to tell me to go out twice. Or to go to bed for that matter. My mattress was a magic carpet, top bunk suspended Zen. I’d conjure up new adventures while lying as close to the screened window as I could on those sultry nights. A trickle of breeze would be both the universe’s confirmation of tomorrow’s plan and permission to close my eyes.
My toes started turning to the front door the moment daylight crept into the window. I submissively performed whatever chore or ate any horrific gruel set before me just to get outside quicker. I would peer out of the window every few minutes, the sight of one child in the street was the promise of ten in the next half hour.
We all looked the same, dusty feet, play clothes, scraped knees and bare feet. Sidewalks and yards were littered with colorful flip lops, names scrawled across the bottom.
Yesterday’s hopscotch grid was still etched out on the sidewalk, one smooth pebble in a square, hastily left when the call for lunch or dinner rang out.
Our snacks didn’t have little straws that poked into them or paper that peeled back to reveal velvety cheese and pretzels or pepperoni. Nope, we had wild plums, blackberries, green apples (belly ache), peaches and wild muscadine grapes. If nothing else was available we would suck Honeysuckle and chew sour grass (sheep’s sorrel.)
Dinner time was predictable for most of us. It seemed every mother on the street had the same recipe book. There was spaghetti night, casserole this or that night, fish night and then clean out the frig night. Anything that could be squashed into a concoction was baked in the newfangled Bundt pan. Dessert was fruit cocktail sunk to the bottom of a bowl of jiggling Jello.
Then there was that dinner. The one that kept us from clamoring “What’s for dinner?” all
livelong day — meatloaf Tuesday. An icky ketchup, bread and hamburger menagerie that
to this day has to be described with the apology “Not your mother’s meatloaf.”
Our morning’s started with the parading of Huffy bikes and scooters. Some of the rebel’s would hop a curve onto the pavement with a watchful eye out for “the parents.”
The girls sat on steps quietly until other’s joined them, or sat cross legged in the grass (if they could, I couldn’t) for hours while talking, braiding each other’s hair, weaving flower chain necklaces from clover or folding chewing gum wrappers into bracelets.
On adventurous days we’d explore or start secret password clubs. One way for the older kids to rid themselves of the younger.
One of my favorites activities were the scavenger hunts. One of the kids had a Red Ryder wagon which we filled with dirt and traipsed through the woods on a mushroom hunt, quite possibly creating the first variegated succulent planting. The same wagon was used to scour the roadside and ditches for discarded glass soda bottles, at 3 to 5 cents a pieces they were worth their weight in candy cigarettes and fireballs.
We spent the day doing things that would have parents locked up for child neglect today. Mostly un-supervised and half-naked we were tree climbing, throwing lawn darts, crawling through ditches for craw-daddies, rolling down hills inside cable wheels, swinging on willow branches, riding pines and drinking water from old brass house faucets. And yes, gasp — I do remember hiding in a rusty old refrigerator while playing hide and seek.
We’d wander off in all directions during the day but always seemed to coral back together at some point. Things that brought us running were bike wrecks, someone getting a “whoopin” or a parent hollering “Watermelon” with no more fuss than laying it out on a picnic table and whacking it into chunks on newspaper. I hate watermelon but I love how it made everyone happy.
Animals were a big part of our outdoor experience. No one spayed and neutered cats or dogs back then (not a good thing) and ALL pets were outside pets. Even as kids we knew this wasn’t humane. But we, the kids were their saviors as much as we could be. Our eyes and ears were tuned to the swollen bellies and quiet mews of kittens and puppies. We’d find them quickly, in barns and shed rafters or under houses. Turtles were the boy’s favorites, they’d sneak them into the house inside their pants or under a dirty shirt.
We had team sports, no uniforms required. Badminton, dodge ball (with a deflated ball) because the only kid that had a bike pump was spending the summer with his grandma, four square, softball (without gloves) and old tires for bases, leap frog, king of the mountain.
Small team ground sports were pick up sticks, marbles, checkers, tiddly winks, Chinese jump rope, Twister, cowboys and Indians and the girls played clap clap.
The days whittled by long and slow until late in the evening when the parents would start calling us for dinner. One by one the gang dispersed. No one really wanted to be the last one outside so when the crew was down to 2 or 3 of us, everyone went. Scooters and bikes lay strewn in the yards while dinner was consumed, some trickled back out at dusk to retrieve their stuff at the command of their parents. And then the day was done. Except for the Whippoorwill or the occasional slap of a screen door, the clinking dishes in dim lit kitchen’s were the last sounds we’d hear. Fireflies became nightlights as the curtains drew on another summer day.
It wasn’t always pretty on those side walked streets, but I choose to remember the good. Mostly it was the stuff inside the house that scared us. The daddy that drank too much, the mama that was too fond of the belt, the hungry ones, the d-i-v-o-r-c-e, the sister that went to live with aunty for 9 months. It was all real in the yard, nothing was sugar coated except for our Kool-Aid stained bellies. But — when we were together outside, this mish mash of kids of all ethnicity, we took care of each other.
I’ve thought of our ragtime crew often;
Cricket who heard that if we put lemon juice in our hair and brushed it in the sun for an hour it would turn blonde. Now that I think back on it, I realize it was a blonde joke.
Debbie, whose dad was the sheriff and whose mother provided the best summer snacks.
Andrew, a wayward young fella who stole peaches from a neighbors freezer and gave them to us all. I still feel guilty about that, but they were the best damn peaches I ever ate.
We weren’t normal, we weren’t abnormal, none of us. We were children, which may possibly be the last remaining word to describe a collective group of people that is unarguably appropriate and politically correct. We appreciated the differences we all had. Not everyone’s mom had a red Kool -Aid pitcher.
I was transported back to those summer days while on the streets of Charleston a few weeks ago. A friend and I walked out of Fast & French after lunch and were saying our good-byes when we saw a little boy in full Batman regalia, cap, mask the whole shebang lying face down on a street gutter. Was he looking for the joker? Catwoman? It made me want to shout “Holy hideout Batman!”
I thought back on that little boy later, about my summer’s too. His suit transformed him, but his mind transported him. I believe with all my heart that imagination was by far the best toy I ever had.