Posts tagged spring

Hard Times in Blackberry Winter

07500012In the Southern Appalachians , we almost always have a cold spell in mid-May. We have all sorts of what we call “winters” after the real winter has passed. The two that are most talked about are “dogwood Winter” in April, when the dogwood trees are in bloom and “Blackberry Winter” in Mid to late May when blackberries are blooming.

My hard times have very little to do with the cold spell right now. My father, who is 87 is having serious health problems and I am his primary health care. I am not well my self, with back and hip issues, scoliosis and the remains of what Cushings Disease did to me when my body and soul could not bear the sudden loss of my 15-year-old son several years ago. I am exhausted. I often come home from my morning trip to dads and just collapse into sleep. The same thing happens after my mid-day visit and picking up my grandchild and son from bus stops. One day last week,I was so deeply asleep that my dad gave up on me and went to bed without supper.

He doesn’t eat much and says he wasn’t hungry or at least more tires than hungry, but I felt like crap. I did go, and he was still awake , but in bed. I won’t go into the issues that I have to go through to help him, but they are not peasant for either of us In the morning, I have to rush over after bus stop time just to help him out of bed.

He has spent most of his life dealing with the pain of a misdiagnosed “inverted appendix rupture’ when I was a kid, almost dying a year later when benign tumors had invaded his intestines and attached to his back area. I guess he is proof that pain won’t kill you because he has not slowed down until the past few years after the death of my mom.

I believe I have written his life story in an article called “In Praise of Fathers” or something similar, so I won’t repeat it, please look it up if you’d like, it was written may 2 years ago around Fathers Day.

I have managed to work in my flowers a little. I have had to give up my big garden because of my own health. Until my father’s health worsened a few weeks ago, I was spending the tie I wasn’t on my feet in bed because my back and hip pain aren’t as bad then.

The reason I am writing this blog is to beg the patience of my loyal readers, read some of my old articles, there are a lot that I think are worth a re-read, and think of me and my dad as I try to get him to a place of better health.

Meanwhile, I will watch (while laughing) as the turkeys fight for dominance over our neighborhood, look out for bears, listen to stories about the bob cats neighbors and even my son have seen and try to get some rest. Best wishes to all my wordpress friends. I will be writing as often as I can.

 

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The Ephermals of an Appalachian Forest in Spring

As a teen, I often wandered in the forest and grassland of my grandparents pasture. The sight of the ephemeral flowers of spring always brought me great joy. It seems one dy, in late February, I would notice a tiny Spring beauty growing below the deciduous tress deep in the woods. Then there wold be another and another. I would round a curve on an old logging road and discover a bank filled with Bloodroot. I felt as though I had found a treasure, as all ephemeral rise up, bloom and disappear within a few weeks, before the leaves are much more that a pale green bud.

There are “arguments” among locals as to which wild flowers of early spring really qualify as ephemeral-meaning flowers that appear, bloom, fertilized each other (sometimes themselves) and disappear within a very short time. I never really cared. I knew which ones fit that category in “My woods” and that was all that mattered. After the first flowers had begun to disappear, others wold take their place. There were Clinton Lily’s. Pink Orchids, common violets, Pipsisewa, May Aapple and many more as spring progressed towards May. Between mid-April and mid-May, the forest was covered with these small shy flowers. I found them to be fascia ting, often getting down on my knees to explore each leaf and bud.

I always enjoyed the sounds of busy squirrels and chipmunks, I loved the way that the sound of the creek became louder as I got closer to a small pond that someone had long ago built for cattle drink from. Occasionally, sight of a foot-long ground snake, would surprise me. We would stare at each other, her head held high,and then she would slowly crawl off into the brown leaves still littering the ground. It was always exciting to pick up a stone and find a resting lizard, remaining still underneath. I often had to put the rock back down right beside the creature for fear of crushing it.

I was raised in the woods. My mother, aunt and grandmother would go on walks with me. We knew where natural springs flowed from depths of the earth, with water as fresh as a spring shower. We would lift rocks with a hoe from the creek where the cattle drank and catch crawfish (who, of course shoot backward when disturbed and were easy to catch.) DON”T argue, crawfish is what we called them! Salamanders would hide in the s shallower areas near the edge or the water plants swishing near the edge of the creeks.

By mid June, blackberries were starting to ripen, and the chiggers that lived on and around them were waiting for a dog, person, any creature that spelled “food” to walk by. When I was 12 years old, my parents made me go pick blackberries and I got 103 chiggers bites. I swore that I would never go again, and I didn’t, until I was a young adult and had to decide on my own whether the seedy berries were worth the briars and chiggers.

The fields are gone now, either grown up or a mansion has sprung  up in the middle of a big “lot”. It should have never happened. It breaks my heart that only my mom cared enough to want to save it and she was out-voted.

Times have changed over the decades. The big houses have chased the bears, wild turkeys, coyotes, even bobcats down into the valleys. There, they have found easy meals from scraps and trash cans. My grand kids will never see the world I knew. I take them to the Botanical Gardens at the University or the Bird Sanctuary at the man-made lake.

There, they can see mallards and red-headed ducks, turtles resting on logs, frogs jumping into the slim-filled swampy areas, birds of all kinds. That is as good as it gets near my home any more. I have always hoped to one day convince an old farmer that what I could offer him to save his land was worth more to his descendants than the crowds of houses the developer wanted to build, smiling and offering him an exorbitant price to destroy his land. I have about given up hope, it seems the green on money means more to even the old farmers than the lush, lovely green of trees.

Perhaps someone with more money than I have will come along, or some old timer with a mind that loves nature like I do, will donate his land to a nature conservancy. In the meantime, I will go to the edges of the woods , when it has just started to sprinkle rain and the fragrance of soil and plants fills my senses and remember what this place was like before the leaders of surrounding towns turned paradise into pitiful.. The Singing Group called the Eagles wrote a song when I was a teenager that said, “Call a place a paradise, and kiss it goodby.” How sad, how true. But I have my memories. Please take time  listen to the song that plays on this blog.

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Winter’s Last Hoorah!

DSCN1870Snowflakes fall on my gloves and melt as I gently pluck a daffodil from the yard. I want to put the gloves up, coat in the closet. Spring, come soon, we need you!

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The First Flowers of Spring

07500015I listen for the sound of my grandson’s school bus, walking around his yard as I wait. It is late March, with the crazy hot-then cold mountain weather. I’m looking for springs first flowers, not to magical ephemeral Clinton’s Lilies or Blood Root that grew on the mountainsides on my childhood, now ruined by the mansions of the rich, nor the spring beauties that clustered near the old bath tub where cattle once drank.- Just simple wild flowers that give me the hope of spring.

I spy a few spikes of tiny white flowers, remembering how they shoot out their seeds when their life cycle finishes early in the summer. Daffodils grow in odd places where farms flourished early in thee century, tiny bluet sprinkle the places that grass will soon overtake.

How wonderful the dandelions look in March, when we will be fussing at them by June. The last of the crocuses are dying, Muscari, the tiny cousins of hyacinths pop up among the tufts of green. I smile, with hope, as I hear the bus coming. Spring WILL be here soon and there will be a lot of work to do!

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Spring Sun (Haiku)

Bright sun warms the ground

A flower raises its head

Spring comes back once more.

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The Desire to Live

 

The warmth of the sun propelled me towards my garden.

All winter, I had agonized over whether to even have one.

 

But the sun got to me, the 60 degree weather and out I went.

The grapevine needed to be moved-NOW. I didn’t know,

 

The roots were 6 feet long on three sides-what had I done?

I dug a hole for what I thought would hold the vine.

 

I dug up half my flower garden trying to save roots.

I replanted daffodils, some with buds, and stomped other plants.

 

They were trying desperately to peek above ground,

after a cold winter with a big snow only a week ago.

 

Spring does crazy things to me, It makes me think I am young.

I am strong-the girl in blue jeans and peasant shirts.

 

Then, a few hours later, I am struggling to make it to the house.

By July, all hope is gone, it seems. September brings a valiant cleanup.

 

Spring and gardens do something to me that I desperately need.

Somehow, we both have an unquenchable desire to live.

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The Voice of Spring

The Voice of Spring

The winds of winter still catch us in early morning, or perhaps as the sun finally sets beyond the horizon. Our hearts ache for the warm breeze to linger, that first bloom to appear. Then one majestic morning, they are waiting at the bus stop and the child notices a bulging amidst the tiny clump of pale green leaves. He pulls at his mothers sleeve and smiles, knowing that inside that bulge was a blossom awaiting just the right warmth in which to open, to declare that spring had indeed come to the mountains! Mother smiled, thinking not of the hope of the peaches’ blossom, but of the sweetness of the fruit which would hang, heavily on that branch come July.

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Under a Rotting Log

It was a simply beautiful spring day.” She thought. She couldn’t help but take in the tiny buds on flowers, mosses, now growing on damp stones, even the azure sky over head seemed especially lovely.

She reached down and gently lifted a rotting log, encased in a curly gray lichen. Just as she picked it up, a shiny creature writhed towards the from underneath the log

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It’s just a blue-tailed skink, laughed her brother, a lizard!

She felt a little foolish, still, after all the excitement, she was sure the memory of this spring adventure would remain with her always.

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Rainbows and Susets-a Season’s Jester

Rainbows and Susets-a Season's Jester

Certainly, spring had arrived in the mountains, the trees are filled with blossoms, pale green leaves, a sprinkling of leprechaun green leaves that seemed determined to be first. Yet, the most striking sign of spring seems to be the sunset, orange, upon a tapestry of blue and gray. A rainbow, accentuating the palette of springs colors, with orange again, taking the lead. Looking out over the mountains, one can almost feel the warmth outside, after all, it is May. Yet looks can be deceiving. Just as orange reminds us of autumn’s chill, green reminds us of spring’s warmth. Yet today, it is 51 degrees outside. A sunset, a rainbow, a photograph, all can be jesters in natures bounty of life.

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Message from the Past

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Twenty years must have passed since Miriam had walked up that rail to the old Mill. It had been her “Thinking Place” as a teenager, a place where she could go and ponder over things that only the very young or very old have time to contemplate. It was an early April day after a brutally cold winter in the Southern Appalachians. Many of the mountain roads had been impassable for months, so the access road that wound around the mountain had been closed most of the winter.

The thought came to Miriam that it wasn’t really safe to ramble alone in this area, largely abandoned since the turn of the century. She had heard that black bears had been driven to the area by the influx of wealthy retirees from Florida and new England. But memories of the old grist mill, the rusting wheel, still upright within it’s stone walls, the heavy mill stone, encircled with metal, kept her moving.

She had not doubt that they would still be there, but wondered about their condition. How many people were still alive who even remembered the mill? How many of them would bother to go there? She sat on a lichen encrusted stone and closed her eyes to rest. Thoughts of her grandfather telling her about the mill filled her mind. Even in his days, it had been a relic. His grandfather had taken grain there not long after the Civil War. She heard her grandfather’s voice correct her.“War between the States.” he had said. “No use in talkin’ like them Yankees.”

She crossed rivulets of water that cascaded down the creases in the forest floor as they made their way to the larger stream where the mill had operated. Wagon tracks were still visible where animals had walked and horses had strode from the stable that now sat about a mile below the old mill. The early spring flowers huddled under oak trees and thrust their heads up to catch the brief rays of sun that shadowed the forest floor before the leaves began to shade it again.

At last, she heard the rushing of the stream as it spilled over stones lining the river by the old mill. She picked up her step as she came close to the mill wheel. The moss-covered rocks that surrounded the old wheel had always fascinated her, and the vibrant sounds of rushing water made her heart fill with memories of her grandfather’s tales and her prized “Thinkin Place.”

Carefully, she dodged the briars that had gown up around the area where the mill house once stood. She tried to imagine the men lined up along the road, smoking homegrown tobacco in hand carved pipes. She could hear their horses whinny and stomp as they waited impatiently in front of the wagons of corn and grain. Miriam turned as she heard a rustle up the pat, but it was only a squirrel shuffling winter’s collection of leaves. She placed her hands gently on the remains of the wall around the mill wheel and turned, with her legs facing the ancient wheel.

She noticed that on of the square stones across from her seemed to have worked its self out a bit from the others. Curious, she cautiously worked her way down the slope, holding the wheel for support as she walked. She held onto saplings and pulled herself up to the other side. The moss-covered rocks were cool and damp as she placed her hands against them for support.

Miriam looked around for something to loosen the protruding rock with and found a rusted piece of metal, crooked at one end and a small hole drilled in the other. Just for a second, she found her mind wondering what it had been, but the protruding stone regained her attention. She knelt and worked the metal scrap back into the moss that filled the cracks. With a jolt, the stone moved out a bit more and Miriam excitedly worked the metal scrap in a little further.

With a little work, the rock slid out into her hand. It was heavier than she had imagined, but she carefully laid it down beside her feet. Holding to the top of the wall, she bent down and peered inside the opening where the rock had been. Amidst an indention lined with rotting wood, she saw the shape of what looked like a metal box. She gently worked the rotted wood away from the space it had protected all of these years and lifted out a rusted box, complete with a padlock of equally poor condition.

Carefully, she sat the box on the top of the rock wall. Struggled up the mossy side and held her tiny treasure. “What was in the box,: she thought as she rushed through the empty blackberry vines as they grabbed at her sweater. As she reached the top of the trail, she saw him, breathless, wordless staring at her. Hiding the box beneath her sweater, she whispered a breathless “Hi.” Not knowing what to do, she awaited an answer. None came.

He held out his hand to her and smiled, “Let me help you.” Heart pounding, she held out her free hand and he pulled her to the trail way. “Haven’t seen a brown and white hound dog, have you?” He said. With relief, she shook her head. “Sorry, I sure haven’t.” “Went huntin last night and my best dog didn’t come back to the road this mornin.” he said. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“That’s ok.” she sighed as she regained her composure. “I’m Aaron,.” the young man said. Live down on the horse farm in the cove. Still guarding her treasure box, she looked at him and smiled. “Miriam” she told him. “Just thinking about my younger days, visiting places my grandpa told me about.” “Come by the farm sometime.” He shouted, as he walked on down the path, we’ll go on a horse ride together sometime.”
“I’ll do that, she said, waving as she went back up the mountain. For a moment, her fear had made her forget the treasure box. She made her way on up the hill, anxious to get back to her truck.

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