Niece Julie is not odd, but I had three things to write about, thus the title. Julie came for five days to enjoy mountain living. She was working on weekdays, sitting at the desk that looks up the mountain we live on. John was at the train club, so it was special for me that we could chat when she took breaks from work. We posed for a quick selfie before going to church.
Neighbor Bob made a frame for the painting he and Shawn had given us, and he and his grandson Sufi brought it over. Can you see Sufi under the red balloon?
I must take a good picture of the painting when we hang it on the wall. We love the frame. The color goes beautifully with the painting, and I like the way Bob used the grain of the wood to enhance the art.
Marla decorated the sign that is on their property, as she does every year. She accepted my dare of posing with it, along with dog Albert. The picture is not the sharpest, but it is fitting. Marla reminds us every so often that morning is not the best time of day for her. I’m sure she is better in the morning than I am at night. We are not planning a contest.
I checked the time as I approached the bus stop on foot, and neighbor Logan should have been there. Having flubbed in not waking the family a couple of days ago, I tried to call. It is a notorious dead spot for my phone, and sure enough, I was not connected to the cell tower. A message on the screen said “emergency calls only”. As Marla came out of her house, I asked if she would be able to contact them. She thought a text from my phone might go through, but it wouldn’t. She dug out her phone and texted. I didn’t see their car go by, but maybe I missed them.
I was amused at myself that I expected a miracle from modern technology. It’s good only if you are able to connect to the outside world.
Something large flapped in the oak tree behind John’s head as we ate breakfast on the porch yesterday. We’d never seen any bird that large in our tree and thought it could be an owl, an eagle, or a hawk. It was hard to see its features because the sun was behind it. Three times it moved to a different branch until finally I saw the head and knew it was a hawk. When it stretched, I saw the feathers that looked like pantaloons around the legs. The pattern of dark feathers across its breast was distinctive, and I knew I was looking at a red tailed hawk. My photo, zoomed and taken through a screen, was not good at all, but I was proud of it.
There is a really good photo of the hawk in a similar pose in the Cornell Lab Merlin bird app for smart phones – http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/download/. The app is free. It takes a lot of space, though, because the information is saved on the phone. You can use it where there is no cell connection. The lab is working on a computer version.
This morning John might have persuaded me to skip the walk because of weather, if he had not gone to the train club. I heard his NY radio station drifting about the house at 5 am and the rattle of ice at 5:45. The sleeping was good again until my alarm went off at 7. The weather radar map showed the rain had moved away, only it hadn’t. I was halfway to Connie’s house when it began to sprinkle. There was no guarantee the rain would stop, so I dragged my damp self home. Inside, the clock whispered that Logan might have missed the bus. If I had known for sure there was not a school holiday, I would have called.
We were aware Carl Sandburg’s home was nearby, but we also knew the house had been closed for preservation work. Seeing that it had been reopened, we drove to Flat Rock and saw it. Our visit was a bit premature, since the furnishings were back in the house but not totally unpacked.
I have one photo taken on the steep walk up to the house and another with John standing at the steps.
The family moved to North Carolina from Michigan in 1945, and he died there in 1967 at age 89. I knew Sandburg was known for his popular biography of Lincoln, his poetry, and other writings, but I had forgotten he enjoyed singing folk songs at his lectures. Unless you are an expert on some historic figure, you always learn interesting things when visiting his home. The docent commented that the family paid little attention to furnishings. The furniture was utilitarian and totally unremarkable.
I was surprised that Sandburg always brought his wife forward in public, praising her work with goats. This was at a time that most men relished having the limelight for themselves. Her herd was well-known in goat circles. It seems goats had a habit of escaping, and somewhere there is a picture of a goat on the piano in the living room. We walked out to the goat barn and saw some of the goats descended from her herd.
A visitor offered to take our picture near the barn area, and I made John pose with the barn in the background.
The outing was a very pleasant one, and we would be happy to go again with people who visit us. It would be better to wait a bit until the restoration is complete.
Four of us neighbors got together to relax and enjoy each other’s company in the evening. Marla had put in a full day of work, and Shawn was tired from a day of hands-on mothering and house-wifering. Connie and I slumped back in our seats, ready for easy, laid-back conversation.
The subjects ranged far afield until we began to talk about our passions. Marla loves being a mechanic for high-end bikes. Repairs that she once would have sent to the manufacturer, she now does in the shop. Connie enjoys creating things that involve sewing, quilting, and handcrafts. She didn’t speak of it that night, but we all benefited from her Pickle Passion last year. As soon as you go near Shawn’s home, you know there is an artist in residence. She is a potter, a painter, and a crafter. I am in awe of these practical talents. I would rather write than sleep, probably making me more sleep-deprived than productive. They kindly pointed out that I put words together to make things. Writers are always in need of supportive friends.
I have no idea how we jumped from appreciating each other’s talents to laughing about our fictional geriatric pirate. Many ideas came from Connie’s corner. Her pirate always paused to change his Depends. Marla was our active model – leaping up to demonstrate how the pirate’s ship would move or how he would make a rescue with a walker. Shawn was drawing the book cover in her head and contributing hilarious dialogue. There was little left for me to do except laugh, which I did with gusto. At the end of the day, our spirits were high, higher than they had been for weeks. No one shot down the idea of our group gathering again to continue the non-writing of our novel. We learned anew that laughter with friends puts air in your lungs and lift in your bones.
Fun with old ears has started another chapter. Younger generations know I don’t hear well, particularly in a social setting where there is background noise. Grandsons David and Nathaniel learned to appreciate the mistakes. I told them what I heard and let them tell me what they actually said. Now it is neighbor Logan’s turn.
Yesterday Logan (8) was proud of having packed his own lunch for school. He said he had a peanut butter sandwich, a bag of chips, and a container of Jell-o. While the steam valves were blowing on his overactive body-engine, he jumped the ditch so many times the dessert came tumbling out on the ground. I asked if he had packed his lunch this day. He hadn’t, his dad explained, because he stayed in bed too long and had no time. It started a discussion of school lunches. He described one of his favorite dishes, and I heard him mumble, “Choc-lit salad.”
“I heard you say chocolate salad, but surely that’s not right,” I said. I was aware that some Mexican recipes call for cocoa in savory dishes, but not in an American school lunch! I was closer than I thought.
His correction was, “TACO salad!”
If the bus hadn’t come, I would have described the fruit salad that Danish friend Kai wrote about. One of his favorites includes such things as cutup grapes, bananas, oranges, pears, and apples. Mix the fruit with sweetened whipped cream and then cut up small (not TOO small) pieces of dark chocolate to stir in. I would gladly misread the recipe and add ten times the proper amount of chocolate. Anyone want to join me?
October is my favorite month of the year, so it is appropriate that several pleasant things happened. We are always amused at neighbor Logan (8). As we walked toward his bus stop, he came running to us. In an instant, he bent down with his hands behind his knees and was making funny sounds. Something about his attitude made me wonder if he had been told not to do it. Still, it was very funny, and I asked him to repeat it for a video. His focus shifted to something down the road, so all I caught was the side of his head and a halfhearted squeezing of one knee. That may have kept us both from getting into trouble.
Our church had a special dinner honoring our pastor’s 35th anniversary of his ordination. We were told it was going to be special. What a surprise to find the gym transformed into an event tent by a tank parachute! Twenty-two of us were asked to bring a home-baked cake for dessert. I thought the instructions were brilliant. We were asked to cut our cakes into at least 10 pieces before bringing them in. The organizers knew there would be enough to go around, and all they had to do was put the cakes on a table for people to help themselves.
John knows I love day trips in the mountains, so we visited Weaverville north of Asheville. What a charming town! We went in a little shop that advertised antiques and food, a pairing that grandson Nathaniel would love. The proprietor handed round little cups of peach tea to six customers. I said we should have a toast, and a man near me raised his cup and said, “Here’s to a lovely afternoon for everyone!”
We looked in several restaurants as we walked up and down the main street, and we went in a shop that displayed pottery in the front and had potters working in the back. We knew we had hit the right spot for lunch at the Well Bred Bakery. Lovely sandwiches and pieces of quiche were displayed in large cases at the back, while the front cases had the most delectable desserts tempting us. We each had a piece of bacon-cheddar quiche and ate it slowly. Feeling satisfied, we chose desserts to take home. John took one of his favorites, carrot cake. I opted for a chocolate fudge cake to make up for not having the devil’s food cake I took to the church dinner. We ate cake instead of a meal in the evening and felt almost virtuous.