Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting my bearings, "Take One"

A common scenario around here- White Rock quadrant topo map laid out in front of wood stove for studying
When you're me, it can be hard to get your bearings. I swear I was born turned around. I'll think I am going this way, and I end up over that way. Directionally speaking. In my family it is one of the biggest jokes for someone to say "Why don't you ask Dana for directions?" When I got my driver's license as a teen ager, the first place I wanted to drive alone was my best friend's house. I had been spending copious amounts of time at her house since first grade. I got the keys, got in the car, turned it on, and drew a blank. I had to go back inside and ask for directions to Kerry's house. They thought I was kidding. I was not. Probably on the standardized tests I did poorly on any problem solving that might have had to do with spacial relationships. It's just plum not my forte.
Nothing could challenge my sense of directions more than making my home in these mountains. The terrain dips and curves and you lose sight of this and find yourself around the bend gazing upon that. The only comfort for a directionally challenged person such as myself is the age old rule of "if you go keep going downhill you will eventually come to water." Following bodies of water always leads to a branch or, if you're really lost, the river. In this day and age there are so many roads cutting through the land, even through this remote section of Appalachia, that I have never had to go all the way to the river to get my bearings. But I have had to stop someone on the road and ask about just exactly where I was...
Needless to say, figuring out just exactly where I am in relation to other places where I might sometimes be takes me a whole lot of studying. Now that I have a home of my own, I am more determined than ever to get some inking of a bearing. I've been spending a lot of time studying on the topo maps I have and walking- starting at the house and going in each direction to just get my bearings. Believe it or not, even walking the property line can be confusing. (It's a pretty great problem to have!)
This morning I walked the property line to see what mountains I could see to the west, and then again to the east and to the north. To the west is Rich Mountain and Mill Ridge and the road that goes to my family in Hot Springs. I can see it in the distance from part of one of the ridges of my property line. To the east and north is Sapling Mountain, which divides Chapel Hill from Big Laurel valley. To the north is Franklin Mountain, which divides 212 from 208 (on the way to Greeneville).

Sunrise casting shadows over the west side of Sapling Mountain
Hopey is hard-wired to know where she's at
One of the many things I admire about people around these parts is everyone seems to know exactly where they are, how they got there and how to get where they are going. People can tell you the names and histories of the mountains, roads, old farms and hollers- the same way they can tell you who lives where and the family relations of everyone who lives everywhere (it seems). And history. I truly admire the apparent success of the oral passing along of local history and geneology.

When I meditate on getting my bearings, what I end up pondering about ends up being more complex than merely figuring out which gorgeous mountain I can view from which vantage points. It is more complex than learning which trees flower or fruit during which weeks of which months and which mosses send up spores in November. In this modern era of fast paced movement and seemingly limitless access to world-wide information, I find it increasingly difficult to keep track of my bearings. How exactly am I fitting into this world I live in? What is my relation to this technology or that strange modern custom? Should I go down this road with the rest of them to stay connected to my species, or will we all find ourselves too far away from the water because we forgot to follow the first rule of being lost? I think I will spend my entire life trying to get my bearings. Does that seem tedious? I think it's exciting. For example...

Who knew this club moss was sporing out in November?

Coming atcha soon: Getting my bearings, take 2.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Thing" update

Saturday morning, November 17 2012

First off, welcome to our world, Lucy Dixon, a human child who was born yesterday to wonderful parents Jude and Paul!

Now, back to the "thing." It has been identified as a cocoon, and I have returned it to the cold outdoors to hopefully resume its natural life cycle. At this point, I am thinking it is a luna moth cocoon, based upon world wide web investigative work I have done this morning (that and the fact that Pete Dixon- no relation to Lucy- informed me that indeed it was a cocoon.)  It is my sincere wish that the "thing" will go back to sleep, unharmed, and emerge when it is god's time. I apologize to all involved for the interference.
(*Note, click the word 'work' above for a link.)

Could this be the "thing?"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mystery of the "thing"

Ladies and gentlemen, might I borrow your attention for a moment to describe to you a most curious mystery of nature to which I am at present referring as the "thing?"
It was almost a fortnight ago when I found myself the fortunate handler of "the thing." It came into my possession as an accidental byproduct of carrying an armload of firewood into the house from the out-of-doors. If memory serves me, which it sometimes does and sometimes does not, I discovered this "thing" somewhat nestled between layers of stacked firewood. (I keep my reserve of stacks of firewood beneath a somewhat sizable hickory, which may be neither here nor there in context of this story, but is the truth nonetheless.)
Allow me to describe this delightful "thing" to you briefly. It is roughly the size of a large pecan (with hull), and not round but not flat. The color is a tan brown, and the texture is like a sort of paper, but not just one layer of paper but rather several. There has grown upon the outside of the "thing" a bit of moss, and there is a dried blade of grass plastered to one side of it. For all practical purposes, it can be described as tasteless and virtually odorless, although when wet with saliva it emits a faint fruity aroma.
Being a rather curious woman, I carefully retrieved the "thing" from its previous location and brought it into the house for observation. I placed the "thing" in a half pint sized glass jar and loosely put a lid on top. At random since that day I have gone to jar, opened the lid and stood for observation. Until today, the "thing" remained still and unchanged.
This evening, however, upon returning home from a long day away, I was drawn by a pull of nature to the jar on the countertop which held the "thing." I removed the lid and listened carefully, for a thought I heard a rustling within. I removed the "thing" from the jar hesitantly and cautiously placed it on the counter. Not only was it rustling quite audibly, but the "thing" was moving its case around from within. I watched with wonder as this "thing" rustled and bumped atop the counter.
I suppose something will emerge very soon. I wish to give this creature adequate oxygen and space to manuver once it does emerge, (for what I know not, as I feel quite certain I have forced its hatching by bringing it into the warm house as so many Americans are forcing paperwhites this holiday season.) I transferred the "thing" into my 4 gallon ball jar and loosely placed the lid over top. I will watch and wait for the mystery to reveal itself.
Godspeed, "thing."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Postcard from Daylight Savings

Dear Zoe,

The postcard you sent me from Utah was weird. The best part was the caption on the back which read, "The is mine is the largest man made open-pit excavation in the world..." Hey Mountain Press Prints, get an editor!

Back to the Blue Ridge, this damp dingle finds itself visited this morning by a most lovely gentle blanket of ambling fog. It rained in the night, and the air is cool and moist. It snowed last week 3 inches, before the leaves were even finished falling- what an odd display of burnt oranges and ruby reddish browns in a vast sea of snow white! The weirdest thing is that the snow didn't even freeze kill the garden; once it melted, the basil was still green. The killing frost came quietly and uneventfully three days later and was offhandedly noticed by gardeners in this holler in the Saturday morning hours.

Daylight savings morning finds all but the tightest gripping leaves fallen to the forest floor, and the trees across the holler appear as bare bones, revealing all manners of squirrel and hornet nests previously sheltered from view by summer's green cloak. I am (obviously) relishing in this extra hour to enjoy the warm cozy ambience of my home in this protected cove, the bone warming heat radianting from the wood stove, the loud snoring of the aging plott hound, the type of quiet created by the absence of a group of humans.

This day's agenda is sparse. Harvest celery and carrots from the garden. Spend the day with my sister. Make chicken pot pie from scratch.

I hope you, and whoever else might be eavesdropping on this postcard (hee hee), are enjoying the shift in time this morning. Godspeed.