July 3, 2018
Here comes the sun, and the heat. But for this moment, both are partially blocked by the ridges that surround this “holler” and I am enjoying the coolness of a mountain morning. That is one thing I love in particular about this place. While the days do get hot, night promises relief. I took advantage of the cooler indoor temperatures yesterday and for most of the day, cleaned my dirty house. I like to keep things in their place with a sense of order but as long as everything is tucked away where it is supposed to be, I can overlook dust and dirt for a while. Meticulous to the point of driving everyone, including myself crazy before Josh’s death almost ten years ago, I left that cycle of being tied to having a perfect house behind in favor of enjoying my life. I probably average “a good house cleaning” about once a month anymore, and even that doesn’t begin to compare to the way I use to clean. Yesterday was the day with Mike away, having gone back to Staunton to make hay, and me without anything particularly pressing. Besides cleaning house, I made multiple trips to check on the animals to make sure they still had a good water supply, I milked , and then later in the day along towards nightfall when it was slightly cooler, I walked around the spring and then to the highest point on our “back forty” where I could get a view of Buffalo Mountain. I was thinking about last week’s visiting bear when I walked and I was very aware of my surroundings, but I wasn’t afraid. I can’t let the presence of a visiting bear keep me from being outdoors and enjoying life, just as I can’t let the presence of snakes in the basement keep me from going to the root cellar or washing my clothes. Life is full of figurative “snakes and bears” and I refuse to stop living, laughing and enjoying life because things might be a little “scary” or difficult. There’s too much living to do and too much happiness to be found. On the way back to the house, I stopped to gather wild flowers (Mike would call them weeds) that I cut short and arranged in a McCoy pitcher that Nan had given me years ago. The Daisies, Black Eyed Susans, and Queen Anne’s Lace on my dining room table reminded me of my barefoot days back when I was just a young girl, when I would gather wild flowers from the meadow just beside our small, pink house on Mt. Olive Road. I gathered the same things then: Daisies, Black Eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s Lace. My mother told me their names when she put them in a mason jar with water.
July 4, 2018
While so many people are struggling with summer’ dose of extreme weather conditions, I feel a little spoiled here at our mountain property. It is not that it isn’t warm here too, and that folks are not affected by extreme weather conditions, but the human tolerance of Nature’s moods seems to fluctuate with what we expect and to that which we accustom ourselves. When I lived in Alaska, the cold and dark of winter did not affect me much, if at all, because I was acclimated to it. Now, having lived in Virginia for so many years, the cold seeps into my bones and I complain about 30 above where I use to think 30 below was nothing. While some of that is because I am 20 to 30 years older, it is also because my body has adjusted to a warmer climate these days. I found the same thing to be true on my visits to Guatemala. I suffered in the extreme heat, being careful to not over exert myself, constantly trying to stay hydrated, while the locals didn’t let it affect their daily lives. At night in central America when the temperatures would “cool down” to a more manageable temperature, the natives would don jackets, sweaters, and long-sleeved shirts while I was thankful to just be comfortable in a loose fitting, sleeveless dress. While the temperature here in our section of the Blue Ridge has reached near 90 degrees the past few days and working in the direct sun has been uncomfortable, I have managed to keep the house very comfortable even without air conditioning. (That’s not true of our place in Staunton where Mike has been unable to sleep well at night due their not being a cooling breeze and the house never cooling down at night.) With evening mountain temperatures dropping below 70 degrees, the temperature in the house has been perfect for sleeping. Then, as the sun finally makes its way over the ridges and begins to burn hot, there is only one section of the house where it directly hits and that is our bedroom window. Around 8 am I pull the curtain and block the heat from the sun in that window while the rest of the house is shaded either by the covered porch that wraps around two sides of our house or by the huge, old maples that cast their shadows and offer adequate shade in the heat of the day. By the time the sun begins to burn the hottest, it is already making its way behind the mountain ridges to the west and the grove of pines that stands tall beside the house filters the light of the sun in its descent. By running the ceiling fans to circulate the air, keeping the windows upstairs open as heat inside the house rises, and keeping the windows on the main section of the house closed to trap in the cooler air, the living area of the house has never gotten more than 74 degrees even when the thermometer on the side of the house registered 110 in the sun (with actual temperature being right at 90 degrees). So, in the winter when I complain about the cold of this old farm house, I hope I remember to be thankful for summer blessings and the pleasant, cool, shelter this house provided in the heat.
July 5, 2018
While Mike has been taking advantage of the few days of sunshine and dry weather to make hay in the valley, I have been making the most of my quiet time in the mountains. I think I am an individual who does very well on my own and I don’t mind the long hours of solitude. In fact, I seek out the aloneness. But I also know myself well enough to understand that I need the balance that Mike brings to my life and this particular time of being separated has been harder on me than last time. Without Mike, I would probably become a hermit and living entirely inside my own head would, no doubt, make me stranger than I am already. Mike and I can certainly find communication and compromise difficult at times, but as true soul mates, I think we are also capable of an honestly with one another that allows each of us to be able to give and accept loving, constructive criticism from one another which helps to keep me more level headed about life in general. I tend to be a dreamer and idealistic. I need the practical balance that Mike offers me.
Yesterday being the fourth of July, I guess a lot of people were attending celebratory, public events or family get-togethers. Some of Mike’s family got together at his mom’s place. I was content to be by myself, caring for the animals, mowing the grass, hanging clothes on the line, and sewing. I didn’t’ see a single person all day except for vehicles that passed as I was mowing the grass in the front of the house. I struggle with the patriotic holidays anyway. Not that I find them difficult, because I completely understand the importance of remembering our national history and honoring those whose sacrifices mean that we live in a better world. However, I find it a little awkward in my own head as I balance my love of country, freedom and the honor I genuinely feel for those who have sacrificed in the various ways they felt were necessary to preserve this Nation in which we all find so much privilege and take so much for granted with my own personal convictions. I do not know if God calls all of us to the same convictions or if somehow God or Life offers each of us different choices and calls us to different things. I am sure that argument with stories and Scripture could be given to support various theories. And, I am sure that my unrelenting Baptist background would argue that right is right and wrong is wrong and there are no gray areas. But still, I tend to lean toward the “blasphemous gray area” when it comes to personal convictions for we must each live with our own conscience and while some feel strongly that God calls men and women to lay down their lives for the good of their country, there are a few of us who understand and respect that calling but have a personal conviction that for us, the taking of life is wrong no matter what the circumstances. I cannot answer the questions, or the openly defensive attitude that comes from so many “patriot” Christians who seemingly appear ready to take up arms and fight for their rights. I can’t specifically answer the questions as to how I expect to remain “free” if I am not willing to pick up a weapon of mass destruction, or at least support those who are willing to do so. I only know that for me personally, after studying the Scripture and the life of Jesus, paying close attention to “the letters in red” (the words we see as direct quotes from Christ), I feel that we are offered a different way to approach life that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but is the way of Love. The way of Love while offering peace, doesn’t guarantee us a peaceful ending to our stories. Jesus whose life modeled the Way of which I am speaking died a horrible death at the hands of those whose political agenda was diabolically opposed to all that He taught. Whether “liberal” or “conservative” everyone likes to lump folks into categories so that we can neatly and efficiently hurl insults at one another and verbally wage war, especially it seems on “patriotic” holidays. As with much of life, I find myself in the middle, understanding the passion of “both sides” and mostly quietly holding to my own convictions realizing that very few are going to understand my thought process on this subject. (And as a side note, for those who always want to throw out that the “liberals” are prolife when talking about war or the death penalty but not when discussing abortion, my convictions encompass all of these and while I can compassionately find understanding for the reasons others don’t agree with my stance, I can’t deny my own moral convictions no matter how unpopular they might be.) My reality is that I am not Jesus and as much as I wish that I were like Him and could live up to the ideals that He gave His followers, I fail a million times every single day. But, as someone who strongly believes that the way of Christ is a far cry from what is being taught in the majority of today’s churches and that our Western mindset and modern Christianity in fact takes us further away from His intentions, I will just have to follow my heart.
Nan is always heavy on my mind. My brother texted me and said that he was with her yesterday and that she was asleep. Neither he, nor my cousin Lou who had been there earlier in the day, were able to wake her. He was there for close to an hour and she never became responsive to his presence. The nurses were weighing her when he came in and they said she has lost another nine pounds. My heart hurts and when I think of the inevitable, I am torn between wanting to see Nan slip into that eternal peace where she will know no more suffering and wanting to keep her here with me forever. Mostly, I am unselfish about it and simply want to see her have the peace that she is seeking. I believe that she has given up on this life and is just waiting for her body to release her spirit. When she rallied last week enough to reach out to those she loves and express herself and share her love verbally with us, even though she struggled with finding the words to express what she wanted to say, I think that was her last real effort. Now I believe she is just biding her time. Ultimately, I just want her happiness and comfort and I know that this world can no longer provide that for her. But, there is still a small, selfish side of me that rises up and rebels at the thought of my living any part of my life without the woman who has been my comfort, my strength, and my hero. I had moment yesterday when I thought the grief would overtake me and I had to remind myself that in spite of how I feel, the reality is that I will somehow learn to manage my pain. I remember when Josh died, my overwhelming thought over and over again was “I just can’t do this” and I learned that I had to take “just one breath at a time” in order to manage. I understand now, with almost a decade having passed since Josh’s death, that joy and sorrow are perfectly capable of mingling within one’s soul and that giving space for both is what keeps us open to life’s lessons and experiences. I don’t want to go through yet another intense grief and learn to live without yet another person whose life is so much a part of mine, but there are things in life of which we are not given a choice. I am coming to think that life is not so much about what we achieve or gain through the years, but rather that life is summed up in how well we learn to let go.
July 8, 2018
I went form the peaceful solitude of my alone time to a whirlwind trip to the Valley where I worked my tail off to get things done, make a doctor’s appointment, meet Alissa and the girls at a restaurant where I could spend a few minutes with them and then leave about 24 hours later to head back to Laurel Fork. I accomplished a lot but I also came unglued during my time there. I am going to blame part of it on the fact that I couldn’t get an early morning doctor’s appointment and had to fast until almost 2 pm and did not have one sip of coffee all day. At any rate, my day ended horribly and while I can’t write about what happened on Friday night until things are sorted out, the events about left me undone. But, things could have been much worse, I finally made it back to Laurel Fork, and Saturday and Sunday have been two days of my trying to pull myself back together.
Saturday, Mike and I went to an auction, but I ended up sitting in the car for several hours talking on the phone and texting while I had reliable service. After the auction, we took a few items, priced them and put them in our new booth at Briar Patch Antiques in Galax. We had only been there a week but have started off well and we like the facilities a lot. We talked to a man who started out in the same booth we are in downstairs and he did well there and eventually moved upstairs when a space opened up. We have been promised a space upstairs when something opens ad we were happy to hear of his success in the downstairs booth. So many people don’t visit booths that are upstairs or downstairs, sticking to the main level.
Afternoon and evening we worked hard and got caught up on things around the house. Mike mowed the steep banks that I was not able to mow earlier in the week and he moved the electric netting to give the momma cows some new grazing area. I was able to get multiple loads of laundry caught up and the house picked up as well as make us a good meal.
Today (Sunday) I just wanted to hide in a hole at home and not come out but I got ready and went to church and I was glad that I did. We have such good speakers and I always am refreshed when I leave. I feel so blessed to be able to get to know the people in the church and to realize that after a year of attending there, they are every bit the community I thought them to be when we first started attending. After church we came home and I made steak, gravy, green beans from the garden, a salad, and sliced tomatoes from the garden. The food was delicious. There’s just nothing like homegrown, fresh food. Afterwards, I took a much-needed nap that helped to calm my nerves.
Mike and I took a drive over to Floyd and walked through an antique mall there. Afterwards, we walked down to Floyd Country Store and listened once again to the group of musicians who had gathered for a two-hour jam session. The group had a couple of the folks who had played the last time we were there, but there were a lot of new faces there. Two very young boys played with the group and were fun to watch. They were both very serious and somewhat timid about their involvement but did a great job. On the way home, we saw a juvenile bear that probably had just been recently weaned. He was starting to cross the road but hesitated when we approached and then went back under the guard rail and into the woods. We took an alternate road no knowing where it would come out but thinking it would bring us close to home and it did. We both enjoy seeing new scenery. Along the way, I saw a heron in the stream. As we got close to our house, I saw another heron actually sitting on the roof of a neighbor’s house and looking at the stream. I see herons a good bit, but I have not ever seen one perched on top of a house before.
It was a quiet day and I was thankful.