18. The Bear

 

My dreams have come true in the form of a mountain house high in Western North Carolina’Pisgah National Forest. My soul is at home here, there is no doubt.

 

meadow
Our meadow. Our view.

 

But it didn’t taken long to come to the realization this is a wild kind of country for which I am not prepared. I am a child of the mountains, yes. But I grew up “in town,” even if that town had a population less than 3,000.

Not so here.

There are 18 homes in our mile-high neighborhood, exactly none of which are in sight and two-thirds of which are uninhabited at any given time. It is glorious–mountains roll on for miles and miles and I promise you, you hear nothing but wind and birds. How we love it!

How blessed we are.

And still I have a healthy respect for the natural world here on this mountaintop. Snakes, yes of course. And Black Bears that roam with such freedom it doesn’t take long to understand why they’re a part of the decor of every WNC mountain home. Tim and I have been a little obsessed; we’ve caught bear glimpses from the safety of our car as we’ve moved around the mountain during these, our first summer weekends here. And we watch for them every time we step outside (particularly when our sweet dog, Little Bit, is in tow). With the wild blueberries in season–and the currently overgrown meadow that lies just below our back deck housing so many bushes–we know we’re likely to have regular bear visits.

It didn’t take long.

 

our first bear
our first bear

 

We’d just been in the meadow, out there making a quick check of the blueberry crop. And two minutes later–maybe?–we’d come back to the deck when I looked out to see this guy.

 

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He seemed to have a healthy respect for us, too, as he watched us watch him for a while, then he turned to go.

We’ll be here a few more days.

We’ll all be keeping an eye out!

 

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17. That Time A Surprise Guest Joined Us for Happy Hour

It’s more the end of the story, if you wanna know the truth, something that happened to add a jolly exclamation mark to the end of our already joy-filled weekend.

We’d come for Dabo’s Women’s Clinic, you see–the collection of 10 college friends gathered at Sarah’s lake house and another handful across town. (There is a great football lesson there, and I shall get to it by and by. I hope it’s one you’ll want to hear.) Anyway, our day of football over, we loaded a couple of snack trays, filled a cooler or two with drinks and made our way down to the water’s edge. There we sat for an hour or more, talking and laughing, laughing and talking until someone looked up to see a white duck strolling right up Sarah’s dock toward us.

 

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That duck nosed around the cooler a while, then took herself a big fine seat right on our edge. And she sat there a good long while, leaning in, listening, laughing along with the thousand funny things we remembered from our college years together.

 

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Then dusk started to settle. Our chatter turned toward dinner and a possible return to the house, and that sweet white duck got up, turned on her webbed heels and headed back toward the dock.

 

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We were sad to see her go. But we were mighty pleased she had come!

 

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Day 15: the fine art of buck dance

 

 

©Rebecca Stout, flatfootandfancyfree.com
©Rebecca Stout, flatfootandfancyfree.com

 

What we lacked in form we made up for in enthusiasm.

I’d bought the Rebecca Stout Buck Dance lessons for myself at Christmas, but I’d still not carved out the time to watch the CD. But I am quite serious about finally properly learning this native dance of my beloved Southwest Virginia mountains, which we always called Flatfoot*. So when we found ourselves in the mountains, a long, gorgeous summer afternoon stretching before us, I thought these fun gals might be game. And were they! We moved the furniture right on out of the way, and we took to that wood floor like nobody’s business.

 

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Yes. Flatfoot is as much fun–and Becky Stout and her daughter are as adorable–as the CD promises!

 

Julian, Teresa, Carleigh, and Cindy. Forgive the flip-flops. No one knew this was coming when they packed!
Julian, Teresa, Carleigh and Cindy. Forgive the flip-flops. No one knew this was coming when they packed!

 

Lordy it was fun. And by the end of the afternoon? Why, we girls could Flatfoot a respectable step or two!

(If you’re not familiar with Flatfoot or Buck Dance, click here to see Rebecca Stout give a very fine demonstration. Your heart will be so happy you did.)

*I am sure my Wise County friends can speak to the difference between Buck Dance and Flatfooting. I’d love to know if you’d care to send me an email (cathy@thedailygrace.com. Or comment below!

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Day 14: The Ultimate Summer Playlist!

I asked for your favorite Summer Roll-Down-The-Window-And-Sing Songs and boy-oh-boy did you guys deliver. I used your suggestions to create the Ultimate Summer Playlist on Spotify and you can play it via my Spotify profile here. (If you’re not a registered Spotify user, click here to sign up. It’s a great free music app and it’s totally worth it.) Then turn up the volume and get out there for some summer fun this weekend.

(And if you’d like to add to the playlist, just comment below and it shall be done.)

Enjoy, my friends!

 

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Day 13: Sometimes You Just Have To.

 

A weekend in the mountains and a fridge of cold IPAs will make a group of friends do some interesting things.

We discussed–at length–the Ultimate Summer Playlist you guys are helping me build. (If you haven’t added your favorite to the list, do so on my Facebook page.) It’s coming soon!

But then things really heated up when we did this:

 

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WE ROASTED OUR OWN PEANUTS!

This was something new for Tim and me and we couldn’t believe how easy it was! You just toss raw peanuts with a little oil, sprinkle liberally with salt, spread into a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them–you’ll probably want to stir halfway through. As they cool they get crunchy, and man oh man oh man are they good.

Yummo!

 

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Day 12: The Kite Rescue

 

HE BROUGHT THE MATTER UP several times during the day. So when our work was done and the sun began to fade, and there was mention of a ride across the ridge…

I mean, what was there to do? How could we not go?

And so we piled into Tim’s truck–all four of us–and headed for the pretty spot we’d found the last weekend we were there together. There was a kite, you see, hanging to the side of that mountain, a colorful kite he spotted then that Eddie was hell bent on rescuing now.

 

GOOD LORD, we all thought as we looked over the edge and realized how far down he’d have to go to get the thing. Good lord, we thought, as we realized how steep–and how rocky–would be his journey.

 

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(this is not a staged photo)

 

Back up the truck, said Eddie. I’ll latch on.

Good lord, is what we girls said, and we looked at each other in desperation and disbelief.

We walked in the other direction.

We averted our eyes, Cindy and I, our eyes if not our hearts.

The mere thought of it was terrifying, was the thing. Terrifying.

And over the edge he went.

 

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there he goes

 

 

WE PACED. We paced, she and I, back and forth, back and forth, not daring to throw even the slightest glance in the direction of that truck. We hemmed. We hawed. And after some extremely anxious moments we tossed the question over our shoulders: Everything okay?

There was no answer.

 

AND THEN THERE HE WAS, his head coming up and over the ridge, Eddie and the kite.

And we saw the smile, Eddie’s broad smile, and in spite of ourselves,

we laughed.

 

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The Man, victorious

 

 

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Day 11: Somewhere South of Spruce Pine

 

We took the long road, hopping off the interstate and driving along windy, twisty backroads that rose and fell in such spits and spurts there was nothing to do but for the (usually knitting) passenger to keep her eyes on the road, as well. That’s how it came to be that we both caught a glimpse of the sign post at once, this one tickling us so we decided to take the same route home, just to get another look.

 

somewhere south of spruce pine

 

I do love a road trip.

 

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Day 10: Tempting Fate

Having a new-to-us place at the top of a tall mountain means there’s lots to learn about an ecosystem that’s much different from our central South Carolina plains. The flora and fauna–in fact, the wildflowers alone–beg for hours of fascinating study.

But what’s caught my eye (and ear!) in these early days is the new crop of birds that live here, many with unfamiliar markings and foreign songs.

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i’m a little obsessed

 

For several weeks I’ve joyfully watched and photographed from afar: striking Cedar Waxwings, sweet Veerys, loud and distinctive Catbirds. And in every case, I’m anxious for a closer look. I realize a feeder would bring them in, but there is the worrisome issue of the black bears, so plentiful here I’ve heard from knowing neighbors the seed will bring the creatures right onto your deck as if they’ve been invited for dinner.

(The thought gives one plenty of reason to pause.)

And still my interest in the birds has gotten the better of me. Three weekends ago I brought a small feeder, filled it with wild birdseed and hung it high, high up, just in view through the giant great room window.

 

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Every morning I get up and hang the thing; each night I dutifully take it down and bring it safe inside. The effort has not borne fruit, however, as the multitude of birds flitting about our meadow have shown absolutely no interest.

Until yesterday, that is, when the feeder welcomed its first visitor.

 

looks like she enjoys the view, too

so much to see
this is quite a view, is what he’s thinking

 

Yee-haw, a Goldfinch!!!!! we thought, snapping photo after photo. So happy you’ve come!

 

well, hello

 

And then my very next thought:

I hope the Cedar Waxwings show before the bears!

 

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Day 9: Birdsong

We had begun the slow slide back to daily life by extending our Montreat week through the weekend, the last two days spent a bit higher in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. We were worn slap out, my friend and I, yet when light began to creep through my bedroom’s east facing windows, I raced across the house to taptaptap on her door.

It’s happening I whispered. She was up in a flash and we made our way to the back deck.

Morning greeted us with this.

 

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But that wasn’t the most remarkable thing.

The birds offered a symphony that left us both in awe.

Just listen!

 

 

It was the perfect ending to a week filled with two things I love: mountains and music.

Hallelujah!

 

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