THE CALLISON’S JOINED US for the weekend in North Carolina, a good deal of Tree Felling in the boys’ futures, a good bit of porch sitting in ours. And although it is against my mountain religion to drive off this ridge (but for an emergency), we were going to be here for four full days. So I opened my heart to the possibility of a Saturday jaunt to Mount Mitchell.
A little road trip could be fun, I thought, particularly if the result was a mountain view even more spectacular than our current 5200 foot elevation.
Of course Leslie and Scott were game. So Saturday morning we loaded up the dogs, the people, and the trash* and we pointed the 4-Runner for Burnsville.
That festival did not disappoint.
AND THEN WE STARTED the climb to Mount Mitchell. It was a beautiful drive that took us along the Cane River, the South Toe River and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. In no time at all we were unloading our crew at Mount Mitchell and making the short hike to the top.
Oh, those views.
Mount Mitchell is the highest spot East of the Mississippi, and its peak just happens to be in sight from the back deck of our place. We’ve spent hours sitting there looking across at it, discussing the weather, wondering whether or not a person standing there could see our house and meadow here.
With binoculars, we could. (That was pretty cool.)
Then we hopped back on the Blue Ridge Parkway and continued in the other direction, eventually taking a (planned) Forest Service Road shortcut that offered a pretty–if slightly unnerving–path down.
It was a perfect day with dear, dear friends, a perfect way to officially move from the fun of Summer to the fun of Fall.
30 Days of Fun
*Needless to say there’s no trash pickup on the mountains so a trip to the dump is cause for rejoicing
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I’VE SEVERAL STORIES TO TELL YOU of our September days in the mountains, this being our first early Autumn here in the Blue Ridge. We come and go with great frequency as our primary lives are still lived in South Carolina’s midlands–work, precious friends, and a home with a demanding yard keep us rooted there.
But we do love it here. And even now, after a summer full of early mornings, we still climb out from under the covers, rise in the dark and most every day go out to greet the sun.
I mean. How could you not?
BEFORE I GET TO THOSE STORIES I want to mention something that’s been on my mind, a thought harbored there that brings so much else about this place into focus. I’ve been thinking about the many reasons, for me, these mountains have such a strong pull. There are my Southwestern Virginia roots, of course. Generations go back there on my mother’s side; my people are mountain people. But it feels as if there is more to it than that. There is the landscape itself, and our particular view of it here. A person can rather miraculously stand in one place, look to the left, and watch the sun rise. You need not move to see it traverse the sky–throwing spectacular and always-changing shadows across the ridges in font of you. Then at day’s end, from the same spot, simply look right for its magical sinking into the trees. The experience of this journey is different each time, the sun’s position, the clouds, the season and the weather creating a humbling show that quite literally takes your breath away.
How remarkable it is to watch the sun rise, then see the sun set, and to be aware–totally and completely aware–of the passing of another day. To be alive in it, yes. But to be conscious of it. To intentionally and gratefully mark it. To see the bookends and acknowledge a day has passed.
These mountains. They sure want me to notice.
I am grateful.
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IN 2012 I LISTENED to the audiobook of the best new book of the decade*, Rules of Civility. It took about three pages to make this proclamation, and by the end of the story I confidently pronounced Rules to be the perfect novel and a new American Classic.
SINCE THEN I’ve googled, oh, a hundred times(?) to see what Towles is working on, where his work appears, what book has been released as a follow-up. Google has been pretty quiet on the matter.
Released yesterday, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW is Towle’s second novel and one highly anticipated by critics and readers alike. It’s the story of Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922, is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. As Towle’s website states his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
This one I will read with a hardback copy in my hands.
AND THERE IS THIS. I learned of Towles’ new release not via Google but in listening to a podcast with which I am also a bit captivated. What Should I Read Next is the brainchild of Anne Bogel, a mom of four who blogs at Modern Mrs. Darcy and talks books via the podcast. Her format is simple and interesting: She asks a guest to name (and describe) three books she/he loves and one she/he hates, and from that she plays matchmaker, suggesting three books that meet the guest’s reading profile.
She’s a book whisperer, if you will, and it’s interesting to hear her choices. It’s also entertaining and informative to listen to the guests and their picks. Hear more at this link: What Should I Read Next.
A new Towles’ novel and a podcast that pairs readers with books they’ll love: two great reasons to rejoice even if the calendar says summer is over!
*in my opinion
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I’VE BEEN THINKING LATELY ABOUT LIFE’S SEASONS, something that happens to me every Fall when nature shifts to a different gear. For so many people the changes come with an exclamation point, while for others this passage is quiet, less dramatic. But there are always transitions, I suspect.
This year, for me, the move has been marked by two gatherings that reminded me how important it is to lasso the here and now while it is here and now.
FIRST THERE WAS THE BABY SHOWER. Eliza made the long journey home to celebrate with her long-ago friend, Kati. It was a biggie for us, my sweet Eliza and me, this realization that her Little Girl buddies are all grown up, living lives of their own, beautiful and celebratory. She and Kati met in first grade when we became across-the-street neighbors and they became do-everything-together besties. Years later Kati’s precious family moved to another city, and high school brought them both new friends and other focuses. Then college sent them yet again in other directions.
How poignant it was that the girls reunited at the joyful occasion of a baby shower. What heartstrings it pulled as we, their Moms (and good friends ourselves) watched them hug and laugh together.
They were six only yesterday, we both were thinking, riding bikes, going to girl scouts, braiding each other’s hair.
Oh life does have a way of moving on.
AND THEN I RAN INTO CHARLIE and made a promise so rarely kept.
We need to catch up. Let’s get together soon. I’ll call you!
It’s the kind of thing that seems to happen after life brings into your orbit an acquaintance who then becomes a friend, and then a good friend. Eventually the connection that brought you together is over–you change jobs, or baseball season ends, or your kids graduate–and without this gravitational pull, drift begins.
It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, how we genuinely treasure people life brings our way, and yet it can be so difficult to maintain those relationships.
I’ll call you soon!
This time, I actually did it.
What fun it was to be together. We talked and laughed as the years melted away and we shared story after story of all that’s happened since our girls’ high school days. It took no effort at all to just let go and be joyfully pulled into the sweet gravitational orbit of each other’s lives once again.
LORDY IT WAS FUN. So much fun, in fact, I’m thinking of making this a seasonal practice in my life. A celebration, if you will. With each change from Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer, I’m going to reach out to a distant friend and plan a Let’s catch up event. Happy hour, lunch, dinner or just an it’s been too long what are you up to these days phone call. The last weekend of August reminded me life passes too quickly–and friendships are too important–to let them simply slip away.
A Changing of the Seasons Celebration.
This is a good idea.
30 Days of Fun
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Like so many folks, I am an Instagram lover. There’s something magical about simply clicking on the app to find photographs from all over the world sent just to me*. I’ve chosen the feeds I want to see–most are remarkable nature shots, some are people who make things or blog, a few are celebrities**, and many are people I know who make me laugh, smile, feel inspired, or simply give me a little peek into their daily lives.
(Instagram is one reason I love social media.)
I have posted to Instagram myself for several years and include in my feed a little of this and a little of that. Then it occurred to me some readers of The Daily Grace might enjoy a little grace daily! So I’ve created a new feed that offers one photograph I’ve taken each morning…a sweet moment of grace to start your day.
Here’s a sampling.
If you are an Instagram user, I invite you to follow me there. And if you’re not, perhaps you will consider joining. (Even those who don’t participate in much social media find this app easy to love.) It is my hope you will find The Daily Grace on Instagram to be a sweet spot for calm, joy and gratitude amid the chaos of this hustle bustle (wonderful) world!
I HAVE HAPPY NEWS, a great bit of so wonderful I can hardly wait to share it. But first I want to remind you of Parts 1 and 2 of this saga.
FIRST THERE WAS THE DISCOVERY of a ground nest of juncos, babies so tiny it was a miracle they survived at all, what with snakes and the whir of our (unknowing) weed eater as we cleared an overgrown slope on the side of our new-to-us mountain retreat. (You can read that story here.)
Then that one baby got so far over on the compromised nest he slipped out, and my goodness the others followed, so we reinforced their home and scooped them up, gently, gently placing them back in all safe and sound. But instead of hanging there to be properly fed by Mama and Daddy the one escaped and promptly headed up the hill, hop hop hopping since he was too little to have enough feathers to fly.
We rescued him again.
And again he ran, leaving me with nothing to do but fret all day keeping an eye out but knowing good and well night was coming and he would be alone and hungry and covered in dark and cold.
Finally, finally it was morning. I searched high and low but I didn’t see him, didn’t hear a peep from either that runaway baby or his parents, focused, as they were, on feeding the three good children at home. (You can read about that–and see photos of the cuties and that little stinker–here.) And it was time for us to go. So we drove away from the mountain raising prayers of protection for the one and hopes of proper fledging–once their wings were fully developed–for the others.
I’VE WORRIED EVER SINCE over that baby and his sensible siblings. I didn’t hold much hope for the renegade, to tell you the truth, who couldn’t fly and was on his own in territory that is already known to be fierce. But the other three? Oh, maybe.
WE’VE BEEN BACK TO THE MOUNTAINS, and the Junco parents have been around. We see them flitting in the trees and bushes behind the house; we hear their familiar click click clicks as they dart here and there. And then I got brave and hung a small bird feeder way high above the ground and not so high above the deck. It was a decision I came to carefully as knowledgable neighbors have warned us the Black Bears, which already like the blueberries in our meadow, will consider this an invitation we’ve extended for dinner. We are extremely somewhat careful to bring in the feeder at night, and–to date–the bears have not come. But the Goldfinches have. Goldfinches are very beautiful and equally picky, something the person paying for the seed and filling the feeder finds surprising, and they knock a good bit out and over the ledge of the feeder.
And then this different little bird showed up and commenced to hopping about on the deck absolutely thrilled to scavenge the leftovers. I didn’t pay him too much mind, truth be told, because he was a rather plain looking fellow.
But then it started to rain, and he got all puffed up and cute, and I decided to take some photos.
When I downloaded them I got more curious.
There was a photo match on Birdnote that said this:
This juvenile Dark-eyed Junco has the beginnings of white outer tail-feathers. But other than that, it doesn’t look much like its parents!
And do you know what happened the very next day?
Three more juveniles showed up.
YOU WON’T BELIEVE ME when I tell you this and I can’t much blame you, nevertheless it is gospel truth. Just about any time you look out that window and see those birds whether in the meadow or at that feeder there will only be three. And when the one shows up?
But don’t feel too sad for the little renegade. He is fully independent and looks to be doing just fine making his own happy way: perching on top of the hummingbird feeder; hanging around on the deck rail, surveying the meadow; peeking in through the window as I sit close by writing, as curious about me as I am about him.
He’s living his life on his own little bird terms, that’s what I think, out there making it happen the way he always has, the only way he knows how: living strong, living courageous, living free.
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