Treasures from my Cabin's Past...



Joe, the man who owned the cabin before me, sent me this picture today.  It's the cabin as he first found it...No front porch, no addition, no back porch, no gravel parking area.  It's just my sweet, little cabin sitting in the middle of the green, green yard.  I was thrilled to see it.

Then he sent me the link to his blog and I found a few more treasures.  (I have linked to his blog and it's listed on my blogroll but I think you have to be listed as a "friend" to see the entries.)

This is the cabin just after he finished the addition...



And this is the back porch...


"i like havin a porch on the old cabin! all cut fron the land and the metal roof is great when it rains...sat out last night with the fire outside....tonight too..i have alot to think about..the fire and stars help me"   10/21/06 blog entry

Joe writes with a simple eloquence that cuts right to the heart.  And he makes my backyard look better than I ever could...



"its a new mourning...the sun is back and yesterday is dead and gone! i hope love comes back too.... "


A couple of summer's back the road washed out and Joe had to rebuild it...


I know we'd be totally lost without him! 


Thanks, Joe!


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The Mystery Continues...Why Iron a Tree?


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I just couldn't leave it alone.  This morning, I had to go take another picture, then retrieve it from its home in the Y of the tree beside the spring box.

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"You've gotta see this!" I told Mertis...

And then I stepped on the 3" long, rusty nail sticking out of a piece of old barn siding.  It went right through my shoe, right into my foot.

Mertis was such the First Responder.  "Have you had a tetanus shot in the past five years?" she asks.

"Yeah, sure," I say...But really, who is that sure? Did I? Wait, is my jaw starting to tingle? Is it...?  Could it be tightening? IS MY JAW LOCKING UP???

The nail went through my brand new tie-dyed purple sock!  But not much further than that.  "It's just a flesh wound!" I tell her bravely. "It didn't hit an artery but any closer and it would've killed me."

Mertis just rolls her eyes.


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Strange Sightings Around the Little Log Cabin

I've seen some strange rigs in my lifetime but this beats all. I was out walking around the old spring box across the lane when a bit of shiny metal caught my eye. With the leaves off the trees and the undergrowth dead, I could clearly see an iron mounted in the Y of a tree growing beside the spring box.

An iron. The top portion of the handle has been pulled off and a electrical wires somehow attached to it. Almost three feet of cord extended from the iron and had been wound around the trunk of the tree and then severed. When I looked at the spring box top I could see where the yellow wire seem to have been attached to it and then severed, leading me to wonder if somehow power was at one point run to the iron and maybe past that to the pump in the spring box? Why? What purpose would that serve? Wouldn't the iron be "hot?" No pun intended.

Is that weird or what?

Deer Poop or a New Variety of Kidney Bean?

It did snow! When I arrived here at the cabin, the road was still covered and icy on the shady curves.

When I took Maggie out to walk along the half-dried creek bed she was completely bamboozled by the hard crust. She'd take three steps, fall through on the fourth and freeze, whirling around to see who'd pushed her down through the ice.

There's a lot of this in the wildflower field. I figure it's deer poop, but if you know otherwise, let me know...Maybe it's a new variety of bean.

I can see the fire crackling bright orange through the window of the wood stove. The cast iron kettle sitting atop its surface pushes out a steady blast of steam. Both fireplaces are going and I've baked a big batch of oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies.

This afternoon I wrote for hours, snug in my armchair, sipping hot tea. My fingers flew over the keyboard as the words bypassed my brain and appeared on the page before me. That is how it should be.

Even though the land around the cabin is cold and gray with winter gloom, this is still the place to be.

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Benign Parental Neglect...all the fun, half the effort

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They are always at their happiest when they think they're pulling one over on the old ladies.  Sunday night they were in charge of picking the dance music.  Several times they slipped on songs, thinking we might not catch the lyrics...but a mom is always on duty.  Still, I couldn't bring myself to say anything.  They were having too much fun. 

Lovey would cry "Don't!" to the boys and I would look over to see them both defying her and egging each other on. "Yeah! Do it! They won't know!"

They are good kids...most of the time.

I think that's part of what makes me hesitate before taking off for the mountain cabin.  They are such treasures and there are so few moments left of their childhood.  I feel torn when I know I'm going to miss even a moment's opportunity to be with them.

On the other hand...What kid wants a clingy, pathetic mom trailing around in his wake, wringing her hands and acting pitiful?

I'm not going to justify my time in Virginia by saying it makes me a better mom.  That's just a rationalization.  If it were that easy, anybody could be a good enough mother.   Showing up is only a small part of the job- an important part, true, but only one of the ingredients. 

And going away to write doesn't make me a bad mom.  I know that- in theory... But I'm still having trouble with it in my heart.  There's a lot more to becoming a bad mom than missing a weekend in town. 

Benign neglect can actually be a very good thing...it teaches your kids to rely on themselves.  It makes them appreciate your presence by feeling your absence.  Blah, blah, blah...etc. etc. etc...

The bottom line is this-

Going to the mountain doesn't make me a better mom. 

It makes me a better person.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it...







The Wearing of the Hat...


At one time or another, we will all wear The Hat.

And it will change us...at least in the moment.  We will know we look ridiculous.  But wearing the hat says we don't care how we look to the world.  We don't care how we act when we wear the hat.  

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The Hat is about being out there and ridiculous and silly. The Hat is all about the rapture of the moment. 


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When you wear The Hat, you become the essential you- the fun you.  The happy, let-it-all-hang-out you.  One moment, you are self-conscious and unsure. ..

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The next- you make the decision to don The Hat and all your self-doubt vanishes.  You are free to let go and release your inner wild child...

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Yes, at one time or another, we will all wear The Hat.  And it will be good.  We will laugh and carry on.  We will remember that "Being Right" or "Keeping Up Appearances" is not so important in the grand scheme of things. 

We are only humans, doing the best we can to make our way in the world.  Laughter and foolishness are just as important, if not more so, than all of our well-meaning propriety.

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Perhaps, with time, it won't take a hat. 




Dance, Dance, Dance!

Kick up your heels before it's too late!

Just kidding!

The clogging team I dance with sponsored a food drive at the Lewis Rec center this afternoon and I went to watch. When I left the wrought iron gate looked striking against the backdrop of the headstones and falling snow.

How I Spent My Friday Night

Welcome to my world...


It might snow in Chapel Hill and we were woefully ill-equipped.  They had no boots.  Apparently, they had no hats either. 

Don't they look like hopeful, homeless orphans?



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Hearing the Truth at 3:30 a.m.


The Youngest Unnamed One made the mistake of asking what Ellen and I talked about during the 4 hour sojourn we like to call "lunch."

"We talked about how if a thought wakes you up at 3:30 in the morning you ought to pay attention to it because it's probably important.  And the meaning of life- I mean, the meaning of life now because you know, there isn't just one meaning.  Your life starts off one way and you think you know where you're going and then suddenly something happens and..."

"All right, Mom," he muttered, sensing I was only just warming to the subject.  "That's enough information. I don't need to know every single thing."

Ah, grasshopper, I thought, but you do.  You just don't know it yet. 

That's why a 3:30 a.m. wake-up thought is so important.  At that time of morning there are no other distractions.  Everyone else is asleep, even the dogs.  There is no T.V, no ringing phone.  There is only the truth, bubbling up from the essential wellspring of you.  It explodes into your conscious brain and shakes you awake because it's that important.

Ellen told me this and I listened, mulling it over for the rest of the day. 

Waiting for the truth is what keeps me hanging on into the night, like a punch-drunk boxer clinging to his opponent.  I am waiting for everyone and every thing in the house to fall silent so I can finally hear who I am.

When I write the truth, I feel it.  When my world is too noisy, I can't hear what's true for me.  That's why when my buddy, Joe, said "You belong up here...It's better for your writing, too!" I felt something ping deep inside me.  It was true. 



The View From Here...

No School!  No Problem!

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A month ago, this tree looked like this:

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I knew we should've waited to take down the light balls!  Can you imagine how it would look with the light balls shimmering through the ice?

Next year they stay up until St. Patrick's Day.

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It's not the cabin- but it's still beautiful.

I'm looking forward to rambling around with Ellen tomorrow.  We call it "having lunch" but we don't fool anybody.  We'll get in the car and head out for our designated lunch spot but there is no chance we'll wind up anywhere near there.  At least not without veering off and discovering some small wonderful and new-to-us bit of the universe.

We went to a tea room in Burlington in December and found a cedar chest and the world's ugliest dog (If only I'd had the nerve to snap the things picture while the shop owner's back was turned...but the poor thing was never out of his Papa's line of sight.)

The time before that we went looking for the Amish

in Caswell County...I forget why.

Tomorrow is Procrastination Friday.  That sounds like trouble to me.

Wish I Was There...Ferrum, VA



It snowed! If I were looking out my bedroom window at the cabin, the pond next door might look just like this.  This is the pond at Ferrum College as of 8 a.m.

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Oh, Please Snow!



The Youngest and I are the same when it comes to snow...We LOVE snow days!  We hold our collective breath, stick close to the T.V and watch every broadcast. It doesn't matter that we know the weather people are only trying to build up ratings by fear-mongering with blizzards and ice storms.  We want to see the school cancellation list scroll across the bottom of the screen.  We want to know there's NO SCHOOL!

For two days I've tried to convince the Youngest we need to retreat to the cabin because, I tell him, it'll snow more there.  He just looks at me like I must be out of my mind.  Two days in a cabin with no cable, no TV, no Internet? With my MOTHER?  No, he wants to be home, close to his buddies.

Does he not get it?  The silence of fresh snow falling...The smell of it mingling with wood smoke...The white flake frosting coating gray, barren tree branches until even the dead of winter is beautiful again. ..Snuggling beneath quilts, playing backgammon, staring out the window as fat flakes dance quickly by.  The child wants to stay home with his friends when there is so much beauty to behold?

Damn straight he does!  I was just like him.

Oh, well.

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Work In Progress...Something New

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Let me know what you think...


On the second day of Calliope Nixon’s new life, she almost died. Twice. In the morning a copperhead invaded the kitchen of her newly purchased, pre-Civil War cabin and refused to leave. Later that afternoon, as Calliope sought solace by climbing the mountain behind her new home, a crazy man tried to kill her. Shortly thereafter Calliope decided she’d picked the wrong place to reinvent herself.

As soon as she’d made it safely back down the mountain, she climbed into the relative sanctuary of her car and called the one person responsible for this entire fiasco.

When her sister, Darlene, finally came on the line, Calliope didn’t bother with social niceties. “I must’ve been crazy to let you talk me into selling my house and moving to the middle of East Nowhere, Virginia. What was I thinking? Follow my destiny? What a crock of hogwash! There’s a deadly poisonous snake in my cabin and a mountain man just tried to shoot me!”

Darlene sighed with exaggerated patience. “Callie, you really need to write books instead of opening a bed and breakfast. Your talent and imagination are wasted on the real world.”

Calliope banged her fist on the steering wheel and yelled, “I am not imagining things! There’s a six-foot long copperhead wrapped around my kitchen faucet.”

Okay, so the snake was more like three feet long and she wasn’t sure if it was a copperhead or not but, in her opinion, the only good snake was a dead one. Besides, the man on the trail really had tried to shoot her.

“Okay, okay,” Darlene soothed. She was using her therapist voice. Calliope hated it when she did that. There was something about overly-zealous exuberance that made Callie feel decidedly violent. And when it came from someone who was sitting in the comfort and security of her psychotherapy office, three-hundred miles away, it made Calliope feel even worse.

She could just see her sister happily ensconced in her cozy, new age office, munching a granola bar while she idly toyed with the fabric of one of her long, multicolored skirts, or tugged at a strand of her long, straight, gray-streaked brown hair. In the background, Darlene would have a tinkling fountain or music that sounded like sick whales calling to each other under water. The entire place would smell of patchouli and oranges.

“Is the snake still in the kitchen?” Darlene asked.

“I don’t know,” Calliope answered. “You think I stuck around to find out where he was going? I ran out of there and slammed the door behind me. He’s probably got his entire family living in there with him by now. I bet they’re in the cabinets, under the bed, in my closets…For all I know, Darlene, that entire cabin is infested! The one I saw was probably just the scout for the rest of them.”

“Honey,” Darlene began. “Calm down. Remember, you’re living your dream. You wanted a little white farmhouse in the country. Well, snakes are part of the country ecosystem. They are there to get rid of other pests, not to kill you. That little snakey was probably scared. I bet if you open the door, he’ll come slithering out in no time and you’ll never see him again. He’s probably as scared of you as you are of him.”

“I sincerely doubt that,” Calliope said.

“Now,” Darlene continued in the same sing-songy tone. “Did someone really try to shoot you? Because if they did, that’s serious. You’ll have to call the police. But, are you really sure because Shirley didn’t say anything about…”

“Darlene, your friend, Shirley is a psychic with a day job. She works in a nursing home. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“Other than she likes to cook and she loves old people?”

“No, Darlene! If Shirley was any good at being a psychic, she wouldn’t need a day job, would she?”

“Well, she was right about Dad,” Darlene said, sounding decidedly defensive. “She said he wouldn’t die before she came back after her vacation and he didn’t. Besides, if you thought she was so wrong, why’d you go through with it? Shirley didn’t make you move up there, she just said you should follow your dream. She said it’s…”
Calliope leaned back against the driver’s seat headrest, closed her eyes and silently mouthed Darlene’s new mantra along with her. “It’s what Dad would have wanted.”

Even with the windows open, the car was broiling hot. It had to be 90 degrees in the shade. So much for cooler mountain summers, Callie thought. She drew in a deep breath. Why had she even bothered to call her sister? What good was that going to do?

“Darlene, I only listened to Shirley back then because I was sleep-deprived and half out of my mind with grief. This was a stupid idea and I should’ve waited instead of jumping on it. Don’t you therapists tell people not to make important, life-altering decisions when they’re in the midst of a crisis? Why didn’t you stop me?”

Darlene snorted. “Because it was the right thing to do. Maybe it took Dad dying to get you to do something with your life. It’s time, Calliope. You can’t sit around and be somebody’s mom forever. The boys are in college. I’ve been listening to you talk about how you’re gonna live in the country on a farm for years. Well, it’s time.”

Okay, so maybe Darlene had a point, but Calliope wasn’t ready to give up the fight. “I miss Dad,” she said. “And moving here isn’t making it any better. Nothing I do is going to take that away."

“Well if it helps, I talked to him and he’s just fine,” Darlene said, suddenly sounding happy. “I was beginning to wonder but then I remembered, the first few months are like orientation. You know, he was real sick and weak when he died and then he had to adjust to the way things are in Heaven.  They keep you kind of cloistered until you get your bearings.”

“Darlene,” Calliope warned.

“Shirley’s seen him, too. In fact, you owe me $38.92. I was in Belks at the jewelry counter, looking for something for Mom’s birthday, when Dad just appeared right there beside me. He showed me a beautiful 24 carat gold chain. He said Mom could put his ring on it.”

“Darlene!” Calliope exploded. “Dad did not tell you to buy Mom a necklace. He’s dead!”

“ I know that,” Darlene said with an injured sniff. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t see him and talk to him and he said he wants us to give Mom that chain. Now, are you in or not?”

“Whatever,” Callie sighed, defeated. “I’m in.” What point was there in arguing with Darlene? She was clearly nuts.


Right Before the Camera Died...

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We looked up ahead, past the little cabin that awaits renovation, to the left of the ruined home place and saw a path we'd never noticed before.  With all the leaves down, the mountainside reveals more of itself every day.

So I just had to climb it.  It seemed such a short distance, once I started, to the top of the rise.  "Wait here," I called to Maggie and Mertis.


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"But what about Joe?" Mertis yelled after me.  "He said he'd be right back.  He'll need help pulling the pump."

"It's just a short hike up there," I told her.  Then when I could see the rise coming I called back.  "You guys should come up.  I know where we are.  Once you're up here, it's just  a short walk back down the main path to the cabin."


Oh, so not.

Instead we wound up on the top ridge of a part of the property we'd never been to before, overlooking a couple of white houses I'd never seen before on any of my hikes.  In fact, we had to climb yet another ridge and cut through a swath of dead vines and fallen tree limbs to even get back onto our property's trail.  It was twice the distance I'd originally thought it would be down the trail to the cabin...

Where Joe was already hard at work, hanging perilously over the lip of the well cap as he struggled to detach the old pump from the spring box.

"I bet he's mad," Mert whispered.

Secretly I thought, If I were him I'd be relieved not to have two women hovering over me like inept, talking

bumble bees.

Maggie, who'd never, in all of her short, Schnauzer life, been on an uphill, endless hike like the one she'd just completed, retired to the dog bed in front of the wood stove where she slept like the dead for the rest of the day.


Notes From the Cabin...

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It was like Spring.  The ground squishy beneath my feet.  The back creek slowly filling with an unmistakable trickle of water as the banks of the adjoining creek plum spilled over into the marshy bottom land.

Good thing the weather was so warm.  It made the conditions right for exploring the mystery of the vanishing water pressure.

I arrived early Friday morning to find Joe, my neighbor and the cabin's former owner, sprawled on my kitchen floor, lying next to the gas guy who'd come to inspect the propane tank and get the house all good to go for their service.

Fortunately, they were not victims of a gas leak.  They were merely preparing the new stove to be converted to propane gas and disconnecting the old stove from its lines.

After the propane man had worked his magic, Joe turned on the kitchen sink and was puzzled by the lack of water pressure.  This began the weekend long sojourn into Plumbing and Well Repair Land.

It is not a pretty place but solving mysteries is great fun- even plumbing fiasco mysteries.

It was not the pressure tank.  Nor the regulator switch.  It was, we finally surmised, faulty impellors in the pump- damaged when the spring box ran dry this past summer.


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Joe's friend, the well guy, sold us a Jacuzzi pump, at his cost no less, and Joe installed it with a little help from me and Mertis.

The pressure nearly blew the socks off the back of the toilet which erupted in volcanic majesty when we flipped the breaker on to test the new pump.

There was a lot of back slapping and hooting until the faucet slowly sputtered to  a dead stop.

Remember the 55 million ladybugs that invaded the cabin in the fall? The ones I took to be harbingers of good fortune?


There were ladybugs and ladybug parts in every line, faucet, crack and crevice of every plumbing fixture in that tiny cabin.

It took hours of meticulous disassembly, blowing out the parts, accessible and not so accessible, with an air compressor line, then picking the cracks with various needle thin tools until at last they were clear.

There is a special place in Heaven for Joe.

He worked for two solid days with inadequate help in unsavory conditions and is still speaking to us.

We learned a lot...Like if you don't have whatever lube or grease plumbers use, Lavender scented baby oil gel works just fine.

It was a very entertaining weekend.


What Next?

It is time to re-evaluate some things.  Maybe everything.

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These two can handle themselves.  They've got everything they need, all the tools and now, it's time for them to step out and put into practice all the lessons they've learned.  My work here is finished...I mean sure, sometimes you need to talk to your mom about things, but Need me in order to survive- no.  That part of my job is done.

So it's time to take a hard look at the next phase of my life.  It's time to worry about me.  It's time to drag out the old 20 year plan and set some goals.  Time to clear out some baggage, plow up the old field and decide what to plant in the dirt.

The good news is, all that shit I've been hanging on to for years makes great fertilizer for something good.


Will Write for Food...

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Maggie and I need a vacation from our vacation- a quiet week somewhere remote and isolated, preferably without a phone.  Maybe then the words would come.  Or maybe I should win a small lottery first, so I wouldn't be trying to write in order to earn a living. 

Maybe I should go consult my sister's friend, Shirley, the 330 pound psychic-nursing home cook about where my writing mojo has disappeared to...

Maybe I should throw words in a hat and pull them out one by one until something grabs me and I can trust my instincts again.

It's agony, this writing thing, but I just can't quite give it up.


What Goes Up Must Come Down...

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Well it had to happen.  They had to come down.


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It was a good plan...Send up the boys, gently drop the wreath.  But even the best laid plans go awry.

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How 'bout that? They don't bounce.

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The reindeer and the polar bear stared out the living room window, drinking in their last glimpse of the outside world before returning to their home in the attic. They seemed a little sad to see it all ending...or was that me?

We capped it all off with an evening of celebration...The Youngest Unnamed One turned 17 yesterday.


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Will Smith and Fritos Can't Trump the Cabin-even when it rains...


I tell my patients I am the garbage lady. "Leave your garbage, " I say.  "Don't worry, I'll dump it at the end of the day."

By the end of some days I feel like my head is a landfill.

On days like this, I am grateful for the days when I can sit on my porch, rocking in the old wicker rocking chairs and look out at the rain spreading across the lane on its way to wash my cabin land clean.


What happens to the people I care for and about is never completely in my hands- not really.   I don't bring the rain that washes the world clean.  I can't bring the sunshine into every dark corner.

In the final analysis, I am only a privileged witness to the journey.  When I remember that people don't need me to "fix" them, only to listen and understand as they choose their own path- the landfill blossoms into a rich garden. 

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But don't worry...I am in no danger of becoming too highly evolved...I watched "The Pursuit of Happiness" tonight, at my boys' insistence, and had to eat 7 Peppermint Patties and a bag of Fritos just to get through the 89 minutes of Will Smith and his baby boy in agony-and all so I could "celebrate" the 60 seconds of victory before the ending credits rolled!

Note to self: No movies like this on days when real life is enough of a challenge...