I traveled distance to meet my friend only to discover I was travelling in time as well. Being early as I often am, and my travelling companion being early as well, I took opportunity to visit a few scenes from my early life. As we drove towards Bluefield, Va., I impulsively said, "Turn right at the next road".
The distances had shrunk over time. The narrow road now paved that in my youth had been a teeth-rattling washboard of compacted gravel and water worn potholes all too soon revealed the sturdy white house perched on a level spot on the hill.
The now century old farmhouse perched on the mountainside where my mother grew up, and where my grandparents lived until age and ill-health forced them off the land and into a "more reasonable" situation in town.
This place in distance not 100 miles from where I now sit, this place in time holding clear memories some of which are 50 or more years ago. The barn where I learned to milk, the orchard that at this time of year had trees hanging heavy with fruit. The impossibly large limestone rocks that hosted our picnic lunches with dolls and dogs. The mountain spring that poured forth the coldest, sweetest water to quench a laborers thirst. The wide and deep porch from which MawMaw would stand, calling with hands cupped around her mouth "Roy! Boys! Dinner's On!"
This place, these mountains, these ridges and valleys and farms and rivers that were calling me home for the 20 years I lived "away".
These memories that are calling me home still as I try to make sense of where I was then and where I am now and why my life has transpired as it has.
Today has been one of those Fall days here in my beloved mountains. The clouds were thick and low this morning by seven, and by ten there was a steady fine rain falling across the ridges and hollows. The thermometer may have indicated 70 (21) most of the day, but there has been a chill to the air, that harbinger of the December and February that lurk just around the corner.
I moved away from home in the Spring of my 24th year. I missed home, and honestly thought that the pangs would lessen, but they did not. My father was in his late 60's, retired, and ill. My mother worked in the County school system and Daddy was home alone during the day. I soon discovered that the best balm for my homesick heart was to call Daddy, oh about ten in the morning, and chat for a while. Ha always gave a brief weather report, and I would respond in kind. I mentioned February above because it was the relentless gray, brown, wet late winter rains of February that I had anticipated I would miss least about home, and those were the weather reports that pained my heart the most.
Daddy passed away in April of 1986, three years after I left home, and 15 years before I would come home again to stay. On mornings like this morning, when the clouds drape heavy and gray across the mountaintops, and a fine steady rain settles in for a nice long visit, I miss calling home, and hearing that voice. Calling home was a gift I never appreciated until he was gone.
Today my thoughts have once again turned to my childhood years, and how deeply I enjoyed this time of pause between the heat of August and the gradually chilling days of late October. Football Friday nights. Afternoons still warm enough and daylight late enough to begin end-of-summer chores outside. There is a particular beauty to the trees and flowers as the time of Fall color is almost, but not quite here. The green changes hues, and some impatient leaves are already swirling through the air, propelled by unseen currents. Shadows are longer and darker, and when the sunlight filters through the partially disrobed trees the patterns on pavement and grass are delicate and ephemeral in their beauty.
Apples and pumpkins are the star of the dining table. Cider, apple butter, and molasses will soon be for sale by those who still honor their heritage and toil in orchards and fields here in the mountains, It was during this time of the year that there would be held a Fall Festival of sorts in Tazewell, VA. at the County Fairgrounds. The Lord's Acre Sale. I believe it was called. Now this may still be held, I am not really sure. I live in a different county now, and my memories of The Lord's Acre Sale are at least 40 years old. In my mind's eye I can still see the booths, attended by various church and civic groups, with such a selection of items for sale. Hand crafted, home made. Apple butter. Fried apple pies. Honey with and without the honeycomb. Hot dogs. Molasses. Quilts. Aprons. Crocheted and knitted doilies, dishrags, and dolls. Aprons and potholders in gingham and calico. Hot chocolate and coffee. Cakes and pies and candies on paper plates covered in plastic wrap. Ham biscuits and homemade 'light bread'. A precursor to the Farmer's Markets of today, but extra special because it only came once a year. Without all of the entertainment and other bells and whistles of the festivals and such that many towns and communities 'put on' now.
Now keep in mind that these are memories from decades ago, and the details and particulars were more than likely outside my ken at the time, but I believe the purpose was for fundraising and not individual profit, The members of civic groups and churches would bring the first of their harvests, the best of their labors, and sell them to fund the at home and at large missions and projects that were so germane to their existence. A time of community and fellowship that was in preparation and highly anticipated weeks in advance.
As the calendar turns and we head into the last quarter of 2015, these have been my thoughts.