Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Throwback:A Memory - 31 March 2016

When I was young, we did not have a great deal of money. From my preteens onward, we three youngest Smiths of 400 Virginia Avenue were very inventive in ways to earn funds to obtain everything from comic books and snacks to clothes and money for extracurricular activities at school. I do not doubt that, had they had the money, Mom and Dad would have given us allowances and bought all of those things children think are so vital to their social success. In lieu of actual money, they helped us procure moneymaking opportunities in various ways. I used to joke that Dad hired us out like indentured servants to friends and relatives, and that is not far from the truth. One of the most consistent and lucrative jobs, for myself, my older by 18 months sister and younger by 4 years brother was as carriers for our local daily paper, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph. 
Photograph by Jim Thacker
used with permission

My favorite time of the year to deliver the paper was in (of course) Spring and Fall. Spring was especially enjoyable, because in addition to the warmer early morning temperature, there was the intoxicating aroma of blooming trees and flowers intermingled with the scent of coffee brewing and bacon frying wafting through the crisp morning air as I walked my paper route. It was more often than not dark when we left the house in the morning to deliver our papers. Virginia Carol's route was out towards East 2nd, 3rd and 4th streets. Ed's route was up Virginia Avenue, and across the hill towards where the town's recreation park is now located. My route was "around the hill" and out Philpott Avenue. 

Photograph by Jim Thacker
used with permission

There were times when it was a wee bit scary, walking the sections of road where there were no houses, between where the Caseys lived and the Stoots house was. I liked the quiet though, interspersed with the early songs of birds, calling up the sun. It was perhaps on those mornings that my love of quiet times out in nature was born. I can recall taking deep breaths of that cool morning air and almost being giddy with the smell of the new day. 

When I was almost through the route, heading up Philpott beside the Catholic church, I could see the sun setting the clouds ablaze, burning off the mist that drifted up from the Clinch River. This picture that my friend Jim took this morning is of the early sky over Dalton Addition, the same neighborhood where I grew up and delivered all of those bags and bags of newspapers, over 40 years ago. 

These days, I am often outside again at the first light of day, taking a break at work and watching the fog lift up from Cedar Creek in Lebanon. I still take deep nourishing breaths of that early fresh air, and am grateful that I am accorded the privilege of experiencing Springtime in the Appalachians. Perhaps that is why Appalachian Spring  is one of my favorite compositions. 

Have a terrific day!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thoughtful Tuesday 29 March 2016

This came across my newsfeed on Facebook this morning. For me, it pulls into one thought what at times seems to be an avalanche of fragmented despair and discord. Not (just) for me but for people across the spectrum of humanity. 

One of my Facebook friends who is Lakota from Pine Ridge and now lives in Colorado wrote today of going to powwow and reconnecting with his tribe (community) and how liberating it was to once again feel a part of rather than apart from.

I read a rather lengthy post/article on holding space for one another, and what this means both individually and collectively. I began to mull over exactly what this means, and how it is used and abused in today's climate.

My writing group (such a marvelous collection of people - it is beyond my ken how I am included) is working off of a provocative prompt this week - Empty room(s): Real or metaphorical.

Then all of these disparate thoughts came together into one cohesive concept when a woman I consider to be extremely gifted and intuitive posed this question:

Is the world a dangerous, chaotic place with no inherent purpose, running on automatic like a malfunctioning machine and fundamentally inimical to your happiness?
Or are you surrounded by helpers in a friendly universe that gives you challenges in order to make you smarter and wilder and kinder?

So, as I sit here in my comfortable little house, nestled amidst the mountains and with the sound of a meandering stream just outside the window, I contemplate me

There are times I feel I have been beset by every trial imaginable in my life. Times when I feel I have battled and been bruised and bloodied in ways I did not know were possible. Every time - without fail - when I share my situation I am met with love, understanding, empathy, support, encouragement - every positive adjective you can imagine. 

We all face battles, and battle demons. We can do it alone, in that empty room, or we can do it with our tribe, our circle, our family. We can lift that burden and carry it alone, or we can allow others to hold space with and for us. The weight is the same, but the burden is distributed among many backs as opposed to just one.

We all have joys and triumphs. Moments of victory, of plenty, of blessing. We can hoard these riches and buffer ourselves against the want and need around us or we can hold space with and for others. The blessing is the same, but the lightening of daily cares and worries is spread to many lives. We fill an empty room with celebration.

Social media is what it is. And what it is in 2016 is a force in society. Social media is redefining what a tribe is, who our family is, who matters and why. We are seeing for the first time in history all people as one. Mankind as a unit, not divided by the barriers of non-communication and veiled in mystery as in years past. Too often, non-communication has been replaced by miscommunication and misunderstanding. 

Xenophobia, misogyny, racism and discrimination have been exposed across the board. 

There is much work ahead for us, as common inhabits of this big blue marble hurtling through the cosmos. 

Day by day, bit by bit, I believe we are getting there. So in answer to my Facebook friends, 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Miscellany of Musings 24 March 2016

A Miscellany of Musings - Presented to you in celebration of the Full Moon and this beautiful Spring we have been gifted in the Appalachians.

Across the verdant meadow lies
The gateway to a sacred place
Betwixt the water and ice blue skies
Enfolded in a magical embrace
At journey's end there waits a prize
A solemn blessing - boundless grace
Out of time and worry a day
To visit with the elusive fey

Ellen Apple 05/16/2015

Attempted to find credit for photograph, it is apparently a Gypsy Caravan in Gloucestershire, England 
Take my wagon to the woods

That is what I should do

Dig some 'seng

Find some ramps

 Search out those dry-land fish

Take my wagon to the meadow

That is what I should do

Gather dandelions and clover

Cut some lavender

Brew me some thistle tea

Take my wagon to the fair

That is what I should do

Read some cards

Dance and twirl

Sing the Moon to sleep

- Roberta Ellen Smith Apple, 02/27/2014

Hobbit House in New Zealand, I tried to find a photo credit but could not
Hidden under the fairy mound

Beside the willow tree

Behind a haint blue door

Sipping a sassafras tea

Who could hope to conjure more?

This is where I shall be found!

~ Ellen Apple 03/24/2014

By Ellen Apple 
Quietude in full moonlight 

Making magic in the night

Bright she guides me on my way

Inspires me with what to say

Drawing down her mystic power

Emboldened at the witching hour

Ellen Apple 03/24/2016

By Ellen Apple
My Inner Landscape

I close my eyes and I can see

A path from river stone laid

Past fragrant lily of the valley

'Neath a weeping willow for shade

Clover, violet and moss so lush

Varying shades of green
A blossom laden spirea bush

Morning dew adds sparkle and sheen

The sounds of serenity filter in

Birdsong and a dragonfly's whir

Leaves flutter on tip of limb
As a breeze begins to stir

A seat from a tree stump hewn

From which to sit and ponder

While glimpsing in cloud an ancient rune

A delicious way time to squander

Come join me in my inner landscape

A place I have carefully constructed

Where from life's trials we can escape

And dreams are not obstructed

~ Ellen Apple May 3, 2015

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring! 20 March 2016

Sleeping Until Spring

In Fall a leaf
covers a rock

In Winter the leaf
moves under the rock

On Groundhog Day
the snow slides the 
rock over a flower bulb

With the sun warming 
the rock lets the
Flower surprise us

On the first day of Spring

~Roger Apple 3/20/2016

Today is the First Day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox,  in the Northern Hemisphere. One of two days in the year when the daylight hours and the dark hours are equal. A day of balance. Gradually since the Winter Solstice our daylight hours have increased, and will continue to do so until the Summer Solstice. (Most of) the United States switched to Daylight Savings Time last Sunday morning at 2 AM and already there is more 'outside time' - if only the fickle March weather would cooperate! When I was outside earlier today taking the photographs for this Ostara post, I was wearing a ruana.

Even amongst the dead leaves and rusty metal, life struggles forth. I must be a person of balance, or at least one who craves it, because Spring (Ostara) and Autumn (Mabon) are my favorite times of the year.

When we are children, and when we are the parents of children who are still in school, our lives revolve around school-year calendars. And so it should be. Once we are no longer totally controlled by terms, and vacations, and breaks, and snow days, the manner in which we mark the passage of time alters. For those who farm or garden, and those who live in a climate where there is a noticeable - albeit at times gradual - change of temperature and vegetation, as the sun and moon traverse their not quite in sync year, what is called by some The Wheel of the Year becomes more discernible. 

In most major and minor religions the year is marked liturgically, from holy day (holiday) to holy day, from feast to feast, from gathering to gathering.  Occasionally, there is a serendipity to all of these different calendars and things line up. Then everybody feels an extra boost of energy, an adrenaline burst, while foods and costumes and ceremonies are prepared and rehearsed in anticipation of  a time of community and celebration.

This year, the Vernal Equinox has fallen on the same day as Palm Sunday for most Christians. As I was driving home from work earlier today, there were cars in church parking lots, and at one church (Copper Ridge Baptist) two young ladies (no older than 10 would be my guess) were playing on the railing along the handicapped ramp leading up to the front door. Made me smile. 

There is a quickening to life at this time of the year - buds appear on the end of the fragile branches of the Lilac, the Redbuds are in bloom. There are Daffodils, Crocuses, Dandelions, and Clover blooming as well. Soon, yard and pastures will be awash in color, a sharp contrast to the tilled and turned gardens and fields.  Strawberry plants will bloom white, and then luscious berries will droop in heavy, sweet, juicy fullness. Spring onion and leaf lettuce will inspire many mountain cooks to get out the bacon grease, cider vinegar and sugar to make the first wilted salad of the season. Someone showed me a picture on a cellphone at work this morning of 3 beautiful Dry Land Fish (Morel mushrooms) that were gathered very close to where I live yesterday morning. 

Lambing is for the most part finished. Watching the young frolic in the pasture is always a treat on the drive home of the mornings. I had a surprise this morning - there was a young Angus male calf, standing in the middle of the almost 2-lane road, in a curve. I came to a complete stop, watching as he peered quizzically up the hillside, where several head of full grown Angus cattle were grazing. I do believe he was wondering how he could get back there instead of being where he was at that moment. I slowly moved forward, her turned and looked at me, then started  towards the dirt lane along side the hilly pasture he had liberated himself from. I did not go in search of his keeper, for there was a four wheeler pulling a small wagon further up the same dirt lane, and I am sure the farmer was on his way to return the wayward youth to his proper environ. 

Roger surprised me with the above poem when I got home, complete with an illustration, on the back of an envelope :

May your day, and season be one of balance and growth, May you celebrate the large and small heartily and often. Happy Spring!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fabulous Friday Findings 18 March 2016

I so enjoy days like today. A casual mental to-do list, nothing actually written down. Everyday tasks, nothing too strenuous or demanding. Flexible, for the most part, on timing. This is what my day thus far has been. Early, before nine, I went outside (brisk is how I would describe the temperature - maybe around 40), with camera in hand. I am participating in a challenge to post a nature photograph for seven days in a row. I am doing this in my writing group, so there is also a meager attempt at writing being done as well. The writing group is focused on mindfulness and encourages us to not just observe, but learn, from everything around us. I see this as an opportunity to see the beauty and unique qualities of all that my five senses encounter. In turn, this is beneficial not just in my writing but my personal path. These are the three pictures I took this morning: 

The remainder of the morning I spent finishing up the weekly laundry, straightening the kitchen a bit, and gathering the trash for a quick run to the dump. By noon all of my tasks were out of the way.

When I was in town yesterday running errands, I bought a container of fresh strawberries. I decided a cake would be fine to have with them, and said cake is on the oven right now. Hence these next three pictures:

I make 1-2-3-4 Cake. This has got to be the easiest basic cake recipe in the world. My grandmother Ethel Slade made this recipe constantly, as did Mom. It was the first cake I ever baked. You can use a tube pan, a bundt pan, make cupcakes, or bake it in a 9x13 dish as I did here. I have made it so many times I do not even use the written recipe anymore. I just set out the butter (1 cup) and eggs (4) and make it from memory. After the butter (I use salted butter - if you use unsalted you will need to add 1 teaspoon of salt with the baking powder to the flour) has softened and the eggs have come to room temperature, I prepare the baking vessel by greasing and flouring it (I use the butter wrappers for the greasing step - waste not want not). Measure out in advance 2 cups of white sugar, 3 cups of flour which has had 1 teaspoon of baking powder stirred into it & 1 cup of milk which I add the flavoring to - since I have fresh strawberries, I wanted a bright flavor so I added a teaspoon each of vanilla and lemon extracts.  Whip the butter until it is fluffy and pale. Add the sugar slowly and beat until it is fully incorporated into the butter. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after you add each one. Stir in the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. (I add about a cup of flour, then 1/2 of the milk, another cup of flour, the rest of the milk, then the remaining flour) Pour into the prepared pan and bake until brown and tests done in the center. This is about an hour in a bundt pan and maybe 50 minutes in a 9x13. After the cake has cooled you can frost, glaze or serve with fruit. 

So the cake is baked, the laundry is finished, the trash is at the dump, and I am really enjoying my Friday. I sincerely hope yours was good as well.

~Ellen Apple 03/18/2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mid-Morning, Mid-Week, Mid-Month 16 March 2016

This is a picture I took from my driveway, looking across the road to our closest neighbors. We do not have forsythia, and there is a reason for that. I will explain with a tale from my childhood at the conclusion of this middling meander.

The first quarter of 2016 will soon be but a memory, and there is a quickening here in the Appalachians of southwest Virginia. The calendar tells us that the Vernal Equinox is Sunday, March 20. Here we do not need the calendar to tell us, for the harbingers of the season have been with us for the past several days. We have had thunderstorms, and hail. There have been frequent bouts of rain, or spotty showers as the weatherpeople on the television call them. I like the term sprinkles. Sprinkles remind me of my childhood because there was a Methodist pastor at my grandparents church, Ebenezer UMC, at one time and his name always amused me. Then about 25 years later, when I lived in the Charlotte NC area, there was a weatherman on the NBC affiliate (WCNC) that was named Larry Sprinkle. Most apropos. 

The cold weather, while not completely out the door, has for the most part bid us adieu. We will have colder temperatures at least twice more in the weeks ahead. The Easter snap, as PawPaw called it - which is a coldspell right before Easter, is forecast to arrive this coming weekend. Once again the mercury will dip to near the freezing point, and there may even be a few stubborn snowflakes fly. In May Blackberry Winter arrives, just after Mother's Day and prior to Memorial Day. 

Potatoes are traditionally planted on Good Friday (25 March this year) and I have already seen ground turned and fencing repairs on the small and large farms here. Trees are starting to bud, early bulbs have bloomed, and birds are calling up the sun in the wee hours out along the creek. The inside cats run from living room to kitchen and back again, meeping at the birds. Then when the skies darken and the rain starts they run and hide because the storms, even mild ones, frighten them. As I drive across the the mountain to town I am extra cautious. Early morning fogs have returned, and there are critters about early and often. 

My family moved to 400 Virginia Avenue in Richlands, Virginia, in February of 1967. I was not yet 9 years old. My mother still lives in that house, and I suppose that it will always be home in a way that no other place could be. While I have scattered memories of the cabin that saw me into the world, the Myer house that welcomed brother Ed, and the house on E 1st Street that was too close to the Clinch River to suit Momma, the house on Virginia Avenue is where I grew up. The home that I returned to multiple times as I struggled to make my way into life, like a fledgling bird that keeps returning to the nest. I can still climb the steps to my old upstairs bedroom and miss every squeaky spot. 

And that blasted forsythia bush is still in the corner of the front yard, right by the sidewalk and fire hydrant. That bush I hated with a passion, because it was the switch bush. The place we were dispatched to for the instruments of our discipline. The bush that I tried to kill repeatedly and grew to hate more each year. If you cut them to the ground they grow back bushier and healthier. They bloom and green and block the sidewalk. They harbor yellowjackets and blacksnakes. They will not die, even when crashed into by bicycles and fell into by random inebriated men stumbling their way home in the wee hours. They scratch your arms and hands when you prune them back, and they hurt like the dickens when your legs are switched with their branches. 

That, people, that is why I may admire their announcement annually of the quickening of the season but only from afar. That is why you will (hopefully) never see forsythia blooming in my yard. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On the Cusp 10 March 2016

Always teetering 
on the edge
Ever at the cusp of 
Now and 
Then and 
shifting sands
Unable to 
Turn back
Unwilling to
Move forward
Here changes
By breath
With heartbeat
(there is a cusp of the heart as well)

~Ellen Apple 3/10/2016

photo credit Rachel Westfall Taylor

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Elevenses 9 March 2016

In the British Isles, elevenses (pronunciation: /ɨˈlɛvənzɨz/) is a snack that is similar to afternoon tea, but eaten in the morning. It is generally less savoury than brunch, and might consist of some cake or biscuits with a cup of coffee or tea. The name refers to the time of day that it is taken: around 11 am.

I find that I drink caffiene pretty much consistently throughout the day. Coffee, tea, hot, tepid, iced - yep, I am an addict. And I do not want to change.

Scary, isn't it? When I look at this picture, I see my mother Jan Smith, my half-brother Steve Slade & various and sundry other relations from my maternal bloodline. Truth will out, and DNA never lies. I was not switched at birth, planted by an alien race to learn the ways of humans, or left on the stoop by gypsies or the fae -

I can feel change arriving in my life, and it arrives at a swift pace. I can only hope I have the strength to deal with the aftermath in a reasonable manner.

Spring has come Little Beaver Creek - Catching us by surprise - A warmth to the breeze at times - New buds barely catching my eyes - Early birds can be heard to sing - Heralding hope and joy - Lambs are frolicking in meadows so green - There are fishing holes in search of a boy - Clouds overhead float billowy soft - Morphing from fish to fowl - Windows are open to air out the house - Newborn kittens greet us with a meow - All too soon the new will wear off - And pollen will become a pest - But for now we enjoy the halcyon days - Choosing to remember only the best
The following are the first few bits of a story I am working on. Any thoughts?

There was truly no cause for the trepidation that filled Danielle when she knocked on the door to welcome her new neighbors. The house at the end of her lane had been empty for so many months, and it would be nice to occasionally see other people out and about. For the most part, she only saw the creatures that made the woodland surrounding the area their domain. 

And oh, such creatures they were. Deer, opossum, coyote, raccoon, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks ... Most likely there were others she had not seen or heard. There had been rumors of bear, and she was sure there were bats in the night though she had not seen them. Owls often could be heard and seen, seeking out their prey, and the variety of birds made their little bit of paradise a frequent destination for birders doing the annual Audubon Society count. 

In addition to the birdseed, salt blocks, and suet she routinely invested in, Danielle had taken to leaving her food scraps and leftovers at the edge of the woods, feeding the critters she called it. Actually, that particular habit of hers had been the genesis for her recent and somewhat uncharacteristic feelings of unease about her current living conditions. 

She had enjoyed her hermitage at the end of a paved, albeit one lane road. Hers was one of only five houses, each which boasted the type of privacy the burnt out and creative craved as intensely as the pioneers who settled this area had craved community and neighbors in the eighteenth century. 

... more to come at a later date.

~ Ellen Apple 3/8/2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

First Light 8 March 2016

International Women's Day


Solar eclipse


Political turmoil


Burgeoning Spring


Early light 
Meditation to pair
Quietude of sight
Crisp clean air

Preparation to bear
What hours will carry
When worldly care
And resources marry

Nourish the body
Embolden the soul

Go forth

~Ellen Apple 3/8/2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

In The Gloaming 7 March 2016

We watched the debate last night...Roger had a flashback to watching Captain Kangaroo because of Hilary's jacket. I mean, did you see those pockets? Then she mentioned carrots and he just about lost it. Bunny!

Really sad about Nancy Reagan. She was a classy lady.

SO happy for warmer temperatures.

When life throws you curveballs, adjust your swing.

*** Bill S-2609 *** Call your US Senator and tell them your state needs to be able to help you know what is in your food.
Stopping the Dark Act in the US Senate
Unfortunately, the preemption bill known infamously as the Dark Act Denying Americans the Right to know Act) passed out of the US Senate Agricultural committee on 3-1-2016.The bill is too new to have a number so I will refer to it as The Dark Act. The bill would violate the tenth amendment rights of the states to label GMO “genetically modified organisms” foods by prohibiting state labelling laws as to GMO foods. People would lose the right to avoid GMO foods by means of labelling laws.

The Dark Act is dangerous. To put it plain and simple, GMOs are slow poisons masquerading as poisons.

The vast majority of GMOs are engineered to resist, and therefore be sprayed with, herbicides such as Glyphosate The health of American consumers has disintegrated badly from the Glyphosate residue in the food supply caused by the GMO crops.

See the research by Dr. Stephanie Seneff ‘Glyphosate Pathway to Modern Diseases’ in Entropy Journal April 2013. Also the research of Dr. Nancy Swanson concerning the strong correlation between the rise of certain diseases and the rise in acreage year by year of GMO crops in the United States, Journal of Organic Systems 2014. Also see article ‘Grow in Doubt’ by Dr. Jonathan Latham.

I am urging you to use all of your parliamentary skills to keep the dark act from reaching the president’s desk. And of course to vote against it. The health of this and future generations depends upon stopping The Dark Act and reversing the insidious effect of GMOs in the food supply.

But how do I contact my Senator? Go to this website and search for your state. Telephone numbers and email addresses in addition to office addresses and websites are available. 

Here are some pictures of page-holders. Roger makes them, and there are some for sale ... 

*gloaming - twilight or dusk