Tomorrow was far away

and there was nothing to trouble about. Things were finished somehow when the time came; thank God there was always a little margin over for peace: then a person could spread out the plan of life and tuck in the edges orderly.

-Katherine Anne Porter, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall






Giving Thanks and Finding Home

This year I didn’t go “home” for Thanksgiving. As in, I didn’t go to Florida, where most of my family lives, and where I traditionally spend the holiday. To save money, and since we’re travelling down there for Christmas, Tommy and I spent the time here in Asheville at our apartment with his sister, another dear friend, and later, one of our neighbors.

We cooked and laughed all afternoon, taking shifts in our kitchen, which is so small you can almost touch opposite walls at once. Close quarters embraced, we whipped up a colorful array of from-scratch dishes, conventional with a foodie twist.  From deviled eggs made with the farm-fresh eggs we are lucky enough to get delivered to our front door each week, to pie made with local Pink Lady apples, we borrowed from the classics as we started our own traditions. And of course, our cat Simone got to participate with her own fancy bowl of tuna.

Creating and sharing meals with loved ones is one my greatest pleasures in life. When we invest our time and creativity in making a meal together, we have the chance to forge the kind of fellowship that our technology-driven culture doesn’t often prioritize. For all of our far-reaching social networking, we often don’t know our neighbors very well, much less break bread with them.

This year, I feel so thankful for my parents and their insistence on the nightly family dinners of my childhood, for my grandmother for her ritual Sunday dinners that I sorely miss, and for all of the friends, Warren Wilson College and beyond, who have shared in carrying on those meals of kinship, where everyone can feel at home.

Hot Springs Lovers’ Leap

So it’s become clear that I’m a blue moon sort of blogger, and I’m feeling it today.

Ever since researching for a story I wrote about regional Lovers’ Leaps, I’ve been itching to hit the trails myself. I hadn’t known what a dark lore most of them share, but most Lovers’ Leap  legends were probably written by white settlers, and they usually star a Native American couple. The heroes are typically young and in love, but for various reasons are forbade to marry and eventually feel driven to end their lives by leaping from a cliff.

One of these old-school romantic tragedies takes place in Hot Springs, a small town a bit north of Asheville. The Appalachian Trail runs through town, so it’s popular with through-hikers who need supplies (or a soak in one of the amazing natural hot spring tubs), or for those of us locals  looking for a few hours in nature.

Mist-on-the-Mountain, the heroine of the Hot Springs legend, just wanted to marry a handsome young man named Magwa. However, her father was the chief, and he had his reasons for wanting her to marry Tall Pine, who was old enough to be her grandfather. The obvious solution was for Mist and Magwa to run away together, but they made it only as far as the base of a tall cliff by the French Broad river. Old man Tall Pine was also a lunatic, and he followed the young couple to the water, where he killed Magwa with a blow to the head. Mist fled to the top of the bluff, where Tall Pine cornered her, and her choice became clear. She jumped to her death, the only way to join her lover. As the story goes, a panther crouching in a tree killed Tall Pine before he could escape.

T and I spent a few hours in Hot Springs exploring this hike, which is fairly short but steep in some parts. You spend a good bit of time meandering (if you’re anything like me and pretty things catch your eye) along the French Broad river, and then a switch back trail takes you up to a few lookout spots, one of which is the true Lovers’ Leap. The view is gorgeous, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking of the poor heroine, who just wanted to marry the man she loved, and it made me feel an extra bit of lucky to be there with my love.

It’s been chilly here lately, too, so a day with sunshine and warmth was a gift. We’re past our leaf “peak,” but there was still plenty of bright autumn color I couldn’t resist attempting to capture. Here’s to fall, one of the best reasons to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Have a great week!

Love, K

Summer Flowers

You know life is wonderful when you wake up from a Saturday afternoon nap to a your sweet boyfriend setting a vase (okay, a travel mug) of fresh-picked flowers (that he also grew) on your nightstand. And then, when you wake up and wander to the kitchen for a snack, you find him unpacking sun-warmed veggies he harvested from the community garden, including okra, maybe because you told him that now you like okra. Lucky!

Montford Rec Center

A month or so ago, Tommy showed me a mini fruit orchard he had discovered at the Montford Rec Center, a park in our neighborhood. It’s small, maybe 10 trees or so, but I love the idea of a public fruit orchard. Most of the trees had almost-ripe fruit: pears, apples, figs, persimmons, and my favorite, loquats.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather had a loquat tree in his yard in Florida, and in my memory they are the most delicious and dreamy of treats. The size of a grape, loquats are a bright marigold color, and they burst with tangy, sweet juiciness. I never thought they could grow in North Carolina because of the cooler weather, so when I saw this tree I melted with joy and childhood nostalgia. Even though they weren’t ripe, I nibbled a few slightly bitter ones off the tree anyway, and vowed to come back soon to harvest these jewels.

But time has that nasty habit of slipping by unnoticed, and when we walked over there last week, I had a sad, sad moment. Every last loquat had been harvested, as well as the apples and pears. All that were left were unripe figs and persimmons. Wahh. I guess the Fruit and Nut Club got there first. Oh, well.

Luckily, it was a gorgeous day at the park, and I got a few pictures. Did I mention you can see Mt Pisgah from the Montford Rec Center?

Little Free Library in Montford

Tommy and I were taking a walk around our neighborhood when we noticed this beauty newly established near the road. Lit lovin’ library junkie that I am, I think this is pretty awesome.

What’s this? A tiny library in a community garden two blocks from my house? And it has a book of poetry by William Carlos Williams? And a few children’s books for my classroom?

Apparently, it’s one of many. The international network of “Little Free Libraries” works on an honor system. Really, it’s more like the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny jars. Just like you can’t really “steal” a penny, the Little Free Library folks remind us on their website you can’t “steal” a free book.

So you take what you like, and bring a book by when you’re ready to pass it on.

Listen here for an NPR story on Little Free Libraries.

Chris Jordan and the Midway Project

Since watching citizens of Carolina Beach (see my last post) stand up at a Town Council meeting and share their various arguments to ban cigarette smoking from their beloved beach, and since walking on that same beach, noticing cigarette butts littering the shore, I’ve been reminded of devastation the ocean experiences as a result of human negligence.

The stories I heard that night ranged from logical to deeply emotional. Of course, litter is always an eyesore and a pollutant, but one citizen argued that cigarettes are particularly damaging to our environment, for their hundreds of toxins and the cellulose acetate fibers (plastic) that make them slow to biodegrade.

Another citizen talked of her moving to Carolina Beach on the suggestion of her doctor because she was living with cancer; she requires fresh air and a clean environment to be well, but often when she walks along the beach, the smoke around her causes her lungs to produce an asthma-like attack, requiring her to take medication.

The beach smoking debate made me think of artist and photographer Chris Jordan, who is best known for his large-scale photography installations that remark on various current social and environmental trends, particularly devastation.

Take a look at Jordan’s most current collection, Message From the Gyre, but be warned that it is eye-opening and graphic. When I checked his website, I learned that in addition to photography, Jordan is currently working on the Midway Project, a film meant to illuminate the extent to which plastic garbage continues to affect life on our planet. I can’t wait to see the finished film!

“On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.” – Chris Jordan

What I most appreciate about Jordan is his mingling of honesty and hope. Although this project tackles an alarming and monumental environmental tragedy, the Midway Project is not about despair. It is a reminder to all of us of our daily choices and our inescapable interconnectedness.

“I envision our project not as being a bunch of us tramping around the island with cameras; instead I hope it will be an emotional and spiritual journey by a deeply connected group of artists, to honor the issues that Midway represents. Maybe it is not too ambitious to hope—if we can fully rise to the occasion—that we might be able to co-create a multi-media work of art that tenderly witnesses this middle point that humanity finds itself at right now. And in the eye of the storm —the apex of the Gyre—perhaps our collaborative efforts can create a container for healing that might have some small effect on the collective choice that is to come.” – Chris Jordan,