Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's All Uphill!

I love these wonderful tree roots snaking their way over the mossy ground. It always makes me think about how our veins branch out over our body to carry blood to all the cells. Having put IVs in these veins as a part of my first vocation (as a nurse anesthetist) I love the way these "root-veins" show themselves so readily! I know that underground are highways of roots as these trees seek water and other nutrients. This fact becomes quite apparent when I dig around my house trying to find places to transplant flowers. Let's just say that the trees are pretty darned healthy!

Piper on the hunt!
This morning Piper and I walked down to Glade Pond. We walked north on the Parkway and went downhill for a mile. It was absolutely no challenge getting there but coming back...oh my! Actually, the climb back home was not too bad. There is something about just dropping your legs down into climbing gear and going for it that feels good (when it stops hurting). I think I must be part mountain goat because I would much rather go uphill than down. When we got to Glade Pond this morning I took Piper's leash and Gentle Leader off and let her run. She stayed in the water all of about 45 seconds and then was off to scavenge crumbs from under the picnic tables. I kept thinking of my old Katie, who would have had to be dragged out of the water to go home. She loved to swim. But Piper wasn't seduced by the cool charms of the water! It is a beautiful place and it was so quiet there this morning.

Morning Light
The Rhododendrons are still blooming everywhere. I love the light and the incredible shades of green in this picture. Can you tell that living here brings great joy to me?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Struggling to Understand

The Better Toy

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Lots of long visits with friends who have come to visit me and the mountains. I love the time to "hash and rehash" the events swirling around us. When no one is here I find myself talking to the dog and cat...but they are such poor respondents! The picture above was on Rachel Held Evans blog (see "Oh the places you will go") and it is really thought provoking for me.

So... I grew up playing with dolls. I sat under my mother's sewing machine and I would use the scraps of fabric to "dress" my dolls. The dolls in their variety of "outfits" let my imagination roam to places and events. I explored the world with them - saris for some, evening dresses for others, suits for the boys, hats for the Queen... And I learned the feel of fabrics - the roughness of wool, the soft, shiny feel of silk, the joy of "just plain cotton". I guess it's the reason I still love to work with fibers of all kinds.

And I wonder how our children will learn the "feel" of the world? The IPad (which I covet; let's just name the sin!) is a wonderful tool for learning and exploring. I watch children with them and I am amazed at how the youngest can maneuver all those apps and make music and art come alive. It is such an instant world for them. Dolls can be dressed in seconds without pins or glue. Virtual sequins added to complete the outfit without the frustration of trying to hold a slick, tiny bit of shine while attaching it to fabric.

Perhaps my wondering is a part of feeling the world change and not liking it very much. I wonder if we are making the world "more"; or are we slowly diminishing our interaction with the stuff of creation? How will all this technology affect our relationship with creation? Any thoughts among those of you who visit this blog?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Plain Experience

This is the Poem I wrote on Saturday at the Writing Workshop. The lead in for writing was: "Imagine yourself in a vehicle..."

The Plain Experience

It never occurs to me

that I will have to land one day.

I was set free from the Mother ship,

and now all I can see is sky;

crisp blue, and new sun

breaking over the horizon.

If I move to the left, I soar wildly,

tilting over a earth so green that

I want to plant my feet

in its mossy goodness.

But not yet…and so I lean again;

this time to the right. Water everywhere;

hard and sharp as shining metal.

Will I go under? Or crash

on its unbending surface?

Neither happens as I ease

back into the cockpit nest;

resting …listening.

A sudden breeze catches me up

and I fly, racing against the moment

when I will one day land.

MAH, June 25, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011


This morning Piper and I did our most adventurous hike. We left the house at 7:15am and hiked a mile and a half up the Parkway (going south from our house). After the first mile it was straight up but oh the wonderful reward of this view. The Parkway is closed going south from this lookout as they repair the stone work. After resting for a while we walked home. I must have been inspired by my great-niece Christa, who wrote about hiking 15 miles with her grandfather (my brother) last week. Inspiration will take you places you never thought you could go...but now I'm just tired!

Pictured here is my latest wildflower find. I don't know the name of this plant/flower - it's not in my little wildflower book. It is really pretty and grows quite plentifully along the side of the road. The top is a silvery pale green and I'm not really sure it is even a flower. It may be a kind of foliage.

So, given the below picture would you say that Piper has found her comfort zone here at my house? She does have a dog bed on the floor (actually under the dining room table) and she sleeps there at night, but this is her daytime napping place. She is such a long lean puppy dog!

Saturday I went to Winston - Salem to a writer's workshop with Pat Schneider. She is the founder of the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA). The philosophy of AWA is that everyone is a writer and every writer deserves a safe environment in which to experiment, learn and develop craft. The website for AWA is There were about 60 people at the workshop which was free (sponsored by the Winston-Salem Writer's Guild). We listened to Pat speak for about an hour and then split into 3 groups to write together. The environment for reading the work we did afterwards was incredibly safe and encouraging. No one was forced to read their work but when a piece was read it was treated with respect. Everyone offered their own reflections about what was meaningful to them in the poem or story.

I remember the first poetry workshop I attended (which cost quite a bit of money). I had submitted poems to the instructor before the workshop. When I read one of the poems to the group the instructor began by saying, "This poem does not tell us anything about the subject - it lacks creativity and style." I really don't remember anything about the workshop after that and I attended very few of the classes. It took me a long time after that workshop to even want to write again. The Poetry Workshop I attended last summer at the Iowa State Summer Writer's Festival was completely different from that first one. The teacher, Elizabeth Robinson, created a safe environment for learning and she wrote with us, asking for our reflections on her writing. I wonder how many of us would feel more confident about writing if we had been given a safer environment at some point along the way?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Wildflowers

It is a rainy day in the mountains. Piper and I are still hoping for a walk - it's no fun walking with an umbrella. Yesterday we found lots of beautiful flowers. Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday and the wonderful mystery of God's nature pictured in three persons. There is no way our human brains can adequately understand the Trinity but we get glimpses. One certainty is that within God resides this incredible mix of feminine and masculine. How else can we - everyone of us - be created in God's image? And oh the colors of creation (including humanity), everyone beautiful and unique. It is an overwhelming realization that each of these beautiful flowers was drawn by the Creator's hand. And that reminds me of Rembrandt's painting of the return of the prodigal son. The father, seated, is welcoming his son home. The son kneels and the father's hands rest on his shoulders. One of the father's hands is distinctly masculine while the other is just as distinctly feminine. Jesus told this parable to show us who God is - the father always welcoming us back - and Rembrandt, a creator of beauty himself, knew the nature of the Master Creator well. As the young people today say...all I'm saying here is that I think it takes some major estrogen to create these beauties! Okay enough theologizing!

Fly poison
This plant is growing in my yard and the picture doesn't really do it justice. The leaves and roots are extremely toxic to cattle and my wildflower book says that some people call it "crow poison".

Large Purple Fringed Orchis
These members of the Orchid family grow in thick bunches alongside the Parkway. They add beautiful color to the ordinary weeds and Queen Anne's Lace that mix themselves in with it.

Tall Milkweed
This is certainly not what I grew up calling "milkweed" but according to the book this is indeed milkweed. It's not very showy and tends to hide among the other bushes and weeds along the road. The picture is not very clear but the flowers have a purplish inside and a pale ivory flower.

The next two pictures are different species of Black-eyed Susans! The lovely lady in this picture is Piper's first encounter with a cow. Piper was more impressed than Miss Susan!

This last picture is Butterfly Weed. It lives up to its name because every morning when we walk by it there are butterflies sitting on the flowers. I grew up calling this "chigger weed". The wildflower book says that this name has caused an unfounded prejudice to the flower. It sure did for me. I always wanted to pick it but I sure didn't want those chiggers! Now I know....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wildflowers in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Piper and Martha headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway

Every morning Piper and I head south on the BRP for a long walk. The parkway is closed going south from our house (local traffic is permitted) to repair and replace the stone bridges and railings. It's a quiet time of day and we often round a curve and see deer in the road. I found a book on wildflowers at the used book store in Sparta and now we are trying to identify all the flowers we see. So I thought I would show you some of the common and not so common ones.

This is mountain laurel, mountain ivy or "calico bush", depending on where you grew up. It has just finished blooming and the mountains were covered. It varies in degree of pinkness; some are deep pink and others almost white. The flowers are saucer shaped and I grew up picking them and then one by one letting them float down the creek like little ships!

This is Catawba Rhododendron and it is way more "showy" than the laurels. Purples of all colors bloom out from shiny dark green leaves. This year I saw one rhododendron that was a red - a deep purple red. These are also pretty much finished blooming although I saw one this morning that was just beginning to bloom.
This is a Lady's Slipper and according to the book it is a stemless Lady's Slipper - the leaves being stemless not the flower. I found these in my neighbor's yard and yes, I coveted them! They are in the orchid family. I did not find any of the smaller yellow ones this year - they are not as common as these pink ones.

So tomorrow I will post some pictures of a really unusual plant I found in my yard which is called "fly poison"! Stay tuned....

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Ocean....

An Old Lover

It’s been years since

I saw you.

You haven’t changed a bit

too busy for me

in the middle of the day;

summer’s heat washing

in and out.

Predictable. That’s what

you are

some, like me, might call you


But you settle for nothing

less than the depths and

even there you move,


anxious as a dog in heat.

You wear

white hats – they fit you well;

framing your shameless shadowy


You reach up,

to shelter your heart from

the light which bleaches

your beauty.

Or is it a greeting? The wave

quickly falling as you recognize

my cool glance.

Your flirting

turns into a trench of foam

at my feet.

You will not be my lover.

I have another.

mah – June 11, 2011

Topsail Beach

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Too Busy for Words?

Piper Sisson

Yipes! It's June already...and I haven't written a word since April. I can't blame it all on the beautiful black lab in the picture above but we have been busy since she came to stay with us in late May. Piper is 5 years old (acts like 2!) and I am fostering her for a family in Fayetteville. Her dad is deployed in Afghanistan and her mom is expecting their 4th child this fall. So Piper is staying with Pumpkin and me until her dad gets home at the end of the year. She is a sweet, bright girl who is afraid of everything. We are working on the theory that a tired dog is a happy dog and a dog who doesn't have the energy to worry about everything!

I remember a friend of mine in Raleigh, several years ago, telling me his cure for worry. You go out for a walk and keep walking until all you can worry about is how you are going to get home! I think of him every time Piper and I walk too far up the Blue Ridge Parkway and then I wonder if I will have to carry her home. It's good to have a dog again, if only temporarily.

It has finally turned summer in the mountains, but most days we can still go without air conditioning. I took my last trips for a while recently - one to Burke's Garden, Va. (if you've never been it is worth the trip). A very dear friend spent her summers there and so for her 90th birthday her family invited me to go for a visit with them. It was beautiful and many stories; all the better for being told by someone you love! I really had a good time. My other trip was to Fayetteville and then Topsail Beach to visit with friends in both places. I am not as fond of the beach as many but I really enjoyed this event which involved friends who are family. There is something about adding children to an occasion that makes it more fun. Our last night at the beach we were all children: dancing as if no one was watching!

So now I am home for the long summer stretch and ready to pull weeds, clean windows, paint the front door and welcome friends and family who come to visit to this mountain wonderland. And...I intend to write more stay tuned to our adventures.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring, at last!

I have been waiting for my daffodils to bloom for several weeks. When I went into the hospital on March 22 for surgery, these beauties were budding. I got home from the hospital on March 26 and they still were just buds. Last week they finally blossomed out into the sunshine. It is just over 3,000 feet elevation here at Ivy Lane and the flowers and trees are slowly emerging from winter's hibernation. We had snow on March 28 as evidenced from this picture of my Christmas tree (yes, Christmas tree!) on my back deck.

This wonderful Allegheny County Fraser Fir tree has remained so beautiful I couldn't bear to get rid of it. The decorations were primarily popcorn and cranberries and dried orange slices so the birdies have had fun with it. Putting peanut butter and bird seed on the branches several times resulted in a whole new activity: bird watching! Red hearts for Valentine's Day and green shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day didn't seem to bother the flock. I don't think the tree will last till Easter otherwise I might put those "lovely" plastic eggs on it....or not.

I am regaining my strength and am so ready to get back into the yard to work. This time of recovery has been filled with friends who have taken their time to come and be with me. I have loved having the time to just visit, or ponder the great mysteries of life, or watch a movie with my friends. Even the silences have seemed precious to me in the company of good friends and family. As I planned for this recovery time, there was the anxiety and "guilt" of asking others to take time to be here with me. I know my own tendencies to want to "do it myself" and feeling vulnerable is not a comfortable place for me; yet, these days have seemed precious. The gift of family and friends is the richest joy of all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Pumpkin on the Prowl

We are all making our way through Lent and into spring.... Pumpkin and I are finding our way through missing Katie. Pumpkin is exhibiting some very "dog-like" characteristics these days. I have to wonder if all that whispering that she and Katie used to do was really Katie passing along all of her secrets to Pumps. This is how you knock things out of Martha's hand - use your nose and be very persistent! This is how you stretch out in those patches of sunlight on the floor; this is how you lie under the dining room table; this is how you get under Martha's feet when she is cooking.... So Pumpkin seems to have learned well from Katie and she is determined to entertain me with her knowledge!

Today I was reading from a Lenten devotional by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was so instructive in my life at a time when I needed to know that God loved me. His book, "Life of the Beloved" had a significant impact on my life. Today's meditation begins, "If you dare to believe that you are beloved before you are born, you may suddenly realize that your life is very, very special."
Nouwen's undergirding principle is that each one of us is recognized by God as a beloved daughter, a beloved son. In the same way that God identified Jesus as his beloved son at his baptism, each one of us is also identified as beloved by God. It makes a difference if we believe that. It means, for instance, that when I talk to you, I must also identify you as beloved by God - you are part of my family whether you look, or believe, like me.

Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, JR, and many other "persons of reconciliation" recognize this undergirding principle of God's love. God doesn't just love me, the (relatively) good, white, Christian, woman. But I am God's beloved daughter who has many, many siblings. Never has this meant more to us in a world that grows smaller each day. My life is not separate from the life of my sister who suffers in Japan, or my brother who gets killed in Libya. The sin of apartheid where ever it occurs is my sin.

I think I have started preaching! Maybe I need to look for a pulpit?! Just be glad you aren't Pumpkin - she has to listen to me all the time. Well, enough for today all of my "beloved" friends.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent begins - Ash Wednesday

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return"

Experiencing the liturgy of Ash Wednesday as a parishioner at Christ Episcopal Church here in Sparta was remarkable. For the past 26 years I have been "doing" the liturgy as a priest. It was hard during those years not to focus on the pressure of Lent - 40 days of intense ministry and preparation. As I sat this morning looking at the church dressed in penitential purple I was able to see myself as a part of a community who will be walking the way of the cross together. I am in the midst of a great drama. The drama is simple: we walk together. When the person beside me gets tired or discouraged, I can offer my hand or a word of encouragement. When I stumble, someone will catch me.

Ive been reading the novel, The Sinner, by Tess Gerritsen. It is about a murder that occurs in a convent. The pathologist is watching from a window as the crime scene technicians unload their equipment at the convent. It is snowing and there is ice on the ground. "One of the techs suddenly slid across the stones, arms flung out like a skater as he struggled to stay upright. We're all struggling to stay upright, she thought. Resisting the pull of temptation, just as we fight the pull of gravity. And when we finally fall, it's always such a surprise." This is such a great description of our human condition and the need for community. There I am lying on the ground, shocked and scared by my fall - I knew I was walking on ice, but falling was still such a surprise! In the midst of my misery a hand reaches out to me and helps me regain my balance. I know I am human, but I continue to try to try to stay upright even as I expose myself to those slippery places. How can any of us ever make it without each other!? How can we walk this drama of Lent without our sisters and brothers to help us?

And so the invitation to "keep a holy Lent" comes with the words "assist us with thy grace" ( in Rite I Prayer of Thanksgiving). And here is the most amazing thing about it all - we are meant to be "instruments of God's grace" in this holy drama.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Katie Scarlett O'Hara Honaker
1997 - 2011
On Sunday Katie stumbled and fell. She fractured her left back leg just above the knee. Katie had over 14 years of a wonderful, giving life. The veterinarian could have put a pin in her leg but the recovery would have been long and painful. The vets and staff at Twin Oaks Animal Hospital were incredible. They gave me all the options and no pressure, and I was able to decide that quality of life was better than quantity. She died peacefully in my arms. Missing her is almost overwhelming right now but more than missing her I am so grateful for her wonderful life.

Katie was trained as a "Pet Therapy Dog" in 2001. She visited people in hospices, hospitals, and nursing homes. When I worked at the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, NM Katie went to work every day with me. She greeted the homeless people who came to our outreach center and was accomplished at "working a crowd." She sat beside me when I preached at the Cathedral on St. Francis' Day in October of 2001. When I moved to New Harmony, IN she made friends all over town and loved to ride in the golf cart. For over a year I would drop her off on Wednesday morning at the Ford Home (a home for retired ladies) and pick her up at noon. Her special friend, Virginia De Fries, would walk her and share her with the other ladies. All of our pets are extraordinary in their ability to give love and Katie was no exception to that rule.

With St. Francis' hand on your golden head, rest in peace dear Katie.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Red Sock(s)

Here's the picture of the sock I am currently knitting. The yellow at the top is just the sun coming in the window...the yarn is truly RED! I have worn black so much over the past years that I decided to dive right into color! The top picture is the back of the sock and the one under it is the front. The white line is a row of "waste yarn" which comes out when I add the heel. So, this has been quite a learning project: learning to cast on a seamless toe, magic loop knitting and the "afterthought heel." I haven't done cables in a long time although these cables are pretty simple. I just don't need to tell you how many times I started over on this one...suffice it to say that I am now quite good at the seamless toe cast on!!!

I really love to knit and getting into a rhythm with a project is satisfying. I am able to let the small glitches go and if a project has a "spirit line" (this is what my friend calls her gently done errors) in it I am okay with it. I do love the feel of the yarn in my fingers and the color taking on form. It must be some "earth mother" need:)

I won't wax on about the knitting process because the sun is shining here in the mountains and my sweet golden retriever Katie wants to go out for a walk.

Katie Scarlett O'Hara Honaker

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I could spend all my time looking at fibers online!! But instead I'm out to give everyone the fiber addiction! So check out the Phatfibers blog listed to the right and catch the fun. Their list of blogs and Etsy shops will keep your fingers busy for a long time. I've been up since before dawn knitting on a sock and will include a picture of said uncompleted sock later. It's my first sock and I'm knitting it toe up. The heel will be put in last. Just something simple to start on! So I am off now to play in my tiny little studio....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shamed into Blogging

Winter Greens
The last week f January I went to Blairsville, Georgia to be with my family. My brother, Bill, his son Chuck, daughter, Bretta and I did courses at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. Bill and Chuck did a wood turning course in making "hollow form" vessels. Bretta and I did a course called "Botanical Books". For a week we were able to learn from a botanical illustrator, Redenta Soprano, and a calligrapher and book artist, Annie Cicale. Using Redenta's techniques I did the above drawing when I got home. Being around my family is such a creative stimulus. They sing, they dance, they write music and blog; they turn wood, work with fiber,are excellent photographers, cook, sew, paint and draw. I love to be in their midst and always come home inspired and motivated. We have 2 new bloggers in our family: my great nephew, Reece who blogs at and my great niece who is doing a blog project of called Blogject365 ( Their mother, Bretta blogs at Creativity Unleashed ( These are talented people!! Bretta hasn't blogged in a while but perhaps this little rant will shame her into offering up some of her projects! Christa is a wonderful writer and artist and Reece writes music with great lyrics. As for me...well I can continue to offer up some poetry and pictures of life here in the laurel thickets of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Life has been great since retirement and as I sit here in the sunshine of a beautiful Valentine's Day I realize how incredibly lovely life is. I decorated my Christmas tree for Valentine's Day this morning. I moved it out onto the back deck after Christmas and it is still green and fresh (let's hear it for those Allegheny County Christmas tree growers!). It was cut from a local Christmas tree farm on the 20th of December and decorated with mostly "bird friendly ornaments". Every now and again I put peanut butter and bird seed on the dried orange slices so the birdies have a treat. I cut some suet up for them and put it on the branches and it was popular!

I can't promise a post every day but I will make a commitment to continue to let you all know about life here at 111 Ivy Lane. Here is a poem I wrote today about a dream I had a couple of nights ago. It feels important.


It was an old house

built onto a new house.

I saw the chain saw in his hand

as he severed the steps;

cut the house into pieces.

It broke away from itself

and fell mortar and wood;

crumbling dust mixed with sweat

on my father’s brow. I wanted the pieces;

to save them, cherish them, immortalize them.

What did I need from the pieces? Who

was the house? What fell; and why am I

hanging curtains on the windows that remain?