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.