A Cathedral of Leaves

Trees at Rich Park in Mocksville, North Carolina

Apparently none of the storybook scary tales of danger in the forest ever stuck with me.  In rural North Carolina in the fifties, no one worried about evil happening in the forests that surrounded us. We did not understand it at the time, but the cathedral of leaves where we played immensely enriched our lives. As a fifties explorer of the local woods, I could not make the connection because I had yet to experience any of the great cathedrals of the world.  Now it seems pretty obvious.

In the summertime, we got up in the morning and headed to the coolness of the deep woods. The towering trees and the brooks that ran through them were our playgrounds. We built dams, seined for minnows, made forts, and played elaborate games in the woods. Sometimes we hardly bothered to leave the woods for meals. We barely escaped the trees as dark descended on the forest.

(Read more) This is post number nine in a series of twenty-two designed to get my blog to 1700 posts before Thanksgiving 2021.

Turkey Tussles

Our perfect 2012 Turkey

The first turkey that I remember being prepared in our house was cooked after we moved to the Mount Airy house with my dad. The first Thanksgiving at college, I did not come home but I got invited out by a college friend, Jack. We had a wonderful dinner and I got my one and only opportunity so far to sample stuffing with oysters.

The next memorable Thanksgiving happened after college. I had purchased an old farmhouse with a barn and 140 acres on the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Four of us had spent months remodeling the two-hundred year old house with hand-hewed beams. College friends came up to celebrate that first Thanksgiving on our own in the fall of 1971. We bought the biggest turkey we could find and the ladies in the group figured out how to cook it.

Little did I know I was already on the slippery slope to a smaller turkey and eventually just a turkey breast. I never take exception with the cook but I sure do miss those whole turkeys. (Read more)

If Silver Could Talk

Silver Ladle from Pine Street

Silver is not very popular these days. Some silver things can hardly be given away. My generation has one foot in the world where silver items were well used and certainly respected and today’s world where silver pieces cannot find a home where they even see the light of day and a little polish.

At least this straddling of worlds provides a little perspective. I know my mother who was definitely not born with a silver spoon in her mouth learned to love silver when she became the grand lady of the house at 347 West Pine St. My dad who I hardly knew loved to have dinner parties. In those days, the first half of the last century, a good party apparently required silver. I wasn’t around but the silver was and if only it could talk. (Read more)

Finally a Backyard

Our Backyard in the North Carolina Foothills

It seems since my childhood that I have spent much of my life searching for a backyard. I have had hayfields and marshes as backyard but until this last move none were close to the one where I played ball with friends when I was in elementary school. I could plow up part of it for a huge garden but I have been there and enjoyed that when I was a lot younger. Read more.

Not the Last Farmer’s Market

Mocksville, NC Farmer’s Market, November 3, 2021

We actually started going to farmer’s markets as a couple when we were living north of Fredericton, New Brunswick. We went to see people and to pick up a few things that we did not grow on our own farm. Even more so than most farmer’s markets, there were homemade items interspersed with farm produce. There were no food items that we really needed but I think we went home with baskets to use with our own garden produce. Still we enjoyed the market especially the people.

Maybe it was because we had dirt under our fingernails and a close connection to producing food but for whatever reason, visiting farmer’s market became a life-long passion. Read More

Infinite Parental Wisdom

Mother's Trout at Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Mother’s Trout at Meadows of Dan, Virginia

My mother pictured above with our good friend, Mr. Cruz, never knew a lot about fishing, but she was smart enough to trust the experts.

Apparently, today’s parents have grown so smart  that children no longer need schooling by teachers.  Perhaps that is an exaggeration and not completely correct.  The most vocal parents are okay with teachers as long as they teach their students to think exactly like their parents.  The teachers should also do this while not wearing masks and certainly without asking students to be vaccinated or wear masks.

Considering how much time most parents spend on their smartphones where I am pretty sure they are not reading books,  there must be another miraculous way of absorbing knowledge.  I am sure it is not Facebook or Fox News. Based on the precipitous fall in newspaper subscriptions, it is certainly not from reading the daily paper. Read More

A Safe Warm Spot for a Challenging Fall

The view from our small deck

We have spent fourteen years here along Raymond’s Gut just off the White Oak River north of Swansboro. I managed to learn enough about the White Oak River from my kayaking and boating to know Ed was right. Many times, I fished a cove just off the river when the main River had whitecaps on it. Then there were times you could be in the middle of the river with hardly a ripple. Sometimes it is blowing on the river but quiet on the backside of Bear Island.

Ed, a good friend of mine who died a few years ago, used to say that if you were willing to look a little, most of the time you could find a place on the water in Carteret County where the wind wasn’t blowing. Ed grew up here and knew the area’s waters better than anyone I have ever known.

It turns out Ed’s wisdom also applies to our house. If you look a little, you can almost always find a cozy spot out of the wind. It is one of the reasons we love our home. The side of our house with the most windows faces the South. That and the protection provided by pines just across the water from us makes our home a delightful place as the air turns cooler in the fall. It also creates a great microclimate for gardening. Living on Raymond’s  Gut just off the White Oak River turned out to be a lucky decision for us. Read the full article

Life is changing

One of our four rescued marsh kittens that have delighted us during the coronavirus crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has undermined my optimism, broken some of my connections with others, and altered my view of our country. All that has happened and the crisis is far from over. In spite of the advice to stay home, the last couple of weekends we have seen the first significant wave of beach people with license plates from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Georgia, and even Florida. We also know that we have plenty of North Carolina visitors and likely most of them come from some of our state’s own hot spots. Things could get much worse in our coastal paradise.

I feel like the pandemic is peeling away layers of my psyche like the layers of an onion. Things have changed and what ends up as our new normal is still an open question. Read more

A Loss of Innocence

Raymond’s Gut behind our NC home just off the White Oak River near Swansboro

It seems that I have finally lost even those places that I could retreat to in my imagination. The COVID19 crisis and the mass shooting in Nova Scotia have stripped away those places that have anchored my psyche for most of my adult life. Now there is no place to run. Read more here.

Crystal Coast COVID-19 Update

The beach at the Point in Emerald Isle during happier times

This is definitely not the spring that we hoped for here on the Southern Outer Banks. Just after my birthday in early March the world seemed to enter a new more dangerous era. In spite of our location where the sand meets the sea, we are not immune. There have already been five cases identified in Carteret County, four of them from international travel.

By now we have usually kicked off the countdown to the beach season by having the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick’s Day Festival followed by the Swansboro Oyster Roast. Both events were cancelled this year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). We can be thankful that our area leaders understood the gravity of the situation.

Our streets and stores have been steadily emptying out over the last week as people began to practice social distancing. People seem to be getting the message that staying home is the best thing that you can do.

Saturday, March 21, 2020, was the kind of day that makes you want to work in your yard with temperatures well into the seventies. We did that and enjoyed immensely. Our beds are now ready for beans and tomatoes which we will plant the first week of April. Even though we enjoyed our first salad from the garden on Sunday, colder air embraced our area and it almost seemed like mother nature had figured out that things were not right and changed the weather to match the mood of seriousness.

Sunday also brought the first time we attended church by using chromecast to stream a YouTube sermon to our den television. With public access parking to the beaches closed and all restaurants either doing takeout or closing down, life remains out of sync with the seasons as trees bloom and yards begin to green up.

Fortunately, our gardens are doing well. At least we will not lack for lettuce or other green stuff for the next six weeks. In spite of the gardens, life is just not the same. Certainly, this is the first time other than hurricane season that I am telling people to stay home and not come to visit our beautiful coast. While I miss the beach, I know that our absence from the sands will help this crisis end sooner rather than later. I continue to enjoy the memories of better times through photo albums like this one from a hike on the Point at Emerald Isle in May 2017. I will continue to post pictures to keep the memories of sand and surf fresh.

We should all remain hopeful that there will be a summer beach season, but a lot depends on how well we do at staying away from each other. The alternatives as this simulation show are not encouraging. It is imperative that we stay away from each other until this crisis slows.

My newsletter from Sunday, March 22, with some additional details is at this link.