Saturday, September 9, 2017

Poetry Reading

Another thing to add to my "thought I'd never do it" list, attend a poetry reading.

Yes, I did, finger snapping and all, although most of us used the un-hip clapping appreciation at the First Tuesday Poet's Platform located in The Local Bean coffeehouse in Hudson, NC.
My friend Lucy reading a poem written by one of her clients.
Note the beautiful display behind these two, an extension of My Happy Place Art Gallery co-op where I am considered an artist. Standing beside Lucy is the organizer, Beacon, a guiding light of hope and inspiration through his upbeat and encouraging poetry. < snapping fingers now >

The featured poet for the evening was Alana Dagenhart Sherrill whose opening selection spoke to my childhood and distant memories of attending Easter morning sunrise services at Old Salem, when I too, walked "silently in the cold dark."
I've tried to use terse verse in my writing, doing what poets do to whittle down to the core of the message using images put into exact words. My ramblings could use a dose of terseness on occasion, but then again, this all goes to style and heart and individualism. 
And then there was Olivia Price who injected a little wry humor into the mix. If only I could do that. Hmmm.

If you are in need of an uplifting, then find a comfy spot at a poetry reading. Close your eyes and let the words flow over you and into you. Walk away refueled.

I did.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Friday, September 1, 2017

A New Project

Poets borrow all sorts of images from September for their works, from the lengthening of the evenings to the gradual change into fall colors and the nip in the air.

My favorite September image is not quite as poetic, although maybe in its own way, it is most poetic of all since it is one of hope and promise and youth and wisdom gathering. I'm talking the first day of school image. Hey, I'm a former teacher. What do you expect!

The book I published last spring, Back in the Time, featured schools in Madison County, North Carolina. This photograph shows one of them, abandoned in the fifties. Imagine the first day of school here.

Keenersville School
Today is like my first day of school. I'm starting a new project, this one a biography. The person of interest (whom I'm not quite ready to name as yet) attended Flora McDonald College in eastern North Carolina. It's closed now, but the facility is currently a private academy. Imagine the first day of school here, in a hundred year old time warp of a building, complete with dome and rotunda. Kindergarteners surrounded by history. Wow, what I could have done with fourth graders in this atmosphere, daily lessons in a museum. Double wow.

Flora McDonald College
All this summer I looked forward to today. When people asked what I was working on, I said, "Nothing for now, but I'm starting back up September first." They also asked frequently what I do to prepare myself to write a new project. Practical me, I have an answer for that.

I catch up on things I know will lag behind once I start. That's the double edged sword of writing. I know how much sweat and tears are in store for me the next few months. I also know how much delight and joy will come my way once I start the research and uncover the full story. I am fully aware how many hours per day I will find myself spending in front of the computer screen. Life was much simpler when I was a new author not realizing how many hours one project demanded. I dread it, but on the other hand, I can't wait. 

Meanwhile, everyday chores will be neglected. The laundry will pile up until I must, must, must wash. Thank goodness my husband knows how to do laundry. And cook. The dust accumulates, too, but that we can ignore. This summer I tried to plan ahead knowing things would be neglected. Namely the reading...hey, I'm an author. Reading is my life source. The stack of waiting books diminished some, until I went to a consignment shop with a friend and purchased three more. I've been to the beach, the mountains, the local wineries, the covered dish dinners. Fun accomplished, check those off. I turned to pre-catching up on household chores. Sheets changed. Closets sort of in order, at least enough to find what I'm looking for. The sewing on buttons and repairing rips in clothes I saved for the last minute, but those are finished as of yesterday. 

Today I start anew and I'm thrilled to be back in the saddle again. It's been four months. Time to work.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse Report - One Little Cloud

We did it. Sort of. We (about fifty stragglers) had our eclipse moments there in an empty field at our church park. We were prepared. We had the perfect location for a non total event. We had our glasses. We had Moon Pies and Sun Drop and Star Bursts. And we had a telescope. And one pesky cloud.

We started peering at the sky  an hour before the peak, using our once in a life-time, never need them again solar glasses, or our improvised shoe box and cereal box viewers that ended up in the trash after the event ended. My attempts at selfies to capture the image of the banana/fingernail moon shape failed. Even those I took directly toward the sun, making a stab out of the blue because I couldn't see through the glasses lens to find where to press on my cell phone, those pictures failed. I'm talking epic Pinterest Fails category failed. My daughter however was more successful:
We visited with each other, stood amazed together, pestered the little ones to only glance at the sun, yes, even through the solar glasses. Then the time arrived, and so did one little cloud, perfectly timed to arrive at exactly 2:39 pm. All that waiting and fuss and anticipation and what happened? An errant cloud drifted across our viewing spot, as if in defiance of all our plans. By the time it drifted away, the banana shape faced the opposite direction and we had missed the main event.

Bummer.

But not all was lost. For starters I learned the true power of the sun when 96.7 percent of it is blocked, the remaining three point three percent still delivers sufficient light. I learned that crickets and katydids do react to eclipses and start their nighttime chirping when the sun begins to fade. Most of all I learned about community and corporate fascination with the wonders of the world and sharing the mysteries of the universe with others.

I looked around the crowd, this mix of interested young people who managed to take a break from their routine, joining with grannies like me who were dragging our grands to see the event while their parents were doing the responsible thing and watching on company time from their places of employment. I could have stayed home and watched on the television set. If it were me alone, that would have been my decision.

But no.

I wanted my grands to have a memory burned into the recesses of their brains. A good memory of that day in 2017 when we all went out to the park and wandered around the wilderness in dark glasses, carrying shadow boxes in one hand and moon pies in the other.

One of my grands
After all, that's what passing things along to the next generation is all about.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Decision - There's No Place Like Home

After considering all the wonderful options for places to watch the eclipse here in western North Carolina, I've come to my final decision. I'm staying home. Well, almost home, two miles away from home, where at 2:39, the moon/sun show peaks at 96.7% covered.

Actually I've organized an event at a park owned and maintained by Littlejohn United Methodist Church, where I a member. A former missionary from our church to China donated her ancestral land to the state of North Carolina for a forest educational park, but she carved out sixteen acres on the back side which she donated to us. We named it in her honor, the Lelia Tuttle Memorial Park. It's where our annual Christmas Trail is held. It's where we have picnics and weddings and family reunions and now eclipse watching. It's where we reconstructed a chapel out of logs from our 1825 structure and named it in honor of the family who donated the logs, Courtney Chapel.

No more perfect place to view an eclipse
Tomorrow we'll gather together, us and whoever wants to stop in from 1:30 on. There will be moon pies. There will be Sundrops and Sunkist sodas. There will be starburst candies, and any other food people can think of that is sky related. There will be a few ISO approved solar viewing glasses (after the dozen I purchased earlier turned out not to be safe to use), so there will be shadow boxes crafted from samples we've found online. Spoiler alert for the surprise, there will be a telescope with an approved solar lens.

Please join us as we stand amazed.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen




Friday, August 18, 2017

Eclipse Option - Lenoir, Hickory and Morganton, NC

I've searched and studied and researched locations in North Carolina as possible "go-to" eclipse day adventures. From what I understand, so has the rest of the world, which bring me closer to the conclusion that local is best. It works for home grown tomatoes, why not eclipse watching?

My searching today is through Macaroni Kids, a website that does the searching for me to find entertaining events for children in the Hickory/Western Piedmont district of North Carolina. Festivals. Plays. Art activities. Free movies. Storytelling. Eclipses. Those kinds of things.

So I looked. And I found.

There's an eclipse event at the Caldwell County public library here in Lenoir, my home town for well over forty years. It starts at two o'clock, timed to hit the middle around the 2:39 peak when the moon will obscure (the official term) the sun 96.7%. Macaroni Kids says the event is free. Just show up. The library itself is surrounded by trees, a haven behind the busy restaurant row of highway #321.
Caldwell County Library, Lenoir branch
Departing from the library is a hiking trail into all kinds of wide open spots just built for moon/sun gazing, the City of Lenoir Greenway.
The Greenway from the top of the hill at the library

The Greenway from the bottoms
wide open to watch the eclipse

I love libraries! They take a moment in time and help us to connect. In Catawba County south of us, there are several library branch eclipse parties, the largest in downtown Hickory at the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library where there's an event in conjunction with the Catawba Science Center, starting at one and going until three.

Up river from Hickory, the town of Morganton will host an event at the Catawba Meadows Park. During the long process of the moon creeping over the sun, the waiting will be the issue for my grands. I can hear them now, "When is it going to happen?" At least at Catawba Meadows there's the Beanstalk Zip Line where they can zip through the treetops, or watch others zip through the treetops. Further down the walking trail we could visit the Native American Village Interpretive Center where, on the banks of the Catawba River, we can experience the darkening of the sun through a sixteenth century Catawba tribe member's point of view. Wow, oh wow. This might be the spot. It's only ten minutes from my house.

Time is ticking down. A decision must be made. Soon.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eclipse Option - Orchard Hills, NC

Come every Wednesday, my husband joins up with a group of his friends at their unofficial organization called Pete's Duffers. Their communal love of the sport of golf draws them out regardless of weather conditions, with the rare exceptions of torrential downpours or ice crystals on the greens. No doubt this group would love to be on the course during the eclipse, if only it were on a Wednesday.

I dabble at golf myself. Is that the correct terminology for this? Dabble? We belong to a course nearby aptly called Orchard Hills. There are few apple trees left now, but enough to remind the cart rider of its origins.

That's mine in pink heading down the fairway on the eleventh hole,
my favorite, by the way. Downhill 

Working our way to the green
The course is wide open, with enough trees surrounding the individual fairways for the birds to come roosting back home. Wonder what the over-the-top population of squirrels will do during the eclipse. They've witnessed all kinds of human emotions from their scurrying around between shots, so what's a little eclipse to them!

But it's a big deal to me. While I think a golf course would be a wonder to play during the event, dimming sunlight and all, I'm not sure in my situation. After all, I have the two grands with me and their introduction to the great game of golf wasn't all that spectacular. But the grandpa tried.

Grandpa teaching the two
The percentage of the eclipse there will be 97.7, not bad at all. But being around for two hours waiting for the sun to slowly fade away whilst searching for stray balls in the rough is not the ideal choice for these two youngsters.

For other duffers, I say go for it, even if you have to use an LED night flyer golf ball that glows in the dark. There is such a thing. Here's my husband demonstrating the see-through golf balls. A thin light is slid inside each ball, and others are placed in the cup and on the flag.

Note his collections of souvenir pencils behind
along with his three hole-in-one balls at the top
Makes me wonder if they will need to use all that on the afternoon of August 21. I'll have to ask, but as for me, I won't be there.

I'm still searching for the perfect spot for me.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eclipse Options - Mt. Mitchell, NC

In my search for the most perfect spot in North Carolina to view the eclipse, I thought I'd check out our tallest point. After all, the tallest should be the clearest, most unencumbered vista around.

Mt. Mitchell.

That would be me on the left, sitting, catching my breath from hiking up from the parking lot, thin air and all.

When I taught fourth grade, our social studies curriculum emphasized North Carolina, and Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River was one of the major topics. Dr. Mitchell's body is buried there at the peak, near this lookout point. It is now a state park, accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker #355, about thirty miles from Asheville.
Here's the view from that lookout point. Majestic, isn't it? Imagine this same view with a solar eclipse overhead. 98.1% blockage. There's plenty of parking, assuming you don't mind walking extra far in case the closer parking lots are filled to capacity. Plus only so many people can fit on the lookout platform. But, then again, well worth the trip if you don't mind close quarters. Be sure to pack a sweater. When the sun goes dark, the temperature will drop significantly up there (in my un-expert opinion).

Further in our fourth grade studies we discussed the grand argument between geologists as to if Mt. Mitchell was really the tallest, or was Clingman's Dome, a mountain straddling western North Carolina and Tennessee. Mitchell won, but the dome claims the distinction of being the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
A view of the observation tower in the fog, taken from the base of the tower.
I borrowed this picture of the viewing platform from their website.
I have walked (more like puffed) all the way to the top.
With the same percentage blocked as Mt. Mitchell, it would be an equally amazing experience come August 21. However, from what I've heard on the news, the traffic will be contained so as to keep the national park safe from the anticipated heavy load. Do I really want to go there? Yes, either place. Am I going to? I don't think so.

I'll keep searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen