Saturday, October 7, 2017

Musings on an Abandoned Cotton Mill

There's something sad and depressing about abandoned buildings. They are unfulfilled dreams. They are plans interrupted.

And yet there's a certain beauty in nature reclaiming its rightful place, creeping vine by vine through that which could have been.
There once was a thriving cotton mill where dreams of wealth and prosperity should have brought jobs to the mountain people. In the days before air conditioning, locating a mill away from the fields that produced the cotton did make sense. The humidity and heat so important to the growing plants turned out to be damaging to the equipment and the workers confined to the inside of the factory during the heat of the day. Why not use the railroad system already in existence from earlier logging ventures on the sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains? The dream seemed foolproof enough.

Then came a hurricane and wiped away those dreams along with the railroads that supplied the raw materials. King Cotton didn't reign in the mountains. Mother Nature did.

Rumor has it that for many years after the flood, the locals didn't have to buy socks. They picked them from the bushes along the creek banks.

Just something to think about on this Saturday morning.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole

Every so often authors come across a bit of real life that starts their imagining the "what if's?"

This happened to me last summer. I found a rabbit hole. Or maybe a fox hole. Or, considering where I was, maybe a summer version of a bear's den.
In a meadow on top of Max Patch 
I was hiking in western North Carolina with my husband and daughter. The trail we followed was a minute section of the Appalachian Trail, in Madison County, the scene of two of my books, Called to the Mountains and Back in the Time. Disappointed that the view from the summit was obscured by fog, I stopped looking at the broad picture and turned my attention to what I could see...the meadow.
Nothing peeped out at me when I took this closer photograph, not that I wasn't relieved or anything. Adventure has its limits, after all. I didn't physically enter into this hole, tempting as it might have been.

But. 

Mentally and fantastically, I couldn't let this pass, so I went down this rabbit hole in my mind. Played around a bit. Imagined the "what if." Did Lewis Carroll find a rabbit hole once upon a century ago, and let his main character roam through his mind? I wonder what Alice would have experienced if she had fallen into this particular hole on the top of this particular mountain in western North Carolina.

One of the sites I have saved and categorized under Writer Tools on my favorites bar is the Urban Dictionary, a necessary item for double checking nuances of words I plan to use in my writing. After all, the English language is fluid, certainly not frozen in stone, so word definitions and connotations change. I couldn't resist checking on the modern meaning of going "down the rabbit hole."

Alack and alas, it has been taken over by the psychedelic drug vernacular, as in tripping on that which shall not be mentioned here. There are more usages, tending to the "uninhibited behavior" slant, or to the obsessed with something to the exclusion of normalcy slant. 

So if I don't even want to go down that rabbit hole, what exactly am I saying I don't want to do? 

The speaker knows the point he wants to get across and then uses word choices from what is available in his language. He might even coin a word or two, or apply a past experience or two that fits the situation perfectly. The ultimate purpose of communication, however, is for the listener to interpret what the speaker says and apply it to the conversation at hand. Some expressions might fall flat before they even arrive on the Urban Dictionary site. This one didn't.

Some people might think language, with all its twists and tangles of a rabbit hole, is too fluid, but not me. I love it. 

Catch of the day,

Gretchen




Saturday, September 23, 2017

Who Remembers This?

There's been a series of photographs on Facebook with the caption beneath, "Who Remembers This?" Another version runs something along the lines of "Like if you know what these are." I've been tempted to "Like" when something like "Romper Room" or "Mr. Greenjeans" appears.

But no, not me, I don't "Like" although every single item I'm seen so far is one I can recall somewhere along in my not-so-storied past. My entertainment (amusement), however, in seeing these memes, comes when the "Who Remembers This" item just so happens to be something I am still using, right now, in 2017. Cast iron skillet. Hot curlers. Hand bicycle tire pump. Typewriter with return cylinder. Okay, that one I don't use anymore, but I still have an electric Brother that I never use but just can't part with.

One video that came up this week on Facebook interested me in particular. It showed children inspecting a cassette to decide how it works. Who remembers the cassette? I do. Who still uses a cassette? I do.
This is a cassette
I show this to admit I'm living in the past century as I start researching and interviewing for my latest project. I've tried to update my interviewing methods, especially when I discovered blank tapes are impossible to purchase in my small town and I had to order new ones online. The choices are slim, either get with the program and update, order blanks online, or tape over ones I've already used. 

I practiced taping on my laptop and it worked perfectly. I practiced taping on my cell phone and it worked perfectly. So what's up with my reluctance to convert?
I chose this, to remain with a cassette recorder
It's my comfort zone. I know what works for me. In fact, it works so well I am on the fourth cassette recorder since I began my author journey. The one I'm using now I inherited from my father-in-law last year, saving it from a trash heap doom because of the neo-modern opinion that "no one will buy this in the yard sale." I assume when this one conks out, yard sales will be my only recourse. And yet I continue.

It's not easy being a dinosaur.

Catch of the day,

 Gretchen


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