Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

Happy Easter Sunday Morning!



Good morning to all.

I'm heading to the sunrise service at our church in a few minutes, then breakfast cooked by the men of the church featuring plenty of salty country ham and biscuits and sawmill gravy. Then to worship on this highest of holy days in the Christian calendar.

Yesterday I took the grands to an Easter Egg Hunt. They hunted with the dozens massed there at the church park. Easy finds for the very youngest with the eggs laying in plain sight on the grass. A little harder for the next to the youngest. And for my two grands, the true hunt and search for the oldest group in a completely different section, the trail through the woods. 

As we were eating the hot dog lunch, the exchange student from Japan living with our pastor asked the simple but necessary question. Why do the children hunt Easter eggs, followed by the next obvious question, Why is there an Easter bunny?

They looked at me. Shrugging was not an option.

How do you explain death on the cross and resurrection after three days?

We had taken the grands to the Seder meal Thursday evening where they were reminded about why Passover is celebrated even today. God instructed the people of Israel to teach their children about the hardships and sadnesses of being enslaved and escaping and wandering in the wilderness. There was no glossing over those facts.

So why, then, is the death of the Messiah glossed over with shiny eggs?

It's because the death was not the end. Sunday brought happiness and a new life. On that horrible Friday which we call Good Friday, his body had been taken to be buried in a cave, yet three days later it could not be found. He had risen. The Lord has risen indeed! 

New life. Today Christians celebrate new life. Maybe using a rabbit with plenty of life is the only way to explain this to children. Maybe hunting the eggs implants a searching mentality within them to always be on the lookout for the joy and the newness offered to them. 

When I watched the children yesterday, I was reassured of this hope. They will search for far greater things in their unfolding lives, things like love and truth and faith. I pray they find their answers in the cross.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Haiku


Overwhelmed author

No time for writer's block now

Self imposed deadline


Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Three at Once

Am I crazy, or what?

I'm working on three major projects at the same time. I didn't set out to do it that way, the planets just aligned and the timing was right for all three to hit exactly at once. I can now sympathize with mothers of triplets. While I'm not getting the full effect to be certain, I at least have a glimpse at being tugged in three different directions.

Books are needy little children. They really are. They demand their rightful time, even the runt of the litter, my twenty-four page picture book. I started it when my first grandchild was born and people wanted to know her name. After a while I began introducing myself as Gracie Griffith's Grandma Gretchen Griffith, and the seeds of the book were planted. I reworked it through the years (she's ten now) to come up with a tongue twister of a picture book, Gracie's Grumpy Grandma. Ten years!
Is this grumpy enough?
The other two projects are nonfictions that demand more than their fair share of my hours before the computer. If I'm not fact checking for one, then I'm photograph hunting for the other. I interview a person for one book and mix in questions pertinent to the other. To confuse things even more, one I'm writing in present tense, and the other in past. I force my mind to change time zones more than I care to admit.

One project is on the verge of being completed. The only steps left are tweaking the back flap and a few issues with the interior. When I saw one particular picture, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the cover of the book. It embodies the title, Back in the Time, showing my co-author riding a cart on what he calls a major thoroughfare near his home back in the time. I can't wait for you to see how we incorporated it to form the cover. Trust me, we fixed the age related issues.



There's even a set of triplets in this book!
Which brings me to the third child of my threesome. It's not nearly as far along as these other two, and I'm not ready to share photographs as yet. I will toss out a teaser and say it's about motor racing here in western North Carolina, back in the time. Once again I'm co-authoring the book. I've worked with the author before on the Wheels and Moonshine book and even back then in the time he was working on this manuscript. I'm helping him to make it a reality, filling in the gaps with research and pictures beyond what he has on hand.

Birthing three books so closely together might be driving me up the wall (or in circles as in my racing book), but in the end, as with birthing anything new to the world, it will be so worth the effort.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen




Saturday, February 25, 2017

After the Fire

A string of forest fires across our western North Carolina mountains struck fear and dread into our hearts last fall. The worst my house got was the smell of burning wood, but my heart ached for those in the direct path of destruction. Fires don't discriminate. They choose whatever is before them. Only the forest service firefighters stood between the all consuming wall of fire and the next house on the list, or the next nest on the list. Squirrels have homes in the forest, too. And deer. And foxes.

Walking outside during one particular week was not only smelly, but also dangerous for those with lung issues. My eyes burned as well, tearing up often and not necessarily in sympathy for the losses. I had written about these South Mountains in my Lesson's Learned book, so I felt a kinship to this land abundant with stories for a story catcher to catch.

Finally a week of rain stopped the onslaught and the nearest fire to me was pronounced contained. So I forgot all about it, as people often do about tragedies when they aren't directly affected. Until last week.

I had a chance to join up with the Foothills Nature Conservancy. and hike their property bordering the South Mountain State Park that just so happened to back last fall's Chestnut Ridge fire line.

That would be me closest to the camera, listening to directions


The hike was three and a half miles uphill all the way. Well, it seemed like that anyway. The plot of land where we hiked followed the watershed up the side of the mountain, although we hiked along an old logging road, the very one firefighters followed to battle the fire. Where we were was in the back-lit area, the part that was intentionally set to burn out any fuel that the encroaching fire would need. 


What I saw was a bit of burnt wood and a whole lot of spring trying to reclaim its rightful place. Things had been purified by the fire. The brush had burned away leaving the sturdy plants there.

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Bark on healthy trees is thick enough to withstand a tremendous amount of burn, the man explained.  I could see that for myself. The crown in the trees were beginning to waken after their winter dormancy. Green will soon replace the charcoal. Life was returning, of that I felt assured.

Except for one thing. Other than our footfalls and acorn crunching, there was no noise. None. No birds chirping. No squirrels scampering up the sides of oak trees. No lizards scurrying away. Nothing, not even the cry of a hawk or a crow in the distance. When we stood still, we stood absolutely still. That's an odd kind of silence that is noticeable to those of us from modern civilization not accustomed to dead silence. Dead. Silence.

Maybe on top of that hill my brain felt reassured that life would go on, but my heart ached for the creatures that were displaced. Come back, come back, I wanted to shout. It's over. It's gone. The ground has been purified for you and it's better than ever. It is safe now. Bring back your children. There are plenty of untouched acorns waiting for a woodsy feast. 

It's all part of nature's plan. Life goes on.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Uptown

Yesterday I put in a few hours at an art co-op called My Happy Place Gallery where my books are for sale. I do appreciate this group and their decision to include my work as art, because, indeed, there is a creative process to what I do.

There I stood, surrounded by beauty, talking with others, basking in things grander than me, when I heard the oddest sound, a soft, rolling in the throat kind of noise, gentle yet so out of place in the shop. I thought the stereo system was on the blink since the music for the first time that day had ended allowing me to hear this oddity. My co-volunteer noted my scrunched up, questioning face.

"It's the birds," she explained. "Doves. Pigeons, who knows...They coo. That's what you're hearing."

Now a good storycatcher doesn't exactly take something like that as fact without investigating, so I went to the alley outside to find out for myself.


I searched for the birds. 

I found them.

They have found their happy place.




And a zoomed-in shot:


I look so forward to establishing a distant relationship with these two turtledoves...okay, pigeons. To think they chose the one spot on earth called My Happy Place Gallery to call home.

How poetic!

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Valentine Romance

Valentine's Day 2017 will be a bit different this year. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still hoping for the candy, even though I'm eternally on a diet. I'll no doubt get a card from my husband like I have for every year since we've been a couple. That's even counting the lean years, the times we shopped for cards together, standing in front of the red and pink array, privately picking out the perfect sentiment, handing our selections to each other, reading what the other chose, giving each other a peck on the cheek, and then returning the cards to the slot. That's romance.

This year will be the most romantic of all time, even though some will wrinkle their noses and question my definition of romance, if they haven't already.

My husband and I have taken the next step in volunteering for our local Caldwell County Habitat for Humanity. We've been donors for years, not major donors, just small time contributions that, added to other small time contributions from equally minded folks, make big time impacts.

He's helped out at times hammering a few nails, carrying shingles up ladders, those kinds of things. I've taken food for volunteers on-site.

Then the phone call came. Would you become family advocates, the voice asked. We thought. We prayed over this. We questioned our capability between ourselves and then to the committee. After a couple meet and greets and training sessions, we took the plunge.

This Tuesday, on St. Valentine's Day, we meet our family for the first time. We did meet them earlier at the Christmas reception, back when we didn't know who would be assigned to whom. I hope they are as pleased as we are.

We'll spend a year with them, standing by their sides as they go through the home owner's process, no easy task. They have volunteer hours to accumulate, and after so many hours of theirs, they can begin to collect our work hours as well. To think my bringing snacks to on-site workers will draw this family closer to becoming home owners. When they meet their point goal, their name is placed on the house list and they can begin picking color themes and flooring and appliances, the fun part after all their sacrifices of time and sweat.

Habitat for Humanity is not a give away government program. It is an independent, international organization that helps selected families become home owners. Is there a more romantic way to spend Valentine's Day than to volunteer for others? I think not.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, February 4, 2017

It's All Over Over Here

I write memoirs for other people. That sentence breaks down one aspect of my writing into the basic pitch, Preserving Local Stories.
A reject from my designing the back of my business card.
The rock wall behind the words is from the school
in my latest book...soon to be released.
On the other hand, probably the other side of my brain, I write children's books. The two overlap on occasion, but usually I compartmentalize them during my working habits. Survival technique, I suppose. For now, I'm doing what I love most, meeting new people and listening to their stories...catching them so to speak.

Yesterday was one of the doozies. What fun I had. Two gentlemen, brothers, one a hundred and three years old, one ninety-eight. When I walked into the house of the ninety-eight year old, my eyes were drawn immediately to a portrait hanging on the wall. As I interviewed him, I couldn't keep my eyes off it, off its meaning and its simple joy. I contained myself as long as I possibly could and after a few growing up stories, I popped the question: Is that you?

He smiled as if he couldn't contain himself either. "Yes," he answered. "Want to hear the story?"

This is what storycatchers dream of. Could I take a picture of your picture? "Yes, It'd be an honor."


He scrounged around, not an easy thing for him to do considering his yards and yards of oxygen hose dragging behind him, until he found the correct picture album, the World War II album. He opened it to a well-worn page. He's done this before, I could tell.

"Florence, Italy. I was tired. I sat on a wall to read the Stars and Stripes newspaper, the one that told us the war on the Italian front was over. All I could think about was going home, because the war is over. A man came up, took my picture, sent me a copy."

He showed the photograph over and over and over until his son painted it and gifted it to him one year. Norman Rockwell himself couldn't have done a more poignant job. 

Sometimes a storycatcher is fortunate enough to find a gem worth blogging about. This is one of those times. I need say nothing more. The picture says it all.

Catch of the day, 

Gretchen