Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Thankful Heart

The whole idea of giving thanks is one of the first concepts a parent passes along to the next generation. I can see it in my mind's eye, someone handing a toddler a cracker and the mother speaking to the child, reminding him or her, "What do you say?"

"Thank you," is the expected response, although often in beginning stages it's more, "Kank ooh." I'm loving that image.

An opinion, just because today is Thanksgiving and this is my blog: The whole idea of thanks has been misconstrued. Yes, we are to say thanks to others. That is basic, the cornerstone of civilization. Reading through my friends' posts on facebook, I can see that genteel side of being thankful.

But there is a deeper side of Thanksgiving that needs to be passed along to the next generation.

It is also necessary for me to give thanks to my creator, a basic tenet of my faith in a higher power. "Thank you, God," I say not nearly enough. The psalmist says it frequently. Thanks. Praise. Joy. One of the first psalms I memorized beyond the twenty-third was the hundredth, the one that starts out the way I remember, "Enter into his gates with Thanksgiving..." But there's more: "Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever."


I'm learning to make posters like the one above, and I want to use this new skill to do good, to remind people of what life should be all about, to uplift and honor. I see that I should have capitalized the word "His," according to the grammar I learned in the old days when paying homage to God necessitated capital letters even on pronouns. Now God has no gender specific pronouns in many texts I read. Using that rule, I can rewrite: Give thanks to God and praise God's name, for the Lord is good and God's love endures forever. Either way, I'm still thankful to God for the blessings I've received.

I took the picture behind the quote specifically for this poster. It's a tray my mother gave me years ago, one I usually keep on my table the whole month of November. It reminds me of the joy of Thanksgiving and the closeness of family back when we could sit around the same table and linger over pumpkin pie and catch up on our latest doings. 

Those days are over. New groups surround the table now, yet no matter where I am, those I'm with give thanks to God and teach our younger ones to have a thankful heart. 

We are so blessed.

Indeed.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen






Saturday, November 18, 2017

Honoring a Veteran

So many wars. So many lives interrupted. So many men lost. 

So much to say to them. 

Last Saturday, November 11, 2017, I tried. I stood with the crowd when the emcee of the event I was attending stopped the action cold. He pointed to his watch. "It's the eleventh hour," he spoke into the mic, "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." We didn't need the accompanying explanation to tell us this was the moment of the armistice signifying the end of the first great war. We had our poppies on our lapels to remind us. Saying "Thanks for your service," doesn't seem adequate, although that one single act goes a long way. 

I stood next to this man, Jasper B. Reese, the co-author of my book, Back in the Time, and a veteran of the Korean conflict. 

At Yokota Air Base in Japan
We were at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Society of Historians, an organization formed to collect, preserve and perpetuate North Carolina's heritage...and to recognize those persons who fulfill the society's objectives. That's why we were there, to be recognized. 
Jasper Reese holding our recognition award,
and me, holding the book
We received the distinguished Historical Book Award for this memoir of his that I helped him write. He wrote his part, describing growing up in the far western mountains of North Carolina, watching his father go to war in the forties, going to war himself in the fifties. I wrote my part, describing the schools in the Spring Creek community of Madison County. We subtitled the book, Medicine, Education and Life in the Isolation of Western North Carolina's Spring Creek, pretty much summing up the story line of the book.

Meanwhile I was doubly honored. Another of my books won the Historical Book Award as well. I wrote this one with Johnny Mack Turner. Racing On the Road and Off in Caldwell County and the Surrounding Areas. 
With Johnny Mack's daughter, Cindy Smith
This book needed no subtitle. The title says it all, and the book tells all, well, mostly all, since there were a few stories we decided not to include because maybe, just maybe, these men didn't tell their children and grandchildren about their escapades dragging on the road in the wee hours of the morning back in the forties and fifties. Historical? Indeed.

History isn't all wars, thank heavens. It's daily life. Daily living. Daily getting up and going about the business of making a life. 

That's what these historians found in both of my books. I appreciate the honor, but the real honor goes to those we wrote about. I salute them, veterans or not.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen



Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Missing Man Table

Armistice Day

Veteran's Day

Call it what you want, but today is a day to remember. The name matters little. The reason matters most.

Today I post a picture of a table, not just any table, but the Missing Man Table lovingly assembled by the curator of our Caldwell County Heritage Museum. 

The empty chair is one that will never be filled by the son who went to war and never returned. The red roses and ribbon signify the blood spilled. The upturned glass, never again to be lifted in joy and celebration. The unlit candle, life snuffed out. The salt on the plate, our tears. The lemon, war's bitterness.

I went to a lecture about Armistice Day given by Beverly Beal, retired Superior Court Judge. He told the standing room only crowd about many of the World War I veterans from Caldwell County. Beside him as he spoke was this Missing Man Table.

Silent.

A testimony to the sacrifice of those who went before us and gave all so that we could meet there on that day, exercising our freedom of assembly right.

When he finished he introduced me to read the poem In Flanders Fields. In his introduction, Judge Beal, knowing I was a writer, made the statement, something to the effect, "The greatest book will never be written. It died on the battlefield."

That stunned me and I barely could stumble through my assigned reading, but in honor of those who served and never came back, I made it through. I've copied and pasted here. Read it now. Read it again. Absorb the words. Most of all, appreciate a veteran on this day.


IN FLANDERS FIELDS

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead.  Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch, be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Week of Celebrations

Hall of Fame

Yes, that would be my husband, Wesley Van Griffith,
inducted into the Caldwell County Sports Hall of Fame


I'm so proud. Excuse me while I digress from my usual blog posts and let the world in on an important part of my life.

His plaque identifies him as an educator, coach and community volunteer. The medal around his neck hangs as a reminder of all those years he spent working out his passion of serving others. If everyone just knew!

Hours of getting to the ballfield early, dragging the infield, mowing the outfield, counseling the players, teaching them not only the rudiments of baseball, but the rights and wrongs of life. There were dark times, but they pale with the many, many joys of being a coach influencing the next generation. In his acceptance speech he mentioned his satisfaction in watching former players step up and take their part in the workings of the world. This induction into the Hall of Fame is a validation of his many years of hard work.

So we celebrated. Both of his brothers and their wives drove to join us at the banquet. Sadly their parents didn't live to see this, but they knew. They were the ones who raised these boys to become men who were servants to others. 
Aren't we something!

Our daughter flew in from her home in Taos, New Mexico. Our son took the afternoon off and brought his family. Our college roommates drove in to surprise us. Numerous friends from our community attended the banquet to show support for my husband. He was humbled. So was I.
Aren't WE something!

The next day was Halloween and the grandgirls celebrated being kids. After sitting politely and listening to a couple hours of speeches the evening before, they earned the chance to have their day.

Wait! We weren't finished.

Not only was this the week of the Hall of Fame induction and Halloween, but it was also my birthday, and my son Allen's as well, so the celebrations continued. The only thing I requested for my birthday gift was a Thanksgiving feast, complete with turkey and all the fixin's. This would be the first time this century we celebrated Thanksgiving under the same roof, beyond the "put Jenny in the corner" Skype experience we had done a couple times. Reagan, my younger grand, baked a pound cake...all by herself...her first...the finest pound cake EVER! And did we take a picture???? No!

By the time we took my daughter Jenny back to the airport early Thursday morning, I was worn out from all the happiness. Hall of Fame, Halloween, two birthdays, and Thanksgiving! All in four days! But I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Life is good.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen





Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pirated

Once upon an innocent time children dressed as pirates for Halloween. I remember well. We didn't spend money on the latest costume hanging in the stores. We created.

Tear a shirt, hike up the long pants, smear some of mama's make up on our faces, find a stick that looks like a sword, fashion an eye patch and we're good to go. We even used brown paper grocery bags to collect our goodies.

Today's rant is not about the commercialization of Halloween, although that would make a great topic. Today I'm talking about pirates. More exact, the verb, to pirate.


Yes, sad to say, "I've been pirated." Not me. My books. My intellectual property, as the legal term goes. Hard earned, time spent in front of the computer screen, butt in chair sweat equity kind of property.

I belong to an excellent facebook group of soulmate writers that shares the joys and woes of being an author. A recent thread of discussion has been pirating. Different authors related experiences of finding their books at various sites on the internet...for free...without their permission. Several people offered solutions.

Being the curious one I am, I decided that perhaps I should check out this phenomena. 

Alas, I almost wish I hadn't. Ignorance is truly bliss and I'm no longer blissful. I'm mad. I'm angry that some "business" has taken upon themselves to offer my materials without my permission to anyone who dares. I won't dignify them by giving names, but there are many, in my case, fourteen. Doesn't the word copyright mean anything anymore?

Okay, so for $9.99 per month I can pay a different company to monitor my book and blast the titles off any unauthorized site. I'm considering my options here on this, because it almost seems like paying a ransom but to a third party. Go figure. 

When children play pirates and board the monkey bars of another child and sword fight until one walks the plank, it's all make believe. It wasn't make believe or even high seas romantic adventure when a grungy, filthy pirate full of malice boarded a ship in the middle of the vast ocean and took what didn't belong to him. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking it is anything but dishonesty for a "publisher" to pilfer through my books and offer them to the public on a legitimate looking website without my permission. Buyer beware! 

Being pirated is not for the faint of heart.

Rant over.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen





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




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




Saturday, August 12, 2017

Solar Eclipse Option - Blowing Rock, NC

Every town needs a legend, especially in times when the moon comes creeping across the sun, and the ancient stories come alive.

Nature dealt Blowing Rock a legend in the making. Location, location, location. Chickasaw chief's daughter falls in love with a Cherokee brave. Courtship follows. Distraught over having to leave her, he jumps from the rock to the canyon below. Grief stricken, she prays that he be restored. She returns over and over to the rock, where one day, her prayers are answered. The wind blows him back into her arms. Now a wind blows eternally, perhaps even more so when the sun dies a slow death. 

Okay, enough of that. Blowing Rock is a mere thirty minute drive from my house, and has the making not only of a legend, but of unbelievable eclipse viewing possibilities.

The blowing rock
The view from the rock
So what if the blockage percentage is a paltry 96.5. With views like this, how could anyone complain. Besides there's Canyons, a restaurant on the next curve beyond the rock that has a variety of meal selections.


Not only that, it has an outdoor seating area overlooking the Linville Gorge, and toward another direction, the Johns River Gorge, which is near my home. 
My Florida friend, Sara capturing the view.
This is certainly a contender for spending my afternoon gazing at the sky. With my special eclipse glasses protecting me, craning my neck won't be such an issue. I'll almost be parallel with the sun!

But I'll keep on searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Eclipse Options - Price Park, NC

I don't know how much my grown children remember about growing up Griffith, but I do hope they hold a special place in their memory bank for our days at Price Park, a campground along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Being only a thirty minute drive from our home, it was the scene of many a Sunday afternoon picnic. It was the launch site for our Boone Fork hike where we learned that half way there meant we couldn't turn around. It was our pop-up camper destination with sitting by the campfire and roasting marshmallows, and smelling bacon cooking in the newness of the morning.

Price Lake
Instead of fall leaves reflecting,
there shall be a mirroring of the moon and the sun playing in the sky
My grands need to experience Price Park, so what better time than during an eclipse. So what if it's only 96.5% blockage. That's still significant. It's wide open viewing over the lake. There's a short hike that my nine year old could easily handle to hear the birds roosting in the dusk brought on by the eclipse.


A favorite spot for artists.
Imagine the picture that would come from an eclipse over Price Lake!
Or the day darkness blanketing a split rail fence
August 21 is getting closer, yet I am no closer to a decision as to where to take my grandchildren. It needs to be memorable. Price Park is a part of their father's memory. If we go there, they shall claim it, too.

Still searching. 

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eclipse Option - Bryson City, NC



Ding, ding, ding!!

100% solar blockage.

Now we're talking business, at least the town of Bryson City, North Carolina is talking business. The motels and hotels and inns in a hundred mile radius have been booked for months, and the town is ready. Swain County is rolling out the black and yellow carpet, well, the black and yellow t-shirts to be more exact. They are planning a four day, not-to-miss, long weekend with music and fair and festival and planetarium all rolled into one giant event culminating in the communal watching of the solar eclipse.

I borrowed this picture from the Bryson City website 
showing the location of the eclipse day viewing party.Looks like what I've been searching for, open views, trees nearby.
There's a museum there in the town that I have somewhat of a connection to, The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.



I worked with one of the founders of the museum, Alen Baker, to publish his book about the how and the why of the museum. The museum is chocked full of fishing gear and life stories of fly fishermen who used them. Plenty of flies there, too. It would be a great place to stop and browse while the sun gets into position.

The Making of The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.
As another side excursion option, there's the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, seats still available according to the website. Leaves from Bryson City. I've been on that railroad, up the Nantahala Gorge, watching the rafters and the tubers floating down the river. So peaceful. So calm. I can't imagine watching an eclipse from the train cars, though. Too much overhead obstruction.

Floating down the river is something else to do while waiting for the sun to hide, rafting the Nantahala to give the train passengers a sight. Or there's the Ocoee River rafting.
Imagine being on whitewater during a 100% blackout. Not sure about that choice, for me anyway. Make your reservations early, though, if it's not too late already. This picture I took last summer of a raft traffic jam on the Ocoee River on US Highway #64, not all that close to Bryson City, but still in the ding, ding, ding, 100% western North Carolina range.  

The Bryson City event is the real deal. Should I attempt it? Or not? It's at least a two and a half hour drive from my home to there, and with lodging filled, it's too late to plan an overnight. 

I think I'll keep searching for now, but if you are looking for a true eclipse experience, maybe this is the place for you.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Friday, August 4, 2017

Eclipse Options - Wilson Creek, NC

Will the fish in the streams be affected by the eclipse? Something to think about now that I've written a book about fly fishermen and how they study the atmosphere and the weather conditions before they set out on a fishing adventure. I've been reading about the birds coming home to roost during a total eclipse, so to me the next natural phenomena to look at would be the animals of the earth and the fish of the sea.
Wilson Creek, North Carolina
What will the deer do? The bears? The dogs in my neighborhood? The trout in the streams? The bugs and the flies they seek, will they be affected as well?

This picture of Wilson Creek is on the back cover of my book, Fly Fishermen of Caldwell County where co-author Ron Beane and I tell the life stories of twenty-eight men from our county. Nowhere in there is an eclipse mentioned, but there are many mentions of barometric pressure and best time of day and air temperature.

A trout in the stream near the Bill Crump place
Photo by Gene Swanson
Another photo by Gene Swanson
Wilson Creek has been designated a Wild and Scenic River. The process of applying for and campaigning for and succeeding is documented in Ron's chapter of the book.

With all the wilderness involved, I'm not sure if this is the time to venture here. Any other day, yes. Moon invading the sun's space overhead, this I want to see unobstructed.

I'll keep searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Eclipse Option - Little Switzerland, NC

It's got a lovely name, Little Switzerland does. Words bring images, and with those two words coupled together, oh the images conjured up in my head. Mountains. Alpine flowers. Clean air. Beauty. Yodeling. Okay, so that didn't happen, but the others did when I went there on a Thelma and Louise weekend getaway with my best friend from high school this summer. The inn is directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway, can't miss it, exit 334.
See that dot behind us? That's the full moon rising over the Appalachian mountains. Here it is again, another shot, this one from the firepit behind the Little Switzerland Inn.
I can only imagine sitting there in the Adirondack chairs, sipping some North Carolina crafted wine, watching the moon blot out the sun. Pure delight. 

According to the eclipse map locator, the view will be a 97.9% blockage in this section of the parkway. Maybe this isn't the best kept secret, though. It might get a little crowded with the eclipse seekers.

Up the road from the inn is a restaurant that has a deck with an incomparable mountain view and an appropriate name to match, Mountain View Restaurant
That would be the tubby version of me standing on the deck, taken by another Thelma and Louise friend of mine last fall. Here's my mountain view.
Looks like a perfect spot for an eclipse view to match the mountain view. But it's small, so I imagine it would fill to capacity soon. I'll save eating lunch there for another Thelma and Louise trip.

A little more wide open for parking and viewing is the Apple Orchard at Altapass on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a few miles north of the Mountain View Restaurant. 
That's me in the parking lot. If you catch it at the right time, you'll be blessed with mountain music (and maybe, just maybe, a little of that Swiss Alpine yodeling that has filtered into country music) and clogging and plenty of ice cream and all things apple. But oops. I just checked. Closed on Mondays! So forget this for eclipse watching, but put it on your bucket list for fall apples.

Just what do I consider the best possible conditions for viewing this earth/moon/sun exhibit? Here's my list: Not too far to drive with two antsy granddaughters. Not too crowded. Easy access to bathrooms, a must with those aforementioned granddaughters. Unobstructed view of the sky, but enough trees nearby for the birds to come to roost when darkness falls.

I'm still searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen