About a Drought

As I survey my lawn so brown,
Thunder gurgles across our town,
Lightning blisters my rods and cones,
Promising rain soon to come down.

‘Tis not to be. Oh! life’s unknowns.
The storm rolls on to moister zones.
We want it so. That’s the kicker.
But we cannot drink from these stones.

In the distance fades the flicker,
I can almost hear the snicker
Of the crickets humming dryly,
Thankful as a parched picnicker.

Water tempts with hope so wryly.
Imagining rain so nighly,
That the sound of droplets shyly
Dancing in clouds gets me smiley.

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Photo Credit: Jaepil Cho. CC BY 2.0

Into the Woods: Domestic Appalachia

Even as a lifelong Southerner, I wilt at the first signs of the heat & humidity our region is famous for. Fear not: there is an out.

When I was 14, our family managed to settle in the one place where Southeastern culture intersects Northeastern weather–the High Country of Western North Carolina. That July day we pulled out from the little Georgia town that had been home for the previous 9 years, it was 107 degrees. In our new driveway (500 miles later and 3,800 feet up),  it was a heavenly 62. Thanks to that move, I grew up with barbecue and blizzards, sweet tea and skiing, fried okra and fresh air.

After college, the need for employment opportunities and affordable living led to putting down roots in my wife’s hometown of Chattanooga (where we still live and which we still love). When days start nudging past 80, though, my thoughts head for the hills. Thanks to my folks’ ongoing homestead (they built a house in 2006 on 23 acres “down in the valley”, at 3,300 ft. in Deep Gap), we can act on that impulse and be feet-up in the front porch hammock in five hours’ drive.

The older two girls and I made one of our escapes from summer this weekend and were handsomely rewarded with perfect weather and the full array of spring flowers. Our kids don’t know yet just how blessed they are to have access to this as a routine part of life, but they do know how much they love to visit Grandaddy and B-Ma any time of the year.

Plants hold a special place in my heart, so visiting home means I also get to visit some amazing plants (weird perhaps, but we’re all a bit off at some level or another). I worked four summers at a nursery and landscaping business during college. One of the perks was getting all manner of amazing plants at a steep discount. When my parents built their house, they asked me (and my employee discount) to do the initial landscaping. Whenever we go back to visit, I love seeing how those few trees, shrubs, and perennials have filled in over the past 9 years (owing much more to my mom & dad’s ceaseless care than any work I did in picking and planting them). As they’ve grown in, covering the bright red fill dirt that first surrounded their place, the house looks more and more like it’s always been there in that little bowl.

This series is supposed  to be about hikes and assorted adventures in the wilderness, but sometimes a trip “into the woods” feels a lot like home. There will always be more to say about the vast beauty of the Appalachians, and people with more time on their hands than me have written and photographed enough to document every good hike around. This little corner of the world is all ours, though.

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A little corner of rhododendron varietals

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You can seriously grow everything up there…

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Mountain Laurel are everywhere

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Lupine is an old favorite

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They have several patches of Pink Lady’s Slipper around the land

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Even the weeds are pretty: Cow Parsnip

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And so are the grasses…

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This Bigleaf Magnolia (not native to high altitudes) moved with me twice, but it seems to be thriving in the last place I planted it…20′ tall and about to bloom

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The creek bottom down the hill from the house is covered with Skunk Cabbage and Cinnamon Fern

Ode to Pollen

Spring is in the air,
But not alone up there.

Shorter nights and warmer days
Call forth grass, trees, and yellow haze.

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Oak tassels are green, clinging like glue.

Myriad plants with hearts aflutter
Make love in the wind, stamens clogging the gutter.

The car’s chartreuse, the driveway mustard.
Pollen up your nose makes it run like custard.

Tiny proteins smother me in kisses
Working hard to keep Kleenex in business.

My eyes are red, my brain deep fried,
Without antihistamines, I’d sneeze ’til I died.

Rain alone brings real relief,
But extra mowing causes me grief.

A wet rag over the face promises sleep.
Winter’s over, and spring is a bleep.