Monday, November 30, 2009



Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is Winter Here Yet?

Temperatures at Shady Hollow dropped below freezing last night. I haven't checked, but I'm sure the impatiens, begonia, salvias and cannas that have been hanging in there all fall finally took a death blow. I can't remember a time in the twenty years I've lived here that the summer blooms have lasted so long. Of course the poor plants were bedraggled and far from lush, but they were still alive and had a few flowers. There were even some petunias that were actually thriving in the mild weather, blooming happily.

Here in the Western North Carolina Mountains the weather is fickle and does not usually follow the norms you might find anywhere else. The mild fall weather has been a prime example of this. All my weather lore (learned from my father) tells me that we will have a cold winter, with the possibility of several substantial snows. I could be wrong however, as I learned to read the weather at lower elevations. I often am wrong here. The mountains follow their own rules.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings

We have much to be thankful for today at Shady Hollow. To name a few:

Jim has made an entire year without a hospital stay. During 2008 I was on a first name basis with the staff of 2-West at Pardee Hospital. Wonderful people, each and every one, but I don't mind not seeing them.

We made an entire year without losing a beloved pet, although our little dog Jay-Jay and Tigger the cat gave us and our vet a run for our money. Last year at this time we were still mourning the loss of Lucy, one of the sweetest calico's that ever lived on the planet.

The children, grandchildren and great-grand children are healthy. We don't see them often, but they stay in touch. Each email, call and visit is a special occasion for us.

Our dear neighbor has, by all indications, beaten his cancer. He endured a summer of chemo and radiation with a smile and kept all the rest of us from worrying. Even during the worst of his chemo he would walk down to check on Jim.

Other neighbors are doing well. We are blessed to have people nearby who will make sure we are alright and offer assistance when they see we have a need without waiting to be asked.

I still have a job, although I was sure I would be one of the unlucky ones who were let go.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life it is easy to let these blessings be taken for granted. We all are guilty of that. It is part of the human condition. It is good that we have a national day of thanksgiving. A national feast-day to stop, enjoy family and friends, do something for the less fortunate, and thank the Gods for all that we have.

As Shady Hollow rests from the summer of gardening and harvesting we stop to take stock of our blessings. They are many, too many to name or count.

I thank the Goddess and God for my life, my family, my friends and my pets. They make my journey a wonderful thing to behold.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Venison and Flat Tires

Got your attention, didn't I? It has been a crazy week and most of the crazies are due to venison and flat tires. Stay with me and I'll explain this unlikely combination.

A young man I know is an avid deer hunter. He and his cousins spent every possible moment hunting deer and other wild game. Deer, however, is their favorite prey. What these young men do with the deer and wild game they harvest is heartwarming. Once they have provided for their families, the game they kill is given to elderly or handicapped folks and poor families. They will accept no money for their gifts of fresh meat. A thank you is enough. Nor do they want publicity, a wish I gladly honor.

Earlier this week my husband and I received a call telling us one of them would be bringing a cooler of venison to us on Thursday. In early afternoon, near time for me to go to work, he arrived. The cooler was set in my kitchen and after a brief chat, he was gone to make another delivery. I promptly called my boss and took a vacation day so as to process and freeze the meat. I did not get finished until nine that evening.

Hunters are often belittled and criticized by many for "killing Bambi". Where these men hunt, the deer population has grown so numerous that if hunting did not take place the deer would soon starve to death or become pests. Instead, the herds are thinned and many families are fed. There are hunters out there who are trophy hunters and kill just for the antlers and actually leave the animal to rot in the forest. This type hunting I, and everyone else, should condemn. Real hunters do as these young men and make sure the animals do not lose their lives in vain.

As it turns out, staying home to process and freeze our venison saved me from a situation. The next day when I went to leave for work, I discovered I had a flat tire. If not for staying home the day before, the tire would have deflated in the parking lot where I work, stranding me some miles from home.

Jim being in a wheelchair and myself being not the strongest woman on earth, we faced a dilemma. A few phone calls revealed that no one in the neighborhood was home to help remove the tire and take it to be repaired. The plant manager where I work offered to come put the little "donut" spare on, IF I would then drive to work on the donut and home again at midnight last night. I said no, with a spicy adjective thrown in for good measure. I would not drive with a donut tire on my front drive axle unless it was to the tire store for repair. He never showed up. Hmmmm. I will not reveal my innermost thoughts on that.

After that phone call, Jim said he thought the two of us could manage it. Away we went to see what we could do. It took him some time, but my wheelchair bound husband removed the flat, got my donut tire from underneath the car and put it on. I was mainly a spectator during the whole project. I am so proud of him. He is very pleased with himself, and rightly so. He is an amazing man. I thank the Gods everyday for sending him to me. It was too late in the evening to get the tire repaired so I missed work again. I'm sure that cost me a few brownie points, but will worry about that later.

This morning I carefully drove my crippled car to the tire store. My flat was caused by dry rot. Even though the tires looked "good" with plenty of tread, they were six years old. Age had taken its toll. All were near the point of no longer holding air. I had them all replaced and am rolling again.

Thus ends the unlikely story of venison and flat tires. One more instance of the many strange combinations of events that unfold at Shady Hollow.

Be Blessed!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wishing for a Strong Wind

Almost all the leaves have fallen. I had intended to get out the big leaf blower and do some yard clean-up this weekend. It didn't happen, so now I'm wishing for a strong wind to blow them away for me. The Great Mother takes care of many things for me. I am grateful to Her for that. I don't think she will do the leaves for me. Some things we have to do for ourselves.

I took my husband for an outing to the mall Saturday. An afternoon of the mall tired us both out so the leaves were put off until today. This morning a couple of dear friends stopped by and paid us a visit. We talked about everything under the sun and got all caught up on what we've been up too since we saw each other last. Leaves can wait. Some things are just more important.

As much as I love to be outside and doing garden chores I have some things that are much more important to me. Spending time with my husband is one. Spending time with good friends is another. The gardens will always be here, even after we are long gone from the scene. Loved ones are with us for a limited amount of time. It's best to enjoy every moment with them while you can.

Soon the North Winds will blow and most of the leaves will be moved to the upper hillside without intervention from me. I pray these same North Winds choose to leave the souls of those I love here with me for one more season, at the least.

Be Blessed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Long Haired Woman vs. Leaf Blower

Sometime ago I wrote about how trilled I was with my battery powered edger and leaf blower. I'm still thrilled with them. I admit I've used the leaf blower the most. It is a necessity here. It takes almost daily effort to keep Jim's ramp and the deck free of leaves.

I have not cut my hair since early 2004, and it reaches my waist. I always wanted really long hair and decided it was now or never to grow it out. I love it, my husband loves it, but it is sometimes hazardous to my health.

Did you know that if you are using a leaf blower (no matter what fuel type) long hair can be a problem?

It was early afternoon a few weeks ago and I decided to clear off Jim's ramp before heading to work. I hadn't tied my hair back that morning. In a hurry, as it was time to get ready for work, I grabbed the blower and started the task. All went well for a while. Then I leaned over to get the blower nozzle into a tight spot.

I felt a strong tug, and a stronger tug. Realization hit me in a split second and I turned off the blower. A sizable amount of my long hair had been sucked into the blower's intake. Hmmm. I tugged on my hair. Nothing happened. With a sigh of resignation, I sat in one of the porch rockers and began the slow task of gently removing my hair from the blower's intake.

It took awhile, but I disentangled myself without much damage to my hair. I just kept praying Jim wouldn't come to the door or one of the neighbors wouldn't stop by. It would be easier to tell about this than to be caught in the middle of the hair rescue.

Now this was bad enough and embarrassing enough. What is even worse is that I did the same thing again last weekend. I wasn't as severely entangled, but it had my hair again.

So the score stands at Leaf Blower 2, Long-haired Woman 0.

I'll keep you posted if the score changes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Neighbors

Saturday afternoon I was attempting to turn leaves into mulch with the lawn mower when my next door neighbor and his son came walking down the drive with a ladder. John said, "Hi Joyce, we've come to clean your gutters." He and his son walked past me and set to work. Before they were finished, John's son-in-law was also in on the act. They cleaned out the gutters and even took a leaf blower up to the roof and removed fallen leaves that would have surely reclogged the gutters later. The cottage is small and the roof isn't steep, so it only took them a short while.

It wasn't a big job for three men in good health. I cannot express my thanks to them enough. It would have been a big and scary job for me. I doubt very much I would have even attempted it; a) I am afraid of heights, b) Jim wouldn't have let me, and c) my children would have been furious at me if they found out I got up there, especially my oldest son (he has forbidden me to get on the roof).

Over the years I have been blessed with good neighbors. Nine years ago, another neighbor, upon learning Jim had had major back surgery, started mowing our lawn whenever he mowed his own. He would take no payment. He passed away suddenly from a heart attack one winter. The next spring I was shocked to hear his mower in my back yard. I looked and saw his son, mowing our yard. When I asked why, he told me his mom had told him his dad would have wanted him to do it. He has since gone off on his own, and I cut the portion of their yard adjacent to mine when I mow. It just feels right.

When Jim had 3 amputations within as many months last year, these wonderful neighbors were here to help out by checking on him while I was at work. They brought him meals, walked our dog, and kept me informed on his condition on days I had to work but was worried about leaving him. Two families came and made sure he was ok and had candles and flashlights when there was a power outage during my absence.

They did all these things without my ever asking. They just came and helped. I love Shady Hollow; but part of that love is for the wonderful people who live next to me. We are indeed blessed by the Gods to be here, in this place, surrounded by these people.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Killing and Fear of Things to Come

Friday's news stories about the massacre in Fort Hood were interrupted by news of more shots fired, death, and injuries in Florida. I have been telling my closest friends for months that I foresee more and more violence. I tell them to be ready to protect themselves and their loved ones from dangers they cannot imagine. I stand by my vision. I have seen this thing that comes for many years in visions and dreams.

About midmorning Friday, our cats began acting as though they had been spooked by something outside. Upon checking, I found two young men, in their late teens to early twenties in the street in front of Shady Hollow. One was absent mindedly bouncing a basketball while he carefully looked over the front entrance to the cottage. A quick glance from him up the street led my gaze in that direction where I saw the second young man, staring toward the basement entry to the cottage.

I was hidden for a few moments but once they spotted my watchfulness the second young man walked toward the first. I looked long and hard at them and know I can identify them if I see them again.

I came inside to tell my husband to be sure he locked the door after I left for work. Turning back to the door to again look at the two men, I saw they had disappeared. I do not know which direction they went, I assume it was up the street. No vehicle was in sight. They were on foot and were not residents of the neighborhood.

I feel certain they were "casing" Shady Hollow. If not, then my neighbor's home (she is a widow and lives alone). But their actions and location makes me believe it was my home they were checking out. My husband's wheelchair ramp probably made it look ripe for the picking. Woe unto them should they try. He is a crack shot and Vietnam taught him to shoot first and let God sort them out. I'm not so bad a shot either, and will protect my own.

Early last spring some young thugs broke in on a couple not much older than us and beat the man to death in a robbery attempt. Hs wife was gravely injured as well, but survived. We decided then that we would be ready to protect ourselves.

Incidents like what happened here Friday, the massacre at Fort Hood and the violence in Florida all tie together into a bigger web of violence and discontent that is rising up in our land and the world. Be ready, be watchful, and don't be caught unaware.

As I stood outside with my cigarette tonight I looked up at the waning moon and the glorious night sky and prayed for all of us. We are but small creatures in the grand scheme of the Universe and yet our Goddess' and God's have taken us under their wings and have tried to nudge us along our paths. They look out for us to a point. At that point they trust we know enough to look out for ourselves inasmuch as we are able.

May They All continue to watch over us, and protect us; for we are still young and create hazards for ourselves which, without them, we cannot overcome.

Be Blessed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good to be Home

I frequently check FaceBook and Twitter on my cell phone while I'm at work. I also have my email forwarded to my phone, like so many people do these days. I hadn't been at work long yesterday when I got an update saying a massacre had taken place at Fort Hood, Texas. I immediately texted my husband and he turned to Fox News for information.

Text messages flew fast and furious. As a retired Master Sergeant, my husband wanted to know how such a thing could happen. I wanted to know who did it and why. He watched the news and kept me up-to-date. I checked Twitter and other sites to see what I could learn whenever I had a chance. We passed information between ourselves and to my co-workers, who were also concerned. I'm sure everyone else in the country was doing something similar.

It was good to get home tonight. Good to give my husband a hug and pet the critters.

When I turn down the drive into Shady Hollow each night and drive between the Guardian Oaks much of the world's trials and tribulations fade away. That feeling was not quite the same tonight. Somewhere, twelve families are grieving due to a senseless act of violence that robbed them of their loved ones. Thirty-one other families are praying for the recovery of their family members gunned down by an extremist. Somewhere, the gunman's family is also praying for his recovery and for understanding of how he came to commit this act of violence.

Its good be back in the safety of my little world at Shady Hollow.

Tonight we pray to all the Gods and Goddesses', known and unknown; remembered and forgotten. We pray that the families will find a way through their sorrow and loss, and that those wounded will heal, and that such acts of violence will never happen again.

Blessed Be.