Thursday, October 31, 2013

country roads (part 1 of 2)

Oh.  Hi!  I'm still here.  But not here, at my computer, so much lately (hello October!).  I had a good three paragraphs written, covering all my excuses for not tending to this space in over a month, but I nixed it.  You're welcome.

Anyway.  There are so many things I want to blog about.
*Letter to Juniper (she just turned 4!).
*The day I became a mother (gosh, I've been thinking about that a lot lately).
*A garden synopsis.
*Thoughts on girls.

:: The long and short of my October went something like this: Beautiful weather, gardening, school, visiting in-laws, swimming, fun.  Sick, stomach bugs, colds, coughing, fever.  Packed up and traveled just shy of two weeks, jetting back to my husband's home grounds in the heart of Appalachia.  Then: home, school, swimming, beautiful weather, garlic-planting, Halloween-costume-sewing, birthday-party fun.  Lovely sweater weather.

As for tonight, I will present an Appalachian photo extravaganza.  We've been home for over a week and today, a mid-autumn chill whips through the pines and fat white, heavy flakes fall clumsily to the ground.

:: This was my first autumnal visit to Appalachia.  We were tourists to a degree, but mostly we were relative-hopping.  My husband's family all live within 3 hours, with a few 5 or 6-hour stragglers and some semi-uprooted twentysomethings.  But, compared to my family, they practically live in the same damned town.

:: We flew into Virginia and puttered around for a couple of days, trying to get more time behind some colds and fevers before we stayed with great-grandparents.
Dad and L, we turned around and shot this just for you:
We stayed in the tiny, quaint town of Monterey, Virginia.  Home to one hotel (since 1904) and one motel (since 1956).  Neither of which has changed much since inception.  The motel bathroom had a bottle-opener attached to the wall and I'm quite certain all furnishings, including the carpet, were original.  Old, but clean and nice.  The rosy sunset view from our motel door: 
And the next morning:
Who wouldn't want to take a small detour and follow this sign?  
We joked that if we bought a farm and moved there, we could own the address of "Moonshine road; Bluegrass, Virginia."  
At the top of the mountain, we crossed into West Virginia:
Just down the hill we stopped at a one-hundred-year-old apple tree that my man remembers from childhood.  It's on Forest Service land, on the side of the road, home to a long-ago logging camp.  You wouldn't know that now, except for the apples.
Living high in the rocky mountains as we do, fruit trees are far from abundant.  The novelty of tasty sweet fruit available for free at nearly every turn took over our imaginations, and our car.
Sweet apples and pears rolled around the floorboards, sequestered a portion of our trunk, and filled our bellies.
:: And then!  Great-grandpa's grape vines, teaming with our kids and drunk yellow-jackets.
Great-papaw's shed.  He, at 88, still gardens and mows and cuts downed trees out of his driveway with a chainsaw in the middle of winter.  He is my brother's hero.  
Hazel was sick and extra-clingy for the entire trip.  Only one person (besides me and, sometimes, my husband) was able to hold her, briefly: Great-mamaw.
:: Most of the time my husband and I are negotiating the wind-swept swell of Wyoming on our own; plying the waters of family life without aunts or uncles or cousins or grandparents to lean on.  Returning to West Virginia is like swimming with our very own school of fish, leaning in and riding the current of the group.  It is, in John Denver's words, almost heaven.
We joined a relaxed family reunion which also happened to fall over Juniper's birthday.  I met some new faces (and the kids met some new cousins), along with those I've known for over a decade.  
One of the newest members: 
The lovely kid-whisperer (and mother to above^) Aunt K brought white t-shirts, ties and dyes for each of the kids.  Fun!  
Raising girls, especially, I know how their lives revolve around their relationships, knowing their circles of people and where they fit in the circle.  I am glad my oldest can take a few minutes to find her footing, then jump right in with these people we call family even though, effectively to her, they are perfect strangers.    
I don't have a still photo--only video--but she was so excited to have such a huge gathering of family sing Happy Birthday.  Holy cow, she was practically squealing.  And then the sugar hit.  
^Psssst.  I'd been wanting to make my kids birthday crowns for years.  Finally did it.  Wool felt, glass buttons, and leftover trim from my wedding dress.  She loved it.^

Without fail, John Denver's "Country Roads" becomes the theme song of any trip back to West Virginia, and any family gathering.  It's been one of Juniper's faves since she was 18 months old.  One sat at the keyboard, another at the guitar and the rest of us sang.  Hazel was asleep on my man's back, but I could practically watch Juniper's heart swell right there in her little body as the room lit up in a round of "Country Roads."     
Almost heaven, West Virginia 
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River 
Life is old there, older than the trees 
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze
 Country roads, take me home 
To the place I belong 
West Virginia, Mountain Mama 
Take me home, country roads 
All my memories, gathered 'round her 
Miners' Lady, stranger to blue water 
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky 
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye 

Country roads, take me home 
To the place I belong 
West Virginia, Mountain Mama 
Take me home, country roads 
I hear her voice, in the morning hour she calls me 
The radio reminds me of my home far away 
And drivin' down the road I get the feeling 
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday
Country roads, take me home 
To the place I belong 
West Virginia, Mountain Mama 
Take me home, country roads  


  1. Yay! I'm so glad you're back. And gorgeous photos and family time. We lived in NC for a bit before moving out here to the prairie and those photos bring back so many memories. And happy mom-anniversary to you and Juniper!

  2. Wow what a read and great photos! I'm typing this from the WV cabin and was just commenting to Heather how quiet it is this weekend and how that weekend went by too fast. I look forward to seeing you all again, we'll make our way out West soon (tell Adam in a 'rented' RV). - Matt Carson

  3. love these photos. I felt like I was along for the ride!

    Birthday crowns what a great idea! I so want to do that! xxxx


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