Monday, October 31, 2011

Formed to be Spectators

Every human being is

“formed to be a spectator of the created world –

and given eyes

that he might be led to its Author

by contemplating so beautiful a representation.”

~ John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 1:19

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Celebrate Saturday: Picking up Pumpkins

Kind friends, as you search for the perfect pumpkin, this orange monument to autumn, I hope you can feel the dwindling October sunshine on your shoulders and in your heart. Have a joyful weekend.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Folklife Friday: Omens

I think people were more superstitious when I was younger. Some folks I knew recognized and greatly respected omens.

We all knew that a black cat crossing the road in front of us could only mean bad luck. Of course, that bad luck could be easily negated by simply making the sign of the cross.

A dog starting to howl for no reason could put fear in the hearts of the strongest, for it could only be explained by the presence of the death angel, coming to get someone close by. Nowadays, when my dog starts howling, I know in about two seconds I will hear the sirens from the fire department over the hill.

Omens were widespread, but some particular ones were confined to small communities or family units. My Grandma Gean seemingly recognized an omen in every sneeze, itch, or change in weather.

One very common omen was seeing a ball of fire, or light, just before a tragic event. Some say it looked like a ball of intense light, others are convinced they could actually see moving flames. One family reported seeing a fireball just days before their house burned to the ground.

There are possible explanations for some of these. If the person was in the woods at night, it was probably Foxfixe, bioluminescence created by fungi on rotting timber. If a thunderstorm was going on at the time, it might have been St. Elmo's fire, a weather phenomenon produced when atmospheric conditions are just right; think electrical fields and grounded objects.

But, sometimes, they were seen on clear days outside the woods.

One summer when my husband was a child, the whole neighborhood was entertained by a series of balloon-sized lights that appeared every night. They appeared near a small spring and traveled, in a row, about fifty yards until they disappeared. The lights appeared for several weeks, and the crowd, including my father-in-law, gathered to watch them nightly until the lights stopped showing up. Hub didn't not see them personally, because his mom decided it was not something small children should be exposed to. There was a lot of speculation, but no agreement on the source or logic of the lights.

The Williams' ran the community store when I was about ten years old. They lost their adult son tragically in an automobile accident. A few days after the funeral, mama sent me and my lil ole sister to the store to get something. We were apprehensive about going; having seen death close up made Mrs. Williams somehow different and a little scary to us. We had found our item and were waiting for the receipt when Mrs. Williams broke down, sobbing on the counter. She told us that a week before her son's death, they had been awakened during the night by the sound of an automobile horn blaring in the driveway. When they got up to see what was happening, there was no car, nothing, in the driveway except moonlight. Mrs. Williams, a sober, Godly woman not given to hallucinations, was convinced that the sound was a warning, or omen, of their son's death. My lil ole sister and I had chill bumps and probably made record time getting out of there and walking home. There have been many things that I have forgotten in the subsequent years, but this incident is as clear to me as if it happened yesterday instead of about fifty years ago.

If you can explain these things, please use the comment section to share with us!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October's Party

October gave a party;

The leaves by hundreds came -

The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,

And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet,

And everything was grand,

Miss Weather led the dancing,

Professor Wind the band.

~George Cooper, October's Party

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mama

Violet Beatrice Gean Stricklin
October 26, 1917-November 11, 2007

It's my mama's birthday.

The Earth revolved and seasons changed ninety times while she was here.

Uneducated, but wise.

Beautiful, work-roughened hands never still.

Her life was taking care of her family, and that she did well, even when the road was hard.

She did massive amounts of laundry on a wringer washer; her clothes lines full every sunny day expect Sunday.

She could coax nutritious vegetables out of tired clay soil, rising with the sun to do battle with weeds.

Her quilts still warm our beds and our hearts.

Known for her incomparable biscuits, she made enough in her lifetime to completely fill a Cracker Barrel.

More familiar with pain than joy, she endured.

She lived to see adult children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.

We are educated, talented, well-traveled, scattered.

She lives in all of us.

Beadie Haynes, Marie Thompson, Mama, Geneva Gean

In heaven, we are promised a mansion, blissful rest.

I'll bet my mama's has a clothesline, white robes waving in the breeze.
Could be she's sitting on the porch, waiting for her children to get home.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed. Proverbs 31: 27,28

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All That Remains

When James and Sarah Jackson decided to help settle the wilderness of North Alabama in the early 1800s, they chose the best site in the county for their mansion. They named their new mansion Forks of Cypress, probably because two branches of Cypress Creek ran together not far from there.

The mansion was built by skilled artisans, who built a safe and beautiful place. Located on a hill, it is said there was always a breeze blowing across the porches that encircled the house. James and Sarah raised a big family there.

Unlike many such mansions in the area, the Forks of Cypress was left unharmed during the Civil War. What it could not survive was a common summer thunderstorm.

In June 1966, the mansion was struck by lightning. The Forks of Cypress, with its antiques and memories, burned to the ground in less than thirty minutes. What a loss for our community!

The completely symmetrical brick columns are all that remain today.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Renaissance Faire

For the past twenty-five years, on the third weekend in October, scenic downtown Wilson Park has been transformed into something.....
5. 1

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Folklife Friday: Ghost Story

George and his family lived more than a mile from the store. He walked there almost every day, picking up some items for his family while catching up on the news. The store was the main source of information in their little community, and George didn't want to miss anything.

It had been a long, busy day, and George had not had time for his diurnal trip to the store. As dusk was turning into true night, George set off, his empty tobacco sack overriding his anxiety of walking in the dark.

George walked peacefully for a while, surrounded by starlight and the sounds of his footsteps. As he started down a steep hill, he was shocked to discover he was not alone. A woman, clad in a billowy white gown, appeared, crossed the road in front of him, and went into the ditch on the far side of the road. Shaken up, he continued to the store with record speed.

George was greeted by the usual gang--retired and unemployed men who spent most of their time sitting outside the store and speculating on the affairs of the world. They sat up with interest when George appeared, bedraggled and white as cotton. They nodded sympathetically as George recounted his experience, his voice trembling as he struggled to regain his normal breath.

It turned out that many of the men had seen the woman before. She always appeared on the road at night and always disappeared in the ditch just like George had seen her do. No one had any solid ideas as to who or what she was. Some explained her away by saying it was just some crazy woman who wandered around at night.

There was no alternative to walking home the same way he had come. George even mustered up the courage to look in the ditch where the woman had disappeared. There was no footprints or disturbed vegetation that George could see in the dim light.

The mystery of the woman in white was never solved. George never saw her again, although afterwards, he made sure to find time for the trip to the store during the daylight hours.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Harvesting the Green

Late yesterday, Hub was scrambling to get the green tomatoes before Jack Frost got them first.

Our tomatoes didn't do real well this year. They were almost dead when the Labor Day rains revived them and they put on a whole new crop.

The biggest ones were wrapped in newspaper. Some say they will stay good and ripen until ChristmasI remember my Mama making green tomato pickles. The smallest ones will be canned with garlic and hot peppers in vinegar. Hopefully, they will perk up our winter suppers, but I'll have to let you know about that later.

The middle-sized ones are for sharing and fried green tomatoes. Remember fried green tomatoes?For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Out of the Dirt: Bragg-ing

Like every reader, I have my favorite writers. There have been so many that have stirred my emotions and made me a part of their world, and I'm thankful for that. The one is love the best, the one I cherish, is Rick Bragg.

Yesterday, Rick was in our area. We were privileged to see a newly released documentary about his life called Out of the Dirt. Afterwards, he talked to us about family and roots.

His first book, All over but the Shoutin', was recommended to me years ago. Very early in the book, I was thinking, "Who is this? He is writing about me, about my family." I have never actually met anyone in the book, but they are all my neighbors and kinfolks. His other books are just as well-written.

In his book, Writing for the Soul, Christian author Jerry Jenkins had this to say about Rick Bragg:

I read other writers and strive to be like them. I read others, like Rick Bragg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, and simply surrender, knowing I will never reach his level. At the risk of hyperbole, I can say I would consider my life less complete had I never read the opening lines from his All Over but the Shoutin' (my favorite nonfiction work). That's one book that makes me want to read a paragraph twice, just because of its power and poetry. I recommend it to any writer at any stage of the journey.

Rick Bragg may be Alabama's best treasure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Understanding Beauty

There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of themselves in various styles... but there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of women.It is a beauty like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle and to engage in conscious mischiefa beauty with which you can never be angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the state of mind into which it throws you.George Eliot

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Celebrate Saturday: Share

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?

Isn’t it sharing your bread
with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

Then your light
will break out like the dawn,
and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.

Isaiah 58:6-8

Thank you for sharing your time to visit with me here. I pray your weekend is filled with blessings....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Folklife Fridays: Apples

It seems that October and apples just go together.

Apples are one of my favorite fruits, and I eat them all year long. Most come from Sam's, pretty apples that are almost good but can't be compared to locally grown October apples.

I'm talking about apples so fresh you can taste the sunshine and so juicy that you need a napkin while eating one.

Our favorite orchards are in Athens, Alabama, and we went there last weekend and stocked up. The golden delicious are my favorite and I have just about ODed on them this week.

My mom was known for her apple pies, which she cooked almost every day. Hers were not fried. She made the half-moon shapes with her dough and apples then baked them. Experience had taught her exactly how much dough and apple filling was needed to make two pies that fit perfectly in her cast iron skillet.

When her grandchildren were small, they immediately went to the kitchen to get some apple pie as soon as they got to Grandma's. I wish I had a photo of those pies to share.

We canned and dried apples every year; stocking up for the cold months when an apple pie could make a whole day seem better. In addition to those half-moon apple pies, we had the two crust apple pies, apple cake, apple bread, the seven layer stack cake with dried apple filling, and many, many more desserts.

When we were small children, we sneaked and ate little green apples as soon as they were the size of plums. We managed to get some salt from the kitchen before we sat under the tree, eating several at a time. Mama's dire warnings of stomach aches often came true, but I can't remember that stopping us from eating them.

I can apples in a simple syrup, four cups of water to one cup of sugar. They are served as a side when we are having any kind of pork--I love the taste of apples and pork together. If all the canned apples have been eaten, I use applesauce from the store with my pork roasts.

My friend, Tipper, at, reminded me this week about a game we played when we were having marathon apple peelings for canning or drying. We would attempt to peel the apples without breaking the peel, then throw it over our back. If the peel landed in the shape of a letter, the letter was the initial of the man you were going to marry. Mine always landed in a 'S' and I married a 'B', so don't take that game too seriously!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When you wish upon a Star.....

Everyday, we hear about new discoveries in the solar system. Astronomers are excited about seeing for the first time many earth-like planets in the solar system.

Twenty-first century technology is allowing a new peep into the ancient heavens;
images that Galileo and Copernicus couldn't fathom.

An Austrian astronomer recently estimated the number of stars
to be approximately 70 sextillion. 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
More than the grains of sand on Planet Earth.

They have been there since the fourth day.
They have been in their place, waiting, serving their purpose.

Twinkle, twinkle little star.
Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1

*NASA images

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Newbery Medal books

Lately, I have been going back and reading some Newbery medal books that I somehow missed before. The books are in the Young Adult category, but I enjoy reading them as much as I love adult books.

The oldest one I have read is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, which won in 1959. I never tire of reading about colonial times and how their thinking was so different from ours.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George was also published in 1959. It is a Newbery Honor book.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson won the medal in 1978, but most children today have heard about it because it was recently made into a movie. The book surprised me with its ending.

In his 2001 award winner, A Year Down Yonder, Richard Peck manages to write a delightful book about a Chicago teenager spending a year with her Grandmother in the south without being derogatory to the southern way of life.

Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis won the medal in 2000. This book is my made me laugh out loud and cry, something that is hard for a book to do.

My goal is to read all the Newbery Award winners. They have been given out since 1922, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

I'm so thankful that I have the time and ability to read.

I'll be at the library.