Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Gift of 2017

The cedar boughs and holly berries on the fireplace are dry and losing their color, but I'm not ready to let them go.  To replace them, this morning we drove a ways down Sandy Island Road, a wild, brushy area bordering the 9000 acres of Brookgreen Gardens, to a place where we could cut a few boughs.  As we neared the spot where the cedar grows, an animal ran for a short way down the road in front of us.  "Is it a dog, is it a ca--", we began, and then both exclaimed, "It's a bobcat!"  The short tail, the tufts of fur in the ears, the longer back legs, were clear in the seconds before it disappeared into the brush. 
I was so excited I wanted to cry.  All my life, in all the wild places I've hiked and camped, I've longed to see a bobcat.  I never thought I would.

What a last-minute gift from a year that has been so ecologically and politically disheartening and worrisome.

2017, my Year of the Bobcat.

(The photo isn't mine, it's borrowed from a South Carolina wildlife website.)


Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas Past

Our Christmas tree was so dry I had to take it down yesterday but the rest of the decorations 
will remain up until the new year.  Christmas goes by so fast with all there is to do, it seems like we hardly have the decorations up and it's time to put them away.  

We had unusual weather for Georgetown this morning -- ice!  All the big bridges leading in and out of town were closed until 11 as was Highway 17, the main highway that follows the coast through Georgetown from Virginia to Punta Gorda, Florida.  

Actually, I was perfectly happy to have an excuse to stay home. I like to prepare heart and home for the change of the year.  (Plus I got a really good book for Christmas!)  

I've been reading blogs and it seems the latest trend in New Years resolutions is to NOT make New Years resolutions, to lighten up on self-improvement, forget about new diets and promises to exercise, take a minimalist approach and appreciate what you have and who you are.  You know, just chill out and see what happens.  I don't know if I can get behind that or not.  

I always like the idea of choosing a word to focus on for the year ahead and I have a couple in mind to pick from.  One year I didn't like my word anymore after a couple months in so I just up and changed it!  

I'm sure 2018 will have some travel adventures in store for us.  Germany is in the plans, and of course, Florida and Minnesota.  One of my favorite Christmas presents is a dolphin watch boat trip in March.  

Mason's daddy's birthday was right before Christmas and Mason dressed himself for the occasion.  Don't you  think he looks just like a Christmas candy cane?

My grandma told us that any work you left undone by New Years Eve meant you would always be behind on that task in the New Year.  I better get back to work!

What are you doing to get ready
for the New Year?

Friday, December 22, 2017


From the dark of the longest night of the year back into the light, we bring you ... 
The Winter Solstice!

First a dark walk on the beach,
the surf behind me loud and booming, the new moon 
the slightest sliver of silver drifting in and out of ominous black clouds,
the air smellng of damp sea salt and mysterious sulphuric marsh gasses from pluff mud at low tide, and in the center of the dark road a huge lone seagull, bright white in the headlights, challenging for his right to the road.  Then ...

into the light!  
At Murrels Inlet a walk along the harbor and
a welcome reminder of longer days ahead.  
We picked a restaurant for a drink and a snack 
-- shrimp, and hushpuppies dipped in honey butter -- 
and stared out at the lights from our window table.  
"The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory."
Gary Zukov, American author and spiritual teacher.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Change is, of course, as inevitable as gravity.  We get signed up for it the moment we are conceived and it continues even after death as we are re-formed and emerge as part of something else in the natural world.  We drag our feet, try to slow change down and hang on to memories and loved ones, through holiday traditions.

Little changed about Christmas when my mom and her sister, my sister and I, then my children, were growing up.  The extended family lived within miles of each other and we all celebrated with the traditions, the language, the foods of my Norwegian grandparents.  Even when my grandparents' generation had all passed on, when my daughters began their independent lives, when my grandchildren were born, for all those years we still gathered in snowy Minnesota and kept the traditions as well as we could.  

Well, this is the year of big change.  My mom is alone and can no longer fly to Minnesota, the daughter with children can't leave Minnesota, Sarah now lives in Germany.  
Christmas will still be wonderful but along with the hustle and bustle and joyfulness, I think we all feel a bit adrift.  

Instead of baking cookies with four generations of cooks in one busy kitchen (and with lots of little helpers manning the sprinkles), I baked by myself.  This afternoon we walked around the neighborhood visiting and dropping off plates of cookies.

Earlier I dropped off warm hats I've been knitting at Helping Hands where they will be handed out to those who need one at a Christmas food giveaway.  

Sunday we will drive south to my mom's in Florida, and so will my  sister and her husband from Wisconsin.  They're  bringing lefse and herring -- you can't find that in Georgetown!

We'll sing some Christmas carols but they will all be in English as we can't remember the words in Norwegian anymore without the help of the older ones. 
 There will be no snow or children waiting for Santa, but there will be love and cookies and a Merry Christmas all around!

The lights are from Pack Square in Asheville, NC, where we were last week.  
The square is a joyous Christmas wonderland of lights.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Grove Arcade -- Asheville, NC

A long time ago we were newly married and set out to explore areas of the United States where we thought we might want to live.  We landed in Appalachia, built a house way up in the mountains, and established ourselves in careers around Asheville, NC.  By the 1970s, Asheville's heyday of opulence and elegance were far behind and dark days and hard times had fallen.  Its beautiful old buildings were empty and deteriorating, eaten up by dark years of urban decay.     
But in our forty years of absence, downtown Asheville has made a stunning comeback!  The Grove Arcade is an example.  I used to pass this empty behemoth just about every day, eyeless with its big shopwindows covered, people sleeping in the once-ornate doorways, broken bottles, newspaper and plastic bags swirling in its corners.  And I always longed to know what beauty was hidden inside.  
Well, I wonder no more! Downtown Asheville has made a stunning comeback and the Grove Arcade is the cornerstone of a city wonderfully restored to its former bustling glory.  

"I had a little drug business in Paris, Tennessee, just barely making a living, when I got up a real invention, tasteless quinine. As a poor man and a poor boy, I conceived the idea that whoever could produce a tasteless chill tonic, his fortune was made.”—E.W. Grove

E.W. Grove did indeed make a fortune with his "chill tonic" for relief of malaria and set out to create his architectural vision of elegance in Asheville.  He built the Battery Park Hotel and across the street from it began construction of a 269,000 sq. ft. indoor "shopping palace".  Although he died before it was completed, the Arcade opened in 1929. 

Winged lions still flank the entrance where I used to pass the homeless sleeping out of the wind.

The lion entrance is on the side by the tall building on the right, the Battery Park Hotel, which is now apartments for seniors.  This old photo from the back gives you an idea of the size of the building.  
(Grove had envisioned a five story base with 14-story tower of shops and apartments.  The tower was never built.)

The Arcade now has shops, restaurants, offices, and 42 apartments.  Skylights, offices, and apartments are on the upper levels, shops below, indoors, and outdoors under awnings.

Take the old elevators ("Going up.  Watch your step, Madam.").


enter the wooden door with the wreath and take one of the enclosed circular staircases.  

When the Arcade first opened in 1929 it housed shops, offices, services such as barbers and hairdressers, a photographer, fruit stand, grocers.  It was closed when the federal government took over the building for the war effort in World War II, evicting 74 shops and 127 offices with less than a month's notice.  Led by a group of citizens, it was named a National Monument, restored to its former glory, and reopened in 2002.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas #1

We had Christmas with The Writer's children this weekend.  The family with three 
little boys was missing because they were snowed in in the North Carolina mountains.  You can imagine, they were three very unhappy little boys.

The adults were disappointed, too, because they didn't get to play with any of the new toys under the tree!

This is a group that thrives on competition.  This is the game of Spoons.  You play by passing cards to your neighbor until someone collects four of a kind and grabs a spoon. Then everyone else grabs for a spoon and the person left without one is out.  Everyone brings a wrapped present and when you are out you select and open a gift.  You might be surprised and delighted by your gift but you can't get too attached because the next person out is allowed to steal your gift or select an unopened one.

The Writer is known for his, shall we say unique, gifts.  This year's was ...

... a pink flamingo umbrella!
Even the dog had to get a look at that.

The guys played Corn Hole.  Bags of corn are thrown at a target with a hole for them to fall through.  It was called bean bag when I was a kid but now that it's newly discovered and adults play it, it's called Corn Hole.  
The blocks piled on the left are a game called Jenga.  You stack them all up in a tower and then each person tries to remove an individual block without toppling the whole thing and scattering the players. They hurt if they hit a foot or shin.

The ladies admired the view and kept warm by the fire.  It was rainy and unusually cold for December, about 45 degrees.  The days before it had been in the 70s.   

Hilton Head Island is, of course, surrounded by water and ferries used leave for the mainland from here.m One of the old ferries is sitting at the end of that long dock.

The restaurant used to feed ferry travelers and fishermen, and at night it was a juke joint where black jazz musicians played, liquor flowed, and gambling and other illegal activities took place in the back room.  

Other guests included five dogs.  Five BIG dogs.  
In the picture of Aaron unwrapping the flamingo above there is a nose just above the table. That's Indy, a Texas cattle dog.  

On the right is Bob the Border Collie getting a hug and below a Labradoodle named Dexter.

Briggs, a German Wire-Haired Pointer, is a huge puppy.  He got into lots of mischief and scuffles and picked on all the other dogs.  I expect he will learn some manners soon.

The fifth dog is a lab/Great Dane combo named Kenzie who also loved my lap. 

When the door bell rang for pizza delivery, it was barking bedlam!

Rosie was invited but declined to attend.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Life Gave Me Lemons

I did not know lemons had such a long growing season.  

Our tree bloomed inside the sunroom in cold late February.  It was just covered with blossoms which mostly fell off without setting fruit because there were no bees in the sunroom in February. 
Even so, it developed an amazing number of clusters of teeny tiny lemons which grew all summer and fell off the tree one by one until we were down to eight big heavy lemons on a tree not as tall as I am.

All summer and fall they kept growing bigger and bigger but kept their dark green color. 

We were puzzled that they weren't turning yellow until we read that they need cold temperatures for the fruit to ripen.

In late November we had a couple weeks of chilly weather and they finally began getting a yellowish blush ... then a bit more yellow ... and finally they were yellow enough to pick.

Almost 10 months from flower to refrigerator!

(Oh, and another surprise for the northern gardener -- lemon trees have nasty thorns.)

Those of us in North America can thank Christopher Columbus for our lemon pie, lemon curd, lemonade, lemon drops, lemon butter for shrimp, Lemon Pledge, and so on because it was he who brought the first lemon seeds to America on the Hispaniola in 1643.

We are having a hard time deciding what we should use our eight special lemons for.  
What would you make? 

Monday, December 4, 2017

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

"Look what they brought in the house."

"No one's looking, are they?"

"I'll just take a tiny poke at this shiny dangly thing."

"It was the dog!  I saw it!  It was that dog!
I'm outa here."