Tag Archives: Connections

Danny Boy

Today is my dad’s birthday.   He would have been 82 years old.   I still think about him in one way or another every day….something reminds me of him.  It doesn’t hurt so much now most of the time; the memories have become more bittersweet than just downright sad or depressing.  Anyway, the song, “Danny Boy,” reminds me of him.  He liked this song, too, and the photo show of Ireland, where my ancestors came from, is icing on the cake.  This song has always made me feel a little sad or whatever that feeling is I get like when I hear a far-off train whistle in the dark of night.  Sad, lonely, nostalgic, but drawn to it nonetheless.  That’s how memories are.  I hope you enjoy it or get something out of it.  Tonight, my mom and I, joined by my younger daughter and her husband, had dinner together to celebrate – or maybe really acknowledge is the better choice of words – my dad’s birthday and make a toast (with sweet tea) to him.  Papaw (as we all called him), we love you and miss you and you’ll always still be a part of our lives.  It was nice to be with family tonight, just what I needed.

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2013 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Sacred Sunday

While every day is a “holy day” in my view, Sunday is a special day for a lot of folks, so I thought I’d share my own sacred Sunday…..

Sunday snow

Enjoying God in my own way today, in perfect silence and gratitude.  Who needs books and words right now?

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of snow any more.  When I was a kid, I craved snow days, but that was probably more about missing school than playing in the snow.  I absolutely cannot drive in the stuff.  Yesterday, I got home just as the gravel driveway was starting to turn white but it hadn’t started sticking on the paved roads yet, and it wasn’t slippery then.  But early this morning with no traffic on the road, standing outside in the snow, it was just so pretty and so quiet, like when I go out on the porch really late at night when people are in bed, no cars are out making noise, and I look up at that sky full of stars, and it all feels so, well holy and just kind of “wholly” connected and pretty amazing.

The good news is the sun is out now, the temperature is up, and most of the snow has melted already except a little in the back of the house where the sun hasn’t really hit it yet today.  It’s mostly slush now, though.

I really enjoy those kind of quiet, deep moments when I just feel  intensely connected to God, to all.

Hope you’re enjoying your day wherever you are!

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2013 by Raindrop Ridge Press

A Time to Laugh and a Time to Cry

First of all, let me say that my family is kind of weird, okay?  We’re mostly pretty quiet, but we can be really silly and dissolve into contagious bouts of giggles over not much at all.  Sometimes, maybe lots of times, we’re sarcastic and smart-assed and laugh at odd things.

During all this moving around and cleaning-out process we’ve been going through lately as my mom moved in with me, we came across a joke book.

One of my daughters had given it to my dad a few years back at Christmas.  He loved hearing us read the silly jokes and we’d all start laughing before we even finished them.  I really treasure those times when we all just laugh ourselves to tears.  We feel so close.

On Thursday morning, before my dad died three days later on Easter Sunday, my mom, daughters, son-in-law, and I gathered in his hospital room when they took him off the ventilator.  We stayed with him off and on until nature took its course, coming home only late at night to grab a bit of rest and change clothes, assured that if something changed we would be called immediately.  But that Thursday one or both of my daughters, I’m not sure who, had the great insight to bring that silly joke book to the hospital with them, and we read jokes out loud and laughed ridiculously as my dad lay in his bed (I know, some people would think that’s so disrespectful, but it didn’t seem that way to us).  It was good for us and I hope for him.  We held his hand; we rubbed his forehead or his arm; we laid our heads beside him on the bed.  I want to believe, though I don’t know for sure, that some part of him heard us, maybe not the words, but the laughter, the closeness of his family around him, knowing he was loved and safe and that it was okay.  Our laughter was mixed with tears, and eventually for awhile the tears took over before we could laugh easily and with abandon again.  It’s a precious memory.  It is said that laughter is the best medicine; I don’t know about that, but I do know that it helped me through the most difficult and saddest time of my life.

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2012 by Raindrop Ridge Press

My Family Tree

I’ve written a lot about my parents and me putting flowers out on relatives’ graves a few times a year and how much I love the old cemeteries. So peaceful and quiet, full of nature – old oak trees and acorns with squirrels running around all over the place, beautiful flowers and shrubs like azaleas and rhododendron, and the sounds of birds chirping and singing on a spring day……and lots of memories and reminiscing. Now it’s just my mom and me taking the flowers, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or because of my dad’s death, but I’m starting to want to learn more about my relatives that are buried there, the ones I knew well and the ones I didn’t know so well or maybe not at all.So, I’ve started working on my family tree. I never knew my dad’s extended family much at all, so it has been an interesting journey but also finding out things about relatives I was more familiar with, too. It’s the personal stories that mean a lot to me, and the old photographs, not just names and dates on a family tree. My family is full of Sarahs and Franks and Charlies and Margarets…..not another Sharon in the bunch, and some good southern men’s names like Pinkney and Berry and Asbury and Carlton. I found a picture of my grandfather (mom’s dad) laughing and wish so much I had known him – he was killed in an accident a few months before I was born. How would my life be different if I’d had a grandpa to be close to? I knew my dad’s father but not well. I was one of many grandchildren and didn’t visit him much. My cousin Billie was shot and killed when he was just a boy by another boy when they were playing Russian Roulette. My mom saw him dying. I knew there were lots of teachers and even college presidents but found some doctors, too. My great-great-great grandmother and great-great-great grandfather were born in Northern Ireland – must explain my deep visceral connection to things Irish and Celtic, but I’ve never seen their picture and doubt I ever will. Their son, my great-great grandfather, and one of his brothers were shoemakers and owned their own shoe store – that explains a lot in terms of my daughters and me and our love of shoes galore! One great-great aunt had her front teeth shot out! I have to wonder how in the world did that happen? A lot of my family settled in these western North Carolina mountains to farm the land. They worked hard and seldom traveled far from home. I’m kind of like them in a way, a bit of a homebody, even though I don’t work the land in such a physical way as they did. Many of their descendants still live in these beautiful hills and valleys.

I found out that one of my great-grandpas was a handsome devil, in every picture dressed in a fine suit and two-tone shoes, quite the lady’s man, and in reality he left his wife and about ten kids and ran off to Florida and never came back. My mom remembers him and can tell me some personal things about him, great-grandma, and the aunts and uncles. Lots of the men served in the World Wars and the Civil War. My grandmother that I was close to loved to write (I didn’t know that when she was alive – I wish I had) and kept photo books and scrapbooks, old and falling apart now, but even Easter and Christmas cards she and my grandpa gave each other back in the 1930s and 1940s. I consider myself fortunate to have a lot of these things to hold and look at to help me know them better. Sometimes I’ve run into a brick wall trying to find out something, and it’s kind of frustrating. I want to know what happened to Uncle Frank….I was so close to him as a child, or how did one of my great-great grandpas end up dying way out in Washington state? I have to accept that some things may remain a mystery.

Now I’m traipsing around different cemeteries these days to see where some of these direct ancestors were laid to rest, to feel some different connection to them than just a name on a paper. In the process, I’ve gotten in touch with a cousin I vaguely knew about and never met and the husband of another older cousin that I never knew of at all. I hope to connect with more relatives in the process. The family tree is old, and if you’re lucky you can trace it back a long way, but it’s also a living, breathing, present reality, too, with living cousins and aunts and uncles and in-laws and nieces and nephews that are interesting in their own right, right here and now.

This journey makes me mindful of how I live my own life and how I express myself for others who are interested to know and find later. I hope they read some of the things I’ve written about nature and everyday life and see photographs I’ve taken of this beautiful neck of the woods my family has called home for generations. But mostly I want them to come to know what I have, that when it comes down to it, family just means so much and helps make us who we are.

Around here in the mountains where I live there’s a cemetery behind almost every little church, even way back in the hills. Some of them are pretty old and the stones hard to read. And of course there are the grander big cemeteries, some of them in the cities, with a few famous people buried in there, tourist attractions. I’m always mindful that the people buried there, related to me or not, and obviously mostly not, once walked this earth making a living, having families, connecting with the universe in their unique ways to leave their own legacy. Maybe some were more noble than others, I don’t know. I try to be respectful of all that. I know some people think it’s morbid, but I just don’t feel that way.  Cemeteries bring me a sense of peace and connection.  Oh yeah, I really do love the old cemeteries.

 

Copyright (c) 2011 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Nature Is Awesome – The Great Joiner

It has been warm in North Carolina this autumn week. We finally got rain last night and this morning. Then the wind started gusting and the temperature started dropping. I was riding over to the neighboring town and the sun was playing peek-a-boo from behind the clouds, then it would rain, then the sun would pop out. Tonight and tomorrow it’s supposed to snow a little bit.

To make a long story short, I saw seven different rainbows on that short trip! It was amazing and something I had never experienced before. One was actually a double rainbow.

When I reached the store parking lot where I was headed, one huge gorgeous rainbow was off to the right, and a lady driving through stopped and rolled down her window as I walked by and asked me if I had seen it, and I told her I had seen seven. She was as amazed as I was. I had never seen this lady before and it was as if we had this instant connection as we shared the beautiful sight. When she left she told me good-bye and to have a nice afternoon. The whole experience of all the rainbows put me in such a good mood.

On a different note, I know that Nature’s awesomeness doesn’t always brings smiles and good moods, as right now there are raging California fires or in the case of devastating hurricanes, for example. But in either case, I appreciate how Nature is such a great joiner. In our perceived good or bad experiences (rainbows or fires), Nature can bring strangers together and get people talking that might otherwise never meet; it makes us aware of our interconnectedness with all of the planet. I wonder if that woman in the parking lot had ever just stopped and spoken to a stranger the way she did today.

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2008 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Life Rhythms

Usually when I think of rhythm and movement I think of dancing and music. But today I was reminded that it can be something more mundane, too. My front porch has been newly painted and stained and it looks really pretty. A lot of leaves had blown in on it, and today I was out sweeping the leaves off my looks-like-new blue and white porch. I remembered how when I was a little girl, visiting my grandmother’s house in Asheville, all the ladies in all the houses on her street would go out every morning (maybe not in winter but in spring, summer, and fall anyway) and sweep their porches. It was part of their daily ritual, kind of like fixing up their house to be welcoming and clean and neighborly for anyone who might drop in that day. The houses on that street are close together, so they could talk to each other, too, some related to each other, some just long-time friends. It was a close-knit and comfortable, happy neighborhood, and the daily rituals that went on around there made me feel secure (by the way those houses are in a neighborhood that has been newly revitalized and remodeled and are selling for over $400,000 – I wonder if their new tenants will ever experience that same sense of closeness that existed such a long time ago).

Sweeping my porch today made me feel connected to all those southern ladies in my grandma’s old neighborhood all those years ago. It’s so simple and at the same time so profound for me. Doing the same movements, feeling contented and happy simply being alive, part of the rhythms of everyday life, almost like a daily prayer or meditation to greet the morning and welcome it in along with any other visitors.

I really love it when I feel something so meaningful in everyday “ordinary” things and experience such a jolt of connection and warm memory with another time and other people. It’s funny the effects people have on other people, even many years later; you don’t always even know what those effects are. It gave me a good feeling.

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2006 by Raindrop Ridge Press

View From a Train

Riding a train in familiar territory makes me look at my home in a whole different light. Saturday, a special person in my life and I rode the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (the one featured in the movie “The Fugitive”) from the Bryson City depot over to the Nantahala Gorge….actually the train goes past the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC – a Mecca for whitewater rafting and kayaking in the area) up to near Nantahala Lake, where they then switch the engine from one end to the other, then it starts its journey back and stops for a 1-hour layover at the NOC for lunch, a walk, stretching, relaxing, enjoying the river, taking photographs, etc. At the turnaround, the passengers switch sides with their neighbors so that going back we get to see the view from the other side. There were lots of couples, families, and children, and the train was full of chatter and laughter and a few quieter ones (like us) and even some sleepers. Everyone is pretty friendly and seems in a good mood, full of anticipation as if this were a 5-day cruise instead of a 4-1/2-hour train ride.

We started out about 10:30 a.m. armed with drinks and a backpack of peanut butter and jelly burritos, chips, homemade (sort of) chocolate chip cookies, and my camera. We had the windows open and it was a beautiful day. Some of the pictures I took were terrible and blurry, thanks to most of them being taken from the moving train. Although it wasn’t moving too fast, it was kind of bouncy and shaky (but actually very soothing, kind of like a big rocking chair). On the way back after lunch I almost fell asleep. Some people slept through most of the trip. We got to cross a high trestle across Fontana Lake. We saw houseboats and skiers and boaters, and then once we entered the gorge and the track runs alongside the Nantahala River, we saw lots of rafters and kayakers. Everywhere the train goes, along the river, rafters, picnickers, walkers, and in cars at crossroads, people waved enthusiastically to us, and some of us waved equally enthusiastically back.

Some of the time I knew where I was compared to how the road runs, as I’m quite familiar with the road along this route, but then sometimes we were far off from the road and seeing views and houses and camps and little driveways that I had never seen before, though I had been all over this country dozens of times over the years. I don’t even know how you drive into some of those spots, no idea where the roads are, but some of them were really charming, with the train riding almost through their front yards. One old rock house was built so close to the tracks that you could touch it out the window. I realized yet again what a beautiful place I live in, how amazing it is, and how big the wilderness area is, how little I really know about it. I try to imagine it through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time and I wonder what they feel. I can see it day in and day out and I’m still awestruck by the beauty of the rushing white water and the vastness of the lake, the trees and the blue mountains and the flowers and the smells. But if you ever feel bored with familiarity and can’t afford to go away on a long trip, take a trip through your own area, take a different route, ride a different vehicle so you see the familiar sites from a different vantage point. It made me appreciate it more and take less for granted. Come to think of it, that might be a metaphor for dealing with lots of things in our lives that get boring or too familiar, to look at them a different way, through different lenses.

I saw ferns growing in huge groups that I never really remembered noticing in the woods so much before, and beautiful wildflowers that inspired me to go buy a new wildflower book so I could identify the beautiful shades of pinks and purples that were unfamiliar to me. The air smelled sweet and felt so good, the sun was warm on my arm as it stretched out by the window, and the movement of the train was like a noisy lullaby.

Then we rolled back into the depot past houses and sawmills and stores and more waves as people in town welcomed us back as if from a long long journey. We got off and walked back to the car, then rode over to nearby Deep Creek for a brief wade in the cold creek, because by then the mid-afternoon sun had gotten hot once we were no longer riding and getting a breeze. Lots of adults and squealing children were tubing down the river trying to cool off in the cold water on a hot summer day, and the smells of grills and charcoal wafted through the air and made me feel so cozy and hungry again too! It made me miss my old camping days.

Each season of the mountains has its own unique specialness, its own feel and character, and its own charm. I would love to ride the train again in the fall when the colors are so bright and the sky such a rich blue and the air with just a little bit of a chill so a sweater feels good.

It was a relaxing and wonderful day.

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2006 by Raindrop Ridge Press