Views from Annie's Cabin

miscellaneous musings on aging and living and loving

The Lost Days of Summer

So—-where’d July go in such a hurry, pray tell?!  One day it was the 4th of July with Holly’s succulent smoked ribs and all the attendant RED, WHITE, and BLUE and then just as suddenly—-VAROOM! it’s the 25th and all I’ve got to show for it is a dozen (high calibre) junk books read…..abed with my dawg …and a total immersion into the life and work of Thomas Wolfe and Max Perkins….and a further immersion into the Charleston Literary Renaissance of the 1920’s and the poetry of Josephine Pinckney.  Not bad, I reckon, for a cranky ol’ lady laid up with a mean virus and an unholy allergic reaction to penicillin—-which is what happened to my month of July.

But—(sweet breath of summer air)—Miss Grace and I walked by the river this morning in the early morning light and I began to emerge from my funk.  Yet it had to be early and quick, that morning walk, for even the wild cats are seeking refuge from the heat in the soft leafy arbor of yellow jess and porcelain vine.

I’ve been tested and I’m not sure I’ve yet passed the test.  All I really want are the cool breezes of October and to know the snakes have travelled back to their dens and the bears to their lairs!  I want the bugs to be gone and the air around me to be soft and sweet, not heavy and suffocating.  If I were QUEEN OF THE WORLD summer would last the month of June and then would gently morph into the cool sweet days of autumn…but then—oh dear how soon I forget!  I’d miss our ripe heirloom tomato sandwiches (on white bread with Duke’s mayo) and the sweet sweet fresh corn and golden garden squash.  Oh, and the blueberries!  I’d miss the blueberries……Oh, and you know what ELSE I’d miss?  Yep—–those sweet summer juleps in a frosty silver tumbler with a long silver muddler and a sprig of fresh mint tickling my nose!  Okay, okay….maybe I’m fixing to pass the test after all!  Summer’s bounty is upon me and I’m loving and appreciating it all.  And am reminded again of Churchill’s words of wisdom:  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  Amen to that……….



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Scents, Sense & Hammock Days of Summer

IMG_1075Well, the “season” is over and summer’s upon me…..Strawberry Festival was a success and all the end-of-season book club luncheons were lovely and fun—and now are put to rest until the season resumes in October.  So the lazy, hazy days of summer loom before me——and WordSplash.  Even my dreams are helping me write!  Two scenes were colored by last night’s dreams and I pulled out my little writing pad with the lighted pen and wrote them down so’s not to forget….and did that feel good!!

And the other day, in a meeting, the facilitator asked the participants to introduce themselves and say what they were looking forward to this summer.  I heard myself saying, “Hammock Days are upon me beginning tomorrow.”  Do you know how delicious that sounded to me–then—and still?!  Because the next day actually found me IN the HAMMOCK and (oh, dare I admit this) with a junk book!!  Now, I believe in good junk books, but this was a step over the edge for me:  my first ever Nora Roberts romance!  It was just what the doctor ordered, too—predictable, facile, compelling enough to keep my frayed attention.  And good.  Perfect even for what my mind needed……So Nora, Miss Grace and I all lollygogged in the hammock, reading, drifting, pulling the ribbon chain to keep us swinging every now and then……

The next day I realized summer was even more upon me, for I found my Jean Nate bath splash….!  now that’s a TRUE sign of summer for me, and has been since my Media Arts days at USC—pre Ph.D. days—so a LONG LONG time ago.  My favorite scent of summer…..

And the next day found me furiously splashing words around in WordSplash, tackling one of the hardest sensory passages I know I’m going to have to write.  I just closed my eyes and plunged and my whole being drifted up into another powerful tragic dangerous world, but one that he’d survived…Edward, that is…..

And today?  Who knows?  Miss G and I walked in the park, admired the peonies in bloom and the morning glories climbing their trellis; foxgloves are velvety and dapper, awaiting a fox’s dainty little paw; hummingbirds are chittering madly at one another and Paul’s Himalayan Musk Rose is clambering higher and higher up the trees toward the sky.

And me—well, I reckon it’s another day of scents, sense, & hammock rocking for me.  And guess what?  Nora’s “bonus story” is called “Blithe Images”—makes sense to me!


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Saturday in the Hammock

Last warm day before a cold snap.  In the morning I worked on our new garden patch, hoping and praying there’ll be enough sun to grow a few 
decent tomatoes.  Then, knowing a trip to Greenville was slated for the evening, I betook myself to the hammock for the afternoon…..with a book that’s turning my heart inside out.


Perhaps you can read the title from here:

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.

Where do I start, and how to describe the thunder and ice and clouds and mists and fragrances and hope that it’s brought to my heart?  How do I begin to describe the passages I’ve traveled reading it?

At first I was perplexed, then intrigued, and then didn’t want to continue reading it until or unless or when I had the time to really read it.  I mean—to listen to the words, to enjoy and understand the leaps and somersaults of the words, the surprises they hold when laced together in unfamiliar patterns.  Nina George, like Dylan Thomas, LOVES THE WORDS!

So I kept reading a few pages, then stopping to breathe, then picking it up, then stopping to breathe… least five times I’ve started and stopped, reading the beginning chapters over and over again but knowing I didn’t have the time to really take the ride…..till yesterday….in the hammock.

Then I was enchanted and curious and charmed; then my heart started breaking and I fell beneath sorrow; then I laughed the deep clean bountiful laugh of a heart in love with a book.  Oh, and did I mention the words——-??

It’s so unbearably good that I had to put it down after each chapter…again to breathe, to savor, to rewind, to recover my balance.  And that’s when I’d pull the beribboned chain and swing and swing and swing….and close my eyes and let that world and my world blend and merge…..and let it teach me its spells.

And what is it teaching me?  It’s teaching me to take more risks…with my own writing.  And it’s teaching me to take more loving time for life itself; to tender each moment, each breeze, each scent upon the air; to prize and gather the fleeting beauty and hold it as a treasure in my heart; to take the hard little kernel of bitterness that’s managed to stay lodged way way down deep and rub it with frankincense and myrrh till it dissolves ….thereby dispelling all bereftness of soul…..

The book is —well, here are the notes I scrawled yesterday.  Read for yourself, Gentle Reader:

“It’s too intensely beautiful and poignant and truthful—I can’t stand it!  I need champagne!—–

“…and so!…out of the hammock in full tousled habille…I find my old faded straw hat from halcyon days of “junk” excursions in the South China Seas with ex-pat girlfriends—steered by a fearless captain with his toes, island hopping (“to buy a hat!”) before dropping anchor to be served wine and cheese and fruit after which a climb down the ladder for a swimmy swirl in the magic waters……..oh and with that old island straw hat and my old faded black ‘everything else,’  I painted my lips baby doll pink and and returned in magic to my hammock with a cold split of champagne….…talking my soul into taking more risks…and allowing my heart to believe…..”

Need I say more, oh Gentle Reader?  Other than I’ve never read anything like it before—and probably never ever will.  But this one’s already become an old and cherished friend……..


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Sundials and Heartache

Last night, in the soft quiet hours of the morning, the ones that Fitzgerald called the loneliest, I found myself once again wandering the night in Abbey the Book Barn, searching the shelves for something to read.  Nothing with a plot or story line would do; my mind was too weighted down for amusement, too fragile to enter into anyone else’s sorrow.  I’m living with the knowledge that I’m having to send a most beloved companion, my Ragdoll cat Mr. Darcy, over the Rainbow Bridge Sunday morning.  He’s given me joy for ten years and he’s been a true and faithful companion, but now he’s struggling with a debilitating disease and it’s time for me to be merciful instead of selfish.  Hence my sorrow; hence my midnight hours’ wanderings…….

I first leafed through Gertrude Jekyll’s WOOD AND GARDEN, enjoying the straightforward, unblowsy chronicle of her gardening adventures.  And thanking her for her courage and adventuresome spirit, for, in later life, crippled with myopia, she undertook to learn the art of photography. And so her books are graced with her own photographs of the gardens and walks and pergolas she’s describing.  Nice, pleasant, engaging and soothing midnight reading……..but then, aha…..I ran into a reference she gives to Mrs. Earle’s gardening books and that’s when I settled into true serendipity.  Mrs. Alice Morse Earle’s OLD TIME GARDENS (1901, MacMillan) is one treasure I own and the other treasure is her SUNDIALS AND ROSES OF YESTERDAY (1902, MacMillan; 1971, Tuttle).  My copy of SUNDIALS was “Officially withdrawn from Timberland Regional Library” in Olympia, Washington.  How sad for a book to be withdrawn from a library; how fortuitous that it landed in Abbey my Book Barn; how perfectly wonderful that my eyes and hands found it last night….when I needed it.

The subtitle of the book is “Garden Delights Which Are Here Displayed in Very Truth And Are Moreover Regarded As Emblems.”  With 240 (!) photographs of sundials from all over the world, from all centuries, from cathedrals to cottage gardens. Poets and philosophers are quoted.  Perhaps my favorite chapter (though that’s hard to say) is “The Charm and Sentiment of Sun-Dials.”  At Grey Friars Churchyard, Stirling, England, is this motto:  “I Am A Shadow, So Art Thou/ I Mark Time—Dost Thou?”

And Rossetti, comparing love and sundials:  “Stands it not by the door?/Love’s Hour—?/Its eyes invisible/Watch till the dark thin-thrown shade/Be born,—yea, till the journeying line be laid/Upon the point that notes the spell.”  Oh, to mark the hour of falling in love by the shadow of the gnome following the sun in its course………….Oh my……

And this one, a bit of timely forewarning, on the sundial of Thornby Church, Northamptonshire:


Yes, so utterly true, so haphazardly forgotten in our razzle dazzle frenetic times—no, one cannot call back a former day, nor can one re-call the past……..

And this one, Oxfordshire, 1691:


And so, the night unfolded.  Me, with a beloved companion’s last journey on my mind, reading what men throughout time have had to say about mortality, and how they’ve immortalized those thoughts—for us to take to heart—by channeling the sun and shadow to mark the passing of our days.  “FOR THE NIGHT COMETH.”


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Maddening Technology!

I’ve said it before and alas, I’ll say it again—I’m still tarrying in the 19th century!  As hard as I try, as often as I try, as intensely I try…I cannot break comfortably into the 21st (Hey, whatever happened to the 20th–???)!!  And that distressing fact became apparent again yesterday when I posted a new blog called “Midnight Serendipity.”  Somehow my “share” button got selfish or stubborn or recalcitrant or something.  And my post didn’t swish out to any mailboxes or Facebook accounts.


So my fabulous Bloggy Guru is going to try to help me get back on this ol’ technological rocking horse and get me up to speed again.  Hence this little diatribe……..


Thank you, Miz Guru Girl, Fay Choban!  You da BOMB!!

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Midnight Serendipity

Well, another interesting night unfolded last night.  Lots of rain, windows open, steady drummingIMG_2161 of water off the eaves and the incessant background roar of the rising creek waters.  I punched pillows and tossed and turned and discombobulated both husband and dog, so ultimately just gave into my own restlessness and threw on my faded old sweats and trundled back to Abbey—-Abbey the Book Barn— always my sanctuary, always my midnight cocoon.  And once I accept the fact that I’m wide awake and up for the duration of some unknown stretch of time, then I relax and look around and say to my books, now which of you all are gonna jump down and keep me company tonight?  And this evening, the first book that jumped off the shelf and into my hands and found me curled in my sagging blue reading chair, was Alexander Woollcott’s compendium of readings for men in the Armed Services—from 1943.  My father’s own copy, it bore a bookplate from Southern Bell (“Ma Bell” he used to call her), which reads:  “Your Company hopes this book will serve as a reminder of our appreciation for the job you are doing and of our eagerness for the day when you will return to us.  Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., Christmas 1943.”  And the free front end paper bears my father’s own inscription, in his handwriting, so uniquely his own and one which never fails to make my heart jump when I see it.  So I held the book, studied the book, tendered the book.  And then read a few passages—some Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, some Thoreau.

And Thoreau reminded me of Jane Kenyon (who’d kept me company a few long nights ago), and a line from one of her poems (“It was/the author of Walden, wasn’t it/ who made a sacrament of saying no”) so I pulled a 1937 Modern Library, Scribner’s edition of Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau off the shelf.  A nice weighty volume, perfect fit for the hands and lap.  A real nice feeling book.  And wandered around the woods with Thoreau for a while, soft lamplight sitting in for evening starlight.   And while I like Thoreau, would like to step back to 1845 and share a walk with him at the Pond, he’s prone to indulge in what’s known in the colloquial parlance of today as TMI (too much information!).  But he had a passion for wise and honorable living which I admire—and always learn from.  A moral philosopher with plenty of time to think and codify his thoughts into his own moral philosophy.  A man, too, with his own spirituality…….

So I read his chapter on “Walking” and took it to heart.  I’m that much of a hermit myself.  Then I dipped into the chapter on “Visitors” and loved it even better than the one on walking.  It made me smile.  “I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”  Aha!  pretty sensible…..but then he frets about the problem of society being “so close” to him:  “One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house, the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big words.  You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port.  The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plow out again through the side of his head….I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on the other side.”  WOW, how did I not know—until the midnight hours of a lonely old night—that young Thoreau possessed a practical sense of humor?!  He and I will indeed take some more leisurely strolls through Time…..(I love his “big thoughts in big words”!)

But I laid  him down with thoughts of his lonesome spirituality still curling around the edges of my mind.  And sat with the comfortable book in my lap, and thought about a man living in such self-imposed isolation and how, in so doing, he becomes intimate with his own sense of spirituality.  Which led my eyes to wander over to the piano at my side where the light shared between keyboard and reading chair shone onto another one of my old favorites, J. W. N. Sullivan’s Beeethoven:  His Spiritual Development.  So I pulled it down from its sitting place (nestled in with Chopin’s Letters) and browsed around its thoughts and philosophies a bit.  This is one of the books I’ve always kept in my car against the unexpected traffic delay or long post office line; Shakespeare’s Sonnets is another one.  But Sullivan’s tracing of Beethoven’s spiritual development through his music compositions is a real tour de force–-yet quite approachable for a lay musician, although the book is best read while listening to the music; that way you can link the words and the mounting power of the music together and then it’s like—WOW, I see! Thank you!  But last night I was captured by a phrase that Beethoven had copied out in his own hand and framed and kept permanently on his desk:  “I am that which is.  I am all that was, that is, and that shall be.”  A bit of Eastern mysticism overlaying or intertwined with good old fashioned Catholic and Anglican credos.

**  **  **

Well, such was my SERENDIPITY on a rainy old night long past midnight.  The unexpected pleasure of one thing leading delightfully to another in the unstructured course of events, resulting in that ultimate comfort of after-midnight friendship:  Me and My Books.

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Night Dark Poem


Unravelled Scribbles

Another Sleepless Night.

Not that, these days, there are many—

But when they do come they surprise me

and I find myself unprepared.

And I like to feel prepared for life.

But last night I gave myself up

to the dark side of light,

and let the hours wander me where they would….

The creek roared her white-water tales

and misty apparitions

drifted through the soft lamplight

spilling over the water.

I let my pen sprawl

over the pages of my journal,

writing words that always startle

and amaze me

with their honesty.

I read Yeats and Jane Kenyon.

Read “Under Ben Bulben” thrice

dodging old memories between the lines,

while Jane’s homespun wisdom comforted me

like a time-worn quilt.

Not companion poets one would think,

but they both beckoned me to their pages.

I put up no resistance

and was the better for it.

It was a good night

strange and mystical,

alone with the rain,

the wild untamed water

my books

my dog

and unchained memories.


Soggy New November


Soggy, Dark, Wet, Dreary November….

Dear November,

Will you please go find the sun?!  I’m tired of the darkness.  Tired of the Time Change to Daylight Stealing Time.  Tired of towels at every door.  Tired of a smelly wet dawg—even after bathing her with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo!  Tired of umbrellas that don’t work, but that hide the fact until I’m struggling to open them, in a downpour, loaded down with a day’s “bundling” in my arms.  Tired of meetings in the rain.

I’m suffering from winter malaise early.  WAY too early, so it’s imperative (for my sanity and those with whom I live) that I begin to count my blessings instead of bitching and moaning about—of all things—the weather!  As if there were something I could DO about it!!  So why let it flatten my hair, downcast my spirits, ruin my shoes and mood?  Get UP!  GET OUT!  Annie needs to find a sweet place to park her mind…….

So, I’m counting my blessings.  Here I go:

l.  I really do love hearing the rain falling gently outside.

2.  I love hearing the music of the roaring river creek.

3.  I love the magic of darkness, of having breakfast by candlelight!

4.  I love the way Miss Grace and Mr. Darcy follow me around.

5.  I love doing my yoga by candlelight with the cats waiting patiently for their yoga brushing.

6.  I love sharing a cup of tea with my husband who’s been dutifully battling the mice who’re trying to nestle in with us…in the kitchen, pantry and wherever else they can scuttle in.

7.  I love having a gentle fire going all day and into the nighttime.

8.  I love staring out the big window, watching the water flow below me.

9.  I love the shimmering magic colors that are beginning to fade; the leaves that are swinging and swirling down from the trees.

10.  I love the aloneness of a dark rainy day–the feeling of being outside of Time…..

WELL, I feel better!  Thank you, sweet unpredictable November, for making me step outside myself and count my blessings…some of them at least.  Which is a very good start to November, I reckon, indeed.



Gracie’s Rainbow

Well, yesterday was quite a day, filled with unexpected pleasures as well as problems.  It all started because I had to go into town to accomplish requisite errands.  Hot day and way too much traffic as I made my stately way across town, one side to the other.  Ending up, on the way home, at the grocery store.  I noticed I’d had several missed calls from home and realized I’d left my ringer turned off—ugh, never a good idea.  So I phoned Hollis and in a broken up reception he told me he was on Gap Creek Road taking Gracie to the hospital, that something had happened to her paw and he’d called the vet and they’d said to give a small half tab of Benadryl and come on up.  He was in a dither and so was I when I pieced the story together.

So, instead of going home, I, too, immediately headed up Gap Creek Road and up to Hendersonville to “Uncle Ted’s Western Carolina Emergency Veterinary Clinic.  And found Hollis holding a trembling little black dog who yipped and cried when she saw me come in the door.  He passed her to my arms and told me the story.  They were walking to the mailbox when she yanked and ran ahead with her leash, dragging him forward, and then suddenly she just dropped and fell over on her side.  She wouldn’t get up, couldn’t get up, so he picked her up, ran her home and called the Vet, left, and tried (again!) to call me.

As it turned out, the doctor couldn’t find anything at all, even with high-powered microscope—no bite, no cut, no abrasion, no nothing; all was intact— and she was calming down, so we bundled her back into my car and headed homeward, me following behind Hollis.  And it was then that the heavens burst wide open and the rain surged down.  Not just in sheets or waves but in blinding buckets that in five seconds flooded the road and obscured all vision left, right, back and forward.  So we pulled off into an empty church parking lot and Hollis put a towel over his head and jumped into my car where we figured, if we had to wait it out, we’d all wait it out together.

And that’s when we realized that neither one of us had ever had lunch and it was now close to 5:00.   Ah, but yes, I’d been to the grocery store!  So with Gracie in my lap, radio softly playing, rain pelting down outside, we had ourselves a little picnic in the storm.

A Jug of Wine

A Loaf of Bread—

And Thou

What a cozy little time we had, too!  Gracie was coming round and doing fine, we were doing fine, and it mattered not at all that the world outside wasn’t doing fine.  We looked at each other and said, “What a groovy way to weather the storm!”  and at that very moment, (no kidding!) the rain stopped, and a gorgeous lustrous rainbow arc’d across the sky!  We sat there breathless, speechless, thinking—what a gift, what a perfect ending to a day fraught with pain and worry and uncertainty!

So there we were, a  happy little threesome, channelling ‘ol Omar and his Rubaiyat, marvelling at the glory and splendor of Gracie’s Rainbow  in the parking lot of Grace Baptist Church—our hearts filled with joy and thanks.

(P.S.  turns out she was bitten by a teensy yellow jacket, smaller than a sweat bee.  There were several of them in the pathway this morning.  Their sting was mighty but  invisible even under lighted magnification.  So all’s well and our hearts are still full of gratitude!  And we’ll watch our steps even more carefully now that we know there’s yet another enemy lurking in these Dark Corner hills!)

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WordSplash…and me………..

IMG_1781Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been back to Annie’s Cabin and I’m a bit rusty, but hoping a little exercise will get things moving  along again.  March of this year saw Hollis and me undertaking the construction of my new writing studio, named WordSplash after a favorite phrase from one of my favorite crazy poets, Dylan Thomas.  And quite properly christened Castle WordSplash with a handmade sign by The Bear Man, Frank Nicolette, whose specialty is chain-saw carved bears.  And wizards.  And now signs for Annie’s Cabin!  And below I hope we’ll see WordSplash herself where I’ve been spending hours and hours since she was completed a few weeks ago.  Situated on a small knoll between two creeks leading into the bigger river creek down below, she is a cool place in every sense of the word.  And the good news is that the “real writing” is underway.  But it’s taken a while and before serenity could set in again, chaos had to reign, which it did, but now her reign is over and mine has begun!  But I do wish writing a blog were as user-friendly as writing a novel………….

You see, I need a techno-wizard (as well as a hand-carved one) to remind me how to navigate Media Libraries and photos and I’m not quite there yet on my own.  But what the heck—I’m trying!

IMG_1782Is there anyway—-WOW, look what just happened!  I hit some wondrous button and the words started flowing right where I wanted them to!  Now, if I could only remember what I did.  haha…..

Anyhow, I do have a retirement routine which I adhere to pretty regularly. Correspondence and doggie walk in the mornings, yoga with my Ragdolls, a bite of breakfast with my good man and then—whoohoo!  I mosey on out to Castle WordSplash, usually around 11:00.  Except for days like today when I spend—or rather waste!—a couple hours re-figuring how to make a bloggy thing come alive again……but not complaining, just observing.

For here’s the point:  yesterday was Sunday and the afternoon found me up in WordSplash, on the floor, in front of two old wicker trunks loaded with memorabilia—letters, old diaries, newspaper clippings—not to mention all my grammar school report cards and kindergarten poems(!) I’d written to my mother aeons ago.  In essence, my whole life was a jigsaw puzzle of random unconnected pieces littered before me.  And Junior High and High School scrapbooks and newsletters and albums full of black and white photos from First Weeks at Pawleys Island…..and I could go on and on.   And after I got used to the apprehension of heartbreak with every letter and the mysteries and clues they held, it started dawning on me that i had a cultural world in front of me that no longer exists….The Last Age of Innocence as it were.  So I’m trying to figure out mnemonic tricks so that I can somehow put the puzzle together without getting run outta town on a rail—-!  I feel like the old guy from The Drones Club in a P.G. Wodehouse novel who was writing his memoirs.  Word got out among his friends and they became terrified at what he might put down in that innocent little memoir, and people started bribing him and threatening him and generally freaking out that their colorful pasts would be revealed in his! Haha—-think that just might be where I’m finding myself today, too!  Hold on to your hats—-I’ll keep ya posted!