Thursday, August 21, 2008

Musings from the Mountains

You can always tell when I am spending time in the mountains. I get really emotionally affected by nature and then try to become philosophical. This week’s stay at Northcroft was no different.

My emotional philosophical conclusion is- “ It must be all about food!” Don’t leave yet; let me tell you what has been on my mind.

I’m here and I’m extraordinarily happy and I have had the time to examine why. At first I thought, “Well, it’s because people here seem to like me and I love the people here. I have friends to visit, help and enjoy. They stop what they are doing to share their life with mine”. This experience is unlike my life in Atlanta, where I don’t fit into anyone’s schedule…Then I thought, “Nope, it couldn’t be just that. Being in the Mountains feels right even when I’m alone”.

After further consideration, I decided that maybe I just enjoyed life more when I’m here. I have felt excited to be alive, to be outside in the cool of the morning, to pick blackberries, blue berries, grapes, and green beans, to help Mrs. Oliver make applesauce and can green beans, then clean the kitchen while she is baking a couple of cakes as the caners steam. Then, in the afternoon, to have a fresh tomato sandwich while watching TV and culling grapes from one bucket to another. And before starting to make grape jelly, it thrilled my soul to walk in the clear, rocky creek and stop to watch the little minnows swim around my legs as I fed them. Oh, and the apples, I must put up the apples that I couldn’t resist buying at the apple store. They were Detroit Apples. The season is short for Detroits and they make the best applesauce. Oh, doing that makes me happy!

Wait! That’s it! It’s all about food, and our busy world is slowly taking away our joy. That’s what Kate understands too, and now I know why.

I figure it’s like this; it used to be that food was the center of our work, our social life, our family time, our celebrations! Think about it, every occasion is made better when good food is served. We certainly don’t grow it, harvest it, preserve it, all those things that I did this week that gave me such satisfaction.

In most families today each adult member of the household is working outside the home, and everyone is too tired to worry about the preparation of a meal at the end of a long day. They either grab something cold or pre-prepared and easy, then retreat to their separate corners of the house to ready themselves for the next day’s work, or they find a cheap restaurant that will be quick and easy so they can quickly get back to other things.

I stood in the sunshine, in the quiet of a country day and picked grapes and green beans, filling my bucket with beautiful gifts from the ground. I helped a neighbor get caught up with her canning, and while we were doing that we got caught up with each other. When I sat down to rest, I had large shinning bowls in my lap preparing my harvest. By the end of three days, I had 10 gleaming jars of purple jelly and fresh applesauce cooling on my counter top, not to mention a homemade peach crisp, with a cup of blueberries from our bush, thrown on top, and several packages of frozen peaches in the freezer. I have fresh green beans to take home for Terr’s dinner and I had the satisfaction of helping a neighbor can 28 quarts of green beans and 14 quarts of applesauce. I’ve washed dozens of canning jars and cleaned sticky jelly off of everything, including myself (and I still have 2 more quarts of grape juice to turn into jelly)!

I’m a good kind of tired and satisfied. I just stopped and took a cup of coffee out on the porch. With a bit of a chill in the night air, I sat in the swing and listened to the babble of the creek that was almost covered up by the loud cries of the katydids. I thought, “I guess it’s not all about food, maybe it’s more about slowing down enough to appreciate what God has provided just for the taking."...and... just maybe, even I, Merry Gwen from Tennessee, can have dreams of being like Barbara Kingsolver.

It's been another great trip in my mountains, where life is somehow very familiar and I can breathe in the sense of being.

I dedicate this blog to Evelyn Oliver, who has always welcomed me into her kitchen, garden, her fruit trees, her berry bushes, grape vines, her cellar, as well as her life and family. She has taught me so much about each one of these things and I have loved her work ethic, her love for family and her giving spirit.
Today she does these things from a wheel chair and with the help of those who drop in to visit and to give back some of what she has done for them over the years, by helping her with the things she can no longer do. When they leave you can bet they don’t go empty handed! They are always offered a pound cake or some of whatever vegetable she is harvesting and heartfelt appreciation.

Something else she does from her wheel chair. She lovingly takes care of her critically ill husband. She and Gene have been married and sidekicks in the garden and kitchen for over 50 years. She misses him as he gets quieter and quieter, sleeping on the sofa most of the time because of heavy pain medication and weakness. She tenderly gets him up and into his wheel chair to patiently feed him cream of wheat at the kitchen table. She always has an ear listening for a ringing of the bell he rings when he needs her. She doesn’t complain about her own health, and only worries about Gene’s. “I just do the best I can,” she tells me. “We’re doing alright, for now.” And she is! She keeps on living life the best she can, and that's better than most.

Thank you, Evelyn, thank you for loving my buddy, Gene, and for taking such good care of him. Thank you teaching me about food, farming, and life. God bless you and Gene for all the lives you have touched.



juju said...

What insight on the way it is in the mountains. How refreshing to get a glimpse of Evelyn and Gene's life. What a beautiful story of love. Thanks for sharing these things with me when I come to Northcroft.

Kate said...

Mom, this is a wonderful, wonderful post, and I agree with everything you said. You have such a good heart.

I love you,

tschafee said...

beautifully thought and blogged.

juju said...

Just beautiful Aunt Merry!!

Kate said...

PS. I LOVE that photo of your cobbler!