Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ramblin' on the Blue Ridge

We took a ride up into Virginia yesterday and stopped by a very old graveyard.  It prompted a lot of reflection. 

I don't have much personal experience with graveyards.  I only visited the grave site of one grandparent. My father and in-laws were cremated. We didn't even have a memorial service for any of them. My in-laws were Christian Scientists and they neither talk about death nor acknowledge it publicly. 

The small Gates family burial ground in Virginia sits on a hill, with a nice view of the mountains. It really is lovely, the kind of place I'd like to live rather than be buried in.

The gate posts are carved, although the gate no longer hangs.  Even though the fence is in disrepair and the head stones are leaning, the graveyard is mowed, and there is a rose blooming in the corner. 

It dates back to 1888. I  imagine folks traveling through those gaps and hollers on rough dirt roads. They must have been very serious about final rites. 

How did they scrape together the money necessary to buy a headstone?  

The smallest marker was for an infant who died at birth. I can picture the grieving mama wanting a stone to memorialize their child. 

Apparently, some family members were more affluent. In addition to the deceased's name and dates, they have carved images and quotations, such as "our father, beyond life's toils and cares" and "gone, but not forgotten." Well, actually, he died in 1888 so he is forgotten.

Graveyards are numerous in this part of the country. One of my Colorado friends commented that there are a lot of dead people here. The cemeteries are usually small, sometimes beside a church, and well maintained. When we first moved here I marveled at the change in floral arrangements according to the season. 

From what I observe here in Surry County, NC, styles of tombstones have changed in the last one hundred years. According to one website, the Romans used to commemorate the deceased's valor in battle, or their occupation. We see a little of that here. I don't really understand the popularity of eighteen wheelers carved into granite. Those guys must have really loved their trucks.

Can you imagine a teacher's stone with an apple and bunch of pencils, or the hated high-stakes test engraved as a symbol of your life? 

One modern trend I understand better. In addition to names and dates, a photo can be added to your monument. When somebody like me goes snooping around the graveyard  they can see you at your best. On my tombstone I'm going to be 29 forever!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer like an airplane banner

Summer announced itself like banner plane buzzing the beach. 

The mid-eighties temperatures made me shed pants for shorts and rummage through the drawers to find a sleeveless shirt.

A light breeze ruffled the full leaves and their undersides flashed silver. 

Summer's first fruit, local strawberries, were available.  I beelined down the road, windows down, elbow on the car door. (I didn't even think about Mother's dire warning that my arm could get cut off doing that!) 

As I drove up and down our hills, a tractor grumbled through a field.  I smelled the warm, dry hay, its fragrance released by the farmer's blade.

My farmer-neighbor's cabbage formed tight green heads in tidy rows. 

The barley bent under the growing weight of the spikelets.
barley   by Victor Szalvay


At Country Road Strawberries the gate hung open and I drove up the gravel drive. Pickers bent in half over the plants, saving me the work.

Under the metal-roofed shed the berries, intensely red and capped by green hulls, nestled in the white cardboard boxes. I lifted the box, and the jostled berries released their perfume. 

What says "Welcome, Summer!" better than fresh strawberries?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Airport Soap Operas

Airport soap operas are unbeatable free entertainment. They're like flash fiction.  

There was this comedy...

Dad was led straggling line of children schlepping their princess and action figure backpacks. Mom pushed the baby in a stroller and tried to lead a toddler who wanted to explore the unfamiliar territory. Third in line, a boy dragged a rubber-tipped toe on the carpeting and weakly bleated "I'm tired. This backpack is too heavy."

Dad whipped his head around, and fussed.  "If you don't stop whining I'm going to leave you right here." 

My inner judge gave him 1 point on a scale of 4 for ineffective parenting. Who was he going to leave Junior with? Even the kid knew Dad was bluffing. 

Oftentimes you only get one side of a conversation and you freely invent the hidden scenes. 

Waiting for my flight I recently overheard a young female voice earnestly plead into the  phone. "I know, but I would really have appreciated it if you had followed my instructions and not forwarded the message to my mother. She's really upset with me. She did not appreciate learning our news in this way."

"I wanted everyone to get the announcement at the same time, and specifically asked you all not to share it. It's still early on and we're only letting a few close friends and family know about it." 

Then she listened for a long time and I got to imagine the other person's excuses. "Oh, I didn't notice that part of your text/email." "Well, I just assumed you called your mother first." 

I'm not cell phone savvy. Couldn't the caller send a text to multiple people at the same time? Or did the first recipient treat it like a chain letter and forward it along to Mom? I finally pretended to stretch so I could take a peek. Her cute young husband just grinned at her and bobbed his head in support. 

 Do you think third party told the Mom the speaker was pregnant?  I didn't get to eavesdrop on that call and confirm my prediction.

Another micro-drama played out upon arrival. 

A tall trim woman quickly stalked up the concourse, no small feat considering the sexy stiletto heels she wore. She pulled a small wheeled suitcase, and carried a large leather purse over her left shoulder while she fussed into a tiny phone. She tossed her long blond hair back. "WHAT?!" she shrieked. Well, come get me!"

Her voice got louder and slightly higher with each word. She didn't listen very long before she repeated herself, like the Queen of Hearts giving orders to a dull-witted servant. 

 "Come. Get. Me." (Or off with your head!)  She snapped the phone shut and tossed it into the bag. 

I wouldn't want to be her chauffeur. What do you think--boyfriend? younger sister? I missed the pick-up so I'll never know. 

People will continue to subject me to their phone calls and their travel stress.  Cheaper than head phone rentals or a Netflix download on my iPad, the airport micro theater will continue to entertain me.   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sprigs: Misery and misers are cousins.

Last year I was cheap.

I bought a pair of hedge trimmers that could only trim back one dead flower stalk at a time. They were too lightweight for heavy duty work.   

I remedied that this year, and bought the sturdiest pair that I could still lift,  open,  and close. Now I can whack off multiple sedum stalks. Next, I'll try them on the scraggly bushes. 

Poor Richard may have counseled that a penny saved is a penny earned. 
Poor Pam admonishes: Misers and misery are cousins.