Friday, October 14, 2016

Aftermath and Off Again!

Happy Friday!

This week has been just a bit crazy, what with that hurricane and all last weekend. Thankfully we returned home to nothing more than a bunch of limbs and debris in the courtyard and the top of a tree hanging out on our carport roof.

Trees are down everywhere; centuries old oaks uprooted and laying on their sides. It's crazy, really, what wind can do to a towering mammoth with roots the size of a Volvo.

People did lose houses and businesses were flooded. Sadly, two lives were lost as well. BUT in light of what I've seen of other locations where Matthew ravaged, we were extremely blessed. It was a miracle that things weren't worse than they were.

Savannah is a resilient city. We're strong and we'll come out of this on top.

As for me, I'm off to an herbal conference in North Carolina. It was planned months before and we did discuss at work Tuesday not going. However, the unanimous decision was to go ahead. My boss is happy because she'll have power. Her house on the islands is still in the dark.

At first I was going to stay home, hole up and breathe a sign of relief. As an INFJ that was the comfortable thing to do. Relax in my home that I had to leave behind in the path of a monster storm but also be here "just in case" I was needed. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to let go and enjoy a chance to commune with nature. Learn about herbs. Get away from the stress that hovered over us like a dirty smog since last Thursday.


I'll be back home on Monday, Dears, but no post until Wednesday. Have a wonderful weekend and take care. If you were affected by Matthew, I pray that you and yours are safe.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Living on the Run

Life got crazy last week. We had a visit from a very unwelcome traveler named Matthew. I certainly hope everyone who was accosted by this bully is safe and well.

I've never had to pack in a hurry and adhere to a mandated evacuation announcement. Yes, we could have stayed. Many did. But we joined the 75% of Savannah residents that left. There were many reasons we left. A co-worker's daughter put it this way, "If there's even the slightest chance any of us could be hurt why would we stay?" My husband put it another: "Do you really want to live for an indeterminate number of days without electricity, water, functioning sewer system or means to cook the food that will go bad in the dead refrigerator?" Both of these were reasons enough to load the car and join the mass exodus on I-16.

My what big teeth you have! PS: the green dot is where I live.

When I was little, I heard about people not leaving during a hurricane. I thought it was rather foolish. OK, OK: stupid. Now that I live on the coast and have had the choice to leave or stay I understand. I didn't want to go. We didn't want to leave. We almost stayed despite the mandatory evacuation announcement. I mean, they couldn't come and force us to leave. But if something, anything, had happened to us (say, a giant oak tree had blown through our bunker of a house and crushed us) no one would have come to help. No. One. All First Responders were under orders NOT to go out in the Category 3 hurricane to save someone who decided to take a risk and fight Mother Nature's evil offspring. That, I must confess, was a bit disconcerting.

The reason people stay is primal. If I'm at home I'm safe. HOME is SAFE. Also, if I'm at home, I can protect it. Protect myself and my family. My castle = my defense. That's why people stay. Not because they're stubborn. Not because they're defiant. Because our homes are created to be buffers from the outside world. And no 115 mph wind is going to change our minds.

Still. We left. We got home around 2:30pm. We grabbed some clothes, several bags of food, a case of bottled water, and -

- and what?

What else do you take when the worst case scenario is that whatever you take is all you have left? That thought was shuddering. Frightening.

These are the things we carried:

- My husband's computer
- My laptop.
- A stack of my writing drafts and research that is not digitized and cannot be reproduced:

You know you're a writer when THIS is what is in your hurricane evacuation bag!

- A framed picture of our cat.
- A picture of my dad in uniform before he left for Vietnam.
- My copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

That's it. That last one surprised me. It's the only book I grabbed. I didn't dare look at the book shelves. How do you decide on one child over the others? It was too much. I was afraid if I looked at them I'd have a breakdown. We loaded up the car and left after I took a picture of the bookshelves and locked the door.

Honestly, I think the main reason I left them was to give me hope that all would be OK and we'd go back to an untouched home.

As I type, the sun is shining and all is peaceful in metro-Atlanta. We've seen pictures of ancient oaks uprooted and laying across the parks and streets. Bodies of our brave dead. Power is slowly being restored. Friends are OK. Tybee Island is still there and NONE of the homes were decimated. It is a miracle. 

And now, we wait. We wait to hear if they are letting residents back into the county. We wait to see if the streets leading to our house are re-opened. We wait. We wait. We wait. 

The waiting isn't really the hardest part, as the song says. It's the not knowing.

Yours Most Truly:

Hurricane Refugee

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oh Play Me Some Mountain Music

Oh how we complained when Mom and Dad popped in a cassette of "that mountain music". We'd been raised on classic rock, oldies and country. As we grew up our tastes changed but our favorites stayed the same: Clint Black, Garth Brooks, The Beatles, The Beach Boys. For a few hours, road trips rumbled along with my sister and me belting out choruses of "Friends in Low Places" and "Surfin' USA". Somewhere between Conyers and destination Higher-Elevation, one of our parents would ever so cunningly slip in a tape of hammered dulcimers and fiddles and my sister and I knew our music would not be heard the remainder of the trip. Two or three songs in we warmed up to it and soon played air banjo in the backseat.

Now days I'm far less antagonistic towards bluegrass and "mountain music". It makes me smile. It isn't often my husband and I are able to escape to the mountains for boiled peanuts, apples and cinnamon dipped candles.When we do, I find myself drawn to the shops with open doors and the drifting strains of an Appalachian front porch. Those haunting chords remind me of childhood and the vast stretches of undulating hills of trees through the Smokies or thick copses of pines lining unnamed red clay back roads. Just the smell of wood smoke is enough to send me back to those car rides and lazy afternoons spent leaf peeping, rock climbing or simply enjoying another, Southern Autumn weekend.

* * *

And just in case your unsure as to what "mountain music" sounds like, 
here's a bit for your listening pleasure:

Mountain Music by Alabama
(link provided just in case this video embedding thing doesn't work)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group October 2016 Entry

Hello and welcome to the October edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the brain child of our fearless leader Captain Alex! It's a monthly airing out of writerly insecurities and offering of support to those in need. Please check out the website and sign up if you aren't already involved! And don't forget to visit the sites of our co-hosts and thank them for helping out with this month's blog-hop: Susan Says, Beverly Stowe McClure, Megan Morgan, Viola Fury, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Angela Wooldridge!!

This month I'm feeling a bit frazzled but not particularly insecure. I've submitted a small recipe (still heard nothing back) and I've got one magazine submission on my desktop awaiting edits. My WIP is plodding along, I'm chewing on a story for a blog-hop AND I've just now started work on my submission to the IWSG Anthology Contest. All this is stacked on top of two other articles that need projects completed before I can write them/photograph them. Whew! See. Frazzled.

The question this month is "When do you know your story is ready?" I've done a bit of thinking on this and I've two answers. When I'm working on a short piece (university term papers come to mind) I know it's ready when I read it out loud and it has a definitive end. I always read my work out loud, especially if it's something I need to submit. When I can read the end of the piece with an air of finality then I know that it's finished. Now for longer works, novels for instance, I don't really know! I've finished three in the past, none of which are publishable, and any time I pick them back up I cringe at them. They are most definitely NOT finished. How will I know when a novel is done? Perhaps it will be the same as with the short works. Perhaps I'll spend a week reading it out loud and when I reach that last page, when I breathe the final words, exhaling "The End" perhaps it will ring with a finality that will make me sigh with relief. That's what I'm looking for, anyway.

What about YOU? When do you know your story is finished? I'm especially curious to hear from you published novel writers. What told you your book was ready?

Happy writing!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Gem Stones in Buckets and Roller Coasters in the Sky Part II

After Franklin we'd head an hour north towards to an area near both Maggie Valley and Cherokee. As silly as it sounds, our favorite theme part was devoted entirely to Christmas. Tucked away in the Smokies, just outside the city limits, Santa's Land centered around everything Christmas. Everything you could possibly conjure up from a picture-perfect childhood Christmas was there. Nothing ever changed; you think we'd get bored with the same petting zoo, the same reindeer and Santa Claus and caroling elves. We never did. My family loved Christmas (still do!) and we just had to go. It was a tradition about as hokey as they come but we just had to go.

Not that our parents minded. They enjoyed it to. But why? Why did my sister and I feel the need to visit this tired old theme park year after year after year? Well, here's a bit of a confession: it was the roller coaster. Laughably named The Rudicoaster, this kid-friendly contraption whizzed up and down hills and zipped around hair pin turns with a certain, famous, red-nosed reindeer leading the way. The cars looked like sleds and we always jostled for the front. Round and round it went, two corkscrews and dipping and plunging hills. We laughed, we screamed, we rode it multiple times in a row. Once we arrived and there wasn't a crowd to be seen. The Rudicoaster was ours for the taking! We commandeered! I think we were finally evicted after the 42nd ride, but that may be a slight exaggeration (and an adult propensity toward Douglas Adams' references...).

Anyway, this was our yearly pilgrimage to North Carolina. I haven't been back there in years and I mean more-than-two-decades years. Whenever I Google "Santa's Land North Carolina" it seems a bit ambiguous as to if it's still there. The pictures look more like a ghost town, a memory of laughter. I'm sure people still pan for gem stones. I've seen billboards on the few journeys to North Georgia I've made in the past few years. Those did seem a bit faded as well. But my memories are vivid red and green and the sound of screams from corkscrewing reindeer and the splashes of freezing cold mountain water on old sneakers.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Gemstones in Buckets & Roller Coasters in the Sky Part I

Once a year - sometimes twice - a weekend came when Dad would carry us out to the van at five in the morning and we would head north. He loved leaving for trips before sunrise. We knew when the leaves started to turn, a weekend would be set aside for another trip to North Carolina. Neither Maggie Valley nor Franklin are far enough from metro Atlanta to warrant such an early rise but we didn't care! Gem panning and roller coasters waiting our arrival. The excitement far outweighed our early-rising grumps and we willingly allowed ourselves to be carried away in our pajamas knowing we'd have to dress on the way.

We'd change in the van, eat breakfast at Waffle House and count the miles until we pulled into a gem mine. No, we didn't climb down into caves with pick axes, humming dwarfish folk tunes or anything. The Appalachian Mountains are polka-dotted with family-friendly gem mines: no headlamps or hobbits required. It's called "panning" and we believed we were experts at it. A mine provided buckets of dirt, large framed screens for sifting through said dirt, troughs of running water and the promise you'd walk away with at least a sapphire, garnet or emerald. Salted mines were our choice. "Salted" means that the people who own the mine make sure there are rough gems in every bucket. Hey, call us soft but I've done the other kind, the kind that actually requires luck and trust me: paying for a bucket of dirt and walking away with nothing more than mud in your tennis shoes after three hours of sticking your hands in freezing cold water is NOT my idea of a challenge. It's more like Appalachian water torture. I may not have chiseled my finds from bare rock but the joy of discovery far out weighted any legitimate mining claims. Pioneering be damned!

Settled on the bench, we lifted the screen, propped it on the flume (the trough of running water) and Dad dumped in our dirt. It took a bit of time to get the cumbersome screen into the panning rhythm but soon the gems appeared and our shoes became soaked and covered in mud. We spent hours collecting stones, convinced this time one of us would take home a fortune. We never did. I still have many of those stones. They're in storage tucked into envelopes labeled "emeralds", "moonstones" and "rubies". Maybe one day I'll  have them cut and put into a necklace. I think I'll call it "Franklin Mud Finds".

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Turning of the Mighty Oak

The oak tree towered above the yard long before that little plot of land was a yard. For most of the year it was either swathed in deep green or skeletal and bare - a large arm with hundreds of bony fingers grasping at clouds. But when autumn came it was on fire.

The leaves blazed maroon, orange and yellow and they were set in front of an amazing backdrop of blue. Burn-your-eyes azure framed the oak, a halo to a holy site. A week perhaps, maybe two, was all we had to worship at the trunk. This shrine of nature beckoned for attention, demanded awe and inspired leaf gathering and daydreaming.

Many times I tried to photograph it but majesty refused confinement in film. My feeble attempts at art could not imitate life. The lens dulled the blue and extinguished the leaves.

Autumn is a fleeting season in middle Georgia. We gulp down the cooling days. Yards smell of fleeing summer and the nights of cider and bonfires. Pools are closed, bathing suits hung to dry one last time and out come sweaters, jeans and flannel.

Contrary to popular belief, we do know what snow is and occasionally we must bundle up against it. True, Georgia is spared bitterly cold winters but it does get cold to us. When most of your year's low temperatures are somewhere between 80 and 89 degrees, anything below 50 is freezing!

Fall is a gentle leaning away from torrid summers and into the chill to come. The glory of the oak is summer's fierce farewell and that brilliant, chilling blue reminds us that winter, however fleeting, is soon to come.