About Place

When I was in high school one of our poetry writing exercises was to write a Where I’m From poem modeled, I believe, after George Ella Lyon’s poem of the same title. I loved this exercise at the time, probably because it gave my 16-year-old voice an edge of highly coveted authority, but over the years it has stuck with me as something of a daily mental status update. I’ll pass something in the car, and my brain will automatically say, I am from the land where chicory and discarded wrappers tell their own stories on the sides of the road. These little quips ground me and comfort me, and importantly, never seem to leave me.

We traveled to North Carolina this weekend for Easter, something of an annual pilgrimage, to two of the farms that I really am from, and all weekend the little I Am From lines were popping up left and right in my mind. We all know what Easter does or doesn’t mean to us, but for me, this time of year is really about returning to something. We get excited to be going back to the farm, to the places that I tromped around on in cowboy boots as a child, to the place that we said I Do, to a little nook in Western North Carolina that you can look at every day and still get caught off guard by its beauty. Although we go many times throughout the year back to these places that have been home for us, there’s something about this time of year that carries a compelling reverence for the world anxiously blooming forward and simultaneously calling us back. Although we don’t live in North Carolina anymore, it holds our hearts firmly and wholly, and getting into its mountains is a lot like secretly bumping knees under a table with your first true love.

In an explanation of her original poem, George Ella  Lyon says, “Where I’m From grew out of my response to a poem from ‘Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet’ (Orchard Books, 1989; Theater Communications Group, 1991) by my friend, Tennessee writer Jo Carson. All of the People Pieces, as Jo calls them, are based on things folks actually said, and number 22 begins, “I want to know when you get to be from a place. ”

I love this question. My rural heritage has taught me that I have no true rural heritage because I doubt we’ll ever be from somewhere until at least 4 generations of our people have entered and left the world there, but let’s remember that I’m nothing without my nostalgia, so I don’t think that I can bear to be metaphorically homeless simply because I have a measly first generation birthright to the part of the world that my family loves. Stubbornly then, this weekend I realized that I know that I am from something because I know where to go to find it, and I know what will be waiting for me when we get there. The land will change, and in one case may no longer be ours, the people will change, the parties will change, the relationships will change, but what will endure is knowing that I am who I am because of what I come from, and in that way, we will always be able to go back. That is, in my mind, when you get to be from a place.

I’m rattling on about all of this because I have chattered about Easter over the years and wanted to make sure that I’ve recorded that this tradition of our annual get-together is not about new dresses and dyed eggs, but it’s about my brave family opening up their home to all of us so that we can say, I Am From…

and so, so, so much more.

(those last 3 pictures were taken shamelessly from my Aunt Vicki, check her out!)

Hippity Hoppity

I think that my feet are just touching down from our trip to NC.  It was soul food.  I’m not really sure what else to say beyond that…my brother Drew was there with my nephew Jack and as a big family we stayed up late and played hard and cooked (parts of) a pig, and smelled like wood smoke from lingering by the fire, and ate charred hot dogs and marshmallows, and watched Asher blindly follow his cousin Jack around with unabashed adulation, and we got to see my sister and step mother and father, and we saw early morning fog and old friends and got hugs and laughed hard and ate my aunt’s amazing cooking that was rounded out with homemade bread and freshly collected eggs and fresh (really, really fresh) milk, cheese and butter.  We rolled in the grass and returned to something essential.  We went home.

I hope that each of you has that place where you pull up or walk up or sit down and the deepest parts of yourself say, this is where I want to be.  This is where I am.  For me, that’s Madison County, NC, and specifically two plots of land that aren’t far from one another.  Seeing Asher walking around so confidently there is…it’s just soul food, there’s not another word for it.

I only did nominally better than last year with taking pictures, but I did remember to catch a few.

I wish that all of you could have one of these:

That is a Claui.  She is one of the better human beings on the planet, and certainly one of my favorites and, along with my cousin Justin, can do a lot of things, but one of them is milk the cow Marigold and then use Marigold’s goods to make these:

mmmm hmmm…homemade (in the absolute truest sense of the word) strawberry shortcake.  I know that I’m supposed to be talking about Asher’s 2nd Easter, but I just had to get that out of my system.  Whipped cream directly from the source on homemade biscuits?  I kind of flipped out.

Ok, so back to Asher’s 2nd Easter…

He didn’t really get it.

He picked up eggs and put them in his basket (not before declaring them balls and throwing the first one in the air and having it land on his head, which made him laugh) but as far as Asher knows, this is what Easter is all about:

His cousin Jack has a battery powered Gator that he cruised all over the farm on.  Asher wasn’t totally sure that he wanted to ride on it, but he was 100% sure that he didn’t NOT want to be on it, and so he climbed into the passenger seat, grabbed on to that OS bar with a death grip and rode around with the sweetest look on his little face.  A boy was born out of a baby this weekend.

Everything else about the weekend was sublime, so rather than going on and on and on, I’ll just share a couple of more shots and keep grinning ear to ear.  Soul. Food.

With my stepmom:

Asher gets to fuel up before the big hunt with his very first taste of fried chicken because, as Drew is always quick to remind me, that’s what Dad’s are for:

And here’s a glimpse of the party (those of you that were at our wedding might recognize this scene!):

So that’s it!

Happy Easter!

Top ‘o the world!

We rang in the New Year from on top of a mountain in North Carolina at our friend’s cabin.  Being someone that has grown up around her fair share of cabins, when I hear that word I think of chinking, outhouses and candle light (I’m serious) and boy was I thrilled to be way off the mark!  We were greeted with a beautiful stone fireplace, a well stocked kitchen, surround sound, and best of all, a view that stretched on and out for about 150 miles.  No joke.  North Caroline, please be mine.

In all there were three families, five children, and that one gorgeous view.  We were able to squeeze in some time outside before the rain came, getting in a quick hike with promises of seeing The Bear Den.

The rest of the weekend looked a lot like this:

And this:

With a side of this:

And a visit from this guy for good measure:

We spent our days playing games, stirring pots on the stove, toasting to good friends, good food, and good balance, watching the kids explore a new place, and it all felt like we were being true to our life right now.  On New Year’s Eve at midnight, we stood on the porch watching the the distant pops of fireworks reaching up into the sky from all over the state of North Carolina, and I was acutely aware of feeling like we’ve got a good one ahead of us.  It felt also really good to have our little ones in the mix.  Or rather, it felt really honest.  I say that because I sometimes feel caught between feeling like I’m denying my new-ish role as a mother when I go out, while also finding myself feeling like I’m denying some part of my ‘former’ self in my seemingly full time job of keeping our couch from flying away in the evenings (she’s quite the flight risk).  The weekend felt honest because it struck that perfect and sometimes illusive balance between family time and adult time, where we delighted in helping the kids work on sharing and keeping fingers out of each others noses, but then after they hit the sack we had nights of laughing hard and letting our hair down.  Perfection.

I’m kind of hoping that we’ve stumbled on a new tradition, because I thoroughly enjoyed sipping champagne in my slippers, snuggling with Asher next to the fire, and setting the tone for a fantastic year to come.  Eyes on the prize.  Thank you 2010 for all that you’ve been, we like you.

Oh!  And remember how I said that I was going to have to work on taking pictures of something other than Asher’s eyelashes in 2011?

Ah well, maybe next year.


Where does the time go?

There is so much that I have wanted to share over the last two weeks, and now that I finally have a few minutes to get down to it, it’s hard to know where to begin.  Of course the first thing that comes to mind is Asher…we had our two month appointment at about 10 weeks and he was 12lbs, 10 oz and 23.5 inches long (75th percentile in both weight and height).  Our doctor reported that he (well Asher that is, not Dr. Ogan) is developmentally ahead of schedule with his hand and head control and generally seemed very pleased with Asher’s growth and development.  We’ve been battling a pretty mean diaper rash since Asher was about 1 week old that was accompanied by painful gas and some prolonged baby acne, and after multiple other stabs at curing it, Dr. Ogan suggested that I remove dairy from my diet which appears to have done the trick.  This is, of course, a bittersweet revelation as I have something bordering on an obsession with cheese, but every happy smile during Asher’s diaper changes reminds me that no double gloucester is worth my son’s pain.  I have discovered that there is soy creamer for my morning cuppa which will be a fine substitute for the time being, and admit that this is a bit of extra help and incentive as I continue to work to shed those baby pounds.

We had a really wonderful trip to NC two weekends ago.  Everyone spoiled us terribly with their affection and enthusiasm and we drove home with the gooey glowey feeling of being loved, and a deep sense of gratitude towards the community that is still so much my home in many ways.  My friends Claui and Sue and my Aunt Vicki threw us a really lovely party with tons of amazing homemade food, and hanging on the wall as we walked in was Asher’s gorgeous alphabet quilt.  I am lucky to have been raised in a community of quilters, and so most births, weddings, and a few other major life events, are marked with the delicate stitching of friends.  I grew up falling asleep every night staring at the quilt that was made for my mom and me when I was born, and now Asher will do the same, seeing many of the same names that were on my baby quilt sewn into his.  I must say that having his baby quilt hanging on the wall in his nursery is making me feel rather bonafied as a mom. Here are some pictures of Asher meeting his cousin Jack at the party:

Jack couldn't wait to hold the baby, too cute!

It's hard to believe that some day soon they'll be running around together!

The quilt hanging up outside at John and Vicki's

For more pictures, check out Vicki’s web album from the weekend here!

While we were there, Asher also got to meet his Grandaddy Wayne, and I must say that the two got on exceptionally well.  One of the first things that we said about Asher when he was born was how much he looked like my father, and it did my heart good to see those two together.

Finally, we had a really fantastic Thanksgiving weekend…my stepmother Ruth and my little sister Julie Claire came to Virginia for a visit and we all ate at my Mom and Skip’s house.  The spread was excellent, we had turkey of course and then roasted butternut squash with a cider vinaigrette and parsley, lemony green beans with toasted walnuts, Ruth’s delicious corn pudding and homemade rolls, sour dough and chorizo stuffing, spinach salad, and carrot cake and Mom’s family famous pumpkin chiffon pie for dessert.   I dabbled in my first bit of vegan experimentation with a dairy free cream cheese frosting for the carrot cake which actually turned out pretty well.  I firmly believe that there is no true substitute for cheese, especially when it comes to cream cheese frosting, but for this one Thanksgiving, it worked out just fine.

Charlotte Marie Beck

Whew!  That’s the update.  Today is our niece Charlotte’s first birthday, and Drew’s Aunt Pat’s birthday as well, so happy birthday ladies, and many returns!  To see more pictures of beautiful little Charlotte and her awesome older sister Caroline, check out Ashley’s blog here.  In this season of gratitude, Drew and I can’t help but be a little overwhelmed at how blessed we feel, and how very much we have to be thankful for.  Of all of the things that we say thanks for, time and again the people in our lives top the list, so I thought I would leave you with this quote from Albert Schweitzer:

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Asa and Erin’s Wedding

a_eWe traveled to NC this past weekend for our friends Erin and Asa’s wedding.  It was a really beautiful wedding out at Deerfields which is about 30 minutes outside of Asheville, and it was of course really great to connect with old friends and celebrate!  We drove down Thursday evening, and Drew dropped me off at my aunt and uncle’s farm in Madison County where I was treated to a delicious meal and good company, and Drew drove on to meet all of the guys for the bachelor party.  On Friday we headed over to Deerfields for the rehearsal luncheon and then some set up for the big day on Saturday.  I helped with decorations and the boys did some of the heavy lifting.



The ceremony took place in a beautiful outdoor chapel on the mountain above Deerfields, and we had a good time adding to some of the natural beauty of the setting.  We had to get pretty creative draping the fabric on the structure, but after asking ourselves, what would MacGyver do? we located a tennis shoe, some fishing line and a staple gun (I kid you not) and the problem was solved.  After that we closed shop for the evening and got ready for the big event on Saturday!

chapelFollowing the ceremony on Saturday afternoon, we were treated to a delicious dinner, toasts, and a night of dancing with some of our favorite people.  When the ceremony was over, Drew and I both agreed that we love that our friends all have such beautiful weddings.  Each one is unique and every time we are struck by the couple’s creativity and the love of our college community.

e_a_arriveThe couple arriving at the reception to a wonderland of bubbles

e_a firstErin and Asa’s first dance

D_L_ATogether again!  Drew, and dear friends Adam and Lana catching up…

and dancing the night away

We were also happily able to squeeze in quick visits with my stepmother Ruth and a Father’s Day breakfast with my dad and sister before hitting the road and heading back to VA…it was a great wedding weekend indeed!