They Followed Me Home...Honest!


There's a battle being pitched here in Virginia - Me vs. Stuff

Stuff is ahead by a long shot.

A really long shot, but I'm not giving up. 

I'm determined to clear some of this clutter out, and Phil keeps dropping stuff off at various thrift shops. Boxes and boxes and bags and bags of stuff. Three people live in this house, and stuff keeps following us home.

So, I keep sorting, tossing, boxing, bagging, and more. Even my art stuff, which is a history of everyshiny object that's caught my eye. I've worked really hard at narrowing down what I'm truly interested in, which is still quite a bit to be honest. That being said, how much paper do I truly need? How much washi tape (I really have a thing for washi tape!), how many art books on making stuff? 

I guess that some people might figure that all this downsizing and jettisoning of stuff is happening because I'm 65, and after all isn't that what old folks do? Downsize for their later years.

And, there might be some truth in that, but only a tiny bit. Memories of  clearing out my mom and dad's house still haunt me. Since both were depression babies, they really tended to hold onto stuff that should have been tossed years and years ago. Dad's dementia just added another layer to the mess. I would love to not repeat that mess.

Mostly, though, it's a wanting for things to be restful, for my house to be a haven and not a cluttered mess that constantly reminded me what needed to be cleared up, put away, etc.

Phil and I travel a lot, short distances mostly, but we've seen many a vacation home, hotel room, etc. And, so often, I'd enter and sigh in happiness. Clean lines, empty spaces on dressers where my eyes could rest. Nothing piled in corners. All of it makes me happy.

That's what I want...empty spaces to fill up something that I need. 

Along with this wanting of being able to simply rest easily, to like what I'm looking at, is a nagging feeling reminding me just how much money I've blown on stuff. Stuff that I'm now tossing and donating. I could sell it, but honestly, I just want it out, and I don't want much more coming in.

There's a heaviness that accompanies stuff.

These past several weekends, my daughter and I have been exploring all sorts of antique markets and design homes. We love it, just love it.

I've done so much imaginary spending and fake buying, your head would spin, probably both clockwise and counterclockwise. Maybe both at the same time.

Each market has its own signature; one is mostly restored furniture. Another might focus more on knick knack sorts of things. One is shabby chic; another gives off an edgy urban feel. 

Here's what I love - the inspiration. Color combinations, ways to repurpose things, and more. Dealers arrange their stuff into wonderful vignettes, and when one display catches my eye, makes me stop in my tracks, I stop and begin to analyze. 

What's making me go, "Ahhhhhhhhhh?" Is it repetition? a color combination? all the textures? 

I take photos to remember, print out the photos when I get home, and start jotting notes, because even though I'm certain I'll remember, I most probably won't. 

Most jaunts result in nothing coming home. Nothing. Because the little voices in my mind begin to nag.

Do you really want to have to dust that? Where are you going to store it? How soon before it ends up at the thrift shop? Do you want to pay to move it? Do you need another platter? You already have 4 or 5, and you're just buying them because your mom collected them and it makes you feel better.

And, we have a rule. If something comes into the house, something has to leave the house.

I do slip up every now and then. Those wonderfully quirky red stools/chairs above provide evidence of my all too human nature and the psychology of consumerism.

I could tell you that they are a late Christmas/birthday gift for Phil. I could also tell you that we've been looking for a chair that's going to relieve leg achiness from standing while cooking and baking. And, I did promptly toss a few large items out of the house.

But, honestly? 

They followed me home.


The Taste of Silence



Wherever it was
I was supposed to be this morning-- whatever it was I said
I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field-- I was hurrying
through my own soul, opening its dark doors-- I was leaning out;
I was listening.
- Mary Oliver, Mockingbirds

I love the quiet hush of early mornings; it's not completely silenced, but it seems as if all the sounds are muted, soft, and just barely there. There and then gone, teasing, enticing me to listen carefully. 

Stillness and silence seem intertwined, nearly inseparable. My soul needs both, and treasures the mornings that begin slowly and invite introspection. I miss it all when for whatever reason I tell myself that there's not enough time, that things need to be done.

Yesterday was one of those mornings, a bit rushed, a bit hectic, with things that "had to be done" before I took off to watch over a sick little one.

One of those "the world will end if you don't do this" things was taking out the recycling and trash. Bags in hand, I stopped short, staring a pretty amazing, awfully large black bird ambling through our back yard. His feathers glistened all sorts of purples and blues, the sunshine pulling them out of the black. 

I stopped briefly, bags still in hand, to watch and enjoy him. Not a crow...I've seen some big crows, and he outdid them. A raven? 

And, then I broke the silence, calling out a "Good Morning," and away he flew. Immediately, without hesitation, he flapped those large wings and took off, never looking back. The magic was gone in a heartbeat.

This morning, as I read and began to write my morning pages, he popped back into my mind. 

"Time changes, the world goes on changing, but the experience of silence remains the same...the taste of silence remains the same." (Osha Deck)

The taste of silence...I love these words, and as I wrote my pages this morning, thinking about yesterday's bird, another memory peeked through...Sister Delores, my oldest son's second grade teacher.

Sister Delores loved life and loved teaching, making learning come alive. She was on the uppermost floor of the oldest part of the school, the floor that at one time had housed the students who lived at school. Huge windows looked over a tiny town, and through one window, you saw the twisted, gnarled branches of a old tree. 

Beneath the window, she place a table with a log book, several bird books, and a few pairs of binoculars. Students could visit the station at various times, and they worked to identify the birds, logging them in with date, time, and other observations. By the end of the year, my son could identify any local species on sight, telling you whether the bird was male or female. No formal teaching, just putting the pieces into place for her kids to learn.

Her classroom was full of magic, complete with secret clubs you had to earn your way into, one of them having to do with writing. She set her expectations high, and the students worked happily to meet them.

I remember laughing aloud one day...on the door frame outside her classroom, a long strip of adding machine tape traveled the length of the frame. Sectioned off by day, various dead bees and flies were taped to the tape, with each day's tally at the bottom. Wide open AC!...led to many classroom visitors, and Sister worked with what she had.

And from there, my mother came to mind, an image so clear of her hanging out the laundry on an old clothesline, pegged with old wooden dowel clothespins. Each time she hung out the clothes, or came to unpin them to bring them in, a cardinal would alight in a nearby cherry tree. The cardinal whistled; mom whistled back, and on the conversation went the entire time she was outside. 

He only talked to Mom; when the rest of us were on clothes duty, he'd sometimes land softly on a branch, observing closely, but never made a sound. It was mom or nothing!

All of this poured through my mind as I wrote this morning...a stream of writing, loosely bound by feathered visitors. 

The sound...and the taste...of silence let the words flow.

Quieting the Monkeys

Stitch Med 1

Have you ever seen the cartoon that shows a woman's mind vs. a man's? The one where the guy sits in front of the computer, just plodding away, just one tab open. On the other hand, the woman has a gazillion (former math teacher here) tabs open and seems to be actively engaged with each one. That's me. That's my mind.

Another way  of saying it, I've got a lot of mind monkeys, most of them doing some really odd things.

So, I've been looking for ways to close some of the tabs, to oust some of those darn monkeys.

Photography is one; slow stitching is another.

Stitch Med 3

There's just something about it that calms me; the rhythmic in and out of the needle, the putting together of odd pieces to make something brand new. The squares are tiny, just 4" X 4", so technically, it should be a fairly quick project. Technically.

Because, you see, some of the above mentioned monkeys begin to chatter. If I don't listen, they chatter louder.

My stitching is crooked and not evenly sized of spaced.

I answer with a resounding, "Yep." 

The idea is that it shouldn't matte; this isn't the time to worry about stellar stitching or an amazing end product. 

It's time to get lost in the process, to just be.

But those damn monkeys just get louder, and I've been known to tear out the stitches that I'm not supposed to worry about, let alone tear out. 

Sometimes I manage it, manage to leave in all the wonderful wonkiness.

I wish those times were more frequent.

Stich Med 2

Most of the time, I grab a fabric that appeals and just begin. 

I'm not supposed to worry about all the bits and pieces going together, but sometimes I do.

This morning I read/wrote about letting go of expectations in my morning pages. Obviously, my letting go is a real work in process, because I do fuss at times. These tiny squares can take several days if I'm having a really tough time letting go. 

But this last square, "Evidence," was planned. The two background, the blue and the off white with brown stripes, came from Phil's shirts that could no longer be worn to the office. They'd been washed at least one too many times. So, I salvaged what I could. 

I liked the idea of creating a stitch meditation recycling these cast offs.

The green, and the pinkish circle, came from a gellli printing class many years ago. 

The black bit and the word, evidence, are the only "new" bits. 

Evidence can be defined as "remains" and "remnants." Discovering that tiny bit buried in my stash seemed to be a perfect find. It fits.

It feels good to be back doing this again.

It does seem to corral some of the monkeys, to close down some of the open tabs.

I'm working on quiet.

I'm working on stillness.

I'm working on letting go.

It's Not So Hard to Make Magic

Loudoun rock

Just about a month ago, my lovely daughter and I hit up Luckett's to do a bit of dreaming, meandering, and hopefully snagging some bargains during their annual "Groundhog Day" sale. 

With an armful of successes tucked into shopping bags, Kara headed for the car to do a quick drop off; we'd meet up inside the store itself. My knees absolutely hate steps at places like this; the inclines are steep, and my knees protest the goings on. So, I stopped to mentally tell myself it really was no big deal - and it isn't! - and took a few seconds to just look at the treasures lining the steps and porch.

If you know Luckett's at all, you know that stuff is everywhere. 

Good stuff. Junky stuff. 

Stuff at incredible bargains right along side stuff that makes you wonder who'd ever buy it. 

I can, and do spend, hours photographing all the stuff. Little vignettes are everywhere, and I never know where to look first.

Thank you, Luckett's, for letting me do this; far too many places don't.

So, back to those steps. Girded for battle, I reached out to grab the railing, and came eye to eye with the neatest little rock ever.

And, I knew exactly why it was sitting on that railing. 

I had found...insert drum roll honest to goodness Loudoun Rock! If you clickety click on this link, you'll see that Loudoun Rocks have been dubbed the new Pokémon Go. Folks living in Loudoun County, VA, get themselves some rocks and some paint, sit down and decorate the rocks, and then go out and hide them all over the county. Just for fun. Just to make people smile.

If you're lucky enough to find a Loudoun Rock, you can leave it alone for someone else to find, or take it, and then hide it someplace new for someone else to find.

I tucked it into my pocket, smiling at my new little treasure.

Full disclosure: it's now sitting on a shelf in my dining room. It probably will never find its way back to Loudoun County again.

I don't know who painted my rock. It might be part of a family project, or maybe a youth group. It might have been a teen or a housewife.

But, whomever painted it; they made some magic for me. They made magic with just a bit of time, paint, markers, and a rock. No big bucks involved here.

A connection was made from one person in Loudoun County to one lady from Fairfax County. We most likely don't know each other, and I suspect we never will. But someone took a few minutes in their day to create smiles in mine. 

An online friend of mine digs up tiny old bottles, cleans them up, adds a poem and a flower to them, and then " releases them into the wild." Take a few minutes to read John Greenwood's posts here on "Raining Iguanas." Wouldn't you love to find a tiny beauty like this? Pure magic and joy, yours for the taking. Again, it cost little in the way of cash, just a bit of time and ingenuity. A spirit of generosity. I know that John's created a ton of magic and joy.

And, then there's the Art Abandonment Project, where all sorts of people leave treasures for others to find. Guaranteed joy. Guaranteed magic.

We need more of this; we just do. 

Connections made, one person to another rather than labeling, name calling, arguing and more. 

Strangers touching each others' lives in the best of ways.

So, make some art and release it. Write a postcard or letter to someone for no reason at all other than to create some magic. Leave a book somewhere with a note inside, telling its finder that it's theirs to keep and enjoy.

As John would say, "Be the reason that someone smiles today."  





Never Ready, Never Done

Bowl on table

This morning, I listened to a "Love Letter" from Meghan Genge, cohost along with Jamie Ridler, of Love Letters, a series of 32 messages on creativity and more. I have to confess that I've gotten really picky about these free events, since way too many of them end up promoting what they have to sell more than anything else. Jamie is a different story...she generously shares so much good stuff.

Meghan's video chat drew me in immediately; her message one that I've heard many a time in one form or another. But, it never hurts to hear it again, to be reminded of what I know, but I too often forget. 

"You're never ready; you're never done."

I can be the master of excuses at putting creativity off. My mind has so many tabs open: photography, writing, slow stitch, mixed media. I can't begin to tell you how much I've created - in my mind that is. I wake during the night composing a blog entry, working out a photo, and more. Trouble is I'm way too good at finding reasons that I'm not ready. I need my dslr, not my phone. I need my "To Do List" to disappear, because what's on there is way too important and really should be done first, done before I sit down to create. I get in my own way. 

Never done. I do this one well. I love to learn, to research, to explore. As I finish up something, another idea pops into my too many tabs opened mind. It might be a "better" way to do what I've done. It might be something brand new. I'm not idea challenged, but when I sit down to write, the little gremlin, aka inner critic, whispers, "Really? Why bother?" and then gives me a laundry list of why I shouldn't bother, and oh, yeah, remember all that stuff you need to do? Like laundry?

Meghan's advice: Just begin. Just take one step. Then, take another. Yeah, I know this, but again, it's just good to hear it, to be reminded.

I've been working through a mindful photography course with Julie Fischer MeCarter, whose work never fails to inspire. One assignment this week asked us to take a meaningful object and photography it outside of its normal surroundings. I chose my mother's blue bowl, aka the "Cookie Bowl."

Bowl on path

Julie asked us to go with whatever popped into our heads, that it would be the right choice. 

And I thought, that cookie bowl is too big to be lugging around. Besides, it's too cold to go outside.

Sigh. That damn inner critic.

So, yesterday, I woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and the most beautiful light outside my window. Out I went in a fuzzy blue art making stained bathrobe, my phone, a pair of slippers, and at the very last minute grabbed the bowl. 

Exiting through our back room door, I stopped dead. 

Well, crap, it's morning rush hour and I live immediately off of one of Virginia's busiest roads. Not only are there thousands of commuters driving by, but the middle school busses passed by as well.

And, I was the crazy lady in her bathrobe making photos of a bowl. Well, if nothing else, I'd provide a bit of conversation for a lot of folks. 

Bowl in leaves

It's not pretty outside right now, not unless you happen to love brown. I happen not to, finding it a pretty depressing color. Looking around I spotted a grungy looking moose (dog toy), also brown. A few tennis balls, the toy car the twits drive, but not one thing I could see to do with the bowl.

I wanted my dslr (never ready!) but knew if I went back inside, I probably wouldn't come out. I knew I'd get some great shots if I laid flat on the ground...uhm, no. Not going to happen. Virginia's commuters and middle schoolers already had enough to talk about. Besides, that ground is cold!

Leaves. I had lots and lots of leaves. I also had a meandering stone path that would make for great leading lines. 

I went for both, and quickly at that. When I'm shivering, it's hard to get things focused the way I like.

In the end, despite the not readys, I ended up with some cool shots. I can only imagine what my mom would be thinking. You filled the cookie bowl with dead leaves? Girl, you need to see the doctor. 

I love this bowl; it holds memories more than leaves. 

I love my shots; I know what I'd like to try next (never done!), and it will involve lying on the ground and my big girl camera. 

I love how I learned to look at the bowl differently; placing it out of context does that.

I love the stories my photos tell.

I like that I did some thinking "outside the box." 

Most of all, I like that I didn't just write this in my head.


65 Mornings

Dad's coffee cup

"So, what's next?" Lesley asked. "Now, that you've explored abstract art, where will you take it? Will you be working on another project? What's next?"

Grateful that I fell into the middle of this circle of awesomely talented women, I knew I had a bit of time to think. My first, internal response was that I just didn't know. 

But, Lesley had taught me better. Having worked through her CCGP (Closing the Creativity Gap Program) and finishing up the current Red Thread Retreat, I had one great support system in place. Knowing I had a bit of time, I closed my eyes and throught back to a list of prioritized projects in place.

When my time came, I had my answer, "I want to write. I want to take photos, and I want to put words to them. And, I think I want to put it all into book form and self publish it."

And, then I thought, "Oh, crap. I've gone public, and now I've got to make good on this."

Most of the artists present knew my photos, knew the words I often put with them, smiled and nodded their heads. Yes. Yes. Yes. Go for it. 

So, maybe I can do this. Just maybe I can.

A bit of the prioritized list of projects had to be dealt with first; there was a time crunch, and I'd learned to focus on what really mattered first. I had Christmas gifts to get done, and then, I could move forward.

Last Wednesday, I completed my 65th trip around the sun. Most of the other "significant" birthdays seemed to come and go without much fanfare or even thought on my part. Honestly, I sometimes had to do some math to figure out just how old I was.

But, 65 seems to be a milestone of some sorts. I have my Medicare card to prove it, and the good Lord knows, I had the attention of insurance companies wanting to sell me supplemental insurance.

65, for what ever reason, seems to be a good time to really embrace the fact that I have time to create, time to explore, time to do a bit of what I want to do, stuff that feeds my soul.

I'd neglected my blog; it pretty much faded into non existence. I didn't need to wonder why; Lesley's aforementioned CCGP class etched into my brain the roadblocks in place. Most importantly, I knew I'd put the darn roadblocks there myself, and even more importantly, I could remove them.

I know I have stories to tell, but I always managed to convince myself they weren't important. No one would want to read them. An idea would appear in my brain; I'd shove it aside. Soon, I'd be reading a piece of someone else's writing, on the topic I'd tossed aside, and readers loved it. As, Elizabeth Gilbert of Big Magic wrote, an idea came to me, I ignored it, and it went elsewhere to find someone else. 

When it comes down to it, it shouldn't matter if no one wants to read it; I want to write it anyway.

Knowing my tendencies to think something to death, and then not follow through (another one of my self imposed road blocks), I knew I had to put my idea out there, make it public. So, I mentioned it on my Instagram account, and now, I'm putting it out here on my blog, not an easy step, because you see, out came the stalling tactics.

I told myself that my blog is sadly outdated, no one reads it (Well, why should they if I don't write so something?), I should update it first. Maybe, I should just ditch this blog, begin a new one. 

Yep, stalling tactics. I need to write. I need to start now. The rest can wait, can be done as the writing begins.

Then, some more tactics. Should I begin a new and second Instagram account? What should I call it? A Year of Mornings? Nope, that would set me up to fail; that seemed to say I had to  post every morning, and I knew that as soon as I missed one or two, the whole thing would die a slow death. Well, to be honest, a pretty quick one, most likely.

So, again, I pushed that road block out of my way, and for now, it's "65 Mornings," because after a year of it, I should have 65 photos with accompanying words. That's only about 1 for every 6 days. Manageable, and I liked the idea of having the 65 in there.

For now, I'm just staying with the one account, and making sure that hashtag the appropriate photos with #65mornings. 

Come along with me for the ride, okay? You can find me on Instagram as @paulateach, and I'll be blogging many of the photos as well. 

You know what, I'm proud of me! 


No, Paycheck...for You!


You skipped the suit coat, dress shirt, and pants this morning, instead grabbing a t-shirt and pair of jeans. No briefcase needed, just a few books. The morning would be long, and all you'll be allowed to do is answering the phones, no touching the computer. Just sit and wait for the powers that be to show up and hand you a several page document that lists a few "Thou Shalls," but many, many more "Thou Shall Nots."  Thou shall not use any government issued technology. Thou shall not answer your government phone. Thou shall not attempt to sue the government. After signing off that you've received your furlough packed, you'll be allowed to leave and head home for an indefinite period. In the meantime, the  books would help pass the time. The last go round, you waited 4 hours for the packet bearing folks to show up.

It's a miserable thing to be deemed "Non-Essential." The biggest minus, of course, is the lack of a paycheck. But, it does something to the psyche. After 40 plus years of doing your job, and doing it extremely well, the message is sent that you don't matter much. All those years of putting in your 8 or more hour days, then coming home, still on call, answering phones in the wee hours of the night and then heading downstairs to telework so that one problem or another gets solved, well, none of it matters much. And people from all over, weigh in with the certainty that you're nothing but a free loader anyway. 

You don't know when your next pay check will come. Simple things get put on hold; you don't want to use the gas, so you mostly stay put. The grandkids sometimes get told "no" when something as simple as a request for McDonalds is made. You need to be careful, because if this thing goes on for more than a week or so, the next step is to contact utility companies, creditors, etc. and ask for mercy. It's one huge dose of humble pie.

My husband is one of the thousands and thousands of faces of this budget mess. While senators, representatives, and more argue their lines in the sand, we just wait and pray. 

It sucks to read folks from all over the country commenting "Good. I hope it stays shut down." Or, read the VIP in charge of shutting the government down, pronounce it, "Kind of a cool feeling." The president's son states that this shutdown is "good for us." 

I don't know what the answers are. I do know that I  blame both sides, each one so focused on getting what they want, that you just don't much matter. Oh, they all sometimes preach a good game, but they get paid. They're getting paid for not doing their job. 

I also know that some of what each side is arguing for is important. Terribly important. But, you also want them to just pass the budget, or at least a continuance, and then address these matters. You just want them to stop using all the issues and you as bargaining chips.

The news is another ball of wax. On one hand, it's your life line to the possibility that you might get to go back to work. On the other hand, it's a mess of conflicting information and a blame game. Honest to God, my middle schoolers behaved better than these "esteemed gentlemen and ladies." And, if they didn't we firmly addressed the matter. I am so tired of the name calling and blame game. Last night, I read one article that held out hope that some progress was being made, that "they" were working hard to the government open. The next article plainly stated that no hope was to be had. Both news agencies are respected sources, but they told such different stories.

I know I have it better than so many folks; I have food to eat, a roof over my head, and much more. I keep trying to put it all into perspective. Most of the time, I can do it. At other times, the anger and worry wash over me like a tidal wave. 

We'll get some yard work done, a few house projects will get completed. There are closets to be cleaned and stuff to be decluttered. We won't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.

But, still, it sucks to be "Non Essential." It just sucks.


Tiny Stone Churches


"Have you seen the stone churches?" she asked. 

Phil and I both shook our heads no, and then asked the inn manager to explain.

"Oh, you've got to see them," she said. "There are 5 of them, scattered through the mountains here. A man named Bob Childress built them, all from stone quarried locally. They're still being used today."

"In fact," she continued, "there's a book about him. It's really good; I need to keep buying copies, because I never seem to get them back, when I lend them out! It's called The Man Who Moved a Mountain."

Turns out that Phil had seen the book when we were at the information post the previous day, and he'd nearly picked it up, so we now knew just how to spend our day.  We headed back to the information post, bought the book, and picked up a free map plotting out the location of the churches.

As we wound our way up and down, around bends in the road, through miles of tiny isolated towns, I read the introduction to Richard C. Davids' book.

"Then a man named Bob Childress came to live there. He had grown up a mountain man with mountain habits. He drank. He fought ambush-style, with rocks and pistols. He was scarred from many brawls and twice wounded by gunshot. But something happened to change Bob Childress, and the change in him shook and transformed Buffalo Mountain."

Continuing through the introduction, Mr. Davids notes that he sat on hundreds of front porches, listening to hundreds of memories, some of which seemed unreal at first. Visiting the churches, we learned the memories continue to run strong.

We arrived at the first tiny church just before services began. Trying to remain unobtrusive and respectful, we hung in the background as much as we could. Chatting quietly with Phil, I looked up, and thought, "Oh - Johnny Cash!"

A tiny older man ambled down a mountain road toward the church. Obviously dyed coal black hair slicked back just so, a black shirt and tight black jeans on slightly bowed legs, he sported a huge  bel buckle. Tucked into one hand was  a well worn, well read, and obviously treasured Bible.

Wishing us a good morning, welcoming us to the area, he asked where we were from. We explained that we'd just learned  about the 5 churches, and we hoped to visit each one throughout the day.

With a huge grin, he began to talk about Bob Childress and his beloved churches, and he asked if we knew the story of how it all began. 

"Well, Bob, you see, worked at the quarries...hard, difficult work, and there's wasn't much to do here to break up the boredom. One day, Bob looked around at all the rocks and decided that the workers should have a "Prettiest Rock" contest." 

And, so they did, because if it was one thing they had, it was rocks! Everyone for miles around brought their best rocks, some that were crystals...


...and even a few treasured sea shells.


My want-to-be Johnny Cash continued. The contest, it seems, was a huge success, but when he was done, Bob did not know what to do with all the rocks. Praying on it a bit, he figured that the good Lord wanted him to build a church, and so he did.

The story didn't make complete sense to me (Who, after all, would leave their best rock behind?), but I loved listening to it, as much as "Johnny" loved telling it.

Sounds coming from within the tiny church signaled the beginning of services, so we shook hands and thanked him for his time. He grinned back at us and told us that he loved telling folks about his church.

Back into the car, we again drove through mountains and tiny towns, heading toward the next church. This time, we arrived just as services ended.

Trying again to be unobtrusive, we hung back a bit, but a tiny wisp of an elderly woman opened up the door to an SUV,  and smiled. "Oh, you just missed services! We would have loved to have had you."

As we began to once more explain what we wanted to do, a slightly less elderly man walked over, and smiling, he joined us.

Eventually, he grinned, pointed to the frail, wisp of a woman, and said, "Well, you've got a great source here. She's related, you know."

With a twinkle in her eye, she told us that she, Anna, was 91, and that Bob Childress had been her father-in-law! 

Phil and I shared the "prettiest rock" story, and the gentleman, grinned, and smiled. "Well, you know, that Bob came to the ministry later in life. He'd gone to Richmond, VA, to study, well after he was married and had 2 children." Turns out there was obviously more to the prettiest rock story, and of course, he loved to share it.

So, we settled in for a good visit, and within just a few minutes, Anna and her companion, offered to unlock the church and take us inside. How could we have refused?

They went on to explain what a good man Bob had been, and that he really did end up working himself to death, always there for whatever a parishioner needed. We wandered through the tiny church, looking at photos of Bob and his sons, all but one, continuing the work of ministry. In fact, a few of Bob's descendants, preach at the churches today.

I think we must have visited for nearly an hour, gaining bits of information. Bob didn't build the churches himself; there may or may not have been a contest, but the congregants did haul rocks in from near and far, all of them coming from the mountains. Bob arranged for two men, experienced in building with stone, to come and construct the churches.

As we left, the gentleman pointed out where valuable pieces of quartz crystal were chipped from efforts to remove them by folks in need of the money. One church lost its best stone completely. Our guide seemed matter of a fact; some of the mountain residents were dealing with hard times. He seemed to understand why it might have been done.

Tiny Anna hauled herself up into their vehicle, grinned and waved. 

"Come back again, " she implored us. "Come back. We're a tiny congregation, only about 25 of us, and we'd all love to have you."

And, I'm pretty sure we'll do that on one of our next visits.

We hugged our good-byes, and then we left to visit the remaining churches, with stories swirling through our heads, chatting about how much everyone wanted to share their stories, and in Anna's case, her family stories about Bob Childress. We all shared our stories, each of us genuinely interested and wanting to make connections.

All of us have stories, and we all need a chance to tell them, and a chance for someone to truly listen to them.

P.S. The book is filled with stories of mountain folks, their towns, and their churches. The stories are told simply and with great love. As we wandered our way through the area, chatting with local residents about our wanderings, everyone stated..."What a good book! I have several copies, you know..." If you're in the mood for real life stories about real life, ordinary folks, get yourself a copy and settle in. The mountains, it seems, loves a good tale or two. 


I'm sitting here, listening to the rain, a gentle rhythmic falling from the sky. Cool crisp air hints of autumn, but part of me still lingers in summer.

As I edit this photo, my mind plays out one of those tiny moments that seem like nothing on the surface but still manage to float through my memories nearly 50 years later.

We'd just moved, from one tiny town to another, and this new world around me proved rich for exploring. My sister and I roamed everywhere, for blocks and blocks. Tiny patches of wild flowers, ripe for the picking dotted the landscape. These I could gather, take home, and enjoy. Sheer magic, indeed, since at our last home, I'd learned several hard lessons about not doing the same with our neighbor's plantings!

I can picture that corner where Green Street met one end of Octorara Avenue, thick with weeds, trees, and these tiny flowers I'd never noticed before. Gravel bit into my knees, as I knelt down to investigate further, then begin to pick. 

Flash forward a bit, the scene shifting to my mother and I sitting on her bed, flowers everywhere and soft afternoon light coming through the sheers on her windows. She gently explains that the flowers are Bachelor's Buttons, a name that made no sense to this 7 year old. So, we talked.

We talked about what a bachelor was, a very strange concept initially because pretty much everyone I knew seemed to be married. With a bit of gently prodding on my mom's part, I realized that many of my uncles were the perfect example of bachelors, never married, probably never would be.

But then, more confusion ensued. As my mom explained that many bachelors wore flowers in the lapels of their suits, especially on important occasions, I began to protest. My seemingly almost always drunk unmarried uncles would not have been caught dead with a flower anywhere on them.

I don't remember how mom explained that one; mostly I just remember that tangle of utter confusion about this flower's name mixed with delight in the flower itself. 

It's such a tiny memory, a few random minutes of my childhood, of my mother. 

A few random minutes intertwined with love. 


Slow Stitching and Learning Curves


I finished it! Hours upon hours of eco printing and then slow stitching the results. Learning the stitches as I went.

I'm in love with this little journal, the way it feels, the promise of making even more magic on its inside pages.

And, I love the eco printed scarves behind it. Pure magic!


I even managed a bit of very basic beading. Very basic was about all I could handle, and just one of the learning curves I mumbled (and yes, swore) my way through. This leaf called for beads, and thanks to Google and a few books, I fumbled my way through it. I pat these beads each time I go by.


It's hard to believe that this gorgeous journal cover began as a wool blanket rescued from a thrift shop. Washed and felted, cut into size, and put into a packet of goodies...bits of silk, watercolor papers, and more, then opened up in class at Lesley Riley's Red Thread Retreat taught by the wonderful Leslie Marsh.  Twenty some women gathering leaves, immersing them in boiling water or steam, and cooking them for hours, all of it done in a very steady rain. We must have been quite the sight.


It's hard to resist unwrapping them right away, and it's like Christmas day, complete with heart felt oohs and aahs. You never really know what you're going to get. Sometimes, not much of anything, which while there's momentary disappointment, you know that you can over dye it and quite possibly get magic. See the blue leaves? They began as tiny red leaves before nature, some rusty bits, and more lent their magic.


There are 8 sets of signatures in this little book. Each signature holds 4 pages, and the whole thing is bound around gathered sticks. True confession: Being tired, but not willing to wait, I cut my first set of sticks way too short. Finding me wandering through our yard and gathering sticks, my youngest son suggested cutting some of the bamboo growing in the back. I cut them down to size, let them harden up for a few days, and stitched away. The first few signatures nearly proved to be my undoing (Talk about awkward...), but I'd come this far, and by God, this book would be coming together. The whole binding bit is a bit funky, and I love it.


The signatures are eco-printed water color pages done using the immersion method. We layered 4 sets of pages with all sorts of gathered leaves, rolled them around copper pipes, making sure to get good contact, and then wrapped them with string or rubber bands. I'll be adding precious bits here and there - leaves encased in mica, bits of poetry and more. Each page, in time, will let me know what it wants.


I've always loved seeing these fabrics and books, and in a few short weeks, I hope to be doing more. Leaves, I've got. Our heavily treed yard will supply me with more than I could ever use. I need to order more scarves (Christmas presents) and will be on the hunt for old wool blankets to use. I've got a stash of silk and linen bits to play with. I've gathered up old pots to use. Now, as soon as the budget permits, I'll be ordering my camp stove to cook on, and a few other miscellaneous goodies. In the meantime, I'll learn as much as I can about the process, and I'll be dreaming of cooking leaves.