Mini Smoky Mountains

I first picked up these little model railroad figures at a thrift store…and I now I keep a look out for them wherever I go.  Each is about 1/2″ tall and it’s fun to play with the scale of them. That’s all I can think to write about this subject right now….

tiny figures photography - smoky mountain black bears

 

miniature figure photography - acorn in cones #miniature

 

miniature figure photography - acorn lounge chair #miniature

 

miniature figure photography - banjo and grape fanta #miniature

 

 

miniature figure photography - window #miniature

 

The Language of Frogs

Midday it started raining and I just sat in my truck on the bridge to kill time before I was supposed to show up at the used book store. I sat on the passenger side and people probably thought I was waiting on someone but really I was just letting 45 minutes pass. I pulled a book out from under the seat to read a while and thought it was a weird coincidence that the book was Extremely Loud and incredibly Close, a book about September 11. Downtown Bryson City I’ve read that book over and over again but from all different starting points.  Never in order. And parts like the elephant crying get to me because I see things like stonehenge in a plate of potato quarters and I like walking the cemetery at night but get sidetracked trying to piece together broken headstones: Bryson City Cemetery

I took the world into me, rearranged it, and sent it back out as a question: “Do you like me? -Jonathan Safran Foer

Recently I saw a ghost at the cemetery but that’s a story for another day, so back to sitting there reading in the truck: I saw at least four people I knew walk by.  Small town USA. Then I saw a man with a hunting rifle walk by but he’d just come out of the guns and ice cream shop. Totally normal. As I sat there I realized that I could tell when a truck was coming over the bridge, not by the sound it made but by how much the concrete would shake. A freight truck and a beer truck crossed simultaneously and the bridge pretty much went all earthquakey. The speed limit on the bridge is 20 mph but people are always going much faster.

When it’s not raining I like to walk along the shops and the river.  Here it seems like they used to build old buildings against old buildings so when a building comes down sometimes the inside of the building is left on the exterior of the one next door. In other words: if you build the first building you have to build 4 walls…but if you build the 2nd or 3rd etc you only have to build 3 walls.  The wall on the side of the building near the river says PRO with tan, orange and brown racing stripes all the way down the side…it reminds me of a bowling alley, but I don’t think it was. Buford’s Barbershop is on the corner of the bridge across from the “bowling alley”. Everyone swears it’s structurally sound but I’m worried Buford is going to fall in the river one day. Every few days I visually measure the crack between Buford’s place and the flower shop next door to make sure it’s not getting any wider. I’ve only seen Buford cutting hair once or twice. I think he’s only open when he feels like being open. He’s got a TV with rabbit ears and so I look forward to meeting Buford one day…but maybe outside of the barbershop.

At the bookstore I decided to sweep outside and get some of the cobwebs down. While sweeping I ran into a man I’d met at the coffee shop a few weeks ago. He’d been talking about Kerouac and I oddly enough had brought a book of Kerouac’s journals with me (Windblown World). I gave it to him and told him to just drop it back off at the coffee shop when he was done with it. I didn’t even know his name. But then running into him at the grocery store I recognized him and we said hey and he thanked me for the book. And after talking about Kerouac for a few minutes he told me this haiku he’d written. I can’t remember it word for word so I’m butchering it and it probably isn’t even a haiku anymore since I didn’t even think to count the syllables or phrases or whatever a haiku consists of:

Credit or Debit. The girl at the grocery store speaks to me in frog.

Flipping through the old books in the used book store I end up looking for handwriting. I found this little mouse drawn in a book dated 1898. I could tell it was written with a fountain pen: mouse On the next page was this handwritten poem:

Love is painful it is true, but not to love is painful too, But oh! it gives the greatest pain to love and not be loved again.

bookI sold a few books today and bought even more.  They were books I was looking for so I figure that I technically saved money. One of the new employees at the inn stopped by to say hi and I sold him a magazine. Tonight my friends gave me directions to their house and the directions consisted mostly of: turn left at the gas station and right at the huge rock and when you see the chickens you’ve found us.    Walking down to our cottage tonight I dodged a few frogs but spoke to them: credit or debit. credit or debit. Perhaps that’s what they’ve been saying all along.  Accounting 101.

We could imagine all sorts of universes unlike this one, but this is the one that happened. -Jonathan Safran Foer

The Sky is Falling

Today I tried a new table down by the river and I checked underneath like I always do before climbing on top….and there was the largest spider I’d ever seen.  She was upside down on the table, her egg sac carefully wrapped up in her web, and hundreds of little babies were swarming about. Charlotte is very ill. She only has a short time to live. Instead of chasing her away I found my usual table.

The sweat bee came back from a few days ago and brought all of her friends. Swarming they began to take over my personal space and eventually I moved to the bright red picnic table under the walnut tree.  Butternuts were falling like bombs around me.  I was a sitting duck. One of these would have probably knocked me out:

walnut

A man approached me and asked if my truck was for sale.  I told him no. He told me he lived on the Cherokee reservation nearby, and then he told me his life story. Which I thought was awesome….I didn’t even have to ask any questions for once.  His brother and his dog sat near his truck and waited for him to finish talking and eventually I mentioned that to him. He told me his brother was scared of him.  As he left I told him to please be nice to his brother…and he hung his head a little as if he felt guilty all the sudden.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon working in the used book store…and the most important thing I learned is that it is not:

Used Bookstore

but

Used Book Store

Details, shmetails. Until it clicked and I realized we weren’t selling used bookstores.  Obviously in my last post about the book store I didn’t know this difference. I never did that well in English.  After that very important lesson, I spent my time going through 8 boxes of books brought in by the same elderly man. You can tell a lot about someone by the books they read. I think this man must have been a professor once, of history or philosophy….or anthropology.

I saw this rainbow as I drove home last night driving home from the bookstore:

rainbow

 

It doesn’t even look real. When I took it I thought: no one will believe this is real.

Where the River Meets the Lake

I found where the river meets the lake yesterday. Well, actually a friend took Brett and I there. But still, where the river meets the lake. The mouth. The basin. The convergence. All of the roaring and tumbling ends almost instantly.  It’s like it just runs out of steam.

SUP Paddleboards Fontana Lake with Bryson City Outdoors

Our friend Ben from Bryson City Outdoors took us out, dropped off the boards, and gave us a quick paddle boarding lesson before we set out on the lake. I did not take my phone with me…this was taken with a Go Pro (a waterproof one):

SUP (paddle boarding) on Fontana Lake with Bryson City Outdoors

As we paddled we stumbled upon old Hwy 28.  The water is low enough right now that you can see the top of the bridge. Brett paddled through it….I stayed back. Reminds me of What lies Beneath…or the end of the world….what it would be like if we all just disappeared one day. These mountains do tend to emit the feeling of ancient-ness.  (You can read about what’s underneath the lake here).

Hwy 28 on Fontana under water

As we paddled back towards the boat ramp, from a distance, we saw another truck pull up.  Two men backed a truck and boat down the ramp.  They took off to the other side of the lake creating huge wake.  I waved to them and they hesitantly waved back.  And then we realized why:

Brett: They took my shoes.
Me: What? I’m paddling over to them to ask for them back.

He wouldn’t let me.

Me: He has a Jesus fish on the back of his truck. Maybe he actually has a conscience…

I decided to leave a note on the man’s truck instead.  I didn’t accuse him directly, just said if he found a pair of shoes could he please leave them at our church.  God Bless. Hubby is unemployed.  Hope you found some fish. Etc. I signed it something like: from someone who refuses to lose faith in the kindness of humanity.   It just didn’t seem worth more trouble than that.

Me: Desperate people do desperate things.
Brett: I’m over it….he probably needed the shoes more than I did.
Me: You are barefoot. 

And the truth is that we had just had such a wonderful time on the lake, not even stolen shoes could have put a damper on it.

I’m sorry fisher-man.  This is where the river meets the lake. And we came here on purpose.  It’s the lowest spot.  You can’t take us any lower. 

When I placed the note under his windshield wiper, I realized that I’d written the note on the back of one of Boo’s Sunday school drawings: a large heart with the words “God is Love” written in dainty little letters.  I chuckled at the not-so-subtle message I was leaving him. Who knows….maybe the shoes will turn up. Maybe not.  The most awesome thing in the world is that no one can steal my peace and joy from me. And I take all these little snapshots to remind me of that going forward because life has those peaks and valleys.

Late last night, after sending out my Dear Friend letter, I finished watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  I had watched it over a period of two consecutive nights.  A beautiful film and so well done I felt myself in Jean-Do’s claustrophobic diving bell throughout every scene.  My eye began to hurt as I watched him blink out the letters to his manuscript and I vowed I would never forget it for the rest of eternity (or at least for the next day).  A powerful film that I recommend highly. Subtitle alert.  But Jean-Dominique Bauby’s situation was an extreme one, but so many able-bodied people are caught under that Plath-like bell jar.  I know sometimes it may sound like I’m trying to sell life to you….because I am.  Buy into life. Life. Love. God is love. Love your life. Be kind. Do stuff. Let your soul breathe it all in…deeply. And it’s all your story. Her-story. His-story. History. And history:

 
It is the centuries of systematic explorations of the riddle of death, with a view to overcoming death. That’s why people discover mathematical infinity and electromagnetic waves, that’s why they write symphonies. Now, you can’t advance in this direction without a certain faith. You can’t make such discoveries without spiritual equipment. And the basic elements of this equipment are in the Gospels. What are they? To begin with, love of one’s neighbor, which is the supreme form of vital energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And then the two basic ideals of modern man—without them he is unthinkable—the idea of free personality and the idea of life as sacrifice.
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

 

Oh, and I forgot to tell you: this summer I found the beginning of a river.  When we hiked Mt. LeConte: This is where the river begins. It’s being born. The mist begins to condense onto the vegetation and then it begins to drip and then a trickle turns into a stream. As it’s filtered through moss and rock it gets funneled into tiny waterfalls across the trail…which eventually compound into the larger streams below. I imagine that all the veins eventually begin to find each other until they have enough water to form a creek, and the creeks eventually merge into rivers. The water always hurries along, finding it’s way to the lowest point. A very humble trait of water.

 

 

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Something I Read in a Book

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void. -Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Today was my first day volunteering at the Friends of the Marianna Black Library store in downtown Bryson City.  It’s a used bookstore that benefits the local library.  I’ve always wanted to work at a bookstore, especially after watching You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill and The Neverending Story.  Today was really just a training day and I learned how to use a cash register again (it’s been probably 15 years since I used one).  I rang up 2 customers. One of those customers was me…because I bought 6 books on my first day.

Friends of MBL (located right next to Cork & Bean)

Used Bookstore in Bryson City, Friends of Marianna Black Library

Speaking of The Neverending Story…I watched that last night. It was just kinda weird, nothing like I remembered it. Falcor wasn’t the cute doggy dragon I remembered, Atreyu yelled way too much, and the Swamp of Sadness was just a big swamp of sadness.  Sometimes childhood movies should not be revisited. But the whole idea of being lost in a book…well I love that.  I’ve tried to set aside at least an hour a day now just for reading, and then I write. I sat by the river this morning and read a book as I drank a Grape Fanta:

grapefanta

If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger–

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early–

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless–

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won’t understand what Bastian did next.

-Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
  

That quote reminds me of when I read my last Steinbeck novel…I cried closing the last page, because I knew it was the end and no more would ever be written. Or when I read Katherine’s Graham’s Personal History…and I got to the scene in the middle of the book about her husband’s death…I had to close the book and put it away for over a year before I could read the rest. And Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals I’ve read so many times the pages are falling out…and some journals are missing because they were either destroyed or lost and that drives me cuckoo. And when I read them it’s like she’s reading my mind. And so on and so on. And then there’s the whole appeal of a used book…especially the old and tattered ones. There’s something very mysterious about them, there’s something very mysterious about used bookstores in general…especially when they are in the setting of an old historic building, with the original soda fountain stools from years ago. And the treasure hunt! A very young couple today came in looking for Steinbeck. They were staying in the Yurt village for a few days up at the Nantahala Gorge. I loved hearing about their experience in a Yurt. And that all created a flashback to when I once studied Chinese movies in college and we watched Mongolian movies….everyone lived in Yurts. Mongolia may have invented the Yurt.  Someone asked me the other day about daydreaming….how I manage to do it. Learn to lose yourself in books first, then the daydreaming comes easily after that…

…and it could be really awesome in a Yurt.

Which Direction of the Sky Is This

Right down the road from the inn is Darnell Farms. You can’t miss the signs: Free Picnic Area…Bikers Welcome…Farm Tours…Hoop Cheese, Greasy Beans, Cold Drinks….  I have a picnic table by the river I like to sit and write at.  The river has a subtle roar to it, almost like a whisper. The river is always a murky olive right by the shoreline where it slows down and ripples and whirls. Elephant skin, that’s what it looks like. But it quickly erases itself to start again. And tiny leaves float like boats adrift and they are safe until they encounter the treacherous rocks. The trees grow out over the water at a 45 degree angle, defying gravity, and making themselves available for rope swings. And the bridge in the picture? I get to cross that at least twice a day….and I have to catch my breath each and every time…especially when the “smoky” mist is still there in the mornings:

The Tuckaseegee River in Bryson City, NC

It’s a working farm and I love seeing the big John Deer tractors emerge from the field. It doesn’t matter who is driving…they always wave. Right now they are growing tomatoes and peppers:

Fresh Produce from Darnell Farms in Bryson City

They are also growing flowers: mums and sunflowers. But the sunflowers hang their heads in kind of a sad way, at least they look sad to me.  Deflated.  And just a month ago they were harvesting squash. Before that strawberries.  And they are growing corn but that field makes me anxious and I don’t spend a lot of time looking at it. The stalks stand there so straight and narrow, high and mighty, the opposite of the sunflower. Their husky leaves grow straight up to the sky like taunting fingers.  Horror movie anyone?  But this wood shed reminds me of The Boxcar Children so it technically cancels out the Children of the Corn:

The Box Car Children

As I sat there today and wrote this sweat bee kept checking me out…hovering with his tiny beady eyes and invisible wings. He was only as big as a grain of rice. He landed on my arm a few times but I wasn’t sweating so he didn’t stay there long.  Then he landed on my computer and just sat there like he was posing for a picture. A few weeks ago a sweat bee stung me, her stinger getting stuck in my forearm, and the stinger was still attached to her backside. I knew she was a “she” because only the female sweat bees sting. I watched her struggle trying to break free from my forearm and imagined her saying “take that you big meanie.” And I literally felt like a big meanie. So I made friends with this one:

Darnell2

And sometimes I lay on that picnic bench by the river and stare into the blue sky….

Darnell5

….and just let my mind wander:

The sky goes on forever. And ever. And I live on a big, round ball right smack in the middle…because in forever: everything is in the middle. There is no end or edge of anything. And I don’t even know what direction of the sky this is. Is it forever forward or is it forever backward? Is it forever right or is it forever left? And the river reflects the sky, until the water hits the rocks and turns on itself, and breaks the picture into a billion pieces. Forever reflected into forever.  That must involve infinity and fractals and Pi.  And there are like a billion acres making up this ball I live on, and somehow I ended up on this particular one.  That must count for something…

And then I realize I’ve been daydreaming for hours and I’ve been gone all day. And I haven’t really gotten anything done.

But I wrote this.

 

 

The Soul Can Split the Sky In Two

I think the sky is bigger here. I took this tonight as we were driving to a friend’s house:

brysoncity

 

I wrote this in my journal a few weeks ago as we drove the same road:

I’m looking through a wide angle lens.
The clouds billow and plume and stretch to an invisible dome.
Like a snow globe.
Or the Truman Show. 

 

I’m not a poet, so here is an excerpt from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem Renascence:

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat–the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

No higher than the soul is high.

Me thinks….I will never leave this place.

I took this photo right after the one of the sky:

Boo: We get air conditioning when we go fast on the highway.

cheese

Three cheeseburgers wide.

I think that might have to be our Christmas Card photo.

Trainspotting

I rode the train by myself yesterday. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Train Tracks in Bryson City

I was late (and almost missed it) because I chatted with the parking lot attendant too long about how locals with season passes should get free parking….my idea, not his.

I was assigned boarding section 5 and when I asked someone where that was they said:

Well it’s after 4….and if you get to 6 you’ve gone too far.

I never got as far as section 4 because I was forced to board at section 3.  I walked through all the train cars to get to section 5.  When I reached section 5, the woman I sat next to was worried because an older man had just suffered from a heart attack as he boarded.  I told her that luckily the hospital was on top of the hill next to us so he would probably be okay.  She seemed relieved.

At the start of the trip, I bought the $10 book because the man on the train said it was the best thing I would come across all day.  And it was. I sat and followed the map mile marker by mile marker. I slowly learned how to read a topographical map by matching up the scenery outside to what was in the book.  Like this adorable gingerbread farmhouse:

Old Farmhouse in Lower Alarka, Bryson City

I met a couple in their 70’s that were on their honeymoon.  We had a discussion about hickory nuts and pontoon boats. I listened to the train musicians sing an amazing rendition of Rock Me Momma…but then spent 20 minutes contemplating what “rock me momma like a wagon wheel” meant.  A lady with hot pink lipstick asked the musicians to play a song for the newlyweds.  Her mother had matching hot pink lipstick.

At the train’s “intermission” point I ate a huge BBQ sandwich by myself at a picnic table. I threw an animated fit when I brushed a red ant off my neck and the red ant WENT DOWN MY SHIRT.  A couple next to me stopped sipping their cold beers for a second to ask me if I was okay.

I watched a little boy pretend to talk on a police scanner in a foreign language. He had a toy gun in his holster and looked ready to use it.

I refilled my Diet Coke and asked a couple if they would watch it for me so I wouldn’t have to take it into the bathroom.  They looked like my grandparents….and the probability of being roofied at the Nantahala Outdoor Center is very, very low.

I asked three different people what time the train was going to leave. They each replied: when the horn blows.  Well thanks for nothin’….

I walked by the Nantahala River and collected driftwood. I spotted a shoe that had washed up at the bottom of the rapids. I thought about the fact that Deliverance was filmed on the Nantahala.

Nantahala River / Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Stop

I observed a man sitting on a rock in the middle of the river deep in thought.

I restyled my hair using the cool river water.

I walked along the edge of the train in awe of it’s underbelly. I wondered if anyone would survive laying on the track as the train rolled over (i.e. is there enough space for a human underneath). I was tempted to leave a few coins on the track to come back for later.

The train blew it’s 5 minute warning, and I definitely flinched.  I hopped back on, in the wrong car again.

On the way back I eavesdropped on a conversation concerning Ferragamo shoes. They sounded very expensive.

I talked with the man who had been sitting on a rock in the middle of the river and learned he was a landlord in NYC.  I also learned that he used to live in a bus year and years ago that he’d outfitted with a fireplace.  I asked if he still had the bus (because I might be interested in a bus).  He said he had just abandoned it and that someone else was probably enjoying a sweet bus right about now. (Hey Craig!)

The rocking of the train was so peaceful I thought about coming back one day for a nap.

As I got off the train, I saw a house for sale right in front of the depot and thought it would be a great place for a lemonade stand.

It took about 4.5 hours round trip. And that was that.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Departing from Bryson City Railroad

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. -Henry Miller

I do forget myself…but I remember everything else.

 

 

Recent Reclaimed and Upcycled Wood Projects

Brett’s been enjoying a new hobby of making stuff.  I look outside and he has headphones on, his shirt off….the chop saw and nail gun spread all over the driveway. He says it’s therapeutic. He’s constantly picking up discarded wood and old pallets to take apart to make containers, furniture and wood canvases.  A resourceful hobby/hubby:

DIY Upcycled Wood Projects - Rustic home decor ideas

I came home the other day and he had made us some new furniture from a few old wood pallets. He has since added arm rests but I’m too lazy to walk outside and take a new photo:

diy pallet furniture - furniture made from pallets

They are really comfortable! Here’s Boo watching the sunset from her new chair:

diy pallet furniture - pallet patio furniture

 

The signs and posts at the inn were in need of a fresh coat of paint so he spent some of the week working on those to help the innkeepers out a bit as they prepare for their son’s wedding.

Before:

woodysignbefore

After:

woodysign

The rocking chairs are also looking a little tired and are in need of paint.  This little chair is over 35 years old:

chair

I know that because of the photo my mother took of me in it when I was around 3:

chair1982

Inspired by a bench at the Biltmore, he made me this:

bench

These are just cows. Nothing to see here except that Brett took the photo. And I love these cows.

cows

He found an old table and some barn wood and used it to make…..

rustic home decor ideas - reclaimed table to computer desk

This awesome skinny computer desk for me:

DIY rustic home decor ideas - reclaimed old table to computer desk

The desk today:

rustic flea market style computer desk - DIY project

He’s cut me lots and lots of wood to make things with. Like this “Mountain Dew” painting:

How to make a hand painted rustic sign

 

And these “Mr and Mrs” signs for the inn’s wedding coming up:

mr and mrs handpainted barn wood signs for rustic wedding

And just one more for today….this old sign was rotting on one side and ready for the dump.  I saw a little potential in it:

oldsign

Brett cut it off and secured the remaining top pieces and now it hangs above our fireplace:

rustic industrial home decor

It feels good to get creative again.  I’ve been itching to do some painting again too and Brett has made me a ton of small wood pieces that are just sitting there waiting for me.  Now I just need the inspiration to hit.

I Can’t Say No To Jesus or Mayonnaise

I love finding little places like this:

I think everything in here came from my childhood home.

Stuff n Such Thrift Store Shopt in Whittier

I tend to show a lot of restraint when it comes to buying things but sometimes I cave when it comes to artwork….like when I saw this embroidered Jesus portrait.  Really, it wasn’t my fault…the “lion mane” hair hypnotized me:

Jesus Art and Vienna Sausage by The Crafty Cowboy

The Vienna Sausage painting that hangs above Jesus was a piece I picked up a few weeks ago.  I was in Gainesville and came across a disabled vet selling his paintings.  At first I was drawn to the Duke’s Mayonnaise clock…and then I got to know the artist and listened to his story and, well, I just ended up buying half his tent:

Artwork by The Crafty Cowboy

 The Crafty Cowboy

The mayonnaise clock hangs above my desk.  (I just realized I haven’t shared photos of how we’ve decorated our cottage yet….I’ll try to get to that!)

Mayonnaise Clock by The Crafty Cowboy

I figure I’m just building an amazing art collection to donate to the Getty or the MoMA one day.  I don’t even like mayonnaise…or Vienna Sausage.  But I do like Jesus. And he has a-may-zing hair.  It all evens out in the name of great art.

Oh, I also picked up these tiny “caution” cones for 25 cents.  The squirrels above our house have been pelting me with acorns. I confiscated one….not that it will make any difference to them.

acorns and cones

I wanted to buy these from a box on the side of the road but luckily another lady beat me to them:

puppies for sale in Bryson City

Just kidding. Diesel is an only dog.  But…Donna says there are miniature pot bellied pigs for sale nearby.  I’m going to have to take a look. Just a look.

 

 

 

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