Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Blue Highways

In 1982 American travel writer and historian William Least Heat-Moon wrote a book called Blue Highways: A Journey into America about his 13,000 mile journey across the United States, as much as possible on secondary roads, trying to avoid cities.
These secondary roads were called blue highways because on the old-style maps they were drawn in blue and the main roads drawn in red. 
Living out of his van, William Least Heat-Moon traveled these secondary roads to find places untouched by fast food chains and interstate highways, "those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi."
Interstate highways have made travel much easier in this country, but for this convenience we have paid a price.  Food chains and motels along the interstate are very similar in all states.  A Big Mac tastes much the same in Connecticut as it does in California.  We often see little of the local people, the local customs, the local food unless we get off the interstates.
I live very near what would have been a red highway on the old maps.  It was a main thoroughfare from points north to Florida not too many years ago.  Now it is seldom used by any except local traffic.
When I travel in our country I still like to get off the main highways, to taste the local food and see the local culture.
Quote is from Blue Highways

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My Two Favorite Sports: Golf and Football

Actually, I’ve never been on a golf course, except to stroll on one I once lived beside.  I’ve never tried to play the game.  And I don’t remember the last time I watched a football game of any kind.  If we’re talking about all the way through, maybe never.  My daughters and I, when they were young teenagers, did try to watch the Super Bowl once.  Everyone else was doing it.  So we had ourselves a little Super Bowl party.  But my younger daughter and I fell asleep.  My oldest daughter was so disgusted with us.

So why do I like these sports so much?  To be more precise, the football would have to be Vanderbilt football—and Vanderbilt basketball.    These are the sports I like because they’re my husband’s sports.  He plays golf at least once a week and has season’s tickets to all of Vanderbilt’s home games, both football and basketball.  So it keeps him out of the house.

This in no way means that I don’t like my husband’s company.  I enjoy it very much.  I had been divorced a number of years when I met him and had no plans to remarry.  But we clicked right away and have been very happy ever since.  When we met, we were living in different cities and would communicate, often, by phone and emails.  He still reminds me that in one of the first emails I sent him I told him I was the type of person who needed a lot of time alone.  Somehow, I thought that was something he should know about me.  

I was a member of a large family as a child and had many cousins and siblings to play with.  I was especially close to my younger sister, and we played together every day, all day.  One day we were playing together in the woods surrounding our home when I slipped away from her and climbed a large poplar tree, all the way to the top.  I closed my eyes and let the wind sway me back and forth, enjoying the solitude.  I was quite annoyed when my little sister kept calling for me to come down.
I still sometimes just yearn for solitude.  One of the things I appreciate most about my husband is that he has always accepted and respected this personality trait.  And I really try to listen politely when he tells me about his golf game.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Harvesting Black Walnuts

Fall is beginning to come here on our hill in Tennessee.  Leaves are falling already, and our woodpiles are stocked.  So it's about time to start picking up walnuts.  We've done this every year since we moved here.  Most people don't fool with picking up walnuts, so there is an abundance every year left for the squirrels.  It's an activity that we enjoy doing together each year though. 

We have a few walnuts trees on our property but the easiest place for us to find them is down at the end of Buck Graves Road.  There are several walnut trees growing on the right of way there, so we usually walk down and pick up sacks full of them.  We leave the sacks lying there on the ground and stop and pick them up when we're there with one of our vehicles.  No one has ever bothered them lying there.  Most people don't even bother to steal black walnuts.  Perhaps because they are a little difficult to hull. 
To hull the walnuts we crush the outer green husks and remove it with our hands.  It is important to use good gloves to do this because they will stains your hands if you don't do this.  Black walnuts were used by early settlers for dying.  They are still used if a natural dye is preferred. 

After we hull the walnuts, we spread them out to dry.  After they've dried a couple of weeks we crack the nuts with our nutcracker that's designed to crack hard nuts.  We bought this nutcracker the first year we moved here and it's really been a good investment.  It would be very hard to crack these without this type of nutcracker. 

After we crack the nuts we store them in the freezer and use them for cooking all through the year.

How Do We Get to Wadovice?

About a year after the death of John Paul II, my husband and I spent a few months in Warsaw, Poland.  We spoke little English, but in the Warsaw train station there was an English speaking office where we could purchase our tickets, with a discount for seniors, for train travel.  So on weekends when we weren’t working, we’d often get on the train and visit a different part of Poland.  It was a wonderful experience. 

Not long before we left Poland, we spent about a week working in Krakow.  While there we wanted to travel to some of the areas around Krakow, but in this train station there were very few employees who spoke much English.  Since I was a little better at the pronunciation of Polish words than my husband, it fell to me to communicate with personnel at the train station.  To do this I would take the train schedule and write down “Krakow > Czestochowa”. 

This worked well until we wanted to go visit Wadowice, the home of John Paul II.  When I wrote down “Krakow > Wadowice”, the woman at the desk kept shaking her head “no”, and saying something about a bus.  So we left without a ticket. 

“But it’s on the schedule”, I kept telling my husband.   It was just a communication problem, I decided.  Not one to give up, we went back the next morning.  The woman who had told us “no” the day before was not there, and when I wrote down “Krakow > Wadowice”, we got a ticket.  The employee on the previous day, I decided, had not known what she was talking about.

 So we headed out on the train to Wadowice, a distance of a little over 30 miles.  When we were out of Krakow a few miles, though, the train stopped and everyone except me and my husband were getting off the train.  Since we had not arrived in Wadowice and we had tickets to Wadowice, my husband and I just sat there—until the conductor, who spoke little English and saw that we spoke little Polish, came to tell us something about a bus.  So we exited the train and saw all the other passengers getting on a bus and the train tracks being worked on.  Could this have been what the woman at the train station was trying to tell us the previous day? 

It was a lovely drive through the countryside of Poland, though, that ended in Wadowice.  And we visited the home of John Paul II as we had planned.  After visiting the museum, we went to a local café for lunch—the Paradise Café.  We’re from Tennessee and we’re sitting by the window in the Paradise Café overlooking the square of the small town in Poland that was the birthplace of John Paul II.  There was music playing during our lunch, but we paid little attention to it until we heard the strands of “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” by Tammy Wynette.  I don’t know if John Paul would have approved or not, but we found it very amusing.  Then we looked at each other and said, “Now, how do we get back to Krakow?”

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tooling to Tula

When I was a child, my father liked to take us on imaginary trips.  “We’ll get up in the morning,” he’d begin, then describe in detail our whole day, from where we’d stop for breakfast to where we’d spend the night.  

My father loved to travel but never had the opportunity to do much of it.  These imaginary trips may have been some consolation for him, and they instilled in me at an early age a love for travel.  That may be the reason I still love a road trip.

My husband and I travel frequently now, and because we have a family member who works for an airline, we usually fly.  That, too, can be exciting.  But when we booked a cruise out of New Orleans recently, I suggested we drive to New Orleans from our home in Tennessee even though we could have flown for free.  We planned to visit Oxford, Mississippi on our way there.

Both of us had been English majors in college; my husband had taught English for about forty years, and had completed a dissertation on William Faulkner;  both of us have been life-long readers.  So Oxford, Faulkner’s home, was a logical stop for us.

Besides Faulkner, Oxford has been the home of several other renowned writers, among them one of my favorite writers, Larry Brown.  

Brown is best known for his novels and short stories, but he also wrote a couple of acclaimed non-fiction books.  One of them is called Billy Ray’s Farm.  It is a collection of essays, one of which is about his son Billy Ray’s attempts to begin farming on the family farm near Tula, Mississippi which is just outside of Oxford.

So I loaded a recent biography of Brown and Billy Ray’s Farm on to my Kindle and off we went.
We planned to visit New Orleans and the Western Caribbean, but I suspected that Tula, Mississippi might be the highlight of my trip.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Living on the Hill

I've owned this little plot of land I live on since 1998.  I was in the area when I was planning and working on my daughter's wedding.  She was living in Nashville and planning to have her wedding in a little Methodist church outside of Nashville.  My friend who was living in Bowling Green, Ky. was helping us with the wedding.  One day after my daughter left for work, I was driving from Nashville to Bowling Green and decided to make a slight detour and come by a couple of places where I had once lived. 

When I was in high school my father had been the pastor at a little Methodist church near where I now live and my family had lived in a parsonage there.  I always called it the pink house because the brick on the house had a pinkish cast.  But it was a place where our family had been happy.  It was the last house we lived in where we were all under one roof. 

Before we lived in this little pink parsonage we had lived in Kentucky, not too far away.
After I left the pink house I decided to go through the country to the place in Kentucky where we had previously lived near my grandparents' farm.  I took the back road, a short cut thru I knew from living here previously. 

For several years I had been debating the idea of finding a place in the country.  I had not lived in the country since I had left this area.  I had lived primarily in Nashville and then for the 30 years prior to this day, in Chattanooga.  But I was getting ready to retire and, in planning my life after retirement, I had thought I would like to find a little place in the country.  I had been thinking about this for several years before this time and reading books about living in the country.  It greatly appealed to me.  Still does.

So when I saw the real estate sign for this property, I made a slight detour to look at it from my car.  From there I drove on to my friend's house in Bowling Green.  It so happened that she was a real estate agent.  She made inquiries for me about the property and before too many weeks passed I had gone to see the property and purchased it. 

Then I had to decide what I wanted to do with it, and that has been the story of my life ever since.  I brought it as a whim, but it has become a passion.  There is seldom a day when I'm not working on this land and house in some way to make it a more desirable and inviting place to live. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Becoming Leonardo

Later I mentioned this to her.  "No," she asserted.  "That’s not what I’m going to do.  I’m going to be Leonardo da Vinci."
Interesting, I thought.
Later I shared this little story with her mother who said she had told her she was going to be ‘The Queen.’
When her mother told her becoming the Queen might be difficult she confidently assured her mother she knew it would be a lot of hard work, but she thought she could do it.
Who knows how many things she will dream about before she must actually make these decisions about which directions her life will take.  Now, I just enjoy listening to the dreams.
There is one job that I hope she has one day, though, and that is being a grandmother.  It’s one of the most delightful things I have done thus far.