Sunday, December 29, 2013

Come with me to a place down home

There is a place, in my dreams and daytime imaginings, down yonder in the hills of home where the whippoorwill's forlorn cries sing counterpoint to the hum and buzz of cicadas. A place not so very far from my hometown of Beloved, just up the road from OZ and not so very far from Brigadoon. Way up a holler you'll find this place after you cross through two shallow creeks and over a low water bridge. You'll know you are goin' down the right road when you see an ol' swingin' bridge crossin' the river and an ol' red barn proudly remindin' you to "Chew Mail Pouch".

Down at the end of the road is a holler wrapped round the place in my dreams. The hills on either side rise up with the worn look of all mountains in Appalachia. Full of red an' white oaks, tall pines an' here an' yonder are sourwood trees aburden with blooms. Bees are a workin' the sourwood as you pull up an you can hear the constant buzz as they carry away the sweet sourwood nectar. Spring has filled the mountains with promise.

An ol' dog rises up in the yard to see who it is an' drops right back down, too worn out to make a fuss. On the edge of the hill chickens scratch an' whisper "cuck a cluck" as they seek out bugs an worms in the dirt.

There is a short white fence with gate wide open, more for looks than keepin' anyone out or in. Ramblin' roses follow along the fence, new red blossoms are layin' agin the white fence.

The ol' log cabin don't look so big from the front, but it fools folks when they see it. It is deep inside and wide open so those within can sit an' talk an' visit. Though it is still daylight you see lights in each window that welcome and wait for those who might be tryin' to get home.

Inside the front is open with plenty of chairs, love seats an' couches for folks to find a place an' rest their bones. A fire is already goin' in the stone fireplace an' you smell soup as soon as you walk in. Books rest on 'bout every table, a fiddle, banjo an' a couple guitars sit in stands. A couple dulcimers stand in a corner as if a band just walked away. You know somehow that they are there for you to pick up an' strum if you can.

Though the front room is warm and welcoming, you make your way to the big eat in kitchen where  Oh My Darlin' is busy with buttery rosemary yeast rolls in cast iron skillets. Mismatched soup bowls are stacked high on the counters an' soup spoons rest in mason jars. I am at the stove with a huge pot of soup foggin' my readin' glasses. I turn an' see you an' both of us stop to come over an' hug your neck. Others stand to greet you with hugs an' introductions an' the kitchen fills with joyful laughter as new friends become old friends, friendships are renewed as you find that one person you know an' love that was waitin' for you to arrive.

You just know it is goin' to be a wonderful weekend, filled with music an' stories, good food, laughter, maybe some bittersweet tears shared over a memory or remembrance of those gone home to glory. The basket full of goodies an' meal fixin's you brought are fetched out of your car and put away as a cup of coffee is put into your hands.

You warm your hands on the coffee and are invited to look around. As you look around you see that there are fewer bedrooms than folks an' wonder about where everyone will sleep... especially you as you seem to be one of the last to arrive. Yes, each room is laid out with huge featherbeds loaded down with beautiful old quilts. There are a few couches that could be recruited as a bed, but you suspect folks will have to sleep on the floor. It is a wonderful day, however an' you decide you will take whatever piece of floor offered to you.

Warm soup an' them rosemary rolls fill every belly an' folks settle down as guitars an' fiddle are taken up. Dulcimers find laps an' that ol' banjo is tuned up. An old feller pulls out a harmonica an' plays a mournful mountain tune. Others join in an' those that know the song join in. Oh My Darlin' opens an ottoman an' pulls out well worn songbooks, turns to the right page an' hands you a book.

Oh, we all wish that night would never end as stories are told, songs played an' sung, faces about to crack from laughin' an' smilin' so much. It is finally time to turn in. I accuse folks of bein' sorry ahead of time, knowin' sunrise come early in the mountains an' I plan on all of us hikin' to the ridge to see the sunrise. I hand out lanterns an' flashlights in preparation for the hike an' you ask where you can unroll a sleepin' bag you always keep in your car.

Folks chuckle at your question an' I take you by the arm an' tell you I'll take you to your sleepin' place. As we go to an' through the back door you get a worried look, wonderin' if I intended for you to sleep in the barn or on the back porch.

Others follow an' stand around, waitin' as I point into the holler an' up the hill. All around are lights strung in the trees that are filled with buds an' new leaves. The strings of lights are illuminatin' several elevated walkways and miniature swingin' bridges leadin' up high into the trees. Forty an' fifty feet an' more you see five small tree houses wrapped around ancient oaks an' hickory trees. Lights are on in each one an' folks are already walkin' toward them with bags an' suitcases. Each tree house is between 15 and 30 feet in the canopy of trees. The lights strung throughout the trees make the scene look like an Appalachian Fairy Land. You look around, expectin' to see elves peekin' from the trees.

Some of the tree houses have bunk beds, one bigger tree house has three sets of bunk beds, another has two ol' iron beds. All have featherbeds fluffed high an' covered with quilts, just invitin' folks to rest. Right in the center is a tree house with no beds but with a sink an' even runnin' water! Yep, there is even a compostin' toilet in there so you don't have to wander all the way to the cabin in the middle of the night.

You find a place to lay your head an' find that the day has left you and your roommates wide awake. You tell stories as each lay in bed too excited to sleep. Sleep finally sneaks in but all to soon I knock at the door, telling everyone that coffee is on, bathrooms are available an' "dawn won't wait for y'all!".

With travel mugs in hand we all make our way to the top of the ridge in the dark. Our lanterns an' flashlights bob along to illuminate our path but all are extinguished at the top. There are planks elevated on rocks so folks can sit an' sip their coffee as we wait real quiet like, as if a show is about to begin. Whispered comments are met with smiles an' muffled laughter.

Then it begins. You know then and appreciate why we chose that spot to live our lives together, Oh My Darlin' and me. Not jealous, but wishin' you too could stay there for the rest of your days, knowin' we were blessed. The wind is gentle as it pushes through the trees. Birds begin to wake, a couple squirrels bounce an' dance through last fall's leaves. Down the hill a deer walks cautiously along a path, stoppin' to nibble at new blades of greenery.

The sunrise is glorious with bright yellow, oranges and reds. The sky is so dark along the ridges but graduates to the purest silver blue high in the heavens. No one speaks for ever so long as we watch the glory of the mountains. Oh, what a grand day we have been given.

Together we walk back down an' begin preparin' a breakfast of cat head biscuits, dozens of fresh eggs gathered from our hens, ham, sausage an' bacon, country gravy peppered just right, fresh fruit in bowls, a deep dish of pears an peaches comes out of the oven, each one sprinkled with cinnamon and dabbed with butter. An ancient bowl is filled with fried apples that make your mouth water. Large pitchers of milk from our neighbor's dairy sit in bowls of ice. Over to one side a feller shows off his muscles as he squeezes fresh orange juice for all. There are grits, of course an' maple syrup an' fresh churned butter. Two coffee pots simmer on the stove, Tea cozys cover tea pots for those that choose tea. Of course there is sourwood honey, robbed back last fall from my four hives just out back by the sourwood trees.

We eat and sit forever at the long table. No one wants to get up, each enjoys the magic of good company. We laugh, remember, tell tales on each other an' finally smile as someone says, "That reminds me of a story...".

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