Patchwork Hearts

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I had been waiting to share this story on the first day of spring. But due to travel, I missed it by a day. Oh well, happy spring!

 

 

Patchwork Hearts

Growing up, I always wanted the same kind of life my parents had. Their love for one another was like a river, to an observer it looked calm and maybe even boring but just underneath the surface it was powerful, with a current strong enough to carry them through every rock and obstacle they encountered. Together they ran the farm, raised five children and had enough love for everyone.

I was a bit of an odd child but my parents never treated me as such. I spent a lot of time with the animals on the farm and a lot of time with my mom in the kitchen. Cooking was her favorite thing to do for her family and I found it peaceful to watch her work. I’d sit and talk with her while she pitted cherries and rolled out dough, stealing little tastes here and there. My brothers and sisters always seemed to be doing something else. I was never outgoing enough to keep up with them. It didn’t bother me though, I always spent my time exactly where I wanted to spend it.

One day, when I was about nine or ten I noticed odd, fuzzy, colors on my mom’s chest. I thought at first she had spilled something on her shirt. When I asked her about it she had no idea what I was talking about and looked down at her blouse repeatedly trying to dust off whatever she thought I was seeing. I thought maybe something was wrong with my eyes and told her to nevermind.

Throughout the day my brothers and sisters wondered through the house and I saw nothing strange on them, but when my dad came in I was shocked to see the same fuzzy colors on his chest, exactly the same as mom’s. I didn’t speak of it and for weeks I just watched. The colors never faded or changed and over time I began to see colors in front of other people. It was years later when I realized I was seeing love.

My older sister began dating a boy when she was seventeen and I saw new colors start to appear on her chest just over her heart. Not long after, whenever her boyfriend came by I saw the same colors and pattern forming on his heart as well. I observed their relationship quietly and watched as their colors became brighter until one day when hers started to fade and new colors began to form in another place on her heart as she fell in love with someone else. Each love left its mark.

I knew people with multiple colors on their hearts from many loves had and lost, and so the day I saw the fuzzy hue of pink and violet forming on the chest of my best guy friend I knew he was falling in love with me. I hesitated to let our love grow because I had made it known I wanted to stay close to where I grew up and run my own farm as my parents had done. He on the other hand had always dreamed of being a business man in a city away from the Appalachian mountains we called home. In spite of our concerns, our love deepened and when he proposed he assured me he would be happy on a farm as long as he was with me. And for a while, he was.

It seemed like everything we tried to do was an uphill battle. Getting the loan for the farm was a nearly insurmountable feat, as was restoring the old farmhouse we bought. Then working the land itself. Bills piled up faster than the crops could grow but I stayed optimistic. I was so sure our love would see us through this rough patch of life and once we were through it, happiness was just around the corner.

Even though times were hard we still loved each other and through that love, we had two daughters who brought me joy like I had never known. Along with joy though, children bring responsibility and a need for steady income. My husband worked hard on the farm spending daylight to darkness working his fingers to the bone, sometimes almost literally. Anytime I tried to help him in the fields or barn he sent me back to the house, saying that work wasn’t cut out for me. I appreciated the concern but I knew I wasn’t as fragile as he believed.

It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over years. It happened so slowly I was able to steady myself for it coming. I watched the colors of his love for me slowly fade as he began to resent me. I had my contentment in our daughters, but he was always out on the farm and his little time with us was spent hurridly gulping down meals or falling asleep in his chair before bed. This was never the life he wanted. Maybe I should have tried harder to make him love me again, but I didn’t. Maybe I should have told him to leave sooner. But I thought I couldn’t make it without him and so I watched his love for me die and I let it, until one day when our colors were just a scrap of what once was.

I wasn’t surprised when one morning I woke up in an empty bed. He was often out and gone when I got up in the mornings, but this morning something was different.

I started the coffee pot and looked in on the girl’s they were up already playing with their dolls.

“Have you all seen your dad?” I asked.

They told me he came in their room and kissed them on the head before daylight. It was what woke them up.

A short time later, a knock at the door confirmed my suspicion. It was Hal, one of our farm hands. He was wondering if my husband was sick since he hadn’t made it outside yet. I did my best to choke back my tears but a single one escaped and rolled down my cheek.

I was quiet for a minute as I thought about what to say, what to do. I straightened my spine and pulled back my shoulders and did the only thing I could do.

“Hal,” I said. “He’s not here, and I don’t think he’s coming back. I need you to show me how to run the farm.”

His eyes widened with surprise and he started to apologize. I put my hand up and shook my head.

“I’ll be fine.” I said as the last tear I would shed over my husband slipped down my cheek.

The first two weeks were the hardest. My body wasn’t used to that kind of work and it ached in ways I didn’t think possible. My hands were calloused and bloody, my neck sunburnt and my back was in knots, but I made it through.

When the girls weren’t in school they usually came outside to play and talk with me or Hal while we worked. Whenever they asked about their dad I just told them he was gone and they never asked anything more, they were old enough to understand.

One evening I realized they hadn’t been outside that day to visit. I had heard them giggling and making a racket in the house so I knew they were fine, it was just odd they hadn’t been out. So I finished up my work and went inside. To my astonishment the house was clean and dinner was on the table.

My girls smiled and fixed me a plate. “We thought if you were having to do dad’s job, we should do yours.”

I stood there staring at my beautiful daughters and cried. I wasn’t missing a husband, I wasn’t missing anything.

One morning, a couple of months later, I finally recieved “the papers”. I stood by the tractor while I read them. He let me have the farm, house, and everything that went with it. The amount of child support he agreed to was less than I deserved but I’d be happy to get it, so I signed just to be finished with the whole thing. I was hurt and angry. So much was left unsaid, but it was too late now.

It was once again the time of year to plant the flower bulbs of lillies and tulips for the greenhouse that opened in the spring. This had been the one part of the garden I had tended to every year. This year, I was having trouble digging the holes for the bulbs. The ground seemed more rocky and hard than usual. Nearly exhausted after digging three holes, I still had rows and rows to go. I stopped to wipe the sweat from my brow and heard Hal’s voice behind me.

“You’re fighting the earth, you have to work with it.” He said. He knelt down beside me and took my tools. He gently dug hole after hole for me with ease and I followed along behind him dropping in the bulbs.

“You have to think about working with the elements, the earth, rain, sun, how they all nourish the things we plant and harvest and how we appreciate that. If you fight against the elements, like you have some kind of control, they’ll fight you back.” He laughed.

That was the first moment I really looked at Hal. I had known him at least ten years but now instead of a farm hand, I saw something else. Every morning since my ex-huband left Hal had shown up at my door, coffee in hand, to show me how to run this place. I had made his days longer and work harder but he never once complained.

After we finished planting the flower bulbs I walked over and hugged him. He was caught by surprise to say the least. He half laughed but hugged me back.

“Thank you.” I said and kept my arms tight around his neck.

“Why, you’re welcome. You would’ve gotten the hang of all this eventually.” He said.

“Maybe, but you have made it so much easier for me and the girls.”

“You and your girls are my favorite people.” He said.

Slowly, I began to fall in love with the farm again like I had when I was a child on my parents farm. Once I knew how everything was supposed to run and the money started coming in, even more than before, I relaxed. The girls pitched in wherever they could before school and they came to love living there just like I did.

I woke up every morning and had my coffee on the porch with Hal and we’d talk about the things we needed to do for the day. Sometimes we’d sit quietly and breathe in the fresh scent of the garden and damp coolness of the dew. If you were up early enough, you could watch a light mist hover over the grass as the sun rose up behind the barn. There was a stillness and magic to our farm that I never tired of.

One morning Hal sat across from me and for the first time I saw his heart, maybe it was just the first time I truly looked. There were several faded colors and patterns of love in his past and a new one growing.

I felt a heat in my own chest spreading up to my face at the idea it could be me he was falling in love with. But I wasn’t sure it was about me, and I didn’t know how to ask. So I did the last thing I would expect myself to do. I told him about what I could see. I told him about it all from the very beginning and being in the kitchen with mom, to watching my husband’s love for me die. And I told him how every love leaves it’s mark on the heart. When I was finished he sat thoughtfully for a minute and then laughed.

“If every love leaves a mark, my heart probably looks like a patchwork quilt.” He said. There was no judgement, no disbelief, he just sat and sipped his coffee.

I reached over and took his hand, my fingers curling around his. He nodded without ever looking right at me and said. “You can see it, can’t you?” He smiled.

I moved in a little closer to him and laid my head on his shoulder. “I love you too.”

Hal and I grew a love on that farm that was as strong as my mom and dad’s. The next spring, when all the flowers he had helped me plant were in full bloom we were married by the garden. He loved my girls like his own and oh, how they loved him. In time we had a son and then our family was complete. Our patchwork hearts were complete, painful scraps of memories stitched together with faith and hope then finished with love.

 

Mountain Mother

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The mountains are our mother, ever fixed and strict. She teaches us the hard lessons, the pain of birth and death. She makes us earn the roof over our head and the food in our belly through the sweat and blood of a hard days work. She teaches us the unfairness of life by the crop destroying heavy rains and drought.

She sings us to sleep with her gentle winds and distant calls of whipporwhills. She teaches us gratitude when we can sit in the porch rocker at the end of the day and simply be. She teaches us to persevere just as the tiny creeks flow and carve out deeper trenches through the ancient rock that is her foundation.

She gives us rich soil and woods full of herbs to heal what is broken. And when all hope is lost, she reminds you to turn to the Creator of it all.

We grow up saying we can’t wait to get out from under her watchful eye and her scolding switch. When we leave, we find nothing can bring us comfort like she gave. And so, we return. No longer taking for granted her little joys and lessons we once would have scoffed or overlooked.

Those who leave and never return were never hers to begin with. Not truly, for those of us who go back through all our generations know this where our blood started and this is where it will someday end. We will one day feed her with our blood and bones just as she has fed us.

She is our mountain mother who has watched over us with her bowed back and worn hands. She has sacrificed for us, she has let us tear the coal from her body and the trees from her dress so we could live. And as any mother, she loves us, she holds us tightly to her protective breast and when we leave, she lets us know we will always have a home back here with her.

 

Some of us just know

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Some of us just know. We grew up believing in the monsters in the closet and the fairies in the garden like most children. The difference is as adults we just learned to stop talking about them, not believing.

We know the twinkle of lights that catch our eye is not seen by everyone or that the fluttering of a single leaf on a tree is where a fairy is playing. We know by the feel of the breeze if it is signaling a change of weather or if it’s bringing something in or blowing it out. We feel the change of seasons like electricity before the first snowflake falls or first crocus blooms. And try as we might to ignore the nagging whisper of “something’s not right here” it inevitably comes to pass with a much louder “told you so.”

Whether it’s the voice of God, the universe, or our own intuition, it’s there.

Two of my most vivid memories as a child were pretending I was in another realm with the fairies and dressing up as a fortune teller in my grandmother’s long colorful skirts and scarves with a globe from a light fixture as my crystal ball. I have no idea where either of those ideas came from at such a young age.

In the mystery and horror television shows I loved to watch I never wanted to be the main character, I always wanted to be the witch or little old woman who lived way back in the woods. I wanted that wisdom, to know what people needed before they ever even asked.

I’m not the little wise woman in the woods yet, but I’m working on it.

I feel sorry for those who can’t see the nearly invisible web of life around them. How everything is connected, and nothing is coincidence. How there is magic hovering in the air, in the earth, and inside of every living being, just waiting to be tapped into and used to help us through this confusing existence. You have to believe in the wonders of the world to see them, otherwise you will miss out on so many miracles.

 

Houses Hung With Memories

Change is inevitable, so is death. I try to accept them both with grace.  It’s with a sad sense of acceptance I drive past places that once meant the world to me, realizing memories is all they now hold. Each year there are fewer chairs around the family table and life moves on.

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Houses hung with memories

Rooms with nothing left to show

Pieces of love left forgotten,

Of a time not so long ago

Emptiness casts a shadow

Over what were once happy times

Stories etched within the wood grain

Some of them yours, some are mine

If these walls could talk

What would they say?

Would they speak of happier days?

Of laughter ringing through the rooms,

Of children out to play

Or would they stand cold and silent?

Holding on to the sadness and the loss

From having been too long in the quiet

Life once thrived within these walls

They held love and tears, sure and true

But new turns to old

And old must die

To make room for the new

Lets not forget the memories here

Of family and friends, never alone

The good old days, when all of us were near

When this empty house was once a home

 

A Day of Inspiration

cumberland gap I’ve been busy lately.  Busy writing, busy selling books (or trying to), busy planning for Christmas and as always busy looking for inspiration.

A few weeks ago I woke up in need of inspiration. I’ve learned I get my best ideas when I get away from the house and get outside. I checked my phone to see it was going to be a beautiful, warm day, a true rarity for southwest Virginia in December.  My husband agreed to my spontaneous Sunday adventure so off we went to Cumberland Gap.

Cumberland Gap is only about an hour drive from our house and if I had it my way I’d live right downtown. The little town is simply adorable and incredibly rich with history. We did some hiking along my favorite trail and although I had forgotten how much of the walk was uphill, it was exactly what I needed to refresh my desire to write. In fact there is one particular spot along the trail that gave me the idea for the book I’m currently working on.

There must be something special about that one area to inspire an entire book. I told my husband as I stood there I wasn’t sure if the story was coming all from my imagination or if secrets of the land were revealing themselves to me. Either way it’s a pretty awesome feeling. Ever since our walk I’ve been writing like crazy.

We were very lucky that day. The weather was so lovely, some animals came out to enjoy the sunshine as well. We walked right by some deer that were eating among the leaves and made a path around a tiny little snake getting warm on a sunny rock. I always consider animal sightings to be a wonderful thing.

Along the trail there are many other incredibly beautiful places; a little wooden bridge where you can stand over the water flowing down from the mountainside, an old salt cave, and the hand built iron furnace.

Once hiking has made you good and hungry you can walk into town and eat at Angelo’s, a fabulous little Italian restaurant with a charming, cozy atmosphere. It’s one of my favorite places to eat, ever.

We have to take inspiration where we can get it. There are a few places where I always know I can find my muse hanging out. If you have a place that makes you feel that way, appreciate it and go there whenever you can.

Three Years from Now..

I love writing fiction. I am never at a loss of stories to tell (with my writing, not out loud!) and characters to explore. However when it comes to writing ideas for my blog I am at a total loss. I could ramble about the goings on in my life, story ideas, herbs and lifestyle things but there would be no real rhyme or reason to it and I just don’t feel like it would be that interesting. So I had an idea. Many years ago I bought a book and card set meant to be used for journaling. I did use it for a while and enjoyed the process. The set is called Book of Exploration by Charlene Geiss and Claudia Jessup. You randomly choose a card with a writing prompt, then read the corresponding book page before journaling.  I decided once a week I will pull a card from the deck and that will be the subject of my blog. Here goes nothing.

The card I drew is Three Years from Now.

The things you do or don’t do today are the seeds you are planting for tomorrow.

First of all I would be pretty ok if not much changes in my life in three years. Life is never perfect but mine is good and I’m grateful. Nothing would make me happier than spending my time writing, decorating, tending to gardens all the around the house and doing fun things with my family.  I have hopes my book/s will be successful but I don’t need to be rich and famous. I would like to travel and do a few book signings though, that would be pretty amazing. But three years ago I couldn’t have imagined I would be where I am, so it’s my hope three years from now life will be more incredible than I can picture.

I feel I’m on the right path and I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing. I want to continue to plant seeds of success and happiness because as far as I’m concerned I already have both.

“Life is a promise; fulfill it.” Mother Teresa