Take a Picture in Your Mind

Last night as we drove home the sun was this huge glowing orb as it set. I was trying to get a photo of it when Boo piped up and said:

I’m going to take a picture of this sunset in my mind.

Every day Max and Diesel hurry out into the sunshine. When I ask them to come back in they simply ignore me, pointing their faces up to the sunshine:

maximus

 

I love how content they look. It makes my heart swell up every time. Funny how much I learn from them.

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

What Happened When I Stopped Watching the News

I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my pursuit after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. -Gandhi

I used to have a certain news channel playing on my TV all the time. Literally all. day. long.

And I felt a lot of anger.

And frustration.

And suspicion.

But then, about 2 years ago, I decided to stop cold turkey. I decided to stop watching the news all together.

The idea was partially planted when, at the church we were attending at the time, I began feeling as if nothing felt right anymore. My conscience was seriously conflicting with my faith. And I felt like there was this sense of fear being spread, not so much by the pastors, but by influential groups in the congregation. Once, when I questioned the path the church was taking I was told: We are not libertarian congregationalists. And that was followed by: Maybe you need some theology classes. I didn’t exactly know what a libertarian congregationalist was but it sounded like maybe I should consider being one. And then I started seriously thinking that I was at the wrong church.

sky

To be fair it wasn’t just the news and church I cut out. I also unsubscribed from a whole lot of things (and I mean we pretty much uprooted our entire life.) There was obviously some withdrawal at first. I had been addicted to noise and drama.

But then I had a chance to breathe.

“The man who lives from God’s breath can recognize with joy that the same breath sinks into the lungs of his fellowman, and that they are both drawing from the same source. At this mutual realization, the fear of another disappears, a smile comes to the lips, the weapons falls, and one hand reaches out for the other.”-Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands

And then I spent more time outside. I read this over at Brain Pickings today, good timing:

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. […]

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.” -Herman Hesse

And I naturally became less judgmental. I forgot all the labels I’d been deluged with.

“With this new confidence we recapture our own life afresh from within. Along with the new knowledge of our “inner space” where feeling of love and hate, tenderness and pain, forgiveness and greed are separated, strengthen or reformed, there emerges the mastery of the gentle hand.” –H.N.

I started to feel like everything I’d ever known had been tossed up into the air.

“Detachment is often understood as letting loose of what is attractive. But it can also mean being attached to what is repulsive. You can become attached to your own hate. As long as you look for retaliation, you are riveted to your own past. Sometimes it appears as though you would lose yourself along with your revenge and hate – so you stand there with balled up fists, closed to the other what wants to heal.” –H.N.

Honestly, a few days ago I really wasn’t sure if I really wanted to write about all of this because I have a really low endurance these days for being talked at. Or being told that I need theology classes. If I need theology classes to be a Christian, I’m screwed.

Them: But you are wrong.
Me: What if I am?

Really it all boils down to (**Jesus alert**):

I believe in God. I question everything. I pray often.
The spirit leads me, but only when I am quiet enough to listen.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:18

I’ll always have questions. Whatever the questions might be I hope I follow the inclusive, compassionate path. I have this old 1952 copy of the Power of Positive Thinking and I love this line:

Christianity teaches that one basic trait will go far toward getting people to like you. That trait is a sincere and forthright interest in and love for people.

It’s nice when people like you. And not in the “I like you, but….” kind of way.  I guess the question is: why go to great lengths to have people not like you? The only reason I can think of for that kind of behavior is to be exclusive.  

Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear. -Lao Tzu

I’ve never met anyone that I couldn’t sit down with for a while. I’ve never met anyone that I couldn’t learn something from. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t leave me with a new story to tell. I’ve never met anyone that I couldn’t find something in common with in some way. I’ve never met anyone that didn’t have a past.

I just really like people.

So hooray that I was born on earth where there are humans.

faith

I’m not asking you to stop watching the news, maybe it’s just a matter of being still more often. Cutting out some of the noise now and then. And creating a quiet mind, a peaceful place to make sense of things.

Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves. -Thomas Carlyle

And maybe it’s a matter of meeting new people. Proactively. All the time. People different from you. Where do they live? What’s easy? What’s hard? And if you happen to bristle at someone: try to figure out what that says about you, not them.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. -Mark Twain 

(traveling doesn’t have to be far away)

And maybe it’s a matter of reading new things. All the time. (I think it’s kind of a red flag when someone says to me “you shouldn’t be reading that” and my immediate reaction is usually: I’m reading it twice.)

And speaking up when we need too. I’ve been teaching Boo this one-line (thank you Patti Digh) that can be used in almost any situation where you don’t agree with someone:

I don’t see the truth in that.

This was a birthday card my friend Jodi gave me exactly one month ago. Re-sharing it because I think it’s awesome:

stayopen

 

Love,

Ashley
Libertarian Congregationalist

 

 

P.S. Just a quick disclaimer: I do still browse the daily headlines because it is still important to know what’s going on in the world. Sadly sometimes I feel like I really have to dig. There’s a lot of awful stuff out in the world to be angry at.

Sharing this because it’s just good:

marilynnerobinson

Salvaged Wood Projects

One thing there is never any shortage of here in the mountains: old wood.

A few things Brett has made for the house using salvaged wood:

1. A large box with big industrial looking handles:

barn wood box with industrial handles

2. A coat rack for the hallway. The hooks were from Lowe’s.  The purpose of this was to keep me from  leaving all all my stuff on the dining room table. It worked:

salvaged wood coat rack mud room ideas

 

3. These chairs were made a while back out of old wood pallets:

reclaimed wood chairs made out of pallets

 

4. And of course there is the entire building of Bryson City Outdoors. 

See what else we’ve done to the House on Hospital Hill here. 

 

Note: A potential problem with old wood is that there are usually bugs to accompany it. A few ways I’ve gotten rid of them:

1. Make a concoction of peppermint oil and water and spray often until they disappear.

2. Still there? Seal the wood in large, black contractor trash bags and leave out in the sun on a really hot day. As long as the temperature inside the bags gets up to around 150 degrees all the bugs should be dead.

3. Still there? Buy boric acid powder and mix a solution with water according to instructions. Pour small amounts into the holes where the bugs seem to be originating from. Wipe away any excess. Once wood is dry wipe the area clean again to get rid of any remaining boric acid.

4. Still there? Adopt them.

 

 

If Books Could Talk

I opened up a book at the used book store and found this plane ticket…from Cairo to Amsterdam. I love when that happens:

oldbook

A few old books that have come into the Bryson City store recently:

books

 

I found a book by Henri Nouwen published in the 1970’s on prayer. It is just full of gems, like this one:

nouwen

 

And then this…a 1953 copy of The Catcher in the Rye…with a depiction of Holden Caufield. I wonder who read this book 50 years ago and where it’s been since:

“This unusual book may shock you, will make you laugh, and may break your heart, but you will never forget it.”

catcherinrye

If you haven’t seen the Salinger documentary I recommend it. While it’s a little dramatically-overblown-tabloidish it paints a good picture of why he probably became a recluse in his later years. He stopped publishing in 1965 and the most fascinating thing I think is how he very carefully set up the trust that his remaining works are in to control his copyright. Actually I think I’ve written about this before…or maybe I dreamt that. Either way my memory is bad.

A Wagging Statue

Sometimes there’s just too much to digest all at once. A few friends passed away suddenly. Two funerals later and then another sudden passing. And while my family has been out of town I’ve just enjoyed the alone time with my dogs, and my books and my yard work. And then today was a great day for so many of my friends. Yay for equality. Now I really wish it would rain. I have nothing more to say today except here is a photo of Max meeting a cat for the first time:

maxandcat

 

He tried to be a statue but his tail kept wagging like it always does. I wish humans had wagging tails too. Bark less. Wag more.

House Landscaping Progress

So if you’ve followed Lil Blue Boo for a while you know that I like big projects. Big. And I like to find creatively inexpensive ways to accomplish them. (Like when we rented a crane and dug up 20 foot palm trees for our old house because they were free.) And I probably open up more cans of worms than my husband would like…but hey, the end result is always good, right? Here is what our house looked like three weeks ago:

landscape2
When we first saw the 1960s-era ranch house last year I instantly had a vision for it. I knew it would be a lot of work and of course Brett would roll his eyes at my “grand plans for a ranch-house-homestead.” But eventually he was on board as I began clipping out inspiration from magazines and created this very-professional-rendering for a long term plan:

rendering

My long term plan included:

1. Regrading to increase drainage
2. Removing all the old tree stumps
3. Creating space for a large vegetable garden next to the Depot
4. Flattening a larger area in front yard for a gravel patio overlooking the town
5. Taking out and replacing the old basement retaining wall
6. Removing the long concrete sidewalk and adding a gravel driveway and parking area

Looking at it all as small projects it would have taken years of mismatching so instead I looked at it as one big project. Most of it we could do ourselves as long as we created a blank slate. It would also save us a lot of money if we created the right starting point so I decided to hire someone with big earth moving equipment who could efficiently get it all done in a few days.

Knowing what was going to take place, I spent the last month digging up all the flower bulbs in the yard to dry and store until next spring:

hohh6

As the big machines were brought in, Brett starting pulling up all the old stone from the back patio. It was a pretty patio but it drained toward the house. We knew before we even bought the house that it was something we had to do. See the grates? Those are windows to the basement. There are windows all the way around but we decided to brick these up from the inside to just take away any chance of moisture of water getting in:

patio

This is the super long sidewalk that led to an asphalt parking area, both of which are now gone:

patiosidewalk

No more patio but we’ll re-use all that pretty stone!

landscape3

Yeah, here’s a big can of worms: the old retaining wall that was in disrepair. We tore it out and fixed the embankment, creating more space as well. Long ago there used to be a garage door under that concrete slab. Brett found a free double door from another project that he’ll build into place to let more light in:

retaining wall

Here is the progress just two weeks ago. I knew we had to get it right from the very start which meant basically starting from scratch and taking it back to the 1950s:

landscape1

Below is the house today with grass seed just added. I’ve spent the last two days moving a sprinkler around and hoping it will rain. Please rain! I really like not having any plants right against the house, gives it a really clean, modern look.

gravel driveway

Also, I’m researching trees to line the driveway with some day: small, not messy, one trunk, sturdy etc.

While Mr. Parton (Parton Excavating) was finishing up I asked him to level off the dirt next to the old train depot, so that I can put my garden there.  Now I just have to build a picket fence:

depot

We did take out a lot of trees but not that many when you look at the whole landscape…just all the trees that could have fallen on the house. Here’s a cool shot that our friend Johnathan took using his drone. You can see the gravel driveway that was added in gray:

aerial

That one big huge tree in the middle is the one that Boo swings off of all day long. I hope that stays for a really long time:

tree swing

I love working on the yard. Yesterday while monitoring the sprinkler I took a hoe and eradicated every weed on the property. And then I went after all the poison ivy, until I had to stop and take a shower with poison-ivy-soap because a long vine ricocheted and basically brushed against every exposed area of skin. The only hard part right now is keeping the kid and dog from tracking in too much mud. I’ve pretty much given up on mopping until the grass grows in. My current choice of attire these days: rubber boots.

rubberboots

And current choice of reading:

reading

Boo is already the expert in gardening, she learned a lot this year in school:

fairygarden

My thumb is slowly getting greener…I’ve managed to multiply my succulents ten-fold.

succulents

If only we could eat succulents!

All posts on the House on Hospital Hill here.

Read all about the old train depot here. 

 

A Unique Place

I was looking back through Instagram for photos of Boo and Brett and I had a lot to choose from. I can tell a difference in our photos over the last year compared to prior years: we have fewer in number, but there are more of us spending quality time together as a family, enjoying the outdoors,  making our little unique place in the world.

fathersday

And I’ve found that there’s a direction correlation between photos and attention, at least for me. It’s a unique place to be in, almost like I’m pretending to carry around a Polaroid camera where I have to be really selective. Maybe your photos are fewer this year too. (I think Annie Dillard puts it a little more eloquently: My Own Shutter Opens)

We had a great Father’s day starting with waffles at church. Brett was all excited when he got a trophy from Boo reading #1 Dad. I guess it was like a 30-way tie because every trophy read #1 dad. I told Brett it might be better to get fifth place or below, not as much pressure because I can’t imagine the work it takes to get first place in the whole world. After church we took a trip to Waynesville for lunch and Mast General Store where we decided to invest in an Etch-a-sketch, a very wise purchase I think:

etchasketch

As we were driving home I got a text from a wrong number. It was some guy asking his boss if he could leave work early because it was Father’s Day. And if he couldn’t leave early could he at least go ahead and take his lunch break? I texted back and told him he had the wrong number…but that I hoped his boss would let him go. And I told him I hoped he had a great Father’s Day because it’s funny how we can instantly have a direct line to a complete stranger somewhere out there in another part of the United States. I don’t think it’s always a mistake. I didn’t want to waste it.

Anyway, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, and to anyone who might be filling the role of a father: single mothers, two mother families, family friends etc. And Happy Father’s Day to God, because he pretty much invented the whole father thing.

An Expert in the Small Things

When I grow up I want to be an expert in the small things.

A few little things I found the last two days while walking the dog:

Golden Raspberries. These were from a neighbor. I didn’t even know golden raspberries existed. I’m on a mission to  plant my own for next year. How amazing to even have the opportunity to plant something that grows into a fruit…think of everything that has to align for that to even happen.

raspberries

Peeling paint on a mailbox. I love how some areas have faded from red to yellowish-orange. It’s perfectly aged. I should leave a note in the person’s mailbox letting them know how much I appreciate it, just so they won’t consider re-painting it one day.

mailbox

A sunset on Hospital Hill. I thought it looked like the clouds were doing the backstroke.  Or maybe aliens trying to break through the atmosphere. Either way: awesome and worthy of a photo.

sunset
You can start today.  We can become experts together. The great part is that we don’t need money for classes or a degree. It’s free for all. A free-for-all.  And if you need a diploma on your wall I’m sure I can make something up for you.

Anne Shirley can be helpful too. She always nails it:

 Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.

Installing Windows in the Old Train Depot

The old train depot is finally coming along. Brett started cleaning it out recently after it sat empty for the winter after it was moved to our property. Here’s the inside:

The train depot windows

Last year my sister was upgrading the window in her house and we took all the old ones home to keep for a future project. We’ve had to cut them down and rework them a little but they’ll fit eventually. Here’s one on the side:

depot1

The plan is to make it a sweet little potting/garden shed/playhouse with a picket fenced garden surrounding it.  I’m not sure how far the garden will get this year but I think I could at least start experimenting with it!

Read more about the Old Depot Project here. 

Summer Sunsets: Infinity of Earth and Sky

“…as if the day in leaving had gathered all of the golden sunshine into one last lingering flame to burn away the weariness of the day – for twilight is a time of peace and tranquility – and the dusk is filled with memories as night is filled with stars – and they burn even more brightly as the darkness deepens – and this we share and understand – because we have so much in common.” – Letters of Chickadee Hill by Winston O. Abbott

Tonight the town was glowing with this pinkish light:

Sunset View of Bryson City, NC

Another sunset at Naber’s Drive-in by the Tuckasegee River:

Sunset View of the Tuckasegee River near Nabers Drive In

And another sunset reflected in the rails of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad:

Sunset View - Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

From Schoolhouse Hill:

sunset6

From the Tuckasegee River near Darnell Farms:

Tuckasegee River at dusk

From the Hemlock Inn’s porch:

sunset5

Not a sunset, but it still looks like infinity from above the clouds:

Cloudy view in  the Smokies

If anything, this:

“…perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that all aches and pains will vanish beneath the warmth of the summer sunshine – but I do know that there is a miraculous healing power available to all who will let the spirit become absorbed in the infinity of earth and sky – I have learned that the refreshing coolness of the rain can wash away the dusts of doubt that settle upon the spirit – and the summer breezes can dissipate the wisps of selfishness that often come between us and our better selves…” – Letters of Chickadee Hill by Winston O. Abbott

 

A good sunset can make me feel totally at home in this world. A gentle timekeeper. A dozen can go by sometimes without remembering to take notice.