Time out of time– discovering Lisbon

  The thing I remember about leaving the Algarve is the morning light striking the car hard and bright as I drove along a ridge line. It was a secondary road that roughly paralleled the autoroute. In my mind I was trying to make peace with leaving. It had been an intoxicating mix of coastal light, stone and sand, cactus and pine. Cultures crossing in pretty old villages. The occasional palm tree or Moorish ruin. Desert stars. It was bright blue and dusky beige, warm and relaxed. Along the drive there were a couple of fine old hill towns, scattered villas, …

Time out of time, Portugal

I wasn’t happy to leave France and my friends and venture off into Portugal alone. I knew very little about Portugal, and all travel alone is initially scary. I had read that Portugal has the highest incidence of mortality on its highways of any country in Europe, for one thing. But Portugal has always intrigued me, so I was determined to plunge into it and see what transpired. When I read descriptions of the cities I would visit— Lisbon and Porto, it was hard to feel enthusiastic. Cities are not the place where I am most comfortable. But they are …

Miss Janie’s Green Tomato Pickles

  I found the yellowed half envelope in Mama’s green cloth-covered recipe book . Mama hated to cook, so I presumed the book was nothing of importance to her. When she died, I took the book home with me— it had outlived both my parents and was one of the few things that remained unchanged from childhood. For four years it sat on the bookshelf in my house with the other cookbooks. Then, one day I took it down to study. I discovered that it was, in fact, both a treasure and a time capsule. They say men marry women …

Back to the woods

Dusk and a half moon. Firefly lights smeared across pasture air. Frogs blanket the higher reaches with a thousand sounds. Steam rises off the land from the long awaited rainfall. It’s as beautiful here as the nights before when we camped alongside a remote creek. Hiking for hours— climbing past root and stone, finding the occasional gemstone— brown mushrooms the color of a tiny animal, nascent Indian pipes, dragonflies carved from turquoise with black velvet spider webs for wings. We locate four waterfalls and there follows looking at the world from behind sheets of water and speechless stone sitting. One …

Green Pastures

“Pasture” is a wonderful word. It conjures up so many pleasant connotations. I grew up in a part of a small southern town that was called “the pasture” because that is what it had been before WWII. My favorite part of Psalm 23 is the image of God having his sheep lie down in green pastures. My kitchen sink overlooks a green pasture where I have often laid down. To watch clouds, to feel the sun, to soak up the beginnings of spring, or the endings of summer. Yesterday morning, as I was washing dishes and watching my pasture a …

The Gift From Our Fathers

    It was all black mirror water, jade green duckweed and pearl gray leafless trees. A soft gray day. We arrived at the millpond in northeastern North Carolina, with our food, water and canoes last week and set out paddling to our campsite on a hillside covered in beeches and poplars. There were thousands of saplings among the larger trees— so many that the woods were the color of a dove.   Our first night was chilly and we built a fire. Because we hauled our gear in a canoe instead of on our backs, we were able to …

Exploring the far east

With my wanderlust friends I set out this past week for the great alluvial plain that is eastern North Carolina.  I hesitate to talk much about its mystery, authenticity, history and lavish southernness for fear of its discovery. We all departed at different times in our various trucks hauling our camping gear and kayaks.  Our destination was Goose Creek State Park.  We met up in a  tall forest of  pines and hardwoods on a peninsula in the vicinity of the Pamlico Sound, and set up camps. One day it had been balmy and the next it was the knife edge …

Moving Poets: From the Depths

Mark this week.  It is one of the rare weeks in a year’s calendar when the Moving Poets are all here and performing. As a devoted fan, I found myself a third row seat in the Booth Playhouse last night so I could hear the feet pounding on the stage and the heavy breathing of dancers at the end of a movement. I wanted it all.  My only regret– sometimes it’s fun to watch from on high in the Booth so one can observe the musicians as well. With Moving Poets one expects the unexpected. “De Profundis” is a piece …

The Color of Grace

Curled up on the sofa after a hot bath I’m very happy to be home. For the past three days I’ve been camping in the wilderness near Lost Cove Creek with my two backpacking mentors, Dick and Jim. There was nothing new about the plans– same plans, same food, same equipment. But it was new territory for us, and the trails were largely unmarked.  Dick estimates that we ascended 2000 feet, slow-going with loaded packs. Ascending, my face was close to the ground, and I became mesmerized by the beauty of mosses, lichens and  fallen leaves. The hickory leaves were …

Absorbing the Sea

For the weeks arching from summer into fall I have watched the sea all day long. And at night the doors were always open to the sound of it. By day the sea was the view from the studio, or from whatever restaurant I chose, or from the windows of the car.  I have looked so long, unable to look away, that it has been fully absorbed. Two nights ago, in the rain, through the murky window of a ferry close to land, I saw birds as they flew nearby, their wide breasts like the bodies of ducks. In my …