January Magic

I used to think January was the grimmest month, fit only to be endured.  But I’ve changed my mind in the last few years.  Now I think of it as crystaline and ripe for adventure.  It’s the perfect time to build a fire in the fireplace and throw a party– draw people out of their caves to experience something wonderful. The Moving Poets had the same idea, because they hosted an intimate evening of art last weekend in a log cabin in the woods in the center of the city. I knew it would be an amazing way to spend an …

For BJ

What follows is a eulogy written for my college roommate, BJ Brantley Cooper, who left us far too soon, in late November, a victim of early-onset Alzheimers.  We were acquaintances, first, at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and later roommates at Carolina.  BJ met and married one of my best friends at Carolina, and 43 years later he asked me to write her eulogy.  At first I thought I couldn’t put her into words, but the more I thought about it the more I had to say.   She was always, as we had been at 18, dutiful, appropriate, and attendant to …

Charlotte Observer on: Patterns of Regeneration

“Another artist for whom the natural world provides inspiration is Elizabeth Bradford. “Mt. Rogers Fir” portrays a towering yet dead fir tree, resplendent in and surrounded by nature’s verdant forest. Carlyle Wolfe’s images present “…distinct experiences of natural light and color.” The artist carefully records color modulation and change over time and uses these characteristics as keys to her palette. The artist creatively uses color, light and shadow to render silhouettes or impressions of plant species, curvilinear vines and the landscapes they inhabit.” Read More: Uptown exhibition puts nature in a new light

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 …

Time out of time

It’s been a daydream of mine for a long time– to find a little house to rent in France and stay there long enough to become chummy with the butcher. This was the year I finally did it.  I rented a cottage on the grounds of the restored 15th century Chateau de Lerse in the southwestern region called the Charente.   Though I thought I knew what to expect I did not know how truly rural and agriculturally focused France could be. I believe the grounds of the chateau were the quietest place I have ever been.  The fine old …

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 …

The Magnolia tradition

Walking to the mailbox the other day I saw the first blossom on my new magnolia tree. It’s been decades since a magnolia grew on this farm. My maternal grandmother, Elizabeth McAlpine Gordon Covington (Bess), member of the DAR and the UDC, believed it her appointed duty to nurture and pass along magnolia trees to all members of the family.   She achieved this, I believe, by putting a seed pod in a clay pot full of sandhills soil and waiting for the appearance. She would then share the leggy and top-heavy promise of beauty with young couples just moving …

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 …