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Sunday, April 23, 2006

In the Valley of Lilies

The redbuds at their frothy, ecstatic peak along Hwy 81 in Virginia.

The Cullowhee community chorus singing Down by the Salley Gardens, one of my favorite songs in the whole world—I adore Yeats, flat-out adore his poems and give not a hoot for any talk of his silliness. His gift most definitely survivied it all.

The tropical fish and live coral tanks at the Aquarium of the Smokies in Tennessee. My youngest child's face, watching the sharks and sawfish slide by overhead.

The Altamaha azalea by the house, with its pink bouquets held above the blue of creeping phlox and the yellow ulularia and the thousand shades of leaf and stem.

An Easter egg hunt in my mother’s wildflower garden.

Green leaves of ramps on the slope, with a wild turkey rambling by.

A long wavering blue ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, with a series of clouds tipped over the top and drifting downward like dream glaciers, a long bar of cloud dividing the ridge halfway down—all that above emerald and yellow fields of blooming mustard.

My mother’s grand cooking, particularly that astonishing raspberry and white chocolate cake for my husband’s birthday. Also, deep South things that are a little rare even in North Carolina: green peanuts, okra, black eyes.

Paging through the Lovedahl family pictures at a wake—and seeing the old mountain images gone sepia, standing in frames among the arrangements of flowers.

Faces from childhood, faces of others who have helped me and mine through the hard times that come to all.

I’m back after nine days away in Cullowhee, North Carolina, the valley of lilies. And already counting up what I’ve lost, what I miss...

Andy just came by with a bottle of wine and a chocolate rabbit—and says that it will snow on Wednesday.

* * * * * * * * * *
The redbud is from Laurelines,
Creative Commons License.


  1. Each vignette packs a punch. I don't know a better way to say it. Your time is Cullowhee sounds so rich. Where, though, did they get okra this time of year? Was it put up from last summer? What a gift for your children was the trip---and that cake! Lucky husband. Our redbuds are finished, Virginia's are in process, and you're having snow on Wednesday. Hard to hold all those thoughts in the mind at once. Welcome home.

  2. And I love Yeats, too. No hesitation, no qualification.

  3. Very lovely. And yes, of course Yeats.

  4. There is nothing like a mother with a garden and two freezers...


    Yes, snow. The latest one I've seen here was mid-May. I think. Unless you count a few summer snowflakes. So far it's only drama-queen clouds.


    I read Longfellow on the way home, though--the short poems plus translations.

  5. Glad you got South Marly. I was just thinking of Okra over spring break, and missing the bountious farmers market here where I live. What a good mama to freeze some for spring times.

    Your descriptions are beautiful as always. You remind me however, of Persphone when you talk of the North. Is your husband a Yankee, or just job bound to the north?

    I am a transplanted midwesterner to this fair state, and although I sometimes miss the friendly directness of my people, and the green waving of the cornstalks in July, I have found much to love about North Carolina.

    Anyhow, come South as often as you can.

  6. Oh, yes, very Yankee. An Irish-French-Dutch-AkhwesasneMohawk sort of Yankee. Heavy on the Irish. So yes, I am Persephone. Or Ceres, stuck in the frozen world and unable to bring on spring! I grow tired of winter...

  7. glad you came, but sad you didn't stay. Aquarium of the Smokies... the one in Chattanooga or Gatlinburg? Or another? Both are nice. But the idea of a Ripley's Believe it or Not aquarium... i really hoped for three-deaded sharks and stuff, but it was all normal like.

  8. that was headed, not deaded. sorry.

  9. Gatlinburg. Just a skip over the mountains. I was quite willing to stay in the mountains (though not in G-burg, not forever!), but it wasn't an option.

    I take it that you didn't see the blue-haired merman lurking behind the folly? (I suppose that's what one calls a faux wreck--or perhaps it was real--a rusty old grotto transported to a water garden.)

    Cuttlefish are never normal, are they? Same with jellyfish. And those odd sea horses that look like bunches of seaweed...

    Speaking of blue and Ripleyesque, my children quit combing the blue Persian, and she turned into a large felt hat. I just had her shaved, and she now resembles a poodle. It's very odd. Still a few dreadlocks on the back legs, alas.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.