tenacity

“Courage is not having the strength to go on;
it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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(Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, wearing her mother’s curtains)

Think Scarlet O’Hara, Julia Sugarbaker and Steel Magnolias all rolled into one.
Who else would think to turn their mother’s prized curtains into
a matter of getting what they need…but a Southerner.

That’s because we in the South understand the significance of
desperate times requiring drastic measures…

For we are a resourceful lot when we need be,
especially during the thick of battle..
We are kudzu and honey all rolled into one..
Barbed wire and sugar spun together…

Because that’s just what we are down here in the South,
tenacious as a bulldog when needed,
soft as a cotton ball when called for….

We are also sweet and charming.
We are cordial.
We are warm.
We are hospitable.
We are not dumb, deplorable or rednecks…contrary to what some would have you believe.
We are educated.
Well educated.
We have great schools, colleges and universities.
People like our weather, well, maybe not in August…
I don’t like our weather in August, or even now, but I digress…

People like our food..think fired this or that, as in chicken and okra.
People like our drinks…think bourbon.
We are mannerly…for if we are not, our grandmothers are obviously not watching.
We believe in morality, decorum and being polite.

But none of that should never lead you to believe that we are
pushovers,
ignorant,
easy,
or lazy.

We are a strong kind people.

And I keep finding that I have to continually remind myself of such…

I have seen more of my poor father than any daughter should ever see of her father
and it is enough to last me a life time.
Bless him.
He can’t help it.
And sadly I can’t avoid it.

We got the water balloon dad unclogged today.
Mr nonchalant doctor was his typical rude, arrogant and non southern self during our visit…
He didn’t want to initially believe, let alone admit,
that there was any scar tissue from August’s surgery…
Well guess what…
there was.

No wonder poor dad was becoming a human water balloon,
a toxic human water balloon.
But mr nonchalant doctor assumed it was the tumor growing; the one we had opted not,
against his suggestion, to spend 8 weeks radiating on a daily basis.

“Has he looked at dad in that wheelchair of his” I wonder…

Quickly and without fanfare or even words, Mr nonchalant doctor performs a little procedure
then quickly leaves the room with us eventually leaving
with now a new sort of water balloon,
a catheter.
And thankfully free-flowing once again!!
No spreading cancer as dad was fearing…
just a little scar tissue fouling up the works…

Dad was having to get up literally 18 times a day and 9 times throughout the night living
like a human water balloon…filling up, but not flowing out.

The doctor walked out with nary a word….
No words of kindness, no words of encouragement,
no words of care nor words of what we might need to do…

Kind of like a wham bam thank you mam sort of moment.

Leaving me with the young nurse to attach everything…
getting everything in, on, up and poor dad back into his chair.

Where I come from a gentleman assesses the situation and lends a hand where
he sees the need.
We call that being a man…patient, kind, gallant and thoughtful.

When we finally walked out, me walking, dad rolling…
Mr nonchalant doctor was sitting at his computer in his office, directly across from us,
as we exited the exam room.

I was sincere and gracious in my thanks and gratitude for helping dad.
As I was always taught to offer thanks for a service rendered and I was genuinely
grateful that dad would now be functioning and flowing.
Plus there I was wheeling my cancer ridden, feeble, 88 year old father
who has just bared everything to everyone…did he not deserve a word?

There was a very long pause of silence before acknowledging that I had spoken…
without glancing from the computer came an “ah huh”…
and with that, dad and I were on our way.

At the elevator dad leans his head back in my direction as I push the button for down…
“he doesn’t have much personality does he?”
“I think he’s a jerk dad.”
“I just think he doesn’t have a beside manner” dad counters…

And that my friends is the response of a gentleman.

A man who just bore his feeble sickly body for violation and he merely chalks up
being ignored to a lack of personality.
Where I see a sorry SOB…

Had I not been wheeling dad, who was now hurting and asked for something for pain,
as mr nonchalant non caring doctor quips over his shoulder, “take some tylenol'”…
I think I would have marched in that office of his, slaping my hands down on his desk,
asking or rather telling him to do the polite thing by
looking me in the face when I’m speaking
and to acknowledge my father as an elder as well as a hurting human being….

Because that’s what we do here in the South, we acknowledge our fellow human beings as
what they are, fellow human beings….

And don’t forget, we also came up with iced tea…..
thank you very much…

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

spin

“We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.
Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never-so-little scar.”

William James

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(image clowns4kids.com)

Cotton candy—the quintessential staple for both circus and fair.

Who among us seemingly mature adults doesn’t secretly yearn for their very own paper rolled cone of pink, bouffant whipped, magically melting surgery goodness when spotting any sort of advert for either circus or fair?

Who doesn’t fondly recall the yearly pilgrimage when the Circus rolled into town?
The sights and sounds of all the colors and music colliding as one…marking the magic of childhood wonder…
From the parades of the marching animals to the death defying flying trapeze artists…
from the clowns riding in tiny jalopies to the booming voice of the circus master…

Despite all of the sensory overloads, if the truth be told, it was the single chance to order a titillating cone of cotton candy which remains paramount in our memories….

Recalling one Christmas many years ago, when my son was a little boy,
Santa had delivered his very own, spin at home, cotton candy maker.
My son thought he had died and gone to heaven as he immediately wanted to make cotton candy for breakfast.

I, on the other hand, had regretted Santa’s choice from the get go as all I could envision was an endless sea of sticky hands, sticky faces, sticky clothes, sticky house…laced with the mother exhausting battle of a small child running on too much sugar….

Thankfully the novelty wore off quickly as there just wasn’t that same sense of delight about making cotton candy in ones kitchen verses the thrill of ordering it, watching it on the other side of the protective glass being spun onto your very own paper cone…add to that marvelous tantalizing moment
with the giddy savoring of the very first melt in you mouth adrenaline rush of sweet tasty sugary magic…

Oh how delightfully wonderful the simple act of spinning sugar can be…

Yet in this tale of spinning all things sugary should be a small consumer warning that not all sugary treats are as sweet nor as innocent as they may seem…

For there is one who is eagerly at work spinning, for both you and me, our very own cone full of sugary spun falsehoods and lies which he passes off as a delightful simple treat…
However there is nothing sweet nor simple to his deception.

For therein lies the importance we are to remember…
that there is one who toils in the shadows, working tirelessly…
taking the very Truth of God, as He spins it into something diabolically other than…

With the the real tragedy of all of this being that we unwittingly and eagerly hold out our hands while impatiently waiting for our very own offering of the twisted serving of his sweet insidious lies.
Which only leads to our coming back for more and more and more…

The prince of darkness happily spins every word of God into a cloyingly sick sweet false prosaic for our sadly spiritually hungry appetites…
as we are either too blind, too naive or simply too hungry to discern the reality.

It would behoove us to remember that too much sugar and too many sweets is never a filling nor lasting alternative to the banquet that has been lovingly prepared for both you and me…
A lavish feast which will fully satisfy all of our tastes, wants and needs…

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Luke 14:15-24

Warm and spicy…let’s add a pear—Or— once again, Cooking with Cookie

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(a beautiful Bosc pear / Julie Cook / 2015)

AAAAGGGGHHHHHH
Bam, bam bam. . .
Did you hear that?
That is the sound of my head clunking against the wall.
Looking outside, for as far as the eye can behold, which by the way they’re telling us is less than half a mile, is nothing but grey, fog, mist, damp, drizzle, cold, wet, blah, yuck, monotone of what has become our Winters. . .
Day after day of grey onto more and more grey. . .

HELP!!
A diversion!
That’s it, a diversion. . .
We need a diversion!!!!
Actually we really need to hop on a plane, flying “down under” to our friends in the Southern Hemisphere for a quick visit as I hear they’re in the midst of a heat wave.
Really.
But since we must follow practicalities, we need a more readily available diversion.

Consider the pear.
What?
Yes, the pear.

When I was a little girl, I can remember my grandparents, always this time of year, receiving a box of crisp fresh pears. . .from some exotic far away land like, say, Florida or California. Why they couldn’t go the grocery store like my mother would, in order to purchase the mealy overly ripe heavily bruised variety, was beyond my young comprehension. And if the truth be told, the pears my mom bought actually came in cans.
What??
You’ve never seen the canned pear tree!!??
Libby, DelMonte. . .it didn’t matter.
Pear halves packed in heavy syrup.
Those being the heady days before “health”. . .

Mother would serve them, as most folks during those dark days of canned, store bought, prepackaged, processed, readily available foods, drained and perched on a bed of iceberg lettuce (the only lettuce my dad believes in) accented with a dollop of the real deal, nothing low-fat about it, mayonnaise topped with a smattering of grated cheddar cheese.
Voila the ubiquitous Pear Salad of the 1960’s.

Of course there was that exotic French Liqueur, found when I tagged along with my Dad, as a little girl, to the local liquor store for his weekly run for beer, Poire Williams— the one with a real full sized pear floating in a bottle of clear liquid —the mystery I never could figure out. . .as in how they got the actual pear inside the bottle. . .and not understanding why dad wouldn’t buy me the bottle so I could investigate further.

Yep.
That pretty much sums up what was my full knowledge of pears. . .until I finally grew up.

There’s nothing better than a perfectly cool, crisp, juicy pear.
You know, the one whose juices dribble down your chin as you take each tenderly sweet bite after bite. . .but as Mr Emerson so blatantly reminds us at the start of the post, that time of perfection is but a very narrow window.

In my quest and need of and for diversion from the constant grey outside my window, I opted to poke around for a new recipe—something fun to cook in order to take my mind off of the cold grey outside and the fact that I threw all gluten out the window over a week ago. . .just to see if it could help an ailing GI tract and shed this weight that seems to have hunkered down for the duration (more on that later).

Not looking for anything to do with pears, or fruit for that matter, a recipe jumped out at me concerning the poaching of pears in a delicious sounding concoction of sugar, spices and water.
Hummm.
Never being one to poach my fruit nor believing in any sort of dessert other than that of chocolate and cream, I was a bit intrigued. I figured I could poach a couple of pears and have them as part of a salad.

Heading to the store, I purchased 4 organic (of course) Bosc pears. You know, the pretty pears which are beautifully shaped, well, like a pear.

The recipe called for 8 pears but in a household of two, I opted on 4 pears, yet I still used the full recipe of poaching liquid which worked out perfectly.

Interested yet?
I thought you’d never ask. . .

You’ll need 4 to 8 Bosc pears (they hold their shape the best)
2 cups sugar ( I know it sounds excessive but it’s just a part of the “bath”)
8 cups water—however I used 2 cups of leftover champagne I had sitting in the fridge since New Year’s Eve along with 6 cups of water. You could use some white wine if you’d like. . .
1 Vanilla bean split
1/2 a lemon –I used a Meyer lemon
a small handful of whole cloves about 8 or so
1 cinnamon stick or 2 if you’re feeling adventuresome
1 star anise— since I didn’t have that, I used about 1/4 teaspoon of anise seed– oh so judiciously as I’m not into licorice.
And wishing I had thought to throw in a cardamon pod or three

Put all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, immediately dropping down to a low simmer—
mmmmmmm can’t you smell that warm spicy aroma now just filling your kitchen??

In the meanwhile, peel your pears.

Slice them in half and using a teaspoon, gently scoop out the seeds.
Once the sugar has dissolved, put the pears gently in the “bath”–cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the pears are soft (test by gently poking with the tip of a knife)

Once the pears are soft and your house smells heavenly, remove the pot from the heat and allow the pears to cool in their bath.
At this point you can put the whole pot in the fridge, allowing the pears to rest in the “broth” chilling nicely. Sampling with a small spoon of the “bath water” I decided I could drink the whole pot.

What I did with my pears was to make a salad.
I tore up some romaine lettuce (the kind Dad does not consider real lettuce), placing it on a salad plate.
I next sprinkled some blue cheese crumbles (you can use Gorgonzola) over the lettuce and drizzled blue cheese dressing over the salad in training. I then placed a single pear half on the bed of lettuce. You can certainly slice it in half if you prefer.
I put a small dollop of mascarpone cheese in the center of the pear (you could use cream cheese or blue cheese), sprinkled a few sugared walnuts around, finally drizzling the remainder of the apple cider sugar glaze I used for the walnuts, over the pear and lettuce.
Voila—the new 21st century pear salad

Oh here’s what I did to the walnuts. . .
In a small sauce pan I put in about a 1/2 cup of sugar. I turned the heat up to med-high, watching it like a hawk so it wouldn’t burn, get away from me and set the house on fire.
As the sugar began to melt, turning to a liquid, I used a small wooden spoon to stir it.
Just as soon as the sugar melted, I slowly poured about a 1/4 cup of apple cider in the pan, continually stirring as the sugar now wanted to clump and harden back up. I continued stirring allowing my mixture to boil, adding about a TBL or two of Maple syrup. I allowed this to boil down, reducing into a thick syrup, at which point I dropped in a handful of walnuts ( 3/4 to 1 cup)—allowing them to get a good coating of the syrup.
Next I poured the syrupy nuts onto a dry plate allowing them to cool.
I then placed them willy nilly on the salad, drizzling the pear and salad with the remaining syrup. . .
Absolutely divine–light, refreshing and oh so tasty

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Oh–and by the way—does anyone know how they got those pears in those liqueur bottles???

In need of a little comfort?

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

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(Freshly baked Breton Biscuits / Julie Cook / 2014)

Where do you go when you find yourself out of sorts, stressed, tired?
Where does your heart wander when it is wounded, sad, heavy?
Where do your spirits travel when your world is rocked, your day is shot, your feelings weary?

To the kitchen, that’s where!!

I confess that I’ve been feeling a bit blue and out of sorts as of late. . .blasé
—the trees didn’t help. . .
. . .but I don’t want to talk about that.
I was flipping though my most recent edition of Saveur Magazine when I found myself stopping on one particular page.
One word stopped me. . .
Butter

If there is one little thing that screams “let me comfort you my dear” it’s the real deal unctuous amalgamation of cream and salt.
Butter.
YUMMMMMMMM

The article was entitled Butter Queen showcasing a Brittany (region in France) specialty, Gâteau Breton or Gallettes bretonnes–better known as a light, delicate, sandy textured butter cookie.
That’s what I’m talking—-a light hearted version of a shortbread!!
Comfort is now a recipe away!!

So let’s make a little comfort shall we. . .

This particular recipe is originally from Le Cordon Bleu’s cookies edition as taken from the Joy of Baking
A recipe for Sables—the French Butter cookie (how many names can a little butter cookie have?!)
It’s a simple no fuss cookie. It can serve as a canvas for the adventuresome and creative, or simply as pure pleasure for the purist.

Here’s what you’ll need:
–10 tablespoons (140) grams unsalted butter, room temperature (Plugra, Presidents or other European brands)
–1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
–1 large egg (organic)
–1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (my homemade brew)
–2 cups(260 grams) all purpose flour (unbleached King Author
–1/2 teaspoon baking powder
–1/4 teaspoon salt (Real Salt Kosher)
Egg Wash–1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

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Is it just me or is red a dominant color on the pallet of my products of choice?
When you make something as simple as a butter cookie, it is key to have the very best ingredients in your repertoire available as there are so few ingredients involved. With butter being the primary , the best butter you can get your hands on is crucial. Plugra is a great US butter which is out of Texas and handcrafted in the tradition of European butter–meaning it has a higher butter fat content–making for a richer, more savory creamy product—
(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/butter-and-lent/ )

I’ve chosen President, a French butter for a French cookie, mais non?

I’ve copied the original recipe here:

Sables: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least an hour).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, placing them on the prepared sheet. Place the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash. Then, with the tines of a fork (or I like to use the end of a toothpick), make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 12 – 14 minutes (depending on size of cookie) or until golden brown around the edges.

Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
(using a 3 inch cutter gave me a larger cookie which numbered 18 total)

My organic eggs, since I’ve yet to procure “my girls” for the very real deal :

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The recipe calls for the use of a 2 inch cookie / biscuit cutter however I used a 3 inch cutter, making for a tad larger cookie. Instead of 3 dozen cookies I had 18. If you wanted to be festive, I don’t know why you couldn’t use fun cookie cutters, say pumpkins, or leaves, or turkeys, or snowmen. . .as these are not sugar cookies but a rolled and cut cookie all the same.

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I’m not a big fan of egg wash as I think it “yellows” the top of the cookie and “seals” the tops often allowing the cookies to get mushy after a day or so rather than staying nice and crisp–when I make these again, I won’t use egg. . .

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When you use a fork to crisscross the top of the cookies, use the back of the fork–the front of the fork will cause the soft raw cookies to pull–the back keeps the lines smooth.

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Not too sweet with a slight saltiness offering a clean buttery finish.
These could be fun little ice-cream sandwich base cookies or another type of filling sandwiched lovingly between theses thin little butter wafers of wonderment or even dipped in melted chocolate for a chocolate dipped sandy. . .skies the limit, but I prefer the simple buttery goodness.

Pure Comfort to be sure
Bon Appétit

If You’re Afraid of Butter, Use Cream
Julia Child

Déjà vu, mint?

“Deja Vu All Over Again”
Yogi Berra

“Open the whisky, Tom,’ she ordered, ‘and I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself… Look at the mint!”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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Ok, so it seems as if it was just last year that I was posting some rubbish about summer mint (Mentha × piperita), mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby and life in this quintessential South of mine.
Well bless my soul. . .the Derby ran Saturday (hooray for the underdogs!! California Chrome, what a wonderful story! If I were a betting woman, my money for a triple crown would be on this little young man—oh but we are digressing), and my yard is smack-dab full of mint. . .so it just seems more than appropriate to post something about mint and juleps and derbies all over again.
The same, yet different and yet new.

We’ve been having a bit of a rough go as of late. Our son has been having some health issues and the next couple of weeks call for tests with possible surgery. Did I mention there is a wedding June 7th?! Do you hear any panic in my voice? Good. I’m trying to keep that stiff upper lip you know. And also–we would all greatly appreciate any and all prayers!! Yet sadly, as is my child’s lot in life. . .when it rains it definitely pours. . . so I thought a nice little diversion was in order. . .as in a drink. Oh, not for me silly it’s still too early—but rather for you—as in I suppose the old song is right, it must be 5:00 PM somewhere on the planet?!

I had this little beauty Saturday as they were calling the jockeys to the Post. . .

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What is that you ask? Why it’s a world famous Julie Julep!!
And since I think I hear you saying you sure wish you had one right about now, I’m going to do the next best thing— I’m going to tell you how to make one.

First you’ll need a pretty glass—you can use a typical silver julep cup, or in my case, the best and prettiest crystal type glass you own.
–Gather a handful of mint (peppermint only)
— You’ll need an ounce or two (depends on your constitution) of good ol Kentucky Bourbon (that is if you’re a purist)–you may wander outside of the Kentucky state lines, drifting over to Tennessee or Virginia if you prefer, but it must be a Southern Bourbon of some sorts!
–either make some quick simple syrup (1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup water, boil ’til sugar dissolves) which you can also add mint leaves to in order to boost the mint flavor, or use agave nectar–works just as well–plus you don’t need as much nectar as you would simple syrup as agave nectar is sweeter than sugar—purists, however, stick to simple syrup.
–crushed ice
–here’s what makes it a Julie Julep–Limeade juice—as in Simply Limeade (this makes it most quaffable–meaning it’s smooth, refreshing and calls for more than one)
–a garnish of a mint sprig and a slice of lime.
MIX:
—In your glass, throw in a handful of mint. Some call for the addition of a little Demerara sugar thrown in which I did try and I kind of liked it. The coarse sugar helps break up the mint as you muddle it (pound and grind the life out of it). I must confess that I do not own a muddler. I use the end of a wooden spoon. Pound that mint with the spoon releasing those delightfully aromatic essential oils.
—add crushed ice
—add bourbon (1 oz to 2 oz it’s your call–I’m thinking 2– maybe even 3, but hey, we want more than one drink right?)
—add about 1 to 2 TBL of simple syrup or agave nectar (if you like it sweet, add more)
—fill the remainder of the glass with limeade.
—give that puppy a good stir, with a silver sipping straw of course, garnish with a nice pretty sprig of mint and a slice of lime.
NOW—settle back in one of the rocking chairs out on the front porch, prop up your feet if you’d like, as you enjoy the sun dipping low in the sky— begin singing to yourself “My old Kentucky Home” for a real sense of true Southern Living. . .

“My Old Kentucky Home”
by Stephen Foster

Contemporary Lyrics (1986):

The sun shines bright in My Old Kentucky Home,
‘Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright;
By ‘n’ by hard times comes a knocking at the door,
Then My Old Kentucky Home, good night!

Chorus:

Weep no more my lady
Oh weep no more today;
We will sing one song
For My Old Kentucky Home
For My Old Kentucky Home, far away

Hidden Past

“How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity.”
― Augustine of Hippo

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(remnants of a long forgotten still found deep in the woods of Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Buried deep throughout hills and woods, since Revolutionary days, from Pennsylvania to Florida, a clandestine world once flourished.
Scattered debris of the silent ghosts of a former world, now fade into dark shadows.
Discarded pieces of a secret past.
Gaelic roots
Whisky
Moonshine
Stumpwater
Hooch
White lightning
Rotgut

Fires burned under the cover of moonlit nights
Jugs loaded into burlap sacks, dropped silently into black water creeks, whisked swiftly down stream to waiting hands.
Barrels of sugar
Bags of corn
Copper coils
As one man’s income becomes another man’s poison.

Chances are that today’s woodland wanderer will stumble upon pieces of this mysterious time.
The remnants of illegal lives hidden deep from prying eyes.
Broken shards of pottery, pieces of colored glass and rust coated metals fade from memory under dying leaves.
Taxes were levied
Rebellions were quelled
Taxes were repealed
Wars were fought
Taxes re-levied
As prohibition begins
Speakeasies thrived
Revenues refused
as people died

Pieces of history from a nation’s vices lay broken and forgotten
For good or bad, it is our past
Volatile, Secretive, intoxicating
Lives were taken and lost
Fugitives
Mobsters
Revenue Men
Mountain Men
Triple X

Walking in the woods seeking solace, peace, wonder
Yet finding history, stories, secrets
Voices hide behind the trees
as shadows move through the night
Echoes of a past. . .
both yours and mine.

(*** To be out walking and exploring an area that has yet to be claimed by the insatiable appetite of urban expansion, only to happen upon the past endeavors of the men and woman who once inhabited the area of which I am currently traipsing, I am always amazed and certainly surprised. Be it the pock marked caves and deep holes nestled in what was once considered uncharted woods, all of which were once dug by those who thought gold was hidden underneath the ground. . .to the broken bits and pieces of the clandestine stills which once laced these back woods throughout the South—I am awed and most astonished to have a glimpse at dreams and secrets of those who went before me. These small reminders which act as pieces of the thread which weave the once rural highlands and lowlands of my southern culture together.

Growing up in Atlanta, I can easily remember when the new trendy spin-off upstart cities, those that have broken away from the all encompassing umbrella of the mega Fulton County, home to Atlanta City, were but the pastures and fields of the farmers who called north Georgia home.

My high school was built in 1968 and was just barley 4 years old when I entered it’s hallowed halls. It was considered new, trendy, modern and on the leading edge of the massive urban sprawl sweeping Atlanta’s expansion northward. Before there was Perimeter Mall, a completed GA 400, the “Mcmansions” of which Atlanta is now so famous for, or the cities such as Sandy Springs, John’s Creek, or Milton. . .there were still farms, dense deep woods, and a now forgotten “country way of life” which truthfully, I miss.

The woods surrounding my high school, the woods that gave way first to the high school’s cross famed country course, followed by the now massive exclusive neighborhoods, the area was full of the would-be mines, the dug out holes and caves, of those who just knew there was gold in “them thar hills”.
I can still wander in the dense woods of the far western counties of Georgia, those counties which still remain more rural than urban, finding the remains of those who thought they were safe to create a secret yet lucrative business for homemade whiskey, better known as moonshine. The forgotten broken remains of stills lace the backwoods of Georgia.

These remnants of day’s gone by, which are now rarely seen or found, due to the gobbling up of a hungry need for growth, not only offer intrigue to our history of development, but the nostalgic humility which comes to those who are fortunate enough to catch a small glimpse of what once was. . .)

Just a few more weeks…..

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“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
Mother Teresa

Any walk in the woods, or even a ride down a rural road these days, will reveal that in the midsts of the weedy bramble and brush awaits beautiful tiny pink and red jewels which are slowly but surly ripening to a glossy juicy black. In just a few short weeks we will be rewarded by a wealth of blackberries—all ripe and ready for the picking.

Now these are of the wild variety, so they are smaller than their cultivated cousins and perhaps a bit more sour—all you need is to add just the right amount of sugar, a little lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon, a splash of creme de cassis…cook it down slowly and you have a heavenly warm compote worthy of ice-cream or pound cake—-or place this in a small oven proof dish and top with a mixture of flour, sugar, butter, oats…. creating a streusel topping and you have the quintessential crumble or buckle.

This is one of the joys of early summer which harkens back to childhood. Armed with only a bowl, I’d fight bees and red bugs, heat and humidity all the while being very weary of snakes under foot, just to spend hours picking the luscious berries from their thorny vines….two for me, one for the bowl, two for me, one for the bowl……… As the days warm and the temperatures soar, I still look forward to foraging the woods on the hunt for blackberries.

But as I wait for the blackberries and peaches to all come into season, to ripen on the vine or branch, I am reminded, always so aptly by Mother Teresa, that there is one thing that no one need wait upon for ripening…and that is the Love that is readily available from each of us for one another. God’s love, is constantly at our fingertips, always ripe and so ready for our hands to grasp—which in turn is the very love in our own hearts–which is always ready to be offered to those around us who are reaching and in need.

May we remember this the next time we walk past those folks we blindly pass by on the street, the halls of schools, the aisles of the grocery store— those strangers we sit by at the DMV, the doctor’s office, on the bus or subway… those in front of or behind us in line at the theater, the store…..so many people we encounter each and every day, who may simply need a smile, a kind word, a simple gesture of kindness…. all which equates to a Love that is easily shared with those in need….no need for that to get ripe–it’s already here……..let it begin with you and who knows how far reaching this Love can go….Happy pickings………