The wonder of it all

Blue Ridge Mountains, late afternoon

January, so far, has been one of those periods of time when it seems life runs its own course and we just have to sit back and wonder at it all.

Such was the case when, earlier this month, The Redhead’s father passed after a lengthy illness. No matter when it comes, the passing of a parent stirs emotions that cannot be expressed but is understood by everyone that has gone through it. During it all, our family and friends in Connecticut, Florida, here in Staunton and elsewhere, brought us much comfort, support and love.

Death, for those that believe in its finality, can be devastating. Yet, if death is understood more as a passing or moving from one reality to another, it can bring comfort and even joy. To experience contrition, forgiveness and love at any time is wonderful, but at the end it is beautiful. Truly, God’s Hand in all matters is a wondrous thing.

Before her dad passed, The Redhead had us facetime. We spoke about several things, one of them being the building of our house here in Staunton, VA and his happiness that his daughter would be living in such a beautiful home and area. He reminded me of our walks and talks along his beloved Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine and I told him that I would also remember his tips about planting a flower garden – “always add a pop of white, it brings out the other colors”! I’ll do my best, but Augusta County clay soil is a far cry from the soil found in coastal Maine. Thanks for the tips, Norman. And, thank you for The Redhead.

So, now things are starting to really come together at the house. The framing is nearly complete and the rooms, while still only 2×4’s, are now clearly defined. A few tweaks here and there remain: a repositioning of the vanity in the Master Bath, the addition of an entry hall closet and a little tweak in the dining room to accommodate a hutch – little things that will mean a lot to us now and later. Our Builders, Eric and Amy Argenbright, have been very understanding of what we are trying to accomplish: a beautiful home that will suit us now and for a long time to come. We appreciate their ideas and especially their attention to quality and craftsmanship.

Following are a few photos of the work that has taken place in just these past few weeks:

Building the front porch
Setting the Trusses
Eric Argenbright selecting the correct roof truss for the crane
Risky Business
Man and Machine
Getting There
Back view, it looks bigger than it is! The sun room is in center.
Our soon-to-be new home in Staunton, VA

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.

Everything is going to be o.k.

Every year ends the same: We are bombarded with lists of “Best Of” and “Worst Of” the previous year, reviews of what actually occurred from last year’s list of predictions and, of course, new lists of what will happen this coming year.

I’ve got this figured out now!

Sages and pundits will have a prediction for everything: what  the “hottest” colors and fashion trends will be, what will happen to the stock / housing market, what will happen with foreign friends and foes, etc., etc. I’ll bet there will even be a few soothsayers that will predict who the next president will be! Ya’ think?

Oy, Vey, what will happen??

I’m thinking, though, that like this past year, when events do unfold most of us will simply scratch our heads and think, “Well, ain’t that something”. Is this the result of apathy or disinterest? No, not at all. It’s more a belief in that everything is going to be o.k. and some of us have been “around the block” a few times. There are, believe it or not (to coin a phrase), people that actually make a living trying to scare the bejeepers out of us. Oh, yeah!

Are ya’ scared yet?

So, because everything is going to be o.k., here is what we plan to do this coming year:

Plan our “Housewarming Party” for this coming Spring.

Plan which trees and shrubs we’ll plant on our property because, despite an abundance of clay soil, it’s going to be o.k. – something will grow.

Plan on a layout for my new basement workshop because, yes, I’m getting back to work.

No more working in “The Dungeon”! No wonder I lost my hair!

Plan to find some porch rockers because, despite being new-comers here in Staunton, VA it will be o.k. Friends and new neighbors will come by and set awhile on our front porch. And, vice-versa!

Entertainin’, Gibby style!

But, mostly, I plan to be happy and thankful. Because everything is going to be o.k. Believe it!

Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, that have become or have remained such an important part of our lives. And, I am truly thankful to God, His Holy Mother and St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio for the gift of healing my beautiful Redhead this past year.

Below are some pics of an unexpected Christmas / New Year gift from our builders: our framing has started!

Front of house, library will be second window from left!
Some views!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  Everything will be o.k.

Bill

Pax Vobiscum

20181225_002301 (1024x791)
Schola of St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton,VA

Christmas. It is both the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. The fulfillment and the promise.  It is what we let it be.

We are blessed, The Redhead and I. We have our health, our family of heart and blood, a new beginning and hopeful expectation. We have one another. And we have our Faith. None of it has come easily and for that we are all the more grateful for having what we do.

For us, this Christmas is a new beginning in many ways. Our move from Florida to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has opened up possibilities and opportunities. We have no idea of where we will call home or what we will be doing in the future but we are filled with a sense of peace. We are, we are sure, where we are supposed to be at this time. There is an expression that I have used over the past number of years, “Before you can know what you have, you first have to lose everything”. We know what we now have.

Our parish church here in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi, has been a source of comfort, strength and inspiration to us. We decided to attend Mass at the Christmas vigil this year. Before Mass there was a “concert” presented by the Schola of classical musicians and singers. It was a mix of both traditional and religious songs and hymns. No, “Santa Baby”, was not one of them! One of the traditional songs was a Charles Floyd/Yo-Y o Ma arrangement of “The Wexford Carol”. Here it is performed together by Alison Krause and Yo-Yo Ma (click here.)  The rendition sung in church was very close to what was sung by Krause, thanks to soprano, Nancy Hanna. The video’s bagpipe drone section of the music was substituted by the church organ. It was very stirring and served as an excellent example of how contemporary music can be sacred. This Vigil Mass was one of the most reverent we have attended in many years and Father Wamala’s Christmas message was simple: Love God, love one another and find your way to serve.

 

20181225_002207
Christmas Vigil altar St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton

Christmas Day was something different for us: a little baby will do that! Baby Jonah kept his parents hopping, yet Grammy (The Redhead) found a way to lull him to peaceful sleep.

20181226_2765
Sleepy Baby

Some Christmas music was played during the morning.  The organic farm just up the road provided us with a fresh turkey for a special Christmas dinner (I’ll write more about that farm at some later point).  It was truly a peace-filled day.

And now, New Year is upon us. No silly resolutions…at least for me. Yes, I’d like to take advantage of the more temperate (for me) weather and get outdoors more. But, dreams of six-pack abs have been diminished by the reality of a half-keg belly! Our goals are more straightforward: 1) Find a new home (are ya’ listenin’, Becky!), 2) Find a place to resume my furniture restoration interests, 3) Learn how to use my new Nikon 5300 camera that was a gift from the Redhead and 4) Develop a social circle of friends in our new hometown while keeping our family of the heart ever close to us. Doable? Yes, I believe it is.

In closing, here are some more pics from our continuing explorations of the Shenandoah Valley.

20181219_2755 (1024x576)
old hamlet of Brownsburg, north of Lexington,VA

20181219_2758 (1024x644)
Valley farm, near Lexington,VA

20181229_2773
Blue Ridge Mountain farm, Edinburg, VA

20181229_151238 (824x1024)
Edinburg Mill. Detail showing charred timbers resulting from Union General Sheridan’s raid and burning of the mill and town, 1864

 Peace be with you. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year to all! 

Bill

Ying Yanged

(20171016Litchfield CT

For the first time in almost four years I went North. Back to friends and places once familiar. Back to changing leaves and temperatures and shifting feelings. Funny that I chose October, the birthday month, the time for reflection and deflection.

I was not myself. A mood that had crept into me for several months came along for the trip. And ghosts long thought banished popped up for a pre-Halloween surprise.

It is difficult to explain except, perhaps, through metaphor. When a ship sets sail into rough water it had best make sure its ballast and cargo are balanced. Mine was not. My Ying was Yanged. And, like an unbalanced ship, I rocked this way and that. I complained that the New York traffic bothered me, when in actuality I normally couldn’t care less. The heat in Florida is terrible, I complained (what a news flash that was!), ditto the traffic here and the crime 10 miles away. Had I become a kvetch? Oy Vey! 

kvetch

But, what was the problem? It has taken me these past two weeks or so to settle and reflect. The problem is me (Isn’t it always?). I don’t like being retired. I’m not even sure what I’m retired from! From two professions it could be said that I’m retired. A third was more a passion and an unfinished work, one that I thought I could continue here in Florida – restoring antique / vintage furniture. It hasn’t happened for a number of reasons. And, not making excuses, they are legitimate reasons. Truth be told, however, I like working. I need to work, again. Volunteering hasn’t been successful (still trying, though) and my one job experience here was a mixed bag (see my post, Charlie, September 2016).

It was while visiting Tiverton, one of my favorite areas up North that I again visited the weaving studio and shop of Amy Lund. I had met Amy a few years past when I had my shop, Redeux Vintage Furniture, in CT.

redeux store front

While visiting RI we made a “field trip” to see some craftspeople and Amy’s shop in Tiverton’s Four Corners is a favorite. Her enthusiasm and love for what she does is inspiring. It was a treat to visit her again, to see her work and to make a small purchase. If you’re ever in that area of RI stop into Amy Lund’s weaving studio  . 

After leaving Amy’s shop I knew I had to again work. It’s a matter of having a balance in  life. And no one wants to be unbalanced!

20171014 Amy Lund (2) (704x1024)

So, what’s next? Another trip North! Well, kind of North – North Carolina and Tennessee to be exact (not sure if they’d like to be considered Northern States!). We’ll visit friends and view areas not visited before.

Thanks to all my friends up North for their welcome and patience with my “Yanged Ying”. Thanks, too, to HM for her special prayers. And to Geraldine Wahlgren, “that German Lady”, who took a chance 51 years ago this month and opened her heart and home to two young boys. I will never forget.

Does every love affair have to end?

Does every love affair have to end?

She gave me the news a few days ago and nothing is the same. If she didn’t bring out the best in me, at least she let me share what was.

She is a free spirit. She was the sun on cloudy days and yet so cool when everyone was sweating. Being with her at night was best. She sparkled. And moved to music that was hers alone.

In five days we will say goodbye. Forever. It is so final that the words ,”please, don’t” can’t even be thought. It is over.

Because of a landlord’s desire for more, so many lives will have less. Much less.

My beloved Lillie’s is closing.

lillies

Lillies 1

Lillies2

Goodbye, Katy. Goodbye, Debbie. And Alyssa and all the others.

Does every love affair have to end?

Call me Killa’

I call you killer

Alice: “I’ll be right back, Killer. And, I call you, Killer, because you slaaay me.
Ralph: “And I’m calling Bellevue because you’re nuts”! Link to TV clip

Last week was my “face your fears time”. It began early one morning with our friend and neighbor, Lydia, knocking on our front door. The Redhead went to the door, as did our two friends visiting from Connecticut, Sue and Mary Ellen. There was a brief conversation, three sentences of which can be recalled: Lydia – “There’s a snake by my backdoor, a bad one. I don’t know what to do”. The Redhead – “I’ll get, Bill”.

Tell me there is a lion in your backyard. No problem. Tell me there is a leak in your faucet. No problem. Tell me there is someone walking down the street, wearing a mask, and carrying your neighbor’s TV.  Absolutely, no problemo. But, tell me something is crawling in your backyard and it’s not wearing a diaper. That’s a problem. For me. That this bit of news was delivered by Lydia to The Redhead and Sue and Mary Ellen made this a stomach-churning, knee buckling, cold sweat type of problem. At least for someone still believing in chivalry. And, as Don Quixote found out, chivalry and common sense don’t always go hand in hand. No sir. And timing. Timing is very important. Oh, yeah. Ya’ have to think some things through, very carefully. And, that takes time.

But, on this beautiful sunny morning, time and common sense were two gifts denied me. Thanks in part to dear friend, Sue, blurting out, “I’ll go over”, I needed to DO SOMETHING. Fast! Because, as well intentioned as she was, Sue, from Queens, NY, knows about as much about snakes as Donald Trump knows about hair style and humility.

Trump

So, no contemplating a plan. No assembling of an appropriate arsenal of weapons. Just time to grab a shovel, slip on a pair of moccasins (oh, the irony!) and hot foot over to Lydia’s backyard to see, The Bad One.

There he was, curled up just outside her back door. Just a Black Racer napping, I hoped. Now, if someone really hates snakes, as do I, the best hope is for a snake to be (1) a tool used by a plumber, (2) a Black Racer. Both are useful and won’t hurt you. Usually.

shovel snake

So, let me just give this little bugger a nudge and send it on its way somewhere else. What a hero I’ll be – without breaking a sweat! So, tickle, tickle, my little pal. Up goes its head, open goes his mouth, rubbery go my knees. The open white mouth tells the tale: it’s a water moccasin or “cotton mouth”. The books say it all – Avoid, venomous, dangerous, and nasty. Lydia was right, it’s a bad one.

The next five or so minutes must have been like watching the Wallenda Acrobats walking a tight-rope wearing clown shoes. It’s a dangerous act, but it brings out laughter. Lydia has out her camera phone. Sue is saying, “oooh, oooh”! Both are laughing. The snake is not laughing. He looks straight at me as I bring down the sharp edge of my Ames spade shovel. Whack, whack, miss, whack. Another look at the snowy inside of his mouth as he wiggles a little closer. Whacko. This SOB won’t die, I blurt out. More laughing. Oh, ladies, it seems I was born to amuse you. Yikes! This thing is still moving. Whacko, chop. Take that!

20151005snakey3

snake3 (2) (576x1024)

20151005 snakey1At last. Finito! What might have made a fine pair of boots for a midget is now a nearly tri-sected length of nasty. It must be three feet long. Hmm, with a little effort I could stretch this to being an 8 foot menace to humanity. No, we’ll leave well enough alone. A quick catapult into the nearby woods and it’s sayonara for this critter.

Let’s hope the next knock on the door brings with it a friend with a piece of apple pie, maybe a bit of pumpkin bread or a ”I’m just here to visit, put on the coffee”. But, if not, now I’m ready for anything!