My Little Backwoods Corner

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hometown.

Casar is hardly a town at all, with less than a thousand people, most of which live outside the “city limits”.  The residents of the county I live in have always had a love and hate relationship with my hometown too. We’re the rednecks, the white trash, the hicks… And thirty years ago, if you asked the man who used to pastor the church my extended family have always attended, he’d tell you that Casar was filled with a bunch of devil worshipers, drug addicts, and sinners. Forget the fact that there’s a Methodist or a Baptist church on almost every road.

I always dreamed of “getting out”, like many young people do when they grow up in small, rural towns.

I wanted to grow up, travel the world, go to school, and you know, LIVE. My eyes were always seeking the horizon, wondering what interesting lives and adventures waited around the bend, or over the mountains. One of my favorite musings as a kid and young teen was filling a bag with essentials, grabbing my bike, and just picking a direction to see what I could find.

This was before the internet. There was only what could be seen on the television or read in books. I was a big fan of the Discovery channel, nature documentaries, forensic file shows, NOVA specials, and history shows. I used to read the encyclopedia and dictionary, picking a random entry and following references, terminology, and chance through the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.

I was in love with Japan (thanks James Clavell). I wanted to see Ireland. I wanted, in turn, to be an actress, a model, a paleontologist, a writer…anything that would let me travel the world, see exotic places, do amazing things that couldn’t be done in my little, backwoods, forgotten corner of the South.

I never felt like I belonged here – and honestly, I didn’t want to. I wanted to do so many things, go so many places, be so many different things. Most of it I never did and still haven’t.

You see, leaving Casar turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.

For one, when I was eighteen, I was afraid to go to college. I didn’t want to live on campus with a bunch of strangers, in a city or a state I’d never been. I didn’t want to leave my aikido school and start somewhere else. I could’ve gone to a local university, but with the exception of the community colleges, none were affordable. I didn’t know anyone or anything outside my town, my county.

But more than that, I didn’t want to leave my family behind.

I graduated in 2005. When I was in 9th grade, the Trade Towers and Pentagon were hit. I was in Drama class when we got the news and my teacher turned on the television. Our class watched while it all went down (literally). These were the years that school shootings started happening – Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and later the shooting at Fort Bragg. The world seemed like such a dangerous, dark place.

We always had a saying in my family – that if you mess with one of us, you messed with all of us. We were taught to always have each other’s back. To always back each other up. The idea of leaving that kind of support behind – to go out on my own with no backup was scary. I didn’t want to be hours away from home.

I was an insecure kid – naïve and wet behind the ears – what did I know about taking care of myself?

So I stayed home, tried to go to the local community college, but it didn’t work out at the time. So I went to work, and I got in and out of stupid relationships. You know, normal stuff.

But what does all this have to do with anything, right? Why am I giving you a rundown on my life history? You, a probable stranger on the internet.

Well, the truth is that the last couple of years have really made me think about my own life. I’ve had to make the choice to stay at home with my son, instead of working. I’ve been using that time to go back to school. I’m finally finishing up a two-year degree and there’s another one I want to get – one that, coupled with some new hobbies of mine, could turn into an at-home business (more on that later).

My life isn’t turning out remotely how I dreamed it would when I was a kid or teenager, but the lessons I’ve learned since then have made me who I am. They’ve turned me into a strong, capable woman, who makes plans and then does her damnedest to see them through.

I still have a love-hate relationship with my hometown; most of who I am and what I believe in differs from the status-quo in Casar. But my family is here and the life I want to build will continue to develop here.

Maybe one day I will leave, head towards the horizon, and discover wonderous things.

For now, I’m content to seek out wondrous things where I am. In my own backyard. In this little, backwoods, forgotten corner of the South.

View of my backyard – October 2021

Potter’s Wheel

She speaks inside me, sitting as she always does at her potter’s wheel. The clay spins and her leg moves in a comforting rhythm while her fingers, gnarled and veiny with age, gracefully work a stubborn lump of red clay into something beautiful, useful, and unique. Her voice has all the cadence of a magician’s incantation, the words rolling and filled with diphthongs. In her voice is the hills, the crystal-clear creeks, and a tree-trimmed sky.

She is patient. She works the clay, her nails darkening with the earth. Her leg does not cease its rhythmic movement. “The land is our life,” she says, watery eyes squinting as she molds the clay. “Our life and our future. Never forget her, child.”

I nod, though I do not understand at first – for I am young and foolish, and the crone seated before me is many lifetimes old, and her wisdom is the wisdom of the ages. The hum of the potter’s wheel continues, the image of the white-haired crone fading into the blackness behind my eyes.

I open them. Above me is the heavy gray of a sky promising rain.

Water is life.’ I think. ‘Because we are water.

Air is life.’ I know, breathing deep. ‘Because without it, we perish.

Fire is life.’ I remember, feeling the heartbeat in my chest. ‘Because our hearts are filled with fire.

“The land is our life,” I say, hearing the crone’s voice mix with my voice. “And our future. We must never forget the land.”

Happy Winter Solstice everyone.

(Image belongs to Lane Brown and can be purchased @ https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/lane/crone/ )

The Veil is Thinning…

The veil is thinning,
and I hear your call.
You always speak loudest in the fall.

The rustling of the browning leaves
is an echoing chorus;
The cooling heat of the sun,
the touch of many hands
Of the ones that came before me,
And the spirits of the land.

The veil is thinning
And we hear your call.
The ancestors have not left us at all.

The start of the day found the temperature just shy of chilly, with an overcast sky, and a draping fog over the land…but North Carolina is fickle about her weather and the day will no doubt clear, with a warm rush of sunlight, and the scurrying of small animals and birds in the trees and brush.

Today is my 35th birthday and I find that the ancestors are on my mind.

The reasons for this abound, but none have to do with getting older. Getting older for me is just what it is. We are born, we grow up, we get older, and then when our time has come, we join the ancestors on the other side.

When I was a child – even a child as young as seven or eight – I felt the ancestors at this time of the year. When I wandered around our large backyard, or played in the field around our home, the whispering leaves and the quiet anticipation that the whole world seem to be filled with filled me up at well. I would often think of colonial times – when there were supposed to be witches and spirits and headless horsemen in the world. I would think of the Native Americans, the first peoples of this land, who were one with it and who were driven off of the land. Whose spirits I imagined I could still feel in the chilly autumn air.

Perhaps I was a sensitive child. Perhaps I had a good imagination. And perhaps I watched too much television.

Regardless, the fall and its main holiday – Halloween to most, and Samhain to a few – captured me and held me tightly until the Christmas seasone swept away the more quiet, magical feelings I held inside with anticipation for rich food, presents, and Santa Claus.

But even then, the feelings that the ancestors were there on the outskirts watching and whispering never truly left. I could feel their presence in the celebration of Thanksgiving, and I would wonder about the Native Americans and why I’d never met any. I could feel the ancestors’ presence in the songs about the virgin birth of Jesus, the Christmas tree, or about decking the halls.

The silent, holy nights. The angels appearing to shepherds in the field. The evergreen boughs of the tree and the decking of halls. The singing of yuletide carols.

Even before I knew the histories of some of our most prominent fall and winter holidays, the hints were there. The voices muted, the language changed, but the presence of those who came before were still there. And still are.

The fact that I’m harping (can I harp? I didn’t know it was a verb) on thoughts of the dead and deceased on my birthday might frighten some, make others nervous, and still others question my state of mind, but I assure you…I’m quite all right.

In truth, thoughts of the ancestors comfort me in these shorter, colder days of the year. Their voices soothe me in the darkness before bed.

I sit in the yard, listening to the wind in the trees, the scurrying animals, feel the faint warmth of the sun, and know that they are there with me. Thoughts of the long-gone and dearly departed do not depress me but move my spirit to peace.

I tell them that my soul remembers them, even if their faces or their names are lost to me. I tell them they are not forgotten. They live on in this world because we, their descendants, live on in this world. We struggle and love and work, just as they struggled and loved and worked.

I may have said it before, but the fall time is my favorite time of the year…because it is a quiet, reflective, magical time – when the veil is thinning, and our hearts can entwine more fully with those who have gone before us.

Ever-Changing – a poem

This past week, to highlight the autumn equinox, I had planned to upload a couple of poems celebrating autumn or fall in general. But after reviewing some of the poetry I’ve written, I came across another poem and felt compelled to share it instead.

In the spirit of the changing season, where the beauty and abundance of the summer gives way to the leaner, more mercurial nature of autumn, with its changing leaves, frantic, scurrying animals, and more reflective feel – here is my poem “Ever Changing”.

As I read through it, it felt oddly appropriate – not only for the season, but also for the world at large right now. I do hope you like it.

EVER CHANGING

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the seasons
in the sea of Space and Time,
changing like the tides
ebbing and flowing,
pulled by the moon on high.

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the seasons
in Time’s boundless sea,
trapped in a cycle,
never having leave to rest,
except in the embrace of Death.

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the colors
of pearly dawn and smoky dusk,
our hues forever changing,
blending and melding,
with those changing with us.

Copyright © J.S. White

Probably Not the Blog You’re Looking For…

When I first started the blog, I had an idea of what I wanted it to be – something quaint, simple, and thoughtful. Something that didn’t rely on lists of Do and Do-Not’s, 10 Best Techniques of whatever. I wanted something personal and friendly, almost like a conversation with someone in your local coffee shop. Or a meet-up with a friend. Something that, at the very least, was consistent.

Well, here we are – halfway through my first real year of blogging – and I would consider this blog neither quaint nor consistent.

Rambling? Yes.
Simple? Probably.
Thoughtful? I like to think so.

The truth is, I had something of a chance of heart at the beginning of August, after celebrating First Harvest. I don’t want my blog to be just another author’s blog out there, giving out tips for writing scenes, or developing characters. There are far better and more qualified writers with blogs out there for that. I’m not that person. I don’t have a four-year degree in English or Creative Writing. I don’t have a dozen published novels or e-books out there for you to check out. And I may never have them and that’s okay.

I write because it makes me happy when I do. I write because I try to connect with people, places, and things that interest me, and writing helps me process and internalize those things.

There was a large gap in my usual posting because my concept of what I wanted this blog to be had changed and I was unsure how to move forward. Now, I have a better idea. It’s my hope that updates will be more consistent (there’s that word again) moving forward. There will be some difference in content, but the style of writing similar to previous posts.

There will be thoughts on seasonal things and nature, something I’m getting increasingly close to and aware of these days. There will be posts of poems and short fiction still, just as before, but there will be more personal non-fiction as well. Less emphasis on writing nuts and bolts, technique, but hopefully more actual writing.

If you’ve followed me this far, I hope you will remain. If you plan to leave after this, that’s fine…I understand.

Here’s to a new start and a better blogging journey…

Looking Forward to the Fall…

In the North Carolina piedmont, the fingers of autumn are starting to creep into the everyday.

Spider webs, both large and small, are draped over every bush, hedge, between tree branches, in little hidden corners of the porch. In the humidity, there’s a suggestion of coolness – a welcome reminder that the heat and stickiness of summer will soon end. Harvest decorations are popping up in the yards and porches of neighborhood houses, along with the macabre decorations of avid Halloween enthusiasts (a cousin of mine is one of them, she decorates as soon as the school starts every year).

Dove season – a tiny little window of recreational hunting that only lasts for two weeks – started on Labor Day. Incidentally, dove season usually coincides with the harvest of corn in our area, which makes for better hunting as the fat, little birds are eager to snatch up any fallen grains in the newly cut fields.

This year, however, the fields are still ripe with corn, the tall stalks beginning to brown. Less corn means less complacent doves, which means a rather disappointed husband for me. Still, there’s still turkey season and deer season to be had, so hope isn’t lost for John – who fancies himself a hunter, but who really uses hunting season as an excuse to cut his phone off and sit around in the woods for hours at a time.

And for me?

I’m enjoying the promises of cool weather in the whispers of wind through the trees. The scurrying of small mammals as they hurry to fatten up and line their nests in preparation for winter makes me smile. I think of setting out pinecone birdfeeders drenched in peanut butter and bird seed; of gathering little piles of acorns and bundles of sticks like I did when I was a child…just because.

I think of the warmth of family gatherings and sharing hearty foodstuffs like roasted vegetables, ham, and attempting to bake fresh bread (a new goal of mine this year).

Like so many people, autumn is my favorite time of the year. And this year I have a feeling I’ll enjoy it even more, because I plan to really be present and celebrate the season.

The craziness of last fall and winter made it difficult to really be present mentally. My focus was definitely more on those things out in the world instead of those in the local, natural environment. This year I plan to change that. I want to celebrate the season more fully, both in my everyday life and in my inner life.

I plan to crochet more. I plan to bake homemade bread for the first time (and then a second, and a third). I plan on sitting out in the autumn sun more, soaking up its energy and breathing in the cool, crisp air.

I plan on acknowledging how, regardless of how technologically-advanced our society has become or how crazy the world still is, I am still a part of nature and that it still has important, timeless things to teach me.

I’m looking forward to the Fall…this descent into reflection and the gathering up of things.

I’m looking forward to sorting through my thoughts, my feelings, reflecting on my place in the world, and what kind of seeds I want to sow, not only in the coming months, but in the days after the darkness of fall and winter have passed.