With cold weather coming on Wednesday,, I thought I’d revise and repost these thoughts on weather.
E.B. White was a man who truly had a way with words. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the author of the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. When talking about the first flakes of snow falling, he said,
“At first it was an almost imperceptible spitting from the gray sky…”
I love the way he put it – such a perfect way to describe this scene. This is how I want to write.
Below are some pictures from February, 2015, when we had that “…imperceptible spitting..”
I hear the train a comin’ It’s rollin’ ’round the bend, And I ain’t seen the sunshine, Since, I don’t know when,
from Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash
In early 2014, after we decided on a house and our offer was accepted, my husband looked on Google Maps and saw that the train runs very near our house. He was worried this was going to be a problem, but, I like it. I don’t know what it is, but I enjoy hearing the whistle blow, which it does 4-5 times a day. I think if I could get through the brush and woods on the other side of our back fence I would be right at the tracks.
My last train ride was in 1996, the day my father died. Our van was in the shop and it was the only way I could get back to see him. My brother picked me up at the train station and drove me to our parent’s house. That night as I sat with him his breathing became labored. I had to wake my mom from what was probably her first peaceful sleep in weeks. As she held his hand and I held her, he left us. And even though the lonely train whistle often reminds me of that night, it also reminds me that life is going on all around me. Trains and planes and cars are taking people back and forth everyday here this little corner of Alabama and all over the wide world. I am just a speck.
Last year I wrote a poem a day for PAD, Writer’s Digest’s Poem A Day challenge: the prompt for day 23 was “footwear”. I instantly thought about the excitement of my first winter in Birmingham when I got to wear boots day after day. And then I thought of 2015 when I was hiking in Montana. After a hard trek to Iceberg Lake, I took off my hiking boots and plunged my feet into the water that was about 40 degrees. Needless to say, I barely lasted 15 seconds.
Once again it’s boot weather here in Alabama and I still love the look and comfort of all my boots!
Boots I was so pleased to move to a place where I could buy boots and actually wear them That first boot winter was so much fashion fun Those boots gave me warmth and style Gray, brown, black – I loved them all But by month six My Florida feet were longing to be set free
“Werner thinks of his childhood, the skeins of coal dust suspended in the air on winter mornings…” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
For some reason, this stirred a childhood memory of milk. For a very short time when we first moved to Jacksonville, FL, we had our milk delivered by the “milkman”. On our front porch sat a metal crate where we would leave our empty bottles and take delivery of fresh milk. I remember the tops were sealed with thick paper lids. This milk was probably from Skinner’s Dairy, a hometown company that later built numerous drive-thru milk stores across Jacksonville.
In north Florida it didn’t get cold very often, but there were some winter mornings when we were excited to be able to see our breath in the chilly air. There was one winter I’ll always remember as the temperature got down in the upper teens and our heat went out. Our dad was out of town at the time on one of his many business trips. We bundled up and played outside anyway. The very large ditch – like a creek – behind our house was frozen on the top. Our friend’s little dog, Ginger, skittered across easily. Our dog, Dixie, followed her and went right through to the icy water.
Other fall and winter days were filled with my brothers playing football in the front yard and a few evening fires in our fireplace. In high school it was a time to wear stylish sweaters to school, then go outside for PE in the short gym suits we had to wear. I remember being teased about the chill bumps on my legs – referred to as chicken skin.
After moving to Birmingham in 2014, I was so excited about our first fall and winter. Sweaters and boots and scarves were so much fun! But, then it seemed to last forever and I yearned for the warmth of spring.
Last year, summer far outlasted its welcome. And this year we’ve had our share of hurricanes in the south. Now I long once more for the cool air and some justification for a pumpkin spice latte.
“Cancel subscriptions to Southern Living, Veranda and Southern Lady magazines”
– I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
In Flagg’s book, the main character, Maggie Fortenberry, is making plans to kill herself, but she just can’t leave the world without putting everything in order first, including canceling her magazine subscriptions. I am familiar with all three of these magazines; in fact, Southern Living and Southern Lady are both published right here in Birmingham. In another fact, I worked for Southern Lady for two whole weeks. But, that’s a long story for another day.
The bad thing for me about magazines like these is the desires they stir up. Everything is lovely and perfect… and usually expensive. Granted, there is a lot of good information between the pages, such as gardening tips and recipes. But, then again, I don’t have a green thumb and don’t cook like I used to. Maggie Fortenberry didn’t really garden or cook, either. So, why do we get these magazines?
Sometimes it’s fun to just dream. We think about houses we’d like to live in one day, places we’d like to visit, clothes that are lovely. Others of us get inspired: I could make a table like that; I could paint my room that color; I could visit that town on a budget. There is a lot of potential good if we peruse the pages with a little common sense. Or, we can just cancel those subscriptions altogether.
This post was originally written three months ago. I was ruminating on friendships past and future; looking for words of wisdom from scripture and finding nuggets in unexpected places. Surfing the net sometimes provides providential words of encouragement and exhortation.
There is no ideal place for us to serve God except the place He sets us down. We are not to run from it on a whim or sudden notion, but we should serve the Lord in it by being a blessing to those among whom we live. -Alistair Begg
I have been set down in Alabama; deposited in this south deeper than Florida. Here the grass is softer and the roads hillier; the accent thicker and the seasons more varied. Tornadoes have replaced hurricanes and I have discovered white BBQ sauce. But, God is the same. No matter how much I vacillate, He is the same.
And to quote a fictional character:
God will put you in the right place. Even if you don’t know it at the time. – Alec Hardy (quoting his mother) in Broadchurch
So, I believe I’m in the right place, no matter how I “feel” about it. Maybe I have not yet seen why. But, in our pursuit of becoming foster parents, I think perhaps this is our right place. In taking the steps to follow our desire to foster, it’s been like “going down the chute”.
You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. – Tina Fey
I’ve been working through some books that are either by Alabama authors, or take place in Alabama, or both. Here are a few brief reviews.
I Wish I Was in Dixie collected and edited by Marie Stokes Jemison and Jim Reed
This is a collection of stories from all across Alabama, from Birmingham to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa
Dear Slave – poems by Irene Latham. These are rich retellings of stories taken from the mouths of slaves and recorded by Ruby Pickens Tartt many years ago.
I Still Dream of You by Fannie Flagg. This was an enjoyable read and one that had me doing a little research about Birmingham. I read this for my book club, but no one else was able to finish it that month. 😦
Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe – also by Fannie Flagg. I couldn’t read this without picturing Kathy Bates in the role of Evelyn. I STILL need to go to the cafe in Irondale!