Category Archives: small town USA

A Walled Garden

19206160_1634797773197947_1339798747_nIn the city, space is a commodity. I’ve always thought of cities as incongruous lonely spaces – so many people, so little humanity interacting.

But we are staying with friends in downtown Edinburgh, not a mile off Princess Street (downtown) and they have a walled garden…..

I love walled gardens. Your own little bit of marked off territory for just sitting, thinking, being quiet and contemplative with a book and a cup of tea, or loud and boisterous with instruments and a bottle of wine and a handful of mates.

In the middle of the city, you can find the greenery and the fountains and the people who actually live in the cities, whose lives are rooted like the gardens they plant in their little secret places.

Perhaps my fondness for gardens stems back to the day after Jack’s mum died, and I was away from home in Ayrshire, in Wigtown, Scotland’s book city, and had nowhere to go to be by myself and have a good cry. And I spilled my guts to say as much to one of the bookshop owners, at Ceridwin’s Cauldron, and she took me back to her garden and brought me tea and told me to stay as long as I wanted. I spent an hour back there composing myself and being nothing but alone. Ever since then, walled gardens have been a special space.

The garden here at Barbara and Oliver’s has been a jolly place, shared for music and reminiscences and politics and the mystery of the noise coming from somewhere nearby. (Jack cracked that; it was a two-note sound not unlike the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS alien five-note theme, and he found the sewer pipe in the apartment next door was letting off gas, one note opening, the other closing. A farting building, in essence.)

Walled gardens are lovely, and every city has such little tucked-away spaces. Explore them when you can, with friends when you can. They are the heartbeat of humanity.

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Filed under between books, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

Checklist for going to Scotland…

stressJack and I are two days out from going to Scotland for his annual tour. This is the first year I’ve been able to go with him. So I’ve been getting my to-do-before-leaving list together, and thought you might like to see it:

  1. Crochet breast (a friend who had breast cancer discovered that a crocheted knocker could go swimming, and asked me to make her one. It’s taken a long time to get her measured for size, but I am determined this will be with her before I depart.)
  2. Sign house papers (we are selling our cabin in the Tennessee woods, and of course the papers arrived and had to be notarized)
  3. Scrub away that suspicious yellow stain behind the toilet (casting no aspersions on male bookstore guests, but if the plane goes down I don’t want people making snide comments about my housekeeping)
  4. Clean out the Prius (we were going to trade it in when we got back, and then a friend was looking for a car for his daughter, so what better time to sell your car than 48 hours before an international flight?) – Oh, and arrange transport to the airport.
  5. Make unicorn hair (my niece asked for a unicorn scarf for Christmas, and mailing it while in Scotland will be a lot cheaper, but I haven’t get the mane finished)
  6. Find a place to hold a conference for 96 doctors that includes enough hotel rooms, wifi, child-friendly activities, and gourmet level food (Oh curse you state park that lost our reservation made LAST SEPTEMBER- although it’s not all bad; they gave us a significant discount for next year. A VERY significant discount.)
  7. Tie up tomato plants (only six heirlooms remain of the 14 I planted, due to blackberry winter, dogwood spring, indian summer, tomato-killing fall–whatever you call that weather we had)
  8. Stop solving cat rescue problems (the other members of Appalachian Feline Friends have stepped forward to afford me this time away; I need to stop saying “if it were me, I’d” and thank them for the gift of awayness)
  9. Weed the front garden (oh who am I kidding? I don’t sodding care if we have crabgrass)
  10. Ignore pile of clean laundry (it will be here when I get back, and given the other stuff, it isn’t a priority. I have unicorn hair and a crocheted breast to finish.

We leave Sunday afternoon. A friend asked me “what are you looking forward to the most in Scotland” and I had to lie, because my first response was, “Not having any cell phone service.” Truth. Go by, mad world. Without me, please.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Hero

HH13I got Jack up early this morning, and we headed for Hazel House in order to catch the six vestal virgins (as we incorrectly call them; three of them have had litters) therein. I overturned furniture and explored new ways of stringing invectives before he cleverly used geometry to project the exact ricochet of the last capture-evading cat off the wall, straight into the waiting carrier.

I get home from a hard day’s adulting involving talks with a lawyer and other fun stuff to find that some jobs that volunteers were doing for Appalachian Feline Friends, didn’t get done. One of them not getting done has caused a rift with some very smart, very kind people. I am unhappy.

Jack reminds me that adulting is hard, and an organization made up of volunteers has to roll with the punches. He then tells me to go ahead and work on the lawyer-and-jobs things while he cleans the guest room–which is a nightmare because we’ve been storing everything we needed to get Out Of The Way for the past month up there. But now we need it because a friend is coming to town. A friend we’ve been looking forward to having with us for three months or more.

Then Jack comes downstairs and makes us supper. I rise from my computer blitzkrieg to eat, and then take leftovers out to the garage to freeze.

The garage is underwater.

Jack waded into the water, turned off the machine, got me to pull the breaker, and then found the problem. The hot water hose to the washing machine has broken. Since he was knee-deep in getting out information to those going on the Scottish trip, we agreed that tomorrow was another day. About ten minutes later, my long-suffering husband said, “I think I have the part I need for that….” left his computer and went back to the garage.

And fixed the washer by 8:30 pm.

Sod you, Monday. I have a superhero for a husband!

 

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

A Guy Walks into a Bookstore….

18921773_1618662488144809_1870777436861749913_nJack and I have often said that the best stories found at a bookstore are in the customers. This is Brandon. He came in looking for old books to decorate with. He’s renovating an old house and looking for book nook filler. Fair enough. We negotiated a cheap price for “filler books.”

But as we did, since his right hand was wrapped in bandages and looked about twice the size of the other, I commented that renovations must have taken a bad turn.

Brandon looked briefly sheepish.

“I have this motorbike,” he said.

“Biking accidents are the worst,” Jack offered in commiseration, and Brandon practically blushed.

“Here’s how it went down. I got caught in some pig gravel, and I had to lay the bike down, and I did it, textbook. So gentle, so easy, I didn’t even have road rash on my arms.”

(Translation, for those not in the biker world. Brandon unexpectedly hit loose gravel, swerved, and knew his bike was going to capsize. So he deliberately leaned over enough that the bike would fall in a semi-controlled way. Usually a falling bike will still drive forward a bit, scratching up the skin of the biker.)

“But I messed up my bike, really did a number on the body work, little dents and all, and I limped it back home and went back into the house to work on it some more. And I was so mad, I punched the wall in the basement.”

Where he’d been working to re-expose the solid oak beams that held up the old house.

“If I’d punched that stupid plaster board and paneling, everything would’ve been okay. But I went straight into a beam. Broke two of them little tarsel thingees.”

Surviving a bike accident to take it out on a wall has to be one of my new favorite customer stories. There’s just something so human about this.

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Everything’s Coming up Roses – –

It’s Jack’s Wednesday guest post – and it’s on a Wednesday for a change!

It’s that time of year again – When we can watch the grass grow and try desperately to stay ahead of all the yard work.

We had an abnormally cool and rainy spring here, so the transition to days of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s has been rather abrupt this year. But we didn’t have the usual late frost, so we will have a very abundant apple and pear crop. Even the sad old peach tree, although on her last legs, will have a crop of some sort it appears. Apparently peach trees have a limited life and just die naturally then have to be replaced. On the other hand, the apple tree I thought I might have pruned to death a couple of years ago has recovered well – swings and roundabouts.

Our good friend David came over from NC recently and prepared our front garden so Wendy has been scattering flower seeds there, while our heirloom tomatoes are ready to be planted along the back yard fence. We couldn’t possibly have grown tomatoes outside in Scotland, far less the peppers we will plant out front here.

But summer here also brings fairly regular thunderstorms that test the efficacy of our gutters. I already know that a couple are sagging in the wrong place, so that’s another urgent job that will have to be fitted in between mowing and weed-whacking. At least we now have a weed-whacker that actually starts and runs happily as well as having the easiest string replacement system I’ve ever come across. We have another two in the shed that never worked properly!

Wendy and I have an old friend in Scotland (who lives in a house that features regularly throughout the ‘Outlander’ TV series) and he sends end-of-the-year newsletters annually that are always full of doom and gloom. Reading back through this post it looks a little like that, so – –

Just for the record, I’m very happy to live where the summers are warm and mostly sunny and the winters are no worse than Scotland!

I just remembered I need to get gas for the mower – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

I’m Going to a Spa to Lie Down

Friends and I have been plotting our escape for months. Grove Park Inn in Asheville, home of a spa full of mineral pools and a restaurant full of fine wines. Susan, Beth, and I are going to go be Women On Vacation there for three days.

We are taking extra wine, and some Polar Water (soda of choice for those as don’t drink soda) and coloring books and our bathing suits. We are leaving behind our cell phones and our Adulting hats.

Viva la irresponsibility!

Beth has an incredibly responsible job. She is the vet for Appalachian Feline Friends AND the entire town of Big Stone Gap. People drive up to her home at midnight with owls they hit; they phone at 3 a.m. to ask about a coughing dog. Being a vet in a small town is hard work, 24/7. Her phone will be off this weekend.

Susan reads x-rays to tell people whether or not that have incurable diseases. No pressure there….. and she is herself the survivor of a difficult health history that has left her with some enduring ouchies. Plus she looks after a herd of eldercats, including some adopted from AFF. Her phone will be off this weekend.

And me, I run around between the medical world, the bookselling world, the cat rescue world, and general adult responsibilities, trying to shuck them all onto other people so I can carve out time to write. My clinical office is moving and turning itself into a 501c3, with resultant steady politics. The cat rescue is coming into season. And I have final edits due at the end of the month that haven’t been started. (Umm, if you’re reading this, Nancy, I’m on top of it, I swear.)

We are going to a spa to lie down. Preferably in salt water pools while handsome cabana boys bring us drinks with fruit in them. Actually, skip the fruit and put in extra chocolate syrup and vodka.

And yes, we will certainly enjoy the trappings of a ritzy weekend, but more we will enjoy just being together, doing nothing but being together. Scottish folksinger Ivor Cutler wrote a song that English singer Nic Jones made famous in pubs across Britain. Jack and I often sing the lyrics when we’re stressed, and in fact since The Election in America a quote from it has been my banner picture on Facebook.

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Green grass, green grass, growing  beneath me
There’s the green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field to lie down
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Blue skies, blue skies up above me
There’s the green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field to lie down
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Yellow flowers, yellow flowers growing all around me
There’s blue skies up above me
Green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Susan, Beth and I are outta here. Y’all have a good weekend, ’cause we’re sure planning to.

 

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Filed under animal rescue, between books, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

Hey Y’all, (don’t) Watch This

50_Cupcake_HiRez

Today is my 50th birthday. So far this morning I have celebrated by catching up on things that slid past while my attention was directed elsewhere: getting the final grades in, why the dishwasher was making that funny noise, blue line edits to Fall or Fly, what to do about the nasty stain in the downstairs toilet bowl….Turning 50 is very glamorous.

One of the items I’m catching up on is this weekend’s blog. It is very satisfying to go from 49 to 50. Among other things, this is the age at which society begins to ignore women, which means we can do as we like. At the fundraising galas, while the eyes of the men with bow ties are on the cute little blond across the room, I can drink their champagne. When a kitten tries to cross a busy road, I can leap from my automobile and demand everyone halt because I have grey in my hair, heft to my hips, and the authority of surprise behind me. Yet no one will hold me accountable, because I am a 50-year-old American woman.

If I’m reading the hints right, society thinks women are supposed to feel bad about turning 50, slightly apologetic or guilty that we couldn’t keep ourselves young and thin forever. Ha. I got these wisdom lines from a lot of different places, none of which I am ashamed of being in. And from knowing a lot of different people, most of whom were worth knowing, and the ones that weren’t I don’t know any more. Traveling light is a good thing at any age, so it seems a little counter-intuitive to worry about carrying other people’s baggage now.

Thus I spent my birthday morning stamping gel flowers into all the toilets in the house, because they promised to eliminate odors AND suspicious pink crusting. I found it very satisfying. Who knew they even made such wondrous things? And my husband has promised me one of those little round vacuums to do the floors – you know, the kind cats like to ride in You Tube videos. It’ll be entertainment as well as cleaning. Not that cleaning is my thing: living in a comfortable house while saving time is. I have stuff to write, mischief to make, cats to play with, husbands to tease – ehm, strike that, just one husband – and causes to support. Heh heh heh. Never underestimate the power of a woman whistling on her way.

Hold my stolen champagne glass, kiddo; I’m goin’ in.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing