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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Three Sentence Essay

Who needs five paragraphs when the crux can be said in three sentences? Since it's back to school time, I think the appropriate essay prompt is the perennial teacher go-to: Write a theme about your summer.

When 99-degree days wash themselves in summer's humidity, one must sigh and accept her fate. No sooner does she complain about the heat than winter comes whistling under the door. The woman, again, longs for August.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Farewell Until I Stay Forever

This is the Old Spring at High Hampton Inn & Country Club. I apologize for the stick that got in the way when I took the picture. You must understand that I risked contact with poison Ivy, mosquito attacks, and spider web entanglement to get this photo.

The spring is located about 75 yards from the main High Hampton entrance down a steep embankment. It has carved it's way through here for thousands of years. Cherokee Indians traveling the Cherokee Trace Trail 2000 years ago stopped to replenish water supplies and refresh themselves. When this property belonged to General Wade Hampton's family, it was their summer water source.

Legend has it that the spring is haunted. Of course the only thing I ran into today was a spider web, but I'm willing to accept the legend. As the story goes, anyone who drinks from the spring will never leave High Hampton. 

I marvel that folks aren't ordering a glass of it with their evening meal. I should have, because today I have to make my own departure. 

But this is not goodbye. High Hampton and I are only parting until I muster the nerve to sip from the spring. This is only a farewell until I come back to stay forever.

The View from Here

Peering across high Hampton Inn & Country Club's Hampton Lake at Rock Mountain stirs a variety of thoughts. It takes me back to my Camp Chattooga Days in the foothills of the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The surrounding cabins, the inn, the waterfront, the hiking trails remind me of those carefree days of my youth. They even ring a bell for lunch and dinner.

It also returns me to my late teen years when I spent summers working at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. The warm days and cool evenings, the chilly lake water swallowing me when I dove in, the fresh smell of mountain air, the possibilities ahead in every day leap again in my heart. All those years ago I vowed to someday make Western North Carolina my home. I haven't yet.

Some part of those long ago experiences has stayed with me, though I didn't find a way to stay with them. I grew up. I got married. I had babies who turned into children. I got a job. I got busy. Soon, it was too late to go back.

Too late to go back except in my imagination. Gazing at High Hampton Inn & Country Club's Rock Mountain reminds me that I have gone back and I have taken hundreds of readers back with me. 

The Beast of Blue Mountain: A Campfire Story for the Fearful ( captures and bundles that nostalgia. At the same time, the story takes a twist and presents a surprise that appeal to young readers. It's an absolutely perfect book for a place like this.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pinch Me High Hampton

I'm looking around myself and thinking, I must be in a movie. The cameras are rolling and I'm an extra on an elaborate set bringing a screenwriter's imagination to life. This is crazy, of course. This is how I think, though.

I look across the green lawn that arches it's back down to the lake's lip, and wonder if the film is a classic flick about the darker undercurrents in the lives of the upper class. Folks mill about in their dinner dress - jackets for men and boys and dresses for ladies and girls - smiling and shaking hands and covering their dissatisfaction with the realities they've created for themselves. Tomorrow in the movie the characters will play croquet and pretend their alcoholism, affairs and maladjusted children are figments.
The lawn behind the High Hampton Inn.

But maybe I'm in a fairy tale, a Disney production. Perhaps a princess or seven dwarfs will start singing at any moment. They'll fling open the windows and pour out of my cottage and all the forest animals will follow and prance around them.
Hampton Cottage at High Hampton Inn & Country Club.

The movie might be a frightful production. Earlier today, as I was exiting a trail, a man was entering. It's a path that skirts the edge of the lake. It's narrow. Not much sun reaches the understory, so the shade is dense. The fellow mumbled into the air, as if whispering a prayer, "This reminds me of Camp Crystal Lake." It crossed my mind that I may be one of the expendable extras that has no clue there's any danger until it's too late.
The Lake Trail at High Hampton Inn & Country Club.

Pinch me High Hampton, because I know this fantasy can't be real. And The High Hampton Inn and Country Club property in Cashiers, NC is so serene and beautiful, I'm perfectly okay with being the expendable extra. To spend a day here in Western North Carolina is a gift. To spend three days is a glimpse of heaven.

Never mind. Don't pinch me. I prefer not to wake from this if it is by chance a dream.

Friday, August 1, 2014

My Costa Rica Rain Forest

My husband and I frequently threatened to run away to Costa Rica. Whether we do it because it's fun to have a fantasy or we do it to make the children whine, I can't say. Maybe both. Maybe neither.

Until we make good on the threat, though, I've grown my own inadvertent alternative in the backyard: A victory garden.

Tomatoes, squash, melons, peppers, snap beans, and okra jockey for space. Sweet potato vines trace paths around the feet of the currently producing plants. The cantaloupe have gotten huffy over the intrusion and threaten anarchy as they spill over the border.

Tomatoes and peppers ignore the chaos. My refrigerator is full. Though it's a sinful thing to admit, I'm almost happy when a critter beats me to the first bite. I'll regret that feeling come September.

Weeds weave their way in, around, through, among my vegetables. They're masters of deception. They're swift in the their overtake of property promised to other plants.

Alas, my victory garden has near been defeated. The crisp, clean rows of spring have morphed into an impenetrable web of foliage that resembles a Costa Rica rain forest. Finding my harvest is like spotting a sloth in a ceiba tree. It requires intense focus to see through the camouflage.

But patience pays off. Just because schools are starting back this month doesn't mean summer is over. I plan to cultivate my happy snarl until first freeze, escaping to it whenever the children whine.

Monday, July 28, 2014

This Feels Like Camp for Adults

It's the middle of July and the temperature at Banning Mills near Whitesburg, Georgia is barely scraping 80-degrees. My husband and I have been assigned to a sweet little cabin - Cabin 49 - overlooking the Snake Creek Gorge.

I want to nail a sign to it with a name like the cabins at summer camp always had. Something like Weekaokee. But I won't because I don't hand out my creativity for free. If these folks want me to name their cabins, we're going to have to negotiate a price for that. Part of the fee will include toilet paper, since that was the only amenity missing from our comfortable accommodations. Nonetheless, it's a critical little something.

Banning Mills holds the Gunniess Book World Record for the tallest freestanding rock wall, and it's home to the workd's longest and largest eco-canopy tour. But non-adventurists enjoy the pool and day spa. There's also kayaking, horseback riding, skeet shooting and a pistol range.

Though people retreat to Historic Banning Mills from the modern grind, the modern south began on this property. The water power supplied by Snake Creek turned this middle-of-nowhere place into one of the first industrial parks in the south. The town of Banning, all but gone save for a few ruins still visible, had a cotton mill, a paper mill, two wood pulp mills, two saw mills, three flour mills, two cotton gins, a shingle mill and a tannery. The industrialization of Georgia traces roots to here.

We hiked out to the abandoned paper mill today. It wasn't a stroll. Don't attempt the trip unless you're okay with trekking rocky outcrops, climbing over and under fallen trees, and continuing even when the path doesn't. From experience, I can tell you that the water bottle you're carrying in your right hand will become a despised hindrance. If you make it, however, you'll be treated to this:

In 1889, this paper mill developed a process for making paper from ground pine pulpwood. The technological advance made the mill so successful that it was the first paper mill to install electricity. In 1890, the mill began operating day and night. Folks from the surrounding area would arrive at dusk to see the miracle of the lights turning on.

And now it sits in a forest, forgotten. The trees and vines have sealed the fates of the school, church, store, and other buildings.

And they are swallowing me, too, as I escape the modern grind.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Be My Guest - Paige Adams

My guest author for July is Paige Adams. She's unique, as she's a teen author who started her debut novel as a class assignment. She enjoyed the process of writing so much that she followed through with editing and brought it to publication.

Instead of inviting Paige to share her thoughts about the book, I'm changing things up. I let my 13 year-old daughter, who read Red Velvet and loved it, write the post. The book engrossed her. Of course, she's a horsewoman who loves horses and anything ever written or said or sold about horses, but she promises the book isn't just for fanatical equine enthusiasts.

My darling daughter writes:
Red Velvet was written by my cousin, Paige Adams. It's a book about a girl who blames the death of her sister on on herself. She is depressed and has no friends. She does everything she can to be part of the snobby group of girls. But Delilah cannot find the love she is missing since her sister's death, until she meets Beau. Beau saves her life, but then nobody knows if Delilah will survive.

What I like best about Red Velvet is that it is about horses, and it has romance and drama and action. I loved this book so much that I finished it in less than a week, and I really don't like to read. This book is perfect for people ages 10-20. This is a well-written book. I hope Paige Adams writes a sequel.

If you have a teenage daughter, buy Red Velvet, available in paperback or Kindle, for her. You'll be giving your child a good read and supporting a teen author, too. That makes for a double feel-good day.

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