Life in Every Limb

False Fronts: A Visit to Gatlinburg

Just a little over a week ago I wrote of the fires that have been consuming East Tennessee.  One of those fires raged out of control last night and destroyed over 150 homes and businesses in Gatlinburg.  Just about all Knoxvillians have fond memories of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, and we are all grieving today.  Thinking about all this made me remember this post, one of the first I ever wrote, which alludes to a side of Gatlinburg most people probably never see.

My family and I spent part of our Easter Break in Gatlinburg.  Most of our vacation time and money is used for trips to Baltimore to see my husband’s family, but we try to make little trips to Gatlinburg at Christmas or Easter.  It’s close, there’s plenty to do, and we’ve found condos to stay in so that we don’t have to pay for two hotel rooms and can cook some of our own meals.

Despite living so close to the Smokies, my family rarely visited when I was a child.  Once a year at the most we picked up some fried chicken at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the last stop light in Gatlinburg–it’s still there!–and took it to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic.  My father hated Gatlinburg so we hardly ever stopped there, although we did stay at the Glenstone Lodge just one time.

Gatlinburg has changed a lot since those days–it’s even changed a lot since I was in college.  The family owned gift shops that used to line the streets (like Rebel Corner, which was lost to a fire), full of hokey gifts like Indian headdresses and souvenir shot glasses, are mostly gone now.  In addition to a lot of tacky t-shirt shops and martial arts stores, there are many nicer gift shops.  Ripley’s seems to have taken over the town.

I do love The Village.  Anchored by the 50-year-old Pancake Pantry, this copy of a old-time European town is attractive and peaceful, and we love the German restaurant there.  The golf course at Reagan Terrace Mall is well done too, with little plaques at each hole that detail the history of Gatlinburg.

There’s more to Gatlinburg than the main strip, though–there’s a side of it that many tourists never see.  It reminds me of those Old West Towns with their false fronts, which made the little buildings behind them seems fancier, with two stories instead of one.  That strip isn’t the real Gatlinburg.  Back behind it there are homes and neighborhoods.  And there’s history.  We discovered some of it when we were there.

white oak flats

 Keep reading this blog and you will discover that there’s nothing I love quite so much as a stroll through a graveyard.  Taking a shortcut, my teenagers discovered an enormous cemetery that was established in 1830.

cemetery view

 In nearly 40 years of driving through Gatlinburg, I had never seen it or known that it was back there, just one block behind all the excitement.

baby stone

My little boy kneels by the stone of an infant, which made him sad.


From the graveyard, you can see all the activity down below, all the changes that have come about since 1830–really most of them since 1930.  Yet the graveyard remains, testimony to the Gatlinburg that once was White Oak Flats, and most of all to the Ogle family, who were the first settlers.
cemetery view 2
ogles everywhere

kids and graves

My children have learned to enjoy visiting cemeteries along with me.

trillium

Two nice surprises in the graveyard: this trillium (I think!) . . .


clayton's stone

and my Great-Uncle Clayton’s grave! I had no idea he was there!

The graveyard wasn’t the only surprise in store for us.  We found a shortcut back to our condo that took us right past this lovely Methodist church.

Gatlinburg Methodist Church

Look at the interesting contrast in the photo below.  I call it “Two Spires” and it’s a view of the steeple of the church above juxtaposed with the top of the Space Needle, as seen from Reagan Terrace Mall.

two spires

Maybe there’s a message for us in the sign below:

Please consider donating to help alleviate some of the suffering of those who have been affected by this tragedy.  There’s a partial list of efforts available here.

What's in a Name?

The following is a reprint of a column that ran in The East Tennessee Catholic newspaper on August 11, 2002.  It explains the name of my former column, which is now the name of this blog.
Names are important.
Think of the time we spend choosing the names we give our children, the hours poring over baby-name books, making lists, asking opinions, only to be told years later by an unappreciative adolescent, “I hate my name!”
Now, any writer or artist will tell you that his creative product is something like “offspring” to him.  So when it was time–past time–to name this column, I agonized over the choice for days.  Then, coming up blank, I followed my usual procedure for titling my work:  I stole.
Image result for bartlett's familiar quotations
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations with its handy index is an old friend that has proved its worth to me many times.  I looked up life in the back of the book, and voila, the works of far better writers than I were at my disposal.
The phrase “life in every limb” sounded perfect at first reading, and once I investigated the source became even more so.
First, the author:  William Wordsworth, famed English poet of the Romantic Period, and as it happens, an old favorite of mine.  My first college English professor, later my advisor, is a preeminent Wordsworth scholar who spends summers at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District.  By virtue of his enthusiasm almost as much as Wordsworth’s talent, he taught us to love Wordsworth too.  This seemed like an omen.
Image result for wordsworth
Next the poem whence the line came: We Are Seven. The poem’s narrator encounters a “little maid,” who in answer to questions about her family asserts again and again that there are seven children, even though two have died.  This inclusion in the family’s number of two who are unable to speak for themselves resonated with me as I thought of the voiceless unborn and their need for similar champions.
Finally, the enire quotation:  “A simple child/That lightly draws its breath/And feels its life in every limb/What should it know of death?” I thought of the unborn child, alive in every way, in every part of its tiny body, heart beating, blood pumping, at the very beginning of its life doomed so often to a premature and violent death.
I wonder what Wordsworth might add to the abortion debate if he were with us today.  My first child’s godmother (a fellow student of the aforementioned professor) created a beautiful cross-stitch as a gift for Emily when she was born from a paraphrased Wordsworth quotation: “Children come trailing clouds of glory from God who is their home.”
This comes from his Ode on the Intimations of Mortality, in which he expounds upon his belief that children are closer to God because they remember glimpses of heaven that are more and more lost to us as we grow older.  His own heavenly visions, the “spots of time” he celebrates in his long autobiographical narrative poem The Prelude, were a continuing source of inspiration to Wordsworth.  I have a feeling that he would have viewed the killing of the innocent unborn, fresh from God’s hand, as the worst kind of sacrilege.
Moving to a different sort of literature, the phrase “life in every limb” calls to mind St. Paul‘s metaphor of 1 Corinthians 12: ” . . . [T]he body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body . . . .”  Each person, born or unborn, is a part of that body and has a unique role to fulfill.
In valuing all members of the body equally, our church espouses a consistent ethic of life.  Although abortion is the focus of this column, I plan to write about many other life issues, such as the death penalty and euthanasia.  We might think of the abortion issue as just one of the many limbs of the church’s pro-life teachings.  For we are a church that embraces and celebrates and protects all life, that of the innocent unborn equally with that of the convicted murderer, of the ill and disabled along with the healthy, of the non-Christian along with the Christian–life in every limb of the Body of Christ.

Uncle Charlie

The picture that currently heads this blog comes from this image:

This is a picture of my Uncle Charlie holding my oldest child at the hospital the day after she was born–that’s more than 19 years ago.  I treasure this picture because Uncle Charlie died just a few weeks ago of lung cancer at 64.  At his funeral my little cousin said to me, “He really was the best grandfather in the world.”
I say Uncle Charlie even though we weren’t related by blood.  He was my aunt’s husband, and they were in the process of divorcing when the above picture was taken.  But he was a big part of my childhood, and I never stopped thinking of him as my uncle.  He and my father were in high school together–they both graduated from Fulton High School–and we have moving pictures of them with my mother and her sister when they weren’t much older than that, goofing around in my grandparents’ driveway. 
Time’s a funny thing.  It certainly doesn’t seem possible to me that the above picture was taken almost 20 years ago, and I’ll bet it didn’t seem possible to Uncle Charlie that more than 40 years had gone by since he was a kid with a big smile goofing off for my grandmother’s camera, all his life still ahead of him.

Hello world!

Since 2001, I have written a bi-monthly column on life issues in the East Tennessee Catholic newspaper.  Recently I learned my column was being cut “to make room for some new voices.”  I was disappointed because I still felt like I had more to say.
I’ve often felt that I should have a blog.  I’m a writer and I have lots of opinions, so why not?  I’ve tried a couple of times over the years put never made it to a second post.  But I think this time is going to be different.   What I’m planning is to take a couple of different ideas for blogs that I’ve had in the past and combine them.  I’ll still write about life issues–which most often has meant abortion in the past, but also includes war, the death penalty, assisted reproductive technology, contraception, and more–but I have other issues I want to talk about as well.
So you may read about abortion one day, and the history of Knoxville the next.  One day I’ll write about being the mother of five, including three teenagers; the next I might rant about my theories on education for awhile (my family will no doubt be glad that I’ve found a new outlet for my occasional rants!).  Because I am so busy, I will flesh the blog out by rerunning old columns that I still think are topical.
So, welcome!  Please join right in and comment–because a blog is no fun if you feel like you are talking to yourself.

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