Iris and Salvia in my cottage garden in May

Iris, Resurrected

Mima–my maternal grandmother–loved working in her yard.  In my mind’s eye I see her kneeling in front of her porch, setting out marigolds and impatiens in the rich black dirt she’d bought at Kmart.  Later she’d move to the bed by the street, where the peonies and iris grew.  She’d water them with the garden hose, and if a car sped by too quickly, it might get a wetting as well, along with a hollered, “Slow down!”
We had flowering shrubs at our house, but no garden.  So on early damp May mornings, we would leave home a bit early, and drive to Mima’s house.  She’d meet us in the front yard in her housecoat, scissors in hand, to cut irises which she wrapped in wet paper towels for freshness.  These were our “flowers of the fairest” for the May Procession at Saint Joseph School.
When I discovered that I was a gardener too, Mima was right there encouraging me, giving me bags of dirt or mulch out of the trunk of her car, bringing me flats of pansies to set out in the fall, watching my little kids so I could plant daffodil bulbs.
So even though my gardening style is very different from hers, wild rather than manicured and centered on perennials instead of annuals, I often think of Mima (who died nine years ago) when I am in my garden.  I feel close to her then because it is a passion that we shared, and if such things are genetic, then my love of gardening is an inheritance from her.
It was around 20 years ago that Mima decided to move to a retirement community.  Eventually my mother moved into her house.  She kept the flowerbeds weeded and the yard mowed, but gardening is not her passion, and irises have to be dug up and divided every three to five years.  Mima’s irises haven’t bloomed in 15 years or more.
When my mother decided to move, it was Mima’s flowers I thought of most.  What would happen to her flowerbeds? Too many times I’ve seen new owners dig up and destroy treasured plantings without a second thought, intent on making the yard their own.  So when the house was sold, I went by with my trowel and dug up several irises, some peonies, and a small nandina sprout for good measure.  I put them in my own garden and hoped for the best.
The first spring came and went without a bloom.  I didn’t expect anything out of the peonies–which normally take a few years to establish–but I was disappointed in the irises.  Someone told me I had likely planted them too deeply.  I resigned myself to having to transplant them at a later time, and this year I was pleased to see that they had multiplied by a factor of three or more.  At least they were healthy, even if they didn’t bloom.
Then, the miracle.  I saw flower stalks and buds, almost overnight!  And yesterday morning when I went outside this was the first thing I saw:
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It would pretty much be impossible for me to exaggerate the extent of my excitement at this discovery.  Besides making it immediately Facebook official, I’ve made every member of the family come out to admire it and to share in my joy.   This morning a second one burst into bloom and there are many more to come, as you can see here:
iris detailiris in context
Perhaps next May there will be a sequel involving peonies.  For now I am thrilled that this bit of Mima’s garden lives on in mine.
 

Walking in East Knoxville: Welcoming Spring at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum

Okay, y’all, I know it isn’t Spring anymore.  And I’ve been terrible about showing you new places to walk in Knoxville lately, for one thing because I haven’t been doing as much walking this year, and for another, I’m behind in my blogging.  Way behind.
But y’all don’t want to wait for next year to see these pretty pictures.  Nor do you want to wait that long to go walking at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, a lesser known treasure that more people should be taking advantage of.
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These gardens are over 200 years in the making, because the Howell family who originally owned this land operated it first as a an orchard and later as a nursery.  It was, in fact, the longest continuously run business in East Tennessee.  You should go read more about its fascinating history on the website above.  And you should appreciate how very, very fortunate we all are that its 40 some acres have been set aside for us to enjoy instead of being sold to developers.
There are several trails to walk on but you may not get a lot of exercise unless you walk it all twice, because I guarantee the first time you are going to be stopping a lot to look at things, smell them, and take pictures of them.
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The gardens are enhanced and complemented by beautiful stonework.
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These gardens are not just beautiful, they are also useful:  they are providing a venue for teaching children about gardening and for growing food for people in the community.
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In addition to flowering bushes, trees, and perennials, the gardens showcase fabulous views.
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But more than anything else it’s about the plants.  So many plants.  The awesome thing about the KBGA is that it should present a feast for the eyes in every season, and the feast will be different.  Here is a taste of springtime for you:
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Now that I’ve virtually revisited the gardens, I’m excited to see what grows there in the summer time!  If I do, I will come back and let you know.
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Spring Fling

For the past several years, starting on the first day of Spring I’ve posted a quotation about the season as my Facebook status.  I love Spring so much that I needed to celebrate!  My friends seemed to approve, which encouraged me because who doesn’t like “likes” on Facebook?
This year I decided to go one better.  Having recently learned how to make quote pictures (with various easy-peasy websites), I’ve been illustrating the quotation of the day.  I post just the words on my personal page, and the pictures on my blog page.
Because I want to be able to pin them as well, I’m collecting them all here.  I took all the pictures myself, but I can’t take credit for the words!  I hope you enjoy them.
And he departed from our sight that we
Spring 2015, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.
April hath put a spirit of youth in
Spring 2015, Pellissippi State Community College campus.
But from this earth, this grave, this
Spring 2015, Stoney Point Baptist Church Cemetery in Hardin Valley.
First a howling blizzard woke us,Then
Spring 2015, first crocus in my front yard.
Our Lord has written the promise of the
Spring 2015, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.
Spring 1Spring 2010, front yard of our former home.
spring 2
Spring 2014, on the Pellissippi Greenway.
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a
Spring 2014, Anchor Park, Farragut.
spring-shows-what-god-can-do-with-a-drab
Spring 2010, front yard of our former home.
springtime 3Just before Spring 2015, my garden.
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Spring 2010, the front yard of our former home.
Ye sleeping buds, breakOpen your green

Spring 2015, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.
The sun has come out... and the air isSpring 2015, Pellissippi State Community College Campus.

The day the Lord created hope was

Spring 2015, Seven Islands State Birding Park.
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Spring 2010, in the woods behind our former home.
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Spring 2010, Chilhowee Park.
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Spring 2014, along the Pellissippi Greenway.
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Spring 2013, Papermill Greenway.
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Spring 2010, front yard of our former home.
That God once loved a garden we learn in
Spring 2015, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.Every spring is the only spring — aSpring 2015, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.
Every April, God rewrites the Book of
Spring 2015, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.
Earth trembles with ecstasy, her flowers
Spring 2015, my front yard.
Crocus fires are kindling one by one . . . - Christina Rossetti
March 2016, my front yard.
and-the-spring-arose-on-the-garden-fairlike-the-spirit-of-love-felt-everywhere
Spring 2016, Sequoyah Hills Greenway.
for-every-person-who-has-ever-lived-there-has-come-at-last-a-spring-he-will-never-see-glory-then-in-the-springs-that-are-yours-pam-brown
Spring 2016, Forks of the River Trails.
o-how-this-spring-of-love-resembleththe-uncertain-glory-of-an-april-day-shakespeare
Mother’s Day 2014, Melton Hill Park.
spring-beckons-all-things-to-the-call-respond-ambrose-bierce
Spring 2016, my garden.
the-beautiful-spring-came-and-when-nature-resumes-her-loveliness-the-human-soul-is-apt-to-revive-also-harriet-ann-jacobs
Spring 2016, Forks of the River Trails.
the-best-kind-of-spring-morning-is-the-best-weather-god-has-to-offer-dodie-smith
Spring 2016, my garden.
the-endlessly-long-winter-had-at-last-turned-to-spring-lauren-oliver
Spring 2016, my garden.

Creative K Kids
Creative K Kids

My Sunday Photo – Reflections

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This week was Spring Break, and on Tuesday Lorelei and I went on an adventure with some friends, visiting Seven Islands Birding Park for the first time (but I am sure not the last).  It was a beautiful almost-Spring day, perfect for taking pictures.  We saw a Cooper’s Hawk, so the park lived up to its name!  We will be going back to explore and to hike more, and I will share more pictures in a future post.

OneDad3Girls

A May Stroll You Must Take!

Let me start by saying that I love love love the smell of honeysuckle.  That’s probably not an earth-shattering revelation because who doesn’t?  But when I had to answer all those email questionnaires that want to know what’s on your mouse pad and whether you like chocolate or vanilla better, honeysuckle was what I always named as my favorite smell.
This love has roots in my childhood, when we had a fence in our side yard that was covered with honeysuckle and wild roses this time of year.  I remember my mother teaching me how to suck out the nectar, and when I was little I probably was more excited about that than smelling it!  My mother also had honeysuckle perfume–just a very simple roll-on variety from Avon, I think–that I would just love to have if I could ever find something similar.  We all loved honeysuckle so much that we even named our collie Honeysuckle!
After Emily was born, for many years our summer visit to Baltimore was timed for Memorial Day weekend.  When we’d get back home, it was usually late at night, and the first thing we would notice upon getting out of the car was the strong scent of honeysuckle in the air.  So not only is it just an awesome smell, it also holds nostalgic associations of childhood and homecoming for me.
In these parts, May is prime time for honeysuckle, at least for the wild (some would say invasive) and strongly scented variety I’m talking about here.  And all of this has been a lead into a very brief Walking in Knoxville post because I don’t want anyone who loves honeysuckle to miss the chance to take this particular walk before it’s too late to experience the intoxicating scent.
I mentioned Grigsby Chapel Greenway briefly in my most recent greenway post.  It comprises 2.25 miles or so of asphalt trails interspersed with walks through several neighborhoods on their sidewalks.  If you do the whole thing, you’ll get to see many beautiful houses and gardens along the whole route.  But if you don’t have time to do that, or don’t want to walk that far, at least do this:  Park your car at St. John Neumann Church and walk the portion of the greenway that connects it to the next neighborhood.  The smell will probably hit you before you even reach the trail.  The air is positively redolent with it.  (And yes, I know that’s an overused phrase, but it’s really the only way to say it.) You will be walking through what amounts to almost a tunnel of honeysuckle.
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After that, there is just honeysuckle EVERYWHERE.  Back in the woods, next to the trail, bushes of it, vines of it well up into the trees.
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Seriously, go there as soon as you can.  Early morning and twilight will afford the strongest smell experience, plus it won’t be as hot.  And if you do go, let me know!
honeysuckle closeup
 

A Work in Progress

Every morning, when I get home from driving William to school, I get out of my car, start, walking toward the house, and then stop and stand staring like an idiot at my garden.  My neighbors probably think I’m crazy (actually, they already have plenty of other reasons to think that).
What am I doing?  Well, to be honest, I’m admiring it, because it’s pretty and I’m just a little proud of what I’ve accomplished in just one year.  But more than that, I’m analyzing it, thinking about what needs to be moved around, what I’ll add later in the season or next year, what’s too tall, what was a bad idea.
If I were a methodical gardener I would have made a plan before I started.  I didn’t.  In late winter I downloaded some kind of planning grid thingie and got bored after a few minutes.  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have properly amended my soil.  I didn’t.  Instead, I dig out lumps of clay and rock, throw in a handful of potting soil, and hope for the best.  Sometimes I don’t even bother with the potting soil.  The rocks should help with drainage, right?  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have investigated how big the plants would get before I planted them.  I would have put little tags next to them to say what they are.  I might even have kept a garden journal.  Instead, I’m like: “This is the pink-blue-purple side of the garden, so let’s put any pink, purple, or blue things we like over here wherever we can find room for them!”  People ask the name of a particular plant and I say, “It might be salvia.  Or maybe sage.  Who knows?”  I can look on google images if I ever really need to know, right?
What kind of gardener am I?  A lazy gardener, clearly, which is why I plant mostly perennials.  Some day my work will be done, right?  And a lucky one, judging by my lack of effort and the passable results.
The photos below are from what we call the “hot” garden, where I attempt to plant only things that are orange, yellow, and white.  There are also red roses here (about which more further down) but I don’t want any more red things.  Why the color scheme?  Because the first summer we were here, the nice gardening lady across the street gave me a bunch of lily bulbs and some other perennial thing, which I just haphazardly stuck over here because I had no plan whatsoever and they turned out to be yellow.  So.
 
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The lilies aren’t blooming yet but you can see where they are in the picture below.  Those other yellow things, which are really tall, will be right behind them, unless the shade from the roses kills them.
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Let’s talk about the roses, shall we?  If you know anything at all about roses, then you can see that’s a climbing rose.  If you know anything about gardens, you’ll know that only an idiot would put a climbing rose in the middle of a flower bed.  I am happy to say I was not that idiot.  But I also don’t know much about roses, so I didn’t know that this was going to happen when I let it (it being basically a couple of thorny twigs when I started this) stay there.  It’s outgrown the trellis I put in place last year–in fact it is pulling the trellis out of the ground and leaning forward.  It stubbornly refuses to get blackspot like every other rose I’ve ever grown and instead is vigorous and healthy and growing like kudzu.  I want to get an arbor thing to cross the walkway in front of it, and maybe also attach a trellis to the porch overhang behind it.  But do you know how much arbors cost, y’all?
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Below we have the mailbox garden.  Gotta have one of those, don’t we?  The daylilies were already there–Stella D’Oro, I believe (see, I do know something!).  There is also one lone gigantic lily that looks kind of stupid there all by itself, but I can’t kill healthy plants, so it will stay.  The red plant is a mandevilla which my neighbor gave me for my birthday.  The pot said it was good to plant by your mailbox and who am I to argue?  You might also notice a variety of herbs in this picture.  Yes, this is my herb garden and we used the herbs to cook all through the winter even.  The basil dried right there on the stalk.  More laziness that paid off!
 
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This side has mint.  All varieties of mint.  And yes, I am aware of what mint does, and it’s already doing it, but I don’t really care because it smells good.
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Now here’s the “cool” side of the garden and I’m probably going to post too many pictures because this is my favorite part and I just can’t leave any of them out!
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Please excuse the long grass at the edges because 1) My lawn mower is (still) broken and 2) I’m not finished yet.  There won’t ever be a clearly defined border at the edge because the eventual plan is for this side to take over the whole front yard, doing away with its crappy veneer of grass over clay a couple of feet every year, depending on my time, energy, and financial situation.
 
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My garden doesn’t look like the other gardens in this neighborhood.  That’s what John said, and I consider that a compliment, because who really needs another boring suburban garden, all symmetrical and defined by clumps of liriope with measured distances between them?  We are going for the wild look here.
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If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:
In the Garden
In the Garden II
 

Walking in West Knoxville

So, a few weeks ago I was telling y’all that I once had planned to write a blog called “Walking in Knoxville,” and that I planned to incorporate that idea into this blog, because eclectic.  I had really meant to chronicle each or my walks separately, but I’ve been walking so much (about which more later) that I had to choose between walking and writing.
What I have therefore decided to do instead is to share pictures and descriptions of several walks at once.  Knoxville readers may learn about some new places to visit.  The rest of you can enjoy the view (and see why Knoxville is such an awesome place to live!).
I want to keep walking regularly and I don’t want to get bored, so Emily and I have been walking somewhere different every time we go.  Since we live in Northwest Knox County, that’s mostly been in West Knoxville, just because it takes too much time to drive elsewhere on a weekday. (Yes, it seems ridiculous to me also that we drive somewhere to walk.  But walking up and down this street and around a couple of cul de sacs is not going to keep me motivated.)
The first five pictures below were taken at The Cove at Concord Park.  It’s pretty there, nice for picnicking, and not bad for walking if you don’t mind retracing your steps (the loop isn’t very long).

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Emily looks out over the water

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Staircase to nowhere – I haven’t researched this place but obviously it was once privately owned

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Snowballs in full bloom

Another day we were aiming for the Parkside Greenway and ended up more or less accidentally walking on the Grigsby Chapel Greenway in Farragut instead.  What a nice surprise!  It’s paved; some of it is wooded; and all of it is beautiful.  It runs through neighborhoods of fancy apartments, upscale condos, and fine homes, many with gardens right by the trail.  One part of it is specifically set aside to showcase native trees.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures that day, though, because I was worn out!  Because we got on this trail by accident we did not know that it was over two miles long, and it’s not a loop.  We didn’t make it quite to the end due to fear of storms.  We are going to park at St. John Neumann (below) one day next week and finish it up.  That was another special feature of this trail–it goes right past a prayer path/garden which was a nice detour for us.
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If you are a Knoxvillian who enjoys walking at all, you won’t need me to tell you about the park pictured below.  Lakeshore Park may be the most popular place in Knoxville, with its 2.5 mile (I think) paved loop trail that offers river views on one side and children playing baseball on the other.  If you aren’t from Knoxville you might be interested to know that this park is on the former grounds of an insane asylum, and most of its buildings remain (it having been still in use as a psychiatric inpatient facility until very recently).
I’m not as fond of this walk as so many others seem to be because it has killer hills.  Also I’m just tired of it.  But it’s a reliable option for people who are not so easily bored.
Lakeshore Park
Lakeshore
Much prettier but not as practical for serious fitness buffs is Melton Hill Park, which I had visited earlier on that same day. (Yes, I did walk about four miles that day!) Well, to be fair, the paved loop isn’t very interesting, but there are two miles or so of trails through the woods.  We only attempted a bit of that, and will return when hills and climbing seem less daunting (actually, that’s already getting better!).
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Overlooking the Clinch River

 
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Redbuds by the river

 
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Start of one of the wooded trails

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Wildflowers

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Another visitor to the park

 
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On another day, we hit the tried and true Third Creek Trail, known to those of us growing up in the 70s as “The Bike Trail.”  Yes, it was the one and only back in the day, and is still both immensely popular and one of the best, winding along Third Creek through forests of hardwood and bamboo, connecting Bearden to Tyson Park and connecting with the Neyland Greenway to make a path for walking all the way to downtown and the river.
We parked at the Bearden end of the trail, which is accessible in several locations, and since we didn’t have time to do the whole thing, took the spur up to Kingston Pike and walked back along the road, getting a nicer view of the churches and fine homes that line it than is available while whizzing by at 40 miles an hour.
I’ll no doubt revisit this old favorite many times this summer and perhaps post more pictures since I didn’t take too many that day.  One thing I especially love is that there are blocks places naming the people who granted the land for each section of the trail, giving a little glimpse into Knoxville history as you walk along.
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A bird nesting in a pavilion at one of the trailheads

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Old school playground behind one of the churches–just see all that fun and dangerous stuff outlawed elsewhere!

This next set of pictures were taken at the Turkey Creek Greenway, not to be confused with the one that goes through the Turkey Creek wetland and then runs behind the shopping center next to the Interstate.  This is the one that begins at Anchor Park, a much-enjoyed favorite of ours when the big kids were toddlers–and then crosses Turkey Creek Road to access the neighborhoods on the other side.
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A heron takes flight

 
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Crabapple blossoms

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Glimpse of an old barn

I mentioned the Cove at Concord Park up above, and we’ve also tried the trails at the main part of Concord Park on the other side of Northshore.  There’s nothing paved there, and you have to watch out for bikers, and then there are those pesky hills.  There are several trails to try so we will probably give it another visit when we are in better shape.
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View of the golf course and water near the end of the trail

Finally, we took a quick trip to the other Turkey Creek Greenway, the Knoxville one.  This is a paved trail that runs through a wetland and then along the side of the Interstate.  Talk about extremes.  For you non-Knoxvillians, the greenway is a concession granted by the developers who turned most of the wetland into an upscale shopping/entertainment destination several years back.
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Lately we’ve been walking in South Knoxville and I look forward to sharing those adventures with you too.  Where do you like to walk?  Tell me in the comments!

Walking in Knoxville

Before I started this blog, I had planned to write a very different one, which I was going to call Walking in Knoxville.  The main focus of it was going to be walks I liked to go on (hence the name!) but I was going to use that as a jumping off point to discuss other issues too.
Just because I decided to go with this much more eclectic blog instead doesn’t mean I have to give up the topic of walking entirely, though!  On the contrary, I can write about whatever I want!  And today I want to begin showcasing some of the many greenways those of us lucky enough to live in Knoxville or Knox County have access to.  Knoxville has over 65 miles of greenways, which I get the impression is kind of a lot.
Today Emily and I walked on the Pellissippi Greenway.  This is one’s a well-kept secret, particularly nice for walkers on these first fine spring days which typically find better-traveled routes like the Third Creek Greenway hazardous due to the volume of bike traffic.  We encountered one other party of walkers, just as we were finishing the return trip.
There’s plenty of parking, since the trailhead is at the Hardin Valley Campus of Pellissippi State Community College.  After crossing Hardin Valley Road, the paved trail follows the Pellissippi Parkway to the south.  The sight and sound of the nearby traffic is counteracted–at least at this time of year–by the daffodils.
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At the end of the paved trail comes a mystery:  a staircase to nowhere.
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If you climb to the top, you’ll find a narrow footpath that continues along a ridge for some time farther, but no signs whatsoever of anything these stairs might have been built to reach.  They are too old to have been built with greenway walkers in mind, and in fact I’m not sure that we are supposed to keep walking past this point although we always do.  We didn’t quite make it to the end, because there’s a steep descent that would have meant a steep ASCENT to return, but I think the footpath ends on the (private) grounds of Centerpoint Business Park (just as pretentious as it sounds and apparently still awaiting most of the businesses).
I’d guess the whole thing is about a mile long each way, and the stairs are the hardest part, so it’s a nice spring stroll for the not-so-fit.  I feel so lucky to live in Knoxville where although so much has been lost the “country” is still quickly and easily accessible from the “city.”
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Spring Break!

My Facebook feed is filling up with pictures of beach views, because both Knox County public and Catholic schools are on break this week.  Were I to post a picture of my view, it would be the same one everyone has seen before:  my back yard.  I’m not complaining, though, because I do have some future travel plans to look forward to (more on that later!) and  a week at the beach would bore me to tears anyway.
The Spring Break that’s been on my mind took place last week, when both Jake and Teddy were frolicking at Panama City Beach.  Now that they are back safely (well, Jake is back safely; Teddy was here briefly and is driving back to Notre Dame today) I can let out that breath I was holding and get back to thoughts of my own “vacation”–a break, at least, from getting up before dark and spending hours driving kids around.
Teddy went to Panama City last year, and seemed surprised and irritated this year when I texted the boys occasionally to make sure they were okay (I did not hear from Teddy ONE SINGLE TIME last year). “Stop texting Jake,” he said.  “You are killing his vibe.  I didn’t die last year and I won’t die this year.”  Jake, on the other hand,  called of his own accord a couple of times to tell me how much fun they were having and ask how I was doing, and to assure me that they were being safe.
Now there was never any question of my going on a trip alone with my friends sans parents while I was still in high school.  I remember begging my mother to let me and a friend drive to Coalfield to watch a basketball tournament, returning the same evening, and she wouldn’t even allow that.   (My sister got to go on Spring Break with friends HER Senior year.  Go figure.)
My first year of college, I came home for break, bringing my roommate, who was from Seattle, eager to share Tennessee with her.  We spent one day in Gatlinburg (which back then was more or less shut down that early in the season) and one exploring the mountains.  I don’t remember what else we did.  Sophomore year we decided we wanted to go to Daytona Beach.  Even as a sophomore in college, I had to beg to be allowed to go, and promise to stop and call my mother every two hours while driving to let her know we were okay.
From what Jake told me when they got home last night, the scene at Panama City sounds something like what Daytona Beach was like back in the day.  Not that I would know firsthand or anything, because my roommate and I and our friend STAYED WITH THE FRIEND’S GRANDMOTHER.  We took a day trip to St. Augustine, and another to Disney World.  Oh, we were such good little Catholic girls (typed completely without irony).
The next year we went to Charleston, and John came along.  I was the only one who’d been there–it was the last vacation I ever took with my family, the summer before I left for college–and I was excited to go back and to show them the beautiful and historic sites.  Charleston remains a place I want to get back to.  Senior year I was busily planning an August wedding and I think I went home for Spring Break to conduct wedding-related business.  Since having kids, Spring Breaks have usually been Easter Breaks and occasionally included a few days in a hotel in Gatlinburg with an indoor pool.
Below are some pictures from a couple of those college trips.  Please excuse their condition, remembering they’ve been through fire and flood and that I have them at all is a minor miracle.

My roommate, Renee, in the Gatlinburg wedding chapel, March 1986
My roommate, Renee, in the Gatlinburg wedding chapel, March 1986

Me in the cantilever barn in Cades Cove, March 1986
Me in the cantilever barn in Cades Cove, March 1986

John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988
John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988

 
What about you?  Are you going somewhere special for Spring Break this year?  Do you have any memorable trips from your past you’d care to share?

Easter Blessings

As I’ve written before, I love Easter.  It’s my favorite holiday.

This Easter felt like even a bigger deal than usual to me.  For one thing, all holidays post-fire feel like milestones.  I know what happened to us doesn’t compare to a death in the family, but things are different now.  Not only are we in a new place, but we’ve lost all the trappings of celebrations past–the baskets, the bunnies, the decorations.  Easter has never been about decorating for me, but I do particularly mourn the loss of my three Polish Easter eggs, brought to me from Poland by a Georgetown History Graduate student back in 1990 when I was the secretary of the History Department there.
So the first thing I had to do was use the last of my Target gift cards for an Easter Basket shopping trip.

Jake with the new Easter baskets, waiting for me to finish up at Target

Stress and finances have made inroads into the once annual excursion for new Easter clothes–getting a new Easter dress was practically a religious observance for me well into my college years, and I took great pride in the matching outfits I scored for the three “big kids” when they were small–but this year several of us decided to get some new things.  Jake had a nice suit John bought him last fall, and he and I found an Easter tie (thank you to the giver of the TJMaxx gift card!).  John took Teddy out suit shopping, but finding a suit that would accommodate his large chest and relatively small waist proved impossible, so he ended up with a blazer and pants.  I took Emily dress shopping, and I actually used my own Christmas Kohl’s gift card to get some new things for myself (more on my lack of personal possessions in another post!).  The little people were content with “new to them” items given us after the fire.




I waited a little late (Yikes! the day before!) to go bunny shopping.  It turned into a three-hour odyssey, and in the end finding matching bunnies for four out of five kids (one considers himself past wanting bunnies on Easter) proved impossible.  Lorelei has carried her sheep around every day since, and William was delighted with his possum (to replace one lost in the fire) so I needn’t have worried.


The Easter Bunny brought plenty of candy.  There was much speculation by William and Lorelei on the nature of the Bunny, where he comes from, what he looks like, why he does what he does, and who his “minions” are.  There were also sweet rolls for breakfast.  There are always sweet rolls (hot cross buns, really, only I’m not crafty enough for that so they are just glazed) or cinnamon rolls made from the sweet roll recipe (and I was trying for less mess and stress) on Easter morning.  This was my mother’s tradition, but the glitch this year is that no one has the recipe any more.  I had copied it down years ago in my notebook of special recipes.  My mother lost the original and had taken to calling me if she needed it.  You know what happened to my notebook.  I couldn’t find the exact recipe online.  Between the two of us we figured it out–they tasted like they were supposed to!
Easter Mass is the greatest celebration of the Church year.  We made sure to arrive early–in fact we were so early we had to wait outside for the previous Mass to finish up!  But that was okay because we were treated to an Easter Parade as folks exited, and we got to talk to the people who go to ten o’clock Mass!  The Church looked beautiful, and we sang the right songs.

 
We’ve had guests over many times since we moved–four birthday celebrations and a Christmas Open House–but we had not yet hosted a holiday dinner.  We went out on Thanksgiving, and my sister did Christmas.  We had not hosted a holiday dinner for quite some time, actually–the last time was two Easters ago, at our then-new house, the house which is now burned down.  We were so happy and hopeful that day, with no way of knowing either the very bad or the very good things that were headed our way.
Anyway, I decided Easter would be a relatively stress-free way to begin our turn at holiday hosting.  We made a rule that no one could bring more than two things.  My mother brought fried chicken and angel biscuits.   My sister Anne (Betsy and her husband were not with us this year) brought macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.  I made baked beans, green beans, and sickeningly sweet tea–just the way we all like it.  Emily made lemon bars and mint juleps.  My father and stepmother brought a butter pecan cake.  Anne’s mother-in-law brought a ham.  And even Lorelei made some cookies (with Jake’s help).   All together there were 18 of us for dinner!  We did it buffet style and it went smoothly and was delicious.
Of course Easter would not be Easter for the little people without an Easter egg hunt.
photo credit: Emily Sholly

It was a truly blessed Easter.  How was yours?