Friday, November 1, 2013

Show & Tell Friday: the Southern Edition (with November Quotes)

I hope everyone had a fun, safe and festive Halloween last night!

Some good stuff to share to welcome November:

divided and united1.) Divided and United: the Songs of the Civil War

On Nov. 5th, ATO records is releasing Divided and United: the Songs of the Civil War, an album of 32 Civil War-era songs (both Confederate and Union) sung by contemporary bluegrass and country artists. I stumbled upon this album over at Garden & Gun magazine. The artists included reads like a list of greats, and up-and-comers: Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, Loretta Lynn, Ralph Stanley, Vince Gill, Steve Earle, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lee Ann Womack, T Bone Burnett, Taj Mahal, and more.

Hearing these songs, sung by these artists in particular, makes the music seem fresh--and the longing, joy and sorrow, bravado and bravery that moves through each tune is instantly recognizable. Karen Elson and The Secret Sisters, particularly, sing a haunting version of "Dixie" in a way I've never heard before. I plan to purchase the CD, and listen to it while I type away at one of my works-in-progress. (Notice I said "type away." I'm an optimist.)

It doesn't matter if you're a Civil War buff. If you are, you'll adore this album. But if you aren't, there's no way to hear these ballads, sung by these particular people, without being moved. It's a reminder of how close we came to destroying the dreams of our forefathers and foremothers, to ending in a bonfire of tragedy the great "American experiment." After all, the Civil War (or the War Between the States, as it's called where I'm from) was only 153 years ago. And that's nothing in the grand scheme of time.

To listen to Divided and United in its entirety, click here.

southerners handbook2.) The Southerner's Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life

I swear, Garden & Gun magazine isn't paying me for the advertising. They're welcome to, though. Curated by the editors of the magazine, the book's a compilation of stories, essays, and instructions on how to get the most out of all aspects of Southern life: sport, drink, food, literature, home and garden, music, art and more. I've not read it, but I've become a fan of G&G despite the fact that from their ad pages I can tell some of their readers exist in a financial stratosphere I'll never see. Mainly, I read it because of the stellar writing, and so I'm adding the book it to my Christmas wish list.
3.) "10 Hilarious Southern Expressions"

This article over at HuffPost Books reveals 10 of the funniest Southern expressions I've ever heard, and growing up in South Carolina and now living in the mountains of North Carolina, I've heard a lot. Most I've actually used. It's a quick, enjoyable read. I dare you-- especially those of you from above the Mason Dixon line, to use one in conversation today. Just for the heck of it. And I want to hear about what happens!

4.) Quotes to welcome November

No, this has nothing to do with the South, but I love me some quotations. And since it's the 1st day of November, for your reading pleasure:

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
~ H.U. Westermayer

Some hae meat and canna eat, -
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
~ Robert Burns

"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls."  ~ Aesop

“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.”
~ J.K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix    

“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods … for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.”
~ L.M. Montgomery, from Anne of Windy Poplars 

Over the river and through the wood
to grandfather's house we go;
the horse knows the way
to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow
~ Lydia Maria Child, Thanksgiving Day, 1845

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice."
~ Meister Eckhart

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Feile Samhna - Happy Halloween!

In honor of that day of the year when the door between this world and the next creeeaaaks open, I’m sharing a post I wrote on this day way back in 2008. Forgive the references to snow. It used to snow in my mountains. Also, I used the word "freaking." I was in my 20s and didn't have kids.

Happy Hallowe’en and Feile Samhna to you all!

Without further ado, a repost from my past:

Snow in October, Hallowe’en in My Head

On Tuesday morning, it snowed in Brevard. And not just a few, miserly flakes: the stuff came down–so thick it hid the mountains from view, and made my drive to work feel like inching through a blizzard. But, because it is the South and only October, it melted by 9 a.m.
I am a fool for snow. If it had stuck around long enough, I would’ve tromped my students outside to stand in it, and somehow managed to make the weather relate to writing… just so I could get my time in before it melted. I come by this snowmadness honestly: When I was growing up in South Carolina, my parents–especially my Dad–made snow days more magical than Christmas. (And Christmas was pretty freaking magical in my house.)

The year of the Big Snow, something everyone who grew up in the ’80s in Greenville, S.C. still talks about, it snowed well over a foot, and school was out for nearly two weeks. My father took buckets of water and washed down our driveway and road, so it’d be perfectly slick for sledding. He and his friends tied our sleds with old ski ropes to the back of someone’s Waggoneer, and they tugged us around our neighborhood for hours, the moms in the way back with the hatch open, giggling and hanging on. We sledded for hours down the hill near a local Baptist church, a gang of StayPuff marshmellow kids in our snowskiing gear (bibs, jackets, gloves, boots, hats)–which the nearest house with the nearest mom would dump into her dryer, filling us with hot chocolate before sending us out again.

My neighbors, formerly of the coast, pulled out their surfboards and removed the fins, and we surfed down the hill in front of my house. My black lab, Magic, raced circles around the house in a blur of white. Each morning, my sister and I woke up, raced to our parents’ bedroom where they had the radio on by their bed, to wait anxiously to hear whether My 102.5 would announce that school was cancelled again in Greenville County. My God, it was magic.

It doesn’t snow much any more. And even though I’ve moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, a much higher elevation than my hometown, I’ve only seen a few inches each year–mostly ice–that melts in a day, leaves me sad and a little slushy. I long for those preternatural sunrises, pressing my face to my cold bedroom window and praying that my world would still be white. I miss the igloo my Dad and his friends built us, the real fires in the fireplaces, the way my neighborhood became a festival of friends for two straight weeks, the fun never-ending.

But now, there’s Hallowe’en in my head. Feile Samhna to all!  Happiest of All Souls’ Days, All Hallow’s Eves, the night just before Samhain, the night when the door supposedly creaks open between this world and the next, and the spirits roam. No matter what anyone says, or how much we’ve ‘roided Hallowe’en up with commercialism, it is a preternatural night: a night our ancestors (just about all of them, no matter what your DNA looks like) recognized as different. If you stand outside in the chilly dark tonight, away from the squealing kids and orange lights and ringing doorbells, you might feel it brush your face, give you a little shiver. If you do, I say you’re lucky. Hallowe’en has many faces, many traditions, many legends associated with it… and not all are scary.
My husband and I have been debating for a week about what to do with ourselves tonight. Our neighborhood, which is not even a half mile from downtown, will become swamped with trick-or-treating children at about 6 p.m., and will not cease until after 10 p.m.  They are mini-vanned in from all corners of the county… and sometimes the street up from us is blocked off by police cars so the kids can wander freely. It’s not anything out of the ordinary for folks in our neighborhood to spend $400 on candy each year.

Suffice to say, we cannot afford this. And so, we flee after a time… and I think that’s what we’ll do tonight. But first, we’ll buy a couple of bags of candy from the dollar store–if they’ve any left–and pass it out to the first little ghouls, the cutest ones of the entire night, and then we’ll walk downtown to eat, maybe to a movie. We’ll leave Scout, our dog, to guard the dark house.

For the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns’s famous poem about Hallowe’en, click here.

For an interesting article on the Celtic origins of Hallwe’en, click here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Interview at Appalachian History

Hi, all.

I’m truly excited to share this interview with me over at, a fantastic web site for all you history and mountain-lovers. I’d not known about the site until I received an interview request from one of its contributers, and I immediately popped on over to check it out.

Three hours later, I was hooked. The site says that it’s filled with “stories, quotes and anecdotes from Appalachia, with an emphasis on the Depression era.” This is absolutely true, but there’s so much more to see there. It’s a fabulous resource for anyone researching the Appalachian region–and the stories (which include some of the coolest old photographs) that I’ve read there make my writer’s brain twitch … I can see all sorts of characters emerging from real life.

I hope you’ll check out the interview. It was conducted over several weeks via email, as Joshua Salmans, the interviewer, is living in Brazil with his wife. He asked some evocative questions, about Keowee Valley colonial South Carolina, gender roles in the Revolutionary-era, sexuality in fiction, the Cherokee, my personal background, and more. I had a great time answering them!