Puppy: What Lies Ahead (Wordless Wednesday)


Warm winter day, Charleston. Puppy time.

Laid-Back In the New Year … Maybe

Greeting Card - Penguins

Masquerading as a normal person

I’ve been level-headed and dependable all my life: a do-the-right-thing little girl, then teenager, now woman. It’s ingrained in my genes to help people and solve problems, to be reliable and act normal, for goodness sake.

Well, I’m over it. I’m in my 60’s and it’s high time to come to my senses. In 2016 I want to meander along a laid-back path, alternating wildly between serene interactions with nature and and bring-it-on pursuits of pleasure. If all goes well, I will may:

Fight the urge to be level-headed every second of every day.

Be open to silliness and frivolity.

Tone down the serious.

Surprise myself (and others) by doing the unexpected. 

Stop thinking I have to recycle every paper napkin or piece of plastic in existence.

Let someone else in the family organize my mother’s closets and finances.

Cultivate friends who are goofy, unconventional.


Okay. We’ll see how it goes.

Hope you get all you wish for in the New Year!


My Three Dollar Felcos

Several years ago my friend Annie was as excited as I’ve ever seen her. It was over a birthday present from her husband. No, not jewelry or dinner at a fancy restaurant. It was a truckload of prime-quality manure for her garden.

Most gardeners can relate.


Not long ago I was in a second-hand shop and thought I spotted the signature red handles of Felco pruners. Sure enough, #8s and they were only $3.00! After I took this photo, I cleaned and sharpened them and put on a new spring.  They work beautifully, which spurred me to clean and sharpen all my garden tools. (Ok, most garden chores have been ignored, but my tools are very sharp).

Plants: How to Woo a Woman


When my son Greg met his soon-to-be wife, he was obviously smitten. I knew this for several reasons, but it was the energy he put into a gift for her upcoming birthday that confirmed it for me. He considered several options, then settled on a plan: he would assemble a menagerie of houseplants for her sunroom/office and keep everything secret until the Big Day arrived.

After many trips to buy greenery and other supplies, Greg spent hours mixing soil, matching plant to container, and potting each specimen up. He added some divisions from his collection and mine. To make sure the plants were kept secret and, also, watered and cared for in the interim, he brought them to my house for safe-keeping. You can see them above, in all their diversity of texture, pattern, color, and form, spread out in the driveway on delivery day.

I know I’m partial as a judge, but I think this is one of the sweetest, most from-the-heart gifts I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s the thoughtfulness — not the gift — that made an impression. Either way, it’s not a bad way to impress a woman.



Hinoki falsecyress: It’s cold out here. Let me in!

One evening recently, I was startled to see the Hinoki falsecypress pressing its branches against the window, as if to say, Let me in please! Maybe it was how the light reflected on the panes, but the tree seemed to have moved closer to the house since I looked out earlier that day.

Now, the snow is gone and the falsecypress appears to have resumed its place against the stone wall behind.

Have patience, little tree. Soon spring will be here and the birds will build nests in your soft, sheltering branches. They’re already scouting for just the right spot.

On Turkeys (and Blogging)


Wild turkeys on a late, Carolina morning

Mom looked out the window last week and saw a flock of wild turkeys picking at the dormant grass in the front yard. The birds were oblivious to the humans standing behind the glass just a few feet away. By the time we’d stopped fiddling with cameras and technical mishaps (dead batteries,etc.), the flock had proceeded to the end of the driveway, just beyond the rough-scaled ‘Heritage’ river birch on their left.

The birds headed across the road to the field (it becomes full of Queen Anne’s lace and sweet peas in summer), then veered toward a dilapidated old barn with a metal roof that threatens to fly off into the sky every time the wind blows hard. As a child, I helped the neighbor boys set up a general store in that little barn. We had old glass bottles, clunky tin cans, and small boxes with lettering muted by dampness from the building’s dirt floor.  I always wanted to be the shopkeeper. The boys bought some of my make-believe groceries and goods to humor me.

*       *       *       *       *

I’ve been a bit of a turkey with my blogging recently — wandering, picking at things, keeping my head low to the ground. Blogging requires commitment and time, and the ante gets upped pretty often, I think. An example is how many photos to provide for a posting. When I write about gardening, I feel compelled to include a lot of images, following the trend.  But it takes a lot of time to sort, re-size, and prepare photos for the web, then write a story, and do the behind-the-scenes work that makes the blog come together technically. Then, every few weeks a new app or social media platform surfaces, compelling bloggers to join in order to be relevant, or searchable, or whatever. So far, I’ve resisted, though I admire those who use those resources well.

For now, I need to be relevant to the social circle that’s in the flesh, needs my help, and doesn’t care if I’m search-engine optimized. In other words, blogging needs to take a back seat to parental and other responsibilities in the coming months.

When Meander Mountain first started, my goal was to have a very simple blog. For each posting, I wanted to show one or two photos that were nature-or-garden-related or that illustrated something  compelling or offbeat about traveling or life in Southern Appalachia (mostly east Tennessee and western North Carolina).  I want to re-commit to that approach, and also post more frequently — just without too many shoulds in my brain.

Too, I want to reach out more, to readers/other bloggers, who have made the past three M. Mountain years so enjoyable and worthwhile. For you, and for those who have made it to the end of this epistle, I am grateful. I look forward to staying in touch!

Cheers — to blogging and to wild turkeys,


Craving Color


It’s been a long winter.

When you live in the woods, you get used to subtlety. You learn to appreciate delicate shades of blue, and the muted yellows and pinks of wildflowers. You’re amazed at the nuances of white in blooms of trillium and fothergilla and sweetbay magnolia. You love the giant oak trees and the dark, humusy soil, and the way the light filters through the canopy at different times of the day.

But wait!  You’re forgetting about the vivid colors of red buckeye and native columbine, and the bright blue of the ajuga, and the fuschia camellias, not to mention the wonderfully-fragrant, lemon-colored witchhazels. And that’s just Spring. What were you thinking?

Color in a shade garden

Still, there are February days when the garden looks woefully brown. You fantasize about farmer’s markets, cut flower farms, and daylily nurseries — all that bright-hued goodness a gardener takes for granted in warmer months. It would be hard to incorporate all those colors in a garden.You know that. But, today, you’re dreaming…. just waiting for Spring.

Snowed In With Gardenopoly

Pass Grow and Collect $200

For the Mogul Gardener

Yesterday I heard a poem on the radio, “Monopoly 1955” by Barbara Crooker. It got me thinking about a game I  bought for my mother in May of last year.

I’d spent the morning volunteering at the Botanical Garden of Asheville and noticed a colorful box displayed on a top shelf in the gift shop. GARDEN-OPOLY, the box said in floral and leafy letters. Two of Mom’s favorite things — gardening and playing Monopoly. How could I lose for a Mother’s Day gift?

Greenhouses Instead of Hotels

Pass Grow and Collect $200

Instead of hotels and houses, the game has little greenhouses and clay pots to place on real estate acquisitions. Just like Monopoly, the more “development” you’ve done, the more you can charge anyone who lands on your properties.

Greenhouses are worth more than pots. Mom put up greenhouses on Regal Rose Way and Orchid Estates. I was hoping to buy Hydrangea Haven but, instead, ended up with two pots on Poison Ivy Way and one or two on Dandelion Drive. (How does this game know my garden?)

As the game progressed, both of us acquired more properties. I learned that my 88-year old mother is very competitive when it comes to the nuances of building an empire with a board game. She bought everything she could and I kept having to Go To Weeding (Jail). I also seemed to land on Aphid Infestation a lot, further depleting my supply of money. Mom kept a poker face throughout, but I could tell she was scheming in her mind the whole time.

It took us over two hours to finally finish and we were pretty well wiped out at the end. Much as we liked the game, we decided the short version was our choice for the future. But then, we weren’t snowbound, or we might have looked at things differently.

Simple Greens, Honoring Veterans


East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee

It’s a moving sight as you crest the top of a nearby hill. Hundreds of newly-placed holiday wreaths, backlit by the evening sun and shadowed by giant oak trees, rest against the names of military veterans etched on stones that are evenly-spaced in the grass.

Every tombstone is alike — every wreath the same, simple design. Uniformity makes the scene more beautiful, yet belies the complexity of the lives of the men and women laid to rest here. While I don’t know anyone buried on this hillside, I still wonder where these people served, how old they were when they died, what their families were like.

Memories of my father — a World War II veteran (U.S. Army Air Corps) and gruff sentimentalist when it came to Christmas — are a big reason this scene gets me every time I pass by. These memories put the last-minute holiday scrambling in perspective, bringing with it a certain kind of peace.

Soon, the wreaths will be gone, leaving the hillside bare of ornamentation. The buds on the trees will start to swell and a whole new cycle of life will begin. I’m looking forward to it — fully aware that winter just started and there’s a good long time to wait.


Thanksplant_mmtnI treasure all my indoor plants. Each one brings a certain seasonal pleasure, but the Thanksgiving cactus definitely shines in the bloom department. This week, a grouping of them brought an especially welcome burst of color, considering that I’ve been in forced seclusion from a virus or other unknown malady. Seeing those vibrant, red blooms cheered me every time I walked by them. The blurry photo to the left is the last one I took of the mother plant – or anything, for that matter – before my reliable old Nikon gave up its focusing ability and, eventually, the ghost. (Are you listening, Santa)?

All week I’ve marvelled at how these cacti bloom so reliably, at the very same time, year after year.  They get no special treatment — only water and (possibly) an annual feeding. Maybe this is just an especially vigorous cultivar, but I like to think there’s a connection between the abundant blooms and the person whose passing brought us this mother plant and her eventual offspring.

If you’re ever unsure what type of holiday cactus you have, Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) have sharp points at the end of leaf segments and Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera bridgesii) have rounded edges. Most plants offered for sale anymore are Thanksgiving cacti, native to the tropical forests of Brazil.