Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mystery of History

This chimney stands in the middle of the woods completely overgrown now by trees.  The stone monolith stands near one of the oldest roads running across the land that surrounds us.  They say it was an old postal road that ran from the western side of Orange County into Chapel Hill.  I think it likely passed the mill that once stood on Morgan Creek downstream from here.  What I do believe is that many a wagon and cart traveled that road over time, most likely in the 1800's and the wheels and rains wore a rut in the earth 8 feet deep or more in places.  Now it's a green moss and fern lined track. Like the chimney- I don't know when that road went out of use, but most likely it was back in the early 1900's.

I like to visit the chimney now and then during the winter.  I wander around it imagining who might have lived there, how old it is, what happened and how long ago.  Did it burn?  Most likely, there is no sign of any other part of the structure.  Just stones that formed the foundation, all buried under a foot or more of pine needles.  h
Here you can see them piled in the fireplace.

I wonder if the second story was added later, the tiny upstairs fireplace and the top of the chimney made of bricks, did they come later?  It's a massive structure that anchored what was a cabin measuring no more than 16 by 20.  The hilltop all around the site is covered with periwinkle (vinca minor) in its usual invasive fashion it has spread slowly but deliberately out from the house site only being kept in check by the shade and heavy pine needles that cover the ground.

I would love to do an excavation around the cabin site to see what I might unearth, if anything.  What must it have been like to live there, 4 or 5 miles from town, in that tiny cabin, possibly no neighbors for several miles and scratch out an existence off the land? I can only imagine.  Whoever built that chimney certainly built it to last and it has stood now for 10 or 15 decades or more.  I've pondered researching the history of that parcel of land back in time, but its tricky to figure out how I might actually do that successfully.  Any suggestions?

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Is Off To A Good Start

This handsome red-shouldered hawk showed up the other day, landed just outside the kitchen window scoping out the yard for a smaller bird or rodent to eat for breakfast.  I was amazed I got such a clear picture as I had to zoom in to get this close and shoot through the window glass to boot.  A little later as I walked out to hang the laundry s/he swooped right in front of me squawking and flapped across the yard to land at the top of the gateway down into the woods.

Later the same day as I was working in the garden I heard the unmistakable call of a red-tailed hawk, you know the one- the long lonely scree they dub into movies and TV at a critical moment in the plot. I looked up and spied the hawk, high in the air flying away to the north, then it circled back and soared right over me and the yard and house, circled over the farm and then flapped its way back across our yard and off to the north again and out of sight.

I take these hawk sitings as good omens for the new year.

It's been unseasonably warm and as a result the prunus mume is blooming about two months earlier than normal.  Apparently they can bloom anytime in the winter.  I'm not complaining, the pink cloud of blossoms outside my desk window has been very cheery over the past few weeks.  The delicate cupped flowers are to me the epitome of Asian floral splendor.

I've been cooking loads of soups, cleaning out all the leftovers from the fridge, tonight I made a curried butternut squash soup using the last of the peppers, yes, fresh peppers from our garden picked back around Thanksgiving  These were the last handful that had been green when picked and failed to ripen up in the paper bag with the others so got tossed into the fridge. It was time for them to go into the pot with lots of onions, carrots, garlic, celery, butternut, tomatoes, red lentils, coriander, cumin, cardamon, curry powder, cayenne, a little saffron and a bay leaf.  All cooked together and pureed, quite tasty garnished with some fresh yogurt and toasted pumpkin seeds for supper tonight.

Yesterday we took apart the holiday tree, packed all the treasures carefully away and put the boxes back up in the attic along with the now empty cookie tins, cleaned the whole house and put the furniture back to normal.  I was a bit sad to see the beauty go, but it was time to move on into the new year and leave the holiday season behind.  2011 was a good year and the holidays memorable, but I'm ready to embark now on 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

I always like to welcome the new year with a walk around the land and a visit to some of my favorite places.  I've read, (but can't find the reference), that at this time of year, certain cultures honor the spirits that reside in powerful trees and rocks.  As I've walked the woods the past few weeks I've been connecting with that custom as the tree trunks, roots and rock formations really stand out now that all the leaves are down.
There are certain places that feel very powerful to me and this rock outcrop is one of them.  I like to climb to the top and look down over the creek.  Huge sycamores cling to the far bank, their roots merging with the stones on the edge of the stream.  I took time out yesterday to stroll the creek, visit these special spots and meditate a while at each.  I've even been caught tree-hugging from time to time.  You only need to study the trunks of beech trees to believe that they are endowed with spirits.
Today I celebrated the new year with lots of writing and organizing in my office.  I baked bread and made a brilliant purple pot of borscht using all vegetables we've grown; beets, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onions and dill.  I wish all my readers a joyous and bountiful 2012.  May we all be healthy and happy.