Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Frosty Morning

When I stepped outside my breath came in big white plumes like I had become a dragon in the night, so perhaps it was just as well this was my last morning in North Carolina. The frost covered car looked dreadful to my Florida eyes.

Cheyenne didn't mind one bit as she frolicked wildly with the in-law's dog Mason. I was ready to drive south after breakfast so I was wearing a fleece on top and shorts below which were obviously inadequate for conditions. A pair of socks could have been useful too but I am an impatient packer and they were buried in the suitcase.

It was barely dawn and the dogs were racing through the woods ahead of me. Later I realized this cute picture of Cheyenne and Mason pointing together at something interesting gave my dog an unfortunate pose. She really didnt have her nose up his tail.

My knees were cold, my nose was frigid my fingers felt like icicles every time I pulled them from my wooly pockets and tried to focus the camera. The scenery was delicious, like a Christmas card.

In the half light of dawn I could barely see a typical Celo Community home buried in the woods like a cottage from a German folk tale.

On previous walks Cheyenne had been eyeing the floating dock used in summer as a dive platform and to my surprise and fatherly pride she had the nerve to step out on the structure on this her last chance to so do. I was up the hill a long way away and the prospect of getting in the water in those temperatures did nothing for me at all. But if Cheyenne were human she would have the right spirit to ride a motorcycle.

Geeta my sister in law told me they used to come down to swim when they first moved here in the early 70's when the hippie spirit was flourishing and she had completed her medical studies and came to work with the poor and forgotten of Appalachia. Indeed her first son was born on the kitchen table in the house pictured above...The mountain communities of the past are a collection of stories and reminiscences now, with electricity, ever expanding roads and modern digital communications penetrating everywhere. The poverty remains though, and driving past homes and trailers in these mountains you will see hand writ tens owns offering an dizzying array of services out of one home. It's the local equivalent of holding down three jobs to pay the rent in Key West.

The pool is still a community resource in summer though this time of year even the locals abstain. Cheyenne brilliantly managed not to fall in and we continued on our way. These woods fascinate my Labrador every time I bring her; it pains me to tear her away from these woods every time we leave.

I can only imagine that hanging my laundry under my stilt house in Florida's dry winter air works much better than reducing my unmentionables to frosted flakes as these hopeful homeowners did, in colorful and stylish fashion on this cold gray morning.

I confess that for all it was freezing cold I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and the unusual views; unusual for me that is to say.

The sunrise seemed much slower and even more deliberate perhaps than a Florida equivalent which appears much more suddenly out of a clear blue sky. These sunrises crept up out of the trees and over the mountains will all due deliberation.

When the local fire district was required by the Feds to label every street residents got to offer up their own choices. In this case the falcon's aerie got a suitable name:

There is so much texture in these hillsides.

We passed an old burned out house. It was a home years ago that fell into disrepair according to brother in law Bob. The house fell art until the fire department finished it off in a controlled burn. This is all that's left.

The community's Morgan School uses the ruins for occasional campfire outings, I'm told and I can hardly imagine how picturesque it must be out here on a starlit night.

Actually I have an idea of what a star lit night looks like out here, because we took a walk after Thanksgiving dinner, at my suggestion and almost the whole family took off along these lanes. My sister in law and I ended up at the back of the crowd and we meandered along together carrying a grandchild on my shoulders. It's a pleasant place to be out for a walk at any time.

It was cold enough the rhododendrons had closed their leaves for the night, waiting for the sun to come up before they unfurled.

We walked down Dale and up hill and eventually,

...the sun made it's appearance across the valley in the direction of Mount Mitchell which is the highest point along the eastern seaboard as it turns out, and it sits above Celo. Cheyenne was indifferent to topography but she galloped happily up the road to the house, not a care in her wooly Labrador world. I stumbled along behind feeling my freezing limbs and digits.

Bob came out of the house with the good news: last night's low hit 21 degrees, the coldest night so far in an unusually mild Fall season. Definitely time for me to go back to Florida.

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Playing In The Woods

Cheyenne dictated a slow pace on most of our walks as she sniffed and doubled back and sniffed again among the fallen leaves of the North Carolina woodlands. Which gave me time to look closer and harder at our surroundings which I enjoyed unaccustomed as I am to deciduous trees in winter.

These Celo hills, near the town of Burnsville an hour from Asheville are covered in rhododendrons, green leaved trees that produce magnificent red and white flowers and are I am told, a sight to see in their native habitat in the foothills of the Himalayas. They do quite nicely around here and there is a particular display of them in a park on the Tennessee stateline not far from here. This time of year the leaves fold in the cold at night and the flowers are nothing more than tight little buds.

There was a touch of blue in the sky, as seen through the natural peephole, though nothing quite like a sunny winter sky in Florida, my home.

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Cheyenne's Vacation

I have a suspicion Cheyenne was sorry to see the end to her vacation at Celo. She got to walk the woods which as always fascinated her. It's true the family gathering represented too many people in one place for her (or me) but she did get her own bed for a refuge.

Half the fun of North Carolina for me is watching my dog wear herself out chasing through the woods, and recuperating noisily afterwards, sacked out and snoring.

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