I love Spring!
Here, in the southeastern US, signs of new life begin as early as mid to late February, but in March we can depend on a whole flurry of color to begin a show that lasts for the next eight months.
This pink japonica hangs among hundreds of other blooms on a giant bush in my front yard. The house was built in 1955. And while I have no way to know when the bush was planted, the size indicates it's at least a few decades old.
Every year I look forward to the opening spectacle of these beautiful flowers, the very first after the drab winter months. Even before the daffodils, which are coming soon, these bright beauties open up and sing the song of Spring.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Matthew 6:28b-30 ESV
August 21, 2017: Solar Eclipse Day, North America
Social media reaction to the impending solar eclipse turned many people sour to the event before it got started. Not my husband. He was dead set on an eye witness account of totality, which required traveling to South Carolina.
Hubs insisted the 95.5% solar coverage in our town would be a vastly inferior experience. He was right, but you didn't hear it from me.
I didn't really believe him.
We set off for Greenville, SC, a 2.5 hour drive, at 7 am along with our friends and fellow homeschoolers, the Petty family. At least, I reasoned, the insanity would be educational.
Our 2.5 hour drive evolved into 4.5 hours.
We felt pretty lucky. We'd given ourselves a six hour cushion.
Perhaps the world wasn't converging on South Carolina after all. Besides, we got to see the infamous Gaffney peach.
My retinas were already burning from the unprotected view of the full peach. A clear reminder of the importance of proper viewing glasses before the moon made its blinding trek in front of the sun.
Yes, we were prepared. All safety check performed. Who knew I'd be blinded in Gaffney instead?
We pulled into the A.J. Whittenburg Elementary School, a NASA approved viewing site. This is much more impressive in print than in reality.
I had begun to believe no one else was interested. I mean, we even got a spot in the shade.
The media had fooled us all. Massive traffic delays, no parking, no gas... it was a hoax. Right down to the man in the school parking lot who told us, "You can drive down to the soccer field, but the lot is probably full already."
I wish I'd photographed the five cars in the lot.
What is the world coming to when a solar eclipse falls prey to fake news?
The area slowly filled with families like ourselves, picnicking and looking up at the sun bedecked in glamorous eye wear.
I secretly began to enjoy the growing thrill as the exuberance of the boys, husband included, was contagious. Okay, there was no secret. We were having a blast.
We were hot. Stinking, South Carolina hot. Even in the shade, we were sweltering. Then the temperatures began to drop. We were entering the twilight zone. Quite literally. The entire atmosphere around us changed. Everything looked different. Everything felt different.
I don't have good pictures of those surreal moments. There was too much happening. Even if it were possible to photograph an experience. I'm not that gifted. You have to take my word for it, I suppose. I have one very poor video and not nearly enough vocabulary.
Hubs was right! A partial eclipse does not contain the magic of a full eclipse.
Now, I know.
(Emphasis in bold indicates a revelation made against my better judgement.)
The full twilight zone effect became more apparent on the drive home.
Google stated the drive would be 2 hours 56 minutes. We left at 3 pm.
Again, I wondered where all the predicted masses had gone.
Two hours and fifty-six minutes later Google declared home was 2 hours 54 minutes ahead of us. I'm no mathematician. Neither is Google apparently.
At that rate, we should have arrived home in time for the 2024 eclipse. Again, I'm no math-mind. That's just an approximation.
When the Gaffney peach came into view, we decided to stop at Cracker Barrel to let the traffic thin out.
After eating, Google re-routed us around the I-85 back-up. We would arrive home 20 minutes sooner, 2 hours 42 minutes. I no longer questioned the existence of hundreds of thousands of travelers. Every north bound highway, minor and major, was lined with vehicles. With Google as our puppeteer, turn signals lit up with synchronized predictibility as the endless line snaked through Carolina back-country. Quite honestly, it was a modern, GPS navigation, marvel to behold.
We finally reached Charlotte about 2.5 hours later and cheered excitedly when our estimated arrival time dropped to 1 hour 59 minutes.
We'd left the madness behind as we crossed the state border. Time began to tick according to the natural order of the world.
The driving skill with which Kim Petty navigated through this mess cannot be over-stated. We owe her fortitude and patience many thanks.
One need not be a parent to understand the unnatural phenomenon of no whining from the back of a van on such a journey. While we laughed a lot at Google's expense, we'd do it all over again.
At 11:17 pm we arrived safely home.
Yes, Hubs was still right.
How rare to receive such a magical glimpse into the supernatural majesty of God's creation.
Blackberry picking with my grandmother usually entailed jaggers, chiggers, and ticks. Oh my! So when we bought our house, I planted a thornless blackberry vine for an easy harvest.
This year our vine finally produced enough berries for both us and the birds. The boys picked the ripe berries each day for almost two weeks. They resisted the temptation to eat the fruit off the vine, so I could make them a cobbler. (Although I suspect a few found their way into those little bellies.)
I thought of my Grandma as the smell of those warm berries and buttermilk batter filled the house. The Summer before she died, my eighty-nine year old grandmother turned my picked berries into jam while I napped on her couch. I was covered in scratches, sweat, and later to be discovered malicious little chiggers. She convinced me to rest before picking up the kids from summer camp. When I woke up, she had already finished my preserves. I'll cherish that memory forever.
She would be proud of her great-grandsons for picking and saving all those berries, just as sure as she would have laughed at the one who licked his bowl clean.
Here's the recipe, if you'd like a bowl of your own. You can lick it. I won't tell. :)
Fresh Blackberry Cobbler
8 cups fresh picked blackberries. (I don't know if frozen work or not.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3-1/2 cup of sugar (depending on sweetness of the berries)
Mix cornstarch and sugar together, then stir into berries. Pour berries into a 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until bubbling and juicy.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat but regular is fine.)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
Sift dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Stir vanilla and melted butter into the buttermilk. The butter should harden into little flakes.
When berries start to bubble and release their juice, stir buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients until just mixed. Then spoon like drop biscuits on top of the berries. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
Return to oven for another 20 minutes or until the topping is cooked.
The summer heat in North Carolina zaps any desire to be in the kitchen ... for me and most everyone I know. Cool mornings around this time of year return my love for cooking. Soon apples will abound in crisps, pies and homemade sauce, then pumpkin treats will follow. Today, all I had were bananas. Over-ripe bananas put in the freezer for just such a day begged to be baked. Okay, it wasn't that dramatic, but I did bake them into my favorite banana bread.
We're enjoying our first home-baked treat in months. Here's the recipe, in case a fresh loaf of banana bread strikes your fancy, too.
Amy's Banana Bread
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk
Grease and flour bread pan. Preheat oven to 350.
Cream sugars and butter. Whisk in eggs and bananas.
Stir in flour, cinnamon and buttermilk until just combined.
Pour into bread pan and bake 60-70 minutes until toothpick in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 5-10 minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Optional Add-ins: 1/3 cup chopped nut meats or 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
You know Jim Craig, right?
Hmmm. Okay, maybe you're thinking on it. The name has a familiar ring to it.
Look down. Any clues? Maybe without even clicking play your memory recalls the trumpet, the crack of the whip, and then the eerie silence just before hooves crash on the downside of a rocky cliff.
Oh yeah, Jim Craig!
The otherwise nameless hero of Banjo Patterson's classic poem, "The Man from Snowy River". Filmakers gave the hero a name, Jim Craig. Tom Burlinson brought him to life on the screen, and girls everywhere fell in love. Go on. Admit it.
This film was released in 1982, the last year I lived in Australia. The movie's popularity in the U.S. created a new respect and fascination in the States for the Land Down Under.
For me The Man From Snowy River was a link to the place I called home throughout my childhood. Now, it is nostalgic. Then, it was a reminder of the courageous spirit of Australians and of the mates I'd left and missed.
A lump still forms in my throat when the trumpet blasts and the whip cracks. Some things remain a part of our soul. All these years later, I am still a little bit Aussie. And a bit proud of it.
What better time is there to snuggle in with a great book?
None like the present, to me.
I am so pleased to introduce The Joyful Canvas. This is my place to share great reading and life with you.
My shelves are loaded with hard-cover and paperback volumes of both fiction and non-fiction. My Kindle is crammed with more than I could ever have purchased on my budget. I get lost in stories, no matter the format. I just want to read. So do you, I think. That's why you're here. I look forward to passing along my best finds for you to enjoy.
So read to grow.
Read to relax.
Read to be entertained.
Read, dear friend,
to live better, healthier and happier.
Amy spent her childhood in Melbourne, Australia, where her parents were church planters. After returning to the States, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia became home.