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An Attempt To Explain Why Southerners Love Snow

Feb

21

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 | 10 comments

Snow church

i.

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up….”

It was little more than a punchline to me back when it aired, a TV commercial for LifeCall, a med-alert device for the elderly. Unintentionally campy. A joke’s butt. Easy target for late night talk show hosts.

Though I can’t say for certain, I imagine back in the day even I made sport of it. So the irony is not wasted on me, now, that when my countenance falls, that is the pathetic whimper of my spirit:

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

Last week it snowed everywhere I’ve ever lived.

All those images of blinding white turned my brown eyes

green and

then blue.

 

ii.

It happened over 30 years ago and to this day remains one of my fondest childhood memories:  a winter storm that brought layers of ice and snow and flannel and wool.

Trees fell. Power lines snapped. And teenagers teemed from their houses like ants escaping a flood.

It was before cell phones existed and though I can’t remember if home phone service was affected, somehow we managed to find one another.  Prowling from house to house – on foot, because the roads were sheets of slick glass – we hunted for two things:  food and fire.

We were wolves, moving in a pack.

There were a lot of kids in my neighbor but we weren’t necessarily all friends.  Sure, we knew each other, but high school divides just as much as it clicks.  But give us a wintry mix and what you have is The Breakfast Club effect–a bunch of teens as different as night and day and Mars and Venus, finding a way toward each other.

At least that’s how I remember it.

Ours was one of the lucky houses; we had a gas stove.  The previous owners had created an apartment of sorts upstairs–a bedroom, a bathroom, and a tiny alcove with a kitchen sink and gas range.

That winter storm was the only time I recall us using the upstairs stove.

 

iii.

Living in the Southeastern United States my entire life, I’ve only had one white Christmas.  One shimmery, sparkly, enchanting, miraculous white Christmas.  I know it’s not true, but I wanted to claim it as a God-gift especially to me (just like when he sent the baby rainbow to my front yard).

If snow is forecast, sound sleep is impossible; I’ll awaken and look out my window a dozen times.  When my hopes are raised high by the weatherman’s prediction, they fall particularly hard when he’s wrong; more often the case than not.

I realize not everyone shares my fizzy affections for random, Southern snowfall ~

It’s cold. Pipes freeze. Nose runs. Ears are cold. Trees are lifeless. Power goes out. It’s drab and gray outside. Ground is mushy. Grass is dead. Days are short. Clothes are wet. It’s cold. Cars crash. Roads close. Sidewalks are slippery. Snowball fights result in stinging welts. Snowmen get dirty mud and grass rolled up inside them (unlike the movies). It’s cold. Batteries die. Power bills are higher. Clothes are bulky and binding. Skin is pale. Skin is dry. Weight is gained. No BBQs. It’s cold. Run out of bread. Run out of milk. No milk sandwiches. It’s cold.  ~ my friend, Jason, and his thoughts on winter and snow

My husband thought Jason’s approximation was spot on.  It’s one of those things upon which we agree to disagree.

 

iv.

The year we moved to Tennessee, I thought we were finally moving to a place that would have a proper winter:  decent snow half a dozen times scattered between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day.  That’s how it went in RobinWorld, anyway.

Only after we were there a while and I started talking to people, I realized we lived in the Tennessee Valley – roughly the same elevation as our previous hometown and all the ones before that.  They had just as little snowfall as everywhere else I had lived.

Except that winter, a huge snowstorm was forecast!  Predictions of 10″-12″ inches went on for days, and I could barely sleep a wink the night it was to arrive.

Before morning’s first light, I awakened to green grass and the bad breath of disappointment.

The snow apparently didn’t get the memo we had moved, so it skipped us and went straight to where we had just left.

This was 2003, five years before I would join Facebook, but friends from our hometown were emailing updates about their snowfall.  They tried to measure the snow but their rulers sank below the surface.

Their joy sounded 10 feet tall but my disappointment had no bounds.

I was stupid-depressed and hated myself for feeling so low over something as silly as not getting snow.

I wouldn’t realize until over a decade later it really wasn’t about the snow….

 

v.

It happened again last week, just over 10 years from the previous time. History repeated.

We moved; but this time I had no delusions of snow this winter, we’re farther South and temperatures run noticeably higher.

Except sometimes God is really generous and he’ll throw a girlfriend a bone–

We had a bit of snow the other week, and yes, it made me so happy I literally jumped for joy, but….

But

Something was missing.

Grasping air and straws for most of my life when asked Why do you love snow so much? I finally put my finger on it this past week, when, like I said, history repeated itself.  Once again, snow was forecast where we lived, but it skipped us and went straight to our hometown, and all the ones before that…

In my funk, I tried to figure out how this no-snow thing could affect me so deeply – I mean, broken-heart sad, like I’ve been robbed of something valuable (and as soon as I tapped those words out, I realize how stupid-crazy it sounds).

Like usual, I thought about my favorite childhood winter memory…

and I remembered The Great Snow Disappointment of 2003…

and in the midst of torturing myself by stalking Facebook images of snow EVERYWHERE I’VE EVER LIVED…

I finally realized it wasn’t about the snow.

Wait–that’s probably not true; it is about the snow, but that’s not the all of it.

It’s about the magic of the snow!

 

Now, I realize this isn’t universal, and for my Northern and Mid-western friends it’s a different story, but I suspect it’s the nature of scarcity that makes significant snowfall so special in the South.

School is canceled at the first mention of it because municipalities aren’t equipped to handle the roads; though they’re cursed or reviled or simply made fun of, it’s best to err on the side of caution.  I wanna smack people when they disdain Southerners for not being able to drive in the snow, BECAUSE WHY SHOULD WE KNOW HOW TO?  It’s a rarity, we don’t have snow tires, and snow plows are practically nonexistent!

It’s like expecting someone to know how to swim when they’ve never been under water.

When it snows, we come out of our homes and find one another.  We share what we have and make sure everyone has what they need.  We feed and take care of each other.  Grown-ups rediscover the art of play–my God, my 74-year-old father -in-law built a snowman, and it was just he and my mother-in-law at home!

Yes, we birth snowmen and think they’re Beauty when, really, they more closely resemble the Beast bless our hearts – All those rocks and leaves and twigs woven right into frosty white sweaters.

We can’t run errands, or go shopping, or go very far at all. Whether or not we fight or embrace it, life slows down.  We make sleds out of cookie sheets and trashcan lids, and because there are baby booms nine months after snow storms, apparently a lot of people are making something else, too.  We’re present with one another.

Boundaries are erased and we walk a common experience.

We talk about the weather because it is something to talk about!

But when you’re in a new place and snow happens, those things don’t yet exist….

My longing for snow is a longing for–

people at their best,

cherished moments and memory-making,

rediscovering the value of play for play’s sake…

but mostly a longing for community.

Forever I thought it was just about the frozen stuff.  But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

What lies beneath the surface is so much bigger (isn’t that usually the case?).

 

 

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I had NO idea just how exciting this could be…how excited I would be!

Jun

05

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 | 9 comments

Mother of Pearl cover ~ Luminous lessons and iridescent faithLast fall I was contacted about contributing an essay for a collaborative print book project; everything about it seemed perfect:

  • I've highly regarded the publisher almost as long as I could read (an arm of Guideposts).
  • Through this Inspiring Voices project, author Margaret McSweeney compiled over 50 WONDERFUL essays related to motherhood from a diverse group of veteran and new authors.
  • And what maybe thrilled me more than anything else, all proceeds from book sales was to help struggling women and children in true need:  
    • WINGS:  to help fund a safe house in the Chicago suburbs, where mothers and their children can flee from domestic violence; and
    •  Hands of Hope: to help build wells for school children in Uganda

Legacies, lessons and love were the over-arching themes of the collaboration, and, not only did I know I had to say yes, I knew exactly what I was going to write about–something that encompassed all three!

Mother of Pearl Table of Contents  Mother of Pearl-Author Robin Dance

Eight months later I received my copy today…and I'm downright giddy with the end result!!  Smack dab in the center of the book, pages 80-82 to be exact, you'll find my essay.  

Is it a big surprise its title is A Princess Tale

A Princess Tale by Robin Dance

As delighted as I am with a single chapter, I cannot image the joy and sense of accomplishment of writing and publishing an entire book!  Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith would make a lovely gift for the mother, daughter, grandmommy or special lady in your life, and serve as a lovely mama-encouragement for you!  And proceeds from your purchase will make a difference in the lives of sweet mamas and children you'll likely never get to meet but who are grateful for strangers who care.

A little bonus I didn't expect was to see my sweet friend and Very Accomplished Grown-up Writer, Holley Gerth, with an acknowledgement on the front page.  That made all this tripley sweet.  

This seems to be a theme, too, with projects I've joined the past several months; both collaborative and related to motherhood. Before this Mother of Pearl project there was the beautifully written collaboration with another group–you might remember it:  The Mother Letters (grab that one for a steal!), brainchild of Seth and Amber Haines.

Sincere thanks to Amy Lathrop for seeking me out and connecting me with Margaret.  I'll be forever grateful to her for this beautiful milestone.  

(In case you'd like to purchase the book, I've included my Amazon affiliate link below.)

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Why do YOU love where you live? (And two reasons to visit Chattanooga!)

Apr

21

Posted by on Apr 21, 2012 | 1 comment

I'm in town only a few months before heading back to the other side of the planet to continue my year of adventure, but the timing couldn't be better to be in Chattanooga.  There's something fun on tap every weekend between now and "then," and weekdays offer their reasons to love being here.

This weekend two of my favorite events take place; I plan to be at both–

Mast

Chatty Crafty is a local juried DIY/indie craft show taking place at the Chattanooga Green at Ross’s Landing today and tomorrow (April 21 & 22, 2012) from 10-6.  I'm hoping the rain steers clear.  

And on Sunday only, guess who kicks off their 2012 season?

Tumblr_m2l7pmcl6J1qfp1c2o1_500

Chattanooga Market is back!  In celebration of Earth Day, Freedom Tree Farms will be giving away 100 fruit tree saplings and Possum Creek Herb Farm will offer 100 herb plants to market goers.  Music and vendors and great food, oh my!  

Being away from Chattanooga for a few months made me appreciate it even more; who knew that absence would make my heart grow fonder for this place I call home?

Your turn:   Spring is a season when communities seem to offer festivals and events that define "who" they are.  Tell me something special or unique about your hometown and why I might want to visit someday!   

And then there's that third reason to love Chattanooga…. ~ wink ~ 

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Grit(s)

Feb

24

Posted by on Feb 24, 2012 | 7 comments

GritsGrit.

Add an "s" and it transforms into a wonderful, Southern breakfast side dish, best served with a lump of butter (never margarine), a sprinkling of salt and crushed pepper, and a smattering of crumbled bacon in every bite; and cheese, cheese is always an option.  A close second, and truthfully, my preferred dish, is wonderfully creamy shrimp and grits, spicy with a hint of heat, but not so much as to over power the dish.  The grits are delicious canvas for the rest of the meal, and they can make or break the entire thing if not properly tended.

Most people outside the South don't understand grits, as if a they were a thing to be understood.

Either you're a believer or you aren't, and I feel sorry for those who are trapped in the latter category. 

I suppose for most people, "grit" conjures images of hang-dog determination and wrestling with or through the things that irritate the mind, soul or body, but for me, right now…5,000 miles from home, three weeks without touching the skin of my babies, and away from familiar comforts, the thought of a steamy bowl of Southern comfort brings a smile.

* * * *

5 minute fridayMy bizarre response to Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday writing prompt…I doubt anyone else will go this route!!  Feel free to join her!

 

Photo credit:  SouthernPlate.com

 

 

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The Southern Way…

Jul

29

Posted by on Jul 29, 2011 | 4 comments

Peach-Ice-Cream-Pie-REGFOOD0805-de Blood and marriage are reason enough to gather on the hottest day of the year to celebrate family, for no other reason than that.  It's the Southern Way.

On a canvas of conversation broad-stroked with laughter, the fizzy flit of flies joins a threatening purr of bees to fill the air with contented sounds of Summer.  I can almost hear the ants creep and crawl.  Though unwanted guests, they’re expected.  Today they will feast.

It's a crying shame my eyes are bigger than my stomach; no restaurant on the planet can match the spread covering a mile of mismatched, cloth-covered folding tables.  It's fine dining in the most fulfilling sense of the word…scrumptious and diverse and laden with secrets.  Unpretentious and under-appreciated, it strikes me that beautiful doesn't have to be fancy.

Unearthing buried treasure from their gardens, my relatives produce bowl after steaming bowl of butter beans and butter peas and baby limas and black-eyed peas–and it takes a discerning palate or being raised in the South to understand the differences…to even realize there's a difference!

There are always two or three dishes of macaroni and cheese, three or four potato salads, and one of each is always better than the rest; I wish I could remember from reunion to reunion.  Instead, I get a small spoon of each, and if Murphy is in the house, the biggest serving is my least favorite.  Regardless, I'd eat them all not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, 'cause—good gravy!–the dish's cook could be sitting right next to me!  Graciousness and good manners are also the Southern way.

It's 96 degrees in the shade and I can hear the creak and groan of the handle as it's cranked.  Wood and aluminum, rock salt and ice, there's treasure at the end of this cream and sugar rainbow, and we covet it more than gold.  Eager to help, cousins stand in line to wait a turn to churn, not realizing it's work.  The grown-ups don't let on; they smile inwardly and cheer outwardly, knowing in the end, it'll take a pound of elbow grease to finish this frozen magic.

I don't understand how a wooden barrel and a hand-cranked mixer can produce The Best Ice Cream In The World.  This is the only time I'll eat fruit in my ice cream; strawberry is fine, but peach—ab-so-lute-ly luscious!  It’s done when just a tad thicker than a bonafide milkshake.  Perfectly spun and mixed, taste buds cheerfully applaud taste and texture.  Did you know there’s a “best” way to eat homemade ice cream?  Place a spoonful in your mouth; close your lips around it as you slowly extract the spoon; squish it to the roof of your mouth, then let your tongue “chew” the fruit.  Teeth only get in the way.

Moppin’ sweat and swattin’ flies don’t both bother a soul and talk about the weather isn’t small, it’s good conversation.  History is preserved in the oral tradition as well-worn laundry is re-aired, and embellishments aren’t just tolerated, they’re expected.  Children wear grass-stained knees and dirt-caked nails, and though mamas complain, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

A summer’s day eases into a symphony of invisible crickets and bullfrogs.  It’s music I don’t care for but in which somehow I find comfort.   It’s the perfect note to herald the day’s end.

This is my childhood legacy, a gift from my mother long lived after she was gone.  Tradition that shaped me.  Family who loved us in our presence but mostly in our absence.  The Southern Way, a banquet of savored memories and moments…not just of food on the table, but of life seasoned with people and places that forever feed our soul.  

And it's where dessert is a bowl full of magic and rainbows :).

Hugs & smooches to my BFF Paula Deen for sharing a link to this post with her followers on Twitter (Here first, then here with the correct link).  If you're visiting due to her mention, won't you come again? Subscribe to me in a reader or have PENSIEVE delivered to you with a free email subscription (see left sidebar) and I shall be forever in your debt.

Photo credit

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Originally posted in June 2009 but, oh, how its truth still lingers :).

Hugs & smooches to my BFF Paula Deen for sharing a link to this post with her followers on Twitter (Here first, then here with the correct link).  If you're visiting due to her mention, won't you come again?  Subscribe to me in a reader or have PENSIEVE delivered to you with a free email subscription (see left sidebar) and I shall be forever in your debt.  Or something like that ;).


 

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When art meets light
Tiffany at Biltmore

Jul

09

Posted by on Jul 9, 2011 | 16 comments

50782-Tiffany-at-Biltmore-Logo-original When I think of Tiffany's, there's a confluence of three simultaneous thoughts:

  1. Audrey Hepburn and "Breakfast at…"
  2. Little blue boxes
  3. Beautiful stained glass lamps

When I think of Biltmore Estate, there's another three-tiered thought parade:

  1. My honeymoon in Asheville, NC (a beautiful Southern city with a thriving arts community and a profusion of field-to-table, chef-owned, beyond-scrumptious restaurants).
  2. Lavish gardens, blooming in four Seasons, floral Southern living at its best.
  3. The Biltmore House, the largest private residence in America, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau.

But when you put "Tiffany" and "Biltmore" together, you can expect special … unforgettable … masterpiece. 

Now through October, the Biltmore Legacy is hosting  The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in the Antler Hill Village; an exhibit of 45 lamps and peripheral items created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and The Tiffany Studios, free with Estate admission.

My husband and I made a quick trip to the Biltmore Estate over the July Fourth holiday, and while the fireworks at the Inn that night were spectacular, the exhibit's Tiffany lamps were the true show stoppers–softly glowing illuminated masterpieces, every. single. one. of. them.   

Succinctly put, the Tiffany exhibit is excellent–informative, interesting and accessible.  The companion content is easy to read and just the right amount of information.

Observers can learn about the process of creating a Tiffany lamp

Flat and pressed glass pieces used for Tiffany lamps

Materials for making a Tiffany lamp
Tiffany lamp making process

Artisans creating Tiffany lampshades

Tiffany and company channeled inspiration from nature; floral motifs and dragonflies dominate

DSC_0641

DSC_0709

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiffany Poinsettia lamp
Daffodil Tiffany lamp

 

 

Some designs depict wildlife–

Tiffany peacock lamp

 

…and others Still Life…

Tiffany grape lamp Tiffany lamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And sometimes simple is more than enough…. I love the cozy, pleated "curtain" look of this shade.

DSC_0660

 

And the next two have me thinkin' of Monet and his waterlilies….

Globe Tiffany lamp

Waterlilies on Tiffany shade 

Tiffany lamp screen, moth I couldn't choose a favorite if I tried–and I did try.  This lamp tried hard to win first place with its accompanying moth lamp screen; an accessory Tiffany created to help shield glare from early light bulbs.  Isn't it darling?

 

Tiffany peony reading lamp with moth screen

Robin and Tad at the Tiffany exhibit at Antler Village If you're interested in seeing and reading more, please check out the rest of my Flickr set from our Biltmore trip.  

And if you have some time between now and October 23, I encourage you to beat the Summer heat and visit Asheville, NC, with a stop at Biltmore Estate; The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass exhibit is included at no additional charge.

 

Warm thanks to my Biltmore friends for putting us up for the night at the fabulous Inn at Biltmore.  Though they provided a gorgeous complimentary night's stay, I hope it's obvious my enthusiasm for this exhibit rests solely on it's own fabulosity!  

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