Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Ferryman Silently Waits: An Allegory

So in response to my mother’s passing, this short story pop into my mind and needed to be written down. Hope you enjoy it.

The Ferryman Silently Waits

In the dark shadows of my heart, the Ferryman has come to collect his due. Staring at me from the shoreline, his faceless image reminds me that I still have not released her for this last passage. He is waiting for me to say goodbye to her, to send her broken bones across the river on his watery vessel. Frozen in my tracks I am unable to scream at him from my grassy hill, to tell him how much I hate his presence waiting on me. The Ferryman is always silent at the edge of the river, pacing, waiting, quietly. I try to ignore his presence drifting in and out of the shadows of the oak trees of my mind. I pray that he loads the ferry with someone else’s remains and crosses the river with them instead of her. My prayers go unanswered and he continues to wait and watch until I am prepared to pay his fee to release his ferry from the shore. His payment for crossing the river is the sacrifice that we all must pay. He gathers our tears. He collects the wailing of our hearts and mourning cries of our souls. His dark dirty hand collects our pain and suffering like gold coins as payment for the journey. Charon the ferryman needs this toll of pain and suffering to raise the veil on the foggy river, to deliver our loved ones to the other side.

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I refuse to bring her to the shore, refuse to load the casket on the wooden planks of the waiting pallet. I have not added the daisy chains to the deck of the ferry, nor the candles or candy for her voyage. It is not for me to release her into his care. It is not my place to send her to the other side. I dare the Ferryman to come up the shore and take her. I yell at him from the moss-covered hill. “She is still mine and you cannot have her.” In his dirty dungarees, he says nothing and only raises his hand as if the payment was already due. He knows that death has already come. The shrouded body of my mother is peaceful and beautiful. Like a spider, I have her cocooned her against the elements. She resides safely on the hilltop covered in moss and flowers. I have no strength to place her in the casket or load it on the wagon. I have no will to drive her down the hill to the river for the silent Ferryman.

cable ferry
The Ferryman does not care for me, he has no sympathy for the living, and his job is only to serve the dead. He does not have the means to bring death to the old, sick or those born too early. His only power is to transport his passenger from the land of the living to the land of the dead. My heart is broken and I fall on my knees in the flowers, pray. I pray for understanding, forgiveness and for love. I feel the heavyweight of my loss in my heart. I am not sure how to face another day without her.
A storm is brewing on the horizon. I watch, as the clouds turn gray and rise in heaping mounds. As the last member of her generation, she will join all the others that have gone on before her. The storm knows my mother is coming and wraps its icy breath around her. The Gail wind tries to raise her from her deathbed. A draft of wind moans through the trees and across the shore into the mist of the river. I know there is nothing more I can do for her in this world. As her shroud flaps wildly in the wind. The Ferryman watches the storm arrive and signals to me that it is time for the arrival of his passenger. I know that the fury of the storm will take her if I do not begin the painful parade to the river.
There is no escape from this journey. It is cruel to the spirts to delay their joyful reunion and I know that I am being selfish. I know that it is wrong to cause this suffering. However, suffering is a small price to pay to have one more glorious morning with her. I rise to my feet, lift the heavy remains of the woman who gave me life onto my shoulder. I lower her into the casket and place it on the wagon. I load the flowers, candles, and candy in the wagon until it is overflowing. I drive a team of grey, mute donkeys down to the shore. There I slowly lower her casket from the wagon onto the Ferryman’s pallet. With a faceless reach, he slowly pulls the rope attached to the pallet on to the planks of the wet ferry. The river rises to meet them as my tears shower down on the dark blue-gray water. I stand motionless, knee-deep in the cold water. Drained of all my strength, I stand watching as the Ferryman ties off the pallet and raises his pole to push the wooden vessel into deeper water. The Ferryman’s toll is paid, as I begin to shudder with tears. A shiny silver coin would have been much easier to part with then this wooden casket.
The Ferryman reaches hand over hand as he pulls the heavy rope that moves the flat bottom ferry into the current of the river. Slowly the mist turns to a white wall of thick fog. There is no noise except the sounds of rain hitting the river and the creaking of the saturated boards straining to keep the ferry afloat.
She is leaving me behind. She floats with a stranger to a new land. “Choran, do not leave her for the wolves”, I yell into the fog as the ferry disappears from my sight. All that is left is the sounds of the rain on the tree leaves and the creak of the wet wood in the distance. The Ferryman will ride with her through the passage, into the cove, where he will release her from all pain and memories.
Soaked and chilled to the bone I slowly slog back to the bank. My wet clothing weighing me down, I fall on my face in the soft slit of the shore. In the sand, I wish I could trade places with her, to stop my own pain and to find freedom in death. The cold finally drives me ashore back into the wagon where the team is waiting for me. Silently I promise to get them home to a warm, dry, barn. I spend the remainder of the night in front of the fire, warming my bones with a strong brandy until the storm passes.
The Ferryman never reappeared on the river near my farm. My mother’s remains never wash ashore downstream. I believe her trip was successful in reaching the cove and shore of Hades. I know that after the storm I found the sky more colorful and peaceful than I had ever before. The sun shone down on the flower-covered hill and the river returned to its gentle flow. I am sure that the Ferryman was paid that night and I will not see him again for many more days. Love comes at a price that no one is prepared to pay. However, I would not miss this adventure for anything in the world. To love and be loved is more valuable than any pain that the Ferryman can bring me.

 

 

Categories: Death, Ferry boat, Ferryman, fiction, Ohio River, short story, sickness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pick Your Own Blueberry Pie.

It has been an ongoing wish of mine to go to a pick your own blueberry farm and spend a lazy morning picking, eating and baking my personal favorite pie from the harvest. So when a friend was visiting from out of town for a few weeks the two things collided and I ended up with a fresh blueberry pie.

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Cindy and David Proudfoot at their farm in Barbour County, West Virginia.

I was lucky enough to meet David and Cindy Proudfoot and visit their farm and gardens in Barbour County just after the 4th of July. So one warm morning my friend Dominic, who was visiting from out of town, and I  spent about 2 hours picking berries and about an hour just visiting with the Proudfoots. We shared a rambling conversation about their century farm and how it was passed from one family member to another and is still in operation for over 100 years after David’s grandfather bought the land. This year the farm will receive an official state listing and a beautiful white sign to place at the entry to their driveway. The sign will state that this farm is a West Virginia Century Farm and is family owned and operated. The farm is used mostly as a vegetable andblueberry farm. They sell the blueberries as a “Pick Your Own Blueberries” operation, from 420 blueberry bushes they maintain. They also sell vegetables and flowers at the local farmer’s markets.

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Heritage Tom turkey that the Proudfoots use for breeding.

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David explains information about this huge flower.

Cindy and Dave have worked for 12 years to develop and cultivate several large vegetable gardens, flower gardens, two fields of blueberries and a couple of ponds. The gardens are full of native and heirloom plants and feed their honey bees. Their shared knowledge and understanding of plants and mushrooms is an immense and amazing experience to be a part of. They teach classes on the farm and enjoy sharing their knowledge with anyone who is interested. You can see what is happening on the farm at Proudfoot Mountain Farm- mountainfarmwv.blogspot.com or on Facebook at Proudfoot Mountain Farm. 

Dominic picking Blueberries

Dominic Piacentini picking blueberries at the Proudfoot farm in Barbour County, WV

closeup of blue berry

large ripe Blueberry ready to pick.

So after picking around 12 pounds of the ripest berries Dominic and I headed home to wash, sort and cook with our berries. I made a pie and froze about 4 pounds of berries to use over the winter. Dominic made a dump cake and eat the berries fresh with his roommates. It was a wonderful day spent with some of the most interesting people I know. I have included here two simple recipes to make a coffee cake and a deep dish blueberry pie and a reminder about freezing the berries on cookie sheets.

blueberry pie just out of the oven

Deep dish Blueberry pie.

Just quick reminder if you plan to use your berries for things like cakes, pies, muffins it is nice to be able to measure out how many cups of berries you are using. So after cleaning and sorting my berries, I let them stand in a colander for a couple hours to drain off any excess water. I then spray two cookie sheets with a cooking spray and fill each one up with berries, trying to keep any of them from touching. Then place the berries in the freezer at least overnight. Then bring them out and place both cookie sheets of berries in one large gallon zip lock bag and refreeze. Two cookie sheets equal about 1/2 of a gallon bag or 4 cups of berries. This way you can pour the berries out of the bag and they are not frozen in a huge clump.

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looking for stems on cleaned blueberries.

For a traditional Blueberry coffee cake, the National Blue Berry Council shared this recipe.

Blueberry Buckle

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil

1 1/2 cup cake flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg

10 oz of blueberries about a heaping cup full.

mix and pour into 9″ square pan and top with crumb topping;

crumbs:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup soft but not melted butter

bake at 350 deg for 45 minutes, serve warm.

 

Blueberry pie or the Recipeless Fruit Pie;

enough dough for two pie crusts and a deep dish pie pan

1/2 cup sugar if the berries are fresh and sweet more if they seem tart

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cornstarch… depending on the juiciness of the fruit. (  apples, peaches, pears need less )

5 cups of clean ripe fruit with stems removed.

two teaspoons salted butter to top fruit

heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a deep-dish pie pan with one crust. In large bowl mix dry ingredients together, add berries and mix well, pour berries into crust and top with small pads of butter and top crust. Seal edges and cut a whole to vent the steam off the pie. Bake 45 minutes until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden brown.

We serve the pie with vanilla ice cream while it is hot from the oven on a hot evening out on the patio.

As Dominic and I picked and talked that morning, it was wonderful to have time to visit. It reminded me why we both like to cook and how families used to spend their time together doing activities just like this. It brought me closer to nature, to friends and to my family. At the end of my long day, I  even got to eat the rewards of my labors, nothing in the world I love better! Thank you, Cindy and David Proudfoot for spending your time with us and sharing the bounty of your farm IT WAS WONDERFUL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, blueberries, friends, Pie, wild food, you pick farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Veteran friendly 4th of July Traditions

In 28 years of marriage, my husband has never attended a fireworks display. I have taken the boys to the events alone and have enjoyed spending many holidays with my older son, his wife and my Granddaughter. With my husband staying home alone. I have often wanted to share the day and festivities with him also, but the noise and crowds are too much for my Persian Gulf War Vet.  He never complains about skipping some family events and I never pressure him. I understand that staying home is better for him then feeling stressed, but this year that all changed for the better.

On a whim, I bought Asian Sky Lanterns thinking that the kids could enjoy taking them out to the local lake over the holiday weekend and send them off into the sky. I had no idea how much fun and joy a paper lantern would bring to my husband, me and the little ones. It was a simple moment of peace, quiet and beauty that my husband could enjoy.

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Paige, Christopher, and Tom filling lanterns with hot air.

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Christopher watching his released lanterns.

These lanterns are rather large and take several minutes to fill completely up with hot air so they will float away. These were easy to light and there is no frame inside the lanterns. The lanterns are made from tissue paper and cardboard so this does increase the risk that someone would either get burnt or the lantern would catch on fire. We did lose one to fire and we just tossed it in the trash on the way home. They are not expensive I paid $3.00 each for the 4 lanterns. When doing further research you can get around 12 small lanterns for about $10.00 dollars and large ones for 6 for $8.oo dollars. Much cheaper than the 40 or more dollars I have spent on sparklers and snakes in the past.

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Sending messages to the heavens.

It was a wonderful sight to see my husband helping the little ones get the lanterns lit and filled with hot air. Then as they ballooned out with hot air he helped them launch them over the water. Within a minute or two they would rise and float to the ridge top before slowly floating back down onto the water in a very quiet, peaceful way. After the tissue paper gets wet it will deteriorate and the fuel is burnt away and sits on a small cardboard square that is burnt up when the lantern falls from the sky.

As we loaded everyone back in the truck and headed to get ice cream my husband asked if we could do it again with smaller lanterns. I was pleased that he had enjoyed himself and the kids loved it. It was a perfect way to end our 4th of July and be able to have my husband be part of the events. I feel like this is a great option for families that have sound sensitive children or adults. It is pretty and colorful without the crowds or noise. With adult supervision, this is a  great way for families to spend time together and included everyone.

So I hope whatever you did for the 4th of July holiday, I hope you spent it with friends, family and made wonderful memories. We now have a new family tradition that we can share on holidays and while camping if we want to. It was so wonderful for me to find a way to include my husband in our celebration. Happy Independence Day!

 

Categories: 4th of July, Asian Lantern, family fun, family memories, Uncategorized, veterans | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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