Author Archives: jolynnpowers

About jolynnpowers

I'm a mother, wife, artist, writer, community developer in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Originally from the mountains of Boulder, Colorado. I have spent the last 27 years with my family in a small town of less then 4000 were we spend time outdoors living close to the land. I garden, fish, hunt, forage and cook in traditional ways and share Appalachian history and culture with my two sons. I love old buildings, bridges and farms. I love a good ghost story and have been known to dress up for Halloween. I hope you enjoy my stories about our life where you might not have cell service, many of the roads are just numbers and people still want to know your name.

Visting with Ghosts (1650 miles from WV to CO and back)

My trip home to attend my mother’s internment in my home town of Boulder Co. was like no other trip I have ever made. Returning to the mountains in Colorado, I not only said goodbye to someone I loved, but I spent much of my time revisiting childhood friends and reliving memories. I am not sure if everyone goes through similar feelings of joy and comfort when they experience a lifetime of memories and nostalgia but this trip was about visiting with the ghosts of my past and those of Colorado’s wild west history.

I am lucky to have found a man who also enjoys the history of the west, folk tails, museums, old houses, cemeteries and old friends. This trip was planned to incorporate visits to “Doc” Holiday’s, Kid Cassidy’s, Buffalo Bill’s, My Ex-inlaws and my mother and father’s graves and cemeteries. We road historic railways, we became silver miners for a day, we hiked to cemeteries, we toured historic homes, eat spicy Mexican food and laughed at stories of our youth. Several times I felt that we were in a movie about growing up in the 1980s when the only music on the radio was from my generation and faces from high school filled a table at a local pub.

Tom and I Colorado River

Tom and I resting on the shore of the Colorado River, Glenwood Springs, Co.

Somewhere between the kind words said about my mother at a toast in her honor, I floated away to a quiet place of sweetness and memories. A happy place where she was healthy, young and had a huge smile on her face. I like that image of her best, smiling and hugging me. Her ghost was there at the table with us, she was finally part of the parties that I was always going to in high school. She was the honored guest this time and took time to lean over each guest to let them know that they were always welcome to visit her as she played hostess like she always did in our home. Her ghost was happy and free and that night and so was I. The evening turned into a beautiful blending of the past and the present I will never forget how much love I felt in that pub that night! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and those who sent well wishes during this challenging time.

Friends at Mikeoshea's

Some of my high school family. We are missing a few faces in the photo but I have never felt better about who I have called my friends over the years.

Memories and ghosts were tangible at the cemetery the next day. I looked for and found the family plots of my first husband, my aunt, uncle, and other extended family members all buried within yards of my parents.  It was nice to settle a debt that I had owed to them for the years that they all supported me through youth. It was wonderful to say thank you and place flowers and stones on their graves. Even the memories of my first marriage had less sting and more forgiveness for things that were never in my control. I said a prayer of peace to the crowd of ghosts that sounded me and the funeral of my mother. I knew I was surrounded by the love of my family and friends.

Family together at hotel

The Lowrey clan gathered together after my Mother’s internment.

During the service, my family joined together to say some wonderful things about my mom. We all shared memories of things we remembered about her. We placed things in her cremation box that meant something to us and sent her remains into the ground covered in her favorite flower, the yellow rose. It was not hard to let her go, it was the very best send off a woman who was trapped in a broken body tortured by Alzheimer’s could get. The relief we all felt about her transfiguration spilled into joy, laughter, and sweet storytelling.  It was the perfect afternoon with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. We chatted as her spirit looked over our shoulders at photo albums and scrapbooks, she held her great-grandson on her lap and enjoyed his laughter. I even think I heard her laugh out loud at one of my brother’s corny jokes.  I hated to see her fade away as we walked to our truck after the gathering. With armloads of memories stuffed in overfull boxes, I stopped to say goodbye to my family. Fully knowing that the matriarch of my family, the roots, that kept us together, was gone and we could possibly scatter like leaves in the wind. I felt something shift and knew that I wanted to be sure that did not happen. She had worked too hard to watch the family get distant.

The following day we traveled to Georgetown Co. in search of silver mines and train rides. The day was full of historical adventures, Christopher got to spend time on the Georgetown Loop train and take an extended tour in the Lebanon Silver Mine. The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884 as a way for miners and their cargo to move up and down the 2 miles of steep incline between Georgetown and Silverplume Co. In the end, the train travels 3 miles of track to reach its final destination only 2 miles away, with a short trip around the loop over the canyon and Clear Creek river. In between the two depots, there are two historic silver mines that visitors can tour to learn more about the lives of miners at the turn of the century. So this was a welcome cool spot on a 99-degree day in Denver.

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Georgetown Loop Train

High bridge of Georgetown loop

The high bridge over clear creek river Georgetown Co

We even learned about Tommyknockers and Dragon’s Blood, which were often found in mines.  Tommyknockers may very well be the spirits of dead miners looking out for living miners with their tricks. Christopher believes he heard one on our tour… poping and cracking the roof of the silver mine. We also found what miners called Dragons Blood. Where silver ore tarnishes and leaches through the walls. It is said that if you fallow the Dragon’s Blood it would lead you to his guarded treasure. In fact, the myth is somewhat true because often where there was silver tarnish leaking through the walls you would find a silver seam in the mine. It also meant that you might pay with your life if you tried to take the Dragon’s Treasure.

We also learned the average life expectancy of a silver miner in Colorado in the late 1890s was 36 years old….Let that one sink in for a minute…. My husband would have been dead almost 20 years by now. Leaving many woman widows before they even turned 40. What sad dark lives the Welsh immigrants lived to come to American and start a new life for their children.

That evening and the next two days we spent in Glenwood Springs, Co. hunting down the grave and museum of “Doc” Holliday my favorite dentist, gunman, and gambler. It was a nice hike to the Linwood Cemetery averaging about and 1 and 1/4 miles all uphill. ( I thought I was going to die, not enough oxygen at about 5,800 ft above sea level).  With beautiful views of the town of Glenwood Springs and the Colorado River. The cemetery is old for Colorado standards many of the graves are from the late 1800s and many are miners. TheDoc Holliday’s gravesite is covered with coins, cards, cigars, and roses, making a testament to his popularity even today.

The only disappointment was the paid entry to what is called the Doc Holliday museum. With only one item that might have belonged to him (a derringer pistol), it was not worth the $5 dollars to see in my opinion. The rest of the room in filled with other information and items from the same time period. So we did read new articles written about him and see other guns from the time period but sadly nothing that really struck me as impressive.

While in town we did stop at a local history museum in a 1905 downtown home. We enjoyed looking at the antiques from the turn of the century and learning about local history. The Frontier History Museum of Glenwood Springs has a wonderful collection of items including one of President Teddy Roosevelt’s saddles that he used bear hunting in Colorado.

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Christopher and Tom look at the gravesite of William F Cody AKA Buffalo Bill. 

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Close up of grave of Buffalo Bill Cody

 

Then we headed to Golden Co. to visit with longtime friends and to see the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his museum. The collection of items here is huge and very complete for the same $5 dollars you get ten times the exhibits and information then at the Doc Holliday Museum. You also can walk to a Jefferson County Nature Center and visit the Boettcher Mansion. A 1917  Craftsman/ Tudor style home that is often open to the public and free. Where they rent the building for weddings and other large events.

The gravesite of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is on the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Co. It allows you a wide panorama view of not only Golden and Denver, but East into the grasslands of Colorado, and West to the peaks of Breckenridge and others ( my camera freaked out and I lost all the shots I took from the observation area of Lookout Mountain). The grave is part of a large poured cement patio with a grave covered in raw white quartz. Very traditional in the area to decorate an ugly cement topped graves with local stone and a granite headstone. My grandmothers’ cemetery has a couple graves marked this way. Buffalo Bill’s grave is usually covered in coins, most often a buffalo nickel. We added nickels without buffalos and a penny to the collection saying a prayer for Buffalo Bill and the cities of Boulder and Denver and those that surround the mountain for peace and prosperity.

By the end of our trip up Lookout Mountain, it was time to meet up with a friend for lunch. The amount of traffic and regional construction change made me wonder if I had ever lived in Golden at all. I was lost and thought we would never find our restaurant. Finally finding the El Amigo restaurant, I fell back into a time and place of wondering through memories and felt at ease. Laughter came easy and the warmth of my friend made me relax. I had worried that somehow I would be judged after all these years. I was in some way still being the scared high school girl that I had left behind 3 decades ago. The discovery was that I was not being judged at all but again supported in my dreams and passions was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced.

Nick and I

Nick Plumber and I out to lunch and sharing stories. 

I put to rest, so many worries, fears, and uncertainties, on this trip that I know that I will never be the same. I am better for knowing each and everyone one of my high school friends. I am healthier because I have a wonderful family, who supported me on this adventure of healing. I am stronger for letting go of the people and things I don’t need anymore. I am freer because I have finally become the person I worked for all these years to become.

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Jolynn Powers in front of a huge sagebrush plant. Glenwood Springs Co. 

So when I am asked if It was hard and sad to go home for my mother’s funeral I have to honestly say “NO!, it was a wonderful time. It was the best gift she has ever given me and I am so happy she is free!” I just wait for the confused look on the face of people who do not understand that I like visiting with ghosts and smile broadly.

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Buffalo Bill, Change, Christopher, Death, Doc Holliday, Family, family memories, Healing, historic locations, Home, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boss Woman, not Boss Man

Basement of the Golden Rule before image

 JoLynn Powers on the first day of basement clean up and demo at the Golden Rule. 

Being self-employed and being the Boss Woman on the job at the Golden Rule over the last 6 months is one of the best things I have done for myself. So I just wanted to share an experience with all of you that I find interesting and makes we want to continue the work I do. As the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Golden Rule Building and several smaller community beautification projects around the Barbour County Area, I am always working on projects with multiple people. My job entails working with and supervising volunteers and contractors to get a project completed. I make sure they have the supplies they need and work with local and state officials to keep them updated on our projects. I plan events to promote our projects and do community outreach to get the volunteers involved.

I often manage the challenges that arise as we do construction, demolition, redevelopment and finally instillations. I love working with people and supervising a crew and love to get my hands dirty.

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Team of AmeriCorps working with me at The Golden Rule summer of 2019.                                   Left to right. Sarah, Kelsey, Me and William.

So the day when I had a crew working in the building doing demolition of 2500 square feet of hand made pine shelving I was surprised at my reaction of a just a few words said by a total stranger. As I was heading upstairs to work on tossing hundreds of boards into a dumpster I was approached by a man from the community on the first floor. He had let himself into the building and spoke to me unexpectedly. He said “Hey,…. where is the Boss Man?” I turned and asked him if I could help him with something and what did he need. Again he asked if he could talk to the”Boss Man.’ Being a nice person I never said, “Hey Asshole I’m the boss and that is why I am talking with you.” I just continued to ask questions and answer them for him. Finally, he said he was looking for work and wanted to know if we were hiring and who should he talk to. To this, I said, “No one is hiring laborers at this time, but if you are a contractor like I am, then the main office may be able to help you. They are looking for bids on HVAC, electrical, roofing and plumbing.” The look on his face was of total confusion. Frustrated he asked me who my boss was and where was he. I gave him the name of both of my supervisors and told him to call the office. Then it finally sank in, that I was the crew supervisor and not a man. I think that was almost too much for him.

volunteers help at the GR

These volunteers and AmeriCorps spent a day doing nothing but moving furniture and displays for me at the Golden Rule.

From the deepest part of my belly, I wanted to be an ass and say ” I am the Boss Woman on this job and how well do you work for women?” But in reality, letting him figure it out on his own and speaking to him in terms that would only be handled by the boss I had confused him to the point of frustration. Then when he realized that we had no need for laborers just licensed contractors he was disappointed and equally angry. I spent the rest of my day… irritated. Let’s just say being called the boss is one thing, but to be referred to as a man is never going to go down easy!

I have spent the last week after this situation thinking. I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world and I would not trade any of them for others. My Project Manager and Director understand my love for redevelopment and home improvement and are happy to have me and treat me with the same respect that any person deserves. I have a family who supports me in my passion to build, remodel, and redesign so I rarely ever have a conversation that is not met with equal understanding and passion. But I have to figure out a way to be tactful about explaining my roll at the Golden Rule when a man is confused about the work I do.

After using a grout bag I sweep up the lose grout before washing the tiles

My job for several days was doing grout on our family room floor. Grout bags are a wonderful product as long as you don’t mix too much water into the grout.

So this woman is her own boss and the boss of others and often the main contact for a redevelopment construction site. I have become the thing that I always wanted to be and doing work that I love. I have a team of people I work with who let me enjoy my work and are happy that I want to be involved in community development. So I will just have to get used to surprising people and learn how to say,” Boss Woman, Thank you!”

 

 

Categories: About me, Boss lady, Building rehabilitation, Community Art, community service, Golden Rule, Redevelopment projects, Uncategorized, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Leaving Life Behind

So I have avoided this post long enough. I have spent a little over a week trying to figure out how to write about losing someone I love deeply. My conclusion is there is no easy way. The fact that this love is the root of everything that I am, makes losing my mother all the more complicated. It is similar to the feeling I have when I speak about my father. It is a void, an emptiness, loneliness, and “A Hole in My Soul” as the band Aerosmith put it.  You carry the emptiness with you forever.

Veda M Lowrey age 84

Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri

So the death of my mother was unexpended but not surprising. She lived 89 wonderful years, loved deeply, lived truthfully and honestly. She worked harder than just about anyone I have ever known and gave everything to her family. Her children and brothers and sisters were everything to her and she enjoyed spending as much time as she could with all of them. She was loving, stubborn and strong and you always knew where you stood and usually, that was under her grace.  I have often wondered how she ever spent 40 years alone as a single parent raising 4 kids after the death of my father. Now at 50 with two sons of my own, I understand that it was the best thing for her and us kids. I remember how proud she was when I graduated from college and disappointed she was when I got a divorce. How she warned me about not burning the candle at both ends and tried to teach me how to slow down and enjoy the ride. Lessons that I don’t ever think I learned, but I do try to remember them when life wears me out or people try to grind me down.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I am my mothers’ daughter for better or worse and I know she is still here with me looking after me and kids. I share her passion for reading, flowers, and peaceful quiet homes where you feel safe and loved. It was a pleasant life she made for me and my siblings and we knew we were lucky to have her.

Old age is not a beauty pageant. Nothing about it is pretty,  slick or shiny. Being smart, rich or kind, will not save you from the ravages of time. The process is painful, dirty, slow and humiliating. You lose everything you worked for and often the very people that you love most. It is not meant for the weak and to live 89 years means she was a fighter and wanted what was left in this world for her. I love that about her and only hope to be the same strong fighter in my future.

photo of Boulder Colorado and the front range by Alex Smits

Photo of Boulder Co by Alex Smits used with permission

Rest in peace mom, I will think of you often as I plant my flowers, when I find a good book that I just can’t put down, and when we are eating a well-cooked meal at home with the table full of laughter and wonderful memories. Gods speed on your journey and take my love with you.

I will be returning home to Colorado in a few weeks to place my mother by my father’s side in my home town of Boulder, Co. I will be spending lots of time with family, friends and working on what the future will be like without her. Forgive me if my writing is sporadic for a couple of months. I am not sure what I will be writing about or how often, but I know I  will be posting about our trip and the revelations I make as I search for my roots. 

 

 

Categories: Colorado, Death, Family, family memories, Healing, old age, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Letting my Freak Flag Fly; Why be Normal in a World of Boring Social Standards.

04032e39628da637db8b079e2ea20a26Recently, I was surprised by a very negative statement about kids and adults with the blue or green hair. The statement was from a friend and fellow artist and I was taken back that they disapproved of the wild hair styles of recent years. I was surprised at my gut reaction to the statement also. I was hurt and defensive of the young people and angry that we are still having this same conversation 30 years after I had this same conversation with my own family about my friends and my hair choices.

jill hamilton and Jolynn powers oct 1987 bad hair day (2)

Jill Hamilton and Me around fall 1988

I have also recently re-watched” The Greatest Showman” where the topic of freaks comes out in obvious ways. For those of you who have not seen it “The Greatest Showman” the movie is about P.T. Barnum’s rise to fame as a sideshow producer and circus millionaire. So the word freak is used in many ways, some positive and some negative, but over all a way to describe a person with unique attributes. Many of my readers remember side shows and many of us will have fond memories of  a visit to the circus. We can remember how seeing the circus made us feel and the excitement of getting a chance to see something new and different.

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Lion Tamer at the Circus 2017

I was lucky enough to see one of the last Barnum and Bailey circus acts before they retired their elephants. I took my then 5 year old granddaughter and my then 8 year old  son  with my daughter in law to Charleston, West Virginia to see the show. It was amazing and so educational. We were able to see acts and animals from around the world, the costumes and acrobats were outstanding . We laughed and cheered and enjoyed the show.

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last year for the elephants at the Barnum and Bailey Circus Charleston, WV

We watched and accepted that these are hard working performers and they are talented. But years ago this was a freak show, a place of the weird, odd and a place of the new and unseen. As a kid I thought of sideshows and circuses as a place of magic and mystery, of the unknown and the amazing. I loved them and the performers that worked the shows. I loved reading about the strange and unusual in my “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” paper backs and I loved seeing the amazing things listed in the Genius Book of World Records. The Chinese man with the longest finger nails pops into my mind along with the tallest man.

I like millions of others have always felt different, odd, or even broken at times. I was a round peg in a square hole, most of my life. My unusual learning style and disability have always made me feel like a freak. Over the year I have found that many contemporary artist, performers, musicians  feel that way too. Many were kids who grew up with ADHD before we knew what it was, many were Gay, trans-gendered or drag queens before the 80’s AIDS crises killed so many of them. Many were born with physical traits that the ruling class disliked, such as to pale, to dark, to tall, to short, to fat, to skinny, to much hair or to little, to many body parts or to few, that caused ridicule. Some had talents above what was expected  and others were able to do tricks that most would never dare. They were unique, talented and blessed with something original. So when I look back at my life my most loved and closest friends were freaks and still are today. Most became successful in art, music, and literature, the engineering, some make fashion and others heal the sick, but we all come from an authentic place of understanding and support.

Junior year photo

So when a young person dies their hair or gets a tattoo they very well may be feeling like a square peg in a round hole, just like I did years ago…  They maybe just exploring what their deeper self has been telling them for years that they are different and unusual. That they are a rare gem and that in stead of being ashamed they  are trying to embrace it. It is this embrace that we all long for our whole lives. We search for  a person or group that understands and excepts us as we are.

Being a freak has taught me valuable things, that I am still proud to use each and everyday. For one thing never judge a man/woman by his looks. First, when we value the shell we miss the very best part of a person and often miss out on meeting the most amazing people on the planet. Second, Everyone of us is struggling with something. Some of our struggles are more obvious then others, be supportive and understanding of every story.  Third,The world is hard enough without people jumping on the hate train. Share goodness, build up the world and make it a better place. Fourth, everyone has a story, listen, learn and understand. This is how we build community and effect change. Then finally freaks are strong because of  adversity. Struggling and challenges are nothing new, we endure much to get to where we are going. Don’t for one minute think because someone is disabled that they weak or helpless. Often they are more adapted to the real world then the average person. Keep you pity to yourself, no one wants to be looked down on from a fake pedestal.

Halloween is coming costume

Halloween Costume building 2018

So as I dye my hair again for the 2000th time in my life, I wonder if maybe blue or green is my color. I wonder if that young woman who had black hair and got tattoos knows how many people will love her in 40 years. How much goodness she will bring into this world and how many wonderful creative people she will meet. I wonder if she even understands how strong she is and how she will over come her weaknesses and disables to reach new levels of people around the world with a blog. I hope she keeps being freaky because is a gift.

It is uniqueness that makes the world so beautiful. Never for one minute believe that being a freak is a bad thing.

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trick or treating in Elkins, WV 2017

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Visit to “Old Stone House/ Travelers Rest”.

While on my way to a meeting for Appalachian Forest Heritage Area I was able to spend some time at Old Stone House/ Travelers Rest. The historic home of  Gen. Horatio Gates that was built along the stage coach line that ran from Winchester, VA. to what is now Parkersburg, WV. near the Ohio State line. The Old Stone House was built in two stages from 1810 to 1827 with the caretakers rooms built first with the traveler portion coming later.

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Driving to the Keyser,WV. area was a nice break from my often lonely dirty work at the Golden Rule. Spring had arrived in the mountains and the drive surrounded me with lush green trees, flowers in bloom and blue skies. Even these iris are happy to have the rain stop. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Travelers Rest is now being rehabilitated after years of use. The house and 220 acres were owned by Gen. Horatio Gates was a plantation farm after his retirement from service as a British officer and a General in the American Revolution.

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3/4 view of Travelers Rest with a view of fire place chimney.

Over the course of time the house was not only a home and guest house but a restaurant and a community Flea Market. Today the house greets visitors to the county with grace and style as they pass from rolling green country hills into the towns and cities along route 50.For more information about the redevelopment and fundraising plans for Travelers Rest  head to their Facebook page at Old Stone House/ Travels Rest.

ack porch of Travelers Rest

Newly restored back porches that had been removed on Travelers Rest.

The interior of the caretakers quarters portion of the house have been restored and have a collection of time period items on display. Several come from the house and add to the warm feel of the rooms. The next project being finished is the living space on the travelers side of the large home and the large gathering space below, that is currently a fundraising Flea Market.

 

 

shopping at Travelers Rest flea Market

AmeriCorps volunteers visit the Travelers Rest Flea market on their way to Keyser WV

The house uses community volunteers and Mineral County Historical Society members to do repairs and keep the doors open for visitors. Maybe one day  the building will again house travelers who are heading along route 50.

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Carpentry volunteer ready to head to the upstairs to install insulation in the roof areas.

The drive to see the house is very rural. Often I was the only car on the highway making it a wonderful relaxing drive. Along the way up on the mountains tops are some of the famous West Virginia wind farms. Wikipedia states that their are 376 wind turbines in operation in the state. I think this ridge was lined with around 30 that were all facing a on coming storm in Tucker County.

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Wind Mills along corridor H Tucker County.

I’m glad I took time to stop and enjoy a short visit to this old house. I have am always impressed and surprised every time I get to see a 200 year old house still standing. Gen. Gates would be proud to know that his farm and home are still in use and are still welcoming visitors along the long road from Winchester.

horatio Gates

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Mineral County Wind Turbines.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Building rehabilitation, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Mineral County West Virginia, Travelers Rest/Old Stone House, Uncategorized, West Virginia History, Wind Turbine | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Clean Up and Events at Golden Rule; Or This Mountain MaMa is Tired.

I have been working so hard to finish cleaning and sorting the 4 floors of Golden Rule that I really thought about changing the name of my blog title to…. “This Mountain Mama is Tired.”  Then leave some lame message about not having time to write. It would have been the truth. I am just beyond tired when I get home at night. I walk an average of 5 to 6 miles a day inside the building and that does not included the walking I do daily with my dog. So with 6 or 7 miles a day and the 3 sets of stairs in the building and the loads of trash and boxes I move every day. I just have not had the energy to stay up late or get up early to write. So please forgive me for not sharing more of the wonderful things I usually like to share.

So today I want to share just a few photos of what my life has been like since starting my work  at the Golden. It is a labor of love to be the main person to clean, sort and help with Demo in a 18,000 foot building.

Golden Rule Belington Wv

The 1902 Golden Rule Building 122 Crim Ave. Belington, WV my home away from home.

The building was abandoned after is was sold in the late 1980’s and it was never cleaned out. The building contained new old stock and office equipment from as far back as the 1920’s. My job has been to tackle the clean up of 100 years worth of history, trash and some how put together a couple of events to raise some money for the  rehabilitation.

So far we have removed 8,000 pounds of house hold trash and a 30 yard dumpster of ceiling tiles, paneling and dry wall.  It has taken a full year to reach the point that all three main floors are mostly clean and have a silent auction planned for the items that I was able to salvage. I have logged around 980 individual items that we hope to have for sale the first couple of weeks in May. It has been some of the hardest work I have done in my life, but the most rewarding also.

logan and Patrick AmeriCorps members volunteer to toss out 4,000 pounds of trash

Patrick and Logan AmeriCorps volunteers help remove 2000 pounds of trash from the Golden Rule 2018.

What we have found along the way is a treasure trove of history and stories from the past. Some of the questions we have about the building are solved, while others are still a mystery. I have done interviews with the former owner and several people who worked in the building that have helped put together a impression of what the building meant to the community and to those who worked here. One day I hope to put all this together in a book about the buildings story.

 

We are now ready to start the process of moving the history out of the building into storage and selling off what is left. We have plans for a ticket entry, benefit silent auction that will happen in just a few weeks, fallowed by community wide building sale. This should clean out most of the items that are remaining in the building. With lots of volunteers helping me over the course of the last year. I think the events will be a huge success.

Golden Rule flyer

 

The Golden Rule will soon be full of new people and construction materials, it will be full of busy saws and heavy foot steps and I will be regulated to watching most of it. I still have cleaning to do and a yard to tame so my work in not over but I will be more of an outsider for the next couple of years. I am excited for the work to begin in  June and can only imagine what I will be doing over the next year.

Golden Rule sign

Recycled sign for the Golden Rule Feeds and Fertilizers found in mill building. 

The project will start on the top floors of the building and work its way down. A new roof and 10 apartments will happen first and the final steps will be the retail spaces on the first floor. It is planned with a railroad depot in the back to connect passengers to the tourist trains in Elkins, West Virginia. A gift shop for the passengers, a Artist Market, a coffee shop and a viewing platform of the water powered elevator. We are hoping that some of the wonderful pieces we have found in the building will hang on the walls and be used as decor in the coffee shop and artist market one day.

Three-four years seem so far away from now, but I think it will pass in a blink of an eye. I know that one day not far off I will be wondering how it all got finished and open to the public.

Categories: antiques, Belington, WV, Benefit auction, Change, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, recycling, Vintage items, West Virginia, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sweet Taste of West Virginia Maple Syrup

When the town of Pickens, West Virginia throws a party it seems like the whole county shows up to eat, shop and be merry. The annual Pickens Maple Syrup Festival held every March turns the tiny town of 66 full-time residents into a town that swells to over two thousand visitors over the weekend. The much loved event is part of state-wide Maple Syrup Festival  themed events that celebrate our much loved native sugar maple trees.

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Pickens is a historic railroad spur town that boomed in the late 1800 and early 1900’s. Logging, lumber mills and the railroad brought money and jobs to the mountains of Randolph County, but when the railroad left so did the jobs and the town slowly shut down. With only a few business left in downtown, the town struggled to survive but the community feeling stayed strong.So they created a new reason for people like me to drive an hour into some of the most remote communities in mountains.

main street of Pickens West Virginia morning

Morning of the Maple Syrup Festival 2019 before the crowds arrive for lunch.

The festival began 35 years ago encouraged by a local Maple Sugar Camp owner Mr Richter and the tradition just keeps growing and families just keep coming. The Richter maple sugar camp is only few minutes from Pickens and is part of the joy of a day spent at the festival taking time to learn about the process of taping the trees and boiling down the sap to make the sweet syrup we all love.

During the festival their are lots of family friendly events that take place from live music to wood chopping demos, to ax tossing and lots and lots of eating. Their is the traditional maple syrup pancake breakfast, their is smoked pork, turkey and beef, maple cotton candy, honey, jam, jelly and a wine made from honey called Mead.

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Christoper Powers on his way up the rock wall Pickens Maple Syrup Festival 2019.

Tom and I enjoyed hand made maple-dark chocolate candy and brought home strawberry rhubarb jelly. I bought a bottle of syrup for the next morning just so we could remember our fun. The food was fantastic and the smell of smoke and hot maple syrup was to-die-for.

Tom and I bumped into many of our friends from all over the state at the event. It was like a family reunion on a grand scale. I really enjoyed watching the people shop and the kids play on a downtown swing set.

old men visit on porch at the Maple syrup festival

Row of old men visit on historic store front porch at the Pickens Maple Syrup Festival 2019.

In true West Virginia fashion over half the visitors arrived on side by side ATVs, riding trails from the other side of the mountain. Taking part  in one one of the first spring ATV poker rides that raises money for a charity or family in need. At one point the whole main street was filled with ATVs, maybe 40 of them paraded down main street, it was a sight to see in the small town.

lady making Maple cotton candy maple syrup festival

lady making Maple flavored Cotton Candy in the old post office in Pickens.

The entertainment for the day was all about was inexpensive or free, you could learn to through an ax on main street or you could watch a wood chopping competition on the wooden stage just off main street. You could take the kids to meet Scooby-Doo or just watch the kids play on the swing set in the park enjoying live music from a local blue grass band.

CHURCH ON HILL IN PICKENS wv maple syrup festival

Beautiful church on a hill high over Pickens West Virgina.

After about 4 hours Tom was ready to head home. I could have spent more time in the early spring sunshine, but I was happy to enjoy the beautiful country drive home. Next time I will remember to bring the fishing poles as the streams all around Randolph county were clear and the sun was out making for a great day on a stream also.

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Strawberry Rhubarb jelly and pure West Virginia Maple Syrup from the Pickens Maple Syrup Festival March 2019.

Learning more about our mountain communities is always fun and taking part in the Maple Syrup Festival Tradition was one of the best. Next time I hope to focus more on the making of the syrup and less on the food. But, that smoked turkey bacon and swiss sandwich is one of the best picnic foods I have ever had !!!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Maple Syrup Festival, Randolph County, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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