Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Simon and I are right partial to our crepuscular rounds along the edge of the day, morning and evening. We walk at noon most days, and sometimes at night, if the moon is bright, but the short wanders at twilight seem to excite the imagination most.

Then, stories are liable to rise up from the shadows and flow swiftly across the mind like a fox, hunting and hunted.

I'd never heard that word, crepuscular used in conversation, had only read it, until I was visiting with my friend J. P. Krol on Mount LeConte a couple of weeks ago. He so described a young bear who had been visiting the Lodge as evening fell.

The bear didn't appear while I was there. Perhaps the big word scared him off.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Some days...

Some days I see the clouds;
Some days I see the blue;
Some days I don't look up
To see the sky at all,
But the sun shines
And the wind blows
And the rain falls
And grateful or not,
I am blessed.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Come now...

Come now, O Darkness,
And lay me down and still;
Wash me clean and empty,
Ready on some morrow
To be raised and filled
And set alight.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Kale doesn't happen in a day;
you don't see it growing,
but when you least expect it,
and thinking about something else,
There it is.
Love is like that.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Just enough...


On these foggy late-winter days, we can see just far enough not to be discouraged. All we behold are near and close to heart, reminding us on every side that the Kingdom is at hand, even in a nation obsessed with walls and exclusions. 

The insubstantial fog calls us to embrace whatever is real and upholding, calls us to confess, We have not loved God with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. But here in this little town, where we are most at home, perhaps we can make a start toward a deeper love and a wider belonging.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

A funny thing...

A funny thing happened on my way through February. Winter has neither the first word nor the last.

Whatever the season, Life is going on, getting her work done, whether or not we are tuned to see it.

Our resurrection is ever at hand. Our part is simply to pay attention and be aware.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not a day...

No day is wasted when I can walk at least a mile on the mountain, or dig a foot into it. A life lived close to the ground is most likely to be worthy and rewarding.

Simon supervised diligently as I double-dug a bed to set out some leeks in a week or so. It would be nice if they could catch a little snow during their first days in the ground, and gain some free nitrogen. According to the Weather Service, that doesn't seem so likely. The forceast is calling for sixties and seventies right through into March.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Photo by David Longley

When I was young, I wanted to do a major thru-hike. Things just kept getting in the way of my life over the years. I will never live to do it now. My old knees ache fiercely after one day's up and down a mountain. The A.T. or the Pacific Crest are just too far for my reach and age. So have I failed to achieve my ambition? You could say so. 

But what I really wanted when I was young - I see it now - was to live my life among mountains. There are particular mountains, and people on them, whom I love, and on any given day, I am free and able to walk up and down to visit them. My house stands on a mountain, and every day I breathe, I see the morning rise and the evening fall to either side of it. I find my peace in that. To say that is enough is an understatement.

Still, I never got around to that thru-hike. It doesn't keep me awake at night, but I didn't. There are a lot of things I never did. I remain grateful for the ones accomplished.

Monday, February 20, 2017

...from the bones.

Yes, the Kingdom is at hand,
Winter yields to spring,
Bright promises unfurl,
Resurrection stirs the ground,
Life rises from the bones.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Up and down...

"How was your weekend?"
"Oh, up and down."

We remember the high points and the low points of our passage through this world, but most of our time is spent traversing the places in between. It would be a shame not to appreciate them while we are passing through.

Life is all about the living along the way. A destination is just a place with nothing left to do.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Some cold and snowy day in March, I'll remember that I saw this...

and some sweltering day in July, I'll remember that I was here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

High spirits...

Twenty years ago, in a former life, I designed a kitchen for some actress lady. She liked it, and gifted me this bottle of single-malt. I never opened it, and last weekend packed it up a mountain and left it with a friend up there. I thought he would have taste and time to appreciate it properly.

The bottle has been opened now. He says it is still right good. Spirits, I've discovered, are heavier than water.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One cannot...

One cannot live by bread alone. We must have kale. So I began sowing Blue Scotch seed today for early transplants. They will sun on the porch and come indoors at nights until the weather moderates. About a month from now they will be in the Big Ground.

While I was digging in some old flower beds for potting soil, this turned up. One of the Three Little Girls who sometimes sing in our kitchen during the wee hours just before dawn, whispered. "Oh, thee found my robin's egg!"


So grateful to live in this old house who has sheltered love and children.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Up the creek...

My friend who lives a mile down the mountain has been complaining that Joel's Creek has been getting short shrift on this blog. I walked down there Monday and we gossiped a bit while shadows gathered over the little stream that flows just past his door. When the weather's warm, we sit out there and listen to her, trying to figure out what language she is speaking. Whatever it is sounds lovely.

This time, we just discussed the weather, political, literary and meteorological, and decided there is a lot of hot and empty air involved in all forms. When I was up on Mt. LeConte last weekend, J. P. Krol, who caretakes the lodge and mans the weather station up there, told me that the average winter snowfall on LeConte is about a hundred inches. This year, so far, there have been only eight.

After we'd dissected this and a number of other mysteries, amid our habitual sprinkling of boasts and complaints, I followed the sun back up the creek to Tsaludiyi. Almost home, I took a little detour along the abandoned rail tracks to get a view of the town as it must have looked to the summer folk riding the train up Saluda Grade ninety years ago. They likely wouldn't find the view much changed if they could ride the train up the mountain today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lesson learned...

 Photo by John Paul Krol

My friend, John Paul Krol, met me about half-way on my climb Saturday morning, two miles below the lodge on Mt. LeConte, where he is winter caretaker. We walked up in the fog and mist, I'm sure much more slowly than is his accustomed pace, but an old man does the best he can.

The delicious veggie stew J P fed me for supper was life-saving. You learn to cook well when you eat your own cooking for a season, and have time enough to enjoy it. J. P. has his priorities in order.

When life gets thick, you need a place to hide out and be perfectly at home and at the same time perfectly away. For me, Mt. LeConte in Tennessee has been that place. It seems a little harder to get to year by year, as the machinery for transporting me there ages and glitches, but that only serves to make the time atop more wondrous and precious.

One lesson the mountain is teaching me. The shortest way is not always the easiest.

Monday, February 13, 2017

If I was...

If I was on some foggy mountain top, I'd want to find a friend with a sheltering porch, who might invite me in for a rest and some delicious hot veggie stew.

Well, I was and I did. Thanks muchly, J. P., my friend. It was all good and the company was the best part.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Coming home...

If plans have come together, I'm somewhere around here when you are reading this. If you read this before noon, I'll be walking down the mountain to find old Sue to bring me home. Hopefully she won't have wandered off while I was up visiting my friends John Paul and Grace.

If you are reading this past mid-afternoon, I'm likely back in Tsaludiyi and my worried wife is worried no longer. So, a last fling before the old man takes up his vow of stability. I will let y'all know how it went.

Truth-be-told, I'm quite ready to settle down. Within walking distance of my front door, there are miles and miles of mountain trails I'm itching to get acquainted with. There are more stories here at home, in my own town and woods, among my own people, than I may live to write.

I'm lucky to have been some places worth remembering, and lucky to have been found by a place ever willing to take me back.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Not so...

Flatlanders get the notion that we are backward here in our hills. Not so. We are as up-to-date as anybody. We have automobiles and everything.

We also keep our cars cleaner than they do.

Friday, February 10, 2017

No animals...

No animals were harmed in the production of this meal. We did sacrifice a few brassica.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

A little game...

In Asheville over the weekend, I couldn't resist the little game authors like to play. At Barnes and Noble in Asheville Mall, I checked their search terminal to see if they had my newest book. A helpful associate inquired, "May I help you find something, sir?"

"Just curious to see if you had this book," I said, pointing at the screen.

"Let me check on that for you," he offered, leading me to another computer reserved for the staff. "Mitchell," he said, "We have all his books," he showed me on his monitor. "We don't stock them in the store but we can have them sent directly to your house within a week." Then he proceeded to explain that Mitchell's publisher was a "tiny publisher in North Yorkshire" and their books were printed on demand. He finished with "Would you like me to order for you now?"

I told him that I knew about Alfie Dog Fiction, that I wrote the book, that I felt safe now sending prospective readers his way. You could get the book faster from Amazon, perhaps. But they wouldn't take time to chat with you. Nor would they say as you walked away, "Congratulations on writing such a delightful novel."


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Do something...


Trump better do something about all those Appalachian Nihonjin before we native highlanders forget how to use our forks.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

O Traveler...

For every curse that's uttered, a hundred blessings spoken,
For every door that closes, a hundred will be open,
A hundred bridges mended for every one that's broken,
For every wall that's builded, a hundred overthrown,
For every child forgotten, a hundred claimed our own,
O traveler stay, and we shall sing a hundred songs of home.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Your call...

Thomas Merton said most unhappy people have decided to be that way. I've not had enough experience with misery to know for sure, but I have noticed that some of the unhappiest people I'm acquainted with seem to work at it right steadily, and some who appear to have very little to rejoice over seem to be among the happiest.

Bitter fruit is an acquired taste, but there are folk who are prone to feed on it, and cultivate it assiduously.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


One year ago, we stood on our front porch and watched the moving van pull away into the deluge with all our furniture still aboard. The crew refused to unload in the torrential rain. But we were happy because we were home.

We slept on the floor for three days until our furniture returned. By then, we had firmly bonded with our old house (the oldest part built in 1893), and with the three little girls we've never seen but who sometimes sing in our kitchen. We may have seen their photos, but we're not sure of that.

At any rate, we are still happy to be here and we're still happy to be here together. And House (We think her name is Amy) has apparently decided to accept us for the duration.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

In winter...

In winter, life grows underground,
In the coldest, bleakest season
Truth won't die.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


I'm indebted to the old newspaper guy in our town who is teaching me to write fast.

"Don't be stingy with them," he keeps telling me, "They're only words. You can sweep up the leftovers after the rewrite and use them again."


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

True North

Photo by Reg Darling

Here's another meditation from my friend and mentor Reg Darling, author of Coyote Soul - Raven Heart: Meditations of a Hunter-Wanderer and some other books you ought to read if you are trying to hold your true shape in these false times. If I had my way, Reg would be a regular contributor to these pages.

True North
I planned to follow a route that would keep me within an hour’s brisk walk of the car, in case the heavy snow that was falling continued long enough to make getting back out to the main road a problem. But when the snowfall began to ebb and patches of blue appeared on the western horizon, a wordless mixture of instinct and impulse gave permission to wander.
As I let go of conscious decisions about my route of travel, I felt an ancient ease and clarity awakening in my blood. At times, I sensed the unseen nearness of animals and the mysterious reality of small omens.
A forest clearing beckoned with a strange, radiant presence. When I stepped into it, a pair of ravens flew in and circled overhead, calling out. For a moment my thoughts and their calls became entwined in a way that felt reciprocal and mutually conscious. I found myself pouring my worries, my longings, and the poignancy of my loves into their voices, wings, and wisdom in a manner best described as prayer.
I don’t subscribe to a literal interpretation. If you’re lost and you have a compass, it doesn’t matter whether it’s magnetism, God, or voodoo that directs the compass needle northward. Whether the ravens and I were actually communicating wasn’t important. What mattered was where an as-if-literal response to the experience would lead me. I knew in my heart that it pointed toward the right way to live, as long as I embraced belief lightly, without attachment or righteousness. Cultivating my ability to accept the world’s great mysteriousness, beyond the semantic dualisms of fact and superstition, seemed to point the way home, like a compass needle pointing north.

Copyright ©2017 Reg Darling