Small wonders

…at my feet. Alongside a ghostly remnant of last summer…tiny flowers lean in towards a star ninety-three million miles above.

tiny flowers

Walking through the woods yesterday…I spotted these half-buried rocks. They reminded me of the stone walls made by the Incas in Peru. The Waxhaw Indians, for whom this area of the Piedmont was named, were long gone before Europeans arrived on the scene in the 18th century. Perhaps, I’d stumbled upon some ancient remains of a lost civilization…within walking distance of my front door?


Careers in the field of alternative history have been built on less evidence. More likely, a natural occurrence of a rectilinear fractured rock. Although…I feel another walk coming on soon…perhaps with a shovel?

Cats and roses

It was 48 degrees this morning when I woke up. Not many more…if any…of these cool nights left. Making the best of this glorious, late Spring day, I took a walk down the road. I could now understand why I had not seen the sentinel rock until this past winter. The trees, and other scrubby vegetation on top of it, and surrounding it…left it in very dark shadows. If I didn’t know it was there, I would be oblivious to that massive hulk of a boulder lurking just off the roadside. But now I know where it lives…and it’s become a somewhat reassuring presence. Something that will outlive me.

Driving down the road the last few days, I had noticed some pinkish blooms, tangled among the trees and bushes. That was my mission this morning…to discover exactly what they were…to help fill in my mental map of my little corner of the Waxhaw woods. When I found them, it was immediately apparent from the thorns that they were wild roses. My best guess…is Rosa Virginiana, which is native to the Eastern United States, and which tolerates clay (much of the soil around these parts is reddish and very clayey).

wild roses

Earlier this morning, sitting out on the front porch with Belle, in the chilly air, I heard a bird that I’ve been trying to identify. I grabbed my binoculars and spotted it at the very top of the tallest Sweet Gum tree (it must be about 70 feet high…with what I’m guessing is a spectacular view of the area). The dark head, white breast, and reddish sides confirmed my suspicions. It was an Eastern Towhee.  I remembered this bird as the Rufous-sided Towhee back in Illinois, but the voice is somewhat different here in the East…which led to some confusion. Even though now, I think, it’s considered the same species. I am discovering, though, that there seem to be geographical variants in the voices and calls of many birds.

My ‘day of discovery’ was capped this afternoon when I went out on the back porch to water my vegetable garden…which consists of one containerized cherry tomato plant that was purchased at Home Depot. It’s doing very well…even has some little green tomatoes already. As I was watering…something caught my eye. A little head sticking under the railing. It was a kitten…followed by three more. They clambered up on to the deck looking pretty pathetic and probably very hungry. I went inside to get a dish of water, and filled up a little dish with some dry dog food (hopefully…that’s ok for cats? We once had a cat for a very brief time…NEO was his name…short for Near Earth Object. But that’s another story). They attacked the food like there was no tomorrow…which for them, sadly, may be the case. They’re most likely feral cats…but they are very cute. Hopefully…they’ll wander away and find a good owner. But…I may end up buying some cat kibble…just in case.


three kittens


Evening. Another storm approaching from the southwest. The sky…prematurely dark…and grey. Colors drained from the trees. Gloom. The sound of sporadic, metallic drops on the chimney vent signal the arrival of the rain. Then…the soft…steady patter of rain on the roof begins.

Sitting in my chair in the darkness with a cup of tea cradled in my hands…listening to the muffled sound of thunder  tunneling through the atmosphere…on the heels of ghostly, white hot flashes high above. The world is softly exploding around me…being baptized once again. A baptism of water…and of fire.

A welcome sight

I was finishing up supper when I heard a noise outside, and then someone walking up the steps to the front porch. It was Wendell, returning the John Deere, all shiny and tuned up for the coming season. He had just picked it up yesterday for some maintenance, and I wasn’t expecting it back so soon. But…it’s more than a welcome sight…since I hadn’t yet mown the grass this Spring. Soon after Wendell left, I started it up and made quick work of the front yard. It felt good to be back in the saddle again, especially on this mild evening here in the Waxhaws. An almost full moon rising above the trees…silver and bright against the deep blue sky. The lush green grasses and sedges overtaking the dried amber remnants from last year. This Spring has a different feel to it…a sense of promise that…perhaps…there are better days ahead.

Something on the wind

A quiet, cool day here in the Waxhaws. The weather, unsettled…a gentle rain off and on again…the sky gray and moody. A good day for reading. I finished The True Icon, by Paul Badde, his ruminations on the Shroud of Turin, as well as the  lesser known Veil of Manoppello, both believed by some to portray the true likeness of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t attempt to prove or disprove the authenticity of these images, which many say “…are not made by the hand of man”.  Instead, he asks the simple question…what does it mean if, in fact, these are the real thing…how would they have affected Christianity from its very beginnings until the present?

And that led me to begin Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead, by Peter Manseau…a look into the strange history of relics and the intersection of faith and physical objects…such as toes, tongues, bones, and other assorted  body parts. I know…it sounds like strange reading (Someone…please save me from my Kindle with its one-click buying).

So…I was in another world for most of the day. Taken back to the empty tomb on that fateful morning so long ago…empty except for the two strange cloths that were left behind, and that when seen by Peter and John, caused them to believe (John 20:1-10). And then…set on a quite different path…thinking about how saints, mystics, and sages have continued to provide solace and consolation to believers long after they have departed this earth.

When I later ventured outside with the dogs…the cool misty air enveloped me. The grass…which hasn’t yet been cut this season…is somehow looking very beautiful. A wild turkey is flushed from the tall grass by the dogs’ barking…rises…flapping its wings and escaping into the woods. There’s a sweet scent of something on the wind…clover…or maybe honeysuckle (which was Sharon’s favorite…her birthday is this coming Wednesday).

It’s now late in the afternoon, as I sit writing this post. The sun is breaking through the clouds, which are now a heavy dark gray against a deep indigo blue sky. There are diamond-like water droplets on every leaf and blade of grass, each reflecting, like tiny prisms, the brilliant rays of the sun…hidden for most of the day. A Carolina wren is happily singing outside… while inside I’m listening to the Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen.

It was a good day…

In search of…

…the Rocky Shoals Spider Lily. This morning held the promise of a beautiful spring day, and my mercurial mood-o-meter was spiking in the positive direction, so I decided to spend the morning at Landsford Canal State Park, which is only 4 miles due west of the house, as the crow flies, on the western banks of the Catawba River. Unfortunately, I live on the eastern side of the river, and it’s about a twenty mile trip over the nearest crossing. But, it was a very nice morning…and worth the drive…so I grabbed a couple of granola bars and a bottle of water, and hit the road again. The morning air at this time of year is heavily scented with the sweet smell of blooming shrubs and flowers…and the magnolias are in full display.

Landsford Canal State Park contains a series of locks that were in use during the early 1800s, to allow boats to navigate around the falls and shoals of the Catawba river in this area. The locks allowed the boats to overcome a 36-foot fall in elevation along the rapids of the river. This 200-year old structure is still quite impressive.

Locks at Landsford Canal

According to a brochure I picked up at the park:

“The lifting locks were built primarily with rough cut stones and fieldstones, and faced with finished granite. Most of the granite used in the locks came from a nearby quarry. The stone was shaped by hand on site, usually by a mason’s apprentice. The finished stone was put in place under the direction of the master mason. Smaller stones were placed by hand, and larger stones, such as in the lock walls, were hoisted in place with a machine that employed a series of timbers and pulleys. The mortar was then worked into the spaces between the stones and pointed to give a finished appearance. The basic engineering methods involved had changed very little for almost twenty centuries, since the Romans pioneered such engineering concepts as the arch, hydraulic cement, and mechanical lifting devices.”

The park is also said to contain the largest population in the country of the Rocky Shoals Spider Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria. The lilies are usually in full bloom from mid-May through mid-June. After walking about a half-mile along a trail down river, I came to the spot where the lilies lived among the rocky shoals. Unfortunately, I was either too early, or too late, since there were no blooms to be seen.

Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies

I did find a photo of the lilies in full bloom, and it’s quite impressive. I guess I’ll have to try again on another visit…perhaps on a moonlit night…to get the full effect.

This morning, there were quite a few kayakers on the river…

Kayaking on the Catawba

It brought back memories of the times Sharon and I went kayaking when we lived in Florida. I still remember the time we were on the Myakka River near Sarasota. There was a large population of alligators on the river, and we spent a few hours serenely paddling the river with gators lurking near the shore. About a week later, I read about a man, who was out kayaking by himself, being fatally attacked by a large bull alligator who evidently didn’t appreciate the kayaker encroaching on his territory. Thinking back on our little outing with the gators on the Myakka River, all that comes to mind is…”What were we thinking!” But…it’s a good memory…and I miss our little exploits on the water.

There’s a lot of history in this little corner of the world called the Waxhaws. During the Revolutionary War, the British troops under Cornwallis crossed the Catawba at Landsford. In 1781, they burned down the old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church meeting house (Andrew Jackson was baptized here) that was only a mile and a half  from where I live.

The trail at Landsford Canal State Park is part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a network of existing and proposed trails, greenways, and byways located in the heart of the Carolinas.

Carolina Thread Trail

Along the Catawba

Well…that was my Saturday morning diversion. And yes…I did remember to take the trash to the dump…and feed Hector (he can be so needy).