Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Missing Summer...

This year, summer felt interminable -- the unrelenting heat, the earthquakes and hurricanes, the stinkbugs. The garden withered this year, or rotted: plums turned into fermented purple masses, the raspberries made into juice, ther asparagus ruined by beetles, every Asian pear speared by a stinkbug. We fled to the mountains of West Virgnia. There, wide valleys lay prostate to the ragged mountains, the blue of sky startling. The beauty of the land made me ache. Wandering West Virginia with my family made me realize how loud we lived our usual life. Without television or the computer or cell phones, it seemed leaves rustled louder, creeks gurgled, twigs in the forest snapped with every animal's furtive movement. At night, I fell asleep with the windows open, the cicadas and crickets vying for attention. The night air thrummed until the sun showed itself over the ridge. We drank and bathed in the healing waters of Berkeley Springs. We traveled dirt roads to hidden swimming holes. We chased trains and hiked mountains and followed sign to caverns that were closed. We ate well, dining on local stream trout, tomatoes, mushrooms served benedict-style. The first day we stopped at a gas station and bought peaches from a local farmer, the juice dripping down on our chins and arms as we gulped the fleshy fruit. My son drank a vanilla shake every day. We stood 4,800 feet above sea level, Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia, and marveled at the 75-mile views. Little did we know an earthquake rattled Baltimore at the same time. After 5 days on the lonely mountain, we left and drove slowly east on Route 9. The winding roads lowered us to the flatlands just west of Harpers Ferry. Antsy and hungry, we stopped for an early lunch in Martinsburg. Patterson's Pharmacy served us hot dogs, egg and bacon sandwiches, and vanilla frappes spun on an old mixer. We ate at the counter, of course, and I chatted with the pharmacists, as well as the owner (and mayor) of the town. The kids got a bang out of spinning on their stools, buying cards and Russell Stover candies for a dime each, and I got nostalgic for a side of the pharmacy profession slowly dying out. Our vacation was far from idyllic. We spent a lot of constant, non-distracted time together. In other words, we bickered. Feelings were hurt, words were said that could not be retracted. Although far away from the busy-ness of modern, workday life, there was little solitude. Boredom reigned in the evenings. I brought several books but managed to get through only two short stories. I brought my journals, and managed to write one paragraph. But every night my husband strummed his guitar while the kids and I played cards. Before I went to bed, I played my cedar Native American flute; the instrument sounded more pure, more honest in the mountains. Despite the arguments, the lack of solid sleep, the craving for an hour of alone time, I realized two thing: I love my family with uncommon fierceness, and I miss their constant company.

A quick detour on the 10th Language>Place Blog Carnival, hosted by the artist extraordinaire Sheree Mack @ EVERY DAY CREATIVITY. Follow the world as others explore the culture of place, and check out Sheree's challenge to create one piece of art every day through 2011. Peace...

All photographs except for Patterson's Pharmacy taken by my husband of the excellent eye. Peace...


  1. Some great pictures and memories. I love the two bridge photos.

    Time with family always seems to go too fast...or too slow ; )

  2. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. The pictures are great!

  3. Everything you write is like poetry, even your "how I spent my summer vacation."
    Tell hubby he has a future in photography. Lovely photos.
    And I'm jealous you found a pharmacy that still serves food.
    Sounds like you had a memorable time, hurt feelings and boredom and all - but it wouldn't be a family vacation without all that, unfortunately.
    Stink bugs, huh? Are they the geometric-shaped beetles? (off to google stink bugs...)

  4. Seneca Rocks. Probably 1 of the 2 best rock climbing destinations in the east. So many great stories there...So many famous climbers cut their teeth at Seneca...Hope you did the hike up to the north peak...and scrambled up past the platform, there. Definitely worth a return in the fall foliage if you missed it. To take a climbing class there from the Gendarme is to have a marvelous adventure. Also, think about Whitegrass x-country ski 'resort' there, if you cross country ski. So nice...

  5. I'm sold, I want to visit! And despite being able to write much at the time, you've wound up giving us a beautiful read.

  6. Thanks for allowing me to live vicariously through you. I like I was there eating that wonderful food. Lovely descriptive piece (oh, and I can relate to the familial bickering on vacations).

    Here's my contribution:


  7. " . . . how loud we lived our usual life . . ." yes, what a great moment of clarity, huh!

    i just returned from a few days far from cell or internet coverage, where we had to catch our own fish if we wanted to eat, and how sweet it was to discover a bit of tin foil so the fish could be "baked" over coals rather than roasted. am having a hard time readjusting to my noisy life and your language carnival post brings clarity. thank you.

    sherry o'keefe