Saturday, August 16, 2008

I'm Backkkkk

Back from Arkansas. As I expected, there was no time to blog or check blogs. I spent the days visiting with mom and family. And doing a fair amount of eating. My favorite pie is lemon, so family members baked me not one, but two lemon pies. I think I’ve had enough lemon pie for a while. I also ate home-grown steak and ground beef, which was nice and lean, and a variety of vegetables from the garden, including green beans, tomatoes, corn on the cob, potatoes, purple hull peas, and spinach. What I didn’t eat, although I was offered them about 100 times, was okra and onions. My mom and brother Paul David just love okra, but they must have gotten all the okra genes in the family because the stuff reminds me of something that might have been edible eons ago but which has been mummified in dry desert air for a few too many millennia.

One thing I didn’t get done in Arkansas is any real writing. I tried a couple of times to sit at the laptop but in a small town where everyone knows everyone there are always visitors dropping over. Besides that, about a quarter of the town of Charleston is related to us, if not by blood then by marriage. That’s a lot of family to see in a short time.

As always when I go home to Charleston, I was overwhelmed by memories. On a couple of afternoons I rode around in the countryside with my brother and it seemed like every field and woods and dirt trail were haunted with the ghosts of the past. I imagine that would settle down if I moved back to the area permanently, which Lana and I have talked about doing after I retire from teaching. We have land there, some of which I’ll eventually inherit, and I wouldn’t mind building a house along the creek where I spent a many hot summer day.

Rita, my sister-in-law, asked how I’d get in and out if I lived back along the creek and I told her I only needed to get in. She asked what Lana thought of that, and I had to tell her that Lana loves the idea. My wife is not a social butterfly. She and I are both pretty intense introverts.

Well, it’s off now to do a little catch up blog visiting, but I’m sure I won’t be able to comment on every post I’ve missed. Seems like most of us here in blog land are pretty prolific posters. Plus, I’ve got to turn up the back-to-school engine big time to get syllabi and other such tasks done before school starts next week. When I got off school in early May it seemed like the days stretched out forever in front of me. Now that the summer escape is over it sure did seem to go fast.



Sidney said...

There's a cool book that Christine bought called Cabin Fever by William Sullivan that talks about building a log cabin in just such a setting over a period of many summers. You might find it interesting.

laughingwolf said...

wb bud!

seems like the only thing missing on your visit home was lana :(

that's a great retirement idea, once IN, why bother with getting OUT, as long as books/groceries etc. moved in and out on their own? ;) lol

Shauna Roberts said...

Welcome back!

Are you thinking of an off-the-grid lifestyle with solar panels, composting toilets, and all that?

writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds like a good visit. Nothing like home cooking, Southern style. And I hear you about okra. Fried is okay, or in gumbo; otherwise, it's like slime. Bleh.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I'm glad it doesn't have anything to do with that horrible horror movie, "Cabin fever." Lana and I both would love to live in a log cabin.

Laughingwolf, thankee. I'll have my groceries delivered by helicopter. Or sled dog.

Shauna, yes, definitely. I'd certainly want solar panels. And space around me.

Writtenwyrd, I even pick the Okra out of my gumbo although the flavoring doesn't bother me.

Merisi said...

Visiting the folks back home always seems to turn into that big food and love feast, doesn't it?

I spent a few days hiking in the Alps during July, and saw a brandnew little log house there. I could have stayed there right then.

I do love fried okra, btw! Why people even bother cooking it any other way, I don't get it, they taste so darn good fried. None of this goodness here, though. A real bummer. I don't even know if it grows here. ;-)

Enjoy your last few days of summer's freedom!

Heff said...

Damnit, Charles. Now I'm hungry !

Rick said...

Welcome back, Charles. According to Mapquest, my family members live only 100 or so miles east of yours. Although I have not been down to visit them in three or four years, they, too are afflicted by okra-mania and, in addition to other great foods, they still enjoy the occasional squirrel stew.

Have you ever been to Hot Springs, AR or read Stephen Hunter's novel "Hot Springs?" If you can take the heat and the humidity, it is steeped in a history rich with the comings and goings of famous visitors. There are few better places to write than Arkansas, especially Hot Springs.

One last thing: every time I visit Heber Springs, invariably whichever of my relatives who is driving me pulls over to the side of a mountain, takes out a tin cup and draws us a drink from a mountain spring. Have you ever tasted mountain water? Nothing clearer or more bracing on this earth.

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, so you have the okra genes as well? I just lack them. Yes, food is always prominent when I visit my family. I definitely think it's associated with love in a lot of folks' minds.

Heff, if you'd been along I would have given you all my okra. The other stuff I ate myself.

Vwriter, oh wow, didn't know they were so close. I like a good squirrel stew myself. And rabbit and dumplings. I've been to Hot springs many times and it's a gorgeous place. Although it's become a bit touristy for me. I have tasted mountain spring water. I've spent a lot of time in the Ozark mountains.

Michelle's Spell said...

Welcome back, Charles! I love going home, but experience some of the same issues about not having time to write because of the schedule. I know what you mean about summer's end. It did go fast!

Cath said...

Welcome back although I have missed a few of your posts. Life has a tendency to run away with me. Good to see you again though and to know you had a relaxing time.

It's weird how we can be introverted and blog and talk at the same time. I doubt anyone would describe me as introverted, but I am definitely not extrovert and tend to be a stay at home sort of person. As is hubby. Blogging is a great social thing.

Randy Johnson said...

Sounds like you had a nice relaxing time. Good deal.
Don't like okra. Man, I'm taking away your southern credentials!LOL!

Donnetta said...

Hi, Charles: I sure wish I had some of that okra! Nobody can cook it up like my Granny used to.

School started for us this week. Yuck. I have early childhood, preschool, third, fourth, fifth grades and high school. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?


Randy Johnson said...

I forgot to mention my credentials were taken years ago. I can't stand grits in any way, shape, or form. I think I must have my dad's Indiana genes.

steve on the slow train said...

I've never cared for okra, though I'll eat it if it's in gumbo or jambalaya.

Your comment about you and Lana being "intense introverts" intrigues me. From my experience, faculty members are pretty much obligated to attend numerous parties--something that isn't easy for introverts.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Welcome back :)
I remember *that August feeling* from when I taught--a bizarre combination of excitement and that Sunday night coming down kind of feeling. (Not quite as inspiring as Johnny Cash's version) I wish you the best for the coming school year.

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, I’m feeling pretty well re-energized but I’m really going to hate losing my routine and having to start forming another one. I like being at home in Arkansas, but being home here with Lana is the best thing.

Crazycath, I think I get most of the social contact I need through blogging. I don’t have to be constantly in contact with folks, and can respond with thoughtful comments to what they say rather than hurrying to say something because of the silence.

Randy, I know. I used to feel ashamed of my okra less existence but I’ve learned to live with my “one” fault. Grits is not exactly my favorite food either.

Donnetta, I’d have been glad to give you my share. Wow, that sounds like a lot of school. I hope you survive it.

Steve, I’ll eat some in gumbo, that I can’t pick out. I remember a lot of faculty parties while I was in grad school. But I think it happens more at big universities. We do have parties here. I tend not to go or else go for only a little while. I don’t mind small get togethers of a few folks.

L.A. Mitchell, yeah, it’s definitely a bit of a strange feeling. Excitement and dread at the same time. Lol.

Anonymous said...

It's good to have you back Charles. I'm not a big socializer either nor am I an okra fan. However, I did have a soup one time that had okra in it and I liked it because the okra soaked up the flavor of the spices in the soup.

Steve Malley said...

Unable to write... family members and folk from the distant past parading before you... I know I'm projecting, but...


Welcome home. Hug Lana and pound those keys. We want to know what Ruenn does next!

Mary Witzl said...

I've got okra genes, but I do know what you mean: it can be slimy and icky if it's not cooked right. Still, you can't have gumbo without okra; it just isn't the same. But I'm with Randy on the grits issue. I'll never forget sitting in my uncle's kitchen in Florida, staring at a big plate of grits with a little pool of margarine in the middle of it. And hold the pig trotters and the chittlins too, please.

I'm social and I have a real need to communicate with others, but I can be a real hermit, if necessary. I've holed up here for weeks on end and hardly even noticed it.

Angie said...

A house along a creek (I'm assuming a generally wooded or otherwise wildish area) sounds pretty much perfect to me. :) So long as it has internet and I can shop Amazon and get groceries delivered, that covers like 95% of my normal needs.


Charles Gramlich said...

It's good to have you back Charles. I'm not a big socializer either nor am I an okra fan. However, I did have a soup one time that had okra in it and I liked it because the okra soaked up the flavor of the spices in the soup.
Jack, yeah, I can eat it a bit in gumbo for that reason. It completely changes the taste.

Steve, who’d a thunk memories could be so distracting. Though not as much as visiting.

Mary Witzl, if I could have gumbo without Okra I’d be more than happy I’m afraid. The only way I care to eat grits is with molasses mixed in. I can go a good while without realizing I’ve not seen another human being for sure.

Angie, yes, the house I’d plan would have the creek at the back, with woods on the sides, and a long open field with two ponds in it at front. And there’s satellite internet. I definitely would have to have that.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Congrats on the poetry and the story. And I hope things work out with the house. That sounds nice.

writtenwyrdd said...

Better grits than hominy. And molasses on anything is good. But especially on buckwheat pancakes or in my *buffs nails on shirt* superb ginger snaps.

Greg said...

Glad you had a good time! Sounds like a great place to be.

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm glad your home & although you're going back to work soon, I'm also glad you enjoyed another summer off. Hope your batteries are recharged. :)
When we move to AR, let's not forget to bring "GO AWAY" signs with us, to put up on our way in. ;)

david mcmahon said...

It doesn't matter that you didn't do any writing there. It DOES matter that you soaked up life.

laughingwolf said...

i'm with you all the way, charles... EXCEPT: my place would be made of field stone, so as not to be easily blown away, or burned ;)

X. Dell said...

I didn't think that you would do much writing or blogging once in Arkansas. Times like that are simply times to exist.

And if it helps any, you've eaten far better in the past few days than I have in the last few months.

cs harris said...

Sounds like you had a good trip home. Welcome back!

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

Arkansas in the summer. Hmmmm. Where do I sign up? This, of course, from the man who does Michigan in the winter. Of course, that's not by choice.

eric1313 said...

Man, I might be moving down that way still. Would be nice--Hot Springs AK, my best friend is inheriting his family construction business. And they know the head of the English dept. at the U of AK in Little Rock. Much more focused on non-fiction, but hey, that's cool too.

Have a great summer, at least the end of it.

Peace out

Charles Gramlich said...

Rachel, thank you. Yes it will be nice. Some day.

Writtenwyrd, I can actually handle hominy if it's done right. But I'm not gonna kill for it.

Greg, yes, I did.

Lana, indeed, my dear.

David McMahon, agreed. That was important.

Laughingwolf, there is some neat slate down along the creek. Maybe I could build with that.

x-Dell, man, drop by and I'll fix you a sandwich.

Candy, thanks. I did.

Stewart, Arkansas can get hot in the summer, but it generally has pretty comfortable seasons.

Eric1313, Hot springs is a very lovely place. And there are many great Ozark Mountain sites not far from Little Rock.

ivan said...

Makes me think, for some reason of old Tony Joe White's "Poke Salad Annie" (Gator's got your Granny).

My Jamaican pal keeps singing, Okra rice and saltfish are nice.
And the sun shines daily every time of year.

Erik Donald France said...


sounds awesome and I do get it about "home."

Local okra and onions sound pretty good right about now, along with the other foods that you actually emjoy. Not to mention grits. And bbq. And chicken friend steak. And . . . and . . .

Sphinx Ink said...

Welcome back, Charles. A couple of summers ago I visited a cousin who moved to Little Rock after Katrina, which wiped out her home in Chalmette. Little Rock seems a nice place to live, with lots of beautiful terrain and a relaxed atmosphere. Arkansas sounds to me like a good bet for retirement living.

the walking man said...

uhhhh If you decide not to make camp on the land by the creek can I do it?

Reading of your get away made me realize i have no place to go to anywhere near that flavor, everything is so disconnected. Stay the course Charles and when time comes to go home, do it.

Bernita said...

"seemed like every field and woods and dirt trail were haunted with the ghosts of the past."
The "thickets of memory"...

Middle Ditch said...

Good to see you back. What is okra though??? I've never heard of it. Your visit sounds like mine when I go back to see my family in Holland. I don't get to do anything but visit relations (and memories).

You and lana are guys like David and me. We also don't socialize too much, only if we have to. And, of course, when we have recording sessions which are so much fun that you don't really can call it socializing.

That place by the creek would suit us fine too.


Chris Benjamin said...

summer always goes too fast up here - too few sunny warm days.

i spent a summer in a cottage in the woods in finland working on my novel and i just loved it. i guess i'm fairly intensely introverted myself. my wife on the other hand went a little batty - she needs more human interaction than i seem to. but if you're both cool with it you should definitely do it.

BernardL said...

Doesn't matter what's on the menu when you're home. I'm glad you had a good time.

Chris Eldin said...

Awww! Welcome back! Sounds like this trip was good for you in many ways. I love small towns. I really do.

And I love okra. :-) Cook in tomato sauce and pour over rice. Yum.

ZZZZZZZ said...

welcome back. sounds like you had yourself a good visit.

laughingwolf said...

slate sounds like a dream, if it's big enough... i know it's great as roofing

or... just cover over the log with sheets of slate?

best of both worlds!

how's 'wraith' coming along?

can't wait!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Nothing wrong with a couple of introverts living in the woods. I wish my wife would go for that retirement plan.

Tom Evans said...

There's something beautiful and claustraphobically appalling about your dreams. But then that's the difference between a whole heart and a broken one...

Louise said...

Came from Authorblog, and glad I did.

I spent most of my life in southwest Missouri, and though my trips back aren't like yours (no one makes food for me, let alone pie), the memories were still somehow the same.

And I'm with you on only needing a way IN to the land! No reason at all to come back out!

Sarah Hina said...

We missed you, Charles. It sounds like it was a whirlwind week!

I'm with you, though. Wanting someplace a little cut off from the rest of the world, with only the ones I love. Sounds like a dream. Hopefully, you'll inherit that someday. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

I like the cabin in the woods dream, myself. Always wanted an earth-covered house. I would prefer to live all alone, hermit like, though. Introverted and most pleased with my own company. But I like the internet and the blogosphere. Wouldnt' want to lose that!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I always liked Polk Sallet Annie. Good song. But eww that okra.

Erik, now chicken fried steak is indeed a marvelous treasure. If it’s done right. Like they do it in Texas.

Sphinx Ink, Little Rock is certainly the biggest city in Arkansas, but you don’t have to go very far to get into very rural areas. It’s quite close to the Ozark Mountains, which are beautiful.

Mark, well, you’re welcome to come for a visit once we do it. I’ll let you pitch a tent in the backyard. Lol.

Bernita, a good way of putting it. It’s like a layer of memories over everything.

Middle Ditch, I don’t really know how to describe Okra. It grows on a fairly tall, somewhat busy plant. The name is actually African and apparently it originated in Africa. I figure my ancestors fled Africa to get away from it. That’s why Europe was first settled. Lol.

Benjibopper, you said it. Summer goes at light speed. I would have loved that cottage I’m sure. So would Lana.

Bernardl, well, there’s always “something” good on the home menu.

Chris Eldin, no, I’m afraid it’s cook in tomato sauce, then discard okra and sauce and pour some gravy over the rice. ;)

Sheila, I did. Glad I got to go.

Laughinwolf, I’m afraid “Wraith” has been on hold the past week while I was in Arkansas, and this week as I prepare to go back to work. Dang this job stuff. If I could just be paid to stay home and write I’d get a lot more done.

JR, my ex would certainly not have liked that idea. Anything smaller than a metropolis was too rustically savage for her.

Tom Evans, the first broken heart is always the toughest one.

Louise, thanks for dropping by. I’m the youngest son so I get a little spoiled when I go home, I’m afraid. I sure could use more pie now. And exactly, come out for what?

Sarah Hina, mom has already established the land division so it’s pretty much a done deal. Of course, even if I could go back tomorrow to live she’d be happy for me to build on the farm.

Writtenwyrdd, Lana and I call our current place “the Hermitage,” but we both could stand to be a little further removed from civilization. Except for the net. I do use it a lot.

X. Dell said... long as I don't need a cache of valuable stones and a manuscript when I meet you at the door.

Charles Gramlich said...

X-dell, hum, that scenario sounds familiar. Where have I read about a cache of valuable stones and a manuscript? lol.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! An eating vacation is the best.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jason, indeed. :)

Sarai said...

Glad you got back okay and had a wonderful time.
*Sigh* retiring by a creek in a small down is an ideal way to live.