October 31, 2010
Shortly after moving in Elizabeth turned the new oak, pine and brick into a warm home filled with beautiful, but modest things. She surrounded the house with bountiful gardens that provided much for her pantry, as well as frequent bouquets for the alter at church. She was proud of her home, but was the talk and envy of many village women. Marriage suited the young couple well, and they soon found themselves anxiously expecting a child. As far as first pregnancies normally go, this one was unusually easy and Samuel Deale entered the world without incident. By all accounts he was a delightful baby, and everyone said he was the spitting image of Aaron, who could not have been prouder.
Elizabeth was not so fortunate with her second pregnancy and suffered through most of the months. Twin girls, Martha and Mary were born after an agonizing labor that nearly took the young woman's life. For the next few months when the twins weren't sleeping, they were crying. Elizabeth's body was slowly healing, but most said her soul never did. The house she was so prideful of became cluttered and dirty, and the garden was overrun with weeds, and vegetables rotted in their rows. Even during the daylight hours Elizabeth kept to her bed, and when her eyes were indeed open, they remained vacant. She could barely nurse the twins, and her affections for Samuel and Aaron were absent. The family would not have eaten or had clean clothes to wear if it had not been for the tireless efforts of Elizabeth's younger sister.
Elizabeth spent most of the summer in this depressed state, but rose abruptly from bed one cool October morning and began cleaning the house, and that evening she bathed the children. The next day she began cutting back the overgrown garden and dismissed her sister, thanking her and bidding her to return home. Aaron was deeply encouraged by this change in the wind and knew that the time spent on his knees in prayer had not been wasted. Later that week he came home from his day's work at the boatyard, and as he entered the clean kitchen noticed a full dinner plate covered with cheesecloth on a table set for one. He called out to Elizabeth, but the house remained quiet.
Aaron mounted the stairs leading to the bedrooms, and nearing the top he noticed Elizabeth's wrist hanging limply from the bed through the open door. A fallen spoon rested on the floor just out of reach of her fingers. Her skin was blue, her lips stained red brown and her body was cold. An empty bottle of laudanum sat on the night stand, glowing in the last of the day's sun. Samuel was in the bed as well, his skin and lips similarly colored. Martha and Mary lay smothered in the crib they shared in the corner by the window. Aaron ran from the house wailing like a stuck animal for all the village to hear, never to return.
After sitting vacant for several years, Moses Deale eventually rented the house to tenants for his absent son. No family ever stayed there more than a few months before moving on. Several of the tenants, especially the women, mentioned enduring bouts of incredible sadness while living there. One family was regularly awakened by the sound of falling silverware hitting the floor, only to search in vain for nothing amiss. One poor woman ran out of the house screaming in the middle of the night, tormented one time too many by the sound of another woman singing. Years passed and eventually the house was simply used for storage as no one would ever live there. The house still stands, but is covered in wild vines, glassless windows exposing the house to weather. Villagers claim that on still moonless nights you will occasionally hear the clang of a spoon hitting the floor or a mother's voice singing lullabies to her children coming from the old Deale house.
October 28, 2010
Even as a kid, I was fascinated with meadows and played in them on the fringes of our neighborhood before they fell victim to sprawl. This type of landscape is not natural here, rather it is more of a transition form, usually filling the gap between what was once agriculture and a return to what was before - the forest. Big Meadows is no exception. It is the last large open area in the park, a remnant of what much of the park looked like in 1935, a collection of homesites, fields and pastures cleared from the forest. While the rest of the park has been allowed to return to its former state, NPS keeps Big Meadows as it is by a once yearly mowing. While we were there it had transitioned to fall and was a 300 acre tapestry of color and texture.
If you would like to see more of my Shenandoah N.P. pictures you can click here.
October 25, 2010
It was fairly cloudy most of the day here, and rain began falling late in the afternoon. On the way home from work I made a stop to pick up some flowers (tomorrow is our anniversary), and as I was leaving the store the sun broke through the last few minutes of the day. The sky began to glow, and I dashed behind the shopping center to get a picture. In an instant it was over.
October 23, 2010
The next day we hiked the Mill Prong Trail which seemed to have received more rain over the summer than Jones Run. The foliage looked less droughty and the stream was very lively. We ended up at Camp Rapidan, which was the presidential retreat of Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry. I thought I knew my Virginia history, but I had never heard about this place until fellow blogger Art at Oh To Be Hiking wrote about it last July. The Hoovers built their Brown House (as opposed to the White House) along side the Rapidan River to take advantage of the trout fishing. We were able to take a tour of the Brown House led by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer, but it became quickly apparent that he was definitely old-school. He was explaining to the all-male tour group that the pots of forest clippings were in the cabin because Mrs. Hoover did not garden at Camp Rapidan and used what she found growing wild, "but of course none of you would be interested in that". I nearly lost it though, when he told us that Mrs. Hoover paid full asking price for the acreage and didn't try to "jew down" anybody. I can't believe people still use this offensive term. After that I was ready to leave before anything else fell out of his mouth. Back outside and with lunch at Big Rock Falls, I was quickly over our non-PC tour.
October 18, 2010
To indulge this love of the mountains and to facilitate a change in perspective, as well as to get a little closer to the wilderness, my son and I headed west for a long weekend in Shenandoah National Park. Although I have been to the park many times, this was the first time I camped there.
I had hoped my timing was right to see the foliage at its peak, but I think we were about a week too early. I am not complaining though, as there was still lots of color, and I enjoy this place no matter the time of year.
I will spare you the history lesson (this time), but what is now a treasure for all of us was once home to thousands of families who were forced to sell their land so the park could be created. There are scant few physical reminders of this before time, and nature has done a remarkable job of returning farms to forest. However, I find it wonderful that after 75 years these people's apple trees still abound throughout the park.
We spent a lot of time hiking while we were at Shenandoah, and I will share a couple of these in the next post.
October 14, 2010
The campground where we ended up staying was nearly overrun with two plants, Clematis virginiana with its showy seedheads and...
... Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus).
There were several varieties of Aster still blooming though I am not entirely positive which species they are. Perhaps this one is Heath Aster (Aster ericoides).
There were still a few Thistles in bloom.
Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) was just comming into bloom.
The Coralberry was not the only fruit showing color. The Hawthorns (Crataegus) and...
... American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) were adding lots of color to the park.
The seed pods of Purple Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) were popping out everywhere to ensure next summer's blooms,
and I was not the only creature enjoying them.
I will continue sharing our trip through the park in the next few posts, but if you would like to see what other gardeners are sharing at this time of year, please visit Carol at May Dreams Garden who graciously hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.
October 11, 2010
Along with the bricks, the historic landscape around Barboursville survived the fire as well. In order for Barbour's guests to get to the front door, they first had to traverse his race track still in place (this was and remains a country of serious horse culture). The other major feature of the landscape is its boxwood plantings. As I have said in several other posts, no old Virginia house, ruined or otherwise, can be without its boxwood. Those at Barboursville are the largest I have ever seen, and I was able to walk under them without hitting my head. If the house was still habitable, the race track would be obscured from the second floor rooms by boxwood.
(My usual disclaimer is in place, in that I have not received any compensation for the mention of anything in this post, including a case of 2006 Octagon which would not be refused if it should happen to appear on my doorstep.)