Thursday, August 23, 2007

How shall I begin?

The title to this new blog seemed just to pop up, probably because it is the screen saver on my computer. Edward Hicks (1780-1849) is the artist--he's a distant cousin whose Peaceable Kingdom concept appears in several of his paintings. One of these paintings hangs in the Montgomery (Alabama) Museum of Fine Arts on the Alabama Shakespeare Festival grounds. The image above is the last of his paintings to deal with this subject matter.

Being equally obsessed with finding peace, in my own life and in the world, it seemed a suitable start for someone with no idea where this blog will go. Unlike my crafty friends, I have only a few show-and-tell items to display. Probably I will post photos from my travels in the U.S. and from family life at home. Mostly I intend to share with you life in Jones Valley, where I live. It was once hallowed ground for Native Americans, full of free-flowing streams and waterfalls. It's known lately as Birmingham, Alabama, and muddles between two ridges that are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains at their southernmost point. The hallowed ground was converted in the latter part of the 19th Century into an altar t
o industry, beginning with iron cannon balls used in the Late Unpleasantness. Today it is a soupy bowl of hazy industrial wastes floating in the summer's hot air. Still, it's where I search for peace these days, and sometimes find it.

First-time visitors observe that we have trees. Even downtown, cropping up between stone buildings. Oaks, maples, hickories, magnolias, dogwoods. From the air, Birmingham is green, except for the cleared areas outside the suburbs where coal has been surface mined and the rusty industrial sites in the western area where steel was once king.

I live on the afternoon side of Red Mountain, with my husband of 27 years and our two unlaunched adult sons and two cats. It's called Red Mountain because of the reddish cast of the iron ore hidden in the diagonal seams of its ancient soil. Our house backs into a city park that overlooks Jones Valley to the north. We will always have trees behind us. And a little rocky path that zigzags up the mountain
and crosses a brook that in this late summer heat has been bone dry for weeks. The path has its own story, as you may later learn.

Through the middle of the valley run the train tracks that marked the crossroads where Birmingham was born in 1871. From my office on the tenth floor of an old downtown building, I can look out the window at those tracks and hear the squealing brakes of freight trains. With the windows open at home at night, the low whistle blasts are audible. I've learned the meaning of the combinations of whistles, amusing on a sleepless night and reminiscent of a Hank Williams' tune:

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

Words and music by Hank Williams

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
Like me he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I'm not feeling so lonesome just now, but one short whistle just signaled: time to stop.


jennifer said...

What a great blog! I like the theme and the lovely "peaceable kingdom" image. Finding peace... yes it's what I'm after too, I think. Have a good night there --

ensleyite said...

What a pleasant stop on the Internet. Keep at it, even if we elect a male to occupy the White House, as anything would be an improvement.