After traveling the world since 1984, my favorite “museum” (it’s really a living, breathing church) is Westminster Abbey. For anyone who is nerdy and loves some world famous literature, they will not want to leave Poets’ Corner of the abbey.
I opened with Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”. Alfred, Lord Tennyson is buried in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. He was England’s Poet Laureate 1850-1892. I researched Lord Tennyson for a literature project in college many years ago. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is a world famous poem as well. The Bronte Sisters have a memorial in Poets’ corner. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte gives me chills when I read such quotes as Cathy’s “Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”. For us who have felt a spiritual bond to a loved one it is a “punch to your soul”. My favorite short story of all time, “The Happy Prince”, was written by Oscar Wilde. If you read only one of his short stories, read that story. It still makes me cry; “You have rightly chosen,” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me. What the heck happened??, you have to read the story. You won’t be sorry. Oscar Wilde is NOT buried at Westminster Abbey, but in Paris, France. He was a pauper when he died, but fans raised money for his monument where he is buried. Sean and I visited the famous cemetery the spring of 2008. However, Oscar Wilde also has a stained glass window at Westminster Abbey.
I am not a huge fan of Medieval pieces of literature, but every few years, I enjoy a review and read of “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. He is buried at Poets’ Corner as well. Musical composers at Westminster Abbey? Well, George Frederic Handel , composer of “The Messiah” is buried at Westminster Abbey. He was, indeed, German, but lived and composed in England. The first public performance of Handel’s Messiah took place in Neal’s Musick Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin, in the shadows of Christ Church Cathedral on April 13, 1742. Ammon, Carter, Sean, and I toured that cathedral and locale on December 22, 2022-Thursday. I am finishing with the world famous, Charles Dickens. He is the author of “A Christmas Carol” ( 1843) and my 2nd favorite novel (Gone with the Wind is my first) A Tale of Two Cities (1859). I love and think of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, when I read “ It was in vain for Madame Defarge to struggle and to strike; Miss Pross, with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate…” Please read and see how love triumphs over hatred written through Charles Dicken’s plume to paper.
I hope you all can enjoy some of our photos from Poets’ Corner, a bit of this read, then find some of these pieces of literature to enjoy, ponder upon, and perhaps develop a liking for.
From Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, the Caylor-Browns wish Everyone a Happy New Year 2023!
Take this quote from Haven TO THE BANK: “If UT does not win over UGA today, it’s because God has something better planned!”
Thanks to my niece, Jennifer Barrett-Tatum, I enjoy watching The Tennessee Vols. When she completed both her undergraduate degree and master’s degree from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, I began visiting Jennifer “Little Sister” [ I was 15 when she was born … kinda helped raise her … helped take care of Orrin a little bit … LOVED being a part of her college career & watching her become a phenomenal (perhaps like Uncle Small) ] who now is almost 10 years into being a Doctor of Philosophy/ Education … okay, you get the picture that I’m a fan of my niece. She lived in Knoxville for about 10 years. OMGeez.. Neyland Stadium was a “sea of orange”, the crowd singing “Rocky Top” penetrated my soul (both the Caylor’s and the Cox’s came from East Tennessee) , the COONHOUND (if you know me, you know my love of coonhounds) Smokey the Bluetick, the pioneer waving the UT flag!!!! Haven was HOOKED!!
I watched Casey Clausen (a few years too late for Peyton Manning, I was) and Erik Ainge. Haven even spent $$ on a “#10” Ainge Jersey. I had NEVER done anything like that in my life, and I was 40 years old at the time. Then, bum, bum, bum…. Carter & Ammon! Then…. Back to work … then… Pandemic … NOW 2022, Josh Heupel and Hendon Hooker (possible Heisman Trophy Winner … as of 11-3-2022 , he is the frontrunner for the Heisman!! I’m tearing up. NO ONE is perfect, but Hendon gives every sign of being a faithful Christian young man who gives glory to God for his gifts. People (some whom I’ve met) who have met him says Hendon’s spirit is very “Christ-like”
It’s been a treat to watch Head Coach Josh Heupel since the Music City Bowl in January. Carter and I KNOW the Vols really won over Purdue. Speaking of Carter, it’s been a Father’s Joy to have Carter by my side this 2022-2023 NCAA football season watching the Vols to what is today their 8-0 record. Our whole family and Jennifer’s family attended the UT vs. Akron game in Knoxville on September 17. When Tennessee beat Alabama on October 15, 2022, Carter and I were in our living room. We sat in enthralled, disbelief when that buzzer sounded and the Vols had won 52-49 . Y’all 101 combined points. What a testimony to the greatness of these two teams. Both offenses had battled beautifully, but the talent of the ever-improving Vols triumphed. Heupel, Hooker, Small, Hyatt and the WHOLE team working together for the art that is college football is some like an animated painting that is constantly evolving and electrifying your brain synapses to keep enjoying and returning to the painting over and over. And, oh, man , the recruiting is gleaning STAR QUALITY players from across the nation: Nicholaus Iamaleava, Sham Umarov, and Chandavian Bradley are only a “drop in the bucket” of rising greatness headed for Knoxville and the UT Vols.
Back to my quote “If UT does not win over UGA today, it’s because God has something better planned!” … EVERYONE I have listened to. Yes, even primary resource whom have been in the physical midst of this 2022-2023 UT Vols team, says something special . “They are a good group of boys.” … many of whom are Christians and know that it’s CHRIST FIRST. So, God does use crazy sports to Glorify Him, and whether this team loses to Georgia today or not, God will use this Vols team to glorify Him, and it WILL BE CLEARLY VISIBILE before the January 9, 2023 NCAA Football Championship in Los Angeles. Happy Saturday, and “It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol!”
I am embarrassed that I haven’t blogged since last year. So many awesome things (our Trip to Italy) have happened as well as sad things (Our Nana passing). There is a blog in the works. I know we posted of Italy 2022 in Facebook, but there are so many more things to share. If I am mentally and physically well during Thanksgiving Break, I will probably blog about Italy 2022. Until then … Haven
I first saw Buddy at 613 Flagstone in Ft. Oglethorpe at Ray Brown’s (Sean’s dad) house early 2006. He had been neglected, a rescue dog, and brought to Sean’s office to go to Ray’s house. He didn’t even have a name. You could also tell that children had annoyed him and/or abused him. There were neither scars nor broken bones on this thin, handsome miniature black and tan dachshund with a wounded soul. Sean said he was timid and covered with mud when he was brought to the office. Sean gave him a bath, made sure he had plenty to eat, then transported Buddy to Ft. Oglethorpe to be with Ray.
The evening I first saw Buddy he was already spoiled. Buddy had already been eating people food (fried chicken, bacon, cubed steak, whatever Ray had fixed for himself that he shared with Buddy), tried to sleep in Ray’s huge, king-sized bed but didn’t know quite what to do since he had slept outside probably on a chain for a year, but Buddy already felt LOVED. Buddy would not stop springing up to our knees showing his delight for whatever kindness we showed him. It was dark that evening, but I took him for a walk around Ray’s neighborhood. Ray was using an oxygen tank 24/7, and it was difficult for him take Buddy out frequently. Oh, yes, Buddy… he didn’t have his name yet. From the time I met Ray late 2003, his #1 nickname for Sean was “Buddy”. After Buddy had been with Ray for a few days, Sean mentioned to his dad that “Buddy” would be an easy name for Ray to remember. Ray loved the idea, and it didn’t take long for our intelligent little dachshund to recognize his name.
In the beginning, Buddy was a HORRIBLE car rider. In May of 2006, I took him to be neutered. He was all over the vehicle whining. He would even place his front paws up on the steering wheel and peer over it. He looked like he was driving, and to any passer-by up high enough along side of me to see into my truck they could see Buddy “driving”. He also jumped down into the floor board near my feet several times while I was driving. He made me a nervous wreck! Thanks be to God, by the autumn of 2021, he was calm, cool, and collected as he rode in a vehicle.
The last week of January 2007 Ray had to be admitted to Memorial Hospital. After visiting Ray on his admission evening, I drove past Ray’s house to pick up Buddy and Murphy ( a rescue cat) to bring them to our house until Ray was better. Sophie our female dachshund who was our “baby” until Ammon and Carter came along was a bit jealous of Buddy, but not too bad. The worst part of having her guest was sharing her food. Her food was off limits, but her love and care towards Buddy had NO LIMITS. Buddy was totally confused and afraid of using the stairs. As I mentioned in our tribute to Sophie when she passed in 2018, she taught Buddy how to use the stairs. It was a marvel that I will never forget as long as I have a memory. She taught him to take his time and conquer one stair at a time until he was down to the first floor. Several days later, he could go both up and down the stairs. On January 27, 2007, Buddy became our permanent fur child when Ray passed. The rest for us was nearly 15 years of Buddy joy. He was our “Buddy-Buddy boy who gave us Buddy-Buddy joy”.
Buddy was so faithful to Sophie, Sean, Ammon, Carter, and to me. He didn’t know he was a miniature anything. Except for squirrel or his favorite, rabbit tangents, he would walk/jog with us for an hour. After his diversion off the jogging track in and around the barn or through some thicket of trees or shrubs, he would be right back near our feet trotting at our jogging pace. While he was healthy, he only took one jogging break after the neighbor’s dog bit him on his back. He was out of commission for about 2 weeks, but soon he was right back to the jogging. Both Buddy and Sophie LOVED running up on Grindstone Mountain with me and the coonhounds which we did on a regular basis until Carter and Ammon were born the autumn of 2008. It was Sophie’s last trip up on Grindstone December 30, 2017 that we noticed that both Buddy’s agility and eye sight were waning. He misjudged a leap across a boulder and fell in a crevice that was perhaps 8 inches deep. He was by no means harmed. It was well-padded with fallen leaves. We scooped him out quickly. We also noticed that he had trouble on the house steps that went from wood steps to carpet steps. Something about his clouding cataracts caused trouble in the visual transition. By the end of 2020, we started carrying Buddy up and the down the stairs because he kept trying to judge the stairs, misjudged them, then tumbled backwards to kitchen floor.
He had several bouts of health problems from back pain (hereditary dachshund back ailments as well as where the neighbor dog bit him), teeth problems, and finally congestive heart failure! We thought we were going to lose him on April 25 of 2021. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, but all the symptoms were looking like pneumonia. The vet at the emergency room clinic wanted to put him down. We said, “In the name of treating a 16 years old dachshund with mercy, please treat him for pneumonia with a powerful antibiotic, and if he lives through the night at his house, then he will die where he is loved.” She complied and we brought him home. He did make it through the night, and he lived for another 6 months!
The first week of November, Buddy made it through a seizure that Sean saw as remarkable. The next morning after the seizure, Buddy acted fairly normal and ate quite a bit of baked chicken. However, it quickly went downhill that evening and the next day. When the vet told us Buddy had kidney failure just a few days after his seizure, we really thought he would rally and make it through the New Year. We had seen Buddy rally so many times. We weren’t fools. We knew that day would come when he wouldn’t “bounce back”. That day came on Tuesday morning November 9, 2021. Sean had been Buddy’s constant nurse maid for almost a week. Sean was with his “Buddy” (remember Buddy was Ray’s endearing name for Sean for decades) until Buddy took his last dog breath and crossed into dog eternity. We know Sophie was waiting for her brother and Ray was reunited with his fur baby, “Buddy”. The three are all enjoying heaven together as I type this.
Thank you, God , for our fur babies and our fur “buddies” especially our Buddy-Buddy Boy.
39In those days Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, 40where she entered the home of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord’s word to her will be fulfilled.”
Until I was about 30 years old, I kept the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus on a pedestal of perfection with those images of the perfect nativity scene. Who remembers the plastic, bulb-lit nativities of the 1960s and 1970s? I was mesmerized by them! And, my goodness, the Christmas carols of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger”. I’m taking intermittent singing breaks (“Away in a manger no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head…)” as I type this. I am also visualizing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with those golden halos as the shepherds and Magi Kings kneel in reverence. Wowzers!
A literary work, Two from Galilee (Marjorie Holmes, 1982), and what I think is the BEST nativity movie EVER , The Nativity Story (2006) changed my vision of the Holy Family forever.
Y’all imagine a 14 years-old girl who was told she was no longer a care-free child. She is betrothed to a man whom she had never had a sexual relationship with having to wait a year (Jewish tradition before and during the Roman reign of Augustus Caesar) to live with him without that conjugal fulfillment, and is a virgin who has never had sexual relations with any man, being told by an angel named Gabriel that she will have a baby that is a gift from God. What the heck, God? In a few months after Gabriel’s visit, she KNOWS she is pregnant. Gabriel had told Mary earlier in Luke Chapter one that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was going to be a mother. Elizabeth had been the “talk of the hill country of Judah” as a barren woman. Can you imagine the gossip of those days, “What has Elizabeth done in her life that God has cursed her this way!”, “Poor thing! Look at Hannah, Elizabeth’s neighbor. She has 8 children. Hannah is so blessed. Who will take care of Elizabeth and Zechariah in their old age? Poor Elizabeth and Zechariah!”
When Mary knew she was carrying a child, she hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah to visit her elderly cousin who was passed her child-bearing years. The weeks and months had been emotionally and spiritually excruciating for Mary. “I’m pregnant! Joseph might divorce me quietly or he could encourage the town to help stone me! Dear Father in heaven, will Elizabeth have any answers for me or words of fortification?”
We are not told how far away ( Google is showing like 99 miles… over three walking/cart days!!) but I can only imagine Mary’s anxiousness. As I watched the spectacular The Nativity Story this Christmas season, I had already squalled when Joseph re-purchased Mary’s parents’ donkey (the same donkey that carries Mary to Bethlehem….tears and sniffs…LOL… that the government officials had taken to help pay for taxes), but when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house and Mary’s voice made John jump in Elizabeth’s womb along with the scriptural words from Elizabeth’s mouth, my chest began to heave and I sobbed with tears…tears of joy.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
It was so spiritually moving. God gave Mary the confirmation and affirmation that she needed all those weeks before. God had given Mary her cousin, Elizabeth, to be her “cheerleader”, her confidante, her “hand to hold” for spiritual guidance.
Can you name your spiritual cheerleaders? Sometimes it’s not even someone cheering for you. It’s someone who responds to your spirit. My two spiritual cheerleaders who are now in Paradise are Naomi Alexander Caylor (my Nanny) and my adopted grandmother, Remell Hall. When Nanny died August of 1985, Remell picked up the mantle (2 Kings 2:13 when Elisa picked up Elijah’s mantle / cloak/ coat ). I’ve always thought it ironically special that Remell died on November 6, 2003 (Ammon’s birthday!) then God blessed me with my soul-mate, Sean Brown, in January of 2004. God did not leave me desolate for long.
Now, December 2020; 54, God keeping me out of any physical teaching environment, homeschooling Carter and Ammon, watching the world reel from the Corona virus, I have several spiritual friends I go to. It’s sometimes just a text to say, “God is Great!” or “Praying for you.” . Sometimes I have something serious to share; Carter and Ammon pre-teen drama, doubts on why God doesn’t want me working right now, or a spiritual matter that is troubling me.
My buds who do not fail me are Debbie Baker, Patsy Holland, Kathleen Lanford, Tami McClain, Claire Randle, and Evangeline Starks. There is an “odd man out” literally, so I’m putting him by himself; 21 years-old singer/songwriter, Hunter Lott has become a spiritual cheerleader God placed in my path as well. However, he lives in south Mississippi, and we have only been spiritual friends via social media and snail mail. Those ladies I mentioned are the toughest, Christ-like women I know, and they are physically near me. When I see them face to face and hug them, I get a spiritual, electrical charge, and sometimes we’ve had conversations where the tears flow (mostly mine) because we share from the heart and soul. My sincerest thanks to you 7 people (holy smokes… God’s number!!!). You all have NO IDEA what you mean to me. And Patsy Holland, I’ll never forget your Christian (sister and brother in Jesus the Christ) words of encouragement to me, “God doesn’t make mistakes” during our first serious, spiritual talk together over 3 years ago.
Returning to Mary and Elizabeth. The holy scriptures do not allow us to enjoy another conversation between the two ladies. The Nativity Story shows Mary being in attendance for John’s birth, watching Zechariah speak, and watching and listening to Elizabeth and Zechariah speak words of the Old Testament to their newborn with biblical “bedtime stories”. At this point, Mary tells the jubilant, elderly couple with their “miracle baby”, John, that she is returning to Nazareth. Those weeks with Elizabeth and Zechariah gave Mary, now physically showing she was pregnant, the spiritual strength to return to her betrothed, Joseph, to face the next months; vicious gossip from the townspeople, tears and perhaps rage from her parents and Joseph, and perhaps even death if she is stoned for adultery. The Lord’s servant, Mary, was returning to fulfill what Gabriel had shared and Elizabeth was Mary’s human confidante / human- contact spiritual support to face the following months.
I truly hope and pray that you all have spiritual cheerleaders. They are priceless. As soon as the Spirit touched my spirit with Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting as I watched the actresses speak the scriptures from Luke 1, I knew I had to write. It’s also set up a second blog I hope to finish before December 23: Jesus’ Awesome, Earthly Father, Joseph.
I would advise all of us to find a Keys Dan (Daniel) in our lives. Daniel has the gift of relating to people with interpersonal questions that search into your soul and open you to share without any inhibitions. You find yourself sharing some of the best things about yourself; the things God has gifted YOU with. The interview is over an hour long so just fast forward what you find boring.
The most intriguing thing is that Keys Dan will interview us regular folks who have something to offer humanity. Each one of us has a story, and each one of us is just as important as another. Notice his number 501-470-6386. I actually forgot that I had scheduled this interview LAST JUNE, so be prepared to wait a while; however, it’s worth it.
Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and FLOODS, ROCKS, HILLS and plains Repeat the sounding joy…
Once a day, we try to walk together as a family. We often discuss the topics of the day, but sometimes we all walk in silence for a few minutes before one of us, usually Sean or I, start a new conversation. Carter and Ammon had their yearly physical, well-exams yesterday. They both concurred this morning that they felt flat: They had two vaccinations. Sean and I researched their TDP vaccination, and it confirmed that it could cause the “flatness”. We decided that Ammon and Carter did not have to walk today because our walks are fast-paced for cardio endurance and heart health. In August, we four started a new route in the Enterprise South park, and I have been very anxious to jog it. It has two good-sized hills and one is quite the incline for at least a half mile. We looked at the radar (rain all afternoon), and we decided that we adults needed to exercise outside ASAP. It was an opportunity to jog my new route. I dressed and “made a bee-line” to the park.
It was barely sprinkling, and I began my jog. I went up the Hidden Lake Road, turned on Boulder Point Road (I’m doing this for my Chattanooga folks who can , perhaps, visualize what I was doing), and I was winding down to Dogwood Ridge road. A few heavier drops of rain began to hit the oak trees that form the branch-awnings over Boulder, and acorns began pelting the ground. I took my shirt off (thank you, Jesus it was a warm rain), rolled it up and used it as a shield to fight any falling acorns. I kept jogging and smiling. By the time I was turning right on to Harrison Branch Road, it was a steady rain, and by the time I turned right on to Poe Run Road, it was pouring.
As you can imagine, there was NO ONE in sight. A blessed cedar tree awning gave me a 2-second umbrella of dryness. I thought, “There is a bunker up here on the right. If it is, by chance, open, I am stopping for a few minutes until this lets up!” The next thing that happened thoroughly surprised me. The Holy Spirit touched my spirit and shared, “Sing Joy to the World!” I did. Suddenly, the lyrics, “… while fields and FLOODS, ROCKS, HILLS, and plains repeat the sounding joy.” The rain drops, rocks, and hills enveloping me, were repeating the sounding joy (Joy to the world, the Lord, Jesus the Christ, is come). I kept jogging, and I sang to the top of my lungs while concentrating on less lung fatigue as well as using my diaphragm, “Joy to the world, the savior reigns….”. I was VERY SURPRISED that the bunker was, indeed, open. It was still pouring. I stepped into the entrance of the dark bunker and the Spirit said, “Repeat the sounding joy!” I sang the verse again in the round bunker while the words echoed and repeated the “sounding joy”. Before I left, the Spirit reminded me of “Shower of Blessings”.
Showers of blessing, Showers of blessing we need; Mercy-drops round us are falling, But for the showers we plead.
The sound of “Shower of Blessings” echoed as well. I smiled and began to praise God for the rain, the jog, Jesus Christ, and my family. By the end of my prayer, the constant rain had stopped with only a few, scattered droplets here and there.
Friends and family, you deserve or really NEED some alone time with God, Jesus, and the Spirit. I know your families, your jobs, your daily activities, so I understand how busy your lives are. Your moments do not have to be like I had today. Sometimes the moments happen during a quiet moment of cooking, cleaning, or doing some yard work, and, yes, I’ve even had them at work before. Look for the moment. Be in the Spirit. Thanks be to our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ, we have intimacy with the Holy Spirit in prayer or song. Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and don’t forget…God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24).
Isn’t intimacy with the Spirit something awesome? Do you choose to experience it? Do you want to experience it? For Haven, my spirit communicating with the Holy Spirit is so uplifting and joyful especially in this crazy 2020. Are you tired, worried, fatigued with what is going on around you? Are you “thirsty” in your spiritual life? The Spirit is like a water tap, the more you turn open the flow, the more volume of water you get. Heck, God will even allow you to never open the water tap. Whatever your “Spirit feelings” may be, I challenge you to find your intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit and I sang several songs together today….
Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and FLOODS, ROCKS, HILLS and plains Repeat the sounding joy…
My love of deciduous trees started with the onset of 10th Grade (1981-1982). Daddy had bought me Copper and Chief, my two beloved Black and Tan coonhounds in August, and we four were spending hours in the autumn-laden ridges of Varnell. As we would either walk up and down the ridges, talk, or listen to Chief and Copper begin their innate, melodious bawling, we would discuss the trees of our woods. We mostly spoke of the noble oaks, but, of course, the maples were embedded in the woods as well. As I write this entry which is dedicated to maples, our oak trees behind our house have burst forth with color. Seriously, on Friday November 6, 2020, the oaks were green as green can be. By Sunday the 8th, they had turned reds, yellows, & oranges!
My father, Copper, Chief, and I spent the whole winter tromping through the woods that later went bare, of course. Then, the spring of 1982 came with all the new green and rebirth of plants, trees, and flowers. My 10th grade biology teacher had assigned to us a final project where we were to complete a spring flower and leaf album of 25 plants and flowers we could find in our environment. I asked Daddy to help me. One evening, he and I walked the woods behind our house with Copper and Chief. Several days later, Daddy and I walked Nanny’s yard collecting leaves. It was May 15, 1982 (Nanny’s birthday and my dad had made her a birthday cake while I mowed Nanny’s yard.. it was Saturday.. we had a family celebration after I mowed). Thirteen days later, Friday May 28, Daddy was dead. I had to finish the album without him to turn in after Memorial Day, and Nanny came to the house with some old-timey botanical magazines (We had to have those Latin, botanical names written by those leaves, ya know!) that she had collected through the years to help me fumble through the finishing touches of the album. Well, I finished it, and, sadly, I did not make a 100…. I made a 97. I think my teacher doubted some of the Latin names just between us readers; however, that love of studying and labeling flora has stuck with me.
As I wrote this past July, this COVID season has made me see things through my nature loving – Cherokee ( Yes, Pap Edwards…. Edwards Park Varnell , GA at Plainview…. Cleveland Road was my Cherokee ancestor to the Caylors… great-great-great grandfather) eyes. Walking with my family or jogging by myself on this land has tuned me in better to my surroundings, and I am very grateful that God’s spirit touches my spirit with the love and desire to research and share about my environment.
I hope you enjoy our mesmerizing maples. I’ve placed a photo of the entire maple tree with a side-by-side photo of its autumn colored leaf/leaves. Also, Thanksgiving 2020 may be another 17 days away, but I do want to say an early “Happy Thanksgiving!” to you all. God is great. Peace / Shalom.
Autumn 1985: My Nanny (Mary Naomi Alexander Caylor) had been dead for a few months. I worked at Wilson’s Superette in Varnell, Georgia. The community still had dozens of people who were teenagers or youngsters with my Nanny and Nanny’s sisters, Madeline and Florence. As I have explained before, Nanny had been my friend and confidante even before my father’s untimely death in 1982. Three years later Nanny was gone as well. Work, church, and Dalton Junior College kept me busy, but every person over the age of 60 in Varnell reminded me of the family friend I was missing so terribly.
The late summer of 1985 into the autumn found me asking the Varnell “old-timers” if they could share anything about my Nanny, Madeline, Florence, or my Nanny Alexander. I did every job (bag groceries, carry groceries to vehicles, stock shelves, slice SOME meats, sweep, mop, pump gas, run the cash registers plus more) in the store except balance the money till and the books. From the time I had started working there in the summer of 1983, I had thoroughly enjoyed carrying groceries out to people’s cars especially the cars of my fellow Varnellians. There was an awesome lady named Annie Clayton Dyer. I knew she was from Varnell, but I wasn’t too sure if she had been a contemporary or shared a history with my family. She was such a kind and giving soul, and I always enjoyed chatting with her while helping her with her groceries. One day in the autumn of 1985 as I carried Annie’s groceries to her car we began a conversation.
Haven: Mrs. Dyer, did you spend any time with the Alexander sisters when you were growing up? You know my grandmother, Naomi died recently.
Annie: I sure am sorry about that. I was closest to Florence’s age, but Lord yes! ( I had known Annie for over 2 years, and she wasn’t a somber person, but her face absolutely LIT UP, and a huge grin went across her face. It was the happiest, most child-like smile I had seen on a 60 year-old in ages! Alexander Sisters’ memories were making Annie glow)
Annie, continues: Florence and Madeline had a Halloween Party one year.
Haven: Oh, my word! I’ve never heard of such. I didn’t think my Nanny Alexander would approve of such a thing.
I had to remind myself that by the time of this party Nanny was almost 20 years old and that especially Florence received a totally different childhood rearing than Nanny. I recalled how Nanny Alexander bent to the whims of her youngest daughter.
Annie: Oh, yeah, and let me tell you this real quick… The first time I saw Florence, she came into our classroom with those,.. how do I explain it? It was an aviator’s cap. Those with the goggles.
I stood dumbfounded. Nanny Alexander allowed Florence to go to school dressed like that? Oh, me!
Continuing with the Halloween story.
Annie: Oh, yeah, the Halloween party! (We both chuckle!) . The girls had punch, cookies, and candy, and I think they had some candied apples.
Haven: How fun!
Annie: The best part was how they had a created a dead corpse.
Haven: Do what?
Annie: Oh, yeah. It was like lying on a day bed. It was kind of like dressed scare-crow style, but lying down. They kept the room dark, and part of the spookiness, the whole effect was to not look at the body, but feel it. The face was the creepiest (Annie was still smiling with wide eyes).. they had like some wrinkled mask, and the eyes were grapes! – Annie laughed, I laughed- Oh, me , that was fun. Yeah, we had fun with the Alexander girls.
Haven: -tears welling up in my eyes- Mrs. Dyer, thank you for sharing. That is great! My Nanny had never shared such.
I am imagining that this Halloween party could have been 1936, 1937, or 1938. Nanny Alexander had added my granddaddy and my daddy to the household by Halloween of 1939, and I know how much time Nanny Alexander devoted to my father who had become her world. I doubt she hosted a Halloween party with a newborn in the house.
Why is it we think the here and now is the best of a holiday? Right down the road we have the elaborate “Haunted Barn” for Halloween with it’s 21st Century light shows, pop/ rock music blaring, people paying like $20/head to see and have the poo scared out of them, but…. In the late 1930s (over 80 years ago), two young sisters from Atlanta, Georgia who had settled in the little town of Varnell, Georgia rocked Varnell with an innovative and spooky Halloween party!
I thought I would share this family tale here in this topsy-turvy 2020 Halloween season. Thank you, Randa Murray, a childhood friend since 1972, from Varnell, GA who asked her sweet mama Annie’s maiden name.
Our Fall Break excursion was a nostalgic “re-creation” of our Fall Break in 2012: Ellijay, Georgia and Burt’s Pumpkin Farm.
Hillcrest Orchards (click for link) is perfect for families with children under 8 who want to pick their own apples then have some fun. Picking apples could be fun for children of all ages, but the playgrounds and activities are designed for younger family members. Carter and Ammon, as well as Sean and I, still had fun, but they could not “get our money’s worth” out of the playgrounds. The petting zoo was great, and the tractor ride was great. They have a mechanical, gargantuan catfish named Jaws who spits water from a pond. Jaws caught me off guard, and I forgot to snap his pic.
Ellijay Scarecrow Invasion: Harrison Park-2020 instead of Downtown like 2012