A Southern journalist, Dianne Poston Owens has learned a thing of two about people and community—that people want to know their lives matter, their pets won’t rat them out, and that they are not alone. As an observer and recorder of people, places and things, she understands that every day is a new day, and each day is played out in tandem and in gathering. 'Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane' is a collection of short essays intended to be read for inspiration and encouragement. Owens poses questions and offers photographs that allow readers the opportunity to reflect and pause before forging ahead. Written with charming wit, Southern twang and a deepness that is drawn out by nature, Owens explores what we see, say, and choose, and how we connect to the people we interact with in the “communities” in which we gather.
The last thing I want to do is sound preachy, as if I have the answers. I write to remind myself of the better way. Of how things ought to be. Of what we, I hope we, aspire to be and do. "Be ye kind" has been ringing in my head for a few years now. It is my backdrop, especially because I love a good retort, a witty and sarcastic play on words. I love to point out the fault in others and ignore mine. Witty repartee. But words hurt. So the voices inside my head, between my ears, have taken to shouting, if need be because I ignore their whispers: Be ye kind. I control my reaction to the "unkind" driver who pulled in front of me. I control my response to the "unkind" lies meant to divide and destroy. I choose to be kind, even if I don't do it as well as I should. This excerpt gets you started on an essay in Gatherings, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane. Check out the book for the rest of it!
Everyone is always at work creating something. All the time. Love. Peace. Heartbreak. Smiles. Fear. Creating a better mind, a better body, a better soul. Creating a song, a dance, bringing to life food in the garden or kitchen. Creating discord, disunity, dislike. Whatever it is, we are always creating. I live near Lake City, South Carolina, which has for the past seven years or so become a repository for art, for created genius, for the telling and sharing and retelling and exploiting of emotions, feelings and reasonings.This place of my birth is recreating itself. Trying. Creating. The question I ask each day, writing or not, is what am I creating?
In South Carolina, many, maybe even most, have returned to their "normal" lives following stay-at-home orders. A covert virus sent us into our shelters, and away from non-family members, friends and co-workers for months. Fear of losing our jobs and livelihood and the need for normalcy has returned us to most activities. We work, we dine out, we have graduations, all while very much aware we need greater personal space and face protection to feel safe. What hasn't changed during all of this is the need for kindness. Be brave. Be kind, and enjoy this excerpt from Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane.
Recently the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing returned to an oval track for a real, live, honest-to-goodness race, sans spectators, in Darlington, South Carolina, U.S.A. If living through a world-wide pandemic has taught us anything these past few months, it has taught us to be agile and flexible, and to do what we can't imagine ourselves doing, something as surprising as racing in an arena without fans to cheer us on. For if racing is your thing, then race you must. You have to learn to cheer yourself on to the finish line. In my book "Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," I have an essay entitled A NASCAR Education. Enjoy this excerpt from that essay, and then share the book with a friend. Happy reading!
Jodi Piccoult, A Spark of Light; My Life as a Dog, Brian Hargrove; Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout; and The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro; The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, Chelsea Sedoti; Chaos, Patricia Cornwell; Damaged, Lisa Scottoline … these are all recent reads of mine. These, and others, have been in piles around my house, waiting for me. I've recently had some time to do a little more reading. These authors and their stories take me places I cannot create. These are their stories to share. They write. I read. I impatiently await the books I have on order to come to me. The UPS, FEDEX and Rural Route driver are my friends. One book coming in late June or early July is ordered through an indie bookseller in New York, one the writer asked us to support during our stay-cations. I think, I imagine, I remember, I read, I write. Repeat. Next up, The Great Alone, Kristan Hannah; A Well Behaved Woman, Therese Anne Fowler; and … Enjoy this excerpt from my book Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane. I belong to the community of book lovers. How about you?
People living in Punjab, India, are seeing parts of the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years. Many have lived their lives not knowing they had a magnificent view of the mountains. Their views have been obstructed by pollution. Those people, like us, are staying home. COVID-19. Our novel virus. Few cars, buses, planes, are running. There is less to pollute our air. A funny thing happened because they stayed home to stay healthy. Read the stories. Person after person has an account of what it is like to suddenly be able to see what has been obscured. I’ve stayed in Seattle a little. Sometimes Mt. Ranier is viewable. Many days, it is not. It is there. But clouds often obscure it. When you get a peek of its peak, though, it’s magnificent. There. On the horizon. Still standing. Peering around. It takes a lot to believe its there when day after day you don't see it. Staying put. Staying safe. It is as if the earth has been allowed to breath because we humans are not scurrying about. There is much that goes on around us that we do not see, cannot know. The gift of a pandemic, at least for some, is clarity. Enjoy this excerpt from my essay "New Crops" in my book Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane.
It is doable. It is not always enjoyable. At all. But it is doable. You can harness your thoughts as you sit and wait for the world to return to normal. Novel. New. Unknown. We are experiencing life-interruptous. For some, this is a first interruption in the mundane, routine, normal, known. For others, this is just another, left turn, right turn in a long list of twists and turns. But it is doable. We can take up a new hobby. Garden, in a pot, one bulb, just a few seeds. Nothing large. We can sew, knit, paint, write, draw, cook. Read a good book. Be a good neighbor, from a distance. We can walk, do sit-ups. We can wait. We can phone friends. We can clean, rearrange the furniture, sing and dance. I am offering an excerpt from an essay I wrote, “Diagnosis,” published in Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane. I hope you are journaling. Someone will want to know what you did and how you improved your life and grew during “life-interruptous 2020.” And it IS doable.
It's a chilly, windy day. And it's been gray out for several days. Today, though, the sun is shining. Many around me are suffering from colds and the flu, Type A mostly. I think everyone needs a cup of something warm, an orange-lemon-tea drink I call Russian Tea is a favorite around here when we are ailing, or hoping to prevent it. Grab a cup of something warm to sip, gather under your favorite covers, and rest with a good read. Enjoy this excerpt of an essay from "Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane." It's about a tall grandpa, his ambitious life, and his sipping from a saucer. Enjoy!
Here we are in the week of love. Valentine's Day 2020. My question is how do we, and what do we do, to beat back the "hates?" The hates are those things that really, really annoy us, that aggravate us to no end, and set our last nerve on edge. Hates usually arrive one on top of another. "I hate my hair. I hate my clothes. I hate my freckles..." "I hate waking up early. I hate eating eggs." You get the picture. "Hates" are not real hates, just nuisances we allow to get to us. So again, I ask, what do we do about them? I met a man once who made it his mission to beat back the "hates." He worked hard to make sure the children who gathered each day to attend the school where he taught didn't "hate" coming to school. You can read this excerpt from Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane. But you should probably buy the book, too. Happy beat back the "hates" day!
If Christmas, and the holiday season that ends each year, mean anything, they mean love. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none ... William Shakespeare in All's Well that Ends Well. Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own ... Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land. Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for a friend. Tis the Season. I know God loves me, as I say in an essay in Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane, because of English muffins. What tells you that you are loved? How do you show love to others? Here, at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, show love. Not to get love, but to just show love. Maybe it'll catch on, in this season and the seasons to come. Love to you all!
"I'll be home for Christmas," (if only in my dreams ...) "... there's no place like home for the holidays ..." Sometimes we just need to go home. For some, though, home is an elusive place, ever changing. For others it is stable and secure, filled with warmth and love. Still, for others it's a place of bad memories and a thing to be avoided. In my essay in "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," titled "A Place to Be," I explore home and what it can be. I hope you read it this holiday season and find yourself "at home" with yourself, wherever you are! Here's a piece of that essay for your enjoyment ... it is best served with a cup of warm cocoa ...Blessings galore!
What do you have to give? What can you give up freely? It's the giving season. It begins with Thanks-giving and continues until ..., well, when does your giving season end? Dec. 25? (Or for you is this the getting season?) No matter. The next several weeks will slip right out of our hands like a drink in a sweaty glass. Oops. There it goes. In "Gathering , Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," I talk about the Giving Season. Gifts we can give ourselves and others. I hope you'll read the entire essay for yourself in your copy of the book. I'm sure you have one for you and have copies purchased as gifts for friends. Happy thanks-giving!
“Some trash is better left on the floor.” That phrase captured my attention and made me check myself. I’ve long been a proponent of picking up my messes. If I drop food, I may even retrieve it and continue eating, though that does depend on my hunger pains and the consistency of the food dropped. I drop a napkin in a restaurant and it floats to the back corner under the booth, I feel compelled to contort and retrieve it. Granted, I don’t reuse it, unless necessity dictates, but alas, I’ve cleaned up my mess. This compulsion, though, has often led me to trying to clean up messes I did not make. I’ve learned, that’s not really my job. New rule: if you can’t catch it before it hits the floor, let it go. What are we wasting our time trying to fix? What can we do instead of trying to fix this thing? To read my essay, Leave the Mess, purchase a copy of Gatherings, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane; and thank you!
We are all someone to someone. By that, I mean we have people who influence us, mentor us, lead us, and, sometimes, keep us in check. I remember a man named Merlee. Mr. Merlee. If I try really hard, I might remember his last name. But we all called him Mr. Merlee. First name basis. With that fine dash of Southern respect. Mr. By remembering him, I realize how he impacted my younger self. So, the question is who am I influencing? I imagine there are folks watching me, some known to me and someone unknown to me. I wonder if I am their Mr. Merlee. We are all someone to someone.
Connectedness. Disconnectedness. Rest. Are you weary? Do you flit about? Community. Does the thought of living in community with those around you, and in sub-communities within communities, bring you peace and comfort or anxiety and stress? In Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane I offer readers an opportunity to take a moment, reflect on the world around them and unplug just for a bit before forging headlong back into the world. Where do you enjoy resting?
Get the help you need to do whatever it is you need to get done. Need medical attention? Go, see the doctor! Need your house painted? Buy the paint and the brushes and do it, or hire that man who keeps telling you he can paint the house for you. Why do we put things off? We have not because we ask not. One day I woke up and determined it was the day to stop not getting the help I needed to accomplish what I've wanted to do since I was 11 years old: publish a book. I asked for help, got the help I needed, and now there is a book. Why bother to spend your money and time reading Gathering? I wrote it to make you a little happier by entertaining and inspiring you for a moment. We can all use a little more joy in our down-time, right? Each essay is followed by a couple of questions to cause the reader to reflect on what was read. The book also has photographs to remind us about the world around us, you know, where we gather. Gathering would never have seen the light of day if not for the support of my family, my writing and critique partners, and Bublish, Inc. Thank you all for your support!
We are the makers of subcultures. Of all our communities, where are we the happiest? As an award-winning Southern journalist, Dianne Poston Owens has learned a thing or two about people and community – that people want to know their lives matter, their pets won’t rat them out, and that they are not alone. An observer and recorder of people, places and things, she understands that every day is a new day, and each day is played out in tandem and in gathering. Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane is a collection of short essays intended to be read for inspiration and encouragement. Owens poses questions and offers photographs that allow readers the opportunity to reflect and pause before forging ahead. Written with charming wit, Southern twang and a deepness that is drawn out by nature, Owens explores what we see, say, and choose, and how we connect to the people we interact with in the “communities” in which we gather.
I've never built a physical bridge. I have walked a downed tree over a large ditch, but that bridge was already there for me. I've never placed a plank over a creek. Have you built a bridge? There's an essay in my book Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane about building bridges in the 1800s. Arduous work. Necessary for the then and now and the future. Navigating swamps and rivers and streams requires the right equipment for bridging and ferrying from one side to another. To get there, from here, work has to be done. Each essay in the book, a short read that includes photos to help you think your way through what you are reading, ends with questions. Answer the questions in this excerpt from the essay and plan your next bridge ...
Take a walk. It can be on the concrete trail that leads to the corner store, or the one into the neighborhood. Exploring. On foot. That’s what I have to do if I want to see things. Take a walk. It energizes my mind and my soul. Why does she have those drapes/blinds closed? That’s a pretty lamp. We can see into things, homes, if the light is right. Take a walk. Their grass was recently cut, they are planting veggies in the flower bed, that wasn’t there last time I walked. Was it? Reflection through movement. A walk returns my center to itself and throws off the malaise of doing nothing, or worse, the same ole’ same ole’. Now, I can write again. A walk in the park, a walk along the street, a walk in the woods, a walk around the perimeter of my house, a walk up and down the staircase if necessary. Yesterday, three floors down and back up. Today, five up and five down in the staircase at the office. Walk. Take a walk through Gatherings: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane. A good read is like a good walk: it helps recalibrate us. Here is an excerpt from my book of photos and essays …
I have little sayings that I hear myself re-saying. Over and over. I live by them ... Life's not fair, and then you die...Some are well-quoted lines from movies (As you wish...) We all have that belief system that talks, with voices in our ears, and words that come out of our mouths. In fact, I am sure we have been guided by these voices during our recent pandemic-stay-at-home-beware-the-virus slow-life weeks. I did fine, thank you for asking, until day 39. By the way, how are you and your voices? On day 39 I discovered my voices were saying the same thing too often and I needed new words if we were to continue "hunkering down" together. My beliefs needed a rest. I called some friends, texted others, and drove to visit another. I needed their voices. Their views. Their words. This short essay is one of several in Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane. I hope you enjoy it and will check out the book, which has nearly 50 wonderful photographs for when you can't concentrate on words. Blessings!
Humans are flexible, adaptable, creative, shape-shifters of the highest form. Our lives are being disrupted. A sickness is redirecting us. We are being called to change. Right now. In a hurry. Mostly from our homes. Flex our malleable responses to what life tosses at us ... Adapt to staying within our own spaces ... Create answers to the problems thrust on us ... Shape-shift to accommodate a new normal ... And amongst it all, life goes on. Babies are born, birds sing, fly, rest and nest. This excerpt is from my essay in Gatherings: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane, called Back Roads. As we work to renew ourselves, take a breather and make a fresh start, be aware we are shifting with the wind.
The irony is not lost on me. This past September I published a book about how we gather, why we get together and the value of the people in our self-created communities and sub-cultures. And now we are not to gather. No personal group meet-ups and no touchy-feely. We are separated by our thin sheets of sanitized wipes, playing our games of "Wait and See," and "Hide and Seek." "Duck, Duck, Goose" is out and "One, Two, Three Red Light is in." Stay there! Don't come any closer! While we are holed up and doing our part to slow the spread of contagion, let's read. Let's read about community and how we are affected by those in our orbits. As I say on Page 137 of Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane, I need her fresh eyes. She needs my explanations. We are in this thing together: Inextricably so.
Sometimes we writers become glued to a phrase, a word, an idea. We HAVE to use this word, that sentence. But do we? I've gone to battle over saving phrases that likely did not deserve to be saved. I've learned to let go of more than one thing in order for the better thing to come along. Some words are just starts. Time, practice, and the heart-felt insight of others goes a long way in finding the words that need to stay on a page. I won't tell you how many times I've rewritten this passage to get to where we are! The excerpt this week was selected because this essay of mine talks about living life loosely. Gathering: Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane offers this essay and many wonderful photos, just for you to enjoy.
To kick off 2020 in the right direction, I am taking part in a "Dare to Dream" visioning exercise. There are many of us taking part. I am not alone in seeking. One question asked of us is to dream. BIG. If there were no financial constraints, no time constraints, the question is 'What would I be doing?" The next logical question is "How can I achieve that, or a part of that, given my fears, doubts, skills, constraints, etc." What do I wish I had time to do? I ask that question of readers in an essay in my book, "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane." In this contemplative little book, the answer for me, is Porch Living. There's an excerpt of that essay shown. I hope you, and I, find that business that we're supposed to be about this year so we can be as productive, as engaged, as inspired and inspiring as we can be.
We are often asked to see into the future and envision where we will be six months from now, a year from now, or five years from now. What will my life look like when we meet again at the beginning of 2021? I see me standing at the computer in the corner of my office, fingers poised over letters on a keyboard, begging the board to bring my thoughts to life. I see me signing my books and interacting with my readers. To get there, though, takes a lot of sacrifice and work and editing and sacrifice and work and, well, some things don't just happen on their own. Some say if you can see it, you can be it, or do it. I'm a believer in positive imaging. Enjoy this essay in my "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," about getting to it. Live with purpose. Make a plan. I can see you achieving your goals.
We can fill up our lives, and holidays, with events, people and things that are not necessary and really won't matter to our futures. Being selective, some say living with purpose, helps us weed out the unnecessary. I'm convinced if we sift away something of import, it will come back to us. Life is like that. We quibble too long and too much over the unnecessary. When you're making memories, and syrup, or cookies this holiday season, whatever your traditions, make them with joy, pride and the understanding that being selective is necessary. Be kind, though ... being selective is not permission to be mean, in any way, shape or form. It is, however, permission to make a better "syrup." Like this week's excerpt from my essay "Making Syrup" in "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," says, some things ought not to go into the syrup.
One of the essays in my book "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," talks about receiving a gift from the ocean off the coast of North Carolina. It was a stunning morning. I'm an early-morning beach comber whenever given the chance. This time, though, I was concentrating on a morning run of a certain length and not really looking for seashells and seaweed. The gift of a starfish presented itself. This Christmas as we focus on giving, and getting, gifts, of all kinds from all the people in all the subcultures of our lives, let's make sure we don't miss the gift in front of us. Happy holiday shopping, and don't forget to pick up one, or two, copies of Gathering!
"Look, mom, those clothes are in a confinement shop," my four-year-old said. My mom and I laughed. To be sure, the clothes were confined to the store, but the word my child was looking for was "consignment." Close. Maybe even correct to an extent. But, nevertheless, the wrong word. In my book "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," I have among the collection of essays one entitled "Do we speak the same English?", where I offer a few other times my children made me stop and think through the words that had just entered time and space. Inside my head, the words make sense. Outside my head, once spoken, not so much. Double meanings abound. We have to be careful to make sure the words we speak are the ones we really want to say! Have a great weekend filled with reading wonderful words!
How's it going? It's Friday when I"m writing this and I'm filled with hope for the weekend. I have some plans. Hope all goes well. That sort of thing. In my book "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane," I write about motivation. Where it comes from, where it goes. You can see an excerpt of that essay, but to read the rest of the story, you'll have to get the book! Suffice it to say, for this weekend, the world can keep its crap! I've got plans ... and I will choose my disposition ... I will be happy. I will find joy. I hope you do, too! In the meantime, be the joy the world needs!
... What tracks are you following? Where do these tracks take you? What tracks do you leave behind? Take a moment to ponder how you conquer your fears and move on. Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” To that, I add the words of Nelson Mandela, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” I still jump when surprised and upon occasion let out a scream when startled, whether by critter, human or myself. But as Louisa May Alcott said, “I’m not afraid of the storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Go forth. Scare. Be scared. Sail on… leave a few tracks in the sand ...
I'm the keeper of old things. Old typewriters. Bottles. Farm implements. My house is in some ways a museum of a slice of Americana. But I am enamored with technology, especially new technologies. I had a wireless telephone the minute one was available. My Mazda was outfitted with a speaker so I could drive hands free. It was crude by Bluetooth standards of today, but it was top-of-line, cutting-edge. I saw the beauty in communicating while traveling, then and now. Even old-school fax machines are magic to me. I put a photo in here, and it comes out there. The original is unchanged. A faux original exists elsewhere. Magic. The original text messaging system. With technology, life moves at no less then the speed of light and sound, 770 miles per hour and 900,000 times faster than that. Wow! I once heard someone say that we shouldn't get married to today's technology. If we do that, we can't move forward. At whatever speed we want to. Check out this excerpt from an essay in my book "Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane."
High schools, colleges, and universities have them. Where I'm from, churches have them. Usually in October. Sort of a harvest festival. Homecomings. Homecomings are those gatherings where people you know and remember, along with the ones you've forgotten and will get to know anew, get together to remember a time, a place, an organization -- that special something that was once shared. Perhaps you're returning home after a journey and the cat is there to jump off the table, which it was emphatically told not to jump onto, in its greeting of your return. Homecoming ... I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Gathering, Homespun Essays from Beech Tree Lane about "Home."
Here we are at the time of year when summer gives way to autumn. Change is afoot. Go ahead, say "yes" to getting out, enjoying the cooler temperatures and changing colors. In fact, say "yes" to expanding your horizons and doing the different. Once upon a time I had an occasion to make a bold choice and the opportunity to try a different food item. When you find yourself with the opportunity to try something new, do it. Even if you only learn to never try that new food again!
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