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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Heart Has Callouses

~ the Cove, our valley ~
"Autumn: the year's last, loveliest smile."

Autumn is my favorite season but I say that about them all. Dave died in Autumn and that which was already bittersweet has become a bittersweet burden. Thistle Cove Farm and this valley are breath taking and heart catching beautiful. I am so blessed to live here, even without Dave, I am so blessed to live here. All the seasons, each season, has beauty that bids tears on a daily basis and the crisp autumnal season carries a bittersweet glow; a reminder that even earth needs her sweet rest. The golds, oranges, reds and russets of October will soon give way to November's storms. October's death is peaceful, even serene, but November will scream in the timeless agony of howling winds that threaten to, then do, rip the decreasing daylight into increasing night. Some nights, the rain becomes ice pellets and I am happy to sit inside, close to the fire with dogs and cats cuddled 'round.
~ our home ~
"Autumn is the hardest season.
The leaves are falling, 
and they're falling like they're falling in love with the ground."

Between the falling leaves and the Canada geese calling, it's Autumn on the farm. A lot of days are gray and overcast but when the sun shines, it's a Gift of the finest measure. I think it's going to be a harsh winter and have been working, almost feverishly, to get the farm and house ready. The chimney sweep has been here; both chimney and wood stove are ready. All that needs to finish is to bring a load of wood from barn to back porch then wood laid in the stove to be match ready.

The propane tank was filled this summer so the propane heaters are ready as well. As a matter of fact the pilot light was turned on in the bathroom and even that small flicker of heat is enough to dampen morning's chill. A young man was here to work on the furnace and, God bless him!, he thinks my oil bill might be cut by one-third; dare I pray for one-half? I neglected having the oil furnace cleaned after Dave died; it just didn't dawn on me it needed to be done. The furnace was full of soot and a piece had broken which meant the furnace wasn't working properly and I was wasting money, a lot of money. Thank God, the haze of grief has lifted enough for me to begin to get life back in some semblance of order. The grief still catches me by surprise though; I think I should be ahead by now but, weekly, am reminded of how off-center my life has become. I ponder, a lot, of womenfolk in my family and how they kept so busy after their husbands died. The majority of them lived in Appalachia and we share that similarity also.
~ Morris Knob in background ~
Both Grandmothers kept gardens, sewed, did handwork, canned and put up food and, generally, continued to keep body and soul together. It was harder for Grandmother B. who lived on the small, hardscrabble farm she and Granddaddy moved to when they married. Grandmother L. kept busy with all the above and then, in her late sixties, she began keeping foster children. Today, many a child owe their good start in life due to her largess.

Aunt Bonnie, Daddy's oldest sister, remarried but still worked tremendously hard on her small farm. She had milk cows and would churn butter and sell milk, butter and buttermilk; she'd sell eggs from her small flock of chickens and, during those long Appalachian winters, in a tiny corner of her small bedroom, she'd make patchwork quilts. I don't think she ever sold a quilt but would keep some and give others away. She gave me one, "Kid, you're to use this quilt; don't hang it on the wall or some such foolishness. It's meant to keep you warm. Understand?" Of course I said, "yes" and slept under that quilt for years.

Aunt Esther, Daddy's sister-in-law, quilted, did crochet, embroidery work, gardened and put up food. Both women had scads of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren and both took it as a matter of pride those off-spring had something at Christmas and birthdays and, quite often, a hand crafted gift. Aunt Esther never re-married and only a few weeks before she died, during our last visit, she told me, "Sandra, I'm just so tired. All I want is to see Clarence, to be with him again." She was widowed in her early 50's and close to 50 years, my heart still breaks, remembering. She had offers but no one could ever measure up to Uncle Clarence; he was a man's man and a man after God's own heart. It's been said by more than one wife in Daddy's family, "No one could ever measure up to...". A young girl told me, "I'm still single because it's going to take someone amazing to get me to marry." I told her, "I'll be a widow a long time, maybe always, because it's going to take someone more amazing than Dave for me to re-marry and I can't see that happening."

I talk to God all the time; fortunately, He's never said, "Sandra, hold that thought, I'm busy." He always has time for me but I'm beginning to feel my heart has grief callouses from the daily life struggle without Dave. The pressure of isolation is heavy even though I keep very busy on our home stead. Recently, I read, "boredom is the disease of a vacant mind" and nodded, appreciatively. I cannot remember the last time I was bored, probably before meeting Dave, and there's always something to do and, even when I'm "at rest" the knitting basket, quilt hoop or embroidery lie ready to be picked up and a few rows knitted or stitched. If God allows me to live until my work is done, I'll be older than Methuselah when I die. Fortunately, my timetable isn't God's timetable and I'll go Home when called; just as will we all.
~ morning fog ~
"There is so much beauty in autumn and so much wisdom;
so much separation and so much sorrow!"

There's a sense of ennui in Autumn; something that's not felt in other seasons. Dave would tell me my Autumn posts always carried a fair measure of ennui, of bittersweet. Those last weeks of his life he would tell me, "Try not to grieve too much, try to remember how to live again." But he never told me how and it looks like I'm a slow learner. I met Dave in Winter and lost him in Autumn; those years between were heady years, full of friendship, then adventure and love and finally contentment. You might as well know, I want need to leave this valley, this farm. I want need to move to a place where Dave and I never lived. God willing, I'll take the animals and memories and make a fresh start where family and friends await. I don't want to but it's what's best; I want to live life again, not merely survive. For almost two years, I've lived Autumn and Winter; I want to live Spring and Summer again before I die.
~ the view from my window ~
Blessings ~ Dave, always Dave ~ Seasons ~ Thistle Cove Farm ~ our animals ~ 


  1. Dearest Sandra, I wish I could just sit beside you this morning, a cup of tea in our hands and learn lessons from you. The words here are so poignant, so tender and I am amazed at how you have carried on through these last two years. I so understand your desire to find another piece of earth to call home-one fresh without memories except those you make. I love the stories of your family. You are a jewel dear one and I am thankful to have found you in blogland. Keep on dear sister. Sending lots of love and prayers to you today.

  2. {{{. hug .}}}
    thinking of you and lifting you up to the throne of grace. prayer breathed heavenward, sweet lady.

  3. Such sweet memories of your grandmothers and aunts. Women of character with gifts to share and prepare their descendants for living and appreciating life. Wonderful post of words and photos to touch the hearts and minds of all who love and appreciate the sweet sorrows and uplifting winds of the changing seasons. Thank-you!!!
    Sue CollectInTexas BlogShop

  4. Perhaps this coming Spring will be the year you make a start on some new memories my friend. xo

  5. You are such a fantastic writer. I could feel, hear, and almost smell all the descriptions written above. That's a wonderful talent that I sadly lack.
    I agree, I think it is time for a move. The memories are becoming ghosts. They're haunting instead of comforting. I can feel the angst in this post, and it made me cry. I've lost loved ones since I was 10 and can so relate. It's nobel to want to stay and somehow perserve what y'all had, but that chapter is closed. I think for sanities sake that the memories will keep better in the heart. It will never be same without dear sweet Dave but maybe you can build a new life with someone else, with nice new happy adventures.
    I am still praying that you'll find a buyer soon so that the new chapter in your life may begin. You're too good to be buried there all alone. Our winters are always "easy" compared to Virginia. Your view is amazing though.
    Thinking of you down here in balmy SE Georgia.
    Your Friend Sparky

  6. Sandra,
    You are an amazing and wise woman. I would hate to leave that beautiful place, too, but I think, like you said, you need to. Anyway, you do such a wonderful job there. Of course, as you said, God has His plan for you.
    Beautiful post.

  7. It's hard keeping the farm up when you are doing it by yourself. I hate to deal with outside help so do what I can to keep things up but don't think I could ever move. I have so many unfinished projects, and so little energy, just do what I can, when I can. Hang in there, take care.

  8. Sandra I do hope you live your Summers and Springs again Being alone now for years I understand completely what your saying and only you know what is best for you.
    Life is harder when your alone so sending you Blessings for healing and finding a new life.

  9. Dear Sandra, it was a privilege and pleasure to read this post, this very real story of past and present, and of future dreams. I can more easily understand now why you are the person you are. You came from women that helped make you who you are and prepared the way for you to walk this walk. I hope that you will always remember what Dave told you and keep that desire for a good and full life alive. And I hope that the right doors open for the move you need to make, hard as it will be.

    Thank you for writing this.

  10. Goodness Sandra, I hope it can happen for you, if that's what you truly need.

  11. yes - fresh starts DO help - we hadn't lived in this house long enough for it to be overwhelming me with "Skip" memories - I see and feel his touch in the house but it is definitely my nest. Autumn has always felt so different - even in the southwest where the weather didn't change all that much - it is a quality of light perhaps? Hugs to you my friend - we are going to survive and even thrive again some day

  12. Sandra- I so understand the bittersweet message of Fall. I understand your sense of loss-the hint of grief mixed with thankfulness. I think our lives are always tinged with a bit of sadness that resides in the small hollows of our heart and they seem to rise up come Autumn. Autumn is a time of ending for me. A time when the hope that Summer brings goes undercover and freezes-waiting to be thawed come a cold winter's night in front of a roaring fire.

    God bless you, my friend- xo Diana

  13. Anonymous6:04 PM EDT

    I do understand and I want you to know I am praying for you.

  14. VERY, VERY beautiful autum-photos, dear Thistle!

  15. Sandra, your words have gone deep into my heart..I have not lost my husband but can understand how the loneliness and grief would still be so real.

    I do hope and pray that you will be able to move on, both physically and emotionally and know that it will be a true blessing to be with those family members and friends that will be there to help you on your new journey.

    Much love to you. xo

  16. Sandra,
    I haven't been blogging lately but I"m so glad I stopped by and read this post.. Your words are so powerful. I can feel your pain through them but also your deep deep need to begin to live again. I have a small idea from your blog how much you love that land and your home and what it all represents for you and leaving it will be so terribly difficult for you but in your heart you feel it's what you need and I agree with you.. I hope and pray the peace you so long for comes soon..

    Keeping you in my prayers and sending my love

  17. What a sweet tribute to Dave. I hope you will find the perfect place for the next photos your life.

  18. Please know that I am sending you a hug across the miles. I cried with you, my friend.
    Snuggle with your beloved pets and feel their warmth.



  19. Sandra you write beautifully, I was very touched by this post. I hope you have lots of Spring and Summer to come in your life, I know that Dave would want that for you x

  20. The pictures are always so beautiful ~ and change is so very hard.... sometimes change just happens at an unexpected time when you are not looking. Stay strong.

  21. I am so sorry you have to leave the farm... I know how difficult it can be for you....we pray for you!!!

  22. Oh bless you sweet pea - I can hear the pain in your writing. I surely understand about leaving the farm - as beautiful as it is, it sounds overwhelming for just one person. I know you'll find the right spot and you'll remain in my prayers. Big hugs!

  23. So much beauty comes of of sadness here.
    Sandra, thank you dearly for taking time to visit me, as for your fall its just breath taking a time that your heart connects to and it's small voice will guide you.

    Thank you for this beautiful read as well as that photo of your home nestled in the colour of hope.

    Many blessings to you.


  24. You may not think you are strong, but I marvel at your strength. And I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

  25. Prayers for you. This post is reflects everything Autumn. And bittersweet sums them both up. I pray you are able to find what you need.
    Big Family Small Farm

  26. Noreen, sometimes just sitting, talking, drinking tea is spot on. I rarely have that opportunity and appreciate your very kind comment.

    jAne, thank you for your prayers.

    Sue, the women in my family have always been strong role models; I am blessed.

    Nancy, that's my hope and prayer.

    Sparky, I fear this winter is going to be terribly harsh but I'm prepared.

    Carol, I live in the hope God has a plan for me.

    TL, I'm taking my unfinished projects with me - grin.

    Maggie, it's different for everyone and circumstances may be similar but we deal with it individually. It's just so hard.

    Dewena, I'm just so ready to leave here; the isolation is terrible, the work enormous and I'm running out of energy.

    Lisa, thanks for visiting.

    LindaSue, every where I turn or go, there are memories that are overwhelming me. It's time to move.

    Diana, thank you for your lovely comment; you don't know how much it's appreciated.

    Mildred, thank you so much.

    Dori, it's beautiful here this time of year.

    Sherri, bless you for your kindness, thank you.

    Robyn, it's time for a change and I hope in the spring.

    Vicki, central VA...hopefully!

    Andi, thank you for coming by and your nice comment, thank you.

    artangel, God bless you for your kindness and comment, thank you.

    Leah, change is always difficult but it's the only constant in our lives.

    Timi, thank you and I pray for you all; we all need prayer.

    Jill, it is overwhelming and I'm so tired; it's time to leave.

    Dore, it's beautiful here, this time of year, but I hope this is the last Autumn here for me.

    Donna, no, I don't think I'm strong but I am stubborn -smile.

    Jenny, thank you, God leaves me on.

  27. I hope that God willing you move on from your beloved farm and find a new place to make memories. Your DAve sounds like a special man and from good "stock". You need to live again, it sounds to me as if you have so very much to give to the world.

  28. beautiful post-sending big big hugs from the ozarks Kathy


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