Monthly Archives: October 2022

The Beech Tree

It was an adventurous ride through the woods to the beech tree. Never before had I ridden to the beech tree. I had always walked, or run. But on a special Saturday in September during this year’s Knight reunion my clever and inventive nephews took Charles and me over the hills and through the woods–all the way to the beech tree. Oaky Dover, Nathan Knight (who is deployed now by National Guard to Mexico) and Mitch Harper (married to my niece Evelyn) are determined that Pinedale be enjoyed by our burgeoning family, even those of us who are disabled. Charlie, my brother, has been a great leader as these young people have formed and executed their ideas. For months they have engineered and cut this ATV trail through the forest.

I gripped the handhold and was glad for the seatbelt in the compact and open-sided ATV. I wasn’t at all afraid of Oaky’s very skillful driving. All the same, one can’t be too careful. I didn’t like to think of myself dumped out on a rock or a big tree root. Soon, though, my nervousness turned to awe and glee as we rocked and spun through the woods. At times I wasn’t sure where I was, the forest had changed so much, then I would recognize some landmark. The trail is beautifully engineered to be safe and allow us to see parts of Pinedale we haven’t seen in years. I was wondering where exactly I was when suddenly there we were right by the beech tree.

To me as a young girl with nine siblings, four of whom were close playmates, the beech tree was one of many favorite places to play. It was downstream from Indian Spring, a nice wide clear spring dug out at the bottom of a bluff by Indians a hundred years before. It wasn’t far from our cabin school house, just a quick run, easy to reach for a break between history, geography, and literature. Even then the beech tree seemed both stout and lofty. Its gray bark was like a clear slate, perfect for carving initials.

Though homeschooled, we used the Habersham County curriculum for much of our studies. Every year it was very exciting to go to the Board of Education in town to exchange our old books for new ones on our grade level. Our parents threatened us with severe consequences if we wrote anything or made any markings in our books. The books should be nice and unmarked for the next students. I rather enjoyed finding names and squiggles in my books, a sign that someone else had struggled through the War of the Roses. But, at least for the most part, we adhered to the “no scribble” law. Still, there was something in one’s being that simply requires making a mark.

So if not in a book, then what about the beech tree? Brothers were good carvers and they always had a pocket knife handy. So there are more boys’ initials (and sometimes girlfriends!) than sisters. But it would be hard to prove since, as the tree grew bigger and taller, the carvings became knotty and all but unrecognizable. I could see HBK for Hamilton Brantley Knight, a list of single initials, probably for Pat, Brantley, Virginia, John, and Brenda. The names Grahams, carved in 1978, and above it, Dovers are still quite clear. My sister, Suzanne, and I, with our husbands and children, added those names when we stopped at the beech tree on memorable hikes through the woods.

But fond memories of the beech tree to which, until now, I had always walked or run, didn’t stop at carvings on the trunk. The tree, still so sturdy and healthy, stands on the brink of Indian Brook. Often there we played in and out of the brook according to the weather. In the summertime we caught water lizards and let them slither through our fingers back into the cold water. We dried our feet on soft green moss growing like a carpet near the tree. We hid behind the tree and booed our playmates when they came looking for us. At times I sat by the tree just thinking.

One of my favorite woods games was the one where “It” agreed to be blindfolded, then was led in a circuitous route to some nearby spot. “It,” thoroughly disoriented by the time we stopped, might not even know east from west, especially if the guides chose to spin “It” around. You could only depend on your senses–sounds, smells, and touch. If taken to the beech tree it was easy to be a winner. You could feel the nubby initials on the trunk, hear the chuckling stream, and even smell the damp moss.

At this recent visit I was not blindfolded but still had been somewhat confused on the ride through familiar places, now so different. But I almost cried with joy when we parked right beside the old beech tree. After a good time hunting old initials, observing a cozy camp enjoyed by our young folks, and taking pictures, we started back. We rode by the little cabin school, dilapidated but still standing. We crossed Ramble Brook, spun up Tulip Hill for a quick view of the cemetery and the wonderful new structure another blessed nephew, architect Joe Knight, is building, then back down through what was Apple Bars, across Sand Flat, past the new pond nestled amongst trees, and up the hill to the house.

I am so thankful for those good times when we were growing up and life was so simple. I’m also thankful for family members who take such time now and spend much energy and expertise making these old haunts available to young and old. And, of course, I’m thankful for the old beech tree!


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A Way Out

Every few weeks our turtle, specifically our tortoise, comes to visit. Sometimes we know he’s around because we hear him rustling in the border grass. Sometimes, as it was last week, he shows up in the carport wanting a supper of cat food. Although turtle experts say cat food is not generally good for them, there’s no way with his eating apparatus that this fellow will consume a harmful amount of it. We enjoy watching him turn his head this way and that to get a nibble in his funny mouth.

We named him Red because of an identifying mark we painted on his back. I understand turtles can live to a very old age, maybe 80 like me! So far we know Red is at least six years old. Unlike some turtles I’ve known, Red is very sociable. He doesn’t hide his head; he investigates, sets those claws on the floor and moves about, opens his eyes to see all that he can see. Reminds me of us visiting in a foreign land wanting to take in all the sights.

We like to set him on the porch and talk to him as he scratches around with those sharp claws, approaching our feet without fear, nosing against strange shapes like a flower stand base. We put a nibble of cat food on the floor for him which he seems thoroughly to enjoy. After a while, though, he’s ready to go home (in some cool declevity under an azalea bush, probably) so he starts circling the perimeters to find a way out. When the children are here, they are very loath to let him go, then burst into competition over who will set him free.

This time was a little different. The children weren’t here. We have a new screen that opens with a gentle push and snaps back in place with magnets. It’s very good for people with walkers! We wanted to see if Red could find his way out through this new option.

He circled the porch pausing often to try a little push against the hard wood with, of course, no results. Each time he arrived at the new curtain-like screen we cheered for him to push through. A couple of times he even stopped right at the loose opening and all but stuck his blunt head through. But then he plodded on around his circle. At one impenetrable corner of the porch he worked so hard trying to get out that he turned himself over on his back and Charles had to set him back on his feet.

Charles finally had mercy on him and carried him outside to head home.

Somehow Red’s efforts made me think about how a person can hut in all the wrong places for a way out of trouble, a way to peace and happiness. We may even find the right opening, as Red found the screen, and still not recognize it. We exhaust ourselves hunting the way out when all the time it’s right there in front of us. We may push so hard we even turn ourselves upside down when all the time the door to light and freedom is waiting for us. The only door to freedom is Jesus Christ. If we submit to Him, the Master will lift us in His gentle hands and set us on the path to peace and our eternal home.

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South Georgia Autumn

If I didn’t know it otherwise, I’d surely know it was autumn when Steve and Sharon Wooten put their pumpkins out. They live on a big curve between Cairo and Thomasville and have a very visible nice big yard. Every fall they make a marvelous display of pumpkins arranged in bountiful piles, some in old pickup trucks, some on the ground, pumpkins everywhere!

Yes, it’s autumn in south Georgia! We don’t experience the dramatic seasonal changes as our northern neighbors do, but it’s unquestionably autumn all the same.

Even in south Georgia some deciduous trees are taking on hues of gold, crimson, and pomegranate. We have a five-year-old ghinko tree that is coming into its own this fall displaying beautiful gold fan shaped leaves. The Indonesian cherry tree is not satisfied with only one color, so puts forth varying shades of pomegranate, gold, and almost red amongst green leaves still hanging on. Later the Japanese maples will become our brightest trees as they turn to their luscious red.

Along the roadways goldenrods brighten the landscape. You may hate goldenrods for the allergy reaction they and the accompanying ragweed cause. But you have to admit they are beautiful. Just enjoy them outside. Don’t put them on your dining table as a centerpiece. On a country ride you may see fields of white cotton, a cloud of dust surrounding moving machinery as farmers harvest peanuts, and huge round bales of hay spaced so neatly in plowed fields like so many loaves of bread set out to cool. Chrysanthemums make splashes of color on porches and patios–gold and rusty red are my favorites, and I do love the scent also!

The children are trying to decide what they want to be for Halloween. Charli thinks she’ll be an angel, maybe even have wings. Kaison is considering being some demon-like character with a bloody knife. I told him please not to play with the devil’s tools. When he began drawing a picture of a monster I said why not draw a person dressed in the armor of God. We looked up Ephesians 6:14-17 and he followed my suggestion. Painstakingly, piece by piece, he added armor to his picture of a boy: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, etc. Later, I was cooking when Kaison ambled into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. I told him I was making deviled eggs. “Nana!” he exclaimed, “you said not to play with the devil’s tools.”

Political signs are planted on many street corners and country crossings. Charles not only puts the signs out (with some difficulty since often the ground is incredibly hard) but goes back regularly to see if they’re still there. If one has been removed he replaces it. I used to be so bored by politics. Now I know elections are of utmost importance and political news and analyses no longer put me to sleep (most of the time!). We are subject to losing our freedom of speech, our parental rights, our security, our freedom of religion, even our right to life. We must be informed and we must vote!

The scents of autumn are enticing and invigorating: apples stewing, cotton candy at the fair, barbecue at a family gathering, disturbed chrysanthemums, freshly raked leaves, pumpkin spice cappuccino at the coffee shop, crayons and pencil erasers, and huge pots of boiled peanuts steaming at open markets.

The moon rides high. I hear in the distance the drumbeats of our Syrupmaker band performing at a Friday night football game. As Canada geese fly over I thank the Lord for the change of seasons, for pumpkins on the doorstep, for colored leaves, for little boys with rich wisdom, for wonderful blue October sky, and for one last lonely blue bloom on the hydrangea bush.

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In Ian’s Wake

My heart aches for the folks in SW Florida. As I watch the scenes of devastation and rescues, the inundated houses, the toppled and crippled boats, I put myself in the shoes of those who are suffering. What would it be like to evacuate with quickly chosen belongings and then return to a pile of rubble? What would it be like to ride out the storm and end up clinging to the rafters in your attic? Or to be in your car when it became submerged up to the windows? Or to learn your family members were killed in the storm?

I watch men helping a family out of a rescue boat–an older woman who had to be carried to solid ground, a young woman wading in water around her ankles carrying her baby wrapped in a blanket. There’s an elderly man carried to safety over the shoulders of a journalist. And then a distraught woman wandering in water and debris where her house used to be. A reporter questioned her about what she was doing. She said she was hunting anything, just anything, to remind her of her precious husband who died two months ago.

Rescuers are still searching for people trapped in places where only boats or helicopters can go. I saw some people being lifted in a basket under a helicopter. Firemen, police, Coast Guard, National Guard and all are hunting for the bodies of those who didn’t survive. At this writing the number is about 25 but expected to rise.

And now Ian has blown on up to South Carolina as a category 1, not nearly as bad as the category 4 that hit Ft. Myers area but very damaging all the same.

We watch the storm, and effects of, on the screen and feel such gratitude that our loved ones are safe. But we have this enormous ache for those who were not safe, who lost home and business and even family. We feel an overwhelming desire to help in some way. But most of us can’t go, wouldn’t be of any help if we did! We pray for the mother with her baby, we pray for the widow hunting her husband’s personal things, we pray for the persons in the attic trying to escape the flood. Yet, still, I think the Lord plants in us a huge desire to do more.

What can we do?

We like to give to Samaritan’s Purse because we know, without a shadow of doubt, the responders will be faithful in their compassion, will share the gospel, and will use the funds they received very wisely where it is most needed.

Join us in giving! Go to Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief. You can use your credit card to make a donation in mere minutes. You may never know until heaven how much your dollars meant but you can be assured they will be priceless! What a great investment!


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