Monday, July 28, 2014
Back in the 1950's, when I worked for Agricultural Extension Service, I took a course in Agricultural Journalism that introduced me to feature writing and the idea of cultivating serendipity. For those of you who don't know the story behind that word, "serendipity" is based on the adventures of the three Princes of Serendip. During their travels, they developed a facility for discovering, by chance, or by sagacity, valuable things and ideas for which they weren't really searching. Although they may have been searching for something else, when they stumbled across something worthwhile, they always recognized it. Serendipity often happens to me when I'm wandering around in adjoining states, looking for one thing and finding another.
Last week, we traveled to Roswell, Georgia looking for the elusive pitcher plant for a book of poetry about plants that I'm writing and for which my friend, Victoria Sullivan, is taking photographs of plants. We had read that the pitcher plant was alive and doing well in the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell, so we set out for this town north of Atlanta to find a plant that grows in wetland areas and that we more often find thriving along the Gulf coast.
The Chattahoochee Nature Center began its activities in the 1970's, and during the past five years, the Center has partnered with other organizations in the rescue, propagation, and re-introduction of threatened and endangered native plants. The 127 acres of native plants and gardens also include 50 species of injured, non-releasable wildlife.
We arrived at the Center an hour before it opened and sat on dew-damp benches beside the entrance, enjoying the sight of skippers having breakfast in the Joe Pye Weed nearby and hoping the summer humidity of Georgia wouldn't spoil our walk along the Wetland Trail to find the Pitcher Plant. The garden on this trail represents five types of wetlands in Georgia that stretch from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.
At 10 sharp, we joined a groundswell of children entering the headquarters of the Center, and ten minutes later, we had begun to wander the Wetlands Trail. We hadn't walked far before we spotted the plant that also grows in boggy areas of the Gulf Coast states. Although the Pitcher Plant seemed to be asleep in a sun that was climbing higher by the moment, Vickie took some wonderful shots of the colorful, funnel-shaped leaves with the reddish veins that attract and trap visiting insects. I told my botanist friend that the pitchers resembled peppermint candy, and she informed me that the plants probably looked that way to insects and that the nectar was the attraction. These leaves become the insects' downfall as they slip and fall into the liquid within that is laced with digestive enzymes. Downward pointing hairs prevent the insects from escaping up the slippery walls inside the attractive pitcher.
We walked several other trails that included the Watershed Trail where animals make their homes and the Forest Trail through upland oak-hickory woods before we returned to the air-conditioned Nature Center to purchase a souvenir shirt and another book to add to a burgeoning plants library.
Lunchtime brought us to the point of serendipity. In a small mall, we located a cafe within Roswell Farmers Market that we had discovered on YELP. Inside, we approached a woman with a kerchief around her hair and announced to her that we were ravenously hungry. It was only 11:30 a.m., but we had worked up an appetite during the walk on the Center's trails. She looked surprised but promised us lunch within fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes later, Vickie was devouring a special shrimp dish and a salad. Because I'm allergic to shellfish, the owner and chef, Shannon Gowland, had (spontaneously) created a dish for me that contained ground grass-fed beef, tiny cubed sweet potatoes, purple top turnip roots, and Tioga beets, accompanied by mashed gold potatoes mixed with raw milk cheddar. The salad contained mixed greens, shredded zucchini, celery, and pumpkin seed, topped with a soy vinegar dressing that was the chef's specialty and which she offered to bottle for us.
The authentic Serendip was the chef—Shannon—who owns the Farmers Market grocery (no GMO foods) and Cafe, a herbal clinic, and deals in Weight Loss and Meal Consultations. Born and raised on what she called a "biodynamic farm" near Marietta, Georgia, Shannon often helped her grandfather gather plants to make medicinals and grew up with a healthy respect for food. She worked as a dietician for pre-op and post-op patients in a Georgia hospital before establishing a herbal business, then opened the Roswell Farmers Market last year. She touts 100% grass-fed beef, organic, biodynamic, vegan, and gluten free food, and she knows how to concoct delicious dishes that have all these ingredients without offending diners by serving food that sounds like it may be medicine.
We spent two hours with Shannon and her staff, and with a son and a daughter she plans to home school next year. Conversation centered on plants, and when we stopped talking and opened the door to leave, Vickie casually mentioned her book Why Water Plants Don't Drown. I encouraged her to bring in the copy she had put in her briefcase to show at the Nature Center, and Shannon bought it on the spot. We left her turning the pages with the enthusiasm of a genuine plant lover. She also offered to sponsor a meal/reading for us any time we had business in Georgia, saying that she could whip up an event with an enthusiastic audience on short notice. We added that ability to a list of her obvious talents.
As I wrote when I began this blog, it's important to cultivate serendipity... especially when you travel in Georgia, which is fast becoming one of my favorite states!
Photographs by Victoria I. Sullivan
Monday, July 21, 2014
Bookstores and readings are common venues for book sales, but Friday I enjoyed a different kind of marketing event. I sold books at a bazaar hosted by the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly Women's Association in Monteagle, Tennessee, just down the road from Sewanee. It was a "dark and rainy" morning when the sale opened at 9 a.m, The event was slated to close at 4 p.m., but my personal fortitude waned after standing by a table hawking books, from set-up time at 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., when I threw in the towel and helped pack boxes of books. Rain pelted us as we exited the bazaar and headed for dry quarters.
The bazaar featured everything from arts and crafts to clothing and baked goods. When we first entered the auditorium, I was intimidated by the long tables of goods since Border Press had only a small card table and copies of five book titles arranged on it, with photographs of the book covers of Porch Posts and Why Water Plants Don't Drown (Pinyon Publishing) in the foreground of the display. I was further intimidated by a craftswoman next to our table who had a large, dazzling display of silver jewelry created from old forks, spoons, and other silver items that took her at least an hour to set up on a table twice the size of ours.
"Are there many book sellers at these bazaars?" I asked the craftswoman.
She looked at me, gave our table a cursory glance, and said, "There's at least one of those at every crafts show I go to." She returned to arranging her table.
"Do they sell many?" I persisted.
"A few," she said dismissively. She was a native Tennessean from Tracy City, so I was accustomed to such brief conversations, but the dismissal didn't inspire confidence.
"Been to many of these crafts shows?"
My interruptions seemed to be a bit much for her, but she threw a long reply over her shoulder, "I go to three or four of these every week. I fill my van with the jewelry, take it to the show and unload it, find a campground, take out the seat in the back of the van, unroll a sleeping bag, and I'm good for the night." She beamed a smile, pleased with her resourcefulness.
The last piece of information silenced me. I thought to myself, this gal ain't camping out in a van to sell a few books... and I sent out for food fortifications.
I met visitors to the bazaar from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, and the first half of the day passed quickly because we received and talked with a lot of lookers. I spent several hours touting the virtues of porches and plants, but most people were more interested in the conversation than the books. After lunch, time lagged, and although my neighbor, the jewelry maker, stayed until the bitter end, we left at 3:30 p.m., having sold a dozen books and a few packets of cards. The cards featured the beautiful plant paintings of Susan Elliott who had illustrated Why Water Plants Don't Drown by Victoria Sullivan, owner of Border Press, and the arresting pictures attracted many lookers.
Although the sale seemed to last as long as a church meeting "singing all day and eating on the ground," it was a colorful event that benefits the work of the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly Women's Association, which has sponsored the bazaar and Tour of Homes for 51 years. Following lunch, Ralph Null, renowned floral designer, demonstrated his secrets for easy floral arrangements and auctioned these arrangements at the end of the program. Proceeds benefitted the Monteagle Women's Association.
The Monteagle Sunday School Assembly has a history dating back to 1882 when the Sunday School Convention of Tennessee established an educational congress for Sunday School teachers. Sunday School teachers from many southern states attended summer classes at the Assembly in Monteagle to enrich their Sunday School teaching.
The Monteagle Assembly had close ties with the first Assembly in Lake Chautauqua, New York, which was created to combine Sunday School teaching with "the promotion of the broadest popular culture in the interest of Christianity without regard to sect or denomination," and the organization attains its mission through a variety of spiritual, health, cultural, and educational activities. The Monteagle Assembly eventually became the headquarters for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.
"The Assembly," as Sewaneeans refer to the attractive property, also contains over 160 homes, and the homeowners are fifth-and sixth-generation Assembly families. Two of the homes on tour Friday were the "Hallelujah Cottage" built in 1905, which has always been owned by women, and "Mojo," formerly known as "The Little House," built in 1885, that also has a special arrangement for dogs to come in through the screen porch door and leave through the kitchen door. Many of the homes have porches that reflect Queen Anne and Gothic architectural influences, which interested me because I've just published a book about porches and porch sitters. The homes are sought after as rentals during the summer months when special activities for adults and children are offered—youth programs dominate the Assembly's schedules.
The Assembly has an active rental program, public meeting rooms, a dining hall, tennis courts, an amphitheater, and other buildings and programs designed to accommodate thousands of visitors every summer. Sunday services and evening prayer (called Twilight Prayer) take place every week, and outstanding guest ministers and lecturers are featured in programs offered to the public.
We actually developed good rapport with the silver jewelry craftswoman who was our neighbor at the bazaar and shared part of our lunch with her. She told us that she makes a better living creating and selling jewelry than she did managing a convenience store and gets more satisfaction from a creative occupation. In her spare time, she paints. She's representative of the numerous, talented craftspeople and artists born and bred in the Cumberland country, and I admire her ingenuity. But I'm still not going on the road and sleep in a van in order to market my "creations." Perhaps I would've been game for this sleeping arrangement at age 40, but that number is getting ready to double!
Monday, July 14, 2014
Straight from the blurb written by Border Press regarding my newest book of poetry available on amazon.com in a few weeks:
"If you've ever suffered from insomnia or if you're a person who composes nocturnes of any kind during the night hours, Diane Marquart Moore's Night Offices, her nineteenth book of poetry, will "speak to your condition." Moore explores the uses of and the cures for insomnia, famous characters who have suffered from this malady; e.g., W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, and Thomas Edison. With characteristic wit and irony, she records the sleeplessness of various family members and friends, including her own propensity to recite the night offices, writing that "in four vigils of the night you wake/with desolation for a pillow./Phantom crucifixions hover--/monsters that pull/your soul from sleep,/peer over the edge of a ceiling fan..." She confesses that no matter where she closes her eyes, "a lightship lowers its anchor in the room."
Paul Marquart, my brother in northern California, rendered the painting for the cover design of Night Offices, and Martin Romero, my grandson, designed the front and back covers.
A sample of the poetry in Night Offices entitled "Opus Dei:"
Sister Elizabeth's slippers,
the feet of prayer,
hurry along sacred corridors
bringing vials of care
between the aisles
of Compline and Lauds,
reciting the night Vigils,
her arms encircling
Sister Lucy, Sister Mary Zita
whose needs demand
God's love and mercy
each hour of the night
against the threatening void,
their souls suspended,
as a saint with callused feet
lights the lamp
for His arrival.
Thanks again to Border Press for launching Night Offices. I might add that another book of poetry, which will contain poems about humanistic botany and photographs of plant life taken by botanist Victoria Sullivan, is in the writing stages. It's entitled Between Plants and People. Most collections of my poetry are listed on amazon.com and on the borderpressbooks.com site. Thanks for reading!