Lisa Bondurant

My photo
I spend my time raising kids, gathering eggs, cutting wood, scoping out trees for tapping, making syrup in the last days of winter, watching my garden NOT grow in the summer, writing, wishing that there were more hours on the clock for sleeping.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

To Stand So Very Still

There are moments when I wish that I could stop moving forward and just stand still.
       Like stepping from the the cold gray into golden light, to just stop and close your eyes...
                                                                                            ...stand still...
                                                                                                             ...perfectly still...
                                                              and feel the warmth of golden sun soak into your bruised heart...

   I was moving forward despite not wanting too. My heart and soul felt bruised and I stood clearly in the cold gray. Our family, our life had been turned upside down and every moment was struggle and survive and move forward because that is what you have to do when life gets harder. Move forward because there are little ones that need you to keep them in motion so that they at least have a chance to catch the golden light.

  I was picking my way through a mess of boxes and crates waiting to be unpacked from a camping trip that we had returned from just the day before. A camp trip that had been a desperate scramble by adults to give the little ones a brief moments to stand in the golden warmth. Two days was all that could be afforded, but it had been wonderful for them with sunshine, splashing in pools, campfires and giggles, so many giggles! Even the adults had briefly forgotten the troubles at hand and we had been filled with the giddiness of happy children,  but now it was time I found the forward momentum to unpack.

"I am a flying squirrel and you are my tree." That was the only warning I had before a ball of energy hurdled through the air and smashed into me. I staggered and braced just in time and the blond curly squirrel clung to me giggling. My son squirmed and wiggled trying to climb further up the mommy tree.
"I am not a tree', I protested.I got a face full of tangled curls and it smelled of sunshine, splashes and giggles. I stood still for a minute and closed my eyes...golden still light.

 "Good Grief, you are still wearing the clothes you camped in and look at you, you need a bath". Squirrel sensing danger scrambled down off of the mommy tree.
"Never", he cried.
"Why not?" Now that I  could see him at a distance I cringed. Dingy clothes and brown knees and elbows and hair stiff from swimming.
"But look at you! You are covered in camp ground." He only grinned at that remark.
"Yep!" he said proudly.
"You need to wash off vacation", I stated sternly.
"NO", he cried out and marched past me like a little French protester leading his country . "It is against the law to wash off vacation! Vacation should last forever!"   I started to protest and demand his little french butt get to the bathroom when something stopped me. The smell of his hair when I hugged him, sunshine, splashes and giggles and I did not want to lose that smell.
"You are right, it should be against the law to wash off vacation." I told him softly.
"I said it IS against the law!"  raising his finger high in the air to make a point.
"OK, it is the law!" I relented "At least until tonight, alright? "
"NEVER!" he cried out and marched back and forth. How proud his French ancestors must be I thought and giggled out loud.
"I can live with a dirty boy for a few more hours," I told him and he ran off squealing with the happiness of victory .

 I could live with the smell of sunshine and giggles even longer than forever. If only there was a way to bottle the smell of  that sunshine, splashes and giggles for later. I would label it as 'Summer'  to open in the cold gray months of winter and for a moment have a moment of golden still light to soak into my bruised but healing heart....

Later that evening my squirrel boy climbed onto my lap, still damp from his bath.
"Smell my head mommy", he begged. I did.

"What do you smell", he asked? 
I was surprised at what I smelled, not just soap!
"I still smell sunshine, splashes and giggles", I told him. "How could that be?"
He squirmed and snuggled into a ball ready to sleep.
"I did it", he told me and closed his eyes sleepily. " Vacation is still in my head."

He was soon asleep. I closed my eyes, I sniffed his head again and again and stood so very, very still.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Daughter of The Stars


    When I was growing up in the Shenandoah Valley with my sisters and brother, we did not know that we were living in a famous place that people all over the world knew.We did not know we were living in an historical place where life changing battles had been fought and sons had died or notorious generals had tried to scorch the very life from the fertile land to lay it in ruin.
                                     We heard these things spoken of, the fragmented  words of adults that trickle down into young ears as children play and run past. We heard them and perhaps we should have paid more attention, but we were busy! There was so much to do and how could this all be true! We saw no scares or smoke, only way too much to do before the sun went down and beauty to chase...

... always beauty to chase! It was like a thirst that could not be quenched.
 There were green fields to race through and hunt wild strawberries and baby bunnies in and rolling forest of oaks to climb and imagine as kingdoms of fairies and rivers like sparkling liquid crystal to splash into and chase your friends through like river otters.

 What we did know!

 We knew that we lived in a place of vast and gentle beauty that never seemed to stop, of this I was certain.

We had checked on this, from the highest oak we could climb,
to the deepest we could dive into frigid crystal waters, as high as we could hike into the braided blue mountains...

 or until we could run no further through the long and stretching fields.

We could not find the end of beauty!

Even at night when the green bowl of valley was filled with deep black and purple shadows and sparks of golden light twinkled on across farmland and hills, the beauty never ended.

When finally our young gaggle of sisters, brothers and cousins, had spent all the young energy our bodies had and could chase no more we plopped down onto the grassy mountain top that was our home, lay flat on our backs looking up into the sky, the beauty never ended. Sparkling stars glistening through the endless liquid indigo of space above us, so pretty it hurt to look at and someone would whisper softly like a prayer..."Shenandoah... the daughter of the stars!"
We would all sigh because we all knew the words of the "Old Ones' and we knew that this is of what they spoke. Laughing  we would realize suddenly that we were like puppies chasing their tales, the chase would never end and that was wonderful!

 Drifting off to sleep I would think of the First People, the native people that had named the Valley their Daughter of the Stars and I  knew with certainty that they too had been awestruck,  had become "chasers"  and had discovered the same secret! A secret whispered to us from the stars! To step into the Valley was to become a child of The Daughter of the Stars and that her beauty had soaked into our very souls and we would have the thirst to chase forever!


Now looking back I do not wonder why there are so many people in the valley who are wonderful artist and creators of beauty. I think the very act of stepping into the valley inspires the need to chase beauty, to look for it's end and source. An endless thirst to be ever chased.!

 Artist of the valley may have long been over shadowed by the fame of Civil War history, colonist, presidential birthplaces, even the valley it's self.  Maybe rightly so. Perhaps art is not to be as easily noticed among the natural beauty around and

                            ...we need to finally slow down enough to notice all the little things that make up the Shenandoah.
The good news,  there is a new place here in the Daughter of the Stars, something for the chasers of beauty! A place for the work of valley artist to finally be noticed  and shine just like the stars that fill the dark sky above our sleeping valley.

 A small artist village of sorts, nestled along a creek within historic Dayton where ducks dive the shallows near by...

and cows graze on bright green pastures. Where horse and buggies trot by ...

and those that want may stroll among the works of artist who all chase beauty and express it in their own way. This new place is the Artisan Courtyard of Dayton Virginia

A quiet little place where all the beauty chasers gather their favorite piece and their interpretation of the Valley  

                    If you wish to experience the the Shenandoah Valley, our Daughter of the Stars, then drive to the town of Dayton and along the way you will see all the things I have written of here. You will see the famous places carved of time and history, houses where makers of our country lived and land that rolls in layer of color that will take your breath away. When you get to the little creek called Cook's Creek where the ducks are waiting and sunlight dapples through the trees, you will know you are there and you will know it is time to slow down a little, walk the stone pathways and visit.

 You will find art of all kinds, traditional and modern... 

...and all reflecting the beauty around you.. 
And certainly you will find a moment when you will realized that you too have chased the beauty of the valley, tried to find it's end and source.

 You may even find a little bit of it to take home with you, created by artist that have been chasing beauty for years in the Daughter of the Stars.


The Artisan Courtyard 
42 south and turn right onto Eberly Rd. 
Turn left at stop sign., turn onto Bowman Rd. at Cook's Creek Park
The Artisan Courtyard of Dayton Virginia will have a grand opening for the 2012 season  on April 7th
8:30 to 5:30.
There will be many artist and crafters from around Virginia exhibiting their creations including  permanent studio galleries, wine tasting and live music. For more information  please check out the links below...

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Bridge To Cross The Rippling Waters

Photo from old wooden bridge

          I remember a sunny day when I was very little, standing by my father's knee and listening intently to the conversation above me, yes above me, I was that little! My father was speaking to a neighbor, an old farmer who often came into the "Springs" to check the cows that grazed adjacent to my parent's property. They were speaking of the "Old Wooden Bridge". If you said  The Old Wooden Bridge to anyone that knew Rawley then they knew of what you spoke, if they didn't then they had no business being in the Springs. A small lovely, yet almost unnoticed bridge made of wood that spanned the rippling clear waters of the Gum and offered the perfect place to sometimes view the rare native trout or to stand safely above the raging waters of spring. The bridge was so thin in profile, 8 to 10 inches of wood running horizontally , the support beams all but unnoticed. Occasionally neighbors would ask back and forth if the other thought a heavy load could come across like cement trucks.
"Don't have any worries about that bridge!" the farmer stated and looked over his shoulder towards the bridge a few feet away."It is made to last."
 The old farmer laughed and looked back to my father and I knew a story was coming so I listened closely. "My father called on my brother and me to build that bridge one summer. We didn't much care to as it was summer, but..." he shrugged and laughed giving my father a sheepish grin that said he had better things to do in summer than make bridge, but of what better he would not speak of in front of little ears.
 "We did as we were told, my brother and me and we worked, just the three of us, on that bridge for half the summer." His shoulders raised quickly in a shrug and a laugh that told us he was a little proud of the accomplishment. "Barclay, we did it right and I wouldn't worry about taking any load across it! Ain't no flood taken it yet" he glanced again to the bridge and his voice dropped in that subtle way that gave an edge of mystery and danger, "...even though they have tried! Seen it covered over twice, but when the waters go down the bridge is there! The road might be gone around it but the bridge is there!."
 Even at my young age I knew the floods and power of which he spoke. My father loved to watch the floods as I did  and always brought the whole brood of us down to see the raging floods waters that ripped down through the mountain valley to leap and snap at the two bridges that accessed our mountain community. Fear and excitement settled down onto me like heavy mist from the words floating above, words like "worst flood I've seen" and "took out bridges bigger then this" " but this little bridge stood fast!" or " folks disappeared in that flood., body never found."
The words had started  my imagination and I no longer needed to hear them,  I just longed to stand on the bridge and watch the waters rush past till I felt dizzy and imagine the floods trying to snap me off the bridge. The prospect of standing just above the swirling waters and  just inches from potential danger was more temptation then I could stand!

"Come on Daddy", I drug him towards the little wooden bridge!. I would not stand there alone just encase the hounds of floods heard my thoughts and had already begun their leaping, bounding race down the mountains to claim me! A few steps later I stood at the very edge of the bridge side with my toes up against the wood rail, my fathers hand gripped tightly and peered down into the creek waiting for the wolves of water to leap towards me and snap their mighty jaws...but there was only a shallow ripple of emerald  waters dancing patterns above the golden stones, whispering softly, softly as they slipped beneath the weathered wood and onto their long slow journey to the vast ocean. I sighed and stared into the water a little disappointed. Perhaps the hounds of floods were afraid of my father's strong hands knowing he would never release me to their terror. Soon the whispering water made me dizzy and mellow and wanting to play and splash in the ripples and I forgot the flood waters, for now. I dreamed I was a tiny brown minnow darting through the shimmering sunlit water...and so the bridge was a portal of sorts for me, to take me into the world of shimmering shadows or hold me safe above the raging hounds of floods.

A mild flood, where the Gum meets the Dry

  Though we sometimes took the bridge for granted, the strength of it we never would. In the Big Flood of '85 the huge steel bridge crossing the much bigger Dry was torn from it's foundations not to be seen again, but the little wooden bridge still stood!

Viewing the Dry from the "New Bridge" that replaced the one lost in '85
It changed life for those of us living on this side of the water, a granted way to the outside world and for the world to reach us in return. My mother remembered a story  told to her of a man dying in the house we lived in high on the mountain above the Gum. This was long before the wooden bridge had been built and the only access was a ford passable in low water season. The undertaker was called and given the fact that there was no bridge then, a Citroen hearse was called for. The Citreon had the ability to cross rivers by hydraulically lifting it's self up to clear rough crossings. If the waters had been too high though the ford would not have been crossed, even by Citreon.

So the reason I have written such a long and sentimental story about the little wooden bridge is that the day finally came to have it replaced. Huge holes had rusted through the I beams that spanned the distance. Perhaps the hounds of flood had taken their pound of flesh after all and the damage took decades to appear.

The crew was to start at 7:00 a.m. and so all that wanted to be on the far side had to be over by 7:15 or be stuck on this side.

The last few cars to cross the Old Wooden Bridge

They started with cutting torches...

I found it a little sad!

We watched, all of those left on this side

A chainsaw was used to cut timbers 

Then the big trucks moved in for the big lift...
And CRASH! The first half did shift and crashed into the creek.

The guys with Trans Tech were not phased!

They started in on the next piece and so on...
Then the new bridge arrived

This man is standing between solid stone and an I beam that could slip at any minute!

Finally it moved and he was safe again.

Look close & see the big holes in beam 
Then there was nothing for the first time in so very long! I walked out into the creek side as far as I could and imagined the river before bridge or even man.

The new bridge coming in by air.

Big, bright and shiny!

moving in an inch at a time

Then it was settled within a 1/2 inch of the old bridge

Adding new planks

Close to finished

We left for awhile, we had been there all day and were tired. We had watched a piece of history, our history even, leave and it was a little sad and a little exciting. When we came back the bridge was done. 

They rebuilt in one day. 

I had wondered if the old bridge looked so new once! I wondered if the new bridge would pick up the fight of the Hounds of Floods, like a new young, strong knight in shining armor steps forth as the old knight steps finally from the field of battle.
I hope it lasts a hundred years connecting our side of the water to the wide open world...

...spanning the rippling clear waters of the Gum and just out of reach of the leaping Hounds of Flood.