The Last Really Good Shack #39

The Last Really Good Shack by Carol Allen

back in the shack
by John Matthew Waters

you’ll find it in the middle of somewhere
surrounded by a fog in a field of woods
discoverable through a natural maze
filled with a variety of wildflowers

walking through the door you swear
you became someone other than yourself
and the moment you sit and open your mind
the shack is filled with a beautiful light

copyright j matthew waters

A good friend wrote a wonderful poem this week and on reading it, I was instantly carried back to our old home, the last really good shack.

John’s poem beautifully describes the feeling I have for that house and how it changed me in the decade we lived there.

I don’t know if I have told you much about any of that personal stuff. How a city girl fell so head over heels in love with a rocky piece of land on the side of any Ozarks ridge and the worn out old shack that clung to the side of that ridge.

Just as the poem says, it was in the middle of somewhere, but somehow completely separate from the world around it.

There, the world revealed its magic to me and I was an enraptured pupil.

I would walk that steep acreage almost daily, visiting the blackberry brambles, or the wild dog roses, or the frog pond at the top of the ridge nestled in a grove of black ash trees. I found each spot that the wild ferns grew, knowing that if I dug there under that rocky soil, a spring would bubble up to the surface.

I knew where the deer rested with their fawns and where the squirrels hid their harvest of black walnuts. I learned how the sun moved along the eastern ridge during the seasons and, at night, we were mesmerized by the visits of comets and meteorites.

With Bob’s skill, we created a home out of a hovel, adding what everyone who visited will still tell you was the best porch in all of history. My mom called it the healing place. I said it was the navel of the universe where all possible good resided.

It was visited by friends and family, and an occasional angel.

And in those ten years, I learned more about myself than in any other decade. I made choices that have changed me, and changed my path in life. I became more spiritual and open, more aware of my place in the universe.

I became a better wife, daughter and friend.

And all these changes came about from lessons I learned while we lived in the last really good shack.

And I am grateful for each minute I lived there.

***

A special thank you to John Matthew Waters for his gracious permission to use his wonderful poem, ‘back in the shack’. You can read his poetry on his website jdubqca.com and his twitter account @jdubqca.

My Beautiful Bath

bathroom 8

bathroom 7

My beautiful bathroom is complete!

It is a jewel of seaglass and the pale gray of driftwood, and the color of stillness. I am thrilled at the outcome of this long planned and long awaited project.

With many thanks, hugs and kisses for Pete Gleason, musician, friend and bathroom remodeler extraordinaire and my wonderful, hard working and loving husband, Bob. They both took my vision and created this most beautiful of rooms.

The square footage is tiny and there is no way to expand, so every inch was used. The only things that remain from its previous beige existence are the white china towel holders and the bathtub itself. Three and 1/2 walls are now 12×24 gray porcelain tiles with a ribbon of frosted glass inlay mosaic tiles the colors of sea glass. The wall left is clad in 3/4 inch wood paneling in a taller than usual wainscoting and a new wooden door with lots of personality are all painted Silent White to match the new vanity.

White marble is used on the counter top of the new vanity as well as the trim and baseboards. I took a tip from HGTV and used marble floor thresholds as the baseboards. And it is just the prettiest thing I ever saw!

Brushed nickel fixtures, lighting and door hardware add to the beauty of this calming and soothing room.

And the little cabinet is a great find from an antique store in Ozark, MO. It is a dental cabinet constructed entirely from wooden fruit crates. It has tiny drawers inside the right door, made for the tools and implements needed for a dentist in the early 20th century. I painted it a pale aqua and it is adorable!

This room is a joy to behold and makes me so happy each time I walk in.

bathroom 9

bathroom 6

bathroom 5

Bathroom 2

bathroom 4

bathroom 3

Bathroom 1

the color of stillness

Stillness,
that is the color I have chosen.
Stillness,
the heartbeat of the morning,
the breath of the evening.

The evening you and I walked the gravel path
to the shore of the once mighty river,
now moving in its ancient course
far under the placid stillness of the lake’s surface.
The evening you and I inhaled the breath of sweet grass
as it exhaled into the night’s beginning.

Stillness –
the early morning hours when you lay sleeping-
your breath, my heartbeat.
Dawn’s faint heartbeat of light
until the first birdsong-
the exhalation of daybreak’s stillness.

That is the color I have chosen
for you to paint the walls of our bathroom-
the color of stillness.

*** Well, yes, it would have been more romantic if it were the bedroom or any other room in the house! smiles – But it is the final stage of our long process of remodeling our bathroom (well, my bathroom 🙂 )
I will post photos when complete – with towel racks and pictures on the walls. It is beautiful and I am so grateful to Pete Gleason (Parabalas Pete – wonderful musician and friend) and my husband for their hard work creating this beautiful room for us (me!).

The Last Really Good Shack – 38

The Last Really Good Shack by Carol Allen

I can’t believe its been a year since I wrote a shack story! But its this time of year that makes me especially nostalgic for that wonderful old house.

By the autumn, at least a couple of cords of firewood would already sit stacked out beside the shed along the top of the drive. If I had been really organized, the wood would have been there all summer, getting good and dry and seasoned, so that it would burn perfectly.

But most years, the woodman was called at the end of August and we stacked it just in time for the first cool night. It was not unusual for us to have a fire in the evening by the middle of September. The weather might be beautifully warm during the day, but as the sunlight began to dwindle into autumn, the nights would get clear and frosty by dawn.

Those first fires were sometimes a little smoky, causing us to open every window in the house and turn on all the ceiling fans to rid the house of that first fire smell. The nice thing about our wonderful woodstove ( that I loved so well after having a wall eyed fit about its placement – see earlier posts about the chimney saga), was that once there was a good fire, the bed of coals could last all day. So the stove stayed a little warm and was usually no problem getting the nightly fire to blaze.

Once we had cold weather move in for good, the stove had its own routine. Each morning, Bob would fill it up with wood, working with the night’s coals and maybe with a little extra kindling, building a steady flame, making the house warm and toasty. He would soon be out the door to work. So as I left, I would add more wood, dampen down the vent and making sure the stove door was closed, good and tight. I, too, would be out the door and off to my job.

Each afternoon, as I drove down our tree covered lane, rounding the last curve, there, perched on the side of the ridge, the shack would come into view. And each afternoon, I would think –‘Well, it didn’t burn down today!”

One thing I loved about heating with wood was the quiet. No furnace fan or blower, just the occasional shifting of logs or the popping of embers. A gentle, living warmth radiating from the corner of the living room, into each room and up the stairs. It was perfect.

Perfect, except for the constant attention it needed, the removal of ash, which caused a trail of fine particles to dust the entire living room. And the occasional popping ember out of the stove onto the carpet and the days when the wind was just right, the smoke refused to go up the chimney and would just much rather stay inside the house. Oh and those bitter, snowy nights when it need to be fed from the stack way on the other side of the shed.

Yes, my glasses aren’t so rosy that I have forgotten all the trouble it took. And now, when the furnace kicks on, loud fan and all, I can remember the wonderful old woodstove in the warm comfort of our lake house.

Until next time – and I won’t go another year – smiles…

*** And I promise to go thru all the photos and start sharing more pictures from the shack years.

The Last Really Good Shack #37 – Black Walnut Season

The Last Really Good Shack - porch

black walnuts<

The heavy thud of black walnuts falling to the damp ground is a constant for a few weeks in the fall.
I didn’t know anything about this particular variety of tree nut until we moved to northwest Arkansas. Having spent my childhood in pecan country, Texas and south Arkansas, where even the standard walnut seemed a little foreign and exotic- the black walnut was completely new to me.
When I first saw the big green globes hanging in the trees, I actually speculated that they were a variety of bois d’arc or horse apples as we called them when we were kids. Didn’t take long to figure out that they were a nut under all that green hull and that they dye your fingers a dark walnut color pretty quickly when you pick a few up off the ground.

Of all the trees in the Ozarks, black walnut trees are not the most gorgeous tree in the woods. They can be straggly and rangy looking, the last to set leaves in the spring and the first to show yellow and fall in autumn. Their occupation is to create these hard to crack nuts and then rest for the balance of the year.

We had several on our property, and I must say, one of the nicest looking black walnuts was on the northwest side of the shack. It was not crowded by any other trees, far enough away from the huge white oaks in front and just enough room from the tree lined fence on the north part of the dog yard.
Each season, for however long it chose, it was a full and quite nice shade tree, airy and lacey, given dappled light to the yard swing and perennial lily bed. Bob would sit on the step at that end of the porch, while I sat in the swing and listened to him play his guitar, or we would play ball with the dogs in the shade of that walnut tree.

A cottage industry springs up in the fall as the nuts ripen. A local company will buy the nuts from anyone who shows up with a bag or truck load. So many an afternoon along the narrow Ozarks roads, you will see folks with sacks or buckets retrieving the fallen nuts.
In autumn, when the harvest began, a young family would drive slowly up our little lane, the dad driving and the mom and her two youngsters would pick up the fallen walnuts. Tossing them into the trunk or one year in the back of the station wagon, they would pick the road clean. Each year when they came by, they would ask if they could gather the walnuts from our tree. Of course, that was always fine and we welcomed them each season.

I always hoped it would help them – this was a hard way to earn money. When you took the walnuts to sell, they would place them in a spinning hopper to release the nut from the hull. Once that was done, the nuts were weighed and you were paid $11.00 for one hundred pounds! That took a whole lot of nuts in the back of a station wagon to bring home $11.00.

With each gust of wind, I hear the heavy thuds – its black walnut time in the Ozarks.

**** Dear Readers, I know it has been too long between stories of the shack. I am in the process of editing the previous stories and The Last Really Good Shack will soon have its own blog. I hope you will continue to read and enjoy these little snippets of our life in the Ozarks.
Thanks, Kathleen

The Last Really Good Shack #35

The Last Really Good Shack - porch

In the previous post, Mom and I had wallpapered the dining room and I described the paint color for the trim as a dark black green. Well, I loved the color – not in your face green, but a good solid dark dark green.
And since Mom and I were in the updating mood, it only made sense to paint the kitchen cabinets.
Now our cabinets were a mismatched mish mash of beautiful oak cabinets of different styles and sizes. We had been the grateful recipients of discarded cabinets from a remodeling job in Texas done by my uncle and Bob had driven down to Dallas to pick them up. We had worked out the arrangement and were happy with the outcome.
But they needed to have a unifying look and what better way than paint!
Mom and I called my brother for advice since he had been a remodeling contractor for several years. He proceded to explain that we would need to sand all the finish off until we were down to the wood, then we would need to fill all the holes, sand again and then paint at least three coats for the paint to look good.
We then ignored all his wonderful advice!
After removing the cabinet doors, we did take the old hardware off and filled holes with wood filler. And we did sand each door – kind of. It became really boring after doing several doors. So the first ones were done really well and then it tapered off as we decided -‘oh, this is good enough’! We at least took the shiny top layer off. And after cleaning all the cabinet boxes, we were ready to paint.
I began by painting the boxes and that was the easiest part of the job. By the time I had one coat around the room, it was dry enough to paint the second coat. Then the third coat and it looked wonderful!
Mom, on the other hand, began painting the doors. It seemed as if they were multiplying – a never ending line of doors to be painted. And then there was the problem of where to lean them when done – cabinet doors began to spread across the house. Mom and I painted all day – got up and painted all the next day – got up and decided whatever wasn’t perfect – was just fine!
The cabinets were hung with their new hardware – all matching – and looked – PERFECT!
The color unified the kitchen and even though there were three different styles, the cabinets came together into a warm, beautiful space. It was one of my favorite spots – sitting at the little kitchen table, on a stool built by my grandfather – and looking up the ridge to the horizon far above the house. This was the window where our local deer would sometimes spy on us.
I am grateful to have this special memory of working with my mom. She lives with us now and wishes she could do all those fun projects. But she still supervises any painting I do!
Well – until next time…..