December in the Hills – John Parris
December in the hills is a sprig of berry-bright holly, a spray of galax, and a bouquet of mystic mistletoe.
It’s the smell of woodsmoke, the dusty sweetness of the hay barn, the earthiness of a root cellar with mingled odors of potatoes and turnips and onions.
It’s the rhythmic echo of an unseen axeman and the yelp of a hound after a rabbit.
It’s the raucous cry and flashing wing of a bluejay in a naked woodland and the thunder of grouse exploding from the brush.
It’s an old man with memories and a young man with dreams.
It’s an old woman with snow in her hair and a young girl with stars in her eyes.
It’s firelight and starlight.
It’s the season of long nights.
It’s winter talk around the hearth, the cry of a fiddle, the whack-ata-whack of a loom.
It’s a lonesome tune – “One top of old Smoky, all covered with snow…”
And a happy tune – “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”
It’s home-coming cattle swinging into the lane and bringing wistful-like spells with their quaint, comforting, wandering bells.
December is a time when the darkness deepens and the winter closes in.
It’s icy knuckles at the door and frost pictures on the windows.
It’s an open world that invites the foot to roam and the eye to see.
It’s a sky with the look of cold skim milk.
It’s a country road at night with lantern light throwing golden splashes on the snow.
~ December in the Hills written by John Parris
I challenged myself to study on each line above and see if they were still accurate to the mountains of North Carolina today.
√ There is still greenery from the surrounding woods being used to brighten the season.
√ Woodsmoke-yes; hay barn-yes; root cellar-not so much.
√ Axes are still ringing and dogs are still chasing rabbits.
√ Blue jays are still fusing and grouses are still exploding-all be it a little less in my area.
√ Lots of wise old men in my neck of the woods and more than a few young men with dreams…some of which seem to like hanging around my porch.
√ Underneath the hair color Granny has snowy hair and all three of the girls in our family have starry eyes.
√ Just last week we set around a roaring fire-place with friends and walked back to the car with stars to light our way.
√ The nights of winter are still longer.
√ Lots of talking around the fire at the Blind Pig house and there’s a certain fiddling girl sawing away pretty much every day. Most weeks you can hear the sound of a loom if you drop by the JCCFS.
√ Lonesome tunes we got, happy tunes too.
√ No cow bells ringing but plenty of cows on the farm down the road lowing and hoping for the hay truck to come by.
√ Winter = cold and dark – Yep.
√ The back deck was a solid sheet of ice one morning this week and a couple of weeks ago my detergent semi-froze from sitting in the window.
√ Something about this time of the year makes me want to walk in the woods. Maybe it’s because the woods are open and it’s easier to see or maybe it’s because I know how good a cup of hot chocolate will be when we get back cold but refreshed from our outing.
√ The sky looked just like cold milk the other day as Chitter and our made our way through Pine Log.
√ The lantern light is now a flash-light beam and I’m keeping my fingers crossed on the snow part-none yet this year.
So other than the cow bell, root cellar, and lantern light not much is different today than when John Parris wrote about his Decembers so many years ago. Somehow that comforts me.