Folklore Thankful November

Thankful November – Return the Innocent Earth

Collage of 2021 photos

“A nightbird calls from one of the beech trees. Unthinking, I reach for pockets—it is chilly and I am wearing a topcoat—hearkening back to the time when old Cebo, whose face was dark and wrinkled and tough as walnut bark, muttered that a screech owl’s forebodings could be canceled only by turning all our pockets inside out. Standing in the deepening darkness, many distances from where I began this day, I wonder if the owl speaks of life or death, the present or future. Or perhaps the past. The past has been thick around me all day, like one of the fogs that sometimes sweeps across these Smoky Mountains, smothering all the familiar landmarks, changing contours, obscuring here and revealing there, until the oldest places are new and the new is made ancient, or seems so.”

—Wilma Dykeman “Return The Innocent Earth”

This time of the year the past is often thick around me. The holidays always bring memories of loved ones who are long since gone and times and places that are no more.

Hearing a screech owl in the darkness always gives me a chill. I was always told the sound was the foretelling of death. I missed out on being able to cancel the eerie call by turning all my pockets inside out.

Today’s Thankful November is a used copy of Wilma Dykeman’s “Return The Innocent Earth.” To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends November 20, 2021.


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  • Reply
    November 19, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    I can’t remember the author but I did a book report in school on a book titled “When the Owl Calls Your Name”. I think that was the title. A part of the story was that Owls visited homes and called out just before a death.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    Oh, nostalgia. Tempting to wish for the past, which can never return. But so much good in the present, so much to live for. As for the past, it’s just a fable to the current young ones. In my youth the seniors would tell anecdotes of yesteryear. How we’ve gotten away from that.

  • Reply
    Ben Wooded
    November 17, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Great writing by an author I’m not familiar with. Thank you for your generosity.

  • Reply
    Marilyn Reed
    November 17, 2021 at 10:21 am

    I grew up hearing animal and bird sounds in the night (coyotes howling, owls hooting, etc.). I always felt safe and cozy inside our little house, and would snuggle down and go back to sleep.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2021 at 12:01 am

    I would love to read this book as the author really has a gift of describing. I read other posts, and I am reminded the Christmas season is not always joyous for everyone. Many of my family have gone on in the last year, so it will not be a joyous celebration, but more a thankfulness for those that remain. Prayers for Randy that comfort will come to him throughout the season.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    November 16, 2021 at 8:39 pm

    I sure would like to win this time. My grandparents lived way up in the mountains of Union County. At evening time after supper we would go sit out on the porch. If we heard a screech owl grandma always said to tie a knot in the dish towel and that would stop it. There were many sayings and superstitions back then. As a kid it was a scarey time to hear some of the night noises there on the mountain but I felt safe with my family in their little home way up in the mountains.

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    November 16, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    I love hearing these old stories about the old days. Blind Pig is my morning cup of coffee.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    November 16, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    Haven’t heard it stated that way before but the past is often thick around me. I heard a screech owl as I was leaving my deer stand tonight, didn’t turn my pockets inside out. Haven’t heard of that before either.
    Thanks, I learn a lot from your blogs.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    Please include me. This sounds like good fireside reading. Been feeling kind of mournful lately – and no screech owl to harmonize with the feelings.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you so much Tipper! I am 78y/o and during my long life I lived for 4yrs in West Virginia. I was busy raising my children and volunteering with a local Paramedic and Rescue unit. I have been continually blessed for both experiences. My children saw the real and good of being raised in simple living and being exposed to tried and true values of the mountain folk. I had the honor of serving these mountain and mining folk and they are still in my blood. The screech owl sounded up the holler from my home in the late fall regularly and the resilient miners “get on with fixing me” rings in my ears to this day. This experience of living close to and being a part of the fabric of the mountains gave me the courage to go to Alaska 10 yrs later and work with the Eskimos of Northwest Alaska and Western Alaska for 15yrs. I am back in Alaska after a 7yr stint in the lower 48 and intend to finish my life in this land of mountains and rivers and tundra. The snowy owl cries out here too and the moose, elk, caribou and eatable birds are making themselves available. I am so grateful for your stories and music and cooking. So much is the same up here and it warms my heart that we are part of the Great America that still exists under our flag.

  • Reply
    Jenny Young
    November 16, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    I’ve never read this book but the reviews look very good.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    “The past is thick around me.” What a great sentence. Those of us who are past our ‘three score years and ten’ have a lot of past and it does, indeed, turn thick some days.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    I’d enjoy reading this book.

    Thank you.

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    November 16, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    I’ll check my library in town and see if they have a copy. Wilma was quite a novelist. I read her book The Tall Woman several times. The pioneer woman were a breed of their own. They were women to be admired. Wilma too was a woman to be admired. Thanks for posting this. As always I can’t wait to see the morning blog. I usually get it a little before I get up in the morning. Good luck to whomever you choose to receive the book. I’ll get a copy myself.

  • Reply
    Sandra McDonald
    November 16, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    I have always heard that an owl and sparrows also foretold death of a family member, but I never heard about turning your pockets inside out to ward it off.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Her words: fog, mountains, old places, ancient — they bring to mind my travels through the mountains and deep hollows of my home.

    On grey, rainy mornings, small clouds of wispy fog rise up from the trees on the steep ridges above me; I fancy that the rain creates a thin place, and calls the spirits that linger from long ago to emerge and walk the earth for a short time.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    November 16, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Goodness, I love your blog & all the comments too! Thank you, Tipper, for making our everyday lives so rich…makes me feel safe & cozy like a comfy quilt. Would love to curl up with the book you mentioned today.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 11:54 am

    That passage was perfect for a Halloween reading!

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    November 16, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Your posts each morning always get my day started in a good way…can’t imagine not having them. I would love to read Return The Innocent Earth.

  • Reply
    Greg Church
    November 16, 2021 at 11:44 am

    I love to walk in the night air when everything is lit by moon and stars. The night sounds, even the screech owl, give me a different perspective on life and our world. Everyone says “something will catch you out there in the dark”, but even from a young age I thought the night time world a wonder.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 11:41 am

    I would also love this book to read Tipper. When the Owls hoot, they are saying something, but what? If we only knew. Thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    Kevin Knight
    November 16, 2021 at 11:24 am

    Never heard of the death toll from screech owls, but I have heard that a dogs howling moan is because they smell death. However, I was told that screech owls will fly down and pick out your eyes.

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney
      November 16, 2021 at 8:16 pm

      I remember Barney saying on one of the Mayberry episodes that if a bat flew into your hair it would drive you crazy.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 11:01 am

    I would love to read Wilma Dykeman’s book and add it to my small collection of Appalachian literature to reread again and again.

  • Reply
    Nancy Boswell
    November 16, 2021 at 10:21 am

    As always, I would love to have this book. I love you generous spirit and sharing your life with us.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    November 16, 2021 at 10:19 am

    Oh how I’d love that book! I am really have a hard time with this way too early darkness now …last night I got home here in central.Va. at a little after 5pm …already dark. But as I got out of my car, I heard an owl hooting close by….and I hooted back …and we hooted back and forth for ten minutes till I got cold and went inside. This has happened so often my husband now calls me the OWL WHISPERER.
    And Randy, please try to stay positive this fall and winter. Do it for your family and for your late wife. I know those of us from these grieve deeply. Also know all of us BPA readers are wishing you well.

  • Reply
    Angela J Short
    November 16, 2021 at 10:14 am

    I enjoy your blog & I’d like to read this book. Enjoy your day!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    November 16, 2021 at 10:10 am

    I would love to have this beautiful book.

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    November 16, 2021 at 9:59 am

    I have never heard of that saying, but there is so many I heard when I was growing up from Dad and my uncle Bill Boggus, I could set and listen to them all night sitting on the front porch in total darkness.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 9:48 am

    Oh, Tipper. I have come to treasure you and your family. Somehow there is a family-like connection amongst all of us who gather around to hear your stories and your music. Every time you mention a book I jot it down and look it up. I’d like to read every book in your collection. I love your kitchen and your bowl you use for everything you make. My Jesse always says, “Wonder what Tipper’s fixing for dinner tonight.” Thank you for documenting, sharing, and continuing this magical heritage. Best to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Betty Smith
    November 16, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for your posts. Bob and I live in Gray, and our sun deck faces the woods, where we have a few owls, but I am not sure what they are.

  • Reply
    Patricia Hollingsworth
    November 16, 2021 at 9:14 am

    My late husband of 50 years always loved owls till one swooped down and hit him along side his head one night. He said it almost knocked him over from the force! Next day on the news they said owls never attack humans and we laughed first because it was on the news, and second because it attacked him. Goes to show our news is not always correct!!

  • Reply
    Doreen B
    November 16, 2021 at 9:05 am

    That’s a good post. I searched for other post on your page about superstition. All great reads. Thank you Tipper. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Rolland Charles
    November 16, 2021 at 9:00 am

    The words are profound and thought-provoking. I really loved this brief snippet.

  • Reply
    J. David Chrisman
    November 16, 2021 at 8:59 am

    This brings back so many memories of hearing the screech owl back at our old home place in Kerby Knob, KY!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 8:53 am

    Everyone has their own way of grieving. This is the first year in the last 50 years my wife will not be with me. I like how in the book it compares memories of the past to a thick fog. While I am glad to have these memories they are very painful and hurtful to me. I find myself wishing I could go to a deep dark lonely place and be by myself till the holidays are over. I know she would not want me to feel this way and I have got to try to carry on for my son and grandsons.

    Nancy in case you don’t win, you can google the title of this book and find it for sell on some online places.

    • Reply
      Patricia Wilson
      November 16, 2021 at 10:51 am

      Randy, with 20 years of widowhood under my belt, how to do life with half of you ripped away is something I know well. You have it right in two ways – 1. Your wife would not want you to “seek the lonely place.” Withdrawing from your family on earth robs them of your presence even if that is not your intent. 2. As you said, you have to carry on for your son and grandsons. When I was in the place you are in now, I was actually resentful that my children and grandchildren still needed me to be present (Lord, forgive me). I wanted to die, too, so I could be with my husband again. I pray that you will find, as in God’s mercy I did, that if you choose – and it is usually an act of the will without the support of feelings – that your being PRESENT in the lives of your loved ones, who are also grieving this loss, will bring both you and them comfort and eventually joy. God still has a purpose for you here or He would have taken you home, too. You and your family are in my prayers.

    • Reply
      Ron Stephens
      November 16, 2021 at 1:25 pm

      Randy, I haven’t lived it myself but I can understand that the dark and cold days of winter and the holidays lacking the cheer they once had together are a heavy burden. The full round of a year is needed for all the “firsts” to have been experienced and at the cycle’s end it is yet just “the first year”. But the first hard year won’t come again with quite as much pain.

      It doesn’t make the hurt stop, but your grief is a testament of, and benediction for, what you two had together. Because that relationship was priceless, it cannot be easily interrupted nor its absence lightly borne. You honor her by your sorrow but I am sure you also know she would want you to miss her in a good measure; enough but not too much, just as you and I will want that for those we leave behind.

      • Reply
        November 16, 2021 at 6:10 pm

        I want to thank both Patricia and Ron for their comments to me and Patricia I know exactly what you mean in #2. We were both Christians and I know in my heart God is with me but being a human makes it hard to feel it at times but I think God understands. I would also like to thank everyone on Tipper’s blog for praying for me and my family since my wife’s death. All of us are having a hard time she was the foundation our family was built on . I have often heard that the man is the head of the family but what does not get said is the woman or wife is the heart or as I heard one preacher say the neck that turns the head.

        • Reply
          November 17, 2021 at 11:19 pm

          Randy, sending caring thoughts – wishing strength & healing for you & yours!

  • Reply
    Sandra Henderson
    November 16, 2021 at 8:50 am

    I’ve not read this book, and now I feel I’ve been missing an important link to understanding more of the history here. I’d love to hsve this book in my collectionsnd read it! Thanks for all of your knowledge and information that i would otherwise miss…

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    November 16, 2021 at 8:49 am

    I am almost finished with The Tall Woman and I would love to read another one of her books. I know I will miss Lydia and her family so much when I am done.
    Just as a side note, i really love the sweaters you wear. The one you had on for the last Mountain Path was so beautiful! I bet your Mother made it. I saw the YouTube post of her crochet with your daughter too. My Mom used to crochet but mine turn out crooked! My passion is quilting.
    Anyway, I also have another book on the way that you recommended called Dorie of the Mountain.
    Have you ever read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek? It’s a good one too.

    • Reply
      November 16, 2021 at 9:21 am

      Angelyn-I liked the book woman one too 🙂

  • Reply
    Lori Hughes
    November 16, 2021 at 8:47 am

    I think, for me, the closing in of fall also means the darkness comes back and the depression begins again. Honestly, reading your blog and watching your videos helps keep some of the darkness away. So I thank you

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 16, 2021 at 8:45 am

    I can tell from the excerpt I need to find books by Wilma Dykeman. I have not read anything of hers but a non-fiction book about the French Broad river as best I recall. I’m going to see what I can come up with.

    I heard the same folk saying that to hear a screech owl meant a death. But somehow it never bothered me. I like to hear them. To me though they don’t “screech”, more like a high whistle then a descending tremelo (however it’s spelled). We once lived in a house where a screech owl would come sit in a maple tree out back and call. But it never hung around long at a time. There is a book entitled “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” and is about that belief as held by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

    When I was growing up there was a local fella whose nickname was “Hoot”. The story was that an owl asked his name, saying “Who? Who ?Who?” (That would have been a great horned owl.) He kept saying and it just kept asking “Who? Who? Who?” So he got tagged with that name. Don’t know as I ever heard his real name.

    i have not heard an owl in a long time and if I did around here it would probably be a barred owl. That’s the one that says, “Who? Who? Who cooks for you aaaalllllll?” If you play a recording of it, if there are any around they will come to check you out. I think a motion-activated recording of an owl would be a fun Halloween thing to do, especially if there was an owl. with eyes rhat lit up to go with it.

    • Reply
      Angelyn Mclain
      November 16, 2021 at 8:43 pm

      I am just finishing The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman. It is really good.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 8:38 am

    This time of year the past surely is thick around us. I have never heard a screech owl at night and hope I never do.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Parrish
    November 16, 2021 at 8:29 am

    Love your blog. Owls do have a eerie sound.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    November 16, 2021 at 8:16 am

    We love the sound of owls hollering in the night, we hear them most nights where we live. To us it’s part of the peacefulness of night time. This time of the year is always full of memories of our loved ones who we miss. Thank you for sharing that passage!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 8:11 am

    This sounds like a soulful book. I would love to read it. I heard a hoot owl outside my window just after dusk last week, when darkness was settling in. It was out of place because I live in a neighborhood with no woods close by. Still, it was welcome music and made me daydream of walking in the woods on a crisp fall day with a carpet of leaves crunching under my steps. I’m loving all these snippets from books that you’re posting. You always have such wonderful book recommendations.

  • Reply
    Nancy Vater
    November 16, 2021 at 8:02 am

    I tried to find this book for purchase after reading the passage on your blog but without success. I hope I win!!!

    • Reply
      Don Tomlinson
      November 16, 2021 at 9:05 am

      Go to They have this one an several more of hers as well.

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    November 16, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Loved this passage from the book. We have owls outside our house and hear them occasionally and we enjoy them. This passage really makes you stop and think, and that is so important in today’s rush, rush world. Slow down and smell the roses, or in this case, listen to the owl. Have an awesome and thankful day.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 7:55 am

    My grandparents believed in so many of these sayings – wish I could remember more of them

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    November 16, 2021 at 7:51 am

    The phrase, “the past is thick around me” brought a flood of memories to my mind. I’d never heard it described that way before.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    November 16, 2021 at 7:33 am

    My granny said if a bird flies into a window, it’s a sign of someone’s death. It certainly is getting to be the time of Thanksgivings and Christmases past. One of my daughters was born Nov 27 and she now lives in Mexico. So on that day she will be 33 and I won’t get to make her a cake or hug on her for 3 years running now. I miss my mommy so bad especially at this time of year. I miss the people long gone and sometimes it seems almost like a dream for its been that long. Bittersweet tears held back by reason and strength in knowing the beloved departed are with me always until I see them again.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    November 16, 2021 at 7:28 am

    Thankful for your posts. Look forward to it each morning. ☺

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 7:21 am

    This is lovely!!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Wil
    November 16, 2021 at 7:16 am

    Although you make wonderful videos to share with us, I appreciate that you are one of the few who have not stopped posting on your blog. And every morning! Bless you. My computer seems to be catching up with me in age, and both of us are not always able to get the videos to play properly. So thank you for your daily posts!

  • Reply
    Diane Kelbaugh
    November 16, 2021 at 7:04 am

    I love the sound of screech owls at night. It reminds me of where I grew up but I never heard that it signaled death. I did have a scary screech owl experience once though. One day I didn’t do my chores of tending the chickens right after school. When my dad found out he made me go out and do it though it was already dark. As I was closing up the chicken house door, a screech owl called from the tree right next to the chicken house. Scared me to death! Almost made me drop the basket of eggs. That was incentive to get my chores done before dark from then on!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 16, 2021 at 7:04 am

    A very thought full post today, yes, it’s that time of year. Fall is both quiet and powerful with a touch of sadness and a little loss.
    Well, not sure where that came from but it describes how I feel maybe more this year than usual.
    On a brighter side the leaves have been glorious this year, as usual. We can always trust the mountains to provide some beauty along with the sadness.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 7:03 am

    What a beautiful passage, and I’ve never heard of this novel. Thanks for sharing! I so enjoy your blog and videos.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    November 16, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Wilma Dykman’s words open the heart. “Innocent Earth” just those words makes my heart long to be in those mountains.

  • Reply
    Jane ODell
    November 16, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Yes, this time of year is full of memories. I miss my parents so much it is palpable. I wish I could turn back time to when we were all together and then I realize we cannot go back, only forward. I am so thankful to our Lord for providing a way that we can all be together again one day. What a day that will be! I am so grateful for His love and sacrifice for us!

  • Reply
    Don Tomlinson
    November 16, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Her mention of the screech owl and it being that deer season is open reminds me of a particular hunt several years ago in the blue ridge mountains of Bedford county near a section called Peaks of Otter. Rumor had it that on more than a few occasions over the previous few months that area residents had heard and seen a cougar. In those days as a much younger man I believed that to be successful on a deer hunt you had to be in the woods an hour before daylight and I had a fairly good hike to reach my intended location. About a half hour into my hike I stopped for a breather. While standing in the still dark woods catching my breath thinking about if those cougar sightings were for real, suddenly from a limb just over my head came the blood curdling call of a screech owl. Needless to say the rest stop was over as I quickly debated whether to go deeper into the woods or back to the safety of my truck. I opted for the woods but it was a tense few minutes.

  • Reply
    Linda Daniel
    November 16, 2021 at 6:16 am

    Love reading your posts first thing in the morning. Have a great day!

    • Reply
      Kay Rash
      November 16, 2021 at 6:53 am

      Wilma Dykeman is my absolute favorite and John Parris is a close second. I love stories about my beloved mountains.

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