Thursday, January 27, 2011

Appalachian Blizzard Memories - The Red Dress Club Prompt

This week's Red Dress Club prompt is:  "You are trapped (alone or with others) in a single location during the fury and/or aftermath of a blizzard of historic proportions."

I'm breaking the rules and not responding to this prompt from my own perspective, merely because it seemed to fit quite well into another piece I've been writing in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep.  Forgive me?

Critique is welcomed, thanks.

Sarah's thoughts wander back to last winter, before Granny Rose lay dead beside her on the lice-ridden old mattress; before Sarah sat trying to figure out how to secretly bury her grandmother at the tender age of thirteen. 

They knew that winter would be furious, before it even descended on the mountains.  They'd gone digging for ramps in the early fall, and Granny Rose pointed out that all the wild onions had more layers than usual.  That was the first sign.  Then, on the long walk home, Granny Rose paused to rest heavily on her wooden cane, shrugging her right shoulder to ease the pain of bursitis, and pointed toward the beaver lodges, "Ya see, Sarah?  Ya see all them logs?  Look how t' North has more sticks than t' South.  Gonna be a real bad winter." 

Well, if anyone knew, it was Granny Rose.  Folks near and far knew about her legendary seersaying abilities.  It wasn't even six weeks later when over a foot of snow was dumped on their tiny cabin.  They'd hunkered down for days, the skies so gray that light couldn't penetrate the home, even during the day.  Sarah wasn't able to get out to dig up the cabbages and potatoes that lay buried and waiting by the side of the cabin.  Fortunately, they'd spent the majority of the previous summer stockpiling a bounty of foods.  Strings of leather breeches beans hung from the low rafters.  There was plenty of dried pumpkin, too, even though they didn't have any hog fat for seasoning.  It had to be boiled in the big iron pot over the fire much of the day to be palatable, but they ate it anyhow, with hickory nuts on the side, their heavy shells yet another ominous reminder of the winter to come.

Even with the fire going all day and all night, even with every quilt laid thickly on the bed, the chill penetrated to the bone.  As the wind howled outside, it's long fingers rumbling across the wood shingled roof, Sarah longed to escape.  Her eyes too strained in the darkness to crack the Bible, she spent the long solemn hours dreaming of the spring, when she'd be able to gather herbs and wildflowers and berries in her basket all day, frolicking through the woods completely carefree.  Granny Rose believed that children should be seen and not heard, so Sarah kept her thoughts and longings to herself during the long stretching days, the only sound the pellets of snow hitting the roof, the creaking and groaning of the logs as they stood firm against the winds.  By the fourth day there was more than two feet of snow outside, a blizzard of such that even Granny Rose swore she'd never seen anything like it.  Sarah thought she was going to lose her mind.  Idle time was not her forte - she much preferred to keep her hands busy.  She couldn't even count the number of times she'd heard, "An idle mind is t' Devil's workin' shop" from Granny Rose, who had made certain a devotion to hard work was deeply ingrained in Sarah's Appalachian blood. 

Granny Rose!  Jolted back to the present, Sarah's head drops into her hands, and she presses her cool fingers against swollen eyelids.  What is she going to do?  She would do anything - anything - just to return to those somber snow-bound days of last winter's first blizzard.

19 comments:

Mamarazzi said...

i am impressed, hauntingly beautiful! love the way you write.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

Wonderfully done! I feel so badly for her. She is all alone in the world surrounded by snow.

Nancy said...

I often think about what blizzards were like without the comforts we are blessed with today.

Very descriptive and moving. I got the shivers just imagining how cold it was!

texwisgirl said...

Very well done. I felt stranded and alone just reading this.

Chatty Crone said...

I feel her pain and sadness and her wishes to go back to that time ...

great job.

sandie

Home In The Hollow said...

And you're not entering this because?????

laughwithusblog said...

I would love to read more...

Valerie said...

Great job! You really captured Sarah's aloneness and isolation-and having to take on a burden no young girl should have to. Well done!!

Angela said...

Wow! That was great! I could see it all in my mind. Kind of like watching John Boy. ~ I'm not saying that it sounded like an episode from John Boy because it wasn't. It just took me to the times of when the Walton's took place so to speak. Loved it!

Have a Great Day!
Angela

Jo said...

Granny Rose died?...gosh this makes my bones hurt, just thinking of being cold or freezing to death....good reading.(made me be thankful I live in this day and time and I don't have to rely on a wood stove to keep us warm, we are so blessed!
~Jo

Tiggeriffic said...

I was waiting for you to write that Sarah got out her sewing box and started sewing peices of material together in making a quilt.
Oh my goodness ~ did you have to make Granny Rose die? Times were hard enough for the poor girl...Maybe Granny Rose was just sleeping soundly and Sarah thought she was dead.
Great writing~! now when is this book going to be published?
Have a tiggeriffic day~! ta ta for now from Iowa

Nancy C said...

"before Sarah sat trying to figure out how to secretly bury her grandmother at the tender age of thirteen."

Wow, that line really hooked me in! You capture her voice so profoundly, so perfectly. She is so real in my eyes.

All those details about the weather and her wisdom about the signs of snow? Stunning.

What a great read.

Andrea (ace1028) said...

As Nancy said, that first line, very powerful. But for me, this detail:

"Her eyes too strained in the darkness" made me feel like I was right there with her.

I really enjoyed it.

Lindsey V said...

Wow! This is truly impressive. It is emotionally provocative....I want to be hug Sarah and help her in some way.

You really brought her character to life!

Jennifer said...

You did such a great job of fleshing out Granny Rose that I was hoping she wasn't actually dead. You did a great job of capturing that moment of: Ok, the blizzard was bad, but that's nirvana compared to what I'm feeling right now."

Mandyland said...

I really felt the longing she had for a simpler time when she had someone to care for her and teach her. Is this part of a longer work? (This is my first time on your blog. I'm visiting from TRDC.)

Rachel said...

I felt her loneliness to my bones. Haunting.

Cheryl said...

I think you captured Sarah's voice and Granny's perfectly. It definitely made me think about surviving a blizzard without what we have today.

Sarah's situation was haunting, thinking about a 13 year-old alone in a cabin..

Erin said...

This is just amazing, the way her mind drifts back to things Granny said. So captivating!