A while back while visiting down south I thought of PawPaw’s notebook.
My PawPaw was in his 90’s and I knew he wouldn’t be with us much longer so thought I’d ask him for his notebook while he was still alive to give it if he wanted to do so.
He died yesterday afternoon. For anyone unfamiliar with that naming terminology, he was my father’s father. A “grandpaw”, in that same terminology, would be the father of a parent’s parent (great-grandfather). I’m from south Louisiana, and that’s the way we called them.
This post is in memory of him.
He was 95 (I think) and one of the last of the cajun french speakers of my family. I remember waking pre-dawn to the smell of coffee brewing and the sounds of a crowing rooster and cajun talk radio when I used to spend the night there as a child.
He was a lifelong gardener until his eyesight failed a few years ago. I’m so glad to have asked for his garden notebook a few years ago.
No one else would likely have placed any value on Pawpaw’s notebook, and it would likely have been thrown away when his house was cleaned out. But these are the very sort of things I consider as valuable remembrances of a person’s life and passions.
I believe my own passion for gardening comes from my pawpaw, and from his father before him, my grandpaw. More than ten years ago PawPaw gave me the starts for the green onions I’m still dividing and growing today. He called them “shallots”.
When I was little I used to help my grandpaw get seeds from his huge tomato patch. We’d smash the nearly rotten tomatoes that he’d kept for seeds and spread the pulp all over newspapers on the front porch of his old house. I’d walk with my grandpaw down the trail in the woods behind his house.
He’d pick wild strawberries and I’d taste them. He’d cut stalks from the palmettos and make whistle from them.
My dad never enjoyed gardening very much (probably because he had to work too often in the gardens and fields for my grandparents), but he is a big lover of nature, hiking and photography, and I think I’ve inherited my love of those things from him.
So a lot of what makes me who I am comes from that paternal line of influence.
The following is a post I made at almost the very same time of year in 2013 on my old blog.
Sept 3, 2013
I just spent the holiday weekend with family down in Louisiana. The drive to get there is long and I don’t much like it, but I enjoyed visiting.
The flavorful food is always one of the things I like to indulge in while I’m down visiting. Momma fried catfish the night I’d arrived and that was a delicious treat. One of the highlights of my trip was eating out at Mike Anderson’s restaurant in Baton Rouge. It’s my favorite place to eat real Cajun food, aside from going to a relative’s house for supper. I figured my sister’s birthday, even if it was a day late in celebration, was a great excuse to go. Unfortunately I forgot all about getting a picture of us to use on this post.
It’s been a year or so since I’d last been home and things have changed some in our family. My MawMaw died since I’d been there last and I couldn’t take off work at the time to go to the funeral. So it was different being at my pawpaw’s house without her there and I knew I would find that difference uncomfortable. I hadn’t had a chance to visit her before she took the downturn that led to her death, either. When the opportunity arose to be able to go this past weekend, I figured I’d better visit PawPaw while I still had the chance to see him.
Pawpaw was a life-long gardener. I say “was” because he can’t see well enough to do it anymore. This was the first year I can ever remember there not being a garden at his house. Not only is the garden not planted, the spot where it used to be has been wiped clean. It was an odd feeling to see that, too. Of course, it’s better to have lawn to mow than raised beds growing up in weeds, but it still felt odd to see the spot like that.
There was a notebook I wanted to ask my pawpaw about. For as long as I can remember, he used to make garden notes in a spiral bound notebook. Since he can’t garden now, I wondered if he still had his notebook and whether he might give it to me. Not that it would have a lot of useful information about gardening specific to my own area (which is a whole zone and a half different in climate), but because it was his. Filled with his handwriting and about a part of his life that was important to him. My sister thought I was nuts because she didn’t remember such a book and when pawpaw didn’t immediately know what I was talking about, she thought her assumption confirmed.
Not so though. I may be nuts, but not because I wanted a notebook that didn’t exist, ha. He did remember. And luckily, it hadn’t been thrown out yet. He went to his dresser and dug it out from beneath a bunch of clothes. He handed it to me and said I could have it. Here’s a picture of him holding it, and that’s me in the background. On the front cover you’ll see some writing, too. That’s all the last frosts of previous years since he’d begun using the notebook. I think the earliest date in it was from 1986, so it’s not his original book and he’s probably thrown out plenty of them over the years. But I got to salvage this last one, at least.
Predator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.
Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.
About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods
I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.