Gladiolus. The flower for August, my birthday. Grandmother had a huge garden filled with every vegetable you could imagine. Along the edges of the garden, she grew red, pink and white glads.
My mother loves iris. She had tiered flowerbeds filled with hundreds of iris in every color and type. Some smelled like orange peel; some were solid colors; others had stripes along the edges of the petals. We spent many hours weeding, separating and replanting the bulbs. The purple iris is the Tennessee state flower, and I especially love the deep, velvety purple. I always think of my mother when I see an iris.
The tulip poplar is the state tree of Tennessee. I love how it grows so straight and tall. And I like the unusual orange and green cup-like flowers. That are shaped like tulips. When I was a little girl, my grandmother took me up into the mountains to see one of the old-growth poplars. The tree had fallen, but the trunk was still there. It was at least five feet across. The mountains were full of huge old-growth poplars before the loggers came in. Poplar wood lasts forever and never rots. Many of the log cabins were build of poplar, and the logs are good even today, over 100 years later.
Fret 8: The rhododendron and mountain laurel are some of the most famous wildflowers in the Appalachian mountains. The pink flowers cover the mountains during the early summer. Roane Mountain in North Carolina is especially well-known for its rhododendron. Uncle Bob, Aunt Min, Grandmother and I would drive all through the mountains looking at the blooms every year. And again, when I got my farm, I planted a rhododendron along the bank of the creek. Even though it is not native to middle Tennessee where my farm is located, the terrain and weather has been close enough to support my transplant. And the elevation is just high enough that all through the woods on my farm I can find some of the very same wildflowers that I loved to see in the mountains when I was growing up.
Frets 9 & 10: On the white board fence around our yard, there was a large clump of morning-glories growing all over. It was thick and full like a shrub instead of a vine. The flowers were pale blue, and blue being my favorite color, I loved the little flowers that bobbed in the breeze. In the mornings, I would hear my grandmother get up and go to the kitchen and begin shuffling dishes and pots and making general "kitchen noises." I could smell the coffee perking all the way in my room at the back of the house and could hear the news and weather being announced on WGAP through the old table top radio that sat on the counter. Even though I was awake, I would lie quietly because, in a few minutes, when my grandmother would come in to wake me, she would open the curtains to let in the sun and brightly chirp, "‘Mornin’, Glory! Did you bring the afternoon paper?" I think of those wonderful mornings every time I see a morning-glory.
Frets 11/12: When I was little, blueberries grew wild on the top of the mountain. The bushes were small, about a foot or so high, and the berries were small and dark. Some mornings we would go up to the top of the mountain and pick blueberries and bring them home for Grandmother to make blueberry pancakes. When I bought my farm, I was again delighted to find wild blueberries scattered all around, just like the ones that grow in the Smokies.
Last, but not least – the water at frets 4 and 5: The stream of water running through frets 4 and 5 is for the Little River that runs out of the mountains and into Maryville and the Little T, which is now history, dammed by the TVA. My Aunt Margaret’s family farm, the Davis Farm, is along the Little River, and we spent many summer days picnicking and fishing along its banks. I spent many long hours refusing to leave the cold waters of the river, swimming at the "Y" and gathering smooth river rocks. My Aunt Ida Mae and Uncle Lalee Wells lived along the Little T where Uncle Lalee ran a sawmill. Everyone was always welcome there, and it was the kind of place that everyone wanted to be.
The waters of the rivers are notoriously dangerous, in part because the river doesn’t always look like it is dangerous. The currents run below the surface and can surprise the unwary swimmer. One time I wanted to go to the mountains and go "tubing" down Little River. Grandmother and Aunt Min were against it. I insisted. I piled into the car with the rest of the group, and we headed to the mountains. Little River runs directly along side the road into the mountains. We had begun our float and were drifting along having a good time, when I looked up to see Grandmother and Aunt Min walking along the edge of the road. They had driven up to the mountains and parked above the "Y" to supervise and be sure that nothing happened to me. They refused to leave and, despite being in their 60s, walked a good mile and a half down the mountain as I floated in the river. At the time, I was greatly embarrassed. Now, in my old age, I realize that I have never been loved as much as they loved me.
So in the end, that is what this dulcimer is about. Love. My love of music, my family, my friends, my memories; of Bob and Janita; of the tradition of the mountains and of the dulcimer. And, of course, life itself.