“What Song Is It You Wanna Hear?”


Lynyrd Skynyrd (Internet Image)

In 1976, rock musicians were still limited in their physical movement by the length of the cords that connected them to their amplifiers. Attached as they were to the volume control, they could leap and dance about while they played, but only so far.

Music can act as a link for many of us with certain songs tethering us to old memories like those amp cords allowing us to gain distance, but never completely disconnect. We may hear a song in a different location years on, but within a few notes we’ve shifted back to the time when everything around us imprinted along with the music, linking it forever in a sort of soundtrack for our lives.

Last night I was at our village pub celebrating my friend Kate’s 50th birthday. It was quite the party with live music and great food and I had fun chatting with the people who’ve become my friends. It was at the end of the evening after having put on my coat while giving my husband a look that said, ” I’m ready to go if you are … ” that I heard the opening chords to a song that only has one memory for me.

It’s the summer of 1976. I’m fifteen and lost in the screaming energy of southern rock fans who don’t want the show to end. I have a perfect seat although I have spent little of the concert in it and from my position in the center section of the balcony, I can see the stage clearly and part of the audience below.

It’s one of three sold out shows being recorded for their live album, ” One More From The Road ” and fans of the band are making their thoughts heard. They want to hear another song before they go and I join in with the others shouting and clapping as we try to bring back the band for another encore because there’s one more song we need to hear before we say goodnight.

My voice is strained and I’m sweaty from dancing in place. I’m dancing alone, but together along with 4,677 other fans calling out and demanding in a way, to hear that one last tune.

The crowd roars as the band retakes the stage and Ronnie Van Zant, lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd, asks that now famous question in southern rock circles, ” What song is it you wanna hear? ” It’s in the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia that a sort of musical history is made when the crowd responds in what sounds like one explosive voice with only two words,

Free Bird!

Listening last night as the lone musician played the southern rock classic, I closed my eyes a few times remembering myself at 15 and that night when for a few minutes all that seemed to matter was a song. In a funny twist towards the end, I realized I was looking down at his shoes with no particular thought.

There was nothing wrong them, they were just ordinary shoes, but after about the third glance and somewhere around the words, ” Lord, I can’t change … ” I realized that I was looking at his feet because Ronnie Van Zant always went barefoot on stage and I remembered that I’d read that he did it because he liked to feel the stage burn.

While I was never the Confederate flag waving, Dixie loving, fan of southern rock music, that some of my friends were, I loved certain songs and ” Free Bird ” was one of them.

For years it has been a song that people shout out at inappropriate times at concerts or on other occasions when they think it might be funny. I’m sure many have no idea of the origin or why they do it. They just do it because their buddy did it once and got a laugh so they try it too.

I think it deserves better than to be used in a bad bid for attention by someone with no more creativity than that, but then that’s coming from someone who was actually there when the question was asked, and had a chance to answer.

It’s a special memory that 35 years later still has the power to make me remember a time when shouting, ” Free Bird ” was no joke, but simply a song request.

If you have a special song or a concert memory that takes you back maybe you could share it in a comment below. Don’t forget to leave a comment on Monday’s post if you’d like a chance to win my contest and thanks to everyone who has left one there already. I’m loving finding out new things about old friends as well as having the opportunity to meet more of you for the first time.

A Story To Share – Not Just Mine, But Yours

If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches on the same tree. ~ W. B. Yeats

I sometimes wonder about the people who visit me here without saying hello. I see them in my sitereader and imagine them reading over coffee or sharing something they’ve found on my blog with someone else in their lives the way I do myself when I find a blogger whose posts resonate with me.

If you are one of the silent, won’t you say hello today and tell me something about yourself. Simple or complex one, I’d like to know more about you.

If you are feeling brave, you might share a dream you have when you are alone in your thoughts or perhaps a secret no one knows about you.

If that makes you feel too exposed, you might tell me which of my earlier posts resonated with you most and why.

Even if you comment regularly, you can share something new. And because it’s often said that there are gifts in being heard, I am going to offer one more.

Using a random number generator to choose a comment, I’ll use something you say in yours to create a mini short story for you.

Comment before Wednesday ends and I’ll choose the winner at 8:00 am (UK time) on Thursday, and post your story this Friday.


UK Census 2011, Clues For The Future

It’s census time here and all across the UK, people are either filling out forms on paper or adding their details online. John and I did both. He’s saving the paper copy with the family bible and some other documents providing an easy paper trail for future generations who might be interested in looking back at their family history.

Since I filled out my own details in the section for ‘ Person 2 ‘ in the house on March 27, 2011, it was interesting to see my American side showing itself as I started off by putting an x in boxes instead of tick mark as they call a check mark here. I’m afraid I did not read the directions as is my way and habit took over. (click on the highlighted area for a photo of us from my first visit)

It’s kind of funny to think about how different things such as blogging will make tracking an ancestor easier in the future. There is likely to be a record of my 400 posts as of today on this blog and the 82 other posts found on my first GOTJ blog.

If I want to know more about my family history, I have to search through old census records like this one from June 19, 1900. My mother complied two binders with loads of family details, but hit some sort of dead end when it came to my great-grandmother on her maternal side. I did a little snooping last night by going to Family Search, a free information site in the US to look for my great-grandmother and some of her immediate family. (Click twice to enlarge any photo)

Here you can see Bessie L. (Lee) Hood was 19 and still at home on June 19, 1900 when the census was taken and you can see her mother, Cornelia was slightly older than her father, John. I could also tell what they did for a living and that they lived in Sparta, a detail that could be helpful in tracking back in time for more clues.

The 2011 UK Census results will not be released until 100 years from now to protect the privacy of people while they are living. As that will be 150 years after my date of birth, I expect it will be my great-great grandchildren (if there are any ) who will look over the census records and say, ” Look there’s where great-great-grandma Elizabeth Harper followed her heart to the UK, marrying a Winchurch and becoming the first in the family to have a dual citizenship. ”  Then one will likely turn to the other with a slightly superior look and say, ” I knew that already, because I read her blog. “

I had to add that last sentence about reading the blog as it’s become a bit of a joke with me. When topics come up in passing about local happenings and someone says they hadn’t heard whatever we happen to be discussing, I say ,” You mean you didn’t know that? ” Which I follow up with,” You would … if you read my blog! “


Hanging On His Every Word

Jess loves John. Not my John, her John. Jessie is a Lurcher, a mixed breed with a fascinating history, go on, take a minute and have a look.

They’ve been together for a very long time and the grey on her muzzle seems to increase each time I see her. (Notice the guy in the middle background on the bicycle, you’ll see him again)

She really listens to John when he speaks. Maybe it has something to do with his Scottish accent or how gentle he seems to be with her. It’s also pretty amazing to watch her respond to a variety of silent hand signals he uses mainly when they hunt.

I don’t know if it’s puppy love or just good training, but she really does hang on his every word. (Check out the distance traveled by guy in background) Jess stood without moving even a twitch, waiting for the next command. She’s always very gentle with me, but John told me once that she’s a terror with the pheasants and rabbits that he likes to hunt.

He’s telling her now to look at me and I’m calling to her as well, but she only listens to him.

That’s what I’m looking for … well, without the hand gesture maybe.

They look as if they discussing the next shot in this one.

This is my favorite of the ten or so I took. I think it looks like mutual adoration.

Jessie looks as if she’s thinking that  ” just one more ” means just one more. By the time I had snapped all I thought the two of them could stand after having their walk interrupted by a dog loving woman with a camera and a desire for an impromptu photo shoot, Jess was wearing an expression that appeared to say, ” I’m over it, but if it’s what you want John then I’ll do it for you.”

Unexpected photo opportunities like this one makes keeping a camera on hand and moving a bit slower through my day worth struggling with some of the unexpended calories I was complaining about here.



Why My Camera Is Not Good For My Health

I probably won’t need to explain the title of this post once you see the photos from yesterday taken during what was supposed to be a brisk walk for my health. With friends my age having knee surgeries and long recoveries, I’ve been forced to pay attention to my own aches and pains instead of trying to medicate (acetaminophen) them away and denial is no longer a practical solution either.

Since I can no longer disregard my aging, overused, knees, and hips, walking has taken the place of running these days. Speed seems to be my biggest issue as I can’t seem to move fast enough to affect my cardiovascular system.

I’ve not really slowed down that much in shifting from running to walking as I was never the fastest runner in any race, but walking makes it easier to see my surroundings which makes me want to pause for a photo more often than is good for me. A brisk walk becomes a stroll and before you know it, all I have is a photo essay of my walk and a need for larger trousers.

I thought someone should get something out of it my ” exercise program ” so I’m sharing a few photos of my distractions from yesterday.

A walk though these woods in any season has the feel of a cathedral and I am always in awe of the changing light.

A few steps farther along the same path on the way to the buttercup field. Notice how the path forks just up ahead.

No need to explain these lovelies.

The photo above is the area that John and I refer to fondly as the buttercup field. I know it looks pretty ordinary now, but it will be a stunning field of gold by May.

This is just a peek over a hedge at the trees below waiting to shake off the last bits of their winter look.

I never seem to capture how lovely these stone steps really look. I work with angle and exposure over and over, but I am never satisfied and wish I could walk you to this place to show you what I mean.

I make my way back to the village green where the daffodils are in full bloom and cross down to the churchyard to see what kind of color I can find there.

Yellow flowers fill the churchyard for now, but soon they’ll be competing for a bit of grassy space with the many-colored primroses that come every spring. If you look above the church door in the top left of the photo, you can see a sundial near the arch.

This sundial may seem old with a date of 1780, but there are other dates around the churchyard and inside the church that are actually much older.

I’ve taken this shot before as some of you may remember from older posts. It requires getting into a prone position to get the right angle and after all my exertion from my big ” workout ” I was tempted to have a little snooze in the sun. I did consider that finding me lying prone in the churchyard surrounded by flowers might be a bit disconcerting for someone passing by.

My friend Patrice is the latest in my Atlanta circle requiring knee surgery and if you’d think a good thought for her recovery, I’m sure she’d be grateful. Ironically she was demonstrating the proper way to run to a patient of hers when her knee went. Patrice and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon together in Washington D.C. in 2007. Given our aging joints, I have a strong feeling that may be the last big run for both of us.

A Georgia Transplant’s Dogwood Days In Cornwall

Dogwood trees in the American south are some of the early signs of spring and one of the things I missed about my home in Georgia when I moved to the UK. I had no idea they grew in Cornwall as my first spring here came and went without the unmistakable explosion of blooming color.

We were well into a month I would normally associate with summer time when I discovered some gorgeous dogwood trees during a garden walk at Lanhydrock, one of my favorite National Trust properties. Noting my delight, my sweet husband John surprised me with one on a birthday trip later that year.

My dogwood has been growing in a pot outside since we brought it home, living through the building extension, waiting to be planted in a place in the garden where I might see it from my desk as I write. Last winter, Cornwall was blasted with freezing temperatures unusual for this part of England and I worried all the way from New Zealand where we were on an extended holiday, that it might die from the cold sitting outside in its container.

A few days ago, John gently cleaned my little tree of all the dead leaves still clinging to its branches and noted as he did so that it had new leaves. I was thrilled to hear this as I had not held out much hope as poorly as it looked a few weeks ago.

I have to thank Mary for her words and beautiful images this morning. Seeing her dogwood trees in flower made me take a closer look at my special tree. While my tiny dogwood is not in full bloom yet, it looks as if it may have flowers for the very first time later this year.

If you click twice on these photos, you can see some texture that reminds me of the fuzzy softness of a newborn lamb’s ears.

I had to add this imperfect photo which turned out to be my favorite. I went outside twice this morning in my robe and bare feet to photograph my tree and ended up loving the way my robe picks up the color in the tiny dot of pink near the bud on the tree. (Click twice to see)

* The burgundy colored robe I’m wearing was my dad’s and has kept me warm on many cold mornings in the twenty years since his death. There’s something kind of special about seeing it sneak into my dogwood picture along with my barefoot completely unnoticed by me until I downloaded the image. I’m usually pretty aware of what else might be happening when I shoot and was pleased to see this one got past me.

Inspire Or Enflame – The Power Of Words

When I was the not so sweet sixteen year old you see below, I thought my dad often talked a load of rubbish. Okay, I would not have used the term, ” load of rubbish ” as that expression has only crept into my daily language since marrying my British husband and moving to Cornwall, but it sounds nicer than what I actually said to him about his way of speaking when I was a teen with an opinion on everything.

Elizabeth Harper - Christmas 1976

I ridiculed my poor father unmercifully about the way he spoke every time he gave me what I saw as a lecture, choosing to focus on how he was speaking rather what he was saying. Looking back, I can see that he was trying to inspire, but his word choices then only enflamed the attitude of a teenage girl who could finally speak her mind without fear of being slapped in the mouth. Having moved to the safety of his home from my childhood house of horrors, I pushed almost every boundary that he and my poor step-mom suggested or imposed.

Soft spoken and always careful to use both good diction and the right words, if he lived here in the UK, one might be tempted to say his speech was a bit ” posh.” I remember many conversations where he would try to impress upon me the importance of speech and the perceptions of others particularly if one had a tendency to sprinkle too much color into a conversation with the use of what I would have referred to as swear words and he would have called profanity.

Pushed to his limit

My father died just over 20 years ago and I can’t remember how many times I’ve told this story since then. It’s been a funny way to share who he was with people who never had a chance to get to know him. People like my daughter Miranda who might have enjoyed a chat with him about her sometimes colorful speech had he lived.

Gene Harper WIth Granddaughter, Miranda

The only time I heard him swear

When I was dating my high school sweetheart, I was so ” Scott this and Scott that ” during those days that I’m sure my dad was concerned about the amount of time we were spending together. First loves can be life changing and I would bet that he was worried about the possibility of things like s-e-x and teen pregnancy.

He would never say it, but I think all of his talk of 11:00 curfews and the safety of not being out too late had something to do how often he would see us in a clinch like the photo above. I’m sure it made him nervous.

Once when I was arguing with him over my desire for a midnight curfew like everyone else, he launched into his safety talk again to which I countered smugly by saying that anything that could happen after 11:00 could also happen before.

I did not let it go at that, but kept pushing, whining on and on about how I was missing out on all the fun things that friends got to do who didn’t have to be in at such an early hour. We were driving down our long gravel driveway having just turned off the main road when I said something that pushed him over the edge and he slammed on the brakes making the car slide briefly on the loose rocks as he said, ” Dammit, Elizabeth! ”

His voice went high in both pitch and volume with his temporary loss of control shocking him into silence. I don’t know what he was thinking in that frustrated moment having been pushed to the point of swearing which was something he never did in my presence and I would guess not at all. Seizing on the opportunity, I slipped in a comment that I thought was funny, but was actually condescending and sarcastic.

My response to my dad’s outburst

Feeling very sure of myself and my quick response, I lobbed a zinger at him saying, ” Pop, if I couldn’t swear any better than that, I wouldn’t do it! ”

As you might imagine, this did not go over well and all conversations about curfew ended with my being grounded for the next month. No dates, no nothing, only school and church and a serious talk later about how not being able to find a better word than a swear one was a sign of a lack of intelligence.

Lack of intelligence

The lack of intelligence talk was one I had heard many times before when I tried to fold swear words into my casual conversations with my father. I can’t remember why I did it, I think shock value must have been a partial reason or wanting to feel as if I fit in with the crowd at school. It’s funny though, I don’t remember using bad language at school because I already knew on some level that the people I wanted to like me were not people who used trashy language.

My view now

I think my dad was partly right about swearing, but I also know that it’s never a black or white situation. The trouble for me occurs when people use it to shock. By people, I am referring in this situation to bloggers and writers I read online.

I find gratuitous swearing a distraction and dislike how it takes me out of the writer’s story. Not because I am prudish or never swear myself, but because based on the overall tone and style of the blogger, it just doesn’t fit. I think the test for me is if I am humming along totally into the writer’s words and bam, there it is, a word that doesn’t fit except in my mind to shock … I tend to lose interest in the blogger.

Which is really less about losing interest and more about losing trust

This is not to say that a writer can’t change their style and shake me up a bit, but it needs to flow, not hit me like a ball I didn’t see coming. If I’ve willingly gone to a baseball game, then I know there’s a chance a ball might come my way, but if I’m just walking past a grassy meadow, on a path I take regularly, and a ball comes out of nowhere and hits me in the head, then I tend to want to avoid walking past the meadow in the future. I might creep back from time to time, but I will certainly be on guard in a way that doesn’t allow me to relax into the story in the way the writer likely intended.

There are also those bloggers I read who are terribly funny and shocking with their bad language and wild stories. I may read in disbelief at times and wonder if sharing what they say and do on the internet might be troublesome later, but I enjoy them because I know what to expect.

Yesterday, I caught an unexpected hard ball to the head. It’s happened before with this blogger and I had gone back even though something was not really right for me. As I said earlier, when someone writes a particular way and then tosses out something that seems purely designed to draw a crowd, it’s like shouting fire when there is none and I don’t trust it. I think this writer has the power to influence and inspire and I am disappointed when it seems her goal is really to start a fire in order to see how many people show up.

As John said yesterday, that’s her choice and I agree with him. Likewise, I have a choice and after dodging one too many balls, I’m leaning towards not to reading her anymore.

I’m tempted to send her an email with a link to this post before I unsubscribe, but I’m not sure any healthy debate would come of it and I’m not interested in uncivil discourse. I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Have any of you encountered a similar situation and if so, what did you do? Did you say anything to the blogger or just disappear?

I think my dad would smile knowing that for all the times I was rolling my eyes and looking bored and disinterested at his talks on the power of words and choosing the right ones, I actually heard him.

Could it be the way he said it …

Tom Selleck Or My Great-Great-Great Grandfather

HWC Folk and His Famiily, ca 1876

At a glance, most Americans or those familiar with American television and film stars might think the older man in this photo was actor Tom Selleck all dressed up for his next movie role. I saw the likeness the first time I came across this photograph of my great-great-great-grandfather, Henry William Capers Folk with his family.

The younger boys on the right and left sides of the photo became physicians like their father, HWC Folk, the Tom Selleck look-alike. The boy to the right of his mother, grew up to be my great-great grandfather, William Nicholas Hemeter Folk who is also the adult male you see in the image below. Standing at his knee is my great-grandfather, William Obed Folk.

Mahala Clementine & William Nicholas Hermeter Folk With Their Children, Mikellah & William Obed, ca 1899

Willam Obed, grew up to marry Annie Claire Mattox, my great-grandmother pictured below. I still have a few gifts she gave me when I was a little girl and some of my earliest memories are being small enough to walk under her heavy oak (I think) table in a darkish dining room.

I wish I had known her when she was a young woman or could find more stories about her now. She looks so sure of herself in the image below. I think she looks like she’s smiling with her eyes even though her mouth is set in a straight line. She’s got a sassy look about her that I like.

I do know that she had an interesting history prior to meeting and marrying my great-grandfather and it was very unusual for the time. She had a first marriage that was annulled according to my mother’s research although I had always heard she was divorced. For the daughter of a Primitive Baptist Minister and a woman born in 1879, I’m sure either would have caused a bit of a scandal.

Annie Claire Mattox

Annie Claire and William Obed had three children, one being my great-aunt, who was christened William Michael Folk, a name which evolved into Wylly Folk with the addition of St. John after her marriage. The baby below with ” Willy Mike ” as they called her, is my grandfather, Walton Obed Folk.

Walton, Wylly & Minnie (Her Doll)

Walton as a baby with older sister, Willy Mike.

Here you see my grandfather, Walton with my great-aunt Wylly and their baby brother, my great-uncle Johnny. ( Photo was hand colored by my sister Margaret )

My great-grandfather, William Folk with his boys, Johnny and Walton around 1928.

My grandfather Walton grew up to marry Elizabeth Procter shown in the photo from the 40s above.

Their only child was my mother, Elizabeth Judith who was born in 1940 and is shown here with her father, Walton.

She married my father, Gene Harper in December of 1959.

Gene & Judy Harper With Daughter, Elizabeth - 1960

Nine months later I was born. That’s me, Elizabeth Elwyn Harper when I was about 12 weeks old. You can find out interesting things when you spend time searching through your family history.

I had always thought I was the fourth Elizabeth in a row in my family, but it turns out my great-grandmother Bess Proctor was not an Elizabeth after all, but a Bessie making me only the third Elizabeth and not the fourth as I have always said when telling stories about my family history.

What about you, have you ever discovered some bit of family history that you’d thought was true that actually was different from what you’d always believed?


The Shadow Of Hope – Thinking Of Japan

I took this photograph two days before the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan with such devastating consequences.

The hillside in Cornwall was brown and lifeless and easy to pass by, but the shadow on the dirt wall drew me in for a closer look. As I scanned the area searching for the origin of shadow bloom, I realized that it was one from last year’s season of growth that had dried in place.

I photographed the dead husk of the flower and the shadow bloom on the wall together as I did, thinking it would be a good to use to herald the coming of spring, but now I find it a more fitting memorial for the Japanese tragedy.

In the middle of so much death and physical destruction it feels overwhelming even to me even from such a distance to see the possibility of life after recovery, and I have to wonder how the people living through it can bear the pain and loss.

I am unsure of the best way to offer support and while I can send money, I want to do more somehow, to offer something other than just an anonymous check, something more like a sympathy card.

While I cannot begin to understand the fear and heartache the people of Japan must be feeling, I do hope that somewhere they can see the memory of new life waiting in the shadows.


Finding Funds When Your Money Tree Has Been Cut Down

In the US, you can sometimes overhear parents telling their children that ” Money doesn’t grow on trees ” so imagine my surprise when I noticed a money tree that had been cut down and left along a walking path here in the UK.

Never having seen one before, I decided that I must have just grown up in the wrong part of the world for money trees. Judging by what you can see below, I’ll agree that it might take a while to accumulate enough for a major purchase seeing how most of the money looks like pocket change.

I’m usually just fine these days with what I have in life and grateful for the things I own. I feel fortunate on many levels, but sometimes I must admit to coveting the occasional ” want ” or some item that not really a need.

Recently I woke from a dream with a clear memory of a bicycle. It was red and retro with a perfect little basket and even in my sleep I wanted it.

Yesterday, John and I walked into a store near where we live and there it was, the bike in my dream!  Okay, it was missing the basket, but I have one already that’s been waiting for the right bike.

Given the price, it’s going to take me some time to save up my money because I have other places I need to spend it now. Plus, it’s not really a need and I’m not going to die if I don’t get it, but like a child whining for candy in the checkout line,

I waaaant it!


Hmm … I wonder if I can remember where we saw that money tree.