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Homeward Bound...

One of my many trips this summer was an impromptu journey to visit my mother in Tennessee. Apparently several of her siblings decided to get together on a whim thus joining many of the Baltz's in one location (which used to happen all the time, but not since my grandmother died over 20 years ago). It was strange to see family that I had not seen since before I moved to Chicago in 1995 and odd to be such a stranger to them all (though I was always the alien in the family and have only become more so as I've aged).

My mother now lives in Dover, TN, which is northwest of Nashville (where I grew up) and very near the Kentucky border. She loves her little house there. When she and my (then) stepfather bought the property (again over 20 years ago) it had a very small cottage, an uninhabitable log cabin and some out-buildings. It had no running water, and no indoor plumbing. She has worked very hard to expand that cottage (and did most of it herself with her current husband). They have built on extensively, installed a well (I got to help with that, what a pain in the ass that was!) and have two fully functional flushies.

This is a shot of my mother and I from the trip. As you can see, I did not inherit my height from her. I got her eyes, cheeks, nose and basic body shape...the rest is dad's.

My mother and I have a good but complicated relationship. My father left us when I was 6, so she raised me though really, she was no more than a child herself (she was 19 when I was born). There were times when I was young that were very, very hard but she always tried her best, I know, and she loves me in her own way. She really is an amazing woman who thrived despite being raised in a very hostile environment.

Up until her current marriage, my mother and I were extremely close. We still love each other of course but there is more distance between us now because we have made such different life choices. I find that I miss her constantly but that when I return home, she and her life have changed so much that it's not comfortable and easy as it once was. We've talked about it and we've promised to try to maintain our relationship but it's, well, complicated.

It was good to get home and see her. I often don't go home for years at a time and I was reminded that she is aging (as are we all) and I do not want to take for granted the years that we have to spend together. I was reminded that in some ways, we still have an easy and fertile connection which is art...thank the gods for art! I was also reminded of some very old wounds and stories that I have built over the years and which have stunted my happiness in many ways. I had not seen clearly, until this visit, how much those stories are connected to her...in fact are hers. Of course I chose to pick them up, now didn't I? I don't blame her - but I feel sad and I am really struggling with the things that got stirred, poked and prodded.

The work, the work...it never ends and only goes deeper, yes?

If you'd like to take a tour of Dover (with my delightful commentary!) you can do so by .

This is my mother, Josephine. I think she's beautiful. I wish she wouldn't dye her hair blond though...I prefer the rich brunette color that is her own.

A view of the drive and front yard from the house...that white, iron planter in the distance is over 100 years old.

This is the front of the house. I should have taken a longer shot so you could see the porch that extends along the front...they did a lovely job building it.

You can get some sense of the front porch in this one...

I thought my mom looked beautiful in her pj's, on the front porch talking to Black Beauty, one of her 11 chickens. For some reason she looks like a small girl to me in this shot.

One last morning shot before she told me stop taking pictures before she'd brushed her hair.

A close-up shot of the girls.

This is the back of the house.

This is the side of the house...yes I realize my photography is somewhat boring...but I'm consistent!

A closer view of the back porch. Hey, I come from a porch-loving people and have inherited the trait in full.

There is a small log cabin behind the house which is adorable but uninhabitable until it is chinked. It's a shame...I'd love to claim this spot for myself but right now I'd be chased out by the spiders and mice. I thought the John Deere tractor was a nice touch. Sometimes I forget how cliche my homeland can be.

More of the cabin. I was amused by the bird feeder made out of an old boot.

Jennifer attempts "artful" photography.

They built a huge chicken coop on the back of the garage. My mother loves her chickens. She likes to tell me horrible stories about things that can go wrong if they get ill which all seem to involve having to stick your finger in their butts. Hmmmm.

They have many raised beds around the yard, and one plot further back in a clearing in the woods but this is the bulk of the garden.

Mom picking Tennessee veggies for me to take home...sorry, but you yanks don't grow them to taste as good. ;>)

Mom and her mother in law (Ma Henry) were very excited about this "drinking ladle gourd". Must be a country thing.

Inside the house you can see a lot of my mother's creativity. She laid all the tile in this kitchen and created the mosaic splash guard that is behind the stove.

Most of the wood in the house was taken from my "ancestral home" (my grandparent's house in which I spent most of my youth) before they tore it down. All the paneling, shelves, cabinets, etc. have that nice little bit of history.

The house also has a lot of my mother's stained glass work, as well as the numerous critters she surrounds herself with. This is Henrietta the parakeet and Clyde, the naked parrot.

More stained glass. This piece of Adam and Eve is set high (and off-center) in the wall between the living room and the bathroom. I have no idea why they put it there.

My mother loves dishes, can you tell? She refinished this cabinet and replaced the glass herself.

My mother is a painter. I inherited my visual art/craft talents from her and music from my father. This is one of her more recent paintings. I wish I had photographed some of her others which are even lovelier.

Sunday morning breakfast was a sacred tradition in my family and still is. Okay, this looks deceptively healthy. I did not photograph the fried eggs and country ham that were cooking on the stove at the time. The mug is one that I made for mom in my pottery class.

My mother doing dishes with Clyde on her head. I think my mother may be St. Francis of Assisi reincarnated. Clyde, the naked parrot, loves to sit on her head or her knee. He also loves drinking rum and coffee and smoking pot. Don't ask.

The cat: "Rocky Racoon".

Behind the house and cabin you will find a path leading into the woods. Most of the acres that mom owns are wooded. This is her favorite part of living at Dover.

Mom and her Border Collie, Roo-roo, are ready for a walk.

Down the path...

You can't see them, but armies of chiggers are lurking in this photo. At the time of this shot, hundreds of them were devouring my legs without my knowledge.

Oh right, this is the source of my magic...


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 4th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Those are great photos! Thanks for sharing them. You're mom is so cute!
Sep. 4th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks...yeah, she's sassy. :)
Sep. 4th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the pictures! They are fantastic.
Sep. 4th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks...it's nice to share a bit of myself that you normally wouldn't get to see. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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