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Today I took a walk. A long walk.

William Wordsworth told me to.

As I sat in my office working through another lunch, answering calls, returning emails, problem-solving, trouble-shooting, I heard it, “The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…”* Old Will was whispering to me. Chiding me.

That’s what you get when you’re the child of English scholars — 19th century poets talking in your head.

The world was too much with me. After a long, cold winter, after several hectic months at work, after cooking the dinners, folding the laundry, paying the bills, and doing all the things that mothers and working people everywhere do every day, I had reached my end. The world was not just with me, it was all up on me, and I had to get out in the sunshine. Right then.

So I did.

I started out from the office deciding I would walk as far as I could in 30 minutes, then turn around and walk back. It didn’t take but about a half a block for me to remember how much more you see, how much more you hear, how much more you feel when you’re hoofing it down the street and not riding in a car.

I walked past a crowd gathered around a preacher shouting messages of hate and damnation. The onlookers weren’t buying it. A few hollered back. Most gazed at the spectacle with varying degrees of bemusement and disgust. I walked on.

I heard two women talking as I passed. “Thank you again for caring enough to ask,” one said. “That’s what friends are for,” said the other. I walked on.

I saw dogwoods, irises, pansies, kale, and flowering things for which I have no name. The pollen swirled around me in a yellow cloud. I sneezed. I walked on.

Wordsworth’s admonition rang in my ears. “For this, for everything, we are out of tune.”*

I walked in the shadow of Southside Baptist Church. I felt small gazing up as its enormous marble columns lifted the pediment to the heavens. Insignificant. Humble. I walked on.

I saw award-winning chef Frank Stitt sitting on a fountain getting his picture made. He posed. A reporter hovered. The photographer snapped away. I walked on.

Almost back at the office, I saw a sticker on a traffic signal control box. It said “Be Open.” I am, I thought to myself. Open to taking a break when I need one. Open to walking. Open to experiencing life instead of driving by it. I walked on.

Wordsworth was in my head again. I felt like shouting. “Great God! I’d rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; so might I, standing on this pleasant lea, have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.”*

I walked on.

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* From “The World Is Too Much with Us,” a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

It is as cold as floogie.

At least that’s how Mama describes the weather we’ve had this winter — as cold as floogie.

She’s used this description for as long as I can remember, although the word “floogie” doesn’t seem to have any real meaning. It’s sort of onomatopoetic in a way. “Ooooo it’s so cold. Cold as floogie!!!” I say it myself sometimes. I never questioned it. I just thought it was a funny thing to say.

snow pic

Who likes the snow? Children. Here’s me frolicking in a winter wonderland with my dog Opie during an uncharacteristic snow in South Alabama in the early 70s.

Then I ran across this Mental Floss article, 11 Obscure Regional Phrases to Describe the Cold. Number 9 on the list quoted a line penned by Herman Melville, “Cold as Blue Flujin, where sailors say fire freezes.” Flujin? Floogie? Sounds pretty darn close to me. Sounds to me like a word that was quite likely misheard and put into use.

I can’t find any other reference to Blue Flujin other than Melville’s. Where did the saying come from? Where is this place? I hope I never find out. You see, I don’t like the cold. In fact, I pretty well hate it. I will take a hundred degrees in the shade any day of the week over having the mercury dip below 50, much less down into the [gasp!] single digits.

Like my Southern brethren who were absolutely hung out to dry in Blue Flujin a couple of weeks ago, I am not prepared for snowy or icy weather. I don’t know how to drive in it. I don’t like to frolic in it. I don’t have the clothes for it. And I don’t drink milk, which seems to be some sort of requirement for a snow day.

Here’s what’s nice about the heat of summer — no special driving skills are necessary, any frolicking that must commence can be done in the pool or the ocean, the fewer clothes you wear the better, and beer and/or fruity cocktails are de rigueur. Now that’s my kind of day!

“But this wintry wonderland is so pretty!” they say. “We can make snow angels and take pictures of our dogs!” they exclaim. “We can wait in endless lines to get some moo juice and make s’mores!” they titter.

“Have a big time,” I say. You’ll find me at the house counting the days until summer. I’ll like the cold when Blue Flujin freezes over.

Who’s getting ready for the Super Bowl? As you know, one of the most important parts of watching the big game is the snacks. While you’re planning your party, check out my list of snacks inspired by the last ten Super Bowl halftime shows in my latest guest post for Bourbon & Boots.

Anyone who knows me knows I’ll eat just about anything that won’t eat me first. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite Birmingham eating establishments in my latest guest post for Bourbon & Boots Eat Like a Local in Birmingham. I hope you see a few of your favorites and, if you don’t, I hope you share with me some of your favorite spots and insider tips.

Photo from steelcitypops.com.

Photo from steelcitypops.com.

For a couple of days now I have stared blankly at the computer screen trying to think up an amusing and entertaining New Year’s post. I talked about the traditional foods a couple of years ago and I don’t have much truck with resolutions, so for the first time in a great long while I find myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words. Surprising, I know.

Frankly, although this year has been at times wildly happy, at other times it has been extremely lachrymose. Death crept up on me three times in as many months, and while I, as all good Southerners do, have found ways to cope, it’s sometimes hard to put your face on and go out in the world with a smile. But still I try.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I have a tendency to launch myself into daily life with three things: lipstick, cute shoes, and a sense of humor. But there are some days, like today, when things just seem blah. There are days, like today, when inspiration plays possum. There are days, like today, when you stare at the screen praying that the goddess of humor will bestow upon you just one golden, witty phrase.

Where is my muse? Oh, Thalia, can you hear me?

Thalia, muse of comedy. Detail from the “Muses Sarcophagus,” representing the nine Muses and their attributes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Thalia, muse of comedy. Detail from the “Muses Sarcophagus,” representing the nine Muses and their attributes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I reckon not, because here I am, still typing, still waiting, still blank.

Mama often tells me to write about this or that. She sends me fascinating emails with snippets from her memory. She wonders why I don’t dash off a post from her suggestions, and I try to explain that I can’t write her stories. My stories just come. They pop into my mind out of the clear blue and usually at a time when it is inconvenient to write them down. It is as if my brain will explode if I don’t drop everything and set the words free. But if it is not my story, my memory, my experience, the words just don’t come.

So what does all this tell me?

It tells me that I want Folkways Nowadays to be different than many blogs you may read. I want to give you words that make you think, remember, and learn. Words that capture little moments in time, share secrets, strike a nerve. Most of all, I want to give you words that entertain and make you laugh. If I can’t give you the stories you deserve, then we’ll all just have to wait on Thalia to pay another visit.

It tells me I need to get out into the world more. The muse doesn’t come to you when you are all alone behind a desk, just you and the computer. She comes when you are out amongst ‘em. She comes to you at the party, the beauty parlor, the DMV. She comes to you with a side of gravy at the local diner. She comes to you on the back roads, in the small towns, and in a pot of collards. If I’m not doing anything, neither is she, so it’s time for me to get right or get left.

And it tells me that you just can’t fake funny. You can fake happy. You can fake sad. You can fake sentimental and mad. But if you have to think about it too long, if you have to try too hard, if you just have to wrassle those words onto the page, then just give it up. If it doesn’t make me laugh, then I know it won’t make you laugh. And if you don’t laugh, well, what’s the point?

And that’s exactly what you might be wondering here some 600 words later – what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is my point?

Good question. And one I don’t have an answer to (thanks for nothing, Thalia!).

I’ll just take this opportunity to let you know how very much I appreciate your reading Folkways Nowadays and giving me your never-ending support and encouragement. Forget that old Thalia. It’s really you who inspires me every day to share my stories, and for that I thank you.  Here’s to a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014 filled with funny!

No faking.

Even though the railroad tracks through Citronelle have long since been taken up, once a year the Train still rolls through town. It is a phenomenon I’ve heard about for years from Mama’s friend Annie Bell. You see, the Train stops at her house, just like it stopped at her mother’s house, every Christmas morning.

This isn’t any ordinary rail line. The Train is what locals call a group of men who gather early on Christmas morning and travel from the northeast side of Citronelle down three miles or so to the community known as Russell. There might be eight merrymakers or there might be twenty. It depends on the year, the weather, and who all is in town. As the Train rolls along, they stop at various houses spreading Christmas cheer.

From Ideals, 1955. I found this issue in Granny's piano bench.

From Ideals, 1955. I found this issue in Granny’s piano bench.

Every host along the route waits for the Train’s arrival with great anticipation. It’s a big honor, Annie Bell says, to be a Train stop. The visitors are offered specially prepared holiday refreshments, and everyone enjoys a light repast. A slice of ham here. A piece of pound cake there. A cup of coffee. Maybe something a little stronger. Maybe not. As with any train, new folks join in and others drop off as they make their southbound journey through town. And although the stops only last a little while, they are plenty long enough for a happy word, a hug, a handshake, a little libation, and a lot of goodwill and laughter.

The Train doesn’t bring presents. It’s no sleigh, after all. What this train delivers is a group of people who enjoy each other’s company, who take the time to actually show up and let their friends and loved ones know how much they matter. No quick text. No e-card. No tweet. Only the true spirit of Christmas, live and in person.

Now no one knows how long The Train has gone on. No one knows how it started. Annie’s brother, who is ninety, says he remembers being too young to go. The Train just is and always has been. Riders have come, riders have gone, and the stops have changed, passing down through several generations now. But one thing remains the same — the Train still rolls merrily along every Christmas morning.

***

Dearest readers,

Thank you all for reading my stories this year, for sharing yours, and for your never-ending support and encouragement. I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Fondest regards,

Audrey

Over at Bourbon & Boots you can read my latest guest post and get the recipe for Pam’s Apple Cake. It is to die for. While you’re there, read my other guest posts and pick up a few last minute Christmas presents made by Southern artisans. As always, I thank you for reading and hope that you enjoy!

Apple cake

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