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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

What’s One New Thing You’ve Tried Lately?

I’m an avid student when it comes to the School of Lifelong Learning – you too?

The best part of my weekly posts are the words that follow them: What I learn from your comments.

What’s one new skill you’ve learned lately, a worthwhile product you’ve tried, or a fun activity you’ve participated in? Please share it with the rest of us in the Comment section below. I read and respond to each one, and you’d be surprised how many others appreciate your contributions as well.

Here are my five new things for May:

1. Ramps

No, not the kind on boat docks! I'm referring to those leafy green plants that foragers eagerly seek in the wild.

Who else out there is a fan? If you’re unfamiliar, ramps are a type of wild onion found in the eastern US, particularly in southern Appalachia. Garlicky in flavor, ramps mellow once cooked. Bon Appetit magazine raves about them, but here in the mountains they’re simply known as “Hillbilly Bouquets.”

When my brother was visiting recently, we attended a Ramp Convention that has taken place each May for nearly a century. For $10 including sweet tea and homemade lemon pound cake, the friendly cooks at our local American Legion Post #47 served up a mighty fine meal that featured ramps in several ways: potatoes, meatloaf (my favorite), and scrambled eggs along with cornbread, ham, pinto beans and cabbage.

While we ate, we enjoyed watching the J Creek cloggers —the team we took lessons from when we first moved to North Carolina. You can't be sad when you're clogging!

2. Bird’s Nest Pendant

I made this in a library workshop for daughter Amber’s May birthday. The little pearls represent her three children. The Friends of the Library provided the materials, and all I had do was follow the hands-on instructions given by Kathy Olsen, our fabulous Adult Services librarian. Librarians are the best!

Here are instructions for a similar pendant. For mine, I crimped the silver wire around a pencil to give the silver “nest” more texture.

3. Taizé Worship

When I was completing a graduate degree in biblical studies a decade ago, I took a class in Spiritual Formation. One Sunday evening, our cohort of students traveled into Chicago together to attend a worship service in the manner of the Taizé Community in France. I was delighted when I discovered a local church here in Waynesville that offers Taizé worship on the first Sunday evening of each month.

Taizé is a lay-led, contemplative approach to prayer that allows those present to focus on time with God through a setting of peaceful light, repetitive song, scripture, and extended silence. For me, it feels like a spiritual spa for the soul. There’s a simple explanation here.

4. Mom’s Day Message

This past Sunday, our senior pastor invited Mike and me to deliver the morning message in all three services. We occasionally did this for Mother’s Day at the churches we served on Cape Cod and in Wheaton, Illinois.

It was a joy to teach from 1 Samuel as we focused on the story of Hannah, a mother who pleaded with God for a child and then dedicated him to God’s service.

If you’d like to listen in, our message starts here at 41:55:

“All of us parents who think, ‘Well, it’s too late now’ might not want to be so sure about that. Too late for us to take credit might be right on time for God.Beth Moore

5. Bunkroom

We’re often asked why we chose to retire in the mountains of western North Carolina. It’s a simple answer —we wanted to settle in a location where our family and friends would enjoy visiting. As soon as we purchased Peace Ridge, we began to dream about converting a ground floor storage space into a bunkroom for children, especially our own grandkids.

It’s finally happening!

With help from my brother, our neighbor Richard, and our good friend Jim, who’s a genius at “Imagineering” tricky spaces, the work has begun.

On the left is a Before pic as well as the work-in-progress:

Ground floor storage room - 2017

Mike and brother Dan transforming the space - 2023

We plan to build two sets of bunkbeds along the right-hand wall. I’d love any suggestions you have about bedding that doesn’t involve bulky sleeping bags or sheets that need to be tucked in.

What new skill or activity – large or small – has sparked joy in your world in recent weeks? Please, do tell!



Maggie Wallem Rowe is a speaker, dramatist, and author who lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. A student in the School of Lifelong Learning, Maggie never plans to graduate.


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