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The sun is shining brightly from a deep blue sky on another winter day, although it is cold and frost is lingering on the hills and meadows. It has been an extremely mild winter so far, with patches of green grass in the meadow where the cows still graze.

There is much greenness in the woods even in winter. Dry, brown leaves cover the forest floor, and most of the trees lift bare, naked branches skyward. However, on the banks above the creek, ferns spread great clumps of green overhanging the rocks. Moss grows in various shades of green, from chartreuse to emerald green. Gray lichens grow on rocks and stumps, and on the sides of some trees. It is not a colorless world.

Time, as a swift-flowing river, has brought us once again through the first week of a brand new year. Time is the most valuable commodity that we own; yet we do not own it for it cannot be held, stopped or hoarded away. It can only be used, one day at a time, and used wisely.

People whom I most enjoy being around are those who are not concerned with age. Although the passing of time has given them an insight and wisdom lacking in the younger generation, they are not hung up on their “age,” but greet each new day with enthusiasm. They are not afraid to try new adventures or learn a new hobby. They are vital and up to date in their thinking, and a joy to be around.

The ending of an old year, and the beginning of a new one, always cause us to stop and ponder the path of our loves. I learned a long time ago to turn loose of old heartaches, failures and disappointments. These things in the past cannot be changed, so why waste time grieving over them? Time is too valuable, and we must make the most of “today.” Yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, but today is cash in hand. Use it wisely.

There is nothing magical in a new year anyway; nothing lasting in resolutions which are quickly made and quickly broken. Any real and lasting change must come from the heart, and it can become a “new beginning” at any time. I like the motto that was on my calendar for January-”Every Morning is a Fresh Beginning.” I hope that I will never lose that excited anticipation of wondering what good thing this day will bring.

Here it is the “dead of winter” and I’m already craving poke greens and sassafras tea. We can usually dig sassafras roots next month, but poke greens will be slower in appearing. It’s not a good time to forage for wild foods, and about the only green herb that I can find is ground ivy, or gill-over-the ground. It stays green all winter long, and is a relative of catnip. My mother-in-law Peach made a tea of it, and used it for coughs and colds.

The expressed juice of it, snuffed up the nose, is supposed to cure a headache, and the infusion was supposed to be good for “weak or sore eyes.” The juice was also dropped in the ears for “them that are hard of hearing. Criss and I both need that!

One of our earliest spring flowers is the lowly coltsfoot, which will be blooming next month, is excellent for coughs and colds. I have made a cough syrup of it, and also cough drops which were quite effective. Daddy’s favorite sore throat remedy was slippery elm bark, also known as red elm. My friend, Jeuell Beth and I used to peel strips from a red elm tree that was growing on their bank above the creek, and chew it. We liked it.

Many of these old-time remedies were very effective, and had no side effects that are common today with a lot of the modern medicines. Years ago I went to a doctor with a bad chest cold, and he asked me what I had been taking for it. When I told him “Save the Baby,” he laughed heartily and remarked that it was an old Clay County remedy that he hadn’t heard of in years. Well, it is still around and so are a lot of old Clay Countians!

Sometimes a home remedy just won’t do, and you have to call in the Big Guns. I’ve just come through a particularly hard episode in my life-probably the most painful (physical) one in my life. Late in September I fell and broke the humerus bone in my right arm, and just as I was recovering from that, I came down with an upper respiratory infection with related hard coughing.

To make a long story short, I coughed so hard that I fractured a vertebrae in my spine. For over four weeks I couldn’t walk, was in unbearable pain and suffered severe muscle spasms. Thanks to the skilled hands of Dr. Matthew Walker, who performed back surgery on me, I am on the road to recovery.

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people-my friends who have held me up in prayer, Tonia and Sherry from Dr. Walker’s office, the medical staff at CAMC, the nurse who prayed with me before surgery and most of all, the Great Physician who is always there. May God bless your days.

And so, the new year begins to unfold, day by day. We have passed the shortest day of the year, and the days are now growing a little longer. The seed and flower catalogs are beginning to arrive in the mail, cheering up dreary winter days and pointing us toward spring, and warm, gardening time.

And every morning is a new beginning!

(The following is a quotation from Emerson)
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer