"A blog is to a writer what a canvas is to an artist." ~ Colleen Redman
I can’t drive through any part of my hometown of Hull (MA) without setting off a memory. They come, one right after the other, like text messages from the past dinging on my phone. That’s where my first boyfriend lived, and a girlfriend who had a really cool dollhouse lived in the house across the street. That’s where I learned to play pinball. I practiced CYO drill team in that field. I had my first Holy Communion in that church.
There’s the Yacht Club where I once won a bathing cap for doing the breast stroke in a swimming contest. I also lost a wristwatch that I got for my birthday on the same day. That’s the spot on the sluice way where I fell asleep while driving after seeing the movie Yellow Submarine in Boston. Luckily, my friend Christine shouted and woke me up just in time.
That building used to be a dentist’s office, and the Chinese restaurant where we ate after dancing at the Surf used to be there. There’s the bar where my dad sometimes drank when he fell off the wagon. It’s a realtor’s office now.
And that’s where the graveyard workers, who used binoculars to watch me and my sisters sunbathing in bikinis, put dead bodies over winter; at least that’s what we believed as kids.
Standing on the hill at Fort Revere has always felt like being on top of the world. From there I can see much of my childhood world, the place where our house was before it was taken by eminent domain to build a sewage plant, my elementary school, stony beach, the bay, the corner where we waited for the school bus, Boston Lighthouse, Allerton Hill and the old military station that we called the nike site long before nike sneakers existed. It’s an upscale condominium community now.
I’ve walked nearly every inch of the main street of Hull from Paragon Park to the Gut, and every part of the Village, where we ice skated in winter, bought candy at Mercurios Market and played on the playground swings in summer. That’s where I got stung by a yellow jacket and lost 80 cents of change when it fell out of my pocket. That’s where I yelled at my brother Danny for swearing while playing basketball with friends.
I had Danny’s friend Dicka in mind while I drove around Hull snapping shots. It wasn’t that long ago that he was snapping and posting Hull pictures on Facebook. He’s got cancer and his girlfriend raised some money on a crowd funding site for him to come home to Hull to see his family before starting chemo. I followed his trip home like a Hull groupie. Everyone who grew up in Hull in the ‘50s and 60s share many of the same memories and have bonds that are still strong.
I also took some pictures for my mom who is housebound now. She wanted to see what the neighbor’s house looked like since it was rebuilt after a fire and how the family grave site looked. She got a kick out the picture I took of the bride and groom who were brave enough to take wedding photos in the bitter cold on a windy A Street pier. “I’m just going down for the sunset and will be back in 15 minutes,” I told her, who used to take her own sunset pictures at the pier not that long ago. The gulls were dropping clams and catching them in mid-air.
I pull over a lot while driving in Hull. Yes, I’m sightseeing, I say to the driver behind me. It’s a bit like touring the twilight zone. Hull is the place of my childhood and the place of my ongoing dreams.
Coming soon: The Graffiti of Fort Revere, Hull Village
_____________Our World Tuesday
While in my hometown of Hull visiting my family and helping out with my mother’s care, I met three (so far) brand new family members, one of which has the name of my late brother Jimmy.
There were also new (first time) moms. Desmond’s mom is blogger. Check it out HERE.
I call this one “Where’d It Go? I Don’t Know!”
Chloe let me wear her bunny hat but would only let her nana and her aunt Heather hold her.
And her big sister sang Let it Go! Watch the dramatic action HERE.
I think I made a pretty good first impression.
My mother enjoyed the chaos, or at least the attention and posing with her daughters.
So, what do you want for Christmas, little sis?
A PS Addendum: And then I met new kid #4: Franklin!
His big brother Joshua drew a picture of me and then we all went on an adventure to the third floor of my mother’s house looking for her kitty. Franklin’s sweet kiss and all the kid’s hugs and kisses goodbye will have to last me long time, at least until next year!
1. Grab and brag are the same word with letters moved around and both mean something rude.
2. Michael Grab, whether an artist or a magician, really grabs my attention. See for yourself HERE.
3. Boast and roast: to build up and then tear down.
4. ““It is said that God has created man in his own image. But it may be that humankind has created God in the image of humankind.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
5. Watching Robin Williams invent Flubber in the movie of the same name, my 4 year old grandson Liam says, “I want to be that guy when I grow up.”
6. Videotaping Mexican jumping beans is like videotaping kids, as soon as you put the camera on them they stop doing what they were doing.
7. I recently spent some time in a hotel room and happened to catch some of the movie Lincoln while flipping channels on the TV. After watching for awhile but not being able to get into it, I remember thinking that politics were as boring then as they are now, only then it sounded more Shakespearean, which made it even more challenging to follow.
8. In my women’s dialogue group we take responsibility for what we say by using “I” statements when we speak, sort of like when a politician says, “I’m Mark Warner and I approve this ad.”
9. Pipe up or pipe down? Pipe dream or peace pipe?
10. A cloud of methane gas about the size of Delaware was detected over the Four Corners area of the American southwest years ago. But people didn’t take it seriously, because (believe it or not) – it was so big that they thought it was an instrument error. Methane is a greenhouse gas. Pound for pound, its impact is 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period. Globally, 60% of all methane emissions stem from human activity, and in the US, the figure is even larger – so we’re dealing with the effects of human activity here – most notably, natural gas. Natural gas is 95-98 percent methane. – More from Nasa Confirms There’s a Huge Cloud of Methane Over Southwest U.S. HERE.
11. A whole town is Mass is trying to prohibit all tobacco sales to everyone. I think it’s ironic that marijuana smoking is becoming more acceptable while smoking tobacco is becoming less tolerated.
12. Tobacco is sacred to Native Americans and used in ceremony like wine is used in sacred rituals by Christians. I have heard it said that the white man and the red man have abused each other’s sacraments because Native Americans have abused alcohol and the whites have abused tobacco.
13. My brother-in-law Nelson Pidgeon (pictured above) has a Facebook friend named Pidgeon Nelson.
- The Following first appeared in The Floyd Press on November 13, 2014
“I tell the historians that I’m a musician and the musicians that I’m a historian,” joked Ricky Cox to an admirer after his presentation on Floyd County Folksong Traditions at the Floyd EcoVillage Saturday morning.
Cox is also a talented storyteller and had the full house of attendees in an uproar of laughter on more than one occasion. He told the audience that his mother had ten sisters and they were all singers. “I think even their sewing machines were singers,” he said.
Co-editor of A Handbook of Appalachia: An Introduction into the Region and co-author of The Water-Powered Mills of Floyd County, Virginia, Cox is a Floyd native and teaches Appalachian Studies and English at Radford University. He defined folksongs as any song that is circulating among groups in different versions.
Ballads tell a story and help us deal with our anxieties and lyrical folksongs express an emotion and are commonly about love or love lost, Cox explained. He played guitar and banjo and performed examples of types of folksongs, giving historical background information on them.
One of the program’s highlights was when Cox performed a song with dancing puppets that were animated by a nylon line attached to his guitar. The wooden puppets were made by the late R.O. Slusher (also a Floyd native) and were recently featured in a folk art exhibit at The Old Church Gallery.
The program was sponsored by The Floyd Historical Society and closed with a sing-along of May the Circle Be Unbroken.
The last of warm weather
in a November afternoon
is like squeezing the flavor
from a teabag
Knowing it won’t be reused
like a rebound love affair
that can’t live up
to the real thing
The sun drips down
draining light from the sky
like a pinched rosy cheek
I tip the spouted pot
like a fat waning moon
pour the last of summer nectar
a cold drop of blood
_____Colleen Redman / Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads
1. On Veterans Day, while watching a PBS special on homeless vets, I became interested in the word perish, how it rhymes with cherish and doesn’t sound anything like death.
2. On a walk with my grandson Liam on Monday, we saw a big dog wearing big flowers behind each of its ears. After we saw the dog and laughed about it some, Liam explained how he learned to run fast and gave me a demonstration HERE.
3. My niece likes to call her “to do” list her “ta da” list because it makes it sound like she might actually get some of it done.
4. Do you wake up and smell the coffee or do you stop and smell the roses?
5. During a recent visit (in preparation for a story) to Rising Sun Community School, a 3-year-old Floyd Montessori school, I got a school tour from an 8-year-old who also served me tea (see above). Two other students demonstrated how they might resolve a conflict in one of the school’s Peace Corner areas. The director said the goal of the school is to serve the community and teach children to be good citizens of the world. Watch for the feature story in the Thanksgiving issue of The Floyd Press. A video clip of the visit is HERE.
6. Tea is actually my cup of tea.
7. Porcelain pots simmer / in a Victorian tea parlor / Readers see the future / in lingering loose leaves.
8. While Republicans are vowing to fight the EPA, approve the Keystone Pipeline and generally undermine environmental regulations aimed at curbing the carbon pollution that is creating climate change, President Obama just struck a huge deal with China to step up carbon pollution reduction. More HERE.
9. “I have no wish to punish conservatives, or see them suffer in any way. Up to me, I would send them all to heaven, just to get them the hell out of here.” – My Dharmacratic poet friend Will.
10. On Saturday Joe and I attended a Historical Society event featuring Floyd native and Radford University English and Appalachian Studies professor Ricky Cox, performing and talking about Floyd Folksong Traditions. We learned about The Story of Freeda Bolt, a ballad written by a Floyd Countian about a Floyd woman who was murdered by her lover in 1929. It was recorded by the Floyd County Ramblers in 1930 and recorded again by the famed Carter Family in 1938.
11. Besides being a thoroughly entertaining and informative program, Cox had the crowd at the EcoVillage hall cracking up with his humorous storytelling. HERE is a clip where you can get the idea. HERE is one of the more funny songs that Cox performed and talked about, and HERE is Cox performing with the late R.O. Slusher dancing dolls, which were animated by a nylon line attached to his guitar, a unique innovation by Slusher. The Roanoke Times covered a story on Slusher’s dancing dolls when they were featured on exhibit at Floyd’s Old Church Gallery HERE. Look for a story and pictures on the Cox event in Thursday’s Floyd Press.
12. “Be willing to be a blade of the grass that forms the beautiful fields of a grassroots movement. And if you’re passionate enough? Be willing to be a field.” - Mara Robbins, poet and director of Citizens for the Preservation of Floyd. More from Poetic Justice HERE.
13. Get your virtual fortune cookie fortune HERE.
- The following first appeared in the fall issue of About HER, a regional insert magazine.
When Mara Robbins read a Facebook update from a family friend this past July, she realized that the skills she had been developing over her 43 years of life were about to line-up for a worthy cause. “Looks like Floyd has a pipeline fight on its hands,” wrote Bill Kovarik a Radford University Professor of Communications, who is currently teaching science and environmental writing at UnityCollege in Maine.
Kovarik’s comment was the first Robbins had heard about the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Proposed to pass through Floyd and other regional counties, the pipeline would transport natural gas extracted through fracking from West Virginia to PittsylvaniaCounty by way of a 42” wide and 300 mile long underground pipe.
Realizing that the pipeline would provide no consistent economic benefit to Floyd but would pose unknown environmental and health risks, Robbins set about to spread the word. With the encouragement of Kovarik, she re-activated Citizens for the Preservation of Floyd, a grassroots group that her late father, Wayne Bradburn, founded in the late ‘70s to stop the 765 kilovolt Dominion power line from coming through Floyd.
Citizens for the Preservation of Floyd became Citizens Preserving Floyd County (CPFC) and Robbins began coordinating information, enlisting the help of others and speaking at meetings and events about the importance of water preservation and the dangers of fracking, a controversial process of blasting deep into the earth to release trapped methane gas, the principle component of natural gas. Although natural gas burns cleaner than coal, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and fracking has been linked to water and air pollution and to an increased risk of earthquakes.
Robbins, a poet and writer, has lived the majority of her life along rivers and creeks, first in North Carolina and then for 37 years in Floyd County. She currently lives next to The Little River with her daughter Kyla and her partner Leigh Rainey, who Robbins describes as the “most essential behind the scenes part of the organization.”
Having grown up with a great appreciation for clean water, Robbins says she is committed to protecting Floyd’s water in the long term and has recently launched a crowd funding project at Indiegogo that involves collecting water stories and poems, publishing an anthology and writing poems for project supporters. “We are committed to protecting our water in Floyd. So much environmental work is about remediation. We have an opportunity to protect a watershed that hasn’t been compromised yet.” Robbins said.
As a Blue RidgeMountain community, Floyd has no underground aquifers of collected rainwater. The water source in Floyd comes from rain that has collected in fractured rock. This provides only a small reserve and a relatively short time for filtering, making it vulnerable to contamination and drought. About 95% of Floyd households are served by private water, wells and springs, and Floyd’s water streams into the Little River, the Dan River, the Roanoke River and others. “Floyd’s headwaters feed over 10,000 miles of waterways, 28 counties and 4 major metropolitan areas. That’s a pretty big backyard,” Robbins pointed out.
Robbins was shaped to be an advocate for peace, justice and the environment from an early age. Primarily home-schooled, she studied non-violent resistance as a teen at ArthurMorganSchool, a progressive boarding school with Quaker values in Burnsville, North Carolina. She played leading roles in plays, such as Peace Child and graduated from HollinsUniversity, where she majored in English with a Creative Writing concentration and took Environmental Studies and Gender and Women Studies courses.
As a founding member of the Floyd Writers Circle, Robbins co-hosted a monthly spoken word night in Floyd for the seven years the group was active. Her essay about love and loss, Someone to Hold On To, was published in Real Simple Magazine in the spring of 2011. But it was her first regionally published poem at the age of 16 that was the first foreshadowing of the work she does today. If I could take this broken world / and give it back its trees / its gentle healing summer rain /its clear cool autumn breeze / then I could take the magic of the wood / the magic of the mind /and spread it then to all my kin / to all of humankind …
Floyd County is known for its environmental advocates, as well as its musicians and artists. CPFC meetings called by Robbins and posted on Facebook exceeded turnout expectations and have grown to encompass well over 200 attendees. Local support for CPFC’s goals includes professors, scientists, biologists, artists, musicians, farmers, local government officials and existing citizen groups, such as The Partnership for Floyd and SustainFloyd. Floyd’s Community Education Resource Cooperative (CERC) funded Robbins to attend a leadership certification program.
“I’m participating in government for the first time in my life,” Robbins said with enthusiasm. She expressed how inspired she has been by the willingness of the Floyd Board of Supervisors to share information and ongoing dialogue. In August the Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution asking the two companies involved in the pipeline proposal to halt land surveying in Floyd and to attend a community meeting, which was subsequently scheduled for late October.
Some of the CPFC committees that have been formed include those to address legal, financial, public relations, outreach, research, volunteering, fundraising and event planning matters. There is even a song writing committee, which has led to the formation of Musicians and Artists for Change. “Poetry, music and art has sustained the workers of every grassroots movement,” Robbins commented.
At a recent event to debut “To the Last Drop,” a film about Floyd water, Robbins updated the crowd and also read a poem, introducing it by saying, “You’ve heard from my head. This is from my heart.” The poem, titled Deep River, concluded: We’re the heart of this river, friend. / A drop in the Cumberland / bucket, halfway/ home and sobbing. / Carry me the rest of the way. / Help me climb into clean.
Robbins and others at the event spoke about the need to pursue renewable energy sources and to shift some of the focus on energy production to energy conservation. Attendees were uplifted to hear reports that solar energy could be cheaper than natural gas in a span of about 10 years.
Robbins sees the work of stopping the pipeline from coming through Floyd as a skirmish, just one battle and not the war. “I see the big picture. We have the potential to be a model for others and we can have fun doing it,” she said. She noted that 400,000 people recently marched in New York for Climate Change action and that Climate Change could be an impetus for policy change “because it affects everyone.”
In early October, just days after CPFC became a chapter member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and received its non-profit status, local newspapers reported that the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would be rerouted north and would avoid cutting through Floyd, Pulaski and HenryCounty. Citing the change as a way to minimize impact to the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway and a way to better utilize existing routes, the partner company involved said that the newly proposed route will continue to go through Giles, Montgomery and Franklin Counties, and will now go through Roanoke County.
“This news is a testament to the collective strength of Floyd Countians,” Robbins said. “It feels good. We stood our ground and we did so with respect, with compassion and with a fierce commitment. Community truly is stronger than corporations.” But the relief is bittersweet for Robbins because so many counties will still be affected. “It’s our intention in Floyd to do what we can to support those other communities with the resources we have. We’ve maintained since the beginning that we don’t want this pipeline in anyone’s back yard.”
The poem Robbins wrote when she was 16 ended with a hopeful image of a candle flame becoming the sun, a representation of the collective. Today, she remains hopeful about the power of community to bring about change. She encourages others to “be willing to be a blade of the grass that forms the beautiful fields of a grassroots movement. And if you’re passionate enough? Be willing to be a field.” ~ Colleen Redman _________Our World Tuesday
~ The following photos are from a selection that appeared in the November 6th issue of The Floyd Press.
Costumed attendees filled the dance floor during the band’s two set performance.
KIND band member Rick Godley stepped out in full rainbow costume before taking his seat behind the drums.
A couple from Ferrum depicted a Floyd dominatrix and slave scene, with the slave representing EQT, the company proposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline that was to come from Floyd that recently changed its route (more HERE.) Pictured on the left is Floyd Countian Leah Rainey, one of the volunteers who manned a Citizens Preserving Floyd County (CPFC) information table at the event.
KIND guitarist/vocalist Wendy Godley showed off her original costume before the band’s performance of mostly Grateful Dead covers.
Puppeteer Wesley Wenger (right), his son and Mara Robbins (of CPFC) took to the stage for an impromptu theater piece revolving around a Fox news report and the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.
It was the first time attending for this group from Pulaski, who heard about the party from someone who works at the Pine. Everyone in the group agreed that they were having a great time.
Christy Starchild’s elaborate Day of the Dead face paint was done by a friend. She’s pictured with her rodeo clown husband, Joringel (KIND percussionist).
These two costumed characters never revealed their identities.
Boo? More like Booyah!
1. Halloween is the only time you can Boo a band and it’s not an insult.
2. Some people consider dinner and a movie the best kind of date night, but my idea of the perfect date happened Saturday night when I put on a purple wig and witch hat and went out dancing with Joe at the Pine Tavern Pavilion to the KIND, a band we started going to South Main Café in Blacksburg to dance to when we first got together in 1987. We topped it all off by watching Chris Rock and Prince on Saturday Night Live.
3. After spilling a box of spaghetti in the cupboard, I said, “Oh, no. Oh, no,” and then followed it with, “Yoko. Yoko.”
4. After the night described in #2, I was very happy that the clocks turned back and we gained an hour of sleep. That fact is the only reason I was able to make it to my Women’s Dialogue the next morning.
5. THIS is an art installation I had on my list when I was recently visiting the D.C. art galleries, but I wasn’t sure where it was and never got to see it, so I was glad to discover it while blog hopping.
6. Sometime in my early ‘20s, while working in a boutique in Boston, I met a woman who would only wear purple. As someone who loves purple, I tried to do the same, but it didn’t last long, although my mother kept buying me purple clothes for decades after.
8. I never think of voting as choosing the lesser of two evils, but more like voting for the candidate that will at least point the bureaucracy of government in the right direction rather than drive it into a ditch. During these past years that Obama’s been in the White House, I’ve had a degree of peace, knowing that we have a president that isn’t going to start an elective war based on lies.
10. In the 1950’s, when our TVs were black and white and the antennas that sat on the top of them were called rabbit ears, only men reported the news. They weren’t like anyone from Howdy Doody. They were different than Ralph Kramdon or Perry Mason. They wore suits and talked as if they were right in our living room. I was sure they could see me and they were saying something bad, and so I hid behind our couch. – More from a 2007 blog post titled In the News HERE.
11. On two occasions in the last few weeks, I dreamt that my grandsons were lost. I woke up terrified but then went back to sleep and dreamed that I found them.
12. Just a day after I read about how my blogger friend Tabor mistakenly put old bay seasoning in her apple pie mixture, rather than cinnamon, I sprayed my entire face with freeze and shine hairspray instead of the apple brightening mist that was in the same kind of bottle.
- The following photos and captions first appeared in The Floyd Press on October 30, 2014
Under the Sun Tattoo recently celebrated its first art opening under its new name and ownership. The shop was formally known as Floyd Tattoo and Arts Gallery.
Abby Bowen, tattoo artist and shop co-owner, was happy with the opening turn out.
An attendee who admired the work of Lore Deighan, one of the featured artists, later purchased Deighan’s cityscape to the far right.
Ivan Anderson (right) from Healing Tree Wellness Center enjoyed refreshments and conversation with Sarah Greene, whose tattoo-related photography was on display. Other artists featured were, Lore Deighan, Leigh Rainy, Linnea Brandstedt, Mary Koleszar, Missy Blake and Abby Bowen.
Missy Blake is one of the shops featured tattoo artists. She is pictured standing next to a door she painted. Along with Blake and Bowen, Dave Wicks, the former owner of the shop, will be a featured tattoo artist at the shop.
Bowen’s partner and shop co-owner Luke Thomas is pictured through the shop’s window, which features a newly painted sign bearing the shop’s new name. Thomas is a member of the popular Floyd band Spoon Fight. Bowen also performs with the band. _________Our World Tuesday
The creek traps leaves
like the papers on my desk
that I’m too busy to read
Filed between the rocks
on their rush downstream
they give a seasonal accounting
of Autumn’s mounting cost
_______ Colleen Redman _____Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads