“ “Wherever you are is the entry point.” Kabir
The following essay about living in Floyd is one which aired on WVTF public radio this past Friday and first appeared in my book, “Muses Like Moonlight.” It appears here in its entirety. For the radio reading, I cut paragraph 5, about Bo Lozoff, in order to keep to the 3 minute reading allotment. The sentence about moonshine and pot was cut as well. It was originally included to point out the sense of self-reliance that some Floyd old- timers and newcomers have in common, but both too often contribute to negative stereo-typing, and so was appropriately cut from the radio reading.
I moved to the country 20 years ago with homesteading on my mind. Although I never lived in a solar home without indoor plumbing, as some of my neighbors do, I learned early on about woodstoves and where water comes from (besides from out of the faucet).
It was here in the Virginia mountain county of Floyd that I learned to grow and preserve much of my own food. I grew herbs and made medicinal tinctures, home-schooled my young sons, and rarely saw a doctor. Here, farmers and back-to-the-landers live side-by-side. (Some would say that hold-out moonshiners and underground pot growers do too.)
The longtime natives and the mostly Yankee newcomers have more in common than was originally thought when the newcomers first began to arrive in the late 70s. What we have in common has something to do with being independent – something to do with a sense of place and working from where one is.
In Floyd we have locally famous artists, potters, wood-carvers, writers, and musicians alongside well diggers, saw-millers, hunters, and home builders. We also have midwives, herbalists, dousers, and rites-of-passage ceremonialists. Is it any wonder that I publish my books from my log cabin home, from a make-shift office that used to be my son’s bedroom, which is why Grateful Dead posters still hang on the walls?
My husband is a counselor and one of his mentors is Bo Lozoff, author and co-founder of the Prison Ashram Project – a project that teaches meditation practice to prison inmates. After years of “in house” publishing, Bo’s latest book was published by a mainstream publisher. On a recent visit to the Human Kindness Foundation in North Carolina, where Bo and his wife live, Bo told my husband that mainstream publishing isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. He can’t get copies of his new book without buying them, which creates a problem since one aspect of the Prison Ashram Project is to make Bo’s books available to inmates free of charge.
What if everyone who had a talent got a big name contract and became a world product; what would small towns do? In my small town, old-time country is the traditional music, and we have many talented fiddle players and such. We also have talented hip hop reggae musicians and others who produce their own CDs. We’re famous for the Friday Night Jamboree that happens at the Country Store each weekend and, more recently, for our annual world music festival, known as “Floyd Fest.” Where else but Floyd can you learn from an old-timer how to forage ginseng one day and then meet Wavy Gravy, the Woodstock clown with an ice-cream flavor named after him – in town for FloydFest the next?
I’ve met visiting shamans, renowned authors, teachers and musicians in Floyd, but it’s the grassroots talent that we’re best known for. Just as Floydians are inventive about how they make a living, they’re creative about providing their own entertainment. Not only is there a varied local music scene here, but as a writer, I don’t have to leave town to participate in Spoken Word events because our downtown restaurants and cafés regularly host them.
I like the hometown feeling of personally delivering my books to local shops, or getting hand written cards with mail orders. I like working from my home, going to my computer, as I did recently, and finding an email from a reader in bold print, announcing: “I LOVED YOUR BOOK!!!!!! (The Jim and Dan Stories). And I value the fact that I have an ongoing dialogue with my community through the pages of the Museletter, a homespun local newsletter that has been my writer’s training ground for the past 20 years. Because of it, I have a small, but supportive, local audience that knows me as a writer and poet.
Every town needs a poet or two, just as it needs an auto mechanic, a grocery shop owner, and an “in house” band. Every town is a microcosm of the whole world. If we stay where we are and invest in our own community, the whole world eventually comes to us.
Post note: You can still hear my reading of the essay at the WVTF website. You may have to download realplayer to hear it, if you don’t already have it. Also, there is a Spoken Word Open Mic Night at the Café Del Sol this Saturday night at 7:00. For those who live nearby enough, come sign up for a 5 or 10 minute slot or just come to listen and enjoy.