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January 31, 2006

The Weather

jim'ssunset.jpg AKA: We’re All in It Together

After my brothers, Jim and Dan, died, I went through an identity crisis, which caused me to question why I lived in Virginia when the rest of my family was in Massachusetts. One factor that complicated my distress was that, besides my husband and sons, no one in my close-knit community knew my brothers. While I had 6 other siblings, five of them back in Massachusetts, grieving along with me, here in Floyd I was, for the most part, grieving alone. But I wanted everyone to know my brothers and to know how much their lives mattered. It was a desire that became the impetus that led to my writing a book about them.

We buried my older brother, Jim, who died suddenly at the age of fifty-four, in July 2001. My younger brother, Dan, died a month later at the age of forty-nine. Since their deaths, life has had a sharper focus. There are things I can see that I couldn’t see before. If I can describe what I see from inside this hole, will it help others when they are down in one? What place is this? How will I survive it? How deep does it go? I want to know. I’ve never been here before. Can I make something constructive out of the powerless feeling of loss? Am I digging my way out, word by word? I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because after living this story no other seems worth telling, because what else can I do down here, because there’s no where else to go. I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because I’m proud of their story. I want to shout from the rooftop how irreplaceable they are. ~ excerpt from “Down in the Hole” from the introduction to “The Jim and Dan Stories.”

After the book came out and many people in my community read it, the sense of alienation I felt changed, as people approached me with feedback and comments about my brothers. My brother Jim especially made an impression with readers, probably because he was such a paradox. Jim, was opinionated, pessimistic, capable, constructive, and (regardless of how much he complained) passionately engaged in life. He was also an avid weather enthusiast who published weather photos, worked at The Blue Hill Weather Observatory as a volunteer, and was well known and respected throughout his local weather community.

The Blue Hill Observatory, where Jim volunteered, is planning a dedication ceremony to honor him. They’re raising money to erect a flag with a tribute to Jim inscribed on a plaque set in its base…All this for a guy who didn’t think he accomplished much in life, a guy who, when I asked him, “Jim do you think you’d try for a liver transplant if you need it (for Hep C)?” answered, “No, give it to someone who enjoys life!” A guy who, when asked by Kathy with a video camera, “Who are you?” answered with a laugh, “A loser.” A guy whose key chain read, “Not a happy camper.” ~ From The Jim and Dan Stories

I reached a turning point in my solitary grief and knew that writing the book made a difference when, while at a community gathering just after Hurricane Isabel, a friend approached me and said, “Wouldn’t your brother Jim just love all this weather?”

More recently, another Floydian asked, “Did you get those photos I emailed you?”

“No.” I answered. “My computer was probably in the shop. What were they of?”

“A photo of my baby girl…and some weather photos. I was thinking of your brother Jim when I shot them.” he said.

Missing Jim and Dan and grieving their deaths is something I’m still involved in. I know that because I’m crying as I type this. But the sadness is mixed now with a sense of gratitude that I’ve been able to share a small part of who they were with others who wouldn’t have known them otherwise.

Photo: On the back of the above photo that Jim took, he wrote: Virga at Sunset over Boston. I looked up the word and learned that “virga” is “any form of precipitation that doesn’t reach the ground.”

January 29, 2006

Museletter Sunday

museletters.jpg It was a busy weekend. I attended a Dance Free, a Celtic Music Concert in downtown Floyd, worked on a poem in preparation for my Writers’ Workshop Monday evening, and put the Museletter, a local monthly publication, together. Not only did I collect submissions and cut and paste 10 pages of the Museletter together, as I and others have done every last weekend of the month for the past 20 years, I wrote an update article about the history and current status of it for this month’s issue, which I’ve posted below:

The Museletter was a big part of what brought me to Floyd County 20 years ago. I was a Massachusetts transplant living in Texas with a young family and a desire to live a rural lifestyle with like-minded people. After learning about the Blue Mountain School through a Waldorf School directory, I wrote a letter to the school and eventually received an answer from Bob G, who sent me my first copy of what was then called the ERC Newsletter. Once in Floyd, I plugged in right away, writing columns and learning about newsletter lay-out, printing, collating, and mailing options.

The name “A Museletter” came after a visit to Susan’s Weed’s Wise Woman Center in New York and being inspired by a room in her home called “An Amusing Muse Museum, which was plastered with postcards displaying images of women all over the walls. I also thought it was a good play on the word “newsletter.”

In the early days of the ERC Newsletter/Museletter, there was more volunteer staff involved in its production than there is today, and readers and writers of it mostly all knew each other. As far as I know, our paid subscription level has always hovered at around 150. Many of our current subscribers are tried and true longtime supporters, but just as many are newer folks. The Floyd “alter-natives”** have grown in numbers and are more spread out these days. Considering that, it seems like a good time to further the discussion begun last month on the role of the Museletter in the community.

As I see it, the Museletter is nothing more or less than a community forum. What is found in it on any given month, like the community drop-off box under the stairs at the Harvest Moon, is what people put in it. It’s there and ready if someone wants to reach 150 or so people to announce something, share something, or sell something. Whether it be a letter from Pat S on the road, Elisha S writing about her hay bale house, or AL N. telling us about his new Restaurant in Stuart, the Museletter helps to keep us all connected.

Besides regular updates on what’s happening at The Jacksonville Center, The June Bug, Winter Sun, Black Water Loft, The Alpha Learning Center, and The Blue Mountain School, and along with yoga, contra, dance free, woman’s circle notices, a glance through last year’s collection of Museletter reveals the range of what is being offered in Floyd and include: a metaphysical study group, birth meetings, babies music classes, Spanish and Taekwon Do at the Blue Mountain School, Spoken word events at Oddfellas and Café Del Sol, several personal accounts on peace vigils and marches in Washington, a memorial tribute, a travelogue essay, a wedding invitation, a 50 Fest party, a media lending library, song night at Luke’s, and a first annual Organic garden tour. Poetry and Community Bulletin Board ads have always been a Museletter mainstay and we’re always happy to hear from children. Read more…

That’s all pretty cool. But it could be better. The Museletter is a reflection of the community and it can only be what we collectively make it. While we have several fine regular contributors to the Museletter, we would like to hear more voices. Over the years, the Museletter has served as an invaluable training ground for writers like Jayn and me, and I invite others to view it that way. The Museletter exists as a community service with a built-in readership. It’s an opportunity to promote what you do and share what you know for the benefit of all.

I’d like to thank all the new subscribers and all Museletter readers, writers, and supporters who have made the Museletter what it is over the years. I particularly want to thank the beside-the-scenes volunteer collators, most recently head-up by Pat S, Linda P, and now Rain L, and Stella T & Company, as they have the most thankless and time-consuming part of the Museletter production.

Post Notes:
*** Alter-native: phrased coined by Will Bason, a longtime Museletter (now retired) volunteer to describe those, mostly transplants, of Floyd’s alternative community. For Museletter Sunday Part 1, click here. Subscriptions are $15 a year. Checks made out to CERC Museletter can be sent to PO Box 81, Floyd, VA, 24091.

January 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Kathy! January 29th

kathandcolleen.jpg A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip. ~Author Unknown

My sister Kathy is a pioneer. She home-schooled before I did, had a blog before I did, and many of the life-changing books on my book shelf are ones she turned me on to. I learned how to make chicken soup from scratch using the bones of the chicken from her. I can’t sew, hook or braid rugs like she can. I never had a homebirth, like she did. We share an interest in politics and are both 5 on the ennegram. kathy&colleen.pngShe’s an Aquarius and I’m a Taurus. Although she is 2 years older than me, when we were little girls people would sometimes mistake us for twins. My mother would dress her in red clothes and me in blue ones. The older we get, the more I think we are beginning to look like twins again.

Post note:
To read more about “The Blogger Sisters” and to view a photo of us blogging side by side, go here. And don’t forget to check out Kathy’s blog, A Persistent Point of View.

January 27, 2006


hand&shadow2.pngBibliotherapy means using the reading of books (or the watching of movies) as a way to heal yourself, gain insight, or solve a problem. ~ from The Sibling Connection

Suppose you were struggling with grief after losing a loved one, and so you sought out a grief counselor for guidance. Because it is often less threatening to deal with painful emotions indirectly, your counselor might use a treatment modality called bibliotherapy, suggesting a book for you to read or a movie to watch with themes that relate to your issues. I first learned about bibliotherapy when my book, “The Jim and Dan Stories” was reviewed by Pleasant Gill White, Ph.D. and listed in the bibliotherapy section of her sibling loss website, “The Sibling Connection.” Some of the ways bibliotherapy can help facilitate healing, listed on the website, include: It can give you a vocabulary, reduce your feeling of isolation as you recognize characters who remind you of yourself, and help you work through your grief experience by giving you an opportunity to compare and contrast your experience with others.

But you don’t need a therapist to practice bibliotherapy. Some who are coping with loss will find themselves instinctively reaching for books and movies about death and grief. After losing my brothers 4 years ago, I did. I browsed through so many books on death that I can’t remember one from the other now. “Tuesdays with Morrie” was one I do remember that was so good I bought an extra copy to have for lending to others.

Over the last few years only a couple of movies with death and grief themes continue to stand out in my mind. One is “Moonlight Mile” with Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman, and the other is “In America” about an Irish immigrant family who lost their young child. I saw both too long ago to comment on in detail, other than to say that they were deeply moving and dealt with the subject intelligently and sensitively and in a way that I could relate to.

I recently saw another movie to add to this list of favorites. It’s an independent Canadian film made in 2003 called “My Life Without Me.” The plot line described on the video box that drew me in was something like: Young woman conceals the fact of her terminal cancer to live her life with a passion she never had before.

In the movie, the main character, played by Sarah Polley, decides to face death on her own terms. She rationalizes that by keeping her pending death a secret she will spare her family months spent crying in hospital corridors and eating bad cafeteria food. She sets about to make her children audio tapes for each birthday, reunites with her incarcerated father, looks for a new wife for her husband and mother for children, and explores doing things she’s never done before. It’s sad but not sappy with balance of tragedy and resolution, and the fact that the lead role was a strong female character wasn’t lost on me. One reviewer summed the movie up like this…it makes you think twice about what’s really important and a movie that can do that is a movie worth seeing. Ultimately, that’s probably the underlying reason that I’m involved in the study of death.

“My Life Without Me” and the other movies I mentioned will probably make you cry, but you won’t feel manipulated to do so, as with some Hollywood fare; at least I didn’t. But why watch movies that you know will make you cry? How can that be therapy? I think watching movies about death when you’re grieving can act like a homeopathic remedy, aligning with feelings you’re already having and bringing them to the surface for you to plainly see. Another reason not to avoid what you know will make you cry refers back to a line in the “The Jim and Dan Stories,” the book I wrote after losing my brothers: “The sadness is already there… the crying just lets it out.”

January 26, 2006

Thirteen Thursday: Check This Out

walmart13.jpg 1. I drive to Christiansburg about 3 times a month for things I can’t easily find in Floyd. Otherwise, I shop locally.

2. The first Christiansburg Wal-Mart was built on an arboretum owned by Virginia Tech.

3. When a K-mart went up soon after it, someone painted “ON THE 8TH DAY WE PAVED IT” in guerilla graffiti fashion on the front of it. I still have the photo I took before it got painted over.

4. The Wal-Mart wasn’t big enough for its owners. It had only been up for about a year when it was abandoned for an all new “Super Wal-Mart,” built across the street.

5. I boycotted Walmart for the first year or so in protest of the loss of green space and because I knew that it would pave the way for a strip mall of stores (which it has), but then I discovered that Wal-Mart had the best film developing in the area, and so I started shopping there occasionally.

6. I read this in the Washington Spectator yesterday: Walmart, now the nation’s largest employer, is no real bargain. It doesn’t pay living wages, offers only limited health care coverage, and militantly discourages union organizing. Its workers are often subsidized by public tax and medical benefits, which means that Wal-Mart’s famous “low” prices are actually paid for through the hardships of its poverty-level workers and a higher tax burden on the majority of taxpayers.

7. The last thing I bought in Walmart was a label maker after my son got one and told me how much fun they can be.

8. The first thing I printed with my label maker is my favorite current saying, “I’LL KEEP YOU POSTED.” I think that would make a nice final epitaph for a blogger, but for now, I stuck it on my computer.

9. A label maker appeals to my love of “magnetic poetry.” It reminds me of a Chinese Fortune dispenser, and makes me want to get into the guerilla graffiti business.

10. Once I parked my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot and accidentally left it in neutral without the emergency brake on. I was inside shopping when my license plate, “Let it B,” was announced on the load speaker. In a panic, I rushed outside to find that my car had rolled out of its parking space. Some guys had taken the air out of the tires to keep it from smashing into another car.

11. I once ran into Nikki Giovanni, the nationally acclaimed poet who teaches at Virginia Tech and whose creative writing class I once audited, in Wal-Mart. I didn’t say anything to her at the time, but later I wrote her a note, and she graciously answered me.

12. I guess Wal-Mart isn’t superstitious. I took 3 photos of the number 13 in the store.

13. The photo department refused to develop one of my 13 Wal-Mart photos. They don’t allow pictures taken of the inside of their store, I was told. I guess they didn’t notice the above photo and the other 13 one I took.

Post Note: Go visit Nicole at The Girl Next Door for the 13 Thursday rules of engagement.

January 25, 2006

We Play Scrabble

scrabblecup.jpgMy friend Mara reminds me that when we both worked at the bead shop in Blacksburg, I taped poems to the cash register… It’s all I can do… not to… say “Buckle my shoe”… after “one, two” …when I’m counting out the money…

She writes a poem for me... We play scrabble…because we are both…poets who like to dance…because we like crayons…out of the package…because dyscalculia…stutters our numbers…

When we play Scrabble, she brings homemade pizza with feta and olives, and I add the pesto, made from my garden and then frozen into blocks in an ice cube tray.

She reads more of the poem that she wrote for me… We play scrabble...because there’s snow buckling your trampoline…because there’s a triple spiral on your bathroom wall…because you outed me on your weblog…

The last time we played, she had a brand new sketch pad and a box of crayola crayons. She wrote the poem while she was waiting for me to take my turn and smoking a cigarette on my front porch.

At the Spoken Word Open Mic this past Saturday night, she referred to me to others as “Floyd’s Poet Laureate” because she knows it irritates me and makes me blush. “You know I can’t write poetry like you and when it comes to performance you blow me away,” I answered.

I plunge my hand in the Scrabble bag to see who will go first. “Do you think you can will good letters? Use your psychic abilities to pick the best ones?” I ask her as I pull out an E.

“Oh, heck yeah. You blow on the bag for good luck…like this,” she demonstrates as she also pulls out an E and lays it on the table to match mine.

Photo: Mara challenges me to a game while drinking from the Scrabble mug she gave me for Christmas. Compare the small cup of take-out coffee to her right (not to be confused with the roll of paper towels) with the big jug of coffee (white with red top) that she brought to my house last time we played, and then ask yourself, ‘is it any wonder she won the game in which she clearly had a “coffee advantage” but lost this one to the home team?’

January 24, 2006

Caught Red-Handed

1. Caught red handed.
2. Pretty in pink
3. Hands up! This is a stick-up
4. Simon says: Do this.

_________________ fill in your own caption.

Photo: Sunday walk on a Blue Ridge Parkway trail. Joe wants to take my picture and says, “Take your hands out of your pocket. I want to see your gloves.”

January 23, 2006

This Won’t Fly

thiswon'tfly.jpgAKA: Have Art Will Travel
My eldest son, Josh, and I share a love of art, and we especially like creating it from unlikely everyday things. When it comes to art, I’m a late bloomer. The extent of my childhood exposure to it was flour and water paste, crayons, and homemade paper dolls. In school it was drawing lollypop trees and coloring within the lines.

As an adult I worked as day care teacher whose job it was to set up art projects for children. When my sons came along they benefited from my background and, unlike me, were exposed early to a variety of art mediums. Josh especially took to art like he was born to make it, experimenting with different mediums since he was old enough to hold a…paintbrush, crayon, bottle of glue, or scissors. Today, as an adult, he’s primarily a potter, but he continues to explore his artistic expression through a wide range of mediums, such as photography, printmaking, journal collage, and street theatre. Recently, he found a new medium, and he phoned to tell me about it.

He began the conversation by saying how cool the IPOD he got with his Christmas money was before moving on to the real reason he called…to tell me about his favorite new artist's toy given to him by a friend. “A label maker! You would love this, mom!” he exclaimed.

On the same day he got the label maker, he had an art show to set up at his school. “I found the room but it was locked, so I printed out a label that said “art show” and stuck it on the door,” he said.

The story went on… When the janitor came with keys to open the room, he saw the sign and became disgruntled. “This won’t fly,” he said. “It’s going to rip the paint off the door,” he suggested as he tore the label off.

“THIS WON’T FLY,” Josh emphasized as he set up the scene for me.

After the janitor unlocked the room and left, Josh printed up a label that said THIS WON’T FLY and stuck it on the door. “And guess what? The name of the art show is now THIS WON’T FLY,” he said.

January 21, 2006

Let Me Put It To You This Way

laptop2.png“She spends more time with people she doesn’t even know than she does with those she knows,” my husband said to friends we were having dinner with when the subject ‘what have you been doing lately?’ and then blogging came up.

“Not more time,” I protested, and then added with a laugh “…about the same amount of time. It’s hard to explain,” I offered sheepishly, suddenly wanting the focus of attention to be off me.

The scenario presented a great opportunity to further the dialogue I’ve been having with myself and with others about blogging, but, unfortunately, I’m one of those people who doesn’t always think well on my feet. Instead, I tend to think of all the things I should have said later, which is probably why I write.

Most of my family and friends are beginning to understand that blogging can be a way expand myself as a writer and that it provides me a format to record my life and its setting for my descendents, not so unlike the writing of memoirs. But the interactive aspect of blogging is the part I think many understand least. Not too many years ago, I myself was suspicious of relationships formed via the internet.

Blogging friendships are formed in different ways and for many different reasons. Sometimes they develop because of locality. I like to read regional Virginian blogs, as well as those from the Boston, Massachusetts, near where I grew up. Because so much of my writing was kicked into gear by the loss of my brothers 4 years ago, my blog has a grief and loss thread to it. I frequently connect with other bloggers who have lost someone close and friendships sometimes ensue. As a writer, I’m also drawn to blogs by other writers and am fascinated by some of them. A fun and creative blogger whose personality comes through online, or one who writes about things that are new to me also gets my attention.

When my husband made the comment he did to our friends, I wish I had remembered to say: When I lost my father in late November, I got enormous support from other bloggers, those people I don’t even know. Many of them left meaningful and heartfelt comments, a couple even sent cards in the mail. I wish I had also remembered to mention the married couple that we all know who met online. Times have changed. Haven’t they?

Have you met in person any internet friends, blogging or otherwise?

January 20, 2006

Pretty in Pink #2

christmasstutu.jpgAKA: 2 Pink Tutus
It's like meeting a friend of a friend of a friend; one blog link leads to another, and soon I’m lost in cyberspace on an unfamiliar blog and I can’t remember how I got there.

I clicked a link on somebody’s sidebar because I liked the name, “A Sense of Wonder.” Once there, I scrolled down a little and saw, to my surprise, a young girl standing by a Christmas tree in pink tutu!

Hey, I have one of those! (My son’s girlfriend’s daughter who visited this past Christmas) Is there something going around? A pink Tutu flu?

The whole thing reminded me of the incident of Reese Witherspoon’s vintage dress at the recent Golden Globe Awards, which one press member called “the dress debacle” because, God forbid, someone else wore the same dress to a Golden Globe party 3 years ago.

Not only did I stumble upon the parallel world of the Christmas pink tutu, but just days before I did my blog friend, Bill, mentioned a pink tutu in a Loose Leaf Comment, as though he was setting the stage for what was to come.

Have you experienced any cyber-synchronicity lately?

Post Notes: Pretty in Pink #1 can be found here.
January's Spoken Word Open Mic Night at the Cafe Del Sol is tomorrow night at 7:00

Afternoon Update:
I just became aware through a reader that it's Photo Friday and the assignment for today is PINK. I've never played Photo Friday and was not playing when I posted this photo! Case closed on the cyber-synchronicity thing, huh.

Note to Readers: I'm currently experiencing difficulties with my main index template codes and am unable to post. Sorry for any inconvience.

January 19, 2006

Thirteen Thursday #13

13 muse.jpg AKA: Ode to the Muse
1. I’m still waiting for the Muse to write me a blank check.

2. I once described the Muses as “shy as a wallflowers” and “as fickle as a cats already fed.”

3. I can write without the Muse, but it’s like watering my garden with a hose in the summer when it really needs a
soaking rain

4. I have a poem called “Lost: The Muse” that starts: Loyal but shy… last seen on Friday… and ends with…She’s never been married…she talks in her sleep…call 745-2534 if you know where she is. Someone actually called me on the phone after reading that poem to try and help me out with my problem.

5. The name of my first poetry collection in which the above poem and others appears is called “Muses Like Moonlight.” If ever I’m signing a copy for someone, I like to sign, “May the Muses be with You.”

6. My thesaurus lists “Calliope, Clio (God)” as alternative words for the Muse.

7. Does that mean that art is a religion?

8. The name of the monthly community newsletter I co-edit is called “A Museletter.” It was inspired by a room at the Wise Woman Center in New York, called the “Amusing Muse Museum” which was plastered with postcards displaying images of women all over the walls. I also like the play on the word “newsletter.”

9. Poet, C.K. Williams once said in an interview, “Every poem has a music. And until it has that, it’s not a poem. It’s just information or data floating around on your desk.” I agree, but what he calls the “music,” I call the Muse.

10. Sometimes I feel like a slave to the Muse. I had a poem published in Wemoon years ago where the last line read “I’m a night stenographer hired by the muse to take down the moon’s business.”

11. I was talking to my friend Mara on the phone yesterday about hypergraphia, which is defined by an online medical dictionary as: The driving compulsion to write; the overwhelming urge to write. Hypergraphia may compel someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary. It is known to be associated with temporal lobe disorder, such as epilepsy. Mara and I both think we lean towards having a degree of this disorder, and we both have had symptoms associated with temporal lobe disorder, as well as “dyscalculia.” Mara said, “It’s the one disorder no one wants to get rid of. Who wants the alternative, writer’s block?

12. This is my 13th Thirteen Thursday. I like to imagine some magic power in that and that 13 is the Muse’s favorite number.

13. I guess I’m not the only one who regularly pays homage to the Muse. Have you noticed how many blogs on my sidebar have the name Muse in their titles?

Leanne at “Artist by Nature”
is the Muse behind Thursday 13. Go visit her for the 13 Thursday inspiration.

January 18, 2006

Peace March on Washington ~ January 18, 2003

peacemarch1.jpgHave you ever been to a peace march or felt strong enough about something to protest?

I was against the invasion of Iraq from the beginning. I followed the first Gulf War and the devastating effect the sanctions had (primarily on children) intently, and I wrote political commentaries on the subject. I never thought Saddam had weapons to the degree that the Bush administration insisted they did, and I never believed that Iraq was an immediate threat. I participated in two Peace Marches on Washington DC to protest the rush to war. The first was in October of 2002 followed by another in January. Below is an informal article I wrote that appeared in “The Museletter,” the Floyd community forum that I co-edit, about the January march.

…There were 30 buses from the Boston area, where I am originally from, and I must have radar for those folks because I kept running into them. I was shocked to discover that a “Hull Times” reporter from the small town I grew up in was there. He interviewed me for the Hull newspaper and recorded me reading my Christmas poem, “Dream for President Bush” for the Hull cable TV station (“Hi, Mom and Dad!)…I want President Bush to have a dream... like the one that Ebenezer Scrooge had...I want him to be haunted by the ghosts of Iraqi children who cry out, “But mankind was your business...

I wore my friend Jayn’s green down parka and held a sign that said “Pre-emptive Strike is Invasion.” I marched with my husband, Joe, and my son Josh, who came up from Asheville, N.C. with a group of friends. We hooked up via cell phone with some other Floydians and Blue Mountain School alumni, and used our camcorder to interview people, capturing the diversity and huge numbers of those who came out to march. peacemarch3.jpg

Everything from the great parking space we got, and the hot tea that was had along the marching route made the day seem almost magical to me. I heard Ron Kovic (Vietnam Vet that the movie “Born on the 4th of July” was based on), a member of British Parliament, Congressman John Conyers, Jessie Jackson, Elizabeth McAlister (Peter Berrigan’s wife) speak passionately at the pre-march rally. I met actress Jessica Lange and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and gave them both a copy of my poem… I want his mouth washed out with soap...every time he says “weapons of mass destruction..." and for him to wear a Darth Vadar helmet if he ever says “the axis of evil” again... Read the article in its entirety…

I don’t care if you call it a “peace movement” or an “anti-war movement.” I don’t care if those who participate agree on everything or not. The point is that we all came together because “Iraq represents no threat today to national security that warrants a pre-emptive strike,” as stated by Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan in a recent full page ad in the Washington Post that was organized by Republicans and business leaders.

And we came in droves. Organizers of the march put the number of protestors at a half million. Although most mainstream media tend to downplay protestor numbers, the Washington Post said this: The first marchers stepped off at 1:30 pm and when many had begun to reach the navy yard (end of the march) more than two dozen blocks away about an hour later, others were still leaving the site.” “It’s the biggest one we’ve had in recent times,” DC police chief said.

The Post continued…This is a diverse mainstream movement, make no mistake. There was a group who had lost loved ones in 9/11 marching and organized labor showed up in greater force than it has to any peace protest to date, with 20 buses from the New York City hospital workers’ union, 1199, and six from Chicago’s teachers union – perhaps the fruit of the dozen or more anti-war resolutions union locals have passed in recent months.

And the New York Times said this: The protestors are diverse, decentralized and disagree on some issues. They include long time pacifists, Persian Gulf War veterans, people who think President Bush stole the 2000 election, people who voted for him, kids with purple hair, CEO’s labor organizers, academics, churchgoers, and even the inevitable soccer mom… In San Francisco, where a similar march was held, there was “a caravan of environmentalists in electric cars with signs that read, “Go solar, not ballistic,” and the Stroller Brigade, a group of Bay Area parents pushing their children through the crowd.

There were 30 buses from the Boston area, where I am originally from, and I must have radar for those folks because I kept running into them. I was shocked to discover that a “Hull Times” reporter from the small town I grew up in was there. He interviewed me for the Hull newspaper and recorded me reading my “Dream for President Bush poem,” for a cable TV station there (“Hi, Mom and Dad!)…I want President Bush to have a dream, like the one that Ebenezer Scrooge had. I want him to be haunted by the ghosts of Iraqi children who cry out, “But mankind was your business.”

I wore my friend Jayn’s green down parka and held a sign that said “Pre-emptive Strike is Invasion.” I marched with my husband, Joe, and my son Josh, who came up from Asheville, N.C. with a group of friends. We hooked up via cell phone with some other Floydians and Blue Mountain School alumni, and used our camcorder to interview a wide range of people and capture the hugeness of the event.

Everything from the great parking space we got, and the hot tea that was had along the marching route made the day seem almost magical to me. I heard Ramsey Clark, Ron Kovic (Vietnam Vet that the movie “Born on the 4th of July” was based on), a member of British Parliament, Congressman John Conyers, Jessie Jackson, Elizabeth McAlister (Peter Berrigan’s wife) all speak passionately at the pre-march rally. I met Jessica Lange and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (both who I also heard speak) and gave them both a copy of my poem… I want his mouth washed out with soap every time he says “weapons of mass destruction” and for him to wear a Darth Vadar helmet if he ever says “the axis of evil” again.

Judging by the outpouring, it seems there is good momentum for the peace movement in this country and throughout the world as more and more people become educated to what is happening and more and more excellent stuff is being written (I spend about an hour a day online reading it) exposing the dangers of the Bush administration’s policies. But, unfortunately, I don’t believe it will matter. I believe their minds are made up. Iraq will be bombed if they have weapons and bombed if they don’t. Bush continues to spout war rhetoric, undermine the inspections, alienate our long term allies, and make deals with new allies who support the U.S. out of fear or because they are being compensated to.

January 17, 2006

Unleashed Wind

The following poems were inspired by the wind storm we had this past weekend. Up here in The Blue Ridge Mountains of Floyd, we lost our power, and at times I was writing this by candlelight.

~ The Lashing

Unleashed wind lashes
slapping through branches
of innocent trees
that cower like children
in fear of the whipping

Bowed over and trembling
they whine through the howling
outside my window
too many to save

joshsky.jpg~ A Mountain Chill

A chilled wind slices
through tabletop ridges
clouds cut to the chase
across a tumbler of sky

Glassy ice blue
overwhelms the horizon
like a drink on a counter
spilled over

Photos: The first photo is of the trees in the back of my house that survived the intense winds as seen from my window after the storm. The photo above is of my son, Josh.

January 16, 2006

Tiny Shrines

acourt2.jpg Tiny Shrines 13 Cups: A book by Acourt Bason ~ To open this book is to step through a threshold into a world of moon counting, tea leaves brewing, translucent colors, and kind stars. Printed in a small quantity and using local resources, it’s a handwritten work that includes poetry, journal entries, I Ching configurations, drawings, and maps. It smells of herb and flows like water. Some of it slips through my hands, but always leaves them cleaner. Some of it splashes me awake…Bonsai forest…has trimmed my roots…and bent me into shape…like prayers of children…origami birds raining…
Sometimes frail and living frugally, Acourt rarely leaves the farm where he lives in his one room hermitage. He travels the days of the seasons like the rest of us travel to and from town. Keeping a record of his travels... So very delicate this silver thread…umbilical cord of my heart…river of muse…again the light moves into the cup… he gives us a glimpse into a meditative life.

Sense of humor intact… even the Buddha played baseball sometimes… and not immune to struggle… beautiful trouble…rare flowers bloom in this shack… Acourt, musician, artist, and butterfly mystic, is tuned in to the natural world of which he is an integral part.

Post Note: To read the most recent Loose Leaf entry about Acourt go here. To learn more about Tiny Shrines and Acourt's art, write to: Acourt Bason, 1511 Stonewall Rd. Check, Virginia, 24072

January 15, 2006

Truth or Lies

roanokehitch.jpgThe following are the answers to yesterday's “Liar Liar Pants on Fire” Challenge:

1. I have hitchhiked before. We called it “thumbing.” It was the late 1970s, and I was probably inspired by the lyrics of the song Me and Bobby Mcgee... Bobby thumbed a diesel down just before it rained...It rode us all the way into New Orleans. I did it by myself but only in the small town I grew up in.

2. I’ve flown in a helicopter before. It was in Arizona. My husband and I hiked 18 miles into the Grand Canyon and camped on the Havasupi Indian Reservation. After a few days of camping, the plan was to head out on horse back, but the ride into the small Havasupi town broke skin on my husband’s backside and so we hired one of their helicopters. I think it cost $150, but the unforgettable views while riding over the canyon made it worth it.

1. This is the lie! I don’t have ruby red slippers like Dorothy, but not for a lack of trying. I’ve always wanted a pair, but they only make them in little girl’s sizes. Do you think I could get some on Ebay?

2. I have never used an ATM machine. I wouldn’t know how. I use cash, a credit card, or checks and have never felt the need to learn. Am I missing something?

Four people got it right, Theo, Kenju, Srp, and Mar, and four guessed that never using an ATM machine was the lie. 3 thought I never rode in a helicopter and 2 guessed I never hitchhiked before. Thanks everyone for playing!

Photo: The hitchhiker is my son Josh. He’s a walking art installation.

January 14, 2006

Liar Liar Pants on Fire #3

redshoes.jpgLiar Liar Pants on Fire returns to Loose Leaf. Below are 4 things about me, one of which is a lie. Can you pick out the lie? Winners will be posted.

1. I’ve hitchhiked before.
2. I’ve rode in a helicopter before.
3. I have a pair of ruby red slippers like Dorothy’s.
4. I’ve never used an ATM machine.

Post Note: With my first installment of “Liar Liar,” I stumped most everybody. Second time around the majority of readers guessed the lie. I originally got this idea from Lu’s News. Old Lady of the Hills has been playing too (her true ones can seem like whoppers, but they’re not).

January 13, 2006

Bridging the Grief Gap

iceshadow.jpgDrop by drop we cry a river of tears and the earth is washed with our love.” ~ Jan Seivers Mahon, reader of the “Jim and Dan Stories.”

I received an email recently from a subscriber of the Museletter, the monthly community forum that I co-edit. She was thanking me for my written contributions that have appeared in the publication, particularly recent ones on the subjects of death and grief. I think she was referring to my questions, posed to author Joan Didion, ‘Is it any stranger to think that a loved one can return from death than it is to accept that they died in the first place? Isn’t the vanishing as fantastic as the idea that they might return from it?’ when she commented that her take on death was similar to mine…that maybe there isn’t any.

I appreciated her feedback, as I appreciate any conversation about death and grief that others are willing to have with me because too often it can be an awkward subject that people avoid. Death and grief have played heavily in my recent life and to not acknowledge that or not talk about it with others tends to make me feel invisible. But I haven’t pinned down any one fixed take on death, and I don’t think I ever will.

I emailed her back saying that my study of death is ongoing. On a lighter note, I added, “I might be willing to die just so I can penetrate the mystery of it. That’s how curious I am!”

A few days after that, Pearl, a Loose Leaf reader, left me an intriguing comment. Knowing that I’m engaged in an in-depth exploration into the mystery of death, she sent me a link to some writing on the subject, which ultimately led me to “Dan Blogs,” authored by a man who had recently lost his wife and whose insights I found to be fresh and honest. He wrote: Actually, I think it's more accurate to say that you aren't dead until everyone of whose social atom you are a part is dead. This is because we don't live solely inside our bodies, we live outside them, too. We are social beings. We are defined by, we come into existence through our relationships.

I was so affected by my brother’s deaths four years ago, that I felt like I had been abducted by aliens. I found myself looking for others who had also been abducted so I wouldn’t feel so strange and alone. I still feel like that but to a lesser degree, and since then have lost my father, which is why I gravitate to others who are dealing with loss and why I was interested in what Dan had to say on his blog. I particularly liked his post entitled “Time doesn’t heal. The only way out is in.” In it, he writes: What does happen over time is that memory of the loved and lost begins to fade and so the daily experience of pain at the loss reduces. You begin to form new life patterns so the reminders of the difference gradually diminish. This isn't healing the wound, though. It is simply the wounding process winding down. The knife gradually being withdrawn…

He also has a post titled, “What to say and do with someone who has lost a loved one,” which is something I also wrote about in “The Jim and Dan Stories.” I know from experience, as one who has been changed fundamentally by loss, that it’s better to say something, as awkward as it may be, than to say nothing to those who are grieving. Even a knowing gesture can offer a bridge to a person who is feeling alienated by grief.

I don’t think our culture prepares us for dealing with the death of a loved one (particularly when it doesn’t come at the end of life, which is considered more normal). I think it's up to us. We need to reach out to each other.

January 12, 2006

13 Thursday: Bloggers at Play

letitb13.jpg1. Last week when I drove to Christiansburg I had to slam on the brakes on Route 8 because I was looking at this woman on the sidewalk whose purple jacket caught my eye, which made me think maybe I should have a bumper sticker that says, “I Brake for Purple.”

2. On another occasion while driving on a cloudy day, I swerved when I noticed the clouds had opened up in this one little spot, revealing a striking shade of blue sky, which made me wonder if I could get in trouble for driving while “under the influence of color.”

3. Am I the only one who sometimes types the spam code into the URL address line when leaving a comment on someone’s blog?

4. Some blogger sites show a preview of your typed comment right below the one you just typed. A couple of times I’ve noticed these and thought, “Hey, that sounds like something I just said!”

5. When my sons were little and they were in the back seat while I was driving, I would adjust the rear view mirror to stare at them because I was in awe of their innocence and beauty.

6. The sound of my foot going from the clutch to the gas pedal on a rainy day reminds me of the sound of cords shifting on an acoustic guitar.

7. We have another Spoken Word Open Mic this Saturday at the Café Del Sol. I’ll be reading the new poem I wrote about my father’s death. One of the lines in one of the poems reads: I’m reminded he’s dead…by the tangerine in the kitchen fruit bowl…left over from Christmas… and shrunk down to half its size…No one wants to eat it now…or throw it away.

8. I just learned that a poem I submitted to Wemoon for next year was accepted for publication. It was one about meditation and would have went well with yesterday’s post.

9. Did you notice in the photo above how dirty my car is? I’m getting a car wash as I type this, which is another way of saying “it’s raining.”

10. I have a fear of commitment when it comes to tattoos. I can’t think of any image I’d want to have for the rest of my life. My friend Mara just got a triple spiral tattoo. “It’s like putting a bumper sticker on your body,” I said to her.

11. A poem in my book “Muses Like Moonlight” reads: Highway encroachment is a concrete build-up…like plaque laden arteries that cut off the heart…The more we pave it the…harder we become…The more roads we make… the more we are driven.

12. My real bumper sticker (when it’s not Thursday) reads: When Jesus said love your enemy, he probably meant don’t kill them. A couple of years ago, I was asked by the Plowshare Peace Center to read poetry at a rally in Roanoke, and they gave me the bumper sticker as a gift.

13. I still can’t get DSL in my neck of the woods. It’s like having to drive 35 MPH when everyone else is going 55.

Post Note: Swing by Leanne’s place for the Thursday 13 directions, and check out my new 13 Thursday blog link featured on my sidebar. (Thanks to Nelson Pidgeon)

January 11, 2006

My Class Picture

satsang.jpgBreak into the peace within...hold your attention in silence...and in the world outside...you will ably master the ten thousand things...
~ Lao Tzu

This is my Satsang Group. We meet once a week to study the 8 point meditation program as taught by Sri Eknath Eswaran. All of us mediate for at least 30 minutes once a day, but most meditate twice a day. The type of meditation we do is called Passage Meditation, which is the memorization and then silent repetition of passages written by Saints and Sages of all religions. My personal favorites are those by Lao Tzu.

At our weekly meetings, we focus on a question for discussion, watch an instructional video of Sri Eswaran, and then meditate together. I actually began meditating in the mid 1970s, using Transcendental Meditation (TM), but I fell away from the practice when I had kids. I’ve been using Passage Meditation for about 5 years now.

With TM, I meditated on a mantra, an inconsequential Sanskrit word that we weren’t supposed to speak out loud. With Passage Meditation, the words I repeat are anything but inconsequential and are often profound. Through meditation I drive them deep into my consciousness. I particularly like Passage Meditation because I’m accomplishing 3 things at once when I practice it; I’m meditating and receiving the calming benefits that brings; I’m memorizing lots of passages and strengthening the muscle of the brain; and I’m perfuming myself with prayerful words.

Post Note: To view my real class picture (from high school) go here.

January 10, 2006

A Walk on the Wild Side

glassesontable.jpgAKA Girl Talk: If the weather is nice on a Sunday, I get together with neighborhood girlfriends and go for a walk. Occasionally our conversations get wild, and sometimes the barking dogs we pass seem less than tame. Other than that, our walks are mostly relaxing.

The two friends I walked with this past Sunday have known me for a long time. They know that I am technologically challenged and that just 5 years ago no one would have guessed that I would be on the computer as much as I am these days.

Our conversations spun from our kids in college to our parents dying. Eventually the subject came up. How can I not talk about blogging when the whole idea of our walks is to catch up with each other while at the same time getting some fresh air and exercise?

I told them about the new “featured artist” category on my blog and the friends I have featured that they know. We pondered out loud about the changing mediums of expression and how unlikely it seems that back-to-the-land folks like us would be so immersed in it. I shared with them what my husband said recently about the gaps in my computer skills… “You’re like a gourmet cook that doesn’t know how to use a measuring cup.”

One of my friends had another take on it, one that caused the laughter we were already engaged in to intensify. “Well, I think of the computer as a gourmet restaurant…but I’m just making hot dogs!” she said.

Photo: After walking, we stopped at my house so that my friends could get a snack and some water before heading back to their part of the neighborhood. I pulled out some Christmas photos to show off. “You’ll have to lend us some reading glasses if you want us to be able to see them,” one of them said. That was easy because I’m the nutty professor of extra reading glasses. I pulled out all manner of smudged, bent, and broken frames and lenses and commenced to narrate the stack of photos. After they left, I glanced back at the collection of glasses on the table, a telltale sign that “girlfriends were here” and smiled.

January 9, 2006

For the Love of Pottery

holdingpot.jpg"The challenge is to do the thing you have to do because you're in love with it and can't do anything else. Not because you want to become famous or rich, but because you will be unhappy if you can't do it." - Warren MacKenzie

The following conversation took place over the phone as my son, Josh, was on his way from his home in Asheville, North Carolina, to Athens, Georgia, to visit a friend. It was inspired by the pots he had gifted us with over the holidays and was a continuation of an ongoing dialogue we’re in the midst of.

Me: Do you remember the first pot you ever made?

Josh: It was at Jayn’s studio (Jayn is a family friend and neighbor who lives on a farm community with 4 other families). Her studio was more accessible to kids than other studios in Floyd. I was 7 or 8, and it was a simple coil pot with a mug handle. I remember it wasn’t coming out the way I wanted it to, and I don’t think it ever got fired.

Me: What was your next pottery making experience?

Josh: Coach Pratt’s ceramic’s class in 11th and 12th grade. I threw more clay at the wall than at the wheel. It was a goof-off, mostly because the school didn’t have much to offer in the way of materials, but it was an introduction.

Me: What happened next?

Josh: Working with Tom Phelps was a big eye opener. I, and another friend, hung out with his son because it was the best place in town to party, and we would go into the pottery studio after hours and make stuff. Tom gave us a real opportunity. He said, “It’s cool that you guys want to make stuff, but it could be better.” His son was already making face pots, and Tom told us, “If you make more of these, I could sell them.” We didn’t expect him to sell much of the face pots we made, but when he did, it changed everything. We got serious. Soon after that, word got around and about 8 of us started working in the studio. Tom was a real mentor.

xmaspots2.jpgMe: When did you fall in love with pottery?

Josh: It wasn’t until Warren Wilson College. I was studying Environmental Science, and because I worked with Tom already, I got on the work study crew as an assistant in the pottery studio. I took my first ceramics course, learned to throw pots, and eventually became a teacher’s assistant. By my second year, I was waking up in the morning; I’d get my coffee and bagel and be on my way to class but find myself in the pottery studio instead. When I got an F and a D in my academic classes and 3 A’s in my art classes, I knew I had fallen in love with pottery.

Me: What keeps you faithful to it?

Josh: It’s all about the material. That’s where the interest started and that’s where it remains. I love the medium. The way it moves and feels. Clay is amazing and it always surprises me. I continue to do new stuff with the pots I make, and I can’t wait for the next clay making cycle.

Post Notes:
Josh’s pottery, pictured above, is available at his Clay Space Studio in Asheville. He can be reached at copiousplus@hotmail.com or 1-828-242-2368.

What do you love to do?

January 8, 2006

How Much is that Pot in the Window?

potwindow.jpgThis is the front window of my Asheville potter son’s warehouse studio/remodeled living space. I wonder how many web surfers searching for a certain outlawed herbal remedy will come to my site and be disappointed today?

January 7, 2006

The Runner-ups

This past November, inspired by an idea at Writing from the Hip, I posted excerpts and links to my Top Ten blog posts taken from my first 6 months of blogging. I enjoyed the process of picking out my favorites and re-posting them, especially considering that in the first few months of blogging I didn’t have many readers. Below are 6 excerpts and links that were the runner-ups for the Top Ten list. In March, I’ll be celebrating my year anniversary as a blogger and will post the Top Ten from my second six months then.

The Boston Tea Party Re-visited Here, in the South Shore of Boston, every other person is proudly donned in some sort of Red Sox apparel, forks are called “fawks” and cars are “cahs,” and it’s common to spend over $1,000 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment. Here, navigating a traffic rotary, a circular grassy intersection where all points on the compass meet, is like square dancing in a foreign country where the dances aren’t called but your expected to know the moves, and when former Cambridge resident Ben Affleck gets married, it makes the front page of the Boston Herald. Read more...

I Met Him at the Laundry Mat You’re golden…I’m red delicious…basking in the sun’s September glory…You’re Adam…I’m Eve… My husband, Joe, moved to Floyd in 1987 to be a teacher at the Blue Mountain School, the parent-run cooperative school that my sons went to. We first met in the town laundry mat. He was with a couple of BMS parents tie dying shirts for a school fundraiser, and I was picking apples from a tree out front. The apples were green and discolored with black spots, but I was living on a low income, raising two sons, and I knew they would make good apple crisp. Read more...

Two Head Are Better Than One I found a good IQ test online, which professed to be the most thorough and scientifically accurate IQ test on the Web, developed by PhDs, and previously offered only to corporations, schools, and certified professionals. I had never taken one before and was curious. I know I’m smart enough, but I don’t always come across that way, probably because of my family inheritance of unusual brain wiring (aka known as dyslexia and/or dyscalculia). I surprised myself by getting a fairly high score. For the next day or so, I teased my husband, claiming to be a “genius.” Although it was an obvious exaggeration, being a “genius” was my new explanation or excuse for every thing, as if I had discovered a royal family background. Then…I don’t know what I was thinking…I baited him to take the test, asking, “Don’t you want to see if you’re a genius too?” Read more...

Where I’m From I am from my father’s eyes after he saw the holocaust at Buchenwald and the nape of my mother’s neck where white pearls hung before her thyroid surgery…I am from Hail Mary full of grapes…midnight mass and pennies in the poor box…I’m from the unlucky luck of the Irish…the old sod and Southie before there were gangsters... Read more...

Poetry: A Bubbling Spring One of my most interesting writing assignments was interviewing Ruby Altizer Roberts in the fall of 1999 for Expressions magazine, a Blacksburg art publication that is no longer in existence. In 1950 Ruby was voted the first woman Poet Laureate of Virginia by the General Assembly. She was the only woman to hold the title until Rita Dove was chosen for the honor in 2004. In 1992, Ruby was given the added title of Virginia’s Poet Laureate Emeritus, another first. Born here in Floyd County in 1907, Ruby lived most of her life in the neighboring town of Christiansburg. I can still remember how nervous I was and what I was wearing – khaki pants, a black blazer, and a green printed scarf – on the day she opened the front door of her home in Christiansburg to greet me. Read more...

Ani in the Rain
I wore an assortment of hats, caps, and visors throughout the 4th annual Floyd Fest weekend to keep from being sunburned and from getting WET. We seemed to get all variety of weather over the 3 day world music weekend. The Blue Ridge Parkway, where the festival is held, is notorious for fog, and so, there’s good reason that Floyd Fest is sometimes affectionately called “Fog Fest.” Emerging from her tour bus and onto the timber-framed stage at Sunday evening, Ani DiFranco closed the show with what was said to be her last performance before taking a year off. I heard that she has tendonitis, and with the way she drives her guitar, I’m not surprised. Read more...

Post Note: I have some photos "Christmas Pots by Josh" being featured at Stephanie Davies' "Photo of the Week" over at "Mystickal Incense." The first one I took and the second was taken by my son Josh.

January 6, 2006

Is All Art Therapy?

I saw a movie recently that I can’t get out of my mind. Not because it was a great movie or because of the filming, soundtrack, or special effects.

It was low budget, filmed with a hand held camera, and described by its writer/director as an autobiographical confessional documentary-type of film. I enjoyed the “director’s cut” menu feature (where the director narrates over the movie dialogue) more than the actual film, but I had to have watched the film to enjoy it.

The movie, “Manhood,” is described in one review as a darkly funny, compelling family drama that probes the depths of masculinity, specifically Jewish masculinity, in America. Interesting enough; but what interested me most was what I learned from the writer/director, Bobby Roth, in his behind the scenes narrative. In the movie, and in Roth’s real life, his sister was violently killed. Re-living his trauma through making a film about it, using dream sequences and his own son as an actor, Roth used his art to process his sister’s death and to honor her life.

I wrote “The Jim and Dan Stories,” the book about losing my brothers a month apart, for the same reasons. And while Roth’s film tells a modern story through a Jewish experience, mine is told through a working class Irish Catholic one, covering the 60s and up until my brothers’ deaths in 2001.

Another reason I liked and the film was that it was filmed on a shoestring budget using local resources, as my book was. In the directors cut, Roth tells how he and the cast got creative and stole some scenes in places they didn’t have permission to be. He explained how he used his friends as extras in the movie, his real son’s bedroom to save money, and rather than pay to film in a pawn shop, he had John Ritter, one of the actors, walk past a pawn shop to imply that he went in, which was part of the story line.

Even the movie’s soundtrack drew on resources close to home for Roth. At first glance, you wouldn’t think the music of Bruce Springsteen would be so, but in the director’s cut Roth reveals that he’s married to Springsteen’s sister.

The actors, John Ritter, Janeane Garafolo, Nestor Carbonell, and others didn’t get paid upfront for their work. They got involved because they support independent film, the director, his message, and his methods. Those who support independent film know it as an art. They know that human stories deserve to be told… from the living room to the big screen… and everywhere in between.

I enjoyed watching Manhood, and while I recognized right away that it wasn’t a Hollywoodized production, I wasn’t aware of the bare boned and personal way it was created until I heard Roth explain it. Mostly, what I liked about the movie was that it was a testament to what art is, what art is for, and why we, as human beings, are compelled to make it.

January 5, 2006

What's Up With 13 Thursday?

13whatsup.jpg1. My son, Josh, knows how much I love lingo. When visiting him in Asheville, I take notes when he and his friends talk because I love to record their hip use of language. He got me some slang flashcards for Christmas. The first thing we did with them was test me to find out how many I already knew.

2. We had some lingo in my day too. Some of it has remained and some has evolved. I still say “wow” and “that blew my mind.” We used to say “split” when we were about to leave a place. Today they say “bounce.”

3. In the world of lingo cold is hot and bad is good.

4. My dad used a lot of hip lingo too, from the 30’s and 40’s. I found an interesting webpage called the Electric Eclectic that lists slang words from every decade. Like fashion, some slang comes back into style. My son and his friends sometimes call shoes “kicks.” On the Electric Eclectic website, I discovered that shoes were also called kicks in the 40’s. Fuddy duddy, city slicker, old hat, and have a ball all came from the 30’s and 40’s and have lasted to this day.

5. My husband, Joe, picked out some movies for us recently. He picked out one with Meg Ryan in it for me because it had a slang dictionary as part of the menu options. I won’t recommend the movie. It was too violent for my taste, and Meg Ryan seems to have boob-jobbed her face with implants or chemicals, making me queasy and wondering what she thought was wrong with her God-given beautiful face. It was New York City slang, and I learned some new words that I don’t think my son knows. According to the movie, “dixie cup” means disposal and “ground ball” means easy.

6. When Josh was in England this past summer he learned a lot of “Cockney Rhyming Slang.” Did you know that Cockney Rhyming Slang was used in the movie Narnia? The beaver used it when he invited the children in his lodge for a cup of “Rosie Lee,” which means tea.

7. I also got a new dictionary for Christmas. The first word I looked up was “BLOG.” It’s not there…yet.

8. I wrote a poem about losing my dad this week. I had been avoiding thinking about his death because when I do, it feels almost too big to approach. As I was typing it out and crying, a woman who is reading “The Jim and Dan Stories” emailed me to thank me for writing it. She reads my blog sometimes, and knew I had lost my dad. She was reading the story in the book about my parent’s 50th January anniversary and wanted to let me know she was thinking about my dad, my mother, and me.

9. Sometimes, writing a poem is to enter into a magical place from a specific point in time. It’s like taking a subway ride from Quincy into Boston. It has a route, a speed, and a destination. You can go back the next day and take the same ride, but it won’t be the same. The things you saw out the window one day probably won’t be there the next.

10. Part of the poem reads: I’m reminded he’s dead while looking at the crack in my bedroom ceiling… from burning a light bulb too bright… The blue paint is pulled back from its original color…Even with the light out I see it.

11. Last year my new calendar was a Wemoon one. It came as part of the payment for a poem I had published in the Wemoon Journal. This year my calendar was a gift from my brother, John, and features storm photos. I know he got it in memory of our older brother Jim, who was an avid weather enthusiast and has a dedication flag flying in his honor at The Blue Hill Weather Observatory, in Milton Massachusetts, where he volunteered before he passed away.

12. I keep records to the extent that I write them on my calendar… when to change the water filter and the timing belt in my car… how many fresh eggs I buy from my supplier each month…how many hours I worked. I write everything down on calendars and save them from year to year, that way I have a quick reference to everything that ever went on.

13. The only thing clean in my whole house right now is my calendar. Nothing is written on it yet.

Post Note: I’m wishing everyone a straight-up chilled New Year full of mad surprises. To find out what’s up with 13 Thursday, get down with Leanne at Artist by Nature. She’s the bomb. Keep it real. Peace out.

January 4, 2006

Four For Bill

“One out of four people in this country is mentally unbalanced. Think of your three closest friends; if they seem OK, then you're the one.” ~ Ann Landers

I was tagged by Bill, the grad student who discovered my blog while taking a blog class at Trinity College and then brought it to the attention of his class. The class is over, but he’s still blogging. In the spirit of making friends and because 4 Things should be easier than 13 (tomorrow), my answers are as follows:

Four jobs I've had in my life: A Day Care Teacher, a Foster Care Provider for adults with developmental disabilities, a shopkeeper, and a self-employed jewelry maker. My strangest job was as a night watchman.

Four movies I could watch over and over:
Here’s what it says about movies on my “About Me” blog bio-page: Just like I forget jokes right after they're told to me, I forget the names of movies after I see them. I recently saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and liked it. Also, I bragged about “Off the Map” right here on the blog. “Les Miserables” and “A Christmas Carol” woke me up to my spirit as a child.

Four places I've lived: I grew up on the peninsula of Hull in the South Shore of Boston, Massachusetts. I lived in Plymouth, right next to the rock, for a year. Small town Tomball, just north of Houston, Texas, is where my sons were born. I currently live in a log cabin off The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia down a dirt road named after a Grateful Dead song.

Four TV shows I love to watch: The ones I catch while flipping around, usually on PBS. I don’t like to miss the news, real and otherwise. I only have 4 channels and don’t get Jon Stewart, so I settle for Tina Fay on “Saturday Night Live,” if I can stay up that late. Re-runs of Seinfeld beat out many of the current sitcoms, some of which I like, but I lose interest fast because the networks are cheap and air re-runs right in the middle of the season.

Four places I've been on vacation: I bought a Guinness T-shirt after hiking The Cliffs of Moher and pressing wild shamrocks into my journal in Ireland. I accidentally got drunk on Bailey’s Coladas in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and walked home carrying a boom box that was playing Ziggy Marley. I swam at night under the stars in a phosphorescent bay in Puerto Rico and later composed a poem about it. I stayed in a bungalow owned by a Buddhist with 2 women friends on the coast of Oregon. I’ve also been to Aspen but didn’t go skiing.

Four websites I visit daily:
I check in with Doug at Blue Ridge Muse and Fred at Fragments From Floyd most days because, like me, they’re from Floyd, and I don’t want to miss anything. I regularly visit my sister’s blog, A Persistent Point of View. Elissa at Hurricane Country and Michele Agnew might be a tie.

Four of my favorite foods: Eggs keep me healthy; homemade carrot cake keeps me happy; pasta with olive oil, garlic, basil, and pine nuts keeps me full; and seafood keeps my head on straight.

Four places I'd rather be: Walking barefoot on a beach at sunset, drinking good beer (or a cup of tea) in an Irish Pub with someone playing the Uilleann pipes in the background, soaking in a bathtub full of hot non-chlorinated water, spinning on a dance floor with the band of my choice playing my favorite songs.

Four albums I can't live without: I can’t think of 4 albums that I couldn’t live without, so I’m going to name 4 songs that had a profound influence on me at different times of my life: Get Together by Jessie Colin Young; I am a Child by Neil Young; Higher Love (I manifested my husband by playing it over and over while dancing) by Steve Winwood; and the music from Peter and The Wolf, which I first heard as a young child. On the question of “favorite music” I am quoted on my blog bio-page as saying this: Lately I listen to Nora Jones, Sarah Mclaughlin or Sheryl Crow. My favorite band to dance to is Floyd's own “Foundation Stone.” I swoon over Eric Clapton's voice especially when he sings Layla (the acoustic version).

Four people I’m tagging if they want to be caught, all Loose Leaf visitors from yesterday: Melange, Here in the Hills, Harmonia’s Hut, Fond of Snape

January 3, 2006

A Neighborly Visit

acourtwithcat2.jpgIf you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But, if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. - George Bernard Shaw

I returned to the farm and to the humble hand-built studio home of my friend Acourt in October to return the farm journal I had borrowed from him. The property he lives on was once a popular 60’s-style commune, and the journal is a large leather bound book that holds drawings and written entries from 30 years of the farm’s history. Always interested in human nature and social science, I borrowed the journal to learn more about the farm’s history and, apparently, to reminisce. I found myself and my son, Josh, in it, from a 1986 entry, when we first moved to Floyd.

The purpose of my visit was to return the journal, but visits with Acourt are like consulting an oracle and are usually about more than the reason you thought you came. Musician, poet, painter, and instrument maker, Acourt is small boned to the point of seeming almost ethereal, and although he lives a hermit’s lifestyle, he’s often not alone. People regularly seek him out for his company and counsel, and this day was no different. When my husband and I arrived, Acourt was already engaged in an exchange of ideas with a visiting young couple. The couple, who seemed to be interested in farming and all things metaphysical, sat cross-legged on the floor across from him. Acourt, who also sat crossed legged next to the woodstove and in front of the turnstile chimes and meditation altar, reminded me of a swami.

After greetings and introductions, Joe and I settled in, occupying what was left of the floor space. Leaning against the day bed, I studied Acourt’s canvassed paintings and was drawn to the black crow and lotus flower themes. Like an accomplished musical conductor, Acourt directed his attention from conversation to conversation and infused them with his own temperament and tempo. Some conversations happened separately while others came into play all at the same time.

He was talking to the couple when he heard me say to my husband that I had been wondering what the difference was between a lily and a lotus flower. Still talking while rummaging through some papers, he produced a catalog and handed it to me. It was full of pictures of lotuses and lilies. But I couldn’t see any difference.

“The difference between them must be like the difference between a fiddle and a violin,” I said, and then turned to ask Acourt, “What exactly is the difference between a violin and a fiddle, Acourt?”

The musician in him straightened up, suddenly seeming more solid, and answered in one word, “Intention.” He went on to point out the knobby center in lotus flowers that the lilies didn’t have (or was it the other way around).

About this time Acourt’s adult son came through the door, bearing several plastic bags full of freshly pressed apple sauce for his father, made from apples that had been picked on the farm. The long haired lanky son grew up with my son, and Joe and I hadn’t seen him in awhile. Conversations shifted from the esoteric to the more concrete, and before we knew it, it was time to go.

But before we left, Acourt handed me a copy of his book, “Tiny Shrines 13 Cups,” the one he had asked me to read in manuscript form last spring. Only a handful of handwritten copies had been published using local resources, and the cover design appropriately included a drawing of a lotus flower. “Journeys and poems…confessions of a butterfly mystic,” it said.

With the book in my hand and a bag of applesauce in my husband’s, we bid our farewells, promising to get together again soon. To be continued…

Post Note: To learn more about Acourt's art, write to: Acourt Bason, 1511 Stonewall Rd. Check, Virginia, 24072

January 1, 2006

Chris and Alina

chrisdeerheart.jpgChris played the flute at my husband Joe’s and my wedding and has led traditional sweat lodges for years. A longtime self-employed craftsperson, Chris, aka Deerheart, is known for his handcrafted flutes, drums, rattles, and lanterns. These days he’s focusing his creative talents on one-of-a-kind wooden bowls and furniture.

Alina has a prose piece in “The Wemoon Journal” 2006 about marrying herself, a ceremony of which I was in attendance, and which took place before she and Chris became a couple. She’s a spirit-inspired painter of vibrant proportions who generously shares Abraham-Hicks CDs (“The Art of Allowing”) with other interested Floydians. She belly dances, and sometimes walks on stilts. alina.jpg

Joe and I went to their house for dinner. It was the 4th night of Hanukkah. We wanted to spend some time with them before they left for the Yucatan and then to Florida for a couple of months. With the menorah on the kitchen table half lit, we ate shrimp, salad, and spicy mashed potatoes before retiring to living room where, surrounded by the warm glow of Alina’s colorful art, we sipped peppermint tea and engaged in some lively conversation.

Post note: To view more of Alina’s art, visit her website at http://www.alinaever.com/. She can be reached at alinaever@yahoo.com. Chris's contact is cdeerheart@yahoo.com.