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April 30, 2006

Friends in High Places

oddfellabell3.jpg A day spent in Floyd – the one stoplight rural town I live in – can be as exciting as time spent in any big city, as far as I’m concerned.

On Friday I had lunch at Oddfellas Cantina with two amazingly accomplished women, sold 10 books (The Jim and Dan Stories), and got invited to go to the New Orleans Jazz Festival – complete with a backstage pass – all in the matter of a couple of hours.

The bag of books, brought by request of Elizabeth McCommon (center) for her book club to read, sat at my feet while we settled in at the front table with the sun streaming in. Elizabeth is somewhat of a local celebrity. She’s mostly known for her folk music and acting abilities and is currently teaching a memoir writing class at the YMCA Open University in Blacksburg. The last time I saw her was over 10 years ago when I worked in the bead shop in Blacksburg. She told me then that a new song was brewing, either in protest or in jest, called "Where has all the Foreskin Gone.” oddfellaslunch3.jpg

I see Alwyn (right) more often. She’s a longtime dear friend, a poet, animal rights activist, environmentalist, author, artist, Rudolf Steiner kindergarten teacher, and more. We have a long history together, one such period being when we worked on a publication together, called “The Bell: A Call to Peace.”

I had just come from listening to the rock and roll of Neil Young (Living with War) on my computer at home and was still under its influence. We tried not to all talk at once. I was digging into my Harvest Bowl with the creamy feta garlic dressing when Melody (on the left), music promoter at the Winter Sun, walked in with a music poster she was about to hang. I called her over because I knew Elizabeth would want to meet her. Elizabeth is an old friend of another local musician, Acourt Bason, the Rasta Buddhist Recluse who I wrote about earlier this year.

It’s a small world in Floyd. Melody and Acourt are a couple now. She’s planning his upcoming art opening at the Black Water Loft. Knowing what a hermit he is, I asked Melody, jokingly, “Is Acourt going to come to the opening?”

We were all of us jotting down addresses, dates, and exchanging posters (I had some for the upcoming Spoken Word Open Mic) when the conversation turned to The New Orleans Jazz Festival where Melody is scheduled to be with the Kusun Ensemble next weekend.

“You could probably meet Peter Gabriel,” she said, inviting me to tag along. The blogger in me got wide-eyed.

“I have to go home and think about. I don’t think well with other people around,” I told her. elizabeth.jpg

Right next door, Joanne and Billy Bell were celebrating the grand opening of their new shop, The Bell Gallery and Garden. More old friends of Elizabeth’s. We went over to collect some hugs, to drool over Billy’s photography, and to admire Joanne’s pressed flower glasswork.

Next stop, the Winter Sun Warehouse, to shop for some hand dyed clothes from Ecuador. I don’t think you can go into the Winter Sun without stopping at the Café Del Sol for tea or coffee. And I don’t think you can stop at Café Del Sol without seeing any number of friends to catch up with.

By the end of the stimulating afternoon, I was spinning with the upbeat pace of it all. Later, at home I planted several rows of Swiss chard and kale. It was time to come back down to earth.

Post Note:
The building on the left in the first photo is where Oddfella’s Cantina lives. The green building, just to the right of that, is Joanne and Billy Bell’s new shop. All the places mentioned above are within walking distance of each other. Check out Acourt’s new website here.

April 28, 2006

Neil Young for President!

neilalbum.jpgI was waiting for someone to come along, some young singer 18 to 22 years old, to write these songs and stand up," Young said. "I waited a long time. Then, I decided that maybe the generation that has to do this is still the '60s generation. We're still here." ~ Neil Young, Los Angles Times

Being forced to take the morning off, while some technical work on my blog was being done by my server, turned out to be a good thing. It caused me to surf around the internet and discover that Neil Young had just released a new album that is completely dedicated to protesting the Iraq War and the president that got us into it under false pretenses. The album, “Living with War,” which is being promoted via bloggers, was released today on the internet and won’t be available commercially until early May.

I usually don’t play music while I’m at the computer, but I’m a convert now. The sound is blasting on high volume in continuous play while I am alternately typing this and getting up to dance. The first song, probably the hit that will get the most airplay, hooked me right away and had me belting out the refrain “After the Garden is Gone.”

Won’t need no shadow man…running the government… won’t need no stinking war… won’t need no haircut…won’t need no shoeshine…after the garden is gone… after the garden is gone… after the garden is gone… what will people do after the garden is gone? what will people say after the garden?

Young’s sweetly recognizable voice is clear and focused and as good as ever. The nine new songs, written this month in just a couple of weeks and recorded in one 12 hour session, are touching, nostalgic, pissed off, humorous and rocking the free world all at the same time.

Don’t take no tidal wave… Don’t take no mass grave…Don’t take no smoking gun… to show how the west was won…But when the curtain falls…I pray for peace…Try to remember peace…

"Let’s Impeach the President" is an anthem of John Lennon proportions with a chanting chorus playing to Bush’s own recorded contradictory sound-bites.

Let’s impeach the president for lying...and for leading our country into war… using all the power that we gave him…and shipping all our money out the door… Let’s impeach the president for spying on citizens in their own homes…breaking every law in the country…tapping our computers and telephones… Let’s impeach the president for hijacking our religion and using it to get elected…dividing our country by colors…00334004.jpg

Hey Neil, what took you so long?

I had a major crush on Neil Young in my early 20s, back in the day of “Harvest” and “Gold Rush” when we looked to musicians to be a voice for us. It sounds like the 60s has just been re-released and unleashed. I’m in love again. I’m restored. So much so that I’ve decided today is officially “Neil Young Day.” I stopped typing and dancing long enough to run around my house marking it on all the calendars.

Not only that, everyone on my Christmas list this year will be getting Neil’s new CD.

Post notes: Here is the track list: After The Garden, Living With War, The Restless Consumer, Shock And Awe, Families, Flags of Freedom, Let's Impeach The President, Lookin' For A Leader, Roger And Out, America The Beautiful. You can hear it here. And read the blog here.

April 27, 2006

Page 13 on Thursday

13journal3.jpg1. A notebook is an open invitation.

2. I lost my working notebook while visiting my son in Asheville a couple of weeks ago. Although we checked our motel room before leaving, I can’t get the image of the notebook, trapped in between the sheets and blankets, out of my mind. I still haven’t gotten over a shoe I lost in a motel room in Washington D.C. 10 years ago (and I still have the matching one just in case it turns up). It’s possible that losing my notebook could drive me into therapy.

3. I once left my journal in an Applebee’s restaurant after having lunch there. When I went back an hour or so later to look for it, I discovered that it was being used as a shim to balance a wobbly table.

4. I’ve been in a low energy funk lately. I felt better once I realized that pretty soon this whole period will be relegated to the archives.

5. Having the same blog entry up for more than a day, makes me feel like getting caught out in public wearing the same clothes 2 days in a row.

6. Last Sunday my husband said this to me, “I set an alarm; so don’t be alarmed.” I was walking into the bedroom to join him in a morning meditation when he said it. He had a time limit, as in a T-time at the Golf Course.

7. I learned a lot about myself through a comment left by Jennifer. After telling the story for the second time about a man named Albert who posts big homemade signs along the road to someone named Annie (the last one said, “Annie call Albert. It’s important”), Jennifer suggested it would be fun if I would weave a tale around the mystery. At which point, I answered that I’m more inclined to investigate, plan a stake-out, and report my findings; causing me to realize that I’m more of a journalist than I realized. And then a shocking revelation came to me, which was this: “Oh my God, I totally think fiction is lying!”

8. Last night I dreamt about Albert and Annie. In the dream a friend had found something about them in the newspaper, and she was reading it to my husband and me. I was fascinated, but when I looked at the newspaper, I saw that it was only a page of drawn paper doll-like figures, and our friend was filling in their names and the narrative. My husband loved the story and wanted me to pay for it, but I said, “Why should I pay for it? It isn’t about the real Albert and Annie.

9. My sister has a movie on a taboo subject featured on her blog. Although the collective consciousness of America doesn’t really want to admit that there are still a lot of questions about how 9/11 happened, some people are still asking them, particularly the ones about how the buildings came down the way they did, as if explosives were involved.

10. “Bill Moyers argues that American democracy is threatened by perversions of money, power, and religion. Money has bought our elections right out from under us. Power has turned government "of, by, and for the people" into the patron of privilege. And Christianity and Islam have been hijacked by fundamentalists who have made religion the language of power, the excuse for violence, and the alibi for empire,” so reads the lead-in to a transcript of Bill Moyers recent address to the Wakefield Divinity School.

11. My favorite quote of the week was made by an unknown author: “A pessimist is an optismist who is informed.” Do you think the author was a pessimist or an optimist?

12. Sometimes I feel like a secretary taking dictation all day. When the words start to come into my mind, I feel it’s my responsibility to drop everything and take them down.

13. When I clean my house I feel like an editor, cutting out all the clutter that doesn’t belong.

Leanne, founder of Thirteen Thursday has started a 13 Grand Central Station. Not only can you get the 13 code template, game rules, and list of players there, you can even get a 13 Thursday T-shirt! My other 13’s are here.

April 26, 2006

Now this is My Cup of Tea

winerytea.jpgAKA: What will they think of next?

This is the first time I was served tea with a pyramid shaped teabag that could stand on its own and was taller than the cup the tea was in. My husband’s niece and I snapped picture after picture of it while diners turned their heads to watch. I felt like my blogger friend Carmi, who frequently photographs grocery store produce and recently had close-up photos of tea and cake on his site. wineryteaang.jpg

It’s was also the first time I got served a whitish, seeded fruit that was cut into star shapes and that I couldn’t identify. My husband and others who were at the table are still laughing at my speechless reaction and my drop jaw expression when the server brought out my lunch of tuna and greens served in a wine glass. wineryteastar.jpg

We were at the Chateau Morrisette Winery and I swear no one was drinking anything alcoholic. The tea was delicious! I was ready to describe it as being encased in a sort of mosquito-like netting, but the tea company’s website called it a sachet.

April 25, 2006

In the News

foot.jpgI sit when others are standing…I lay when they sit...I walk when others are running…I stop while they keep going ~ Colleen

When you have a health disorder that doesn’t fit into a category of known symptoms, that can’t be detected through an x-ray or blood test, and that has no name, the medical profession will likely tell you that your problem is psychosomatic. In other words, ‘it’s all in your head.’

…My secret symptom of modern perversion…like Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome…IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD…Tell that to the babies with no limbs…to the vaccine injured kids…Tell that to the mercury in my mouth…or the hormone fed antibiotic filled mad cows…

I tend not to have great success resolving my health issues by way of doctors. I don’t like the fact that the side-effects of so many medical treatments are worse than the disease they are treating. But when I contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in the late 1970s, I was so alarmed to feel normal one day and then have to will myself to move the next, that I sought out a doctor and had some tests done. I didn’t know why I felt like I had a constant low grade flu, and the doctors I consulted didn’t know either. The term CFS hadn’t come into existence yet, and wouldn’t until the mid 1980s. There was nothing wrong with me, I was told.

I took matters into my own hands and began a long journey of research and trial and error to heal myself from what I first called “my low energy” problem. I could fill pages with the list of (mostly alternative) therapies, diets, and regiments that I’ve tried over the years. Everything helped, but nothing cured. And not only did I have to deal with living in a chronic compromised state of health, I had to explain to others why I couldn’t work full-time and why I had to meter out my activities. If I was going to be stuck with a disorder, I found myself wishing it was a more credible or visible one so that I wouldn’t be misunderstood or mistaken for being lazy.

It’s all in your head? Tell that to the Martin Luther King’s family…Tell it to the tribes downwind…or my overburdened immune system…Our bed is made…now we’re surely going to lie in it…and take our medicine for somebody’s profit…

Last week a comprehensive government-funded study confirmed that there is a biological basis for CFS. One of the leading scientist’s involved, who called the results “ground breaking,” said, “People with CFS are as impaired, as a whole, as people with MS, as people with AIDS, as people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.”

According to the Associate Press, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome appears to result from something in people’s genetic makeup that reduces their ability to deal with physical and psychological stress.” Researchers found that certain genetic sequence variations in five stress-moderating genes showed up consistently in chronic fatigue patients. They also found 5 subtypes of the syndrome. Some reports acknowledged that the study appears to confirm the existing idea that people develop CFS when events such as infections, injury and trauma disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, which is activated by physical and emotional stress.

I’m pleased that the medical establishment is beginning to seriously study a disorder that affects a known one million people in the U.S., mostly women (most CFS sufferers go undiagnosed). But after over 25 years of dealing with my own version of this limitation, I have finally stopped waiting for a cure. While I welcome more understanding into CFS, my focus is management, improvement, and acceptance.

I think of CFS as a leash that restricts my range of full movement. It’s a leash that I’m committed to increasing the length of, as much as I’m able to.

April 24, 2006

Behind the Scenes Eavesdrop

whoshy.jpgNow about that pesky little thing called an inferiority complex…Who wants the attention…It’s too much pressure…I can’t live up to it…Who the heck do I think I am…?

“I wonder if everyone has one," I asked by friend Mara, "and they’re just covering it up better than we are?”

“Either that or they’re arrogant egotists,” she answered.

Post Note: Need a compliment? Go here.

April 23, 2006

This is What Runs in Our Family

collaging.pngWarning: One house isn’t big enough for 3 collage artists.

All forms of record keeping interest me. Since receiving my first “Dear Diary” when I was 10 years old, I’ve gone on to keep photo albums, dream journals, baby books, and scrapbooks.

I’ve always enjoyed making collages, but when my Asheville potter son, Josh, began doing collage journals about 6 years ago, he inspired me to a new level. collagejoe.jpg

Josh has been a mad artist since the time he could hold a crayon. His collage journals have gotten so extensive that he has had to hire someone to design books that expand with use, in order to hold all the pages of his prolific and multi-media art, which on any given day might include a fortune cookie fortune, paint, photographs of photographs, receipts, or pieces of mail.

I made my first collage journal when I turned 50 as a way to consolidate a visual review of my first 50 years. Not long after that my husband made one of his own as part of an assignment for his masters in counseling program.
joshcollaging.jpg Now were all hooked, but Josh more than the rest of us. In his studio warehouse apartment, he has 4 desks to accommodate his art. When visiting us in Virginia, he's been known to pick us his journal and start collaging whenever the muse strikes him. When he leaves, there are always traces of his art making left behind. Besides various scraps and interesting scraps of paper, fabric or cardboard on our floors, there are drops of frozen clear epoxy on our cellar floor, and a yellow outline on our back doorstep of something Josh spray painted last year.

Photos: Me, Joe, and Josh. Notice that I am the messiest of the group. I hope to post a few pages of each of our journals in a future entry.

April 22, 2006

The Alchemy of Pottery

alchemist.jpg Like the alchemists of medieval times who sought to turn base metals into silver and gold, potters seek to transform clay into vessels of beauty and function. And they do. They dig raw material out of the ground, mix oxides into glazes, and forge their wares with fire.
potter at whee2l.png

There’s a fairytale quality to a potter’s life. Watching my son, Josh, work his treadle wheel, keeping it spinning with the beat of his foot while drawing-up beautiful forms from a wet lump of clay almost seems magical, as though he were spinning straw into gold like Rumplestiltskin, the Grimms’ fairytale elf.

When Josh talks about making pots his eyes light-up. He uses words like blunge, slip, and slurry, which conjure images of mystery in me. When he talks about the kiln firings and the crew mates who tend to them with him, I find myself thinking about characters from “The Lord of the Rings,” who forged weapons and rings with fire. The firings often go on all night with the potters taking alternating shifts, the thought of which makes me think of one of Josh’s favorite childhood books, “Where the Wild Things Are,” a tale of a boy’s adventurous ruckus with untamed creatures of the night. kiln.jpg

I’ve seen a few of the kilns that Josh uses, some of which he has helped to build. They remind me of another fairytale, Hansel and Gretel, the story of a boy and girl captured by a witch who kept them in cages, fattened them up with food, and then tried to cook them in her oven.
Recently, while my husband and I were in Asheville visiting Josh for some art events that he was involved in, he gave us a tour of a wood-fired kiln in progress. I especially thought about Hansel and Gretel and was cautious when one of the crew members, wearing a protective mask, opened the kiln door so I could peek inside, into what looked like a big oven.

The pots inside had shape-shifted into ghostly glowing figures that almost looked invisible against the furnace of fire. Once my eyes got adjusted to the sight, I could see the various sizes and shapes of the pots lined up on a rack, so hot that they were white and translucent! fire1.jpg

Making pots is an ancient art that hasn’t changed all that much since prehistoric times. Every firing is a ritual that links the potter with potters from days long past. Every pot in the kiln will go through a transformative creative process. There is no guarantee of how it will turn out. When the kiln cools down and the alchemist potters enter the womb-like kiln, they do so wondering, did their efforts take shape? Did the pots survive their test? Did the magic work? Is it functional? Is it art?

April 21, 2006

The Fling of Spring

tulips1.jpgSpring is a fling of short lived blooms, more about romance than marriage. Crocus and daffodils, my first loves of spring, make a strong impression, but soon I’m feeling fickle, waiting for tulips. And no sooner do my eyes adjust to the brilliant gold of forsythia then the dogwoods burst on the scene. The dogwoods are followed by the sweet smell of lilacs and the pink of head-turning azaleas, at which point irises just begin to catch my eye.

Before long, the old flames of spring are replaced by summer blooms. My love affair with irises fades into the background. Rhododendrons replace irises and lilies replace rhododendrons faster than the pages of a calendar can be turned.

April 20, 2006

Stay Tuned to 13 on Thursday

13tv1.jpg1. I went to my first blog that had blogger ID. I don’t even have caller ID on my phone yet! Of course there is always the chance that “Have a Great Day in Floyd!” is always displayed on their sidebar, but I doubt it.

2. There were also sound effects of water dripping, which made me nervous because it really was raining at the time and I thought all hell broke loose.

3. I was called out of retirement last week. Not only was I providing respite foster care for an individual with developmental disabilities, but both my sons had health issues which caused me to be on the phone every day with them.

4. Michele Agnew, who hosts a weekend bloggers Meet and Greet, used my question ‘What did you use to do with the time you now spend blogging?’ for her “Answer and Ask Comment Game,” on Tuesday. It turns out that bloggers used to watch more TV. Either that, or people are more un-employed than they used to be.

5. I lived a few years without a TV, or more to the point, without a TV antennae. We now get a total of 4 channels. The only show I actually make a point to watch is “The West Wing,” which sadly is on its way to being cancelled.

6. I wish Martin Sheen or Jed Bartlett was really our president.

7. Number 7 on my “100 Things about Me” list says: when I was a little girl, I thought reporters on TV could see me. I hid behind the couch when they were doing the news because I didn’t want to be seen.

8. If the branch of dogwood blossoms in a vase on my kitchen table was a poem, it would be a haiku.

9. The Garden Center at Slaughters Supermarket is overflowing with flowering baskets and plants. When I was there yesterday, I noticed that there were more cars parked in front of it than at the actual supermarket, proving that we humans do not live by bread alone.

10. Last Thursday I wrote: Apparently, some folks think Loose Leaf Notes is a topless or a nudist blog, according to two recent key word searches that brought people here: “A shirtless camping trip” and “Can I sunbathe nude in South Carolina?” This week “loose woman poems,” “Dear Abby nude,” “Nude Aunt,” “Nudist blog,” and “Shirtless grass” showed up in my keyword search counter. I still think they got the idea from this post.

11. The only one I know who probably gets kinkier key word searches than me is Ivy from Ivy Tied Up.

12. The plot thickens… In an earlier 13 Thursday, near Christmastime, I wrote this: On the way to Blacksburg I noticed about 6 homemade signs that had been posted up and down Route 8. They said, “ANNIE, YOU AND THE CHILDREN COME TO OUR HOUSE. LOVE, ALBERT.” This week while driving in Christiansburg I saw a black truck with signs on a sidebar rack that read: “ANNIE PLEASE CALL ALBERT. IT’S IMPORTANT.”

13. In a recent post, “Where Does a Poem Come From?” I answered questions about writing that I found on Carol’s site. One of the questions was, “Do you have a Favorite Poem You’ve Written?” In answering it, I mentioned my poem “Where I’m From,” as a particularly satisfying poem to write, one that was inspired by a longstanding Meme begun by Fred at Fragments From Floyd. Fred has desgined a template for those who want help them write their own “Where I’m From” poem. He also keeps a list of links to bloggers who have participated. Meanwhile, Carol wrote hers, which can be viewed here. Where are you from?

Leanne, founder of Thirteen Thursday has started a 13 Grand Central Station. Not only can you get the 13 code template, game rules, and list of players there, you can even get a 13 Thursday T-shirt! My other 13’s are here.

April 19, 2006

Worse Than Watergate and Monica Lewinsky

freewayaodgarage2.jpgWe have never had a presidency in which the single unifying thread that flows through its major decision-making was incompetence - stitched together with hubris and mendacity on a Nixonian scale. ~ Carl Bernstein

In a recent Vanity Fair article, Watergate veteran Carl Bernstein called for an investigation into the Bush presidency for what Bernstein describes as “the most disastrous five years of decision-making of any modern American presidency.”

The 35% of Americans who still support President Bush will likely accuse Bernstein of having a liberal bias, but they can’t suggest the same for the 6 retired military generals who recently broke their silence in a call for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation, charging mismanagement the Iraq war.

Similar to the climate that existed when the Nixon presidency was threatened with impeachment, more and more conservatives are publicly questioning not only President Bush’s rationale for and handling of the Iraq War, but the self-appointed authority he claims gives him the right to wiretap Americans without going through legal channels. Bush’s selective declassification of information for the purpose of having it leaked in an effort to win support for the war is another indication of misuse of power, as is the leak, traced to the highest level of the Bush White House, which outed a CIA operative in order to discredit her husband, a critic.

Whether it be the handling or Iraq or Katrina, the re-writing of torture language that led to the Abu Ghraib scandal, or gulag-like detainee practices, the cost in lost lives and U.S. credibility under the Bush Administration makes the impeachment of Clinton for lying about an affair seem trivial.

With some polls suggesting that close to 50% of Americans would support the impeachment of President Bush if it was determined that he deliberately lied to justify the invasion of Iraq, the idea of his impeachment is less of a fringe idea every day. In fact, Congressman John Conyers, the senior Democrat who took part in Watergate proceedings against President Richard Nixon in 1974, has called for a committee of inquiry into the grounds for Bush’s impeachment. Meanwhile, evidence continues to come forth suggesting that the invasion of Iraq was neither a last resort nor an urgent undertaking, as Bush told the American people it was. The 2002 Downing Street memo which states that Bush “fixed the intelligence reports (WMD) around (Iraq war) policy” is one such piece of compelling evidence.

I’m a registered Independent who is fiscally conservative and votes for Democrats because they represent my interests in civil rights, woman’s rights, labor rights, human rights, and the protection of the environment better than their counterparts. If there’s anything good to come out of the Bush presidency for me personally, it’s that the separating gulf between my values and those of moderate Republicans has narrowed.

I agreed with Republican William F. Buckley Jr. when he said: “It's important that we acknowledge in the inner counsels of state that the war in Iraq has failed so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure."

I agree with conservative columnist George Will’s assertion that, “Terrorism is not the only new danger of this era. Another is the administration's argument that because the president is commander in chief, he is the 'sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs….(which) is refuted by the Constitution's plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws 'necessary and proper' for the execution of all presidential powers."

And I agree with Republican Senator Arlen Specter’s response to Bush's attorney general’s claim that the president’s secret order to wiretap Americans was legal. "He's smoking Dutch Cleanser," Specter said.

As much as I feel America has been set back by the disastrous policies of the Bush Administration, I find solace in the hope that sensible people of all political persuasions will ultimately unite against incompetence and the over-reach of power.

Photo: The work of one dedicated Freeway Blogger puts my label gun graffiti efforts to shame. To see more, go visit him here.

April 18, 2006

The Book: Fulfilling Its Higher Purpose

jim and dan stories 2.png My book, “The Jim and Dan Stories,” started with a poem I wrote about being with my brother Danny in the hospital when he was taken off life supports – like taking Jesus off the cross he was nailed to… He died 3 hours later.

After the poem, I wrote a tribute about the deaths of both my brothers, Jim and Dan. Jim died in August of 2001 in a machine shop accident, and Dan died a month later from liver failure. The tribute was published in the town newspaper in Hull, Massachusetts where my eight siblings and I grew up.

After the tribute, I got out my notebook, thinking I would write some more poetry to help me process my grief; instead, “The Jim and Dan Stories” poured out of me. The original poem and the tribute got incorporated into the new writing, which I didn’t realize would end up as a book.

Once I knew it was a book, I didn’t know I was going to publish it.

After I knew I was going to publish it, I thought I would do so in a small number for family and close friends.

When the first printing of 300 books was done, I thought I was going to get stuck with lots of extra books.

When the first 300 sold in a few months time, I had another 300 printed up. Again, I thought I was going to get stuck with a lot of extra books.

When I sold that 300 and invested in a 3rd printing of 300, I thought I would surely get stuck with those.

I’m now more than half-way through the 3rd printing and wondering about a possible 4th.

Will the day ever come when someone asks about “The Jim and Dan Stories” and I say, “Oh, I don’t have any copies of that anymore?

Post Note: The cover design of “The Jim and Dan Stories” was done by my brother-in-law, Nelson Pidgeon. For more information about the book, how it came about and what has happened since it’s been published, visit my website, Silver and Gold, which Nelson is also the creator of. Also, if you haven’t checked out my sister Kathy’s post, "Flowering Expression," you can do so here. It’s about a message from beyond, a new installment of “The Jim and Dan Stories,” from those that continue beyond the book. She also has the poem I wrote about Jim and Dan on the first anniversary of their deaths posted.

April 17, 2006

Say the word

k-openmic.jpg In the beginning I misunderstood… But now I've got it, the word is good. ~ The Word by Lennon/McCartney

An hour before it was time to head out for Spoken Word Open Mic at the Café Del Sol in downtown Floyd, my husband reminded me that I was supposed to box up 20 of my books for Alan, his former counseling professor who uses the book in a grief and loss class and who was planning to attend the open mic.

I was up in the attic crawl space counting books when my bare foot collided with a piece of glass from a broken frame that held a poem I had long ago written for my eldest son when he was born (26 years ago). It was a pretty deep gash and oddly ironic, since I was planning to read my WVTF radio essay about knowing summer through my bare feet at the open mic. …I remember the dew drenched grass on my feet and then, because it was dark, stepping on something sharp. I probably screamed louder than I needed to, because howling at night somehow seemed normal.

The cut was an opportunity to test the healing power of cayenne to stop bleeding in its tracks. I expected it to sting when I sprinkled some on, but it didn’t. Not only that, it did what I had read it would do. I slapped on a band-aid, called my friend, Katherine (pictured), who would be riding to town with me, and told her I was running late.

Because I arrived at the Café late, I didn’t get a chance to order my customary beer. After delivering the box of books to Alan, meeting his girlfriend, greeting familiar faces, and acknowledging those that weren’t familiar with a nod or a smile, I plopped myself down on my favorite couch, the only one in the café, as though I had a claim to it.

There were two people already sitting there. As I squeezed myself in, I was reminded of watching TV with my eight siblings when I was a girl. We were all territorial about the best seats in our house, and if you scored a good one and then left it for a minute, you had to fight to get it back.

My couch companions were two high school-aged girls, one of whom was planning to read. She was nervous, she confessed; so we made a plan. “Look at me when you’re reading, I’ll wink and do something to make you laugh,” I instructed her. I was beginning to worry about my own nerves, considering that I didn’t have a beer to steady them.

It was a smaller crowd than last month’s full house, which probably had something to do with the fact that it was the night before Easter, the local newspaper had the wrong date published, and it was our first open mic since daylight savings. The thought of reading poetry in public in broad daylight might have scared-off some.

By the time Mara took to the stage, I was finally settled in and could receive the weight of her words. She read one of my favorite poems about remembering playing Monopoly with her husband who is now deceased …You were always the shoe…when we played we ate popcorn and drank coke…Sometimes we put a joint in free parking…and all the chance money went there too..

Mara also read an essay about the reactions people have had to her generously bumper-stickered car, which she thinks of as a poem with an engine. Her daughter, Kyla, who was present, figured in the piece. It was fun to watch her facial expressions as her mom read. At one point Kyla playfully banged her head against a nearby computer. After that she climbed under the table and hid her face. Did they rehearse that?j-openmic.jpg

I began my reading with a reference to the date, April 15th… in spring I calculate poetry…the way others do their taxes…as though the world were overdue for a good accounting. My friend Katherine, an herbalist and ceremonialist, followed me with an essay titled, “All in A Day,” in which she reflected on performing a wedding ceremony in the morning and then preparing a friend’s mother’s body who had just passed away for a funeral service in the afternoon. I recall her speaking… Let it be… Let it be... like a chorus to the melody of her words.

One of the readers, a man name John (pictured) who came all the way from Blacksburg to read, did a poem that consisted entirely of the names of Beatles songs, which fed right into my longstanding fantasy (which I’m not obsessive enough to pull off) of spending a day saying everything I need to via Beatle lyrics.

I’m so grateful that we have local forum for writers to share their work. I’m looking forward to many more spoken word events and meeting the creative people willing to participate in them. We gather around the mic every 3rd Saturday from 7-9. Special thanks to our host, The Café Del Sol.

Post Note: My sister Kathy posted a beautiful photo and surprise Easter miracle story that happened to my sister Sherry this past Sunday. Check it out here.

April 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Sy Safransky

pur0eceaf790b84062b.jpg Someone sent the scrabble poem I wrote for my poet friend Mara to Sy Safransky, editor of The Sun Magazine. It was Rosemary, a member of the Writers’ Workshop that Mara and I belong to, who told us at the spoken word open mic last night. Rosemary gave the poem to her friend who knows Sy Safransky. Her friend sent it, not as a poetry submission, but because it was his birthday and the poem, called “The Big Bang Theory of Scrabble,” has these lines in it: What I like best about Mara…is that she frequently says things I want to write down…Like yesterday she made this confession…I want Sy Safranksy to love me!

All I can say is enjoy your birthday Sy Safranksy. I hope Mara and I (who would both love to be published in your magazine) have your attention now.

Post note: A post on last night's Spoken Word Open Mic coming soon to a computer near you.

April 15, 2006

Keyword Poetry

AKA: Meet Colleen Sherry

A new take on magnetic poetry? It’s a list of recent key word searches that brought folks to Loose Leaf:

Can I sunbathe in the nude in South Carolina?
What leaf is this?
My husband is an out of work writer
What kind of leaves do snails like?
A narrow fellow in the grass quiz questionscolleen sherry3.jpg
A shirtless camping trip
Colleen Sherry
Dear Abby poems
How to loose wait
Loose shoes accident
Silver and gold rich dad
A leaf’s work is never done

The most interesting one to me was “Colleen Sherry.” I don’t know whether the searcher was looking for my sister Sherry and me or wanting to buy a wine glass. Apparently, there is a type of sherry glass made from Colleen Crystal. The photo is what I got when I googled “Colleen Sherry” and hit the images. There is also a woman named “Colleen Sherry.” You learn something new everyday.

April 14, 2006

Where Does a Poem Come From?

April is National Poetry Month. With that in mind, I decided to attempt to answer the following questions posed by Carol at A Revision.

1. Where do your poems start? What causes you to sit down and write a poem? Is it a certain emotion?

Poetry is a constant in my life. I seem to have a need to interpret everything into the voice of my own spirit in order to better understand it. When I haven’t written any poetry in awhile, I become irritable and restless. At those times, I think of writing as taking my physic blood pressure, and I use the pen to get a diagnosis as well as for the treatment. Other times, poetry begins on its own as a rhythmic line I can use as springboard, or a thought that I recognize as an original one. It’s like coming across a shiny coin that wants to be picked up and then spent.

2. Do you have different stages to your poetry? Can you see how you've matured or changed over the years through your poetry?

The foundation I write from has been informed by my genetic, environmental, and working class background. My love of language was first awakened by nursery rhymes, jump rope songs, and the songs of the 40s that my father taught me. I first started writing poetry after being inspired by the music of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and others. I’m amazed by all the time I’ve put into writing over the years and still today, and that I actually want to write. I can see the kernel of my early writing in everything I write today. That kernel is only now coming to fruition, 30 years later.

3. Do you have a favorite poem that you have written? What do you like about it? What does it say about you that you like?

I’m usually excited by the new work I’m engaged in. Like a mother with children, it’s hard to pick favorites. I like the ones that are the most honest, where I was able to find a particular nerve and hit it, or ones that are condensed to the point where the lines are almost interchangeable. I like the ones that were fun to write and are fun to read. “Where I’m From,” about the place and the people that I’ve been steeped in, is one that was rewarding to write. I discovered through writing it that growing up by the ocean was as formative to me as my family environment was.

4. Do you have a favorite that someone else has written? What does it do for you? Does it give you an answer or cause you to think a certain way? Does it motivate you?

If you ask this question on another day, I might say something different, but today two poems come to mind. One is by Richard Brautigan. I like Brautigan’s humor and his ability to distill an image down. It’s a 7 line poem that ends with… A fly is sleeping…on a paper napkin. I have to wake him up, so I can wipe my glasses. There's a pretty girl I want to look at.

The other poem “Long Life, is by a Japanese poet named IKIYU, written when he was 70. I first heard it by way of storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade. I like the way the poem surprises, like cold water splashed in my face, not to be hurtful but to wake me up. It ends… Face it! You're happy! How many times do I have to say it? There is no way not to be who you are, and where.

5. Do you only write poetry or is it a part of a vast array of writing methods that you use to express your self or your thoughts?

My voice came first, the technical skill came slower and later and is something I’ll always be working on. Through poetry I’ve learned how to tell a story, a mythical one with a beginning, a point, and a resolution. I’ve learned what sounds good together, not to waste words, and how to tie pieces together.

When my brothers died in 2001, I intended to write poetry as a way to process the grief, but I ended up writing a book instead. I remember feeling liberated by how much room prose allowed me and how specific I could be with it. But if I’m writing too much prose, I begin to need a vacation. Prose is like the day job and poetry is the rest of my life.

Poets On Stage and Other Notes:
1. Lovers of the Spoken Word are meeting for Floyd’s monthly open mic at the Café Del Sol this Saturday from 7-9 pm.
2. My radio essay “Is It Summer Yet” (also about the place and people that shaped me) is being aired today on WVTF Public Radio. You can hear it here.
3. We had our second Floyd Blogger Meet-up yesterday. David from Ripples blogged about it today, complete with pictures. Go on over and visit.

April 13, 2006

13 Thursday: Sign of the Times

13banner.jpg1. If I was made of pottery and the sun was my kiln, my glaze would be freckles.

2. Now that I have DSL and my phone line isn’t tied up when I’m on line I’m seeing how many people don’t actually call me.

3. Glancing at a BMG music catalog that had just come in the mail, without my glasses on, I thought the photo on the cover of a young Ozzie Osborne was Demi Moore.

4. I created the above sign through a banner/poster generator found at the Generator Blog by way of Pearl.

5. I participated in my first ever Peace March in Washington D.C. in October of 2002. In protest of the then impending invasion of Iraq, I marched alongside my friend Alwyn who is a Quaker and an environmental activist, well into her 70s. I went to another big DC march in January 2003, where I heard Ron Kovic speak, met Jessica Lange, and recorded my poem, “Dream for President Bush,” for a the cable TV station in the small town I grew up in. More on that here.

6. My favorite blog quote of the week, was found at Ripples from a post titled “Think of a blog as a thought-transmitter.” With a blog, “You don't have to mix paint to put on a cave wall” to get your ideas out, Ripples author, David wrote.

7. My blog friend, Patry from “Simply Wait” has generated an interesting dialogue via her post “On Writers and Ambition,” which delves into the tension between creating art and the work it takes to market it. In my comment to her I said, “At the very least, I don't want my writing to have to COST me money. I think it should at least keep me in printing ink...and you know how much that costs these days.” Patry’s first novel, THE LIAR'S DIARY, will be published by Dutton in March, 2007.

8. My new favorite spring quote, which was sent to me via the Love Link from my sister Sherry, is: And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. –by Anais Nin

9. Speaking of Sherry, the sister that I lived with back in the 70s during our Laverne and Shirley days, here’s a site she would like: Tea Leaves. It’s an online tea leaf reading site, found via Jennifer at Open Book. Sherry and I used to get our tea leaves read every chance we got, back in the day when I lived in Massachusetts.

10. Apparently, some folks think Loose Leaf Notes is a topless or a nudist blog, according to two recent key word searches that brought people here: “A shirtless camping trip” and “Can I sunbathe nude in South Carolina?” I think they got the idea from this post.

11. I seem to know summer through my bare feet. As a girl, I remember how they hurt, walking on our long gravel drive-way. It didn’t occur to me to put shoes on in June. And if I had, how would my feet ever have gotten tough enough to withstand the rest of the summer? So begins “Is It Summer Yet?” one of the 3 essays I recorded at the WVTF radio studio last fall. It’s the last of the group to be aired, slated to be so tomorrow 6:55 and 8:55am. You can hear me reading it here and read it here.

12. The above essay is a blog entry with a new application. It’s mostly about going barefoot and was originally written it in answer to a question Fred posed on Fragments From Floyd, “When do you Know it’s Summer?” Fred is a WVTF radio essayist who’s been at it longer than me. He also writes a column in our local paper, and has a BLOOK.

13. In a recent blog entry in which I was announcing the airing of the radio essay before this one, “Life in the Rural Fast Lane,” I mistakenly called WVTF, WTF! You know what that means; don’t you?

Post Note: You can now visit thursdaythirteen.com and find all things 13 there, thanks to Leanne and her company. My other Thirteens are here.

April 12, 2006

The Class Picture

wwweek.jpg The class of 1998 at Woman’s Wellness Week, Indian Valley, Virginia, a woman's retreat hosted by my friend Ise Williams who has since passed away. Do you recognize me with mud on my face?

To view a more recent class picture go here.

My son Josh’s class picture is here. Can you find him in all that green? His close-up mug...err...mud shot is here.

April 11, 2006

In with the New…Out with the Old

rake.jpgIn April when others are doing taxes, I’m counting a different kind of yearly income; the heads of daffodils and the buds of tulips. Blinded by the exploding gold of forsythia against a rich blue sky, I try not to be greedy for purple, and as I watch the return of green, take inventory of the kale in the garden, I find myself feeling bad for people on Wall Street bidding on paper commodities.

A Bright Idea

Daylight Savings
in the bank
is a glorious
free commodity
ready to spend
to dispel the dark
deficit of winter’s

Post note: The celtic cross in the photo was created by my friend Jayn, a potter and sculptor who I wrote about here. She made it as a gift to me in honor of my brothers, Jim and Dan, who both died in 2001.

April 10, 2006

Little Pig! Little Pig!

clayspace.jpgLet us in!

My son Josh is in the back of his clay studio sleeping in his loft. His cell phone is turned off and my husband, Joe, is trying to break in. Here’s the story that led up to the scene:

Josh has a bigger-than-life personality. Although he’s a serious artist, he’s playful and theatrical in his pursuit and expression of it, so much so that when I learned he would be presenting the results of his wild clay grant research project in a power point presentation for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at UNC in Asheville this past weekend, I asked, “Will there be a costume involved?”

And at the Wild Clay Exhibit when I said to one of his pottery mates who was remarking about Josh’s creativity and energy… “You should have seen him as a boy…” the potter injected before I could finish, referring to Josh’s playful nature, “OH, BUT I THINK WE HAVE!” joshshow3.jpg

The culmination of months of intensive preparation for the wild clay exhibit and power point presentation were packed into two days this past weekend. In the weeks leading up to the events, Josh was going to school, writing an essay for the Studio Potter magazine about wild clay, producing two publications for the exhibits, and getting his car un-booted after receiving several parking tickets while loading and unloading pots to and from venues. In the days before the events he was functioning, admittedly, on too much coffee and too little sleep.

The conference presentation - given by Josh and his colleague Matt – was a huge success, eliciting rousing applause and even a few tears from some of us. I was particularly moved when Josh spoke of the bond that developed between himself and the farmer whose land the wild clay was excavated from because they both shared a deep appreciation for what the earth could produce.

After the last of the events, Josh was more than ready to relax and spend some time with me and Joe, who had traveled from Virginia for the occasion. He graciously gave us a daytime and nighttime tour of a kiln wood firing he was a crew member of; we attended a sunset picnic kite-flying birthday celebration for a friend of his, and dined on pasta at a downtown restaurant. claysamples.jpg

Later that night, we headed back to the Days Inn motel where Joe and I were staying to download some photographs and to bestow a promised massage on the hardworking potter son. It was then that it was revealed or discovered that Josh had a fever!

In high school, Josh’s wrestling skills took him to state championships. Through wrestling he learned the importance of focused discipline, which sometimes included ignoring the body’s messages of fatigue until the job got done. It seems that his enthusiasm and best efforts in pulling together a major art opening featuring local and international potters who use wild clay and then doing his research presentation the next morning had taken a toll. When he finally let his guard down, it became obvious that his resistance was down as well.

He never made it out of the motel that evening. Fell asleep where he hit the bed. The next morning, he was scheduled for a 4 hour stint tending the kiln. Joe drove over to the site with him. They lined up a replacement fire keeper, and then got Josh home for some needed bed rest.

Before Joe and I left Asheville, we stopped by to check in on Josh, which is when the first posted photo was taken. Luckily, he came out before anything actually broke. And happily, I can report that Josh is well on the way to recovery.

Photos: The second photo: Josh talking with an audience member at the NCUR research presentation and art exhibit at UNCA. The third photo: Samples of local pipe clay displayed at the Wild Clay Exhibit, excavated by Josh and Matt and presented in their various stages: raw and wet, dried, kiln dried, and finished.

April 9, 2006

Flying High in Asheville

kite.jpgI flew a kite!

It was Josh’s friend Rachel’s birthday and we were up in the field on Dogwood hill just before sunset to celebrate. I spotted it in the sky while walking up to crest carrying a basket full of snacks and extra warm clothes. “A kite!” I blurted out to Josh and Joe who were walking with me. “What a fun way to celebrate a birthday!”

I thought it was a flying goddess; red, yellow, and green, like the wooden ones my friend Juniper sells in her bead shop. Annabelle and Rachel told me it was a bird that went by the name of Scarlet Macaw.

Annabelle handed me the string. It was like holding an infant for the first time. “You’re trusting me with this? I’ve never done it before, at least not successfully,” I warned her. kitecloseup.jpg

It takes at least two to fly a kite; one to grab the string when the wind dies down and the string goes slack, and the other to wind the extra string up. Like water skiing or sailing it looks easier to do than it really is. You have to pay attention or it will fall.

After a while of successful kite flying, my arms got tired. I looked around for another pair of hands like a worn out aunt ready to pass the baby who has just started to cry back to its real mom where it belongs.

See post below for more Asheville antics...

April 8, 2006

Wild Clay Art in Asheville

joshmeshow.jpg That’s me, a 5’ 1” mom standing on my toes to pose with my 6’2’ son, Josh, in front of a display of pots that were part of the show he was a co-curator of. The exhibit opened at Asheville’s American Folk Gallery and was the result of a grant that Josh and his colleague, Matt, received to research the influence of local materials in making pottery, a subject I recently wrote about in “A Life time Supply.” It was purposely scheduled to coincide with the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), held at Asheville’s University of North Carolina this weekend where Josh and Matt are scheduled to present their research findings tomorrow. showwall.jpg

The night was a Who’s Who of Josh’s life and an opportunity for my husband and me to put names to faces. We met Josh’s peers and mentors, teachers from Penland and UNC, friends and other potters, some of whom rent space at Josh’s studio, Clay Space.

Some of the pieces displayed were ones made by a Japanese potter that Josh recently studied with. Others were from England from a potter Josh connected with during his trip to England last year. Most were made by North Carolinians like Josh and Matt, and all the pieces reflected the theme of the show, having been made with wild clay dug from the areas where the potters live.

A few pots held branches of cherry blossoms or dried grape vines. People mulled about drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers while appreciating the pottery. I talked “blogs” with the owner of the gallery, who has been thinking about starting one herself, and received compliments for and about my son. After the show we ate dinner with a potter from Josh's community who I discovered knew my cousin years ago in Massachusetts. It was warm enough to eat at an outside café. The noodles were hot and the beer cold.

Read more here

April 6, 2006

13 Thursday: A Little Bird Told Me

13birdhouse2.jpg1. There are mornings that I’m glad to wake-up just so I can get some rest. Last night I dreamt that I got lost in city, was the lead in a play, had several costume changes, wore high heels, and forgot my lines.

2. Number 33 on my list of 100 Things About Me reads: If I was a bird my call would be A LOUD YAWN.

3. My current favorite spring quote is a Chinese proverb, found in the April issue of The Museletter, Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.

4. I don’t trust send-out film developing in the same way I don’t trust checking my baggage at an airport. I usually travel with just carry-on and use 1 Hour photo developing.

5. Sometimes the click of the mouse reminds me of Dorothy’s shoes in The Wizard of Oz and what the good witch told her to do. (Especially now that I have DSL.)

6. How do you fix your reading glasses when they fall apart and you’re trying to thread the screw into the frames but you can’t see the hole because you need to put your glasses on to see it?

7. I don’t rip potato chip bags open with my teeth anymore, but I can use my fingernails as a screwdriver in a pinch, I just discovered.

8. Why isn’t everyone reading Vanx at Verb-ops? In Jeopardy style, here’s part of a comment I left on one of his recent posts; see if you can guess what the entry was about: Captivating! Dealers in suits, a Pandora’s Box, a Museum of Water, Capote! Yeah for the advocates!

9. I’d second mortgage my house to buy the right pair of waterproof walking shoes or boots that I can walk a city block in or hike a trail and not look out of place. When it comes to shoes I think women are discriminated against, or more to the point, we’re stereotyped. And I think this business about changing shoes for every kind of activity is a capitalistic plot.

10. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently admitted that the Bush administration had made THOUSANDS of mistakes in Iraq. Hearing her say that was almost as satisfying as when she was forced by the 9/11 commission to quote the White House memo, “Bin Laden determined to strike inside the U.S.," thereby admitting that the administration wasn’t as clueless (or shouldn't have been) as they made out about the likelihood of an attack. But who will be held accountable?

11. Columnist, Art Buchwald hasn’t let being near the end of his life dampen his creativity. From his Washington hospice, he recently wrote, “An Ice Day for a News Conference,” in which he envisions President Bush holding his first news conference to address global warming and announces "mission accomplished" on the good ship Titanic.
bush bad.jpg
12. Fun Found at L(amb): Google your name and then hit images and see all the other people who have your name…or spend hours looking at alternative family members and old boyfriends via the same method.

13. More fun found at Deana’s: She made this (to the right) at Image Chef . It takes my label gun to a new level.

Post Notes: Click on my 13 Thursday sidebar icon to meet some new 13 Thursday friends and visit Nicole for the game plan. My other 13's are here. Posting may be erratic this weekend. We plan to visit my Asheville potter son who loves the Red Sox.

April 5, 2006

Strong in the Broken Places

alexmosaic.jpg The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. ~ Ernest Hemingway

“Strong in the Broken Places” was the theme of the art show that hung on the walls of The Glade Baptist Church where I met with the woman’s book club group that had just read my book, “The Jim and Dan Stories.” It didn’t occur to me until the next day how fitting it was that I was talking about the deaths of my brothers with a group of women in a room adjacent to an art show with such a theme.

...I didn’t know when I began writing that to tell my brother’s story I also had to tell my own. I knew it was a family story, but I was surprised to discover that Jim and Dan’s deaths revealed an identity crisis in me, one that was underscored by the distance between my childhood home in Massachusetts and my present one in Virginia. Writing became a way to bridge those two places, and a way to piece together what was shattered in me. It was like a broken mirror was being put back together with each memory retrieved, so that I could see myself again. ~ From The Jim and Dan Stories, introduction.

Alex is a multi-media artist who I sometimes play Scrabble with. I gave her a copy of “The Jim and Dan Stories,” insisting that we make a trade after she gifted me with one of her handmade necklace creations. Once she read the book, she recommended it to her book club, which is how I came to be in the church that evening.

We met at Zeppoli’s, a Blacksburg Italian restaurant that makes home-made pasta, before the book club meeting at 7 pm. Alex arrived first. I found her sitting in a dark corner of the restaurant and immediately noticed that she didn’t look right, as if she was holding her breath. It didn’t take long for her to blurt out what was wrong; she had put down her favorite old horse that very day and was grief stricken about it. I tried to console her and wondered out loud if she would have the emotional stamina to attend the book club. What was the alternative, she questioned? She didn’t want to go home and be reminded of what had happened. At least the book club topic would be relevant.

At the church, while touring the art show, Alex shared that just days before in the same room the book club members were beginning to gather, she taught an art class on making mosaics. What kind of church hosts art shows and classes and has a giant mosaic with the word JOY spelled out hanging over the altar? Baptist is part of the church’s identity, but they have recently chose to be affiliated with the United Church of Christ because, "The UCC placed a comma in our lives where the Southern Baptists had placed a period," the pastor, Kelly was quoted on the United Church Press webpage as saying.

Alex made the Joy mosaic with shards from the minister’s own prized pottery that had been broken in an accident. It hung above the altar well before the “broken in the strong places” show. Perhaps it was the inspiration behind the show’s theme.

But I was there to talk about my book, and I did. The women were welcoming, the format informal. I was moved by how willing they were to share their own stories of losing loved ones, and I’m still thinking about some of the questions they asked me.

Sometimes memorable events can mean even more to me after they’ve happened. The next day, I was able to step back and see the theme through the previous evening that was not just the name of the art show. Alex’s mosaic was another fitting piece to the art of the evening, and so was my book. It too was like a mosaic, one of broken pieces and retrieved memories constructed by words to tell a story of love.

Even the book group related to the theme. We were a roomful of different women coming together as a whole to talk about grief and loss in an effort to make meaning out of it.

April 4, 2006

More Floyd Wildlife

wigs.jpgGirls in brightly colored wigs posing for poets in a clash of culture when live-bands performed at the Winter Sun Hall and the poets read free verse in Café Del Sol on the same night in different parts of the same building. ~ February ‘06

Post notes:
On Wednesday, tomorrow, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06 (via the LoveLink from Sherry). Meet some of Floyd’s other wildlife here and see the wig girls in another get-up altogether here.

April 3, 2006

Home is Where the Art Is

jaynshouse.jpgYou’ve heard of an art installation? My friend Jayn’s whole house could be one. Her art can’t be separated from the life she lives and the place she lives it from, an old Appalachian country home with a flower child touch and an artist’s manifested vision.

Last week when most everyone else I knew was downtown listening to author Lee Smith speak, I was at Jayn’s house having dinner, meeting the new love in her life, and participating in an impromptu poetry reading that took place in her living room. jaynsdoorway.jpg

I was also and touring her art installation that had recently been renovated, and I had a camera in hand.

Jayn lives lightly on the land, mostly off the grid and without indoor plumbing. Seeing the new composting toilet in her newly decorated bathroom was as much a part of the evening’s agenda as meeting her new boyfriend was.

She, primarily a potter and sculptor, did most of the new renovation work herself. When she cringed at the old exposed wiring coming out of the light fixture in her bathroom, she put her artist’s imagination to work and created a streaming golden sun…or is it seafaring octopus? jaynswiring.jpg

Every corner of Jayn’s house, un-posed and ascetically arranged, looks like an art composition begging to be noticed. Even her cat is photogenic and seemed to be engaged in some sort of performance art the night of my photography shoot. Our dinner, a potluck of salad, stew, and venison, served on Jayn’s plates and locally made pottery bowls, completed the evening’s masterful arrangement. jaynstable.jpg

Post Note: Jayn, a member of the Writers’ Circle I belong to, is writing a book about the history of her house and the cultures that have converged in it. Her website is here.

April 2, 2006

Blook Blurb

It’s been a while since my Floydian friend, Fred, wondered out loud on his web log, Fragments from Floyd, about publishing a blook. According to Fred, a blook is a “Fredism” that means “a book that has risen out of someone’s blog.” Last May he wrote this:

You start a blog, not knowing exactly where it will go or even why you feel compelled to pour your thoughts and hopes out for all to read. But you do it, and you stay faithful. Readers come, and as they do, you begin to respond to these not-quite-strangers who look from the outside at your life. You find something from the legion of ideas and visions that flood in with the first cup of morning coffee--something that gives those visitors a way to know what appears out your window when the sun comes up. Dear lord, they genuinely seem interested! And after a couple of years of this, you look behind you at the creation that has taken shape from this voice, this edifice of words, these images in words and pixels. And you wonder: could there be the kernel of something larger here? From all these fragments of what the seasons have shown me, could there be a book?fredhead.jpg

Fred, a biologist, naturalist, teacher, physical therapist, columnist, radio essayist, photographer, and blogger has been writing at Fragments for over 3 years and has been instrumental in inspiring others, including myself, to start their own blogs.

His blook is ablout to become a reality, one called: “Slow Road Home ~ a blue ridge book of days.” This is Fred’s “back of business card” description of what his book is about:

It is one part memoir and four parts descriptive non-fiction, a personal account of searching for, finding and belonging at home in the southern mountains. The slow road of the title refers to the years of moving toward the place my wife and I now call home. And the slow road is also the single lane we travel home, as it follows the headwaters of Goose Creek in Floyd County, Virginia. The subtitle, a blue ridge book of days, describes the structure of the book. It is an album of sorts, composed of word pictures, essays, stories and meditations where nature, the seasons and the senses play an important part.

For more information on “Slow Road Home,” visit “Fragments From Floyd” or go directly to Fred’s virtual one stop book shop, Goose Creek Press.

Floyd’s First Regional Blogger Meet-up Update: I guess Fred was correct when, in between the telling of his dream of becoming Lucille Ball and news of his book going public, he predicted on his blog that our first regional blogger meet-up would be “one of the – and perhaps THE – most widely live-reported events in the history of the county.” Fred, the most seasoned blogger in our group, knows bloggers. boggers4.jpg Since I posted about the event on Friday, quite a few others who attended have reported in and posted photos. Leslie of “Squirrel Spur” remembered everyone’s names better than I did, and Linda from “Goin Up Cripple Creek,” who made the 45 minute ride from Christiansburg, said this in her post: I took my knitting - thinking maybe it would be a lecture-style meeting, where one presenter handled several topics. Well, suffice it to say, I won't take my knitting to another of these meetings! We were so busy getting to know each other and exchanging ideas, that my knitting sat forlornly under a table, totally forgotten. I wished for 8 sets of ears! Doug of Blue Ridge Muse weighed in as well with “Blog Bash.”

April 1, 2006

Fooling Around

kissing my nephews.png"You couldn't fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life even if you had an electrified fooling machine." — Homer Simpson

I’m a fool who loves fooling but can’t keep a straight face while doing it. I prefer to be the fooler rather than the foolee, but I feel a certain pressure trying to come up with some foolproof foolery when mass foolishness is scheduled on one particular day of the year.

In my case, I got off on the wrong fooling foot. I can still remember my reaction when an older kid explained to me that on April 1st you were supposed to do something like change the salt in the salt shaker to sugar and put sugar in the salt shaker. Coming from a family of 9 kids on a working class budget, I knew it would be folly to fool with family food. Doing something like that in my house could get you killed, which has nothing to do with funny.

April Fool’s Day makes me suspicion. Who can be trusted? You can’t count on anyone to tell the truth or act normal. The worst part of the problem is that I remember on March 31st about April Fool’s Day, but then for some reason on April 1st I wake up gullible.

And what is the significance that April Fools happens the same time our clocks are getting switched to a new time?

Photo: Me as a ventriloquist with my dummy and his master puppeteer brother. Just kidding!