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May 31, 2006

Looney Moon in June

museletterjayn.jpgThe Museletter, the local homespun newsletter that a small group of us have been putting together for the past 20 years, is one of the reasons I moved to Floyd. Back then it went by another name. It was mostly supported, and still is today, by the alter-natives, the back-to-the landers, the musicians, and artists who reside here in Floyd. It only took seeing that first issue (sent to me via a Blue Mountain School parent), with a list of events, a community bulletin board, poetry, and articles on folk living and sustainability, for me to recognize the small town uniqueness of Floyd and become hooked on the idea of living here.

Putting the Museletter together used to be a monthly community event, but because Floyd has grown and subscribers aren’t as close-knit as they once were, in the last few years the cut and paste lay-out production has come down to Jayn and me. Another volunteer co-ordinates the subscriptions and recruits people to collate it each month. It’s a low-tech, grassroots sewing circle sort of activism that I can’t believe manages to happen every month.

Creating the June issue, this past Sunday, was like old home week. Jayn’s friend Jack was in town and he and Jayn, along with my husband Joe, had just come from a bike ride on the Parkway. I had all the ingredients spread out on the table – submissions that had come via email or our PO Box, pens, glue stick, and enough scissors to go around – ready to piece it together.

Jayn usually does the back page, which consists of a calendar and mailing information. For fun, and like all good Earth People have in the past, she names the moon, and then illustrates the page to coordinate with it. Some of her recent most memorable namings include: Lo-Sun-Moon, Milky Way Moon, Daddy- Oh Moon, Moon of Plenty, Mermoon, Up and Coming Moon, and Big Grassy Moon, and one of my personal favorites, named after the start of the War in Iraq, “Year of Compassion Moon of Dissent.”

We put Jack to work, suggesting he be the one to name the moon. After absorbing the weight of his task, he thought for a minute and then wondered out loud if we could get away with naming the issue “Looney Tune June Moon.”

“We have the technology!” I said, holding up my glue stick. “And the power!” I added.

After it was decided which Looney Tunes character we would feature as our June Museletter mascot, even Joe got in on the act. He went to the computer to find some suitable clip art and printed it out for us.

Tweety Bird! Yeah, that fits the spring-summer theme, we all agreed.

Jack pulled a poem out of his notebook and hand copied it in an available space. I looked for some quotes for Father’s Day to disperse throughout the pages, and Jayn drew some squiggling spirals to separate the various typed submissions.

Many hands made an especially good Museletter, just like the old days.

To read more about the Museletter go here and here.

May 30, 2006

Over My Head

overmyhead2.jpg I was on the phone with Mara setting up a date to play Scrabble when she said to me, “I enjoyed the reading you did about your mom at our last open mic, but I think it was the first time you didn’t read any poetry. That was weird.”

“Do you know why?” I asked and then went on to explain.

I was scheduled to read my WVTF Radio Mother’s Day essay, and I wanted to explain to the audience how the essay came about, that I had written one for my father first, in honor of his WWII service, and my mother hoped out loud that I would write one for her.

“When I stumbled on the word “veteran” in my set-up for the piece and almost said “veterinarian,” I knew I was in trouble,” I told Mara. “I just couldn’t find the word. I couldn’t count on my own brain! And then I didn’t know how to verbally make the transition from a Mother’s Day essay to poetry. I just wanted to read the essay and get off the stage.

Mara replied that she hadn’t noticed that I fumbled or that anything was wrong with me, but she and I both have ongoing issues with anxiety, and so she understood.

“I didn’t feel comfortable even before that. Maybe it was hormonal or because the crowd was big. It was as if my brain connections were flipped on OFF. Why am I even in this business with a brain like mine?!” I complained.

My Chinese Medicine Practitioner, who I worked with for 2 full years, believes he was treating me primarily for a head injury (and that’s a whole other story). Many of my family members struggle with dyslexia and dyscalculia. Or maybe my fragile brain chemistry is related to my longstanding issues with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, of which one component is described as “brain fog.”

Later, while playing Scrabble, Mara and I continued our conversation. After writing a blog post about meeting NPR’s Terry Gross with mention of how she didn’t look like I expected (and after being spurred by a comment by Mayberry), I did a little research on Diane Rehm, another Public Radio interviewer I like to listen to. I wanted to see what Diane looked like and learn what was wrong with her voice. It’s shaky and weak and sounds as though she has suffered a stroke.

According to a 1999 Washington Post article titled “Diane Rehm Finds a Voice of Her Own,” Rehm has a neurological disorder called “spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that attacks the voice. She also suffers the psychological effects of coping with her disorder, which manifest as anxiety, shortness of breath, and self doubt. In a book authored by Rehm, she tells of her traumatic childhood relationship with her mother, implying that the emotional roots of her voice loss started there.

“Can you imagine being in radio with a problem like that? And being successful in spite of it?” I asked Mara.

Then I read my favorite part of the article out loud to Mara, the part that I related to most, Rehm’s own description of anxiety: “It’s not the anxiety that originates the problem. The anxiety follows. It feeds the fear and the fear feeds the anxiety, and caught in the cycle is: the voice.”

Or, in my case, the brain. When I can’t count on it to function right, fearful feelings of being unprepared and incapable ultimately lead to anxiety. Sometimes the fear is a rational one, such as when I’m driving through an unfamiliar and congested city, and I can’t process all the highway signs, overpasses, and exits. Other times it’s less rational, less predictable, and something I can usually bluff my way through; unless of course I’m on stage with a microphone in my hand.

But things could be worse. I feel fortunate that my fragile brain functioning isn’t as evident to others as the voice disorder that plagues Diane Rehm. The next time I’m doing a public reading and I feel ill at ease, I’ll try to remember her and let her perseverance inspire me.

May 29, 2006

Prodigy Poet

matpoet2.jpgOn more than one occasion I’ve written about my youngest nephew, Patrick, who I refer to as “my prodigy” due to our mutual interest in everything goofy, gooey, and giddy. Now I’d like to introduce his older brother, Matthew, who could also be considered a prodigy of mine, but for a different reason.

My first attempts at writing poetry took place when I was a teenager. In the sanctuary of our shared bedroom, I read them aloud to my sister Sherry. I was 30 when I was paid for my first poem (It does happen on occasion.), and I did my first public reading about 5 years after that.

I try not to compare myself to Matthew. He just turned 10, and after his first attempt at writing poetry, he received a formal letter from his school that said: …In recognition of your outstanding achievement, we respectfully invite you to share your success with the Committee during the Student Recognition portion of its meeting on Wednesday… Please plan to arrive no later than 6:45 PM. Photographs will be taken promptly at 6:50 PM for broadcast on Channel 22… You shall be given the opportunity to make a brief statement regarding your accomplishments.

Last summer, while exploring a nature park together, I did a few creative writing exercises with Matthew and his brother Patrick. Matthew was good at it, but seemed disinterested.

“You think he’s not listening, but he is,” his mother, Trish, later told me. “He soaks everything up.”

Below is Matthew’s acclaimed poem. His mom thinks he may have slipped on the Purple Poet's Beret before she sent it to me for my birthday. To read an account of my history of poetry with children and some of my great niece’s (blue) poetry, go here.

I am a blue paint brush
I’m as blue as the ocean
I used to paint beautiful paintings
I was dipped in red paint
I was dipped in green paint
I was dipped in all the colors on the face of the earth
Blue was my most favorite color
I can remember the nice clean movements of the artist
I still dream of painting beautiful paintings
Some of the most famous artists held me
When they were done painting, they dipped me in water
The water was as clear as ice
I loved being put away neatly
I didn’t really like the messy artists
I got hurt a couple times when I was dropped
That’s the life of a paint brush like me.

May 27, 2006

In the Merry Month of May

1. Somebody rescued a scarecrow from somebody else’s trash and put it in my garden for a surprise. It’s meant to scare crows away from our corn seedlings, but it ended up scaring me. I thought it was a stranger loitering in the garden!
2. Somebody played pool with my husband in our cellar on the pool table we bought when the boys were teenagers to keep them home a little longer.
3. Somebody went to hat party to celebrate the successful foster care re-placement of a man with developmental disabilities who used to live with us.
4. Someone danced with me in my living room to Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” while her mother took a photo with cell phone. We especially liked singing the “So you think your Brad Pitt” part.
5. Somebody made strawberry shortcake for me and a mutual friend who has a birthday the day after mine. We ate it at a birthday picnic celebration at Floyd's Oak Grove Pavilion’s seasonal music kick-off event.
6. Somebody bought me a new digital camera for my birthday so I could later sneak a shot of him doing this. XO
7. Somebody graduated cum laude from Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke and is now an RN.
8. Somebody home from college came for a visit and showed off his gymnastic skills (one of his college classes) on my trampoline. I took a movie of him with my new digital camera.

Answers: 1. My husband, Joe. 2. My husband’s niece Angie. 3. I did, but my friend Virginia had the best hat. 4. My great-niece Sammy 5. My friend Katherine, and it tasted spectacular! 6. My sweet husband, Joe. He gets me all the technological stuff that I don't even know I need. 7. My son Dylan’s fiancé, Alexis. 8. Family friend, neighbor, and one of Dylan’s best childhood friends, Rowan.

May 26, 2006


joescabblesleep2.jpgJoe saw my car parked in front of the Café Del Sol and decided to take a break from his busy counselor workday to come in and say hello. Mara, Leah, and I were gathered around the Scrabble board in the cushy chair corner of the café.

After some friendly antics and Scrabble game theatrics, we all settled down. Mara, Leah, and I each had the intention of winning the game and so we leaned into the board to study it. It was soon after that when Mara gestured towards Joe, who was sitting on the couch behind me, and asked in a hushed voice, “Is Joe meditating or did he fall asleep?”

Joe’s voice rose through the hush like a whale sounding, and with one word, he surprised us by answering, “YES.”marafloored2.jpg

Did that mean he was doing some of both? I guess his answer or the fact that he answered at all, floored Mara (see photo).

Post notes: I skipped the part where Joe stopped responding altogether and I put the purple poet beret on his head. I was thinking it would be “the picture of the day,” but when I went to take it, my camera battery was dead, something Joe had just warned me about the night before. Lucky for him I didn’t listen.

You saw it here first:
My commentary originally titled “Worse than Watergate and Monika Lewinsky,” was published in the Roanoke Times today under the newly edited name “Country Agrees: Bush Steps Over the Limit.”

May 25, 2006

13 Thursday: Bless This Mess

1.Come in...sit down…relax…converse…my desk doesn’t always look like this….sometimes it’s even worse. When I was growing up my mother had a plaque in the kitchen with those words on it, except the word “desk” read “house.” With 9 kids, even though she was great at housekeeping, I guess she felt the need for a disclaimer.

2. Now that her kids are all grown, one of my girlfriends is putting her house in order, feng shui style. I admire what she’s doing, but haven’t quite gotten to that point myself. When I look around at all the clutter I have collected and feel discouraged, I tell myself that I’m putting my house in order too. My way of doing that is by creating a written record to pass down to my descendents.

3. It’s funny how people hardly ever take pictures of their un-posed chaos and messes. I recently decided to make friends with disorder by deciding that clutter was just another form of collage art to be photographed. kitchenmess.jpg

4. I was probably inspired to photograph clutter by my potter son, Josh, who does mad collage journaling.” After my father died this past November, Josh photographed every corner of my dad’s bedroom before it was touched by anyone. The photographs captured some personal images, like my dad’s comb and hairbrushes, but mostly they were of vitamin bottles, books, videos, and jars of Vicks Vapor Rub that my dad had.

5. While meeting and greeting at Michele’s I received a comment from Terri who lives in Cedar Key, Florida. She wrote… First time visiting here and really enjoyed your blog...especially the essay on your dad. My next door neighbors here on the island live in Floyd, VA....part of the year. Perhaps they're your neighbors when they're not down here on the island. I wrote back: Yes, I know them! They’re either the Devlins or the Stuckis. She wrote back again: It is the Devlins! So now we’re linked up, and she’s planning a trip to Floyd in October while I’m planning one to Cedar Key next winter.

6. At our last blogger meet-up in the Café Del Sol I was sitting next to Fragments Fred when I opened up my messy, scribbled-in notebook, showed it to him, and said, “Do your notebooks look this bad?” I was shocked when he answered, “I don’t have a notebook.” He types everything on the computer.

7. For me, a simple pen is like the invention of the wheel, and my hand is a vehicle for my mind. I often don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down.

8. Albert Einstein and I share the same Enneagram number, 5, which is the Thinker and Observer. The Enneagram is an ancient system of personality types (or world views) that has explained more to me about myself and others than any other system. Fives, who live a rich life within their own minds, can get so absorbed in their particular studies of interest that they sometimes exhibit a “nutty professor” quality. Here’s a link to the types. Which on are you?

9. I’ve never gone out with a hanger still stuck in my overcoat, like Einstein did once, but I have gone out with a curler left in my hair. When one of my friends points it out, I act like I meant for it to be there.

10. Poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen – who I fell in love with when I first heard his song “Suzanne” in 1969 – keeps a notebook. On a recent interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, he said his poetry usually starts on napkins or notebooks that he carries around. When Terry asked him about the cynical bent to his poetry, he said this: When you’re actually in the trenches, in front of the page, or the guitar or keyboard, you have to deal with where the energy is, with what arises, what presents itself with a certain kind of urgency. So in those final moments, you don’t really choose, you just go where the smoke is.

11. I first began to describe myself as a poet in the late 80s when I saw a commentary in the Roanoke Times written by my friend and fellow Floyd folk poet, Will. In the bio-note that followed Will was described as a poet (which of course is really the only way to describe Will). It was true that I had spent a lot of time writing poetry and occasionally had some published, but mostly I felt that the label was a good way to explain to others that I was a little “different,” and because I knew that most people will cut poets a little slack.

12. This is what someone thinks Loose Leaf Notes looks like.

13. My shortest writer’s bio, used in the 2005 WEMOON Journal where a poem of mine appeared, was: I keep a dictionary in the backseat of my car and a kaleidoscope in my glove compartment. What else do you need to know?

All Things 13 are here. Except for the ones that are here.

May 24, 2006

Every Poet Needs a Purple Beret

maraberet3.jpg “There was an old story that when a revolution occurred in some ancient land the new ruler was asked, “What’s the first thing to do?” and the new ruler answered “Kill the poets.” ~ Bill Moyer

I wanted to wear my new purple beret to Sunday’s Spoken Word event, where I was scheduled to do a reading. I got the beret for my birthday from my sister, Tricia, and thought it would be a good prop for a poet.

Why is it poets are associated with berets? I don’t know, especially considering that the wikipedia on berets only covers the history of military ones. Maybe poets are a militant sort of group, with their words being like weapons when necessary. If they’re any good as a poet, I think they should be counted on to speak truth to power.
I was hoping the purple beret would calm my nerves when it was my turn to read on stage. Maybe wearing it would divert some attention away from me and onto my hat! But, being made of wool, it was too hot to wear on this particular warm May evening.

At intermission time the hat got passed around, not to put money in to support our starving writers, but so that we could try it on and feel...well, more poetic.poetberet.jpg

My friend, Mara (in the first photo), looks like the epitome of the poet that she is. I think she should use this photo for her own blog or webpage. Even Kyla, her young daughter, read up at the mic, and so she got to try on the hat. Joe and I were finally able to relax because my part of the reading was done.

Who will be next to try on the purple beret? To be continued…

May 23, 2006

I Got Interviewed by Terry Gross!

terrygrossinroanoke2.jpgMy Terry Gross is young, has long straight blonde hair, looks a little like the actress Laura Linney, and doesn’t wear glasses.

Terry Gross – the real one who produces and hosts National Public Radio’s interview talk show “Fresh Air” – is petite to the point of looking like Mary Martin playing the role of Peter Pan. She has short cropped hair, wears glasses, and is in her late 50s.

I had been invited to go down to Roanoke with a group from Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts to hear Terry Gross speak at The Jefferson Center. We were in the VIP room before the show dipping our plantain chips into lemon pistachio ricotta when Terry walked in.

Once we convinced ourselves it was really Terry Gross and we got over our initial feelings of being star-struck, we made our way over to meet her.

I was introduced to her as a writer. In perfect interview fashion, she turned to me and said, “What do you write?’
“Funny enough, right now (besides blogging), WVTF Public Radio essays,” I blurted out.

“What are your essays about?” she continued her line of questions.

“My last one was about my mother for Mother’s Day,” I answered and then went on to tell her the essay about my father’s WWII military service, which aired on Memorial Day last year, and how after that my mother asked if I would write one for her.

That was the extent of my two question "interview" conducted by Terry Gross before it was my turn to ask questions.

“Where did you grow up?” I asked, already detecting that she was from the northeast.

“Brooklyn,” she answered.

I asked her about a recent exceptionally good interview I heard her do with Paul Riechoff, author of a book on Iraq from an Iraq veteran’s perspective, before her attention turned to others. Some were waiting for her to sign her book, “All I Did Was Ask.”

Terry knew that most of us had a different idea of how she looked. She opened her show by saying how in one instant she had answered the question on most people’s minds: What does Terry Gross look like?

Letting us get a better look, she did a pirouette as she laughed, saying, “…I know what you’re thinking.”

At first, the only thing recognizable about her was her voice, and throughout the show I would occasionally close my eyes and listen, bringing “my Terry Gross” back to mind. But as the show went on, her familiar wit, calm, and enthusiasm came through. She was engaging, revealing, and seemed to enjoy making us laugh by playing recorded outtakes of past shows that some might consider to be bloopers.

She took questions, and was complimented (or hit on) by one gay woman who expressed her disappointment that Terry was straight, before closing the show by playing a haunting rendition of the classic song “Walk On” by Richard Thomas of Fairport Convention. The song seemed to be Terry’s way to bid us a farewell while also encouraging us to remain hopeful. We sat in meditative silence together, letting the words sink in.

When you walk through a storm …Hold your head up high …And don't be afraid of the dark …At the end of the storm…There's a golden sky…And the sweet silver song of a lark…

Post Notes: The first Photo is of Terry Gross signing Cindy’s book. Cindy is one of the Jacksonville Center’s board of directors. In the second photo, John, Jacksonville's business manager, and Jayn, another board member, are talking with Terry. And…Speaking of interviews, Floyd fellow-blogger Fred First was recently interviewed by Rebecca Blood, author of “The Weblog Handbook” for her online “Bloggers on Blogging” series, which can be read here.

May 22, 2006

Why Isn’t Everyone Reading Vanx at Verb-ops?

selfportrait4(2).jpg He lives up the road from where “The Sopranos” is filmed, stays at Chelsea Hotel when on assignment in New York City, and grows hot peppers in his New Jersey backyard. A guy who wears a ponytail and is editor of a Chemical Engineering magazine is almost guaranteed to be interesting. And he is. Vanx is Rick, an accomplished artist who says things about painting that make me stop and think, like “Blue is the most important part of my favorite orange.” (Rick's "Self Potrait" is posted here.)

His business card says he’s a “mere scribe,” but I think I read somewhere that he was a doctor of journalism. Is that how he came to interview Shamu the killer whale in Orlando’s Seaworld?

Not only that, but he played the part of Jesus in a 3rd grade play: They “nailed” me to a white cardboard cross up against the coat closet. I remember now that the sheet I wore was dyed purple--my mother had helped me dye it in the utility sink by the washing machine. I had a white rope for a belt. Things got a little melodramatic toward the end of this scene, as I rolled my eyes Heavenward asking, “Why have you forsaken me?”— a popular act in my repertoire to this day.

He’s been to Istanbul: The streets of Istanbul are full of feral cats. Sometimes theymeet each other under the outdoor café table where you’re having lunch. It’s best if you see them coming so that by the time they explode into claw-drawn combat, you will have already retracted your legs…The waiter apologized--I think that's what the shurg meant.

He’s crossed paths regularly with Opera Man: In front of my building, every day, on the same square of the sidewalk, was Opera Man, a street guy who sang phony opera with a canteen around his neck and a can in his hand. Adam Sandler got the idea for his Saturday Night Live Opera Man character from this man—he even dragged him onto the Conan O’Brien Show one night in the early 1990s for a round of dueling nonsense opera. Conan, by the look on his face, realized he’d gone too far letting this happen.

And he does everyday stuff like the rest of us, as his post about his daughter being asked to go to the prom, "Drive By," attests to: Honorable Daughter Number One (HDNO) was asked to the prom today. By a senior. To the senior prom. (She’s a junior). Apparently, the young man did a drive-by before asking. He spotted “Mom” on the front lawn, and kept on rolling. He called it in from around the corner.

From my point of view Vanx is someone worth living vicariously through. Go on over before he starts charging admission.

May 20, 2006

A Scrabble House Call

alexscrabble.jpg My friend Alex called to set up one of our monthly Scrabble games. We were trying to pick a date in between her cancer treatment, medical tests, and a possible surgery.

“It has to be before the 20th because we’re going to Iceland,” she said.

What?! Why? I asked.

“My sister-in-law offered us a free trip. They have Icelandic ponies there that she wants to see,” Alex explained.

I’ve known Alex for the past 15 years, but we only started getting together regularly last fall, drawn by our mutual interest in playing Scrabble. When I think of her, I think of 2 things: her art and her love of horses. She’s a rugged individualist, one who does what she sets her mind to, like going back to school for her fine arts degree while raising her daughter and holding down a full-time job as a mail carrier - or, more recently, surpassing her doctor’s prognosis for how long she has left to live.

Because of her cancer, her doctors didn’t think she’d make it to Christmas last year. Not only did she live to see Christmas, she made the half hour drive to Floyd to play Scrabble with me at the Café Del Sol, and she brought me a Christmas present that she had made. Last month she recommended my book to her woman’s book club and then hosted me to attend one of their meetings.

When we finally agreed on a date and I made the trip out to the Shawsville countryside where she and her husband live, she seemed weaker than I had ever seen her.

“The treatments are cumulative,” she told me.

As we set up the board in the sunny alcove of her kitchen, she took a call from one of her doctors. More tests were being discussed when I heard her say, “I don’t have much time. I’m going out of the country on the next Friday.”

Alex’s state of health didn’t curb her ability to beat me. She’s better than me at Scrabble.
Do you have a down parka? I asked while giving her a hug before leaving.

“We won’t need one,” her husband, who had arrived at the end of our game, injected. Not only is it warm in Iceland now but there is continuous daylight there this time of year, he told me.

Alex’s illness puts life in perspective, as far as planning it goes. I just want her to be well enough to fulfill her plan to see Iceland. I can practically see her there already against the pristine landscape dotted with wild ponies.

Our next Scrabble game is planned for June. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

May 19, 2006

The Red Present


My girlfriend, Juniper, called me from her cell phone on her way to the airport. She was headed for “The City of Love,” San Francisco, to visit one of her sons and was wearing a poppy flower in her hair for the occasion.

I can always tell that it’s Juniper when I pick up the phone and hear her barking. Literally.

“Woof….Woof…Woof,” she yipped, in honor of the nickname my father gave me: Colly Wolly Wolf, Wolf, or Wolfy.

“You’re the only one who does that!” I said to her. “I love it!”

“You lucky dog! It’s your birthday! Are you still 49?” She asked.

After catching up a bit, we talked about San Francisco. I told her about my trip there a few years ago and how I wanted to go to The City Lights Bookstore but didn’t get to.

“I don’t think the friends I was with understood my interest in it. We had spent too much time in Sausalito, walking up and down the pier looking at the houseboats, and then in Chinatown,” I told her.

She wanted to know what was so special about that particular bookstore, and so I explained.

“It’s a literary landmark, where Allen Ginsberg and other poets got their start, a small press, and always politicaly progressive. In the old days buses full of tourists would stop there to see the beatniks and hippies. We actually drove right by it,” I continued, “but didn’t stop. It looked like any other small independent bookstore.”

Then we talked about my son’s wedding and her son’s new girlfriend, and before we hung up she said this: “I’m going to bring you something RED (in honor of my last name - Redman- and our Moonlodge history) from The City Lights Bookstore for your birthday!”

I was thrilled! She might as well have offered to fly me to Paris for lunch.

May 18, 2006

13 Thursday for the Birds

13birdbath2.jpg 1. This is the time of year when sitting on my own porch can make me feel guilty. We have a family of phoebe’s nesting in our rafters, and when we go out onto the porch the parents get all agitated and watch every move we make.

2. The birds are back…checking out the real estate…a high-rise nest on my porch rafter…A one room shelter inaccessible to cats…with southern exposure and a landing deck… The rest of the poem is here.

3. Several times in the last few days a bird has landed on my bird bath angel’s head, making the angel look like she has a hat on, something that Camilla Parker Bowles would wear. inside-cam.jpg

4. As someone who is 5 foot and 1 inch, I sometimes wonder what I might have done with all the time I’ve spent hemming pants and skirts if I didn’t have to do it.

5. Maybe if I was taller, I would have read more of the classics.

6. Someone else on the search for 13? I took this photo at Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts and used it first in an earlier 13 Thursday. I guess the internet is all about sharing.

7. Most days I blog in my blue terrycloth bathrobe or a sweater and sweat pants, but last week I was trying on clothes to wear to my son’s fiancé’s nursing school graduation when I got sidetracked at the computer and found myself all dressed-up and blogging. For a few minutes, I pretended I was working in an office.

8. As far as I know my computer has a language of 3 sounds. There’s a high pitched sound to announce something new, a low bass sound when I’ve forgotten to do something, and a deep foreboding gong that seems to say “Wrong,” “Go Back Now While You Still Can,” and makes me feel like I’m getting voted off the island.

9. Number 13 in my “100 Things About Me” says: I wore a black crow feather in my hair for one whole summer.

10. And number 33 says: If I was a bird, my call would be: A Loud Yawn.

11. On the way to my neighbor’s, I occasionally spot a mountain bluebird or an indigo bunting. Whenever I do I feel as if I’ve been blessed by bluebird of happiness, and I think about the movie KPAX. In it Kevin Spacey plays a guy in a mental hospital, who may or may not be from outer-space. Things get interesting when KPAX starts treating his fellow patients. He tells one to watch for the bluebird of happiness, and so the man watches from the window each day. When he finally does see a bluebird, he’s cured and checks out of the hospital. Bluebirds can have that affect, you know?

12. I feel a big sense of accomplishment when I have a day where I remember to listen to the birds chirp.

13. Having a birthday sure can increase blog comment traffic. Thanks to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday yesterday and to Sage for reminding me that Ayatollah Khomeni (also born on May 17th) is dead.

All Things 13 are here. Except for the ones that are here.

May 17, 2006

A Virtual Weed Walk

AKA: The All You Can Eat Buffet

One of the reasons I moved to the country was to pursue a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Most of us have jobs to make money in order to pay for shelter and food, but I think we forget that it’s possible to provide some of those things directly ourselves. And the less time we spend working outside the home, the more time we have to do just that. lambsquarter2.jpg

With that in mind, not only do I grow some of my own food, but I’ve made it habit to learn what plants are growing around me and which can be used either medicinally or for food. The old saying that money doesn’t grow on trees is true, but food does, and one person’s weeds are another’s gourmet meal.

This time of year, when the last of the fall greens in my garden have gone to seed and the newly planted ones aren’t established enough to pick, I go out with my knife and harvest an arms-full of wild lamb’s quarter.

Once regarded as a valuable native vegetable, lambs quarters fell out of favor with the introduction of spinach. Ironically, it’s is in the same family as spinach and contains more iron, calcium, vitamin B2 and C than either spinach or cabbage. Lamb’s quarter is abundant and free. It tastes so good, steamed lightly like spinach, that I let a patch or two volunteer in my garden. birthdaycake3.jpg

Wild violets, which are growing all over my yard right now, are edible too. I don’t consider them substantial enough to harvest for a meal, but they do make a beautiful garnish, especially on someone’s birthday cake.

Post Notes:
Today is my birthday! The bad news is that I share it with the Ayatollah Khomeni. The good news is that Enya was also born on May 17th. The other good news is that Kelly Erb, the “Invisible Chef” who baked this cake for my birthday, lives right here in Floyd. Her website is here.

May 16, 2006

Open Mic for the Spoken Word

NewMoon2.jpg AKA: Come to Spout or Hear Others Out.

Our monthly spoken word open mic, hosted at the Café del Sol, is spearheaded by the Writers' Circle I belong to. The idea is to promote the spoken word and create a local forum for all voices. Kathleen, a founding member of our Writers’ Circle, makes up the flyers. I submit the blurb to The Floyd Press and The Museletter, the homespun local newsletter that I co-edit.

This month Fred First, longtime blogger at fragmentsfromfloyd.com and new author of “Slow Road Home,” will be reading excerpts from his book, and I will be reading my Mother’s Day essay that recently aired on WVTF public radio. Fred is also a member of our Writers’ Circle, a WVTF radio essayist, and a Floyd press columnist. The below excerpt is from the back cover of Slow Road Home. It describes how Fred came to write the book and what it is about:

fredhead20.jpg With a naturalist's curiosity, a photographer's eye, and the heart of one who knows that he is living at last where he belongs, Fred First, in Slow Road Home, invites the reader to join him on a field trip through time and place.

Following the sudden realization at fifty-four that his working life had left him unfulfilled in those needs that mattered most, First leaves that world behind. Tracking the quiet turns of solitude's seasons, these short essays capture the daily miracles of an extraordinary time in a beautiful place.

First finds himself home at last in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, and most especially, in one narrow valley along Goose Creek in Floyd County. Why, he wonders do some places call to us so strongly that we cannot ignore their pull? What does belonging to place mean? Can it be felt fully apart from a reverence for and deep connection with the ordinary just outside the back door?

It is that connection you will find in the particulars here, in a book best read the way it was lived: slowly, a day, a moment at a time.

Post note: You can read about April’s Spoken Word Open Mic here. Learn more about Fred’s book, here. Floyd's Spoken Word at the Cafe Del Sol normally happens the third Saturday, 7-9 pm, of each month, but this month it was changed to Sunday due to a scheduling conflict.

May 15, 2006

The Flowering of Poetry

scarecrow2.jpg And I am stuffed with facts…overweight with the nightly news…Poetry is the bell …that saves me from being…all-consumed ~ From “Political Prose is Hard Labor” ~ by Colleen

Sharing a beer with my girlfriend, Jayn, at Over the Moon Café, a mutual friend approached us to compliment Jayn on a poem she had written, which appeared in the Museletter recently.

After our friend left, I said to Jayn, “Since I’ve been blogging, I haven’t been writing very much poetry, and I miss it.”

It was then that it came to me what the difference between writing prose and poetry is for me, and why I enjoy writing poetry so much. bellflowers.jpg

Jayn and I are both gardeners. We depend on and appreciate the vegetables we grow, but we LOVE our flowers. Both take the same amount of work to produce, but with one the work feels more like play. And even though we don’t eat our flowers, the reward they give us when they bloom is substantial.

Jayn and I decided that if writing prose is like vegetable gardening – growing staples that you can’t afford to live without – than writing poetry is like growing flowers. It’s a luxury you make time to afford.

May 14, 2006

A'Court's Art

acourtshow.jpg Two summers ago A'Court (the artist, musician, and recluse who I wrote about here) was in our neighborhood performing an impromptu outdoor concert for the Zephyr Farm community. We gathered around on my friend Jayn’s front porch listening to A'Court play until the stars came out. As far as I know, he hasn’t been out-and-about since then. That is, until now.

A'Court’s art is currently on exhibit at The Black Water Loft Café in downtown Floyd. The artist’s reception, which took place last night, is a date that had been circled on my calendar for weeks. My husband, Joe, and I stopped by to see the exhibit and to say hello to A'Court before our dinner reservation at Oddfella’s Cantina.

The Loft, located where the old Harvest Moon used to be, is a hip and comfortable place to hang-out, conducive to art shows and poetry readings. I particularly enjoyed seeing A'Court’s lotus paintings grace the walls, and I was especially happy to discover that his mom, Ruth, was in attendance. Ruth is a petite white-haired matriarchal figure with a sharp wit. I remember her most for her meditative dance practice. Back in the day, I occasionally danced alongside her at her Travianna farm house, or some other community event. acourtart2.jpg

She started our conversation saying, “I had never heard of Floyd the morning I bought our farm here.”

It was 1971. A'Court’s brother, Will, had seen a Floyd farm “For-sale” ad in a Raleigh NC newspaper, and they made an appointment to see it that very day. Ruth says when she drove into Floyd County and saw the Blue Ridge Parkway, she fell in love and said to herself, ‘If the farm isn’t the backside of a mountain, I’m going to buy it on the spot.’ And she did.

But now it was 6:45 and our dinner reservation was at 6:30. We bid our farewells, knowing that the exhibit will be on display until the end of May. We can also view A'Court’s art at his website, travianna.com, and some of Will’s poetry and essays at his, and so can you.

Post Note: My mother’s day entry is below, and my sister has a link to hilarious movie clip for Mother’s Day posted at her site. I bet you can’t watch it without laughing.

May 13, 2006

For Mother’s Day

ma-young3.jpg The following is the uncut version of an essay I wrote about my mother that aired on WVTF Public Radio on Friday. For some behind-the-scenes details on the writing of and recording of it, see Things That Make Me Need Extra Deodorant. You can go to the WVTF webpage to hear me reading it.

Last December a co-worker came to our home on the Blue Ridge Parkway bearing a festive basket of Christmas fruit. Our tree was up and Christmas lights hung from the windows. Upon stepping through the door, she glanced around once before settling her eyes on the white-painted bookcase where a collection of framed photographs was displayed.

“Who’s that beautiful woman?!” she gasped. Picking up a photo of my mother as a young woman, she said, “She looks likes a movie star. Is it Natalie Wood?”

The image my friend held in her hand was similar to one in my mother’s high school yearbook, which my siblings and I leafed through as children while giggling at the “old fashioned” graduating class of 1944. And when we found the boy my mother had a crush on whose name was Jake, someone, although no one ever confessed to it, wrote “Jake the Snake” next to his picture in loyalty to our father.

My mother, Barbara, the oldest of three children, came from a family of divorce, which was very uncommon during the time she grew up. She was raised by her father in a repressed German Lutheran home in Squantum, Massachusetts, and from an early age she carried a heavy weight of responsibility, which became a theme in her life. First, as the hardworking eldest child in her father’s home, and then as the mother of 9 children and the wife of a man who struggled with alcoholism for most of their married life.

When my mother met my father, the youngest of 11 from an affectionate Irish Catholic home, she was as interested in his family as she was in him and would later say, “I’m surprised I was even able to recognize what a loving family was.” Although, she was deprived of a mother for most of her growing up years, she must have received her mother’s love as a baby and toddler. I believe this because of the way she loved her own babies. Babies brought out the best in my mother. But soon we were a brood…. One of us wet the bed. One was afraid of the dark. One had temper tantrums. Another would only eat cucumber sandwiches, while yet another was failing in school. Ma's pearls2.png

My mother was the physical center from which everything happened in our family. To use her own manner of speaking, she “doesn’t miss a trick.” Although it wasn’t easy as a child to get one-on-one time with my mother, when I look at an elementary school picture of myself, I see now that it was her hands that buttoned up my dress, brushed my hair, and hung a string of pearls around my neck so that I would feel special for school picture day. And she cared for each of us that way.

As children, we thought homes stayed clean on their own and didn’t recognize all the work my mother did. It was only when we got older and went to other people’s houses or had homes of our own that we realized how lucky we were to have a mother who cooked and cleaned so well. One of the benefits of her father’s German work ethic, I suppose.

The trait I admire most about my mother is that she continues to learn and can admit her own past mistakes. I also admire what she does for others, such as driving my uncle Vinnie back and forth to his cancer treatments years ago, planting flowers in other people’s gardens to cheer them up, and taking care of her last two grandsons so my sister could go back to work. It was because of the bond forged with her youngest grandsons that she was able to express regret for some missed opportunities of quality time spent with her own children when they were young, probably because there were so many of us.

This year my mother turned 80. She’s still a stunningly beautiful woman, even though when I asked her why she doesn’t go to the beach, 4 houses down from her house, she told me she won’t put on a bathing suit because, “Who wants to look at these old legs?”

Now that my own children are grown, I have more time to spend with my mother. She likes to travel and in the past few years we’ve taken short trips together, short because she hasn’t wanted to leave my dad home alone for too long. This past summer, my sister, my mother, and I drove to New Hampshire to visit an aunt. It was then, while driving through New Hampshire’s White Mountains that I was surprised to find out that my mother had been skiing before. “I’ll try anything once,” I remember her saying.maandcolleen3.jpg

Four months after our New Hampshire trip and 2 months before my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary, my father died unexpectedly. We were all heartbroken, and our grief was complicated by the previous loss of two of my brothers, just 4 years before.

It was hard to imagine my mother without my father; but as the months passed by, her new life began to emerge. In the midst of loneliness, she carries on, and after caring for others all her life, her time now is her own.

I recently called her to see how she was. Her news was exciting. After reporting that she now knows how to use the TV remote, VCR, and copy machine, all things that my father wouldn’t allow anyone to touch, I learned that she has a new kitten, is planning a trip south with girlfriends and to attend my youngest son’s wedding here in Virginia in July. I was most surprised to find out that she has plans to get a computer. I didn’t know my mother cared for cats or was interested in learning to use a computer.

I told her I loved her and hung up the phone, knowing that her “try anything once” attitude was seeing her through. I smiled as I relished the thought that it’s never too late to get to know my mother better and to learn something new about her.

Post Note: With the encouragement of my father, my mother was re-united with her mother as an adult. Both she and her mother suffrered the loss of each other, but fortunately, because of their re-union, my siblings and I were not deprived of our grandmother's love. You can read more about my grandmother in a tribute my sister wrote here.

May 12, 2006

Bloggers Convergence

bloggeralina2.jpgAlina’s in the market for a new laptop. She perused the table full of them at our recent Blogger meet-up, asking pertinent questions about their performance and convenience, before settling down to take mine for a test run. Behind her, Fred was signing some of his newly published books, Slow Road Home, for Rigel. Rigel was inspired to move to Floyd from California after reading Fred’s blog, Fragments from Floyd, and she’s been a regular at our monthly regional blogger meet-ups.

The sun was streaming in Café Del Sol’s large windows. One of the glass paneled doors was boarded-up, a sign of the damage created when a deer crashed in and out of it on Monday, prompting Doug’s Tuesday blog post, “The Deer who Came for Coffee.”

There were pockets of several conversations going on at once. Doug opened up the Floyd Press newspaper and there was the deer story, written by none other than himself and sporting a new title. And so the details got retold, and some got re-enacted, for those who hadn’t already heard.

After Fred had finished signing a small stack books and delivered them to Rigel, he and I talked book publishing for awhile. Somewhere I managed to squeeze in a question to Doug about deleting stored junk comments, and Alina, whose blog is just over a month old, shared a concern. After a confident start, launching her blog and posting daily for a couple of weeks, she lost momentum when she went on a trip, and now she’s been feeling shy about continuing.

“It’s been a year and that still happens to me,” I told to her. Fred, who’s been blogging for over 3 years, nodded his head knowingly.

“And every time it happens, I learn something about myself and use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my reasons for blogging,” I continued.

“What about you?” I asked David, an upbeat guy who exudes self- confidence. “Do you ever feel shy or vulnerable about putting yourself out there?” cafebambi.jpg

David doesn’t, but his wife Gretchen confessed that one of their family members precedes some of their conversations with, ‘And don’t let David blog about this!’

Our meet-ups – the 2nd Thursday of each month – are fun and stimulating. They bring balance to a sometimes isolating activity. It’s good to exchange ideas and foster enthusiasm for what we do. I especially appreciate being able to draw on the knowledge of our more seasoned local bloggers and techies (compared to me): Fred, David, and Doug.

May 11, 2006

13 Thursday To-Go

13laptop.jpg1. If all of us bloggers met in room, would we recognize each other?

2. Sometimes I feel like a waitress. After serving up my post for the day, I wait for the comments the way a waitress waits for tips.

3. I wait for seeds to come up the same way. Last week I planted corn. This week I find myself going out to the garden a few times a day just to see if anything has sprouted yet.

4. My sister, Kathy, recently had a dream about my father who died this past November. In the dream she and my brother, Jim, who died in the summer of 2001, were dressing our dad for his funeral. They struggled to put on his pants legs, and as they did, at one point my father winced, and my sister said to Jim, “See. Dad isn’t really dead, because his knee hurts him.” She then woke up with her own knee in excruciating pain. Later, she said to us on the Lovelink (our family email group), “I hope it doesn’t mean that I’ll be with Jim and dad soon.” I answered, “I think it might mean that dad isn’t dead because he still lives on IN you.

5. I’ve only dreamt once about my father since he died, but in our family when any one of us dreams about him, or our brothers, Jim or Dan, it’s a dream we all get to own and benefit from the message of.

6. Some people think agnostics are doubters. I think they're open-minded.

7. I like blogging because it helps me break down my life and my writing into bite size digestible pieces.

8. Sometimes I get confused about privacy protocols as it relates to blogging, but mostly I find that I worry more about it than the people I post about do.

9. Mara got the new addition of Official Scrabble Dictionary. The first word I looked up in it was BLOG. It wasn’t in the last edition, which both of us have, but it was in this new one!

10. A magnetic poetry word fell face-down off the magnet board yesterday. I picked it up, turned it around and read: “FALL.”

11. The number 13 figures in with this humorous photo found at Vitamin Sea.

12. When reading blogs, my mind fills-in how I think the authors might look, in the same way I decide how characters look when I’m reading a book.

13. Having fun is sometimes a lot of work. The last two weekends have been so packed with fun activities that I found myself feeling like I needed a vacation from all the fun and wondering how many people have jobs just to get a vacation from their real life.

Post notes: I’m off for our regional blogger meet-up today. All Things 13 are here. Except for the ones that are here.

May 10, 2006

All Work and Play

Colleen at play.
Colleen at work.
Most Days I Can’t Tell the Difference.
The downside of Floyd country living here.
The upside of Floyd country living here.
Post Note: Area bloggers and would-be bloggers are meeting tomorrow, May 11th at 11 a.m., at the Café Del Sol. For more information, go here.

May 9, 2006

Things That Make Me Need Extra Deodorant

WVTF2.png The steep switch-backed descent from Bent Mountain into Roanoke is enough to make a person queasy. I could hear the watch on my wrist ticking as I drove down it on my way to the WVTF Public Radio station to record my latest essay. Resisting the urge to distract myself, I did not turn on the radio (even though I knew The Diane Rheems Show was on, one my favorites that doesn’t pick up in my house). I wanted to stay calm and focused.

But I wasn’t.

When I first started recording my essays last year, I could almost convince myself that it was just me and Beverly, the WVTF Morning Edition Host, who were listening as I read. Now that I was about to record my 5th essay, I knew better. All the calls and emails I received from people who had heard me on the radio, and the friends who stopped me in the street to say ‘good job’ were fresh in my mind.

But my nervous condition started long before the ride down the mountain.

After I wrote an essay for my father’s 80th birthday in tribute to his service as a WWII vet, which aired on WVTF last Memorial Day, my mother said to me, “I hope you’ll write one for me when I turn 80.” I started to sweat right then and there.

My father, who died this past November, 4 months after he read the essay I wrote for him, was a colorful and funny character, easy to write about. Not only would my mother be harder to write about, but I’ve never been good writing on cue or dealing with performance pressure.

Last summer my mother turned 80 and I didn’t have an essay written, but I promised her I’d have one by the following Mother’s Day. After my initial resistance, I began to see writing something for her as a challenging opportunity to honor her life. During a month long visit with her and the rest of my family that same summer, I spent a week alone, camping with my laptop, and was determined to write the piece.

And I did. I had the whole thing flushed out, first in scribbled notes and then on my computer, and I was actually excited about how it was coming along. “Ma, I’m almost done with your essay!” I later told her.

Not long after that, I fried the USB drive that had the Mother’s Day Essay on it. I was devastated to lose the progress I had made and, even though I still had scribbled notes, I seemed unable to face the piece again. As the months flew by and I got no work done on it, I realized that losing what I had written about my mother paralleled some of my early childhood issues. I was separated from her and all my family members on two occasions (for a month each time) before the age of 1.

It was a struggle to regain the momentum that I had lost, but I eventually did. And now I was about to read a tribute to my mother on the radio and was hoping my voice wouldn’t quiver.

“Oh No! It’s 7 minutes long!” Beverly announced after the recording was made. Seven minutes was twice as long as the station's recommended time for a morning essay. Not only did we have to perform emergency surgery on the piece, Beverly discovered a grammatical error which we set about to correct. (Whew! Nice save, Beverly.)

After the reading, on the drive home it was hot, and so I cranked up the car’s air conditioning. I decided to stop at The Tanglewood Mall, where I sat for awhile on a bench watching all the people who didn’t have to read an essay on the radio that morning. Then, I went into TJ Max to try on a few bathing suits. That was a mistake. Looking at myself in a bathing suit for the first time since last summer only gave me something new to sweat about.

Post Note: My Mother’s Day essay was will be aired this Friday on WVTF at 6:50 and 8:50 am. I’ll post the text over the weekend for Mother’s Day.

May 7, 2006

Birthday Scrabble at the Café Del Sol

maradove.jpgEven though Mara can beat me at Scrabble about as often as I can beat her, I offered to let her win, seeing as it was her birthday, but she would have no part of it. As it turned out, she could have used some concessions. She was doomed from the start…because of the letter Z.

We were drawing to see who would go first when Mara, frustrated, said to me and our fellow players – Rosemary and Kathleen – “I drew a Z. I saw a Z, but now I don’t see it. It must have fallen back in the bag!”

I got off on the wrong foot too, by playing a fake word on my very first turn. Nobody noticed until it was too late, so I was stuck feeling guilty, like a Scrabble imposter, for most of the game.

I even convinced myself that I knew what my fake word meant. I was thinking of “joe,” (a regular guy) when I played “jim” and told myself it meant something in between a shim and a jimmy. Kathleen was having no part of that.

Meanwhile, it was Mara’s birthday. Her dad, Wayne, came and ate lunch with us. When I climbed around behind the couch and the potted fir tree to snap a picture of him, Kathleen joked that I was trying to see her letters! Sally, the cafe owner who is also a professional singer, came over to sing “Happy Birthday” to Mara. She asked Mara how old she was at the same exact moment that I was reporting my score to Rosemary. “23!” I announced.

“23! Mara repeated…unconvincingly.

As the game was winding down, the winning score was between me and Rosemary. I had mostly only one point vowels left and if I was to win, it would be only by a matter of a few points, so I had to be careful. By the time it was down to only one play left, I was studying the board hard, looking for big point letters that I could parasite off. That’s when I noticed it. marabday2.jpg

“Hey! Where is the Z?!” I shouted. “There is no Z on this board!!”

Mara had seen a Z. It was the same one that was now under her chair.

1. Mara, holding her Scrabble mug, says “Peace.” She and Dove are looking at “Mara’s Birthday Scrabble Game” posted on my blog that day. 2. Covertly looking at Kathleen’s letters via my camera, while trying to catch Wayne. 3. Rosemary, Kathleen, Mara, and me. Mara is not giving you the finger. She’s holding the infamous letter Z to her head.

May 6, 2006

Poet to Poet

poettopoet.jpg My poet friend, Mara, gets serenaded with an impromptu poem written and read by a woman who happened to be in the Café del Sol Wednesday when we were celebrating Mara’s birthday with a Scrabble game party.

I just have one question for Mara: Do the green frogs on your t-shirt glow in the dark?

Post note: More on Mara’s Scrabble Birthday Party coming up soon. It begins here.

May 5, 2006

Fitting the Pieces into Place

joshcollage1a.jpgIn the spring of 2000 when my Asheville potter son, Josh was 20 years old, he came across an old journal he had kept when he was 16.

“Everything in it was silly. I hated it,” he said, in answer to the question I posed ‘when did you start journal collaging and why?’

“I wondered who was writing all this ridiculous stuff,” he continued, “but I also knew it was an important part of my history that I couldn’t just throw away.”

That first journal became Josh’s prototype to so many others. He explained how he covered up its contents with collage, in an attempt to disguise what was embarrassing, leaving only little snippets of the original text as hints into that time. joshcollage2.jpg

“At that point, I had a sketchpad, was keeping a photo album, and a journal. I combined them all into only one book to carry around,” he explained.

“What a relief to put everything in one place!” I responded.

Josh went on to describe other details that fostered his interest in collage journal art. One particularly striking experience was when he discovered Dan Eldon’s published collage journal (Dan was a young photo-journalist who was killed tragically in Africa). Josh was at a friend’s college graduation party when he spotted the book and immediately became was transfixed. joshcollage.jpg

“I sat down with it. People wandered over to see what I was doing, looked at it some, and then went back to the party. I never got up. I looked at it for hours,” Josh said.

“But you know, mom,” he added, “the books that you made helped …”

“What books? The homemade ones we used to make?” I interrupted. I had forgotten for a moment that I kept scrapbooks and baby books that both my boys grew up looking at.

“I was fascinated looking at the baby books you made for me and Dylan. A lot of those pages were done in collage. You were definitely outside the box. And you told us more than once about the importance of keeping a journal.” Josh reminded me.
As he spoke, I began to remember. Indeed, when Josh was 11, he and a friend traveled around the country with alternative education pioneer Jerry Mintz, and the only academic practice I demanded of him was that he keep a journal of his experiences.

“Even a shopping list is interesting to me once it’s a year or two old." Who said that? You did, mom! And now I’m always picking stuff up to use in my journals, scraps of garbage that other people don’t even notice,” Josh said.

Like mother like son? It’s true, except for the fact that when it comes to making art, Josh surpasses me by miles.
Post Notes: Collaging runs in our family here. View pages from my collage journal here. That's Josh's brother Dylan in the forefront with him looking at Josh's art scrapbook sometime in the mid 80s. Some pages from Josh's collage journals were recently featured in an art show in Winston Salem, NC.

Mid Day Update:
There is an effort by local Southwestern Virginia bloggers, headed up by Marty Martin in Roanoke, to collect used ink jet cartridges and old cell phones in order to raise money for an infant who is in need a life-saving transplant. Visit Marty’s site "HERE" to learn more about it, or call him (397-0014) or John Herndon in the New River Valley (800-277-3077) to find out where you can drop these items off. I kid you not; I just finished changing an ink cartridge when I got Marty's email.

May 4, 2006

13 Thursday Lunacy

13facepot2.jpg 1. Now that cell phones are popular, I don’t even have to try to hide the fact that I talk to myself in the car while I’m driving. I just pretend I’m on the phone.

2. When my house gets messy it’s not a sign of a poor work ethic as much as a result of a strong one because housework is not the work I do, but writing is.

3. My thinking is directly related to my writing. I couldn’t stop writing anymore than I could stop thinking.

4. Last Thursday I wrote that 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. Mar from Maremagnum commented, “I feel like I am having guests and offering leftovers.”

5. I memorize prayerful passages and repeat one in meditation each day. I don’t like the kind of meditation practice where you’re supposed to focus on your breath because the more I focus on it the more I forget how to breathe.

6. Sometimes I think that I’m clinically clumsy. But I stop being clumsy when I dance, the way people who stutter don’t stutter when they’re singing.

7. I write poetry by ear like a musician who doesn’t read notes can still play music.

8. Once, on a cold winter night, I fell in love with a little space heater that reminded me of R2D2. I think there was an illicit substance involved.

9. I decided that getting invited to the New Orleans Jazz Festival with backstage access (as I was last week) is like getting nominated for an award that I don’t have to actually win, which means that I won't be going but was happy to have been asked.

10. Steven Colbert is President Bush’s court jester. Colbert, who spoofs talk show hosts O’Reilly others like him recently lampooned President Bush at a White House Press Correspondent’s Dinner. Here’s some of what Colbert said, as reported by “Editor and PublisherColbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, "and reality has a well-known liberal bias." Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was "surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story - the president's side and the vice president's side."

11. “The lie of the emperor is always believed before the truth of the peasant” is one of my favorite quotes, displayed on my refrigerator.

12. Last year I was developing a list of interview questions for a family genealogy project. During that time I dreamt the following interview question: “If I gave you a sponge, what would you do with it?”

13. Keep your hand on that mouse. “Words at Play,” just for fun, is here.

All Things 13 are here, except for the ones that are here.

May 3, 2006

Mara’s Birthday Scrabble Game

AKA: It’s Mara’s birthday and we have a 4 way Scrabble game planned.

I’m feeling self-conscious because I just got my haircut, and I’m hoping that short bangs won’t affect my Scrabble game. (You know, like short hair affected Sampson’s game and long hair helped the Red Sox win the World Series.)

I fixed up a little photo album of all the pictures I’ve taken of Mara playing Scrabble with me over the years, wrapped it in birthday paper, and then took a few B vitamins because I know they are good for brain function. Do you think Mara will accuse me of doping?

May 2, 2006

Open Book

AKA: I call it The Magical History Tour.
I haven’t made a collage since I started blogging. And what is a blog, but a blank page to fill up with images and words that tell a story?
Some pages from my eldest son Josh’s collage journals were exhibited in an art show this past March in Winston Salem., N.C. My youngest son, Dylan, on the other hand, is not an open book. His art is made with electrical wire, plumbing pipe, and lumber.
A collage works in the same way a dream does. It’s a visual snapshot of various symbolic images that can bypass the brain’s slow process time and convey a lot of information at once. It’s like a window into a large house of many stories.
I write because I hate to lose anything and writing something down is a way of keeping it. Cutting and pasting things onto paper does the same.
Post Note: The above are photos of the collage journal I made to sum up my life when I turned 50. I'm planning to post some of Josh's pages soon. Caught in the act: here.

May 1, 2006

The Tao of Tea and Poetry

teaparty3.jpgLike the Sufi mystic poets of old who did not see themselves as separate from God and who met in secret to protect themselves from fanatical fundamentalists who thought otherwise, a group of women friends gathered around a table for tea and something more…talk of the Dharma, the Tao, the Wise Woman Way.

“Bring something to read that has inspired you,” our hostess requested.

teaparty4.jpgAnd so, the flavors of hot apricot tea, lemon cake with boysenberry jam, scones, cream, and fresh strawberries and grapes mixed with the words of Rumi, Hafiz, Li Po, Gary Snyder, and John O’Donahue, for a lusciously fulfilling exchange that fed more than one kind of hunger.

Strange Miracle

O wondrous creatures,
By what strange miracle
Do you so often
Not smile?

~ Favortie Hafiz poem rendered by Daniel Ladinsky