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November 30, 2006

13 Thursday: Red and Ready to be Read

13targets2a.jpg1. Putting on mascara before going out to a therapy session is like curling my hair before taking shower.

2. Hanging up from talking on the phone to my husband, I said, “I’ve got to get back to doing whatever it was I wasn’t getting done.”

3. He’s a counselor who specializes in substance abuse. By the looks of our culture, I think his job security is pretty good.

4. I took my great niece Samantha, who just turned 13, out for her birthday. The photo is of her showing me her new IPOD. She turned me on to Shirley Temples (see pink drink) too.
5. My good friend Juniper turned 50 in November. I like to call the below photo of her, taken at her party, “I’m this many!”

6. Juniper once got 2 speeding tickets in one day. She was able to get one thrown out on a technicality because her license plate said SACRED but the cop wrote SCARED on the ticket.

7. Look HERE how they control speeding in Denmark! It’s a whole new take on “stopping traffic!” Courtesy of Terri at Island Writer.

8. A guy I know from Blacksburg, who has a best seller book called “Contract on America,” wrote a great commentary, published in the Roanoke Times last week, on Electronic Voting with a link to a video demonstration on how easy it is to steal votes.

9. What were we thinking when we accepted a voting system with no way to do a recount, one that political scientists and researchers at John Hopkins have said is wide open to corruption? Here is an article I wrote in 2003 on the subject that was published at Common Dreams.

10. Floyd was the subject of a USA Today feature. Go HERE to meet some friends of mine.

11. I’ve kept my maiden name, Redman, throughout two marriages. jsbirthday.jpg It was Susun Weed, author and herbalist in the Wise Woman tradition, who first alerted me to the fact that names ending in “son” and “man” are patriarchal. She did this when she sent me a postcard addressed to “Colleen Redone.” Since then, I’ve taken to changing my name when I sign something I’ve written for the Museletter. I’ve used Redmantra, Redmana, Redmandala, and Redmanymorewherethatcamefrom. When I’m mad I sign C. Red.

12. This is what Susun Weed, says about the numbers 12 and 13. “Twelve is the number of established order. Twelve is easily divided and ordered into halves and quarters and thirds, easily categorized and labeled and defined. One step beyond twelve is thirteen, the wild card, the unique number, the indivisible prime. Thirteen is the number of change.”

13. I have a new answering machine message. It says: Speak in rhyme if you’re so inclined. Leave a clue if you do. This could work for blog comments too.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

November 29, 2006

November’s Gallery

1. Red ink batik
2. The empty nest
3. The uninhabited planet
4. The great beyond
5. I flunked vegetarianism

Post note: All the above photos were taken in my back yard or in my Blue Ridge Parkway neighborhood.

November 28, 2006

Building Community

musetable.jpg Every town needs a poet or two, just as it needs an auto mechanic, a grocery shop owner, and an “in house” band. Every town is a microcosm of the whole world. If we stay where we are and invest in our own community, the whole world eventually comes to us. ~ Colleen from Homegrown, WVTF radio essay.

Once a month my kitchen table is taken over by papers, glue stick, and scissors as my friend Jayn and I cut and paste the latest edition of our community newsletter, A Museletter. Every month 150 subscribers look for the latest music and art listings in Floyd. There’s poetry, letters, articles, and a bulletin board of announcements.

But the Museletter isn’t only about local news and entertainment. For over 20 years it has served as an activist’s forum. In the last few issues, for example, the reading has included: an announcement for a film showing of “Iraq For Sale," a Fourth Amendment benefit celebration at Winter Sun, information on how the marriage amendment will hurt all non-traditional families, and a write-up on (Virginia Senate-elect) Jim Webb’s visit to Floyd’s Country Store.

Sustainable living, environmental stewardship, and local food production are regular Museletter subjects. musepages.jpg Last month there was greenhouse for sale, free tree root seedlings were offered, and a Jewish film festival in Blacksburg was announced.

December’s Museletter announcements, which Jayn and I finished pasting together today, include a Hafla celebration of woman’s beauty and self-expression, featuring belly dancing, woman’s music, poetry, art, and Middle Eastern food tasting at the Black Box Theatre on December 15; a clothing drive by a group of homeschoolers for the people of Burma; some flashback art made by Blue Mountain School kids in the 1980s; and an article titled “Why Organic Cotton?” that begins: Cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world - after Coffee and before Tobacco ... It takes approximately 1/3 pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one T-shirt.

There’s a “Winter Fest” at the Jacksonville Center on the 2nd and 3rd, and the annual fine arts auction for Blue Mountain School on the 9th. My Asheville potter son Josh, a Blue Mountain School and Floyd High alumni, is doing a slide show presentation on the 27th. Not only will he share his wild clay adventures and recap his BFA thesis show, he plans to talk about the influence the Floyd community has had on his life as an artist and potter.

The Museletter is an all volunteer production of the CERC, PO Box 81, Floyd, VA, 24091, and subscriptions are $15 year. Read more HERE.

November 27, 2006

November Porch Vacation

wintersbone.jpgA good book. A lounge chair. The sun makes freckles on my bared skin. A single fat fly buzzes by like a fighter pilot that doesn’t know the war is over. This one doesn’t know it isn’t summer. A clumsy yellow hornet goes down, crashes into my arm. I flick it off while sipping every color of the rainbow reflected off my cobalt blue mug.

Green tea with jasmine steeped in last night’s dreams. My husband sprawled long in the next chair. His Caribbean turquoise shirt against the brown November landscape is like a postcard in the mail. It teases my imagination awake. With the trees stripped of leaves, I can hear the distant car zoom past on the Parkway. Speedboats racing against the gravity of time? No gas was spent to get here. No ticking of a mocking clock. The shadow of my hand looms large on glossy paper. A grey bird bravely chirps.

November 25, 2006

American Dumpster: The Floyd Connection

ADRays.jpg Once I get up to dance, I don’t sit down again until the band leaves the stage. The waitress, thinking my unfinished mug of Sam Adams was abandoned, swiped it off the table before I could stop her. I made do. In between songs, I sipped what was left in the bottle, until a second waitress came and took that.

American Dumpster
was back in Floyd, after having played at Floyd Fest in the summer and Floyd Fandango in October. Joe and I missed them entirely at Floyd Fest – so many bands play simultaneously there. From the warm-up we heard at the Fandango, we knew we wanted to hear more but had to leave early. When we left, the lead singer, who sounded like Lou Reed meets Tom Waits, was weaving a free style rap about art, hunting, and growing up in a junkyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, the son of a well known sculptor.

They were playing at Ray’s Restaurant for a party hosted by Tuggles Gap Restaurant and Motel. The folks at Tuggles Gap wanted to celebrate some upcoming changes and thank all their patrons for their support over the years. They party on the lawn at Tuggles Gap in the summer, but inside, they don’t have much of a dance floor.

I got another beer. I didn’t have to pay. Short of making a “do not disturb” sign, I set the bottle in an ashtray and constructed a fence of Sweet and Low packets all around it before resuming my business on the dance floor. I was dancing with Joe (above photo), next to Yarrow and Uriel, the Yard sisters of “Woodsong Flutes” fame who grew up home-schooling in a local community, where Joe had lived for a short time.

The description of Christian Breeden, American Dumpster’s lead singer and primary songwriter, that I clipped from the Charlottesville Daily while writing a story about Floyd Fandango for the Floyd Press still stands: “a young Bob Dylan’s charisma with Howlin’ Wolf’s voice.” ad.jpgAccording to the American Dumpster webpage, the band’s name suggests “a recycling movement of ideas” and relates to Breeden’s family farm: His family home just outside Charlottesville, Virginia is a curious nexus where art, agriculture, industry, and intellect merge in the most unpredictable ways. The Breeden farm is home not only to Biscuit Run Studios, a sculpture studio and long-standing institution in the Virginia art scene, but also to an extensive junkyard of rusted cars, motorcycles, farm tractors, and assorted machinery.

“Look what happened to the Dave Matthews Band (also from Charlottesville), I said to Joe as we listened to one band member doing a washboard solo, “maybe they’ll be famous someday.” The dancing heated up, and Floyd musician, Billy Miller, joined the band onstage.

At the break, a group of us gathered at a table, like the American Dumpster Floyd fan club chapter, talking about the band. Yarrow leaned in when she heard the name of the lead singer. Turns out she knows him. They were both raised unconventionally in artist’s farm communities and had run into each other from time to time on the art and craft show circuit scene.

November 24, 2006

Hold That Thought

This is my favorite photograph taken yesterday at a neighboring farm community where Joe and I spent Thanksgiving. I call it “Reunion,” and it was taken from the balcony where the best rocking chair in the house is and before diving into our lucky pot luck feast. I promise that, although I do have to go to Christiansburg today, I will not be shopping.

November 23, 2006

The 13 Thursday Mix

blender13.jpg 1. Note to self: Don’t try washing the grey out of your bangs in the bathroom next to white curtains.

2. You’ve heard of a “bad hair day"? Sometimes I have a bad brain day when nothing gets started and nothing gets going.

3. Last week I got my hair cut and my teeth cleaned. That’s about as close as I get to a doctor.

4. I was confused about health as a child. My parents had to ask a stranger if I was healthy. I was confused about health because the stranger said I was healthy and then he gave me an injection. ~Susun Weed from Healing Wise.

5. I had to pull out my standard cookbook, Whole Foods for the Whole Family, to look up my pie crust recipe for Thanksgiving. The book is over 25 years old and covered with all kinds of food DNA.

6. There actually is a THANKSGIVING blog: HERE

7. John Meyer has a blog. Last week I saw him perform on the Oprah show. At one point before his performance the camera cut into the green room and there was John with a laptop. When Oprah asked what he was doing, he answered that he was live blogging.

8. While watching TV an ad came on for “Boudereax’s Butt Paste.” I thought I was having a Saturday Night Live flashback. I googled it to make sure I wasn’t hearing things.

9. Sometimes I wish I had a refresh button.

10. Sally, owner of the Café Del Sol (where I play Scrabble and participate in Spoken Word Open Mic) happened to hear my WVTF radio essay on blogging in which the café is mentioned. She thanked me for the free plug and told me that she normally doesn’t listen to the PBS Morning Edition show, but that she was driving to a doctor’s appointment when she caught it. Once there, the doctor asked her what she did for a living. When she told him she owned a café in Floyd, he asked the name of it. She told him, and he said, “Oh, I just heard about the Café Del Sol on the radio in an essay about blogging!”

11. My first Christmas Carol of the season came in the form of a yawn, done to the tune of “Joy to the World.”

12. Question via Just Ask Judy: Have you noticed that the Alphabet Song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

13. Did you just try singing those two songs?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

November 22, 2006

Things that Cheer Me Up (other than funny reader's comments on my blog)

cafescrabble.jpg Mara and I go to the Scrabble board the way others go to a bar. Scrabble takes our minds of our problems, but it also gives us the opportunity to talk about them. With letters clinking in the bag, we pour out our feelings as we play.

"I’ll tell you a joke," she said, seeing that I needed to be cheered up, “How many Zen monks does it take to change a light bulb?” I shook my head waiting for the punch line.

“A plumb tree in a garden.”

Bob (the bearded lady) came over to our table to say hello, but Mara and I all but ignored him.

“That didn’t cheer me up. It created more stress. I don’t get it,” I bluntly responded to her joke.

“You’re not supposed to; that’s the point. It’s Zen, Colleen,” she explained. (She told me another, in whispered tones, that did make me laugh, but I can’t print it here.)
“Hi Bob!” I called out, five minutes after he greeted us. He was across the room on the computer now, smiling as he waved. “I’m having a delayed reaction,” I explained to him, laughing.

“Well, that’s a good sign,” I turned back to Mara and said. “I think my sense of humor is starting to come back.” She was looking up a word in the Official Scrabble Dictionary when a scribbled note fell out. It was written in blue crayon on a ripped piece of napkin, addressed specifically to “Mara and Colleen.” “Delane and Amy say Hi,” it read. I smiled remembering that Delane, “Life in Mayberry” blogger from Mount Airy, told me he and his wife had recently been up to visit Floyd and that they checked out the Café Del Sol in person, curious after reading about it on my blog.

Jamie hasn’t been blogging lately. He came over to say hello. I complimented him on how great the Winter Sun web page that he’s been managing looks. His mother is a Scrabble player, in the top 100 in Australia, Mara and I learned. Our neck-and-neck scores suddenly seemed insignificant.

Jamie went back to work. While Mara and I played, we talked about the writer’s workshop we both went to the day before, our sensitivities, the definition of “creative non-fiction,” and the difference between a bulkie and a Kaiser roll. A cigarette break was taken; a couple of chicken salad sandwiches were eaten.

"Look, Colleen! This is for you,” Mara announced, pointing to a Roanoke Times spread on the café’s coffee table. It was a feature story on the role of pink in marketing products to women, and Mara knew of my recent interest in all things pink, especially pink blow-up rafts. marabernie.jpg She turned her feminist nose up at the thought of a bright pink cell phone, but I got a kick out of seeing the Roanoke Times in pink, especially when I picked it up and read this: “The new Samsung E530 pink mobile phone is a girl’s best friend,” a company press release said, “equipped with calorie counter, megapixel camera, shopping list … oh, and it even tells ladies when they’re ovulating.”

Zany had returned. Mara was telling Bernie the Zen joke (see photo above), but he wasn’t laughing either. Chris was telling me about a Roanoke Times commentary on the unreliability of electronic voting. It was written by a mutual friend.

Outside, after our game, and with a Roanoke Times of my own in hand, I gave Mara a big hug and thanked her for cheering me up.

“And it’s hard to feel bad when I win!” I joked to her as I walked across the street.

November 21, 2006

Lost: Sense of Humor

sink2.jpg Somewhere over the weekend I lost my sense of humor. I wasn’t expecting to lose it and was caught off guard when I did. I had it on Saturday night while wearing Kyla’s ruby red slippers. I was feeling pretty good Sunday morning when Joe and I went for a walk.

Sometimes it seems that the better I feel, the harder I can be knocked down. Was it a remark I took too seriously? Some feedback I didn’t want to hear? Will I stuff my bad feelings in with the rest of my emotional baggage, or will my bad feelings just wear off in time? If I bury them, won’t they take root and sprout up at some other time? Can I just change my mind and not feel them anymore? Where do bad feelings go?

Driving to town Monday morning, on my way to play Scrabble with Mara, I spotted a single burnt-orange couch cushion lying in the middle of the road. I didn’t smile at the unlikely sight or stop to take a picture, as I normally would. Instead, the out-of-place sad cushion reminded me how out-of-place I felt. It was then that I knew I had lost my sense of humor. It was then that I decided I wanted it back.

November 20, 2006

There’s No Place Like Home

rosemaryredguitar3x.jpgSpoken Word Open Mic at the Café Del Sol ~
Nine year old Kyla, dressed like a rock star and wearing ruby red slippers, was our MC for the night. Leigh plunked a tune on her bright red guitar. Lora sat in the midst of her own passionate pastels that hung from the café walls. She read a poem about Dance Free, written by a woman in the audience who was too shy to read it herself.

Considering that many Floydians had come out to celebrate Mama Lizardo’s 70th birthday a few doors down from the cafe, the turnout was good. Even Sally, Café Del Sol owner and local singing talent, was at Liz’s party, scheduled to sing, which is how Mara’s daughter Kyla came to be our open mic host. There were new faces in the crowd and several new readers, bringing the evening’s performer’s list to ten.
A horse name Echo… soothing Grandma Lizzy… a poem about a graveyard ….and an essay on the stuff of life and our identification with it all figured into the mix. My favorite poem title for the night was “When All Our Beards Were Brown,” read by a man with long grey hair who had tattoos up and down his arms. The work presented was touching and thoughtful, eliciting head nodding, sighs of approval, and resounding applause for its authors.

When it was my turn at the mic, I read my disclaimer (or is it a mission statement?) before passing out the photos that accompanied my reading of “The Pink Raft.” Therapy is not about finding out who did what to me or why. It’s about finding out what I’m storing and what’s weighing me down. Everyone has some emotional baggage. It’s there whether we acknowledge it or not. I figure I might as well open the bag and see what’s in there, remember why I put it there, and decide what I can now throw away. Shifting from pink to red hot, I followed up "The Pink Raft" with “Hot Flash at Night,” and then “Free Leonard Peltier and the Japanese Tanka.

Mara, looking every bit the poet in her long kokopelli coat and black beret, read tankas, wonderful slices of poetic observation that had evolved since she read them at our last writer’s workshop. She takes her blue yarn … up on the roof and sings … while she crochets … There will come a day when things like this don’t matter … Not now. redshoescol.jpg

At the end of the evening Kyla’s ruby red slippers got passed around. Sipping my Anchor Steam beer, I put my feet up on the coffee table and admired them in red. Later, Arden, a creative writing graduate student who had come up from Salem, tried them on. “I wonder where I’ll end up if I click them together?” he asked.

1. Leigh’s red guitar and Rosemary, who is reading a hot poem about tea. 2. Kyla takes charge. 3. Colleen asks, "Do they make these in my size?"

November 18, 2006

Born to Blog

The following essay is the one that recently aired on our local PBS station, WVTF, and it appears in its entirety here. You can listen to me reading it at the WVTF website.

When I first started blogging in March of 2005 many people asked, what’s a blog? Less people ask me that same question today; I like to think because my answers have been informative, but I know it’s more because blogs are in the news, everywhere these days.

The word blog, short for web log, is a web page that’s updated daily. Sometimes referred to as citizen publishing, blogging appeals to my sense of self-sufficiency. It’s like having my own online magazine that I post an editorial to each day. As a writer, it allows me to hone my skills, build a readership, and create a time-capsule record for my descendents, all at the same time.

Although I have some computer savvy friends who have helped me out along the way, most of my computer skills are self taught and ongoing, which is why I was at the Floyd library recently checking out a book on blogging. While doing so, the librarian looked up from her task and asked me, “Have you ever read a blog?”

“Yes, I actually have one, I confessed.

“Isn’t it tedious? There are so many of them,” she continued.

“You find the ones you like; in the same way you’d check out only one or two magazines,” I said, gesturing to the magazine rack. “You don’t have to read them all.”

On the ride home from the library that day, my conversation with the librarian continued in my mind and went like this: “Let’s say you check out a gardening magazine,” I said to her, “and in it find an article you like. Wouldn’t it be great to have instant access to its author? With blogging you can, because it’s interactive.”

My imaginary librarian was listening and nodding her head now.

“As one blog discovery leads to the next, before long networks and communities are formed,” I told her. “Blogging friendships are often based on what bloggers have in common, but sometimes they are based on differences. This past year I’ve made some unlikely blog friendships that have given me glimpses into lifestyles very different than my own.”

“Tell me more,” the expression on the librarian’s face seemed to say.

“Well, there’s the pony-tailed artist, chemical magazine editor, who works in New York City and lives up the road from where the Sopranos is filmed; there’s the performer, playwright, and composer, living in Los Angeles, who has an engaging personality and lots of famous friends; and a free spirit raising twin daughters in Istanbul who’s blog mission statement reads, “trying to save the world before bedtime.” Some of my blog friends live near oceans and post seacoast photos that ease my homesickness for the Massachusetts peninsula I grew up on. Of course, regional blogs are on the top of my daily reading list, and there are several good ones right here in Floyd,” I told her.

She was smiling, with her eyes slightly widened, and so I continued.

“After two of my brothers died a month apart in 2001, I wrote a book about it,” I explained. “Some readers come to my blog to read my writings on grief and loss, a subject I continue to explore.”

“And you’d be surprised,” I went on, “how many people follow my Scrabble games at Café Del Sol via my blog. More than one reader has commented that Floyd is like the acclaimed TV show “Northern Exposure,” Southern style, especially after the entry about the deer that crashed through the Café Del Sol window and thrashed about, wrecking the place. There was a photo included with that entry of the boarded up door, bearing a sign that read: Café Del Deer Crossing, and Bambi Was Here.”

She laughed before getting more serious. With a slightly wrinkled brow, she posed a question, one I had heard before. “Don’t you feel exposed putting your personal writing on the internet?” My imaginary librarian asked.

“Sometimes, especially in the beginning, I did, but then I asked myself ‘What difference does it make to a reader whether they read a commentary I wrote in the Roanoke Times or on my blog?’ I consider every posted entry to be a published document and keep that in mind.”

“Mostly, I blog because I love to write, and I know that when you share what you love to do, it grows larger in you. I think I was always a blogger just waiting to happen,” I said in conclusion.

By then, I was pulling into my driveway and up to my house, anxious to get to my computer and check my blog comments for the day.

Post notes: This was written before Vanx cut his hair.

November 17, 2006

My Boyfriend’s Back!

contradance2.jpg My husband is a counselor, a soccer coach, a hunter. He practices martial arts and yoga and has just completed a last class for his Master’s Degree. Sometimes during the week, we hardly really see each other. We’re both independent and involved in our pursuits and passions (in my case, sometimes obsessively), which is why I love the weekends. On weekends he saves me from myself.

This past Saturday night, we went contra dancing. We swung and spun, got dizzy and giddy. In between dances, we laughed and socialized with friends. Occasionally to cool down, we sat a song out, plunked oursleves down in chairs along the wall of the Winter Sun dance hall.

“Jim, do you know my husband, Joe?” I asked a friend I was talking to as Joe approached. Jim hadn’t met Joe before. “But I feel like I know him from your blog,” he answered with a smile.

“What? I thought everyone knew Joe!” I blurted out. “He’s out and about much more than I am and knows way more people than I do.” I told Jim how Joe used to run the county’s Recycling Center and our three-way conversation took off from there. But soon we were all back on the dance floor, dosey do-ing, promenading, and swinging our partners and neighbors.

Sunday morning, when Joe and I finally got out of bed, we stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast. I, in my favorite blue terrycloth bathrobe, popped down some toast and broke out in song. “My boyfriend’s back …and you’re going be sorry … hey-la-day-la my boyfriend’s back!” I sang in my loudest and best do wap. He looked surprised and waited for an explanation.

“I feel great!” I said to him. “It’s like my boyfriend slept over! We went dancing. We stayed in bed all morning. We talked. We kissed. We ate well. I’m so happy I have a good boyfriend!”

He's been gone for such a long time (Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend's back) Now he's back and things'll be fine (Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend's back) … my boyfriend's back ...

November 16, 2006

13 Thursday: On the Couch

13couch2.jpg 1. Right now I'm unemployed with two full-time jobs, writing and therapy.

2. When I first became a stay at home mother, I remember saying that I had never worked so hard in my life. I’m learning that retirement is similar and that there’s hardly ever any downtime when there’s no separation between my life and my work.

3. My favorite quote of the week was made by my blogging friend, Elissa. She recently signed a book contract and was posting about her writing background when she said this: “I've always felt my freelance work is better than a free education because it's an education I get paid for.”

4. When my poet friend Mara went back to school for creative writing, she said, “Maybe you should go back to school too, Colleen.” I answered, “What, and spoil my reputation (of being self-taught)?!

5. Elissa also said that it was her first rejection slip (at the age of 17) for her first novel that made her feel like a real writer!

6. Writers are like wild creatures that have been counted and tagged. Only instead of getting a wrist band, we get a pen to track the environment we live in.

7. Or else we’re like homing pigeons. No matter how far we go out to explore, we come back to our computers to report.

8. Years ago, my friend Ed had a T-shirt on that said “Hug Therapist,” but I read it as “Hug The rapist.” He never wore it again.

9. The nature of therapy is that you feel a lot worse before you feel better. It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ~ E.L. Doctorow

10. I once did a family tree of all the couches I’ve owned. In my first apartment that I shared with my sister, Sherry, we were broke and used lawn furniture in our living room. For my next apartment, I bought an antique couch that I eventually got reupholstered. Years later, I dreamt this couch was being lifted up by a large crane. It might have been a premonition. A year later I lost it in a divorce.

11. It’s interesting to me that the word “crouch” has “couch” in it and one of the verb definitions of couch is to crouch.

12. I wonder how many 13 Thursday players I could fit on my couch. THIS many?

13. Most people like to ride shotgun in a car, but I prefer the backseat because it’s like a couch I can stretch out on. I also love the pubs in Ireland because they have couches (not like THIS or THIS one). There’s no couch involved in my therapy sessions, but there is a reclining chair.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

November 15, 2006

Fall Leaves its Mark

1. The leaf within
2.The youngest among us
3. Impressionable
4. Food for thought
5. As far as the eye can see

Update: My WVTF radio essay "Born to Blog" will air on Public Radio this Friday at 6:55 and 8:55. I'll post the text here over the weekend, but you can hear it now at their website, HERE.

November 14, 2006

Where Poems Come From

Last week when I posted a poem called “Hot Flash at Night,” I forgot to mention that it was composed while I was asleep. I frequently “write” in my sleep, but that was only the second time I was able to preserve an intact poem into the morning. (Here is another one).

The poem posted below began title-first. My friend Mara had brought a couple dozen tankas that she had written as an exercise to our last writer’s workshop. A tanka is a Japanese poetry form older than haiku. Traditionally, it consisted of 5 lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 rhythm of syllables (units), but modern rules are more relaxed. I was of the opinion that some of Mara tankas would be better written freestyle and that in some cases she was trying too hard to work them into form. Such a fun announcement slipped through my lips. “Free Leonard Peltier and Japanese Tankas!” I heard myself call out. Seriousness dissolved into laugher, as I wrote the phrase down in my notebook. The rest is history, as I tell it below:

Free Leonard Peltier and the Japanese Tanka

Don’t squeeze syllables
into lines they’re not made for
Don’t pin a turned phrase
under glass

Even a small
unpredictable poem
can kick down a locked door

can climb over the top
of the page

November 13, 2006

I Know What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

When I say "work" I only mean writing. Everything else is odd jobs. -Margaret Laurence

I don’t remember who was holding the camcorder at the time, but the question posed was, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My brother Jim had just answered. “A photographer,” he said. He was nearing fifty-years-old at the time and had already had a couple of his weather photos published and won an award for one.

Next, it was my turn to answer. “A groupie,” I found myself saying just to watch my brother’s reaction.

“But no, seriously,” I continued. “I don’t want to sleep with musicians, I just want to meet them and interview them,” the Oprah Winfrey in me concluded.

Yesterday, I joked with my journalist friend Rick, who was recently outed as a blogger by his co-workers, that blogging is like “reality stand-up comedy without the fear of having real tomatoes thrown at you.” It’s also a bit like being a roving reporter covering the every day. Since blogging, I pay more attention to life’s details because who knows when a scene might re-create itself in my mind and make me run to find a pen to write it all down. Although I’m reluctant to admit, even to myself, that I might be blogging a story, I find myself taking a few pictures and asking a few more questions, just in case.

Maybe my dream job could come true. After more than a year of holding myself to the fire, writing every day and posting to my blog 6 days a week, my dedication has started to pay off in small and new ways. Early on in my blogging career, several of my entries went on to become local Public Radio essays that I read on the air. More recently, in the past couple of months, I’ve sold half-a-dozen pieces that originated from (or were adapted from) blog posts to our local newspaper. These include an informal interview, a play review, a book review, and conversational reports on local events.

Ever since I’ve been writing, a part of me has been thinking, “that was fun, but don’t expect it to happen again.” I’ve never wanted to write for a “job,” (not that anyone has offered) for two reasons. First, I’ve always feared that I wouldn’t be able to produce the quality and quantity of work that might be expected of me. Second, I feared that writing for a living would taint my love of doing it.

It’s a powerful validation for a writer to get paid for her work when she does so much of it for free. It’s doubly validating when that payment is for something she enjoyed writing. Recently, when the editor of our local paper asked me if I was working on anything new, the doubt and sense of pressure to produce that I would normally feel was superseded by the enthusiasm I felt when I answered her, "yes.”

November 11, 2006

isa: the encore

colpotrait2.jpg The first time I met isa maria was in the late 1980’s at a neighborhood pond where weekly swimming lessons for Floyd homeschoolers and Blue Mountain School students took place. isa stood out, not only because of her striking beauty, but because she was the mother of two babies and was carrying one on each hip. Later, I came to know her as an artist. Looking for ways to make income as single full-time mother, I agreed to model for the Floyd Figures Art group, of which she was a member. I was amazed at how quickly she sketched a pastel portrait of me and how well she captured my likeness. When I told her how impressed I was, she ripped it off the easel and gave it to me.

We were co-counseling partners for a couple of years. After taking a workshop on co-counseling, hosted by isa at her house, she and I became regular co-counseling partners. Every couple of weeks, I drove out to her farm in Check and we would take turns talking and listening, giving each other our undivided attention. During this time I wrote a poem about her clothesline. I remember her field of purple coneflowers. She was growing them to harvest the roots for making Echinacea tincture. Sometimes I would model for her while she sketched.

I held isa’s third baby days after she was born. Her marriage was ending and she was beginning to think out loud about living in Hawaii. Later, we were in the same improv dance class that performed as a group at the Mountain Rose Dance Recital. wedpotrait.jpgWhen Joe and I got married in 1996, isa offered to paint us. Dressed in our wedding whites, we stretched out on a futon on her back porch (where the light was good). “Sit in whatever position is most comfortable,” she said. “This could take awhile.” Joe, taking her directive serious, lay down in my lap. At one point, isa’s then-boyfriend, who was a rock climber, came to visit. He proceeded to climb and then hang from the rafters of her porch.

Because of the proximity of Joe’s and my hand, which placed our wedding rings center stage, isa named the wedding portrait “The Rings.” It hung in her first show in Floyd at the Old Church Gallery before it found its way to a wall in our home. The image was also featured in a story about isa, published in The Floyd Press.

Post Notes:
The above is the result of the positive feedback I received on my Monday’s entry about my friend isa and her art. When I mentioned in a comment that she had done a wedding portrait of my husband and me, several readers asked to see it. You can visit isa’s website HERE.

November 10, 2006

A Potter and a Farmer Find Common Ground

studiopot.jpg “Why didn’t you tell us that Josh was being interviewed for US Airways Magazine?” my sister-in-law’s message on our answering machine said. Her husband was flying from Missouri to the east coast when he picked up the magazine in the seat pocket in front of him, I learned when I called her back. Flipping through the pages, he found himself reading an article about Asheville, North Carolina, written by Stephen Poole. He was stunned to come across this about my son: “During one of the biannual Studio Strolls you might meet Josh Copus (Wedge Building), an aspiring potter who, after seeing a farmer excavating a field, wound up with tons of free clay and a new friend.”

Josh, a twenty-seven-year-old BFA student at University of North Carolina in Asheville, has been getting a lot of attention for his work with local clay. In 2005 he and his fellow potter, Matt Jacobs, won an Undergraduate Research Grant titled “Recreating Tradition: Observing the Effects of Local, Non-industrially Processed Ceramic Material on the Work of Contemporary Ceramists.” The grant led to a presentation of their findings at last year’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research and a show, organized by Josh and Matt, at Asheville’s American Folk Gallery. The show featured pottery made with local materials by North Carolinian studio potters and those from as far away as Japan and England. More recently, Josh was awarded a $15,000 Windgate Fellowship Award to fund the construction of a wood-fired kiln and to further his exploration into using local materials in contemporary ceramics.

The US Airways mention of Josh was the least of the press he’s recently received for his work. He was also cited in the current issue of “Ceramics Monthly,” a local potter who subscribes to the magazine informed me. Another magazine, “Studio Potter” recently published “Neil Woody’s Turkey Creek Field,” a story penned by Josh that describes his unlikely friendship with the farmer whose land he had excavated clay from.

“Neil Woody is a sixty-year-old tobacco farmer in Leicester County of western North Carolina with a drainage problem in one of his fields. Last year, Neil farmed over a hundred acres of burly tobacco but didn’t harvest a stick out of the bottom field that runs along Turkey Creek,” Josh’s story begins.

Working on a tip from a local rock hound, Josh and Matt drove out to Turkey Creek in search of “wild” clay. What they found was a ditch with huge chunks of dark blue clay lining the bank by the road. Apparently, the farmer who owned the adjacent fields had dug into the sedimentary clay in an effort to divert heavy rains from flooding his crops. They left with a truck load of the roadside clay and the name of farmer, which they learned from a neighbor passing by who pulled over to lend a hand.
According to Josh, using the wild clay was an enlightening experience that inspired the creation of new pots. He and Matt stretched their prized stash of it for as long as they could, but eventually it ran out. “It took a long time to get up the nerve to call Neil … The Woody’s have been living in Leicester County for six generations, so there are a lot of them in the phone book,” Josh wrote in the Studio Potter article.

Making the call, Josh arranged to meet Neil Woody to ask about harvesting clay from his field. He was encouraged to discover that not only was Neil receptive to the idea, but that Neil had a reference for handmade pottery, as he had inherited a small collection of folk pots from his grandmother and had fond memories of her using them.

“When I showed Neil a pot made out of the clay from his tobacco field, I caught a glimpse of the potential that pots have to impact people’s lives. He held it as a potter would, turning it over in his hands and touching it like someone with an insider’s appreciation for how it was made. He didn’t just look at it, either; he really saw it and he knew where it came from,” Josh explained.

After a couple of small shovel digs that were beginning to feel invasive to the land, Josh approached Neil to ask about a full scale excavation. He describes Neil’s response this way: “Now Josh, you know you’re going to pay those boys to pull that stuff out of there. You don’t need to pay me nothing; you leave my field in better shape than you found it and we’ll be all right.” He liked what we were doing and didn’t feel the need to exploit the situation. I also think he knew his eventual payment would come. He really liked our pots and we had every intention of giving him anything that caught his eye,” Josh wrote.

The Studio Potter article goes on to outline the three day excavation of eleven dump-truckfuls of clay at a cost of $3,800, but the main theme of the story is the one Josh tells about the bond that was forged between him and Neil, based on their mutual appreciation of the land and what it provides, as this excerpt illustrates: “What is truly unique is the experience: my friendship with the Woody family and the feel of the clay through my hands. Neil offered me an education in clay beyond the classroom. He told me stories about the land and the people who lived on it. Instead of just talking about the physical properties of clay, Neil taught me about its history.”

Neil and Josh’s friendship is ongoing. Josh says he looks forward to Neil’s visits to his pottery studio. “He never calls; he just stops by whenever he is in the neighborhood, which happens frequently, especially during auction time at the tobacco warehouse just down the street. He just walks in and says, “Show me something you made out of that old dirt,” the story concludes.

Currently Josh is busy putting together his BFA Thesis Show, which is entitled “Building Community” and involves a wall installation of homemade bricks. The bricks are fired by Josh at varying temperatures creating a rainbow of clay color. Each one is stamped with the word “individual,” symbolizing the formidable strength that each separate individual has when joined together as a whole. There will be other bricks stamped with the word “community” available for visitors to take home, as well as a display of Josh’s pottery.

My husband and I are making plans to attend the show, scheduled for December 8th at UNC in Asheville. “Will Neil Woody be there?” I asked Josh the last time we spoke on the phone.

“Yes, of course,” he answered.

“Good,” I said enthusiastically. “I’m looking forward to shaking his hand.” ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes:
You can read more about Josh's work with wild clay and view photos HERE, HERE, and HERE. Or you can visit my sidebar catergory, Asheville Potter Son.

November 9, 2006

The X-rated 13 Thursday

13x.jpg 1. X is a high scoring Scrabble letter. There’s only one in the bag.

2. For a brief time, I had the nickname Xerox. OnThe LoveLink, our family e-mail group, I sign my emails "xocolleen," and the spell checker kept changing it to "xerox."

3. It’s a poet’s job to say… the emperor wears no clothes … and …why can’t we let ourselves be so X-posed?

4. I thought I would feel more excited about the Democratic take-over of the House and the Senate. I am glad for the results, but the truth is that the damage is already done. Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead. Over 2,000 U.S. soldiers are dead. The abuses and torture that happened at Abu Ghraib can’t be undone. I hope the shift in power will lead to holding the Bush administration accountable for invading Iraq under false pretenses and for mismanaging the course of the war.

5. Another member of our Writer’s workshop, Mccabe Coolidge, recently had an essay aired on WVTF radio. There’s nothing X rated about it. It’s mostly about pancakes. Listen HERE.

6. A new Scrabble score record! On Oct. 12, in the basement of a Unitarian church on the town green in Lexington, Mass., a carpenter named Michael Cresta scored 830 points in a game of Scrabble. His opponent, Wayne Yorra, who works at a supermarket deli counter, totaled 490 points. The two men set three records for sanctioned Scrabble in North America: the most points in a game by one player (830), the most total points in a game (1,320), and the most points on a single turn (365, for Cresta's play of QUIXOTRY). ~ Stephen Fatsis, Slate Magazine.

7. I have a friend who is a folksinger. Years ago when she came into the bead shop I was working at, I asked her if she was working on any new songs. She told me she working on a new one titled, “Where has all the foreskin gone?” When I saw her years later and asked if she ever finished it, she didn’t even remember it.

8. I want THIS for Christmas. Link provided by Janet.

9. I don’t want X-ray vision. I just want to be able to read the fine print.

10. Lately, I’ve begun to need my reading glasses to see the faces of people I’m talking to. I know I’m at the point where I need a stronger strength of magnification, but I’m afraid if I do I’ll see how dirty my house really is.

11. Number 100 on my “100 Things About Me” says: I don’t like knick-knacks. I just see them as more things to dust.

12. At Floyd Fandango I ran into an old friend. She’s a former Hari Krishna devotee who makes a living as a puppeteer and currently sells sex toys the way other women sell Tupperware. When I heard she was going to be holding a party in my neighborhood, my interest was piqued, “I want to come!” I said. She rolled her eyes and answered, “Everyone wants to come, Colleen.”

13. “Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer.” Thomas Friedman

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

November 8, 2006

The Oracle

1. Fate
2. Confrontation
3. Insight
4. Possibility

Photos: 1. Leaf found at the end of our driveway, hanging by a spider thread. 2. The inside of Joe's old truck got wet, so he drove it in the middle of the yard one day so that the sun could dry it out. 3. This is an abandoned house down the street from us. When my son's were little they called it "Jason's House," refering to the horror movie "Friday the 13th." 4. I pulled over while driving in Christiansburg to get a shot of these stairs with the song Stairway to Heaven playing in my mind.

November 7, 2006

Red Hot at 55

fireh.jpg “I wrote my first hot flash poem,” I announced to my women friends, who were gathered together for a tea party in honor of our friend isa being in town. “I put it in the Museletter, and so now everybody knows!” I confessed.

“I’m having one right now,” someone said. “Is my face red?”

Hot Flash at Night

Any tossing and turning
will have me pouring hot pepper
from a shaker that used to hold salt

November 6, 2006


isa-painting-closeup-small.jpg She has no last name – like Cher – and spells her first name in lower case letters. She paints mermaids on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. An improv dancer, dumbeck drummer, and teacher of Non-violent Communication, mostly isa’s a painter. Whether a Floydian or Hawaiin portrait, whether landscape or seascape, her animated pastels (several of which grace the walls of my house) splurge and excite. Her passionate oil paintings ignite with color in sweeping strokes of joyful expression.

Fasten your seatbelts and go take a look…. HERE.

November 4, 2006

Listen to the Bearded Lady

beardedlady.jpg Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid or something? Oh no. It's just they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future. ~ The Princess Bride

The answers to last week’s Halloween Costume Contest, which you can review HERE, are as follows.

1. Sally, owner of the Café Del Sol.

2. Yes, it’s true, *Amy, Deana, srp, Keda, and Ruth* you all guessed right! It’s me dressed in my thrift shop elegance. Besides my accomplice husband, only one person guessed it was me, and I remained anonymous all night. When I tried to order beer at the bar, Sally demanded to see either my face or my ID. I showed her my hand and pointed out an age spot, but she didn’t fall for it.

3. Mysterious alien wearing a blue feathered boa remains mysterious to even me. She got the most votes.

4. The bearded lady is actually my friend, Bob. He won first prize for his costume and antics. (I think he offered special favors to the judges … wink… wink.)

Other news: I’m happy to report that my post “The Pink Raft” won a Perfect Post Award, hosted the first of each month by MommaK at Petroville. After getting such encouraging feedback for the entry, I began to think maybe I should start a Pink Raft Society like the Red Hat Ladies. Do you think the idea would float?

November 3, 2006

The Best Book I Never Read

3pepperpatry.jpg My friend Patry from “Simply Wait” had three hot new ideas in October. One of them was to host an online book club called “Third Day” in which participating bloggers agree to read the same book and post about it on the third day of each month. The first book chosen for club reading was “Half of a Yellow Sun,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and today our homework is due!

Patry is a writer I admire. Her first novel, The Liar’s Diary, published by Dutton, is due out this coming February, and her blog never fails to deliver top notch reading. I wanted to be involved in the book club, to do some literary hob-knobbing with her and her readers, but as the October clock ticked by it looked more and more unlikely.

I have never thought so much about a book that I didn’t read as I’ve thought about this one, with its bright yellow cover seared in my mind. 262386375_bb7b01f048_o.jpg I wanted it to appear in my mailbox, to see it in the grocery store at the check out stand. I tried to plead hick. There’s no Barnes and Noble or other big book chains in my small one stoplight town, I reasoned. But in fact, I did go to Christiansburg, where several book stores are located, on three occasions in October, but by the time I finished with my reasons for being there, I had no energy to stop at the bookstore.

It didn’t help that I kept forgetting the name of the book (I didn’t even try to remember the name of its Nigerian author). I must have written down the title half a dozen times, checking to make sure I had it right. Was it Piece of Yellow Sun, A Yellow Piece of Sun, or Half of a Yellow Sun? To my credit, I took one of those scraps of paper with the name of the book scribbled on it to our local library, but they didn’t have the book.

With October came the scheduled guest appearance I made with a group of local book club members who had read my book, The Jim and Dan Stories. I wrote and sold three articles to the Floyd Press. Two blogger meet-ups with out of town bloggers took place, as well as a Floyd Fandango where my husband and I saw a clown balance a wheelbarrow on his head. Distracted by trees in bright colors, poetry readings, apple picking, Halloween parties, and politics, when the end of October rolled around, I had to face reality.

Like a fly on the wall with no voice, I’m left to read online reviews and the entries that Patry and her readers post.

Go on over and check out what's being said about the book that Patry paraphrases one reviewer as having said ‘it’s simply the future of literature.' That’s were I’m going next …

Post Note: The Third Day logo/photo above is via Simply Wait.

November 2, 2006

Weaving the 13 Web

13spider3.jpg 1. For a couple of weeks my husband had a deer hide spread out on the pool table in the basement. Every time I went down there, I was startled by it, thinking our dog Jasmine was up on the table.

2. The deer hide on the pool table gave me a mischievous idea, one that I first heard about at Deana’s. I got out my big rubber spider and placed it where I knew my husband would see it. But my practical joke backfired when I forgot where I put the spider and scared myself when I later came upon it!

3. Today while cleaning the kitchen after breakfast, I thought: Sometimes when I have déjà vu it’s because I actually have done this before.

4. Today while cleaning the kitchen after breakfast, I thought: Sometimes when I have déjà vu it’s because I actually have done this before.

5. With one word the shampoo business doubled their profits. It’s the word that comes after the instructions to suds and rinse … REPEAT.

6. Sometimes I watch the news as if politics was a sport and I am checking to see if the referees (newscasters) are calling the game fairly.

7. My sister Sherry’s birthday is October 28th and it sometimes falls on the night that the clocks are set back for daylight saving’s time, as it was this year. On her birthday, she said, “What better gift is there than to get a free hour of life?”

8. My sister, Tricia, and I have both experienced jamais vu, the opposite of déjà vu. Jamais vu means “never seen” and it happens when a familiar situation suddenly feels unrecognizable or when something you’ve done many times before feels like you’ve never done it.

9. In last week’s 13, I wrote about shopping for meat at our local grocery store named Slaughters and meeting a sign holding woman with the last name of Pickett. In a comment my sister, Kathy, told me that there’s a Boston reporter who covers the weather whose name is Gale Huff.

10. Since then, while watching the nightly news, I discovered that there’s a Republican Congressman from California embroiled in a controversy whose last name is DOOLITTLE.

11. The name of the Democrat running against him is Charlie Brown. I swear, I’m not making these names up.

12. Somebody said this about the internet: Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks. ~Author Unknown

13. And here’s something that has the potential to unite bloggers on the left and the right: The future of the Internet is up for grabs. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) effectively eliminated net neutrality rules, which ensured that every content creator on the Internet-from big-time media concerns to backroom bloggers-had equal opportunity to make their voice heard. Now, large and powerful corporations are lobbying Washington to turn the World Wide Web into what critics call a "toll road," threatening the equitability that has come to define global democracy's newest forum. Yet the public knows little about what's happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. ~ Bill Moyers. Read more HERE.

Thursday headquarters is here. / My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

November 1, 2006

Rush Hour Creek and the Cost of Autumn

The creek traps leaves
into neatly
piled stacks

like the papers on my desk
that I’m too busy to read

Filed between the rocks
on the rush downstream
they give a seasonal accounting
of Autumn’s mounting cost

~ Pond House Retreat, November '04

Post Note: I don't have a photo of the creek. The above photo is of a photo that currently sits on my kitchen table. It's of the inscription on my dad's gravestone. He left this world last November.