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December 31, 2006

The Rear View Review

~ The following is a year end review using Loose Leaf excerpts that were taken from each month of 2006. Click the link if you want to read the post in its entirety or to view accompanying photos.

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

February - Your Place or mine: I used to think something was wrong with me, but now I just accept it. I’m not your hostess type. Burning pots on the stove and letting the housework go while being distracted by poetry is something I’ve always been upfront about and even confessed to in my wedding vows when my husband and I got married ten years ago on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My close friends know that if I attend a potluck, I’m more likely to bring a bag of corn chips than a homemade casserole or a pie. But I make it up to them with my yearly Christmas Eve Open House. With one fell swoop and a platter full of cookies, I get my hosting out of the way for the year. ~ Read more HERE.

March - Open for Funny Business: It was noon when Mara and I set up our makeshift office and scrabble game station in the corner of the Café Del Sol. The last time we played we did so without a net, which meant that neither of us brought a dictionary. On this day, we not only had a dictionary but our notebooks, pens, books, and eventually our plates of food, were spread out in all directions. Mara’s daughter, Kayla, who sat at the table next to ours, was doing a home schooling assignment in a workbook. We kept an empty chair nearby for visitors, some of whom were scheduled to drop by. ~ Read more HERE.

April: Friends in High Places: A day spent in Floyd – the one stoplight rural town I live in – can be as exciting as time spent in any big city, as far as I’m concerned. On Friday I had lunch at Oddfellas Cantina with two amazingly accomplished women, sold 10 books (The Jim and Dan Stories), and got invited to go to the New Orleans Jazz Festival – complete with a backstage pass – all in the matter of a couple of hours. ~ Read more HERE.

May – I Got Interviewed by Terry Gross! My Terry Gross is young, has long straight blonde hair, looks a little like the actress Laura Linney, and doesn’t wear glasses. This 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. ~ Read more HERE.

June- It’s Summer! Slipping under the black netting nailed to a wooden frame that protects my blueberry plants from birds, I picked berries for the first time this year. It was dusk and a firefly was in there with me. A slight sultry breeze offered a momentary break from the day’s oppressive heat. As I strained my eyes to see and reached for the ripest and bluest ones, I noticed that my arms were tired from swimming earlier that day. ~ Read more HERE.

July Me and D: One of the ways I prepare myself to go through life passages is to look through my old photo albums and other memorabilia. I don’t decide to do it. It happens naturally. My youngest son, Dylan, who is 24 years old, is getting married this weekend, which is why I’ve recently been immersed in a nostalgic review of his life. Looking at his baby book, a chronicle of written entries and photos, has especially stirred up a mix of emotions in me. ~ Read more HERE.

August – Playing Hooky: Too soon, the lushness of July is over. So is the rush of activities; weddings, graduations, re-unions, and vacations. By August my garden looks haggard and bug-infested. By mid-August reality sets in. Kids shopping for notebooks and new school clothes know their summer days are numbered. So do I. Soon I’ll have to put on shoes. My husband’s chainsaw has already been started up. There’s a melancholy feeling to August that makes me want to spend the day photographing butterflies, as if storing their images before they disappear. I’d like to go to the pool, immerse myself its Caribbean blue illusion, and then stretch out on a lounge chair in the sun and read. ~ Read more HERE.

September – Do Writer’s Retire: As a writer, it seems that I seesaw between the fast-paced productiveness of writing and the dead end crash it leads to when the bottom falls out. When I’m inspired, I complain that can’t write fast enough. When I’m not, I whine about having nothing to say. I know I should enjoy what is commonly referred to as “the writer’s block,” the way a person on vacation shouldn’t think about work. I thought I had gotten over the feeling I used to get when my creative outpouring dried up: that my writing had been a fluke after all and would never happen again. ~ Read more HERE.

October – Floyd Loves Barbara Kingsolver: The line of people waiting to meet the acclaimed author, Barbara Kingsolver, wound from the school library table where she was signing books, out through the library door, into the hall, up the stairs, and into the school lobby. At the close of her talk, I rushed from my seat like a single woman determined to catch the bouquet at a wedding and discovered the fast track to her table. It involved a first stop at a book sale table, set up by the owners of Floyd’s independent bookstore, noteBooks. After purchasing a copy of “Small Wonders,” I was ushered into a much smaller line that dovetailed with the longer one. I’m happy with my personally signed copy of a book written by Barbara Kingsolver, but the book I really wanted wasn’t for sale. ~ Read more HERE.

November –
A November Porch Vacation: A 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. ~ Read more HERE.

December – THE SPOKEN WORD OPEN MIC WANTS YOU: Feelin’ groovy at the Café Del Sol’s third Saturday open mic. Still hummin' from the Hafla the night before. My poem had a fat fly and a clumsy yellow hornet in it. Sierra returned with her sweet words all abuzz … God is a bumble bee with hyacinth desire …. I am a jar of honey… Kayla, our 9 year old MC, stood in for Sally, Café owner, again. Her shirt was awhirl with a butterfly seeking nectar and went well with the fluttering art of Sue Nees that hung on the wall behind her. She introduced me as Colleen Redman…or Redmana… or Red Ruby slippers. She let me wear hers and I tried to make them fit but discovered that it’s hard to walk in Kyla’s shoes. ~ Read more HERE.


December 30, 2006

When the Muse is Busy

It’s a mailbox full gold star day
of hand-written invitations

It’s a special delivery
I’ll gladly sign for

Because when the muse is busy
it’s always good news

December 29, 2006

Josh is in the House

A few days after my son Josh’s UNC BFA Thesis show, the culmination of 4 months of intensive labor of making pots and bricks for a massive wall installation, his car was stolen. His car being stolen was the event that caused me to realize (and mention in an earlier post) that when someone lives large, they also cast a large shadow. The above is a shot of the front seat of my husband Joe's truck, evidence that Josh was home for Christmas and borrowing Joe's truck. The Cheez-its are the biggest clue – everyone who knows Josh knows he love Cheez-its – but the hat, pottery mug, CDs, fortune cookies, Yuengling beer (unopened), and Floyd phone book are also signs that Josh was in the house, in operating mode.
Josh’s car was found on the same day that it was stolen, but it no longer worked and some valuable items had been stolen from it. Because his mechanic was on Christmas break and could not work on the car, Josh arranged for a ride with a friend so that he could be home for Christmas. After getting new brakes put in and cleaning out a few old mouse nests, we presented Josh with our old farm truck, probably the largest Christmas present he’s ever gotten. It’s not the most reliable transportation, but it got him home and a truck will come in handy for building a kiln and a house, next up on Josh’s agenda.
Before: This is Josh at about 4 years old in our home in Tomball, Texas, showing off his building construction. The blocks were wood remnants from a house site Josh’s father was working at that I collected and sanded for Josh to play with.
After: The focal point of Josh’s BFA Thesis Show, “Building Community” was a brick wall installation (pictured behind the jumbled construction). The bricks were hand made by Josh with wild dug clay and each was stamped with the word INDIVIDUAL, symbolizing the strength that each has when bonded together as a whole. The picture is of Josh beside the interactive compliment to the wall, a cube of bricks stamped with the word COMMUNITY on them. The COMMUNITY bricks were available for people to move around and take home (the photo is of the final shape the cube of bricks took). When Josh was in Floyd for Christmas, he presented a slide show for the Floyd community at the Jacksonville Center on his adventures with wild clay, the BFA Thesis Show, and how growing up in Floyd has affected his art. An account of this exciting and unusual evening is coming up later in the program...

December 28, 2006

13 Thursday: The Right Type

type.jpg 1. Favorite low-tech Christmas gift given to Josh by Colleen: A manual Smith Corona typewriter.

2. Or maybe it was the Christmas ball of lights made out of plastic cups that I got in the Christmas Eve Yankee swap and called “Steve Martin’s Brain.”

3. Pens appear out of nowhere in my house like socks disappear in the laundry.

4. And my bras lose their elasticity like gum loses flavor.

5. One of the strangest pens that recently showed up says “Select Sire Power.” Another one advertises online therapy at mytherapy.com.

6. When I quickly click through and view the pictures stored on my memory stick in my digital camera it looks like animation.

7. I once asked my siblings why they thought the letter E on my keyboards always wore off faster than other letters. “Do you think it’s because I have so many E’s in my name?” I asked. My brother Danny’s answer to my question was this: “Too many E-mails.”

8. My blogging niece Chrissie lost her two front teeth (partials) a couple of days before Christmas. I reminded her of the old song “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” I think she’s planning to write a blog entry with that title.

9. My Asheville potter son Josh wanted a manual typewriter for typing entries for his collage journals because he likes the retro font it creates. typeright.jpg I love the sound of typing on a manual typewriter and the bell when the line finishes. It sounds like a writer’s jazz.

10. I once met a poet in Dupont Circle in Washington DC who would type you a poem with your name in it for a dollar.

11. I love the hand knitted purple scarf that my husband gave me for Christmas so much that I wanted to book a flight to Boston and go visit my family just to show it off.

12. WHAT are you looking at?

13. HERE is a virtual typewriter with a message typed on it for you.

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

December 27, 2006

Floyd’s Guinness Book of World Christmas Records

1. The number of people who fit on my couch on Christmas Eve broke a record.
2. A present so big it was used as a coffee table.
3. Best T-shirt
4. This is the present I got in our Christmas Eve neighborhood Yankee Swap. I call it Steve Martin’s brain.

Post Notes: Other unique gifts in the Christmas Eve swap included: a vase full of tootsie pops, a water saving shower head, sex game dice, and Where the Wild Things Are slippers from Spain.

December 25, 2006

Once a Girl Always a Girl

dolls2a.jpg A few days before Christmas my husband and I volunteered to wrap presents for a toy drive at the Floyd Rescue Squad. Inside the station there were wrapping supplies on one table and a pile of toys on another. We weren’t long into cutting, wrapping, and taping before the child in me came out. The dolls in particular made me giddy. There were baby dolls, Barbie dolls, dolls with dishes, horses, and hair brushes. Some dolls talked when you squeezed them, others had eyelashes that could flutter. There were plastic dolls, soft stuffed dolls, and stocking stuffer dolls.

“Look at this one! I would have loved to have this,” I exclaimed and then announced to my husband, “I want to wrap all the dolls, okay?”

He smiled, enjoying my sense of play. I understood pretty quickly that wrapping the dolls appealed to my inner child, but it wasn’t until later in the day that the full scope of how meaningful the activity was became apparent to me.

At the age of four, I had a very special favorite baby doll that got left at my Aunt and Uncle’s summer cabin in Cape Cod. dollsa.jpg By the time I realized my doll was left behind, my family was already too far down the road, headed for home. I remember the intensity of my feelings as I cried for my doll. Caring for it was something I took very seriously. I can see how much I loved the doll when I look at the rare old photograph of me with it. One such photo that I’ve recently had blown up and copied is pinned to my office bulletin board. In it, I’m beaming, wearing a wool snow suit and a matching wool hat trimmed in fur and standing proudly next to the baby carriage I used to push my doll in.

Crying didn’t get my doll back. I remember rocking hard against the back of the car seat on the ride home from the Cape and vowing to never forget. But I did forget, at least consciously. By the time the left-behind doll reappeared a month or two later, the weather had changed to cold and the doll was almost unrecognizable to me. Months being like years to child, the bond had been broken, my baby carriage left empty too long. I don’t remember ever playing with the doll again, and I never got attached to another one in the same way.

As an adult, I’ve been able to piece together the larger significance that the loss of that doll held for me. dollca.jpg It was symbolic of the two occasions in my infancy that I was separated from my mother (and all my family members) for extended amounts of time. Leaving the baby doll behind when I was four years old was a recreation of me being left behind. No wonder it hurt so much.

I wrapped about 15 dolls at the Rescue Squad Station while thinking about the little girls who would be receiving them. It was probably the most meaningful activity I did this Christmas season. Not only was it like an hour of unplanned therapy, it was also the embodiment of Christmas spirit because in wrapping those dolls for other little girls I received much more than I gave.

December 23, 2006

Santa Sightings

Sleighless at the skating rink
Santa's got a brand new bag
Box seats at the reindeer races
Santa's at my house. You're next.

Post Notes: Santa’s mid-life crisis HERE. Some Santa’s you don’t want to meet HERE. The photos above are all either from my own, or my son's, private photo album.

December 22, 2006

The Christmas Party

wallpartyspread.jpg When the founders of Wall Residences, Jack Wall and Kamala Bauers, brought their vision of supporting individuals with disabilities to Floyd County in 1995, my husband, Joe and I, pooled our collective skills in human resources and joined their network of foster care families.

For over 8 years we provided foster care in our home for an individual with developmental disabilities. When it came time to retire from full-time foster care in the spring of 2005, we spent a year assisting our housemate, John, to make a gradual transition to another family home. With the help of the Wall community and his biological family, John was able to choose a new living situation after visiting his prospective new home in graduated steps and lengths of time.

Because John continues to live in Floyd, where he has friends, meaningful activities to take part in, and where many townspeople know him by name, Joe and I have been able to maintain an ongoing relationship with him. Sometimes he comes to spend a weekend. Recently he called on the phone to invite us to the Wall Residences’ Christmas Party at the Zion Lutheran Church on December 3rd.

“Can you bring a cake?” he asked excitedly, remembering that my husband Joe’s birthday is December 3rd.

“We’ll do our best to come,” I told him before hanging up.

In past years, a Wall Residence party has been a regular activity on our Christmastime schedule, and some have been elaborate enough to require a printed program of scheduled entertainment. One year a chorus of singers donned in white choir smocks and led by local musician, Bob Grubel, performed a series of Christmas Carols in the Zion Lutheran chapel. Another year, when the party was held at the VFW hall, John dressed in full Santa regalia and passed out candy canes at the door. Later, people took turns on the stage in a show of Christmas-themed talent.

This year having the party on the same day as the town parade made for a full day, and several of us, like me, got stuck in the after-parade traffic and arrived late to the party. When I got there, the room of about 40 were singing … Deck the halls with boughs of holly … fa la la la la … Many had Santa caps on. Because John is visually impaired, his current foster care provider, Karen, nudged him and leaned in to tell him that I was at the door. With an enthusiastic step, he made his way over to greet me. Joe was already there, holding the wrapped birthday present that John had given him while mingling about with friends that he hadn’t seen in awhile.

After more singing, a line full of friends chatting formed by the long table of food. The feast spread out on the red table cloth included turkey, stuffing, green beans and gravy from Slaughters Supermarket, alongside the potluck dishes that families had made. With my plate full of food, I sat across from foster care provider Dick Giessler, in between John and Curtis. Curtis, who lives with Dick, was sporting Virginia Tech clothes with a Special Olympics’ medal prominently displayed around his neck. He was asking Dick when they could go to Angel’s in the Attic again, as Karen and I compared our festive hats and posed for a picture that Dick’s wife Diane was taking. Charlie, who also lives in Floyd, pulled up in his wheel chair to greet me. “Where ya been?” he wanted to know.

There wasn’t cake, but there was pecan pie, and John led the group in singing Happy Birthday to Joe. A book lover who volunteers an hour a week answering the phone at New River Community Action Center, John had purchased a book about golf for my husband. He giggled as he stood over Joe, who was describing the cartoon scenes in the book to him.

“So that’s your birthday party this year,” I said to my husband as the party wound down and we were putting on our coats to leave.

“It was great. I really enjoyed myself” he beamed.

“Me too,” I responded. “Not only was it a fun way to celebrate your birthday, but between the parade and the party, I’m beginning to feel the Christmas spirit,” I said.

Post Notes:
The above originally appeared in The Floyd Press. To learn more about Wall Residences, you can visit their website at wallresidences.com

December 21, 2006

The 13 Thursday Offering

13nuts.jpg1. Sarah Mclachlan has a wonderful new Christmas CD out called Wintersong. You can hear her singing Joni Mitchell’s “River” HERE. Link via Simpy Coll.

2. And HERE’S a short video clip taken by an art collector of my Asheville potter son, Josh, at his UNC BFA graduation exhibit.

3. I got Josh a box of Chinese fortune cookies for Christmas, just so we could have fun reading the fortunes. We both like to use them in our collages, but I guess buying a whole box of them could be considered cheating.

4. Favorite quote of late: Art is either plagiarism or revolution. ~ Paul Gauguin

5. I don't normally do gift cards but both my sons will be getting them from Lowes this year. My younger son Dylan just bought a house that needs to be fixed up and Josh is getting ready to build one.

6. Did you know that you couldn’t get into some prisons to visit an inmate if your not wearing a bra? I know this because when my friend Cynthia and I were visiting Alex before she passed away, we took turns telling funny stories. Cynthia told one about driving a friend to a prison so that the friend could visit a family member. They wouldn’t let Cynthia in because she didn’t have a bra on. The rest of the story involved her going around trying to beg, borrow, or make a bra. We were all trying to figure out why they had the rule in the first place.

7. I went to Fragment Fred’s Christmas Party this past weekend, my first time at his house. When he greeted me at the door, I told him that after reading about his family’s country home place for the past couple of years on his blog (and now his book) and hearing him talk about it on his WVTF Public Radio essays, I felt like I was visiting Garrison Keiller’s Lake Wobegon from Prairie Home Companion.

8. After doing two poetry readings two nights in a row last weekend, I was thrilled to be going to Fred’s party knowing that I could sit in a corner and drink a beer and that no one would ask me to perform.

9. My husband went back to school for his master's degree in counseling about the same time that I started blogging. We joke that I'm getting my own self-taught degree in creative writing via the blog. It's a crash course home study and every day is a new deadline! (The rest of this comment is HERE.)

10. Latest good get: The larger you live, the bigger the shadow you cast. This is another way to say “what goes up also comes down.”

11. For some reason all the lawyers in our area who advertise on TV have long brown beards and look like devils.

12. When I was a kid the song “I saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus underneath the Christmas Tree Last Night” totally confused me.

13. I want THIS for Christmas. Every blogger eventually needs one.

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

December 20, 2006

The Trouble with Poetry

desk1.jpg“The trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry.” ~ Billy Collins

My friend Jayn was complaining about how little time she’s had to write. She, primarily a studio potter, was recently going through some old papers and saw how many half written poems and book chapter drafts she had left undone.

“I’m going to tell you something that’s going to make you feel better,” I warned.

“What?” she asked, curiously.

Since I stopped doing foster care, I’ve been unleashed, writing more than ever, sometimes for hours each day. The problem is that more writing only creates even more unfinished writing. I’m surrounded by scraps of paper scribbled with good intentions and poems with some good lines that don’t have any conclusion. The nature of writing is that the more writing you do, the more unfinished writing you have to work on.

“Oh,” she said, getting it.

“Writing is like slapping down flies. Every now and then I land one, but most of them get away.” ~ found on a scrap of paper on Colleen’s desk.

December 19, 2006


The last time I played Scrabble with Alex it was late October. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember that she was out of breath from just sitting and playing and that by the time I was getting ready to leave she had already retired to the couch and had hooked herself up with some oxygen.

Because of her cancer, her doctors didn’t expect her to live past last Christmas. But it was last year at Christmastime when she drove out to Floyd to meet me for a game. The ornament she made for me sat in a shiny sliver gift bag on the Café Del Sol table while we played.

Not only did Alex prove her doctors wrong by still being alive last Christmas, but in the months that followed she traveled to Iceland and to Greece with her husband. She read my book, The Jim and Dan Stories, even though I warned her that, considering her state of health, it would probably be rough for her to read, especially the passages describing how I watched my brother Dan die of from liver failure.

She loved the book, got her Glade Church book club to read it, and invited me to talk to the group. The night the group met, I snapped a photo of Alex under the mosaic she made that hangs above the altar. The mosaic, which spelled out JOY, was built with shards of pottery that had been accidentally broken and was initially part of an art show at the church called “Strong in the Broken Places.”

A few weeks ago, I got word that Alex was in the hospital. When I called her hospital room, she was upbeat and so I joked, “So Alex, what are you going to be doing for the rest of the day?”

“I just played Scrabble with Paul (her husband). He beat me and I’m still a little mad about that,” she answered, making me laugh.

She was only in the hospital for a couple of days. The IV fluids and nutrition she received helped her feel better. “I’m in the early stages of liver failure,” she told me bluntly before we hung up.

A week later, Alex was home, stretched out on a bed in her living room, when I and another friend went to visit. She looked dramatically different from when I had seen her in October. Because her face was drawn, her features were sharply defined, making her beauty strangely more obvious. Her doctor didn’t think she could withstand anymore treatment, she told me.

I knew I probably wouldn’t be playing Scrabble with Alex again, but I thought I would get to visit her again, at least one more time. This past Sunday, her husband sent out a group email: Today we mourn the passing of our companion, friend, Wife, Mother and Grandmother, Alex, who died this morning after a courageous fight with cancer which lasted nearly three and one half years. Alex was a special woman who loved life, who cared deeply for her family, who respected animals, especially horses, and who fought injustice in the world. She will be missed by all.

Sitting on the porch this morning, while jotting these words down in my notebook, the wind stirred up. I put my pen down and listened, remembering that Alex’s last name was Wind. Closing my eyes, I let myself feel the world without her in it and tried to understand the mystery of that reality.

December 18, 2006


kylamc.jpgFeelin’ groovy at the Café Del Sol’s third Saturday open mic. Still hummin' from the Hafla the night before. My poem had a fat fly and a clumsy yellow hornet in it. Sierra returned with her sweet words all abuzz … God is a bumble bee with hyacinth desire …. I am a jar of honey… Kayla, our 9 year old MC, stood in for Sally, Café owner, again. Her shirt was awhirl with a butterfly seeking nectar and went well with the fluttering art of Sue Nees that hung on the wall behind her. She introduced me as Colleen Redman…or Redmana… or Red Ruby slippers. She let me wear hers and I tried to make them fit but discovered that it’s hard to walk in Kyla’s shoes.

Girls from Tekoa, a Floyd County residential treatment center for at-risk adolescents, came out and filled 2 tables. kylasshir2t.jpg Some took to the mic. Greg with the tattoos up and down his arms came back. He read a poem about his hands, how well they have served him. I meant to shake his before he left but was busy flitting to and from other flighty pursuits and never landed quite close enough to do so. Some dark themes were brought into the soft café light. There was also mention of love and a bar of soap, three of them actually, in a poem that Rosemary read about her life’s work, end of life care. The girl named Joy sitting next to me on the couch cried when Leah read her powerful poem about a girlfriend’s suicide. A few people laughed when a girl from Tekoa performed some stand-up at the mic during the intermission.

Post Note: If you look closely you can see Kyla’s finger pointing and calling you to come to the next Spoken Word, January 20th 7-9.

December 16, 2006

Floyd’s First Hafla

janehafla.jpgNote: Halfa is a Middle Eastern word that refers to a celebration.

I ate a little too much Baklava at intermission and most everyone’s eyes in the photos I took glowed red from the low lighting. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Floyd’s first Hafla, a showcase of women’s artistic expression, performed in the Black Box Theater of the June Bug Center this past Friday night in Floyd.

The theme of the well attended evening was belly-dancing, but there were also music and spoken word performances. The lobby was filled with vibrant visual art made by local women. Beverages provided were from the folks the Blackwater Loft and Middle Eastern delicacies prepared by Aaron Staengel were for sale. The black stage was transformed with flowing scarves and tapestries and bedecked with strings of light. khafla.jpg A step stool draped in a bright red cloth led to the microphone where poets read and women took turns introducing each other.

Katherine Chantal, a well known local herbalist who performs many of our county’s wedding services, opened the evening. Appearing on stage in a long purple velvet dress, she greeted the audience and offered a blessing. For some reason, my name was first on the brochure of scheduled performers. I always get nervous before reading, but at least I didn’t have to bare my midriff like the belly dancers did, I thought to myself as Katherine graciously introduced me.

Although the evening was planned by and for women, there were men in the audience and even a small number of children. I began to feel shy about reading the poems I had chosen. … Some women know when they ovulate … I know when poetry is aroused … The pull of paper … The flush of pen …The push of creation … And the swollen weight of poems that are late … But the Halfa, with its focus on women and their issues was the right venue for such a poetry. I dedicated the last of my three poems, one entitled “Book Signing,” to all my women writer friends, most of whom were fellow Floyd Writers’ Circle members sitting in the front row, Jayn Avery, Mara Robbins, and Katherine.

In between songs and poems, the belly dancers commanded center stage. An exotic cape dance was performed by two young women (both mothers now) who I have watched grow up. I was particularly captivated by the sword dance done by Ilima Ursomarso and Deb Wildman. ilimahafla2.jpgNot only did Ilima and Deb balance large silver swords on their heads, but they shimmied and shook while they did so. Ilima, the show’s producer who came to Floyd via Hawaii, is an accomplished dancer who directs the Rhythm Fire Dance Company in Floyd.

There were solo and group dances, many of which were performed by Ilima’s students. One talented troupe of performers came from Blacksburg. A woman named Samra, who Ilima introduced by describing her Cabaret style of dancing and by plugging her “101 Shimmies” DVD, shined in an all red costume that glittered as she moved. The grace and control of movement that the dancers embodied was a wonder to watch. To the jingle of bells, the jangle of silver bangles, and a rousing taped soundtrack, the crowd tapped along. Every now and then someone from the audience let loose a YIP YIP or a HOWL to let the performers know they approved.

By the time it was my turn to introduce my friend of over 20 years, Katherine, I was more relaxed. I said to the audience, “I’m going to tell you something about Katherine that I bet no one here knows, not even her son (who was sitting in the front row). In the 1970’s Katherine and I worked in rival day care centers in the same Massachusetts town. We both had articles published in Mothering Magazine in the early 80s, all before we ever knew each other,” I revealed.

Katherine read a poem about the changing roles of a mother. Mara read a piece called “Alliterate This,” about juggling motherhood and her creative writing studies at Hollins College. Shamama, who was introduced as having “bang stuff” performed in hip-hop-like character. kari3hfafla.jpg Although her performance had a comedic flair, the subject she spoke of, affordable housing for single mothers, was serious. Her bio in the program read: Shamama is available for babysitting.

Sally Walker, local singer and owner of the Café Del Sol, delivered an entertaining three song set of smooth jazz songs and was accompanied by musicians Billy Miller and Chris Luster. Singing and strumming, Floydian Kari Kovick called for some back-up singers from the audience to join her onstage. It was Kari who skillfully wound down the evening's high energy with a mother’s lullaby that she wrote for her youngest daughter.

“Feel free to cuddle,” she playfully told the audience before proceeding to serenade us. The purity of her resonant voice gave me chills as I listened and provided a gentle ending to a fun filled celebration.

1. Blacksburg group. 2. Katherine greets the crowd. 3. Ilima with sword balanced on her head. 4. Kari.

December 15, 2006

Woman’s Shame

I’m reading tonight at the Hafla, a celebration of women’s dance, music, and poetry, held at the Black Box Theater in Floyd. Here’s a little preview of a poem I may read …

Shame of liking sex too much
Shame of not liking it enough

Shame of having too many children
Having none or too many abortions

Shame of bleeding
Shame of not bleeding anymore

Shame of a mother who works a job
Shame of one that stays at home

Shame of being full-breasted
Shame of being flat-chested

Shame of being too aggressive
Shame of being too submissive

Madonna or Whore
is a too tight shoe to wear
and shame is a blame game
that I’m not playing

Post Notes: “Woman’s Shame” was written in the early 90's and performed at poetry readings later in that decade by “Women of the 7th Veil,” a Floyd improv-movement and poetry troupe, which consisted of my friends, Jayn and Katherine, and me (see photo HERE). The poem has also been previously published in “We'moon.

December 14, 2006

13 Thursday: Do You Believe in Magic?

rune13.jpg 1. I don’t know how to make faces with computer keys, but I can see the hidden images in Magic Eye Art. Can you?

2. When it comes to penning old fashioned letters, I’m like the carpenter who builds things all day but never gets around to building or fixing things in her own house. But this year begged to be recorded and shared. So I wrote a Christmas letter, the first in quite a few years.

3. You can make your own snowflake HERE. (Sorry, I have forgotten where I found this.)

4. Eight is my favorite number. I like making 8’s and looking at them. I like the double loop shape and I especially like writing 88. I thought I had discovered my attraction to 8’s in 1988, but then I found this photo of me taken with my sister around 1965.
5. Although I hate public speaking, I’m still living without a net, which means without the help of anti-anxiety meds. I’m thinking of this because I have two poetry readings this weekend. I better stock up on some Bach Flower Rescue Remedy.

6. My niece, Chrissie, came from Massachusetts to live with me when she was a teenager in 1987. At the time, she needed a fresh direction and I was recently divorced and renting a big farmhouse with roommates. Chrissie, a blogger, wrote a post via a prompt from Blog Fodder, titled “Tell Us About Someone Who Has Changed Your Life.” She wrote about me and those days. You can read it HERE.

7. When computer generated art first came about, I was frustrated because I couldn’t see the hidden pictures. After about a year of missing out on the fun, I decided one morning that I wasn’t going to get out of bed until I could do it. It took about 20 minutes of focused un-focusing before I succeeded. Once I did, I felt hugely accomplished and as though I had discovered a natural psychedelic.

8. Have you ever closed your eyes while riding in a car when the sun was out and the car was speeding by trees? The light show you get is not so unlike magic eye art.

9. Meditating is a lot like how you view the magic art, except you keep your eyes closed. To meditate you have to focus past the thoughts in the forefront of your mind. Once you do, your mind will drop down to a whole new place that you weren’t aware of before.

10. I’m so sensitive that just putting on sunglasses can sometimes make me feel altered, like I’m stoned on a foreign substance. ~ The Road to Destiny, from “The Jim and Dan Stories.”

11. Remember the fortune-telling Magic 8 Ball? 8.jpgEver wonder what that liquid was that the answers floated around in? THIS is how you take a Magic 8 Ball apart. (I can’t tell if it’s a joke or not). And THIS (scroll down) is a list of all the movie and TV scenes in which a Magic 8 Ball has been used.

12. According to Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian, “Seeing is believing but feeling’s the truth.”

13. Did you know that TRUTHINESS was recently awarded The Word of the Year by Miriam Webster? And can you hum the tune to Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do you Believe in Magic?”

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. Are you still humming?

December 13, 2006

Things are looking up

December skies in late afternoon remind me of a child’s nursery. The walls are painted in hushed pinks and pale cool blues. The setting sun is like a nightlight clicking off.
One day the sky is like a frozen pond of clouds. This one is slashed with white streaks, as if ice skaters have dragged their blades across it.
The next day it’s like an endless rolling countertop. Clouds curdle and ripple. They spill but never fall off.
Clouds are like floating islands surrounded by a sea of blue. Sometimes a faint moon appears out of the mist like an approaching boat that has come from another country.
The sky is like a vast uncharted territory that makes me think of polar bears and angels. While I watch it, I talk to my brother, who loved clouds and all kinds of weather. “Are you seeing this, Jim?” I ask out loud. I’m not the type to talk to the dead, but I do. Since he’s no longer here, I look at the world for him, especially the sky.

December 12, 2006

The Price of Art

joshcarljoe.jpg Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. ~ Picasso

Watching my son’s push to pull-off his BFA graduation show reminded me of his years as a high school wrestler. Seeing him compete and place in state wrestling competitions, I witnessed how much heart and discipline he could muster. I respected his efforts and was amazed by what he was able to call up from within.

But Josh’s wrestling years also came with a price. His trainings were rigorous, and he starved and dehydrated himself to make weight, to the point that I sometimes feared he was killing himself. As a mother, what I saw Josh sacrifice for the love of a sport, horrified me at the time. Looking back, I now realize that the drive boys have to create a rite of passage into manhood sometimes takes a little boot camp of some kind or another. Males in particular seem to need to see what they’re made of by testing their limits.

A couple of weeks before we made the trip to Asheville for Josh’s show, I called my younger son Dylan, who got married this past summer, to see if he and his wife would be making the trip as well. I encouraged him to go by saying, “you know, this is like Josh’s version of a wedding,” and I began to view it that way. It was a life milestone that needed to be marked, one that involved intense planning and the stress that often comes with that.

Josh’s graduation from the University of North Carolina with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is the culmination of over 7 years of school and life education. His formal art education (ceramics in particular) began with a 2 year enrollment at Warren Wilson College, was followed by graduation from Haywood Tech Community College, included a few stints at Penland School of Arts (both as student and teacher’s assistant), and a trip to England to meet studio potters that Josh wanted to learn from. Besides his emotional investment and commitment to making art, to put his Thesis Show together catering had to be arranged, invitations sent out, events and performances planned. Josh hosted family and friends in town for the weekend. He hired a band (or got someone to) for the after show party, and even helped clean up the party mess the next day.

Just a week before the show he was working so hard – still firing bricks and last minute show pots, working on his massive 12 x 20 foot wall installation – that he ended a phone conversation I had with him by saying, “my hands are being held together with super glue.” I knew from that comment that he was probably living on coffee and little sleep in order to accomplish the monumental undertaking, of which he refused not to give his all to.

As an adult in the Asheville art world, the perseverance Josh learned in those formative years while wrestling has served him well, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. The result of his recent efforts were impressive, inspiring, and innovative. But although his show was a wonderful success and we all had fun being in Asheville, it was obvious to me that he was stretched thin. jshands.jpgTo accomplish what he had, his life not related to his art was put on hold. Even his own basic needs were compromised for his one-pointed goal. There were a few Van Gogh-like mania moments during the show, as well as some signs of burn-out after it was over.

On the last day that Joe and I were in Asheville, we had breakfast with Josh at a local café. His brothers, his father, and the Floyd hometown contingency had left the afternoon before. It was the morning after the first night in weeks that Josh had gotten a reasonable amount of sleep, but he was still distracted after functioning at full throttle for days and asking himself from minute to minute ‘what needs to be done next?’

“Do you have to read the newspaper right now?” I asked. He was on his first of six cups of coffee. He laughed as he answered, “no.” Putting the paper aside, he shifted in his chair a few times, let his eyes dart around the patio to take everything in, before stopping … to take a deep breath.

Our eyes met, and after a few seconds of looking and really seeing each other, we both welled up with tears. Nothing needed to be said.

Photos: 1. Family friend Karl, Josh, and my husband Joe sharing a moment and enjoying the view near where Josh recently purchased a couple of acres of land. 2. Potter son’s hands holding a warm cup of coffee. Scroll down to learn more about Josh’s art or go HERE.

December 10, 2006

Building Community

The scene at my son Josh's BFC Thesis show at UNC Asheville this past weekend was a photographer's dream, with various shaped ceramic pots casting shadows in the warm reflective glow of Josh's 12 foot tall and 20 foot wide brick wall installation. There was a steady flow of people milling about throughout the 6-10 p.m. exhibit show, titled Building Community.
The bricks were made by Josh and then fired at varying temperatures, creating a rainbow-colored effect. The ones in the wall installation were stamped with the word "individual," representing the strength and potential they have when joined together as a whole. Bricks with the word "community" stamped on them were signed by Josh and available for people to take home. Still others stamped with the names of those who have had an influence in Josh's art were stacked in arrangements that held exhibit pieces.
A vacuum cleaner (on shag setting) stood high on a brick stand, looking whimsical and just slightly out of place if you didn't read the words that accompanied it: "Art doesn't happen in a vacuum." Two square plots of clay were displayed. One was growing lush kelly green grass on it and had a ceramic piece shaped like a house off to the side. "Can you mow it with scissors?" I asked my friend Amy.
Eventually Josh's collage journals displayed on a shelf got spread out on the floor. People leafed through them while munching on cilantro shrimp salad, feta roll-ups, guacamole dip, and more.
I got to shake Neil Woody's hand and meet his wife Peggy. Neil is the tobacco farmer whose field Josh excavated wild clay from. He seemed to enjoy being a part of the process and seeing what Josh created from that "old dirt" he couldn't grow anything on.
There was a contingency from Floyd who also attended. Family friend, Karl, sold pieces out of what we called "Karl's Cabinet." The idea was to counter the "no touch" art gallery policy and to have some pieces available that could be handled, purchased and taken home without waiting for the week long show to be over.
There were even tricks involving fire for the performance part of the evening. Using a long two-pronged pole (the machine), Josh pulled out a total of 8 pinch bowls from the fired-up kiln that was just outside the gallery door. The bowls came out red hot and translucent and when placed on a board they burst into flames. As one bowl cooled down another arrived, making for a colorful and lively display. The finished piece was purchased by a collector who told my husband that he valued it particularly because he witnessed Josh create it.
After the bowls cooled down, the crowd, who were bundled up in winter coats, hats, and scarves, watched as Josh and another potter poured hot liquid glass into one of the bowls. They expressed their enthusiasm with oohs and ahhs and sometimes applause. The name Josh Circus, coined by Josh's friend's little boy who couldn't pronounce his real name, Josh Copus, never seemed more appropriate. Don't they need a permit to do this, I was thinking?
Then it was off to the after show dance party at the Flood Warehouse Gallery (across from Josh's Clay Space studio) to unwind and to celebrate Josh's hard work and the successful evening. (That's Josh in the forefront swing dancing.)

Post note:
You can read more about Josh and his art HERE.

December 8, 2006

A Day in the Life: Take Two

hafla2.jpg Woke up, fell out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head, Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, And looking up I noticed I was late… ~ The Beatles

I wrote a few bios for my poet friends for the upcoming Hafla we’ll each be reading poetry at. One friend was at work and the other was firing a kiln and neither had time to do it.

A card fell out of my notebook with the word TEAPOT on it. I had a flash of insight and came up with a name for my friend’s imaginary tea shop (or maybe it will be the name of our girlfriend’s secret club): THE TEAPOET SOCIETY.

I read Mccabe’s essay about a day as seen from a local beauty shop and made notes in preparation for our Writer’s Workshop that evening.

Darned my husband’s purple wool sweater on the porch.

Hung his hunting clothes on the line in the cellar. I washed them yesterday but forgot I did and left them in the washing machine overnight.

I did not clean the kitchen.

I did not make the bed.

I put the finishing touches on a freelance piece for the Floyd Press and sent it off.

Made a flyer for the next Spoken Word Open Mic at Café Del So, December, 16th, 7-9.

I briefly worked on an old poem about January trees … January trees bloom with icy white blossoms … Shimmering snowflaked petals drift down … And made copies of it for the Writer’s Workshop.

Josh called from his car on his way to school to tell me that his beard is coming in red, just like his younger brother’s.

Played Nora Jones while making lunch and danced a little in the living room.

Stoked the fire. Stoked the fire. Stoked the fire.

I blogged about as much as I stoked the fire.

I talked to Alex on the phone, my friend and Scrabble partner who has cancer. She’s not doing very well. I made arrangements to go and visit her.

I wondered what “a rule of thumb” means.

I called our former foster care client’s mother to get permission to use her son’s photo in the above mentioned Floyd Press piece.

I made copies of my Christmas letter and fiddled with my Christmas cards spread out on the kitchen table.

I thought about how warming myself at the woodstove is like taking a shower as opposed to a bath. I can’t immerse myself all at once in its heat but have to do it piece by piece.

Took some venison sausage out of the freezer for making chili before packing my clothes for our trip to Asheville.

Post Notes: A Day in the Life: Part I is HERE. The Halfa, billed as celebration of woman’s beauty and self-expression, is scheduled to take place a the Black Box Theatre in the June Bug Center in Floyd on December 15th at 7 pm. Organizers of the event promise a divine night of sensory delight with belly dancing, veil dances, sword dances, music, art, poetry, and Middle Eastern delicacies. $10 fee at the door.

December 7, 2006

13 Thursday: Spam I Am

13type2.jpg 1. Does your arm ever get tired from blogging?

2. Do you have a callus on your mouse hand?

3. Note to young offspring, “Don’t end a phone conversation with your mother by saying “My hands are being held together by super glue!”

4. My Asheville potter son has been working overtime to prepare for his BFA Thesis show. He’s had to step up his production of pots and has been firing bricks for a brick wall installation that is to be part of his show, all of which are very hard on the hands.

5. In describing the procedure he's using to fire bricks at different temperatures for a rainbow colored effect, he said to me, “I’m painting with fire.”

6. There was news story on TV this week about a fireworks factory catching on fire and fireworks were going off all night.

7. I don’t know how to make faces using the keys on the keyboard. I don’t know what all the extra computer keys mean. I remember when typewriters had a cent key. Now a penny is all but obsolete.

8. You could argue that computer spam has given the luncheon meat spam a bad name. Or you could say the luncheon meat spam already had a bad name.

9. At the Floyd’s Friday Night Jamboree, they sell cans of possum. I'm pretty sure it's done as a joke and shows that the Jamboree folks have a good sense of humor, but I could be wrong.

10. Looking for a unique name to name your baby, a character in your novel, or maybe a spam signature? I think I’ve figured out why so many of my spammers have interesting names. I think they’re getting them HERE.

11. I’ve been collecting some that I find particularly intersesting, like: Colten Ross, Haden Bowles, Declan Butcher, Quentin Hinds, Layton Norris, Noe Burk, Javion Davila, Jaxon Winters, Kaden Mauro, Alden Brock. First names include Jalen, Arturo, Jace, Asher, Kale, Brice, Den, Nata, Lully, Juju, Irgy.

12. There’s a web page for Spam and a fan club! I guess they figure they have to counter THESE guys.

13. Spam is one of those words that the more I say or write it the less it seems real. I’ve never even tasted spam. Is it full of bologna?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. Go HERE to join The War on Spam.

December 6, 2006

Josh Circus

jrobotx.jpg I really like to drink coffee beverages, wear sunglasses, eat sandwitches, stay up late, wake up early, and pray that the Red Sox win the World Series. Some of the things I collect are waterfalls, interesting looking bricks, and pieces of trash that can be transformed into art. I make pottery for a living and try to make time everyday to cook food, practice yoga, and work in my journals. I have a motorcycle that doesn't run and sometimes I write dumb poetry about it. I also have a car that I don't like driving much, except if it is through a huge puddle. ~ Josh’s “About Me” online bio.

My son Josh is a serious artist, but he has an unserious side to his nature. Or maybe I should say “he’s seriously unserious when it comes to play.” Since he was a little boy, he hasn’t met a costume he doesn’t like, to the point where I have referred to him as “a closet super hero.” He hasn’t let being an adult dampen his dramatic fun-making.

His latest nickname, Josh Circus, coined by a friend’s little boy who couldn’t pronounce Josh’s real name (Josh Copus), actually fits him to a tee. He likes to host events (which back in my day would have been called “happenings”). One such event revolved around elaborate robot costumes, another, the Drury Fest, marked a friend’s departure into the Peace Corp and involved over 90 people tubing on a river and a costume on Josh’s part. In this case, the costume was a gorilla suit, which worked well for posing for photo-ops while carrying a girl in a bikini.

Although Josh is a potter by trade, he also hasn’t met an art medium he doesn’t like. joshcollagexx.jpgWhile he appreciates the masters, he’s just as inspired by Maxfield Parrish or Dr. Seuss. He likes Graffiti and has 4 desks in his warehouse apartment to facilitate his three ring circus of art. Besides clay, his primary art outlet is making collage journals, some pages of which were exhibited in an art show this past summer.

Apparently, my son’s name has been verbified. Some of his friends have taken to using the term “josh copus” interchangeably with the word “collage.” One, who recently saved a scrap of something and then pasted it down in her journal, announced to another friend, “I josh copused it.”

I wonder, if “josh copusing” something means to collage it, or to collect scraps of garbage that other people wouldn’t even notice, what might “josh circus” mean? And what would your name mean if it became a verb?

Post note: My son has his own category side bar here at Loose Leaf. You can read more about his artistic adventures HERE.

December 5, 2006

The Three Things Thingy

123.jpg Aka: tagged by Rebekah

* Three things that scare me: Driving on highways near cities, people whose body language doesn’t match what they are saying, things like rats and cockroaches and public speaking.

* Three people who make me laugh: Stephen Colbert, Julia Louise Dreyfus, and my nephew Patrick. Here’s why.

* Three things I love: Kelly Erb’s carrot cake, taking off with my husband with our camper in search of an ocean, having days on end with nothing scheduled.

* Three things I hate: child abuse, speed bumps, when I spill tea on my clean white shirt.

* Three things I don't understand:
Where the dead go, algebra, and why anyone would think Bush is a good president.

* Three things on my desk: Two plastic frogs that I like to arrange in compromising positions. A ceramic mug that my son made with a photo of me in a castle in Ireland somehow imposed on the front of it. A paper crown of gold foil with the word “WORDS” pasted on it.

* Three things I'm doing right now:
Trying to sit up straight, getting ready for a trip to Asheville for my son’s BFA Thesis show, working on a piece about foster care for people with disabilities to submit to the Floyd Press.

* Three things I want to do before I die: Go to a blog convention and meet all my blog friends, learn to be fearless and present in the moment, eat pastry in Paris and pasta in Italy but not get fat.

* Three things I can do:
Hoola hoop, speak with an Irish accent, grow arugula and lettuce in a cold frame and eat it in December.

* Three things I can't do: Cartwheels, sew my own clothes, solve world hunger.

* Three things you should listen to:
Your muse, your mother, and the real nightingale as opposed to the gilded one.

* Three things you should never listen to: Rush Limbaugh (the guy who said the fiasco at Abu Ghraib was just young soldiers blowing off steam.), bigots, loud music next to speakers, especially if it’s rap that is denigrating to women.

* Three things I'd like to learn: desktop publishing, shorthand (I use to know this), and how to cure CFS.

Post Note: Rebekah from East of Oregon is also the inspiration for the photo above.

December 3, 2006

Third Day Book for December: Winter’s Bone

3rdday.jpg Note: Simply Wait is home of the 3rd Day Book Club (and the photo graphic posted here). A list of bloggers who are participating this month can be found at Paris Parfait, December’s host.

Winter’s Bone, a novel by Daniel Woodrell, is set in modern times in the Ozark Mountains, but it might just as easily have taken place in the Appalachian Mountains when moonshine stills were prevalent, family feuds were common, and stubborn independence was the norm.

Or maybe the Dollys, the family the story revolves around, were not mountain hill holler folk, but hobbits living in a shire gone haywire. Maybe Ree Dolly, the heroine, was playing the role of Frodo, and the dark influence running through her quest was not the ring of Mordor, but poverty, drugs, and hard living.

Would the author explain early references made by Ree on the night she stayed in a cave: “Map of Guts,” “Fists of Gods,” and “Fruit of Belief,” I wondered? Or was he going to assume we knew what they meant, like he assumed we knew (or that maybe we would ask our husbands who might be substance abuse counselors) what a “crank chef” was? winterbone.jpgWas the story going to be a fantasy, after all, where icicles appear as “pickets of jagged freeze” crows as “black buttons in twilight,” and where “smoke poured from every chimney and was promptly flattened east by wind?”

I started the book slow, paying attention to the masterful writing, letting myself be enchanted by the weaving of the almost quaint, quilted together colloquial patterns of speech that were new and intriguing to me.

But half way through I started to rush, the story took hold, and I wanted to know. My uncouth habit of flipping pages ahead got the best of me. Was Ree’s dad dead? Murdered? When would Ree, her little brothers, and her mentally unstable mother eat again?

Everybody’s plain spoken, no-nonsense, and gun-toting. Every other person is named Milton, just to confound the law by making it hard for them to be tracked down. There’s Thump Milton, Blond Milton, Catfish Milton, Dog Milton, Punch Milton, Pink-eye Milton and more. Ree, who at age 16 and with her father gone is the family caretaker, fought to have her youngest brother not be named Milton, or Hasslam, or Jessup. Those names were almost a guarantee of them eventually needing the bondsmen who kept turning up in the story.

Some things were not unfamiliar to me. Like Ozark mountain people, Virginians from these parts are resourceful and common sense smart. They know how to make-do and keep to themselves. The book began with a description of deer meat hanging. As I read, two recently hunted deer hung from our shed at the edge of the wood.

And what about this line that Ree said to her girlfriend, Gail, when Gail told Ree she was leaving to go back to her loveless marriage: “You didn’t like it? You gonna tell me you didn’t like it?” Did I read too much into it? Gail answers, “I liked it. I liked it, but not enough.”

Winter’s Bone is not short on grit and substance, realistic gut wrenching scenes, but ultimately it’s a story about family bonds, strength of character, and love; human traits that even the toughest people are softened by.

Post notes: I checked the wikipedia to see if there was an exotic religion unknown to me practiced in the Ozarks. I learned that, indeed, the Ozark mountain people are of the same Scots Irish stock as the majority of the natives here. Scots Irish blood is the stuff that caused Virginia’s Senator-elect, Jim Webb to answer, when asked by President Bush how his boy in Iraq was, “that’s between me and my boy.”

December 2, 2006

Psychic Surgery

shadowstairs.jpgIt was 1983. I was living near Houston, Texas, with two little sons and an ongoing case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Besides having compromised energy, I was experiencing chronic sore lymph nodes, particularly in my neck and to the point that it hurt to turn my neck. At that time I was about five years into my symptoms and was searching for a cure, or at least an explanation, but I had given up thinking that the medical establishment could help me. Blood tests showed nothing was wrong. There was no name for what I had yet.

I was loosely associated with a nearby Unity Church (a Christian based church with a metaphysical bent) after having my son Dylan christened there in 1982. The Unity minister, a woman named Barry, called me one day to let me know that a psychic surgeon from the Philippines was in town. Knowing I was dealing with health issues, she asked if I might want to set-up an appointment. I did.

I tend to be skeptically open-minded about things I don’t understand. I had seen the TV special debunking psychic surgery (going into the body with hands and without cutting), but it seemed they were bent on debunking it. I hoped I would discover if it was for-real or not.

Stretched out on a massage table, I didn’t know what to expect. The dark haired surgeon who stood over me asked in broken English why I had come, before starting to work on my neck. I felt his hands press deeply into my skin and was startled to feel fluid drip down. Was it my own blood?

By the time he began working on my stomach he asked if I wanted to watch, so I leaned up to study his every move, hoping my curiosity would be satisfied. Once again, I saw his hands penetrate into my skin, but I wasn’t convinced that they were actually inside my body. He asked if I knew that I had an adhesion, while holding up a two inch piece of what looked like skin. At the time, I didn’t even know what an adhesion was, but when he told me it was scar tissue, I understood.

After my second cesarean, on occasion when I moved a certain way, I would experience a sharp pulsating pain, something akin to a “Charlie horse.” When it happened, I could visually see spasms on the left side of my stomach. I never thought to get it checked out because the pain never lasted long.

After the session, I was stunned, trying to integrate what had happened. I had asked the physic surgeon some questions but because of our language barrier I got no satisfying answers. His wife was American, so I made sure to talk to her before I left. I asked her two questions. First, ‘how is it possible to go into the body without a knife and leave no scar?’ She talked about it being like other body work, such as reiki, a healing technique that involves the laying on of hands. I was familiar with reflexology and acupressure, and she reminded me that when doing acupressure, a practitioner presses a part of the body to the point where it seems to open up. “He creates so much energy with his hands that they part cells,” she told me. She might have used laser surgery (cutting through tissue with high intensity light) as an analogy to explain psychic surgery, but, as far as I know, it hadn’t been invented yet.

My second question was “Why the Philippines? Why do physic surgeons come from there?" She said it was because they grow up with the tradition. They are born into it, accept it, and are trained from an early age to perform it.

I wasn’t convinced by the actual physic surgery session that anything significant had happened to me, but I came to believe something happened because the pulsating pain I sometimes felt on the side of my stomach never came back. Although I continued to experience the symptoms of CFS, my neck pain and mobility were markedly improved.

Even after having it performed on me, I can’t say whether physic surgery is real or not, but the experience taught me that anything could be possible … even if it isn’t logical.

Post note: My daughter-in-law is a R.N. who is furthering her nursing studies. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she was doing a paper on psychic surgery? Imagine hers when she found I had an experience with it? This entry was the result of her asking me to write down my story.

December 1, 2006

Shake This Poem

Drink the blue slowly
Let the bite-sized words


Like ice cubes come together
for the sake of a drink