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January 31, 2007

Hello it’s Me

josh%20selfpotrait.jpgI never know what I’m in for when I call my Asheville potter son Josh on the phone. Last year when I called expecting him to be home some of my calls were routed to Canada, New York, Arizona, and South Carolina. Once when he answered his phone he told me he was in New Jersey. “What?” I said incredulously.

He usually explains that he’s at a ceramics or a wood firing convention, building a kiln somewhere, assistant teaching, presenting a slide show or otherwise on an adventure.

So we talk for a while, me in Virginia and him in New Jersey, and then he says: “Gotta go now, mom. My bus stop is coming up.”

“What? Now you’re on a bus?”

Another time this past year when I called him, his answering machine picked up and reported that his cell phone had fallen in the toilet and that he wouldn’t be returning calls until he got a new one. Then there was the call about his car being stolen while he was at a restaurant eating breakfast.

A few days ago I called him and got this report: “I’m living out of 5 boxes on Annabelle and Rachel’s porch.”

I knew he was moving out of the loft warehouse apartment where he was living in the back of his Clay Space Studio Co-op, and that he was renovating an Air Stream trailer to live in while he built a kiln, pottery studio, and house on his recently purchased property.

“It’s good practice for living in the trailer,” he assured me before adding, “I’m getting ready to go to Louisville, Kentucky now …”

Photo: The above photo is a self portrait painting Josh did, which includes a time-line of photographs from various stages in his life. The last time I was visiting him, it was hanging in the doorway of his warehouse loft apartment. I said, “But Josh the 3rd one from the end isn’t even you.” He laughed and told me who it was but I can’t remember now. Josh and some of his friends were recently filmed dancing for a video shoot, the photographs of which are HERE. Josh and Rachel are swing dancing in frame number 13, 22, and 7 from the end.

January 30, 2007

Floyd Dance Free: The Poem

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I danced on the ledge of a tall building
swaying but not falling down
I danced like Houdini throwing confetti
like Annette Funicello in Beach Blanket Bingo

I danced a biblical epic
a science fiction movie
and a music video

I danced while fishing
I cast a wide net
I sewed a warm red sweater
for a child

I got my feet wet dancing
through Chinese rice patties
then tiptoed over hot coals in Bali
In a sarong while holding a platter of mangos
I danced coconuts off the trees

Like a whirling dervish meets Jackson Pollack
I danced blue onto a big empty canvas
Through rock and roll, disco, and punk
in and out of bumper cars at Paragon Park
across the floor of the Surf Ballroom

I shuffled the Philly like I was Mustang Sally
Hula-hooped my way past my girlfriend Jayn
who was strolling down a sidewalk
with a be-bop and a hop scotch
We waved to other dancers
as they swung by

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I danced my shyness away
my socks off and my hair down
I joined the army while dancing
but quit by the next song

Legato, staccato, jukebox jive
My feet played chopsticks
While my hands high-fived

I danced with a smile as big as Billy Preston’s
when he had an afro and played with the Beatles
I danced myself a part in the musical “Hair”
sang the Age of Aquarius on stage

I danced through a glass beaded curtain
found Jimi Hendrix on the other side
Went to a jazz club so smoky
I couldn’t see who was there

I danced through downtown traffic
signaling left and right turns with my arms
I danced alongside the motorcade in Dallas
and John F. Kennedy didn’t get shot

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I followed a flute to the coast of County Cork
where my father’s mother was born
Then stood on the shore
like the French Lieutenant's woman
waiting for my loved ones to return

I sailed through the rhythm of a storm
on the open bow of a boat
from Ireland to Boston
in a green velvet cloak
flapping wildly in the wind

By firefly light and fairytale moon
I spun a spell of Rumi’s words
and Rumplestiltskin’s gold

Swinging low and slow
like a hammock in the tropics
I danced “Where the Wild Things Are”

With a pocketful of posy
and a mind bent towards poetry
I dilly-dallied, waltzed, and whirled
to a far away corner of the new world

Then I laid out a tapestry
like a page in a story
I let the rhyming do the dancing
while I sat still

~ Colleen Redman

Photos: 1. The altar at January's Dance Free this past Friday night. 2. Jayn and dancer in the background. 3. Lora and Dove dancing. Learn more about Floyd's Dance Free HERE. More Dance Free photos HERE and HERE.

January 28, 2007

The Teapoets

lltea.jpg Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” ~ Catherine Douzel

It was our first official Teapoet tea party. Six of us were in attendance. There were freshly baked scones still warm from the oven with lots of choices of what to spread on them; crème fraiche, maple butter, marmalade, and honey kiwi fruit. There were three kinds of loose leaf tea to pour in the one-of-kind china cups with matching saucers. The fresh cherries were alluring, and the pineapple served with pine nuts was warmed.

Some of the poets represented whose books we read from included Stanley Kunitz, Billy Collins, Julia Alavarz, and Maya Angelou. One woman brought Zen cards. We each drew a card and read to each other, like reading our fortunes from cookies.
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Another woman brought a book called “Talking to the Sun: an Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young People.” She read the title poem by Frank O’Hara, which began: The Sun woke me this morning loud and clear, saying, Hey, I’ve been trying to wake you up for fifteen minutes. Don’t be so rude, you are only the second poet I’ve ever chosen to speak to personally … After reading, she passed the book around and we took turns getting lost in the art displayed in it. Later that day at home, I did a search for Frank O’Hara on the internet and learned that he died at the age of forty when he was run over by a dune buggy while he was sleeping on the beach.

One among us had just returned from the latest Washington DC Peace march, and so she filled us in with all the details. Besides politics, we talked about our personal lives. The names of books and some quotes mentioned were worth writing down, such as this Zen saying: “Don’t seek the truth, just cease to cherish opinion.” xxcherry.jpg

As usual, I scribbled in a small notebook as we talked. The woman sitting next to me scribbled too. I joked that I had never met another person who took as many notes me. We shared my pen, but I let her keep it as a souvenir when it was time to go.

Time to go? Nearly four hours had gone by. They passed with such ease that we didn’t notice. We had tea-partied through several phone calls and well past lunch. But who could still be hungry? Besides all the lovely treats we indulged in, the poetry was rich and the conversation fulfilling.

January 27, 2007

New Dog in Town

mshoundwithcow.jpg The following originally appeared in The Floyd Press on January 18, 2007

She showed up about the same time as “A Taste of Floyd,” the slow food event that was hosted at the Harvest Moon Food Store last September. But some had spotted her even before that, with pups. The staff at the Harvest Moon has been collecting suggestions for names in a big glass cookie jar that sits on the check-out counter, along with donations to have her spayed. Meanwhile, they call her Ms. Hound.

Ms. Hound lives on the Harvest Moon grounds or by the barns that border it. Mostly she sits by the moss cow topiary that stands near the Harvest Moon driveway, the one that was donned in red ribbons and bells at Christmastime. She sits by the cow as if it is her rightful place in life, as if they were a likely pair.

“She wasn’t too happy when the wind blew the cow over and its head fell off,” Margie, the Harvest Moon owner, tells me. “She dragged a piece of it back to her doghouse that day,” she adds.

I had been trying to capture a picture of Ms. Hound for weeks, but she’s skittish of people. She’s either been abused in the past or is just used to living on her own in the wild, staff members, who have been feeding Ms. Hound, think.

But Floyd isn’t the wildest of places and Ms. Hound actually has a pretty darn decent dog house, which was generously donated by some of her fans who shop at the Moon.

“She’ll go in it only if no one is around,” Connie, a Harvest Moon manager, suggests. “She doesn’t want to feel trapped.”

One of the names in the cookie jar is Ms. Olive Chaepelle, which may refer to the lady-like dignity that Ms. Hound embodies. Margie likes the name Lu Lu.

“Yes, she does seem a little lu lu,” I respond. “Do you think she thinks the cow is real? How will the Humane Society ever get her in to be spayed? I haven’t been able to get within 10 feet of her,” I tell Margie.

Every time I shop at the Moon I have a new question about Ms. Hound, or I hear a bit of news about her. Sometimes I write a possible name on a piece of paper and drop it in the glass cookie jar, along with some coins that I hope are mounting up.

Connie thinks the name Freeda fits Ms. Hound’s personality. I nod my head.

She is a free spirit, after all. A loner with a lot of new friends.

January 26, 2007

Your Life is Now

I haven’t listened to my John Mellencamp CD with the song “Your Life is Now” on it since right after my brother Danny died in 2001. One of my favorite last good memories of Dan was dancing to this 1998 CD with him and my sister Kathy. It was during a family Labor Day cook-out in Massachusetts, and Kathy, Dan, and I left the outdoor party to play this new CD that Dan had brought with him from Houston, where he lived then. Somebody was filming with a camcorder as we danced and sang loudly along with the songs in Kathy’s living room.

Dan especially liked the song about John’s hooligan sons, probably because he was one himself when he was a kid. Well I got two circus clowns here who like to fight … They got one black eye and a bloody nose … They are the hoodlums of my third wife … Whatever I say they will oppose …

I liked “Your Life is Now,” and as I sang it I felt like I was singing it for Dan. He wasn’t sick yet, but somehow we all knew that he was vulnerable and wanted him to take better care of himself. See the moon roll across the stars … See the seasons turn like a heart … Your father's days are lost to you … This is your time here to do what you will do … Your life is now …

When the wound of loss is new and wide open you tend to live close to it. You probe it and try to purge it by looking at old photo albums and watching videos of your missed loved one. Hearing their voice one last time before you have to store it away is especially important. Soon after Dan died I wanted nothing more than to see images of him and my brother Jim, who died just one month before Dan. I wanted to hear their voices and remember everything I could about them.

That kind of active grieving doesn’t last. There comes a time when you don’t want to look long or listen too closely. You want quieter and less frequent memories. You protect yourself.

It’s been 5 years since I witnessed my brother Danny die. Today I pulled out the John Mellencamp CD and listened to “Your Life is Now.” At one time it was my favorite song to dance to. I was warmed up, had already been dancing. I wondered if I could handle it.

When I was five years old, my brother Danny, who was four, went to Florida with our grandparents for the summer, but he stayed longer than that. For most of that period, from my point of view, it was “out of sight out of mind” when it came to him. But one day I found his shoes in a closet and the memory of him suddenly overwhelmed me. I carried his shoes around with me all that day and cried inconsolably. I can still remember how it felt, a vague awakening, like the jarring and blurring of past and future memories. A dress rehearsal for what was to come?

In this undiscovered moment … Lift your head up above the crowd … We could shake this world … If you would only show us how … Your life is now … Within the first few notes of the song I knew how the rest would go.

The pain is as immediate as it ever was. I’m five years old again and my brother is gone. I’m Inconsolable.

Post note: My brother Dan and John Mellencamp share the same exact birthday, October 7th 1951. Some say they look alike. I can’t seem to post photos of my brothers here, but you can go to my website for photos of Jim and Dan HERE.

January 25, 2007

13 Thursday: The Chick Mix

dixie13.jpg 1. While in town I ran into a woman whose name is Florence and who I only just recently met. She couldn’t remember my name. When I reminded her that it had something to do with Ireland (Colleen means “girl” in Gaelic) she said, “I still can’t remember, so I’m going to call you Lassie!”

2. Although I was nicknamed “Colly dog,” by my brother Jim when we were kids, I had never been called Lassie until now.

3. It’s okay that she didn’t remember my name. I don’t remember hers either unless I say “Florence Nightingale” silently to myself first.

4. In the grocery store last week a woman approached me to ask if I knew what “lee fruit” was. I told her I didn’t, as she pulled me over to the produce to take a look at something that appeared to be oranges but was, sure enough, marked “lee fruit.” “I’ll have to google it,” I told her. She answered, “If we were really up with the times we’d be able to google it right here!”

5. “In the palm of my hand” has taken on a whole new meaning.

6. Even though country music stations stopped airing the Dixie Chick’s songs after the lead singer, Natalie Maines, insulted President Bush, this was posted on the CMT website: The Dixie Chicks have been announced as performers at the Grammy Awards show on Feb. 11 in Los Angeles. Their single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," is nominated for record of the year, song of the year and country performance by a duo or group with vocal. Their album, Taking the Long Way, is up for album of the year among all genres, as well as country album of the year.

7. Seems to me Natalie was just ahead of her time when she told that London audience three years ago that she was embarrassed by President Bush.

8. According the Associated Press, in an article titled “War Turns Southern Women Away from the GOP,” The Dixie Chicks aren’t the only Chicks from Dixie who disapprove of Bush.

9. Some words in our vocabulary have become so common that we accept them without thinking about where they came from. Did you know that Jacuzzi is named after its inventors Roy and Candido Jacuzzi and that Tupperware was named after Earl Silas Tupper, its inventor? How about Boysenberries being named after botanist Rudolph Boysen and Cesar salad being named after Cesar Cardini, a Tijuana restaurateur? For more, visit Frances HERE.

10. I knew the term “teetotaler” was related to prohibition but I was surprised to recently learn that it originally had nothing to do with “toting tea” and that it refers to the “total” abstinence of alcohol and likely came about when a member of the Temperance Society stammered with a stutter “T-T-Total abstinence!”

11. Inspired by a poem about the love of tea that my friend Katherine read at the open mic, I started working on one about tea as well. One turned into three unfinished tea poems so far. I had to give them up because I didn’t want to do what Billy Collins warns against: tying a poem to a chair to beat a confession out of it.

12. Virginia Senator Jim Webb gave an articulate rebuttal to President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Webb, a Vietnam vet who was in Floyd last October, was against the Iraq war from the beginning (link via Lisa). So was I. HERE’S what I wrote before the war in a commentary titled “Bombed if They Do, Bombed if They Don’t," which was published in the Roanoke Times under a different name.

13. The way so many newscaster’s talk these days – with their voices artificially raised and pitched – reminds me of models doing the pony walk down a runway – lifting their legs and strutting in an exaggerated way. I wonder why they talk and walk that way.

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

January 24, 2007

Car Talk

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1. I’ve got to get out more
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2. Overloaded
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3. Burned out
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4. The Afterlife

Photos: 1. Abandoned car seen at Nags Head this past summer. 2. Car at the stoplight in Floyd, so full of watermelons and pumpkins that we couldn’t see who was driving. 3. A remnant of a car that I see on my route to and from town. 4. Is it Mary Kay? Spotted in Blacksburg at a rental place. More "car talk" aka "cah tock" HERE.

January 23, 2007

Poem That Elliot Liked

You’ve heard of a “three dog night?” In our house it’s called a “three log night.” Although it’s been cold lately, it hasn’t been as cold as winters in the past when the frigid temperatures and howling winds have caused me to sleep with a wool hat on. On a night like that this poem was prompted. It was one that Elliot liked, which means a lot to me. Read why HERE.

Winter Sleep

Our limbs shift like logs
in a woodstove’s belly
stirring the heat
of our slumbering bodies

January 21, 2007

Ladies Night Out

janspokenword.jpg “Did the spoken word ad in the Floyd Press say that no men were allowed?” I joked when I scanned the café and counted ten women. Because of Rick’s retirement party up the road at Mama Lizardo’s attendance was light. So we gathered up close to the mic that most of us didn’t feel the need to use, sipped our various drinks and took turns reading mostly poetry.

“I read this one ten years ago at a poetry slam in a Roanoke bar," I told the group of women before reading my first poem. “I either won or placed that night, but they didn’t give me anything as a prize. It was late and smoky,” I complained.

“It’s called “The School of Higher Learning,” I went on, “and is best read and heard without shoes on, but since it’s January, I won’t require that.” LOOK SEE SPOT JUMP SALLY … Don’t talk in class …. or take your shoes off under the desk … don’t draw outside the lines …

“I hope you all saw the moon on your way here,” I said before beginning my last poem, “A Fingernail of Moon.” Clipped close from the darkness … the moon is filed down … to a delicate sliver … of smiling light ... The applause that followed was as much for the moon as it was for my poem, I figured. brigittespokwd.jpg

Jayn read one with an intriguing title, “The Poem Not Written,” and Katherine read an ode to “camellia sinensis” about her devotion to tea. Rosemary’s poem about her son’s helicopter going down in Afghanistan brought tears to my eyes (he survived but most others did not).

It was great to see Brigitte, Daphne, Dove, and Jeanine. Sally, the café owner who frequently has to run off to a singing gig was able to stay for the whole thing and added her adlibbed wit to the menu. A newcomer to Floyd name Dot delivered her poem for memory. About half way through the night’s readings the front door got busy swinging open as late comers arrived.

When I turned around to look I saw them. All men. At least six of them. They sat in the back of the café while the rest of us, all women, sat in front. Like boys and girls at a school dance, we eyeballed each other before the cross talk began, which led to one man coming up to the mic. He didn’t have a poem, but he used the spoken word. “What one book would you want with you if you were stranded on an island?” he posed, and an interesting discussion ensued.
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It was 9:00 when the reading, lingering, and mingling wound down, still time to head over to Mama Lizardos and dance a set provided by “The Kind,” a Blacksburg Grateful Deadesque band with long-time ties to Floyd.

“I lived a real life today,” I said with a big smile to my husband when I got home. (We were providing respite care for an individual over the weekend and he agreed to stay home so I could go out.)

And the night was young and the living went on… The smile is still on my face.

Post note: Because the Café Del Sol will be closed for a week in mid February, the next spoken word open mic will not happen on the third Saturday, but on Saturday February 24th from 7-9. More about Floyd's spoken word events HERE.

January 20, 2007

Legacy

When writing, try to leave out the parts that most readers skip. ~ Elmore Leonard

It was a year ago this past November that Elliot, a member of the writer’s workshop I belong to, died. Although he’s no longer in this world, his writer’s counsel goes on. I frequently look at the poetry I’m working on through Elliot’s eyes, or hear his voice in my head when I’m in jeopardy of becoming too wordy, trite, or sentimental. “Elliot would hate that line,” I hear myself say.

I think everyone in our group would agree that Elliot was a curmudgeon, maybe because of the chronic pain he dealt with, but most likely because it was in his nature to be that way. It wasn’t always easy to hear his feedback in the moment, and sometimes our workshops would get contentious. At least one member wanted to “vote Elliot off the island,” and once Elliot quit. But he came back.

His poetry was good, often disturbing. He liked to shock and was blunt, in a New York Bronx sort of way, which is where he was originally from. He prided himself in naming real places and using graphic realistic words and didn’t have much patience for poetry that shied away from that. At least once he got my ire up enough that I considered quitting the group, but then we would play Scrabble together, time would pass, and tensions would ease.

He was slow at playing Scrabble and slow at getting critiqued writing back to its authors, so much so that I didn’t receive some of mine until after he died. A mutual friend came across a folder of old work-shopped pieces while she was helping to clean out Elliot’s house and returned mine to me. She also came across a writer’s biography that Elliot was working on for our group. Apparently, Elliot thought he was a rakish cut-up critic, a dancer, poet, artist, and photographer, according to his notes.

I always knew that, for the most part, Elliot’s feedback to my writing was valuable, but sometimes it was hard to hear because of the manner in which it was delivered. As I browse through old pages of prose and poetry that I’ve long moved on from, reading the comments that Elliot left in the margins, I realize that I value his suggestions more now than I did when he was here.

Post notes: Elliot was suspicious of the internet and adamant that I not use his name or post his photo on my blog, so I referred to him as “the bearded man” and used description in lieu of pictures. After he died, I googled his name, Elliot Dabninsky, and was shocked to discover that his photo was already posted. Look HERE, 3rd photo on the page, Elliot is revealed. You can read about the memorial Open Mic for Elliot HERE.

January 19, 2007

Building Community in Floyd

joshmac.jpg The following originally appeared in the Floyd Press on January 11, 2007.

A group of 40 Floyd Countians gathered together on a recent Wednesday night to view Josh Copus’s “Building Community” slide show presentation, which aptly took place in the Community Hall room of the Jacksonville Center for the Arts. After two different laptops were unable to handle the file size of Josh’s power point presentation those in attendance pooled their problem-solving skills in a display of community spirit to get the show up and running. During the 20 minute delay, impromptu humorous stories about Josh’s years growing up in Floyd were volunteered by audience members. Some wandered over to the Hayloft Gallery to see the home-schooler’s art show on display. Others lent a hand in transporting a desk top PC from a downstairs office, which proved to have enough processing power to run the show. The slides were chosen by Josh to highlight his research grant findings into using local materials in ceramics and his recent Bachelor of Fine Arts Thesis Show at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, where the Floyd High School graduate now lives.

Considering the standing ovation given at the end of Josh’s 90 minute presentation, it was obvious that the initial wait was well worth what followed. Josh’s high school drama background and comedic timing, his enthusiasm, and his insights into art made for an entertaining evening. Not only was it informative in outlining the creation of pots from the ground to the gallery, but the human and historic aspects of Josh’s education, his appreciation of natural resources, and his respect for the ceramic tradition made his story especially worth hearing.

The slide show began with a recounting of Josh’s initial research, funded by an undergraduate research grant and conducted with a fellow potter. The research led to the excavation of clay from tobacco farmer Neil Woody’s field in North Carolina, which Josh described in depth in a recent Studio Potter magazine article. It also involved the collection and use of other local natural resources, non-industrial processed materials, and trips to local mines for feldspar, limestone, and granite dust, all of which were used in making pottery glazes.

His Thesis Show was the culmination of four months of intensive labor, which started with the digging of wild clay and continued “up until the moment the show opened,” Josh joked. Although his finished pots were exhibited, the focal point of the Thesis Show was a 15 x 18 foot brick wall installation constructed out of handmade wild clay bricks. The wall tied into the theme of “Building Community” because the bricks, fired at varying temperatures to create a rainbow effect, were stamped with the word INDIVIDUAL, symbolizing the strength that each one has when joined together as a whole. “A single brick has relatively no power or usability. Bonded together they create a community. The wall visually shows that force of strength,” Josh told us.
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A cube shaped arrangement of bricks stamped with the word COMMUNITY provided an interactive compliment to the wall installation. Throughout the course of the BFA Show people rearranged the COMMUNITY bricks into interesting shapes, some of which were photographed and included in the slide show. The COMMUNITY bricks were also available for people to take home. Most had Josh sign them before they did.

“Building kilns initiated my interest in bricks,” Josh, who has built several kilns and has assisted in building half a dozen others, told the group of Floyd Countians. He prefers wood fired kilns over electric or gas ones because wood is a common local resource, but also because it’s necessary to do wood firing with others, which further builds community. “Some firings took three days of constant tending. You can’t do them alone,” Josh said as he introduced us to one of his kiln crews by way of a photo.

Another component of the BFA Show, Josh explained, was an installation of bricks, titled “With Respect to My Influences.” The bricks in that installation were stamped with the names of people who were influential in Josh’s development as artist, including those of some well known Floyd potters, such as Jayn Avery (who opened the Floyd slide show with a warm introduction), Tom Phelps, Ellen Shankin, Rick Hensley, Donna Polseno, and Silvie Granatelli. Tom Phelps received a round of applause when Josh spoke of the mentoring influence that Tom had on his life and the lives of other young people in our community.

As Josh’s mother, I thought I was well informed about what Josh was up to, but after viewing the slide show and hearing the presentation, I realized I had gaps in my understanding, which the slide show helped to fill. Josh opened my eyes more fully to the role clay has played in human survival when he stated that the conceptual basis for his BFA Show was a pipe, a vessel, and a brick and then explained the significance of early ceramics: a pipe moves water and sewer, a vessel stores and transports food, and brick is used to make shelter. I was amazed to learn how many times each of his homemade bricks had to be handled in the making, drying, rounding of the edges, stamping, stacking, firing, loading, unloading, sorting by color, and installing of them. It made me appreciate his efforts to recreate the COMMUNITY brick installation at the Jacksonville presentation, making those bricks available for the slide show attendees to take home, as he had for those at his BFA Show.
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What impressed me most about the slide show was seeing Josh’s dedication to making most everything he needed. The photos he shared showed how the back of his Asheville Clay Space Studio looked like a clay processing factory, with a brick making machine that extruded clay out in long lengths, a hand built shed, clay screening and drying racks, and more. Even Josh’s living space has been a renovation of his own making. For the past few years he has lived in a loft in the back of the warehouse that houses his studio, the front portion of which is a cooperative space where Josh and other potters work. But he won’t be there for long. He recently purchased a few acres of creek front property outside of Asheville and will soon be building a pottery studio, a wood-fired kiln, and a home there. This past summer he won a $15,000 Windgate Fellowship Award through the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design to fund the construction of the kiln and to further his exploration into using local material in ceramics.

Josh concluded the slide show at the Jacksonville Center with a photo of him at his treadle wheel, a pottery wheel that is powered by a foot kicking motion. “I value my treadle wheel more because I made it myself and with the help of my friends. I think that value is translated into my finished work,” he said. ~ Colleen Redman

For more information about Josh’s work, he can be reached at copiousplus@hotmail.com or 1-828-242-2368. You can read more about his Thesis show HERE and about his clay excavations HERE and see some of his pots for sale at an Asheville Gallery HERE.

Photos: 1. Josh signs a Community brick at the Jacksonville Center slide show presentation. 2. Wall installation in the background at Josh’s UNC Thesis Show. 3. Fired bricks and pots stacked in the UNC kiln for the “Building Community” show.

January 17, 2007

13 Thursday in Pink Pants

13pinkpants2x.jpg1. When it comes to music, I tend to be monogamous. It only takes one good CD to keep me happy for a long time.

2. Right now I’m married to Nora Jones.

3. She says: “The poet’s are demanding their pay. They’ve left me with nothing to say.” Do you think I should apply?

4. I probably wouldn’t get the job. I’ve been writing so much more prose than poetry these days. Last April I said this: If I’m writing too much prose, I begin to need a vacation. Prose is like the day job and poetry is the rest of my life. ~ Finish reading Where Do Poems Come From HERE.

5. While walking to the mailbox, this came to mind: You can have all the right ingredients for a story but if you don’t add some good description to set the scene, it’s like making a soup without salt or spices.

6. If I really like what’s for supper, I put on my reading glasses so I can see it.

7. Is shtick the same thing as a shpiel? Is spiel the unwinding of persuasive speech like a thread unwinds from a spool? Is a hair across the ass the same thing as a hair out of place? ~ Questions found in my notebook.

8. Writing about Mrs. Pickle earlier in the week reminded me of the Fruitcake Lady, the elderly outspoken woman who regularly gave everyone a piece of her mind and advice on sex on "The Jay Leno Show" (and who recently passed away at the age of 95). THIS is some of the funniest footage I’ve seen. More about the Fruitcake Lady HERE.

9. After watching the treadmill dance video on U-Tube (one of my all time favorites) and seeing the pink pants one of the guys in it was wearing, I began to yearn for a favorite pair of pink pants that I had in my 20s. I hit the thrift shops and recently found a suitable pair (a perfect match to my pink raft).

10. Yesterday my husband called me up on the phone and said, “This is an accidental call. My phone just started dialing your number.” “What is this, Hal Call Home?” I asked him. After we talked for about 5 minutes, I said, “Okay, gotta go. Thanks for not calling me.”

11. Favorite quote about Bush’s recent speech to the country: "President Bush told Americans last night that failure in Iraq would be a disaster. The disaster is Mr. Bush's war, and he has already failed.” ~ The New York Times.

12. Watching some Democrats strongly oppose the escalation of the war in Iraq makes me want to ask them why they didn’t speak out more strongly before the start of the war. I don’t think a surge in troops is the issue as much as the war itself.

13. Do you know about Code Pink?

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

January 16, 2007

What I Saw

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1. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but music might.
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2. Mary Poppins might have been here.
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3. Dumped
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4. Think twice

What did you see?

Post note:
All of the above photos were taken around town in the past few days.

January 15, 2007

For a Good Time Call Mrs. Pickle

mspickle2.jpgMrs. Pickle, a character creation with an educational mission and a flair for drama, has taken her new stand-up comedy act and her passion paraphernalia business on the road. I was one in a group of 13 women (mostly friends) who was there for her virgin show.

“I use the C word once and the F word once, both are part of a limerick I’m going to read,” she admitted to me before the show, as women milled about the kitchen sipping wine and munching on anatomically designed cupcakes and cookies. She wanted to know what I thought about her using those words.

“It’s okay with this crowd,” I assured her, “especially since it’s from a limerick. You can call it your poetic license.”

I was asked by the host whose home we had gathered in to read some of my erotic poetry, so now I can add “opened for a Mrs. Pickle show” on my writer’s resume. As I finished the last of the poems, Mrs. Pickle appeared and approached the podium in her “church lady” costume, which made for a dramatic contrast to the words she would soon be uttering as calmly as one might order food in a restaurant.

The show began with the hilarious re-telling of her first trip to an adult sex shop, which she was taken to blind-folded by some women friends and where she felt mortified and curious at the same time. The educator in her brought some props (you can imagine) and included some informative historic background and sex education in her act. Initially, the audience’s laughter may have been a way to release nervous tension, but as the evening went on it got more spontaneous and at times bordered on uncontrollable. We took a break at one point to compose ourselves (and to eat more cookies).

Mrs. P’s alter-ego has plans for a Roanoke production of the “The Vagina Monologues,” an award winning play by Eve Ensler based on interviews with more than 200 women about their memories and experiences of sexuality. But before that, Mrs. Pickle will be tickling some other Floyd funny bones with her stand-up act. She’s scheduled to perform it at the February Spoken Word Open Mic, on the 17th from 7-9 at the Café Del Sol.

Post Note: Upon returning home, my husband wanted to know if the show was a success. “Absolutely," I told him. “You don’t have to work too hard to convince women of the value of a good vibration.”

January 14, 2007

January Porch Vacation

janbloom2.jpg The bird feeder Joe got for Christmas is three times the size of our old one. We like to feed our bird neighborhood of mostly chickadees and sparrows in the winter when the frozen ground makes it hard for them to forage. But this year we haven’t had a hard frost yet. It’s warm enough to wear T-shirts on the porch. We shift in our chairs to follow the sun that shines brightly and then hides behind clouds.

“They say Virginia’s going to have Florida’s weather in 10 – 15 years,” Joe says.

“Yesterday I saw daffodils blooming in Christiansburg,” I answer.

I’m flipping through a book I once read about Edgar Cayce, who back in the 40s predicted dramatic earth changes for the 21st century. The pages are stiff and yellowed. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about this book.

Joe’s reading about the Taoist philosophy behind the martial arts he practices or has practiced: Tai Chi, Hsing I, and Ba Gua. Every now and then the silence between us is broken when one of us reads the other a passage out loud.

The slight whine of machinery can be heard in the distance. Our mechanic neighbor is in his garage. Cows in the distance are bellowing in protest. A lone blossom on the forsythia bush is in bloom. A promise or a warning, I wonder?

Post Note: Read about November’s Porch Vacation HERE.

January 13, 2007

My Journal

lljournaltrademark.jpg I believe in the blue bird of happiness, which is why my journal has a picture of one glued to the inside cover. My latest journal is three years old. It’s fraying at the edges, putting on some pounds around the middle from me stuffing it full of ink marks, scraps of paper between pages, glue stuck typed poems, words highlighted in neon yellow, themes marked with stars, and arrows pointing to what’s important.

I hate to start a new journal. It's like being forced to get a new husband when you still like your old one, or moving to a new house and you have to lug all your old stuff over to the new place and set it up.

I like a lived-in journal where I know my way around. The Van Gogh Starry Night cover on mine makes me feel right at home. When I open it, it’s like opening a favorite kitchen junk drawer that holds everything I might possibly need. It’s messy but I have a sense of where everything is: Life formulas, quotes, things to do lists, my husband’s pant size, pressed aspen leaves from Colorado, my favorite Richard Brautigan poem, tarot readings, phone numbers, ideas to patent, directions to the nearest hot springs, things I want for Christmas next year, things I did today, and names of books I still haven’t read.

My journal serves as my memory. It holds my place while I’m busy doing other things. I often bring it into restaurants and write in it while I’m waiting for my order to arrive. Once I brought my journal into Applebee’s and then mistakenly left it there when I left. Later, when I discovered it was missing, I frantically drove back to get it and was happy to find it still there. But I was surprised to see it on the floor. Someone had wedged it under a table leg to steady a wobbly table.

Once, my mother said to me, “If there’s one thing I regret, it’s that I didn’t keep a journal, that I didn’t write something down everyday.” After that, I tried to write in mine more often, and I tried very hard to make my handwriting more readable.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. ~ Oscar Wilde

Photo: The sticker in the photo is from a Foster Care Provider Regional Conference in which I was honored for passing the 5 year of service mark.

January 12, 2007

Flash Back

Even a shopping list is interesting once it’s a few years old. ~ Colleen talking to Josh about collage journaling.

Unedited Journal entry from January 3, 2003: The New Year doesn’t excite me, in the same way a birthday doesn’t anymore. It signals the passing of more time and a new number to get used to. I don’t blow noisemakers or make resolutions. journajan.jpg I was thinking during my meditation this morning (not supposed to be thinking then, but it happens) about what direction I want to move in. I don’t tell stuff like that to other people because then they might try to push me in those directions. I don’t like to be pushed. I don’t like heroics. I can’t get enough of being alone lately. I’m distracted by the war that President Bush is determined to have in Iraq and all the other things his gang is up to. I still haven’t finished mourning the million civilians who died in the first Gulf War and because of the sanctions. This New Year is a challenging one. Jayn and I named the Museletter this month “Moon of Dissent, Year of Compassion.” Joe is in Florida on a retreat. Since he’s been gone we lost power one night, the phone broke, my alarm clock broke, my filing cabinet got stuck, and I hit Jayn’s van with my car and busted out her brake light. I had a date with Josh – saw the second "Lord of the Rings" and out to eat – and a date with Dylan for lunch and to return the gaudy CD player, silver robot high tech looking thing for a simple black one. I read my poem “Dream for President Bush” at the open mic. I loved the movie “Shipping News” and especially the line in it where the woman goes home to Newfoundland because “it’s like you’re a piece of a puzzle that you have to figure out.” That’s how I felt all year and last year, processing Jim and Dan’s deaths – my ties to Hull – seeing my place in the puzzle and trying to fill in those big empty spaces where Jim and Dan used to be. Now I’m quietly trying to lose the 2 pounds that I gained over the holidays. I want to start mediating twice a day instead of once, but that’s not a hard fast resolution. It’s an intent.

Post note: The journal entry continues: Joe and I got each other the same Christmas present this year (It’s not the first time this has happened). Even stranger was that Dylan handed them to us at the same time and we opened them together. Dylan didn’t know what they were (two green bathrobes, mine’s a little brighter), but I thought it was surely a set-up.

January 11, 2007

13 Thursday: Home Sweet Home

13snowtramp.jpg 1. No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place. ~ Zen Proverb.

2. As far as writing goes, I’m a late bloomer because I’m self-taught and I spent the majority of my adult years as a stay-at-home mother.

3. In Floyd, we have homebirth, homeschool, homegrown, and homemade. I guess I fit in pretty good here since I’m a homebody.

4. My writing career began because I was too poor to afford a subscription to my favorite magazine, Mothering. I submitted an article and it got published. Back then they paid in copies and subscriptions.

5. I feel like my identity’s been stolen. If you google my name, you’ll find another Colleen Redman who writes articles on subjects that I have in the past or would like to, like organic food, homeopathic remedies, and etc.

6. I’m so glad that my sons graduated from high school before the SOLs came about and that I graduated when you could still earn your way in life through hard work, talent, or experience and didn’t have to have a PHD to get credit for it.

7. Will handwriting eventually go the way of shorthand? Although I forget all the shorthand I learned in high school, my handwriting is beginning to look just like it.
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8. Apparently, there are seven Colleen Redmans in the U.S. How many people in the country have your name? You can find out HERE. Compliments of Lisa.

9. My husband would like you all to know that although he didn’t get me the overkill ergonomic mouse hand-rest for Christmas, he recently bought me a mouse pad with a built in padded place to rest my hand and it only cost $6.

10. It’s navy blue, just like the big terrycloth bathrobe I frequently blog in. I like it, but it covers up my other mouse pad, a miniature Grateful Dead red Persian rug.

11. He showed me the little house up on the toolbar menu at the top of the page. “If you click here it will take you right to your homepage,” he said. “Oh, I thought that was a doghouse,” I answered.

12. If you’re a writer, blogging in your pajamas or bathrobe until noon isn’t necessarily a sign of a slouch as much as it’s a sign of a busy writer who gets right to work the minute she gets up and doesn’t have time to get dressed. Right, Patry?

13. Mara while playing Scrabble on Monday says: “How come the term conservative has nothing to do with conservation?” Me, changing the subject after abusing our 3 free dictionary look-ups says: “I think we should be required to look up a word with every play.”

Post notes: The snow was only a dusting and only lasted for an hour, just long enough to etch out the 13 on my trampoline, posted above. Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

January 10, 2007

Siblings: The Ties That Bond

The sadness is already there; the crying just lets it out.
~ Colleen - from the Jim and Dan Stories.

I read through tears from the July copy of the Time magazine that my husband brought home from the eye doctor’s office. The cover, which read “How Your Siblings Make You Who You Are” by Jeffery Kluger, got his attention, and although we both come from families of 9 children, he brought the magazine home for me.
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When I lost my brothers, Jim and Dan, in 2001, I experienced firsthand how powerful the bond between siblings can be. I also learned how far off the radar sibling loss is in our culture. The feelings of loss I and my other siblings felt at losing two of us were overwhelming. Nothing in our culture had prepared us or validated the extent to which we grieved, as if we had indeed lost a part of ourselves.

I’ve been trying to understand the unfathomable depth of blood ties that rose up in me and my family members when Jim and Dan died. In looking closer at the sibling relationship, I realized that siblings who have the same mother and father are closer biologically than any other relationship. The only way to be closer is to be a twin. ~ The Jim and Dan Stories

Most everyone agrees that we are shaped by the genes we inherit and our early childhood environment. The latter mostly focuses on parenting, but it’s siblings who largely socialize each other (for good and for bad).

I couldn’t even look at the look-alike sibling faces in the Time article without crying. Through tears I read:

“From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators, and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflict and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we will ever know who truly qualify as partners for life. “Siblings,” says family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, “are with us for the whole journey …”

Or so we hope.

“Full-blown childhood crises may forge even stronger lifelong links…” I read on, nodding my head. The bad memories I shared with Jim and Dan, mostly related to our father’s WWII Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and his struggles with alcoholism, have proven to be just as bonding as the good memories, if not more so, and I feel the pains that my brothers endured in life as if they were my own.
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Reading that scientists are finally validating just how formative sibling relationships are, reminds me of how I felt when the Center for Disease Control finally gave a name to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, something I have struggled with since before it had a name. Putting a name to what I had didn’t lead to a cure, just as new findings on the power of sibling bonds won’t bring my brothers back.

What it brings is more understanding, which can act as a salve to suffering. Understanding is what allows those of us who grieve to feel less invisible.

Note to my friends who have no siblings: There’s a sidebar, “Only Doesn’t Mean Lonely” included in the magazine article, “The New Science of Siblings,” citing research by social psychologist Toni Fablo that debunks the belief some hold that only children are not as well adjusted as those who have siblings. Read more HERE.

Photos Taken in 1997 at a Labor Day cook-out: 1. My brothers, Joey, Dan, Jim, Bob, and John. 2. My sisters: Kathy, Sherry, Colleen, and Trish.

January 9, 2007

This and That

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SOME DAYS FEEL LIKE THAT.
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OTHERS FEEL LIKE THIS.

Photos: 1. Clean up after a game at my house with Mara yesterday. 2. Rosemary was counting out the letters that go with the Cafe Del Sol game last week. They often get dropped on the floor when kids play with them. For more Scrabble photos and adventures, go HERE.

What's your day like?

January 7, 2007

Justice or Revenge: Is There a Difference?

Days after former American President Gerald Ford passed away, a Reuters newspaper article titled “Ford Speaks from the Grave, Criticizes Bush on Iraq” caught my attention. Apparently even Ford thought the invasion of Iraq was not in the best interest of our national security. He told journalist Bob Woodward in a July 2005 interview, which he requested not be made public until after his death, that he thought fellow-Republican President Bush made a big mistake in his justification for invading Iraq.

Not long after President Ford’s passing, former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein was executed in what the New York Times called a “sectarian free-for-all.” An invasion of questionable legitimacy that has led to civil war in Iraq spawned a trial and an execution that were equally criticized for lacking legitimacy. One Washington Post writer, referring to the video-taping of Saddam being hanged, characterized the execution as “history as a snuff film.”

The contrast between the deaths of Ford and Saddam was dramatic. Compassion for Ford’s family and appreciation for him as a descent and moderate man who expressed discomfort at his party’s turn to the “hard right” were replaced with frustration and repulsion when I learned of Saddam’s abrupt and clandestine hanging.

As brutal as Saddam the dictator was, at one time he brought progressive reforms in health care and education to Iraq. He also managed to hold longstanding warring fractions together. Has the U.S. done any better? Will Bush be held accountable for pushing a war that so many urged against, for overthrowing a dictator and leaving a power vacuum in his place? More than 600,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion with no end in sight.
The mass graves in Iraq are filling as never before.

Saddam’s trial, which Amnesty International called a “shabby affair marred by serious flaws,” was cut short and Saddam was executed only for the 1982 murders of 148 Dujail villagers accused of plotting to kill him, while trials for his most grievous offenses were cancelled. How does that bring closure to those who suffered under his rule? Robert Scheer, syndicated columnist for The Lost Angeles Times points out the importance of fair trials in a commentary titled “Silencing Saddam” – At Nuremberg in the wake of World War II the U.S. set the bar very high by declaring that even the Nazis, who had committed the most heinous of crimes, should have a fair trial. The U.S. and allies insisted on this not to serve those charged, but to educate the public through a believable accounting. In the case of Saddam, the bar was lowered to the mud…

Some have speculated that Saddam was executed because he knew too much. If the trials continued, Saddam’s defense lawyers were likely to present evidence of complicity by the U.S. government, which was supporting and helping to arm him during the time when most of the crimes he was to be tried for took place. U.S. policies played a role in the violent climate that exists in the Middle East today. We need to look at those policies honestly if we want to improve the situation.

Like President Ford in the 2005 interview with Woodward, Saddam left some final words. After his sentencing he wrote a letter that he had hoped to read but was denied the right to. In it he urged Iraqis to set aside internal conflicts and unite in driving US-led forces from the country. He also spoke of a compassionate God and of his life a sacrifice.

World leaders should be held accountable for the actions they take in the name of the state. If those actions are deemed to be criminal, a fair accounting and punishment are in order. The execution of Saddam was more like a revengeful lynching than a just punishment. It provides no answers, or opportunity for reconciliation for those involved. Rather, it raises more questions and suspicions. It guarantees to further inflame secular violence in Iraq and to fuel more hatred between those of different backgrounds. It also reflects negatively on the U.S. government, whose credibility in the eyes of the world may already be at an all time low.

January 6, 2007

Best Leftovers of 2006

AKA: PHOTOS that never got posted.
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1. Best outfit worn at a cookout
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2. Best tattoo
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3. Best attitude
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4. Best view
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5. Best blue view

Photos:
1. My mom at the cook-out Joe and I hosted after my son Dylan’s wedding in July.
2. Mara’s girlfriend, Leah, shows off her tattoo during a summer game of Scrabble.
3. Dylan’s wife’s daughter at the wedding. She’s the same one I learned how to do THIS from.
4. View from a swing chair in our neighborhood.
5. That's why they call it The BLUE Ridge, also in our neighborhood.

January 5, 2007

MOON

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We think the earth could be transformed, if somehow you could lift people up to the moon. Or even out into space and let them see…We think that the bickering and fighting and hostility is a big waste of man’s inner energy. ~ Astronaut James Irwin

No taxes
No traffic
No parking lots
No malls

The moon is full
of none of these

No power lines
No landfills
No pepsi
No phones

The moon is full
of none of these

Not pizza
Not pie
Not hamburger
or cheese

I’m relieved
that the moon is full
of none of these

~ Colleen

January 4, 2007

Thirteen Thursday: 2007 Style

13COOKIE2.jpg 1. This is a great quote by John F. Kennedy (re-discovered via Rick) to begin the New Year with: “We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient — that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population; that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind; that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity; and therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”

2. I’d like to thank all my readers for their holiday wishes, for reading and commenting, and for their continued support. Go HERE and click play to hear the rest (link provided by blog friend Pearl).

3. The above last sentence reminded me of a short poem called “Homonym” I wrote when I first met my husband Joe that went something like this: The difference between you touching my breast … and my mostly weaned child touching my breast … is like hear and here …sounds the same …but means something completely different.

4. It’s so cold that I’m keeping my left hand in my bathrobe pocket, while my other hand uses the mouse and wishes I’d put on a glove.

5. I didn’t get the ergonomic mouse hand rest that I wanted for Christmas. My husband, Joe, saved us a lot of money by giving me a soft sock to rest my mouse hand on.

6. Joe always filled my sons stocking for Christmas. Even though they are grown now, he still likes to do it, adding his special touch, buffalo jerky, lottery tickets and such. When my son Dylan and his wife Alexis came to visit Christmas day, Alexis’s 6 year old daughter looked at the hanging socks Joe had put up and said incredulously, “but those are real socks.sox2.jpg

7. Over the holiday someone lent my son the movie Talladega Nights. When I noticed that Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) was driving a race car with the number 13 on the side, I shouted out LOOK 13!” I wanted to get a picture of it for this 13 Thursday, but the movie was so bad that I soon left the room and forgot all about it.

8. I’m not one to cry easily, but I’ve already cried more than once in 2007, and we’re only a few days into it. The first time was watching a PBS New Hour segment on how families of those who have died in Iraq have been coping. I even cried watching President Ford’s funeral services. And *THIS* made me cry.

9. My sister Sherry told me a great Christmas story about our brother John, the black sheep character of our family who lives in Minnesota. John gave a 5 dollar tip to a woman who he gets his morning coffee from for Christmas. The next day when he saw the woman she went directly up to him and gave him a big hug and proceeded to tell him that on the same day he gave her the tip her car was towed. She was wondering what to do because she didn’t have the money to get it. She ended up buying a scratch ticket with the $5 John gave her and won enough to get her car out of hock and have some left over!

10. When I hit the computer for a second time after breakfast, I like to shout out, “Phase two in which Doris gets her oats!”

11. “When I’m with you I think of other men,” I recently said to my husband. “Wait! Let me finish,” I quickly added because he looked surprised and I couldn’t bear to think what he was thinking.” “I think of the young man you were when I met you and the man you are now,” I added. He smiled, relieved.

12. The first time I had to write the new date, January 2007, was on January 2nd when I was filling out a bank deposit slip for Museletter subscriptions. Of course I initially wrote 2006 and had to cross it out.

13. How many more times is that going to happen?

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

January 2, 2007

What's New in the New Year?

familyxmas2x.jpg The two most significant events that happened in the year 2006 and continue to stand out for me as I enter 2007 actually happened to my sons. I would be remiss in keeping up with the part of my blog that serves a journal if I didn’t mention them.

At the ages of 24 and 27, both my sons are well settled in adulthood, as evidenced by the milestones they passed and the accomplishments they made this past year. In July of 2006 my youngest son was married. Seeing him and his now wife, Alexis, planning and pulling off a successful and meaningful wedding celebration was like nothing I had experienced before. Watching Dylan take on the role of a caring husband and step-father to Alexis’s six year old daughter has been especially fulfilling for me and my husband, Joe, to witness.

Later in the year, at the end of 2006, my eldest son, Josh, graduated from UNC Asheville with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. His commitment to art was played out by the manifestation of his Thesis show, “Building Community.” As far as the preparations, execution, and celebration of the show went, it was on the same scale as a wedding. More recently, Josh came full circle when he presented a well-attended slide show in Floyd, also title “Building Community,” and paid tribute to the hometown influences in his life.

Both of these life-changing passages in my son’s lives have changed my life as well and have filled me with awe and emotion. But they are not the most significant events I’m thinking about today. The events I’m referring to happened at the tail end of 2006. I’m still feeling the impact of them as 2007 is ushered in.

In the last few weeks of 2006 both my sons purchased their own homes.
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On New Years Eve day, Joe and I drove down Bent Mountain into Roanoke to see for the first time the house that Dylan and Alexis just bought. It was a thrill when Dylan met us at the door in paint splattered work clothes and then showed us around. Later, we all went out to lunch at the Italian restaurant where Joe and I hosted the wedding rehearsal dinner in the summer. As we talked with Dylan and Alexis about the work that needs to be done on the house and discussed the possibility of getting together every month or so to try out new restaurants, the role that Joe and I have embarked on as supportive elder influences in their lives began to take concrete shape for me.

A few weeks earlier while in Asheville for Josh’s BFA Thesis show, Joe and I stood on Josh’s new property, a couple of creek front acres in the country with a waterfall on site. There, he plans to take down and salvage the existing old house, build a pottery studio, and a kiln. Since we were there, we’ve seen pictures of the Airstream motor home he’s currently renovating to live in while he builds.

Both my sons are taking root in new ways. Dylan owns an impressive oak tree in the middle of his new back yard and Josh has a giant weeping willow in the front of his. I remember how successful I felt when I bought my first home, the one that Josh and Dylan grew up in from ages 9 and 11 and that Joe and I still live in. Now, my son’s successes are my successes, which brings me to this: ice2.jpg

I had been struggling to come up with some goals and resolutions, as I have in the past when the yearly slate is wiped clean and I can write my new intentions on it. On a New Years Day hike with my husband, the twofold answer to my struggle came to light.

“I’ve just spent this past year following my passion. What would I possibly want to change?” I said to him, referring to the decision we made that I would work less for steady income and would spend more time writing. As an experiment, we both agree it’s been working, especially since I’ve been freelancing regularly for our local newspaper and selling other pieces here and there.

“If I say I want to dance more in 2007 that would be fine, but it would only take away from other activities I love doing. The point is that it’s all good,” I told him. His eyes lit up and he nodded his head with affirmation. “And with Josh and Dylan’s lives taking off in such positive ways, what more would I want?” I asked.

I haven’t come up with any new year’s resolutions because so many of my goals have been manifested and further personal goals seem small in comparison to watching my sons manifest theirs. I’m grateful for all that has happened in 2006, and I hope that 2007 will bring more for me to be thankful for. I guess the only goal I can come up with is that I just want to sit back and be present for whatever life brings my way.

Photos: 1. Joe, Colleen, Alexis, Dylan, Josh, and Kaylee in front. 2. Dylan and Joe in front of Dylan's house. 3. Josh's piece of the rock from his waterfall, held up by his youngest brother Skye's friend.

January 1, 2007

Cookies and the Buddha

cookies.jpg It seems I go out these days just for an excuse to show off my new purple knit scarf, or to eat cookies. There were two Scrabble games going at once and half a dozen varieties of freshly baked cookies to eat at my friend Juniper’s house this past Saturday night. “I’m not even going to put my cookies out. They’re all the leftover Christmas cookies that I’m sick of, and they look stupid next to yours,” I told Mara, master poet baker and one of my regular Scrabble partners.

“Colleen has a cookie complex,” she announced loud enough for everyone to hear. By then I had moved on to the guacamole and the tomatoes stacked with fresh mozzarella and topped with basil and balsamic vinegar that Juniper’s daughter Autumn had made, because I’m just not the type to eat dessert first. xmascrabble.jpg

We complained about our Scrabble letter picks while Donna joked about mixing her background in social work and her love of pottery together by opening a shop called “The Crackpot.” Ginnie was giving Mara some informal career counseling to the sound of Jack Johnson playing on the stereo. Mara said something (unrepeatable here) to Juniper’s son Seth, having to do with our hard core dedication to playing Scrabble, which made me imagine all of us on motorcycles wearing black leather jackets with Scrabble letters printed on the back.

I couldn’t help but notice that there were rocks lying on top of wrapping paper under the white lighted tree. “Is it a step up from coal?” Donna asked after I pointed them out. Juniper wasn’t home from working at her Seeds of Light bead shop yet, and so Autumn explained. “The only thing mom wanted for Christmas was a load of gravel for the drive-way,” she began. Juniper’s boyfriend had given her a gift certificate for gravel, along with a sampling, and a Tonka truck with a battery powered dumper that Juniper later told us she had fun playing with on Christmas morning. scarvesx.jpg

There was also something wrapped for me under the tree, but it wasn’t a Christmas present. Back in May Juniper was on her way to the airport when she called me on her cell phone to wish me a Happy Birthday. She was en route to San Francisco to visit her son. “I’ll bring you a present from the City of Love, something RED!” she promised.

It was a smiling red Buddha with a round outstretched belly. “He must have eaten more than his share of Mara’s cookies,” I said.

Photos: 1. Mara's cookies. 2. Scrabble at Juniper's. 3. Colleen wearing the purple scarf that Joe gave her for Christmas. Joe wearing the wool scarf that Colleen gave him.