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May 31, 2007

13 Thursday Blue Moon

blumoon2.jpg1. If they say the moon is blue, we must believe that it is true. ~ 1528 Proverb

2. I figure the connection between the moon and the cow that jumped over it must be the MOO in the word MOON.

3. And whoever came up with the idea that the moon is made of cheese must have been looking at the moon’s craters and thinking about the holes in Swiss cheese. Or they could have been thinking about how the moon seems to get nibbled down to a crescent of rind every month. Or maybe they saw THIS video, called The Horrible Truth about the Moon.

4. Joe and I got married on a blue moon. At the reception, the band was supposed to play THIS song when I danced with my Dad and THIS song when I Joe and I danced our first dance as a married couple, but they made a mistake and played the songs in reverse order.

5. Yesterday while I was waiting for a deli counter worker to slice up my Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese, I strolled over the greeting card section to look at the cards. There, faced with a display of father’s day cards, I was shocked with the realization that I don’t have a father anymore.

6. Sometimes when I feel uninspired, writing poetry is like going against gravity, like writing with a pen on the ceiling with the ink running down.

7. The photo above is of one of my favorite birthday presents. It’s a pen that lights up so that you can write in the middle of the night or in the dark if you need to. My husband got it at a counseling training, which makes me wonder if they think counselors work overtime.

8. My friend Mara has been writing formal poetry non-stop lately. Her father, Wayne, recently coined the term “sonnet boom” to describe how prolific she’s been.

9. The Writing is on the Wall: According to THIS Vietnam War Memorial website, there are 58,256 names on the Vietnam Wall representing service members who have died directly from combat-related wounds, are MIA or POWs. “Cancer victims of Agent Orange, and post traumatic stress suicides do not fit the criteria for inclusion upon the Memorial. Some have calculated that it would take another two or more entire Walls to include all the names in those two categories alone,” the website reads. Sadly, the suicide rate of Iraq War veterans hasn’t gotten a lot of press but is climbing, as THIS story that my sister posted on Memorial Day on our family email group points out.

10. In a family photograph of my father, taken in Germany at the end of WWII, he’s standing in his army uniform holding a blonde German child in his arms. Her hair is parted down the middle, pulled tightly into two braids. She looks happy. When I was a little girl, I formed an opinion about that photograph. Regardless of the fact that I hadn’t been born when it was taken, I wondered why he was holding her when he should have been holding me…or one of my brothers or sisters at least. We all agreed that my dad was handsome and looked like Elvis Presley back then … so begins the WVTF National Public Radio radio essay about my dad, which aired for Memorial Day of 2004. The rest of the essay is HERE.

11. ‘How are you?’ can be one of the hardest questions for me to answer. Sometimes when I’m asked it, I blurt out something dumb like “I had oatmeal for breakfast.”

12. “I smell like bleach and I have a blister in the middle of my hand from hoeing the garden,” was how I most recently answered when my husband asked this question, which can be translated as: I’m working like a dog.

13. How are you?

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

May 30, 2007


Honeysuckle summer
Catalpa aroma
A cameo moon
is pinned to the sky
in a classic night
that is waltzing

May 29, 2007

Mourning at the Virginia Tech Memorial

xtechmememorial1.jpg The morning of the Virginia Tech school shootings I was putting the finishing touches on a light-hearted story for our local newspaper. It was about a friend who performs weddings for couples in Scottish kilts, on horseback, in campgrounds, in barns, or in front of the health food store where she works.

As the Tech story broke, I put the wedding piece aside and wouldn’t pick it up again for a couple of weeks. In light of what was playing out in Blacksburg, it seemed irrelevant.

For twenty-one years I have lived forty minutes from Virginia Tech and for many years worked in a downtown Blacksburg bead shop within view of the campus. When my sons were young and they came to work with me, they roamed the streets of Blacksburg and felt safe, buying baseball cards at the game store, playing video games at the corner deli, skateboarding up and down Draper and College Avenue.

But the small town feeling I remember had been shattered. Shaken, I called my friend Alwyn, whose Blacksburg home I often stayed at when I had to work back-to-back days. She, a writer and environmental activist, told me about the retirement center where she now lives being locked down that morning. Later, when officials sent word that the doors were open and it was safe to go outside, she wondered how to carry on? Where to go? What to do? xalwyntree.jpgIt

We both wrote. I posted a love letter to Blacksburg on my weblog the day after the violence, which became the first in a series of entries about the shootings. I wrote about how strange it was to watch the televised memorial convocation and recognize familiar faces in the audience. I wrote about auditing Nikki Giovanni’s creative writing class years earlier, sitting in her office, receiving a handwritten note from her (only because I wrote her one first), and how moved I was by her poetic words that helped bring the Virginia Tech community together. was hard to see the place I knew so well under a media microscope. The intense attention on Blacksburg felt supportive and invasive at the same time. As the week progressed, I expressed my concern about the slick news packaging of the “Virginia Tech Massacre,” complete with emotionally charged images and a background soundtrack that sounded like a TV movie in the making. I was worried that school shootings were becoming so frequent that a conditioned media response was formulating.

Alwyn kept a journal. As the wind howled, the sun shone, and the azaleas bloomed around her, she expressed her horror and grief on paper. She, a Quaker, wrote about her efforts to feel compassion for the shooter, Seun-Hui Cho. It was easier to do when she related to him as the “young shy uncomfortable face” that the media first repeatedly showed. After seeing the images of him laden with weapons and after hearing his hateful words, she wrote, “I tried to contemplate the unexplainable distortion of what I had first seen to be a human being and now was trying to avoid seeing him, as perhaps how he wanted to be seen, as evil.”

For days we were both torn between our need for contemplative solitude and the need to know every new detail as it emerged. We watched TV, listened to the radio, read the newspaper, got news online, and talked on the phone to each other. xtechm.jpg From the first day, I wanted to go to Blacksburg and see the faces of the people I felt solidarity with. I wanted to walk familiar streets to convince myself that they were still there. But another part of me wanted to avoid facing the added sorrow that would create. My husband, Joe, a counselor, was called to work with some of those most directly affected by the shootings, and so the aftereffects of the violence loomed large in our home.

It was an unusually hot afternoon in May, three weeks after the shooting, when I finally made my way to Blacksburg. Alwyn and I had lunch at the India Garden before heading over to the Tech drill field. Joe had described the makeshift memorial that had spontaneously spread out on the field. Thirty-two large stones representing those who had been killed were placed in a circle in the grass. The thirty-third stone, the one for Seun-Hui Cho, had disappeared and then re-appeared a couple of times, Joe told me. It was a visual reminder of the struggle people were enduring as they tried to cope with what had happened.

The stones were covered with flowers, candles, stuffed animals, and cards. Moving from one to another reminded me walking the “stations of the cross,” a Catholic prayer pilgrimage, usually done near Easter, which involves viewing fourteen images of Christ’s final hours. I was shocked to see how many stones there were. How many were dead. Pausing at each stone, I quietly spoke the name placed before it. By this time the victims had become sadly familiar to me. I had faces to go with most of the names.

Alwyn had experienced the memorial a week before. I left her sitting in the shade under a large oak tree as I walked to a large blue-and-white striped tent in the middle of the field where the memorial continued. xtent.jpg A sense of intimacy hovered inside the tent, where wall-to-wall message boards that mourners were writing on leaned against tables. Although the tables covered with keepsakes, conveying the once vibrant lives of those who had been killed, were hard to look at, I also felt privileged to be a witness to them. The air was stifling. People were sniffling and wiping there eyes.

Two items in particular broke my heart. One was a single leather baby shoe sitting in the grass apart from the other memorabilia. I picked it up and studied it. The leather was worn. The soles were dusty and etched by time. I thought about the toddling boy who had once worn the shoe, him learning to walk, playing, and then running. I knew the shoe belonged to somebody’s son, not unlike one of my own, and that somebody’s son was gone.

The other item was a colored photograph of one of the young women who had been killed. She was wearing jeans and was stretched out on a sofa engaged in a romantic kiss with a young man her age. Her passion was snuffed out, I thought. She wouldn’t make love to anyone now. Her womb wouldn’t carry any babies. My heart sank.

I choked up telling Alwyn what I had seen at the tent. She was upset about something else. While at the memorial the previous week, she had witnessed what she referred to as “the miracle I had not even dared to hope for.” xshoe.jpgIt was Cho’s stone covered with flowers and a poem that ended with the words, “We miss you.” But now the poem was gone and an angry one was in its place.

I tried to console her by reminding her that anger was a normal response to what happened and that forgiveness takes time. “People are at different stages of healing,” I argued. But she couldn’t bear anymore hate. Together, we walked arm-in-arm back to the car, our heads bowed down.

Photos: 1. Virginia Tech Memorial. 2. My Quaker friend Alwyn resting under a tree with a maroon ribbon around it. 3. The thirty-three memorial stones. 4. Under the tent on the drill field. 5. The shoe.

May 28, 2007

Pink Floyd

1. A new take on Mary Kay?
2. Flocks of Phlox
3. I left my heart at Slaughters Garden Center.
4. My pink sneaker with a view.

Post notes: All of the above pictures were taken around Floyd on THIS day.

May 26, 2007

Keeping It Simple

housescenesimple.jpg The following was written for a Sunday Scribbling prompt of “simple.”

At the end of the day it’s the simple pleasures I remember; peeling and eating a juicy sweet orange, watching yellow finches at the birdfeeder, walking to the mailbox with our dog Jasmine, making a joke that my husband laughs at, a hug, a smile, a cup of tea.

Last night I walked barefoot in the grass and stared at the moon. The sweet smell of valerian flowers wafted in the air while I jumped on the trampoline as if I was a girl. This morning my husband and I saved a black snake that was tangled up in the blueberry netting in our garden. I held the netting while he used scissors to painstakingly cut about a dozen places where the snake was wrapped tight. The task wasn’t necessarily simple or pleasurable, but watching the snake slither away at the end of it was.
Even the lowly act of weeding my garden is something I enjoy (but I wish I could say the same about cleaning my kitchen). As I stoop and bend over with the sun on my back, pulling up one weed at a time, I find myself smiling and thinking of all the people in the world who have done, and are doing the same. It’s a simple and solitary chore done without tools, artificial chemicals, noise, or monetary pay.

I’d like to quote a section of “The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You,” a book I read nearly twenty years ago, but my copy is with my son in Asheville. Today I played Scrabble (another simple pleasure) with an older friend who lives alone. She remembered the book but didn’t have a copy either.

The book tells the story of a criminal who, after being injured in a car accident, finds himself being nursed back to health by a primitive tribe of people. Following his recovery, there’s a scene in which he’s preparing a seasonal vegetable garden with a member of the tribe. It’s this scene I remember as being formative in shaping the way I think about our modern world.

They are plowing a field with a stick. The criminal complains about how slow and backwards it is to use a stick. He describes a powerful tractor and all it can do, expecting the tribal man to be impressed, but he isn’t. The tribe member points out all the labor and resources that go into making a tractor, from mining the metal and the petroleum to run it, to how many steps and people are involved in building it. What about the plant where it’s built? What’s the electricity bill like? Is the plant polluting our air and streams? Did the tractor builder have to hire someone to take care of his kids while he worked? firstrose.jpg

By the time one tractor is built the field will have been plowed, the seeds planted, the harvest gathered, and a blessing will have been said at the table before eating.

At the end of every day I like to review what I’m grateful for. It’s almost always the simplest of things; soaking up the sun, feeling the breeze, noticing sky’s shade of blue, seeing my first spring butterfly, remembering a kiss, or the voices of children.

As with the end of a day, I suspect that at the end of life it will be the simple pleasures that I look back on with fondness and consider to be the making of a good life.

May 25, 2007

Have Weddings Will Travel: The Addendum

lousonladder.jpgAKA: What goes up must come down

“Come on! You’ve ridden horseback in Chile. You can do this!” I encouraged my friend Katherine as she made her way up the long construction ladder at the Hotel Floyd building site. She, who had taken time off from her job at the Harvest Moon to meet me, was wearing a full length skirt, a white tunic, and a long white scarf draped down in front of her like a vestment – not your typical ladder climbing clothing.

“We thought the stairs would be ready by now,” Laura, the Hotel Floyd building manager said.

We were there to see The Floyd Writers Room, one of the themed hotel rooms being built that Katherine and I, both members of the Floyd Writers Circle, are helping to design and furnish.

Louis, the man who is doing the hotel website offered a hand. Once we were all safely up to the second floor suite, he pulled out his tape measure, called out some numbers, and I wrote them down in my notebook. “This is a lot of wall space,” my voice echoed. I was thinking about the framed art we would soon be shopping for.

Katherine hadn’t been up and off the ladder long when her cell phone rang. “Can you hold them off for twenty minutes?” I heard her say. moongarden2.jpg From what I could tell she was on call to perform a wedding in the garden in front of the Harvest Moon, and the bride and groom were ready.

Wondering if people were walking off the street to get married, when she got off the phone, I asked, “Is it a planned wedding?”

“As much as a five-minute wedding is planned,” she answered.

Photos: 1. Louis makes his way down the ladder with Katherine and my pocketbooks hanging from either side of his shoulder as Laura looks on. 2. I got distracted by a woman on a pink scooter and by the time I made it over to the Harvest Moon the wedding was over, but isn’t the scene where it happened pretty? Have Weddings Will Travel Part I is HERE. You can read the story I wrote about the Floyd Writers Room for the Floyd Press HERE.

May 24, 2007

13 Thursday: How Does Your Garden Grow?

13zin.jpg1. Ruth from Spilling Out (no pun intended) recently told a lovely story about getting her first period at camp. It involved “two old roan-coloured nags plodding,” which made me comment, “I’m not sure what it means but it’s poetry to my ears.

2. She called her period “the curse,” which reminded me that we called it “our friend” and made me wonder how many other code names it went by.

3. THIS video of Roy Zimmerman singing “Jerry Falwell’s God,” found at Out and Back, is top notch HILARIOUS and so are the rest of his Youtube posted songs.

4. Roy’s first album is called “Comic Sutra. Fellow satirist musician, Tom Lehrer, said, "I congratulate Roy Zimmerman on reintroducing literacy to comedy songs. And the rhymes actually rhyme, they don't just 'rhyne.'" Joni Mitchell has said, “Roy's lyrics move beyond poetry and achieve perfection."

5. “What kind of punctuation mark are you?” Christine at Chicken Scratch recently asked. I was thinking that an exclamation mark seems too eager and a question mark might indicate that I don't know anything, so my answer has to be this …

6. The ellipsis could mean: Read between the dots. I lost my train of thought. I’m not sure how else to punctuate this. Or, guess what I’m leaving out?

7. I recently mentioned that Patry, blogging friend from Simply Wait, and I share a most unusual connection. After reading each other’s blogs for more than a year, we discovered that her first cousin’s daughter is someone I know very well because her son and my sons are brothers. I had barely recovered from that revelation when another one unfolded …

8. My blog friend Susan has been going through a challenging time. While on a retreat recently, her life coach hostess gave her some resources to work with, one of which was a little poem titled “Flowers." Her coach had found in a small publication (the Museletter) 15 years ago while visiting the Smokey Mountains. Susan kept saying, “I think I know who wrote this.” Sure enough, it was me. When she read it to me later over the phone, I could tell it was mine but it was so old that I had no memory of it.

9. FLOWERS: I'm cleaning up … the inner environment … I'm plowing the fear … to prepare the soil … I'm mixing the elements … to make my heart fertile … I'm weeding the hurt … to care for the love … I'm coming up flowers.

10. Although I didn’t remember the poem, I can see that it was first in a series and the predecessor to THIS poem and THIS one.

11. Dirt-free gardening: How fast can you fill up THIS page? (Click anywhere to bloom where you are planted.)

12. What’s this world coming to? Every day a new medicine is found to create worse side-effects than the symptoms it’s treating, more people die in Iraq, and a new Antarctic glacier melts. “The bees are disappearing, independent bookstores are closing, and they’re selling Botox on TV to women in their 30’s!” I recently ranted to my friend Alwyn when she asked me how I was.

13. Bumper sticker to think about, recently found in my email box: "You Can't Be Pro-War And Pro-Life At The Same Time."

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

May 23, 2007

There’s a New Alligator in Town

virgll.jpg Suzi Gablik is an art critic, artist, and teacher with an interesting sidekick named Virgil. A reptilian muse with an impressive IQ, Virgil wonders if President Bush googles himself. He isn’t too shy to ask Ivana Trump about her bra buying habits or to say “doo doo” in public when necessary.

Virgil is currently busy being Suzi’s new blog assistant. He loves the internet and has recently been quoted as saying, “Personally I just love swimming in cyberwater. But there are likely to be folks out there who'll think I'm not real either, right?"

I’m always interested in what Suzi has to say, especially since reading her last book, “Living the Magical Life,” part “oracular adventure” based in Blacksburg and part memoir. A blog is a great idea. Virgil is a bonus. I was hooked on his antics since Suzi first introduced him and I learned that he can twirl his arms like a windmill, “a reflex that gets triggered by emotional excitement and sometimes has revolutionary implications,” she explained.

Post Note: Virgil Speaks and is speaking now HERE.

May 22, 2007

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There

iris3.jpg With a blanket spread out on May’s green grass, my husband and I are finally idle. Balanced in between Friday and Sunday, in between household chores and calls to take care the body, we extract the essence of the moment. As the breeze pollinates me with the scent of spring flowers, he tells me about a beautiful dream he had. In it he sees his dead father. Tears well up in his eyes. “Oh, the sad mystery,” I say. “There’s such a bittersweet beauty to anything that makes us remember our soul.”

I stroke his black crow hair and hover over him like a hummingbird writing in my notebook, as he drifts off to sleep. I resist the urge to get busy working in the garden. So I listen. Every sound is amplified; the whish of wind, the flap of notebook paper, the shrill trill, chirp, and tweet of birds. The birds are busy for me.

“Doing nothing expands time. It’s all right here,” I write in my notebook. ~ 5/19/07

May 21, 2007

Have Weddings Will Travel

~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on May 10, 2007.
On a warm Valentine’s Day in 2005, while shopping at the Harvest Moon Food Store, something unusual caught my eye. harvest%20moon%20wedding2x.jpg I was making my way down a store aisle, filling my basket when I noticed a woman who looked overdressed for grocery shopping. Her short white dress swished as she passed by me. She was wearing jewelry and lipstick. Her pump heels clicked as she walked, and her long curly hair was pulled back with barrettes. I watched curiously as she spoke to Harvest Moon staff member, Katherine Chantal.

I don’t remember if I invited myself or if an invitation was offered, but I ended up taking wedding photos that day. The woman in white was joined by her groom in the front of the Harvest Moon where Katherine pronounced them husband and wife as their young child in a baby carriage looked on.

Most people who know Katherine Chantal know her as an herbalist and the mother of five sons, many of whose names were frequently seen in the sports section of the Floyd Press during their high school years. A lesser known fact about Katherine is that she’s been guiding life passages and ceremonies for the past twenty-five years and that she performs a considerable number of our county’s weddings.

Although Valentine’s Day of 2005 wasn’t the first or last time she took a break from her Harvest Moon duties to marry someone impromptu, the majority of weddings Katherine performs are planned in advance and some happen well beyond the borders of Floyd County. wed2a.jpg After being flown to Utah to marry one couple, and then later to the coast of Rhode Island to marry Willis residents Ryan Turman and Heather Gordon, she joked about having a business card printed up announcing “have wedding will travel.”

Katherine, who is legally certified in the state of Virginia to perform weddings, has a background in sociology, psychology, philosophy and world religions. As a Rites of Passage Ceremonialist and ordained Priestess, the life events she has facilitated have ranged from those of birth to death. The weddings she has done have drawn from a variety of traditions, including Celtic, Christian, Sufi, Judaic, and Native American (North and South). “Y ofrezco las bodas Espanol tambien,” her website says, which I believe means that she can do weddings in Spanish.

Besides the Harvest Moon garden weddings, she has married couples in trailer parks and national parks. Ten years ago she officiated at my wedding, which took place at the Blue Ridge Parkway Saddle overlook on a blue moon in June. Under her guidance my husband and I were supported to design a meaningful and custom fit ceremony. Wearing a flowing blue velvet dress, she pronounced us united as the setting sun and the rising moon faced each other like a bride and groom in the sky.

“You should write a book!” I recently told her, as we were remembering one wedding she did in a big red barn. Another one, which took place at the Daddy Rabbit’s Campground, had a Scottish theme. “Men wore kilts and a haggis (sheep dish) was cooking over an open fire,” she said.
Wedding1a.jpg Her talents have been appreciated in her own family. She has presided over two of her sons weddings, one of which was done twice, once in Spain and then on the Zephyr farm grounds where she lives. Another in Pennsylvania was attended by dozens of Floydians who traveled to be part of the celebration. How did you keep from crying?” I asked her.

She laughed as she answered, “I made a promise I wouldn’t.” She did cry after and before those ceremonies, she admitted.

The wedding season is gearing up and Katherine has been busy. In the last two weeks, she’s performed two weddings on the Harvest Moon lawn. The first was for a couple who were both in their 80’s. More recently, a dozen friends and family members of a young military couple gathered together to witness their marriage. The couple, a marine and a naval servicewoman, graciously allowed me to take photos. “Are you the father?” I asked the man standing next to me who was also snapping photos and appeared to be emotional. “Yes,” he answered, slightly teary-eyed.

Every wedding is unique and the stories so colorful. Katherine recently told me, “I’m working with a couple who are planning a June wedding. They’re thinking of doing it on horseback.”

Post Notes: Photos number 1 &2 are of the April 14th wedding of the military couple mentioned above, performed in front of the Harvest Moon. The final photo is of Katherine officiating at her son Rahim and his bride Gema’s wedding at Zephyr Farm in Floyd this past September. It was taken by her youngest son, Rowan. For more information go to Katherine’s website lifeceremoniesbykatherine.com

May 19, 2007

The Lazy Susan Post

AKA: The View from my Lawn Chair
I may have a carrot cake hangover and sore muscles from dancing non-stop to American Dumpster last night at the Winter Sun, but I’m not ready to kick the bucket.
Last night’s wrist band is pretty enough to wear the next day, and it looks pretty good with my notebook, the one I don’t go anywhere without, even if it’s to my lounge chair to supposedly do nothing.
I don’t have to look too far to spot a birthday gift. This one was given to me yesterday by my husband.
I’m thinking about working in the garden.
But I have some important decisions to make first.

May 18, 2007


potcrown.jpgWhen I first arrived at my birthday Scrabble game at the Café Del Sol, Mara was outside on the sidewalk talking on her cellphone to her boyfriend Arden.

“Say Happy Birthday to Colleen,” she said to Arden and then stuck the phone near my ear.

“If you put a G in front of your name, it would be GARDEN,” I found myself saying into the phone. Arden agreed to go by the name “Garden” just for the day, for my birthday.

“I feel so powerful!” I shouted out as I swung the café door open.

Inside, birthday gifts were spread out on the coffee table in between the Scrabble board, the dictionary, and cups of tea. They included a large heart shaped potato, a book on writing creative non-fiction, and an unsigned birthday card that I was told should continue to be passed on unsigned to the next person to have a birthday. There was a pink plastic musical candle that played “Happy Birthday.” I stuck it in my chicken salad sandwich and leaned in to listen.

“Is this how you get people to set their hair on fire?” I asked Mara.

“Blow it out,” she kept saying. I kept pretending I was trying to, complaining that it was a joke candle and wouldn’t go out.
“Blow harder,” she insisted. I was so busy feigning my efforts that I forgot to make a wish when it finally, accidentally went out.

We eventually got around to playing Scrabble, but because we got started playing counter-clockwise, we were continually confused about whose turn it was. When it wasn’t her turn, Mara, who organizes spoken word performances for Floyd Fest, made plans out-loud for the poet’s line up. She asked us questions and wrote things down in her notebook.

Kathleen had just gotten back in town and discovered that her broke-down lawnmower still wasn’t fixed and her tractor needed work. As she was lamenting about her machinery problems, I was replacing the words “lawnmower and “tractor” with “blog” in my mind and understanding exactly how she felt, having just gone through some technical difficulties of my own.

Earlier in the week when I ran into fellow blogger Doug at the Café, he told me that Virginia Living magazine had an article out about Floyd. Since I’ve lived in Floyd for the past twenty-one years there have been a number of stories written about Floyd. In every case the author has felt compelled to write about “hippies.”

“Did they use the word “hippie,” I asked Doug, hoping they had come up with an alternate more creative way to refer to Floyd’s colorful alter-natives?

“In the first sentence,” he joked. scrabblemag.jpg
Doug wasn’t kidding. The magazine was on the coffee table. It was a well written and informative article, but not only did “hippies” appear in the first sentence, they were described as gorgeous and floating, which caused us to erupt in giggles when I read it out loud and to take on “gorgeous floating hippies” as the buzz phrase of the day.

At one point, everyone in the café, even those I didn’t know, turned and sang Happy Birthday to me. My friend Melody, a booking agent for the Winter Sun, and a positively gorgeous floating hippie, poked her head in from the Winter Sun Hall door and finished the song with …. And many more... For a minute I wondered if the whole performance had been staged.

May 17, 2007

13 Thursday: There’s No Place Like Home

yellowroad2.jpg1. We now interrupt our regular Thirteen Thursday Program to bring you this message: This is not your average Thirteen Thursday. This is not Typepad. But it is my birthday.

2. When I heard that my server was shutting down, I kicked up my heels and followed the yellow brick road over to a new Typepad home (and some of you followed me over). But before the dust had settled, I received an email from my server saying, “Houston, we have a problem.”

3. I felt like THIS.

4. And THIS is what I looked like when I learned that changing servers wasn’t going to be as easy as it initially seemed and that it was predicted to cause broken links and other problems.

5. Tonight I’m going to a school chorus concert that my great-niece, Samantha, is singing in. Years ago I attended a talent show where she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” dressed as Dorothy.

6. Last week I picked her up from school because her mom was at work and she had detention for chewing gum and there was no after school bus.

7. For the whole of my high school years I held a piece of gum in the corner of my mouth. Gum chewing wasn’t allowed, so I learned not to chew it in class, like I learned to stop swearing when my sons were little and whenever they were around. Once they were teenagers I started to swear a little, and in between school classes I not only chewed my gum, I snapped and popped it.

8. These days my camera is like my gum. I keep it discreetly tucked away in a pocket and when the time is right I take it out and snap.

9. I like the way you don’t have to ask inanimate objects for their permission to photograph their image.
10. My blog problem is solved. It will be changed to a new server but I'll still be on Moveable Type and may not even notice the change over. When my server first offered this latest option, I couldn't decide if I should consider it like a birthday gift or if not having a new blog at Typepad was Indian giving.

11. I’ll be at the Café Del Sol today playing a birthday Scrabble game from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. I won’t be getting people to write happy birthday messages on my pants like MARA DID last week.

12. Where have I heard THIS line before? Although I have a lot of heart for writing, when it comes to the technical part of blogging, I’m like a brainless scarecrow in the Emerald City with a fear of bad witches and a phobia of flying monkeys. ~ Colleen

13. This is your last chance to visit my “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” alternate universe and to meet my friend David HERE. Thank you to everyone who made it over the rainbow, left me a comment, and then found their way back.

We now resume our regular Loose Leaf programming.

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

May 15, 2007

Follow the Yellow Brick Road


May 14, 2007

From First Holy Communion to Community Croning

croning.jpg Maybe age is a clock to wake us from dreaming … or maybe it is the dream … like counting the number of pages in a book … when we should be reading the story … Colleen

The smell of burning sage drifted in the air. Later, it was the Frankincense oil we were anointed with as we were welcomed into the circle of elder women. Nineteen of us being honored were sequestered off to a room in the private home where the ceremony took place while final preparations were made. Then, one by one, we passed through a sheer purple curtain as a younger woman, acting like a gateway keeper between worlds, spoke our names.

I say your names, the curtain parts, a bell announces you to faces waiting with welcome, celebration. Wisdom tells long stories, penetrates. ~ Mara

According to my friend Mara’s poem, published later that month in our community newsletter, a bell rang as we walked down the center of two lines of about twenty-five women on either side. I don’t remember the bell, but I seem to recall hearing the women singing. Looking into each one’s eyes, I walked slowly and intently, savoring their smiles as I wound my way through their human tunnel.

I always thought 50 was my Aunt Gertie … bobby pins and elastic waist pants … But what do I know? … I was raised on sitcoms and the generation gap … What do I know? … I haven’t even had my first hot flash or mid-life crisis … ~ Colleen

After receiving gifts and words of wisdom from the more seasoned crones, each honored woman took turns sharing a talent with the group. One played the banjo, another played the guitar and sang. In past years women have danced and done skits. This year there was much poetry and speaking from the heart. I was on the edge of my throne, I mean seat.
Black scarf wraps your throat with all the words … you said as time spun gatherings like this … swept clean, with feet and hands, respected water. ~ Mara

The joke was that I didn’t want to be croned. I wanted a crown and I got one. After the ceremony and during the feasting I spotted a shiny gold paper crown next to a platter of food on the dining room table. As I was filling my plate with one spoonful of everything, I thought to myself, “I would love to have that crown.” Later, as someone placed it on my head, I was told that it was made for me by the children of the house earlier in the day. I guess the word had gotten out that Colleen wanted to be crowned instead of croned because she found it easier to think of herself as a Queen than a Crone.

Age is a strange orbit spinning on its axis … We know it’s moving but we can’t feel it … Then we arrive and ask “How did we get here?” … Do I have to be 50 … Am I really?

The poem I read, about turning 50, revealed how much fun I’ve had over the years confusing my friends about my age. I’ve been known to lie about it. “It runs in my family,” I told the crowd. “I had several older aunts who after they died we found out their real ages and were shocked. I, on the other hand, only like to shave off a year. It gives me a little time to get used to the chronological number. I only lie by one year because I don’t want people saying, ‘doesn’t she looks old for her age?’

Planets shone outside, we ate, we heard the songs of the circles open and unbroken … ~ Mara

The truth is sometimes I forget what age I am.

How come age isn’t like art or poetry? … How come it’s hard cold facts? … A labeled box that doesn’t fit …. A branded number that follows your name … And just when you get use to it … it changes … ~ Colleen

Women in their 50’s are hardly crones. We live longer than we did in the past, and some feel that the triple spiral, representing the three stages of women lives, “maiden, mother, and crone,” should evolve a new swirl that incorporates “matriarch” into the mix. But that’s getting technical. The child before the maiden isn’t included in the trinity either. And I’m not about to decline an invitation to be honored by a roomful of adoring women by claiming to be too young.

We start fires, ring hours, head home to sleep. I dream unfamiliar women who say “I love you,” then ask my name. ~ Mara 1stcommunion.jpg

I’ve worn white ceremoniously on three momentous occasions. When I made my First Holy Communion, at the age of seven, I felt that I was being seen for my true self, beautiful like a bride or a princess in my lacey white dress and matching veil.

Unfortunately, I got distracted with the struggles and activities of life and wouldn’t feel that way again for nearly 40 years. In 1996, when my husband, Joe, and I were married in the presence of friends and family on Blue Ridge Parkway, I resisted my habit of deflecting attention. In my long white tiered dress and with the sun setting and the full moon rising, I let myself embody my own sense of worthiness and be recognized.

My intuition to wear white for this third rite of passage, turned out to be the thread that tied the stages of my life together. It awakened my awareness of the child, the young woman, and mother within me. The act of being recognized by a community of supportive women gave way to a sense of fullness, which overrode the sense of loss for my youth that I thought I might feel.

I’m not cured of lying … or secretly counting … I need glasses to read … but not to see the girl within …. myself and other women … Colleen

Our local woman’s community is strong. I’m grateful to those who tend to it by creating space for its expression, a service that benefits us all. Not only did the ceremony allow me to experience a personal integration of the stages of my life, I felt an integration of the various aged women in the room. As I stood before them like the queen of my own life, reading my poem, I knew that I was modeling the positive possibilities for the younger women in the room, just as the women who had been honored in years past had done for me.

May 12, 2007

Second Chance

The following was written via a prompt from Sunday Scribblings.

I woke up this morning trying to remember my childhood closet. What was the door to it like? Did it have the same clear glass doorknob that the door to my bedroom had? If I could see the doorknob, remember the feel of the cut facets in my hand as I turned it, why couldn’t I see the closet and what was left inside it?

I willed myself to remember some of the clothes I wore in high school, bought in Quincy Square with babysitting money. There was a brown dress with yellow piping and a star on either corner of the collar, and the blue navy suit I was photographed in for the yearbook. I imagined how they looked hanging from the closet pole on wire hangers, and me flipping through them on a typical school morning, trying to decide what to wear.

My mind wandered up and down the streets of Quincy Square (a bus ride away from the small town of Hull) in and out of the stores I used to shop in as a teenager. I saw the big glass windows full of well dressed mannequins, the hairdresser’s shop my mother took me to once with a “Walk-ins Welcome” sign out front, and the alley tucked between two stores that led to the public parking lot. But even though I often find myself thinking about my childhood closet, I can’t remember any details about it. I have a sense of missing the stuff inside it, but I can’t remember what that was. Was the floor green linoleum like the rest of the room? Wasn’t it cluttered with a pile of junk?

Eminent domain means that the government can take your home away if they deem the land its on is needed for a another purpose. When the town took our family home and burned it to the ground, I was twenty-one years old, a working girl with an apartment in Quincy, jingling my tambourine at Boston Commons concerts on the weekends, making candles and sticking them in wine bottles, and enjoying some pot induced giggles. My family home was like a first kiss I had moved on from. The fact that it was going to be burned to the ground seemed like a rumor I didn’t have to believe.

“I don’t want to see it burned. I can’t bear too,” I said at the time. That was true enough, but not going home before the fire to collect a few things from my old room seems thoughtless and lazy to me now.

If I had a second chance and could do it over again, I’d go back to my bedroom of fifteen years and look through my stuff in the closet. But what would I find? A few pink spoolie curlers tucked into the closet corner and covered with dust? My first writings, crumpled up notes that someone has passed to me in school? An old beat up “Name That Tune Game” that I got for Christmas when I was ten, or the plaster of Paris handprint I made in kindergarten? Surely there would be a Barbie doll and some of the hand-made doll clothes that my grandmother made for my sisters and me before she died.

But it’s the things I can’t even imagine that I miss the most. The things I’ve forgotten so completely.

May 11, 2007

For Mother’s Day

ma-young3a.jpgThe following was originally a WVTF radio essay. It appeared in The Floyd Press yesterday, May 10th, titled "It's Never Too Late to Get to Know Your Mother," and on Loose Leaf last year with more photos, the uncut text, and a link to a story about writing and recording it HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2007

13 Thursday: That’s What I’m Talking About

13saying.jpg1. DID YOU HEAR THAT SOUND? I JUST FELL OFF MY CHAIR!!! That’s what I said to my blog friend, Patry, after reading the email she sent me with the subject line: the strangest coincidence ever. At the same time she discovered that one of her cousins used to live here in Floyd, she also found out that the same cousin (who I know but didn't know Patry was related to) was once married to a man who was first married to me! Patry’s cousin’s son and my sons are brothers! “So does that mean we’re related,” I asked her after I got up from the floor? In her follow-up email she called me “cuz.”

2. Before I die I want to see northern lights and flamingos in the wild.

3. My garden corn and my blog are in competition for my attention. When I wake up in the morning I often think about my blog right away. I get the computer turned on so I can manage comments, and I wonder about what I’m going to post. But now that my corn is an inch high, I think about it first. Is it still there? Any taller today? Has the scarecrow done its job and scared the crows away?

4. I’ve been voted off the island. My blog server is closing down and I have to move my blog by the end of the month. I can’t decide if moving my blog is like turning over a new loose leaf or like looking under a rock.

5. THIS is what Loose Leaf Notes personified looks like.

6. I’m not sure there is really such a thing as writer’s block, but I believe there is a writer’s crash. It’s when you can no longer stand the incessant sentences, lines, and stories that run through your mind and your subconscious protects you by turning them off. Sometimes you forget where the controls are to turn it back on.

7. According to my dad’s definition of alcoholism, an alcoholic is either thinking about drinking, thinking about not drinking, or he's drinking. Sometimes I feel if I changed the word drinking to writing, it would describe how it feels when I get obsessed with writing.

8. If writers were categorized by musical genres, everything from opera to rap, I’d be a folk writer with a punk hairdo.
9. Our porch has become like a nursery that I have to tiptoe around. On one side of the porch a mother phoebe takes care of her baby birds up in the rafters, while on the other side a different mother phoebe is building a nest. I guess we got the plastic Wal-Mart owl just in time, because it scared off the cardinal that had been creating a racket by repeatedly slamming itself against our living room window for the last two months.

10. Patry, who is the author of “The Liars Diary,” likes to read the obituaries. I read them too – she’s the one who got me started – but we read them for different reasons. She likes the stories and I like the old names. Here are some new country names I've come across to add to MY COLLECTION: Men – Byrd, Esker, Dossie, Gratton, Garver, Harman, Orbie, and Squire. Women – Gusti, Glada, Ovilla, Patience, Almeda, Velvia, Nobie, Chacey, Via, Ossie, and Nova.

11. When my sisters and I were young, we used to play teenagers. We'd wear towels for skirts and long sleeved sweaters on our heads for long hair. We’d call ourselves “Barbara or Pat” because we thought those were “teenage names.”

12. I do not have blonde hair. I’ve never had blonde hair. And THIS is not me.

13. Although I don’t accept the burden of the last statement, THIS was a trip … or should I say, a 60’s flashback?

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

May 9, 2007

Writing Roulette

I spin the alphabet wheel
hoping to land the right letters
the ones I can add to the others I have
for a winning combination

If I’m lucky I’ll score a whole verse
in an unbeatable streak of right words
for the pay-off prize preferred by poets
the rave reviews of critics

May 8, 2007

In Living Color

The first porch vacation in May didn’t happen on the porch. It was too wet and cold Saturday morning, so we lolled around on the living room couch and watched the world from the window. Soon, I couldn’t contain my excitement. “Look, the bluebird of happiness!” I squealed to Joe, as I spotted a robin’s egg blue bird looking like something out of a fairytale and scratching around the birdfeeder. I’ve seen indigo buntings on Woods Gap Road on my ride to town, but this is the first time any have visited our yard. “Look! There’s two now! One for you and one for me!” I knew it was going to be a good weekend.
It warmed up enough to take a short walk, which was when I noticed that the Azaleas in our yard had bloomed. Walking hand in hand, we passed a neighbor, a single guy on a shiny new tractor working in his yard. As someone who likes tools and equipment, Joe looked longingly at the tractor. Not only does he not have one of his own, but he was worn out from the work week and feeling a little guilty about not having enough energy work in our yard. As if I was reading his mind, I squeezed his hand, looked at him and said, “Yeah … but you have a woman.” He laughed and felt better.
On Sunday, after cleaning up from working in the garden, we headed out for the Cinco De Mayo benefit for Ito, a Costa Rican friend of many in Floyd who recently lost his wife. She sadly died soon after giving birth to their daughter, who is doing fine. The community came out in large numbers. There were raffles, Guatemalan clothes, and food for sale. Kids spun across the wide open floor and twirlers in bright colors danced as bands took turns on the stage. Several bands played, including Solazo and hip-hop saxist Emily Brass (formerly of Foundation Stone). The Kusun Ensemble, a group from Ghana, now based in Floyd, were dressed in their traditional clothing. During their performance some of them jumped off the Winter Sun stage and danced.
We cooled down from dancing in the Café Del Sol, which was immersed in an ocean of blue with dolphins diving and swelling waves that any surfer would envy. It was 7:00 p.m. but still sunny enough to warrant wearing sunglasses inside. Laurel Cook, the artist whose work was displayed looked beautiful in orange against the blue of her paintings. Her daughter and my son, Dylan, were in the same class at Blue Mountain School years ago. She recently returned to Floyd from Hawaii. I guess the island inspired her work.
I ordered a soup, a beer, and some baklava. It the first Sunday of the month, so musicians were starting to gather for open mic. While paying for my food, I snapped a photo of the two-headed barista action figure that sits on the check out counter. Nice tattoo, huh.

May 6, 2007

Country Boy

joshairstream2.jpg The following aired as a WVTF radio essay on June 15th.

“Mom, what do you want to be when you grow up?” My son Josh asked me once when he was a little boy.

I smiled and indulged him with an answer, “Probably a farmer.”

Both Josh and his younger brother Dylan regularly gave thanks to the farmers when we shared what we were grateful for around the dinner table. Although we didn’t come from a farming background, it was considered a noble vocation in our little family, which is why it seems fitting that Josh has grown up to be a farmer of sorts.

He harvests clay from the land. His market crop is the pottery he creates. With his homemade treadle wheel he makes pots and fires them with wood in a hand built kiln.

joshandanna3.jpgBorn in Texas and raised in the Mountains of Virginia by a mother from Massachusetts and a father who was born in England, there was really no telling what direction Josh might take in life. I’m not surprised that he’s an artist. He’s been making art since he was old enough to hold a crayon, but the farming connection is one I’ve only recently fully recognized.

Living in the country now, outside of Asheville North Carolina, Josh is a good-old-boy with a twist. In his beat-up truck, he hauls clay instead of manure, bricks instead of animal feed. He carries a racquet for racquetball on the rifle rack in the truck cab. He’s currently building a kiln, the way a farmer might build a barn. He lives in a trailer, but it’s an Airstream called “the land yacht” that looks like a spaceship and has a disco ball hanging from the middle.

“The house is gone,” he told me over the phone the other day. He was referring to the old house on his property that he and some friends recently took down and salvaged for parts.

joshfire3.jpg“You had the bonfire? Did you have friends over to help?”

“Yeah, the Volunteer Fire Department, and now I’m a member,” he said.

“You’re a fireman!?” I asked. "Are they going to train you?"

“I know something about fire, mom,” he reminded me.

After we hung up I remembered that when Josh was four years old he wore a yellow thrift shop slicker, rubber boots, and a red plastic fireman’s hat for weeks at a time. I pulled out the article titled “Building Community” that Josh had recently written for The Log Book, a pottery magazine. In it he described how fire was what first sparked his interest in woodfiring pottery. He wrote: I was mesmerized by the fire – the way it moved through the kiln, its long flames pushing their way through the waves with a velocity that bordered on violence, yet contained a sensitivity that left nothing disturbed.

Okay, a fireman makes sense; he works with fire everyday, but it also makes sense for another reason.

Many of us here in the rural county of Floyd are transplants – artists, crafters, musicians, herbalists, organic farmers – who dropped out of the mainstream to live a country lifestyle in community with others of like mind. During the 70’s and 80’s when the influx first began, locals and newcomers were like two distinct and separate communities. Since then, there’s been a more integration.

joshtractor3.jpg It was the kids of the Floyd alternative community who first paved the way for a meeting of the cultures. It wasn’t an easy thing to do and many of them felt like outsiders when they finally made the move from home-schooling (or The Blue Mountain School, our parent-run-cooperative) to public school. Josh and his home-schooled peers had a tight knit community of their own. They were proud of their upbringing, but they also knew the sting of being considered different. Eventually they earned the respect of the local community as they excelled in sports, acted in high school plays, dated local kids, worked at high school jobs, and became salutatorians and valedictorians of their classes.

Josh’s roots are diverse, but he’s grounded in the Appalachian Mountains, the bio-region that includes his childhood in Virginia and his current home in North Carolina. I’m not surprised he’s on the volunteer fire department in the rural town where he lives and belongs. Once he gets more settled, he’ll grow a good garden, and maybe even have a goat and some chickens.

Photos: 1. Josh at home. 2. Josh and girlfriend, Anna, working. 3. Burning down the house. 4. Josh on the tractor. See "The Tearing Down the House photos HERE.Scroll down HERE for more posts about my Asheville Potter Son.

May 5, 2007

Oh Ocean!

oceancure.jpg The following was written for the Sunday Scribblings prompt, ocean.

The back burner on my stove makes a faint whine that reminds me of a foghorn. Its deep and distant drone is like a lullaby I remember from my childhood. “The ships are all safe and the children are warm and loved,” it seems to say. I wait for the lighthouse to swing its spotlight by and shine on me. But I don’t live there anymore.

When it's foggy where I live now on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway, the rolling hills can almost look like the ocean with wave upon wave rippling out into the horizon. The vultures and crows could almost be gulls, and the twinkling lights from Martinsville could be those of Revere Beach on the north shore of Boston.
I like the salty smell and taste of sweat on my skin when I’m working in the garden in the summer because it reminds me of the ocean and the bay I swam in as a girl. Immersed in the salty water then, I used to wonder what it would be like to meet a mermaid or to make a raft strong enough to travel the length of Hull, the narrow 6 mile Massachusetts peninsula that was my home.

The ocean is in my blood, but not all my memories of it are fond. As a teenager, sometimes I would sit on the seawall at night and stare out. I felt lonely and small against the bigness of it, immobilized by the monotonous lapping of the tide against the shore. At those times, the ocean was like a blank slate where nothing existed and the foghorn sounded hollow and desolate. Even on a clear night, a full moon boldly hanging, causing the water to shimmer wasn’t enough to cheer me up.

Five years ago I saw the Pacific for the first time. From an overlook ledge, my travel mates were convinced that the brown shapes littering the beach below were scattered pieces of driftwood. But I had a hunch, so I waited patiently while my girlfriends hiked on. After fifteen minutes one of the shapes began to move, and I knew that what was thought to be driftwood was actually seals! My friends came back when I called out to them, and we hiked down for a closer look.

Later, driving on the coast of Oregon, we pulled over to peer down at the plunging view. Exhilarated and excited by the sight of the giant sea stacks, I shouted out, “I’m in remission!” referring to the limited energy I’ve been dealing with for most of my adult life.

At the ocean I’m like a kite buoyed by the wind and cleansed by its wild whipping strokes. But if I’m up too high for too long, I crash down hard. Eventually, I seek soothing green, still and uncluttered space, my own quiet place in the country.

Post notes: The first photo is one of me and my sister Sherry, taken by her husband Nelson in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2005, first posted HERE. The second one is up the road from where I live here in Virginia. More Sunday Scribblings are HERE.

May 4, 2007

A House in the Road and Mara’s Pants

rhymememara.jpgToday you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. ~ Dr Seuss

"Look, there’s a house turning the corner,” Kathleen announced. We all leaned towards the café window, some of us stood up to get a better look as a truck hauling a mobile-home made a wide turn from Rt. 8 onto 221 at Floyd’s one traffic light. At one point it looked like the white and black shuttered home was sitting smack dab in the middle of the street.

We were there to play Scrabble. It was Mara’s birthday. She wrote us all tankas and read a sestina in which the word cereal figured prominently. We collectively decided that “cereal” was not as poetic as the word “cherrios." Mara took notes, and so did I because I always do. I wrote down “Is that a double peace sign or a quote?” referring to a four fingered gesture that someone made. dragonyes.jpg

I crooked my neck and tried to read Mara’s pants. They were light blue dungaree and covered with handwritten marker scrawl, reminding me of the collection of bumper stickers she has spread out all over her silver Forrester. Kathleen spelled out rhymes on her Scrabble tile while Rosemary schemed for the high score of the day. There was soup and tuna salad and steamy hot tea. Kathleen, a former Bostonian like me, knew what a bulkie roll was (a Boston version of a Kaiser roll).

We tried to get Sally, the café owner, to play but she was working the lunch hour. She did agree to be our designated Scrabble life-line and visited our table now and then to offer Scrabble consultation. We bantered with some of the Floyd Figures Art Group artists who were having lunch at a table nearby.

Somebody mentioned Kalamazoo. I think they were planning a trip there. “It sounds like a place in a Doctor Seuss book,” Mara said. “Or a musical instrument,” I added. We allowed Mara to play one free phony word, PERVE, because it was her birthday. The sun streamed in the large paneled window, Rosemary kept score to a Dar William’s soundtrack coming through the café speakers.

Rosemary gifted Mara with a miniature wooden dragon whose head wiggled and bobbed. Another dragon she had only shook his head back and forth, so he was replaced. “Naysayer,” Rosemary explained. This one repeatedly nodded in the affirmative, so we set him at the edge of the board for moral support.
There were no birthday cards, but when the game was over, Mara stood on a chair and asked everyone to sign her pants. Some people wrote slogans, others expressed birthday wishes. Curious café customers got pulled into the live art performance. “Take our picture,” Mara suggested to blogger David St. Lawrence who was sitting with his laptop at a nearby table. David deferred at first, noticing that I also had a camera in my hand, but Mara insisted, confessing that she wanted to be on David’s blog.

Post Notes: That's Sally in the first pant-signing photo and Kim from next door at the Winter Sun in the second. You can scroll down HERE for a photo of all of us at last year's Birthday Scrabble game. All Scrabble posts can be found HERE. Special thanks to David who, after the Scrabble Party broke up, gave me some blogging tech help. Jeanne from Out and Back has the interview questions I asked her posted today.

May 3, 2007

13 Thursday: Let it All Hang Out

13laundry2.jpg 1. When we were kids we thought the two bones that stuck out under our shoulder blades were where our wings would go when we died and became angels. Doing the Sunday Scribblings prompt on “wings” last week reminded me of it.

2. Have you ever noticed that being forced to overhear a loud cell phone conversation about someone else’s life is a little like breathing second hand smoke or having it blown in your face?

3. Did you know that clotheslines are banned or restricted by tens of thousands of homeowners’ associations nation-wide? I learned about this from the Laundry List, a project to educate people about how simple lifestyle modifications, including air drying one’s clothes, reduces our dependence on environmentally and culturally costly energy sources.

4. Dr. Helen Cadicott, founder of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Physicians for Social Responsibility, says, “"Laundry offends the aesthetic sensibilities of some people. Where in Victorian times, clotheslines were ubiquitous; Mrs. Brown’s brassiere blowing in the breeze has apparently become scandalizing to some modern Americans. A strange brand of prudery has made it impossible for some people to conserve energy and money by using a clothesline."familylaundry.jpg

5. I take photos of my laundry on the line because I like the way it looks, and just like trees change colors with seasons, so does my laundry. I call this one “bullfight.”

6. I also save answering machine messages. After my brothers died I was afraid to lose people’s voices, so now I copy them onto a tape recorder before I erase them.

7. Last weekend I was honored at a woman’s rite of passage ceremony, along with eighteen other women fifty-years and older. I’ve been wanting to write about it but all I have so far is the title: From First Holy Communion to Community Croning.

8. It’s Mara’s birthday today. For her birthday, she wrote all her Scrabble playing women friends Tankas and presented us with them at her Scrabble Birthday Party yesterday (more on that later).

9. My tanka says: I call your voice … mail with poetry … and leave tiny rhymes … because I’m so inclined – let go of punctuation

10. Mara is the same age I was when I met my husband, Joe. Although she wasn’t old enough to be honored at the ceremony, she was one of the seventy attendees who took part in the celebration. Now I’m worried that I’ll have to put up with her telling the world that I’m the “Poet Laureate of Floyd” and a crone.

11. But I wasn’t croned I was crowned I tell her.

12. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks laundry on a clothesline is art. I LOVE THIS video.

13. Proof of global warming as indicated by underwear hanging on a clothesline HERE and thanks to Susan.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. #80

May 2, 2007

That’s a Good Question

There’s an interview meme weaving its way through the blogsphere. It recently landed here. Deana posed the first five questions and Naomi the next five. Q&A as follows:

1. If there was one place that you and Joe could go in this world and explore for a few weeks where would you go? All expenses paid of course.......and why? Joe tells me not to say Hawaii because it’s more touristy than I think. So I say Alaska and he counters with New Zealand. We both agree that as far as this fantasy goes the key word is “explore” and that we are both interested in the wilderness. But then, just this morning I had a conversation with a woman who has a house on the coast of Brittany, France. We talked about doing a woman’s vacation there, hiking a pilgrimage, exploring a nearby castle, taking a train to Paris, and of course there is always the French food (!!). The last time I was briefly in Paris, I was young and poor and walked right past the Louvre. So maybe I’d like to explore France as seen by Renoir and Monet.

2. If they told you tomorrow that you had been banned from writing for one year...no exceptions...how do you think you'd fill that void in your life? This reminds me of the old Twilight Zone episode where a very chatty guy is promised a large amount of money if he can go a year without talking. He wins the bet (but sadly never receives the money) by having his tongue cut off! I can guarantee you that I would not cut off my fingers because I’d need them to express myself in ways other than writing. Since I think with my hands, I suspect I would turn to drawing and doodling. I’d make more collages that include cut out words from magazines. I’d also invest in a good recorder to dictate my thoughts into (although I have tried this before and it didn’t work for me).

3. If every couple in the world could make their own rainbows over their homes for the world to see, colors that swirled and defined who they were individually and together, what colors would be over your home? and why? (choose 5 please). When Joe came to Floyd to be a Blue Mountain School teacher, I was newly divorced and renting a big farmhouse. One of my roommates at the time moved out and Joe needed a place to live, so we were roommates first. One day, not long after he moved in, we were sitting close to each other on the couch when my niece (also a roommate) came in and described this vibrant blue color that she saw above our heads (chemistry meets premonition). Years later we were married and sat for a wedding portrait (photos HERE). The artist, isa maria, painted a bright blue swath of color above our heads, so I’m pretty sure there is a rainbow over Joe and I and our home, one that comes in all shades of blue: royal, lapis, turquoise, indigo, periwinkle, teal (with some shades of purple in the mix).

4. What is the one chance you once had in your lifetime that you honestly regret not taking? why? I wish I had gone to Woodstock. I had friends that went and had planned to go. My reason for not going was a good one, but still, even with all that rain and mud, I regret not seeing Janis Joplin sing before she died and taking part in such a monumental generational event.

5. I have to ask this one of everyone....if you were President of the United States of America what 2 things would you do that you felt would save this country?...(you have complete control here ) .....why? I would create a new system of a gradual transition between outgoing and incoming administrations. I think the outgoing president should help the new president get up to speed and that they both should work together for the good of all for at least six months. I think it’s pretty risky to put so much power in the hands of one man, so I would set up a rotating bipartisan presidential counsel that consisted of women, elders, poets, artists, minorities, and working class people. Presidents would be obliged to consult with the counsel on a regular basis and before making big decisions.

The next five questions were asked by Naomi:

1. If you were told you had six months to live, how would you spend it? I would probably stop the time-consuming discipline of daily blogging. I would write letters to each person I love and tell them how I feel and why. I would stop collecting stuff and start giving stuff away. I would hire a house cleaner and eat out more (only in the best restaurants), so I wouldn’t have to spend so time doing daily chores. I would contemplate what it means to be human, travel to places of beauty, and spend more time at the ocean. I might plan my own death rite of passage. I would spend as little time as possible in a hospital and as much time as possible in the presence of those I love. I would kiss my adult sons like they were children again and make Joe play Scrabble with me.

2. You have been awarded a Fabulous Fantasy Dinner, anywhere in the world that your heart desires and money is no object. Where would it be and please describe in detail the 5 course meal that you would be having, including wines, etc. I’m thinking Italy, some kind of pasta dish with fresh seafood and olive oil, garlic, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil and capers. But, I can’t drink red wine, so what am I doing in Italy? Do they have good white wine? Can I ride on a gondola?

3. The Circus has come to town and you can "perform" in any part of it you would like....What would you choose and why? I love wearing a mask and the freedom I feel when no one knows who I am. At one point in my life I really wanted to be a clown and even had my sister Kathy make me a clown suit. In the spirit of the court jester and the Lakota heyoka, I’d probably be a clown, but not your average Bozo.

4. Sometimes there is a defining moment in one's life...or what Oprah calls "That Aha! Moment'....what was yours and how did it change the course of your life? As I came to understand (through personal experience and learning about quantum physics) that all of creation is one thing, with each part affecting each other part, I began to take more personal responsibility for the role I was playing in the collective. I realized that Science and Religion are not so at odds with each other and that the main thing that separates the followers of each is semantics. I knew that someone else’s successes would uplift and benefit me, just as my successes would uplift and benefit them. Our tragedies are also ultimately shared. Knowing this has made me more tolerant of others and has increased my capacity to care about them and the world.

5. Have you ever lied to someone you love and then regretted it...? Explain please. No lie that I can think of, but I have at times held back the truth. I’m always disappointed in myself when I’m not brave enough to be completely honest. I believe the truth has a presence that affects us whether we acknowledge it or not. Not speaking the truth when you know it can stifle the life force of all involved. Acknowledging it is a relief, since it’s there affecting us anyways. When we tell the truth it frees us to move on.

For those who want to play:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview Me".
2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your weblog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

May 1, 2007

Tender is the Light

1. Shedding some light
2. Inner light
3. Self potrait reflection in sewer water
4. The night stars the moon

Photos: 1. Cafe Del Sol window at night. 2. Photographing a tulip in my yard. 3. Sewer grill in Roanoke. 4. Watching the moon from my yard last night.