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August 31, 2007

A Day in the Life (in the Country)

pumpktype.jpgHarvested ripe red garden peppers and prepared to roast them under the oven broiler before freezing them in olive oil as per the recipe told to me by my friend Kathleen.

Tried to lift a humungous pumpkin that Joe carried over from the garden off the porch picnic table, but it was too heavy.

Boiled some water to pour on the maggot eggs I found in the trash out back.

The house filled with smoke. Was I doing something wrong? I called Kathleen. Oh no! No one ever told me that you have to leave the oven door open when you use the broiler.

Got my 2009 WeMoon submission ready, complete with a SASE and a writer’s bio.

Did some research on the poet E. E. Cummings and talked on the phone about poetry punctuation with Mara. She had just finished a first Latin class on her first day back at Hollins College and was excited about the language connections she was learning.

Called Lora Geissler to set up a meeting to purchase a piece of her art for The Hotel Floyd Writer’s Room.

Our dog Jasmine caught a squirrel. It was squeaking like a bird.

All the while, I was turning big red peppers under the broiler for roasting.

Ran upstairs to clip a piece of an aloe plant for a burn on my hand. Noticed the plants upstairs needed watering.

Filled four gallon glass jugs with Floyd water in preparation for our trip to camp out at my Asheville Potter son's place for the first wood-firing of the kiln he just built.

The water theme continued as I made my way out to the yard to the vegetable and flower gardens and interacted with watering cans and hoses.

Burned the onions I was sautéing for the two batches of spaghetti sauce I was making for supper and to take to the wood-firing while I was outside (a good way to use up those garden tomatoes that are all over my house).redpeppersll.jpg

Peeling the skins off the roasted red peppers is harder and messier than I thought. Between the peppers, tomatoes for sauce making, and the bright heat from the broiler, I began to feel like I was immersed in a bloody hellish red dream.

My friend Juniper came over and we sat outside and caught up, nibbling as we talked on seeds from the sunflower heads I had picked earlier in the day.

We went for a ride in my car because she’s thinking of buying it. When we got back we were hungry and the spaghetti sauce was ready. I cut the last fresh cucumber of the year for a salad. 8/29/07

August 30, 2007

13 Thursday: A Matter of Poetry and Death

13book.jpg 1. Will Planet X collide with earth and tip it on its axis? After watching 60 Minutes last week and seeing the rate that the Antarctic icebergs are melting, I’m more worried about the reality of that than a bump from a possible planet knocking us out of existence.

2. Was THIS John Lennon’s idea of an Elvis jumpsuit?

3. I regularly make peanut butter balls (peanut butter, oatmeal, honey, chocolate chips, and sesame seeds) and carry them with me for survival food whenever I go out. They make a handy high protein, quick energy snack, and I can get really set back if I get over hungry. My husband doesn’t do well missing meals either but he doesn’t digest peanuts well, so we make him almond butter balls. Last night we cracked up when he said by mistake: “Honey, I’m out of Almond Brother balls.”

4. Scott Kirkpatrick, a Northern Virginia Slam Poet turned Sergeant, died in Iraq last week. On his website he said, “I don’t think arty poet boys join the infantry a lot.” In 2000 he won a slam in Washington DC. You can hear him read one of his poems HERE.

5. Poetry is older than the alphabet … before commas there was only the breath… is an excerpt from a line in a new poem called “A Poet’s Punctuation Proclamation,” which addresses why I don’t tend to punctuate my poetry.

6. Poetically, I’m in the minority, riding in the back of the bus. In the poem, Nikki Giovanni, who is driving the bus, turns to me and the other riders and says: You don’t need punctuation … let the line break tell the reader when to stop. Natalie Goldberg, William Carols Williams, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Bob Dylan show up in the poem too. I don’t even mention E. E. Cummings, who didn’t capitalize words and used punctuation sparingly and playfully. Billy Collins has called Cummings poetic style “typographical high jinks.”

7. I’m happy to welcome a new Floyd blogger into the local mix. When she emailed me to let me know she was blogging, I answered, “So glad you got in touch and are catching the blog bug. Excuse me while I sneeze and go to check out your site now.

8. My father was a prankster. Whenever he sneezed, he did it loudly, and clearly said, AH SHIT!

9. Something I don’t miss about the ocean HERE. (You won’t believe your eyes. Scroll down to see the most amazing photos you've seen all year.)

10. Top strange way to die: The Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed in 458 BC when an eagle dropped a live tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a stone.

11. We’ve been talking about death (prompted by THIS) and burial choices on the Love Link (family group email that was started when my brother Dan was sick) ). Did you know that burials in America deposit 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid—formaldehyde, methanol, and ethanol—into the soil each year and that cremation pumps dioxins, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide into the air?

12. A wake is a time for mourners to sit with a recently passed loved one. Traditionally, it was also the last chance for the dead to “wake” up before burial, which is how it got its name.

13. Poet’s epitaphs: “Called Back,” Emily Dickinson; “I had A Lover's Quarrel With The World,” Robert Lee Frost; “Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted,” Sylvia Plath Hughes; “Nothing of him that doth fade - But doth suffer a sea-change - Into something rich and strange,” Percy Bysshe Shelley. More HERE.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. Thanks to my brother Bob for sending the sea foam photos.

August 29, 2007

How Now Floyd Cow?

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These days Floyd reads like a fairytale. In this storybook one traffic light town I live in, we buy food at the Harvest Moon, hear music at the Winter Sun, eat lunch Over the Moon, and see the latest in local art Under the Sun. Last week I met an artist named Jennifer Spoon at Over the Moon to buy a collage for the Hotel Floyd Writer’s Room. We did not eat pie in the sky.

Post Notes: To see the Cow That Jumped Over the Moon and landed at the driveway entrance and to read about her sidekick, go HERE. More Floyd goings on can be found by scrolling down in my "Where I Live" archives HERE.

August 28, 2007

August Rust

AKA: Our Dog Days are Numbered
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Green August ages into rust
Days shrink and summer’s wilt crackles

Burdock burrs fatten and threaten to cling
Fireflies like porch lights shut off

Vines strangle beans and pumpkins escape
from the smother of leaves now shriveled

Pedicured toenails have outgrown pink polish
Tall faded sunflowers hunch over

Woodpeckers knock and squirrels drop acorns
Over-ripe tomatoes split open and weep

Lethargic crickets trapped in the house
have quit their whining complaints

Approaching cold nights will kill the most tender
Hunters are scoping their sights

~ Colleen 8/25/07

August 27, 2007

The Outtakes

The following are photos from the Community Temple Kiln Building. For more photos and narrative, scroll down to the next post or go HERE.
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1. An inside job
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2. Josh and Karl pondering the plans
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3. Checking on the progress
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4. The law of attraction
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5. The mud that holds it all together
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6. Noah's Ark?
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7. Fixing a hole where the rain gets in
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8. Very cool!

August 25, 2007

The Kiln Update

AKA: Potters who aren’t named Harry
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It’s been nearly three months since my husband, Joe, and I went to the kiln roof-raising at my Asehville Potter son's place, where Joe joined the work crew and I cooked for them. Joe’s been back to help a second time. So has our friend Karl, who snapped this photo of the results of the roof raising, which I documented by way of videos on Youtube HERE. The material for the roof came from the old house on the property that my son, Josh, tore down and salvaged for parts.
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Lots of back-to-back work days, hard labor, and sacrifice have gone into building this kiln. Josh worked from morning to night for weeks at a time. Friends and fellow potters (like Matt Jacobs pictured here) came out to lend their bodies and hands.
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Josh (pictured here) and other potters at the ClaySpace Coop in Asheville (founded by Josh in 2003 along with fellow members Matt Jacobs and Sean Fairbridge) are making new pots to be the first fired in the new kiln, which is called The Community Temple. It’s a wood burning, three chamber climbing kiln that is 27 feet long, with a stacking space of 260 cubic feet. Check it out and click around on the new ClaySpace webpage HERE. Josh still plans to put together a personal website when construction slows down.
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Before the roof went up, the kiln site looked like a Mayan ruin with a tarp hung over it, or an archeological dig. Later it began to take on a mythological look, reminiscent of the building of a megalithic stone structure or ancient pyramid.
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A kiln always remind me of the oven that Hansel and Gretel pushed the witch into, and woodfiring is like a "Where the Wild Things Are" fairytale that involves staying up all night and fire alchemy.
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The irony that bricks are made of fired clay and that a kiln is a construction for firing clay that is built largely of bricks is not lost on me.
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Soon Joe and I will be traveling back to Josh’s place in Madison County, NC, to dedicate the kiln for its first woodfiring. I imagine in this case the dedication will involve the smashing of a bottle of a beer, rather than the traditional champagne against the brick structure, because although Josh currently lives in an Airstream trailer called The Land Yacht, he’s more of a Pabst Blue Ribbon man than a champagne one.

August 24, 2007

A Glass Slipper of Moon

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It’s a fairy godmother’s moon
that glitters at midnight
A glass slipper of light
from the day’s dizzy spell

It’s a perfect fit
in a palace of darkness
in a happily ever after
end to the day


Note: I've been too long at the ball, for the moon has grown nearly full.

August 23, 2007

13 Thursday: Write On

mara13pants2.jpg1. Sometimes reading seems like too much input, like taking in second hand information when I could be having original thoughts.

2. By the time I was eleven I was coveting Dear Abby’s job and reading Erma Bombeck while thinking, “hmmm, you can make money doing that?”

3. I felt similar about the Dick Van Dyke show and the fact that his character had a job sitting in an office writing lines all day. Coming from a working class background, that seemed unthinkable to me. But although I didn’t know it at the time, I was recognizing something that would later become a way of life for me.

4. Did you know that “the now common experience of “silent reading” is a late development in the story of the alphabet, emerging only after the Middle Ages, when spaces were first inserted between the words in a written manuscript (along with various forms of punctuation), enabling readers to distinguish the words of a written sentence without necessarily sounding them out audibly?” ~From “The Spell of the Sensuous”

5. These days a camera in my pocket is like a second pen.

6. I got an answering machine, a color TV, and a computer because someone gave them to me. I still don’t have a cell phone but I’m starting to want that gadget that is a phone, computer, and Ipod all in one.

7. Content should dictate technology and not the other way around.

8. When my friend, Mara, performs spoken word, she frequently wears pants with words marked all over them. When I first ran into her at FloydFest , I said, “What’s up with your pants. They have nothing written on them.” ffmaraspant3s.jpgShe handed me a pen and I got to write the first word on them while announcing “Let the pants writing begin!”

9. When she arrived at the spoken word night a couple of weeks later (the one we were sidelined to do on the street), she had a surprise for me. She, a regular loose leaf reader and re-occurring character on my blog had added a large 13 to her pants, knowing I would use it for a Thirteen Thursday post (see top photo).

10. My husband, Joe, got back from visiting his family on the hottest day of the summer. When I heard him come in I called from the bedroom, “Come in here where your fans are. That means me and the one plugged in that blows air.”

11. He brought me a present. He knows what I like. THIS.

12. Our dog is afraid of gunshots and thunder. Even though she has a doggie door, she’s been chewing her way in at every door in our house. “This has got to stop,” I said to Joe. “She’s eating us out of house and home.”

13. LOOK HERE. Mara wants your autograph.

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

August 22, 2007

A Walk on the Wild Side

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1. Wild Tiger Lily
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2. Mullein army
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3. Parkway purple
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4. Don’t spare the goldenrod

Post notes: All of the above flowers grow wild on the Blue Ridge Parkway and can be found within walking distance of my house. The ironweed and goldenrod are prolific now. The lilies are native but rare, which is why I'm excited to have two growing in my yard.

August 21, 2007

Cupid’s Double-edged Arrow

2ashadows.jpgIt ain't the heart, or the lungs, or the brain. The biggest, most important part of the body is the one that hurts. – poet, Sekou Sundiata

It takes energy to hold a sharp focus on the memory of a loved one who has died. It’s like holding an arm wrestling position; after a while you get tired and have to give in. Giving in can be a relief, but it also has its own compounding sadness. As you return to your everyday life and memories start to blur, so does the piercing clarity that comes from living on edge, so close to death. Your loved one left you, and now it feels like you are leaving them.

When my brothers Jim and Dan died six years ago, my life was turned around. It was the first time I had experienced the death of an immediate family member. I was surprised by the strength of the sibling bonds between my brothers, me, and my remaining seven siblings and caught off guard by the intensity of grief I felt. It wasn’t just the heartbreak of losing Jim and Dan as adults. Because I knew them as children, I grieved for the loss of that part of them as well. I referred to mourning them as being in the trenches of grief’s front line. In what would become a book about my brothers’ lives and deaths, I wrote about being in a hole: Maybe the way an animal goes off alone to heal, I go down – into a mine, an archaeological dig, the shadow of the valley of death. Once tripped into the hole, I wasn’t in a hurry to come out, at least not empty handed. If I couldn’t bring my brothers back I at least wanted to mine some meaning from their untimely deaths.

The hole I wrote about could also be viewed as a metaphor for the deepening that was being carved out in me, as though more room was being made for me to hold more. Although the edges of the hole have softened over time, the span of it seems to have widened to include other past and future losses; the loss of my youth, my sons as children, the anticipation of losing physical abilities and beauty that seem destined to come with aging.

Losing my brothers showed me that death absolutely will happen. So, in vulnerable moments I play out other death scenarios. When my husband, Joe, goes out of town, as he did last week, and I’m alone in the house, I find myself ruminating on death. I remember the woman in town who lost her husband last year. My eyes well up with tears when I think of her because it’s been obvious how much she loved her husband, as I do mine. Is pain the price we pay for truly loving someone? If so, why do we let ourselves love so deeply? Do we even have a choice? The pain of losing someone close seems unimaginable from a distance, but when it is your pain and your reality there’s no alternative but to feel it.

So what would my life be like without Joe? Where and how would I live? He comes from Maryland, I’m from Massachusetts, and although we’re both happy where we live, neither of us wants to be buried in the local cemetery here in Virginia. So where will our dead bodies go? Cremation? He wouldn't care, but I wouldn’t be able to bear to look at a container full of his ashes. The thought of scattering his remains into obscurity leaves me cold. And I’ve not let go of the idea that a grave in a cemetery gives the dead and those who loved them a sense of belonging, a place in common, a concrete marker.

Such are the thoughts and questions that come with grief survival. The immediate wound that a death exacts eventually heals, but scars and fault lines remain. Once a grief fault line becomes apparent, it can grow. I don’t know whether my playing out death scenarios is an exercise in preparation, self-torture, or a byproduct of the trauma of watching one brother die before my eyes and imagining the other brother being violently crushed to death.

Yesterday was so hot, at midday I went to my bedroom, lied down, and let the fan blow on me. In the restful quiet that followed, I was struck by an uncomfortable feeling. As If I had rolled across something sharp, I remembered that my father was dead. When he died two years ago, four years after Jim and Dan, I grieved freely, but I didn’t have the heart or the energy to inhabit the hole again. It was too big, and having been there so recently, there seemed no point to further explore it.

But now, standing at its precipice, looking down, a flush of anxiety washed over me. For a few seconds, I was a child again, abandoned, unprotected, without a father.

Every death chinks away at my identity because my identity is intrinsically tied to those I love. But maybe life is designed to do that, so that when it comes my time to leave this world, my ego-self will have receded enough that I can finally let go of it all. Even so, the sting of not having a father, the fading memories of my childhood with my brothers, and the certainty of eventually losing others that I love, makes me want to splash cold water on my face.

Post Notes: James Michael Redman – November 22, 1946 – July 25, 2001. Daniel Mark Redman – October 7, 1951 – August 29, 2001. Entries on last year’s anniversary of Jim and Dan’s deaths are HERE and HERE. Photos of all nine Redmans HERE.

August 20, 2007

Sidelined Sidewalk Poets

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After nearly three years of co-hosting a Spoken Word Open Mic with the Café Del Sol on the third Saturday of every month, local writers were stood up. This past third Saturday when we arrived at the café, it was locked.
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Poets began to gather on the sidewalk. Questions were asked. Cell phones were used. Some came and left while others lingered, pacing the sidewalk and peering into the café windows.
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Mara decided she wasn’t going to wait till she’s an older lady in a purple hat to sit on the sidewalk. “Where is our soapbox when we need it?” she asked.
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Kyla got her hula hoop out of the back of her mom’s car.
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Joe ate French fries that he got down the street at Oddfellas Cantina.
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Cars and motorcycles drove by. Heads turned. Jayn pulled up a chair on the sidewalk next to Mara and chatted as if she was sitting on a front porch.
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One couple who came for the entertainment pulled out their lap top and clicked on the Café Del Sol page. “See! It’s listed right here!” the unidentified man shouted.
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“Yes, it was in the Floyd Press too,” I answered while balancing Kyla’s hoop on my hips.
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Mara and I used the sidewalk as a stage for an impromtu street performance. With the setting sun as a spotlight, we did a piece from the OUTLOUD women’s collective that was recently featured at FloydFest. You can see and hear it HERE. We hope all is well with the Cafe owners and will keep you posted.

August 18, 2007

The Diary

ddiarey.jpgThe only physical thing I have left from my childhood, other than photographs, is a pink ponytail diary with the lock broken off. Everything else was left in my closet and burned to the ground with the rest of our house when it was taken by the town through eminent domain. I was ten years old with neat unbroken handwriting when the entries, mostly written in pencil, began. I remember being afraid to commit my thoughts to pen. A pencil with an eraser felt much safer.

Once, many years later, when I was teaching a children’s creative writing class at the Blue Mountain School (a parent-run cooperative in Floyd), I brought in my diary and read passages out loud to the students. I must have been trying to emphasize the importance of keeping a journal because creative it was not. There were no signs of a published writer in the entries. In fact, it was so bad that the children laughed uncontrollably, but I was thrilled to have an early record of my own written word, however untalented it might be.

The diary started in January, which tells me it was probably a Christmas present. I did a lot of ice skating, along with taking care of “the babies” (my brothers Johnny and Joey), going to Mercurio’s Village store, church, drill team practice, and school; the childhood record reveals. There were several accounts of fights and make-ups with my best friend Laura and many melodramatic entries about my boyfriend at the time, Richard. Bad words were crossed out and secret codes were not revealed. A couple of pages had been torn out.

On January 20, 1960, I wrote a historic account of when we got flooded. This was not the time that the Coast Guard (who happened to be our neighbors) had to row us out in rescue boats, but it was the time when we went to the Memorial School where soup was served, cots were set up, and my family was interviewed for a story in the Patriot Ledger newspaper. A photographer took our picture, a family of nine then (before Bobby and Tricia), in hats, scarves, and mittens. We girls wore kerchiefs tied around our heads which fit with the refugee look the paper was going for. Jimmy, the big brother, was tying Danny’s scarf, a pose I suspect that the photographer suggested. “In front James, 14, adjusts the scarf of Daniel, 9, as Cheryl (Sherry), between the two, looks on,” the caption read.

“Dear Diary Today is Friday,” I wrote. “We got flooded and had to get vacuumed.” (I guess the word “evacuated” hadn’t shown up on a school spelling or vocabulary list yet.) Then there were several lines about how cold my feet were, how Jimmy and my mother went back to the house in hip boots for blankets, and how my father followed to check on them while the rest of us waited in the car.

I recently picked up this diary again to see if there were any entries about my brothers, Jim and Dan, who died in 2001. I found them on page 3: “My brother and stupid sister went bowling. Me and Danny will go next week.” Now I was hooked, as I flipped through the pages to see if we went the next week. Three months later in an entry from March I wrote about going bowling with my mother and father. Danny wasn’t there, or wasn’t mentioned. Did he not want to go? Was he bad that day?

There were a few entries that mentioned Jim, like this one: “A real handsome boy came down to play with Jimmy.” Or this one, “I had to go and lose my temper at Jimmy in the car. He called Richard a nut. I threw my pocketbook at him and yelled, ‘I hate to say what you are!’”

My sister Kathy was mentioned more often. She was called “stupid” or “big wheel” during this period, because she was a teenager and I was not. But when she let me go with her and her girlfriends to the Loring Theater in Hingham, where they usually had a Jerry Lewis or Elvis Presley movie showing, she was cool. “Me and Sherry played house all day. Boy was it fun. We changed everything around,” was an entry that revealed how far I really was from being a teenager as hard as I was trying to be one.

I loved seeing Jimmy and Danny’s names written in pencil in my ten year old cursive penmanship. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more written about them, but my mind was on boyfriends not brothers back then. The Richard thing didn’t last, but Jim and Dan did, not for as long as I would have wished for, but for as long as they could.

Post Notes:
The above was adapted from a passage in “The Jim and Dan Stories” for the Sunday Scribblings prompt “Dear Diary.” For a photo of my updated diary, go HERE.

August 17, 2007

Attached at the Lap

poolscrabblell.jpgWhile I was swimming laps, Mara was taking her turn on the little Travel Scrabble game balanced on her lap. I came back dripping, grabbed for a towel with one hand and picked up a snapped shut tile of miniature letters with the other. Then I sat down on the lounge chair and laughed.

“I don’t even remember these letters. I must have picked them just before I jumped in.”

“Those are my letters!” Mara shouted.

A few minutes later, she asked, “Is sneed a word?”

“Only if we’re allowing Dr. Suess words,” I answered.

Kayla, Mara’s daughter, called me back over to the pool to take a video of her jumping off the diving board HERE. She didn’t make much of a splash. I considered doing a retake, but I had a game to finish.

Post Notes: This scene happened last week. More recently, I went to the pool on the last day it was open for the season, which was also the day before school started. The parking lot was like Walmart, which was unusual for our small town. I had to wait for a van to pull out, freeing up a place to park. You can scroll down HERE for more Scrabble adventures.

August 16, 2007

13 Thursday: The Word Lab

deskjoxbll.jpg1. You know how my blog statement says, “Whenever I don't know exactly what it is I'm doing and it borders on wasting my time, I call it research?” Well this is how that works:

2. Bonnie the Wordsmith had a post titled “Under the Weather.” In it she admits that she doesn’t know what the term means. So, being the curious person I am, I googled it to see what I could find.

3. I learned that it’s likely an old sailor’s phrase. When men were sick, they would rest below deck and so were literally "under" the weather on deck.

4. Then I discovered that most of our common euphemisms come from three main sources, Shakespeare – dead as a doornail, mums the word, woe is me, in the twinkling of an eye, all that glitters is not gold; The Bible – a bird in the hand, bite the dust, at his wits end, the fly in the ointment; and Seafaring – knowing the ropes, high and dry, cut and run, and three sheets to the wind.

5. Can you imagine learning the English language and having to translate sayings like kick the bucket, dog eat dog, turn a trick, bought the farm, break a leg, bun in the oven, and brownie points?

6. I wonder if we took all the euphemisms, idioms, colloquialisms, clichés, innuendo, and slang out of language what would be left.

7. Researching sailor’s sayings led me to George Carlin. Carlin doesn’t like euphemisms. He says: Sometime during my life, toilet paper became bathroom tissue. I wasn't notified of this. No one asked me if I agreed with it. It just happened. Toilet paper became bathroom tissue. Sneakers became running shoes. False teeth became dental appliances. Medicine became medication. Information became directory assistance. The dump became the landfill. Car crashes became automobile accidents. And Partly cloudy bacame partly sunny.

8. George Carlin led to George Orwell, who also doesn’t like euphemisms, aka doublespeak, a more calculated version of disguising meaning with something that sounds more agreeable. He gives this example: “Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification.” Orwell must have turned over in his grave when the powers that be came up with “collateral damage” for killing civilians.

9. From George Orwell, I was led to Curious George. No, I’m just kidding. But I did learn that the name George comes from Greek and means “farmer,” and that George Orwell’s real name was Eric Blair.

10. But there is more to life than research. THIS is what my Scrabble playing friend, Mara, and I do when we have too much time on our hands.

11. I like to play with the alphabet. I notice that the word “slack” has “lack” right in it. (Is slack somehow the plural of lack, the way too many pets become pests?) I notice that silent and listen are made up of the same letters, like note and tone are. I know that coyote is coy, because his name tells me so. ~ More word play HERE.

12. Taking painkillers recently for an infected tooth made me understand how people get addicted to them. Not because they make you feel good, but because once they wear off you feel worse than you did before you took them and so you want them even more.

13. Disclaimer: I did not write this list while on drugs. No animals were used and nothing was blown up in the word lab this morning while mixing this 13 concoction.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here.View more 13 Thursday’s here. Bonnie's Weekend Word Lab is HERE.

August 15, 2007

The Back to School Flower Girl Show

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1. Role model
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2. Pink clique
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3. Fall Fashion statement
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4. Fresh faces
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5. Attendance taking
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6. Most likely to be teacher’s pet

August 14, 2007

When it’s Not So Hot, Pink and Sparkly

ffwristband.jpgSometimes I think having chronic fatigue is something like having a drinking problem. When I partake in a social life, I live it up large, but soon I have to sneak away to find a place to sleep it off. As I rest in my own little world, hearing the voices and sounds of others carrying on, I feel illicit and sadly set apart. But if I don’t regularly nip at the nap, if I go too long and do too much I find myself staggering, my words start to slur, and my brain can no longer add two and two together. I get hangovers too. For every few hours I spend out, I need to match those hours recovering at home.

I recently posted about how a pink sparkly FloydFest wristband could take me almost anywhere on the festival site. I spent four hours on the opening day of FloydFest (our town’s four day world music festival) with my son and his fiddle playing girlfriend. I listened to her play with The Barrel House Mamas, had dinner and a beer with them in the hospitality tent, and talked with friends I ran into. In the middle of Sam Bush’s first set, I headed for home, knowing how prone I am to sensory overload.

Judging by the way I felt the next day, there was no question that I would not be going back up to the festival, just six miles from my house on the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially since I knew I had to conserve my energy for a full day at the site on Saturday. Not only was I going to miss Friday’s FloydFest, I had cancel my trip to Blacksburg to attend the Free Press Open House, marking the close of twenty-four years of publication in the name of peace and justice. As I dragged myself around the house, waiting for my body to catch up with the rest of me, I kept noticing my sparkly pink wristband and found myself thinking, ‘there are places even a sparkly pink wrist band can’t take you.’ With a four day pass, earned by performing poetry with the FloydFest Poetree Players (on Saturday) and the publication of my essay in the program, I’d be lucky if I could attend one full day and a half.

Yesterday I came across a succinct definition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome posted on an Environmental Illness Resource site. It was based on a 2006 study, the largest study to date on CFS, which determined a biological basis for CFS. I felt emotional as I read it, not only because I’ve been personally managing CFS for thirty years now, but because I knew that it would bring new understanding to CFS.

A common perception about CFS is that it’s associated with being bedridden, which is not always the case. Personally, I’ve never been bedridden, but I do know the bed better than most. Beyond the early acute stages of the disorder, which can be quite dramatic, people with CFS can appear completely normal. But here’s the catch: If everyone were given a daily deck of 52 cards of energy to spend, I would only ever get 30 (and that’s on a good day). I have to plan carefully how to spend them and stay away from situations that drain me.

Although the new findings on CFS weren’t surprising to me and didn’t offer anything new in the way of treatment, knowing they would help educate the public and the medical profession about CFS gave me a bittersweet sense of relief. Here’s the flyer I’d like to stand on a street corner and pass out:

At the press briefing, Dr. Reeves, the lead CFS researcher at the CDC, stated “For the first time ever, we have documented that people with CFS have certain genes that are related to those parts of brain activity that mediate the stress response. And that they have different gene activity levels…that are related to their body’s ability to adapt to challenges and stresses that occur throughout life, such as infections, injury, trauma or various adverse events.” What this means is that people with chronic fatigue syndrome generally have a lower tolerance to these various stressors. The result of this is that in people predisposed to CFS, their bodies can become overwhelmed by events that other people would be able to shrug off, and this is where dysfunction in various body systems such as the nervous, endocrine and immune systems sets in. The researchers at the CDC went on to say that they identified a number of different subgroups within the patients tested, verifying what many had suspected, that CFS isn't a single easily identifiable disease with a single cause and diagnostic marker, but rather the result of a complex disease process. They also stated that this research proves once and for all that CFS is a very real biological disease and hope that it will lead to better diagnosis and treatment in the near future.

Do you know anyone with CFS? Read more HERE.

August 13, 2007

Say it Loud and Proud OUTLOUD!

colandrosemarycrop2a.jpg The following was published in the Floyd Press on August 9, 2007.

Local poets stepped up their presence at FloydFest this year by way of a stage in the Global Village. We moved from our soapbox stand under the Poetree at the festival entrance because with continuous bands playing on two near-by stages, we could hardly hear our own alliterations. At the village stage, under the shade of a brightly striped orange tent, we had mics and room to stomp around. Our group was also featured in the Floyd Fest program, which guaranteed some festival goers would make the trek off the beaten path to attend. And they did.

The theme of the collective performance, OUTLOUD, was on woman’s issues, and there were six of us representing a variety of related subjects. Besides me, other FloydFest Poetree Players featured were Tabitha Humphrey, Bekah Parker, and fellow Floyd Writer’s Circle members Mara Robbins, Rima Sultzen, and Rosemary Wyman.

Mara, FloydFest Poetree organizer since the festival’s inception in 2002, began by welcoming the audience, introducing the collective, and giving a little background on the history of the spoken word at FloydFest.
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Wearing a long hot pink scarf, I opened the show with an original poem titled “Woman: a Definition.” I’m fire and magenta … Tahitian red magma …I announced as I flipped my scarf for effect. Rosemary, adorned in another shade of pink answered from her mic, I’m murmurs and contours … I’m cradles and curbs …

Magnetic … I’m Venus … compass and radius ... I countered. Our poetic conversation continued as momentum built.

Several poems were presented in this two way conversational style, others were read as a group, and a few were done solo. The most theatrical performance piece was one on perfectionism, titled “For What I’m Worth.” Written by Rosemary Wyman, mother of a blended family with eight children, it was like an abbreviated one act play.

“Where is it written that I must measure each breath I take? Why am I driven to strive for perfection? And if I am not determined to have the perfect body, make perfect grades, keep a perfect house, raise a perfect family, why am I considered a slouch … or worst of all a selfish woman?” Rosemary pondered out loud. Her performance rose to an empowering conclusion and was accompanied by the rest of the troupe who recited chorus lines and improvised movement, complete with measuring tapes and rulers as props.

The poets took on some controversial issues, but it wasn’t about dividing working mothers from stay at home ones, woman on opposite ends of the political spectrum, of different ages or lifestyles. ffwomanstage2.jpgThe spirit of the performance was upbeat, meant to encourage diversity and remind us that we are all more alike than we are different.

Bekah, who works at the Women’s Resource Center in Radford shared her rousing signature poem “Rebelution” with a B. “Declaration of Independence,” a manifesto written by a 15 year old girl recovering from anorexia, was read by the group.

Tabitha Humphrey, an award winning poetry slammer gave a moving delivery of an original prose piece called “Will I be pretty?” It was a serious look with a humorous undertone at our culture’s focus on outer beauty. You’ll have porcelain skin as soon as we can see a dermatologist; you sucked you thumb that’s why your teeth look like that; you were hit with a Frisbee when you were six; otherwise your nose would be just fine. Don’t worry we’ll get it all fixed.

The poets didn’t completely abandon the soap box. It was used throughout the four day festival at a variety of venues, as Mara and other poets hopped up on it, spouting poetry like FloydFest town criers and encouraging others to do the same.

One impromptu soapbox reading took place Saturday evening at the coffee bus and was a round robin dialogue of poetic interpretations on the story of Peter Pan. Mara revived her poem, “Wendy Fallen” from the OUTLOUD performance. … Here on the island where we all wear pajamas, I’m the only one with a dress and an apron … Rosemary’s poem described Wendy sewing Peter Pan’s shadow on at his death bed. Arden Hill, an MFA Creative Writing graduate from Hollins University shared several Peter Pan poems. marasopaboxll.jpg

From the soapbox, I shouted out to the crowd … Before I knew that a grown woman named Mary Martin was playing Peter’s part … I already didn’t want to wear a tie ... Festival goers coming from a main stage musical performance stopped to listen. I was girl determined … not to be tied to a 9 to 5 … wearing panty hose and stilettos … in the middle of July … As I concluded my poem and jumped off the soap box to make room for the next poet, I imagined I was jumping off Captain Hook’s plank.

Lezlie, a poet who traveled from Charlottesville closed the soap box set with some improvised stream of consciousness poetics urging passersby to get involved in making the world a better place.

Post Note: The OUTLOUD performance will be repeated at the August’s Spoken Word Open Mic held at the Café Del Sol on August 18th from 7 – 9. Photos: 1. Rosemary and Colleen. 2. Colleen, Rima, Bekah, Rosemary, and Mara. 3. The group. 4. Mara on the poetry soap box shouts, "Attention shoppers!" See a short video clip of the tail end of Rosemary's piece HERE.

August 11, 2007

The Big Chill

I’m working this weekend, providing respite foster care for a man with developmental disabilities, and so I wasn’t planning to do my regular Sunday Scribblings. But then, while stealing some time on the computer as my friend was listening to his weather radio, I found myself reading a blog post that gave me goose bumps. “Aha! There you are,” I said as I studied the shivered flesh of my own arm and took it as a sign, knowing that “goose bumps” is the Scribblings writing prompt this weekend.

From my point of view, getting goose bumps is always a good sign, a reminder that I’m more than my mind, more than my physical body. I think of goose bumps, shivers, and chills as emotional sonar, a function of the higher part of myself that can’t be logically explained. Just as sneezes and spontaneous smiles always feel good to me, so do visceral reactions, even when they move me to tears.

Art galleries are places that hold mine fields of emotions that can set off a series of goosey reactions in me, everything from shivers up my spine, to invisible blows to my gut, or feelings that I’m coming unglued. I’ve been known twitch in the presence of good art, like a geiger counter for beauty, even a terrible beauty. And a poem like THIS ONE can make my eyes water with emotion, as it did yesterday when I read it, because it stirs my own appreciation of family history, beauty of the land, the bittersweet reality of living and aging, and love.

This morning it was the nostalgic lyrics of a country music song that pricked through my exterior and set the chain of bumps in motion. As a northerner transplanted in the south, I had been living in Virginia for 15 years before I discovered I liked country music. Stuck in an auto shop waiting room while getting a new muffler put on my car, I found myself watching the Country Music Channel that was tuned in on the shop TV. Song after song gave me shivers. I knew that shivers alert me to pay attention to a truth being told. When I get them, I listen.

The lyrics to the country music song posted today by Susan at Patchwork Reflections started out quirky and innocently enough … We were born to mothers who smoked and drank … Our cribs were covered in lead based pain …. But soon they went on to describe drinking from a garden hose instead of from bottled plastic; playing outside instead of inside on video game; having only 3 TV channels that we had to get up to change; and I was transported back to my childhood, to people and places I hold dear. I was struck, as if by lightening, with goose bumps.

I like to be surprised by the power of emotion, moved to feel in a visible way. I think goose bumps are good for the soul. As a writer, I often don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down. As a human being, I sometimes don’t even know I’m having feelings until the goose bumps on my arms give me away.

What gives you goose bumps?

August 10, 2007

A Likely Story: A Blogger's Biography

walsolmirror.jpgAlthough my writer's bio says that "Dear Abby, How can I get rid of freckles?" was my first published piece at the age of 11, my writing career officially began the first time I was paid for my writing. I was a full-time young mother at the time who couldn't afford a subscription to my favorite magazine, "Mothering," so I wrote an article, which was accepted for publication. Getting paid was a bonus to the subscription I earned.

Jump rope jingles, nursery rhymes, and the songs from the 40's that my father taught me were some of the early influences that contributed to my love of language, rhythm, and word play. My writing education has been un-orthodox and at times has seemed accidental (or incidental), because writing has never been removed from the rest of my life and has almost always been directly related to issues close to my heart.

After having a cesarean birth, I became an advocate for mothers and babies by writing for a homespun cesarean prevention newsletter that a friend had started. Later, frustrated by the fact that the U.S. was the number one arms seller in the world who helped to arm Saddam Hussein before we went to war with him, I co-founded a local publication called "The Bell: a Call to Peace" with my friend, poet and activist, Alywn Moss.

I was barely 20 when I enrolled in my first creative writing class at Quincy College in Massachusetts while working in a factory that made fire alarms during the day and scribbling poetry notes as I worked. For years I oversaw the art projects and library trips for preschoolers at a day care center, my next job, which is where my love of children's literature was cemented. Later, I would audit renowned poet Nikki Giovanni's class at Virginia Tech and be hired by a Blacksburg art publication to interview the first woman poet laureate of Virginia, Ruby Altizer Roberts, who was ninety-two at the time.

While raising my sons, creating and selling my handmade jewelry, I put together booklets of poetry and worked to conquer my fear of public speaking by taking up the mic at local poetry readings. Letters to the editor became political commentaries that were published in the Roanoke Times, The New River Free Press, and at Commondreams.org. Excerpts from letters and emails to my family back home in Massachusetts found there way into articles and essays.

Meanwhile, the majority of my writer's training ground took place within the pages of "A Museletter," a homespun community newsletter that is cut, laid out, pasted, and collated by volunteers every month. I first began writing for and co-editing the Museletter when I moved to Floyd, Virginia, in 1986 and my involvement with it continues to this day. In the early days I wrote a monthly home-schooling column, but soon my subjects branched out to include those on gardening, herbs, self-health, woman's issues, environmental issues, and travelogues. Mostly I contributed poetry, and I still do today. Some of the poetry that first appeared in The Museletter went on to be published in other publications, such as the We'moon Datebook.

When my brothers, Jim and Dan, died in 2001, it was as if all the writing I had done before their deaths was in preparation for what happened next. I wrote a book, which was part a recounting of the last few weeks of my brother's lives; part a humorous re-telling of growing up in an Irish Catholic family of 11 during the 50s and 60s; and part a chronicle of the day to day living and writing my way through life-altering grief. Initially published locally for family members, the book sold out of its first printing of 300 in little over a month. It went on to be used as curriculum for a grief and loss class at Radford University, spurred a Hull Village reunion in the town where my siblings and I were raised, and is now at the tail end of its 3rd printing.

My next writer's leap took place in March of 2005 and was called "Loose Leaf: Notes from a Writer's Journal." At that time, I was newly retired from providing foster care for an adult with developmental disabilities and was writing mostly political commentaries but was burned out from that kind of writing. Ready to turn over a new leaf, I wanted to have more fun with writing. So, I posted a photo of me in Ireland with a shamrock pinned to my sweater and drew on my Irish heritage to inspire the storyteller in me.

For me, blogging has served many purposes. Because I understand life by translating it into words, I've generated a lot of writing. I needed a container and a way to organize and cross-reference it. The rapid-fire pace that blogging requires has helped me develop my skills, which has led to the airing of a number of my essays on WTFV radio and to freelancing stories to The Floyd Press and other places. It also gave me a forum to continue writing about grief and loss and a place to express my love of photography.

Blogging brings out my nutty professor side and appeals to the record keeper in me. I consider my blog to be my writer's petire dish, my lab where new work is developed and sometimes launched from. It's also a day-to-day interactive journal that has allowed me to meet and form meaningful friendships with readers and other bloggers from all over the world.

Post Note:
The first photo is one of what used to be the first Seeds of Light beadshop in Blacksburg, where I worked for many years. Now it's a photography studio.

August 9, 2007

13 Thursday: The Write Way

13write.jpg1. Blogger, Absolute Vanilla, recently compared the task of editing her new manuscript to childbirth, in contrast to the flush of writing the first draft, which she compared to sex. “I don't know about the rest of you but for me, the first write of a new story is one magnificent adventure - it's passionate, intense, exhausting but entirely wonderful. Erm... just like good sex...” she wrote.

2. “That's a great analogy. It also works for the fact that the writing is better when you wait until you’re in the mood and just can't keep your hands off the pen,” I answered in a comment.

3. I often don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down, and the reason I like writing is because I’m still surprised by the things I write down.

4. Wordsmith and prolific blogger, Bonnie, recently gifted me with a thoughtful blogger award. I wonder if she guessed that I was a five on the enneagram, an ancient system of personality types, and that fives are regarded as the “observers and thinkers and investigators.” Thanks, Bonnie.

5. I’m not good at waiting in doctor’s offices. When a worst case scenario unfolded last week on a dental procedure gone wrong, and I discovered that my dentist had gone out of town, I found myself in a doctor’s waiting room with a painful swollen face ready to accept painkillers and antibiotics. After waiting in the waiting room for at least half an hour, I got excited when the receptionist finally called my name, only to discover that I was being led to a second room where I sat by myself without a People magazine and waited another half an hour.

6. The whole waiting room thing reminds me of purgatory, or a Woody Allen movie.

7. On my ride home from my dentist-returned-from-vacation on Monday, I was driving behind a man on a motorcycle. His girlfriend (I assumed) had her arms wrapped around him. She was wearing short shorts with her bare legs exposed and a seafood T-shirt that said “Get some Tail.”

8. I went to a community meeting at the Country Store Tuesday night. The subject was on promoting the use of green infrastructure planning to meet the demands of future growth in our area. Among other things, I learned that people weigh less in the mountains than they do in the flatlands and that zoning should not take the place of birth control.

9. The hosts of the event served us a choice between barbecue or hotdogs. After twenty-one years of living in Virginia, I finally had to ask what barbecue was because where I come from (MA) it’s a way of cooking and here (VA) it’s a specific menu item. Well cooked pork.

10. Yesterday was an “8 person line at the swimming pool diving board” sort of hot day.

11. It was so hot that the above was the only sentence I wrote all day.

12. In the past few weeks, I’ve been scouting for art to hang on the walls of the Hotel Floyd Writer’s Room. Originals tend go from a couple hundred to a thousand, which made me wonder who would buy a poem? What is an original poem worth? Would you miss poetry if it was gone?

13. Writer’s need books like artists need canvases, and yet, we generally let a few publishers decide who can get one.

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

August 8, 2007

Virtual Flip Art with Flowers

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.
- Jean Giraudoux

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1. Start Here
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2. in fast motion
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3. because every ending
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4. is a new beginning
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5. and life lives large

More virtual flip art with flowers HERE.

August 7, 2007

Floyd Writers: In the Mix

ffmixwriters.jpgFloyd writers and bloggers each fill a unique niche when they chronicle life in Floyd. In some cases, we may all be writing about the same story but seeing it through different lenses and zeroing in on different angles. Our town’s yearly roots music festival, FloydFest, in which 10,000 or more festival goers have been known to attend, is a good example of this. Blue Ridge Muse’s Doug Thompson, who also writes for the Floyd Press, covered the event with the seriousness of a journalist (which he is) looking for a hard edge. Ripples' David St. Lawrence saw FloydFest through the eyes of a post-corporate businessman with an upbeat focus on festival vending, while I covered it from the local poet’s performance stage and from the windshield of my festival volunteer husband’s golf cart that he used to zoom around the site while directing parking. Floyd’s first blogger, Fred First, who was at an Appalachian Writer’s Convention, was out of earshot entirely this year.

But there are others in this creative melting pot of storytellers who have weighed in on FloydFest’s 6th incarnation, “In the Mix,” with spoofs and goofs in keeping with the festival’s sense of play.

My banjo playing friend Amy Adams, who has a website titled “Mimi’s Adventures,” recently posted about Mimi’s adventures at FloydFest. From what I can tell, Mimi is a small red doll who likes travel, meet new friends, and pose for the camera in fun and interesting settings. Besides her FloydFest adventure, Mimi has infiltrated the Republican Party, met her twin sister, went the Roanoke Symphony, and was a stow away on a trip to California, according to the website.

Tom Ryan, Floyd’s version of Will Rogers meets Robin Williams, who rarely bites his tongue and is more often known for getting it stuck in his own cheek, hit a stand-up note in his most recent online publication “The Floyd Enquirer: The Floyd Fest Issue.”

Regarding the overzealous Park Police “Crime Interdiction Team” out of Asheville on the first two days of the four day festival (who Tom characterized as “stalking" Floyd Fest celebrants), he writes about a new law supposedly passed at the request of the Department of Homeland Security to combat “DWH” (Driving While Hippy).

"The “Driving While Hippy” law was necessitated by the high volume of lawlessness displayed over the past 6 festivals. Reports indicate that as many as 3 arrests have occurred on the site during those six years. If not nipped in the bud, it is feared, the Festival could degenerate to the level of a Shriner’s Convention," Tom reports.

Under the headline “Business Community Irate,” Tom had this to say: "Responding to complaints from local businesses, the County is considering editing the Bill of Rights. Having grown accustomed to the distressed economy in South West Virginia and Floyd’s “open by chance” & “running on Floyd time” style of business, many local establishments are complaining that Floyd Fest is upsetting the local economy. Stated one Chamber member, “dag nabbit, the B&B’s are forced to stay booked solid for 3 to 4 days, the restaurants are packed to capacity, gasoline sales peak and the grocery stores do record business."

Other stories covered in the Enquirer’s Floyd Fest issue include "God And Park Service Ink Deal," and "Fall Leaf Season Canceled." They can be read in their entirety at Floyd County in View HERE.

Post Notes: Adam and Tara of Blue Nova Computing, who host FloydFest’s cyber cafe, have some FloydFest photos on their Floydvirginia.com website worthy of viewing. Thanks to all who make FloydFest happen!

August 6, 2007

Summer Scrabble

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This is the summer Scrabble game when Mara and I filled up on wild wineberries and blackberries before we played. We passed Catalpa, Mimosa, Rose of Sharon, Butterfly bush, and all the flowers in Jayn’s garden on our way to the Zephyr pond, where we pulled out the wicker couch with the pink floral pattern from the sauna house for sitting on.
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Mara thought she picked a piece of chocolate off her shirt from a brownie she was eating, but discovered when she put it in her mouth that it was really a piece of mud from when she was swimming with her daughter Kyla in the pond. It got quiet when Kyla went down to Jayn’s pottery studio. The breeze stirred. It slid under the trimmed edges of my blue silk blouse, and rustled the leafy green all around us.
marasummerscr.jpg
Little plastic letters clicked into place on our Scrabble travel board. Words like fruity and fishy got played. The fish were biting. We could hear them splashing in and out of the water. Kayla came back and announced she made a pot. Mara admitted that Zacation wasn’t a real word. It was Zacaton she was thinking of. Some kind of Mexican grass.

August 4, 2007

Decisions

tarotll.jpg
Rarely do they give yes or no answers.
The answers are more like sun or moon.

Post Note: Sometimes I go to the oracle for big picture feedback. Other decisions, like whether or not to play Sunday Scribblings this weekend, are easier to make. Read more entries created from the prompt "decisions" HERE.

August 3, 2007

The Family Business

kylastage.jpgMy frequent Scrabble partner, Mara, wanted us to play a game up at the FloydFest site Tuesday, two days after the festival and six miles from my driveway. She was particularly interested in playing with the couple who run the coffee bus and has been ever since she learned they were Scrabble players. The coffee bus couple were among the few campers still on site, serving drinks to the clean-up crew, Mara told me. I was intrigued by the idea of seeing the festival pasture empty, feeling the aftereffects of 10 to 12,000 people who had just been there, and playing Scrabble in such contrasting quiet, so I agreed to meet her there.

We set up our meeting time over the phone, which is when she, the FloydFest Poetree organizer, told me about her nine year old daughter Kyla serving food to performers in the backstage VIP tent the last day of the four day festival. Mara had been looking for Kyla and family friend Sena. When she found them, they were happily helping out after the VIP tent staff had run low on volunteers.

“She’s in the family business, isn’t she?” I said to Mara.

On the drive over to the festival site on I thought more about my comment to Mara. viewfrommainstageff.jpgI was impressed with the confidence and independence it took for Kayla to navigate FloydFest in the meaningful way she did, while her mother was juggling performer and organizer hats and spouting poetry from stages and soap box stands up and down the festival main drag.

Self-education is a theme in Mara’s family. She, currently a Hollins College Creative Writing student, is a product of home schooling. She was primarily home schooled until junior high, at which point she enrolled in Arthur Morgan, a progressive Quaker school in North Carolina. Although Kayla has only been home schooled sporadically – in between years at Blue Mountain, The Community School, and public – she demonstrates qualities like critical thinking and self-motivation that many home schooled kids have. She’s had some unorthodox life experiences that have shaped her young life, such as losing her dad. She sings and reads poetry on stage, and has acted as open mic mc at our local café on more than a few occasions.

I’d like to interview her about her FloydFest experience, I thought as I pulled off the Blue Ridge Parkway and into the festival site.

The place was eerily empty. We saw about four people the whole time we were there. The coffee bus people were napping and the breeze was stirring as we sat in the shade at the edge of the beer garden and decided what to do next.

“It feels like sacred ground. Like when your in a cemetery and can feel the spirit of all the life that has been lived and is now gone,” I said to Mara. I wanted to get up on the main stage and take a picture of the empty field, so we walked.

There weren’t any kids around to play with, like Kyla was expecting, so she got bored after a while. We decided to head back towards my house, to Zephyr Farm, to play Scrabble on the bank of the pond while Kyla swam. Her decision to ride with me as her mother followed was perfect chance to ask hers some interview questions, but how would I remember her answers?
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As we talked, I handed her a pad and every once in awhile said “write that down.” The notes she took for her own interview were mostly stats. She wrote: Sena – 13, 30 back flips, October (when she turns 10), Hula Hoop, crab legs and cobbler, 2 BMS (Blue Mountain School, and 2 CS (Community School). Here’s the rest of what transpired.

Colleen: Kyla, what’s your favorite kind of poetry? What do you like?

Kyla: I don’t know. I read a lot of different stuff, but I know who my favorite band is this year. American Dumpster (This would be the first of several times she mentioned this Charlottesville band).

Colleen: Do you like your mother’s poetry?

Kyla: Yes. But sometimes I get tired of it because I hear it 24/7.

Colleen: How many autographs did you get at FloydFest?

She named three but only wrote down two: Christian from American Dumpster and Spiral – some weird guy from backstage (her notes say).

Colleen: What did you get to do that most kids at the festival probably didn’t?

Kyla: Hula Hoop on stage with American Dumpster.

I asked more about that and she explained how she was hula hooping nearby when a member of the band invited her on the stage, and how the lead singer, Christian, said her name in the mic. “He told me to leave him a message on MYSPACE, but I don’t even have an account,” she said.
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Colleen: What did you like the best?

Kyla: The bouncing ride. I did 30 back flips.

When I asked her what she didn’t like, she couldn’t think of anything.

Colleen: I heard you served food to performers in the VIP tent. Did you like doing that?

Kyla: It was okay. We got crab legs and cobbler without a meal ticket, and they were very strict about having to have a meal ticket.

Colleen: But you had meal tickets because your mom was working all weekend, right?

Kyla: Yes, but I didn’t want to waste them.

By then we were pulling into our friend Jayn’s driveway at Zephyr, and before I could get my stuff out of the car, Kyla was on her way to the pond.

Post Notes:
See Kyla in the act of Mc’ing the Café Del Sol Spoken Word night HERE.

August 2, 2007

13 Thursday: Potters, Poets, and Pain

poetrybus.jpg1. Poetically, I don’t like the word bucolic, the way Billy Collins doesn’t like “cicada.” I think it’s a self-conscious word that sounds like an illness, even though it means an idyllic country setting.

2. I call THIS my Asheville Potterson Josh’s font.

3. It’s the cover of the latest Studio Potter Magazine, an issue on pottery and words. The magazine asked potters for quotes they display on their studio walls. Josh may be the only potter who handwrites his, and it landed him on the cover. I know it’s a quote by renowned potter Hamada Shoji, but because the words wrap around to the back of the cover, I can’t read what they say. You learn more about Josh’s article on wild clay published in The Studio Potter HERE.

4. In an earlier 13 list I said this: If I was made of pottery and the sun was my kiln, my glaze would be freckles.

5. This picture (below) of Josh and me at FloydFest is one of my favorites. Another favorite is the one pictured above of the poet’s after our FloydFest performance “OUTLOUD” being escorted from the Global Village stage back to the festival’s main drag. I call it the poetry bus, but it’s really more like the poetry limousine of golf carts.
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6. The history of the FloydFest (our town’s four day roots music festival) as told by property owner…. HERE.

7. On Monday I went to the dentist and then got my hair cut. I felt like a car in the auto body shop, getting a dent fixed and then a touch up paint job.

8. If a filling is the equivalent to a hair cut, then a root canal is getting your hair dyed.

9. When I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair I think about this poem… It’s too late to pretend … that the overhead lamp … is the sun in Tahiti … and the reclining chair … is a floating raft in a blue green sea … The punchline is HERE.

10. I once saw a vanity plate that said "I AM HURT" and wondered who would put that on their car. (A personal injury lawyer maybe?) THIS really hurts me to watch.

11. Health Care as a business is a huge conflict of interest. According to the groundbreaking 2003 medical report Death by Medicine, 783,936 people in the United States die every year from conventional medicine mistakes, says an article titled “Statistics prove prescription drugs are 16,400% more deadly than terrorists.”

12. Have you seen the trailer to Michael Moore’s new movie SICKO? Check it out HERE.

13. And while 1 -12 was going on THIS (first posted by Chrissea) was running loose in the streets of Roanoke.

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

August 1, 2007

Summer Reruns: The FloydFest Episode

The following is a short essay written about last year’s FloydFest, which was printed in the FloydFest program this year.

FloydFest, our town’s yearly world music festival, is a people watchers paradise. My favorite part of the weekend festival - just six miles from my driveway on The Blue Ridge Parkway - is the cross section of people who attend it. Once on the sprawling grounds of open fields and wooded pathways, roles and differences tend to fall away, as people of all walks of life and ages speak the same language of “fun.”

FloydFest delivers what you’d expect from a premier music festival – great music, good food, creative arts and crafts, and a variety of children’s activities, but it has some special touches that you might not find anywhere else, like the lily pond landscaped with flowers, portable hand washing stations, a rock climbing wall, and a cyber café hosted by Floyd’s own Blue Nova. The timber wrights who built the impressive timber-framed main stage, roast a pig at their campsite each year. Sweetwater Bakery bakes bread onsite in their hand built brick oven.

While I enjoy intermingling with the mix of interesting people who attend Floyd Fest each year, I especially look forward to being re-united with Floyd friends, young and old, who, because of distance or the hectic pace of life, I don’t see nearly enough. This year, I kicked up some dust in the beer garden, dancing to the music of William Walter with Suzanne. I hadn’t seen my old Grateful Dead dancing companion, who lives in Arlington now, since last year’s Floyd Fest.

Last year, when I read poetry on the soapbox stage under the FloydFest Poetree, I remember looking out and seeing Volker’s smiling face in the audience. Grown-up now and living in California, he was in town for Floyd Fest and made a point to come by and hear my reading. Volker was back again this year, this time with his sister Johanna, a past Floyd High School Salutatorian who went to the prom with my son, Josh, and loves the Red Sox nearly as much as he does.

Asa’s baby girl has gotten big. She was taking in the festival sights from the carrier on her daddy’s back. I snapped a picture of Joel holding his nearly year old daughter while her mother, unaware, danced to Donna the Buffalo.

Lyn Willow and I pulled up some grass and had lunch together when our paths crossed and we both discovered we were hungry. “We couldn’t have pulled this off if we planned it,” I told her, laughing.

Sitting in the shade of the Healing Arts tent catching up with Jeff, founder of the Blue Ridge School of Massage, I saw my friend Mara’s daughter rush past. “Kyla, did you put on some sunscreen?” I shouted out. She was on her way to march in the Children’s Parade.

It’s been estimated that over 10,000 would attend FloydFest this year, and from the look of the crowds, it may have been more. And yet, FloydFest feels like a small world, where town officials, artists, farmers, and business owners converge as families to share the beauty and music of our area and to welcome newcomers and new music into it.

A homegrown homecoming, a cross pollination of the best in music and people, by the hands of the many, mostly volunteers, who guide it; FloydFest feels like home, because it is.

Post Notes:
See the photos that go with this post HERE. Scroll down for more Floyd Fest fun.