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October 31, 2007

The Blob Gets Blogged at the Hotel Floyd

The_Blob.jpg Joe and I watched the Red Sox win the World Series and The Blob simultaneously on two of the three flat screen TVs in the Hotel Floyd Writer’s Suite this weekend. Mostly he watched the Red Sox and I watched the Blob and we periodically visited each other. Besides The Blob – the 1958 B movie that became a cult attraction after its star, Steve McQueen, became famous – there were other gory movies being shown for Halloween. Being the type that has to cover my eyes when people are eating live hearts and such, we didn’t spend too much time on those. The Blob was scary enough, especially since I had previously grooved pathways of fear in my nervous system for the story. I was eight years old when I first saw it. It must have been in black and white back then because the blob I remember was black and this one was red.

So the blob comes out of a meteorite that falls from out of space. It gets stuck on a man’s arm and grows to the point of dissolving him. Then it goes around killing people in the small Pennsylvania town where the meteorite landed, growing bigger with every body it assimilates. Steve McQueen saves himself and the day when he discovers that the one thing that stops The Blob is cold. The blob covers a diner with Steve McQueen and others inside. They stop it by spraying it with CO2 fire extinguishers.

At the end of the movie the frozen blog is being airlifted by the Air force to Arctic. The town cop turns to Steve and says that nothing can kill the blob but it will stay frozen in the Arctic. Steve answers that every thing will be alright as long as the Artic stays cold.hfblog.jpg

I turned to Joe and said, “Oh oh. They don’t know about global warming.”

The next day I blogged about the blob on my laptop at the Writer’s Suite kitchen table.

Post note: In Phoenixville Pennsylvania, where The Blob was filmed, an annual Blob Fest is held, which includes a re-enactment of the scene in which moviegoers run screaming out of the town’s Colonial Theatre after seeing the blob.

October 30, 2007

A Tourist in my Own Town

jayncolwriterhx.jpgThis room is an artistic blend of old and new. An antique desk recalls images of writers from days gone by. The uncluttered classic furnishings in the study inspire introspection and calm, while the light infused olive colored walls throughout the suite offer an openness and brightness that stirs a calling to creativity and quietude … from the Hotel Floyd’s Writer’s Room webpage.

The whirlwind weekend ended up being a romantic one. It involved a complimentary night’s stay in the Hotel Floyd for the work I did on decorating the themed Writer’s Room, and a free dinner at Oddfellas Cantina, given to Joe from the soccer team as a thank you for his coaching last year. These bonus events were preceded by a writer’s circle, ceremoniously held in the Writer’s Suite.

Earlier in the day I suffered a meltdown.writerhxf.jpg It was the cumulative effect of it being Museletter weekend, writing a major piece about health care, packing for the overnight stay, and eating some blue fish for lunch that caused my face and hands to go beet red and sting, otherwise known as an allergic reaction. By the time I reached the hotel, several writers were waiting for me to let them in. I was only half coherent, dropping things all the way up the stairs, and gasping for air in between breaths as I talked to Mara and her daughter Kyla, who both offered their help.

We work-shopped one writer’s essay on grief that was set on a ferry boat in Canada, Mara brought a poem about painting homemade thank you cards and a rock with her daughter, and I brought the unfinished rap lyrics I’ve been writing for a friend’s band. After the two hour meeting, Mara hung out with me. She wrote an entry in the guest journal that sits on the antique desk while I went around straightening the pictures on the wall, most of which had become crooked since the last time I was in the room. marworksx.jpg
“Maybe the place is haunted,” I said. It was three days before Halloween after all. Mara nodded and suggested that it was Elliot, a poet and writer’s circle member who died two years ago and whose dictionary sits on the ledge next to the old typewriter in the Writer’s Suite.

After Mara and Kyla left, I zipped up my vest and headed out to walk around town with my camera, just in time for sunset. By 7:00 I was in Odfellas waiting to meet Joe who was coming from a soccer game. Scribbling furiously in my notebook, I felt like a Natalie Goldberg imposter. Natalie, author and poet, loves to write in cafés, something I’ve always been too distractible to be good at.

I write: A man in a red jacket with a guitar slung across his back approaches the stage, followed by another man who has hair like Adam Duritz from Counting Crows.odd2.jpg
The second man is wearing a reggae scarf and cradling a cell phone to his ear. A woman who seems to know them throws her leopard skin coat across the back of the chair. Julie, my waitress who also teaches yoga, owns the restaurant now. She knows I like New Castle beer. I didn’t know it was Mother-in-law day until Julie told me after I asked her why the Bell Gallery family sitting by the front window had two vases of fresh roses on their table.

Joe arrived just as Nora Jones on the stereo was being turned down and the first musician was tuning up. His guitar strings are not used to the cold, he tells us, because he’s from Florida, on his way to Boston. oddfellaredz.jpg Joe orderd stuffed scallops and I got the tuna steak. I asked Julie for butter because I don’t like to dip my bread in olive oil. I write a note to Natalie before putting my notebook away so Joe and I can hold hands as we listen to the live music while our dinners are being prepared:

Hey Natalie, I’m starting to get the hang of this writing in cafés thing. If I had known it could include Nora Jones playing on the stereo and a frosty glass of New Castle beer I probably would have been here sooner.

P.S. Write back.

October 29, 2007

Apple Crisp Moon

acrisp.jpgI hovered over the table, across from Emily, the hip hop singer and saxophone player who was the lead singer for Foundation Stone before they broke up. We were snipping and clipping November submissions for the local newsletter that gets put together at my kitchen table each month. Every now and then I would break the silence or change the conversation with, “But we still have to name the moon.” Naming the moon is something our friend Jayn started and usually does, but she was down the mountain selling her pottery at the Roanoke Market.

Emily, who was wearing a pale pink headband that held back her long blonde hair, a magenta sweatshirt, and a necklace the color of sand, made a few suggestions, to which I answered, “We’ve already used that one.” After more than twenty years of putting out the newsletter called a “Museletter” all the typical names for November had been used, like Thanksgiving, Hunter, and Bare Trees Moon.

“Empty … open … darkening … stark … potential,” I tried, hoping to hit on a word that would conjure a November feeling.

We were looking for quotes and glue sticking graphics on borders when Emily said, “Maybe we should get out the thesaurus?” She was speaking my language. I pulled the faded blue hard cover edition from a nearby bookcase and handed it to her. She looked up “gratitude,” expecting to find a fresh synonym to go with the horn of plenty clip art I had just pasted down on the community bulletin board page.

“Let’s ask Joe to name the moon,” she said, slamming the book shut a few minutes later. I got up and looked out the window.

“No, he’s on the porch doing paper work, rubbing his forehead with his hand. I don’t think we should ask him right now.

A few minutes later he came inside.

I was busy looking for a poem by Mara about not doing housework that had slipped under the table when I heard Emily ask Joe to name the moon.

“That’s it!” we both said at the same time. As soon as he said it we knew it was perfect. Apple Crisp Moon.

“We’ve never used that one before. Jayn will love it and it goes well with the Thanksgiving blessing on the front page, the one Joe’s nephew Cameron taught me: We love our bread. We love our butter. But most of all we love each other.”

We also love our apple crisp.

Post notes: Emily’s CD Party announcement is featured on the front page of the Museletter. The Emily Brass band will play at the Pine Tavern on November 30, 9 P.M. with Ash Devine opening the show. You can hear Emily's music HERE. More about the Museletter HERE.

October 27, 2007

Putting the Hospitable Back in Hospitals

holdinghandsdad2.png I was trying to figure out where I could go to get away from what the doctor was telling me. I wondered why he hadn’t taken me to a private room to give me such devastating news. Dan only had a 2% chance of living; they weren’t going to perform liver transplant surgery with those odds, he said. The words 2% were the equivalent of a death sentence, but he spoke them as though he were giving me the fat content of a carton of milk. ~ excerpt from A Box of Kleenex, HERE.

The word “hospital” is related to “hospice” and “hospitality,” all words that might conjure thoughts of “guest,” “care,” and “death.” For me, death is what I associate most with hospitals. Even though both my sons were born in hospitals, it’s the hospital deaths I’ve experienced that stand out the most. Because of them I became intimate with hospital settings, after spending many days in patient rooms and waiting rooms in an altered, yet heighten state of awareness.

In 2001, my brother Dan was desperately in need of a new liver. First, he was deemed too healthy to be a priority on the liver transplant waiting list. Then, when he took a sharp turn for the worst and was hospitalized, he was determined to be too sick to withstand the surgery. I remember the doctor discussing dialysis after Danny’s kidneys shut down. “It’s like putting new brakes in a car when you really need a new transmission,” he said.

Spending the last few weeks of his life in the hospital, Dan endured many painful procedures and interventions. The interventions might have given me and my family more time to get used to the idea that he was dying, but they also could have weakened him to the point of accelerating his death. He had two liver doctors, a kidney doctor, a lung doctor, a stomach doctor, a pain management team, a physical therapist, and an occasional surgeon taking care of different body parts, but no doctor oversaw the person Dan was, except for the priest, but he was more interested in Dan’s soul.

When my eighty-one year old father was hospitalized four years later after a car accident, he initially seemed fine. Later, an X-ray would show a fracture in his neck vertebrae. Even though it was never determined if it was an old fracture, a result of the accident, stable or not, doctors decided he would need to stay in the hospital and wear a neck brace as a safety measure.

My dad’s worst nightmare started when he was given Haldol – a powerful antipsychotic drug, sometimes used as a chemical restraint – for agitation. The Haldol led to heart irregularities, which led to more drugs. He eventually contracted pneumonia, as a direct result of hospital interventions. After being bedridden for five weeks, and surviving in spite of it, he was helped out of bed for a wheelchair ride, given by my sister, Sherry, on what turned out to be the last day of his life. Nobody was able to tell us what caused his death that evening, but I suspect a blood clot, created from being immobilized for so long, stopped his heart.

What the hospital staff didn’t know when they treated my dad for agitation was that my mother regularly read him horror stories out loud about people dying in hospitals from medical errors and secondary infections. Yes, he was agitated; he wanted out of the hospital in the worst way.

Some popular treatments create symptoms worse than those of the illness they are treating. The side effects from one drug can lead to another drug being prescribed, bringing on even more troubling side effects. One could argue that drugs don’t cure illnesses but that they only suppress symptoms. Some drugs have a rebound effect, which means that they eventually bring about the very symptoms they are treating. Others are prescribed only to be recalled later when it has been determined that they have killed people.

A well known 1999 study shocked the country with its findings when it was announced that hospital errors kill 195,000 people each year. A few years later another study found that about two million infections are acquired in U.S. hospitals each year, killing about 90,000 patients yearly. More recently it was reported that deaths from adverse reactions to prescription drugs have more than doubled in last ten years. Last week we were told that the cough medicines, linked with the deaths of some young children, are not only risky but that they aren’t even effective treatments.

So why do so many of us still religiously trust modern medicine? Why doesn’t my insurance company cover the alternative treatments that have proven helpful to me? Why are parents sometimes forced by courts to use standard medical practices when the record is so bad? The Institute of Health, National Academy of Sciences, which reported the number of deaths by medical errors in 1999, said that those deaths exceeded the number of those due to motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS. Considering that, and the latest alarming findings, is it any wonder that a number of Americans refuse that flu shot that still contains mercury?

Years ago women pushed for family-centered birth practices that wouldn’t pathologize birth. As some were moving towards midwife assisted homebirth options, birthing centers sprung up throughout the country in response. At the same time, families and health care practitioners were advocating for more family-centered and humane deaths, and the hospice movement was born. But what about everything that exists between birth and death? Could we resist the urge to pathologize health care?

Dr Robert Mendelsohn, author of Confessions of a Medical Heretic, has made the statement, “I believe that more than ninety percent of Modern Medicine could disappear from the face of the earth – doctors, hospitals, drugs, and equipment – and the effect on our health would be immediate and beneficial.” I agree that we’d be better off returning to simple remedies, using the handful of drugs that have proven themselves over time, and letting nature take its course when appropriate. For all our drugs and medical procedures, we don’t seem any healthier, or at the very least, we seem to have traded the plague and polio for diabetes, cancer, AIDS, and autism.

In Medelsohn’s book, first copyrighted in 1979, in a chapter titled “If This is Preventive Medicine, I’ll Take My Chances with Disease,” he discusses the risk of childhood vaccinations, all three of them. Now there are twelve childhood vaccines that the CDC recommends and that most schools require, with more being developed every day. It worries me that because some vaccines are administered more than once, most children have received twenty-three vaccines by the time they are two years old. And why has it been left up to parents to fight for safer vaccines? Why are they expected prove a link between vaccines and autism, or other adverse reactions? Shouldn’t it be up to the makers of vaccines to prove they are safe?

I do appreciate the care given by individuals in the health care field and the success stories of modern medicine. But I believe, on the whole, the system is unacceptably flawed, to the point where being in the hospital is like playing Russian roulette and following a doctor’s every order has the potential of making us guinea pigs for pharmaceutical company profits.

Post notes: The following thoughts have been brewing in me for a long time, but I found myself avoiding the enormity of such a complicated subject. I was hoping the Sunday Scribblings writing prompt would be one about umbrellas, since I have some great photos of me with my purple one out in yesterday’s rain. But the prompt was “hospital,” and it acted as nudge, causing these words to finally converge.

October 26, 2007

The Rainy Day Lazy Susan Post

1. The view from my porch is a tease. It’s like a painting of peak fall foliage that I can’t touch because the paint is still wet.
2. The breakfast nook where my husband and I meet on sunnier days is deserted.
3. The trampoline looks like an uninhabited blue planet.
4. The hammock looks haunted by the ghosts of past Octobers.
5. But I can still have fun. I call this one “fun house mirrors.”

October 25, 2007

Thursday Notes From the Home Front

13cusions.jpg 1. THIS is the song I’ve been dancing to two or three times a day. I may be stuck in the past but at least it’s not classic rock.

2. I’ve been dancing for a long time. Remember those wallet size high school senior pictures that we went around getting signed at the end of school? Beside the usual “good luck in the future” sentiments, many of my classmates wrote comments saying what a good dancer I was and remembering seeing me on the weekends at the Surf, the dance club in the beach town where we all grew up.

3. Sometimes blogging feels like playing spin the bottle and comments are like getting and giving kisses. I feel this especially when I visit Michele Agnew’s site on the weekends. Each weekend she hosts a blogger’s “meet and greet” in which you leave a comment before visiting the blogger that commented above you on the list. The next blogger to visit finds your name next on the list and visits your site. You never know whose site you will land on or who will end up at yours.

4. I’ve never seen a ghost in Floyd but Floyd now has a ghost tour and a book, “Strange Tales of Floyd County,” to accompany it. I recently ran into the woman who wrote the book in a spa in town. I was there doing an interview with the owner for a newspaper insert called “All About Her” and she was there getting a purple streak dyed in her hair.

5. Speaking of hair, check out THIS photo of some Floyd wildlife involving wigs.

6. You can see Dan Rather singing “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” HERE. And Michael Stipe singing when he had long hair (for those of you like me who like men with long hair) is HERE.

7. I have two sons. Growing up, one was like the tortoise and the other was like the hare, but both had trouble with coats. One was known to frequently lose his and the other wouldn’t wear them. To this day, when I see them I say, “Where’s your coat?” and “Aren’t you cold?”

8. Speaking of newscasters, occasionally they announce something that shocks me. I was shocked to recently hear that Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are distant cousins in a similar way I was shocked the night they announced that diet soft drinks actually cause you to gain weight. That’s right; rats fed artificial sweeteners ate three times the calories of rats given sugar, which suggest that sugar-free foods might play a role in the nation's obesity epidemic, the authors of a study on artificial sweeteners said. See THIS and THIS.

9. My husband, Joe, is a counselor. The other night a friend asked me how he was doing. The conversation went like this:

He: How’s Joe? Is he practicing?”

Me: “You mean his martial arts?

He: “No, I mean counseling. Is he practicing?

Me: What do you mean practicing? He doesn’t practice; he does it for real.”

He: “No, I mean practicing, as in ‘does he have a practice?’

Me: “Oh.” Laugher ensued.

10. I spent a large part of the day yesterday walking around the house with stuff like a paper clip in one hand and two pennies in the other, trying to figure out where to put them. Sometimes it feels like I spend most of my life putting stuff in its place, fiiguring out new places to put stuff, or trying to find where I put stuff. I wonder if I have George Carlinitis.

11. Have you ever noticed how many things you do in exactly the same order or the same way everyday, like the way you shower or bath? Do you think this is true: The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half. ~Feodor Dostoevski

12. I’m very proud of the way the Hotel Floyd Writer’s Suite came out, a project a few of us from The Floyd Writer’s Circle worked on for most of the summer. The Hotel Floyd website now has a series of photos in flash rotation of each of the 14 themed rooms. You can check out the Writer’s Room HERE and click on the sidebar to view photos of all the rooms.

13. I haven’t come across anyone as funny as the Fruitcake Lady yet. But THIS – boy doing Will Ferrell doing President Bush – comes pretty close.

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

October 24, 2007

Self portrait in Puddle

Without a paddle she straddles the middle of a puddle as if it was a pond and she was a traveler bigger than Gulliver.
She ponders the riddle that looks like a doodle reflected in shadow in the muddled oracle.
She dawdles a little before she settles hands on handles and feet on pedals.
She splashes as she cycles through the sun drenched puddles. With sprinkles on her ankles, she giggles as she goes.

Post notes: These photos were taken at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach a few weeks ago. The thrid one is actually my husband Joe's shadow. More from that trip is HERE.

October 23, 2007

The Fall Collection

I shop for words
as though the dictionary was a catalog
of women’s clothes or shoes

As though the folded over corners
of favorite words on pages
were the edited alliterations
of hemmed skirts

Browsing for the uncommon
I pin down a suitable meaning
unfold a matching pattern
for a custom-made fit

And if I was a model
and my signature was a label
I’d be zipping down a runway
wearing poetry on my sleeve!

~ Colleen Redman

Post note:
The above is one of the poems I read at Saturday Night’s Spoken Word at the Café del Sol (which you can read about HERE). It was written in the fall of ’04.

October 22, 2007

Fall Fare

salyoct.jpg My life is structured around seasons and holidays in the same way I imagine an elementary school teacher's might be. Every month I look for seasonal graphics and clip art to adorn the Museletter, the local newsletter I put together with others. Page colors are chosen with the seasons in mind. Orange and pumpkins for October. Pink hearts for February.

The monthly Spoken Word nights at the Café Del Sol, which started two years ago by the writer's circle I belong to, also mark the seasonal cycles of my life. Every month brings a few new attendees, and the seasons are reflected by the choice of readings that are shared. October is an especially rich time for poetry and prose. The bright colors of fall coupled with descending darkness, Halloween, and death made for some interesting themes that repeated throughout Saturday night's readings.

Rosemary Wyman opened the set with a poem about our unusual warm autumn weather, followed by a prose tribute rosemaryoct.jpg(which will appear in November's Museletter) to Catherine Pauley's garden. Catherine, a well known artist and long time high school teacher, is director of Floyd's Old Church Gallery. Her garden is a wild spot cultivated with an artist's eye in amongst the open and rolling hills by the Pauley well drilling business office. It was started by Catherine with the help of her husband after her battle with breast cancer over ten years ago. Since then, her husband has passed on, and recent additions to the garden have been in memory of him.

It was the view that called to me first, and then when I started to look around at my more immediate surroundings I noticed the old hand pump, the large stone table, the set patio stones, the low stone wall and the informal stone steps that snake away through the flowers and trees and off down the wooded hill, Rosemary read. She described the garden, which has a sitting bench and a swing chair, as a place of healing. She spoke of how the garden gave her support when she wasn't feeling well, and of introducing it to a woman with failing health who found solace during her illness and before her death. Oddly, I had visited Catherine's garden just an hour before coming to the café for the first time in several years. gregartread.jpg

I followed Rosemary at the mic with a reading of "Country Boy," the WVTF radio essay aired this past summer about my Asheville potter son, a good old boy with a twist and one of the kids of Floyd's alternative community who paved the way for a meeting of cultures. After that, I read an older poem called "Sunflowers" which I chose because it's fun to read this time of year. I can't stand to see them droop ... Faces hung like lamps bent over ...Their lights are out ... and ... They hang like skulls in suicide nooses ... in garden graveyards for Halloween ... Their thorny crowns have fallen down ... Their bones loom long ...

Greg Locke, sign painter by trade, took questions after his reading. His mostly surreal art of the past twenty years was being shown on the cafe walls. People wanted to know which pieces were earlier ones and which were new.

Earlier that day, when I talked to Katherine Chantal,koct.jpg she said she had nothing new to read. I encouraged her to read something old. She did, but she also read a new piece that she ended up writing after all, after taking a walk and being inspired by the fall colors.

Retired Radford University Professor, Chelsea Adams, returned to the stage to share a few original selections. I especially enjoyed her poem in answer to Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night, in which he implores us to rage against the dying of light.

"But I want to go gently," she began, and went on to describe how she wants her eyes to be closed and to be wearing a favorite red robe when death visits her.

Dr. Sue Osborne was there with her son Mars and his friend Emerson. Each read a piece of their own before joining together to entertain us with some three part harmony. I think the song they sang was about a skeleton, judging by the refrain that went something like 'it must be chilly it must be without skin,' and by the fact that Sue said they chose it because of Halloween. drsueoct.jpg

Café owner, Sally Walker, introduced each reader and offered tidbits about what was going on in Floyd as she did. June, blogger from Spatter, made it back from her trip to Assateague Island in time to attend, but she didn't read anything this time. Regular reader and Writer's Circle member, Jayn Avery, was too tired from selling pottery at the Roanoke Market that day to do a reading. After the last performer had read, a group of us stayed on to mingle and to meet Jayn's sister who was in town. With the foliage starting to peak here in the mountains, it's a good time to visit Floyd. And there's a lot going on in town these days. The third Saturday Spoken Word Open Mic is just one of Floyd's unique offerings.

Post notes: To read more about The Café Del Sol's Spoken Word nights, go HERE and scroll down. Photos above are of Sally, Rosemary, Greg, Katherine, Emerson, Mars, and Sue.

October 20, 2007

What’s It Like?

whatisit.jpgFor ten years or so I taught creative writing classes at Floyd’s Blue Mountain School, a parent run cooperative with early roots in Rudolph Steiner. I taught several classes to kids from about four to fourteen once a week in exchange for a portion of tuition for my own sons who were students there. Over the years the kids and I produced a monthly newsletter called The Dolphin Messenger and a yearly calendar that showcased their art, poetry, and prose. The Dolphin Messenger included interviews, cartoons, crossword puzzles, advertisements, quotes, group stories and poems, along with stories and poetry that the kids created. They took turns designing elaborate front covers using stamps from an extensive collection I had. One regular feature in the newsletter called “What’s it Like?” was something I came up to shift the kids from linear thinking into the creative abstract. I cut out a selection of unusual magazine photos (mostly from old National Geographics) and had each kid describe what it was like. The goal was not to guess what it was but to describe what it was like.

After seeing how the above photo came out I found myself playing the game and thought it would be fun to get other’s answers to “What’s it Like?” I’ll add my answer after a while.

October 19, 2007

Please Don't Punctuate This

The bookstore clerk with the pierced lip
called me Ma’am
while putting William Carlos William
into a brown paper bag
along with the dependable red wheelbarrow
prominently placed next to a white chicken
on a page of unpunctuated poems

The clerk avoided eye contact
as he handed me my change
Does it show on my face, I wondered?

That I’ve neglected to punctuate my own poetry
rejected the clutter of most commas
unplugged the dam of the period
while cursing the warnings of experts

Rules are made to break my heart
and the “love it or leave it” punctuation philosophers
would have me beg for an occasional quotation
question mark or exclamation

The point is this:
I want poetry with the windows open
I want light airy room
and lines that don’t buckle

But when it comes to writing poetry
I’m a minority in the crowd
I’m riding in the back of the bus

Natalie Goldberg wrote down the bones
and poetry at the top of her lungs
She said poetry saved her life
She saved my life as a poet
when I was ready to give it up

She writes without punctuation like me
Or should I say, I write like her
since she is famous
and I am not
I am not

Does it show on my face?

Nikki Giovanni was driving the bus
when she turned to her riders and said:
You don’t need punctuation
let the line break tell the reader when to stop

I sat in her creative writing class
the same year that Lawrence Ferlinghetti complained
(without punctuation)
that there was no Buddha in the woodpile
in Waco Texas when eighty-two bodies were burned

Bob Dylan’s been nominated again
for the Nobel Prize in literature
But is he a poet or a song and dance man?
Did Shakespeare write literature of plays?

Poetry is older than the alphabet
Before commas there was only the breath
to let out or hold back
and not until the Middle Ages
were spaces used between words
introducing the beginning of silent reading

Listen: I write poetry by ear
like the musician who doesn’t read music still plays

Dense poetry makes me drowsy
I don’t sleep well on the bus
and I can’t write in the clatter and chatter of the café
where Natalie doesn’t stop moving her pen
long enough to see me

In the end I’m like Rosa Parks
I don’t want to get up and go where I’m told
I work just as hard as any other poet
and I write from where I sit

~ Colleen Redman 9/07

Post note: The above was read at September’s Spoken Word Open Mic along with Mara’s pro-punctuation poem (details HERE). This month’s Spoken Word night is this Saturday, October 20th 7-9 at the Café Del Sol.

October 18, 2007

13 Thursday: Have a Ball

13blubal.jpg1. THIS is the song that Joe says made him fall in love with me. I was singing it to him as he fell asleep when it happened.

2. If I ever do get a cell phone THIS is the ring tone I want.

3. Lately, I’ve been searching down and listening to songs that had a big impact on me when I was younger, like THIS one which I’m dedicating to my sister Sherry.

4. It’s that time of year again when the counseling students at Radford University are reading my book, The Jim and Dan Stories as part of a class on grief and loss. In a couple of weeks I’ll go to the class to speak to them. This year my friend Mara is going with me. She is not only a reoccurring character on my blog but she’s in my book too. We share a poetry, scrabble, and grief bond. She lost her husband a few weeks before my brother Jim died, followed by my brother Dan. HERE is my report from last year’s class.

5. I know it’s an Indian Summer when I’m dead-heading petunias in my hanging basket and have to pick out leaves that have fallen in with them.

6. Return to Sender: In lieu of death … send the flowers to the living … make your life payable … to all those you love. ~ Written on the back of an envelope while thinking about a friend’s recent loss.

7. You know how if you say to someone that you never get colds and the next day you wake up with one? I recently said that “I can’t believe I don’t have carpal tunnel from all the typing I do.” The next day my wrists were hurting.

8. The fuse to my energy supply is short and some things light it up more than others. Doing things I don’t want to do can create a real burn out. And you’d be surprised how too much talking can drain me. Loud crowded events can wear me out too, unless of course I’m dancing. See HERE and leave me a comment if you know how to rotate a video.

9. THIS is my idea of having a ball.

10. But if your ball is made of plastic, don’t put it in your mouth. Plastic toys may need to go the way of lead paint. See HERE and thank Fred for passing this on.

11. C my name is Colleen. My husband’s name is Klein. We Come from Floyd County and we sell rhymes: A line based on the alphabet bouncing ball game that I played as a girl and once considered leaving on my answering machine.

12. Years ago I wrote nursery rhymes for most of my nieces and nephews (and other little friends who are not so little anymore). Here’s an example: Andrew Justin baked a pie … Especially for his Nana … She ate so much her shoes fell off … Rhubarb and banana.

13. From Nursery Rhymes to Rap Songs: I’m working on some rap lyrics with a regional theme to go with the music to “Nina’s in Jail” by Liquid Soul for a friend’s local band. I’m thinking of calling it “Mara’s Playing Scrabble," but I haven’t gotten very far. Please feel free to suggest a few lines. They might even get in the song.

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

October 17, 2007

The Best Part of Mowing My Lawn Last Weekend

augustrust.jpgThe best part of this essay would have been if I had been up early enough to hear it aired today on WVTF Public Radio. But I can still listen and so can you because the radio station has it posted on their website. You can hear me reading it HERE.

It was probably the last time this year that I or my husband will mow the two acres of grass that surround our log home off the Blue Ridge Parkway. But that wasn’t the best part of mowing the lawn this past weekend. The best part was the perspective it gave me.

Unlike in summer, it’s cool enough now to mow at a leisurely pace. I putter around as if our rider mower was a convertible with the top down, and I was taking a Sunday drive. From the far corners of our yard, I can see our property from new angles, take it all in from a distance, and appreciate the life we’ve made.

I love knowing that, as I mow, my husband is in our woods with his chain saw getting us firewood for the stove this winter. I feel grateful when I pass by the shed he built to store wood, equipment, and gardening tools. Watching out for the golf balls left in the yard from his putting and chipping practice, I take in the pungent smell of the wild mushrooms that I’ve inadvertently run over, and make a mental note that some of our roses should be replanted in the spring to a sunnier part of the yard.

The vegetable garden looks dead, full of dried up corn stalks and plants that have gone to seed, but I know there’s still food growing there, a few cool weather crops, lettuce and turnips. Butternut squash, once hidden by the lush growth of summer, is finally revealed. The pumpkins for Halloween have turned from green to orange, and although most of the butterflies have moved on to warmer climates, my zinnia flowers are still bearing their attractive colors.

Avoiding the plastic bucket used to mark a yellow jacket’s nest in the ground, I smile as I pass by our clothesline full of laundry hanging in the mid-day sun, glad to have made the choice not to own a dryer. The lowering sun this time of year casts a golden glow, making our yard shine with a richness that’s not noticeable during other seasons.

Careful not to mow too close to the lamppost in the wilder part of our yard (that I have named Narnia), I run over small crab apples and twigs that have dropped to the ground. I duck under branches as I wind my way back out into the open, feeling nostalgic when riding by the spot where the soccer goals used to be. For over 10 years they were a landmark in the landscape of our yard and in our lives. Countless neighborhood games were played here when my sons were growing up. It was just this summer that my husband loaded the goals in his truck and took them over to Floyd’s Blue Mountain School, knowing they would get more use there.

With our dog Jasmine looking on, I frown as I think how summer has too quickly slipped by. When I ride by our sprawling rope hammock, I regret the missed opportunities to spend time in it. The bird feeders need to be filled. The deer have been munching on our youngest fruit trees, and we still haven’t built the deck on the east side of the house.

But a wide smile returns to my face as I turn a corner and notice something new. The oldest apple tree in our yard has produced fruit for the first time. I circle around to whiz by it again so I can count the number with my eyes. More than a dozen, I see.

Brushing aside the sticky tangle of a spider web dangling invisibly from a branch of pine, I shift into low gear and steer the mower towards the shed to park it for the last time this year. The roar of the engine, like summer itself, comes to an abrupt halt. In the quiet that follows, my mind drifts to the future, remembering the taste of apples baked in Thanksgiving pies.

October 16, 2007

Good Dirt

joshbowl.jpg Clay is a material accepting of impression. It is a record of every process, from its geological formation in the earth to its eventual transformation in the fire. My work with ceramics begins with the clay. By using local materials dug from the river bottom and mountainsides of North Carolina, my work gains a connection to place and establishes the materials as a valuable source of influence. ~ Excerpt from Josh's artist statement posted on the Gallery @ Good Earth Gallery website
Since early summer I’ve been documenting the progress on the woodfiring kiln that my Asheville Potter son, Josh Copus, has been building on his property in Marshall, North Carolina. In June I wrote about the raising of the kiln shed roof, which was built with parts from an old house that he tore down and salvaged. Last month, my husband and I traveled to visit Josh at the kiln site where we helped with last minute construction preparations and then took part in the first ceremonial firing. The intensity of that first firing was heightened by the fact that many of the pots stacked inside it were due in Athens, Georgia, for a show just days later. Josh and other area potters were set to have their pots featured at the Good Earth Gallery in a show titled “Pushing Traditions: Asheville’s New Voices.” Adding to the pressure of getting the kiln finished and fired in time was the fact that Josh was the show’s curator, the one responsible for organizing and putting it together. joshovalvase.jpg

The manifestation of the three chamber climbing wood-fired kiln started with the excavation of eleven dump truck loads of wild clay from a local farmer’s tobacco field, which Josh wrote about in an article for Studio Potter titled “Neil Woody’s Turkey Creek Field.” The Clay excavation got some good attention and led to a research grant, awarded to Josh and fellow potter, Matt Jacobs, to further their work using local materials in ceramics. The momentum continued when Josh won a Windgate Fellowship Award to build a kiln, not only for the purpose of furthering his exploration with wild clay, but to support the theme of his UNC Asheville BFA thesis show “Building Community,” which Josh described in a recent article for the Log Book, an international publication for woodfirers.

Land was purchased and plans were drawn up. With the help of others, Josh headed up the three month full-time building project. His enthusiasm and motivation for what he’s accomplished and continues to do can be best explained in his own words contained in the rest of his Good Dirt artist statement for his first showing of pots fired in the newly built kiln:jplate.jpg

I dig my own clay from a tobacco field alongside Turkey Creek and everything I make contains an element of my response to that experience. Every pot is informed with the qualities and character of my clay; whether it is the subtlety of its dark iron body breaking through a white slip, or the drama of its diverse particle size exposed through a facet, the qualities of my clay effect what I make and my intention is to bring out the inherent beauty of the materials in every pot.

However, my interest in using local materials for my pots is not limited to the influence of their physical properties and extends to the intangible qualities that those materials can bring to the work. The physical properties of my materials are not as unique as my experience of using them and it is the increased participation in the creative process that I have come to value the most. ovalvase2.jpg Digging my own clay has increased my connection to the area where I live and furthered my relationship with the surrounding community, creating an authentic context for my work to exist in. Most importantly I find a great amount of excitement in digging my own clay and my hope is that the enthusiasm I have for my materials will transferred to the finished product. I want each pot to carry with it the feeling I get each time I visit the Turkey Creek tobacco field.

The experience of working with local materials has contributed greatly to my growth as both an artist and a person. It has confirmed my belief that the more highly developed a potter is as a human being, the better their pottery will be. There is no real beauty without character and like the clay that I use to make them, my pots are a reflection of my character. As a human being, I am accepting of impression and each pot I make represents my personality, experience, and my dreams.

Post notes: A short video clip of Josh at the kiln first firing talking with a fellow potter about how the kiln works is HERE. All of the photos posted above are of pots made by Josh that were fired in the first firing of the new kiln. You can view more pots at the Gallery @ Good Earth HERE.

October 15, 2007

A Fall Fairytale Wedding

1. The bride did not arrive in a carriage.
2. Her ride did not turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.
3. She did not run from the ball at the Rockwood Manor or lose a glass slipper on the stairs.
4. Toasts were made and vows exchanged. A community of friends with longstanding bonds, new friends, and family who had watched her grow-up joined together, showering her and her prince with loving blessings. Roses bloomed by a gushing fountain. On a perfect fall day, gold and silver gifts were piled high.
5. The chocolate cake matched the dresses on the ladies in waiting. Fireworks exploded and everything from the polka to the “Rock the Casbah” was danced to.
6. A kiss sealed the spell. Friends and family wish them well as they write the first chapter of their happily ever after story.

Post note: Wedding congratulations to out to my friend Juniper’s daughter, Autumn, and her new husband Kris!

October 14, 2007

An Unlikely Job

moonwatch2.jpg I love that life is stranger than fiction and that it gives me some good stories to tell, which is why when I saw that the Sunday Scribbling prompt for this weekend was on jobs, I decided to write about my most unusual job. It wasn’t a job that paid much money or furthered a career. It wasn’t stimulating, exciting, or good for my ego. It’s a job that’s been more fun to talk about years later than it was when I was actually doing it.

As unlikely as it would seem that a 5 foot 1 inch 115 pound woman would have a job as a night watchman, for nearly a year in the mid 1980’s I did. I carried a flashlight and made periodic nightly rounds at one of Floyd’s past ethanol plants. It was a job that appealed to the introvert in me, and I liked that – except for the all-night schedule – it didn’t disrupt my life. During the long quiet hours of solitude, I moonlighted at my moonlit job, making jewelry to later be sold in shops and at craft fairs. While stringing beads and wrapping silver wire around gemstones and crystals, I listened to music and sometimes felt inspired to get up and dance. A few times I brought my young sons to work with me. They loved to explore the big hollow drums and other processing equipment. Once I had to deal with the arrival of large Mac truck whose driver ended up sleeping in the truck’s cab until morning. Another time one of the day workers showed up drunk. He proved to be harmless enough, but at the time I didn't know if he would be. Occasionally friends dropped by. Once, a few of us sang and played music together inside one of the huge hollow drums to test out the acoustics. It was wintertime, too cold to doze off inside the plant. When I became too cold and too sleepy to be active, I’d sit in my car with the heat on, listen to tapes on the latest wild new age subject, and maybe enjoy a snack. Welch’s grape juice and pretzels, picked up at the Express Mart before work, were an important part of this job. I sipped and snacked into the wee hours of morning while I studied the night sky, trying to fathom the enormity of it. I became a friend of the moon and thought of it as a giant looking glass. I was a night watchman who watched the night. I studied the stars closely. I wanted to see them move, but inevitably my eyelids grew heavy and I would fall into a nap, only to wake up later, surprised to see that some stars had slipped every so slightly off the night’s enormous table.

Post note
: My list of jobs is HERE.

October 12, 2007

A Local Controversy

My friend Rob has been embroiled in a painful controversy regarding a book titled “The Truth About Slavery.” He has publicly asked the reasonable questions: What is a book with such a sensitive topic doing being sold by its author at our town’s yearly craft faire; and isn’t the authoritative title misleading for a book full of one man’s personal perspective?

Rob recently asked me what I thought about the controversy and fellow blogger Doug encouraged local bloggers to spread the word about racism in our midst. I generally don’t set about to write on any specific topic, but if I find myself thinking a lot about something, sentences usually start dictating themselves to me. When that happens I feel almost honor bound to write. While, I’ve been slow to respond in writing for many reasons, I’ve been thinking about the controversy a lot, and about Rob and others who have taken some heat from speaking out.

Firstly, there’s no question that slavery is abhorrent. Born in Massachusetts with a grandmother from Ireland and all of my great-grandparents from places other than the America, I consider myself more a product of immigration than a Yankee, and so I was confused the first time I was labeled that way while visiting my grandparents in Florida when I was young. As a young teenager, I watched the Civil Rights movement play out on TV, feeling upset by the violent reactions to it, but also proud of those who put their lives on the line to secure the most basic of human rights for themselves and others. Every time an African American breaks another barrier, I swell with emotion. Empathy for those who have been oppressed may be rooted in my Irish American heritage. The Irish were completely subjugated by the English for centuries. Under the Penal Laws, Irish Catholics were not allowed to speak their language, go to school, or own land in their own country. Poverty created by that kind of colonialism in the face of the potato famine was like giving Indians blankets infected with scarlet fever to kill them.

But histories are complicated and the “official versions” don’t always match realities, particularly as they apply to wars. From the limited amount of reading I’ve done on the Civil War I have concluded that slavery was not the initial motivation for the start of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation came a few years into the war; some believe to give the war more moral justification, which reminds me of the Iraq war. If we had prevailed in Iraq, historians would likely describe the invasion as a noble act of liberation fought in the name of democracy. Those of us living now know that “democracy in Iraq” only became a stated goal by the Bush administration after WMD were not found, and that even the WMD justification for invasion was a trumped up premise that disguised a hidden motive. Even conservative Alan Greenspan believes (and stated so in his recent book) what many of us have suspected from the war’s beginning, that the U.S. invaded Iraq to pursue geopolitical advantage in the Middle East and for access to oil.

I’ve lived for over twenty years in the Virginia and have many Southern friends. My friend Wade reminded me once that the winners of war are the ones who get to write the history about it, and when they do they tend to put themselves in the best light. He and other Southerners believe that the Civil war was a war about centralized government versus state’s rights and that it was fought for economic interests. Lincoln needed to save the Union because the industrialized North needed the rich agriculture lands of the South. History bears out that a tariff voted in by the North and benefited by them hurt the South who then moved towards secession, setting off a chain of events that led to war.

The problem is when those who put forth the non-idealistic motives of the North during the Civil War feel the need to also defend slavery. They tend to talk about the entire history of slavery, as if to say ‘see, everyone was doing it.’ Even worse is when they point out how well taken care of most owned slaves were, or how content many of them seemed to be. They don’t realize that others experience this kind of defense as condescending, demeaning, simplistic, hurtful, and ignorant of the psychology of captivity.

I haven’t read the book that has stirred the controversy and don’t plan to. From the little I have seen – a list of chapters and clips others have excerpted and printed – it appears that the author is trivializing slavery. It reminds me of those who deny that the holocaust existed or pose childish questions, such as ‘why didn’t the Jewish people fight back?’ In truth, throughout the holocaust and American slavery many did resist captivity and were killed doing so.

I have another older friend who grew up being taken care of by black women servants when the south was still segregated. At first I was shocked when she spoke so calmly about the idyllic rural life she lived and the sense of community she felt between blacks and whites before desegregation brought turmoil. My friend is not a racist. I came to understand that she was relating her direct experience as she felt and remembered it. I also know that the status quo may be comfortable but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

I don’t believe most change causes turmoil as much as it brings existing low grade turmoil to a head. Every couple knows that unspoken disagreements can fester into deep resentments that can be seriously damaging to their relationship. Arguments can clear the air and lead to opportunities for positive change, but not if one party remains defensive because they want to be right.

We view the world through our experiences of it. My perspective on dropping the atomic bomb is far different than my father’s. He, a WWII combat solider fighting to bring down Hitler, saw it as a quick end to war and was relieved not to be shipped off to Japan to face the probability of being killed. In defending the dropping of the bomb, he was not able to fully acknowledge or grieve the deaths of a quarter million innocent Japanese civilians. He especially was not able to do that with the gruesome images of mass graves and other horrors that he saw at Buchenwald Concentration camp in the forefront of his mind.

Do ends justify means? Does change have to come with bloodshed? I wish there were more examples of honoring what was righteous, while at the same time allowing remorse for what was wrong. But most of us have a hard time acknowledging the dark side of our country’s history, North or South. 10/9/07

Update: Christian Trejbal of the Roanoke Times covered this controversy on October 14th HERE.

October 11, 2007

13 Thursday: Indian Summer

13aster2.jpg1. The neighborhood dogs are sitting out October … like wallflowers in the corner … they’re overdressed in fur.

2. I love an Indian Summer because it lets me stay in denial about the coming of cold weather a little longer.

3. These days I’ve taken to wearing an orange cat cap with black ears that stick up because it helps me keep my sense of humor. I wore it over the weekend to help Joe keep his too.

4. But THIS is what I really want to be for Halloween.

5. And I came this close. HERE.

6. Instead of going through the vicious cycle of dyeing my hair or freaking out because I’ve started to go gray, I’ve decided to pretend that I’m going blonde. People pay good money to have that done and some say blondes have more fun.
7. I was in Oddfellas Cantina recently, picking up one of my favorite lunches to go, a “Rude Boy Burrito.” Doug Thompson was there too and we both were curious about how the Rude Boy got its name. Was it named after somebody rude? Would there be a good story in the answer?

8. I knew that the name originated with the Cantina’s first owners, Erika and Kris, who now run FloydFest, and so I later emailed Erika and asked her. She answered, “Rude Boy is the slang for a Jamacian ‘non-conformist.’ It’s a rasta-style rebel!” She explained how Kris was into Bob Marley when they opened Oddfella’s and how at one time they thought about naming a restaurant “Rude Boy Burritos.”

9. Sometimes I find myself sitting and typing in front of my computer and I don’t know how I got there.

10. My friend Rob has been embroiled in a painful controversy regarding a book titled “The Truth about Slavery …” So begins a post I am working on for tomorrow, and while you’re waiting for that you can look at THIS found at Tabor’s blog.

11. Last night I went to a party that was part Blessingway for my girlfriend Juniper's daughter who is getting married and part birthday party for her. My young friend Jade was at there. He told me that his mother got mad at him for saying “Dude” too many times. He’s thinking of getting his hair done in a liberty spike. doghat.jpg My friend Mara's daughter Kayla was at the party too. She got the dog to pose with a birthday hat on so that I could take a picture.

12. Shakespeare is like computer generated magic art. At first I don’t understand a word of it, like I can’t see the picture hidden in magic art, but soon something clicks and it everything makes perfect sense.

13. Meditation is like magic art too. But it’s not like Shakespeare.

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

October 10, 2007

Part II: Hotel Floyd Open House Party

Part 1 of this entry can be found HERE.
1. This is Alder Burnette-Holliday and Abe Gorskey representing Phoenix Hardwoods, the woodworkers who created much of the handmade furniture in the hotel. They're standing in front of one of their Phoenix Hardwood headboards in the Crooked Road room. I love this photo because I knew both these talented young men when they were children.
2. I’m probably not supposed to have favorite rooms, and if I did it would be the writer’s suite, right? In truth, all the rooms are beautiful and unique, but The Old Church Gallery is one on my favorites list. It was primarily designed and decorated by Old Church Gallery director and longtime Floyd art school teacher, Catherine Pauley, and Kathleen Ingoldsby, a member of our Writer’s Circle and Historical Society activist. The Old Church Gallery, founded in 1978, is just a stone’s throw from the Hotel. It preserves and showcases Floyd’s cultural and historical arts and currently houses an exhibit of a once active moonshine still. Catherine wasn’t able to attend the party due to a death in her family, but she was on everyone’s mind.
3. I got a tour of the Country Store Room by the store’s owner, Woody Crenshaw. He and his wife Jackie decorated their room. Woody named some familiar faces of local Jamboree icons shown in framed photos for me, and he had a few good jamboree stories to tell. It’s hard to see here, but the photos over the bed are of hands of jamboree fiddle "pickers” in action. The hotel is within walking distance to the Country Store and other Floyd hotspots.
4. Even the refreshments were locally made by some of Floyd’s best. We were served wine by the Chateau Morrisette Winery crew, who also have a room in the hotel. The food – lamb with cucumber raita, hummus, tuna, and stuffed mushrooms – was made by Over The Moon's chef. Sally from Café Del Sol provided dessert and coffee. Unfortunately, I stashed some dessert for eating later at home, but I left it idle too long and it got cleaned up. I’m still wondering how those chocolate fudge bars dripping with strawberry sauce and topped with whip crème would have tasted.
5. This is Malawi Room, inspired by hotel owners Kamala and Jack’s Zion Lutheran good will trips to Africa. I was really impressed when I heard that Jack pulled this room together. He told me he hopes to schedule a public open house for the hotel to coincide with the neighboring Village Green opening sometime in November. Joe and I were one of the few couples who stayed till the very end, talking to Jack and Kamala. We sat in chairs out in the grassy courtyard, where an amphitheatre for music will be built, talking with Jack, Kamala and a few others. At one point a couple came to check into one of the four rooms we didn’t get to see because they were either occupied or reserved. “Oh yes, now we have to run this place, don’t we?!” Kamala joked. Somebody got up to sign in the couple.

October 9, 2007

The Hotel Floyd Open House Party

1. The Hotel Floyd is an eco-friendly building in downtown Floyd that began construction this past spring and opened on October 1st. The owners wanted to showcase Floyd art, furniture, music, and culture, so they called on local groups and businesses to design fourteen themed rooms. Since the beginning I’ve been working on a Writer’s Room with other members of Writer’s Circle I belong to. Other rooms are: The Crooked Road Room, Blue Ridge Parkway Room, Country Store Room, Jacksonville Center Room, Floyd Artist Room, Floyd Fest Room, Harvest Moon Room, Winter Sun Room, Jeanie O'Neil Room, The Malawi Room, Bell Gallery Room, Old Church Gallery Room and the Chateau Morrisette Bridal Suite. On Oct 7 the hotel owners hosted an open house party to thank all the groups for their work. The following photos were taken then.
2. Writer Circle member, ceremonialist, herbalist, and one of the Harvest Moon’s managers, Katherine Chantal made the first entry in the Writer’s Room journal on the desk that she and I picked out last spring. In it she welcomed guests and invited them to leave a journal entry of their own. The first writing in the journal was our version of a champagne bottle breaking dedication.
3. Another Writer's Circle member, Jayn Avery, is resting on the bed in one of the two bedrooms in the suite, below Fred First’s framed “January Tree.” She deserves to. The day before the party I read on Blue Ridge Muse that the hotel was booked to capacity for the weekend. I didn’t even know it was open! Jayn was down the mountain selling pottery at the Roanoke Market, so I called another friend involved to find out more. When I learned that it was indeed open and full of guests, I asked, “Did you see if the doily ever got put on the back of our loveseat?” I was there the day furniture and art got moved into the rooms on September 24, the same day Jayn and I found the doily. She took it home to wash and I headed for the beach with Joe for a vacation. The doily seemed like an important finishing touch detail. “Yes,” my friend reported. She had seen the doily.
4. Rick Cooley is looking through the writer’s scrapbook on the credenza built by local furniture maker, Sam Hancock. This photo was taken minutes before I learned that Rick had designed the hotel’s logo art for their webpage, postcards, and other advertising. He’s a member of the Floyd Artist Group with a themed room next to ours. Notice the high definition flat screen TV in this photo. All the rooms have them, as well as wireless hook-up capability. That's Lora Geissler's "Shell Ginger" behind Rick.
5. Yes, we spent a lot of time in the Writer’s Suite. It took awhile before we could break away to see some of the rooms that other local groups had decorated. In this photo Jack Wall, one of the hotel owners, is talking with two people from the Wall Residence Community. Wall Residences is a Floyd agency, which Jack is the director of, that provides foster care placements for adults with disabilities. It’s the agency I worked for (and am still involved with part-time) for nine years as a foster care provider. Notice the lamp set on a base of books that designer Jeanie O'Neill found for us.

Post note: Part Two with photos of other rooms and more will be posted tomorrow. Update: Part II is HERE.

October 8, 2007

The Hotel Floyd Writer’s Suite

hfmovingday.jpgThe first item purchased for the Hotel Floyd Writer’s Suite came from Daniel Bower’s antique shop. An antique wooden desk with a pull down table and various drawers and letter slots became a symbol linking the past with the present. At the start of the hotel construction, a small group of us from The Floyd Writer’s Circle accepted an invitation from the hotel owners, Jack Wall and Kamala Bauers, to decorate one of the fourteen themed rooms being planned. We knew we wanted our room to reflect the historic tradition of writing and to connect old world writers with modern ones. With the help of interior decorator Jeanie O’Neill, we chose classic furnishings in earth tones to create a timeless, uncluttered atmosphere of self-reflection and study.

The last two items purchased also came from a local antique shop. A large crocheted doily and a translucent blue inkwell were found at Chic’s Antique Shop on the day in late September when furniture was moved in and art was being hung in preparation for the hotel’s October 1st opening. jaynhf.jpgWriter’s Circle member and Blue Heron potter, Jayn Avery, took the doily home to hand wash it before pinning it to the back of the living room loveseat for the room’s finishing touch.

The old typewriter placed high on the lighted ledge in the main room has an interesting local history. It was donated by Mary Peters who used it during her years of work at the Bank of Floyd before electric typewriters were installed there in the early 60’s. Mary offered the typewriter after reading an article in The Floyd Press about the Writer’s Suite in which those who had ideas or historic resources to share were encouraged to come forth. Next to the typewriter is a tea set made by Jayn in one of her signature lace designs. A vase also made by Jayn in her Blue Heron studio sits above the kitchen cupboard and holds a locally picked arrangement of dried flowers.

Prominently featured throughout the suite is the collage art of Jennifer Spoon. Jennifer, a retired Radford University professor of graphic design, is a paper maker who incorporates letters and numbers into her compositions. 3.jpg Stamps, pieces of crossword puzzles, found images, and travel momentums give her collages a romantic old-world flavor.

Lora Geissler’s pastel of a larger than life pink blossom hangs above the wingback chair in the main room. Titled, Shell Ginger, it adds spice to the light infused olive oil color of the walls. A photograph of a tree in January standing in the forefront of a red-roofed barn makes a dramatic display in one of the two bedrooms. It was taken by photographer, Fred First, who is also a Writer’s Circle member and one of the local authors whose book, A Slow Road Home, is among those on the Writer’s Suite bookcase.

In the same bedroom where Fred’s photograph hangs there’s a reading chair next to a one-of-a-kind Susan Icove lamp. The lamp, decorated with old books and dictionary pages, compliments Highland Hardwood’s Sam Hancock’s bed headboard and wardrobe. We chose Sam’s handcrafted and classically designed furniture to add a Hemingwayesque feel to the suite. hfwr.jpg

Not surprisingly, books are a theme in the Writer’s Suite. Old and new ones by Virginia authors were tracked down by Writer’s Circle member, Kathleen Ingoldsby. Kathleen is an active member of the Floyd Historical Society who also worked with local artist Catherine Pauley designing the Old Church Gallery Suite, two doors down from the Writer’s Suite.

What would a writer’s room be without a Scrabble board? Or a dictionary? An old Oxford English dictionary placed next to the 1950’s typewriter belonged to the late Elliot Dabinsky, a poet and one of the founding members of the Floyd Writer’s Circle. Elliot’s photo is included with others in a collage collection of writers performing at Spoken Word events.

After a game of Scrabble, guests might want to flip through the pages of a scrapbook that chronicles the activities of local writers in the community. jayncolleenkathhf.jpg Or, they might be inspired to pen their own thoughts. At a Hotel Floyd Open House private party on Sunday, Writer’s Circle member, Katherine Chantal made the first entry in the leather bound journal that sits on Writer’s Suite antique desk. After welcoming guests to the suite, which features green technology design and the best of local artists, she invited them to compose a journal entry about their stay. It will be interesting to read over time what visitors think about the Hotel Floyd and all that our town has to offer.

Post Notes: Coming soon – a photo journal accounting of the Hotel Floyd open house private party on Sunday. The photos above are of the Hotel Floyd on moving day, September 24th; Jayn and the writer’s suite taken on moving day; one of Jennifer Spoon's collages, and Jayn, Colleen, and Katherine in the suite at the open house party. The Hotel Floyd's website is HERE.

October 6, 2007

Speaking of Collage Art

A collage works in the same way a dream does. It’s a visual snapshot of various symbolic images that can bypass the brain’s process time and convey a lot of information at once. ~ Colleen
1. The above and the following are a few selected photos of my Asheville Potter son’s collage journal. Josh has had to work with others to design specially made books to accommodate his collaged journal pages. The books expand as he adds to them.
2. I’ve been drawn to collage art for as long as I can remember. I had been doing rudimentary collages for many years, while putting together photo albums and baby books for my sons, but I wasn’t really inspired and didn’t recognize the potential of collage as a creative way to record one’s life until I saw Josh’s journals.
3. My first attempt at collage journaling myself was done as I approached the age of 50. It was a chronicle of my life thus far in colorful bits and pieces. Some photos of that are HERE.
4. Neither Josh nor I tend to buy special items for collage. We prefer to use found items and recycled scraps of our lives. The story of how Josh first became a collage journal artist is HERE.
5. One can work through personal issues by creating art, collage included. Some of Josh’s pages are too personal to post here. Some are almost too personal for me to look at, but I love reviewing his latest work and so far he still lets me. But doesn’t all art come with the risk of having the personal exposed? Doesn’t all art reflect what is deeply inside the artist who made it? (The above is an early collage, one I have always loved.)
6. Josh is a hard worker and an inspired artist. I think he has over a dozen collage journals. He usually weaves the creative work of making them into all parts of his life. But lately building the Community Temple wood-fired kiln, making pots, and having two firings back-to-back has been his full time art. You can see that art HERE. This collage conversation started HERE.

October 5, 2007

Collaging the Collage

ccollagecoll.jpgI can’t find my working notebook or an available empty one, so I started this on the back of a used envelope. Now at the keyboard, I’m wearing a bright orange Halloween cat cap with black ears that stick up because having it on helps me to keep my sense of humor. My office has unraveled, as if I pulled an imaginary string and all the stacks of paper fell from the counters and spilled out of the filing cabinet onto the floor. Not only am I navigating through piles of junk in my office, my living room is a mine field of strewn newspaper clippings, photos, glue sticks, scissors, colored paper, and more.

My friend and fellow Writer’s Circle member, Rosemary, spent many hours working on a collage for the Hotel Floyd. The hotel owners invited local groups to decorate themed rooms, and a small group of us have been working on the Floyd Writer’s Room since the start of the summer. The idea for the collage was to create a piece of art using the photographs and stories I’ve been collecting that would show our group’s presence in the community. collagepoe2t.jpg
Along with stories and images from our Spoken Word Open Mic nights and our past performances at FloydFest, Rosemary and I collected magnetic poetry words, Scrabble board spellings, scraps, flyers, and special paper to include in the mix.

Even with a full time job and her daughter’s wedding in August, Rosemary found enough time to come up with a whimsical creation the size of a poster. She was happy with the final composition, but in the end the materials failed her. A decoupage liquid caused the whole thing to wrinkle and buckle. After many hours and expense invested, she was disheartened enough to want to abandon the project. The word “landfill” was uttered.

With the hotel under construction, Rosemary’s collage ended up in my living room with the rest of the purchased art for the Writer’s Room. Throughout the month of September, I and others in our writing circle brainstormed ideas on how to salvage it. Everything from a creating a graffiti-like poster, a portable poet’s standing sign, or scanning and photo-shopping it section by section were considered, but each idea seemed to involve sinking even more time and money into a project already in the red. And no one seemed to have any time. collagecollage1.jpg

In late September, Fellow blogger David St. Lawrence and I both took photos of the collage, zeroing in on different sections. I picked out some favorites and got them professionally color copied. The copying cost much more than I had expected, which meant that professional framing wasn’t an option if I was going to at least recoup Rosemary’s and my material and copying expenses. I wanted to do that as well as find a way to honor the work.

I awoke one recent morning with the idea of a Floyd writer’s scrapbook on my mind, a book that could incorporate prints of sections of Rosemary’s collage and also have room for full newspapers clippings about our events and a sampling of writer’s poetry and prose. Although I’m more comfortable collaging in a book than for something to frame and hang on the wall, I didn’t want to take on all the work. A writer’s scrapbooking party was scheduled, so that each writer in the group of nine would have the opportunity to create a page or two of their own, but on the night of the scheduled get-together no one was free to attend.

So I took the plunge and now it’s almost done. mflyer.jpg Searching down poems in old Museletters and FloydFest programs, finding just the right photo to cut into just the right shape, copying and pasting newspaper articles together has taken its toll on me and my house. But I’m happy that Rosemary’s collage, the inspiration behind the scrapbook, is getting the mileage it deserves and that our efforts as a group to bring spoken word to our community will have a visual history one can follow. Rosemary’s collage has provided some ready-made 8x10 scrapbook pages, but most of those have been clipped or added to. It’s been fun to mix the original photographs that Rosemary altered back into her work in an Alice Wonderland fashion.

Update: Not only that, but I’ve been using the prints of parts the original collage (photos # 2 and 3) to make flyers for our spoken word events (see last photo of Mara). There are two long narrow framed pictures with three 3x7 openings which hold six prints of views of the collage hanging in the writer’s room. Soon there will a writer’s scrapbook to add to the bookcase in what we have been calling the "writer’s study." I’ll bring it to the pre-opening open house this Sunday for all who worked on decorating the themed rooms. More about the green designed, themed room Hotel Floyd HERE. Their website is HERE.

October 4, 2007

13 Thursday Happy Camper

13camper.jpg1. When I stumbled upon a flesh colored oyster shell on the campground shower floor, for a few seconds and I thought it was a disembodied ear.

2. No, I don’t bring my camera into the shower. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

3. “Campsites are like rows of motel rooms with the doors left wide open,” I wrote HERE about camping on my own in a post titled, “What Would a Hobbit Do?”

4. Watermelon cherry plunks into a sunset drenched ocean … It floats on the rim before it sinks in…. and burns as it goes down… AKA: A beer induced verse written on the beach.

5. Hermit crabs are the beach version of spiders. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the quick exit THIS one made after seeing me.

6. I just discovered a whole cult of hermit crab videos that make the one I made pale in comparison. I especially liked THIS one: It’s about a hermit crab that wears the plastic bottom cup of a chair for a shell, and it has a happy ending.

7. I remember next to nothing about losing my virginity, but I can remember every detail of the first time I heard Leonard Cohen sing “Suzanne” when it played on the radio in 1969 in a boutique in Boston where I worked.

8. I played the song for Joe on the ride home from the beach and told him, “THIS is the song that woke the poet up in me.”

9. I remember well my first real kiss at the age of 13 because it woke me up to boys the way Leonard Cohen woke me up to poetry. Ironically, the boy who I had my memorable first kiss with was the same one I had forgettable first time sex with (six years and several boyfriends after the kiss). Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead.

10. I’m feeling burned out from the pace of September. It was full of work on the Hotel Floyd Writers Room and writing a total of five stories back-to-back for publication. I made THIS little video clip to help me slow down in October and to remind me about what is really important in life.

11. My mother tells everyone that I have a “google blog.”

12. I want to keep track of THIS writer’s resource that I found at Blue Country Magic, so I’m posting it here.

13. After being immersed in WWII study via “The War,” an in-depth and un-glossed documentary series by Ken Burns, I think maybe our country was too isolationist before WWII but that now we have gone too far the other way. There were many tears and some turning away to cover my eyes while watching. I said to my husband from under the blankets, “Why would anyone need to watch fictionalized horror movies when such real life horror exists?”

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

October 2, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

AKA: We’re on our Way Home
1. Re-entry
2. Remembering
3. Returning
4. Point of departure

Photos: 1. After a leisurely couple of days at the campground, it was hard to adjust to the speed on the drive into Portsmouth to meet up with a colleague of Joe’s. He treated us to an amazing gourmet meal at a restaurant called Fusion. I boldly snapped a picture of my dinner, piled high and shaped like a volcano, and would have posted it here but it looked out of place in the mix. 2. I lingered on the walkway to the beach taking photos of the long lined shadows, knowing we would soon have to pull ourselves away and head for home. 3. I was drawn to watch a woman on the shoreline because I saw myself in her. Kneeling down in the sand, she was completely absorbed in an activity and then was taking pictures of something with her camera. After she left I walked over to where she had been and was uplifted by the spiral of small stones she created and then left behind. 4. Just one of the interesting creatures I came across on my beach walks. HERE is a poem about beach living in which the horseshoe crabs of my youth make an appearance.

October 1, 2007

Summer's Last Call

1. While in Virginia Beach, we visited the A.R.E. complex (Association of Research and Enlightenment), founded to carry on the work of Edgar Cayce. We picked up wireless in their library and had lunch in the meditation garden by a pond. The pink water lilies were in bloom and large gold fish swam between them.
2. Even with all the martial arts training Joe has had, he couldn’t budge this giant beach ball.
3. On the boardwalk, we met some Monks from Thailand. They wore long orange robes and were snapping pictures with their cameras. One gave Joe his card.
4. It was the weekend of The Neptune Festival, which went on for over 30 blocks, with vending tents, carnival rides, and bands playing. The main event was a sand castle contest. A line of tall colorful flags flapping in the ocean breeze lined the entries and made for an impressive display.
5. From a distance I thought it was a pirate game and that children were walking the plank. I was immediately drawn in, so we went to get a better look.
6. A crowd of children had invented the best ride in town. It was a self-created rite of passage game in which they lined up and took turns jumping several feet into the sand from the end of a long black plastic pipe. Some jumped bravely, others edged their way out to the end, and all were witnessed and cheered as they jumped. We never figured out the official purpose of pipe, but we knew it was non-commercial attraction because no one was taking money.
7. We made it back to camp in time to watch the sunset from our backyard beach, which we have come to call the Volley Ball court. It was like a honeymoon date because after the sunset we stayed for the moonrise, remembering how the sun and moon played a symbolic role in our wedding. We reminisced about our first meeting, a story we call our “creation myth” and which we like to review every couple of years.
8. The next day we avoided the Virginia beach crowd and stayed at the campground, setting up our cabana and chairs on the beach there. Joe read some wonderful passages out loud from an insightful book on meditation. After that I got down to business because no beach vacation is complete until I have completely flipped through an issue of People Magazine.