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March 31, 2008

Blessing the Way

mahcialtarll.jpg Johanna is my son Josh’s peer, a Blue Mountain School alumni, Floyd High School salutatorian, a young German-born woman that many of us here in Floyd watched grow up. She’s getting married on the summer solstice.

Forgoing a wedding shower, or even the traditional Floyd Blessingway, she requested a Machitun, a shamanic drumming healing ceremony. The ceremony was brought back to Floyd after my friend Katherine, a ceremonialist, and other Floyd women traveled to Chili and learned it from the Mapuchi women shamans. rootjohannax.jpg

Burning sage wafted in the air, cultrun drums reverberated, and the shaking of rattle conversations opened the way for good visions to come.

Following the ceremony, we gathered around Johanna with big smiles on our faces to tell stories and give her our blessings.

“A jiggly jolly girl in pig tails with her head in a book and roller skates on her feet” was the way some of us remembered her. As a young girl she created miniature fairy worlds. Now she’s making the world a better place as an environmental organizer. Sipping from the chalice of fruity herbal liquor, we sealed our wishes for her and her partner, Nick.

Then we held court upstairs at a long dining room table. The wine flowed as we were treated to an Eastern Indian feast fit for Queens, Priestesses, and Machis, prepared and served lovingly by two of us. Gifts were presented and oohed over. Laughter and chatter filled the air.

Post note: Johanna’s mother, Starroot, is a well known Floyd visionary artist. You can check out her work HERE. Read about Johanna and Nick's wedding HERE.

March 29, 2008

Somebody Left the Porch Light On

Washington D.C. has it's cherry blossoms. We have forsythia bushes.
They surround our porch, casting their buttercup glow, their 100 watt sun-loving gold, and wide-eyed early spring bloom.
For the next couple of weeks we’ll be wearing sunglasses.

March 28, 2008

Phone Poem Message #9

People who work at home
Don’t answer the phone
At least not right away

Do I need to pick up?
Call you right back?
After the beep have your say

Post notes: Better yet send me an email or leave a comment. "The Poet's Hotline" HERE.

March 27, 2008

The 13 Thursday Tattoo

lucky13.gif 1. Have you ever thought of getting a “13” tattoo, taking a picture of it and using it for a Thirteen Thursday header?

2. According to THIS test (compliments of Kenju), I’m 76% addicted to blogging.

3. If that isn’t bad enough, I think I’m even more addicted to online research. After typing number 1 in this list, I searched around and found out that there is a place called Lucky 13 Tattoo in Richmond, Virginia, another Lucky 13 Tattoo in Vermont, a 13 Tattoo in Brazil and an Old Thirteen Tattoo place in Los Angeles. There’s also a Lucky 13 Hairdressers Salon.

4. Our names are our assignments: Last week while doing some research on autism and vaccines, I came across a doctor named “Pangborn.” He works with autistic children, but I couldn’t help but think maybe he missed his calling and should have been an obstetrician.

5. Then I found THIS, a story called “Calling These Doctors by Their Callings,” about a surgeon named Chop, a Psychiatrist named Dr. Looney, and doctors named Dr. Hurt and Dr. Payne. There was mention of an eye doctor named Dr. Blinder and one named Dr. Seemore. Which one would you choose?

6. Dick Cheney must be pulling our chain (no comment on his first name). Last week when Martha Radditz said to him in an interview, “Two-thirds of Americans say it (the war) is not worth fighting,” he said, “SO?” Then he went on to tell her how well the war was going. Can anyone watch THIS without cringing?

7. I should have bought stock in THESE notebooks. through a few and whenever I really like something and go back to buy more, I find they have gone out of style.

8. Besides being a beachnick and 1960’s peacnick, I’m a Meet and Greetnick. Meet Michele HERE.

9. I just found out that the poems we all wrote last week using the words in our last Café Scrabble game are going to be used by Mara in creative writing class assignment on “procedural poems” at Hollins University. I guess I was taking my turn when she explained it.

10. At first the Literacy Volunteer Scrabble Tournament that I wrote about HERE reminded me of a Contra Dance. There were five long lines of five round tables like contra dance lines and partners and neighbors holding hands four in a circle. Not only that, a literacy volunteer was up on the stage calling the rules that I was struggling to understand.

11. My son Josh got me into Contra Dancing when he was a teenager. I love to dance but being left/right dyslexic, it was difficult for me to learn. There are active and inactive dancers who move up the dance hall in different directions. There’s counting steps, and spinning and dosey doeing left or right. I remember being confused and complaining that it was too much like algebra, but when your teenaged son says, “Mom, you’re gonna love this,” and he wants you to learn it and he’ll dance with you when you do, you’ll make the effort to.

12. Today is my niece’s birthday, and she has a blog. You can go over and wish here a happy birthday HERE, and she'll tell you how old she is.

13. Strangest keyword searches that brought people to Loose Leaf this week: flamingo sympathy card, leprechaun on the loose, 5 biggest lies Bush told us about iraq, and what are the 13 colleens. The funniest part is that I know exactly why they landed folks here.

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

March 26, 2008

The Spirit of Gardening

shovelllx.jpgWhen my husband recently wanted to buy some composted manure the whole idea of gardening was ruined for me. He was tired and it seemed convenient, but I was aghast. “There’s manure free for the shoveling all over the county,” I complained. “If we’re going to be buying manure, we might just as well not garden and buy our vegetables from the Harvest Moon,” I argued.

The idea of buying manure disturbed me more than it should have. With a tenseness in my gut, I felt like a line was about to be crossed. I spent the next few hours exploring my reaction and reviewing my reasons for gardening, a labor intensive activity that I’ve been doing for decades with my husband’s help.

I enjoy gardening because it’s self-empowering, but it’s more than that. Gardening validates a deep truth that makes me feel secure and cared for. It shows me that the earth provides what we need to survive. With a few simple seeds I can grow food for myself and my family. After the food is harvested and eaten, the plant goes to seed as it dies. I can save the second generation seeds and plant again. It’s a sustainable plan and when I participate in it I feel like true human being.

I just bought $30 worth of asparagus crowns because our eighteen-year-old plants are starting to peter-out. Every year I happily spend money on local seed potatoes and onions, on vegetable starts that like a longer growing season than seeds allow, or a new roll of remay; the see-through fabric that goes over our hoops to protect plants from bugs or frost. But buying manure is like buying bottled water, something I occasionally do when I’m traveling but always resent. Gardening isn’t a hobby or a sport with gear to buy. It’s a way of life, one that helps me feel sane in our commercial consumer culture.

It’s hard to get started when the gardening season begins because the work of it can feel overwhelming. My husband does the heavy preparation stuff; cleaning out last years corn stalks, hauling and spreading manure, and tilling. I do most of planting, weeding, care-giving, and harvesting. It’s time consuming but there’s a pay off to our free labor. It’s a fair exchange because the end results are better than money in the bank: plump tomatoes, happy flowers, potatoes and squash to store over winter, red peppers to roast and freeze, basil for pesto, and greens that grow well into the fall.

My husband heard the truth in my argument about why we shouldn’t buy manure. He made arrangements to get some manure from one of our neighboring farmers. But he couldn’t find the shovel, so he had to buy a new one. I was fine with that.

I live in the country for a reason. And this is it.

March 25, 2008

Second Annual Chateau Morrisette Easter Brunch

It’s the only place I drink tea and wine at the same time. The Winery was where I first discovered sachet pyramid tea, and I look forward to sipping it whenever I’m back. I usually don’t order wine because it tends to make me feel tired, but Sweet Mountain Laurel is different. Light, sweet, with a fresh grapey taste, I can drink it like well water.
Last year, we knew we were in the right place to celebrate Easter in style when we saw the orchid colored orchids in the Winery lobby and were greeted by the familiar Floyd faces of people we know who work there. This year the faces were still familiar and friendly and the orchids were white.
The Chateau Morrisette Restaurant, which once housed the whole winery, is where Joe and I celebrated our wedding with our family and community. A few years later, Joe worked as a timber framer when the new Winery building was being built.
We had worked preparing the garden all morning and were ready to be pampered. I had quiche with a perfect pastry crust, garden and pesto pasta salad, bacon, and home fries. Joe had lamb with all the fixings. Once we were full, I took a deep breath and let the warm glow of wine take hold while my eyes soaked up the sun drenched room full of people wearing bright Easter colors.
A big draw of the Chateau Morrisette Easter Brunch for me is the desserts. It’s the reason we started the Easter Brunch tradition. I was sad not to have any kids doing Easter egg hunts anymore. Sampling the desserts at the buffet table was like seeing what the Easter Bunny brought for me. This year the Winery Easter Baker put a smile on the face of the girl that lives in me.

March 24, 2008

Floyd Scrabble Players Win Tournament Game

winnersscr2x.gif~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on March 27, 2008.

Those monthly Scrabble games I've been playing with friends at the Café Del Sol have paid off. I was one of three players from our informal group representing Floyd in a Scrabble Tournament to benefit the Literacy Volunteers of Roanoke this past Thursday. With a score of 458, Virginia Nathan, a literacy volunteer; Chelsea Adams, a Radford University writing teacher; and I played as a team and earned a first place prize for one of the two games played.

More than one-hundred players filled Fitzpatrick Hall in the Jefferson Center for the 3rd annual competition, hosted by the Literacy Volunteers of Roanoke Valley and the Roanoke Library Foundation. The games were played in two teams of three with two rounds lasting forty minutes each, just enough time to use all the letter tiles if we adhered to the three minute time limit for each play. For a $30 entry fee, the fundraising event included two games, a light supper, and desserts. gameone.jpg A member of the Literacy Volunteers made introductions and announced the game rules from the podium stage. Shanna Flowers (pictured to the right above), a Roanoke Times columnist, was our gracious master of ceremonies.

The pre-game atmosphere was festive, but once the games commenced the pressure was on and everything but the task at hand faded into the background. Immersed in our team huddles, we were playing against the whole room for the best score. At our Floyd café games an occasional play might take as long as ten minutes. In this case we had only three minutes, but, working as a team, we had three brains between us. Virginia, the calmest of our group, sat in the middle, adjusting the tiles while listening to input from Chelsea and me. Chelsea kept score and I drew the letters from the drawstring bag, which I had to do quickly. During the first game my hands shook as I placed the seven tile letters on our rack and tried not to drop them. By the second game, we were all more confident in our abilities and teamwork.

In between games, we socialized with other word lovers.teamspiritsc2r.gif There was a strong showing of employees from the Roanoke Times, one of the tournament sponsors. All of the six players on the teams we competed with were from the Times. George Kegley, a retired business editor for the Roanoke Times, was the evening's official Scrabble judge.

Some teams boosted their team spirit by wearing matching clothes. One group of three women stood out, with feathered boas around their necks and large floppy hats with letter cards attached to them on their heads. T-shirts with words and Scrabble logos were worn by some players and volunteers.

Dictionary look-ups were allowed but cost an additional $3 donation. Every table was equipped with a Scrabble board, a timer, and three colored flags. With a wave of a yellow flag a volunteer would appear to assist with a dictionary look-up. A red flag brought the Scrabble judge to determine if a "challenged" word was acceptable or not. A green flag could be waved if players needed rules clarified. ladiesinhats.jpg

I learned from my teammates that JENNIES are female mules. It was a word that could have scored us a Scrabble Bingo worth 50 bonus points if we had found a place on the board to play it. LATHER, JAILED, QAT, ZEES, TOKEN, and RODEOS were some of the words our team put down. We were able to make as many as three words in one play when we played a word that attached to existing ones on the board, expanding on them.

Our prize for the best score of the second round was a $50 gift certificate from Barnes and Noble for each of us. Prizes for the lowest team score of each game were copies of the Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary. A prize for the most interesting word, HALOGEN, was a round of golf for four at Westlake Golf and Country Club in Smith Mountain Lake. The best team name also won a golf package. Some of the team names this year were Victorious Secrets, Word Warriors, The Tilettes, and "Surely, This Name Will Win the Name Contest." The award went to the Chixtionaries.
At the close of the evening, Virginia, Chelsea, and I (aka Two C's and a V) struck up a conversation with a fellow player about the 2008 National Scrabble Association's Tournament, which is being held this summer in Orlando. I don't know if any of us will ever make it to National Tournament, but I'm pretty sure we'll all be back in Roanoke next year for the Literacy Volunteer's 4th annual tournament. In the meantime, maybe we'll purchase some books about Scrabble with our Barnes and Noble's gift certificates that will help us improve our game.

Post Notes: More information about the Literacy Volunteers of Roanoke can be found at www.lvarv.org/. Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley's webpage is www.lvnrv.org. The first photo is of, left to right, Colleen, Chelsea, Virginia, and Shanna Flowers. Read "Bag Ladies Ready for Tournament" HERE.

March 22, 2008

Falling in Love with Spring

All Over Again

March 21, 2008

Keep the Scene Clean

trashwalknew.jpgThis time he brought his trash pincher, purchased from the Dollar Store. With his pincher in one hand and his white cane in the other, he walked up the dirt road off the Blue Ridge Parkway like he meant serious business. Because his eyesight is limited, I called out the alert when I spotted a piece of trash and directed him to it. He was interested in naming and describing the color of each piece as he carefully raised it up into the bag I held open. His trash pincher might have been a metal detector, and we could have been looking for coins on a beach because each piece of trash we discovered was like finding buried treasure. Working as team, we collected silver, clear, green, and brown plastic and glass with his pincher. He decided we should be called the McClean Team.
When the bag was full, we walked back to the house, sat on the porch and drank some water. My black and white notebook sitting on the picnic table got his attention. “I bet you got that on the Price is Right,” he said.

Post notes: "Keep the Scene Clean" was coined by my friend Grateful Steve and once sold as bumper sticker at Grateful Dead concerts. More neighborhood litter patrol from The McClean Team is HERE.

March 20, 2008

Thirteen Thursday: The Write Stuff

scrwrd2.jpg1. Said to my friend Rosemary at Spoken Word Night while holding my amber Anchor Steam up to the light: “I think it’s funny that I love tea and beer and they’re both the same color, which makes me wonder if it’s really the color I love.”

2. Last weekend Joe had to take a porch vacation on his own. Not only was I working – providing support for an individual with disabilities – it was spoken word weekend, AND I went to TWO baby showers (the last one I went to before these two was probably 30 years ago).

3. The Charlie’s Angels of Scrabble Poetry mission, assigned by Mara and called “Procedure for Scrabble Poem,” had four of us who played on Monday writing poems from the words we played, most of which can be read HERE.

4. And this little stanza used up five of the Scrabble words we played: Heat up the leftovers … Serve them to a foe… Turn war into warm … Edit bet into better … and id into idea …

5.Click HERE to fall in love with kaleidoscopes and flowers.

6. I find it nearly impossible to look in the mirror without tilting my head. I have no idea why. So said “Internal Monoblog,” quoted Blogations.

7. You should see the face I make when I’m putting on eye makeup. I try not to do it because it’s sort of a bug-eyed frown but I can’t seem to break the habit.

8. Remember when you fed your babies oatmeal and you opened your own mouth as if you were the one eating?

9. With one in every 150 children being diagnosed with autism, we should be talking about the cumulative effect that so many vaccines could be having on our children. We know antibiotics save lives, but their overuse has created resistant super bugs and the emergence of deadly infections like MRSA. Why is there no public debate about the overuse of immunizations? Read the rest of my commentary, published Monday in the Roanoke Times HERE.

10. Only in Floyd: A recent ad I received for the April issue of The Museletter(our homespun local newsletter), reads “There is a riot in my barn. You are invited. Bring the children and come see 10 baby goats jump and twist in the air, play king of the mountain on an old radiator, or just nurse and snuggle. Just call-the tour is free.”

11. Even though a number of Americans are still confused by the Bush administration’s rhetoric implying that Iraq played a role in 9/11 or had some connection to al Qaida, the world is not confused, so says a new bipartisan report : Thanks in part to the Iraq war, the next U.S. president — Republican or Democrat, black or white, man or woman — will take office with America's power, prestige and popularity in decline, according to bipartisan reports, polls and foreign observers. "Since 9/11, the United States has been exporting fear and anger rather than the more traditional values of hope and optimism. Suspicions of American power have run deep," Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under Bush, and Joseph Nye, a Pentagon official under President Clinton, wrote in a December report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Read the full article HERE.

12. I was recently relieved to be reminded that thinking is still a valuable commodity when I heard Wayne Dyer on PBS, explaining why he didn’t have to help his son register for college, say, “I’m a prophet. I get paid by the thought.”

13. My St. Patrick’s Day Scrabble poem using the words in our game ends like this: Color the blank tiles green … Aim the K in Patrick … on a triple letter score … and the Q in quean on the star … Free lookups for everyone …who can spell the sunshine back into the sky … who play to win more fun!

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

March 19, 2008

Yesterday’s Photo album

When the Café Del Sol Spoken Word chair is “off-duty,” it sometimes hosts unexpected guests that aren't necessarily poets, like those on their home to Boston from a car show in Florida; my sister Kathy and her husband Ozzie.
Waiting for my grandson to be born
Alternative to Scrabble

March 18, 2008

The Charlie’s Angels of Scrabble

AKA: Play One for St. Patrick
It was Mara (center) who typed out our mission, described in thirteen parts and titled “Procedure for Scrabble Poem.” Part 1: Play a game of Scrabble with Colleen, Rosemary, and Kathleen on St. Patrick’s Day at the Café Del Sol. Wear Green. Joke about whether you are Irish or Scotch-Irish. Drink green tea. Convince the baristas to play Celtic Music. After that we were instructed to keep a list of the words played and to later write a poem using them. Rosemary kept score, while Mara kept track of the words we played, writing them down with a pink ink pen.
When Kathleen arrived, we questioned her choice of green, a pale mint, but she redeemed herself when she proudly pointed out the family heirloom pinned to her vest. It was an antique political button that said “Donal J. O’Callaghan, Mayor of Cork” with a black and white photo of the mayor himself.
We like to talk about words. Kathleen offered an explanation on the roots of the word rigamarole. It derived from “ragman’s roll,” and referred to the chant the ragman would shout out as he drove his horse and buggy through town looking for rags to collect, she told us. I was speculating on how the word “boondoggle” came about. A boon that’s been dogged? While looking for “doogle” in the Scrabble dictionary, I found “dogdom,” which caused an uproar of laughter when I read the meaning out loud: the world of dogs.
It was a strange game of compromises and strangled words tightly grouped in the middle of the board. I was ahead when I turned to Kathleen and said, “Even if I win this game, I’m not proud of it.” Rosemary told a story of recently driving the wrong way on the highway for an hour before noticing she was going in the wrong direction. “I wasn’t feeling anxiety, which gave me anxiety,” she said. We got so busy talking that ten minutes passed before we realized that no on knew whose turn it was next. “At least we didn’t go on for an hour like Rosemary before noticing it,” I said. And for some reason everything seems funnier when we’re playing Scrabble, like those random letters I picked out of the bag that said DI SEX. It was hilarious at the time.
I call this one “phase two in which Doris gets her oats,” which translates to this: Game two in which Rosemary wins.

Post notes: The Procedure Scrabble Poems have begun to pour in. Some have been left on my answering machine. Update: Mara's, Rosemary's and mine can be read in the comment section of this post!

March 17, 2008

Bard and Banshee Banter at Open Mic

alli.jpgThere was lime green, kelly green, olive, and teal represented at the third Saturday Spoken Word Night, two days before St. Patrick’s Day. Even the sign-up sheet that our master of ceremonies, Alli, held as she announced the readers was green. Alli – standing in for Café Del Sol owner Sally, who we were told had a singing gig up the street – sometimes announced the readers in an accent that sounded Swedish, but I heard someone say it was from Wisconsin. Personally, I was hoping for an Irish brogue.

I didn’t use my brogue, like last year, but I did share a poem about someone who regularly wears green: Peter Pan. I hadn’t read “The Lost Adults of Neverland” since I shouted it from the poet’s soap box at Floyd Fest last summer. I also shared my poem about finding my first four leaf clover pressed between the pages of a library book sale book. cheryl.jpg The said book was used as a prop, the four leaf clover was waved in the air, and the word shamrock was mentioned.

Pat read from her book, Strange Tales of Floyd County, about a Floyd banshee, a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger.

Cheryl (to the right) did a stand up routine based on the fact that she is NOT a “retired” school teacher, as she was described in the Floyd Press Spoken Word announcement (written by me). Although she was a public school teacher for many years, she’s currently unemployed and had just hung a “teacher looking for students" want-ad sign on the Winter Sun bulletin board, she told us. It wasn’t just part of her act. She actually gave me one the ads at end of the night so I could put it in the April’s Museletter (our local newsletter).

Alli C, a creative writing student at Hollins University, did two performance pieces, one of her own and one written by her favorite slam poet, Big Papa E. I was impressed with a poem Mara read, which I think was about one of her first loves. I’ve been trying to remember a line in it about how they climbed like ivy up the side of the university building where his father (a professor, I think) was working.grgrouip.jpg

Rosemary took us on a fun ride, reading two versions of the same poem, and in between those she read one about the process of rewriting the first of the two. She also read a poem on how to grow Rosemary. Apparently, the plant and the woman (I gathered) should never be pot bound.

Mara's daughter, Kyla, won the imaginary prize for wearing the best Irish green. She joined her mom and Ali, closing the evening with a song from Juno in which the audience got involved, singing the refrain: remember that I love you … remember that I love you … remember that I love you. No leprechauns or limericks were spotted.

Post notes:
Apologies to those who visited yesterday and couldn't comment. I couldn't post either. I guess my blog needed a good night's sleep to fix itself, which I hope it did. Also, my commentary on autism and vaccines came out in the Roanoke Times today. You can read it HERE.

March 15, 2008

In Clover

At a library book sale
in a 25 cent book
I found my first
four-leaf clover

It was an unlikely answer
to a curious search
while browsing for wisdom
through musty print

I opened the cover
a fortune cookie cracked
how sweet was the news
the destined chance

Faintly green
still spending its luck
a lottery shamrock
crisply pressed

Like a thousand dollar bill
of whimsical windfall
rich with what is possible
and suspending all doubt

March 14, 2008

Lost and Found

1. The Tin man’s hat
2. Rumplestiltskin’s moonshine jug
3. Peter and Wendy’s shadows
4. Three wishes granted

Post notes: Photos were taken on a fairytale walk in the neighborhood with Joe this past Sunday. The flower, one of the first signs of spring, is coltsfoot.

March 13, 2008

13 Thursday: You Name It

samp3c87de94a707596d.jpg1. I’ve come to accept that I’m never going to remember how to spell words like Renaissance and restaurant on my own, no matter how many times I write or type them.

2. Intriguing old Appalachian country names recently discovered and added to the list I keep: Men - Burnace, Vent, Talmadge, Enoch, and Elinos. Women – Effie, Colba, Hava, Arminda, and Hettie.

3. I keep wondering if my sons are related to Harold Copus, the private detective Dr. Phil’s uses for his show. He has the same last name as them and does bear a resemblance to their father’s family, who are English.

4. “Hello?” It was Mara. I said, “My answering machine is full so I was forced to answer the phone. It says FL which is either means FULL or Florida.” “It could mean Floyd,” she answered.

5. Can you fill THIS page without smiling?

6. As a lover of the ocean who grew up in a beach town in the 60’s and now lives in the mountains, I could be considered a peacenik beachnik.

7. I dreamt my son JOSH’s name while I was pregnant with him. It was spelled out in bold black magic marker. My youngest son is named DYLAN. We were living in Texas at the time and people there kept thinking it was Dillion, but I was thinking poets, Bob and Thomas.

8. A beachnick without a beach is like a beatnik who can’t write poetry.

9. Makes me want to cry: My first mother in law sent me THIS tribute to Paragon Park, the amusement park in the town I grew up in that was torn down in the early 80’s to make room for Condos. HERE is my blog post tribute.

10. Strange keyword search phrases that landed some people on my site this week: spark notes somewhere between life and death, I didn’t come all the way to loose poem keywords, birthday poems for grown sons, and maggots blown into yard on leaves

11. Joe was recently reading me something written by a psychologist named Havighurst. Of course, all I hear and all I can see when I look at that name is “Havinghurts," which seems an appropriate name for a psychologist.

12. Will pharmaceuticals be the new second hand smoke? The more people take drugs the more traces of them end up in the water the rest of us drink. What would George Orwell think?

13. Number 72 in my “100 Things About Me” says: I found my first 4 leaf clover at a library book sale, pressed between the pages of a book that cost 25 cents.” The name of the book was “What’s in a Name?”

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

March 12, 2008

Clayspace Potters Strike it Rich

When my Asheville potter son, Josh, was a baby he had a shirt that said “Good as Gold” on it. At first I thought it could refer to his towhead blonde hair and his baby innocence. I later came to think of it as a premonition for his infectious enthusiasm, his ability to attract good fortune, and his love of making art out of everything around him. I’ve often described him to others as “a bright light” with a “big presence.” But as the mother of an artist, at times I’ve wondered about him burning his love of art at both ends. I’ve also seen his hard work and passion manifest surprising results and support from unlikely places.
The fourth firing of The Community Temple, the 3 chamber kiln that Josh built last summer, wound down last Friday, March 8. It was documented by an award winning photojournalist, Frank Bott. Frank is an Asheville River Arts District neighbor of the Clayspace Co-op studio that Josh founded, but he could be another one of Josh’s fairy godfathers. The Clayspace warehouse loft room where Josh once lived has been renovated into a gallery, a showcase for the finished pottery of all the Co-op members. During a recent studio tour, Frank showed up at the gallery and was drawn by the play of light in the new room, and maybe by the light that emanates from Josh when he puts his whole heart into what he’s doing. Frank took his first batch of pictures. Others would follow.
Frank’s website describes him as a “visual journalist of the human spirit.” His photos of the recent Community Temple firing show that there’s plenty of human and elemental spirit to be witnessed at a woodfiring. The potters look like gritty miners, earth welders, alchemists spinning straw into gold. With faces illuminated by fire, their captured expressions show the struggle of hard work and the wonder of creation. The Gold? It’s the vein of clay harvested from the earth; the inspiration it takes to spin it into form; the fire it takes to harden it; the finished pots; the photos, and the thread of magic that shines through them.

Post notes: The photos above are of the last Clayspace Studio Tour and were taken by Frank Bott. As Josh’s archivist, I received them from him the last time he was home for a visit. You can watch the slide show photos of last week’s woodfiring that Frank has titled “The Struggle” at his website HERE. Currently Josh is co-teaching a class with other potters on “Wild Clay and Precise Fire” at Penland School of Crafts. The whole class is going out to the kiln in Marshall, NC, on Monday to watch the unloading of the firing that Frank documented.

March 11, 2008

The Porch Vacation Conversation

Death is associated with murder or disease, pain and dread. What would it be like if we didn’t die? Would we appreciate the time we have and use our life well? Existentialists think death is what gives life meaning. Susun Weed says that sometimes death is the cure. My friend Alex Wind, who died in 2006, said, “Don’t think of me as dead; think of me as making room for someone else to be born, like someone made room for me.”

When I was a girl I used to lie in bed at night worry about the unknown, of growing up and being expected to find a stranger to marry and start a new family. Why would I need a new family, I would think, when I was happy with the family I already had? Lately, I find myself pondering this other unknown and asking a similar question. And I’ve noticed that I have more sympathy cards in my greeting card stockpile than I have birthday cards now.

Post Note: The poetics of Porch Vacations are HERE.

March 10, 2008

From Public Speaking Phobia to Open Mic Town Crier

vangcup2.jpg In spite of my Yankee bluntness and my Irish gift of the gab, I’m a shy person. But I believe the universe sets us up to heal weakness that keep us from being whole, which is what makes a shy person like me take up the open mic, interview people (aka ask nosey questions) for a story, or stand out when no one else is to snap pictures of strangers or produce in the grocery store.

My inclination toward introversion is a strong trait that’s tempered by my love of fun and new adventure. But for every two hours I’m out, I need about four at home to recover. In the end it’s my curiosity about people and my urge to communicate that bridges the gap between the wallflower in me and the social butterfly just waiting to fly solo again.

Post note: Public speaking phobia 9/05 post HERE.

March 9, 2008

The Word Diet Experiment

sketchpadk.jpg I'm full to capacity from working on a major, long piece of writing. Only flashes of poetry and sketches of words with no goals are allowed on today's word diet. When I finally slowed down enough, and emptied myself of distraction, this is what I saw:

Joe in his camouflaged overalls and wool hat, coming back from the mailbox, standing still in the middle of the dirt road driveway reading our finished tax forms with the dog at his feet, drinking from a puddle.

Watching hail pelt on the top of my black CRV from the second story bedroom window while onions mixed with pesto are sizzling in the skillet and it's almost time to add the tuna steaks.

Wayne Dyer on PBS, quoting Lao Tzu, I'm watching with a pen in my hand and an envelope to scribble on. Joe's face is bathed in sunlight and his eyelids are growing heavy. I used to love the rainbows reflected off his full head of black hair. Now that he's graying, they're harder to see.

On the way back from town after renting a movie, knowing I still need some down time, I notice the evening sky and the new moon shaped like a pink lip-glossed smile. I never get tired of seeing the moon, or the sunset go down behind Buffalo Mountain, like I never tire of seeing crocuses and daffodils in spring.

Post note: The above was prompted by Sunday Scribblings, the subject: experiment. The sketch pad belongs to my friend, artist Karen Limke.

March 8, 2008

Overheard at the Post Office

Animated Woman: If Obama is president the black people are gonna take over. They’ll line us white people up and shoot us.

Postal Clerk: I think you should go home and go back to bed so you can wake up again.

March 7, 2008

On the Spot Shots

1. Distracted
2. Two-faced moon
3. Triangle angle
4. Fashion Feng Shui

Post notes: 1. Downtown window. 2. Kitchen window. 3. View from my cellar stairs. 4. In Feng sui, the Chinese art of right design placement, splashes of red are said to bring good luck and overcome negative energy.

March 6, 2008

13 Thursday: Mingle with Flamingos

pinkf13.jpg 1. Look what was right under my nose. After seeing a yard full of plastic lawn flamingo and going back later to get a picture but finding they were gone, the following day I went to play scrabble and found these in the Cafe Del Sol window box doing THIS.

2. Flamingos are to the south what penguins are to the north.

3. I recently looked at youtube videos of flamingos the way I imagine some people get sucked into porn. I watched for much longer than I intended and felt dirty afterwards, learning that the birds are endangered, overcrowded in places, being shot at by some, and trained as exhibits in zoos.

4. Experienced counsel recently given to my overbooked husband on how to pace himself: “Do only what’s right in front of you. Take one step at a time,” I said. He answered, “Yeah, but the difference between me and you is that my legs are longer.”

5. A Fragment From my Friend Fred: Does it matter at all to you that the next president has a clue about the world beyond politics? If so, consider another candidate than John McCain. Let his record speak for itself. From the Sierra Club… Washington, D.C.–In the 2007 National Environmental Scorecard released today by the League of Conservation Voters, John McCain receives a score of ZERO. McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every single crucial environmental vote scored by the organization, posting a score lower than Members of Congress who were out for much of the year due to serious illnesses–and even lower than some who died during the term. By contrast, the average Member of Congress scored a 53 in 2007. McCain posts a lifetime score of only 24.

6. Floyd has an Earth Day website HERE.

7. I once said: “If no one is going to quote me, I’ll quote myself. Is that a quote?” Looks like somebody does want to quote me – and other bloggers too. See HERE.

8. I actually have a poem with the word flamingo in it: The birds are back … checking out the real estate … a high-rise nest … on my porch rafter … a one room shelter … inaccessible to cats … with southern exposure … and a landing deck … The rest, with the flamingo part is HERE.

9. Current favorite word, besides flamingo: rigamarole

10. Strangest spam message this week: Frankly, the way things are right now, I'm not sure I'd want to play myself in my very own movie of the week.

11. “Hello.” It was Mara. I said, “My answering machine is full so I was forced to answer the phone. It says FL which is either means FULL or Florida," I said to her. “It could mean Floyd,” she answered.

12. Recently said by Colleen to Joe: Life is just one big field trip that I’m taking good notes on.

13. Floyd’s Own American Idol. She made it to the top 50. Read more HERE.

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

March 5, 2008

Bag Ladies Ready for Tournament

poetegox.xjpg.jpg“I’m like a bridge lady who plays Scrabble,” I said to my friend Art, who asked me how I was doing as he was sitting down for lunch at a table next to ours.

We were at the Café Del Sol and three of us were playing. Virginia and I were getting in some practice for the third annual Scrabble for Literacy Tournament we signed up for later in the month. Rosemary, who had a little valuable free time that she was happy to spend on our game, thought I had said, “I’m like a bag lady who plays Scrabble.”

“Well, all of us are like bag ladies,” I said holding on to the Scrabble bag of letters and shaking it for effect, “Scrabble bag ladies.”
And what a game it was! I scored a Scrabble Bingo (when you use all seven letters in one play and score a bonus 50 points above the points that the word scores) with the word AVENGED on my first play. It was the first play of the game, which could have psyched the others down, but rather had the effect of making them play better. Virginia’s Bingo word was GRAINERY and Rosemary’s was QUARTERS. I got the X, Virginia got the Z, and Rosemary got the Q. The letters were well distributed; everyone played well, but only one of us won, Rosemary, coming in from behind at the last minute.

Post notes: More information about the Third Annual Scrabble for Literacy Tournament is HERE. For more Scrabble antics click HERE and scroll down.

March 4, 2008

The Return of the Porch Vacation

porchvacation2.jpg The porch vacation season began on March 1st and involved the sound of construction from our neighbor’s yard; the beeping signal of heavy machinery backing up and fooling me into thinking I had clothes in the washer ready for hanging; our tail wagging dog, anxious to be petted; and the book “A New Earth.”

The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained rare and isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur. One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet … ~ The Flowering of Human Consciousness, A New Earth

I just couldn’t bring myself to be a cog in the Oprah machinery when the book was added to her book list and she announced that she and its author, Ekhart Tolle, would be teaching a web class on it. I resisted the consumer urge to be run out and buy the book, as if it was the latest IT toy or play station. I checked it out from the library instead.

Things that happened to “me” in the past, the memory of which are thoughts that further define my sense of self as “me and my story.” These are only some of the things people derive their identity from. They are ultimately no more than thoughts … ~ A New Earth

The day I got the book, my husband, Joe, told me he had one in his hand when he was at the mall returning something, but he put it back on the shelf, thinking ‘do I really need another self-help book?’ So now we have to share this one.

One thing we do know: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment. ~ A New Earth

I’m ahead of him, so I had to concede it for most of the weekend so he could catch up. “Don’t read it like a regular book,” I instructed. “Don’t skip around, scan, or jump ahead. Read it like passage meditation; slowly repeat the words to yourself so that the book can work as an experience, rather than an intellectual exercise."

In most ancient cultures, people believed that everything, even so-called inanimate objects, had an indwelling spirit, and in this respect they were closer to the truth than we are today. When you live in a world deadened by mental abstraction, you don’t sense the aliveness of the universe anymore. Most people don’t inhabit a living reality, but a conceptualized one. ~ A New Earth

Periodically he or I would set the book down to talk about what it had inspired in us. So far it’s prompted some rich conversation. And we both have a little sunburn from sitting on the porch so long.

March 3, 2008

Another Kind of Sentimental Journey

How strange is it that on the same day I posted a blog entry about my father, titled Sentimental Journey, I attended an event in the evening that was also called a Sentimental Journey? The emphasis on the second SentiMENTAL Journey was on the word MENTAL. It was a benefit concert at the Floyd Country Store to raise money for mental health awareness, headed up by Tommy Edwards, former Virginia Tech star football player who was once known as “Touchdown Tommy.” In between musical sets, one of which was his, Edwards talked to the crowd about his own experience with mental illness. He started the Heart of Virginia Foundation in response to the Virginia Tech shootings last April. You can read more about The Heart of Virginia on their webpage HERE.
Bernie Coveney, who I recently wrote about in a story for The Floyd Press HERE, is the one who prompted my husband and me to attend. Bernie’s latest band, Bernie Coveney with Natural Selection, was some of the music featured. The Natural Selection of this evening included (from left to right) Mike Mitchell, Abe Gorsky, Bernie, and Martin Scudder. There was a bass player playing behind Mike whose name I didn't catch. Here is a clip from the evening of them playing Bernie’s song, Cherry Wine. Other bands that played during the evening were No Strings Attached and Blue Mule.
Mike Mitchell performed two tear jerkers. One was John Prine’s song, Paradise, about the destruction of land by a coal mining company, which you can hear Mike sing HERE. The other was from his current CD, Thirteen Hours. Natural Selection also played a selection of songs from Bernie’s new CD, Whispering Pines. In between bands, raffle drawings, and silent auction prize giving, we had carrot cake and neighborly chats with friends in booths in the front of the store. I bought some penny candy but had to spit out the fireball because it was too hot.

March 1, 2008

Sentimental Journey

germantown.jpgGonna take a sentimental journey ... Gonna set my heart at ease ... Gonna make a sentimental journey ... To renew old memories ... ~ lyrics from Sentimental Journey, made famous by Doris Day in 1944

He was whistling along to the 1940's music playing on the car tape player. I was sitting next to him with a video camera in my hand. It took him a few minutes to realize I was taping, and he broke out in a big smile when he did. Although, at the age of 78, he was starting to get lost easily while driving, his body knew the twenty minute drive from his home in Hull to North Quincy, Massachusetts, where he grew up, and he did it without thinking.

After a stop at the cemetery to visit the graves of his parents and most of his ten siblings, we headed to the Germantown housing projects, which were brand new when our family moved there in 1950, the year I was born. My earliest memories of Germantown are sketchy and few because by the time I was four years old we had moved to Hull. I do remember seeing maggots in the fenced in garbage cans in the back yard, and putting a stone in my mouth while playing in the yard and wondering if my mother, who I thought was omnipresent, could see me.clivechwoman2.jpg I swear I remember my father in his Navy uniform and the emptiness that existed when he got shipped out to the Pacific Islands after the war, even though I was not quite three years old when it happened.

From Germantown our Sentimental Journey continued on to the big Victorian house with the round tower that my father grew up in. My eight siblings and I simply called the house "Clive Street," after the street it was on. My memories of Clive Street are plentiful and clear: a wooden spiral staircase; fireplaces; tea at the kitchen table with my Aunt Gertie and Uncle Bernard, my father's two unmarried siblings who inherited the house. It used to be green, the same color my father painted our house in Hull, probably because it made him feel at home. Now it was beige and was well past its glory days.

I was filming with the video camera when a Chinese woman came running out of the Clive Street house shouting at us in Chinese. I tried to explain - pointing to my father in his shorts being held up with suspenders and a WWII Veterans cap on his head - that he had grown up in her house. She didn't calm down until I said the one word that allowed her to understand: REDMAN, our last name. "This was the Redman's house," I was saying when her confrontational manner shifted. redmanfence2.jpg

She motioned to the back yard and gestured for us to follow. As we walked behind her and passed the house, my father and I looked in the windows. Obviously under construction, the house was gutted, cluttered with junk, and papers with Chinese writing on them were strewn all over the floors. It was like a dream sequence turned into a nightmare. I wondered how my father was feeling.

In the backyard she brought us to a chain link fence that bore the name REDMAN. My father explained with tears in his eyes that his older brother Joe had made the sign more than seventy years ago. He graciously posed while I snapped a picture but then abruptly headed back to the car. Once back in the car together, he told me that seeing the house the way it was made him feel sick. clivestreet.jpg Although our sentimental journey was bittersweet, we were both happy to have made it and talked about it fondly for years after.

Post notes: The Sentimental Journey took place a year after my brothers Jim and Dan died and three years before my father passed away. Besides the few sites mentioned above, we also visited my father's high school, the church where he and mother were married, the first house they lived in, and more. This post was written from the Sunday Scribblings prompt "TIME TRAVEL."