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June 30, 2008

Heard the Word

ar.jpg The monthly Café Del Sol Spoken Word schedule got changed and the announcement never made it into the Floyd Press. Even so, on the merit of The Museletter (our community newsletter), word-of-mouth, and one flyer hanging on the café door, June's event on Saturday night ended up being well attended.

But a certain someone who shall remain nameless smoked some pot before we got started and came down with an anxiety attack. Everyone wondered what was wrong with her and why she didn't read her own poem at the mic. A surrogate read it for her, my favorite line of which was, "I'm one of those assholes who writes prose poetry." larasw2.jpg

When it was my turn, I read a few poems, preceded by my essay about the "accessibility" of Billy Collins poetry and how Collins' thinks the word accessible suggests ramps for the poetically handicapped. For the rest of the evening I heard comments like, "but is it accessible," or "Look, I think Walter needs a ramp for that one."

Mara's "Praise" poem was powerful and needs to be published somewhere soon. Chelsea's poetry knocked my pink flip flops off. Rosemary shared some recently remodeled poetry and a fairytale that George Carlin might have written if he had been a woman. Previously published in Mothering Magazine, the piece, titled "Snow White and the Seven Menstrual Dwarves," had the crowd in uproarious laughter. spokwoview.jpg

Sally, The Countess of Coffee, introduced us up to the mic by our tag lines, coined by Tom Ryan, our local satirist who pens the online " Floyd Enquirer." Ryan tagged Mara "Mara Drama O'Rama" and me "Soul Crusher," because of the book I wrote about grief and loss. Sally may be the Countess of Coffee but Chelsea, author of Java Poems, decided she was the queen. Mara made a paper napkin Coffee Queen crown and presented Chelsea with it, placing it on her head.
Those of us who help promote and host the spoken word are thrilled that the event has been drawing a teen following. Seventeen year old Cameron, a local Young Actors Cooperative member who introduced himself as King of the Hobbits, was a first-timer at the mic. He decided to try an experiment and use his ten minute time slot to talk off the top of his head about his life. He shared that his parents wouldn't mind if he stopped wearing his hobbit cloak around town and that he recently had a girlfriend that had more swords than him. "Don't quote me on anything," he said as he left the mic (eight minutes early). Rosemary reminded him that I was in audience and he would probably be reading all about it on my blog or in the Floyd Press sometime soon. SPOKWOoo%20%283%29.jpg

Gannon told a story, recited some short poetry and promised to write some of his own soon. Sam read an eye opening thoughtful excerpt from his memoir about growing up in Beirut in the midst of civil war. Rose read a tribute to her son Abraham for his recent eighteenth birthday. His birthday was a milestone for their family. She and her husband had to fight the courts for Abraham's right to refuse chemo/radiation treatment when he was battling Hodgkins Disease, even though he was given a slim chance of surviving it. At eighteen Abraham is healthy and free now to make his own health choice decisions. abrfriendsw.jpg

Abraham read a poem about a wolf. He brought his friend Liz, visiting from Florida, who also read. She had the coolest full length sneaker boots with snazzy striped socks to go with them. I took a picture of her reading and when I was downloading it, later at home, my fingers slipped and it ended up as my screen saver and now I don't know how to get it off. I like her sneakers but not that much.

Post note update: (N)ameless is fine and vowed off pot from this point on.

Photos: 1. Abraham and Rose Cherrix, and Liz 2. Lauri came up from Roanoke. 3. Last reader of the evening, Allie B. 4. Cameron who ad-libbed, holds up his timer. 5. Sam's wife, Gannon, Sam. 6. My new screen saver. Click HERE and scroll for more Spoken Word stories and photos.

June 28, 2008

Laura Reed and Deep Pocket Plays in Floyd

deeppocket4.jpg ~ The following was published in the Floyd Press on 7/3/08

“Not bad for someone with a bad ankle,” I said to my friend Ed, referring to the fact that I had danced for two hours to Laura Reed and Deep Pocket, in spite of a recent injury.

The Asheville-based band played to an enthusiastic crowd Friday night at the Winter Sun Hall. Concert goers filled the dance floor, spilling over onto the new porch deck to socialize and cool down.

I first heard Deep Pocket last summer at the Dome Fest Concert, held at a farm in Copper Hill. Impressed with the soulful outpouring of Reed’s vocal performance, I dubbed her the Janis Joplin of Reggae. She’s also been compared to Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu, and Aretha Franklin.

Reed, who plays harmonica and rhythm guitar, was born in South Africa and grew up in North Carolina. Although her original music has a reggae flavor, it fuses a variety of styles with the overarching theme being Soul. Her webpage bio reads:deepocket1.jpg

Laura Reed is a nomadic soul, finding herself trans-planted trans-Atlantic from South Africa to the American South. She carried with her the quintessential African harmonies and musical colorings that she gathered as a child in Johannesburg and Natal. Growing up in North Carolina (Chatham County to be exact), she cultivated a deep appreciation for the American Blues, Jazz, Soul, and R&B that was circulating around her. She fused these stylings with her earliest musical memories, epiphanies, stories, and confessions.

With song titles that include Rise Up, Praise You, and One World, the band’s music not only inspires infectious dancing, it’s uplifting to listen to as well.

In the middle of the set, after a particularly rousing song, Reed took the turban-wrapped scarf off her head and unleashed her waist-length blond dreaded locks. “I really had to let down my hair for that one,” she said. deeppemilx.jpg

According the band’s webpage, other band members are Ben Didelot on bass, Jimbonk Buchanon on drums, Ryan Burns on organ, and Debrissa McKinney, who does back-up vocals. Emily Brass of Floyd’s Emily Brass Band opened for the band on Friday. Brass (far right) also jammed with Deep Pocket for a couple of numbers, playing her saxophone. ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes: You can hear the music of Laura Reed and Deep Pocket and find information on their new CD "Soul: Music" at their website HERE. The band is scheduled to play at FloydFest,Thursday July 24th at 10:30 on the Hill Holler Stage. A short video clip on Deep Pocket on the Winter Sun stage can be found HERE. Another one taken while Emily was on stage is HERE.

June 27, 2008

Through the Looking Glass

1. Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
2. "I beg your pardon?" said Alice. "It isn't respectable to beg," said the King.
3. "I am real!" said Alice, and began to cry. "You won't make yourself a bit realler by crying," Tweedledee remarked: "there's nothing to cry about."
4. 'Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'
5. "That's the effect of living backwards," the Queen said kindly: "it always makes one a little giddy at first-----"
6. But it's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.
7. Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.

Post Notes: I’m getting some dental bridgework done in Blacksburg, so I’ve had more opportunities to take pictures of the mirrored mosaic wall on the Food Time gas station, which is near my dentist. The above lines are from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Every shot is self-portrait. More photos of it are HERE.

June 26, 2008

The 13 Thursday Playlist

13ipod2s.jpg1. Hung-over with fun from the wedding on Saturday, I dragged myself to a Woman’s Clothing Exchange the next day. Over a dozen women came and dumped piles of clothes all over my friend Penny’s living room for a real Filenes’s Basement experience. I didn’t have the energy to organize a fashion show shot of all of us in our newly acquired recycled clothes like I did at the last one HERE.

2. Isn’t it ironic that you need your glasses in order to see well enough to find your glasses?

3. What ever happened to the Crash Test Dummies? I found their website and discovered that they’re still making music, but none of it has had the same commercial success that God Shuffled His Feet had. The song that plays on their website seems to tell it all: I’m laying down … I’m playing dead … I ain’t fetching any stick … No way baby.

4. Remember Wavy Gravy, the clown at Woodstock, famous for saying what we have in mind is breakfast for 400,000? I met Wavy a few years back when he was in Floyd and was MC-ing FloydFest. He’s still a clown and went around the festival with a toy alligator on a leash.

5. Where else but in Floyd could you learn from an old-timer how to forage ginseng one day and then meet Wavy Gravy, the Woodstock clown with an ice-cream flavor named after him, in town for Floyd Fest the next? ~ From Homegrown, a WVTF Radio Essay HERE.

6. I was invited by Poetkat to do a meme in which I name seven songs that are shaping my summer. Not counting the wood thrush and other birdsong, I’ve been listening to my brand new playlist, started when Joe got me my first Ipod for my birthday in May. Songs include: Tomorrow People by Ziggy Marley, It’s in the Way that You Use It by Eric Clapton, Mr. Jones by Counting Crows, My Favorite Mistake by Sheryl Crow, Good People by Jack Johnson, Building a Mystery by Sarah Mclachlan, Back to the Garden by Neil Young, and Your Life is Now John Mellencamp. How about you?

7. I’ve recently been curious about Tim Russert’s playlist, after I read something referring to it online. I’m pretty sure it included music by Bruce Springsteen. It was no secret that Russert liked the Boss, and, judging by the tribute that Springsteen gave to Russert at his Memorial Service HERE, Springsteen liked Russert too.

8. I have an affinity for both Russert and Springsteen. They’re both my age, and like me, both came from working class Catholic families in the northeast. Russert was Irish Catholic and Springsteen is Irish/Italian Catholic. No wonder they both always felt so familiar.

9. I consider certain songs at certain times in my life as “medicine songs,” and I use them to raise energy. I manifested my husband Joe by singing and dancing to Steve Winwood’s Higher Love over and over. When I told my sister Tricia this, she said she also manifested her husband with the same song. Her friend, who was single at the time, wanted to try it, so we played it and sang and danced together. Tricia’s friend is married now.

10. I think of George Carlin as the Willie Nelson of comedy. Both were/are progressives with ponytails, and both were/are undeniably recognizable as one-of-a-kind in their genres. After George Carlin died, Jon Stewart said, "I'm getting awfully tired of people we need, leaving us.” Carlin's humor and insight will be missed.

11. I learned what’s on Barrack Obama’s playlist while watching Charlie Rose on Tuesday night. Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner was on the show and had just interviewed Barrack for the magazine. He reported that Barrack had 30 Bob Dylan songs on his IPod, along with some Earth Wind and Fire and Yo-Yo Ma.

12. This year’s FloydFest is July 24-27. Check out the music roster HERE. And HERE are two past FloydFest posts in which my friend Johanna (whose wedding I just went to) and her ponytail figure in.

13. Rock the boat with your cursor HERE, compliments of my sister Sherry.

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

June 25, 2008

The Billy Collins Poetry Class

WOR1%20%282%29.jpg I’ve recently been involved in a self-study of Billy Collins. Here are some of his comments and advice on writing poetry that resonate most with me, collected from interviews found online:

~ Poetry is the most ancient form of human expression, and it forms the only true history of human emotion.

~ Part of writing is discovering the rules of the game and then deciding whether to follow the rules or to break them. The great thing about the game of poetry is that it’s always your turn.
The perfect poem for me would be one in which the reader/listener could never be completely sure at any given point whether the poem was being serious or amusing, grave or droll. The closest word we have to describe that condition is irony.

~ The simplified version of the background is that in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, poetry turned down an alley of experimentation (see Pound's Cantos) and lost its audience. Beginning with the roof-top screaming of the Beats and the simplicity of William Carlos Williams, that audience has been gradually reclaimed.

~ Difficulty has a legitimate place in poetry because poetry is a camping ground for ambiguity and paradox. But difficulty is also a place to hide. To hide from judgment. A willfully obscure poem resists specific criticism. It has become fashionable to ignore the reader as a bourgeois throw-back, but I consider that attitude a form of literary rudeness.

~ A poem for me is a wire connecting one solitary person to another, each inhabiting a quiet room of their own, preferably one with a jasmine plant in bloom and a big piano with the lid up. Oh, and a small oil painting of a nude.

~ Poems are not easy to start, and they’re not easy to finish. There’s a great pleasure in—I wouldn’t say ease, but maybe kind of a fascinated ease that accompanies the actual writing of the poem. I find it very difficult to get started. There are just long gaps where I can’t find a point of insertion, I can’t find a good opening line, I can’t find a mood that I want to write into. But once I do, once a line falls out of the air, or I get a little inkling of a subject and I recognize that, it’s like the sense that a game has started.

~ I was a most impressionable teenager back in the days of Beatnik glory, so I responded fully to Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti’s “Coney Island of the Mind”—still a good title—Gregory Corso and others. I was in Paris for a summer in the early sixties and hung self-consciously around the corners of the scene on the Boul Mich, as they called it. I sat at the same table with Corso and others, and I even hung around with an American girl named Ann Campbell, whom Realities magazine had called “The Queen of the Beatniks.” (Let’s see...what did that make me??) But mostly I was a Catholic high school boy in the suburbs who fantasized about stealing a car and driving non-stop to Denver. I probably would have done it, but I didn’t have access to those special driving pills Neal Cassady had. Plus, there was always a test to study for, or band practice.

~ When I conduct poetry workshops, I ask the poets to take off all the modifiers and see what they have left. Often, what is left is more. The adjective can be a parasite that feeds off the noun and eventually kills it. There's nothing like a good noun standing there on its own. Cup. Hat. Bone. Each one tells its own long story. "Chair" is an epic.

~ Humor in poetry: I don’t see why it needs to be questioned. You could just as easily ask why is there so much seriousness in poetry?

~ My poetry is something to do with my inner life. It’s an activity. It doesn’t give me an understanding, but it does give me an imaginative thrill. Nabokov said: ‘Life is beautiful, and we’re dying.’ Every poem is about this.


June 24, 2008


Folding little tea poems
Origami notes
Petals of the Orient
Light enough to float

June 23, 2008

Solstice Wedding Outtakes

After the ceremony and before the reception people made prayer flags for Nick and Johanna.
Some went swimming in the pond or sat on the bank sipping lemonade like they were at Ricky Nelson’s Garden Party.
Juniper passed out chocolate chip cookies. Eli massaged my recently injured ankle. Dogs chased sticks and an unattended piano got played.
Four time-capsule jars, to be opened by Nick and Johanna on the future dates marked, were filled with notes from friends and family. Nick is from Massachusetts and Johanna, originally from Germany, lived in Boston (my hometown city) for a time. For the 2013 jar I wrote on a slip of paper, “How many World Series have the Red Sox won now?”
The open mic at the reception proved to be wildly entertaining. Stand-up comedy was ad-libbed, advice was given, love was expressed, and a short story involving a Frisbee was told. I especially enjoyed the Harper’s Index of facts involving Johanna and Nick, read by a group of their friends. My son Josh (pictured above) was just one who spoke at the reception. He reminded the crowd that he and Johanna had gone to the high school prom together and that she was much taller than him. “It was before my growth spurt,” he said. See a video clip HERE.
One of my favorite parts of Saturday’s wedding party was watching Johanna’s dad dance (sorry, no photo). A sweet and polite German doctor in a suit, he lost his shoes and stirred things up on the dance floor. Later, I asked his son, Volker, “Is your dad single? Because I’m sure I can hook him up with one of my Floyd women friends, if he’s going to dance like that.” He’s happily married I was told.
Other favorite highlights that put a smile on my face were Staroot’s (Johanna’s mother’s) red polka dot mushroom hat and the fact that Johanna carried a bouquet of red beets down the green aisle.
Congratulations to Nick, Johanna, and their families. Thanks for including us! Photos of the ceremony are HERE.

June 22, 2008

A Summer Solstice Wedding

Environmental Organizers, Scientific Researchers, Ultimate Frisbee Champions, Flower Girls, and Flower Children all came together on Saturday to celebrate the marriage of Johanna and Nick at Floyd’s High Flowing Farm. They came from Germany, Massachusetts, Maryland, and California.
A Richard Brautigan poem was read and opera was sung. In the sunshine, under a wide sky, a few moments of precious silence were observed. The stillness was punctuated by the song of the wood thrush and the breeze whispering through trees.
Wearing a garland of flowers in her hair and a long silky gown, Johanna looked like a vision of a fairytale maiden or maybe a mermaid against the Emerald Pond backdrop. Katherine performed a Celtic Hand fasting: Nick, will you cause her pain? "I may.” Is that your intent? "No.” Johanna, will you cause him pain? "I may.” Is that your intent? "No.” (to both) Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it? "Yes.” And so the first binding is made.
Johanna, will you share his laughter? "Yes.” Nick, will you share her laughter? "Yes.” (to both) Will you both look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other? "Yes.” And so the second binding is made … Gold rings were exchanged and the ceremonious glass was broken.
At the wedding reception, Nick and Johanna shared their first meal together as husband and wife on a gazebo that stretched out into the water. Later there would be toasting, roasting, flat footing to the Jug Busters, and high spirited feasting and frolic.
As Katherine said at the conclusion of the ceremony: By the intention of your heart and the power of your words and the grace of the Goddess that flows through us, we affirm that you are partners – husband and wife – as long as you shall live and love.

Post notes: Video clip of the ceremony is HERE (don't forget to click "watch in high quality"). Katherine’s website is HERE. Some outtake photos are here

June 20, 2008

Poetic Heretic

admit1ll.jpgSome difficulty is warranted and other difficulty I think is gratuitous. And I think I can tell the difference. ~ Billy Collins

I don’t like a lot of poetry, even though I started writing it in my bedroom as a teenager, and even though when I do enjoy it, it can take my breath away. For the most part, poetry has been an acquired taste that I am still acquiring. So much of it, even now, either doesn’t engage me or goes over my head, which is why when I find poetry I like, I am thrilled.

At the beach last week, I browsed through The Best American Poetry of 2006, an anthology edited by recent Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Seeing as how Collins is one of my favorite poets, I wasn’t surprised that I liked more poems in this particular anthology than others I’ve read, as evidenced by poems I check marked, pages I folded over, and poems I read out loud on the beach to Joe.

Collins’ poetry has been described as having wit, whimsy, and charm. But mostly it’s referred to as accessible; a word that Collins takes issue with because it makes him think of ramps for “poetically challenged people.” He prefers the word “hospitable” and says that poetry should be “easy to enter,” like a building. Once inside, all manner of imaginative challenges can occur.

In the anthology introduction, Collins explains how he chose the poetry he did, and he does it in a way that is eerily phrased like something I would say: “I’m bored by poems that are transparent from beginning to end, but I am quick to put down poems whose opening lines make me feel I have walked in on the middle of a Swedish movie being run backwards with no subtitles.”

Collins’ poems have the easy cadence present in poetry rooted in the oral tradition. I wasn’t surprised to learn that he is of Irish descent, a race of people said to have invented poetry. As an Irish American myself, I suspect one of the reasons that Collins’ work resonates with me is that we are genetically related.

I like Collins' poetry for the same reason I like Richard Brautigan’s poetry or the music of The Crash Test Dummies. It’s quirky, set to a good beat, and tends to have a surprise twist. Anybody who writes a poem titled “Taking off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes” and talks about dead people in glass bottom boats watching our heads gets my attention right of the bat.

HERE is the very first Collins’ poem I read (read by Collins). By the second poem HERE and then the third one HERE, I was hooked.

June 19, 2008

13 Thursday Flutterby


1. At the beach Joe said to me, “I’m so glad you introduced me to naps, baths, and beaches.” Yeah, that about sums me up.

2. I didn’t think of my father, who died in 2005, very much on Father’s Day. But the next morning, upon waking and while still in-between the dream world and this one, I felt him (or the lack of him) and whispered “Happy Father’s Dad, daddy.”

3. THIS is the song I want played at my funeral.

4. “What do you want to do before you die?” AKA “It’s amazing what people do when you give them the chance to be a hero” HERE.

5. One of the things I’d like to do before I die is help Janet meet Johnny Depp before she dies. She’s very “Fond of Snape” and Depp.

6. I recently realized while looking through my stockpile of greeting cards that sympathy cards now outnumber the birthday cards.

7. After covering a story on the 300th year anniversary of the Brethren church, I realized that preaching is a lot like stand-up comedy, although none the Catholic priests of my past were very funny.

8. Hail Mary Full of Grapes: When we were kids there was no question, we had to go to church and catechism classes too. The best part of going to church was my First Holy Communion, when I first received the host, which represents the body of Christ. I felt like a bride all dressed in white, complete with the mysterious veil. After my First Holy Communion, I was old enough to help the younger ones study their catechism lessons. But one day, my dad overheard me teaching them their first prayers…Hail Mary, Full of grapes, The Lord is with thee… This sounded right to me, especially considering that it was soon followed by the line…blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. At seven years old, the word “womb” was over my head, but I surely knew what fruit was. ~ Excerpt from my book The Jim and Dan Stories

9. I had a great time in Virginia Beach last week but was sorry to miss going to the Floyd Library’s celebration of the new library addition where Grammy Award winning poet Nikki Giovanni spoke. June from Spatter got some great shots HERE. I wrote about Nikki in a post called How to be a Better Writer HERE.

10. My friend Jayn and I named the June Museletter (our community newsletter) “Flutterby.” That’s what she used to call a butterfly when she was a girl.

11. In a recent Larry King's interview with Jon Stewart, King asked Stewart if he thought America was ready for a woman or a black president. Jon looked at him quizzically and said 'This is such a non-question. Did anyone ask us in 2000 if Americans were ready for a moron?'

12. A Life Milestone: On Father’s Day, I talked with my son Dylan on the phone and wished him his very first Father’s Day. The latest video clip of my grandson Bryce, born May 14th, is HERE.

13. Driving home from the beach Joe and I were listening to a tape by archetypal psychologist, James Hillman. My favorite part was when Hillman said this about himself: “If Hillman were not, he would have to be invented.” I think that applies to all of us.

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

June 18, 2008

Serene Green

I felt the need for some mountain green scenes. This one, just up the road from our The Blue Ridge Parkway driveway, was taken during the greening of May.
It's still easy to get farm fresh eggs here in the mountains. This sign is for the family-run Sweet Providence Farm, which I recently passed on my way down the mountain to Roanoke to babysit for my new grandson.
One of my neighbors. I actually got chased by a bull once, so I used my zoom lens for this shot.

June 17, 2008

Hippie Flashback

In 1969 I was wearing a black floppy hat while riding the subway from Boston when a little boy pointed at me and asked his mother, “Is that a hippie?”

By the time “the 60’s” hit Boston it was 1969. flophat70.jpg The term “hippie” was already un-hip by east coast counter-culture standards, and too many in the mainstream “establishment” were adding the word “dirty” in front of it. Hippies were from California. In Boston, we called ourselves “Heads” or “Freaks.” I also recognized the term “flower child” as a way to describe myself.

At the age of nineteen I was still living at home and was coming from the boutique on Tremont Street where I worked when the boy pointed me out. The boutique, named The Riverboat, was where I first heard Leonard Cohen sing the song that made me want to be a poet. Suzanne; it was playing on the underground radio station, WBCN.

The song was also my introduction to what has become a lifelong addiction: thrift shopping. It was likely this stanza that did it: Suzanne takes your hand … And she leads you to the river … She is wearing rags and feathers … From Salvation Army counters … And the sun pours down like honey … On our lady of the harbour … And she shows you where to look … Among the garbage and the flowers. 1972.jpg

For my parent’s generation, wearing a fur coat was a status symbol. For us, in 1969, it was counter culture sheik, but only if it wasn’t new. It had to be ragged with wear and tear to be really cool.

I came home from work one winter day wearing a fur coat that I had just purchased from a used clothing store. My parents wondered how I could have afforded it on a clerk’s salary. They thought I was caught up in something illegal and confronted me about it. I tried to explain, but it must have been as hard to understand as it was for me when, many years later, my son came home from school and told me that wearing your pants pulled down with your underwear showing was a new style.

I still had the fur coat in 1978 and was wearing it during the blizzard of 1978. The blizzard was so bad that Governor Dukakis pronounced the entire Boston area a “disaster,” which meant, for one thing, that no cars were allowed on the roads. My sister Sherry, her baby Andrew, and I were living in East Weymouth and had to jump out of a bedroom window to get out of the house because the snow had completely covered our front door. The coat kept me warm during the days that followed, when we had to walk anywhere we wanted to go. The neighbors gave us milk for the baby. We bought groceries in town and hauled them home on a sled.

I left the Boston area the following spring because my first husband had work in Texas. Just outside of Houston, in a little town called Tomball, both my sons were born. At the end of our seven years in Texas, as we prepared to move to Virginia, I had a big yard sale and sold, among other stuff, all my old hippie clothes. There was a gypsy shawl, and Indian print wrap-around skirt, a beaded tunic, and colorful flowing scarves. I might have sold my tambourine, my favorite pink suede bell bottom pants, and the blue wool pea-coat with an American flag sewn on the back.

In Virginia, I thought I would need hardy homesteading clothes, jeans and boots and flannel shirts. Imagine my surprise when we arrived in Floyd and found communities full of people who were proud to call them “hippies.” I called them “my lost tribe.” Then I hit the local thrift shops and shopped until my wardrobe was colorful once again.

Photos: I don’t have many good photos to represent this post. We didn’t take many photos back. The few I could find to scan are from 1971 when I got my first cheap camera. In the first photo I am wearing “the” hat, # 2 is me in my pea coat taking my little sister Trish (right) and niece Chrissie bowling. The flag on the back of the peacoat and my story about Woodstock is HERE.

June 16, 2008

Stand Up For Strays

michelh.jpg ~ The Following was published in the Floyd Press on June 12, 2008

Floyd County’s chapter of the Humane Society was founded in 1999 by the late Aletha Pearson. An earlier version of the chapter existed during the 80’s but was short lived. In the nine years that the current chapter has been active, the group has accomplished much, heightening community awareness of responsible ownership of pets, promoting the neutering/spaying of pets, and facilitating adoptions of homeless cats and dogs.

At the Society’s annual Stand up for Strays event, held at the Cross Creek Complex this past Saturday, Michele Harvell, a longtime Humane Society member, explained that the event is a fundraiser that also serves as community outreach. tents.jpg

Under the shade of the adoption tent, where four dogs needing homes were in cages, Harvell explained how the group takes animals from the pound and places them in foster homes until they can find adoptive families.

The all volunteer, donation supported group, which has about fifteen active members, meets at the New River Community Action Center at 6:30 P.M. on the second and forth Tuesday of each month. “We get great support from the community – cat food, dog food, and other donations,” Harvell said. She and her daughter Sarah brought two of their dogs from home. One, a dwarf dachshund named Anna was rescued by the Harvells when it was discovered that the dog was about to be dumped.

Sunny Bernardine, who was dubbed by Aletha Pearson as a Humane Society “life time member,” currently has four personal dogs and four fosters, she said. Two of her foster dogs, a white Brittany mix and a Catahoula, were at the event looking for adoption prospects. ddip.jpg When Bernardine was asked if she had help caring for so many dogs, she joked, “I need help!” The Humane Society has built a total of four roofed kennels on Bernardine’s property.

Music played as event goers browsed through the yard sale tent or enjoyed a hot dog. Some blew bubbles at the Games Tent. A dog was being washed in a tub of flea and tick dip. Darcie Luster, the current Humane Society president, was spritzing water on young kittens that were wilting in the 90 degree heat.

Two Girl Scout volunteers, Denise Schmeitzel and Hannah Ballinger, ran a raffle booth. They were happy to rattle off possible prizes to passersby. Prizes included a Floyd Fest ticket, A Hokie game ticket, and some original art. When Ballinger was asked if she was a Human Society member, she smiled and said, “I’m going to be when I grow up.” ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes: Michele Harvell is pictured in the first photo, petting Sunny Bernardine's foster dogs who are in need of a permanent home. For more information on the Humane Society, you can visit their website HERE.

June 15, 2008

Life is a Beach

1. Mission accomplished. Joe and I have had so many false starts getting to the ocean this year. Finally we landed on Virginia Beach last Tuesday where we were warmly hosted to mix vacation time with some low key business meetings. With my recent ankle injury, I couldn’t walk the beach, but could limp to my beach chair (which Joe carried for me). I swam in the ocean for an hour each day.
2. This is Maury Cooke and his business partner and family friend, Linda. Joe (far right) is working with them developing programming for Earthsong Farm and Retreat in nearby Patrick County. First up, is the second annual Teen Meditation Retreat on July 6-12. Maury is a fascinating man who founded the Center for Community Development in the Portsmouth Hampton Roads part of Virginia. The CCD runs an Urban Arts Center, lends micro-loans for start-up businesses, and facilitates affordable housing in the area. (Linda's dog Kiley is also shown).
3. So, did Joe go parasailing, like he wanted to? See the action shot HERE.
4. Every day for the four days we were there, I picked a beach rose on my way down to the beach and smelled it as I walked (with a crutch). I read and wrote poetry on the beach, ate blueberries, and watched dolphins and hermit crabs. Our get-away was short but very sweet. We feel blessed for new pathways being made and look forward to our next trip.

Post notes: Read more about Earthsong HERE. I’ll be writing more about it in the coming days.

June 13, 2008

Beach Nap

Human voices muffle
in the lullaby of tide
Overhead jets
like flies to swat
sting as they pass

Skin glows pink
under filtered light
of a nylon beach umbrella

The crinkle of newpaper
book pages turning
rustle like breakers on salted air

Wave after wave
Out of the blue
My thoughts
surface and sink

My feet sculpt sand
into hills and gullies
Parasail buoys
mark a cloudless sky

Disjointed conversations
jog up and down the beach
Did I speak out loud
or wonder to myself?

A nervous hermit crab
hurries to its hole
A lazy poem falls asleep

~ Colleen Redman 6/13/08

June 12, 2008

13 in the Sand

13sand.jpg 1. Blogging helps me know what day it is, which I wouldn’t know otherwise because I don’t have a regular job, and I especially don’t know when I’m at the beach, which I am now.

2. Yesterday I was browsing through “Virginia Living” magazine and found this interesting story about Edgar Allen Poe: A bust of Poe was unveiled in 1909 for the museum and garden dedicated to him in Richmond, Virginia. The bust was stolen and soon after, the museum got a call from the thief. He agreed to tell museum authorities where they would find the bust, but only after he was read Poe’s poem, The Spirit of the Dead, out loud over the phone. After the reading, he directed the authorities to The Raven Pub. The bust was found there on the bar, where the caller had bought it a beer.

3. According to Floyd legend, Edgar Allen Poe had a girlfriend in Floyd that he used to visit and who is now buried in the Old Jacksonville Cemetery.

4. Add a T to Poe and it says Poet.

5. Lately I’ve been getting more spam comments than blog comments, which can make me feel strangely more popular than if I was getting no comments at all.

6. I’ve also been reading Gift from the Sea, a book that I’ve had for thirty years but haven’t read up until now. This is what you do on vacation.

7. The beach is not a place to work, to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down the faded straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even – at least, not at first. ~ Excerpt from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

8. Contrary to the above excerpt, I got lots of writing done at the beach today.

9. I was hoping to finish a Gestalt around my ankle injury, a reoccurring injury that is related to going to the ocean (a representation of the mother), but it turned out to be just another experience of limping around in the sand.

10. Question asked to Joe by Colleen after she injured her ankle: “So where do think the foot reflexology point for the foot is on the foot?”

11. I was visiting someone’s blog recently and saw the name June in a comment. For a moment, I thought it was my blog friend June from Spatter, but with a second look I realized it was the date, with June being the month we’re in.

12. Favorite quote found in the blogsphere this week: "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." Ray Bradbury

13. Go get your feet wet HERE.

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

June 11, 2008

Writing Desk at the Beach

Sheltered from the neighbors by a row of jasmine bushes and a fence lined with dwarf conifers and roses, a bird serenades, water streams from a dolphin fountain, and wind chimes remind me of home. There are whelk shells on the stone tiled table. I pick one up, hold it to my ear and for the first time hear the whistling roar of a faraway shoreline.
A black bird lands on a gray rock near the pond with something white in its beak. A red bird on the fence intrigues me. A bright row of daylilies greet the morning with their oranges faces turned up towards the sky. A place to write poetry, three houses from the ocean. A place to sip tea and just be.

Post note: I’m with Joe in Virginia Beach, mixing business (his) with pleasure. Thank you Linda, for sharing your home with us. Your garden is an inspiration.

June 10, 2008

Meditation Concentration

My mind is a thousand piece puzzle
I'm putting together for a perfect fit
But the scene starts to waiver
when my thoughts begin to wander
Wondering how I can keep from breaking it.

Post note: Mosaic art, displayed on the side of a gas station in Blacksburg, was done by local art students.

June 9, 2008

Your Daddy’s Mama

I don’t know what it means to be a grandmother. It’s probably a role you grow into. When my son and his wife went to a wedding this weekend, Joe and I had some bonding time with three week old Bryce. I introduced myself to him. “I’m your daddy’s mama,” I said, wanting him to know that I was a mama too and that he could relax and feel in good hands.
“I haven’t done this in a while, I said to his parents before they left. “But not too worry. I feel completely comfortable. Once mothering is in you, it never leaves,” I assured them. I also had some help, a more than willing partner called “Grampa Joe.”
It was like drinking in an infusion of love, getting a booster shot to ward off life’s automatic pilot. After five hours of feeding, changing, rocking, watching, and kissing Bryce, we drove home with his sweet smell all over us. I knew his mama would notice our smell on him because I remember when I was a young mother how heightened primal instincts were and how sense details came into play.

Zoom in for Your Close-up: Video Clip of Bryce is HERE. One day old photos are HERE.

June 7, 2008

The Barrel House Mamas Album Cover

I wasn’t able to attend their concert at the Winter Sun Hall last night, but I did meet up with the Mamas today for some puppy petting at the Humane Society’s 6th annual “Stand up for Strays,” where I was taking photos for the Floyd Press. And Joe and I hooked them up for some down home pond swimming at Zephyr Farm before they headed back to Asheville. They were on their way to dive off the dock when I stopped them for this photo shoot. “It’s good enough to be your next album cover,” I said when I previewed the shot. Of course, they may have to cut some people out. Either that or hand them some instruments and teach them to play.

Post notes: The Barrel House Mamas music can be heard HERE. The quartet includes Molly Reed, Jane Kramer Edens, Eleanor Underhill, and Anna Baumann-Smith (my son Josh's girlfriend). My husband Joe (the only man pictured above) is not a Barrel House Mama. Check out Doug Thompson's photo's HERE.

June 6, 2008

A Summer Porch Tourist

All the signs of summer have arrived, the first one being that I’m in a sundress. As soon as the weather hits 90, I wear one all summer when I’m home. It’s got to be loose fitting, rayon or cotton, and ready for wear and tear. Shoes are obsolete. Even my pink flip flops are parked by the dog’s bowl on the porch. This year, since I injured my ankle and can't walk, a pair of crutches rests there too.
A green hose stretches across the yard like a lifeline to the garden. The dog needs shaving and the corn needs mulching. It’s already too hot to weed. The sweet smell of Valerian floats in the air. Deer flies are big this year and sting when they land on bare skin. The song of the wood thrush is like a note plunking into a clear lake. Just hearing it cools me down.
I woke this morning to the whirring of a distant helicopter. We had been hearing it for days, thinking it was the state police making their yearly summer search for pot growing along the Blue Ridge Parkway. But that wasn’t the case. The helicopter got closer and from our porch swing I watched it lower down a blade for cutting brush along the power lines.
For someone healing from an ankle injury and watching the world from her porch, a helicopter in my yard was the most exciting thing that happened all day. See a Youtube video clip of the helicopter lifting the long blade HERE.

June 5, 2008

The Thirteen Thursday Progress Report

13dogll.jpg 1. I’ve never been very sports-minded. It’s taken THIS recent injury to my leg to get me in soccer knee pads. They come in handy when I have to crawl on all fours to get around.

2. Since I’ve hurt my leg and taken to crawling, I’ve noticed how dirty it is down here on the floor.

3. On the third day of my injury, Joe was able to track down some crutches for me. I also use a wheeled office chair to scoot around the kitchen.

4. So much for our IPOD living room Dance Parties. Maybe I can get Joe to vacuum to “What’s the Frequency Kenneth.”

5. If you Image Google “The Dog Ate My Homework” THIS is what you’ll see.

6. I pretty much used to get all A’s in school until Algebra came along. Algebra and trying to solve complicated math word problems made me feel like I was going to have a seizure. I later learned I had THIS.

7. Barack Obama has a Facebook page, which is where I learned that he’s a Leo and his favorite musicians are Miles Davis; John Coltrane; Bob Dylan; and Stevie Wonder.

8. Not being able to walk made Steven Tyler’s song “Walk this Way” come to mind. I think Tyler looks like Chrissie Hynde with Mick Jagger’s lips. I should know. I saw him up real close. That story is HERE.

9. Remembering Summer Through my Feet: Growing up on a peninsula in Hull, Massachusetts, my whole body was immersed in water for most of the summer. My feet would flap like flippers through the cool dark liquid bay, while I imagined I was a seal or a mermaid. I recall the feeling of sand through my toes and the sticky residue of dried salt water on my body and in my hair. I can still remember my revelation when, as a young girl, I licked my own skin and tasted the ocean. ~Excerpt from a WVTF Radio Essay, which can be read in its entirety HERE.

10. A Not So Stupid Dog Trick: The best I’ve come across HERE.

11. In the News: Green our Vaccines March on Washington, rally, with keynote address by Robert Kennedy Jr. Watch an ABC video with Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey HERE.

12. What’s the end product of all this progress in the name of profit? What does it provide or promote? At what expense do we proceed? Is our progress really greed? Can we progress to produce less? Will our children be prosperous? Can we promise? ~ Excerpt from a poem I wrote in 1990, called “The Pros and Cons of Progress.”

13. Yes We Can: HERE.

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

June 3, 2008

Cuts Deep

footcutll.jpgYou have passed the low point of a dormant, stagnating situation. Improvement will now come naturally … a turn for the better is occurring without anyone’s having willed it, planned it, or arranged for it. It occurs on its own, in its own slow time, in its own quiet way …. Fu Returning – IChing reading, May 31, 2008

It had all the earmarking of a mythical wound, the inch long deep gash on my leg that had reduced me to crawling on all fours. In the moment the cup handle fell away from the mug (as if it was just time to do that) and I stuffed it and the mug down into the trash bag, something was being lined up. A few days later, I was carrying the bag down the cellar stairs, feeling distracted and irritated, when it swung against my leg (in the area of the Achilles tendon) and stabbed me.

I called for help as the blood gushed. “Joe, I need your help! I need your help!” Putting my thumb on the site of injury to stop the bleeding, I was stunned to feel how deep the cut was.

A sprinkle of Cayenne instantly stopped the bleeding. A butterfly-band aid held it closed. Later, after cleaning it with saline solution, fresh comfrey compresses and antibiotic cream would be used.

A few hours after the injury, I limped off to Zephyr Farm for my girlfriend’s son’s college graduation party. There, I complained to anyone who would listen that injuring my left ankle has been a reoccurring theme in my life, one that I was trying to better understand. “Some women repeat getting involved with men who abuse them, I just injure my ankle,” I said to someone. I knew that, according to psychology, negative life scenarios are repeated for the chance to heal them. I suspected that my reoccurring ankle injuries played into an unconscious belief, programmed in early childhood, of being powerless and helpless.

I was told by two physician's assistants at the party that my leg would feel worse the next day, and it did. I woke up the morning after the accident and discovered that I couldn’t walk. I laughed out loud to myself at how ridiculous I must have looked crawling to the bathroom on my hands and knees. The act of crawling immediately connected me to an old memory.

At the age of seven, while visiting my grandparents in Hialeah for the summer, I sprained my ankle and couldn’t walk. For a couple of weeks, I limped around or let someone older carry me. My foot hurt and my play was limited, but at the beach, I was amazed at how buoyant I was in the ocean. In the water, I felt like myself, at home again. My happiness didn’t last. Towards the end of the day I looked around and discovered that my grandfather and the cousins I had come to the beach with were gone. Maybe they had carried our stuff to the car and were planning to return for me. I never did find out. In my seven year old reality, they had forgotten me. I was crying and crawling on all fours in the sand when a woman and her husband came to my rescue. They carried me to the parking lot where I was reunited with family members.

Being left on the beach when I was seven wasn’t a primary trauma. It was a re-enactment from when I was truly helpless and was left as an infant for weeks at a time, first in a hospital (for burns that resulted in a ring of scars around each ankle) and then with a family friend. Emotional hurts can create lifelong sensitivities and like physical hurts they tend to get bumped into over and over. Since the beach episode at seven years old, I’ve broken my toe, cut a toe, and had another serious ankle sprain (all on the left side). All of these injuries oddly occurred days before I was due to go to the beach, the place I feel most at home, having grown up on a small beach town peninsula. The morning I was stabbed in the ankle, Joe had announced an opening in his schedule and his plan to drive us to the beach. Could his announcement have inadvertently bumped the replay button on an old unconscious program?

“Adults help children. Even Strangers. I’m an adult who helps children,” I wept to my husband after retelling the story of being left on the beach. We were sitting on the porch. He, a trained counselor, was administering EMDR (Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing), a therapeutic technique that involves focusing on a traumatic event while simultaneously following the movements of the therapist's waving and snapping fingers.

He reminded me how powerfully I had called for help. Not only did I acknowledge with full body knowing that I was no longer a helpless child needing attention, I vowed to use this last injury as the impetus to heal both my physical and emotional wounds.

June 2, 2008

Romancing the Muse

collshamr.jpg “The words seem to be pronounced in my head, but with no one speaking them.” Amy Lowell

My mother and I have an ongoing conversation through the clipped newspaper articles we send each other. It’s the only comfortable way we can “talk” about politics because our views are so vastly different. She also sends me clippings about writers like me who have written family stories. Last week she sent one from the Patriot Ledger on Isabelle Allende’s latest book, The Sum of Our Days.

Did you know that Allende starts all her books on January 8, the date she wrote her first book, House of Spirits? For me, that small fact was the most intriguing part of the full page newspaper interview. Do writers have certain rituals like sports players before a big game? Do they wear lucky socks at the typewriter or say a favorite prayer or mantra before starting a novel? My curiosity sent me to the computer to hunt down some answers.

Isabelle Allende is a fine writer, but it was Diane Ackerman’s name I wrote down on piece of paper for my next trip to the library or bookstore. Described by the New York Times as an “intellectual sensualist,” she has written a poetic exploration of the mind, a natural history of the garden, poetry, children’s literature, and more. My google search for “habits of writers” hit the jackpot when I came across her essay for the New York Times, “O Muse! You Do Make Things Difficult!” It was adapted from her book A Natural History of the Senses and the entire eight page print out dealt with quirky habits of writers and the things they do to coax the muse.

Certain music, certain food; it’s all true. Some writers like to write in the nude, while walking or while smoking a cigar. One writer cited liked to climb out on the limb of a tree. Others, like me, don’t need much of a push; on most days I just fall out of bed and start writing. For political commentaries, I use my mother as an imaginary silent audience, knowing that an opposing view is an opportunity to better clarify my own.

According to Ackerman, the nineteenth century French writer Stendhal read two or three pages of the French civil code every morning before working on his book, The Charter House of Parma – in order to set the right tone. Willa Cather liked to read the Bible to stimulate writing. Ben Franklin wrote in the bath. Alexandre Dumas wrote his non-fiction on rose-colored paper, his fiction on blue, and his poetry on yellow.

My favorite example of a writing habit, described by Ackerman, was one of 16th century German poet Friedrich Schiller. He kept rotten apples in his desk and inhaled their pungent aroma when searching for just the right word. As someone who is in the habit of cocking my head slightly back and squinting my eyes when looking for the right word while writing, Schiller’s habit doesn’t seem at all odd to me, especially considering that researchers have discovered that the smell of spiced apples “has a powerful effect on people and can even stave of a panic attack,” Ackerman reports.

Writers tend to be an eccentric lot. Anyone who spends hours at a time fiddling with a line or sentence with no promise or fame or gain could also be someone who lies in a coffin before beginning a day’s writing, as Edith Sitwell was reported to do.

Ackerman ended her article with a lovely description of her own muse. “My muse is male, has the radiant silver complexion of the moon and never speaks to me directly,” she wrote.

Up until reading Ackerman’s description of her muse I hadn’t thought much about what my muse might look like, but I’m sure I’ll be paying more attention now. This is what I know so far: My muse likes the moon, to be steeped in its indirect light. She speaks to me directly in an authoritative voice.

But sometimes my muse can be as fickle as a well fed cat. When too quiet for too long, I write a formal complaint, usually in the form of a poem, such as this one, titled "Lost: the Muse."

Loyal but shy
Last seen on Friday
Her middle name is moon
but she answers to music

She sounds like the ocean
with a shell to your ear
and can sometimes be viewed
at the Rocky Knob look-out

She’s never been married
She talks in her sleep
Call 745-2554
if you know where she is

Then I cock my head, squint my eyes, and wait for the call.

How about you?