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December 31, 2008

2008: A Seasonal Taste

~ The following year review was done by excerpting the first line in one post of each month. You can click on the name of the month for a full accounting.

January – Warming up for a game with my poet friend, Mara, I put the Scrabble box by the woodstove after it sat in the back seat of the car overnight. “I hope you’re dressed warm,” I said to her, holding the phone in one hand and pushing a log in the woodstove with the other.

February – He replaced the belt on the vacuum cleaner for me. I left him a pink valentine bag on the kitchen table the night before with a card and a Sunkist naval orange inside. He responded with a conversation candy heart of his own. “Call Me," it said.

March – 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.

April – "This is getting to be a real good smelling poetry reading,” said visiting poet Jim Webb in reference to the scent of popcorn coming from the front of the Floyd Country Store.

May – For a small window of time in the spring, three blooms converge in a symphony of color in the corner of my yard. Dogwood, azalea, and baby irises come in one after the other, and for a week or two they co-exist together like the colorful layered fruit of an English trifle.

– 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.

July – The Blue Fairy makes wishes come true. It’s a tall order, but she can handle it. She walks on stilts.

August – In this day of theme parks with rides like the Tower of Terror and Disney mouse and duck characters posing for photo-ops, I’m relieved there are still parks where real ducks can be fed and where you can ride around a weeping willow lined lagoon on a peddle boat with a giant swan on it.

September – This is the time of year when I put on socks, and the butter in the butter dish is no longer the consistency of mayonnaise.

October – Mud on potatoes dries to dirt in the sun, spilling from a bucket like a cornucopia overflowed. In the garden, a few tomatoes struggle to turn red but only make it to bright orange – the same color as the potted mums on the porch table, a $3 grocery store purchase for October’s yearly anniversary.

November – Snow flurries. Cold wind whips. We pull up our goose down hoods. Joe shakes the tree like it’s a piñata full of gifts. Red apples tumble to the ground. I run to collect them like a girl on Christmas morning, marveling at the magic of each one.

– Things move fast in the world according to Bryce. One week he’s repeatedly sticking out his tongue, the next week he’s eating bananas. One week he’s teething on toys and shaking rattles, the next he’s all about his new Playschool bus. So I guess I’ll be trading in the rattle I bought him for Christmas for something with four wheels.

December 30, 2008

A Neighborhood Yankee Swap

disorder.jpgMy neighbor Dolphin lives and teaches in Alaska now. She brought bear meat for the Christmas Eve Yankee Swap.

Cloe brought a woven cotton/silk scarf from her recent travels in Thailand, where she ate silkworms and grasshoppers and worked on behalf of rural villagers' right to sustainable culture.

There was salmon caviar on the kitchen table for those who were sick of Christmas stolen and cookies with jam filled centers.

Speaking of jam, my Yankee swap gift was a jar of homemade blueberry jam made my Lora, but I really wanted the mixed CD Bob made.

Rowan got Josh's handmade mug stamped with the name "Nolan Ryan." It was one in a series in which Josh made use of creative descriptive phrases to express his love of coffee. xmasflower.jpg

Kurt brought another tamari pourer made by potter Sarah McCarthy. It acted as the conclusion for a group gestalt that began last year when the first McCarthy tamari pourer stirred up competition and prompted a mutiny of anarchy that threatened the nature of the swap.

There was also a Chinese brocade box filled with fortune cookies, red slippers, candles, books, a Tic-Tac-Toe game, and a box of cereal thrown into the mix. A variety six-pack of beer got swapped and was being drunk quickly to avoid being swapped again. A couple of items were left behind at the end of the night - a silk leopard print blouse, a Crooked Road T-shirt, a Christmas angel mug - the start of next year's swap, I suppose.

December 29, 2008


Dark brewed oracle
Three cups full
A holy trinity
from St. Brigit’s well

Post notes: Coming Soon to a Teaspoon Near You HERE. Christmas pots by Josh.

December 27, 2008

Baby Santa Comes to Town

Hmmmm ...
Is it for me?
My turn?
Group Play
Hey where's my green truck?
Upside-down for the count.

Note: See the action trailer HERE.

December 25, 2008

13 Christmas Notes: Do You Hear What I Hear?

xchoi2.jpg1. Click HERE for my Virtual Christmas Message brought to you by the Auburn School Choir, of which my great-niece is a member.

2. My husband Joe, a counselor, recently expressed to me that he was glad our relationship was strong and that we didn’t need to see a counselor. “But you are a counselor,” I said, and then I told him whenever he gets overbooked and I start missing him, I’m just going to whine, “I need a counselor!”

3. Joe is the Program Director for Earthsong Teen Meditation Retreats and has been super busy lately getting ready for a New Year’s retreat. The Natural Awakenings Magazine of Southwest Virginia (whose publisher lives in Floyd and who I wrote about HERE) just published a story on it. You can read it HERE.

4. Summer camp is an all-American tradition for many teens. But what kind of camp teaches kindness as part of its curriculum, or instructs campers to disconnect from their high-tech, high paced lives in order to sit still and listen? ~ Excerpt from the story I did on the summer teen retreat for the Floyd Press. The rest can be read HERE.

5. Hey, LOOK what $12,000 spent on Christmas lights can get you.

6. I recently began to wonder if Bob Dylan ever recorded a Christmas song and if he did how would he pull one off, so I googled around and found THIS, close enough I suppose.

7. Two of my favorite creative artists and influences have come together. Natalie Goldberg (author of Writing Down the Bones and more) has done a documentary on Bob Dylan called Tangled up in Bob. She traveled to the town where Bob grew up and interviewed those who knew him and draws on generational commonalities between her upbringing and his HERE.

8. My great-niece Samantha is not pictured in the photo above but a family friend named Molly who I was wasn’t expecting to see is on the far right. Unfortunately, Samantha was never visible enough for me to get a good shot of, but HERE she is front-and-center performing a different sort of talent.

9. The end of an era: First Michele ended her longstanding Meet and Greet (soon after Netchick decided to host it). Now, after three years, The Thirteen Thursday Meme Hub is closing down. I posted my first Thirteen Thursday on October 10, 2005 when it was hosted by its founder Leanne, and this is my 165th one. Even though the site is closing down, I’ll continue to post 13 on Thursday because stream of consciousness list writing suits my writing style and doing so helps me tie up each week. I also get a lot of material from my TT lists and sometimes read a selection of one-liners taken from them at Spoken Word Night Open Mic, which is as close to stand up comedy as I get.

10. When our dog is finding and eating too much raw deer meat during hunting season it gives her diarrhea, which is when I start calling her a “bad ass.”

11. I forgot to mention that after dancing to The Kind at the Pine Tavern awhile back, Joe and I went to our car and found a single serving box of Kellogg cereal on the windshield. I’m still wondering about that how and why it came to be there, especially when I go into my pantry and see it on the shelf, which is where it is now.

12. I recently realized that the word USE is in the word MUSE, which gives me encouragement that the Muse is available to be used rather than playing hard to get. The MMMM sound (mother, mana, milk, and manifestation) preceding the word USE also speaks to my sense of divined support for my creativity.

13. This is my very favorite interactive Christmas card, well worth the click HERE.

And so ... as my current answering machine messages says: Leave your Kris Kringle after the Jingle.

December 23, 2008

Recently Seen Christmas Scenes

1. A Dickens of a Haircut
2. A Peaceful Place to Pause
3. A Humble Stable
4. A North Pole

December 21, 2008

Darth Vader Meets Mrs. Claus

1. It was a rainy night, five days before Christmas, so I wasn't expecting much of a turnout for the third Saturday Spoken Word night at the Café Del Sol. But when I arrived, I flung open the door and there was Darth Vader, Mrs. Claus, and a birthday party with cake being passed around the room full of people.
2. Telling us it was "Bring Your Kid to Work Day," Darth called Luke up to the mic for a skit in which he explained that he was Luke's real father. Luke didn't take it well. At the end of his 10 minute time slot, Darth revealed the face behind the mask.
3. Sam read a short story. Gloria read a poem about a classified ad and motorcycle ride. Greg read a piece spurred by the low turnout for the Veteran's Day Parade, and Rosemary read about her children growing up and leaving home. There were nineteen readers in all, a few were first timers. Others spoke of taking writing classes at the Writers' Bloc, run by Haden Polseno-Hensley a block down the street.
4. It was Heather's birthday and Laura (who also read) baked the cake. The whole room joined in a Happy Birthday song to Heather when she took her turn at the mic (photo is of Heather receiving our song). She spoke about being moved by last month's event at the Black Water Loft, her first Spoken Word Open Mic, and said she couldn't wait for the next one. She belted out an Erykah Badu song that she has sang as a girl's camp counselor, one about lightening the load of emotional baggage. Confessing that she has no aspirations to be a singer, she told us that singing in public scares her and that singing for us was a way to face her fears.
5. It's always a pleasure when singer and Café del Sol owner Sally MC's the monthly event. She introduces each reader with a knack for ad lib. "You're not going to steal my band," she joked after Heather sang.
6. The youth of Floyd was well represented, with at least four members of Young Actors Coop in the house, each one took a turn at the mic demonstrating their theatrical flair. Crystal (not a member, pictured above), a recent Floyd High graduate, read some stream of consciousness power packed poetry from her laptop.
spoken word 12-20x Colleenx.jpg
7. I read the entire contents of my new TEAPOET chapbook, but because the meditative poems in it were all short ... serving up sips of haiku and other poetic brew ... it fell well under the 10 minute time slot limit. Rose, who later read a poem about a rose, took the photo of me. That's my New Castle beer on the table (too late in the night for tea) and my basket of writer's wares (books) that I have taken to carrying around.
8. Mara read new poetry and also joined with her daughter Kyla in song. The announcement of THIS song brought cheers and some sang along.
9. Associate editor of Floyd's new literary and art publication, Floyd County Moonshine, Jay Settle returned after attending last month's event at the Black Water Loft where we featured readings from the publication. Jay, an English teacher in Radford, read one of his poems.
10. The open mic is not limited to poetry, storytelling, and literature, or even accapella song. Mrs. Claus ended the night with some humor, which included a question for Santa and for us. "Does this red suit make my butt look big?" she asked as she spun around.

Post note:
For more posts on past Spoken Word's click HERE and scroll down.

December 19, 2008

The Equal Opportunity Claus

Mrs. Claus at the local café is a new take on the Department Store Santa. Ann Bower, a.k.a. Mrs. Claus, says she has a direct line to Santa. “I tell Santa what they want,” she said about the children who sit on her lap and reveal their Christmas wishes to her.
Children and the young at heart can have their photo taken with Mrs. Claus, receive an ornament and a Christmas gift at the Café Del Sol on Saturday, December 20th at noon. Mrs. Claus made a recent appearance at The Floyd Country Store and will be spreading Christmas cheer with Santa at The Bank of Floyd on Christmas Eve day from 10-2 pm.

Post Notes: A photo not included here of Mrs. Claus with a baby appeared in yesterday’s Floyd Press. Here we have: 1. Mrs. Claus at the Café Del Sol 2. Indigo, daughter of Emily Williamson and Asa Pickford, holding a gift from Mrs. Claus. Indigo says, “Merry Christmas."

December 18, 2008

The 13 List: Checking it Twice

xmaslist.jpg 1. Who let the air out of Christmas? Driving to Christiansburg on Monday I passed a yard full of plastic blow-up Christmas ornaments deflated and spread out on the law. It looked like a Christmas massacre.

2. I was on my way to visit my dear friend Alwyn for a Christmas tea. Alwyn is an 83 year old Jewish-born Quaker who prefers to keep Christmas simple. When I arrived and told her I had a gift for her, she said, “No chachka this year.” I learned that chachka is a Jewish word for “collected stuff.”

3. I gave her one of THESE and she was thrilled with it. I also brought a belated birthday gift for her November birthday, a homemade apple crisp, which we proceeded to eat. We both agreed that both gifts did not fall in the chachka category.

4. First there was the shoe bomber and now the shoe thrower. Apparently President Bush is as good ducking flying shoes, to the tune of a size 10, as he is at ducking questions. If you haven’t seen the clip that looks like a bit from a Three Stooges movie yet, see it HERE.

5. So I guess I and half-a-million others who marched on Washington before the Iraq invasion to try and stop it might have gotten more attention if we had taken off our shoes and thrown them at the White House.

6. Last year my poem about wanting President Bush to have a dream like the one that Ebenezer Scrooge was aired on The Monitor, a Pacifica radio affiliate in Houston. You can hear it HERE (after the music lead-in). The story of how it was written and how I came to read it on Pacifica is HERE.

7. While driving, I listened to NPR and caught some of Diane Rehm’s interview with Les Standiford, author of The Man Who Invented Christmas, which is about Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, the story of redemption and the true spirit of Christmas, which awakened the humanitarian in me as a child when I saw it on TV.

8. I knew that A Christmas Carol popularized the celebration of Christmas with trees, lights, a turkey on Christmas Day, and generosity to those less fortunate, but I didn’t know that Dickens was a Unitarian (a religion that has been described as “"the religion of Jesus, not a religion about Jesus” and one with a strong social justice component). I also learned that A Christmas Carol was self-published, that the Dickens’ parents spent time in a debtor’s prison (for spending beyond their means), and that Dickens had a sickly brother like Tiny Tim whose name was Fred.

9. Another formative story in my childhood that was written around the same time period and was also about the power of giving was Hans Brinker (aka The Silver Skates). Hans Brinker is the story of a poor young Dutch boy who gives up his chance to win a pair of silver skates in an ice skating race on the frozen canal in December for the benefit of others. The heroic story of Peter and the Dike is also part of the Hans Brinker story.

10. Ice skating was a big part of my growing up years in Massachusetts, so it’s no surprise that my favorite Christmas song – which was especially poignant during the seven years I lived near Houston, Texas – is THIS.

11. When I was in Holland in 1996 I saw the canals that wound through the landscape dotted with windmill homes, but was told that the because of Global Warming the last time it got cold enough for the canals to freeze was sometime in the 60’s.

12. Speaking of Christmas blow-up yard ornaments (#1), Doug has a funny story posted about his wife chasing down some run away penguins and then tying her captives to the family gazebo HERE.

13. My new answering machine message: Leave your Kris Kringle after the Jingle.

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

December 16, 2008

Are We Having Fun Yet?

split2.jpg At some point in your life one of your kids or someone else might say, "You're no fun anymore." You might feel obligated to try and be more fun or you might begin to ponder how your idea of what fun is has changed.

Fun is a beautiful combination of words that comes without effort, a favorite dessert savored, or a cloud formation that looks like giant snow drifts against a surprisingly blue sky. It's the view through a kaleidoscope, a starry night, a good dream, or a big scoring word in Scrabble. It's hardly ever a party.

I had some big time fun recently, but it turned out to be a lot of work (effort and driving). I'm not sure I want so much of that kind of fun anymore.

For me fun is a discovery, something out of the ordinary or something ordinary that I look at in a new way. It's something spontaneous that delights, makes me laugh, or elicits some other kind of authentic expression. Fun hardly ever cost a lot of money. I don't have to stay up late to enjoy it.fnh.jpg

It's fun to be with my seven-month-old grandson Bryce because when I'm with him I'm not trying to do anything else. He's adorable and I never know what he's going to do next. He looks at me like he really sees me and he doesn't care if he has banana smeared all over his face.

I still think a funhouse mirror is fun. Learning is fun. Having nothing booked on my calendar for a few days in a row is an invitation to make room for fun.

It's all fun; even stirring up my sadness or deep rooted fears has an element of fun because it urges me to grow and gives me more material for creating a rich life.

For someone who isn't fun anymore, I seem to be having a lot of it. So what's your idea of fun?

Post Note: The above are thoughts inspired by a monthly woman's dialogue group I belong to and came from one of the themes we explored.

December 15, 2008

The Line for Wine Starts Here

There were 19 wines to sample and I liked them all. I tried not to get drunk and started thinking that maybe I should have eaten more hors d'oeuvres when we were only half-way through the red wines. By the time we were on to the whites, I had struck up conversations with the guests to my left and right and asked the woman doing the wine tasting whose name I thought was Cher if she had a last name, or only one like the singer. "It's Sherry. Like the drink," she said and we all laughed.
After the tasting the whole idea of the Château Morrisette Holiday Open House with music (Scott Perry), hors d'oeuvres by the winery's new chef, samples of flavored oils and sauces to dip crackers into, and cool stuff to buy seemed a lot more fun than it did when I first arrived. Of course I gravitated right to the toys. There were Marbles and Pick-up sticks, along with wine related gifts, and lots of stuff for dogs (with the black dog being the Winery's mascot).
I wanted to buy some wine but didn't think it was worth standing in either one of the two lines of over a dozen people for one or two bottles, especially considering that I live ten minutes from the Winery and can buy the same wines anytime at the Harvest Moon Food Store, where I shop.
I felt compelled to stop two women who were walking around with wine glasses on cords around their necks and ask them where I might (jokingly) "get one of those." I struck up a conversation with a man in a wheel chair who also had a wine glass around his neck (which seemed more relevant in his case). "It's a lazy man's glass holder," he joked. I learned that his black dog was not the black dog of the winery fame but a service dog named Guinness. The man was sitting next to a table of information about the Saint Francis of Assisi Service Dog Foundation. Some of the proceeds from some of the wine sales go to benefit the group. Others benefit The Blue Ridge Parkway. There were bottles of wine with Virginia Tech Hokie labels. Our Dog Blue, a Riesling in a cobalt blue bottle, is there best selling wine.
Before leaving, I stopped at the Château Morrisette Restaurant because I wanted to see if they had a tree up or any other Christmas decorations. It was nearly four o'clock and the lunch crowd had waned to nearly nothing. I was the only one in line and was able to buy a couple of bottles of wine after all. The woman at the counter who rang me up remembered my son Josh, who worked at the winery during his high school years.
Talk about a designated driver. Outside the restaurant a group of wine club members were getting ready to leave the grounds in a limousine and were taking a final head count.

~ Read more about our local winery HERE. Another Chateau Morrisette post is HERE.

December 13, 2008

The Christmas Yearbook

1. The Red Carpet
2. Two Mannequins and a Man
3. Cherry Garcia
4. Country Sleigh

Photos: 1. Taken at a hotel in at National Harbor, DC, where we recently saw Cirque du Soleil. 2. A man decking the halls at the Winter Sun Clothing Outlet. 3. Santa passing out candy canes at the Dickens of a Night in Floyd. 4. The entrance of Floyd's family-run Sweet Providence Farm.

December 12, 2008

The Fourteenth Annual Winterfest at Jacksonville

~ The Following photos appeared with others in The Floyd Press on December 11, 2008.
1. I remember the early days of Winterfest, selling my jewelry in the old unheated Jacksonville dairy barn. One year I set my craft table up next to Katie and her partner who were selling handmade hats. I bought one that looked like a Santa hat wrapped in raccoon fur. It was warm and seasonal and sort of filled the desire I had since a kid for a coonskin Davy Crockett hat. After the dairy barn was renovated, and became the Jacksonville Center for the Arts, I sold my books over Winterfest Weekend. This year I just took pictures.
2. Pat Sharkey (left) of Earthdance Jewelry is the spark behind Winterfest. She’s the primary founder of the event and still coordinates the artist’s and vendors each year. She is also the development coordinator for Round the Mountain Artist’s Trail, which involves19 counties, including Floyd. Pat was the inspiration behind the wire-wrap gemstone jewelry I made back in the early 90’s.
3. Gabriela Hilger’s feathered hairpieces and gift package decorations drew attention. “Fun & Fluff” was how her crafts booth was described in the Winterfest brochure. Also featured at Winterfest this year were leather crafts, baskets, beeswax and essential-oil scented candles, natural bath and body products, soapstone sculpture, organic cotton clothing, musical CDs, pressed flower suncatchers, bamboo flutes, all sorts of art, jewelry, pottery, and more.
4. What is a Winterfest without Christmas trees? The proceeds of these donated trees, being sold by volunteers John Schneider (left) and his son John, go to benefit the Jacksonville Center.
5. Traditionally Winterfest was a two day weekend event, but this year it was three days, starting on Friday to coordinate with the Dickens First Night festivities. Here, dressed in period costume, Bethlehem Cherrix and Coriander Woodruff head down the stairs to the Jacksonville Center’s First Floor Artist’s Studios.
6. Floyd potter Sarah McCarthy in front of her studio talks about her work with a Winterfest attendee. Sarah’s exquisite functional pottery makes me want to sip tea and read Lao Tzu. Check out some of it HERE.
7. My friend Liz Stucki (left) was the mama behind Mama Lizzardo’s pizza place in downtown Floyd, which closed a couple of years ago. Liz is also an artist and apparently an excellent baker. I was first impressed with her cookies and other desserts at the Jacksonville Center’s recent Classical Music Concert. At Winterfest she paired up with her daughter Willow to sell her mouthwatering creations.
8. Winterfest has always been a community reunion where artists, crafters, and musicians converge, sell their wares, and get in the holiday spirit together. Read more about The Jacksonville Center for the Arts (pictured) HERE.

December 11, 2008

The Ghost of 13 Thursday

13xmasgift.jpg1. I used to sign my kid's Christmas presents SANTA and change my handwriting so they wouldn’t guess it was me. When they got older I signed them SANTA MARIA just for the fun of it.

2. I was recently typing “5 O’clock” and found myself wondering if it was Irish time.

3. I don’t know who could ever fill Oprah’s shoes because I don’t know who could walk in them.

4. A guest recently commented on her pointy toed stilettos and she explained that she only wore them for sitting.

5. In three years of blogging I can only remember ever getting two word verification codes that were actually real words. But some of these are so close that I think they beg for definitions: TERPOT, HARKATIC, GESSING, MIL, SPENCADE.

6. And is it any wonder that I kept calling the Cirque du Soleil show “Kooza,” Kazoo?

7. I recently saw a woman standing on the corner of our one traffic light in town and waving. For a second I thought she was hailing a cab.

8. But you can’t get Chinese Take-out, a long arm stapler, or a cab in Floyd.

9. Last Christmas I gave my son Josh a box of Chinese Cookies as a gift just so we could read the fortunes and because we both like to use them in our collages. The last fortune I got in a cookie was a smart ass one that said: Your sweetheart may be too beautiful for words for not for arguing.

10. My souvenir from the Cirque du Soleil is a handful of colored tissue confetti that was shot out of a cannon at the audience under a spotlight beam. I collected some for making collage.

11. There’s a new chick in town, at least new to me. Her name is NETCHICK and she’s taken over the Blogger’s Weekend Meet & Greet now that Michele, who I once called the fairy godmother of blogging, has retired.

12. I watched the whole of these two videos of Carrie Fisher talking about her new book Wishful Drinking on the Today Show. She’s quick and very funny but that’s not the main reason I was watching. I got hooked in because she looked like she had no legs and I kept staring and struggling to see where they were.

13. So don’t forget to think about what Scrooge's ghost said: mankind is your business. It’s also mine.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. #163

December 10, 2008

Bryce Has a Bus

Things move fast in the world according to Bryce. One week he’s repeatedly sticking out his tongue, the next week he’s eating bananas. One week he’s teething on toys and shaking rattles, the next he’s all about his new Playschool bus. So I guess I’ll be trading in the rattle I bought him for Christmas for something with four wheels.

Post note: See a video clip of Bryce at 6 ½ months old driving his new bus HERE.

December 9, 2008

Floyd Publisher Introduces Magazine to Southwest Virginia

stac.gif ~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on December 4, 2008.

Natural Awakenings of Southwest Virginia made its debut appearance in November. The 32 page magazine, printed on recycled newsprint with soy based inks, is a monthly guide to "healthier, more natural and environmentally friendly living," writes publisher Stacy Hairfield in the premier issue.

Hairfield, who was born in Richmond and grew up in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, lived in Charlotte for fifteen years before moving with her family to Floyd in February of 2008. The family first came to Floyd during a visit to Hairfield's husband's father who lives in Patrick County. "We stumbled upon Floyd years ago, buying honey and tea from the Harvest Moon," she said.

They liked Floyd and never forgot it. So when the homeschooling stay-at-home mother of three decided she wanted to contribute to the family's finances and felt ready to share her passionate talents more widely, Floyd was the chosen location to launch a local version of the franchised national publication.

The first Natural Awakenings was founded in 1994 in Naples Florida by Sharon Bruckman and expanded in 1999 into a franchise network. Today the network, Natural Awakening Publishing Corporation, consists of 54 markets and serves a community of over 2 million readers, the magazine's national website states.

"I had been reading Natural Awakenings in Charlotte for years. I picked it up while working in a health food store and I loved it. I learned so much and integrated so many of the ideas from the magazine into our lives," Hairfield explained.

She was reading the magazine regularly, when one day she noticed an ad in it, "Own Your Own Natural Awakenings." The opportunities offered - low investment, working at home, access to a great support team, marketing tools, and a meaningful new career - appealed to Hairfield. 'I can do that. I can be a publisher. I love writing,' she said to herself, and the seed for the Southwestern Virginia publication was planted.

Now settled in Floyd, with her children enrolled in Willis Elementary School and her husband, a home builder, commuting daily to North Carolina to work, Hairfield is busy writing, following leads for local stories, and lining up advertisers. As a publisher, she employs an editor, and a small advertising, design and production staff. Compensation for her time comes through ad revenues from the magazine, which is free to the public.

Turning off her ringing cell phone, Harfield explained how much thought she put into her first "Letter from the Publisher," introducing the premiere issue. She wanted to speak from her heart, but also convey an underlying theme "that we all need to honor each other, the good we do and the things we have in common, rather than focus on differences," she said.naturalawkdexc.jpg

According to a description on the index page of the first edition, the magazine's commitment is to provide readers with "cutting edge information on natural health, nutrition, fitness, personal growth, green living, creative expression, and the products and services that support a healthy lifestyle." Each issue also includes the latest News Briefs, Health Briefs, and Global Briefs, along with regular features on raising healthy kids and natural pet care.

Like other Natural Awakenings across the country, the Southwestern Virginia affiliate draws from the national data base for some of its informative, solution-geared feature articles, such as the one that appeared in November's issue by Jim Motavalli, titled "Clean Energy Crossroads."

Other articles in November's issue include those on such topics as Socially Responsible Investing, Managing Moods with Foods, and Talking to Teens. There's a story on Local Roots Café in Roanoke, one on Tender Grass Farm in Rocky Mount (a farm that supplies raw milk by offering families shares in a Jersey Milk Cow), and another on the Hypnosis Practice of Michael McGee, LPC, of Blacksburg.

The magazine's central distribution takes place in Roanoke. It's also distributed anywhere within an hour of the city, and is most recently available in Stuart, Hairfield said. "Eventually we'll be in Richmond and Lexington," she added. Floyd readers can pick up copies of the magazine from the Château Morrisette to Sweet Providence Farm and in many downtown locations in-between, including The Jessie Peterman Library.

The November issue was well received and December's issue is hot off the press with a holiday theme that includes Survival Tips for the Holi-daze, The Gift Every Child Wants, a story on Chateau Morrisette's new chef, and another on how to be a Santa to a senior.

"Tis the season of giving and receiving," Hairfield writes in the December issue. She encourages readers to give a smile to a stressed sales clerk, patience to a demanding relative, time to a child, and quiet time to yourself because "It is in giving that we receive and in graciously receiving we return the blessings to the giver," Hairfield so wisely reminds us.

With the sharing of information and resources, the magazine Natural Awakenings could be described as a venture in giving and receiving. Hairfield hopes that it will act as a vehicle to connect the regional community and that each issue will be received in the spirit it is offered, one of educational and inspirational enrichment for the benefit of everyone involved.

Post Note: For more information on Natural Awakenings of Southwest Virginia, visit their website HERE where issues can be read online. ~ Colleen Redman

December 8, 2008

Gone to the Circus

cdsolten2t.jpg In 1982, a troupe of young street performers mixed with the crowd of tourists, artists and collectors in Baie-Saint-Paul, the Mecca of Quebec painters … Walking on stilts, the entertainers juggled and breathed fire. Inspired by the vacationers’ obvious delight, the performers organized the Baie-Saint-Paul entertainer’s festival, where the public witnessed the beginning of what would soon become Cirque du Soleil … a striking dramatic mix of the circus arts (without animals) and street performance featuring wild, outrageous costumes, magical lighting and original music. ~ From the Kooza program.
It all started with a kite-flying clown and the special delivery of an oversized package. Under the big top tent, a jack-in-box joker jumped out of the box. Confetti shot from a cannon. It fluttered down spotlight beams, raining color on the audience. Contortionists struck kaleidoscope poses. A man from the audience was pick-pocketed. A woman found herself eight feet high when her chair sprung up, shocking those around her. The best clowns in town, one with a crown and a magic wand, kept our funny bones tickled.

Sitting on the edge of my chair, I watched stilt walkers make high jumps off a trampoline. colk.jpgTwo horned devil men emerged from a fiery red and smoke filled background and defied the wheel of death. With a crick in my neck from looking up, I saw the tightrope walkers riding on bikes and a trapeze artist swing high, spin, and hang. Fantastic gymnastics of tumbles and flips and a man balancing on one arm on a tower of chairs got our attention. A juggler, a unicycler, skeletons danced and Keystone cops chased clowns and robbers.

By the power of sound effects that tinkle, zing, and boieng; with sleight of hands, fanfare, and glitter; we were all enchanted and thoroughly entertained.

Post notes: Joe and I were graciously invited by friends to see Cirque du Soleil perform Kooza in the (new) National Harbor area of Washington D.C. Saturday night. I snapped a few shots (second one) without a flash before a circus staff member alerted me that all picture taking was against the rules. That's me in the last shot in the VIP club lounge tent where we hung out (or upside down), eating, drinking, and socializing, before the show and during the intermission. A brief video clip of the show is HERE.

December 5, 2008

Share the Care

sharethecarecoverrevisedlge.jpgI belong to a Share the Care circle. It's a group of people who have agreed to alternate monthly home visits to someone with health issues who has asked for help. Occasionally we all get together for fellowship and a simple meal.

My Share the Care home visits got off to a rough start, a change in her schedule, a change in mine, a snowstorm. When we finally did get together for our first planned hour together, we spent it walking outside. During the second visit we played Scrabble. For the third visit it was Boggle. And then more walking. On that day we were joined by a man with disabilities that I had been hired to support for the day.

Last month when we met, I was feeling frazzled, tired and not thinking well. Upon arriving at her home, I plopped into an easy chair. "Do you mind if we just sit and visit?" I asked, letting out a sigh. I had an interview for as story scheduled right after our hour together. "I have to leave a little early," I added, feeling pressed for time. She was happy to oblige and set an alarm for 40 minutes so that I wouldn't be late for my appointment.

I understand her fatigue issues, when her brain doesn't work the way it should. The disabilities most of us have are only separated by varieties and degrees. I don't do well with events scheduled back-to-back. I need to navigate life with room in between every activity so as not to be overwhelmed with the sensory overload exhaustion that too frequently accompanies Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, something I've been managing for the past twenty-five years.

So we talked. We listened. Her dog tried to jump on my lap. We laughed.

When the alarm when off I jumped! "You're kidding?" I said. It seemed like no more than 15 minutes had passed instead of more than 30.

"Can we sit in silence for a few moments before I go?" I asked, wanting to gather my focus. She loved the idea. We closed our eyes and held the space in silence. As we did, I felt moved by a feeling of gratitude for our mutual exchange, one in which we both were able to get what we needed, while supporting each other at the same time.

I went off to do my interview not feeling scattered and drained, but with humor and a bounce in my step. The interview went well with hardly a clue of the juggling it took on my part to pull it off.

December 4, 2008

The Thirteen Ring Circus

13nowshow.jpg1. I know a young girl whose middle name is Lavender. If you were going to name a baby after an herb, flower, or spice, which would you choose?

2. If you had your own talk show, would you dress more like Oprah or Ellen?

3. When I walk to the mailbox I like exaggerate my stride and the movement of my hips to counter the effects of sitting too long at the computer. While doing this recently I remembered that in high school we called girls that wiggled while the walked “big wheels.” It was a derogatory term.

4. Big wheels are also those low to the ground three wheel bikes that played a major role in the early lives of my son’s generation.

5. Now I have Tina Turner’s song "Proud Mary" stuck in my head because of the “big wheel turning" line.

6. When I see guys with those Kewpie doll hairdos that stick up on the top of their head like THIS, they remind me of babies, and I wonder if they know that in the 50’s that’s how mother’s combed their baby boy’s heads.

7. I know a couple of kids named Sage, a young woman named Yarrow and another named Coriander.

8. I think of my blog as something like a DVD movie with menu selections. The informal writings I do, in balance with more formal pieces, are like backstage outtakes, deleted scenes, and my director’s commentary.

9. Writing poetry is like a tightrope walk between not being too obscure or too obvious.

10. THIS video clip of Bill Moyers talking about Barack Obama brought tears to my eyes.

11. When Joe and I were visiting Josh in Marshall, North Carolina, this past September we all drove over to Mars Hill, North Carolina, which was only a few miles and one letter away.

12. When an old friend of Joe’s offered us free tickets to see Cirque du Soleil this weekend in D.C. Joe asked if I wanted to go on such short notice. “Are you kidding?” I answered, “Cirque do Soleil is on my bucket list!”

13. Then I fantasized putting a sign on my blog that said: “Ran off with the Circus.”

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

December 3, 2008


Tea-ball anchor
settling mantra
stills the tortured tempest
of an undecided mind

Post note: Click HERE and scroll down for more TEAPOET poems.

December 2, 2008

The Sixteen Hands Sneak Preview Story

1. I'm working on a story about Floyd's 16 Hands Studio Tour for the next issue of The Compass, a local visitor's guide. This year was the 10th anniversary of the event and my Asheville potter son Josh was a visiting guest artist. It was an honor for him to be invited to participate and a homecoming too, since he grew up here in Floyd. He knows most of the Sixteen Hand members and has great respect for them.
2. Josh is the founder of Asheville's Clayspace Coop and the builder of the Community Temple, a three tiered woodfiring kiln on his property in Marshall, North Carolina. His artist statement for the 16 Hands show reads: I was raised in Floyd County, Virginia, and the experience of growing up in this close- knit community of farmers and artisans has been the single greatest influence of my life. My inclusion in the 16 hands fall studio tour is a homecoming for me. I am excited by the opportunity to share my growth as an artist since leaving home with the community that nurtured my creative spirit for so many years.
3. At one time there really were sixteen hands, those of the eight members. Some members moved away and twelve hands remain, working together to host the bi-yearly self-guided studio tour. Floyd members are Rick Hensley and Donna Polseno, Ellen Shankin and Brad Warstler, and Silvie Granatelli; all potters except Brad who is a woodworker. Stacy Snyder, another set of hands from Blacksburg, is a potter. Each studio site hosts a visiting guest artist. Josh was hosted at Rick and Donna's and showed his work beside Donna's (above), which made for some exciting contrasts.
4. It's hard to believe that this was my first year to take the tour, although I've been familiar with each Floyd member's work and know them and their children as part of the Floyd community. I'm enough of a Floyd Countian that I didn't need to use the fold-out brochure map provided, but I did need, in some cases, to ask about directions, and I was happy to see that the route was marked with 16 Hands arrow signs. As a tour-goer, I enjoyed the hot herb tea and cookie conversations about politics, how each member found Floyd, and catching up on family news as much as I enjoyed perusing the showrooms of masterful functional and sculpture ceramics, along with Brad's fine woodworking (all of which I hope to write more about in The Compass story.)
5. The Sixteen Hands artists are renowned and together they represent volumes of credentials, honors, and teaching experience, which can be reviewed on their webpage HERE. Over the years their hard work has paid off and their country studios have become destinations. When they open to the public twice a year, collectors and art lovers take advantage of it. Except for Sunday when the county was hit with sleet and ice, this year's tour was well attended.
6. I never got to talk to Rick but did spend some time getting lost in the mandala patterns of his porcelain bowls and platters. I caught a glimpse of him once in his back yard with chimney sweep tool in his hand. The chimney had backed up and was forcing smoke into the house, his apprentice's girlfriend told me. Such is the character of a country Studio Art Tour, I thought.
7. Kent McGlaughlin (on the left), a North Carolinian guest potter at Silvie's place, thought I wasn't tall enough to be Josh's mother. Kent was teaching at Penland School of Crafts the same time Josh was in May. He recalled one evening when an unanswered question prompted Josh to pick up the phone, saying "My mother might know the answer." None of us could remember what the question or answer was but we all agreed I was Josh's Millionaire life-line that night. It was fun to meet Kent (who Josh calls Chet) in person.
8. Between Asheville's recent River Arts District Studio Tour and the Sixteen Hands show, Josh has had a great month, and he still has his Clayspace Annual Holiday Show coming up. He says, "It isn't about selling objects. People want an experience ... and meaning." Most who buy Josh's pots make a connection with him personally. When they learn that he works with locally dug wild clay and that his pottery is woodfired in a hand built kiln, most are able to feel the relationship between that and the finished product, pots that look born from the ground, guided by hand and transformed by the elements.
9. And this is the moral of the story and what it's all about in the end: Joe eating lunch in our kitchen using one of Josh's new pasta bowls.

Photos and post note: 1. Josh in front of Rick and Donna's studio. 2. Josh's new work. 3. Donna's work. 4. Sylvie's studio. She's in the center. 5. Ellen's showroom. 6. Rick's showroom. 7. Kent at Sylvie's. 8. Tour sign. 9. Joe's lunch. Watch a video clip of Josh at the Sixteen Hands wrap-up HERE.