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June 30, 2009

Gone to Soon June

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By the end of June the Parkway rhododendrons are weeping petals and roadside lilies are looking sassy. ‘Fireworks For Sale’ signs have become evident and everyone seems to be having a yard sale.
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My one year old grandson likes me. He holds out his arms now for me to pick him up. He’s not big on waving bye-bye but he likes to point. Whada? Means “What’s that?” and Getah means “get that.” Every week when I see him there’s a new discovery to make. Today I discovered that he likes blueberries more than any boy I’ve known. He can also hear NO from me now without it breaking his heart and he lets me wash his face after breakfast.
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Every year I wonder what would my garden look like if I stayed home all summer, if I kept up with the weeding, if I clipped back the overgrowth, used a weed whacker, or if cleaned out my cellar and pantry. Then the screen door slams, I track garden dirt and bugs follow me inside. At night I jump on the trampoline under a big moon and the beach begins to call.
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Every summer I’m torn between barefoot mornings, lazy hammock afternoons with visiting family and seeing more of the world. Between going and staying, between doing and not doing, between mountains and sea.

June 29, 2009

Where Visual Art and Poetry Converge

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Floyd artist Lora Geissler (pictured above with two of her paintings) asked members of the Floyd Writers Circle to put a poetic voice to her recent body of work. At a Show Opening at the Café del Sol on Sunday, Mara Robbins, Rosemary Wyman and myself performed some of the poetry that resulted from her request. Although we knew the literal subject of many Lora’s painting was an old rusty sink abandoned on a beach in Maine, her zoomed in artist’s eye and sensibility transformed the ordinary into archetypal landscapes that lent themselves to personal interpretation and to the stirring of poetry.
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Rosemary read her poem "Convergence," titled for the painting of the same name. Behind milky scrim … shadowy limbs collect … ready to present. Indistinct faces press … anxious to peer … through the caul.
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Mara’s poem of the same name, written for the same painting, began with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness." It read in part … Howl in the background, falling … ribbon, shells, signs. Birchbark … peeling out of sight, last night … when the stars … were stars, your fingers … This frame. The poem she’s reading in the above shot is titled “Cave of Disembodied Legs” and goes with the picture on her left, titled “Within.”
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My little sips of haiku-inspired verse inviting the listener to slip in-between worlds were of moon and sun as star crossed lovers, a well, a skull, a kiss. A woman’s capacity … Love echoes far … I see myself … I see myself … I see. And Loyal companion … Fixed gaze … Death shows life … The way.
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Lora was the 2008 winner of the Staunton Art in the Park Best in Show, winning a ribbon and a $1,000 prize, along with a solo exhibit at the Staunton Augusta Art Center, which took place this past spring. In an article for The Floyd Press about that exhibit Rosemary described Lora’s work as embodying … a silent generosity – a palpable quality of meditative introspection and reverence … She writes, … For Lora Leigh whole landscapes are to be found where sun bleached New England granite ledge has split apart to produce a deep inky crevice, or where Pacific tides and winds constantly erode sandstone cliffs unearthing prehistoric looking egg-shaped boulders. You can check out Lora’s website HERE.

June 26, 2009

Marching to a Summer Drummer

pedalfxt.jpgThe first taste of blueberries picked from the garden, the first splashed dunk in the Country Club pool. Meals on the porch. Everyday an outside tea party attended in sundress style. The lawn chairs are moved from the open sun, tucked under pine trees in the shade. The dog looks forlorn, overdressed in fur. Industrious carpenter ants with appetites for our log home, leave telltale piles of wood dust around. Flip flops flap and butterflies flit. I slow down and listen to the symphony of wild. Every buzz, chirp, tweet, and drone tells me what I want to hear, that summer is in full swing.

June 25, 2009

Does it Grow Corn?

13ggroxw.jpg 1. My corn is taller than a toddler.

2. If it was a kid it would be in the second grade.

3. “Does it Grow Corn?” is a Native American expression not so unlike “Walk your Talk,” one that I first heard from Medicine Man Sun Bear when he came to Floyd in the 80’s and I wrote about his visit in the Museletter.

4. I might as well be a car mechanic. My hands stay that stained and dirty from gardening all summer long.

5. I just went to write “Sesame Seeds” on my grocery list and wrote “Sesame Street” instead.

6. I haven’t seen a tomato horn worm since I was scared by them as a girl.

7. In case you missed it, the last paragraph in THIS post describes praying mantis sex.

8. Over the weekend I spent the good part of a day in compromising positions that involved ladders and dangling between branches off the edge of the porch while trimming the humongous forsythia bush in front of our house.

9. On my way to town for Floyd’s first annual jubilee festival, I imagined that friends there would ask me how I was doing and that I would answer, “As well as can be expected for someone who just spent an entire day tackling a bush twice as high and five times wider than me.” Of course I ended up answering “pretty good” when they really asked.

10. Because my car needs a new tie rod and makes knocking sounds when I go over bumps, I took the paved road route to town for the Jubilee. While driving I passed the house we lived in before this one (eighteen years ago) and saw a young boy in the yard planting something with his mother. It made me nostalgic for my sons as little boys.

11. While I was at the Jubilee and the Spoken Word Open Mic, my husband Joe spent a very fulfilling Father’s Day weekend helping my Asheville Potter Son with building projects in preparation for the Carolina Kiln Build on his compound in Marshall County. The day after he returned he went down the mountain to baby sit Bryce, my youngest son Dylan’s baby boy. Later, he thanked me for bringing him into such a wonderful family. (My kids were five and seven when Joe and I got together.)

12. I started a list of alternative answers to the question “How are you?” but I wrote them on the back of an envelope while driving and I can’t read my own writing now.

13. What would you do if you ran into one of THESE guys in the garden?

More 13 Thursday play HERE.

June 23, 2009

A Daze of Daisy Days

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A Maze of Daisies
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A Vase of Daisies
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She Loves Me. She Loves Me Not.
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She Loves Me!

June 22, 2009

Just When You Thought the Floyd Spoken Word Couldn't Get Any Bigger

txxp.gifAn overflowing crowd packed the Café del Sol for June's Spoken Word Open Mic. With the warm glow of evening sun streaming in, the café was abuzz with a celebratory din left over from the town's Jubilee festival that day. There was pizza eating, card playing, cappuccino sipping, and socializing, but all quieted to a hush when the readers took to the stage.

Three members of the Floyd Writer's Circle, Rosemary Wyman, Mara Robbins, and I opened the evening with poetry interpretations to Lora Geissler's abstract art that hung on the Café Walls. Eight contributors to the new spring issue of Floyd County Moonshine shared their literary talents. Two poets visiting from Washington D.C. joined the performing line-up, along with returning members of the Spoken Word community and a couple of first time readers. moonxsh.jpg

Mara, Floyd County Moonshine's new associate editor and acting emcee, stood on the café coffee table, projecting her voice over the crowd, welcoming them and reviewing the open mic guidelines. With twenty-eight readers of short stories, poetry, essays, and excerpts from novels and memoirs, the ten minute reading slots had to be cut back to five minutes.

The first Moonshine reader Charles Swanson, who teaches creative writing and composition at Gretna High School, followed Mara's lead and stood on the coffee table until café owner Sally Walker arrived with the PA system that someone said she borrowed from the Floyd Country Store. Ropes of spider webs hanging ...from the low log lintel ... we knocked back with a stick ... and Granddad made ... with twigs and tobacco twine ... a broom to sweep the floor, Swanson read from a poem titled "Broom" about reclaiming a barn from an overgrown tobacco patch. He also read a poem about the drinkable kind of Moonshine, which was written from a variety of voices.flsxxw.jpg

"I don't think I can shout haiku," I said when it was my turn to share my minute of tiny poems inspired by Lora's paintings. By the time I returned to the stage later in the evening for the four minutes remaining of my five minute slot, I was speaking into a mic. From my "Fit to Be Quipped" punch line series excerpted from my blog, I read, My husband Joe has thick curly hair. When my kids were little and Joe needed a haircut, they would tease him by calling him "Ofra" Winfrey. Now when he needs a haircut we just call him Rob Blagojevich. Although I could perfectly pronounce "Blagojevich" all through the day, when I read it on stage I needed the help of the audience to get it right.

Other Floyd County Moonshine contributors reading included Floyd Moonshine editor Aaron Moore, author Neva Bryan, Emory and Henry teacher Felicia Mitchell, Radford poet Cynthia Ring, Hollins University Creative Writing student Sharon Mirtaheri, and Floyd's own Jayn Avery, who Mara introduced as "potter by trade and writer by impulse." hollxx.jpg

Before reading an excerpt from his novel Barn Blazing, Aaron told the crowd that the deadline for the summer Floyd County Moonshine is June 30. It will be an all Floyd edition, he said.

Civilizations crumbled beneath me--a plethora of insects and spiders fled beneath the swipes of the pendulating scythe. I, being a veritable voyeur, only relented at the sight of one thing: preying mantis sex. The male was much lesser in stature than the female, propped on the female's back sitting rigid while hugging her reddish-purple thorax. She was a massive creature compared to him, beautiful in an alien sort of fashion. When they were alerted to my presence, she bore him with her and he held on. ~ From Barn Blazing by Aaron Moore

Post notes: Contributors pictured reading from Floyd Country Moonshine are Charles Swanson, Cynthia Ring, Felicia Mitchell, and Sharon Mirtaheri. Submissions to Floyd County Moonshine, a regional literary and art magazine, should be sent as an attachment to floydshine@gmail.com. Inquiries about advertising and subscriptions can also be made at that address. Copies of Moonshine are available in cafes around town for $7.

June 21, 2009

Scenes from the First Annual Floyd Town Jubilee

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1. My favorite dust sprinkling Blue Fairy walks on clouds.
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2. View of the Floyd Country Store from the newly renovated Station at Locust Street, which was celebrating their Grand Opening with tours. The building, once home of Mama Lizzardo’s Restaurant, combines studio businesses, a tasting room, restaurant, and apartments upstairs. It's very impressive inside and out and the tour was a highlight of the day.
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3. The Floyd Artist Association moved from Art Under the Sun and has a new gallery in the Station. The group also had an outside booth for the day (pictured). Tina Liza Jones (far right), a FAA member, led a group in an old time jam.
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4. Looking down from one of the Station’s balconies onto Jubilee venders selling pottery, clothing, jewelry, art, food, and more.
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5. A Wizard of Oz wind blew up and vendors helped other vendors hold the forts down.
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6. Veterans raising money for veteran causes selling paper poppy flowers as a jamboree mountaineer passes by.
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7. Young Actors Coop and Floyd belly dancers paraded through downtown bringing whimsy and theatrics to the event.
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8. The first annual Floyd Jubilee was also a celebration of the new Warren Lineberry Memorial Park, named for a Floyd judge and active community member who passed away in 2003, and was brought to us by The Partnership for Floyd citizen group. There was general frolicking on the lawn all day, in this case to the tunes of Upland Express.
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9. It was a great turnout and I think everyone who attended would agree the Jubilee was a success. There were tractor rides and a garden Par-Tea on the lawn of one historic home. I was sorry I missed some of the other musical performances, Rob Neurirch’s storytelling at the Hotel Floyd amphitheater stage, and the Hollerin’ Contest (but cafe owner Sally Walker gave us a good sample of the hollerin’ at the Café del Sol Spoken Word later that night).

June 19, 2009

I Made My First Soul Collage Card and I Love It

scz.gif Having just come off a dizzying roller coaster ride of the written word, I went to an open house art day at Rosemary's house to play in the world of non-verbal fairytale, to tell a deeper story with image and color. There was sunlight shining in on the dining room table, strawberry rhubarb pie and blueberry muffins, scissors and glue stick, and wise woman talk.

It turns out that making a soul collage card is a lot like writing poetry. It's an intuitive process that when you get it right feels like hitting the nail on the head, like finding an antidote for the over-rush of days, a ticket for the psyche to travel. Some make a whole deck of soul collage cards with suits for readings. I was happy today just to make one.
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I don't remember looking for the pieces or the parts that make up my first soul collage. It started with a sage green sheet of letters brought by another budding soul collage artist. The rest just seemed to appear before me. It manifested like a doodle I was hardly aware I was working on.

I love gazing at it. I love the 5X8 card size. I love not interpreting it into words, but knowing on some level exactly what it means and knowing that the meaning can change with the tiniest shift of perception. Have her roller skates been underused or overused? Is that Van Gogh's sunflower, the same one that hung for years on my fridge with the words of Rumi printed on it: Let yourself be silently drawn to the stronger pull of what you really love?

June 18, 2009

The 13 Thursday Deal

13hwie.jpg1. A couple of times this month when I was reading my blog comments I thought that my friend June from Spatter had visited but it was really just the month June recorded with each comment that I was reading.

2. I confess to not understanding Deal or No Deal and not wanting to.

3. I don’t even like the sound of it, but recently before I could get to the TV to shut it off, I noticed this beautiful 13 opportunity.

4. I have two stories in this month’s Natural Awakenings of Southwest Virginia, one on Floydfest and one on a pool player. Click on Monthly Magazines and June HERE for a real page turner. Notice how the pool ball in the second story has a 13 on it.

5. The only pool I’m familiar with is the one full of water.

6. Speaking of water, there’s been talk amongst Facebook friends in this rain drenched area about building an ark, paddling to the mailbox, and growing webbed feet.

7. Line for an imaginary novel that came to me while driving: With lipstick in hand, she shifted into gear and left a cloud of dust behind her.

8. Or maybe my life is being narrated.

9. Some lines come while I’m making comments on other people’s blogs, like this one about seasonal blooms: “The flowers come and go so fast it gives me whiplash.”

10. Every time I drive past the street in Floyd called “Needmore," I want to name a street “Need Less.”

11. Need less and needless have such different meanings but both make me think of the plural of needle.

12. 13 Thursday is a deal I can’t refuse.

13. Thanks to my favorite bird, the Wood Thrush, THIS is what my yard sounds like all summer.

More playing HERE.

June 17, 2009

Pit Stop Porch Cafe

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The three dogs all got along great, Maury’s, Jude’s, and ours. Maury (pictured with Joe below) brought me roses that he grew in his backyard, ones that adorned the dining table at the weekend meditation retreat for caregivers and counselors that he, Joe, and Alan Forrest (head of the counseling department at Radford University) just finished hosting.
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It was a Sunday afternoon pit stop before the threesome (five, counting dogs) would head off to Charlottesville for a Monday morning meeting on mindfulness and death and dying. They were tired but buzzing with good vibes.
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With porch swings swinging and wind chimes singing, we lollygagged on the porch, talking about Love and Kindness, Buddhism, and the Wise Woman tradition. I dished them up venison spaghetti and greens from the garden, and after we ate, I sent each one off to find a bed for an hour long nap before starting the next leg of their adventure.
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Post notes: Together, with a group from California, Maury and Joe helped launched MAYA (Mindful Awareness for Young Adults), a national organization that presents meditation retreats for teens and young adults. The next Virginia Teen Meditation Retreat, held 30 minutes from Floyd, is August 9-15. More about that retreat and others, including press coverage and photos can be found at the website for Earthsong Organic Farm and Retreat Center in Stuart, where some of the retreats are held.


June 16, 2009

Full Plate

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My Son is a Potter
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My Cupboard Runneth Over
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My Heart and My Tea Cups are Full

June 15, 2009

A Force to be Reckoned With

13grlsdiplxo.jpgThe mother in me can’t help but brag and the documenter in me can’t help but keep track. Last weekend while covering the 2009 Floyd County High School Graduation for the local paper, I discovered something unique. Both the graduating valedictorian and the salutatorian have educational roots in the Blue Mountain School, Floyd’s parent-run cooperative with roots in Waldorf education that was founded in the early 80’s. It’s the school where my sons Josh and Dylan went before enrolling in public school in the 6th and 5th grades and where I taught a creative writing class for nearly a decade in exchange for tuition.

Although I haven’t been involved in the school since my now 27 year old started public school, my bookcase is lined with past BMS yearbooks. My photo albums are stuffed with pictures of BMS plays, seasonal ceremonies, Spanish night, potlucks, and even a circus. My filing cabinet has a Dolphin Messenger folder for the monthly arts newsletter I helped the BMS kids produce. I have video of girls, who are grown up now, jumping rope and young boys, who are men now, building forts in the pine forest that surrounded the community built school.5podiumx.jpg

Born out of the homeschooling movement, BMS has always fostered a hands-on approach to education, one that emphasizes critical thinking, the arts, and, as the BMS webpage reads, “…a love of learning and respect for family, community, and nature as great teachers and partners” in the educational process.

By my count I can think of 5 other past BMS students who have made it to the same positions of honor that Kaya and Mallory have. The school provided a foundation to other kids who went on to become teachers, acupuncturists, environmental organizers, physician’s assistants, welders, artists, lawyers and more.

BMS kids are a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced by my son Josh whose career as a potter I’ve chronicled on this blog. I’ve also written about past salutatorian/valedictorians with BMS beginnings, Johanna Neuman HERE and Cloe Franko HERE.

Post Notes: The Photos above are two of group that recently appeared in The Floyd Press. Pictured in the first photo are 2009 graduates, Young Actors Coop member Bedelia Burris-McGrath, Salutatorian Kaya Norton, and Amber Wiley-Vawter. The three students on the podium stage in the second photo all have BMS ties and are Clay Weiss (class president), Mallory Coartney (valedictorian) and Kaya Norton (salutatorian) in the back. Check out the BMS website HERE and visit their booth at Floydfest

June 13, 2009

After the Beep, Say What You Mean

AKA – I know the post that should be here, but I haven’t written it yet, so in the meantime, here are some collages to look at.
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Death by Computer
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Dancing on Wall Street’s Grave
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Stop in the Name of Love
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Trees Don’t Grow on Money Either
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When I was a girl I had a dream that when I grew up I would travel around in a big black car and pass sandwiches out to all the people who were hungry. The picture in the left hand corner is of me with my brothers Jim and Dan in 2001. Jim died two weeks after it was taken. We sang Let it Be to Dan in the hospital a month later before he died.

Post note: The above photos were taken from my collage journal that I was keeping around the time of the run up to the Iraq Invasion and just after the Enron scandal.

June 12, 2009

Flirting with Flowers

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Eye on Iris
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Fallen Out of Love
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A Petticoat of Petals
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Bleeding Heart

June 11, 2009

13 In the Bag

13bag.jpg1. I sent Mara and Kyla home with a bag full of garden lettuce when they were here playing Scrabble last week. Later, Mara texted me an email from her new phone saying, “Thanx 4 the lettuce.” I replied “are you alliterating it or just ating it?”

2. To which she texted back “lets see...lettuce leaves little to alliterate, lest you love lines like: "Look! Lettuce! Lord, how loose is this life.”

3. The “alliteration” line goes back to a poem Mara wrote and one I answered (called Poet’s Hotline), which starts … Her words land in poems … like eggs in a skillet … She makes them sizzle … She burns the butter … And ends with She’s alliterating lettuce … for a garden villanelle.

4. The highlight or my week happened when a young girl at the video store told me she liked my hair. Not only did the much appreciated compliment come at a time when I wasn’t liking my hair and needed to hear something nice, I was impressed that a young girl would even notice me.

5. The play HAIR is back. My sister Sherry and I saw the original in Boston back when many who were in it and practically everyone watching really was a hippie. Now they have actors to play them.

6. We grew up knowing that dirty things came in brown paper bags, but so did our school lunches.

7. In the 60’s when we weren’t “into” something, we really did say, “It’s not my bag,” which wasn’t any stranger than saying “It’s not up my alley.”

8. Do you remember the Unknown Comic and did you ever wonder who was under the paper bag he wore on his head? The answer is HERE.

9. BYOB used to mean "Bring Your Own Booze" but now, in light of the fact that we are drowning in non-biodegradable plastic bags and trees are cut down to make paper ones, it should mean "Bring Your Own Bag."

10. So many ways to say bag. There’s bag it… bag of wind…grab bag … doggie bag … bag lady … old bag …bag of bones …bag of tricks …. a mixed bag …left holding the bag … cat out of the bag …and half in the bag.

11. Ever since I learned that there’s a raft of plastic debris the size of Texas that has collected and is floating somewhere out in the Pacific, I started carrying my own reusable shopping bag in my pocketbook. (More HERE.)

12. Wearing plastic: Do you know how to tell if a garment of clothing is cotton or polyester? Clip off a piece from the underside and burn it with a match. If it’s cotton or some other natural fiber, it will burn to ash and disappear. If it’s polyester or some other unnatural material it burns into a hard plastic ball.

13. Most famous plastic bag HERE.

More 13 Thursday Players are HERE.

June 10, 2009

MEN2B Fans Turn-out for Performances

~The Following was published in The Floyd Press on June 4, 2009.
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What do you get when you mix a talentless pop band, four teeny bopper fans, a little sister who gives a mean evil eye, an older one who is a blatant hippie, a greedy producer with a Cojo-like wardrobe, a road manager with latent talent that comes to light, a ticket scalper who wears a kilt, and an uptight investigative reporter?
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With inventive costumes, creative set designs, and quick change artists reminiscent of the Saturday Night Live cast members, the Young Actors Coop (YAC) presented three packed performances of their latest play MEN2B on a recent weekend.
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Directed by Rose McCutchan and written by Haden Polseno-Hensley, the play retained a comedic thread throughout, but there was also drama as the boy band being hyped as the next Beatles were exposed as fakes by investigative reporter Connie Carrington (Bedelia Burris-McGrath). The boys' British accents were entertaining but phony. They didn't really play instruments, and they had a Milli Vanilli secret, Carrington eventually revealed.
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In the end, the teeny boppers - whose adventures the audience followed as they navigated their way to a concert - prevailed. Because of the catchy pop song Middle School Dance, written by Adam Parks, most in the play (and in the audience) were converted to MEN2B fans, even though the band lip synced the song.
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The play included some spoofs on authoritarian parents, overly busy distracted parents, and ones that don't talk to each other. A bus scene, featuring bizarre riders who played against the four naïve girl fans, was almost a play within a play, or at least a possible Twilight Zone episode. The scene provided a chance to spotlight the talents of two gothic hipsters, Jelly and PB (played by Coriander Woodruff and Emerson Perry), who spoke a street-wise Shakespearean lingo and ended up helping the girls.
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A bag boy played by the youngest YAC member, 7 year old Arlo Gilbert-Tanner, won the audience over with a tantrum in the spirit of Harpo Marx. A tough talking bus driver, a group of protesters, a newscaster named Patrick McNaughtnews (Abraham Cherrix) and his sidekick, and a ballet teacher from France rounded out MEN2B's cast of characters.
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In the final concert encore scene, the boy band owns up to their fakery. Joined by their road manager onstage, they are transformed into MEN@last. Their costumes, sewed by YAC parent Sue Osborne and inspired by the cartoon Beatles on the Yellow Submarine album cover, helped set a celebratory atmosphere as the band broke out singing 'we all live in a yellow submarine' and the actors and audience sang along.

As YAC's first full feature play, with 13 scenes and 37 characters played by 19 actors, MEN2B might be the group's most ambitious production to date. And they pulled it off. ~ Colleen Redman

Photos and Video Clips: 1. MEN2B boy band fans in one of the girl's bedroom scheme plans to take a bus to the band's concert. Actors from left to right are Bethlehem Cherrix, Jessica Spangler, Avery Foster, and Vivianna Lynch. VIDEO HERE. 2. Hannah Mitchell and Abraham Cherrix play the worried parents of college girl Marcia (Bedelia Burris-McGrath) and her teeny bop sister Melissa (Avery Foster) in a scene that involves fast paced back-to-back cell phone conversations. 3. Jelly and PB. VIDEO HERE.
4. MEN2B road manager Miles Martin sets a thoughtful mood with the singing of Eleanor Rigby after discovering that the band is a fake. Miles, played by Mars Woddail, is accompanied by Floyd Music School students, and a student of Bernie Coveney, on violins and guitar. 5. Reporter Connie Carrington (Bedelia Burris-McGrath) questions ticket scalper (Cameron Woodruff) as protesters look on. 6. MEN2B, played by Cameron Woodruff, Elias Sarver-Wolf, Emerson Perry, and Ian Gammarino, sing Middle School Dance. VIDEO HERE. 7. MEN2B, transformed into MEN@last, sing Yellow Submarine. VIDEO with cast line HERE.

June 9, 2009

Small Towns Hold Most Promise, Author Says

bmgcstore.jpgThe following was published in The Floyd Press newspaper on June 4, 2009 and online HERE.

Environmental activist and best selling author Bill McKibben recently spoke at The Floyd Country Store on sustainable local economy. He was hosted by Sustain Floyd, a newly formed citizen group with a mission of protecting and enhancing the natural, cultural, and economic resources of Floyd.

Scholar in Residence at Vermont's Middlebury College, McKibben lives in a Vermont town smaller than Floyd. He's a Methodist Sunday School teacher, and has written for a wide range of publications, everything from The New Yorker and The Atlantic to Christianity Today, National Geographic and Rolling Stone. His first book End of Nature has been described as being the first to bring attention to global warming. His latest, Deep Economy, questions the assumption that unlimited growth is an essential part of a healthy economy.

Rural communities once thought to be getting passed-by because they didn't have four lane highways hold the most promise for economic sustainability today, McKibben told an attentive crowd of about 140. "The curve of history is bending in a new direction. Small towns are on the right side of history," he said.

Citing the recent spike in gas prices and its inevitable return, McKibben explained the importance of asking how we can do things closer to home. "Five years ago the cost of bringing a container load of goods from China to the U.S. was $3,000. Last summer the cost of bringing a container load of goods from China to the U.S. was $18,000." 1bxmg.jpg

For a local economy to be sustainable, emphasis needs to be on resiliency, rather than constant growth and speed, and on what economists call "comparative advantage," McKibben explained. Comparative advantage means determining what your locality has that others are lacking, or what McKibben refers to as "playing to your strengths."

Food grown on small local farms and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms, along with homegrown music are some of Floyd's "valuable commodities" that foster its independence, Mckibben pointed out. His comments brought nods and applause from some in the crowd. After praising the county for being ahead of the curve, Mckibben added, "I predict that Floyd's biggest problem will be that it will be too desirable. It would be smart to deal with land use and planning in advance if you want to protect the things that make it so desirable."

McKibben said he wrote Deep Economy after coming across poll data showing that Americans' satisfaction with their lives peaked in 1956 and has since been on the decline, even though the material standard of our wealth has almost tripled since then.

Another study that piqued his attention was one that compared big box chain shopping with Farmers Market shopping. Sociologist's conducting the study found that shoppers at Farmers Markets had 10 times more conversation. "It's how everyone shopped for 10,000 years, since the beginning of agriculture, and how 80% of the world population still do. Local food knits communities together," McKibben said.
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"China and the rest of the world are starting to use oil in large quantities. There's only so much of it in the ground." Citing a recently released report from the International Energy Administration, Mckibben reported that the world is running out of oil faster than once thought. Without cheap oil, mobility won't be as easy as it was in the past and the idea of moving everything long distances won't be as feasible, he said.

But there are also hopeful signs. "For the first time in 150 years, the number of small farms in Virginia and in others places around the country is on the rise," Mckibben noted, adding that "Farmers Markets are the fastest growing part of the food economy in this country. Wind power is the fastest growing source of electric generation around the world, and local live performances and festivals are growing very quickly."

An engaging question and answer period followed Mckibben's half-hour talk and went on for over an hour. Responding to a question on the problems of rural transportation, he suggested the use of new technologies to organize ride sharing and said we could learn a lot from young people. "They have an intuitive sense of how to build community across these new sets of technologies."

Addressing a question about climate change, the issue that McKibben spends most of his time working on, he remarked, "Policy change is important. We can't solve global warming one light bulb at time anymore. It's too big. It's happening too fast. We need huge change, but we can do some of the work ourselves."

In regard to feeding those in need during the transition from fossil fuels, and in the midst of extreme weather events predicted by scientists, he paraphrased Scripture saying "Love one's neighbor," and recommended bringing in people who don't think of themselves as environmentalists, involving local churches, and having back-up systems. "What's most important is to have strong communities where people can rely on each other," he summarized.

Founder of 350.org, a global initiative to bring awareness to climate change, Mckibben encouraged the audience to consider creative ways to get involved in the group's October 24th action project, a day of worldwide rallies, parades, and art installations designed to build a movement around the climate crisis. "It makes an impact," he said.

Towards the end of his talk Mckibben joked, "Don't you guys have to go to work at some point?" With a blend of intellect, humor, and spiritual reflection, he managed to convey an upbeat message about the global challenges ahead, predicting that the quality of life will be actually be going up. "Our problem is that we've been trying to meet non-material needs for love, respect, status, affection, and all those things humans need with material purchases, and it hasn't worked very well."

Mckibben doesn't consider himself an optimist or a pessimist. He long ago stopped thinking in those terms. "I just get up every day and try to figure out what I can do to change the odds in the right direction," he concluded. ~ Colleen Redman

Note: a video clip of McKibben at the Floyd Country Store can be found HERE.

June 7, 2009

Where is the Poetry in This Day?

rosex1.gifIs it in the screech the baby phoebes make when their mother brings food to their nest on the porch rafter?

The meditative in and out of a sewing needle, readying seasonal clothes for summer?

The silence that lingers between the needle and the pen my husband is writing with on the other side of the porch?

The sound of a fat bee buzzing?

The leisurely breeze exhaling?

The various shades of green I see in the yard when I lift my eyes?

The first red rose opened to expose its sunny yellow center, picked from the garden for a vase on the garden table?

The drop of rain hitting the upside-down empty compost bucket?

The startling rustle of two mating birds as they collide and tussle, then drop to the ground?

The jingle of sea glass chimes gifted to me the last time I was visiting the beach town of my childhood.

Where is the poetry in your day?

June 6, 2009

Mara Makes a House Call

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I thought she came over to play a game of Scrabble but maybe she came to show off what her new Voyager phone could do. She downloaded Loose Leaf Notes and checked my comments, took a picture of me (see below) with the phone, texted it to Facebook and read me the comments it got as we played!
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What am I supposed to do with these letters?
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Isn't this an ingenious way to get a peek at Mara's letters?
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Can you believe that after Mara beat me, we played Speed Scrabble with her daughter Kyla Rose and Kyla won?

June 5, 2009

You’re on the Air

amor.jpg Being interviewed on WUVT radio reminded me of, but wasn’t as bad as, the time I testified in court. At that time, I had a story to tell and wanted to tell it, but once on the witness stand my mind went blank and I had to count on the lawyer asking me questioning me to ask the right ones.

All joking aside, in the case of the radio interview, there were four of us participating in the “Talk at the Table” discussion, so any pressure felt was shared. The subject of the day was environmental author Bill McKibben’s recent talk in Floyd and Blacksburg on sustainable local economy and global warming. Our gracious talk show host with a knack for gleaning meaning was New River Valley’s Community Foundation’s director Andy Morikawa.

Two of my fellow interviewees, Jerry Moles and Bo Abernathy, I hadn’t met before. Fellow blogger, local author and past member of the writer’s group I belong to, Fred First provided me with a sense of familiarity and an appreciation that I wasn’t the only one whose body language towards the end of the two hour session was saying ‘can we go out and play now?’

There was no script and no rehearsal, no chance for a do-over, no matter how many better answers I devised after the fact. But the good news was that Andy did a great job facilitating and framing the discussion and I only felt like Sarah Palin winging an interview on one occasion. onair.jpg

Jerry, Fred, and Bo are all more identified with and experienced as environmentalists than I am, and each is a member of Sustain Floyd, the group that brought McKibben’s to Floyd. I came to the table as a writer who covered McKibben’s Floyd talk and as one in the first wave of back-to-the landers who came to Floyd more than two decades ago to live more self-sufficiently and to raise our kids on homegrown principles. Over the years, the Floyd alternative community has been sharing and trading resources, creating our own meaningful life passages, putting out a monthly newsletter, running a parent-run cooperative school, making our own plant medicinals, and growing children and food together – not so unlike the type of community that Mckibben recommends for developing the collective resiliency needed to make the transition away from fossil fuel and to cope with the extreme weather effects of climate change.

“Policy is important but we can do some of the work ourselves,” McKibben said about the challenges of global warming. Some of that work will involve lifestyle changes and simplifying our lives. Some will have to do with education and organizing and will be done by groups like Sustain Floyd. Forums for community building, story telling, and sharing resources, like the one Andy’s show provides, also play a role. I for one plan to stay tuned. 90.7 FM Sunday afternoons.

Post Note: Eventually the talk we recorded will be available on podcast. For now, you can listen to one of Andy’s previous shows on local food in which many Floyd friends show up HERE.

June 4, 2009

13 Thursday Symphony of Tricks

wiluy.gif1. Yesterday's writer's cramp is today's carpal tunnel.

2. Sometimes I like to run my hand across the keyboard like Liberace playing piano.

3. Besides covering two stories, participating in a live radio interview about Bill McKibben's visit to Floyd, and putting together the Museletter (a Floyd community newsletter) this past weekend, I managed to take in The Roanoke Symphony playing Motown while members of Cirque du Soleil performed!

4. My favorite part of the show was watching Conductor David Wiley. Unfortunately, I didn't get a clip of the expressive conductor jumping and dancing in his bell bottom suit. THIS video clip, taken early on in the show, is of cirque performing to Led Zeppelin while an acrobat violinist joins the symphony from a trapeze.

5. I also saw the new YAC play MEN2B which concludes with a boy band dressed like the cartoon Beatles in Yellow Submarine singing ... we all live in a yellow submarine ... HERE.

6. My sister Sherry used to think Yellow Submarine was "Jealous of Marine."

7. She also thought "wind chill factor" was the "windshield factor."

8. Better than a magic trick HERE.

9. But the best trick is when I mow our whole acre and ½ yard without the riding lawnmower breaking down once.

10. Because I started to have early signs of carpal tunnel, I've been alternating using my pc with my laptop, which means I'm using a jump drive to transfer work from one computer to the other, resulting in so many versions of changed and unchanged writing that I've frequently found myself utterly confused, which made me think of this quote by Lee Segall: A man with a watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.

11. Yesterday I got some body work done at the Chinese Medicine clinic. "I'm in good hands ... literally!" I told the practitioner who was massaging me.

12. The sun is rich like sugar. When I've get too much I feel full and have to go lie down.

13. If the sun is like sugar, the moon is salt. I like that too.

More playing 13 Thursday are HERE.

June 3, 2009

Stroll is the Way We Roll

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It turns out that a day in the park with my grandson Bryce was just what the doctor ordered for my recent bout of being over-extended.
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Following a stroller stroll in the park, we had a picnic on the grass. I call the above picture “Bryce’s lunch hour.”
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After lunch and with his shirt still wet from the orange he ate, he set out with his pinwheel in hand to see what other people in the park were doing. In his baby crocs, he walked, and I followed. The biggest drama of the outing was that he stepped in some gum. We also threw rocks in the creek. See the action video “A Boy and His Pinwheel” HERE.

June 2, 2009

A Flyby

flby.jpgThis past Saturday I went to the Humane Society’s Stand Up for Strays yearly Yard Sale to take pictures for The Floyd Press.

While there I met a woman whose accent I recognized. Turns out she comes from Holbrook, Massachusetts – my hometown’s football rival – and graduated high school the same year I did! Now she lives in Floyd and raises alpacas, two of which she had at the event.

I also found out that, apparently, I have a look-like. An old friend whose kids I used to baby-sit for swore I had taken to walking up and down a busy street that she regularly passes on the other end of county from where I live. “She looks just like you. I was worried about why you were walking on that road,” my friend who was vending her stained glass said.

Then I ran into June from Spatter and we both agreed about how busy life has been. She hasn’t been posting any in depth entries or visiting other blogs too much, she said. We watched and both took pictures of a Flyball demonstration, a dog sport in which dogs race, jump over hurdles, collect a ball and take it back to the finish line.

The next day when I pulled out my camera to document something and someone made a comment about a possible blog post, I said, “Yup, a blogger’s work is never done,” and the Flyball dog in the above picture came to mind.

June 1, 2009

Over My Head

und.gifI suspect that some of my friends are planning an intervention. I've recently had to cancel a few dates with them because I've been so busy covering stories, taking pictures and writing, and generally getting so wound up that I have to rest in between each activity and every chance I get.

Excitement can be a form of stress, which makes me wonder if the stories I've recently worked on had been boring would I be in better shape now? In the past week I've covered Tour de Floyd, the Young Actors Coop's new play, and best selling environmental author Bill Mckibben's visit to Floyd (story in the Floyd Press this Thursday), back-to-back. All are events that are personally exciting to me, ones that I want to cover, ones that make me forget while I'm covering them that my ability to function is compromised by a longstanding case Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

It's not that I've been working too much; it's that I've been working too much for me. I've taken to sleeping with wrist braces to stave off early signs of carpal tunnel, to eating peanut butter out of the jar on the run, and to noticing how one day of not doing kitchen chores gives the appearance that I live in squalor. I've been using my laptop more, reclining in my bed while typing and thinking about how the author of Sea Biscuit, who also has Chronic Fatigue, wrote her best selling book that way.

A few years ago when I was still on dial-up, two of my girlfriends had been trying to reach me on the phone for a couple of hours when I was online, so they walked over my house to personally pull the plug. I eventually convinced them to stop asking me how many hours I've spent on the computer and to ask instead, 'how many hours of work did you get done today?'

But it's not that I need to get off the computer because writing by hand hurts my wrist too (and so does weeding in the garden, chopping vegetables and everything else). Writing can be fun and relaxing or hard work. Either way involves occupational hazard. Even so, as I type this, feeling burned out and ragged, I can't help imaging that my girlfriends are on their way over to help me set some limits.