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August 31, 2009

Asheville Shots and Afterthoughts

1. Bedrock
2. A Goatee?
3. Sun ripe
4. The Potter is in
5. Walking off into the sunset

Post Notes:
Taken from last weekend's visit to my son Josh's Carolina Kiln Build. Pictures and video clips of that are HERE.

August 29, 2009

An Independent Film with a Floyd Connection

2joang.jpg~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on August 13th and online HERE.

The words action, pan, zoom, and cut were recently heard at The Coffee Mill in Radford where a team of local filmmakers were shooting scenes for an independent film called Boots, named for one of the film's featured players: a cat.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years and experiencing some encouraging developments in their careers, Joe Caldwell and Angela Caldwell decided they didn't want to raise their children in L.A. and have returned to the New River Valley to pursue filmmaking in this region.

Angela, the film's producer and videographer, graduated from Radford University in 2001 with a Bachelors degree in Electronic Media Production. In Los Angeles she worked for the Buchwald Talent Group, was a background actor for film and television, and produced and edited commercial and narrative projects.sceboom.gif

Joe, who wrote and is directing Boots, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2000 with a degree in history and a dream to become a filmmaker. His first short film, Open Season, won him a best director award at a Hollywood film festival. "It landed me on the post-production studios of Fox Studios and the likes of an Emmy winning composer wanted to collaborate on my work. I expect no less on my future projects, including Boots," he said.

While scouting for shooting locations, Joe Caldwell passed by The Coffee Mill after hours and noticed an exhibit of cat portraits hanging on the wall. When he returned the next day he learned that the portraits were painted by Gretchen St. Lawrence of Floyd's Blue Ridge Art Connection at The Station. "To me it was as if God had winked at me that this would be the place," Caldwell said.

In the sun filled café, amidst customers drinking morning coffee and working on laptops, the crew began filming scenes for what Caldwell describes as a dry romantic comedy between a guy and a cat. "Guy meets girl. Girl moves in with her cat. Girl leaves guy with her cat. Now the guy, who really isn't a cat person, must come to terms with his new roommate through the process of trying to do her in," he explained. 4scediff.jpg

"The girl" is played by Colleen Walsh, an actress from Richmond who answered the couple's casting call ad and auditioned for the part. Local musician Brady Stevens plays the male lead, and the rest of the cast and film crew assistants are also from the New River Valley.

The cat? The Caldwell's family cat - whose name is actually not Boots, but Jupiter - was used in all the cat scenes. St. Lawrence agreed to paint a portrait of the rising star and finished it in time to be hung as a prominent backdrop for some of the café scenes.

Capturing the cat's likeness from a photograph in 2 ½ hours, St. Lawrence worked fast but said that painting Jupiter (aka Boots) was a challenge. "Such a wild thing and with a face like that!" she said, explaining that all the cat's markings were off center. "But I wanted to get it right." booxts.jpg

Joe Caldwell, who will soon be teaching classes combining video film arts and social studies for the Pulaski school system, explained that when the film is finished it will go into post production for editing and will then be submitted to film festivals. He hopes to show a first screening at the Coffee Mill, or perhaps at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.

"Our goal is to work with area talent and businesses to promote filmmaking in the New River Valley," he said. "The history here is rich. It just takes a bit of talent to draw it out, and the talent is by all means here." ~ Colleen Redman

August 28, 2009

Scenes from the Carolina Kiln Build

This is the Carolina Kiln Build team twelve days into the build, taken five days ago. It consists of ten potters from all over the country and two facilitators (Josh Copus, center, and Eric Knoche, far left), living and working together in a three week intensive workshop, building two woodfire kilns on my son Josh Copus's property in Madison County, North Carolina.
Coffee is good.
Worker bees around the honey hive?
The best laid plans.
It takes many hands.
Lunch in dining hall at Josh’s Airstream Compound.
This is the part where Joe and I give away the plot to the new movie District 9 and a lot of hands went up when Joe asked who was going to go home and build their own kiln after the 3 week workshop.
Katy and Steve, potters from Austin, Texas, laying brick.

Post notes: See the two kilns, the Burrow and the Land Shark, up close with an explanation by Josh about each kiln HERE and HERE. Click and scroll HERE for more Asheville Potter pictures and stories.

August 27, 2009

13 Thursday Free Verse

13linez.jpg1. This is the time of year that I’m up to my nostrils in pesto making.

2. After the transition to HD caused a more than few TV channels to disappear and a new one to appear, I’ve started watching Sex in City reruns for the first time and have found myself wishing they’d do a reunion show with the main characters all over the age of 50. Oh wait, that’s been done. It’s called The Golden Girls.

3. Corn is considered a grain rather than a vegetable. The female flower is the silk.

4. I recently interviewed someone for a story who has developed an artistic line of merchandise and who uttered the word “tershit” three times before I caught on that he was saying “tourist shit.” (Too bad I had to edit it out.)

5. As a Massachusetts Irish American who has voted Democrat all my adult life because they represent my views on women’s rights, civil rights, labor rights and the environment better than their counterpart, I’m sad about the death of Ted Kennedy, the last of a line, a champion and icon. I see no one quite like him on the horizon. A moving video clip of Kennedy’s recent impassioned thoughts on universal health care is HERE.

6. Watch Steven Colbert call for “End of the World Sex” while talking to environmental author and founder of 350.org Bill Mckibben HERE.

7. Colbert then suggests that people all over the world set their ovens to 350 to beat global warming at its own game. Find out why 350 is the most important number in the world HERE.

8. Upon borrowing the book of poetry pictured above from one of the Carolina Kiln Build potters while in Asheville, I realized that pottery and poetry is the same word with some letters moved around.

9. My son Josh’s cat’s name is Jean Claude Chairman Meow.

10. Working at the computer overtime makes my mouse arm feels like the alien prawn arm the guy in the science fiction black comedy movie District 9 started to grow.

11. the poet Robert Frost thought that writing free verse was like "playing tennis without a net".

12. My own call to free verse is called “Free Leonard Peltier and the Japanese Tanka” and goes like this: Don’t squeeze syllables into lines they’re not made for … Don’t pin a turned phrase under glass … Even a small unpredictable poem can kick down a locked door … can climb over the top of the page.

13. Remind me to NEVER get a pair of jeans like THIS!

More Thirteen Thursday players are HERE.

August 26, 2009

Land Hoe

A month with a trackhoe on two acres of land in rural Madison County brings a whole new meaning to the term "rock and roll." My son Josh (pictured on the left below) said he started feeling that the industrial strength excavating machine was an extension of his body and admitted to feeling god-like moving so many huge boulders around.
It had been a year since I last visited Josh's property, home of the 3 chambered Noborigama kiln The Community Temple. Although the site reflected the work of the twelve Carolina Kiln Build potters currently in the midst of building two new kilns, the new landscape taking shape was evident in the rock retaining walls, the labyrinth of stone stairways and walkways, and an open grassy terrace overlooking the kiln and studio.
Down at Josh's living space by the creek, a stone walkway away from the kilns and studio, I was surprised to see a raised bed vegetable garden and sunflowers starting to bend. There were balloons and neon silly string hanging from the Airstream's porch rafters where the group had recently celebrated the 31st birthday of Eric Knoche, who is co-facilitating the workshop with Josh.
Around back, an outdoor tub tucked into the woods next to the composting outhouse now stands as an invitation to a peaceful pause. With the creek water running and clay pots set around the stone pedestal wall that holds up the tub, it brings to mind an ancient bathing ceremony fit for the Buddha himself.

Post note: Photos of the Carolina Kiln Build and the new anagama kilns, the Burrow and the Land Shark, will be posted on Friday. A first video tease of Josh showing Joe the two new kilns twelve days into the three week build is HERE.

August 24, 2009

Beers and Cheers with a Cherry on Top

The Wedge Microbrewery in Asheville reminds me of an ice cream parlor. At the soda fountain-like bar people sit and sample flavors before deciding on a favorite, before bartenders pour glass tumblers of amber gold and cocoa brown with frothy cream-like tops.
Light and dark beers, like vanilla and chocolate, have names like Iron Rail, Oatmeal Stout, Belgium Abbey, and Golem. Malt and hops, porter and ale. There's even a raspberry and chocolate flavored stout on tap.
Inside there's music, peanuts, and neighborly conversation. Outside you can get a table under a tree in the metal sculpture garden and watch the trains go by.

Post note: Our trip to Asheville for the Carolina Kiln Build on my son Josh's property in Madison County began with a visit to The Wedge, a tasting brew pub where Josh (pictured above) tends bar on weekends. It's in the River Arts District, in the same building as Clayspace, the Pottery Coop and Gallery District that Josh founded. More pictures from my last trip to the Wedge when I actually got drunk because I was caught off guard by the high alcohol content of some of the beers is HERE.

August 23, 2009

The Break of A New Day

3chairview.jpgThis morning I woke up to a rooster going off like a Big Ben clock tower. Will it crow 6 times for 6 a.m. and then 7 for 7 a.m. and 8 for 8 a.m.?

On the top of a mountain in a dormitory room in a guest house full of pottery and art, overlooking the French Broad River, I remembered my dream. I flunked a question on a questionnaire: What have you done different? Hey, I just woke up on a mountain top near Asheville in a dormitory room with five sleeping men. Doesn’t that count?

Note: More coming soon on our weekend adventures at the Carolina Kiln Build, a woodfire kiln building workshop my son Josh and his Clayspace mate Eric are hosting on Josh’s property in Madison County, North Carolina.

August 21, 2009

Back To Pool School

pool2sm.jpgI felt like a failure with my recent attempt to enjoy some time at the pool because after finally getting there for only the second time all summer, I was only there an hour before I got restless and left.

More recently, and after finishing the three stories I was working on back-to-back, I returned to the pool and had a different experience.

This time I really I saw the surface of the water ripple like a 60’s light show as I breast stroked laps through it.

I saw the drowning gnat. In fact – lifting it onto my hand and transporting it out of the water and onto the cement – I may have saved its life.

I heard a little girl about 4 years old ask a boy her age if he would marry her.

I felt the cement under my wet feet as I walked back dripping to my lounge chair after swimming.

I ate cherries and read an interview with Billy Collins, underlining favorite parts with a pen.

Last week I felt like a self-conscious observer at the pool. This week, although I only stayed a little longer than last week’s hour, I stayed long enough to realize that it’s not the amount of time spent at an activity that determines its value, but the presence we bring to it.

August 20, 2009

Starring Thirteen Thursday

star13.gif1. A rattle under my car turned out to be a heat fan loose on my catalytic converter, which I like to call a "Cadillac converter."

2. I like to call the spots and blemishes that appear on skin of a certain age barnacles because they remind me of the way barnacles grow on old whales.

3. Summer is getting old.

4. Maybe age is a clock to wake us from dreaming ... Or maybe it is the dream ... Like counting the number of pages in a book ... when we should be reading the story ... ~ The rest of the poem I wrote about turning 50 is HERE.

5. The spots and streaked trails on my bathroom mirror from a botched cleaning job, remind me of the meteorites I recently saw in the night sky during the Perseid meteor shower, watched from a lounge chair in the middle of my yard at 1 a.m.

6. We put stars in poems ... like we sprinkle salt on summer corn ... but in the winter eat it out cans ... We punch holes in black paper ... hold it up to the light ... We turn thermostats on ... to make imaginary fire ... ~ The rest of the poem is HERE.

7. Don't try THIS at home.

8. Last week I dreamt that Hillary Clinton was on stage at a speaking engagement and she got out of her chair and laid down on the floor to take a nap. I was worried and wondered where her handlers were.

9. Sundowners syndrome is when elderly patients in hospitals get their days and nights mixed up and become disorientated and irritable, usually in the afternoon. Sometimes when I stay home alone for too long, like I recently did when Joe was doing a weeklong Teen Meditation retreat, I get a touch of sundowners when I wake from a nap and think its morning or wake up in the morning thinking I just napped.

10. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies. The rest of Paul Krugman's New York Times commentary on health care reform is HERE.

11.We put stars in poems because they glow in the dark but aren't made of plastic ... because it's better than putting poems in stars ... because it makes our grandchildren giggle to see them ... because we don't know how to live without them ... The rest of the poem is HERE.

12. All the stars in the night sky are HERE.

13. And the star of kaleidoscope games is HERE.

More Thirteen Thursday players HERE.

August 18, 2009

I Brake For Cars

When they look like this
Or this
Or this

Note: I pulled over for the first car in Roanoke. The others lured me in Blacksburg.

Speak For Yourself

chairswed.jpg I learn best through self-reflection and meaningful dialogue, an exchange of authentic living language spoken without agendas. I value independent thinking and resist formula and dogma.

I recently attended an event for a touchingly human cause. At the end of the day more than a hundred people gathered together in a circle of solemn solidarity. It was not a religious event, although some church groups were present. A preacher took the stage and led the group in a prayer.

My heart was open but soon my sense of peace gave way to unease. I may have been in the minority but his “prayer” about Jesus dying for our sins went on much longer than I expected and left me feeling lectured to rather than inspired. I felt it was a missed opportunity to build on the sense of shared humanity present by speaking in a more inclusive and unifying way.

I so appreciate it when people put their feelings and beliefs in their own words and resist the urge to spout rhetoric or the party line, whether its political, religious, or new age.

August 17, 2009

Floyd County Moonshine: A Toast and Tribute

The literary flavor of summer's Floyd County Moonshine is as striking as the bright red wildflowers on its cover and as local as the next door neighbor ... That's how the story I'm working on about the latest issue of the Floyd-based literary magazine begins. The issue spotlights Floyd writers with a special tribute to the late Elliot Dabinsky, a Floyd poet and co-founder of The Floyd Writer's Circle who died in the fall of 2005. Last night at our monthly Spoken Word Open Mic (hosted by the Writer's Circle and the Café del Sol) readers took turns reading from twelve of Elliot's poems that were featured in the issue, along with their own contributions. That's Moonshine Editor Aaron Moore pictured holding the new issue as he reads.
The café was full to overflowing with twenty-five readers (eight of those being Moonshine contributors/readers) and an attentive audience. Mara, a close friend of Elliot's and Moonshine's new poetry editor, opened the evening, reading poems from the issue (her own and Elliot's).
History archivist, Kathleen Ingoldsy (pictured) and Mara (both co-founders of The Floyd Writer's Circle that I also belong to and close friends of Elliot) worked together typing (and sometimes translating) Elliot's handwritten poetry for the tribute. The poems chosen for publication give some well rounded insight into the once familiar Floyd character, a complicated man who was disabled with chronic pain most of his adult life. Some of the writings in the issue were written by others about Elliot, like Kathleen's essay, based on a conversation she and Elliot had at a Contra dance weekend.
There were also a number of readers not involved in the Moonshine issue and a contingency of teens in attendance, many of whom had come directly from the five day Teen Meditation Retreat in Stuart that my husband Joe organizes. Coriander (in the pink headband and who I wrote about for All About Her HERE) shared the Dharma Punk Rap that she wrote and had performed at the retreat's open mic celebration the night before. Listen HERE.
Elliot was instrumental in bringing the Spoken Word to the Floyd community but only got to read his work once on the Café del Sol stage before he died. I was really impressed with the power of his poetry (most of which I participated in work-shopping with the rest of the Writer's Circle), and hearing it reflected back through a range of different voices. Joe slipped in for a listen. He bounced back and forth from the café to Oddfellas Cantina where he was eating dinner with the meditation retreat teachers and staff. (Thanks to Pat Woodruff for this last picture of me and Joe. That's Chelsea Adams, who also read, to my right).

Post notes: A year anniversary celebration for The Floyd County Moonshine is planned for September 13th from 3 - 5 p.m. at The Black Water Loft. Contributors will read their works from the current issue and past issues, and the poetry of Elliot Dabinsky will also be represented at the event. Copies of the magazine may be purchased individually for $8.00. Email floydshine@gmail.com. They can also be found in Floyd at noteBooks, Café del Sol, Chic's Antiques, Over the Moon, The Floyd Country Store, and The Jessie Peterman Library. More information on the magazine HERE. A website, floydmoonshine.com, is in the works. For more Spoken Word pictures and stories click and scroll HERE.

August 15, 2009

The Best Thing About Yesterday

bloonxsx.jpgThe best thing about yesterday was something small and unexpected. I had just read a “Ladies Who Lunch” blog post at Naomi’s in which princess crowns and bags full of whimsical party toy-things were featured. From there I began my daily walk to the mailbox and found myself thinking about my trip to the pool earlier in the week. It had taken effort to finally get myself to the pool (only the second time all summer) and then I only stayed for an hour. The swimming part was great but after that I had a hard time sitting still on the lounge chair. (Of course, my mind was absorbed in the latest story I’m writing.)

So how can I really sit when I sit to drink my tea, and how can I stay longer at the pool and enjoy myself like so many others seem to do? 'Those kids have the right idea,’ I thought to myself, remembering all the kids at the pool that day. They play. But I’m usually too tired, my internal critic shot back.

Just then, I looked down and saw the smallest balloon I’ve ever seen. It was right in my path, neon green and never blown up. It was vaguely familiar. Many weeks ago, somewhere, I couldn’t remember where, I had seen a bunch of those tiny balloons and I put a few in my pocket and then forgot about them. Without thinking I picked it up and blew, curious to know how big such a little balloon cold get. Nearing the size of a small plum, it POPPED! The sound pierced the air, reverberating through woods and up and down dirt driveways. It was LOUD, but the surprised laugh I let out might have been even louder.

And then I saw the meteor showers that night.

August 14, 2009

Changes in Store for Blue Mountain School

shellyem.gif~ Blue Mountain School is hosting an Open House on Saturday, August 15th from 11 -- 3. The following story was published in The Floyd Press on 8/13/09.

There are big changes at Blue Mountain School (BMS), the independent school on 8 acres off Christiansburg Pike in Floyd. Although the school will no be longer be identified as a "Parent Run Cooperative," parents are still involved, says the new school director Shelly Emmett.

Emmett, who grew up in Michigan and moved to Floyd with her family from Rhode Island in 2006, is the school's first full time director, a position that was recently voted in by the Blue Mountain School Board of Directors, which consists largely of school parents.

With a background in community-based and school-based counseling, Emmett previously worked as a school counselor and then as a director at Tekoa, a residential facility for adolescents. Her children Madeline, 10, and Layla, 7 ½ have attended BMS in the past and are currently enrolled, along with their 4 year old brother Alonzo.

Emmett speaks with enthusiasm of the school as a living and growing entity, and in a calm and focused manner she describes the new developments in its evolution. For more than 25 years BMS has been operating as a non-profit organization providing hands-on learning to elementary and middle school aged children, an approach that will remain but one that is being reviewed and refined. bmsx.jpg

The educational philosophy currently being pursued at the school is referred to as Contemplative Progressive Education. The progressive model refers to a mission of "promoting social-emotional learning and critical thinking through experiential activities and creative expression in a collaborative, project-based curriculum," Emmett says.

The contemplative aspect of the school's philosophy reflects its commitment to assist students and staff in developing awareness, concentration, and insight. This will be accomplished through a combination of approaches, such as silence, movement, poetry, story telling, meditation, inquiry, and modeling.

"I know that the Contemplative Progressive model of education has the ability to act as a subtle but powerful agent of social change. If we can truly put into practice each of the elements of our educational model, we will have initiated a way of being with children, a way of educating children, and a way of growing them that is rare," Emmett says.

Along with administrative duties, Emmett will be responsible for supervising the teaching staff and monitoring the quality of education at the school. Outside counsel and consultation from others in the field have been employed to assist the school in designing guidelines and staying abreast of latest developments in education. Emmett is being joined by several new teachers for the 2009/2010 school year.

Amy Myers is an accredited Waldorf Early Childhood teacher with previous teaching experience. As the school's new Early Childhood teacher, she plans on focusing on crafts, outdoor play, storytelling, puppetry, and music. "Our classroom will be a warm, loving space - much like a home away from home," she says.

Dalton Bodtke, the school's Lower Elementary class teacher, says, "In my training to become a teacher, I have taught many children, but I have learned from them as well. I believe in striking a healthy balance between structure and freedom and in the importance of educating the mind, body, and spirit - thus nurturing the whole child."

Corey Avellar, who will be teaching an Upper Elementary class, has 20 years experience teaching preschool through eighth grade. She has led camps at the Roanoke Science Museum and Reynolds Museum and enjoys exploring the world through theater, music, dance, art, horseback riding, and archeological digs. Avellar, who has taught at the Blue Mountain School in the past, says her goal is for her students "to be disappointed when they have to stop school for summer vacation."

Jamie Reynolds will be teaching a second Upper Elementary class. He has a long history of working with young people in his home country of Australia. Reynolds has experience as a youth mentor, activities director, and counselor, and most recently worked as a substitute teacher for the Floyd County School system. He served as a BMS board member and as board president in the past and has been influential in forging the school's new direction.

Other BMS staff includes three Enrichment teachers. Sarah McCarthy will offer yoga and contemplative practices. Lora Giessler is on staff as the school's art teacher and Kari Kovick will head up the music program.

Another important change at BMS is that the school is seeking accreditation through the Virginia Association for Independent Schools, which will involve a two year self-study process of self-evaluation and visits and evaluations by members of the association. Opportunities and workshops for professional development for teachers and staff will be available through the program.

As in the past, BMS does not administer standardized testing, and students and teachers at the school work together to complete a portfolio of the students' work for review several times throughout the school year. The portfolio is used in place of grades.

BMS classes begin on September 8th with a tuition range of $125 to $400, depending on the number of days a student will be attending. Some scholarships and parent work-trade options are available. An open house with refreshments and planned children's activities is scheduled for Saturday the 15th from 11 - 3 p.m. Everyone is invited to come and meet the teachers and tour the school, Emmett says. ~ Colleen Redman

More about the Blue Mountain School story HERE.

August 13, 2009

13 Thursday Flash Back

13flahs.jpg1. Hey, where is everyone? I went through my sidebar blog links and discovered that half the people on the list aren’t blogging anymore.

2. Words and phrases heard this week: “a hoot called Boots,” “a pseudo sonnet,” and someone used fracus in a sentence.

3. I grew up calling corn “cawn” and shorts “shots.” I bet you can guess where I’m from.

4. Pulling fresh corn off their stalks (which I’ve been doing a lot of lately) feels too much like breaking bones.

5. I have an imaginary blog called Jabblog the Hut.

6. Sarah Palin may deny that she said ever said dinosaurs existed the same time as man 6,000 years ago (about 65 million years after scientists say most of them became extinct) but how does she explain THIS?

7. She recently confused language on living wills in health care reform as government death panels that would promote euthanasia. My own view on health care reform is HERE.

8. How to Keep an Idiot Busy (for at least a few minutes) HERE.

9. Brave Bryce HERE.

10. Whenever anyone calls me clever it feels like an insult and I feel like they think I’m trying to get away with something.

11. Here’s a line from my 13 Thursday posted this same time last August: While in Hull visiting my family an old friend was hitting on me. He’s done that since high school and I guess he feels compelled to keep up the charade. When I reminded him that I was happily married, he assured me that he was harmless, saying, “Don't worry. I’m impotent.”

12. I got all chocked up watching the nightly news tonight. Brian Williams was reporting on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and visiting with the couple (still together) huddled under a blanket in the image on the cover of the soundtrack album. My Woodstock story is HERE.

13. See You Later Alligator is today’s soundtrack, staring my favorite leading men HERE.

Turn on HERE for more 13 Thursdays.

August 12, 2009

Like Asking Me to Go To the Moon

poolflopsx.jpgLanding at the pool for the first time in August and the second time all summer, feels like visiting another planet. I’ve been trying for days to get here and now here I am all geared up and ready for take-off. My tankini, flip flops, beach bag, and sun visor feels like an astronaut pool suit. A single poolside lounger set apart becomes my space station as I acclimate myself to the conditions. The climate is hot and wet. The glare off the water and the reverberation of children’s squealing voices seems other worldly. And then it happens. I take the plunge. Now I'm a Martian. Weightless. One small step. One giant leap. I’m in my element. The Cool Blue brings me back to my senses.

August 11, 2009

A Talent Takes Off

xgbesxt.gifThe following was published in the summer issue of All About Her, a regional newspaper insert.

When Gretchen St. Lawrence and her husband David moved from the Charlottesville area to Floyd in January 2006, they were looking to escape the traffic and congestion of city life. The couple, who had previously worked high tech jobs in the Silicone Valley of California, found Floyd through "Fragments of Floyd," the blog writings of Fred First. Upon visiting the area, they discovered they loved it and were especially impressed with Floyd's strong arts community, which would ultimately prove to be fertile ground for St. Lawrence's own creative talent to take off.

St. Lawrence grew up on the South Shore of Boston, Massachusetts, and then Canada where she studied Fine Arts at McGill University in Montreal. Over the years she made attempts to pursue her art seriously but was sidetracked with work and raising two children. Once in Floyd, she knew the timing was right to freely explore her artistic aspirations.

"It wasn't hard to find out where the action was," St Lawrence says about the one stoplight town of Floyd. With the traffic of Charlottesville far behind her, she signed up for classes at The Jacksonville Center for the Arts. She took a watercolor class with local artist Rick Cooley and followed that with pastels with Cheryl Sweeney. "I got hooked on pastels," she remembers. Cooley and Sweeney suggested she join the Floyd Figures Group, an artists group that has been drawing informally together for 25 years. grdav.jpg

With the encouragement and support of the Floyd Figures group and other area artists, St. Lawrence's pastel skills rapidly progressed. At the request of her son, she painted several portraits of his cats and was surprised at how well they turned out. Soon she was doing pet portraits by commission, and her husband, who had a woodworking business when the couple first came to Floyd, began providing the wooden frames. As demand for St. Lawrence's portraits grew so did interest in her husband's mat cutting and framing skills and Floyd Custom Framing was born, a studio shop that David St. Lawrence runs out of the couple's home.

After drawing with Floyd Figures for more than a year, St. Lawrence joined with five other women and co-founded The Floyd Artists Association. The group opened a gallery downstairs in Winter Sun building, appropriately called "Art Under the Sun." At the gallery, the artists began putting on painting demonstrations for the public, which allowed St. Lawrence to further develop her pastel techniques and branch out to incorporate still-life and landscapes into her body of work.

St. Lawrence's ability to capture a likeness and make it shine has drawn attention. Her art has been exhibited in Jacksonville Center's Hayloft Gallery shows and in local coffee houses and restaurants. It has appeared in The Floyd Press newspaper and hangs in the Hotel Floyd, a green-lodging boutique hotel that showcases Floyd art and culture. ggroupgall.jpg

As a member of the Floyd Artists Association, which has grown to include nine members, St. Lawrence welcomes the opportunity to utilize her skills as a business woman. She's worked in the past as a program manager, an office manager, and for advertising agencies. She's been active in Floyd's Friends of the Library and has experience writing copy. Most recently she helped author Fred First edit his second book, What We Hold in Our Hands, and worked with others on the map for Round the Mountain Artisan Trail, which will link visitors to creative points of interest in Floyd and throughout Southwest Virginia.

With a Grand Opening in early July, the Floyd Artists Association's gallery has relocated to "The Station at South Locust," a newly renovated building across from the Floyd Country Store that was at one time the location of an Amoco gas station. The new gallery name, "Blue Ridge Art Connection," reflects the group's commitment to attracting new artists and fostering them. Classes will be held at the gallery and a different guest artist will be exhibited every First Friday, St. Lawrence says. As part of the group's outreach they will also be hosting drawing sessions in a country setting along the Little River for non-members the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

Currently, St. Lawrence is excited about her latest pen-and-ink class with Ron Campbell at the Jacksonville Center, which has inspired her art in a new direction. She speaks enthusiastically about the enriching benefits of the arts in the community. Carrying on the Floyd tradition of encouraging new artists, just as she was encouraged, St. Lawrence says, ""I love being a mentor to other artists. I don't think you have to be a teacher or give classes. I think just listening, encouraging them, showing them where they can get supplies, where they can take classes, or helping them shop online is important." ~ Colleen Redman

August 10, 2009

Summer Stunners

A cloudy day isn’t good for washing and hanging laundry, but it’s great for photographing flowers.
Some flowers remind me of fireworks.
Others remind me of women’s hats.
Flowers have such personality. I call this one Freckle Face.
I’m partial to purple, so much so that I have a garden of mostly purple flowers that I had forgotten I planted so close to each other.

Note: All of the photos in this blog post garden were taken in my yard.

August 9, 2009

Am I Living Vicariously Through Someone Else’s Life?

jspouts.jpgThat question came to mind as I realize that I’ve been in a bathing suit exactly one time so far this summer. As I ponder the weeds and bugs in my garden and feel shocked that my dying pumpkin plants have revealed big orange pumpkins so early in August. As I ignore cleaning the kitchen once again because I feel too tired. As I realize I’d rather just write in my notebook, but then say ‘no, that just means more typing.’ As I notice how pasty white my legs are, how tall the un-mowed grass in the yard is, and how unkempt my hair is today. As I check the calendar and discover that I haven’t been home for a full day in two weeks. As I surf the links on my sidebar blog list and realize that half of those people have quit blogging. As I remember that I forgot all my dreams from the morning and that I have never quite woken up today. As I wonder if some of the best things about this summer have been the stories I’ve written about other people’s lives, lives that look so easy to walk right in on … if I wasn’t already too tired.

Of course, then I smile and remember Floydfest, babysitting for Bryce, and our trip to Martha’s Vineyard in July.

August 7, 2009

Poetry Put Me to Sleep and Poetry Woke Me Up

Pages tossing
Venetian blinds turning
Words lose meaning
Drowsy eyelids drop

A scratching cat taps
an unsteady chair
A paw at the window knocks

Poems on the outside
trying to get in
to tattle tales
and flights of fancy
to rattle sleep undreamt

~ Colleen Redman 6/30/09

August 6, 2009

The 13 Thursday Action

13act.jpg1. I recently did a story on a local artist in which I had to edit out all the F-U-s and made sure not to mention that we sipped some peach moonshine at the end of our interview.

2. I think my interest in writing about other people’s lives started when I wrote by brother Jim’s eulogy and thought to myself ‘what could be more important to write and why don’t we do it more often, before the person is dead.’

3. Summer weather report: My garden hose has cobwebs on it.

4. Sitting on the porch in the morning sipping tea, I was pretty sure I could hear the carpenter ants eating us out of house and home.

5. I recently got asked by a nine year old girl why my feet were dirty?

6. For the answer to that question, I refer you to THIS.

7. I love tahini drizzled on every thing. It appeals to my sense of gravy.
8. I have heard that some found their way to Floyd after hearing that more tofu was sold here than anywhere else in the east.

9. In August corn on the cob from the garden is on the menu for breakfast lunch and dinner. We even bring it to Bryce’s house when we babysit.

10. Getting married? Check out my friend Katherine’s webpage HERE. She’s the priestess who married Joe and me.

11. The first thing about President Obama that I’ve been disappointed in: He drinks Bud Light.

12. Teaser: I’m working on a new story with a Floyd connection in which the words “action” and “cut” are used and someone keeps saying “My cat has fur balls."

13. A new kaleidoscope toy HERE

13 Thursday headquarters is HERE.

August 5, 2009

Everybody Wants You

xwindwxx.gifI don't know that you ever get over losing a loved one or if you just become hardened to the fact.

It's been 8 years since my brother Jim's unexpected death, followed by my brother Dan's a month later. Yesterday I was reminded at how far I have come from those first few tender years of grieving when I received a Sports Illustrated mailing in Danny's name that boldly announced on the envelope "We Want You Back!" and I was able to laugh and say to myself, 'yeah, I know what you mean.'

The week before, I got a phone call from a stranger asking me if I knew Jimmy Redman. "I had a brother Jimmy but he passed away," I answered without choking. The caller knew a Jimmy Redman and wanted to get back in touch with him. "Was your brother from the south?" "No," I answered determining that our Jimmy's were not the same person.

The call about Jim reminded me of one a few short years ago when someone asked for "Daniel Redman" and having to say the words "Daniel Redman is deceased" broke my heart.

Walking to the mailbox with Joe, I explained what had happened and then said to him, "It's as if thoughts of my brothers are tucked away in the back of a drawer. I know what's there (I've been through every detail more than once) but I don't want to open it anymore. Why? Because it doesn't change anything!"

Sometimes I miss my own tender yearning for my brothers and the heightened sense of awareness I felt in the first few years after they died, as opposed to the almost jaded acceptance I feel now.

It seems easier now but it's also harder. As time passes, the memories of them in my life grow farther and farther from my grasp.

~ James Michael Redman, November 22, 1946 - July 25, 2001.
~ Daniel Mark Redman, October 7, 1951 - August 29, 2001.

Note: This post is dedicated to Amy. Click and scroll HERE for more on losing a loved one.

August 4, 2009

Jabba the Hut Meets Raiders of the Lost Ark

Or maybe it was Journey to the Center of the Earth, inside the Dixie Caverns in Salem, Virginia with my sister Trish and her family who were visiting from Massachusetts.
The caverns were named after the dog named Dixie who fell through a hole in the side of the mountain in 1920. Some farm boys followed to rescue her and the caverns were discovered.
People have gotten married at this formation called the wedding bell, but I called it Jabba the Hut. I wonder if cave bats came to the weddings. They were all sleeping when we were there.
We hiked up inside the mountain to a massive opening called the Cathedral Room. The crystallized stalactites hanging suspended over stalagmites were not in amazing colors like those depicted in the movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but they were impressive. It’s cold in the caverns and hard to take good photos. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the reflecting pool. At the end of the 45 minute tour our guide shut the lights out so we could experience total darkness. A little boy cried.

Post notes: See a video clip taken inside the caverns HERE and a video I call “Smile. You’re on Youtube” HERE.

August 3, 2009

Friday Night Jamboree Street Jam

~ Most of the following photos were recently published in The Floyd Press newspaper.
Jam sessions fill the street with music every Friday night in Floyd. (Soundtrack video clip is HERE.)
Tamra Billand (left) with her sister, who was visiting from out of town, her nephew, and her son Jade, who had purple hair HERE.
Two women sing a folk song as a couple behind them orders a Dogtown street pizza.
A summer crowd flocks to the Floyd Country Store for the Jamboree on a recent Friday night.
Another group across the street from the Country Store entertains an impromptu audience. That's mandolin player Abe Gorskey front and center.