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Sunday, February 28, 2010


glade valley presbyterian

In the years of my adult life knowing some 4 leggeds well, studying them to understand them, I find them just like us in about every way but the human way of moving things. We humans move things that are in our way. A dog or a cat never seems to imagine it's possible to move something. I've seen them all watch me move things, pick something up and take it out the door, like that, and I've seen them watch me move something out of the way to get by it. I wonder if it's clicking for them that they can move things too, but it never does. A dog on a chain that circles the post until the chain has no more length and the dog can't move, it will sit there until somebody comes along and walks the dog back around the post to unwind. No matter how many times you unwind the dog, the dog never gets it. It's something a dog's mind doesn't seem to have a place for.

I've recently finished a book of the science of studying entunement between humans and animals. It was quite interesting, worth the read. My only problem with it was the loyalty to the scientific method. It's a good thing, and I appreciate that it has brought civilization a very long ways in a short time as the method for understanding this world. I'm all with that and am glad it's the way it is. Only problem for me was, the science method leaves out the poetry of being. At once I appreciated the writer's allegiance to never overstating or misstating, appreciated it very much. The way of science sees us as bodies with consciousness. I see us as consciousness with bodies. Big difference. I don't believe one is right and one is wrong. It's just different ways of seeing the same thing. Two sides of the same coin.

It surely was my saturation of fundamentalist church throughout childhood that rendered me uninterested in facts, most interested in understanding. Sometimes I tell myself the only thing I got of any value from growing up under that cloud is that it made me turn my back to religion and go my solitary pilgrim way. That's not entirely so, but when the preacher's in the pulpit coming down on communism in the McCarthy era, something aint right. It means he's a sucker for propaganda like the people he's talking to. I don't remember him getting excited about what the Nazis did to the Jews when the images were being released by Life magazine and other sources around that same time. I'd have thought anybody with a heart would be moved. But it's ok. They're Jews. They don't have souls. Or they're Ns. Or card carrying liberals. Or readers. Or birdwatchers. Easy targets. Gentle people that don't fight back. It's a good thing to kill them. They're Godless. Not like us.

I paid attention to things like that in my childhood. I was 12 when the pictures came out of the concentration camps. I was in the 6th grade and also learned the word dictator at school that year. I think the teacher saw those pictures too and was touched like I was. She told us there's no word in the German language for love. Later, when I took a course in German, love was one of the first words we learned. Those pictures had a powerful impact on me. My parents subscribed to Life magazine and I about wore the concentration camp pictures out looking at them. It soured me on Germans and Germany really bad, for a very long time, science too. Until I went to Germany and saw they were just like us except for some cultural differences and language.

I knew that if the same thing happened in this country, a right-wing takeover of the government, we'd fall for it the very same as the Germans. And we did. Seeing the parallels kept me anxious throughout the nihilist Cheney era. I wondered what group of easy target people they'd fire us up against here at home. Immigrants. The boxcar thing doesn't work a second time. Lone gunman has been blamed until nobody believes it any more. Now they do character assassination and private plane crashes that nobody can find a reason behind.

Political hardball strategies have been crippling our government since the Nixon era. The right wing's revenge for the impeachment of Nixon has been a serious problem for the last 30 years. They've set out to destroy our government and take over the military. And you may be sure they will turn it on us, the nonbelievers. Anybody that thinks they're about democracy is comfortably numb. But Americans don't want democracy anymore and a military dictatorship may be the order of the day. I hope by then I'm dead. If I'm not, I like to think when they start lining people up to shoot them, I'll get in the line by my own will. I don't want to live in their world. I'd call it a shortcut to gloryland.

But that's not going to happen any time soon. May never. Like I've said before, and will say again, I'm no prophet. Me saying it is evidence right there that whatever the prophecy is, it's not going to happen. It might be a near accurate guess for the context as it is now. But 10 years down the line context has changed many times and nothing is the same any more. I'm no Nostradamus, nor was meant to be. When I get going like that, I tend to think of it as connecting dots like a constellation. Connect the dots and it's Orion with his bow. If you don't know about Orion, it's just a bunch of stars, which it is if you do know about Orion. The Orion part is in the human mind only. The same as when I connect the dots. It's in my mind only. Somebody else would connect the dots a different way. And somebody else yet another. I'm trying to get over excitement about such subjects as the right-wing assault on democracy. There's nothing I could do about it one way or another. I want to keep my mind more focused on what I can do instead of what I can't do.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


on dan osborne road

I returned from the mailbox today singing in my mind, No movie in the mail today, to the tune of the bluegrass standard, No letter in the mail today. Yesterday's movie picked up in today's mail was curious as it can be. French. Ultra French. This one could never have been funded in our country. I doubt even an independent would dare such a venture. For one thing, the key characters are classical musicians. That's the kiss of death here. End of interest before it began. Also, it was devoid of action. The closest to action is a finger striking a piano key. Not a great deal of talking either.

The drama amounted to the intensity of wondering what this young woman has in her mind that she aims to accomplish before the movie runs out. She has a quiet intensity that tells you when she gets it done, it aint gonna be pretty. Everyone's behavior is mannered, the home of a ruling class lawyer in Paris, whose wife is the classical pianist. The name of the movie is THE PAGE TURNER. This is a young woman just out of school, who had aspired to classical piano when she was younger, but quit the day she flubbed an important competition she aimed to win. How and why she flubbed it stays with her in the later years when she was offered the job to be a tutor for the son, who was studying classical piano. Mother learns the girl reads music, takes her for her page turner in concerts. The story itself is no more dramatic than that last sentence.

At the very end, the girl makes a subtle, small, out of sight gesture that answers the question of what was going on in her mind. For awhile, you think it's one thing, then you think it's another, then in the last minute of the film is the oh-shit moment. It answers every question that went before, and by the time you get to the end, there are plenty of questions. What she's scheming, because it's clear she is scheming, and the motive behind what she's apparently up to are the main questions. Chilling moments occur from time to time, like in the kitchen when the girl's facility with a meat cleaver cutting porkchops was noted. Asked what work her parents did. Butchers. Moments like that suggest it might get really weird by the end. But it never did. It just kept on being a tension around what's in the girl's mind that has a certain inexplicable edge to it.

Just a few characters in mannered lives passing each other from time to time between schedules. All are intelligent people doing well in their worlds. He is a "top lawyer." And the 12 year old boy is practicing at the piano all the time. Very undramatic people. Tennis for exercise. Schedules to keep. What I loved especially was the drama of the film stayed within that anti-dramatic framework. And it worked with little more than a hint from time to time that something is going on in this girl's mind and it leads one to think something sinister is on the horizon. And it never happened. And it never happened. Everybody went on in their everyday lives, passing each other like sailboats in a harbor, a few words in passing. One scene close to the end establishes it's a fact the girl is capable of about anything a mind can imagine. It sets off the alarm that it's time to run for cover.

The film keeps dramatic tension going by nothing happening. From scene to scene, nothing "happens," except you learn a little bit here, a little bit there that all point to something ahead. Anticipation is held by inaction, waiting for something to bust loose. When it did bust loose, it's a big surprise for everybody concerned, esp this viewer. It was vicious and the girl could walk away like nothing ever happened except she's satisfied with what she'd done. A very well told story and something that could only be made in France.

My interest in the film was sparked by my friend Jean, who told me of a dream she had once of herself in a nice gown sitting at a piano beside the maestro turning pages for him in concerts. That seemed to me a good picture of Jean's life. A gentle soul inside, and on the outside functioning in the background supporting a man all attention is on, her function to turn the pages and do it right. That fairly well pictures her 3 marriages with redneck narcissists. They made her tough. They also annihilated any self-esteem she might have found. She wasn't allowed an iota of self-esteem from the day she was born. A page turner--the invisible woman behind the great maestro.

Of course, I never expected the movie to relate to Jean in any way. The only way for it to relate would be the human way which we're all susceptible to. I believe Jean would have enjoyed the film in very different ways from what I've mentioned. The character of the girl I would not relate to Jean. Nor anything about the movie. Only that one dream. Still, I was thinking of Jean while watching, thinking I'd have liked the chance to see it with her. She would have enjoyed it as much as I did and could enlighten some of my thoughts with her own. We would have talked some more about her dream and her invisible life. Crazy Jean she was called. And the Crazy Woman of Whitehead. I've heard, "C'mon TJ, you gotta admit, Jean was crazy." There was no way I could affirm that sentence, though she'd spent most of her adult life in mental institutions. The only thing crazy I ever saw about Jean was she had good sense in a world where it has no value. It taught her to be tough and able to take it, whatever comes along, and she did.

Friday, February 26, 2010


tarbaby meditating

17 degrees all night long. Wind all night. The trees on the ridge to my north roared all night. Wind chimes kept a symphony going all night. The electric clock lost 10 minutes in the night. In first light TarBaby wanted me to let him out the window. I got up and opened it. A gust of 17 degree air turned him away. He came back to try it again. This time a bigger gust about blew him off the window sill and he turned away even quicker than before. He came back and wanted to try it again. I knew this time he intended to go by the way he was standing. I raised the window and he jumped onto the railing around the little porch where I keep a cushion for the cats and some chairs. I had the impression he wanted to get outside while the dogs were away. He watches them all day now. He's learned their schedule. He acted like he had something he wanted to do, but didn't get past the cushion. He sat on it about 5 minutes in the wind and that was enough.

Later in the day, the dogs had been out of sight for over an hour. TarBaby had been watching from a new place he'd just discovered by a window that looks onto where the dogs hang out. He went to the door for me to let him out. He went right out and trotted toward the road where he crosses to go to the small barn across the road, the mouse hunting lodge. He's not tasted mouse blood in awhile. I was wondering if he planned to stay there until 5:30 when the dogs go home. An hour or so later I heard the dogs barking around the car. I knew they had TarBaby under the car. I'm glad it's low enough Martha can't get under there. If she were to slither under the car on her belly, TarBaby could slash his nose. I've an idea both of them are dogs that would take whatever a cat could do if they had intent to kill the cat. I don't know how they feel about TarBaby. It didn't sound like they were calling him out to play. I know they could smell that he was the cat that lives here. But they're so excitable and have no self control, I can't predict what they'll do. They've already learned how to go at something together, one snapping from the front, the other from behind. TarBaby might hold his own with one, but not 2.

I had to put on outdoor shoes as the shoes I wear in the house are slick on the bottom. Can't even stand up on ice in them. Sweater, heavy outdoor shirt over it, hat and gloves. I don't know how long I'll be. The dogs were out there barking so relentlessly I was anxious about rescuing TarBaby. I didn't know that was him under the car. Didn't question it either. Because I did know it was him. They'd already killed Posie the possum that lived here a few days ago.
The dogs continued to be gone, so I imagine TarBaby decided it was safe to walk back to the house. He made it to the car. Or maybe the car was as far as he went, but I doubt it. I didn't believe TarBaby would stay out very long with his summer coat of fur. He walked out the door with such intent, I don't believe it was to get outside and hunker down under the car. He had something on his mind. He was spotted walking between the barn and the car. I walked over there hollering at the dogs, which was like hollering at the wind. It was TarBaby.

When I reached them, they came jumping around me, then back to TarBaby and back to me, out of their minds with excitement, like they were saying to me, we found a cat, we found a cat. I yelled at them with tone of voice sounding serious, like the giant's about to cut loose and you better look out. The more intent I sounded, the more obedient they became. When I had the full attention of both of them, I started walking the other direction, away from the house and down the bank where they wouldn't be able to see TarBaby run across the road. I trusted that TarBaby's mind and mine worked well enough together that we could operate like the dogs hunt together in setting up TarBaby's escape. I walked the dogs away from the car and in short order Jolene went bounding off barking at something, Martha on her way too. Martha waits behind and lets Jolene do the fast running, because her legs are twice as long as Martha's. She keeps Jolene in sight and when Jolene runs out of sight, Martha runs up to the next place to watch her from, or turns back. If Jolene lights out after a deer, Martha automatically comes back. Jolene is doing what only fast dogs can do. She can chase a deer. She'll be gone awhile playing chase.

TarBaby ran out from under the car as soon as the dogs were away from the car and they never noticed. Back at the house TarBaby was waiting in a chair on the porch out the bedroom window. I opened the window and he didn't have to think about it. His fur was sticking straight out all over, his tail fluffed out like a black squirrel tail. It wasn't because he was cold, either. He was making himself look the biggest he can look for the dogs. This is a good example how fear can look like aggression. I remember from childhood not to let a dog see your fear. It makes them attack. But I wonder if it's because the physical manifestation of fear, to automatically swell up, just like the animals do, gets read as aggression by the dog, meaning you're ready for a fight. I don't know. I've been told, too, that dogs can smell fear. I don't doubt it. I can also see fear attracting a dog to attack. Predators in the wild pick the weakest gazelles from the herd. The weak ones are easy prey.

Whatever the case, TarBaby was scared and I was too, because the dogs are so out of control. I haven't had a chance to spend time outside with them because it's always cold and mostly ice. I want to get out there with them and do some walking, get them used to understanding I want them to come to me when I call. They're very obedient already to tone of voice. They get it. They've taught me to use tone of voice, which works every time. They're so responsive to it I seldom have to growl. They're at a perfect age for teaching and I'm not going out in this cold and ice. The temperature might rise above freezing some time in the future, but I'm not wasting any hope on it.
An hour or 2 after TarBaby was in the house I heard barking again out front. I looked up the hill across the road. They were barking at a young deer that was just standing there. Jolene would lunge from the front, the deer would get into a challenging stance. Martha bit a leg from behind. The deer moved a little bit. I couldn't tell if the dogs were wanting to play or hunt. Martha snaps at Jolene's back legs when she's wanting to play chase. Martha seemed to be thinking it was about play, but I can never tell about Jolene, Martha either. Jolene especially has a way about her that seems like she can switch from play to attack in a nanosecond. Martha has it too, but in Jolene it looks like it has potential to make her a ruthless dog. She needs to learn what the limits are to her dog temperament. They learn plenty at home. And they need to know plenty more. That is, if we're going to go on being friends, and we are going to go on being friends. They need to learn the rules that apply here like they've learned the rules that apply at their other home. The young deer took off loping, staying just ahead of Jolene, playing chase. Martha watched them run out of sight into the woods. TarBaby watched from his window.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


jolene chews ice

Another good day to stay indoors. Slight dusting of snow in the night, just enough to see in the leaves on the ground in moonlight. Isn't it nice when a forecast for multiple inches of snow turns out to be barely enough to notice. Now it's 18 and the temperature never reached 30 today. Cold last night. Cold again tonight. TarBaby has spent the entire winter indoors. His coat never thickened this year. He didn't get acclimatized to this winter. He'd have gone out a few times if the dogs hadn't been here.

It looks like the dogs are here to stay, which I'm in agreement with. A dog is good protection for a house, keeps the wild beasts away from the house. Keeps rambling dogs away too. Since Aster the dog died, TarBaby has taken the role on his shoulders of protector. I've seen it be a stress on TarBaby. Just about all the wild four-leggeds are bigger than a cat. He can't deal with dogs. It was more than he could handle without stress. I've noticed since Martha and Jolene have been here every day, TarBaby feels a degree of comfort. He likes to meet them, nose to nose, but they're young dogs prone to continuous excitement. Both dogs explode in their excitement and TarBaby ducks back inside the house. They don't want to attack TarBaby. They want to play chase the cat.

I saw a cartoon by Dan Piraro. The scene is a public park of lawn and some trees, a park bench with a man and woman sitting at either end of it. A fence with a gate, and a sign, Dog Park. Dogs are running around on the lawn playing chase. One of the running dogs is a kid in an outfit like doggy pajamas. The woman on the bench says to the man, "The kids' playground just doesn't tire him out enough, so I dress him like a dog and bring him here." To see some of his other humor that is every bit off the wall as this one is, It just struck me funny, the kid playing chase with the dogs.

I went out for a short walk this afternoon in blowing snow crystals, the kind that sting when they hit the face, each about the size of a pixel. It was colder than I cared to be out in for very long, unless I had to. Martha and Jolene played chase all around me all the time, Martha never stopped, would run under Jolene, jump at me and then wiggle like a worm to keep from bumping me before she lands, and she manages to twist her momentum away from me. This is what I'm trying to teach them at this time when they're too rowdy to train, and it's working. Both have strong impulse to jump on me. I push their feet aside and tell them, Feet on the ground. I've stiff-armed them until I don't have to do that any more.

I've discouraged running into my legs while I'm walking, and jumping on me. When Martha is behind me, she wants to ride right up on my back legs, so I've taken to raising my heels in back with each step, telling her to keep back. It works. It only takes once or twice. Not that she gets hurt. She gets it. Jolene was dancing around me and I've taken to walking firm-footed when they're jumping around, pushing them away when they run into me. They both have learned. They run all around my legs, but they never touch my legs or feet any more. Once, Jolene jumped up in front of me and just happened to put a foot under my foot as it was stepping down. It didn't hurt her, because I caught my weight on the heel of that foot when we made contact, but she got it. I want them to stay away from my feet and legs. They can jump and run and tumble all they like, just stay away from my legs and feet.

I've seen these sister dogs for awhile now and have come to know them fairly well. Both look at me with puppy dog eyes beaming with love. They're both the size they're going to be, maybe, but they still have puppy dog rowdiness. I enjoy watching them. They go at it all out. Martha is about half the size of Jolene and tough as a knot. Martha was so wide open she often tumbled down the bank, or she'd jump on Jolene and end up on her back on the ground. One quick jerk and she's on her feet. Circling Jolene, jumping over her back, running under her, biting at Jolene's legs, Jolene twisting around trying to keep up with Martha who was all over and around her like a hyper-active snake. Sometimes Jolene would get Martha down on the ground and when she let loose, Martha would explode into the air and run so fast and low to the ground she drags her belly, ears back, black eyes sparkling.

I've been watching the relationship between the 2 sisters. There's no question that Jolene is dominant, and they've already done the fighting to establish it. The first day Jolene came over here to see Martha, after Martha had been coming over for a month or so, Martha attacked Jolene with ferocity every time Jolene approached me. She'd pin Martha to the ground on her back, Jolene's open mouth over Martha's neck. It's just holding her down to stop her. The moment she lets her go, Martha springs into action, 0 to 30 in 2 seconds, running a circle, flopping her ears straight back, watching Jolene approach me, turning and jumping at Jolene in a flying bump to steer her away from me, teeth at Jolene's neck trying to get a hold through the hair. Martha's mouth isn't big enough to get a grip on Jolene's neck. To the mailbox and back, Martha relentlessly fought Jolene every time she came near me. Sometimes they were growling and snarling, sometimes a yelp from Martha. And Jolene never stopped aiming for me every time she shook Martha off, and here Martha comes again. By the end, Jolene was taking about all she'd cared to take and was letting Martha know she's drawing the line. Next time I saw them, Martha never made one dive at Jolene when she came to me for some attention. I'd say Jolene gave Martha a dog talking to.

These dogs love each other in such a way they're sisters and best friends for life. Over where they live, they lie down beside each other on the floor, back to back. It appears to be good for them to have each other. It keeps them riotously happy. Being young, they both want to play all the time, and they have each other. The other dogs in the house won't do. Gretchen is 16. The others are too small. They have each other in a house with 4 other dogs. I've an idea that no dog will get into a fight with either one of them without the other one jumping in too. They look at each other with the same love in their eyes as when they look at me. They're both bubbling over with love every minute. I'd say it means they have a good life.

Martha squirms frantically for me to pet her. I have to hold her down with one hand so she can't move, and pet her with the other hand. She squirms and squeals, rolls on her back and pees on herself. I let her go and she explodes into wide open again. They'll be formidable hunters when they're a little bit older and taste fresh blood. Their minds will work together as one. It's no contest of Jolene being dominant dog, because she's so much bigger. They're both remarkable dogs. Jolene has a good mind and will train Martha's mind. Both mixes of so many different kinds of dogs Jolene has patches all over of every kind of dog that's in her. Whatever kinds of dogs are in Martha are muted. She's various browns put in a blender and a couple of little stripes like war paint on her face in yellow, her only marks but for white toes on every foot and a white brushstroke the length of her belly. Good dogs. I'm happy to have them around.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


goat rock, whitehead

Two months of snow on the ground, frozen solid, and more in the forecast. I understand why Sarah Palin left Alaska, after, of course, the money in her new role as the next Republican hopeful, getting the public appearance makeover they gave Paula Jones and Linda Tripp on the way to the trash heap of media suckers when their treachery was no longer needed. I don't understand somebody like Sarah Palin at all. Barbie for militia calendars, maybe? The world is full of all different kinds of people, and if I were to experience some of the really nutty ones, I'm certain she'd look like somebody I'd like to spend some time with. She's just of a mind that I'm not. That's all. So is everybody else on earth.

I finally saw why I've not given Patti Smith the affirming she deserves over the last several years. Just because her first album was one of the great albums of rock, and the second one right there on its heels, and from then on nothing as good as the beginning. I caught myself holding it against her for not making the greatest album in rock over and over every time she recorded something. That was retarded thinking on my part. Even when she's not as good as I want her to be, she's still good.

It told me I need to be watching my conclusions that spring up unconsciously and lock me down. A conclusion is an end. When I conclude something, it's signed, sealed, delivered. That's the end of it. No two ways about it. Then my mind locks down in that conclusion and I miss everything else around that context and changes since then. Concluding perhaps impedes inner flow, shuts down that which is in continuous motion like water in a stream, and blocks flow. Then my mind atrophies with a log jam of too many conclusions, I get a mind like Rush Limbaugh's and jump off the nearest cliff to end the noise.

This is something I've found with my own intunement since the passing of Jr. I've changed, I can feel it, but I'm not yet far enough into the changes to see manifestations enough to connect the dots. One thing I feel has changed inside, an awareness of the ongoing flow of the present. When I'm aware of the flow and seem to be going with it, I never do anything that needs undoing or inspires regret. It's when I'm out of my own flow that my decisions aren't necessarily on target. I'm in no hurry about anything anymore. Not much comes up that makes me anxious. I pay closer attention in the flow. But I do feel it is something to do with a greater awareness of the present moment.

I take it for Jr's gift. Like when he told me he regretted he couldn't pay me for all I'd done for him, I told him he'd paid in advance. What all I learned that is really worth knowing from Jr Maxwell is worth everything I did for him and more. Again, for me, it was the monk and the abbot, serving the master. From my way of seeing, just Jr's way of putting me in closer touch with the present moment was worth my efforts for his sake and more. All the time I stayed with him I was in the present moment only. No past, no future. Just now. I liked that. I liked getting into the habit, which evidently is what happened. I hear better, see better, think better, even walk better. I can't say I'm fully in the present, though closer than before.

TarBaby, the cat I have the closest mental connection with, suffered from so much absence, but loving him back to health has made us closer than before. We communicate very well now. In the morning, when he wants my attention the moment he hears my breathing change telling him I'm awake, he says , Mao, directly into my ear. One time, a couple weeks ago, when I didn't respond fast enough to suit him, he started gagging into my ear like he was about to puke. That one got my attention to his satisfaction. I had to laugh at the clever trick it was, thought up by a cat's mind, to set me in motion.

TarBaby's health has come back. He still has some issues, but it's looking more and more like 12 going on 13. Cat's becoming an old man. And he hasn't been outside in months. He likes to stalk mice. They keep the mouse population down in the house. The understanding going on between TarBaby and me now is a result of that absence. For one thing, I understood how closely connected we were. I find I tend not to believe another being could care so much for me that a period of absence would matter so much. I believe I've had a problem with that all my life. TarBaby is helping me see it aint necessarily so.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


whitehead sunset

Drove to town this morning and both Air Bellows Gap Road down the mountain and Brown Road down the mountain are mud from one end to the other. I wanted to run by the post office first, so I chose the road to Whitehead. I'd talked with Carole earlier about mud on her mile long driveway. She has 4wheel, a Blazer, and I know her driveway is not near as bad as the road I drove this morning. She described soft mud places about the length of a car, which they are here. Here, several pickups and other 4wheel vehicles a day. Ruts you just have to go with like a sunken railroad track. The bottom of the rut is probably the firmest ground on the road. The road makes a Uturn around the bottom of the mountain, where I knew the real mud would be. Ruts galore, puddles, slushy mud, every kind of mud.

All I could do was go with the ruts and keep it moving. The car floated through the mud like a boat. The tires hesitated to take hold when I turned the wheels the same as a boat does. They gradually caught and I floated around there from rut to rut until the ground became firm again. It was like driving on ice. I didn't dare stop, certain I'd never get moving again. I'm used to it. That place is always bad. It's the bottom of the mountain and the rain that runs down the road and the inside ditch empties into the mud pit at the bottom. It's the nature of the place. It's never impassable, and it's seldom the mudsling it is today. I hate to think of what will happen there when they pave it. The pavement in that curve would stay soaked with water. In the winter, the water freezes and breaks the pavement into hundreds of little chunks that break down as they're driven over. When that happens, they pave over it. And the same cycle starts over.

It's simply a difficult place for road maintenance. From my time of farm work with Tom Pruitt, I believe I know how to solve the problem permanently, but don't presume to tell state road people I know more than they do about keeping a road. Because I don't. I would put down a layer of big rocks 5-6 inch diameter in a time like this when it's all mud, and sink them into the mud good, driving something over them. Keep on putting them in low places until it's level all the way around. Then a layer of 2-3" rock and pack it down, then the layer of gravel. Continue that around the outside edge of the road to let the road drain down the bank after digging it down about half way. Put sod over the rocks that are off the road so people won't be driving cars off the side in the night. I believe that would keep it plenty drained.

Twice today I had a mudsling. This is not complaining. I've known that curve as good as I know about anything. It is an incurable mudhole and ice rink. It's no big deal. Besides, I want to live in the country because it still has a little bit of connection with Mother Earth. A mudsling is a pretty good connection. The car is already so muddy underneath and the bottom halves of the doors, another mudsling isn't even going to add any. The car can't hold any more. I want to clean it at the wash place in town, but it will be exactly the same by the time I get home. It doesn't matter. It's winter. This is what happens when we have a real winter, which this one is. I don't hear anybody who knows the land complaining. We need the water for the water table, the ground water. In a year or 2 we'll probably be back to mild and dry winters. Who knows? I'm not a prophet. I certainly don't know. But looking at patterns of progression, it looks like, appears to be, seems like we'll rejoin the bigger pattern this winter was a departure from. It falls under the only certainty I've seen about winters. No two are ever alike. It's the same with summers, springs and falls. Each one is uniquely itself.

Where I park here at the house is a bit of a downhill slope that the tire tracks turned to ice on months ago. The snow gave the ice a little grip, so I never had a problem pulling out of there. Until today. The tracks were melted down to the gravel most everywhere except under the right front tire, the one that leads. I sat laughing at the predicament, trying to go back and forth a little bit, get at least a few feet run on it. Nothing would get it past a certain point. Just a few inches beyond that point it would grab. I watched the rooster tail of ice and mud the tire was slinging out in front of the car. I was attempting to back up the hill. There came a time when I saw how to do it. I just let the tire tear up that soft ice until it struck gravel. It wasn't long before just holding on and keeping it going got er done. Seemed like an odd predicament when I never had a problem on the snow and ice pack in the tracks. Down to the last film of original ice and it wet.

It felt so good to get out on the road and drive. The roads were clear and mostly dry. Beautiful landscape everywhere, the spotted landscape of snow and last years growth packed down where the snow melted. It's always a beautiful drive from my house to Sparta and back, all 3 ways of going to town from here. Today it felt like a minor freedom to be out on the road moving along through the landscape on a road that leads to every road in this hemisphere. Being housebound for so long, sometimes I feel like I'd like to go fill the gas tank and go somewhere, like to the Ralph Stanley museum in his home town, to Bristol to see the country music museum there with its focus on this region. It's only a few hours either way. Just to get out on the road to Mouth of Wilson, Marion, then interstate to Bristol alongside the mountain range with Whitetop and Mt Rogers the landscape out the side window. I believe there is a herd of buffalo along there, too, or was.

It would be a good time of year to drive up to Whitetop, to the top of the mountain where the old fir trees have died of acid rain. It's a beautiful place and a beautiful drive. The point where Tennessee, Virginia and NC meet can be seen from up there. One time at Whitetop the sky was overcast to horizon in all directions. An opening in the cloud let a ray of sunlight shine down onto that very point while I was looking at it. The mountain itself is almost tropical with mosses and ferns and small fir trees everywhere, big white rocks with moss on them and ferns growing around them. I love to walk among the trees at the top of Whitetop. One time I was there in fog and that was worth being there to see. Lush forest in the fog is an unforgettable experience.

Monday, February 22, 2010


whitehead school/community center

Another day above freezing. It did melt the ice. The snow now has the texture of a snow cone and foot punches through every step. It's still mighty slick as it's all ice crystals. Wet ice crystals. A little tiny bit of a drizzle today helped the melting process. Rain is called for tomorrow. Maybe it will help wash away the snow. There's no way it will all be gone after tomorrow. It will melt down a little bit, and the snow may disappear from the sunny sides of the mountains. But on the northern sides of mountains and the meadows, the ice/snow became slush, so the next day I think is forecast snow. Below freezing to turn the slush into ice again overnight and then a layer of snow on that. My memory of this winter will be Snowed In. It's not a complaint. I like it. I just don't like this snow, because I can't walk in it.

In this time of returning to my own concerns after a few years of focus on keeping Jr in his home, on his well-being every minute of the day, I'm letting my own flow determine direction. The time with Jr was a great time, because my mind seldom landed in my own stuff, kept focused outside myself on somebody else's comfort. All my life I've had the affliction of feeling empathy for somebody having a difficult time of any sort. I feel genuine remorse for what my (white) people did to the Indians. I wish it otherwise, but that's the most I can do. Then you have Indians now don't want our sympathy or empathy, and I say, OK, whatever. It's something I can't do anything about. If I tried, they'd have a name for me, another Indian wannabe, or something else. They have their issues, I have mine. They don't want me butting into their business, and I don't want them butting into mine.

I've had my heart pulled in many directions along the way, sympathy and empathy for people near and far having serious difficulties. Like 5 or more years ago when the melted glacier in Russia cut loose a mudslide that went through the village at 75mph, burying everything. It was a fairly quick death without warning for everyone in the village. I have to concern myself with the man who had gone to the next village that day, and imagine his sorrow. Some years ago I asked a Dutch Jew who had survived the Nazi period in hiding how he felt about losing 39 relatives, all near and extended family. He said you just go on. Somehow he came through, no need for guilt, something he could do nothing about. The Nazi period made an atheist of him. He didn't believe God spared him for a reason. He believed he had a life to live, go ahead and live it while you have it.

I believe it is that streak in me that made me want to take care of Jr in his helpless time. I wanted to have someone with him he could trust absolutely. There wasn't even anybody unreliable stepping up on his behalf. By this time in my life, I've learned that making-the-world-a-better-place is something I cannot do politically. Something I can't do anything about beyond my hands reach. I don't want to have followers and fund raisers and do something according to national guidelines to get on the evening news for making a difference. I can't do anything outside my own world, which is small. My world is my friends, relatives, neighbors, everyone I know, wherever they are, and that's about it. Alleghany County is the borderline of my world. If I'd like to do something to help humanity, one person is humanity, just like 9 billion is humanity.

I can't stop malaria in the equatorial regions of the earth. There's not much at all I can do. But, if a friend I respect a great deal falls on hard times and I can help out, it satisfies my need to do something worth while, and to help out a friend, both. Since the time with Jr I feel an inner fulfillment that I've done one thing in my life that I consider important. I don't need to go out and start seeking something else I can do that's important. I don't need to do it again. I didn't seek the time with Jr. It just happened. That's how I believe it best, to go with what happens instead of planning. When something is happening of its own in the flow of things, it has context and purpose built in, ready to go.

Planning for me has never worked out well. First, I don't know enough about anything to make plans. One of my friends does everything by plan. Every time we talk, he asks me what my plans are. I have to say I have none. Once, when we were talking about it, I said I like to let things happen. He said he likes to make things happen. I liken his transport to a bulldozer, mine to a canoe. He makes things happen, for sure. His obituary will be in the NYTimes. Mine will not. The one way is right for him and the other way is right for me. We both know that, so we can be friends unconcerned that we don't think alike. No two people I've ever known think alike. I've never needed people who think like me around me. I probably wouldn't even like somebody who thinks like me, like we tend not to like people who look like us or have the same name.

One of the aspects of Jr I appreciated most was that he was from a world very different from the world I was from, the world of my ancestors. We didn't think very much alike, except where understanding was concerned. Both of us were open to understanding others instead of expecting of them. We crossed the culture gap easily. Plus, I had the experience of knowing Tom and Millard Pruitt and a lot of other people of this culture. The culture itself is perhaps the greatest interest of my life. I used to think it was something I could write about, but I can't. Because, I don't have a clue.
I love the people of this culture and Jr was very much of the culture. We did think differently in that he never thought in abstractions, and I found I think way too much in abstractions, so I let his influence help me get past so much abstract thinking. It's like using latinate words in excess. I found Jr's way of thinking much more interesting than my own. His thinking was in the now, good at figuring things out. Jr's intelligence made me feel puny. I found his intelligence way beyond mine, his altruism was like in very few I've ever known, his self-sufficiency not even a question, his humility the real thing. Jr's knowledge was all first hand. Mine, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th. Like I say, a very different way of thinking. That's what I liked about Jr as a friend.

In my first years in these mountains I was fairly well lost in that I had not anticiped such a very different way of thinking in the people I came to live among. Perhaps at the root of the difference is that the people I knew here got their intelligence by experience. Where I came from, people got their intelligence studying for tests. My grammar is according to school. Theirs is according to experience. It's a living language here, where mine is a book language. Since I've been here, I've been getting more learning by experience, paying closer attention to experience. I value both ways of learning. I actually believe experience is the better teacher. But reading can add some dimensions inaccessible to experience. I recall seeing a woman a couple years after school who had been in my Shakespeare class. While we were talking, I said something about Shakespeare and she said, "I forgot everything about Shakespeare when I turned in the final exam." You can't do that with experience. Experience has a way of sticking with us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


duck duck

Went by to see Jim Winfield today, recently home from 3 months in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and VietNam. We sat on the back deck of the house with snow all around, in sunlight, warm and comfortable, his 9 ducks huddled on the snow in front of us, keeping an eye on us, company. The frozen pond is on the other side of the house. We watched the ducks as we talked. He'd hired a Mexican to shovel snow for him, a couple of trails to outbuildings, chicken house and barn, and get some off a roof with not much slope. They talked in Spanish quite a bit and I took a dozen or so pictures of ducks, only one of them worth looking at, and it barely.

I thought of China where they herd ducks with a long bamboo pole like a fishing pole, something to guide them with if one goes too far off either side of the herd. I remember a b&w photograph from someplace like Life magazine years ago of a Chinese boy walking a herd of white ducks. I wondered why ducks didn't take here like chickens did. My imagining is that our country, our towns, our suburbs were built on theretofore wild land with predators that had been driven into other territories, such that they have no territory of their own. A bobcat without its own territory is in the territory of another bobcat wherever it goes. Ducks are defenseless, like rabbits. Rabbits can run fast and ducks can swim. When the fox comes around, duck goes for a swim. It's not like chickens have a great deal of defenses, either, except some of them can fly a little bit. Duck eggs don't taste good to the American palate. But they do taste good to the Chinese.

Jim was talking about a possibility of going to southern China next year. He met several Chinese people in his travels this time. He learned that the mainland Chinese are free to travel inside the country now and there is a great deal of movement in China. People are making money and they're able to travel. For natural wonders of the world, China has some of the most awe-inspiring landscape on the earth. About 2/3 of the country is desert, serious desert with some of the most amazing rock formations and mountains on this earth.

The southern mountains are tropical and beautiful mountains. As a result, most of the population lives in the eastern part of the country, about the eastern 1/3, where all the history took place. The other side of the desert to the west is Tibet. I regret China's absolute takeover of Tibet, but I also regret how all the land of my own nation was taken. It's not like there's anything I can do about any of it, so I worry myself over it less as I grow older and see it's everywhere, idiots rule. Intellect without ethics is the same as ignorance. I can't say who has ethics and who does not, considering I know nothing about the subjectivity of anybody but myself, though actions do tend to be projections of thought.

Jim, like me, in the past have been interested politically, like getting involved is the way to make a difference. I look back now and laugh at myself. Oh so serious about a decision made in a world I have no access to whatsoever, by people who wouldn't even give me a second look. I didn't go to an ivy league school. I'm not of east coast wealth, west coast or any other coast of wealth. Therefore, I have no voice, without doing something really stupid like flying a plane into a tall building in Austin, Texas. Maybe he'll get the Darwin award for the year, extricated himself from the gene pool.

I've seen from reading current Chinese fiction and some histories, plus seeing well over a hundred Chinese films over the last 3 or so years with netflix, that China has a lot of cities in it I've never heard of, that when I see them in a film, they're bigger than Los Angeles, and skyscrapers galore. All of it new. Jim said he learned a good bit about Chinese cities he'd never heard of that are as big as our biggest cities, too. China is in production. He said it looks like Asia is coming to life in economic terms and in the terms of their traditional ways of life, just like here, the old ways are going fast. What's left is pop culture. I believe Asians can make us look like beginners at pop culture. The Asian pop market is immense. Thailand is the land of pop piracy.

Jim's observation of the Chinese he'd become acquainted with along the way is the same as my observation from film, fiction and history. The Chinese are very different from us. Very different. I like seeing Shanghai and Beijing in movies, past and present, but that's about as close as I care to get. I have to confess to a degree of fear where going as deep into the Asian world as he went is concerned. In Peace Corps, Winfield lived among Indians in the jungle of Ecuador, and spend 3 years in Zambia, in Africa, just south of the Congo. A few years in Haiti too.

He can go places and do things I can't do. I'm partial to plumbing, to start with. I like it a lot. I don't want to go to Bombay where it smells like stale piss all the time, until you get used to it and it starts smelling good. Movies and reading and hearing the tales of a traveler are my forms of adventure. I've got so bad that I don't even like to cross the county line unless it's a couple of miles to see Ralph Stanley at Fairview Ruritan. I like to live my adventure right here at home where I'm snowed in all winter with frozen pipes, a good time to stay at home.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


           found image

TarBaby woke me up early this morning. I meant to get up early, but not that early, so I went back to sleep after feeding him and woke about when I wanted to. I turned the radio on and it was Car Talk. Though one part of my mind knew it was Saturday, the part that turned the radio on expected to hear the news, like M-F. I like Car Talk, it's just that it threw me to hear them talking. Expectation again. Unconscious expectation. I've been tired of expectation for several years, but it lingers. It runs deep.

I wondered how I'd do about getting up in the morning after the time spent with Jr. My natural inclination seems to be awake all night, get a lot done and sleep during the day. Night shift. But there is too much going on during the day I need to attend to, bank, post office, drugstore, Dr appointment, Farmers Hardware, Dollar General, lunch with a friend, this and that. Every morning at Jr's I woke early by my standard. No reason to stay up late, so I evolved going to sleep early and getting up early. The earlier I get up, the more daylight hours I have in the day. I like daylight for whatever project I'm working on. Rising early with coffee and a book in the first hour isn't bad.

The news came on when Car Talk was over, 2 really intelligent brothers with quick, retentive minds, good educations, brilliant guys who came up with a comedy routine that's informative as well. Suddenly, from good humor guys with brilliant minds to the news, reminders of the Jane's Addiction song of around 1990, Idiots Rule. I remembered talking with my friend Jim Winfield three days ago after he returned from a 3month trip to SE Asia. He asked if I think this country can come to terms with its overwhelming issues and remain whole, a Democracy, or at least as much a Democracy as can be. My answer without hesitation was, "No. Not without divine intervention."

Evidently half of the population thought having an intelligent man in the White House might be a good breather after Bozo the Clown in the tradition of Ronald McDonald. I ask myself if we've had any intelligent presidents in my lifetime. The names that came to mind were Carter, a degree in nuclear physics, Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, Obama, Harvard Law School. These are brilliant minds. They are people with ethical standards too, at least a degree of altruism, at least some concern for the multitude instead of disdain. Every one was a good mind with a good ethical foundation, and every one of them was rendered powerless and defeated by ignorance. The great defeat delivered into Obama's lap by the Supremes 5 of unlimited corporate spending on elections came out of intelligence missing ethics, civility, concern for the multitude. I see it a venal attitude toward the multitude, which I and you are digits in.

I wondered on and off for years how it is that somebody with a good education, who did well in school, has a quick mind, high IQ, can be found out a moron ethically. I don't mean like having mistresses, I mean like being on the take from lobbyists who represent corporations that pay to have legislation work for them, against us. By now, the corporate take over of our government is secure. All the laws are in place. Good bye American people. Get a job. If you can find one. Hey, sweatshop pay is better than no pay, right? The American government is not here for its people anymore, if it ever was, but for their money.

When I look as far into it as I can see, I come back seeing its roots in the American disdain for education that is American tradition from beginning to present. It's not just American. It's Russian, French, Welch, anyplace inhabited by humans. Though Obama may be held powerless politically by the forces of ignorance, the John Wayne brigade, or John Birch, same difference, he has already inspired a generation of black school kids to value education. It can't help all, but it will be an assist to many. A light of hope where there was none. One step at a time.

A pattern I've seen in the last half century of awareness of the news, ignorance trumps intelligence over and over. Yesterday I saw the movie, Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. The young American guy's dad told him a Japanese saying, The nail that sticks up gets hammered. That is a perfect description of American politics. Somebody rises above the rest in intelligence gets slapped down. Like the old American saying of don't get above your raisin. It's a good philosophy for humility, but not necessarily for education or career.

Sarah Palin's appeal is the bimbo Barbie dumb blond. She's not blond yet, but I'll bet she'd bleach it for Rupert Murdoch. After the Jokers Reagan, BushI, BushII, McCain, I wonder what happened with Dan Quayle. He was rejected for being an incurable air head. But I don't believe that's why. I believe it's because he was a Ken doll. Barbie's real mate is GI Joe. There was no effort by the American public to help Al Gore when it was so obvious a coup by anti-Democracy forces was taking place; W's billing was a GI Joe doll. Even little girls don't like the Ken doll very much.

This is a brief of what I've learned in the course of my adult life from paying cursory attention to politics, more the observer than the participant. I always vote, because I see it a vote for Democracy every time. In the act of voting I say, I want Democracy. No one can have confidence in voting after the Supreme 5 gave power to the loser. They don't care. It's a sham any way you look at it. It's called playing the game. The American people are now known and have been known for some several years to have short attention spans, which gets used against us continually in law making. By this time in my life I've come to the place where it means no more to me than a serial soap opera for men where they advertise soap for shaving with a new episode every day. I lost any hope where politics was concerned when I was 26. Since then, all I've seen, in a nutshell, is idiots rule. Thank you, Perry Farrell. You said it loud, you said it proud.

Friday, February 19, 2010


lucas pasley and fred mcbride
lynn worth's hand

Lucas Pasley made a couple of cds for me from his computer, music of him and Fred McBride playing together. Fred was what you might call a mentor to Lucas as a fiddler. He was Lucas's relation. I believe it runs that Lucas's grandmother, Ellen, is daughter of Frank and Della Brooks, and was Fred's cousin, Fred's mother Maggie being sister to Frank. If that's not it, it might be close. Both are kin to Guy Brooks, fiddler of Red Fox Chasers, who was Frank Brooks's brother. He was Fred's uncle and Lucas's great great uncle. Something like that. And maybe it makes Lucas and Fred third cousings. Lucas's respect for Fred's fiddling is way up there. Fred also played clawhammer banjo.

Fred was of the old-time mountain tradition indifferent to recording. Tammy and David Sawyer of Stone Mountain Country Store, both good old-time musicians, David, guitar, Tammy, bass and dulcimer, brought in Linda Cabe of Wilkes to play banjo. They made a very respectable old-time album with Fred the fiddler. It was essentially their effort to get Fred recorded. Stone Mountain Old-Time String Band. A good old-time album. It's a gem, the only available example of Fred's playing. Fred only played in jams, didn't care for a stage. He told me when they recorded the Stone Mountain cd he had to play by himself in a glass booth with headphones on. It didn't seem natural. He didn't like it. Didn't aim to ever do it again. He was satisfied the album was made after it was done, but once was enough.

In the time of the Backwoods Beat music store in Sparta, Fred came to Thursday night jams regular, George Eller, banjo, with him from Hays/NWilkesboro. They lived across the street from each other. George's address is Hays, Fred's NWilkesboro. They brought their women, Fred's wife Frances, George's girlfriend Dallas. They were the audience with me. Fred was an almighty fiddler, relaxed, fluid in his bowing arm, used his little finger with the ease of his forefinger, showed no emotion anywhere but in the sound of his fiddle. Sometimes he tapped a foot to keep rhythm. Fred is one of the old-time fiddlers who played rhythm at the same time he played melody.

The first of the 2 cds from Lucas has been playing. It is Fred playing fiddle and Lucas playing banjo. It's some good musicianship on every tune. I may mention something to Lucas about getting copies of these to the NC folklife center in Chapel Hill, and to the library here. They're wanting music from this county. This is some very respectable old-time. After the 2 weeks of Heart Auction, I could make a whole show of it. It is satisfying music to listen to. Brings to mind Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham, Paul Brown and Mike Seeger. As for feeling, it relates to me like Fred Cockerham's cd with field recorders collective. It has the kind of feeling in the air that I get from the Fred Cockerham. It's something I can listen to with full satisfaction.

I'm continually struck by how good Lucas Pasley is with the banjo. He is good at every instrument in an old-time band. I don't mean just kinda good, but the real thing. He can pick. I don't know how he does it with 3 kids, a wife and house, 2 vehicles and a job that takes a lot more time than workday time. But that's the mountain tradition. Work like a dog and practice when you get a minute. And what do you get out of it? Being able to play a fiddle well or any of the instruments well. That's the goal and the reward. It's a driven thing. It gets done by people who have to do it against all odds. As long as there are poor people in the mountains, the music will live. It's looking like poverty has been on the increase for some time. It was on the decrease for awhile, but it's back. Old-time music will go on.

This recording of Lucas and Fred together is a treasure to Lucas now that Fred is gone. This is what he has left. The recording of it wasn't a torment to Fred, because it was playing the way he likes to play, sitting down having a jam, one song to the next. It's a chance to play. Fred was one of those old-time mountain people who didn't talk much. People who didn't know him though him morose. "He never says anything." From Fred's perspective, everybody else was talking and he didn't need to. When you didn't know him, he didn't see you. When you get to know him, you find out he saw you all along. Fred was able to talk and did talk. He talked freely when he talked, but minimal words. He trimmed a sentence down to its essential elements. He came from before the time we believed we have to be smiling all the time. He never thought it imortant to be pleasing to people he didn't know. He was never of the mind to wonder what people thought. He knew what people thought: whatever they wanted to think. It's also a way of saying he minds his own business. When he's playing the fiddle he doesn't have to talk.

Just as I put that down, Fred started talking. After playing awhile, the musicians give their fingers and arms a break and do some talking. Lucas being family, Fred was freely talking about fiddlers he learned from when he was younger. It was nice to hear Fred talk again. He was another of those people you never thought about dying and then one day, zip, they're gone. That's how it was with Fred. He was a man with a great stillness inside.

This will be fun to play on the radio show. Lucas is so good on the banjo, I want my listeners to hear what Mr Pasley, English teacher at the high school, can do with a banjo. Lucas is collecting music by musicians of this county from reel-to-reel tapes, cataloging them in his computer and putting them on cd for preservation. Reel-to-reel tapes don't last very well and you can't even get the machines to play them anymore. My listeners are the people who love mountain music, and this is mountain music. It is a joy for me every time I can play for them something new to me, rare unto this is the only place you'll ever hear this music. This recording is one of the multiple many gems we have in this world that satisfies the human spirit. The music is the art form of these mountains. They do it well, too. Mountain music is the only music of my acquaintance that has ever inspired me to shed tears of joy for the beauty of it. Thank you, Lucas P.

Thursday, February 18, 2010



The temperature went above freezing today. The rhododendron leaves unfurled, the sun was out, icicles dripping, meaning they'll be a little bit longer after the freeze tonight. Water has a lot of interesting properties, one being that it makes icicles. I see patterns in the drifting snow exactly as in a desert of drifting sand. Snow crystals are another totally subjective entity in this world. They're like fingerprints, no 2 alike. That defies imagination when I consider that on what little bit of acreage I see out the window must be zillion zillion, whatever that is. It seems like an unlimited amount of snowflakes right here in what I can see. Then I think of the hundreds of square miles of the same snow and that many more snowflakes.

Even if no 2 are alike, I can't help but imagine that given the size there couldn't be more than a few million possibilities of snowflake individuality. Surely there is repetition of possible designs, like among humans, it happens there are people who look alike, like stand-ins for famous actors and actresses. Probably for about anybody on earth a close look-alike can be found. That's just the physical frame. Inside is a totally different matter with infinitely more individual possibilities. Frozen rain.

Late morning I was fussing about the house tying trashbags to put in the trunk for the dump. Dale Caveny, NC Wildlife, stopped by. I didn't even have a place for him to sit down. We stood and talked. It was ok with both of us because he was tired of sitting driving and I was tired of sitting with coffee reading. He might have been the first customer I came to know during the music store period. He liked old-time music, gave some energy to learning fiddle.

He has one of my paintings of Benton Flippen playing at the Jubilee. He wrote the article for Old Time Herald about my mountain musician paintings. He raised 2 kids now away in college. He's been putting photographs on facebook of pictures he take when he goes to some scenic place to walk all day or run til he drops. He's athletic. In high school gym class, on the day we had to climb a rope to the gym rafters and back down, where I struggled every inch of the way, both ways. He would have been one of the guys who did it without using his legs and feet, hand-over-hand, running up it like in a Jackie Chan movie.

He told me once of a time when he was a rookie, new to carrying a holster and gun, aware of needing to learn how to handle it well in a hurry. He was in the bathroom quick-drawing in front of the mirror, watching his movements like a dancer does in a mirror. He said that one time when he drew the gun and pointed it at the mirror he saw the bullet down the barrel. Said it gave him a chill. Dale is a thinker, too. He looks for ethical ways to conduct himself on his life-long journey to a better understanding of the nature of God and his own role in this world, a gun-totin' householder lover of God. He's not of the little boy being a big man with a gun and a badge syndrome.

I'd say the Dale Caveny I know is in his line of work foremost with such an appreciation of what we call the natural world, what's left of it, he wants to be in the line to defend it. He believes the North Carolina laws were not made idly that preserve our wildness, which is important. It's a Dickensian variety of arrests he's made, people he's talked with in a day's work. He likes to write and create a character with words and imagination. So he listens when people talk. He appreciates everyone's right to be regarded with respect. It makes him a good officer of the law.

We talked some of the immensity of importance a given moment is to one person that changes a life unalterably from that moment on, when no one around that person has any idea. In effect, it's a bolt out of the blue, and the person him/herself doesn't even have to know it at that moment. Isolated to one individual, changes nobody else, has no emotional power outside that one person. And the same is going on with everybody else. Then it gets like snowflakes in a hurry.

When he turned up at the door I had a schedule in my mind, was getting ready to put on clothes besides what I sleep in that I wear night and day when I don't have to go to town. I wanted to see if I could get up Fender Mountain to get the video to Dean Richardson he'd asked me to get for him from I could do that on the way back, giving me plenty of time to visit with Dale. I got a good look at what I slug I am when I can't even offer somebody a place to sit down. That's bad.

As it turned out, on the way to town, I saw Dean at Jr's shop where he was transferring from his front-wheel drive Cadillac with perfect center of gravity to John's 4wheel pickup with a roundbale in the back. That was my answer I could not make it up the mountain. Ice. The timing was perfect. When Dean in his polar outfit that made you look for the dog sled got himself strapped in, I handed him the video. Jerry Edwards had been there with the tractor to scrape the driveway to the house so Ross can get up there to keep the fire in the waterstove going so the pipes won't freeze. I went up to the house on the way back to fill half a dozen plastic jugs with good mountain water.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


tarbaby 17feb10

The forecast for today didn't come true. Got maybe a dusting of snow in the night instead of 5 inches. Forecast for tonight is same, 5-6 inches. I don't pay much mind to forecasts now. It's always snow and below freezing cold. Instead of dreading it days in advance, I wait now and groan just once a day when the snow and ice descend. I'm at a place where it almost doesn't matter anymore. Maybe I'll get so exhausted from it I'll fall into a trance and flop around on the floor like a fish. I'm about there.

Earlier today I saw 2 nature documentaries made for tv, funded by Reader's Digest, that good ole Rupert Murdoch right wing organ. It used to be the mind of Ozzie and Harriet. Now it's the mind of Rush Limbaugh. But the films were free of propaganda, unless it would be the capitalist propaganda of survival of the fittest. The films were spectacular of God's creation, the animals we call wild, and fish of the sea. Film of creatures of the wild using their fullest intelligence in their hunting skills. Seeing a closeup of a leopard's leading foot when it was stalking, I thought of TarBaby stalking a mouse. All the movements the big cats made I've seen at home with the 3 felines.

It was all beautifully photographed. A lot of it was done in such a way I wondered how a photographer could do that. Among the first scenes was a closeup of a lioness stalking through tall grass. It was filmed by a camera that was not more than 6 feet from the lion's right side. I could see the distance between cat and camera in the thin grass, wondering why the cat is ignoring this machine moving along with it, not far to the right, a swat of the paw could get photographer and camera in one swipe, but it kept on stalking the gazelle like this thing moving beside it wasn't there. Good footage. I expect the photographer who got those images was very well paid, having a ball making good money doing what he/she loves doing.

There are pictures of monkeys in trees jumping all about, chimpanzees eating termites on a stick, running through the jungle, living their lives, up close and personal. It has film of tiny jumping spiders doing what they do, like jump on preying mantises and bite them to death. One spider went after another spider and touched it one time, then sat back and waited for it to die. A Steven Seagal move. Different monkeys have different alarms for different occasions. The snake alarm is one sound, another alarm is another sound, like they have a vocabulary, limited, but there it is. Monkeys, as always, were hilarious. The monkey part of a zoo was the most fun. I could look at them and they'd look at me. We'd look at each other across that divide of consciousness and see that while on the one hand it's a tremendous leap, on the other hand it's just a step. I wanted a monkey pet in childhood, but they are way too raucous to keep in a house. They don't toilet train. I've heard of people that have monkeys living in the house, but everything in the house has to be made for it, like places to swing besides drapes. It would have to be a monkey gym.

There is something special about a friendship with a non-human. I have found cats and dogs not far away at all in consciousness. All it takes is paying attention to them. My animal friends taught me we don't need to be talking to communicate or be in touch. My talk to them amounts to little more than their names and short phrases of endearment, like, 'TarBaby's a good jumper!' He is good at making spectacular jumps, like from the table I feed him on to the top of the refrigerator and not skid more than a couple inches. When he was young and hyper athletic, I saw him jump all the way across the creek down in the woods where it was at least 10 feet across. It was a beautiful leap. He studied it a moment, standing with front toes to the water's edge, and sprang suddenly into the air. It was such a long distance he let all four feet hang down relaxed while he flew through the air. When it was time to land, just a slight movement of legs and his feet touched down the other side of the water.

These are the joys of pets for me that makes them worth buying all their food, giving them shelter, and paying their vet bills. They keep me in touch with what I think of as real. My species is bent on self-destruction, and, by God, we're takin ever'thing else with us. I like it in the mountains where that mind is not in the mountains themselves. It's just fleas to the mountains. They were here when we came here and they'll be here when we're gone. Like Ralph Stanley said of them, 'They keep you humble. They put you in your place.' That's about as good as it can be said. I like having little people for my friends who are closer to the spirit than I am. They live by the spirit. Say, 'Mao,' to the giant and he feeds them. Don't worry about getting a job, find a warm place and curl up for a long winter's nap.

They're closer to in tune with themselves than I am. We share the same shelter, they've lived here all their lives, 12 years. We understand one another pretty well. They know me way better than I know them. We pay attention to each other. We're family, actually. They don't want to argue and fuss and threaten and lie and take trouble with them wherever they go. They want to stretch out on my lap when I watch a movie or read. I like it too. We have a bonded friendship that is family. Of course, they were born together. I adopted them and raised them, making me their adoptive parent. It's a relationship I value. I see their level of consciousness about the same as the deer that run for the trees when I drive by.

Sometimes I look at a deer and know that individual is a unique personality among deer as TarBaby is a among cats. I see herds of deer and they all run, making it difficult to imagine how individual each one is from the others, just like people, just like cats, like birds and so on. In the herd are ones that like each other and ones that don't. I know they feel love, like all the other animals. Life is love. Love is God. No need to look on the other side of the clouds for God. Life is going on in abundance here on earth. My automatic mind wrote heart there for earth and it looked right, then I realized the 2 words are made of the same letters. Take the h from the back and put it in the front. It's that too. Curious I'd never seen that before. Maybe I had and forgot it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


find the turkeys

Drove to town today in 18 degrees. On the way back, I stopped at Jr's for another 6 half gallon jugs of water. Yesterday's tracks were drifted over and the whole driveway was drifted from bottom to top. I thought I'd give it a go. Got stuck right away, first thing. I take the snow shovel with me now, so I shoveled the snow away from the front wheels and it still wanted to hesitate coming out, but it took hold, and once it got traction, it came on out. I walked to the house and back. It was a good short exercise walking in snow from above the ankle to below the knee. It was the snow from last night that was dry and crystalline like all these snows have been that are on the ground now from several weeks ago, rained on and frozen, that the wind blew across the ice into drifts.
Not many cars on the road today. Needed gas. 16mpg from a couple weeks driving on snow and ice. On highway it gets 20 and better. That's what the 4 cylinder truck did. The Catfish is 6 cylinder. Every time I drive it, I'm impressed by how well it goes. The one time I kicked it into passing gear was like one of those rocket sleds in the 50s where they tested ability to take G forces. There were motion pictures of a camera on the guy's face when it's accelerating really fast. That image came to mind when the car took off like a rocket so instantly I realized in a hurry I needed to be in full command of steering. I've never owned a car that would do that. It felt like it took half a gallon of gas in a few hundred feet. Brought to mind the urban streets racing movie The Fast & The Furious when the nitro tank kicked in. A lesser version of same. Way lesser. The kind of lesser I can handle.
It's a beautiful world out there covered in white. I especially like The Peak in Whitehead while traveling Air Bellows Gap Road through the long valley where Jr's family farm used to be. The great meadow in white with a few round bales and clusters of black cows around them, and the cows out walking on their trials in the snow. The apple tree orchard. The Peak up there in white with millions of vertical gray lines, the trees. I've seen this valley and this mountain in every kind of weather there is. It's beautiful in every one. Ankle-deep snow with the ice crust doesn't seem to be much of an enjoyment for cows to walk in. Very few trails through the snow and them made by several cows, paths. The old Blum farmhouse and outbuildings where Jr's lifetime friend Joe Blum grew up is one of the old farmhouses that has been kept up well. Elvira Crouse grew up in the house Taylor's live in now on my right after the barn on the left side of the road. It's calendar scenery through there.
Liberty Baptist Church on the right, snow piled high all around their driveway/parking area. A beautiful little country church, kept up well, a graveyard full of Whitehead people, Jr's dad one of them. The old man's tombstone is a rectangular block of polished black marble with a modest roof cap over it and a foundation below it. No words or numbers on it. Just plain the marble itself. At the bottom of the foundation is one word MAXWELL. A man of constant sorrow. He's buried alone next to his son who committed one of the county's great scandalous murder/suicides that wrecked to the very foundations the lives of the people nearest to him. I wonder if old man Wylie chose to have his name forgotten. A meaningless question. That's his business.
The next church on the right, Landmark Union Baptist, has Tom Pruitt in the cemetery, his mother and dad, Tobias and Luella, his brother Millard, who chose to be buried with his family instead of in the cemetery of his own church. Tom told me more than once that he could take me inside the church and show me the place, like in the hymn, I can tell you the time, I can show you the place where the Lord saved me in his wonderful grace. I never asked him to show me. I felt like it was his personal private place and I didn't want to invade it, like I could never walk through a cathedral in Europe as a tourist when people are inside praying. Other people can walk through taking pictures and think nothing of it. I'd look in from the open doorway and go no further. Even now when I drive by Landmark in Whitehead, the memory of Tom's place inside the meeting house is there. It was then Regular Baptist.
Wagoners and Richardsons, then Love's, then Jean's. The people in her house now have put a big black star on the outside wall. At the corner is the Whitehead Primitive Baptist church. Beautiful meeting house. The landmark of Whitehead and it's down to 2 or 3. Whitehead Store is still there, but not a store any more. The people that robbed Whitehead store and put Welter out of business hurt the entire community of Whitehead. All that was left after Whitehead store was the tractor shop on the hill, Maxwell Equipment. The driveway drifted over. Snow drifted around the wheels of tractors parked in front.
It felt good walking in the door at Jr's house, the place that was the same as my home for months into a couple years. All of a sudden one day I didn't live there anymore. Back to my house where the spirit was asleep. Now in his house the spirit is asleep. I took some pictures of the living room and kitchen, just so I'd have them for memory while the furniture was still in place. Ross keeps a radio playing fairly loud on WBRF to make potential thieves believe somebody is in the house. When I hear it I think if any of Jr's spirit was left lingering in his house, it sure is gone by now, run out by the racket. Vibration cleanser.
I enjoyed seeing the views out the windows again, the familiar furniture, the kitchen I kept spotless for Absentee Police surprise inspections and Social Services surprise inspections, that crazy period of time when threats were coming down on us from all directions if-you-do and if-you-don't, you're going to the nursing home. I tried to keep up with all their bureaucratic bullshit to keep them pacified instead of setting off alarms. The calm that came over me after Hospice became involved was notable. I had these negative forces struggling against Jr's own will to be allowed to die at home. But we got er done. We made it on through to the finish line with the help of the best humanity has to offer giving us appreciable assists. It was a steady stream of memories flowing through my mind in the house, so much time and so many details in the nutshell of my head. It was like a movie of constantly changing scenes, all in the same location.

Monday, February 15, 2010


hardy cows

I have no knowing how far this will get or if it will get at all. The computer is acting up. It's telling me it's infected and I can't figure out what to do. Best for me not to even attempt it. I don't know how I tricked it to let me at it just now. While I'm here, we'll see what happens.

More snow today, 3 or 4 more inches. Forecast for tonight 5-6 inches. This calls for a drink. I'd been out driving in the snow all over Whitehead early in the day with a couple inches of snow and snowing I drove the Catfish smooth with no problem. Went down to Jr's to use the kitchen sink to get 3 gallons of water. Busted through a drift in his driveway at least a foot deep. Catfish walked right through. About 2/3 of the way it hung. I backed up several feet, made a run at it and plowed on through.
Out there in the snow was really quite beautiful. Got a few decent pictures rolling down the driver's door window for a shot. Nobody was out driving. I made fresh tracks everywhere I went.
That was it. A day of a head nearly obsessed with snow. So tired of it. Heard a forecast for more tonight. When is enough enough? Today was a day of just waiting for time to go by. A warning keeps popping up telling me the computer is infected and I need a certain kind of anti-virus something or other. But when I go to do what they tell me to do, I can't do it. Can't do anything. Stuck in a kind of stasis. Nothing goes forward for me today. Good day to watch a movie, read and forget about how long everything beyond the door has been ice and will go on being ice.
It's one of those days I'd like to check a horoscope to see what's up, but I know what's up. Nothing.
The winters of 77-78 and 78-79 were the worst winters I've experienced here. Worse than this year. The winters I was least prepared. I was cutting trees by the side of the road for firewood because I couldn't get the truck off the road. 2 deep snows, on on top of the other, and they stayed around a very long time. This one wins the prize for all around nuisance. We've had an abundance of powdery snow that got rained on good and it froze and never thawed. Same thing happened again on top of that. Now two and three inches of snow on that to fill in shoveled places and footprints. It keeps on and never lets up.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


wide open spaces
Something perfectly bizarre happened yesterday, Saturday the 13th, new moon. Around 4 I went to bed for a nap, an hour or 2. Woke at 8:30 and it was dark outside. I didn't remember it being dark at 8:30 the day before. I drove to the radio station at 9 and didn't need headlights. I turn on the computer and the time in the lower right corner said what my clocks said with PM. I thought I'd go into control panel soon and change the AM and PM as I have them mixed up. I googled a website to tell me sunrise times. 7:54. The time I was looking at it, almost 9, the time it was here was the same time as sunrise in Fairbanks, Alaska. Can't be. That's all the way across the continent. My battery operated clocks read the same time as the plug in clocks. I was thinking if the earth's rotation slowed down that much in one night, we're in trouble. It would be a major cataclysm all over the earth if that were to happen. It can't happen. Maybe over some millions of years, but not overnight.

At 9 I called Carole and asked if I got her up. No. I explained my problem to her. She said, "It's night." Oh.

We had a good laugh. It took me to all the times Jr would take a nap late in the day and wake up around sunset. He would invariably think it's morning and set about like it was morning. I hesitated to correct him, thought I'd let the darkness in a half hour or so explain it. A little later it was dark and he couldn't make out why. When I said it was night, he had a hard time accepting that, convinced it was morning. This confusion occurred when Jr was at a place where he slept or was in the bed nearly all the time. I've had other of Jr's infirmities visit me since I've been back home. I recognize them as what happens with age. I've seen it in other people all my life, so I'm ready to enter that zone, which I've already entered. It's also the zone where peers start dropping off, the zone when one starts considering that It can happen any time, any place.

Just now heard on the news the Americas cup is back home. A team with a sleek trimaran and a tall sail. A computer dream sailboat built for speed on the big ocean. It won 5 minutes before the Swiss team behind them. It was called the BMW Oracle. Meaning, I suppose, BMW funded the very expensive project. The Swiss boat was evidently funded by Mercedes. An American team got our trophy back.

By the time Jr's mind was gone, I couldn't convince him it was evening when he believed it was morning. I didn't mind. I wasn't like one of his nieces who would get down in his face and shriek, "Jr! Yer losin yer mind!" No one knew that better than Jr. He didn't need to be told. I let him have breakfast if he wanted. Any time he was willing to eat I was there providing, a window of opportunity. Don't let it go by. I felt a little awkward talking with him like it was morning when I knew it wouldn't be long before he'd find out otherwise. I remember him calling his woman friend one evening after dark when he still thought it was morning. She tried to explain to him, but only convinced him she was off the deep end.

This was in the time when he didn't remember anything more than a few seconds. I never tried to direct his thinking out of wherever it was in his mind. It didn't do any good. I didn't see any problem with him thinking it was day when it was night. It wasn't like he had someplace to be. We with our minds functioning in ways that satisfy us most of the time are still deluded about everything around us, like witnesses at a trial, all seeing the same thing, every one different. William Faulkner sometimes in a novel would tell the same event seen by different people, each one a different story. We tend to think our minds are accurate and don't miss anything. I tend to think our minds are wildly inaccurate and we miss about everything. Watching frailty come over Jr taught me a great deal about how we interpret what we call reality. It's up for grabs. I knew what was happening with Jr and made it as gentle for him as I could, never correcting him.

Like the time the Hospice nurse was there for his twice a week bathing. He made it to the floor in the night amid a big mess I couldn't handle alone. I could have, but it would have taken awhile. And if I recall correctly, I was fairly beat down from the stress of watching him so closely. While she was cleaning him up on the floor enough to get him up gradually, he told her he was on the roof, stepped on a weak place and he fell through. He was worried that his car was still on the roof and it might fall. She said smoothly with his flow, "Your car is in its parking place." He said, "It is?" She assured him it was and he was fine. No lectures about it being his imagination and his mind is all whacko. Something else I appreciated about Hospice was their understanding. If he'd told that to a nurse in the hospital, I'd expect him to get a lecture telling him it was a dream, he's in the hospital. His reality is that he fell through the roof. Why argue about "reality" when he's on the floor needing help. His entire life is happening in the bed, in his head. So what if his dream mind blends with his conscious mind.

For some time, a long time before the end, I felt like we communicated more subconsciously than consciously. As his mind began to slip, I knew his meanings, and that was what I went by. What he said with his words might be one thing and I know what he means behind what he said, esp when what he said didn't make a lot of sense. I watched his conversations with other people closely, so when he drew a blank and all his thinking fell down a hole I was able to toss him the word he was looking for and it all came back. I helped him seem to have a better mind with visitors than it really was. I could help him continue a train of thought that vanished at the snap of a finger. Sometimes somebody would ask him a question and I would cringe inside, because questions threw him in a place where there were no words or thoughts, an empty noplace. I always had to help him come back, which was easy and helped him feel better about himself. This is why I did not want an institution putting him on a shelf and treating him like lumber. Even though his mind was not working, he was still there, just like when his mind was working.