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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


rocks and water
Joe Edwards arrived this morning at 10 for a walk we went on until 1:30. Both of us took a lot of pictures. Most of mine were neither here nor there. I'm a little happy with this one. It felt good to be out under the trees again, the canopy speckled with sunlight everywhere. The sound of splashing water everywhere. Up a steep bank, down a steep bank, up a steep bank and keep on going up until you can't walk another step, but there is still a long ways to go, so you go. It was quite an exercise. I figured the worst could happen would be the zapper going off, the electric mule. Walking in the forest, seeing the familiar places, remembering days spent on particular moss-covered rocks along the sides of the stream, reading, writing, watching birds groom themselves overhead not seeing me, seeing the trout swim, water snakes, the long-legged flies scooting about on the water surface. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes it's sex. Watching them is like watching guppies. It's like they have a really high metabolism looking to get into something all the time. Trout spit them back out, so they have no danger. Today I saw less than half a dozen.
I can't help but walk through the forest mourning that the county officially recommends not drinking water from a spring. The ground water isn't safe any more. When I arrived here 34 years ago the land was lush with growth. Waterfalls Creek still had native trout. It's only been since Air Bellows was taken over by invasive christmas trees that everything in the water has died. Even the snails. I feel like the old Indian in the canoe with a tear running down his cheek. What they've done to the ground itself is even worse. But, it's not my call. I will go on drinking water from the spring to share the fate of my mountain. While my mountain is poisoned, I'll be poisoned. Helicopters carry what I take to be pellet fertilizer and sling it all over in the woods, several acres in the woods. It sounds like a hail storm on the roof of the house. At night they spray from a big blower on the back of a tractor the trees either side of the road from the road. Nine tenths of it blows away in the air over meadows, the trees, the house. Doesn't matter. They're making money. Do I have rights in the face of making money? No. It's like Henry Kissinger told Italian prime minister Aldo Moro shortly before his assassination, "Either you stop your political line or you will pay dearly for it." Lookout-lookout-lookout--squeal of tires--crash. After all the things we been through. I sit and watch as tears go by.
I think of Jesus saying render unto Caesar what is his--taxes. It also means don't provoke the people who have power over. I believe it means, too, to go with the peaceful flow and not get ruffled over something I have no control over. It is the context of the world I live in. It's not mine to change it, because I can't. Wouldn't know what to change it to. I do know the nature of the change I'd like to see, that we the American people and we the people of the World find a liking for one another. I'm afraid that requires first a belief in God in one way or another, preferably one's own way. If my interpretation of prophecy is not too far off the bullseye, I'm counting on the Lord coming again is such a way all on earth will see him. It will happen, perhaps, in the heart of every individual. The spirit of God will present a countenance that will arise from our hearts when we see what God reveals to all of us at the same time, perhaps a kind of vision, and after that we want to please God by looking after one another, being a friend a neighbor can count on.
All the prophecies say we're in a time right now that is perhaps the most major moment to ever happen on earth. The day God reveals self to all humans, fill our hearts to overflowing with love, is the day we will shift our attention to the the moment in time that the heavens opened and God poured out love all over the earth. The machinery of hate would stop in that moment. Hate would be over, at least, perhaps a few hundred years. Though I say I see God revealing self and pouring love into everyone's hearts, I don't know what that means. It has to be something from God to prevent humanity from destroying self and others. Like in the last minute when the herd is headed for the cliff he jumps in front of the stampede and turns the herd away from the cliff. Evidently this is a very important time to live through on earth. Whatever it is, it will be a surprise. There's no way it could be something as simple-minded as I might think up. It will be something that is so right it will blow my mind to smithereens.
Enlightenment, another word for disillusionment, is not necessarily easy to live with, while at the same time keeping one's inner life clear, harmonious, peaceful. Some illusions are hard to let go of, the biggest majority of them, and we have layers of illusion like an onion. Get down to the last little bit of onion, take it away and what's left is nothing, what Buddhists call nothingness. Turns out illusion kept us believing we were separate from one another, God, the works. All the illusions go away and there's oneness with space, air, whatever you want to call it. It's a moment when we'll "get it" whatever it is. I don't want to think about it too specifically, it being too big to talk about or write about or especially conjecture about. It will be something we'll sing about worshipfully from then on. I want to leave it be, concern myself with my own place and time. One day a kid I knew said to me, I want to go into space. I said, You're in space. You're on planet earth. That wasn't what he wanted to hear.

Monday, August 30, 2010


ralph stanley & the clinch mountain boys

Almost at the end of August, the month when the weather starts to change from summer to fall, the first nights in the 50s last week. The weather during the day has been pleasant. It's been a mild summer. It steadily rose in heat level and is now steadily moving downward. Last winter did that way too, a steady getting colder, then a steady getting less cold. Cold of winter used to come in waves and the warm of summer did too. Those waves of warm and cold have evened out now to just a steady rise and a steady decline. A bit of fog in the last week of August, suggesting snow maybe in March. We'll see.
Finally have come close enough to the end of the Ralph Stanley painting to let you see it. I ought to be ashamed to show it like it is. The lighting is as bad as it can be, glaring on the picture. For me, it was a study in black and white. In this picture it's a study in glare. The 3 suits are black. Ralph's shirt is purple and black. All that is left is a touch here, a touch there. I'll go over the whole thing now looking for little details to touch in, fix this, fix that. A little stripe of white down his banjo strap reflecting the stage lights. I think I've suggested frets and strings about as much as I'm going to. A couple of places yet to suggest strings. I'll fuss with it til it's as close to what I want it to be as I'm able to get it. I'm satisfied it favors Stanley enough that he wouldn't be ashamed of the likeness.
In the painting itself is several black heads across the bottom like the heads in the audience in front of where you're sitting. The pictures that showed that had such bad glare it would be pointless to show them. This one is the only one the glare wasn't bad on. It was 9:30 taking the pictures with indoor light and not much attention paid to making it just right. This is ok. Wanted to show you what I've been at for the last months. It was conceived in May. Finished end of August. I've been lazy and not very motivated. I want to make a lot of paintings of mountain musicians. But sometimes I think up all kinds of things to do to keep from painting. Sometimes it's too frightening a thing to approach. When the time came to finish the faces, I was scared. It's a frightening thing to paint somebody's face so you can recognize who it is. Plus, I want a certain seeming of life in the figures, and that's really scary to approach. I dreaded the faces for weeks. Studied them and looked at how to approach them, bright light on their faces and shadows from the hats on their faces. It was an interesting challenge painting Ralph's face in two different colors, yin/yang.
I'm not satisfied now that I look at it almost finished. Knew I wouldn't be. Never am. I see everything wrong with it. When other people look at it they don't see any of that. It's like a musician hitting the wrong note. He's the only one notices. Scott Freeman when he is teaching stresses to the beginners not to twist up your face when you hit a wrong note. You're the only one who will notice; don't give it away. So I don't tell where my flaws are in the pictures. After several years I forget where they are and never see them again. It takes a little while in time before I can see something I've painted with a fresh eye that doesn't remember all that's wrong with it.
Back in May I drove to Clintwood, Virginia, to visit the Ralph Stanley Museum. It was what I wanted it to be. Whoever put it together did a beautiful job of it from conception to the last detail. Videos going of Carter and Ralph. Instruments on the walls. It's comfortable inside. It would be a comfortable place to stay awhile, going around listening to all the sample music in various places where you can pick maybe 3 songs from a given period. A lot of pictures. I noticed there were no paintings of Ralph in the place. Seemed like it needed a painting of him. I stood still entertaining the thought. Been wanting to paint Ralph Stanley for some time, believed I could make something they (curator, Ralph, Ralph's wife, everyone concerned) would like to have in there. Ralph Stanley has given me so many hours of joy listening to his music, his art form, at home, at concerts, playing him on the radio to people that love him, I want to give him, in turn, a thank-you gift of my art form to share with his fans.

Sunday, August 29, 2010



This image pictures what I feel like inside my head today. It's a feeling I've had before and each time it was significant. This is how I felt after witnessing a national news event and seeing the next day all the corporate press reported the same account of something that was quite different from what they witnessed. All of them, NYT, DCPost, AP, Time, Newsweek, the ones I saw. Johnson had told them at a press conference before the 1968 march on DC over Vietnam what to report. They all obeyed. Except the reporter from the Village Voice, an independent NY paper, and writer Norman Mailer. Mailer told it all as it happened in his book, Armies Of The Night, even Johnson's press conference. I also saw that the demonstration itself was as fraudulent as the reporting of it. By 2nd day at home I had sworn off any political activity, vowed to myself I will never participate in anything political. Except to vote. I knew our vote counts for nothing, but I wanted to keep on voting as an act of protest, to say I want democracy. A statistic. Half the voting age population.

Now, I am telling you I am done with politics altogether. I used to think liberal and conservative, democrat and republican, left and right, and American rights I was taught in school, like basic rights, were important. Can't think like that any more. It's just something to talk about. I'm against it. I'm for it. It hadn't oughta be like that. Like Hillary Clinton said, "You've got to get with the system and you'll be all right." I heard her say that on the news to somebody when she was running for president. Buy the American Dream you have to be asleep to see, watch more tv, shop more, believe the unbelievable and you're gonna be all right, a certified nonsuspect. I'll pay no more attention to politics. The one rule I will follow: don't believe anything any politician says. I tend not to anyway, but still some slip through I think might be believable. They are not.

I know it's pointless to protest, though I have to give it to the people who protested the prison in Grayson on the New River destroying natural scenery and property values, not to mention ethics. They won. I'd been asked to participate and answered with lines from the Rolling Stones, "Think I'll go down to the demonstration / get my fair share of abuse." I wasn't interested in giving myself over to riot control cops to help them keep in practice beating people the law doesn't allow to fight back. I'm not offering myself to a bunch of thugs in uniform to punch, kick, beat with a stick and arrest, charged with resisting arrest for saying, "What'd I do?" We see on tv news what they do to demonstrators. They put incognito cops in among the demonstrators to stir up trouble and provoke cops to attack them. Looks good on the news. Keeping homeland insurgency down. It's getting mighty weird, mighty weird, and especially weird because irreversible. Like Huey Long of Louisiana said, when fascism comes to America it will be called anti-fascism.

I'm seriously questioning whether I want to vote again or not. All my voting life I've known it mattered not at all how or that I voted. Johnson was the first president I voted for. Was I ever fooled! The supremes shut down democracy formally the day they gave the election of double-aught to the losers. In my own calendar of significant dates in American history, that one marked the end of democracy. From then on, after seeing it demonstrated for all the world to see, I don't even think of our government in terms of a democracy any more. In fact, I'm wondering if it ever has been in my lifetime. I like to tell myself voting is important on the local level. If we didn't vote on the local level, the elected jobs would be filled by relatives of Mr Small Town Hot Dog who tells everybody what to do. They'd be driving BMWs and living in gated country clubs. The Old South had a lot of that. Heretofore, I've voted as a kind of protest, saying I want democracy. By now I see how lame that is. There won't be any democracy in my lifetime. I'm not going to worry my head over it any more. I can't see myself participating in election fraud in future. I can see it could be my civic-minded duty if we were in a democracy, but we're not, so it's not my duty.

This is my good-bye to political thinking, paying attention to politicians state and national. Locally, I can see the importance of voting and local people running for office, but state and national where the politicians are part of the political machine taking orders from the top and ignoring us at the bottom, that I can't support. We don't have enough money for them. They are, after all, Americans. Money is their only purpose. I tend to think there is a lot more to living on earth than having money as a goal, a reason, a motivation. I'm talking about power money, not working man money needing to keep afloat. I like to think I believe our relationships with one another are most important. It's something I saw in Jr that I admired so much I wanted to adopt it in my life. Jr treated everyone right. Not because it was morality and not because he was supposed to. It made sense to him as the best way to live. Treat everybody right and they treat you right. That's how you have a peaceful and a good life. Nothing but good vibes going out and good vibes coming in. Instead of identifying with the political world in my mind, I want more to identify with the people around me, the people I live among, the people I know, my friends, the mountains.

It's getting to where I don't want to know about anything beyond Whitehead. I don't like to cross the county line except knowing I'll be back home to sleep in my own bed. I feel a bit anxious outside the county, like I have felt on the highway passing the sign that marks the Mason-Dixon Line. A cold shudder south to north. North to south a relaxation around the heart. I like what Brother Dave Gardner said, You don't never see nobody a-retirin to the North. I'm glad to see that the rest of my life will be lived without having opinions about politics. I'll pay attention to history to keep abreast of the erosion of our rights so I don't be getting arrested for committing some right I don't have any more, like ordering a book by internet from a place called Suppressed Books. Is that not making a target of myself? It would be a shame if I'd ordered Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, the Italian socialist, arrested because Collodi is on the no-fly list, even though he's dead. Only the Disney version allowed. You have the right to remain....

Saturday, August 28, 2010


buddy pendleton and willard gayheart
take me back to tulsa
Turned on the radio and there was Ralph Stanley starting Down In The Willow Garden. Had to stop and listen. I'd just finished watching and listening in a row to the songs uploaded to YouTube today, fascinated by Buddy Pendleton's fiddling, Scott's mandolin and Willard's guitar. Seeing what I missed last night operating the camera. I didn't miss it, but it is a bit distracting. There is also an amount of focus involved. Flatt & Scruggs, I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow. Judith is the dj tonight. Her ear and mine correspond. I always like what she plays. It's like she's playing specifically to my ear. Some bluegrass is what I needed to perk up. THE NEWS. Eek. Had to turn it off. I'm in too good of a mood to get wound up about kids losing their legs to landmines, which is what I see in the background of what they tell us on the news.
All day long I've been uploading the videos from last night to YouTube. I think I put up 7 music videos and one of Pendleton talking at the beginning. I'd started the recording while he was talking and he talked on and on, it funny and fun to listen to. When he reached the end of telling stories and turned to what to play next, I stopped the recording of the talk and started the recording of the first song, Red Haired Boy. Listening to it today, I thought it worth putting up to be enjoyed by at least a few who will enjoy it. There is so much on YouTube not worth the time to see it, why not put up something worth seeing. Pendleton is still of the old world, despite being at the PO almost half his life. His travels, playing with bluegrass and old-time bands have not weakened the hillbilly in him, much like Ralph Stanley who has worked among people from all over the country and he's still the same hillbilly he was when he and Carter started. I feel like I can see that Pendleton's time in New York and the other places he's been have been interesting to him, but no temptation at all. The mountains were in his heart like they are with Dr Ralph.
Listening to Pendleton's fiddle all day, reviewing what I heard last night, I was happy with technology for making this little camera that makes movies with good sound. I like the things about it that I'd like to be able to correct, but don't know how, like the automatic focusing that changes focus when I pan from one musician to another. It refocuses to the wall and then refocuses to the musician when it gets there. Sometimes it goes through refocusing mayhem like it's out of control, but it's just trying to keep up with all it's reading. I pay it no mind. I let all that do as it does. I just point it where I want it to look and try to hold it steady. There's no holding it steady, esp from the back of the seating area and holding it in two hands while breathing. I like that. It gives it spontenaiety. When the scene is still, it's somehow flat too. The movement of the handheld camera has life to it, gives it dimension, makes the invisible unknown behind the camera, the one making the decisions of where to point, makes the decision making part of the show. It has a gear grinding sound when the zoom goes in or out, but that's ok too. It makes the visuals more personal, more like it's happening now.
I've not arrived at these preferences by intellectual methods such as studying it in books or anything like that. I want my videos to have the spontaneous quality of somebody who is anybody with no knowledge of filming with a point-and-shoot handheld camera that has a lot of gizmos and automatic everything. I put it on automatic and go. I can't fool with measuring the light, fooling with the aperture. It's the mechanism that a camera is that has kept me from taking much interest in what goes with photography the other side of pushing the button. Rough and ragged it doesn't give the appearance that I'm trying to make it pretty. Until one gets really good at that it looks artificial. And I don't care to devote that much time to it to get beyond the looking artificial phase. Somehow, I've come to see that bad acting, bad directing, bad everything in movie making can give the film a kind of realism that a perfect award winning production can't touch. For example: Purple Rain. Beyond a certain point, though, bad is just bad. For example: Under the Cherry Moon.
Jr said of making music and drinking that the liquor greases the joints and allows the music to flow. The more you drink, the better you play. To a point. Jr liked to get to that point and stay there through a show or a dance. Beyond that point you play worse and worse until you just fall out. Jr never did that. One of his fiddler friends couldn't stop the drinking once he started and went past that point and way over the other side to playing embarassingly terrible. Buddy said of Willard and Scott last night that they're gentlemen, they're ones a man can count on to show up to play someplace and not be too messed up to do anything. Buddy Pendleton is not a drinker, and I got the impression, the feeling he is deeply engaged with his Lord. He seemed to me an inward sort of man who as a kid was pretty much unto himself, on the order of AP Carter. Inward. He loves making music and that's what he does. He found young what he loves and has lived what he loves the rest of his life. I've been admiring him in my mind all day, a fiddler in the real sense of it, a man who lives his fiddle. It's like some people play the fiddle and some people are fiddlers. Buddy Pendleton is a fiddler.

Friday, August 27, 2010


buddy pendleton
It was good old-time fiddle and bluegrass fiddle tonight at the Front Porch in Woodlawn on Coulson Church Road, just off of 58 at Harmon's. I'd seen a few photographs of Pendleton, an older mountain man with beard, longish hair and the hat that puts me in mind of the band of country singers, the outlaws, Hank Jr, Waylon, Willie, Johnny. I don't mean he has it as a professional pose; it's just his natural appearance. Nothing about this man is a pose. The man has played an awful lot of fiddle, and he is of these mountains from the soul outward to the tips of his fingers. He's won Union Grove 6 times. Not to be one-upping him, but to give an idea of his league, I think Art Wooten won Galax 7 times. That's no small deal. Pendleton has played with Bill Monroe for a time. Played with the New York folk group called the Greenbriar Boys for a time. He was a slight man, like Millard Pruitt, Ralph Stanley and Jr. All 3 of them small in size, but not one of them seems so small. They all 4 seemed larger than life in a way. What all they could do said to me they were not small at all. They were big men in stature and presence. And Buddy Pendleton worked at the Stuart VA post office 40+ years.
Willard and Scott accompanied, Willard keeping such good rhythm for him, he commented at one point how good Willard's rhythm was, how it made the fiddling easier for him. He can make his fiddle sing. He uses short bow strokes, mostly 2, 3 and 4 inches, sometimes 6 or 7 inches. That's not my measurement, but guestimations, a system of measurement. The noting fingers on his left hand are dancing all the time. His sound is like no other fiddler I've heard. Very first thing I noticed when he started with the fiddle was his sound that was all his own. He has his own interpretations of the tunes that are true to the tunes and uniquely his own. He made no effort to disguise his delight to be making music with 2 really exceptional musicians. He was lit up the whole time once the music started. During the first song he lit up to the music they were making. This is what I like about Scott and Willard's music, it's music. It's really music. Buddy told me at the end of the show he'd seen my foot tapping. He said that's inspiring to a musician to see people tapping their feet.
Song after song was as good as the one that went before. It was hearing Scott and Willard with a fiddler who was in their league. Willard took hold of the rhythm from the start. He was acting as the bass, keeping the rhythm loud enough for Buddy to hear it well. Willard knew what he was doing. He was keeping it going so the fiddler didn't have to think about it. Scott kept rhythm going with his mandolin too, both him and Willard holding Buddy up like water holds a boat up, giving him the musical freedom to do whatever he wanted to do. Several times he commented what good musicians Scott and Willard are. Nobody in the place disagreed. I think 17 people were there tonight. I started counting them. About everyone there has been there before several times. The people from around here come back after they've had the experience. Everyone recognizes the music we hear on Friday nights is exceptional. The guest musicians are as good as musicians of mountain music get. We who go regularly are getting to know each other and love the music we hear together. During intermission we exclaim to each other how good the music is.
This music is every bit as good as the Clinch Mountain Boys, and I'm not throwing off on the Clinch Mountain Boys. I pick them because they're a band of really good musicians that play mountain music well. Each one of these guys is good enough to play in Ralph Stanley's band. And, like I said, that doesn't diminish Stanley at all. They are musicians who don't want to live on the road. They want to live at home, have their family lives, the necessary work to make a living, and making music on weekends and jams during the week. Making music as much as possible. Buddy said a few times tonight that something or other was inspiring. Like Willard's good rhythm keeping inspired Buddy. That's how he used the word. I found in brief conversations with him that he h has his own way of talking and thinking like he has his own way with the fiddle. By the end of the concert, I was aware that I was in the presence of a master fiddler. Check him out on YouTube. I'm uploading several songs. They'll be at the top of the list under hobblealong1.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I was about to say Tapo is a peculiar cat, but all cats are peculiar in their own ways. They haven't been to school to train them to believe they must all be alike. A cat doesn't have the least inhibition about being itself unless its humans are mentally erratic. It must be difficult for a cat to figure out human behavior and expectations. They like to be around us. They need us and they know it. Some don't act like it, but we don't always act like we need us either. Tapo spends most of the day, up until dark, sleeping on one of her cushions. Before I'm finished here, she'll be up on the desk to lie down beside my left hand to be nearby. I think she's in her napping place in the bathroom. She doesn't bother mice anymore. She turned 13 last Mother's Day. Mice skittle across the floor in front of her and she follows with her eyes. The play has gone out of her and her interest in catching mice. Since TarBaby has been gone the mice have been moving in. The birds are back, too. TarBaby was a busy cat.
In Tapo's advanced years she has changed since TarBaby's absence. Caterpillar has too. Dogs come around during the day. When dark comes the dogs are gone and they can go outside for whatever they go outside for. They've both stopped catching mice. They don't take an interest in birds, either, for which I'm grateful. They lay about, eat, and lay about. Both require some of my attention every day, but they don't ask a lot. Once a day of being petted and talked to satisfies them. They were raised and protected by a dog their first 6 years. By now they've learned dogs are their enemies. I'm teaching them not to trust any dog, even a friendly dog. When TarBaby was with them they would all run and hide when somebody came to the house. They'd come out after half hour or so to see who it was. Since TarBaby has been gone, Tapo and Caterpillar don't ever come out til company is gone. I don't attempt to make them more responsive to people, because I don't want somebody parking here to visit the waterfalls seeing a nice cat and figuring it's a stray because nobody lives in that abandoned house.
Caterpillar came in from being outside a few hours. She had to stop and adjust her eyes to the light, looking like she'd just woke up. Tapo came out from her bathroom hideaway. She likes the security of the bathroom too. She can run behind the tub/shower stall where nothing can get her but another cat. Tapo is on her way up here for a visit. She's jealous of my hands on the keyboard. I don't think I've made the cats very neurotic. From birth I've allowed them their catness and their own personalities. I regard them with love always and they always want to please me. Once they learn I don't want them on the keyboard, they happily oblige by walking around it on the way to the other side. TarBaby could walk on the edges of the keyboard and never touch a key. Tapo, when I insist on typing while she's wanting my hand on her, will reach over and put a foot on the keys and make a letter like d take a run across the screen. She thinks it's funny. I don't scold her, just remove her foot and put it back off the keyboard. I don't think she knows what it really does when she puts her foot on a letter, except that's where my fingers like to dance, but she knows it messes me up, though not bad. She's a prankster and has taught me a great deal about cat humor. Cats think it's funny to see a cat jump the same as we do.
She was such a wiggly kitten, frantic at feeding time with the bottle, eyes that believed looking at me really hard would get my attention. In the winter, her method of letting me know she wants in, her form of knocking is to stand up with her front feet on the window ledge and stare at me so intensely she pulls my attention like a magnet with her pleading eyes. She's as gentle a cat as I've ever seen without being timid. She was so wiggly a little black kitten with big round blue kitten eyes, I started calling her Tadpole. From the start she didnt' seem to take to it. I went on calling her that a couple weeks, getting the feeling from her she doesn't resonate with that name. I looked for another name that wouldn't be too far away in sound. I took out the d, l and e. I presented it to her as an option, to see if she took to it. Tapo, pronounced like Taco, but with a p, or like Toppo. She liked it. I looked at the sounds of both names. Both syllables of Tadpole have a downward sound to them listened to musically. Tapo is 2 syllables of upward sounds. And it doesn't have any meaning other than her name. She likes to hear me say Tapo. It relaxes her when I speak her name.
She has one white whisker now. No single white hairs in her coat, all black, but the one whisker. It stands out looking like her only whisker. She and Caterpillar get along much better with TarBaby gone. It shocked them to find themselves stuck with each other. They can pass each other going opposite directions without hissing or having a stare down. Tapo is of a better nature than Caterpillar's when it comes to attitudes. Caterpillar still huffs up inside when Tapo is too close, and Tapo appears to get a kick out of pushing Caterpillar's buttons, seeing how much she can take short of having a hissy fit. I love having the cats that were born here, that I knew from their first day, mothered them, and couldn't get rid of any of them. They were my babies. I wanted them to have good lives where they're loved. I couldn't entrust them to anyone. I couldn't part with any of them to give them away. They were never weaned. They've lived the same place all their lives.
We are bonded in that beautiful interspecies friendship, communicating over the lines of love. They're friends loyal as a friend can be. Knowing these cats so well helps me to know other cats. At somebody else's house with a cat, I'll speak to the cat when we make eye contact to let it know I see it, and then pay it no mind. I give it time to adjust to a change in the house routine, another giant, stay back and watch. When the cat is satisfied I'm not a threat, it will walk over and rub my ankle. I let them smell my hand before I rub my scent onto their coats they're vain about. I'll make no effort to touch the cat until it shows me it wants to be touched, have it's head rubbed, neck rubbed. When they let me know they want to be touched, I'll go gently not to frighten. From then on the cat is my friend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


air bellows outdoor art museum

The nights in the 50s now. Late August, the first signs of cooler air moving in, Autumn on its way. August is an interesting month in a lot of ways. In the old days was a saying about the fogs in August. It goes that you mark on the calendar the days of fog as they occur in August. Then extend the length of August to all winter long and the fogs in August will correspond to snows in the winter. It used to be a reliable guide for when to expect snows. The weather patterns have changed so much that the old sayings about weather forecast don't apply any more. I've given to understand that the global warming trend is due to the sun itself heating up. Mars's polar ice caps are receding. One of Jupiter's moons that was all ice is now liquid. I don't know any of this for a fact. And I can't say I believe something just because somebody said it or I read it someplace or heard it on the news. I tend to put everything like that on a shelf I call, Maybe So / Maybe Not. When I get some confirmation, I change it to the shelf, Probably So. I get a convincing refutation and it goes to, Probably Not.

I do tend to draw conclusions, but I don't hold them as law, same as my opinions I regard of no more substance than the air we breathe. The air has far greater substance. I understand that the workings of the mind create reality, that once I get convinced enough to come to a conclusion, I'm still not certain. A conclusion, like an opinion, is neither here nor there. I come to a conclusion by seeing convincing evidence. From there, I'm willing to find convincing evidence that what I'd concluded before was misguided. I've learned so many times that if I've not got it by now I'll never get it, just because my mind sees something one way does not mean it's reality. I suppose my trend is to build my reality out of my conclusions. The reality can change drastically when another point of view enters the equation. An English movie, ESSEX BOYS, tells the story with conclusions drawn one way, and by the end a different way to see the process of the story comes forward changing everything that went before.

Opinions bother me a great deal. I have them, adhere to them, while at the same time seeing them as nothing at all. I have 2 friends who hold opinion high as fact itself. That might be something of an exaggeration, but not by a lot. We exchange opinions and I'm held to mine like I believe them to be fact, when I do not. Somebody says, Well you said such and such before. That doesn't mean I necessarily hold to it. See it one way one day, another way another day, according to how the mind is functioning each day. Or I may have found refuting evidence in my mind or elsewhere. Opinions are of the mind and I tend to see the mind as fluid as the air. Just because my mind sees something doesn't mean it's anywhere but in my mind. I've seen mind slip away from too many people to be convinced it has anything like permanence about it.

I see the way I see something at different phases of my life change. I used to be worried about how our corporate government is stamping out democracy fast as it can go until, by now, it's gone. We go about acting like we have a democracy, but we don't cross the boundaries we're not allowed to cross. In this time of my life I figure I don't have a great deal of time left on the earth, so it's of little consequence anymore. I don't worry over it. I know the forces against democracy are greater than I can challenge by protest or other means. Now, I care most about living my life as peaceably as can be done interpersonally. This is why I love living on a rural road in a rural region. That's not hiding from anything, just staying out of the fray. I thank God for Michael Moore and Alex Jones, documentary film makers addressing the issue of seeing our American rights taken away as fast as can be done. They don't change anything, but they give us a good heads up to what's going on behind the news. I find it interesting that the Patriot Act passed under fraudulent urgency, no one voting for it having any idea of its contents. I've been most interested to note that the Obama administration is leaving it in place. Tells me he knows about a lot we have no idea of and he is more guided by the role of the office than for our good once he's learned certain truths about where the real power resides. He throws us crumbs and we beg beside his chair at the table for more.

If I still believed we the people had a voice, I'd take it very differently from how I do. I've been watching our government turn on us since the time of the Kennedy assassination coup. I see that as the day we lost our democracy, what there was of it. From then to now it's been a steady making of laws to benefit corporations at our expense thanks to the millions and billions of bucks changing hands under the table called lobbying. Lobbyists have bought our government away from us and now it is a government of corporations, by corporations and for corporations. The corporate hierarchy is not democratic in any way of looking at it. The supreme court gave corporations absolute power. Obama sounds good talking about reducing the power of corporations, but isn't getting anything done in that direction I've heard of. Maybe he is and it doesn't show. And like I said, at this time of the life I can't concern myself with it. Lies in the form of propaganda has become our American reality. Half the American people don't vote, a good statistic telling the confidence the American people have in our democracy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


willard gayheart, guitar / scott freeman, mandolin
Today was a day I left the house to get some things done I've been letting slip by, like run out to the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway (exactly 4 miles into Virginia) to see/hear Scott and Willard playing for passers by, people stopping by who are traveling the Parkway at leisure. It's a beautiful place in a beautiful landscape, the United States Government giving we the people a wonderful return for our tax dollars. I don't have a problem with paying taxes, I just have a problem with 2/3 of it going to military. That is so incredibly out of proportion to need that I have a problem with it. I saw along the Parkway repairs made, new wooden sides to places in the road where it goes over a creek with a culvert under the road. They look good. Stimulus money. Several people working. Men out of work with a temporary job that benefits everyone. This is the first improvements I've seen on the Parkway since the Reagan Junta stripped Dept of Interior's budget to bare necessity 30 years ago. When I go to the Blue Ridge Music Center I'm reminded every time how beautiful the place is. The buildings are very well built, and they're beautiful inside and out. I appreciate the architects, whoever they are, every time I see it. Also, every time I'm there I feel patriotic in a way military doesn't satisfy at all. My patriotism is not about the glory of war. It's about things like this, the American people's heritage, who we are as people, what works to the good for us, unites us in friendliness.
I parked the car in this political arena, let all that fall aside and went to the space where Scott and Willard were playing. Willard is usually there with Bobby Patterson, who couldn't be there today, and Scott filled his place. A dozen or so people sat in chairs where people listened. Everyone was happy with the music. Enthusiastic applause after each song. Everyone recognized they were in the presence of some really good music played by master musicians. No matter what the music is, when it's really good, everyone hearing it notices. They listened in silence. I like to watch Scott's fingers dance all up and down the mandolin neck like a spider on a hot plate. I like watching Willard's command of the guitar strings, the ease with which his fingers move into a complex chord for the fingers like it's easy as A. Willard sits relaxed like he's not doing anything at all, yet his right hand is burning up the strings and his left hand moves from chord to chord with no effort like it's as easy as breathing. He has a subtlety about his pickin that is all about the music. Scott has the same kind of subtlety, able to do so much more than he is doing that what's he's doing is like coasting downhill on a bicycle. I've heard him lay it to it twice, going out there on an extended break like a surfer on a good ride with the water breaking over the top of him.
I left a little bit after they'd done that set. Wanted to stay as some of the people from Friday night showed up, but in the mind the day's schedule was calling. Grocery store, dump, stop by to see Agnes, stop by to see Tina, and made it home around 4. Much to do here. Put up groceries, feed Caterpillar and Tapo, change their litter box, which I haven't yet done. Phone ringing all the time I was home today. Phone almost never rings. Today call after call, one of them a wrong number, though a voice I recognized and couldn't place, like a tune I recognize and the title is lost. Took Jr's cd to Drew and Carol I'd been holding for a long time waiting to see them. They weren't home, so I left it. Considering whether to go or stay, I realized I wouldn't enjoy the music for thinking about what I could be doing on my schedule in that hour. When I leave the house, it's never for just one reason. I have to have several reasons. When using the laundromat, I'd put clothes in washer, go to the bank, gas station, drug store, come back, put clothes in dryer, go to grocery store, come back, put clothes in basket and come home. That's been my pattern for so many years that I tend to only go to town when I have several things to attend to.
Bobby Patterson will be there with Willard the rest of the week. Having lunch with Winfield Thursday. I may suggest he ride out there with me after lunch. He may not. He's clearing out some old and dead trees and selling them toward funding his trip to India November through February. He can live a month there traveling from place to place for quite a lot less than it costs to live for a month at home. He's a savvy traveler. Never uses tourist hotels. After a career with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, he has an affection for people of what we call now the Developing World, used to be the Third World. If he has to get back to the timber in the afternoon, I'll go on. I want to get some video of Willard and Bobby. These two are among the best of the Grayson County musicians. They've made music together 40 years, both in the Grayson bluegrass band, the Highlanders. Bobby's music shop and Willard's frame shop are almost adjoining buildings.
Willard has a website, for his pencil drawings. He is known as the pencil artist of Appalachia. He does beautiful work. His pictures are of the old mountain people, the old ways, the musicians, farmers, women, kids. The feel of the old time way is in Willard's pictures. They have a quiet stillness about them that is especially visible in the gallery where they hang all around the walls. A book has been made of his drawings. Willard is diligent. He keeps at it. His life is guitar pickin, singing and making his pictures. He markets them well. People who know him as the artist seldom know he's a musician as well, and people who know him as a musician don't know much about his drawings. He's not somebody to be out advertising himself. He's in a time in his life where it's getting along to his satisfaction. He has a good rhythm going with his two equal talents. He does commissions and gets a fair price for an original. His life is dedicated to these mountains, keeping memory of the old ways alive as long as possible, keeping the music of the mountains played, giving it voice. I have a lot of respect for Willard, his talents, his persistence, the man he is. Both Willard and Scott are truly of these mountains in the same kind of way Ralph Stanley is.Their musical style is different from his because they are different people. The mountains are in them.

Monday, August 23, 2010


summer leaves
Ralph Stanley was interviewed on the Diane Rehm radio show on NPR late last year. It was such a good interview and hearing Ralph talk, I ordered the cd from NPR. A few minutes ago I put it in the cd player. It pulled me in right away. Diane pretty much started with Ralph singing Man of Constant Sorrow. I believe I can rest assured if I hadn't come to the mountains I'd have never heard of Ralph Stanley or the Stanley Brothers. He talks like a man of these mountains of his generation, 80s. A man is talking on the phone saying Ralph's singing touches the depth of his soul. Well put. It hits me there too. And Carter's voice.
I'd bought his book MAN OF CONSTANT SORROW, read it loving every page, and when he came to Fairview for a concert, I arrived early with book for him to sign. There was no one around. I could have talked with him for 10 minutes uninterrupted. I didn't know what to say. Froze. It was Ralph Stanley. I wasn't prepared. I knew he was just a man, but he was also Ralph Stanley. I was star struck. That's the only way I can see it. In my music firmament, Ralph Stanley is the brightest star. He sings mountain music just right. Now he's lining out Amazing Grace the band is singing a capella. His singing style is very much that of a preacher. When he sings a gospel song, you can feel it. Of all the pop musicians I've listened to over a lot of years, Ralph Stanley's star shines brighter than Bob Dylan's, John Lee Hooker's, Lauryn Hill's or Burning Spear's. No music but mountain music has ever brought tears to my eyes.
Ralph's singing brings back Elder Millard Pruitt's singing, Ray Caudill's singing, Elder Garvey Killon's singing, Elder Walter Green's singing. It brings back times in the Regular Baptist churches, sitting with tears running down the face from the fullness of the spirit. Those old hymns could bring tears too. I have felt that same spirit at Ralph Stanley concerts. He sings an old hymn with the meaning in the song foremost. He articulates the words like they're important to hear. Diane asked him how he got his voice that so many people feel so moved by. He said, It's a gift. She said, A gift? He said, A gift. Plain and straightforward about it. Simply a gift God gave him. He said he'd never tried to change his voice because it's what God gave him. It sounded good hearing him talk mountain in a context of urban middle class talk. Nobody would ever mistake him for a Yankee.
Today's foreign film was EVERLASTING MOMENTS. Swedish. The story of a woman whose husband was something of a Stanley Kowalski, rough guy having a hard time not being a rounder, and lapses often. 7 kids. She had a camera I think she'd won at a raffle some time before. The studio photographer in the town helped her learn to use it. It was like when she was taking a picture and developing a print she was in her own world for a few moments. Husband became jealous of her photographs. She had a rough life, but she came through. It was like God put this and that down before her to get through and she did, every time. It's the story of many a woman's life, a story that doesn't get told often. The time frame was before WWI and during WWI, though the war was off someplace else. Husband went away to war but never engaged in action. They were people in hard times every way you look at it. She sewed to help make ends meet. Sometimes taking photographs helped. She loved her kids and they loved her. The film was released 2008.
Tree frogs and katydids are going at it outside. Some of them sound like they're inside my head. The sounds blend inside and outside until what's going on out there is going on in here too. They must have been really loud in the old days. Walking a road after dark it could become convincing the sound was made by stars, the music of the spheres. They said the sky was thick with stars. By now the Milky Way that was dense with stars then is now not much more dense than the sky out from it. Makes me wonder how much longer the earth can sustain us in our race to make every species of plant, animal, fish, reptile and bird extinct. It's not the same thing as putting pesticides all over your lawn and petroleum based fertilizers. When I say We, I do not include myself and you. We're not part of that we. We have no say in it whatsoever. None. The people that make the decisions that are annihilating our context don't care about pelicans and sea turtles in the Gulf. Collateral damage. Wrong place, wrong time. Wrong turn.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


decoration at antioch
It's been 2 and 2/3 years since I've been to Antioch. Far too long. Last time was a New Years Eve service of singing for 2 hours. What a beautiful way to end the cycle of a year. It was a night I was blessed all night long. I have a feeling for Antioch I can't put words to or analyze. I love the place. I can't say what it is pulling me there, but it feels so comfortable, so at home, and I feel a brother/sister kinship with the people there, even though I only know a tenth of them. During the time with Jr I didn't want to leave him. And for a long period, this long, I've not wanted to go while the mention of his name still brought tears. Been thinking of going for several months, but this is the first time it took. This time I simply needed to go.
It was decoration. The cemetery was covered with new flowers, every tombstone. It's a big cemetery. Brilliantly colorful today. The picture above doesn't come close to what the eye sees. The light is all wrong with a sun that bleaches colors on film. Doesn't matter. I'm not going for National Geographic. I wanted a modest picture of the whole cemetery, the cars, the roads, the living world of the cemetery. I'm struck by how well the grass is kept among the tombstones. Relatives of a lot of people I know are in there, among them Jr's grandmother, his daddy's mama, widow of the Civil War soldier who died when she was 3 months pregnant. I think of old man Wylie as a man of constant sorrow. The last 6 months of his mother's pregnancy were in her grief, unfathomable grief. Wylie was named for his missing daddy. Man born in sorrow. A mountain man raised without a daddy is not particularly usual. I believe it explains why Jr never had a whipping growing up.
Wylie had already raised 2 kids and had grown grandkids when his wife died. A new wife, a new child he watched grow up and be married 5 years when his other boy 30 years older than Jr committed a terrible crime. Wylie's tombstone is a block of polished black marble. No names. No dates. Black marble. Below, in the foundation is the name Maxwell in raised letters. Nothing else. When I drive by it in Liberty cemetery, I take a quick glance to pay my respects to someone I'd never met, but learned much of his life and to respect the man he was. Man of Constant Sorrow is pretty much the American male anthem. Wiley had sorrow in spades, as did his boy Jr. I can't even imagine the depth of either one of their sorrows, the kind that hit you straight in the heart like a knife and you can't die, but want to so bad it makes you want to take a long walk on a country road on a moonless night. Give the lost beloved in memory some time on the movie screen of the mind without distraction.
Walking from the car to the meeting house this morning I was overcome by the spirit. Eyes welled up with tears before even shaking the first hand. Seeing the people gathered on the porch talking, the people walking about in the cemetery opened my heart. It's the spirit among the people there that I feel strongly in among them. It's a beautiful, living spirit. It's not a locked down spirit bent on keeping an eye on everybody's sins. It's a spirit of acceptance. Not just for me, but for every individual in the place. People who praise and pray together. I've never felt the first sign of stuffiness in any of the people. Everybody is individual and respected as such. I see the people shaking hands arriving, and note the feeling between everyone I see shaking hands is the same I receive when I shake with anyone. I feel at home sitting among them, singing, listening to the preaching among them.
The songs have deep, intense meaning, each one a beautiful sermon. The singing is slow, slow, slow, so slow it's one syllable at a time. Gives you time to consider the meaning of what your voice is singing. After a song, I tend to read some lines in another song on the opposite page. Every song I marvel at how beautifully it tells what it has to say. I happened to glance up and noticed a lot of people were doing as I was, reading the next song in the book until the next one to sing starts. The men in this church are Bible scholars. I do mean scholars. So are women. They know their Bibles. They're at home in their Bibles. They read for understanding. Go to church for understanding too. The preaching this morning was worth the drive there to hear. He spoke of the burial and resurrection like you are there seeing it. Something I'd forgotten struck me when he said the burial garment and the face cloth were folded and placed carefully. He went from there to the cloud that received him, the cloud of the saints already ascended. The preaching amounted to explaining the the spiritual meaning of the burial and resurrection. It wasn't like Easter Sunday drama. He was just telling what the scripture had to say. I received some insight I was happy to be there to receive.
The spirit in the place lifted my spirit before I entered the door. Inside the door, the spirit was everywhere. We who were there moved in the spirit the way fish swim in water, so totally surrounded by the spirit, buoyed on the ocean of love. My mind was clear, no thoughts other than the ongoing present moment, fully present. It was a happy time. I learned later in the Food Lion parking lot that the first preacher, Curtis Hash, was indeed the brother of Gene Hash, a guitar playing gospel singer in Whitehead. He plays guitar with the Taylor Family in Whitehead.It started when I noted Curtis Hash has to be Gene Hash's brother. He was. I saw Dorothy Wyatt came to the church with Cecil in his wheelchair. I know them at the BROC meetings. Dorothy is Agnes Joines's aunt. Something like that. Both Esteps. During handshake time at the end of the service I hugged Dorothy. My respect for Dorothy as a woman, as a soul, is big as respect gets. She's of that mountain kind of people I can't help but respect. The better I know them, the more I respect them. It's like that with Dorothy. We've known each other maybe 4 or 6 years. We sit across the table from each other every month.Cecil there too. Dorothy takes care of him like a mother with her baby.
Since I made the decision to withdraw from town dealings and spend more time with my friends, the people I truly enjoy living among, I see people I have a mutual caring with. I found when Jr went on that all his friends and relatives became my friends. Everyone in Whitehead became my friend. There are so many people in my life now I appreciate from the deepest depth of the heart. Jr wasn't the only one around worthy, in my way of seeing, of a great deal of respect. Shaking hands with everyone at the end of the meeting, I saw people I knew on sight were worthy of a great deal of respect. When the preacher made the call for anyone wanting to join the church to step forward, I felt a longing to, but held myself back, saying think about it awhile. There's no rush.I'm welcome to go there as often as I want to. Right now my only hesitation is I don't want to bind myself to other people's expectations. I don't want to be expected to be there every time. I feel so good among those people I might want to be there every time. Whatever. Today's concern is that I've been in the spirit all day long. Not a dramatic kind of being in the spirit like seeing visions, but an uplifted feeling, a lightness of spirit. Happy. No problems. The feeling was the same as I feel here in the home where I live.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


caterpillar in furs
The mail lately hasn't had any junkmail in it, the kind Tom Pruitt would drop to the ground at the mailbox letting the wind and rain dispose of it, the kinds of things from Roses, Walmart, like that, the kind I bring to the house and drop in the trash. That stuff has been a nuisance for a lot of years. It's truly refreshing, even when there's nothing in the mailbox, to have no trash I have to bring to the house to put in the trash. I like Tom's method best. He did it every day and it always went away. I don't have what it takes. I have to bring it to the house to trash it. It was a little while before I realized it wasn't coming in the mail anymore. I know it's not the end of trash in the mail, but I'm sure enjoying this respite.
The PO says giving them extremely reduced rates is profitable for the PO. It's not profitable for us, the ones who have to pay first class postage. I've always maintained they need to pay full first class postage like we do. That would cut it out altogether. Maybe the PO has raised its rates on being a distributor of trash. It all ends up in plastic bags in landfills. The PO is not only encouraging trash by giving reduced rates to its purveyors, they're making very little to add to our landfill problems.
Since WW2 we Americans have bought so much trash just for the sake of buying, our houses are stuffed with things. Just about everything comes in a box, a bag, a can, a plastic bottle. Our music equipment is such that it costs more to have it repaired or can't be repaired at all, so another one is necessary, throwing out the first one. In the 50s we were labelled a throw-away society, consumer society, until by now cities are building mountains of trash. What interesting archaeological finds those will be in a few thousand years. Won't be anything left of our structures but rubble gone back to earth and our mountains of trash.
I feel like I know for a certainty this absence of trash in the mail has nothing to do with the PO decision makers turning Green overnight. Like everything else in our government, they're not doing it for our sakes. It's about money. I'm supposing it's the economic downturn (Depression to the people that work for a living) responsible for the corporate chains trimming their advertising budgets; therefore, disseminating less trash. I wonder if that means they're hurting, like us. Whatever it means, the meaning I like best is no trash in the mailbox day after day. It's at least a little sparkle of the positive in a time that seems to be sinking in the negative. A little light looks mighty bright in total darkness. We really are living in a time beyond 1984. I've found a couple of documentaries by Alex Jones exploring the minds behind the hands pulling the puppet strings that animate our government and where they are taking us.
A news note about Fidel Castro exposing internationally the contents of a book called The Secrets of the Bilderberg Group, the ones we call THEY, they who pull the strings. I looked to see what it was about and found it quite interesting in what little I saw about it. Found a really good price on a used paperback at amazon. Now I'm on the list of people that bought this book. Twilight Zone theme music in my head. Found at netflix something similar, a documentary called Endgame, and put it at the top of the Q. I take it for a place Cheney/Rumsfelt/Rice/Bush were taking us against our will. I've an idea Obama sees it too, the serious threat to Democracy that we-the-people have no defense against like the Indians had no defense against small pox in government issued blankets. I've thought for a long time I have a jaundiced eye about our government, but as I learn more and more, jaundiced is how it was 40 years ago. By now, it's much, much worse. So is our government. What I've been seeing our government do since 1980 was set us at odds with each other. I believe it's called divide and conquer. It's working. For my observation over one lifetime what I've come to see is the Kennedy assassination was a coup that worked. And I believe the passage of civil rights legislation right away was a smokescreen to distract from what was taking place out of sight of the evening news.
Take a thousand people old enough to be somewhat aware at the time, and I'd guess every one would have a different idea of what happened. This just happens to be mine, one in a thousand, or rather one in several million. Not stating this as fact you must believe. This is what I've seen and the pictures I made connecting the dots. As time goes by, instead of becoming less convinced of it, I become more convinced. Around the WTC event, too much unconvincing cover-up and too much evidence that people in caves half way around the world couldn't have orchestrated it. Even when it's found for a certainty where responsibility rests, there will be no trials. It would look really bad in the history books. Investigative reporting is almost of the past. I wish I could say getting trash in the mail daily is a thing of the past, but the trash will be back,. Our government is a sideshow where ignorance trumps intelligence over and over, and the people doing the canned laughter are rolling on the floor. Maybe that's what our representative government really is doing, representing us. Oh, oh-oh-Oh, Idiots Rule! Perry Ferrell of Jane's Addiction said that. Made a good rock anthem for a generation. It doesn't say a great deal for we the people when we have representing us such as what we have.

Friday, August 20, 2010


john and kathy hollandsworth

This evening's entertainment at the Front Porch Gallery, Woodlawn, Virginia, was John and Kathy Hollandsworth. John is an autoharp player and maker. He is evidently one of a handful of autoharp makers in the country. His workshop is in Christiansburg, Virginia. Kathy plays bass and hammer dulcimer. John's autoharp has a very similar sound to Kathy's hammer dulcimer, only difference is she plays note by note, he plays picking and strumming. Their music has a happy feeling about it, uplifting. Both instruments have a kind of heavenly sound, the string music angels play. John and Kathy, themselves, seemed light spirited to me. It made me wonder if they got it from playing those instruments, or if they already had it and were drawn to the sounds of autoharp and hammer dulcimer. I suspect the latter, these light spirited instruments resonated with them in such a way they possibly felt the instruments.

Kathy has a way of singing a song without emoting, along the line of Sara Carter's style of singing, plain, no flourishes, no emotionalism, sings the words and, like Sara, lets the words tell their story. The emotions are in the words and don't need emoting. Kathy honors a song like that, sings the words with the same precision she strikes the dulcimer notes. The music had a cherubic sound to it. When Kathy was playing hammer dulcimer, most often John accompanied her with guitar. Possibly he played guitar when she played something in a key he didn't have on the autoharp. They know how to make it work. It seemed in a yin/yang way the bass balanced the airy sound of the autoharp with the earthen sound of the bass. Likewise guitar accompanying hammer dulcimer, an anchor to the ground to keep it from floating off into the clouds. They played a good collection of traditional songs starting with Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss. They played Angel Gabriel, White Rose Waltz, Otto Wood, the story of a Wilkes County bandit, a long list of songs, ending with The Ship That Never Returned.

Nine in the audience, plus Scott and Willard who sat with us tonight leaving the floor to John and Kathy. All were happy with the music. I sat in the back using the telephoto lens to close the distance. I feel less obtrusive sitting in the back. Sitting in the front I feel like a distraction to all the people behind me. I saw a whole lot of foot tapping going on and people looking really happy like I was feeling. We who go there exclaim every week when we talk how good the music is, for so little and so small and intimate a place. It's all first person friendly.

John's workshop where he makes the autoharps is in Christiansburg, Virginia. BLUE RIDGE AUTOHARPS is the name of the place, 700 Tower Road. He has a website, I'm putting videos of some of the show tonight on YouTube over the next couple days. 2 went up tonight, and 3 maybe tomorrow. It will be 5 altogether by John and Kathy. If you'd like to see some of the videos go to YouTube and write in the search box hobblealong1. It will bring up everything I've uploaded there, the most recent first. What I'm putting up of them will be at the top of the list, the first ones you come to.

Toward the end I asked John if he could briefly demonstrate Sara Carter's style of playing the autoharp. He played the strings above the chord mechanism, and she played the strings below. That explains their very different sounds. He said the chord mechanism in her time was up higher toward the middle of the strings, giving her more room in the lower part to work the strings. On the autoharps Hollandsworth plays, the chord mechanism is lower on the strings leaving a good length of strings above for him to strum and pluck. That's where he gets the sound that's so heavenly. He held the autoharp upright and said Sara Carter had it on her lap or on a stool or table. Next time I see the video of Sara and Maybelle playing in their advanced years, I'll note more closely Sara's approach to the autoharp now that I have something to go by.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I find television very educating.
Every time somebody turns on the set
I go to the other room and read a book.
---Groucho Marx
Fog this morning, the kind you can see through for a little ways, the kind that makes a white background for shapes and images in the foreground. Saw the above out the window to the east. What sent me outside in the rain with an umbrella was the shapes of the leaves against the fog. It was Asian; Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian. Fog gives the picture a suggestion of watercolor on paper. I like everything about the fog but driving in it. I don't mind a fog with some visibility for driving. Today's was an easy fog to drive in. As long as I can see if a car is coming around the next curve, I'm ok.
Have you ever had a moment driving along in a perfectly familiar place and not know where you are? Yesterday I was driving on Wolfe Road, shortcut between Pine Swamp Road and Frasier Road going in to town. My mind was dwelling on something and I came out of it in a section of road with trees along both sides, no houses in sight. I realized all of a sudden I'd better watch it. My mind about went someplace besides driving a car 30mph, and I had no idea where I was. It was like setting me down on a mountain road anywhere in these mountains I'd never been. That was a bit alarming considering it was awhile before I knew where I was. I came around the curve and saw Betty Roupe's mailbox, Oh, Wolfe Road. Of course, it's Wolfe Road. I turned down Wolfe Road. Duh. The mind is playing tricks on me like that more and more. I don't mind it a bit. It's part of the process. Sometimes I think ginko tea might help, might taste good too. Most of the time I think it doesn't matter. Gives a bit of drama by surprise to the day. The one today was actually somewhat alarming, because it was like I'd woke from a sleep and found myself driving. I was too present in the thinking of the moment. I mean it must have been the same as dreaming awake. Mind off on its adventures while the body is driving a car.
I knew I knew where I was, but it would not come to me. I wasn't lost, but it was the same as lost when it comes to the familiar. Woods along the sides of the roads do have a way of looking alike. If I'd seen a house when snapping out of the dream, it would have been familiar. I'm not complaining about it. The momentary disorientation was fun. Like the way a house of mirrors feels walking through it. Also a little unsettling. Like, Whoa! What was that? The same has happened before and when I come out of it, I'm immediately aware of where I am. But not today. Talking, sometimes I see the next thing to say fade away before my eyes, like a big fog rolls in and it's gone. I call that falling down a groundhog hole. Today's experience was like thinking I'm awake in the morning, seeing TarBaby walk in through the open window and lie down beside me on the bed. I reach to pet him, wake up and he's gone. The very same kind of experience, but today it happened awake. Evidently awake needs qualification there, like somewhat, a little bit, slightly, only the least little bit, not at all.
Maybe in the course of this blog you can watch me slowly lose my mind. Maybe it will turn into Surrealism and that could be very interesting. To give an idea of what I mean by Surrealism, the title of one of poet Andre Breton's books was Soluble Fish. From there, anything can happen. Fairly liberating. I'm thinking Lady Gaga is today's Wendy O Williams of the Plasmatics. Another time, another style. I've discovered Plasmatics videos on YouTube and they are everything I'd want them to be. All out. Totally cut loose. The only limits being the size of the stage. Punk in the beginning was a kind of anti-commercial expression. The Plasmatics went all out commercial, were on tv, made the charts, made a lot of money really fast. They went on for about 10 years. Wendy had been a tv wrestler before she became a rock stripper. It's not quite right to call her a stripper, because she'd start a show as nearly nude as she ended. She didn't have anything to take off. I emailed my friend Lucas I went to school with, "We doubted the artistic integrity of the Plasmatics." Looking at them 35 years after, and actually seeing them for the first time in motion, only still photos before. They are delightfully outrageous.
After seeing several Plasmatics videos, I switched to Nashville Pussy. It's a Southern rock punk biker band. Plasmatics again. This time not blowing up cars and cutting up guitars with a chainsaw. After several of their videos, I went to Jane's Addiction. There was the Plasmatics again in a new style, their rebellion more in words than going at a television with a sledge hammer while the guitars are going apeshit. Perry Ferrell was Wendy O Williams in his own style. He had the same fascination with public nudity. By the end of every concert he'd be down to his bikini. He was arrested in Honolulu about 1991 for taking it off. There's more than one way to make headlines. Like take your clothes off before 50,000 people and at least a hundred cops. I dropped in on some friends a few weeks ago. Their 3 little kids were going about free of their clothing. I felt like I was at Woodstock. I esp liked Jane's Addiction's Ocean Side video, a guy on a surfboard riding a big tsunami wave from the time it's swelling up and eventually breaks, he rides in front of the foam fast as he can go, but it catches and consumes him and he comes riding out of it like it was nothing. The time I saw Jane's Addiction at Raleigh, I recall that video playing on a gigantic screen above the stage. It was unforgettable. The music is a soundtrack for that ride.
It's so great to be in a time where I don't have to go to New York to see what's going on in art. I've never had access to so much rock visuals where I can see any band I've ever heard of in concert, some like they're made with a cell phone in the audience and some with good sound and visuals. They're all good. And there are old-time bands galore, and again, some good, some bad, all good. I can't even start the thinking to figure out how all that is on YouTube is possible. But I'm still stumped by how a telephone works. It wouldn't do for me to waste time trying to figure out something like that. The big social changes occurring now seem to be of a psychological nature, finding new ways of thinking, and it's changing really fast. It's all beyond me. It's happening to the young kids, another generation gap.
I'd guestimate at least a half dozen generation gaps between me and someone graduating from high school. It's something I can't fathom from this end of it and the other can't fathom from the other end. When I'm around someone of late teens, early twenties, I see the chasm of all those generation gaps and turn my attention to staying out of them, paying them no mind, all attention to whoever it might be, the person I'm talking with, not the generation I'm talking with. We can talk easily person to person over the generation gaps such that they aren't there but in the pop culture we pay attention to. I like the younger people I know to turn me on to the music they listen to. Rufus Wainwright is a recent discovery. Without sounding at all like Dylan, he has a similar spirit to what Dylan had in his early years, plus that distinctive something that says this guy has something to say worth hearing. At the end of the day, I have to say I am truly happy among the people I know. It may not show in effervescence or effusive gushings, but I feel it inside.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


roadside attraction
I remember Malissie Pruitt, wife of Elder Millard Pruitt, mowing the lawn after dark carrying a flashlight. Her reasoning, "There's not enough hours in the day." Now that I'm approaching the age she was then, I understand her meaning better than ever before. I feel like I'm racing the clock all day long and into the night, forcing myself to desist whatever it is that's pulling me like a fake rabbit at a dog race to get all that I want to do done before the end of the day. I've heard people talk about being busier than ever after they've retired. I'm there. I heard myself attempt to explain why and got all twisted up in the inexplicability of it and let go of trying to analyze it. It must be a natural process in the later years. All the years of working at a job, being too tired to do much that I wanted to do, or too distracted, too little time. Now I have time to do what I want to do and there is so much it keeps me going every minute. I need all my time awake to get it all done. At the same time I allow myself to not get wound up over any of it. Just because I want to do it, like writing this for one, doesn't mean it must take over and command me. Like a mountain musician, I write this because it's fun, I enjoy it. It's my form of making music.
I like the freedom of not having to do anything I want to do in the course of a day. Say something comes up and I have to be someplace else about something. No problem. That's part of it too. I tell friends I take to the waterfall that the falls are the turn around place in a walk through Blue Ridge Mountain forest. It's a beautiful walk, both directions. Coming back we see the same as before, but from the other side and moving the other direction, making it totally different. The walk back is the same as the walk there. I'm living a more or less solitary existence now, but it doesn't feel like it, because I'm constantly communicating by writing this, going through emails, painting, even watching movies. During trips to town several times a week I see people I know and visit for awhile. In fact, I tend to see my time as almost entirely social. I do like visiting with my friends and people I know pleasantly in passing.
I've learned through the course of my lifetime heretofore that other people is where it's really at. French philosopher Sartre is famous for a line in one of his plays called No Exit, "Hell is other people." I have to differ. Hell can be other people. Hell can be oneself. In fact, that's where I'm inclined to see it. If the kingdom of heaven is within, then it would seem to follow that the darkness of hell is within too. I suppose it could be said hell is other people where there is no love. In our dark time, there isn't a great deal of love being used as a guiding light. My understanding of the gospels is calling our attention to the importance of getting along with other people. We have inner peace when we're at peace with the people around us. Until we're at peace with the people in the world we live in, starting with next door neighbor, neighbor in traffic, the neighbor in the next seat at a concert, at home, out in the world, it's all the same.
In the early years on my inner path attempts to come to terms with Love, what that means, all the different meanings, never got anywhere. It was like trying to get through a door locked from the other side. Until one day reading I came upon a definition of love I thought I could live with, understanding. To understand is to love. I found in understanding a view of the incomprehensible that then opened new understandings of the word love as a living energy or flow or guiding light. It was then I was able to follow that light. Suddenly, I saw it practical, simply good sense. When we treat other people right, they treat us right in turn. When we're treated right everywhere we go we feel comfortable and at home. I never bought, "It has a spiritual meaning. It doesn't apply to this world." I maintain it has everything to do with this world. Isn't the point Peace On Earth? How else do we get it other than treating other people right? By "right," I mean with basic human respect.
One guy I know carries a gun at all times because he has made so many people so furious they threaten to kill him. What fun is that? Constantly wary of getting shot by surprise. It doesn't make for inner peace. When I think of keeping a loaded gun nearby, inner peace goes away. The old question from childhood I couldn't answer then, but after a lifetime have come to a way of seeing it that tells me not to entertain fears of surprise attack. Old guys get knocked off here every once in a while by young dopers looking for money or something to sell for money. Is it better to kill or be killed? For a long time I automatically picked better to kill when it's that or be killed. But I'm of another mind now with a little bit of understanding of karma and inner peace. I kill somebody and guilt flushes inner peace, even if declared self-defense by law. There's no avoiding guilt. I'd rather not carry the memory of the moment in the front of my mind all the rest of the days of my life. I believe I'd rather take the bullet between the eyes and go on to gloryland. What's so bad about that? We long for it and sing nearly all our hymns about going there. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct we carry as strongly as any creature on the earth. It's wired into us and gets us through a great deal safely. But ultimately, I suspect it's something that needs transcending like all the rest of our self-centered behavior. How? Don't ask me. I don't have a clue of any sort.
I tend to see the scripture teaching us the importance of living among other people in peace. That is, if peace is what we want. A lot of people don't want peace, won't have it, won't allow it. It doesn't mean I can't live in peace just because others are acting out invasive egoism. I don't need to partake of it. The decision is mine. I don't ever want to face a kill or be killed moment. I've an idea that without time to think about it, I could act out rashly. I do know that if I'm backed into a corner, I come out of that corner whatever it takes. I really don't want to be tested. Don't like those kinds of moments. One of the more important teachings I've learned along the way is to go in peace. A peaceable action reaps a peaceable return. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Peace on earth, good will toward men (others), is one of those sayings like, Don't worry, be happy. It has meaning backwards as well as forward. Be happy, don't worry. Good will toward others makes peace on earth. Worry cancels happy and happy cancels worry. It's my choice which way I want to go. I can't do anything about peace in Afghanistan, but I can do something about it right here in my own life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


on the street where i live
It's lightning and thunder outside, pouring down the rain. Microwave is going, heating this morning's leftover coffee, computer is going and I'm thinking about making a phone call. Might let the phone call wait. Don't really want the soles of my shoes melted to the floor. Flirting with death or a near-death experience, which I'm not so sure I want. I'd hate to get over there and see the glory then have to come back to this. What? Rejected from glory? One thing about it, living after that would be really living like in the hymns of waiting to make heaven my home. What else could one think about after seeing into the other side? I don't like dramatic experiences. If God needs to knock me in the head to get my attention, I like to hope my head isn't so hard I need my attention taken hold of in no uncertain terms. Maybe a thump with a knuckle I'd like to believe would be sufficient to get my attention.
Rain so good for the ground. Our friend. The natural world seems so alien to the world we live in called civilization with tv, internet, i-this and i-that, surfing the economy, never making ends meet, debilitating debt, the never-ending list of should, an unwritten list commonly agreed upon by nearly everyone. You should make more money than you're making now. You should drive this year's model, not last year's. A lot of it is good for social balance, but probably most of it comes from neuroses, massive self-doubt. It's called going-along. Follow the road called Should. The never-ending road that goes nowhere. Illusion. Joseph Campbell said we spend our lives climbing a ladder, and when we get to the top discover it was the wrong ladder. Samuel Beckett wrote of our spiritual condition extensively. WB Yeats said the center doesn't hold any more. At once some of the greatest art that's ever been made and some of the greatest writing ever done. It's been a dynamic century in the arts and manufacturing and money making, medicine, the works. It was a boiling time of the parts swirling around in the stew tumbling in the soup. When the heat is cut down the same parts settle in a new arrangement. That's how I picture to myself the nature of our time. We're in the time now of the fire turned down and the parts beginning to settle in the new patterns. Or so it seems.
We can see where we're headed if we learn to read the patterns. The discovery of electricity and its taming took us collectively to a much higher level spiritually over the course of a century and a half. The process is not yet completed. Traditional societies are going away all over the earth, just like here in the mountains. It's happening in China, in Iran, in Egypt, in Columbia, everywhere. We don't yet know how far these changes are going. I suspect they're going all the way. How else can we look at it than as a continuation of the continuum? That leaves out consideration of the unforeseen, except as a possibility. There's no guessing what the unforeseen might be. And it happens all the time. When we talk about global warming, it's like, ho-hum, sure, Republicans don't believe it, but so what. As temperature rises it has the potential, according to what I've seen from science instead of Rush Limbaugh, of coming to "the fire next time." Summers get hot enough now in a dry time to set off fires. In a dry time something like 125 on FourthaJuly, lightning, cigarette, faulty firework, anything, poof for mega square miles around. Our mountains could become like the California mountains quickly in decades. Fires every summer. I don't mean to imply I have some foresight and I'm here to tell you all about it. I have none. It's just a way of looking at a possible unforeseen. I don't think getting warmer will make a smooth transition from oak and locust to palm and cactus.
Seems like the continuum we can read to predict the direction at least we're headed in, can't hold a great deal longer. It's based too much in denial and the false to have value tested by fire. It will go pssst like a mayfly in a bug zapper. Also, there is the unforeseen hero who can unite people under real values. There's always a hero in the wings. Jet Li's movie, The Hero, is a retelling by Zhang Yimou of ancient Chinese history and legend in the time of the Emperor who set out to unite the 6 separate states into one, Our Land, China. The birth of China. It was a time that needed a hero. Through the course of the story we watch the hero developing toward his destiny. Jet Li's performance as a martial artist was supreme as always. He's so fast the stuntmen who spar with him in choreographed combat have to be the fastest of the fast, and even they talk in those documentaries telling the making of the movie about what it takes to keep up with Jet Li's speed.
They're all in awe of him as a martial artist. He's not what you'd call an actor, but he makes a good movie such that it doesn't matter. He's good enough.
It's been with me today that we're in a really curious time. In one way, the way of living in rural America in a working class condition, small town, it feels like the energy flow is way down on LO. Even SIM. Basic stuff is in motion, but that's about it. It's ok. It's just the momentum as it is now. It doesn't give any sign of cranking up any time soon, either. When I talk with friends in town, I don't know of anybody who thinks we're going in a upward or progressive direction. Progress is a word from the past. It gets called populist now, dirty word. Dirty as socialist. Maybe not quite as dirty as communist. But communist doesn't work any more. Populist is new. Television likes new. Makes me happy I live on my mountain, its people my community. I love my mountain. I don't need to concern myself with what's happening in our government that continues in the throes of Democracy under attack from Barbarians within. I choose to believe Democracy will withstand this test, but it's kind of like pulling for one of the teams on the Super Bowl. Just because I'm pulling for them doesn't mean they'll win.
At the CocaCola500 one year I started out pulling for the M&M car. I liked the color of the car. I like M&Ms. Don't keep up with race lore like I don't keep up with baseball, football or basketball lore. I don't care about the lore. I like the race. I like to watch cars try to outrun each other and see who makes it. The M&M car blew it's motor early in the race, 10 or so laps. I started pulling for Earnhart Jr. His motor blew half way through the race. I was done pulling for a car. It was the kiss of death. It started feeling like a Stephen King novel. I watched the race unconcerned who wins. I saw more of the parts I like the most, one passing another in a difficult situation, but it's gotta be done, I'm gonna get around him or wreck. I like to see 2 or more racing each other, going at it all out. That's a satisfying race for me. The drivers and the vehicles are so so highly tuned, so equally matched like tv sports players, the score is determined by mistakes. That's just the way it is in our time.
In another time it was another way. There was the time Curtis Turner ran Fireball Roberts off the track. When the race was over, Roberts went after Turner with a tire iron meaning business. These were rough fellers too. Like Jr Johnson said of today's drivers, They're just boys. The drivers in his time were men in the old-fashioned meaning. Even the young ones that grew up in hollers running liquor through their teens in hot, fast V8 Fords with good suspension that could outrun cops, were men. It's how they got away. You can be sure they were armed and unafraid of making a pop-gun go bang. They were men. They grew up in a tough world. They were true tough guys, babies in their mama's arms. The only thing we can really say for sure is change is the ongoing constant. Like Country Joe said at Woodstock, Aint no time to wonder why. Whoopee! We're All gonna die!