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Tuesday, September 7, 2010


tree down

Earlier, I watched the movie GREEN ZONE. In the bonus features at the end, I was listening to Matt Damon talking about making the movie, working with the cast composed of guys who had been in Iraq, guys who knew the authentic moves. Damon was talking about knowing people with experiences very different from his own, what a richness that can be. My head spun out of what he was saying into my life in the mountains where everyone I know is of experience different from mine. I came to a culture different from the one of my experience. Everything was new. By now I'm used to the culture and the mountains, but still, every day they're new.

As of this year I've been here half my life. The better half. The half where I turned toward the light. Browbeat with church 6 times a week since age of 7, when I got away from the nest I wanted to join the World with all my might. The World was where all the cool people were. I set out to learn and understand worldly ways, learn the appearance of being worldly. It didn't take. I took a kind of sailing dive to emptiness. I found the experience of the World empty, emptiness itself. And there I was. I don't mean this as a testimony. It's a description in brief. A time came when I saw my life was not headed as I'd supposed it might, dead ended at No Outlet. I needed to snap to. It was kind of like falling asleep driving, waking up, still in the correct lane, alarmed. Don't do that again. It must have been what it took to get me to the place where God would step in and say, Now you're ready. Going to the Blue Ridge I knew as much about as I knew of the mountains of Uzbekistan. Not much. If that spelling is correct, it's by chance, because I don't even know how to spell it. Walker Evans' b&w pictures of Appalachian poverty and Doris Ullman's photographs of mountain poverty had me believing it was a world of shacks and severely poor people I was moving in among. After 34 years here, I've not found what they photographed yet. Where is that kind of poverty? Another place. Coal mining country in hard times. All I knew was hillbillies, Flatt & Scruggs, stills and revenuers, Lil Abner, Erskine Caldwell = nothing.

I wanted to start in a new place, new everything. I saw right away the people I was getting to know, starting with the Pruitts, had intelligent minds when it came to figuring things out, getting something done, first hand experience. I'd come from a world where intelligence is measured by test taking and number of years in school. First hand experience doesn't count for much in the world of second, third and fourth hand experience (reading and research). I found after the college experience I'd lost my common sense. It had been superseded by details, measurements, information, true and false. I wanted to work hard outdoors for several years, a bootcamp of getting in shape and thinking about things, looking to get my common sense back through hard labor. Learn how to work with basic tools. Thought I'd return to city world after 5 to 10 years. It didn't work out like that. The answer to the question where to go to was always noplace. I found a grounded reality in the country people quite different from the city reality more lodged in the mind.

I came here living in my mind as I always had being a city kid that grew up playing instead of working. Spent the years I could have been best at working were spent sitting in chairs all day long. Go to school and sit down. Get up, go to the next class and sit down. Go to gym class and stand around. McDonald's is catching the flack over American obesity, but a great part of it is inactivity. I spent an awful lot of years sitting still. Now that I'm grown up and had a good spell of physical labor, I'm inclined to want to sit all the time. People I know who grew up working want to continue working to the day they die. I'm of the people that grew up sitting and want to sit to the day we die. The dog makes me get out and walk about, especially in the woods. There is nothing as refreshing as time spent among trees, running water, ferns, sunlight speckled in the leaves overhead, no straight lines anywhere you look, everything living, the moss, the rocks themselves, sitting for awhile listening to the water anywhere along the stream.

With the dog I go there every day. Today I didn't feel like taking a long walk, but wanted to get out for awhile. Roscoe is apprehensive about water and I'm attempting to show him the water is benign. I found a nice place to sit just into the woods. It's a beautiful wall of rock above the other side of the creek, and on my side of the creek a dry flat rock to sit on comfortably. It's under a hemlock / spruce pine, shallow water that only wets a dog's feet. He let his feet get wet without really getting in the water. I'm not pushing him to get used to the water, rather letting him find what it is by his own curiosity. I took clippers and cut off the dead branches at the bottom of the trunk growing on top of the rock. The lower dead branches made the place uncomfortable and not so aesthetically pleasing. I wanted to clear a place for sitting, leaving all the foliage to hang down as it does. In a small space it's like a Japanese garden tucked away, an oasis of peace for one, and a dog.

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