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Saturday, August 31, 2013

GETTING TO KNOW A NEW FRIEND


sandy mason and willard gayheart


I skipped the Skeeter & the Skidmarks show. It just happened at the wrong time. I hadn't slept well for a couple nights entertaining visions and thoughts about an art project. Wrote yesterday's entry between 10:30pm and 4:30am, slept til 8:30, up and going. Then a nap. On waking from the nap I was more tired than going into it. An hour and a half til time to leave. In my mind I see: change clothes and drive for an hour. My inner tire went flat. Strolled to the refrigerator and picked up three carrots, two for Donkey Jack, one for me. He has a cow trail between the back fence and the row of rhododendron that shade him and hide him. I can't see him in there unless he is moving. I stepped out into the field and called him, he took his time, walking in slow donkey time, moved along the trail until he came into the open nearest where I stood. He slowly turned, stepped into the meadow in the way cats walk, watching where he put his feet, looked up, saw me waiting for him, ran a short distance and walked the rest of the way to me and extended his nose. Today, he took a little time, because he came from a ways up the meadow to the east. He stepped out from the rhododendron maybe fifty feet away, looked at me, ran maybe ten feet and turned back into the rhododendron to the trail, walking the rest of the way on the trail walking donkey slow. I've been studying that ever since. He knows me as the one who brings him treats once a day.


sandy mason and willard gayheart


I wondered if he checked himself from appearing overzealous for a bite of carrot. That didn't make a lot of sense, but I'm looking into a donkey's mind suspicious about attributing reason to a person without the frontal lobe in the brain, projecting. But how else start looking for understanding? It's a place to start. I do know the four-leggeds are vain about their appearance, leading me to believe they are more aware than I am of speaking with movement, body language. My feeling is that Jack recognized me, felt an urge to hurry, to run, expressing his initial excitement that his daily visitor is here. Then maybe he caught himself  being too obvious. Slow down, Jack tells himself, attempt to be cool, Jacques. Maybe Jack had been snoozing too, and my voice calling his name woke him from a siesta. Possibly his burst of speed was checked by reminding himself this is no emergency, it's not a dog in the meadow to chase away, it's the two-legged with carrots. Walking is how a donkey gets from one place to another. I noticed in its slow journey along the trail that it walks naturally at the same pace a human walks naturally. This may have something to do with why donkeys have been human companions for carrying things, like the bed of a pickup, in the time when humans walked, and in parts of the world where people still walk.


scott freeman and edwin lacy


I noticed when he extended his nose to me, it wasn't to take a carrot, but to touch my hand with his nose. It seemed like the gesture was more to touch my hand than to sniff it. After his nose had touched my hand, then he was ready for the carrot. I'm seeing humility, natural humility. It's automatic in Jack, as automatic as being wary, quick to react. The humility I see in Jack is like the humility I saw in Jr Maxwell. Jack doesn't know it is humility and Jr didn't either. A donkey naturally defers to a human, like, "Go ahead, brother. You first." Possibly it is in their make-up as a herd animal. And as a creature of the herd, maybe, like us, the donkeys are aware of their physical appearance as well as the appearance of their gestures, as we are too. Anthropomorphizing, projecting self onto others, is the word I've been looking for. I read the four-leggeds by my understanding of our human behavior and thinking, not that they are lesser versions of us, but by evolution, that we came through them and we are next for them. At the same time I project by anthropomorphizing, I am aware they are not lesser versions of me. They understand each other through all species of animals by body language. I can scare the shit out of a dog that knows me for its friend just by the way I walk toward it. They are not lesser versions of me, but we have a great deal in common where our minds, learning and understanding, are concerned. They lack reason, but so do we.

 

scott freeman and edwin lacy


I'm seeing that Jack is wanting to know me like I'm wanting to know him. We are becoming acquainted eye-to-eye, the way the four-leggeds get to know each other. I want not to project onto a donkey dog behavior, but can use much I've learned from communicating with dogs. If Jack had been a dog earlier today, he'd have run from the time he saw me. The difference is that seeing me set Jack in motion, just not into full gallop. A dog is a pack animal, a donkey a herd animal. Very different. Pack animals are about hunting and stalking, while herd animals are about grazing and running faster than pack animals when they have to. Perhaps it is natural for a pack animal to run toward its subject of interest and for a herd animal to run from it. I'm wondering if Jack caught himself doing something uncharacteristically African wild ass, something maybe he thought the human expected, then remembered this is not a human that goes to him with expectation. Possibly, in donkey mind he is with me all the time he is walking. Running is response to fear, I imagine, in donkey DNA. In terms of our communication, I feel like walking was his expression of feeling no fear. He was approaching me of his own will, no fear involved. I'm reading it that his hesitation with me is easing, the fear that inspired his hesitation. Perhaps, too, running to me, before, might have had fear in it, anxious, afraid of the human, but he seems friendly so far.


scott freeman, edwin lacy, sandy mason


I'm even wondering if today's consciously slow pace approaching his new human friend in the meadow might be what follows after yesterday's game to see if he could make me jump, running at me full-gallop and stopping less than a foot in front of me, from running to stop in front of my nose. That I did not even flinch or blink an eye told him I trust him not to run over me. He used his fear response, running, to see if he could scare me. He did not intend to hurt me, and now he knows that I know he is not going to hurt me. A few days ago while I was sitting on the ground and he was grazing around me, he turned his backside to me, up close, three different times, keeping an eye on me all the time he's grazing. I was thinking that by now we're friends and he is not going to kick me. But I have a fairly good idea that now that we're friends, it's time to get to know each other. In a way, we're beginning to learn each other's language. Like if the African wild ass speaks Swahili, then Jack will teach me Swahili while I teach him English. If yesterday's comic lunge was also an expression of his fear, I felt like it was the end of his fear, not the total end, but a big part of it settled. He doesn't seem to like me putting my hands on his face, so today I didn't touch his face or make any gesture toward his face with my hands. He seemed a little surprised, and seemed to prefer my hands on his back or neck. He likes for me to stand beside him and bump him, reach my hand over his back and pull him to me like a hug. Today I leaned over his back during the hug. Donkey Jack likes a hug.

I've put up pictures of last year's Skeeter show to illustrate what was going on in my mind, feeling guilty for not going, telling myself I have a right not to go, wanting to be there so badly, looking at driving for an hour, then again for an hour; the thought of it defeated me. I didn't have what it took to hold my head up for the next five hours and pay attention.  


remembering Minnie
 
 
*

Friday, August 30, 2013

FAITH IN HUMANITY




A little bit ago I saw some headline about somebody who found money and gave it back or something, I didn't read it, didn't want to after the headline telling me it is "faith in humanity restored." I've heard that dumb saying all my life. Somebody does something basically decent and it restores somebody else's faith in humanity. If one little act of common decency restores faith in humanity, it didn't take much to lose the faith. And who puts faith in humanity? I hear meaningless nothing every time I hear that mindless statement. Putting faith in humanity equals putting faith in the roulette wheel or the spin of the chamber playing Russian roulette. Isn't this why we have religion? Because we can't have faith in humanity we turn to the unknowable enigma of all time, God? In gangster movies is where I see "faith in humanity," the bond between criminals, the loyalty, bought loyalty, the death sentence for rats. These bonds get broken by money and the view down a gun barrel. The stuff of drama. The deal is, if you want a peaceable life, don't put your faith in humanity. That's where you find drama. People who get their cheap thrill gossiping look for and make drama out of other people's stories. They have faith in humanity, telling the stories of other people's weaknesses behind a mask of piety.



I'm taking these words literally, leading me to take the phrase for "a manner of speaking," instead of words taken literally. Like "I love you to death," can be haunting if taken literally. But it still sounds unconscious to me to say that something restored my faith in humanity. I see us, humanity, as born with a wide open loving attitude that gets shut down day after day in this world by disappointments, by not being understood, by not being paid attention to, unable to talk, frustrated. The love light dims and dims until it's time to start school and get further humanized so new from the spirit world where love is the attitude toward life. I reject that old Christian (?) dogma that we're born in sin and have to be made good. In my experience of the babies I've known, kittens, puppies, calves, I see love like a beaming headlight. It's a hard edge for a delicate soul beaming love to live in a  body that is being trained by everyday life to shut down the love, dim the light, the ideal to shut it out, snuff out the candle. This is a world of people whose lights have been dimmed by overwhelming continuous experience in a world that doesn't have much use for love except as a four-letter word. Makes it difficult to find one's way back, by way of the spiritual path, to that initial love that shone through from our original self. The wide open vulnerable love I see in babies shows me the light that is the soul. It doesn't take long before the light is covered over by layers of experience until the layers become opaque and no inner glow can get through. It's in babies that I see love really is the light of this world. I have a feeling the women who gather around a new baby and get into a state men look at as sappy woman stuff, is for the women a feeling of being blessed by the presence of a pure soul. I do believe a saying from Baba Hari Dass of someplace in India, "All babies are yogis." They are love lights. That's what a yogi is, clear as a baby so the love light shines through and you feel blessed in his presence.



In my lifetime I have seen three men with what I can only call dead eyes. In each case I had a hard time believing I was seeing a living individual with completely dead eyes. And I don't mean the dead eyes of inner city gangstas who have become accustomed to killing unto profound indifference to life. In the three I've seen with dead eyes who were not gangstas with multiple kills to their credit, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Each one was an upright, breathing walking human being, very well off in an upper-case way, the inner light shut down, like a lantern with the candle burned out. I saw darkness in the eyes and marveled that I had seen that darkness. It felt Biblical. In all cases I do not know their pasts that led up to the time I saw them, and I don't know any of their names, don't know where they live, don't know anything about them, but that they are the three men I've seen along the way with dead eyes. I've seen two women with dead eyes, one a junkie, the other a bitter, mean old woman who kept everyone around her sucking up to her disapproval. She manipulated the ones closest to her with an alternating current, come here I love you, get back I hate you, come here I love you, get back I hate you. The first time I saw somebody with dead eyes, I fell into appreciation for the light in our eyes. It's said the eyes are the windows of the soul, and I see it. I took the dead eyes for dead souls. There is more to what constitutes a dead soul than playing cards and getting drunk on Friday and Saturday nights. Among the people I've seen with dead eyes, I was not curious to know what killed their eyes. It felt like a zone I dared not enter, even with a question to see if the individual talks. The eyes were tunnels without light at the other end. Long caves into absolute black darkness, elevator shafts miles deep in the coal mines.



In a city I see a lot of eyes that look but don't see. Anymore, I feel creepy in a city for this reason. Country people have brilliant light in their eyes. They can look at you without seeing you, but it's not because their eyes are dead. They're just shut down with the No Entry sign up. It's the light of life I see in the country people I know. I've not known all the country people by any means, but I don't see dead eyes in the country people I've known. I thought a lot of people had dead eyes for years until I came to understand it was their No Entry sign for people they don't know. The empty look that doesn't see you will vanish when you know each other. You never see those empty eyes again. That their eyes are alert to detail keeps them out of difficult spots. One man I know has eyes that give the appearance of dead, but for the fire glowing through. He shut his eyes (soul) down to everyone, but he aint dead inside. He's very much alive inside. His eyes just say No Entry. They're for seeing out, not for seeing in. Mountain people have a way of looking at you when they don't know you with eyes that are disturbing to an outsider. They can stare at you like you're a television. If you speak and they don't know you, they'll just keep on staring and think nothing of it. That was in my early years here, 35+ years ago. Those would be the back roads people in the laundromat and gas stations. Now, when I see people from a back road in a convenience store staring at me when I walk in the door. I say, How you doin? and they answer or they don't. Now that I know the people, I could walk up to the table one of those men staring at me, sit at the table with him and have a conversation and be talking like people who have known each other a long time. Not knowing the people, it was intimidating to be stared at emptily. Knowing the people, they're just looking because they're facing that direction. You just cross their field of vision. No big deal. It's the same as watching the sparrows in the parking lot.



It's that looking at you and seeing nothing that gave the early city people coming to the mountains the heebie jeebies. The mountain people have changed a very great deal over the last half century. Television brings everybody watching it into the same culture, so even though country people and city people don't mix none too good, they still have television culture between them making communication possible. Mountain culture has faded out and television culture has faded in like a slow zoom lens. Television has its viewers believing it is necessary to be bright-eyed, cheery, happy with the eyes, making a good impression, being fun, uplifting. Political correctness is actually television correctness, conforming to television's rules for itself. Don't say the Ef word or you'll get in a heap of trouble. I'm happy among the mountain working people who laugh at political correctness. These are people whose eyes are clear and open both looking out and looking in. People who are satisfied that what you see looking in is themselves, which is what you see when you look at them. From inside the eyes to the color of the tshirt is the same. The mountain people I think of as my friends are people who are wide-open who they are. They're not objectionable people. They don't hurt anybody, but themselves sometimes. Who you see in their eyes is who you see after years of knowing them, who you see in how they dress, what they drive. From all the way within to all the way to the surface, it is the same one, man or woman. I could name several, but wouldn't embarrass them. It is that living energy I see in the eyes of my friends here in these hills without masks in their eyes.  This is one of the great gravitational forces that makes me unable to leave the mountains any more. I know my subjective findings are not absolute and exceptions are like spray from a shotgun that nullify all I say, but that's ok too. It's just the musings of an idiot full of.... It would be too self-flattering to finish the sentence and pretend I understand William Faulkner.

 
 
 
*






Thursday, August 29, 2013

IZO THE MOVIE


from izo


I have just now seen the wildest Japanese samurai slasher film of my life. I don't even try to "get it," just let it flow by like the river. I sit on the bank and watch the flow. It's full of different ideas about dying, varieties of ways of going into death. Izo is a demon in the spirit world (within) and a man of flesh who never dies, though is killed over and over by ghosts of people he'd killed in the past. They all curse him. One swears to curse him forever even if her curses send her to hell. He's killed over and over by people who hate him, dies an agonizing death and is back at it, covered in blood, slashing everybody around him, even people that just happen to be nearby. It came to the place where Izo, the demon, was death itself, an evil form of death. "I am not a human." When he showed up, people died. He went anywhere in time, medieval times, conrempoary times. Like he slashed an urban crowd of corporate suits. "Let Izo pass. Clear the way." "If you want to live, clear the way." Izo kills anyone, everyone. "I'm like a bird flying to a far-off island."

 
 
The film is interspersed at regular intervals with moments of a man picking an acoustic guitar and singing a song relating abstractly to the story, if it can be called a story. It's a Brechtian device, a song sung as an aside from time to time in the story, like Broadway, but not. The song is as much a Dadaist poem as the film. This film goes all over the place, "Buddha is merciful." Izo's issue with religionists is no different from anybody else. He kills indiscriminately. For him, it's like the way children play. Get killed, get up and you're somebody else or you just came back to life. Your choice. Izo gets shot down by multiple bullets or sword thrusts, gets up and carries on slashing. "You're still alive? Damned monster!" A man's last words. Nobody survives an encounter with Izo. "We can't stop him. I'm telling you he's nothingness." Death in human form. It brings to mind the tv series a few years ago, A Thousand Ways To Die. This film is a thousand ways to die by samurai sword. What's crazy about this film for me is that it is not cheezy, not a cheap thriller. It has depth and range that includes Japanese history, WW2 film footage, a collage of high-speed of b&w war images. "Damn you! You're going against karma, ghost!" I take that to mean he interrupts someone's karma and takes them out of their time. It's a new form of Godzilla running loose. The top dog general leading the effort to find a way to kill Izo is played by Kitano Takashi, another Japanese artist director of now.

let's bowl


The film strikes me as a long Japanese Dadaist poem by Takahachi Shinkichi. In many ways it brings to mind a stage event I saw years ago at Spoleto by Terayama of Tokyo, Directions For Servants. Terayama was the Robert Wilson of Japan. It was the most incredible stage event I'd ever witnessed, for me a seven in a five-star rating. Not that I've seen a lot. This film has that quality of the Japanese avant garde through the 20th century into the Post-modern. It could be used in film schools as a raw example of the post-modern. "The name of illness is a singer. The doctor is the audience. The nurse is a poet." It has the kind of creepiness of mind that I see in David Lynch films. Lynch has an awfully creepy edge that is chilling, like Willem Dafoe's character in Wild At Heart, especially the scene where his mouth is in Laura Durn's face with breath you know is from hell telling her, "Say fuck me. Say fuck me." over and over.  Miike Takashi is the director, the one whose mind's eye created this vision of death. IZO is the title. I saw two characters show up in a scene who played roles in a Kitano Takashi film, Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman. I've seen a few other Miike Takashi films. One I recall, Hara-Kiri: the Death of a Samurai, was a truly fine film. 13 Assassins was one of the great samurai films. Good samurai story beautifully told. This one, Izo, strikes me as a visual Japanese Dadaist poem. It's a poem about death.
 


"Human history is made from blood. Human history is no more than an unsated chain of bloodshed. You must realize that a new age arrives out of the blood of massacre, and nowhere else." That's a hard saying, but who can deny it? History, itself, bears it out. This is why history amounts to dates of wars and names of generals. Another quotation about Izo, "How can he be so resilient, that damned 'contradiction'?" I need to see this again for the Dada of it, for the visual poem that it is, to be able to see from the beginning what I'd discovered about it by the end. The slasher overkill makes me hesitate ever to see it again, but it has so many levels of interesting, I want to take it apart and piece together the sections of thread running through the collage depiction of beginning, middle and end. It flowed like a poem about death, a tradition that goes way back in time. It brings to mind Black Orpheus, a truly beautiful film about death. IZO is not beautiful in the conventional way of looking at it. As a post-modern theatrical experience, I am fascinated every minute, a film I put on pause to get up and let Caterpillar out or in the door. I believe I'll have to see it again tomorrow. It took until way into it to get some drift of what was going on. Got it right away this was a ghost, but it took a large part of the film finding what the film itself was, and when I fell into the flow of it and saw what Miike was doing, I started feeling I got it by the end. But then it was over. Now I want to see it, knowing from the start what's going on and be able to see the whole thing with the appreciation I developed seeing it the first time. IZO is a film I'd have to see probably five times before feeling satisfaction I got it. The paradox of beauty and death.

miike takashi

*


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

JACK STABLE RAMBLE



Much of the day I was making steps toward emptying a shed I'd built in 1977 out of boards from an old shed that had been torn down. Initially, it kept chickens for ten years. They nested in there and slept in the trees. One night when they slept in the shed a coon got in and killed a couple of them and they never slept in there again. They slept on a white pine branch close enough to the ground they could easily fly to it, but out of reach of night predators. Eventually, so many dogs came into the area that I couldn't keep chickens anymore. I liked to let them run free. I threw grain to them in the mornings and they pecked in the meadow for grasshoppers and every kind of bug they eat. I've kept scrap wood in the shed since the chickens. I'm a natural born junkyard man. I can't throw anything away unless there is nothing left that can be done with it. Over the years I've cut things out of plywood with a jigsaw, like a life-sized fiddler, a seven foot long guitar, things like that. I've kept the scraps. I have ten foot long one by ones, two twelve foot long dowels, a wooden barrel missing top and bottom. Posts of various sizes, blocks of wood. Two plywood circles 4 foot diameter and neighbor Tom Pruitt's mailbox with post. A few years after Tom died the road was paved. The bulldozer pushed the box and post out of the ground and treated it like trash. I brought it home. It's rusted really bad, has remains of paint in places and two bullet entry holes on one side and exit holes on the other side. I've aimed for years to plant it in the ground somewhere around the house for old-time memory. The post is old dry wood roughly nailed together. I call it found art.

 
 


Making the chicken house into a stable. Cutting out the wall that faces the meadow, making half of it an open doorway and the other half a wall about half way up, leaving the upper half open. It's a good size for two donkeys and a foal. I already know when Jack gets his Jeanette and they have a little donkey, I will be inseparable from the little one. It will be my pet from the start. It will be born in the same place my cats were born. It feels a little bit funny that in this time when I'm wrapping up this lifetime to suddenly have something I've wanted all my life, a donkey. It just came to me. Wanting a donkey was something it never occurred to me to tell anybody, because I believed it a hopeless urge like wanting a car I can't afford. And when I needed my old man car, the Toyota pickup burned up and died. I had the use of this 93 Buick that is an excellent car and two weeks later it became mine. Insurance money from the truck gave me the money to bring the Buick back to its potential after years of desperately needing a tuneup and taillights and a new headlight, new brakes, new tires. It took quite a bit to bring it back. Ever since that visit with the mechanic, it has run to my total satisfaction. It's 20 years old and doesn't use oil. It's a v-6 and evidently as classic a motor as the Chevy Nova slant six. Those Nova motors continue after the car has rusted away. They end up in Third World countries running pumps.



Much of the time driving I'll not listen to music because I like listening to the motor. It's running as close to perfectly as it can in the hands of a non-mechanic. My mechanic is like the guys on the NPR show Car Talk where people call in, tell their car's symptom and these master mechanics with advanced degrees from MIT answer to what the problem is, what it will take to fix it and a ballpark figure of what it will cost. Done in spontaneous Marx Brothers comedy. A few times when I've had something just a little off in the car, I could tell my mechanic (I say my because he is the only one I'll go to) what the car is doing and he goes straight to the problem. He doesn't half fix the car, either. When I drive out of his garage I feel the difference immediately. Chuck Billings is his name. He's in Glade Valley on Osborne Call Road. He's like a dentist, takes care of one appointment after another. I admire his knowledge in a big way. He's the kind of man you can trust as a true human being, too. He plays acoustic guitar with a hillbilly gospel band, Covered By The Blood. I love their name. It could also be a hard-core punk band or gangsta rappers. Musically, Chuck and I are in tune that the Stanley Brothers are the best there ever was, no two ways about it. Oh, I just felt this overwhelming longing to hear Carter Stanley sing. It brings tears just to think about him. Such a superb singer. Ralph Stanley tears up every audience at his shows when he recites The Hills of Home, his memory of Carter, growing up together, making music together. It's one of the wonderful hillbilly tear-jerkin talk songs. It leaves few dry eyes in the audience. To sit in a Ralph Stanley audience is to be among people who live by their hearts having a heart fest.



I'd put on some Stanley Brothers, but then I'd have to stop writing, sit back and listen. The music will do that to me. I can't do anything else and listen to the Stanley Brothers or Ralph Stanley. Even if I wanted to, I'd have a hard time turning off Thomas Mapfumo, whose band is playing now. He's from Zimbabwe. His band is the Blacks Unlimited. Dance club music. He sings in his home language. It's a flow like palm wine music and a lilting reggae, understated vocal, talk-singing. You can hear him on youtube if you're curious. I can listen to it because I can't understand the words. The vocals are the same as an instrument. This is dance music from Harare. It's a sinuous flow with interestingly complex rhythms. I sometimes wonder about how Mapfumo gets along these days. He was the rebel singer in Rhodesia when the blacks ran the white farmers out of the country and took over the farms. Robert Mugabe. The voice of the revolution, it's going to be a better world. Not. Mugabe has bled the country the same way the Banks are bleeding the American people, taking all to self. Mugabe loses every election and won't leave office. Zimbabwe is so incredibly depressed I can't help but wonder how much Mugabe hates the Zimbabwean people. He has 9 PhDs. Of course he deserves keeping the people in the worst kind of poverty. It's his privilege. He's smart. I wonder how Thomas Mapfumo comes to terms with himself for his part in the revolution. I can only imagine him disappointed. But his music hasn't suffered any. His music satisfies my ear like maybe Dvorjak quartets, like recent Bob Dylan projects. Very different music, but similar satisfaction in my ear. Music with a flow that obviously affects my thinking. It's been playing the whole time. I've tried to not get lost in the music, but it happened.

 
 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BUTTERFLIES AND SERPENTS

take me to your leader
 
Butterflies dance on the joe pyes in full flower this time of year. Their big head of pink broccoli is a cluster of thousands of little pink flowers. Joe pyes appear to be butterfly paradise, except the butterflies don't have to be dead to get there. A stand of joe pyes this time of year is crowned by a halo of fluttering multi-colored wings. Sometimes the butterflies are all over the flowers, cover them with yellow-black wings spread flat. A stand of joe pyes decorates my bedroom window. Long stalks ten to twelve feet long, leaves that circle the stem at regular intervals. The leaves lean to a dull cloudy green, but in rain the leaves come to life. They glow reflecting the silver light of the sky. One of the more beautiful sights in these mountains I know of is a stand of flowering joe pyes in the rain. It brings to mind a Japanese screen. This stand of joe pyes I got pictures of the butterflies from today came up behind my mailbox. The mailbox post protected them from the County roadside clippers. I encourage them wherever they want to grow. They're a valuable energy source for the butterflies and they're beautiful.    


don't know who my leader is

A Taurus with Venus the ruling planet, I require beauty of some sort in my surroundings. I've got a bad case of it. It's why I can't leave the mountains. It's why I can't stand more than a short time in a city. I have to change channels on my idea of beauty from the flowering green world to chance arrangements of colors and shapes. Maybe this is why abstract art is so right for an expression of the city. In the city we live more in our minds. Everything around us is utilitarian, right angles, left angles, vertical angles, horizontal angles and dull, uninteresting colors. The gray of pavement the dominant color in a city. In my city years I liked to make photographs of the backsides of downtown shops that face the parking lots. That was where I found the abstract compositions I was looking for. A big door that hadn't been painted since it was put there. The wall hadn't been painted since it was new. A cardboard box about four feet high and five twenty-foot fluorescent bulbs standing up from the box against the old brick, chipped paint and grime from years. Images and words from the days when they painted billboards on the sides of downtown buildings. By the time I came along, they were faded, chipped and more beautiful than they'd ever been. They faded into the unseen environment out the back door where plant life grew in cracks, paper trash speckled the ground and collected in corners with leaves.

isn't butterfly leader an oxymoron

I did not know it when I lived in the city that my soul longed for the country, for deep country, Blue Ridge Mountains where they have rattlesnakes, copperheads, bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, coons, possums and all the rest of it. It's not as dangerous as it sounds. They are more afraid of us than we are of them. Hunters see them and traces of them, but the rest of us seldom see one unless it runs across the road in front of the car. The critters are mostly out at night. One night coyotes were yipping in a circle around my house. It was a freaky feeling. Some years ago I was sitting in the woods writing. It was getting dark, I was almost finished, and a screech owl just over my shoulder started its trill. I'd never heard one so close. It's a scary sound. I imagine for a mouse it's the sound of the chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was thinking the bird lets loose this scary call that sets the mice in motion from fear. A mouse moves, that's it, owl shit. I was loving it hearing the screech owl so close. It was also an uneasy feeling hearing such a cold-blooded shrill cry. It's like the miniature owl was saying, Come out my darlings. I'm gonna get you, and when I do I'm gonna kill you, then I'm gonna eat you, ha ha ha ha ha. From a distance, it's a pretty sound to hear after dark coming from the trees among the tree frogs and katydids.

no two ways about it


Out there in the world of what we call nature, it's kill to eat and get killed to be eaten. That's the cycle. I used to think it a crazy setup for a loving God to create. Born, live and die. We humans as we are today are foreigners in the world of the trees where prowling is the mode of walking, looking for signs of something to catch, kill and eat. At the same time looking not to get stalked and killed. We've separated ourselves from that world with exceptions like hermits in the Yukon who live by what they catch from day to day. I don't hunt. I am here to go in peace with the world I live in. In my early years in the mountain I walked all over this area, saw the mountains down on the ground where the wild things live. In later years, I like to go to one spot, sit and look at the landscape, the tree canopy. One time a bluejay stood on a tree limb not twenty feet from my spot. I didn't move. The bluejay groomed itself all over, taking a time-out to preen feathers. It was like watching an actress before her mirror. Sitting on a flat rock in the creek writing one nice summer day, a water snake crawled onto the rock beside me. They're not aggressive, they're not poisonous and they don't bite unless provoked. They do, however, have one grave misfortune; they look like copperheads.

joe pye


It took awhile to be able to tell the difference between a water snake and a copperhead on sight. By this time, I knew what the snake was, because it had given me a serpentine Esther Williams swimming rodeo in front of where I sat. The snake was frustrated because it was trying to scare me off the rock and I wouldn't leave. It wanted to sun there. It was that time of day. The snake placed its chin on the rock inches from my crossed legs looking at me with hypnotic serpent eyes like it was saying, I'm a serpent. You're supposed to be afraid of me. Are you asleep? That day I learned snakes know they scare every living thing. I wondered what it must like to have everything that sees you scream and run or try to kill you. I'd have been happy to give the snake its rock to sun on, but I was writing about the snake and what it was doing, swimming, crawling on the rock, looking me in the eye trying to scare me with the serpent glare. I was writing a video. I couldn't stop writing because I was writing about the moment, the snake's frustration with a giant that didn't know a serpent when he saw one. That's about as daring as I get. I'm no Turtle Man who can dive into a pond and bring up a snapping turtle with his hands. That aint me. I don't go near no snapping turtle. A good old dog like Martha is more my style. Stretch out on the grass, enjoy the sunlight and don't worry about a thing.

martha
 
 
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

THINGS FALL APART



Going by reports I've seen, the march on Washington, the 50th anniversary gathering, amounted to not much but another reason we did not want police state. I found a video of Al Sharpton talking there, but turned it off after half a minute. He grates my nerves. At least he followed some sound counsel on changing his hairdo. He's impossible for me to take seriously after the Tawana Brawley non-incident that occurred several years ago. Young black girl had shit smeared on her and claimed she'd been raped. Sharpton was in on the ruse. Sharpton and his zealots made it up, set the whole thing up and made a big racial issue of it, accusing and ranting. A preacher. I'm surprised to see he evidently has enough credibility for a tv network to pay him to be a news commentator, and he was given a slot to talk at the Washington civil rights march 2013. The police presence was all the way up to military, taking hand-held signs from people handing them out, threatening them with arrest. The first civil rights march in 1963 made a great wave in the ocean of collective human consciousness. This memorial half a century after was not even a ripple in a virtual pond. The reports I read indicated that the speakers only had two or three minutes apiece. Then I saw Al Sharpton had 20 minutes. Whatever.




In Raleigh this weekend, some people who had been feeding the homeless on weekends were told to stop it or be arrested by police. No citing the law or statute or reason. Stop it or you're arrested. Another reason we did not want police state. Our national government is telling third world countries to allow peaceful demonstrations if they want to go on receiving billions in aid from USA. Occupy has been shut down. The people peacefully protesting in North Carolina and Wisconsin are arrested routinely for peaceable protesting. It's on international tv and no one seems to get it. Enforcing democracy on destitute countries while arresting demonstrators in USA acting out democracy makes the same kind of sense as locking up "whistleblowers" while calling this a free society. All I know of that's free about it is the polluted air to breathe. Next we'll be sold oxygen like in Tokyo. We've become like a literal herd of sheep controlled by television, believing uncritically whatever we're told, because we're supposed to. In every herd is one that stays off to itself. It is with the herd, a member of the herd, stays with the herd, but stays apart from the herd to itself. I've been the one to stay off to itself in every herd I've been associated with. I'm with the herd, but like a little space around me.




Because I don't have a head full of commercials and sitcom canned laughter, I don't believe it is necessary to make my life a pipeline between Walmart and the landfill. It's actually kinda creepy being the only one, but for less than a handful of the people of my world who does not partake of the daily propaganda ingestion. I don't mean just political propaganda, though there's plenty of that too. In my lifetime I have seen it shorten the American attention span down to nothing. I remember years ago being alarmed when I saw the people around me had an attention span of a cat. By now, it's not even that. It's nonexistent. Zombies, the living dead, are popular entertainment. In my case, it doesn't matter that I don't watch tv, because the entire culture I live in, the larger American culture, our way of thinking is created by television. I don't mean this show or that commercial. I mean the steady flow of flash, both visual and auditory, vey little of it, if any, anything more than flash, devoid of content except to sell something subliminally. It seems like the people who watch television the most have become televisions. I've known a few people that I think of as televisions.


 

The US Navy took me outside my life for two years. I resented that about the draft. I am not soldier or sailor anything but fodder. The first six months living in barracks broke my television habit cold turkey. My head would clear of television images when the ship was at sea, and then I'd have another extended spell on land with television. At sea, the television images would gradually drift out of my head. On the ship I read as much as I could to use the time for something beneficial to myself since I was bound by involuntary servitude for being born a boy in a militarist society, a militarist civilization, a universal militarist mind set. In childhood I wanted to escape to Tibet where they lived in peace. Then Chinese militarism put an end to that. Who gave a shit? Some did. Some gave a great deal of shit, but not enough to stop the oppression of a people unable to defend themselves militarily. It's like what happened in USA, Australia and Latin America; when the outsiders move in by military or economic force, the local people become the outsiders in their own land. The Tibetans staying behind are regarded by the Chinese like the Indians are regarded on Turtle Island in this time. What's to be done? Go to India, the last place where peaceable people have a chance. India has nukes, and India has military. And India is engaged in perpetual terrorist war with Pakistan like Israel with the entire Arab world.




In the late 1980s, Independence attorney Lorne Campbell would comment on the news from time to time, "It's time to move higher up the mountain." Hearing the news in this time, yesterday, today, tomorrow, gives one a visual and a story that brings to mind a working out of the WB Yeats' poem, The Second Coming, the center does not hold. We don't seem to have a center in this time.

     Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
     the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
     Things fall apart, the center cannot hold;
     Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.




Yeats wrote the poem in 1919, at the end of WW1. Here it is again. The center is not holding any longer and things are falling apart. It's a cycle we're going through again. America had it's center in being white dominant middle class in the Fifties, Ozzie and Harriet, whose rock star son died in a plane crash free-basing cocaine. We have on the one hand a television fantasy, and on the other hand the in-person version steps out into our world in a plane crash. The Yeats poem is a  beautifully composed vision of the time around the Second Coming. It tells a cycle so well it reads like prophecy. You can find it googling yeats second coming.  I go about thinking much of the time the center does not hold. Like Campbell, I say to myself, Time to move higher up the mountain. I'm already as high up the mountain as I can go, so that's kinda redundant. My center seems to be holding. Every day I look at the green world outside in gratitude to God that I am not caught up in television mind manipulated unconsciously. I pay attention to current events not by tv news, but by newspaper and magazine articles. I'm not Noam Chomsky. I couldn't read it all, due to not being that interested. I like to follow threads of the unwinding of the world as we knew it and see / witness / observe the new world coming on. It's a head game, totally a head game.   


 
 
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

THE AFRICAN WILD ASS

jack


It is Friday night and I failed to drive to Woodlawn to hear Greg Cornett make music. I wanted to go, had heard him before, wanted to enjoy his music and stories again. For some odd reason, probably like not eating all day and not eating much yesterday, I felt slow and sluggish today wanting to sleep. Took a nap, woke up at the time I'd need to be leaving, still felt tired, didn't want to drive for an hour. I dragged myself up, picked up a couple of carrots from the refrigerator for Donkey Jack and walked out into the field with carrots and brush, forcing myself into some kind of motion. I chose not to call him today. I walked out into the meadow. I guessed he was in his shaded place among the rhododendron where he can see all the meadow. I hadn't walked more than a hundred feet when I saw him galloping toward me like a horse, somewhat hesitant, ears straight up, uncertain from maybe fifty yards if the figure he saw was who he thought it was. I called his name, Donkey Jack, and he set out in full gallop. It was beautiful to see his legs running like a horse. I'd never thought about a donkey's grace, but they have grace. Jack has the grace of a horse, the grace of a dog, the grace of one of God's creatures. What we humans call grace amongst ourselves is but a studied imitation of the natural grace in animals outside the reach of the human mind.



I've lived with dogs and cats and worked with cows, at first struck by the grace I saw in all my experiences with animals. I see the same grace in dogs that I see in cats, it just looks different. Studying grace in the animals, I see it all the more in the ones that live wild and never see a human except from hiding. I maintain it is our forebrain that messed up our human grace. To get it back, it seems we have to transcend the forebrain. A dancer, a musician, an artist has to leave mind and fall in with the flow. I suspect it is the ability to leave mind during the dance that makes the difference between the lead dancer in a New York company and the lead dancer in a provincial company. That ability to leave mind and follow the flow is where artistry enters, grace. Great dancers, great fiddlers study their art form to the point of transcending thought and that's where they find grace. In musicians, it's where they find music. I was not anticipating seeing grace in Donkey Jack's gallop. It reminded me that, of course, a donkey has grace. I felt that thrill inside when I hear Scott Freeman go off with his mandolin into some music that is the essence of grace. Seeing Jack's legs running toward me, all four legs in perfect sync with each other, brought to mind a one-second scene in the movie Gladiator showing the knees of the general's white horse. The editor and/or director saw the grace in that one second moment of moving horse knees. It worked.




Jack's ears sticking straight up above his long horse face looked almost as long as his face. It was somewhat comical, a horse with rabbit ears. He slowed down as he approached me and was walking when he reached out with his nose for a sniff to confirm the visual and auditory with the third sense. I've seen in all the animals I've known the need to verify one sense by another. When I called to Jack, it was to verify by sound what he was pretty sure he saw. When he got that verification, the hesitation fell away from him. It was heartwarming to see Jack running to greet me. I like to believe the carrots he believed I had for him were only half the motivation to run. I saw he is knowing me now, sees me as someone to run toward instead of away from. Yesterday when I was with him, the dogs next door were at the gate, Jolene and Martha. They came running through the gate actually wanting to meet this new horse that appeared to be friendly. Jack stepped back behind me. I saw they scared him. So I flung my arms and hollered, "Git!" They ducked back to the other side of the gate. I made the physical gesture to show Jack it's easy to turn them away. Jack is new here, not yet sure about all the animals that pass through this area by day and night. I talked with Jack about the dogs. I told him they live nearby and he will see them often. They are not threatening, but I advised him to keep them out of the meadow. Jack doesn't know it yet, but he will have a baby donkey, his own baby, gamboling about the meadow in near future.



I talk to Jack. I've learned by now from knowing so many four-leggeds along the way that they understand us when we talk to them. They don't understand the words, but they are picking up the meaning telepathically. When I talk to Jack I have the feeling he gets it. When I tell him I am happy to have him for my new friend, that I'm looking forward to knowing him, that I love this chance to have a donkey friend, he yawns when I talk to him like that. Same as a dog does and same as a cat does. I see Jack an intelligent being with a personality that I am gradually becoming acquainted with. I like his temperament. After feeding him the two carrots and brushing him with a brush and my hands, I find he prefers to feel my hands run over his hair. The brush seems to bother him, yet he likes it too. But I can tell he'd rather feel my hand run over his back than the brush. He likes the brush, but prefers the hand. After I'd brushed and rubbed him good, he started rubbing up against me sideways, kind of like he'd do to another donkey that was his friend. I felt like it was his way of petting me back. He doesn't have hands and can't hold a brush. He was rubbing up against me with the side of his belly. At first I was a little bit alarmed, not sure what was up, then I got it that he was rubbing me in return, that it was a familiar, friendly gesture, a donkey's way of saying, I like you too. That was all it amounted to, a familiar bump, a wordless, Hey, how you doin? I remembered the dance from the 70s, the bump.



I'm still not fully at ease with a four-legged that I know can kick the shit out of me in a second and bite really hard. I'm standing next to this thing that does not have to do what I say. The donkey has all the advantage. Without a weapon, I wouldn't have a chance against Jack. I had to stand there trusting my knowledge of animal mind that after a week of bringing him carrots, petting him, talking to him, brushing him, he's not going to do anything untoward. The bumping and pressing himself against me was just donkey to donkey. At one point he put a front foot on top of my foot, consciously, knowing that was my foot under his foot, and stood there. It didn't hurt at all. It was about the weight of a child's foot. I didn't tell him to get off my foot. It struck me funny. He looked like he had a smile on his face while he stood on my foot. I took it as another form of contact like bumping. Dogs show each other their weight by bumping, and I wondered if Jack was showing me his size, his weight. I bumped him back and showed him my weight. I assumed that was what he wanted and it seemed like it was. He just wanted to get a feel for my weight and give me a feel for his weight. It wasn't aggressive. It was simply familiar and friendly. We humans shake hands, donkeys bump. Jack is so gentle that he takes the last chunk of carrot from my fingers with his lips instead of his teeth.



I sat down on the ground and he looked at me a bit puzzled about what I was going to do. I just sat. I talked to him, told him his hair is the same color of a dove. He grazed some grass in front of me, gradually grazing a circle all the way around me. He wasn't eating the grass like a lawnmower, but just pulling at a horse-nettle leaf, plucking some blades of grass, not really hungry, but doesn't know what else to do while the human is sitting on the ground. Jack comfortably grazed as I talked to him. The very first thing old man Tom Pruitt told me about working with cows, Talk to them. They like being talked to. I find it applies to all the domestic four-leggeds. I see Donkey Jack likes hearing human talk, too. I told him today that he is an Equus africanus asinus, an African horse, aka an African wild ass. I can see him paying attention, close attention like he's seeing the telepathic images of my words and thoughts in his mind's eye. Anyway, that's what I suppose. He knows the sound I call him and will learn more words as time goes by.  I've seen so much evidence by now that the four-leggeds connect with each other telepathically, just like they do with us, it seems obvious to me. Only difference, we don't get it. We call donkeys brute beasts of burden. I'm curious to know this donkey. Been checking out websites about donkeys for whatever information I can find. there comes a point real soon where there just isn't any more. I decided to let Jack teach me about donkey mind. I felt it was significant in the beginning of getting to know each other that he felt free enough today to bump without being interpreted aggressive.

 
 
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

FEELING IS EVERYTHING

australian aboriginal art


Sometimes a picture I see in facebook or someplace else will be a problem for my visual interpretation. Just now I saw one of a white man in a black uniform pushing a corpse wrapped in white on a gurney into the back of an ambulance, at night, seen from the side, light source inside the ambulance, a red light. I had to look at it for a long time before I could see anything but an abstraction. I'm so used to seeing abstractions in art that when I can't make out the subjects in a photograph, it automatically looks like an abstraction of colors. Just before that I saw a thing on facebook of an animated woman turning on one foot like a dancer. If I'm right-brain dominant, I'll see her go clockwise. If I'm left brain dominant, she'll go counter-clockwise. First time I looked, she was going clockwise and I could not see her going the other way. I looked away at something and when I looked back, she was going counter-clockwise. Then I could get her to change direction by looking away and looking back at her. Evidently that means I've a fair balance of left brain / right brain. Under the twirling image was a list of what constitutes right brain and what constitutes left brain. I read them both. Right brain tends toward intuitive and left brain toward reason. I feel like it's true to say that I live by a fair balance of left and right brain. I imagine anyone who reads these writings more or less regularly can see it, and possibly it is your base reason for reading them.

alex katz


I'm recalling a conversation with a lawyer friend a few months ago when he said of somebody we were talking about, "That's not logical!" It stunned me to hear someone say that. In a nano-second I processed in my head, he's been a lawyer all his adult life, he knows humanity, and in his sixties believes logic has something to do with human behavior. I blurted out a little too much in my shock to hear it, "Logic? Logic only matters in math." We don't do no logic round here. It caused me to reflect that the only place I've seen logic apply in adult life is in court, or somebody deciding not to kill somebody for pissing him off, the logic of considering what's next. He spends his time in court where logic matters. I was looking at it from outside court where logic doesn't have much of a role, except maybe sometimes making a given decision when you have to weigh the odds. I found it interesting that logic was a given for him in his world, and barely anything at all in the world I live in. In my world, emotion still plays a large role in someone's life, people who live by the heart. It's when we live by the mind that logic becomes an issue. Urban living is more of the mind than country living. In the country we're not on the climb for more money and status, and we're more relaxed to live our lives completely illogically if we can get away with it. It's like the law takes care of logical thought for us and we do our best to stay out of trouble with the law. That takes care of our need for adherence to logic.

morris graves


I remember in my first years in the mountains being astonished by logic having little to no importance. They were still living by the heart when I went off to school and the urban work world where logic sometimes has value. What I'm getting at, it's been a long time since I've thought that way, the urban, college-educated way of using logic. I do, but I don't use the word. I've seen in the mountain people I live among the value of living by the heart. I felt I was heart-deficient when I came to the mountains, too much emphasis on mind, reason, logic. People who live by the heart are often guided by their emotions making a rollercoaster ride of everyday life. I was struck in the beginning years of observing mountain culture that emotion played such a leading role, even in tone of voice and rhythms of speech. I've talked with a very few old-timers who continued to talk in the emphatic every other syllable iamb like in Shakespeare, Elizabethan rhythms. Old-time fiddlers used to keep the rhythm while playing melody from the days when the fiddle was the only instrument for square dances, before banjo and guitar came along to take care of the rhythm. The iambic emphasis carried emotion very well, could be used for emphasis of emotion behind the content spoken. The oldest time old-timers I met years ago sounded like song when they talked.

plum tree japanese


I grew up in urban culture schooling where reason has come in to replace emotion as the next step in our collective development. In the mountains, I found that the people still valued emotion, didn't mind talking with hearty emotional emphasis. I loved hearing people talk with emotional emphasis. I had shut down emotion in myself in childhood, except of course, for anger. By mid thirties when I arrived in the mountains a year after engaging myself with the Divine Will, whatever that is, which I set to find out, my spiritual path was about opening my heart to love. My parachute landed me in a world of people who continue to live by heart, a subculture. Living among the mountain people I have found my heart among people not afraid to flare up in rage, get drunk and be stupid, fight, cuss, threaten, and on the other hand help, support, love, care for, look after with generosity of heart. Mountain men like to act like they're hard-hearted, but when their women leave them and take the kids, they break, they break all the way down, and many pop a cap in their heads to quiet their agony. From the outside, that looks kind of pathetic to be such a slave to emotion, but from the inside, from inside the culture, it's how a man feels. Jr Maxwell of Whitehead, banjo picker, welder, tractor mechanic, told me at the table over a dram of good mountain liquor with emphasis, "Feeling is everything."

christo


Mountain music is not music when it is not played from the heart. Almost every Saturday morning after my radio show on the local AM station of mountain music I'd stop by Jr's to visit with him for a few hours on the way home. I almost only played musicians of the mountains born in the mountains playing mountain music as it is played in this region, the Central Blue Ridge. That would be northwestern North Carolina, northeastern Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. It's a fountain of music all up and down the Appalachians, each region with it's own sound, or personality as I've come to see the differences. One Saturday morning I decided to play an old-time band from Durham that seemed to have a pretty good mountain sound. The fiddler played well, banjo too. Jr would usually tell me what he thought of the music I played that day. He leaned more to bluegrass than old-time and I leaned more toward old-time than bluegrass. It kept me reminded this was the case among my listeners too, people who liked both, so I didn't want to make one dominant over the other. After playing the Durham band he didn't say anything. I asked what he made of it. He said, "Weren't no music in it." I said, "I know," at that moment understanding for the first time after wondering for some years what he meant by the word music. Music comes from the heart. The urban old-time band from the flatland was playing from mind. I never played another band from outside the mountains on the radio show. It's not that their music is invalid, just that I called the show "music from home," from the heart. My listeners knew the difference too.

 
barnett newman
 

The evidence convincing me that mountain music is played from the heart, is that mountain music is the only music I've ever heard of any kind of music that can make me weep for the beauty of it. I have sat at the radio station, tears running down my face, unable to introduce songs or talk at all while playing the Carter Family or the Stanley Brothers. They bring up my tears I love their music so much. Sara Carter sings in as plain a voice as there ever was, yet her singing goes straight to the heart, because she is singing it from her own heart. It's the resonance of the heart that makes mountain music mountain specific. It is that something in mountain music the people from outside the mountains tend not to be able to put a finger on or even hear. By now, after half a century of television and more years than that of radio, of city people moving their culture to the mountains, that old thing about the music needing to be from the heart is not necessarily a rule anymore. Through school, television and work, reason, logical thinking has been coming to the mountains. Being cut off from the coastal cities until the age of technology, the mountains were slow to pick up the next step in our collective development, from emotion to reason. Our next step is intuition, which age we have already entered. Intuition somehow transcends reason and emotion, mixes them up in a special blend, shakes them good like a martini and serves a new way of tasting the ingredients. Feeling and reason work together, one balancing the other, letting go and allowing the flow.

robert ryman
 
 
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BLUE RIDGE MY HOME

 


Spent some time among the trees today. Took my time. Sat down twice to be still and see my world up close. I looked around in the woods, snapped some photos. The ground I was standing and sitting on was my home, the Blue Ridge Mountains. Everywhere I look, I see the Blue Ridge Mountains on the inside among the trees native to the region. On the highway driving through wooded areas, I look as hard as I can at the leaf-covered ground, the tree trunks, the rocks, the ferns, and dream for a moment of walking in there, feeling the ground, seeing the scene from the inside. I can't look so hard when driving, but I take glances with focused attention for a second at a time. I love being in the woods. And I love being in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I feel a stillness among trees, a calm that brings me into tune with the slower life forms. Our human minds race so fast, we surely freak out the trees just walking among them. Or maybe they like the energy of our minds. More and more I like silence, seldom even put on the radio for news. Don't care much who is killing how many this week. The mountains, the trees around me were something of a free flowing mantra going on in my mind, the Blue Ridge Mountains, my home. Recently, everywhere I go in the mountain, out among the trees, walking in the meadow with Donkey Jack, driving, I see and stand upon my beloved mountains.



I like to see the mountains in the distance, big gray and white clouds boiling in the air currents I've learned in this southeastern quadrant of the county. I love it that I am able to look out over the Glade Valley and Ennice townships from Air Bellows Gap Road and see the clouds drifting in their currents of air flow. Today was a perfect day with clouds to see all the currents at once. I did not think to snap a picture, I was so engaged in seeing the clouds mapping out the flow in the air. In the woods I am in what for me is real church. The real deal. No collection, no preaching, no singing, no being nice when you don't feel like it, no wishing you were someplace else. When I sit down in the woods I am in stillness sublime. In the early years when I traveled all over this and surrounding mountains on foot, a dog was with me, a dog I loved to go walking with, Sadie. She was a tan and white fox dog, Airedale mix, good mind. She was only limited by my inability to teach her. Out in the woods, she was at home, just like I was, but even more for a dog. She could smell the tracks of every critter that had passed by in the last few days and nights. She read trails in the woods by scent when all I had to go by was sight. I'm like Mr Bo Jangles in the song, his dog up and died, after twenty years he still grieves. She was an ideal walking companion.

 
 
All these pictures were made from sitting in one spot, the scenery I was facing. This is where I felt in touch with the mountain today. I know this particular area very well from years past in days out walking with Sadie, and after Sadie, Aster, exploring the mountain, the trees, the water, the rocks. My house has pocket-sized rocks everywhere. Outside, I have rocks scattered about that I've brought home. It was in these mountains that I learned aesthetic appreciation for rocks. A rock is already the ideal sculpture. I picked up a nicely-shaped white one today, but did not want to carry it home and left it on an old stump covered with moss. Out walking I like to pick up the rock that calls my attention, the one I notice that says this is the one, the souvenir of the walk, pocket-sized. I have carried some fairly heavy ones home, too, believing at the moment I needed it someplace where I could see its beauty often. Along the walkway by the house I've placed rocks as big as both hands could lift into the back of the pickup from Whitetop Mountain. Whitetop has rocks like I've not seen anywhere else, not that I've seen everyplace, just that I think they're beautiful, angular, looking chiseled into abstract forms. I think of every rock as God's sculpture. Each one is shaped by its own experience. Some have rolled under glaciers so long ago it's inconceivable. Originally, rock was molten something on the order of lava when the earth was a ball of fire. I see the rocks as chunks of ice, frozen magma.  
 
 
 
 
I don't know if I get "renewed" spending time in the forest. I tended today to think about the mountains, the Blue Ridge, how happy and grateful I am these mountains are my home. Today in the woods I felt embraced by spirit. I don't mean in a woo-woo way, but a clarity of mind, joy in everything I saw. These photos were all made from the same spot, the place I chose to sit down, not because the scenery in this spot is better than any other, only because I didn't feel like walking any further without a rest. It's no good to rush through the forest anyway. It is best appreciated sitting still. Without meditating I felt like the experience of this wooded area in this time was just right and put me into a meditative mind. I'd not seen this place in several years. It was a review of the mountain I love with all my heart, walking on last years leaves and ground spongy from a summer of rain. It felt good underfoot, the ideal carpet that your shoe sinks into just enough to give good traction. Patches of ferns I walked through carefully. I don't like to break them and don't like being unable to see the ground where I put my feet. The ferns are pretty but I'd rather walk through them with a dog leading the way. The serpents of the region are colored like the ground. A dog's awareness and senses are sharper than mine. I have to pay more attention without a dog.
 
 
 
 
Nothing in particular was on my mind. It drifted around in appreciation of the Blue Ridge, again, joy and gratitude that I'd found these mountains and become so well acquainted, know them on so many levels, and best of all, know them in my heart. The heart is where I know these mountains. These mountains helped to open my heart in very important ways. I've learned the landscape so well that in my later years, like old man Tom Pruitt, I don't need to get out there and see it much. It was like the mountain was telling me that I and the mountain are one. Today was a joyous review of a place I'd not seen in many a year. I feel like I know the different places I like to go to personally as a kind of spirit. Again, not woo-woo, but the clarity of the world outside the ways of the human mind. This is the world that inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen. The trees are air filters for all the critters that need oxygen to inhale. We complete the cycle with the trees. They give me oxygen, I give them carbon-dioxide. Possibly freshness of air is what feels like spirit to me among the trees. Perhaps the fresh air is what I'm breathing and it gives the place a golden glow in the mind's eye. It's the stillness that makes me want to put up a tent and move in. 
 
all photos by tj worthington
 
 
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