The flowers of late summer give color to the sides of the roads. It's a great time to ride around on the back roads. Goldenrod is full and lush. And all the others with names I don't know. Jewelweed is one. The colors of fall are the same as the colors of spring; yellow, purple, white. Yesterday I drove by the old Jimmy Wagoner homeplace on Glade Valley Road. He's been gone quite a number of years. The barn meadow that ran alongside the road was covered up in the yellow and purple flowers of late summer. To my eye, it was more beautiful than a formal flower garden. Weeds. My favorite flowers. Perhaps I identify with weeds for their outsider quality and their perfectly natural right to exist. We don't even have to cultivate them. They grow where God flung em. Or, to put it more empirically, where the seeds fell. These are the flowers of my home. I love them growing on the sides of roads along fence rows. They grow here despite being unwelcome weeds. Other people tend to like the mowed pastoral look and keep the sides of the roads trimmed, but not I. I let the greenery grow and flower in abundance when it's their time. I love the flowers of this time of year like I love the birds. Eye candy. Something about flowers makes us feel good, when we notice. Stepping into the woods, under a canopy of trees, calms my interior being like nothing else. Instantly.
In what you might call an argument I had with an old-time preacher years ago, I told him I feel the spirit in the woods better than anyplace. No. The church house is the only place you feel the spirit. No. I find the spirit in the woods too. No. That's the natural world. It's of the devil. Oh. I mentioned that the devil is not a creator. That doesn't matter. He rules the natural world. It's our way as Christians to go against the natural world, an extension of the natural man, born in sin, not good, must be changed away from the natural to the unnatural, God only sees the unnatural. This back and forth between us came to nothing. It started over the word duty. I told him I don't do duty. You better. God commands duty. Uh, not really. I was hearing old Sixteenth Century Protestant absolutism, mind. John Milton. It is Milton's cosmology. I grew up in that absolutist mind. It shaped me way more than I would have liked. It took years of searching and questioning, a little bit at a time, an insight at a time, an understanding at a time, a realization at a time, to transcend that thinking. Quite simply, that was my cosmology. My initial appeal to Bob Dylan's lyrics was his dogmatic mind. I'm so happy I've changed away from that. He has too. Maybe we grew up.
Have reached a place where I don't want to advise anybody, don't want to tell somebody how to do something better, don't want to say I know more than you do. Finally, I have seen that the talk everywhere is a string of commercials. You needta listen to this. You gotta see this tv show. You gotta see this boutique. You gotta see the highest grossing movie of the week. Norman Mailer's early book of essays he called Advertisements For Myself. Unconscious anecdotal advertisements for ourselves has become the American mode of conversation in this time. We're of an Age where the grandparent generation was placed in front of a tv from birth, and all generations since. Television amounts to commercials every ten minutes. Even the coercive hype of sports announcers and people keeping up with the cutting edge latest is commercial mind. Selling a product. People without a product have to sell their services or labor. Being television people we interrupt each other freely, like commercials. We advertise ourselves with big smiles and clean teeth. I've consciously separated myself from that thinking. If I ever talk like a commercial, I'm unaware of it. As for the unnatural world being from God, that would put the Bank at the top of the list of Godlike. I never was able to understand how a man could come to such a way of seeing. Then again, the man, himself, was the very subject of a song Groucho Marx sang in one of his movies, Whatever it is, I'm against it. We had very different visions of God; mine did not influence him and his did not influence me. I have to say, I learned a very great deal from him, mountain culture, old-time mountain religion, as well as much regarding my own humanity.
In times when I'd rather not listen to the news on the car radio, I have a tape of Willard Gayheart's and Bobby Patterson's Galax bluegrass band, the Highlanders, from when they both had younger voices. It's straight-forward music of superb musicianship, good arranging, good singing, good songs worth singing. It's happy music for me. I play it over so many times the words are sticking so I can go about with them playing in my head. It feels like I'm in a flow of some sort. Willie Nelson songs in my head all day. What I do runs smoothly. I don't force anything. The day with Kathryn flowed very smoothly. It had some hitches and speed bumps, but none of them knocked me off the track. They were accepted as what's happening at the moment, not a problem unless I make it a problem. Driving from one place to another I see these roadside effusions of flowers in full bloom, and gaze at the landscape, the houses passing by, the black cattle in green meadows, the trees in full leaf, the occasional deer, feeling gratitude to God for landing my parachute in this particular place to walk my spiritual path. It is my home. It's been my home more than half my life. I was going to write, "the better half," then it came everything that went before was a step along the way to here, now, my Blue Ridge Mountain home, my own personal King Solomon's Mines. Everywhere I look is my home. Home has extended beyond my residence to the Central Blue Ridge and the Southern Appalachians. All the way to Roanoke and back for the Willie show, I was at home. The audience was full of my people.
photos by tj worthington