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Friday, February 28, 2014

FALLING IN WITH MEHER BABA



yayoi kusama

A little bit ago I found and played a video of Mr Rogers in a remixed collage of him speaking the words in the song from different shows, "Did you ever grow something in the garden of your mind?You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. It is good to be curious about many things. You can think about things and make believe. All you have to do is think, and they'll grow." I was too old for Mr Rogers when he appeared on tv, was one of the people that laughed at dumb Mr Rogers. Then one day I was sitting with a neighbor's kids and Mr Rogers was on the tv. The kids engaged. I sat watching him and them, listening to him, hearing his humility, his deep caring that came through for little kids. I sat there with tears running down my face for the loving attention he gave the kids and the charisma he had in their eyes. A man that doesn't speak down to kids, but talks to them the way every kid wants daddy to talk to them. I've found that no matter the company I'm talking with, the times I have brought up Mr Rogers with an adult I get laughed at in joking ways like the times I've requested Willard Gayheart to sing Little Red Wagon, a beautiful western swing love song. It pisses off the redneck in me and I want to say something hateful. I choose to say nothing and go on like I'm a good sport and can take it. I remind myself empathy is not an American characteristic, to stay home more often and let the people that don't value what Mr Rogers is doing congregate among themselves and leave me out of it. It was like sitting in church hearing about righteousness and we're such good Christians because we go to church, and wondering why the people in the church had no use for their neighbors or each other. The idea of loving one another was suspect of sexuality, like dancing, sin, repugnant. Not the kind of people I wanted to live all my life subject to. 
 
 
isamu noguchi
 
Evidently, this is what Mr Rogers brings up for me. A few times I have watched Mr Rogers on purpose, to give that vibe to my inner child, who doesn't get a lot of my attention. The video of Mr Rogers remix made my inner child dance. It woke up the kid within. I've preferred not to look back into childhood because it throws me into frustrated anger; hence, depression. But just now, my activated inner child reminded me there was much I enjoyed in that time. Why not take a look at the good times, because there were many. Like both my grandmothers, and mommy until daddy came home from the war. The neighbors up and down the street, parents didn't like any of them. We were the righteous ones. Lord have mercy. I know better than to dive back into that dark swamp. If I keep it up, I'll be cussing a streak in a very short time. The past. Let it go. As history, the past can be somewhat informative. However, recalling that part of my history puts me into a mood. It was WW2 PTSD on somebody whose screws were loose anyway. Fear to such an extreme something snapped within. He had no idea how close he came to being a victim of patricide. I reminded myself every night in bed crying into the pillow he was not worth a lifetime in prison. My sentence in his prison would run out eventually. I'd bear with it, go to school, see grandparents for affection, because a kid has no recourse; let them feed me in payment for the hitting and berating I couldn't defend myself from. He died to me and then started wanting my respect. Give me a break. Whatever. I'd think, though dared never say: I respect you like I respect dog shit--I step around it. I meant it. I learned pretty good avoidance skills from avoiding him in earnest. I went to the coast, as far as land allowed, seething inside. The hate took a lot of years to get over. Never did get over it, just turned it off like flipping a light switch. That didn't end it immediately, but it began the dimming process that took a few years, a seven-year cycle, and the next seven-year cycle working off the anger side effect at manual labor and going to an old-time religion church I loved.
 
australian aborigine
 
At this time of the life, looking back over the whole I see patterns unnoticed while involved in them. The most dynamic thing I found recently was seeing the first half of my life characterized by hate within, the second half characterized by love. I've come to see the balance. I've come to see the first half like drawing the bow string back so far that arm muscles are about to explode, holding it there until the aim is just right and letting go. The let go moment happened at age 33 when I fell in with Meher Baba. I say fell in with as a shorthand. The experience at the time I likened to a fish swimming along, saw something good to eat, bit, it had a hook, the hook pulled me through the water against my will and I ended up in Meher Baba's boat. I had no interest in rock star gurus. Peter Townsend of the Who made an album of his contribution to Baba gospel. I hated it. Never wanted to hear it again. I ended up at the Meher Spiritual Center between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, between Hwy 17 and the ocean. Went there as a place to get out of my life for a few days or however long it took to think about things. Somebody I'd met at a party when I was so wasted I could hardly sit up straight started playing with my cosmic mind saying things like "Everything is nothing. Don't worry, be happy." My super-conscious mind that observes the conscious mind was thinking: Does this guy know what he is saying? A week or so later I ran into him at the apartment of a woman I knew from Knoxville, he had brought a kitten she wanted. I engaged him in conversation like I was talking with somebody I needed to know at the moment. I told him some things that were going on daily, signs, I'd been getting of the number 10 every day. And a spread of about a dozen postcards of Myrtle Beach, an Indian coin found on a small square of gold carpet sitting on some boxes put out for trash pickup. I picked up the coin. It said, 10.
 
 
meher baba / jesus
 
I told him I'd been thinking about getting on a bus and going to some small town in South Carolina, check into a cheap motel and stay there until whatever I needed to know came through. I knew it was something life foundation basic with no idea what. He told me about a place at Myrtle Beach, 500 acres of virgin forest, cabins in the woods, didn't cost much, had to supply my own groceries, that was it. It was a spiritual retreat for Meher Baba. I really wasn't interested in doing the guru thing. By this time I was a convinced atheist. I'd brought my own books, but found first day some copies of discourses and excerpts from discourses lying about and picked up the discourses, opened the book randomly and my eyes fell upon the direct answer to a question I had in the front of my mind. Opened it randomly again and eyes fell on a paragraph that answered another question in the front of my mind. It turned into a fun game for me playing with chance like the I-Ching, but this one was like rigged chance, like a consciousness was involved in selecting what I opened the book to. Two days of reading in the discourses like that, and some biographical the same way, all my big questions were answered. Third day, I was in the act of sitting in a chair on a screen porch to read some more and my elbow knocked over a glass of iced tea, the glass fell to the floor and broke. It was two feet away. It told me I'm not right. I realized I was a bundle of nerves and needed to settle down. Took a nap, woke wide awake refreshed, went to the meditation cabin and said, You've done it, you've convinced me. Now that I know God is, I gratefully accept the offer to guide my chariot through the rest of my life adventures. Love was the only path he allowed. I wanted the path of knowledge, not love. Later for that. I went with the path of love like a fish flopping in a net. Toward the end of the second half of my life, the hillbilly half, I can listen to Mr Rogers sing to little kids about the garden of our minds and tears bounce off my cheeks. It took several years to open the closed vault I'd locked my heart in for protection. I have enjoyed the second half so much, I'm grateful to the first half for getting me here. It's like the bowstring was drawn back so far it sent the arrow on a flight it could not have made otherwise.    
 
marcel duchamp
 
 
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

PAINTING SPARTA COURTHOUSE


sparta courthouse day

 
 
 sparta courthouse night


These are the two most recently completed art objects. I've been at them for several months, mostly drying coats of oil-based paint. The back wall, the colors, each have seven or eight layers of color. I cut out one square and one rectangle of corrugated cardboard for each color. I painted one side of the cardboard with one color and pressed it onto the surface, rubbing it as evenly as I could for each layer. The two outer rectangles were given the same sequence of blues, and the square in the middle got its own sequence of blues from light to dark. Each layer of paint did not print evenly in its own way. I like the translucent quality of oil paint. Each layer shows some of the layer under it. I find that color depth can be found in several layers. If I were to use just one layer of blue in each section, it would be dull and flat, the colors would have little vibrancy. I built the layers, a couple weeks between each application, until I was satisfied the color had reached a vibration I was looking for. Vibration is the word I use here, because it's the word I mean. I was looking for the vibration I see in a Mark Rothko work, the colors suggesting the light is coming through them like stained-glass. In the case of the day courthouse, I used several shades of orange between canary yellow and almost red. It was depth in the colors I was looking for. Each layer I'd assess while it was drying and felt it needed another layer. Kept on like that until the layer I assessed had the quality of light I was looking for. It's hard to name, like that pink suggestion of an aura on a dove's dust-colored feathers.  
 
neil jenney
 
It has been several years I've wanted to paint the Sparta courthouse, but have been unable to find the way I wanted to paint it. Can't get a good photograph of it for the dozen or so wires draped across the front and all the highway signs on the pole at the corner. It is a photogenic courthouse and no way to photograph it without the distraction of wires and signs. I did get a photo of it in the coffee shop window that was quite nice, full sun on the courthouse. It was clear as a photograph on the window and all the words on the glass had the courthouse for a background. And it was easy to get the picture without getting a selfie in the reflection. That was the only photo I've made of the courthouse that had the zip I think of verging on art. I'd been looking at approaching it in the least brushstrokes, the least lines, let its shape be its art. This had been floating around in my head for some years, but I hadn't made any attempt to apply it. One afternoon in the coffee shop with nobody there to talk with and I'd finished the word jumble puzzle in the Winston-Salem Journal, I sat on the stool at the bar, gaping out the window, adrift in not-thinking, and saw it. Rectangles of orange, four vertical white lines, a pyramid on top, framed in white. Just a few lines. Reduced it to architectural intent, its drawing-board composition: county courthouse. It occupied my mind for several days looking for how to approach it. I was thinking on a flat surface. I found two wooden boxes I've been keeping for probably fifteen years, waiting for the vision of what to do with them. I had some strips of wood that were the right size, cut them to length, columns. The boxes had a sliding lid on them. I think they were originally meant to hold two liquor bottles. They were minimally put together in a factory.
   
neil jenney
 
I liked that the boxes were so simply made they were like a blank canvas. All I needed to do was apply the paint and fix the vertical posts in place. First attempt was thinking I could superglue the posts into place and they'd stay forever. I laugh at myself now. That didn't even come close to working. Nails it had to be. Two five-eighths inch headless nails at either end of each column. Had to hold the nails with needlenose pliers and tap-tap with the hammer. It was easy through the outer pine of the box, then it hit the fir the columns were made from and it was like driving them into steel. Bent a few. Drove the nails below the surface with a punch and filled in the holes with finger spackling. Painted the whole box with a coat of acrylic primer, the columns too. It was after painting it all white that I put the colors on the back, took as long as needed. Had two boxes, but didn't take to making two. First reason: I'm not a factory. I like everything to be the first time. Eventually, it came to mind to make another one blue, day and night. This way I can make two that are not the same. They're independent entities and they make a pair. I like them best as a pair. They are two distinctly different feelings. The one is warm sunlight and the other is cool moonlight. The sliding lid only needed the white pyramid and the blue above. The finger hole I let be the sun and the moon. Chose not to put something in or behind it, gold for sun, silver for moon. That I didn't like. But I do like letting the color on the wall or whatever is behind it, around it, its context, be the color in the circle of sun or moon
 
neil jenney
 
Light, whether window light or from a lamp, casts shadows from the four vertical lines across the front onto the colors in back, changing the colors. The shadows cast on it make vertical rectangles increasing the variety of shades in each color. The shadows become a part of the whole. Moving my head back and forth it changes continually. My feeling about this image is a fusion of abstract expressionism and minimalism. Hearing a tape by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, The Creative Fire, she told of how the forest was the original sanctuary where one could commune with God, Goddess. Trees became symbolized in columns around temples. The columns make a sanctuary of the scene behind them. In town, it is the courthouse. In my wooden boxes, the scene in the sanctuary is color play. It was all play. I refused to take any part of it seriously. I had nothing to go by for what colors I was seeking, layer upon layer, just waiting to see which layer brings it to the feeling I was seeking. Feeling is the only word I know. It was not feeling like anger or sympathy, a totally visual feeling, felt only visually. I can only think of it as looking for a particular vibration, not a vibe projected from what I "want," but by feeling after each application of color, each new vibration.  Mind was in there too, making decisions. Then there is the pyramid held up by the four tree trunks. I thought for about five seconds how fun it would be to paint a caravan of tiny camels walking across the front of the pyramids. That turns it into a cigarette commercial and abolishes the simple lines. Not going there. Whether these painted boxes are art or art-wannabe is not mine to decide. In my own estimation, I think they touch art a little bit. I feel like I reached the original vision. It's always disappointing at first to see the vision materialized, an object in the world of matter with my name on it, a thing. The glow of the vision is gone. I feel like first visioning it was pretty accurate to how it worked out. Asked do I call it a painting or a sculpture, I suppose I'd have to say sculpture, if necessary to pick either/or. Could also call it a painting because I did not make the box. I'll go with painted sculpture.
 
neil jenney himself
 
 
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

THE OUTSIDER

grace hartigan

It has been a daily blessing since I clicked the power button *off* to my mental interest in following political nonsense. Simultaneous with turning off that interest came the facebook group, The Daily Creative Practice, brief conversations by way of comment boxes and photographs of varieties of works of art shared, the ones that want to, showing something new. It has brought me new friends, people I'm happy to know and communicate with almost daily. We tap into each other's aesthetic. One, Lee, I feel like we've known each other in lifetimes past. I appreciate about the group that nobody is promoting a given point of view. No games. I was gaping out the window a moment ago at a dove pecking around among last year's pine needle's on the ground, fixed momentarily on the subtle haze of pink on their gray-brown donkey color I can't find a name for. A red squirrel charged in from the right, straight to the dove from behind. The dove fluttered and twittered into space, the squirrel ran to the tree in front of the window, ran around the trunk, then out of sight. Now it is back at the place where it chased off the dove. The squirrel had been seed-hunting there before. A small black and white woodpecker is going over the bark of the white pine out another window. There came a day that I realized how truly ignorant our politicians are. They don't even try to cover up anymore. It's straight up they're in it for the money, they lick the hands that feed them. I asked myself why I was paying so much attention to ignorant people. A waste of my own mental time and space.
 

grace hartigan
 
The Daily Creative Practice has taken the space left over by the sudden vacancy of  my dim-witted drift through the mind-space of below average people. Pay more attention to the books I want to read, the art I want to make, the people I want to interact with. Pull back from media-fed mind to the world of people I live among, the people I care about who care about me. Eliminate the static of media nonsense from my own interior motion picture collage of mind. I want less of that belief system, less of that tone of voice in my head, less of that mind. It's been well over a month since I've paid attention to the vanity of self-centered men on the take. I see a picture of weeping Boner and it makes me laugh like seeing a cartoon, a 2D caricature of complicity with corporate greed. I used to react with a feeling of GAK in my belly. I don't value somebody of that mind, so why pay attention to him even to be disgusted by his Xtreme shamelessness? Why even laugh at cartoons about him? Our political system has become something I cannot support with my attention. I'm considering not participating in the vote later this year as a way of unplugging myself from the corporate media belief system that money is the only purpose. Much as I'd like to feel support for Obama because the racists hate him so much, I can't help but see him a corporate plant. I don't mean a rubber tree. The black people caught on early that he was not with them. He talks to them the way white men talk to them; you needta, you oughta, you better, you should. His white supporters are catching on gradually he's not there for them either.

grace hartigan

My new friends at DCP are a million times more interesting than Machinegun Barbie. At DCP, we have Paleontologist Barbie. I have also learned not to comment on memes I get from places I'd clicked Like on in the past. I got into a brief exchange with a guy involved with Occupy, and he was one hard core activist, the kind that ends up in a deep dark dungeon a political prisoner. Just his attitude made me shudder. It was a friendly exchange. I didn't know what to say. I seem far left in relation to the republican party, but when I have a glimpse of somebody far left, it throws me way back to center. In the face of the two extremes, I'm neither one. I could call myself of the right because I believe the people making ridiculous noise about guns have a right. I don't have a gun, don't want one. Somebody from the apparent "left" gave me all kinds of hell for using the "cruel word," redneck, "you know better," dotted with yellow smiley faces. It threw my mind to kindergarten and refrigerator magnets. I want nothing more to do with the left. I wrote back, "I AM a redneck and proud of it." Unliked the place. Lord have mercy, now I can't even say redneck. Two days ago I saw a thing saying it's not all right for white people to use the enword. I wrote back, "Can I say white emeffer?" I've become a little bit confrontational with those people. I've found some who promote tolerance are as judgmental and intolerant as the most adamantine baptist preacher. The very most intolerant person I know had a sticker on the back window of his car that said Tolerance, and called himself a Buddhist. I figured the sticker on his back window was there to remind himself--albeit in reverse, thinking he's telling everybody else. I seldom let any of them get away with their judgmental statements about the South.

grace hartigan

The liberals who want me tolerant of everything and everybody are severely intolerant of the South. They give more evidence that people outside the South have no idea about the South. I remind them the slavery they're pointing the finger at the South over has been gone over a century and a half, while in American coastal cities is more slavery going on than there ever was in the South. Only difference, the slavery now is Asian, and Asian's aren't cool to wax self-righteous over this year. It's still ok to say the A-word. And the Asian mob, the noise-makers intuit not to provoke that beast. Benign Southern people living in poverty in a trailer by the side of the road, a confederate flag in the bedroom window, did not have slaves, do not have slaves and never seen no damn slave in their life. The only thing the flag means is they drink beer, love the South, and just to be spiteful embrace everything Yankees judge wrong with the South. The South they love is the Lynard Skynard and Allman Brothers South. Southern rock! Hail Yeah! That's something else outsiders don't know about Southern rednecks; they embrace everything Yankees say is wrong with them, because Yankees don't like it. It's comedy. It's I-am-I humor. When I wrote back to the person on facebook saying I am a redneck, it was in place of saying, "Y'all sure are a judgmental bunch." I reminded myself of a saying learned from an aunt, Don't start it if you don't want it started. It's time to pull my mind out of that kind of thinking too. I'll be Unliking some more of them. I will kick into gear an attitude that I like people outside the South looking down on us--it keeps them away. I tell myself, don't educate them, let them believe the highway patrol south of the Mason-Dixon line pulls over every car they see with a Yankee tag. I must let go of my own intolerance of intolerance of intolerance.

grace hartigan herself
 
 
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Monday, February 24, 2014

WAITING FOR THE RAIN TO CLEAR

the cars ~ I like the nightlife baybay

I'm happy today for Dale Jr fans, he won Daytona again. Since Dale Sr died on the track, aggression appeared to have gone out of Dale Jr. I remember seeing him push a teammate across the finish line to win by a few inches when he could have easily gone around him and come in first instead of third. For some years he seemed to focus more on points than winning, ending in the top 10 much of the time. I don't know him and don't keep up with driver lore. They're just names to me. I laugh when my friends I watch the race with rave about how much they wish Kurt Busch would wreck and how much they hate him. Once, for the fun in it, I asked why they hate him so much, they don't even know him. That set them off. He's my secret favorite driver. I don't tell them, because I don't want to hear it and don't want to inhibit their passion, which I assess has nothing to do with Kurt Busch. Three times I've seen him in the pack going between 150 and 200, on the inside lane, the guy behind him taps his back end, his car sets to wobbling, slides down below the yellow line, wobbles some more and he placed the car right back into the slot he left, which was not much longer than the length of his car. I've not seen anybody else do that once. He seems to be about the least liked driver on the track. I've heard he's an asshole to interviewers and they don't like him. What can I say? I don't care. I've learned all this after I started paying more attention to his driving than anybody else's. His driving impresses me. I've not seen anybody else pull out of a wobble so cleanly. Most often, in my viewing experience, the car ends up sideways with smoking tires and then it's on. One car knocks him this way, another car knocks him that way and he ends up with a mess of a car even duct tape can't fix.  
 
the cars ~ let the good times roll
 
In my early teens Little Richard entered the radio. Little Richard's rock n roll satisfied the kid so deeply it was not rebellion. I couldn't help it that my parents didn't like it and wouldn't let me play his music while they were in the house. I couldn't help it that I connected with his high energy music when I wasn't supposed to. It just worked out that way. I feel the same with my friends in relation to Kurt Busch. It's not like I care enough about the matter to argue with friends the merits of a driver they don't like. So what. It's pop tv. Why would I want to get worked up over that? Race drivers on tv are products just like Madonna and Lady Gaga. They signed the contract to be a product the rest of their lives. That's their business. I see the kids on American Idol and feel sad for them wanting so desperately to become a product. It's not that I want to deny them what they want, only that I don't want it for myself. It makes me shiver to think about wanting it. Now that the rich are the hot topic this year, I see pictures of billionaires in facebook memes. I particularly think of George Soros; the bags under his eyes tell sleepless nights to the point of liking them. Long, drawn, expressionless, empty face with lines making maps of endless worry. I don't want that for myself either. I don't want a face that looks dead this side of the grave. I see in their faces and eyes that Mammon is not a benevolent god. I don't want anyone to say of me, "He's money!" Once I heard said of Mrs whatever her name was Siemens of Roaring Gap Club, "She's money!" I thought, What a thing to be called. When people see me they see money? I hope not ever. I'd rather be known as The Jerk than Money. At least a jerk is human with a comic Steve Martin association.

the cars ~ you're just what I needed

We were able to watch a little bit of the race, maybe 43 laps, before the raincloud passed over Daytona and shut down the race. It was then several hours of waiting, watching America's Funniest Home Videos some, a golf game some, the Simpsons a very short some, one bobsled run, Justin working the remote. We saw the three Russians win the gold, silver, bronze in the men's cross-country ski event. The winner crossed the finish line and collapsed face-down in the ice-snow, whatever it was. It was a snow texture I'm not familiar with. I felt like collapsing from watching him ski uphill so much. I was thinking of what an intense meditation it was for the skiers. Mind does not have time or space for anything but the present moment, the thousandths of a second present moment. We entertained Vada, Vada entertained us. She's into the age now of exploring her independence, not long after potty-training. She feels like a big girl not wearing diapers. She wanted me to take some pictures of her making faces. I'd turn the video screen so she could see it and she made faces as into a mirror. I let Vada have the camera and showed her what button to push. She got a picture of the wall, one of the ceiling in the next room, the ceiling in the living room with a section of ceiling fan. I love it. Pure chance photographs. I could see she thought holding the camera in the direction of what you're taking a picture of and pushing the click button is what it amounted to. It's what she'd observed the million times she's had her picture taken. I didn't want to mess her up explaining something she wasn't ready for conceptually. Hooray for Vada, she took some pictures. I love it that the camera happened to be pointing upward. Pictures without interference of mind.

  
photo by vada, 2yr 9mo.

The drivers eventually started crawling into their cars, announcers with microphones in their faces, Danica Patrick in her dayglo green godaddy outfit nestling herself into the driver's seat, plugging and fastening, Jimmy Johnson upbeat and ready to race, cars rumbling to life, lining up behind the red pace car flashing white lights, tv talking heads excited after hours of not knowing what to talk about, showing a large part of last year's race at Daytona to pass the time. The cars ran in a pack three wide for a long time. It was getting late. The kids had to go to bed. Melvin's girl was with him and she needed to be back because of school in the morning. Justin needed to be up at six for a new job. Crystal and kids had to be up early. I was riding with Melvin, so we left with about a hundred laps to go. It wasn't long before I learned on facebook that Jr Earnhardt won. He is Justin's and Melvin's favorite driver. Justin had to miss the race last time Jr won. We've laughed that what it takes for Jr to win a race is for Justin to miss it. I wore my Dale Jr tshirt to send a little support mojo his way. It's not that I ever care who wins. I'm tickled for Dale Jr's fans, they love him so much. A lot of the time it seems to me it's a toss-up who wins, though I know it is a game of intensely involved strategies, the car holding together, staying out of wrecks. I've seen cars cross the finish line in wreck mode. One of my favorite aspects of the race is you never know who is going to win until the finish line is crossed. Somebody can be out ahead on the way to the finish line, blow a tire and come in twelfth.


 
vada
 
 
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

MAKING MY OWN DECISIONS

bradley walker tomlin

Talking with my friend Kathryn, the subject of the feminine came up. I noted that I had a thought a few days ago about next lifetime. Would I want a female lifetime? Answer came back: NO. Why? The vulnerability. I'm perhaps over-sensitive to being vulnerable. The degree of my sensitivity to the vulnerable equals how much I don't like it. In one sense, it means I embrace being grounded. I like the ground. When somebody tells me about a new discovery that we can leave our bodies by way of certain meditations or medications, I'm not interested. I may be interested to hear about it, but I'm not willing to attempt it. Leaving the body strikes me as dangerous as swimming after eating. My first apprehension is what if I can't find my way back to the body? For such a trip, I would need the guidance of an experienced shaman. I would not do it as a parlor game because it is too vulnerable a situation. A major reason I don't ride motorcycles. An emergency room nurse convinced me that apprehension about motorcycles is good sense. Everyone I know who rides motorcycles has wipe-out stories. I don't want to wreck in a car, certainly not a motorcycle. I don't like to do anything that has a risk factor. Even starting a new painting with a blank canvas feels like risk, but it does not have emergency room potential. It's like stage fright. I've learned long ago I have no luck gambling. None. I realize my luck factor is less than 50-50. I don't ever take a chance anymore that has luck involved. I'm like the country song, if it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all. I'm not one who can shake dice in my hand, blow a mojo on them, and roll the number I want. Say four people are playing a board game that involves dice, any four people, any game. I lose. I can go into it with positive thinking, right intent, a lucky charm, a prayer. I lose. I know by this time in the life to stay away from anything involving chance where life decisions are concerned. I like chance aesthetically, but not for practical matters that require decisions. Even then, I don't like to shut it out, would rather be open to it.
 
bradley walker tomlin
 
In my childhood I was not allowed to make decisions for myself. Leaving parents, decision making was new and I made some really ignorant decisions that followed me for several years. Parents were not decision makers either. They went to a church that made decisions for them. First thing I did, cut loose in the world, was look for somebody to make decisions for me. That was the biggest disaster of all. It took several years to bear down on it and, first, recognize I was unable to make an intelligent decision. By parent and church example I only knew how to react, not how to respond. I had the Billy Budd disease. Assaulted verbally, I could not defend myself or stand up for myself. I could only be silent and churn like a whirlwind of fire inside. What I wanted to say would have got me killed. I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for several years. Still have it pretty bad. It's more mental now. Before, it controlled my movements, everything. I left their influence seething so deeply in hatred that one day age 27 I got with myself, told myself from conscious mind to subconscious mind, it's time to let go of the hatred. The source of the hatred was over a thousand miles away. I'd seethed with that hatred in my heart until I couldn't stand it anymore. One day I threw it off, said I'm not living in hate anymore. I've found forgiveness difficult unto impossible, such that I don't care anymore. Wanting "to be a better person," I looked for ways to set forgiveness in motion, but couldn't do it. Finally, I said, Live with it---to hell with trying to deal with it any more---let it rest, accept it---I really don't want to forgive, so let that be the end of it. And it was the end of it. I let it go. It continues with me in a box in a closet, and that's ok by me. I can't deal with it, so in the box is the best place for it. I've never had a worse enemy. This one I had no defenses against, and no recourse, making the kid hate it all the more. It made the kid determined that in adult life no individual will take charge of my decision making. Nobody but me will make my decisions.

bradley walker tomlin

I've kept it that way ever since. Somebody wants to take over my decision making for myself, it ends in a squabble of some sort, because I don't allow it, the other gets mad, I get mad, and inside myself I make my definitive decision and that's it, it's over. When somebody makes the first bid to take over my decision making, telling me what I must do, it goes no further than that. The one thing I hold to jealously is making my own decisions. I've been called independent and arrogant. Lines from an early song Bob Dylan composed would come to mind, "Call me anything you like, I will never deny it... Farewell Angelina, I must go where it's quiet." The funny part was when I finally caught on how to stop others from telling me what decisions to make for myself, the whole phenomenon ended. It was the end of people getting in my face telling me what to do. It was like until I made the decision within, something in me invited being told what to do. I was sending out invitations to tell me what to do, then rejecting the counsel for telling me what to do. I think that's called something like a double-bind. In a hell-if-you-do-hell-if-you-don't situation, I go with what I want to do. In conversation with an old-time preacher years ago, I said to him, "If everything is a sin, I'm free. I can do anything." He said, "No, you're not." I said, "If everything is a sin, then nothing is a sin." He said, "No, it's not." I didn't take it any further. We were coming from different cosmologies. He was pre-Copernicus, I was post-Darwin. He couldn't accept round earth, and sure as hell couldn't accept evolution, a word equivalent to atheist, the same thing as a communist. It made no difference to me that he didn't get an understanding of heavenly bodies in school, nor did it matter that he didn't believe he came from a monkey.

bradley walker tomlin

I couldn't explain round earth or evolution in ways he could understand, because I didn't understand either well enough to articulate it simply without going off into conceptual mind. An attempt to convince somebody that what they believe is not the case only drives them deeper into believing it is the case. I remind myself that anything outside myself is no concern of mine. It is not my place to correct somebody else's vision to make it conform to mine, which I'm not sure of anyway, and have a hard time articulating. Different consciousness, different experience, different information make a canyon between some people. I believe there was such a canyon between the old preacher and me. We were of different cultures, different cosmologies, different visions of God. We got along good over a lot of years until the time he started telling me I was going to do what I was not going to do, telling it with the authority of a man who makes my decisions. He made it clear that I did not have the right to my own decisions. I said I did and he never saw me again for several years. I was given the blame. I took the blame and shrugged it off. He'd crossed the line and there was no going back. He would never accept he did not have the right to control me, and I would never accept that he did. I think it's called a Mexican Standoff, two men with guns drawn on each other, hammers cocked. He would not accept my right as an independent individual and I would not accept his belief he had the right to make my decisions. Of course it's my fault. Call me anything you like, I will never deny it. We both regretted we couldn't get back together after that, but he was not relenting his belief he had the right to make my decisions and gave me no choice but to show him I don't see it that way.

bradley walker tomlin himself  

Friday, February 21, 2014

THE WELL-DIGGER'S DAUGHTER THE MOVIE

air bellows waterfall in summer
 
It's a wet, overcast day, sometimes rain, sometimes not-rain. Windchimes ting, rhododendron leaves wiggle, squirrels scratch for sunflower seeds on the ground near the birdfeeders. Both birdfeeders have squirrel guards, but the squirrels are able to climb around them. The guards prevent only chipmunks, ground-squirrels in the old way of talking. So many chipmunks in extended families, they'd keep the feeders empty all the time without the guards. I welcome anybody at the food kitchen for my feral neighbors. Whoever is hungry is welcome. Early in the morning, four gray squirrels from the woods across the road dart about, scouring the remains of the day before. Four red squirrels, pine squirrels, live in a white pine near the house and cavort in the playground outside my windows. I enjoy watching the squirrels as much as the birds. I throw as much seeds on the ground as in the feeders daily. The squirrels take turns inside the feeders pigging out. They leave plenty for the birds. In the night a raccoon checks out the feeders for leftovers. Sometimes a little is left, most often none. I can tell when a coon has been through in the night by the birdfeeder roofs on the ground. I tried putting hooks on them, but the coon would unfasten them with its fingers. I don't hook them anymore. Coon is welcome too. Instead of attempting to run off the fluffy-tailed squirrels that are even more fun to watch than birds, I put out enough for them too, and the chipmunks. Rather than chase them away for eating the seeds put out for the birds, and cussing their thieving natures, I say, Welcome. I see a squirrel putting seeds in one of several middens among the pine needles on the ground, glad to note I'm giving them enough they have some to store for less abundant times. I'm paying them better than minimum wage for keeping my windows entertaining.
 
 
 
Last night's movie was French, another story by French writer Marcel Pagnol, starring Daniel Auteuil, who also directed it. It had the cinematic beauty of a Merchant & Ivory film, French countryside in the southern mountains, evidently near the Italian border. I'm guessing that because the architecture of the rock houses with tile roof looks Italian, and the lead character's last name is Italian. I google mapped it. The place was closer to Marseilles than to Italy. It was a long ways from Italy. In Holland you find family names that are Spanish. Europeans have moved around throughout time, and borders have changed over time. Pagnol's stories seem awfully Tolstoyan to me. He uses common people to tell big stories. The story of the well-digger's daughter I imagine a somewhat cutting edge story in popular fiction, the old world, before electricity, the story of a girl pregnant out of wedlock, has baby and shames two families. It's ALL her fault. The situation amounted to something on the borderline of date rape, but she was poor and he was rich, rendering her without a voice. I was anticipating another tragedy, but this story was a happily ever after story that came together in the end with everybody at peace with one another. The story verged on tragedy, but took a turn to comedy. Pagnol's other story, Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring, verges on comedy throughout and at the end takes a turn to tragedy. Both stories thwarted expectation. It seems like Pagnol's story-telling takes possible turns in the story as they arise and goes down the path of the unexpected. It's like he builds a little bit of expectation, then changes to another direction. As in life, our path is made by decisions and changing circumstances. Again, as in life, we can't really anticipate anything. We might be able to anticipate by principle, but the details will be different in every case of the same principle.
 
nicolas duvauchele, astrid frisbey
 
I like that Marcel Pagnol recognizes our paths are continually changing, that they interweave with other people's changing paths composing the great ever-changing tapestry of life on earth, woven together by billions of threads that lock into place and compose the past, write history. The cutting edge of the weaving is the living moment. Once every thread is locked into place, history begins, a record of what happened along the cutting edge in its moment. Down through time, the record of events past tells a story. Cycles repeat in the story. Some people read the cycles, learn from the stories and make intelligent decisions in their present moment. Some people don't see any of it, believe the people that see the cycles are loose in the head seeing things. While the people that understand the cycles lament the ones beating their heads against a block wall unable to read the cycles. It is understood in the East that everybody eventually gets it. We are a mix of all levels of innate understanding and learned understanding, stirred in together like fruit cocktail in Jell-O. All the scriptures that have ever been say getting along with our neighbors is where you find inner peace. It's not that inner peace is something we get when we die, but it's what we get when we function with compassion in our attitudes toward life. Without meaning to, I've stumbled upon Pagnol's vision. In the story of the well-digger's daughter, the early part of the story is characterized by people judging one another and themselves without compassion. The way he ties up the loose ends, compassion is the key. People who had hated each other before, fall into love and forgiveness. They come into compassion by way of understanding. In the tragedy, the man had disabled his own compassion; it came back in an overwhelming wave and swept him out of his body.    
 
daniel auteuil, astrid frisbey
 
I felt like these films of stories by Marcel Pagnol are illustrations of his story-telling as much as a Merchant & Ivory illustration of an EM Forster story. The Well-Digger's Daughter was made from a film by same title Pagnol wrote and directed, 1940. I felt like the nature of the script was a peep into his writing style. It was simple language and spare talking. They were country people, the people of the world Pagnol grew up in. He was writing of his own people as Faulkner wrote of his own people, regarding them with the respect only an insider could know they were due. It is this aspect of Pagnol's stories that satisfies me the most, that he reveals the rural hillbilly people of the French mountains in their humanity, their venality, their hate, jealousy, understanding, compassion, feeling, with respect. Running through his stories is an abundance of love, of looking for what constitutes real love instead of make-believe love. He doesn't look down on the country people. He looks up to them. It brings to mind my friend Jr Maxwell talking at his table over our drams, when he said he looks up to everybody. At the moment, I was thinking he said it because it sounds good. That was before I knew Jr well enough to know he didn't do that. As I knew him better, years going by, I saw he really did look up to everybody. His humility was that deep. Marcel Pagnol had a sense for, and an understanding of the intelligence of the country people seen from inside their own culture. Daniel Auteuil, who played the lead role, also directed this film, had a supporting actor role in the others, Florette and Manon, for which I believe he won the award at Cannes, 1986. With Well-digger's Daughter, 2011, he is that much older. My respect for Auteuil as an artist has skyrocketed. So has my respect for French writer Marcel Pagnol.
 
daniel auteuil
 
 
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MEN AND OPINIONS

ellsworth Kelly

I woke this morning entertaining the question of how many centuries it will take for men to heal from several millennia of the male role being about war, killing and being killed. I've always disliked the song Onward Christian Soldiers. Marching as to war does not define the spiritual path for me. Yesterday I saw in some brief video an image of soldiers marching in a parade. Such images disturb me deeply. It tells a belief system I don't believe, can't believe, won't believe, and really don't like being subject to. I especially don't like our time now when our corporate government attacks poverty stricken, defenseless countries for the profits of oil corporations, jet fuel, ship fuel, automobile fuel, keeping the stock market going, then loses the war against people with no allies, using weapons taken from dead American soldiers. It's shameless, but it's how police state functions. The prophesy for our time has been fulfilled like a checklist up to the big war that will make survivors round the globe set the determination to be done with war. That's the day I have waited for all my life. I dread the war that gets us there, but like it's said, All's well that ends well. Maybe. I'm not so sure about that, but it sounds good. Its like saying the end justifies the means. Not necessarily. I take them both for self-serving self-justification. All these old bullshit beliefs about the glory of killing and the glory of being killed will fade into history with nationalism and patriarchy. I celebrate it because it's not far away. It doesn't mean the solution to all problems, but it's a solution to a major problem that creates millions of other problems in its wake.
 
 
alex katz
 
I project that men will heal from a culture of obedience training for men. I ask myself what is the problem with men up in years. It seems like their brains atrophy and they go nuts. But I don't think that's it. From childhood, a boy's mind is atrophied. Little man gotta grow up and be a big man, carry a gun, shoot people, get drunk on power over women and children, define any sensitivity to others feminine, thus unworthy of consideration. In the masculine mind as it has evolved unto today, the feminine is outside consideration, not a concern, stupid because women don't know nothin. Art comes under the feminine. It means paying attention to something besides the crosshairs. Shutting off the feminine ultimately shuts down feeling in oneself. In the soul, we have both, or neither, depending on how you want to look at it. To shut down the validity of half of one's self is ignorant to start with, dumb as hell to carry on and just plain stupid to live with. A man gets up toward 70 and a lifetime of believing in obedience over conscience makes an ideologue of the negative mind; hence, Faux News. I've had to tell a few of my friends over time, Rush Limbaugh is not information. Growing up in a world of boys becoming men, I learned at a certain point, late teens, that it is important to have opinions. I tried it. I've finally come to see that opinions are the same as nothing. Someone who used to be a friend made me so tired of his own opinions being fact and everyone else's opinions nonsense, that I called him one day on his superior attitude, which I'd learned many years before was a defensive mask. He turned, walked away and has had nothing to do with me since. I mentally pumped a fist in the air and said, Yes! It's been over two years and I've not missed him a minute of that time.
 
robert indiana
 
We were both of anti-war mind. I went to the 1968 march on Washington over Viet Nam, like it mattered. The next day I learned it did not matter. That event was the beginning and end of my involvement in anything political. He went to U of Tennessee and was involved in demonstrations there, his moment of glory placing a flower in a National Guardman's rifle barrel. I remembered seeing on the front page of the newspaper in that time a photo of a guy at U Tenn with the same color hair putting a flower in a rifle barrel during a demonstration. I've often wondered if that had been him ten years before I knew him. My figuring is it was the hip, cool thing to do and hundreds of flowers were put in rifle barrels. Hippies thought flowers were so cool. They are, but not used politically. His self definition is, "I'm a revolutionary." It was another moment in life of controlling my face so laughing my ass off inside doesn't show. Our "friendship" was much like the friendship between van Gogh and Gauguin. Watching the film, Lust For Life, with Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, directed by Vincent Minnelli, 1956, I found van Gogh's issues with Gauguin's arrogance very much the same as mine with friend. His two songs are: Anything you can do I can do better, and Whatever it is I'm against it. I laughed seeing the relationship between van Gogh and Gauguin so familiar it was like a reenactment our story. His opinions of himself are quite out of line with what the people around him observe. As one who never learned to trust opinions, my experience knowing him so many years has trained me to give no value to any opinion. It doesn't mean I don't have opinions aplenty. It means I don't value them. I write opinions here, and I speak opinions talking with friends, but I don't believe them, don't hold them dear as Mine.
 
rufino tamayo
 
Isn't it curious: Mine as possessive, ownership, connected to self, and mine, a deep dark shaft with tunnels under the ground. I'm wondering if the cold dark mine makes an image to define the possessive mine. Among the first things we teach babies is "mine" and the next thing is "share." Does this mean I need a miner's lantern to go into what I mean when I say mine. I see a cd case for Santana I call mine, because I paid for it and I possess it. Is it that the idea of ownership mine could be a root system into my own psychic interior made of dark tunnels? I'm thinking that since they are the same word, there must be some connection. It's awfully easy to make a connection, which makes me suspect I'm bullshitting myself. However, I look at possessive mine the way a baby uses it, holding the blanket close to her heart, "Mine." Those roots go straight to the heart, encase it like a net. Then we grow up into the world of everybody having opinions, and the opinions I hold dear to my heart I call mine. A network of root-like shafts around my heart like a net around a glass ball. Much of our language comes from pre-logical times. whoever called a deep hole in the ground a mine might have seen inside self a deep dark place where memories of experience lurk. Yet, in other languages the words are not the same. For me, that settles it. I'll take it for two different approaches to the word as two separate words for reasons to be found in the evolution of language. Somebody can answer that question easily, like somebody can answer where the lightning comes from. Just a passing curiosity around the nature of the ego, which looks awfully much like a net around the heart.  
 
 
tony smith
 
 
*
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

OBSERVING THE FACETS OF SELF


rufino tamayo

I can't get these French films I saw the other day out of my mind, Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring. The French for spring is source. Source is more the word, but spring is just as right and requires no explanation in English. Turns out the telling of the story used the form of Greek tragedy. The Yves Montand character set the story in motion with a whim, his tragic flaw, automatic dislike for an outsider, someone not self. This a common characteristic among country people. These were French hill people, the people of the mountains of southern France, isolated and unto themselves. What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain sort of place. They are not different from American mountain people. Suspicion of outsiders is a common characteristic in a small community. He sets out to destroy a man who had what he wanted, a spring on his land, and did destroy him all the way unto him dying. He then took what he wanted and lived happily ever after. Until one day an old woman in the village who was blind asked him about a letter he'd received when he was in the Army. He didn't remember the letter. Later, at home, he found the old letter he had never opened. Turned out the man who moved in next door, the man he tormented unto death, was his own son, and the people in the village knew it, but weren't saying. He was struggling against not-self and it turned out to be self. He realized what he'd done and shut down his life by force of will. A sentence I'll carry the rest of my life as so poignant, telling its meaning directly, "I'm so ashamed, I don't want even the trees to see me." It threw me over the edge when he said that.
 
rufino Tamayo
 
The story was told so well I believed him when he said he didn't want the trees to see him. I have to give it to Marcel Pagnol, who wrote the stories, for making a true Greek tragedy among humble working people. The stories were written about the same time Arthur Miller was writing Death of a Salesman. There was talk among the intellectuals of the time searching for ways to make a true tragedy in the context of the common man instead of royalty. I felt Miller's Death of a Salesman was a bit forced, holding it to the outline of a definition of tragedy. Pagnol's tragedy seemed to unfold naturally, like the story came before the explication instead of the story being made to fit the explication. In Pagnol's story, I didn't see any of it coming. I wondered a few times why certain karmic returns had been passed over, didn't happen, when the deeds were such that indeed get some kind of return, especially the deeds done by design, with intent. The return came gradually at first, then all at once a tsunami of grief overwhelmed him such that it shut down his heart and mind, couldn't live with it. He wrote his will and told the story to the priest in confession. Sitting here staring at the end credits, I was hoping there was nothing in my past I'd set in motion without knowing it that would bring me to the same fate. I sat there thinking I don't ever want this experience. I really, really don't. The very same as I don't want the experience of the man who lived through the story, Twelve Years a Slave. There is a lot I don't want to be, like a political prisoner. Pagnol's story knocked me for a roll across the floor.  
 
rufino tamayo
 
I didn't want to write about it, because I'm hesitant to recommend movies anymore. I'm also reading DCP a positive thinking, highly conscientious collection of people, and I don't know many of those kinds of people. Yes I do, I know a lot. I identify with the people of positive thinking consciousness and I identify with people who are sarcastic and have a rude sense of humor, who laugh at positive thinking. I'm pointing to these people outside myself, particular individuals a given facet of myself is drawn to. It's that odd feeling meeting somebody who is a friend of a friend of mine. This person is entirely different from me, yet meets a facet of our friend, and I meet another facet. I look around at the people I know and they each represent a facet of myself. By facet, I mean like facets on a gemstone, a ruby, for example. It is the sparkle of the different facets, each reflecting the light different from any of the others that gives a diamond its bling. The various facets of ourselves give us our living bling too. Each of our facets have someone outside ourselves it is drawn to. I heard once of a project I've never took the time to do, but have always thought I might some day. That day never came. Anyway, I think I get it. The project is to sit on the floor with a little space around. Have twelve rocks, or ten or however many, and place one on the floor with the name of someone you're close with. Put the rocks in a circle around self, each with the name of someone in your life. Then get to know those aspects of self as seen in the other who has an aspect that accords with given aspect of self. Wondering about friends drifting apart or breaking up in one way or another, does the aspect in self change first and then does not reflect that individual any more? I've noticed that when I go through a change within, some of the people around me change. Some drift away and some new ones come in. Facets change because the light changes, the light within.
 
rufino Tamayo
 
I feel a little bit not right for evidently influencing my friend Lee to see it. She was so struck down by it she wrote a poem and a blog entry about the intensity of her grief. She provided me with the phrase, "tsunami of grief." Much as I don't feel comfortable that I put her through that without warning, it tells me this is the apex of art, to leave the observer with a powerful lesson learned from somebody else's story. I don't have a problem with films or novels or poetry that drag bottom in sorrow. Sorrow is one of the facets of human existence. Art is about the whole of the human experience. Chinese writing and film is loaded with really sad stories. I remember one, especially, The Blue Kite. Sorrow upon sorrow and ends in agonizing grief. There was one about the Japanese invasion of Nanking that wrings the heart to the last drop. And from the aftermath of an earthquake that takes the viewer to the extremity of grief. It ends with a woman falling to the floor, limp in her sorrow, saying, "I'm so ashamed." Evidently the Chinese love a good mournful cry. We want to feel good so bad in the West we enhance our brain chemistry with mood enhancers. Some people are asking why Americans haven't revolted yet against the corporate police state we have for government now. We're a no-problem society, stressed to the max, taking prescription pills to calm down into denial. I have a little problem of my own seeing up close what American working class people are having to do to get by, I see people of the middle class engaged in political correctness and positive thinking, I think about the black people who have it much worse than the white working class, and I can't get on board the positive thinking gospel ship. As a facet of human existence, it has its place, I am happy for it and I love it, but it is one of many facets. Art explores all the facets of human emotion. Art taught me to allow.
 
rufino Tamayo
 
 
 *
 

Monday, February 17, 2014

REMEMBERING GRANDMOTHER

views east from air bellows

A couple days ago I wrote in the post DOMINION OVER that I had long ago turned the lemon I got in the luck of the draw into lemonade. I just now read it over and thought: How? It came to me in a flash, an image of my home in the woods, and I said: right. This goes all the way back to first memories. It starts with a memory of my great-grandmother's house in Jefferson County, Kansas, near Perry. I don't even know where to start, unless it would be there. I'm looking at the places where I found my comfort in childhood. My memory of great-grandmother is about like a specter. I don't remember her face, though have never forgotten her embrace.  Dora Ann Hale Worthington went to Kansas from Ninemile in Bledsoe County of southeastern Tennessee with her husband John. She died when I was ten, but I don't remember seeing her after age of seven. I've seen the gravestones of her mother and dad in Tennessee, and hers in Kansas. Her first boy, Tom, was my grandpa. The culture of the home he grew up in was hillbilly. They came from the Sequatchie Valley of the Cumberland Plateau. They were still hillbillies. Mountain ranges to east and west. Tom married Tina Marie Dick Worthington and they moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he became a railroad engineer, drove the big iron horses, and died of pneumonia seven years before I was born. Tina Marie's family moved to Kansas from Pulaski County, Kentucky, in the Cumberland Plateau surrounded by mountains. I knew none of this genealogy before coming to the mountains. All I knew about these grandparents was Perry, Kansas.
 
 
First thing I noticed when I started knowing people was everybody talked like my grandmother. I had nothing to go by to figure that one out. I settled with this was perhaps the rural American way of talking. I felt her presence in the people around me. It was a love vibration. I recall a time after I'd been in the mountains about six months, riding in the car with Van Pruitt, the old Dodge he called the Goat, it would go anywhere, had a posi-trac rear end. A summer day, approximately a mile from the house, we passed a field so thick with black-eyed Susans you couldn't see the ground through them. I've never seen the field that full of flowers since. I remember another field, another year, this one on the farm, loaded with white daisies, so thick they were like snow on the ground. Never since. The moment Van and I rode past the field of black-eyed Susans, something happened in my heart and I realized this moment was the point of no return. There was no going back. I came here with intent not to return, but allowed for the unforeseen, nonetheless. It was a powerful, overwhelming feeling of the point of no return. I'm not one to commit blindly. It was the feeling that I am now committed to this place I cannot leave that made me shudder for a moment. I wasn't really sure I wanted to stay, either. The adjustment required was radical. I wanted a different culture from the one I had always lived in, average American urban, and I was in a culture very different. I wasn't yet confident I wanted to give over entirely to the new culture. Reading was as alien to this culture as the one I'd left. That was nothing new.
 
 
I had to learn to distinguish between living in the culture and being the culture. No matter what, I could never be the culture. That means being born here, growing up here with ancestry here. Mother's milk. I didn't want to be the culture, because I assessed that the people in the culture were awfully hard on one another and especially hard on themselves. Conformity to culture is absolute. I don't conform all the way to any culture. I remember the day Malissie Pruitt noticed I wasn't wearing a belt, "You better put a belt on! Your pants are gonna fall down!" I could only say, No they're not. In the city, we wore jeans without belts, only rednecks wore belts. I studied the culture closely, from the inside, not reading any Appalachian history books, wanting to learn by my own experience the particular people I lived among. Eventually, I learned every county in the mountains has its own personality. Alleghany County has its own personality. Each township in the county has its own variations on the county's collective personality. For example, the people of Whitehead tend to be stoical, straight-faced lovers of God, and continue to feel themselves a community. A severe hardness runs through mountain culture in all its personalities that I cannot adopt for myself. I learned from experience that beating the shit out of our kids and berating them all the time only makes them angry. We have a culture of angry men, women who live with angry men. Seething anger equals manhood. The degree of anger you bear within is the measure of your masculinity quotient. I came to the mountains to work off my anger. Talk about seething with anger. Phew. It was so bad I couldn't live with it anymore. I wanted to do manual labor farm work old-time hillbilly style.
 
 
In the mountains about twenty-eight years, I asked my mother out of idle curiosity if she knew where grandpa Worthington's family went to Kansas from. She didn't know. She thought it might be Tennessee. I got in touch with a cousin who put me in touch with a family genealogist and LO! Ninemile, Tennessee, is a four and a half hour drive from here. Directly across the highway from great-great grandpa's land is a bluegrass place with parking on the grass, a big area for tents and trailers, a covered stage and covered audience area with folding metal chairs. I visited a couple of brothers, my fourth cousins, and it was like I already knew them. Wendell was a butcher, my age. Went to Vanderbilt and family genealogist, always lived alone. He was distant in the way only a hillbilly can be distant. He was friendly in the way a hillbilly is friendly. He'd never heard of Sparta, wasn't curious. First thing he said to me on sight was, I can see the Worthington in you. His brother Phillip wore bib "overhauls" raised fighting chickens, a hundred or so of them running in the meadow with the cows. He told me he kills a hundred and fifty coons a year keeping them off his chickens. I knew how to talk to him, knew how to listen to him. It wasn't anything like, Oh hi cuz! It was like, If you say so, whatever. I was comfortable with that, would have been very uncomfortable with the other. In line with my hillbilly training, I wouldn't have trusted it. I had found the land and people of my ancestry, and they were hillbillies. In my average American urban years, I'd have hated knowing it, would have held it as deepest, darkest secret only torture could wrench loose. I stood on the land that great-great grandpa worked and looked at the landscape 360 degrees, memorizing it. This was the landscape my ancestors there saw every day of their lives. I understood why I call the mountain I live on the home of my soul. At least half my blood is hillbilly. Let the banjer cluck. Grandmother was my comfort through childhood. The Divine hand picked me up like a mama cat moving a kitten and put me down in the core of the culture that made grandma who she was, and who she is in my heart.

 
 
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