Calm, quiet day after a night of big thunder and rain. I went out with a couple of five gallon buckets to shovel up some donkey droppings to spread under the rhododendron around the house. They are huge, ready for some nourishment. I don't know how well it works, but I spread it on the ground out around the outside edge of the branches where the root tips crawl through the ground. I've been told donkey is high potency manure that burns the plants. I'm assuming leaving it on top of the ground and letting the nutrients soak in a little at a time during rains will be more gentle. I'm not tilling it into the ground. The pink rhododendron that get full sun are blooming now while the ones in the shade are just now popping the buds. In my early years in the mountains the pink rhododendron, the ones the people in the old way called purple, bloomed in late June every year. The blooming has crept forward in time until they're blooming mid May now. I've watched their blooming season advance closer to the end of winter. These rhododendron have almost rounded tips on their leaves. They love sunlight. The other rhododendron has pointed leaves and white flowers the old people called pink. They also called rhododendron laurel and called mountain laurel ivy. It was a language overlap in changing times the old folks couldn't adjust to. Laurel was laurel and ivy was ivy. Somebody comes along saying that's not laurel and that's not ivy, the old folks would let it go by, somebody else trying to make something common into something high sounding. One of the many insights picked up in these mountains was seeing that the people of the old way before electricity and oil were not less intelligent than us because they didn't finish high school and their grammar was different. We from outside the mountains tend to look at the old hillbillies as none to brite, people who were poor because they were uneducated. I see it so the other way around now, I have to watch judging people who take mountain culture for a lesser version of their own, because I did it for too long a time to admit without embarrassment.
When it comes to intelligence, they had it all over us. Their educational system taught them how to figure things out. Ours has us memorizing details. Ever tried to read a high school history text book? Detail after detail to be memorized. So boring you never want to read another book the rest of your life. Bring back the Bible, just because it's good reading. I'm not going to say anything about the twitter generation, because I know nothing at all about them. I see a few in the coffee shop and they act like they're not even there. That's the extent of my experience. Recalling a time recently I went into a local restaurant with friend Bill Nixon from Atlanta. I came face to face with the guy who was to seat us, looked to be about 18. I drew a blank. I don't know how to talk to an eighteen year old. So many generation gaps have gone between us I lost track of the young long ago. I'm looking at the guy and he's looking at me and I don't know what to say. Every experience I've had in recent years speaking to somebody that age, they say, What? I didn't want to go through any of it. I put two fingers up. Bill stepped up. He and the guy talked like peers. The kid talked to him like Bill could hear, and Bill was older than me. Bill has taught art in university much of his life. His students are people of that age and he knows how to talk to them. Knows so well, the guy lit up talking with Bill. The difference, Bill saw him person to person, I saw him the other side of a communication barrier. It was all in my attitude. Bill looks like old Walt Whitman and I look like a retired cop. Now, when I have occasion to address the young, I tell myself to receive them for who they are, like everybody else, and talk like the other can hear. In many ways, it's like being in a foreign country among the young in this time of the life. The ones I know, I connect with them easily. It's the ones I don't know that put me in a state of bewilderment. Perhaps I put too much emphasis on not understanding their culture. I admired that moment in Bill. A bit of urban sophistication was in the mix too, none of which I have.
My friend Meredith I've known since she was a baby. Wasn't around her much, a time or two a year, but feel like I know her. First time I saw her after her PhD, I felt like she was closer and at once farther away. Farther away in that she has impressive knowledge in her head. A time I saw her when she was in high school, she had read on her own for fun, the Iliad and the Odyssey. She was then reading a two inch thick commentary on them. I daresay I was impressed. I might have wiggled my way through maybe one of them, but never the commentary at that age. She now has a baby as cute as she was. Her parents never hit her and she will never hit her baby. My friend Pat, who lives in NY state close to Massachusetts, raised two girls without hitting them. Oldest is now a surgeon. The other works with her in her landscaping business. They are brilliant, beautiful women, inside and out, contributions to the world around them. I'm comfortable in my age, comfortable in my culture, comfortable in my world of friends and neighbors. People come in from outside these parameters and I'm lost for what to say or do. I don't understand people outside my world anymore. I've given so much focus of energy to understanding the culture I live in, the people I know and the mountain of memories that go with advancing age, I don't pay attention to anything outside these fields, or meadows. Nobody tells me anymore I need to pay more attention to the world out there (television). Everyone in my world knows I never will. I've not paid attention to tv since 1961. Only have one now for watching films. Films are art forms. Tv is too, but about as much an art form as a child's coloring book. The art in television is mind manipulation. A century and a half of the study of psychology and what is the result? Mind control by way of television, addictive mind control that creates imaginary reality as directed by.... When you don't watch television and live in a world of people that do, just the frame of mind, ways of thinking make me an outsider. I hear Patti Smith again, Outside of society! That's where I wanna be! Followed by Lenny Kaye's guitar strings. Hail Yeah! Rebel yell.
Outside of society is where I'm comfortable. A thought of being comfortable in society gives me the shivers. There was a time in the life when I never imagined it possible to get out from under the constant assault of other people's expectations, like it would be impossible. The day I turned off caring, it became possible. I came to realize nobody has a right to expect of someone else. I quit allowing other people to expect of me. I quit caring before the move to the mountains. I'm in a place, have been here awhile, where I don't perform other people's expectations unless I agree to it or offer to. I found in these hills that the people outside society are the very most interesting people around. I'm remembering what friend Jr Maxwell told me his daddy, who was born months after the end of the War of Yankee Aggression, told him, Stay away from important people. I was inclined in that direction when he said it, but it was nice to have it so succinctly put. When somebody says, I didn't expect that of you, I think without saying it, that's your problem, not mine. I know I've pist an awful lot of people off with indifference to their expectations. It keeps them away. I don't want around me people who expect of others, especially the unspoken expectations, my favorite kind to trample. I have a maxim of my own on the subject, expect me to walk on your eggshells, they will be broken. It's been my attitude a very long time, so long I don't think about it anymore. It's become my nature. If I wanted to be a social butterfly, I would not choose here to do it. I came to Waterfall Road to perform that corny cliché, find myself. Oh, what a difference it made. A particular church here I liked, felt the spirit good there, went a few times, then the expectations start, "We expected to see you last week, brother." I'm gone. Once expectation raises its head and starts talking, I make tracks, high-speed tracks that barely touch the ground.