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Sunday, November 9, 2014

LOSING MY RELIGION

vada
by cheyanne

Forty years ago I started a new life with a new vision and new purpose. I came to the mountains a year later to adjust my life, my thinking to the new vision. The vision simply amounted to: God is. Just that turned me from drifting without vision to purpose. I wanted to live quietly in the mountains to assess my new insight and tune myself to the new vision. When I say, God is, I don't mean a rule book a thousand pages long, every rule starting with Don't. I mean God without systems of dogma, without commandments. Love is what God is, and that was a tall order for me. It needed some consideration. I didn't know shit about love. The emotional climate in the home I came up in was fear and punishment. These were justifications for absence of love, in the name of love. I hit you every day because I love you. I berate your every move and word because I love you. I don't want to hear anything you have to say because I love you. It's for your own good. This version of love made me into someone who distrusted love, and had so little experience with love that I was twisted up in knots like really bad hair. I was so shy a kid, I was pathetic. Shyness was the first issue I had to address when I entered the world on my own. I conquered it, but still have a debilitating shyness within that I've learned to accept and live with. There are some parts of my nature I simply have to accept. My generation helped shape who I am. I found in mountain culture a people who accepted themselves as they were, with an attitude of fuck you if you don't like it. A liberating attitude. It was so long ago I adopted this attitude, I couldn't give it an age or a year. It may have been the moment when I left the church I'd been going to. During the time of the first Saturday night meeting I missed as a non-member, I was jamming at a concert of Siouxsie and the Banshees followed by Jane's Addiction, two of my very favorite bands, thinking there is a much better spirit here than there was there.

vada
by cheyanne

I left the church because I had grown out of my own negative mindedness and found self surrounded by negative mind such that it became suffocating. I loved the people in the church. One day an old black man fallen into dementia, whose farm surrounded the church lot, who grew up going to this church before it was sold to white people, came to the church house one Sunday morning in the middle of a meeting, dressed up in a beautiful suit for church. It's said people with dementia want to go Home, the place they grew up. I suspected old man Sabe was returning to Home in the dream mind he was living in. He sat in the same place I sat my first time in the church. Sabe was as humble a man as I've known. Sabe was a good man all the way around. And no one in the church acknowledged his existence. At hand shaking time, I went straight to Sabe. I'd have welcomed him if his mind was right. I'd come to know Sabe over several years, appreciated deeply who Sabe was. He was a simple, old, black farmer in a world of white people that all looked down on niggers. His wife had recently been taken to a nursing home. He was so addled that he soon followed. I felt like God had sent an angel to the church when I saw Sabe at the door, hat in hand, waiting for permission to enter. Preacher said, Come on in, Sabe. My heart glowed seeing Sabe was visiting his Home church in his dream state. I was glad to see him. Hand-shaking time at the end of the meeting, I shook his hand first, honored to shake Sabe's hand, my respect for him was so high. Everyone acted like he wasn't there. I went into shock. Everybody knew Sabe. Everybody liked Sabe. Or acted like they did. Everybody knew his wife was gone and could see his condition. Everybody knew Sabe gave the white people's church a piece of his land for the cemetery. Gave. 

vada
by cheyanne

On the issue of love your neighbor as yourself, it didn't take much figuring to see Sabe Choate, whose land went all the way around the church, who lived in the next house up the road, a neighbor. The light in my heart for the church went out that Sunday morning. I tried not to let it go out, but it was like willing a dead body back to life. It never came back. I was not comfortable among them anymore. Then came the morning on the way to church I put my hand on the screen door to push it open and my hand could not push. I stood with my hand on the screen door unable to move. I said to self, You don't have to go. I relaxed, closed the door and stayed home, feeling good about it. I knew the light was out and was not coming back on. I talked to myself, saying this is their culture, they are Southern Appalachian people, I am not here to change them, I am a guest in their community. Up to that time, I had allowed them who they were, as they allowed me who I was. I had a hard time accepting they could be so blatantly indifferent in their own church meeting. The difference was I saw Sabe a dark complected human being. I saw him closer to a true "Christian" than any one of the white people in the church. Afterward, I felt like Sabe was the Christ-like one and the people in the church were saying, Crucify him, he aint nothin but a nigger. As much as I was with accepting others as they are, I could not associate with people to praise God, who look so far down on the humblest and most gracious man I'd ever met. I did not want to hold them to Civil Rights laws or anything. The utter rejection of a respectable human being, respectable in more ways than staying out of prison, struck me deeper than I knew at the moment. 

grumpy old bastard and cheyanne make silly faces
by cheyanne

After the meeting, when I gathered myself together from the shock, I felt glad I had gone to Sabe first to shake his hand; everybody in the church shook the hand that touched a nigger's hand. It gave me such delight, I didn't like having such feelings about the people I'd felt so comfortable with the day before. I told myself it was not right thinking to hold them to my way of seeing. I was a guest in their culture; it was not my place to expect they think like me. I was among them to learn, not to teach. My second winter in the mountains I took a job to get through the winter working with several people from Away, like me. I'd lived intimately among mountain people by then. One of them from Raleigh told me it's good I came to the mountains educated so I can teach these ignorant mountain people something. I thought, Man, you don't even know what you're talking about. I did not waste my breath explaining I'm here to learn, not to teach. First thing I learned, I can't teach anybody of these mountains anything. I needed them to teach me. But I'm glad he said it, it articulated for me that I was, indeed, in awe of the intelligence of the mountain people. I still am after thirty-eight years, more than ever. You don't see it from the outside. You have to be inside to see it. Mountain people don't do anything for show but play fabulous music, a music inaccessible to outsiders. If you think there is nothing to playing a fiddle or banjo, try learning one. When you hear a fiddler cut loose with Chicken Reel or Forked Deer, you can be sure the one bowing the fiddle has a brilliant mind. It takes a good mind to learn a fiddle and a brilliant mind to master one. It's the same with a banjo. I came here to learn and it turned out my parachute landed me in the midst of a good education, learning by experience in a world foreign to any I'd known. I celebrate the life of Jr Maxwell first full moon of November at his grave to have a drink with him, a master who taught me the value of the people I live among and how to live my own values naturally. 

cheyanne herself
by cheyanne



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