Saturday, December 16, 2017

...not for themselves.

My good friend and mountain guide, Wayseeker (aka David Longley) sent me this image. I don't know where he got it, but he says it shows Horace Kephart, Kelly Bennett and George Masa on Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains ca 1929. Three years later, both Kephart and Masa would be dead. Only Bennett would live to see their dream of a National Park in the Smokies come to fruition.

If you have been on Andrews Bald lately, you know they are still up there. All three have peaks named for them now. At the time, many of their neighbors thought they were crazy dreamers. They didn't labor for themselves. They did it for us, of course, but perhaps most of all, they did it for the mountains.

Friday, December 15, 2017


A squirrelish maurader got onto our porch and knocked over a lidded jar my potter friend Jeff Greene made for us. The resultant broken lid gave me a chance to try my hand at kintsugi, the venerable Japanese art of mending pottery with lacquer and powdered gold. 

While I'll never be a master at it, I don't think I did too badly for a gross amateur. Instead of lacquer and gold, I used acrylic resin and micaceous oxide.

The ideal behind kintsugi is that while brokenness cannot be undone, it can be brought to render a vessel more beautiful than its initial wholeness.

Perhaps nothing in this world is more beautiful than a broken life, restored and held complete by love.

Thursday, December 14, 2017 hope

As if I needed a reminder that we live in hope, the Sow True Seed catalog has arrived, and I've ordered my Mary Washington asparagus crowns to set out in late winter, and some asian greens seed and Bradford okra seed for spring. All this in hope that this is not my last winter. 

Especially looking forward to the Bradford okra. This gourmet heirloom seed hasn't been on the market for the past seventy years. My last taste of it was at my grandfather's table when I was a pre-schooler. This variety of okra was developed by the Bradford family in Sumter County, South Carolina, where my grandmother, Vermelle Wells grew up. Chef Sean Brock pressed the pearl-like seed from a large pod and declared them "okra caviar."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Looking for Oren...

The Main Muse and I had breakfast at Wardlow's Lunch in Drovers Gap the other day. We looked for Oren, but didn't see him, although we met several folks we knew from Saluda.

It is a fortunate writer who can live in his stories.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 the wanderer.

Welcome to the wanderer,
the stranger at our door,
It matters not your origin,
if you be rich or poor,
We only ask your right good will
to share our humble feast,
We'll drink health to the mightiest
and drink joy to the least,
For none is lesser than the rest
and none the more than all
Who gather at our table here
as our good Lord does call.

Monday, December 11, 2017

December dawn...

December dawn breaks soft and slow,
We lie abed until we know
That last night's wind has ceased to blow,
We let our morning hunger grow
Until we join the breakfast show,
Then step outside to greet the snow.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

How on earth?

For the past month, I've been practicing regular centering prayer with several brothers in our congregation, and re-reading Cynthia Bourgeault's marvelous book on the discipline, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. While I bridle at her propensity to methodize just about any spiritual practice she addresses, reading her work always leaves me with some deeper insight into my own soul life.

As far as I can experience, deep prayer is not something I do, beyond having a will and intention for it, but something that happens to me, beyond any will and intention of mine. If you ask me to explain that, I can't, but I can offer you a little parable.

About the same time we brothers began to gather one morning every week to get centered in prayer, I went to Pardee Hospital to have my plumbing inspected. My doctor found a couple of relatively innocuous cysts on one of my kidneys, that fortunately don't require further treatment, but the experience, though painless, was exceedingly interesting apart from the self-knowledge gained through it.

Clearly I recall being wheeled into the operating room, and sliding off the gurney onto the operating table, and chatting with Jason, the anesthetist about hiking in the Shining Rock Wilderness before I was looking out a window over the rooftops of Hendersonville and Karen, my nurse was telling me, "You're in recovery. How are you feeling?" and I answered, "Hungry."

Somewhere between the beginning and the end of that sentence, Glover Little and his team got their probes and equipment inside me deep enough to see that my problem really wasn't the problem I feared it might be. I didn't have anything to do with that process other than willingly putting myself in their way. Only when it was over and done, did I begin to understand the significance of all that went on during those thirty-five minutes in my inner darkness.

So when I read C. S. Lewis saying that our prayers are not ours at all, that prayer is God talking to God through us, I have a little inkling of what he's trying to tell us. We begin with a will and intention, and when we finally give up and let go all will and intention, all thought and dream and aspiration, we get prayed through. Later, we might wonder how it happened, how we survived it.