Sunday, December 31, 2017

Final draft...

2017 has brought us to our third winter in Tsaludiyi. One might think we'd be used to it by now, but it still seems a grand adventure, every day a discovery. If you must live in troubled times, amid a decaying culture, Saluda is just the place to weather the storm. The people here hold their shape through rain and snow and dark of night.

As another year ends, hopes continually arise for new beginnings. This fall, I finally finished the novel (Slick Rock Creek) I'd been chasing for the past two years, and I'm working now on a new novel, about an old man named Wendl, who is at home in two worlds. In one, he is a fool, in the other, a sage. In both worlds, he is himself.

The Main Muse (aka Jane Ella Mathews) has begun her second year at her Feldenkrais studio on Nostalgia Court. Several of her students still travel up from South Carolina for regular lessons, joining a growing gathering here on the mountains.

Come spring, if we're still above ground, we plan to have our little house painted.

Lifting up prayers, we are, begging traveling mercies for all youns as together, we traverse the unplowed year ahead.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

First time second time...

Last winter's poinsettia colored up again this year as Advent began. It is the first time we've been able to persuade a Christmas poinsettia to bloom a second season.

She received no special treatment, although she did spend spring and summer outside.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sometimes, it's cool...

Sometimes, it's cool to chuck the screens and write like the Dickens, except he didn't wield a felt-tip. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What the world needs now, and what we don't.

We don't need more religion. Religion is at the root of most of the world's violence and division. What might save humankind, and allow our continued participation in the life of this planet, is spiritual awareness.

It is imperative for our salvation as a species, and our healing and peace as individual souls, that we recover and restore our connection with Spirit who bodies forth in all things, imbuing each and all together with reality and life. That Word is before all, sustaining the becoming of all, the Isness manifesting the universe.

God has a billion names. They all translate as Love.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


A dear friend who hunts gave us some quail from their freezer, and we ate it on Christmas Day. We had no guests to share the feast, other than the Guest who was here before us, our eternal Host.

I'm not a habitual carnivore, but I ate my quail with deep enjoyment. To do any less would be to dishonor the wee creature sacrificed for our sustenance. As always, when I'm devouring a wild life, I prayed my meal for forgiveness. To take into yourself a life that has not been shaped by a cage, but formed by lights and nights and weathers and seasons, a life ended on the wing, in upward flight, is as much a sacrament as any symbolic Eucharist one might receive in church. One is left humble, and nourished, and grateful beyond measure.

It is true. In God, and in God's nature, the life of one is the life of all.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mercy and justice...

The Empire has tried to tame our religion, and yoke the church to it's campaign of exploitation and domination, and seems to have largely succeeded in converting evangelicals into bearers of the bad news of division, exclusion and acquisition.

They will never tame our Christ, though. What the poor and oppressed welcome as mercy and grace, the rich and powerful will experience as justice and retribution.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

It only takes one...

It only takes one
Life, love-lifted
and Spirit-sown,
to mend the broken
past and bring
the future home
to now.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Newest new...

During Advent this year, I've been reading David Bentley Hart's new translation of the New Testament, published by Yale University Press. The Orthodox scholar has attempted a literal translation that sheds the doctrinal and theological overlays subsequent translators have imposed on the early manuscripts. Since I can't read Greek, I have to take David's word for a lot, but what I'm reading strikes me as immediate and fresh, as if written this morning. The individual voices of the different writers come through clear and sharp. Reading this translation is more like reading the newspaper than reading a prayerbook. There is a radical and revolutionary urgency about the gospels and epistles in Hart's rendering that would unsettle anyone who is comfortable with a pew-based religion.

The first question that comes to this reader's mind is, "Can we really live like this?" The second is, "Are we really Christian if we don't?"

Friday, December 22, 2017


To accept the church as our basis for belonging in the world doesn't really alter our lives in any deep and abiding way, but to accept the Incarnation reverses our perspective on everything. The life of Jesus, if we take him seriously, shows us that the two aspects of human experience we took to be most constant, death and ego, are the flimsiest of illusions.

Every death becomes the doorway into a deeper life. Every welcome, offered or accepted, manifests a turning loose. Ego turns out to be nothing more than the curtain we hang in our mind's window to shield us from our True Self's gaze, which we fear more than anything, though we long for it all our lives.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Stephen tried...

Well, the pigs is in the parlor now, and we know who invited 'em. Stephen tried to show us what Flagg was like, but we elected him, anyway.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Teetering on the verge of day,
there comes that transcendent 
instant, the sun's first kiss
on the ridges above our town,
when our darkness is mended
in the breaking morning.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

When less is more...

My grandfather, John Hampton Mitchell, was a Baptist preacher. He liked to say that the less religious baggage one could carry on his faith journey, the easier it would be to walk it.

Grandfather held that believing Christ was born in Bethlehem is a matter of historical opinion. Believing that He is here with us now is faith and experience.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gone December...

Recalling now that gone December
when we roamed high and wandered wild.
Yes, my brother, I remember
when we were each the Mountain's child,
companions on the road less taken,
friends of forests, Raven's kin,
all the easy ways forsaken,
bound higher up and deeper in.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

So, maybe...

Six years ago, after fifty years as a visual artist, I set it all aside to write fiction. Knowing this chapter of my life would be the short one, I made out my writer’s bucket list:
          1. Write a novel.
          2. Write a trilogy.
          3. Write a mystery.
    4. Write a book of poems.

The mystery hasn’t been published yet, but it has been written, rewritten, re-rewritten. It is as written as it will ever be. So, maybe it is time now for the poetry book. Writing a good poem is harder than writing a novel, even harder than writing a good short story. Writing enough good poems to hold together as a book raises the bar higher yet.

Yes, I admit I've been putting it off. It is easier to keep on doing what I know is within my reach, than to risk winding up a failure after all, but a few souls who perhaps know me better than I know myself, keep telling me, "Write the damned poetry book while you still have a brain." So, maybe it is time now. If anything comes after this, I can add it to my list.

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.