Friday, March 31, 2017

Is it April yet?

"Is it April yet?" Well, it will be tomorrow. Not to worry, seasons are always more about courage than calendar. A tree must grow where it's planted, but the soul makes her own weather.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A good start...

Oh, I do love these misty mornings in early spring when the clouds hang low over the town, hiding the ridge-tops, when the cherry blossoms are in flagrant display, and the frogs in full chorus down by the wee pond at the foot of Piney Mountain.
A good start, I think, to the rest of my life.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fair exchange...

On Saturday, I baked three loaves of lassy-bread. On Sunday, I gave one to my neighbor Marilyn and she gave me these Brandywine seedlings. I think it was just giving love away on both sides.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Signs and wonders...

The quickest way to trap a tender grain-fed tourist for our annual Start-of-the-Season Town Barbecue is to post a sign advising them not to go there. Hospitality is a big thing around here. We just love having strangers for dinner.

There you have the plot of my next short story. My last collection of stories was pretty dark, too. You can get it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Monday, March 27, 2017


The first outdoor music of the season came skirling up the hill from town over the weekend. Somebody playing a wild and wailing Celtic flute to a down and dirty Appalachian guitar. The tune fell out somewhere between Bob Dylan and Duncan Morrow.

We live to a strange mix of rhythms here in Tsaludiyi, where nothing is quite pure and nothing is quite lost. Mountain folk have always lived on the edge between the light and the dark..

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The poem says...

The poem says to "rage, rage against the dying of the light."
It's hard to rage when the light goes so easily,
goes naturally as turning a corner.
Night is not a dying, but a borning
into a farther light, while we dream
until glory comes round again.


Saturday, March 25, 2017


Yup, it's spring. Trillium are blooming along every path and track around Tsaludiyi. Owls are rowdy in the night. The first of my tomato seedlings have seen the light. I think they are enjoying the morning coffee I share with them.

It's getting harder to stay indoors, especially sitting at a computer. I get up early and stay up late so I can write in the dark. Come daybreak, the temptation to get out into the garden and the woods is overwhelming. It is easier to believe a handful of seed will grow into a season's vegetables than to imagine a few scribbled words will flower into a novel. 

One green leaf, one dewy bud, tells more stories than a library of books.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Our first spring storm fell upon us this week, on the first full day of spring. There was much noise and bluster through the late afternoon, and finally, after dark, a gentle and steady rain that filled the barrels and soaked the garden.

With all the warm weather in the forecast, we should have a splendid greening underway in another day or so.

Just when winter seems forever, he's gone, and we discover we haven't forgotten how to be happy after all.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Since I came to Tsaludiyi to stay, I've made a few friends. Not all of them are human. Not all of them are blooded.
Nearly every Monday through the winter and into the spring, I've walked the road courting Joel's creek a mile down the mountain and back. Some there are who would say a creek is not a soul. Nevertheless, she has moods. She has speech. We've maintained a continuing conversation through the seasons. She's carried my prayers and my thanksgivings, and heard my vows and confessions.
I believe that Creek is just as much an intention in the mind of Maker as any creature, myself among them. I pray that when I am scattered among the mosses, she might raise her blameless voice on my behalf, not to plead any innocence I cannot claim, but just to say I love her.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


For more than a year, I've walked past this house two or three times almost every day. I've seen it in all lights and weathers and seasons, by day and by night and on the edges. The scene draws me and haunts me for no reason I can say, but I hardly pass that I don't stop and make at least one photograph. I still don't know who lives there, but I think I know a story that lived there once.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Life is full of surprises. When I was fifty-seven, nobody could have persuaded me that at seventy-five, I would be working on my fourth novel, or that I would be reading novels on my phone.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Began laying up stone to shore the veggie beds on the hill behind our house. Not a wall really, more like a curb. Only about 18" high as it stands, not likely to grow much taller, but it will elongate as stones turn up.

So far, I've been using only stones unearthed in digging the beds. I'm missing my stone-mason friend right now. I hope she comes up the mountain before long and will give me some advice before I make too many mistakes to undo.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Sometimes, on the trailing edge of a day late in March, when the sun is low and the light is just right to unlock your heart, there are no words adequate to say the miraculous ordinary that you see. Then, you can only whisper the old words written down before you were here. They have to do because they are all you have. 
 O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O Giver of life,
glorified through all the worlds.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Not all...

We don't have a stoplight in our town, although we do have a caution signal now. It's at the lower end of Cullipher street, down by the bank.

A neighbor says when they change it to a stop light, it will be time to move. Not me. I'm sticking with Tsaludiyi as long as they'll let me.

The truth is, this place has changed over the years as little as any I know, and what changes are evident have mostly been kept in harmony with what was here first.

Change is inevitable of course, but not all change is progress. Change doesn't have to mean getting bigger and busier and louder, or becoming like everything else.

For some of us, a fortunate few, change means digging deeper into our true place, getting free for our true life, becoming steadily more our true self.

Friday, March 17, 2017


After the snow, rain; after the winter, spring. After a long day, we welcome the still and silent night.

Later, we forget how cold it was, how tired we were, how we longed to be past our moment of turning.

There comes a place, about half-way through every book I write, when I am so frustrated and sick and bored with a manuscript, I want to call back all the months I've spent on it, wish I'd used the time working in my garden.

Then I write a little bit more, the way opens up again, and I think this might be my best book. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

the bitter end...

The last week of winter has brought us the coldest weather of the season, and our first snow since January. Our Appalachian spring will have to wait a few days yet. The snow was nice, though, a sticky snow that clings to every twig and branch, weaves lace over all the hills and ridges, and is gone by dark.

Snow is even lovelier in the photos. Afterwards, we don't quite remember just how cold the wind felt. Like that mountain that made us struggle. Once we are home again, the romance sets in.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Snow day...

It was bound to happen. It only looked like spring. Winter still had a week left, though, and Sunday morning we woke to this. Tsaludiyi is beautiful in the fog and lovely in the snow. This past weekend, we had both for a little while.

But the roads stayed clear. We were able to walk down the hill to town and share the day with friends. We could have walked to church, but they were afraid all us old people might not be up to it, and canceled services.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

...a final fit

March is when the violets grow,
among the very first to show
their faces against what we know
bi-polar March is bound to throw-
a final freeze and one last snow.

Monday, March 13, 2017


James, my parish priest, believes God is not out to get me. I've been right hopeful that might be the case. I know what I deserve, but what I need is mercy.

Having received more than my share of mercy in my brief and misspent life, I'm naturally inclined in that direction. Unless you're still holding the knife, I'm liable to forgive you.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Smiling at me...

Blue skies, smiling at me-
Nothing but blue skies
do I see...

That's what the song says, at any rate, and on a cloudless winter day under the Saluda blue, I can sing it almost well enough to believe it.

As I was telling my Friend and Mentor last week, I am continually astounded at my luck.
I won't say I'm blessed, for I've done nothing to deserve it, and done plenty to disqualify me from any kind of mercy, but obviously, I've been incredibly lucky in my life.

While all around I see souls more worthy than I am, folk who give back to the world more than I could ever offer, go down wounded and broken and thankless, somehow, I've managed to slip past 75 years without any problems worth mentioning, and even rare few nuisances along the way. I'm living off the gravy. My traverse would look to most observers like a free ride.

Sure, I know it can't go on much longer. The tide is running out while I'm standing on the shore. But I cherish every day my Maker delays to settle my accounts. I'm remembering what my first grade teacher told me, "You won't be here long. Use your time and materials wisely."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

...just enough

"We maintain it just enough
to be useful,
but not so well
as to attract tourists."

Friday, March 10, 2017


Gardening is continual surprise. There's no telling what may turn up. Asparagus crowns arrived this week on a cool cloudy morning, and I set about digging a trench to plant them.
In the process, I unearthed this rough-hewn stone, maybe two and a half cubic feet, and when I turned it out of the ground, found underneath, the sole of some toddler's shoe.

To appease my ever-active imagination, I dug around a bit more but didn't find anything else provocative. It made me think of my ghost story, Shard, a fictionalized account of a similar garden experience at our old place down in South Carolina.

The story is available for download from Alfie Dog Fiction. The print version is included in their short story collection, The Day Death Wore Boots.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

You are what you do...

You're only a writer when you're writing. In these last weeks of winter, I've been a gardener, wanderer, reader, and occasional complainer. Now I must settle down in one place and get some words out. It doesn't matter whether you do it on paper or on a screen, you still have to get your work done, spell your thoughts, catch your story.

Actually, no matter how hard you try, it is usually the story that catches the writer. Life overtakes us while we're running the other way.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blowing in the wind...

Something stirs. You wait and watch and listen, and finally words sail in on the wind and you are a writer again for a little while. It involves neither magic nor will, but simply paying attention and being willing to follow the flow of time and seasons.

The stories are always there, have always been, but they show themselves when they are good and ready and not to please the writer. A writer lives not to appease an editor, or readers, or any but the story. More than imagination or intelligence, being a writer requires simple humility.

So, you do all the things that everybody does with their lives. You try to earn a little money and pay your bills more or less on time, and buy shoes and groceries, and tend your garden, and save a little for your old age, but if you are a writer, you get up early and you go to bed late, so that you have a few hours, quiet and still, at the edges of your days to do what you were put in the world to do, to string some words together until they make enough sense to let somebody else in on the big joke God is playing on you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In orbit...

Lent has come round again, turning our end of the world back toward the Light one more time, and gifting us with the season's first gloriously green salads from the garden and the woods.

We'll have lots of green stuff in the garden this year if we get some merciful weather- onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and leafy greens, too- lettuce, endive, kale. Who knows what else might turn up between now and May? I'm becoming an adventuresome gardener in my dotage. I'm past the age when I have to worry so much about repeating my mistakes, and thus, feel more at liberty to court new ones.

A scary thunderstorm brought down one of our old and suffering hemlocks. It missed anything taxable when it fell. Straight as a ship's mast, it will be relocated in sections to shore up the veggie beds on the hillside above the house.

March arrived right on schedule with a new computer. After twelve years, I had bonded pretty well with the old Dell, and was dreading the change. It has been easier far than I feared, though, and I've been doing some serious writing on the new machine this past week. Windows 10 has been running on my phone for a year now, so I didn't have to hit it quite cold.

New Dell has a display large enough that I can write without my glasses, but I still prefer Open Office Writer to MS Word. Either way, I still have to decide which word to type next.


Monday, March 6, 2017

a big week...

It was a busy week on the hill out back. Got all my onion starts in the ground between the rains - Early Texas Whites and Creole Reds. Also pulled in our first "spring" salad: endive, arugula, Russian Red kale, all wintered over from last year.

The onions in the photo are wild. They were tasty in the salad.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The last word? Well maybe not...

My third novel, Laurel Falls, was written for the readers who had stuck with me through the first two. I figured if they were still reading, they must have liked my stuff, and so, for them, I pulled out all the stops, or as many as the publisher would allow, to give them the most rollicking and irreverent finale I could manage for the trilogy about Benjamin Drum, wild child, time traveler, and old lover.

Most of them would be entertained, I hoped. Maybe a few of them would really get it. So I was delighted and grateful to see on the All Who Wander Podcast blog a review by a reader who did. Thanks, David. Keep your heart in the Laurel. We may not yet have heard the last of our friend Ben. He has as many lives as Annie Starling's big cat.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Before God and everybody I take a vow that every time I critique our poor president, I will pray for him, for I truly believe that he is a poor president, and I believe God is able to beat a straight path with a crooked stick.

Invariably, though, it is hard on the stick.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sowing and Reaping...

Trump didn't invent lies. We've been cultivating those in our national discourse for a long time. We've raised up an ill-informed and immoral electorate who have elected ill-informed and immoral leaders. We got just what we should have been expecting.

Truth-telling, whether to the poor or to the powerful, is going to be very hard work for awhile. Anybody can tell a lie. It doesn't even require much imagination, just a disregard for reality. Truth necessitates thoughtful telling and thoughtful listening. It demands a discerning eye and a critical mind. Neither come without extended effort and discipline
In the end, the truth is never about us, though we can aspire in our better natures to be about the truth.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Swimming in the Ocean...

During coffee hour after church Sunday, I mentioned to a new friend that Jane Ella and I were married in a Quaker ceremony during our time among Friends. He responded that he admired Quakers, had been deeply influence by a couple of them. He remarked that though Quakers have no sacraments, they have been among the most sacramental folk he has met in his life.

Of course, I agreed with him. It may be Quakers don't feel a need for formal sacraments because, at their best, they see all of life as sacramental. Every common meal shared in friendship and love is Eucharist. Every seed sprouted from tended soil is Resurrection. Every soul of every creature is sparked and enlivened by the Soul of our Creator, the One who is All and in all. Every silence is pregnant with the movement and revelation of Spirit.

That spiritual schooling doesn't make me belittle all the little ceremonies and rituals of my current communion (Episcopal). I appreciate our peculiar worship practices all the more because they call my attention ever back to the Ocean I swim in.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

We give what we get...

James, our parish priest, told us in his sermon  Sunday morning, "The Gospel is never about ideologies. The Gospel is always about relationships." If I understood him correctly, he meant that anything that sets us against and apart from other souls is not of Christ.

So I knelt down on my Progressive knees beside my neighbor who voted for Trump, and we prayed together for "Donald, our president, Roy, our governor, and Fred our mayor," among others we called by name. Then we knelt side by side and took into ourselves the same Wine and Bread, acknowledging that in Christ we are made one Body, one Blood, one Life.

God's radical hospitality pulls us in when we are on our knees.
When we stand up and sing our hymn and go out into the world, we will offer the same Spirit we have received.