Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Up on the hill...


The Baptists in our town used to meet here, away up at the top end of Church Street. That was before they built themselves bigger barns down in the town, across the street from the Presbyterians on Carolina Avenue.

My neighbor, Corinne Gerwe lives here now. She writes mystery novels. Corinne inspired me to tackle the genre.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Editing the novel - round one.

 

It didn't take two weeks, but I'll be doing it all over again in a couple of days. Time to start killing off all the lovelies. Need to lose about 2000 words somewhere. I might go down to the creek tomorrow and think about something else. Or maybe just watch and listen and not think about anything at all.
 

Monday, May 29, 2017

'Tis a gift...

Holbert Cove near Cove Creek, Polk County, North Carolina

Our good friend (and CPA who saves us from the IRS annually), Paul Metz dropped by Friday afternoon and left us a CD of his mother, Sara singing and reading poetry. The songs were old hymns that get sung in church every Sunday among our mountains, and the poems were all written by her.

As soon as Paul left, we sat down and played the CD, immersed in wondrous and enthralling contradictions as an eighty-year-old woman with the voice of a young girl taught us again that a plain song can touch the deepest, that a simple faith can be the most profound, that Truth can only be spoken from the heart.

Thanks, Sara, for stirring our souls this day. Thanks to Paul for bringing you to us. And Thanks be to God for you both.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Everyone should...

Cove Creek in Green River Gamelands, Polk County NC

"Everyone should pick a cat up by the tail at least once," Mark Twain reputedly said, "just for the experience, but only a fool would do it twice"

Ten things I would be a fool to do again:
Write a novel with 40 named characters.
Write a crime novel.
work for wages.
Trust medical advice.
Borrow money from strangers.
Borrow money from friends.
Vote for a Republican.
Vote for a Democrat.
 Get a divorce.
Buy a dog.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Break...


We got a brief weather break this week, a couple of rainless days with even a little sun. So I took time off from editing the novel manuscript and set out the sweet potato slips that arrived Thursday morning from Sow True Seed, a dozen Porto Rico and a dozen All Purple.

Also dug up a new bed in the garden and transplanted the hardy squash seedlings that had taken root in our compost bin.

As for the novel, about half-way through the first round of editing, it has gained two thousand words, despite shedding a lot of adjectives along the way. Likely a couple of rounds after this, before Editor is allowed a look. I don't like to pick a tale before it's ripe.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Contrary...


Tall waters are much preferable to tall buildings, in my opinion, and tall tales to long ones. We meet our aliveness navigating those streams that flow contrary to ordinary. The road to hell is undoubtedly paved and well marked.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Crazy...

 

Tuesday, I had to spend the day down the mountain in the city. I wouldn't say everybody who wants to live there is crazy, but I would have to be crazy to want to live there.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Constant...


Throughout my brief life, my most constant friends have been the creeks and streams along the Blue Wall between the Carolinas. I followed them as a child out of my Aunt Mary's yard below Standing Stone Mountain, up through Jones Gap into the Mountain Bridge Wilderness around Caesar's Head. In old age now, I regularly walk the road along Joel's Creek to the Missing Forty and my friend's house, and wander the Green River Gamelands along Cove Creek, where the Bradleys roar.

Since childhood, I've sought conversation with mountain waters, watched the fleeting lights on their faces, listened to their voices in all their changing moods. I hear their songs in my sleep, and one day soon, I will finally know the words they sing.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Refuge...


Upon our steep and stony road
When night is near, the waters cold,
Then all the stories that we’ve told
About the righteous and the bold,
All that our memories enfold
Remain the refuge of the old.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Live and learn...


The annual Saluda Arts Festival was in full swing when I walked down to Nostalgia Court for my weekly lesson at Feldenkrais Saluda. I've been taking Feldenkrais instruction for almost as many years as I've been married to a Feldenkrais teacher, with weekly lessons since moving to Saluda last year. 


While I can't say it has prevented the accumulating frailties and llmitations of aging, I can testify with assurance that Feldenkrais practice has enabled me to maximize my remaining capabilities, and use what I have left more efficiently, with greater ease and assurance, and less discomfort. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Home...


Since the cradle, we've been indoctrinated with the notion that Wilderness, wild nature, is a refuge where we can escape and recover whenever the real world gets too much for us.

Nature is not an expendable resource for us to use and enjoy for furthering our own quest of profit or pleasure. Wilderness is our native habitat. For millennia before we thought up civilization, our species evolved to live and purpose in wild places.

Nature is not “out there,” but “in here.” We are nature. Only in wilderness are humans fully at home in the world. We seek out wild nature to reveal our true selves. Cities are just as alien to our being and becoming as the surface of the moon. We become slaves to technology in order to exist in either environment.

We preserve wilderness to preserve our souls.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

...a little walkabout.


Yesterday morning, my friend Wayseeker (aka David Longley) from South Carolina, knocked on my door by dawnserly light, and we took a little walkabout down on Cove Creek to Little Bradley and Big Bradley Falls.


The sun still hadn't reached down between the ridges by the time we got to Little Bradley. As we walked, we got to watch the mountain wake up for another run under the sun.


There are a lot of fine things in this world that ordinary folk could never afford. Then there are glories beyond any price, available to anyone who will take the time to know them. They are around us all the time, and we forget they are there, until a friend comes to wake us, and we see them with morning eyes.


 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Finally...


Finally, a solid draft of the novel that has been cooking off and on for three years between other projects. Writing a novel is like taking a walk to a place somebody who's been there tells you about. You slog along through thick and thin, wet and dry, fret you've made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Then you round a bend, look up and there it waits. It's supposed to get easier as you go along, so say the real writers I know, who have been doing this fiction thing for a long time. For me, each book just finds a new way to be difficult. My first mystery novel, Belief has taken the longest of any, and maintained herself a mystery to the writer down to the last chapter.



Still a lot of work to do before I dare show the manuscript to Editor. But if I die tonight, any competent editor could iron it out for me now. When I start a project, I always make up a cover for the imaginary book I haven't written yet. I wonder what this book will look like betime she's out in the world?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hit and run...


What I like best about short stories is that I usually don't see them coming. Of the few things I've written, that have survived to publication, this book is my favorite.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

...times out of time.


Perhaps it is a profound insight into the nature of reality, but most likely it is just an abberation of my misaligned brain. For whatever reason, the data provided by clocks and calendars has always seemed illusory to me. I can't keep track of  all the years any better than I can keep up with my socks.

I remember in detail the morning walk when Simon and I first spied the flame azalea blooming over the ridge on Columbia Avenue. But I don't recall the date at all. I couldn't even tell you off the top of my head what year I spent four months in the Public Health Service Hospital near Base Saint George recovering from a head injury.

While I was in the hospital, we heard on the radio that President Kennedy had been shot.
The first question my doctor asked next time I saw him was how I felt about that. I thought it was a foolish question, and never quite trusted the doctor afterward.

A favorite pastime on the ward was to go up to the sun deck and watch the construction of the Verrazano Bridge across the harbor. One day we heard on the news that a worker had been killed. Before the bridge was completed, two more construction workers would die on the job.

Maybe I suffer the same mental lapse as Isaiah the prophet. He had a hard time keeping up with dates, but he could remember his whens by what was happening, like when he said, In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.

For me, this will always be the year my friend Jeffrey died, the year my friend James was my priest, the year Simon and I were surprised by Glory on a May morning.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Loosed...



In 1840, Solomon Jones began building his toll road along the North Saluda River in Jones Gap, up over the mountain north of Caesars Head to Cedar Mountain. It took him eight years to finish. It was hardly more than a wagon track, never paved, but for ninety years, provided the only direct route between Greenville County in South Carolina and Transylvania County in North Carolina.

The locals tell the story that Solomon turned loose his old sow, wise in the ways of the woods, and let her find the best route for his road.

My favorite part of writing a novel is when you come to those last forty or so pages, and know your characters all well enough by then to just turn them loose and follow them home.

Monday, May 15, 2017

...for a little while.


The call came while I was away from my phone. I did not hear until hours later that a young friend I'd known since he was a child was dying, in a town where I once lay broken myself, far from home and any soul who knew me.

I listened to the message several times. The hopeful word I wanted wasn't there. Nothing then but to weep for all that promise lost, for all the dreams within him yet unborn, for all his dear ones left behind when he was gone.

And what can we do now, but be kind to one another who remain for a little while, and remember that though we are dust, we are also love.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Give us a bridge...


Give us a bridge, O Lord,
that will bear us up
while we're crossing over
from our history
to your Mystery.
It needn't be perfect,
just sturdy enough
to support our passage,
endure the weight of us
carrying your Glory
back home again.
A faithful lover might do it,
or one solid friendship,
some unshakable word,
a faith we can hold to,
because in it, we are held.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

insuperable...


The slow, insuperable unraveling of power is a frightening but fascinating spectacle... like watching an iceberg melt, waters rising around you all the while.

Friday, May 12, 2017

...bees.


Poplar and holly in full bloom, the poplars, flagrant, the holly, merely fragrant. The bright blue air all ashudder with bees. 

Yes, here in the Laurel, we still have bees.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Morning walk...

 

Sue (our ancient Isusu pickup) has been speaking in strange tongues lately, so she went into the shop first thing Monday Morning for some D&R at C&D. Curt, the mechanic, was busy, so I had to walk the mile-and-a-half home.

It's a different world when you're afoot. You feel the shape of the ground under you, have intimate encounters with flowers and birds and chipmunks, also, if you're near an Interstate highway, enormous and thunderous tractor-trailer rigs, tour busses and fast sportscars with out-of-state tags. Zoom,zoom.


To distance the traffic, I veered off Ozone Drive, the main connector to our wee hamlet, and walked back to town on Louisiana Avenue, the same street where I lived during my first tenure as a Saludian. Along the way, I met several neighbors (four-footed) who were new to me, and passed the house I lived in forty years ago.


Forty-five minutes after I handed Curt my key, rested, refreshed and restored, I came up the last hill to home, safe and sound, having avoided collision with gawking tourists or oblivious cyclists. The mail carrier stopped and handed over our mail as I started up our drive. We shared what little gossip we knew, and he was away on his round.

When I finally sat down with Dell to write the day's business, the words were already waiting at fingertip.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On the Road...


The road leads ever onward. The sun goes low and the shadows go long, but the way goes on.

The knees go stiff and the breath goes short but the road still calls.

The eyes go dim and the brain goes slow, but there's still another story to write. You get a bigger monitor so you can see all the words, and you take the extra hours you need to figure things out., even if it necessitates spending less time talking and more time thinking.

Arrival is not the aim of the journey. To be all caught up would leave nothing to do but wait for the dark.

When time comes for me to return to earth, let me die as I've lived – working. To work is to pray. Our work is God's play.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hope...


This old man is grateful to his Maker. Grateful to be breathing in one more spring. Grateful to still be able to write a thousand words in a day that will make some sort of sense when I read them the next morning.

At my age, one starts a project without any assurance or reasonable expectation of seeing the end of it. But an old writer still has hope. As long as the words keep coming, there is still hope.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Milepost...


After three days of blustery wind and torrential rain, the ranks were thin at the first Saluda Tailgate Market of the season, but I was able to buy some marvelous lettuce and radicchio from the same friend who sold greens to me last year. I was as delighted to see him again as I was to be there myself.


 

The old and the young react to birthdays in somewhat the same sort of way. When you're very young, a year is a good portion of the time you've been alive. When you're old, a year is a substantial portion of the time you'll be alive. Either way, the turning of a year is a significant milepost in your existence.

This old man is very grateful to be above ground for one more spring.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Thanks, y'all...

Thank you, my friends for the much appreciated and encouraging birthday wishes over the past week. One of you even sent me a real card in the mail.

What a relief to come round the sun on my 76th rotation and find that though fame and fortune have eluded me, somehow, my everliving Soul has hung on to me through it all. The free country I was taught about as a child has by now devolved into a incestuous plutocracy where even health and nature have been monetized. The evangelical church that fostered my budding faith as a wee tad has been diverted, inverted and converted into a heathenish, hedonistic trumpet of a godless politic.

But the woods still green in spring, Spirit still falls down upon us when we are desperate and unaware, and Love stands yet amid the ruins, arms outstretched, calling us back to the Dance. What a stupendous moment in the uneven history of our species to be a harmless old man!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Youthful expectations...


 When I was twenty-six, I never expected to be 76 years old, or to be writing books, much less that anyone would read them. I fancied then I had some potential to become famous or dangerous, but it has been more satisfying just to become myself.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wasted...


Old age would just be wasted on the young. They wouldn't know what to do with it. 

When I was young, I discovered I was passably good at all manner of things I'd just as soon not be doing, but I had not the slightest notion of what I was meant for. How many souls are wrecked and stunted in our culture by our shared addictions to clocks and money? Most of us use up our best years and wear out our bodies trying to live by somebody else's clock in order to get a piece of somebody else's money. 

But having the time to live as you please is useless until you know yourself well enough to see what pleases you down deep, where your heart is.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Listening...


Sitting on my front porch in the dark, listening to a band with a promising guitarist down in the town playing a song about standing in the rain without a job after the war. The guitar is better than the vocal. I'm glad the musicians have a job tonight and pray for them that they will be able to stay employed at what they obviously enjoy doing. I'm enjoying listening to them, especially since I didn't have to pay the cover charge. Nobody's perfect. They sound like good-hearted boys.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

...a timely word

Another timely word from my friend and mentor, Reg Darling, who some might regard a provocateur, but I see him more as a prophetic voice, sorely needed in these unmoored and unrighteous times.


Justice and Savagery



That governments should not be in the business of putting people to death via an organized, judicial process seems so self-evident that I’m hardly interested in debating it as an issue. But since it is apparently not thus self-evident to many otherwise civilized people, perhaps I should explain.

It’s not necessary to offer up pages (and perhaps graphs) of well-documented statistics, case studies, and anecdotal evidence to support my contention that human beings and their various programs of social organization are fallible.



[Damned near a priori.]



In a system of law that allows capital punishment, the execution of innocents is not a question of “if” but of how many and how often. If you insist that this is simply a necessary matter of quality control, then we have to discuss the error rate for the very simple reason that human perfection is unattainable. What’s the acceptable percentage of innocents among those executed by due process of law? One percent? Ten? Fifteen?



[Zero seems both obvious and naive.]



And then, of course, there’s the matter of deciding which crimes deserve the ultimate penalty? If we grant that the perpetrators of certain crimes are, indeed, thus deserving, however short the list of crimes may be, we merely circle back around to quality control. But frankly, if you believe you have the requisite wisdom to decide whether another human being has a right to be alive, that they are so far beyond the possibility of even partial redemption that they should be put down like a rabid dog, are you not engaging in exactly the kind of psychopathic arrogance that theoretically characterizes those who should be thus put down?



[Brutality damages the humanity of the perpetrator. The brutality of a democratically elected government degrades the collective humanity of the nation.]



My argument here has nothing to do with sympathy for serial killers, child molesters, or Dick Cheney. Though there are people in the world whose guilt is truly beyond all possibility of doubt whom I could, without troubling my conscience, put on their knees and blow their brains out, this is a personal flaw, not a political principle. The reason it is a personal flaw is not the harm that would be done to someone who lives deep in the spectrum of genuine evil. It is a personal flaw because it arrogantly presumes that my negative emotions have philosophical stature on a par with moral principles.



[Christian culture’s grounding of morality in punishment is an even larger spiritual failure than the absurd metaphysical swill it spews in torrents.

Is good behavior primarily a product of fear?

If you want to search out the source(s) of our crazy excess of social violence, start there, with an inquiry into the value, efficacy, and consequences of punishment.]



Cruelty and death cannot be redeemed or compensated by cruelty and death.



[Justice is a compass bearing by which our collective will can steer toward peace. It is not a place or a thing.]



Only the gift of good work can counterbalance transgression.

copyright 2017 Reg Darling