Monday, July 31, 2017

Our friend, Frank...

Frank is an interesting guy. He was hanging out in a tree when we moved here. The tree had to come down when we put on a new roof, and Frank moved arround by our back door. 

He says our most fascinating friends all use the back door. He's a friend to the world, bunnies, bankers, bartenders and bears, priests, policemen, politicians and peddlers, carpenters, cartographers, calligraphers, and cardsharps. He'll listen to anybody's tale, whether it's factual or not.

Frank is not into hard drink or gambling, understand, but he does like a good party. Life has been a lot more fun since we met Frank.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

It's free...

I give advice freely.
I used to charge for it,
but all the refunds
got to be a pain.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


If we gave as much care and attention to our potential for life as we do to trying to avoid illnesses, real and imagined, we might live longer. We would certainly be happier. And maybe, just maybe, we might make the world a better place for those around us.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The sweetest sound...

Sometimes the sweetest sound
is silence,
and your wisest word
is the one
you never said.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

a good start...

When you start your morning in Pardee Outpatient Radiology, a good breakfast goes a long way toward setting your day back on track.
The radiology appointment turned out to be a false alarm. They thought something might be wrong, but their machine saw right through it.

The morning feast at Mike's on Main made the trip worthwhile. We didn't eat again the rest of the day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


 It takes us a while to get settled into a place. Only a year-and-a-half after we arrived at our present digs, we finally had our old table from down the mountain in place for a meal this week.

It may not look like much to you, but the Main Muse, Simon and I have considerable history stored in these boards. Friends long since returned to earth sat with us here and shared laughter and food and love. Births and birthdays and new jobs and passages and arrivals and departures and joinings and separations too numerous to recount now, have been commemorated and recalled round this old table.

Friends and kindred, and on occasion, unwary strangers have rejoiced and wept together here, fed one another, encouraged and comforted one another, healed one another. Sometimes we have sat in yielded silence while Spirit moved and made us one and made us new. Glad news and sad news have been shared here, and heart-deep questions raised without fear of judgments. 

I sat down at this table with David Longley and recorded a podcast segment for All Who Wander about my first novel. It is still my favorite place to write on a sleepless night when the only souls awake in the house are me and the Three Little Girls. Everything has changed over the years, it seems, but this old table reminds us that all that is really important abides.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Fancy that...

Don”t live here if you don't fancy walking tilted ground under wild skies, but if living on the alive edge of miracle is your bag, this is your place. Ever changing, it is, behind that strange and familiar face, and if you stay here awhile, you discover it is ever changing you.

So if you've already decided who you're going to be happily ever after, you might want to settle down someplace else. On the other hand, if you like your mirror full of surprises, hang around with us. This place can be quite becoming to those who love her back.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

But I know...

I don't own a television,
or a wrist watch,
or an i-phone,
but I know what day it is,
I know where I am,
I'm happy to be right here,
I'm grateful to be right now.
So it's hard to believe
I've missed any essential

Saturday, July 22, 2017

If you can...

If you can live under a sky like this and not be filled with wonder,
If you can live under a sky like this and not love your neighbor,
If you can live under a sky like this and not be ever thankful,
If you can live under a sky like this and not believe in God,
God still believes in you.

Friday, July 21, 2017


Labels are fine for cans. How else do we know the peas from the peaches on the grocery shelf? Labels don't help us much with people though. Mainly, they just tell us who not to like, who to be afraid of, who not to be friends with. Putting labels on all the people you meet is a sure way to be lonely.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Do I hear what you hear?

One of the dominant characteristics of declining cultures is self-indulgence. What else could you call a society who elects an amoral narcissist for their leader? Some in the media have been blaming Trump on hard-up working people who were denied a voice by the establishment. One might make a more convincing case for old white people with money and property resisting the erosion of their privilege.

Perhaps the worst side effect of a self-indulgent populace is the loss of communal perspective. It leads to absurdities that amount to burning down the house because you don't like the carpet. Great music is performed by people who listen as well as they play.

I'm taking time between my own books to do a little reading of other folks' stuff, and finding there is a lot of self-indulgent fiction out there right now. There are a few great writers, too, bucking the trends, not buying into the current medicine show, able to hear voices that don't echo their own. When you're writing a story, or reading the news, never quite trust a character who talks just like you do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Drovers Gap...

Easing into a new project, aimed for late 2018 or early 2019, depending on when Slick Rock Creek launches. Drovers Gap (working title) will be my second book of short stories, containing some favorites of mine previously published in the UK by Alfie Dog Fiction, and some new tales, written expressly for this collection.

Some light, some dark. Nothing fancy. Place-rooted, character-driven. Stories that allow space for Grace among the shadows. Among them may be the seeds for the next novel. So far, all of my long fiction has sprouted out of short stories.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Privilege. I got a lesson in that during my recent little medical adventure. At the hospital, and at the doctor's office, I showed my insurance cards, and I got the care I needed. No talk at all about money.

This week, when the bills began coming in, I realized why. So far, insurance and medicare has paid everything. They knew as soon as they saw me coming that they would get their money.

So I'm wondering now, what sort of care did the people get who waited around me in the E. R. and didn't have insurance? What will their bill look like?

It is not just a question of economics, but a moral issue. Healthcare for profit is just as immoral as religion for profit. Stockholders and politicians shouldn't decide who gets care and who is excluded.
Of course, my privilege doesn't end with my medical care. I'm white. I live in a town where moneyed folk have been hanging out for a hundred years. I attend a church frequented mostly by that same sort of folk. People make assumptions based on that, and treat me accordingly. For the most part, it works out in my favor.

Over the years I've cultivated simple wants, and learned to live comfortably within my means, so I'm not quite the propertied man I might appear to be to some who don't know me. But there's no escaping the fact that I am privileged. I can deny that. I can feel guilty about it. Or I can give thanks for my undeserved good fortune and look for ways I can spread it around.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Summer for sure. A wet one, so far, with showers daily. The weather forecast says we might get our first ninety degree days of the season this week. Time to slow down, take stock, check our bearings.

A pause in the action. Like the intermission in a play. Take a little refreshment. Stretch the legs. Clear the mind. When the curtain parts again, the scene will have changed.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Living in place...

Travel wonderfully narrows the mind, according to Malcolm Muggeridge. Whether he thought of that himself, or was quoting somebody else, I don't know. Certainly, he got around enough to know what he was talking about.

To be sure, there are lessons plain to homefolks that visitors to a place are not privy to. The more places you see, the more they all look alike. Some great poetry may have been written on a train, but I can't think of any.

Saluda is a great place to visit, but I'd rather live here. It isn't the sort of town you can catch on the fly. It's different with big cities. There's always too much of too much in such places. I get my fill of New York or Atlanta in about two days. Two years in this town is barely enough to get my bearings.

You can't marry a crowd. You can't love a mob. You can't make more friends than you can remember names.

Friday, July 14, 2017

All the difference...

Not always have I been such a settled lad. Domesticity sort of crept up on me through the company I kept. The Main Muse has been gently persistent over the years. Somehow, she has won my heart without breaking my will.

But even that last summer of my discontent had a certain charm, and a wee place of belonging amid the chaos that was my life, and sometimes, when a thunderstorm wakes me in the dark, in that instant between sleep and awareness, I almost miss it.

Then my present happiness seizes me, and I embrace anew all the difference between being free, and just being loose.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Now and then...

There are two ways to get to know mountains. You can get on a road, like the Blue Ridge Parkway and drive across and among them. You will see a lot of mountains in a day. You may even recognize the contours of some of them if you see them later in a photograph.

You can also find a summit with enough shelter to pitch your tent, or maybe settle in a little cabin beside a stream, and stay in one spot for a week, or better yet a season, until you know the first bird song in the dawn, and the last one at dusk, until you know by name the flowers that bloom around your camp, the old sow bear who brings her cub down to the water each evening, the deer who grazes the meadow at first light.

At the end of your sojourn, you will have a deeper kinship with mountains by learning the deep stories of one of them rather than a passing familiarity with the shapes of many. Friendship takes some time spent in watchful listening, whether you want to become friends with a place or a person.

Love is not restless, nor hurried. Love pays attention, is present, not distracted by what might come next. Life is not there, but here, not when but now. Our story is not about where we've been or where we're going, but how we are being in our brief and eternal moment. We keep longing after Heaven when we are already there.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

...on the way.

We don't find our way in this world so much as the Way finds us. Our true and natural road is opened to us not by our striving but by our letting go.

"Stone, being harder, ever resists. Water, being softer, eventually has her way."  -from The Summer Boy, a novel.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Deep music...

Eleven pipers piping, so the carol says. I didn't count them, when the McGuires came skirling down Main Street on Coon Dog Day. Even one piper can cut my mind loose from any present circumstance and send me wandering over deep waters to far mountains in some home I've never seen.

There is a music deep in the bones, along with the sounds of wind in the laurel and water falling on rocks and the wild cry of a lone hawk high and away, A music written in our cells, that calls us from however far we've wandered, back to the place where we are real.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Only temporary...

It was only temporary. Just a place to perch and get my work done until we had all the boxes unpacked and the house arranged, then we would fit me into some permanent digs somewhere about the establishment. Now, a year and a half, and one book, later, with all the boxes (well, almost all) unpacked, and the house in reasonable order, I am still here.

Right by the front door, prone to interruption, where I can keep track of the weather, intercept all incoming news, gossip with the UPS guy and the mail lady, and the occasional odd tourist who comes along looking for somebody they thought lived here.
Maybe after the next book, I’ll strive for a more permanent situation. We’ve talked about closing in the back porch for a writer’s nook. I can’t spare the time for it right now.

Actually, I like things pretty well just as they are. I don’t have space to pile a lot of stuff I don’t need around me. I’m not sure how I’d like having a closed door between my world and me. How would Simon come lay his chin in my lap when he wanted his walk? How would Jane Ella stop on her way to something important and kiss me atop my head, for no good reason except she loves me?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Just saying...

This is not a sermon.

I've never been a big drinker. I can't handle the hard stuff. A bottle of Glenlivet single malt sat unopened in my cabinet for twenty years before I finally gave it away to my friend on the mountain, who knows how to appreciate it.

But I do like a glass or two of wine with dinner, and once a week, I'll have a beer with the Sage of Joel's Creek. Then, a few weeks ago, I quit alcohol because it doesn't agree with my other drugs. In less than a month, my blood pressure has dropped ten points. The other drugs aren't for blood pressure.

Just saying...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Nothing but...

I’m not a theologian. The terms church people use when they discuss the finer points of religious doctrine seem to me, frankly, pretty much beside the point. Original sin, for example. There is nothing very original about sin. It’s all been done before. My own sins have generally resulted from a poverty of imagination.

Then there are all the disputes and conjectures about the precise nature of concepts like Trinity and Incarnation. Jesus didn’t use words like this. Jesus didn’t write a manual for how to do church, Jesus wasn’t even a Christian. Jesus, now, I have to take seriously.

He never told us to do anything he didn’t do himself. When we had done the worst to him we could think of to do, and left him dead in a hole in the ground, he comes right back and says, “Y’all, It’s still all about forgiveness.”

I can contrive an argument against any of it, but that. There’s nothing you can say to Forgiveness but Yes.