Saturday, March 31, 2018

..."and sorry I could not travel both..."

My publisher didn't care much for the last novel manuscript I submitted. Editor pointed out a number of literary transgressions that required amendment to rescue the project. I tried my best to be an obedient bear until I realized that the novels I've enjoyed most reading are guilty of those same transgressions.

At that point, I decided I'd rather write a novel I like than one that gets published.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Scottish noir...

Madness Lies by Helen Forbes marked my introduction to that peculiar sub-species of crime fiction called Scottish Noir. Apart from being a cracking mystery yarn, it is daunting good writing. One wasn't enough, so I've loaded In the Shadow of the Hill on my trusty Windows phone to fill those odd moments when I'm stuck in some urban cranny where I can't be useful to anybody. It only took a few pages to convince me I'm still a fan.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Surrender or fly...

 We live in a culture where souls are valued only as consumers or commodities. In current USA, if you are one, you are pretty much assured of being the other. Every scrap of information relating to our individual identities is for sale somewhere to one corporate entity or another. In this economy, only corporations can claim full rights as people.

We can surrender, of course, to the mass illusion, and recline in mindless gratification until our privileges are withdrawn, either by death or by the corporate state. Or we can repent, resist, reorient our wills toward a worldview where every soul is honored as divine embodiment, where knowledge is the servant of wisdom, and love is the ground of all law.

Such a world may appear as fantasy when seen from the maze of mirrors most of us inhabit in our daily lives, but viewed under the unfiltered sky, we see it is reality, after all. The Kingdom of Heaven really is at hand, if we can tear our gaze away from our screens long enough to behold it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Several friends here in town (several is as many as I'm allowed), who know me better than most people, are convinced they have me pegged. If I say to one of them that I've sworn off alcohol, they'll answer, "but you'll miss your beer." If I admit that I haven't written anything this week, I hear, "But you're not happy when you're not writing." Two examples are sufficient argument.

If I'm transparent to my friends, I remain a mystery to myself. What I lack in self-understanding, I make up for in my capacity to surprise myself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cold front...

The cold front that passed over Saluda a week ago brought us some spectacular sky. Jane Ella was still unpacking from her retreat at Ignatius House in Atlanta when I called her out to see the clouds banked along the wave front.

She stared silently for a moment as the wind roared up the gap, then she whispered, "God is so out-going." God is that, I agreed, and whether or not we'll admit it, we, along with clouds and weather and trees and creatures and mountains and rivers and oceans, are the stuff of God's outgoingness. 

Anybody who says that Incarnation is only Jesus is a heretic.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Not all...

The deepest fishes swim
unheralded and dim,
Not all the birds that fly
desire to own the sky,
and somewhere flowers grow
not prone to flagrant show;
Some find their place to fill,
abide, with steady will,
unnoticed and afar,
becoming all they are.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

In passing....

What better way to pass a rainy spring afternoon than with a good friend, a good book, and a good brew?

Saturday, March 24, 2018


The cherry trees are blooming over by Gaffney Street. Another new chapter in an old story. The summer folk will be chugging up the mountain now to air out their dark old houses that have stood cold and empty while their owners were someplace flatter and warmer. Some of us in town, though, were up here all winter long being real

Friday, March 23, 2018


Currently, I am on my annual spring writing retreat in Saluda, North Carolina. As soon as it is over, I will commence my annual summer writer's retreat. Same place.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Change of season...

Spring has finally sprung in our town and the days are already lengthening, an hour longer in just two weeks. I thought I might have trouble getting adjusted to the time change, but it hasn't been a problem. I just wake an hour later.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tom and Chris...

Well, we've outlasted another winter. Thomas Hart Benton (Harry Truman's favorite painter, not the senator) said that was the secret of his success. When asked by an interviewer, late in his life, how he had continued with his realist regional style during the decades when abstract expressionism ruled in the art markets and critical circles, he said simply, "I outlasted the bastards."

Benton was a stayer. He married one of his students, and when he died, fifty-three years later, Rita found him in his studio, brush in hand, sitting in front of his completed mural, The Sources of Country Music, commissioned by the Country Music Hall of Fame.

My friend Chris from Uganda, who lost his entire family in the genocide there, liked to say, "In Africa, we start when we're ready and quit when we're done." I pray every day, that like Tom and Chris, I won't have to quit until I am done.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Good News...

This poor world could stand some Good News. Let's go out and evangelize it - just as soon as we've evangelized the Church.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

...all hope lost.

Your anam cara (soul friend) is the one who still wants to talk to you after losing all hope that you might ever prove useful.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Out of time...

It is hard to keep track of time, sitting by our fire while night settles down upon the town, listening to Jane Ella singing to herself a churchly something by Thomas Morley. It could be any time, any where. As long as she weaves her song around us, now is all the time there is, and all that we could want.

Eternity feels like this.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Blowin' in the Wind...

Read a book aloud to someone you love, preferably to someone near your own age. Why should only children ever get to be read to?.

We're talking our way through this one at our house right now. Stephen King calls The Shadow of the Wind  "one gorgeous read." If you read it aloud, say the words carefully.. It might just blow you away.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mary, Mary...

Mary Washington (asparagus) came over the ridge from Sow True Seed in time for me to get the crowns into the ground before dark. Our asparagus row gets about ten feet longer every year. At that rate, I won't live long enough to plant sufficient for all the asparagus lovers I know.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Digging the words...

Robinson Community Garden, Saluda NC

Writing a story is just off-dirt gardening. Both require one to dig, till, plant,weed, water and wait. Sometimes what comes up is not at all the anticipated. Right now, I'm wondering what to do about the sweet potato vines that have volunteered from last year. Somehow, I must have missed something.

Off-dirt, The novel that has been bugging me since last summer is threatening to become two. I need to decide which to finish first. Meanwhile, concentrating on some short stories that are popping up contrary to all intention or expectation.. Current plan is to try to stumble across enough new tales by the end of the year to make a decent collection.

It looks like spring may find my last completed (not to mention reviled, revised and re-written) novel manuscript, Slick Rock Creek, still making the rounds, looking for a home closer home.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Saya endo...

Got the saya endo (snow peas) into the ground before the March snow. Settled for a cold rain.  With a little luck there should be some sweet and tender pods for a salad or stirfry on my 77th birthday. If not, I'll settle for cake.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Most of my memories of Saluda were still sharp when I returned after forty years away, but two things I'd forgotten. One was the wind, that can rise from rest to roar in under half an hour, then sustain for two or three days, it's surging as constant as an ocean's surf. 

The other is the fog, that can rise up into clear air in the span of a few minutes, tumble down the mountain onto the town like a tsunami, obliterating everything beyond a stone toss. Traffic slows, sounds are muted. Sometimes a creepy, or at least otherworldly tale will ride in on the stillness, and trouble my peace until I write it down.

Needless to say, the wind and the fog are unforgotten now.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sunshine and rain...

This time of year, I'm just a rainy-day and midnight-burn writer, for I'm a sunshine gardener, and will even take a cloudy day if the soil is dry enough to work. Red Kale, Bull's Blood Beets, and Komatsuna got in the ground this week. This morning, Robinson Community Garden boasted a considerable human population. With this little cold wet spell behind us, we'll see some earnest agriculture happening up and down Henderson Street in Saluda.

Friday, March 9, 2018

...a fine line.

My Baptist preacher grandfather used to say that maybe ten percent of his congregation were Christians. The rest, he figured, were merely superstitious. 

We make a mistake to equate religion with faith. There can be a fine line between lust and love, between the desire to own, and the longing to be possessed.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

...hard copy.

Saluda Lifestyles comes to our house on-line, but if you prefer hardcopy, once you've read yours, a page is just the right size, shape and weight to make a cup for seed starting.

My copy came via Greaton and I'm starting my poblamo transplants in these.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

...just a word.

God is just a word.
We can't wrap our tongues
around the Real.
Our language can't say
the Truth of all being.
Our alphabet is too small
to spell out the Word
without beginning or end.

So we look for signs
to mark our way.
We seek a Life
to light us home.
We listen for the music
holding the world together,
telling us what we can't know
knew us before we were.

Monday, March 5, 2018


Don't be fooled. It may feel like winter, but I sowed my flats of tomato seed last Friday, so spring can't be many days off. First time I've tried Katana, but they grow well in Hokkaido, so they ought to thrive here. Katana tomatoes have been developed to be especially disease and mildew resistant, and have fine texture and flavor. They can take the heat and are cold tolerant enough to get an early start. This may be the mountain tomato I've been looking for.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

...all our own.

Often, we can be our own punishment, but we can only look to God for healing. Whoever God looks like to you, She is ever the Other, the Mercy who lives where you can never go, until She brings you there.

Before we even know where to look for God, She has found us.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Whatever happens once...

Our first winter in Saluda (2016) we had a snowfall on the third day of March. Not a big one, but it got our attention.We had a bigger March snow the next year. As my grandmother used to say, What happens once will likely happen twice, and what happens twice will surely happen a third time. The forecast doesn't look especially promising, but we shall see...

Friday, March 2, 2018


Photo by David Longley

God's ecstasy creates the world, and the world's ecstasy realizes God. --Beatrice Bruteau

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Winter dogs...

Old dogs in winter
lie out on a warm day.
Even at a loss for words,
We chase them anyway.