Monday, April 30, 2018

How we live...

We live in a surreal place during a strange time. The world we accept as normal is the stuff of fantasy, or of nightmare. In the wealthiest nation on earth, our populace labors under the illusion of scarcity, the conviction that there are not enough resources to go around, that one acquires more by insuring that others must have less. Those who have the most are most frantic to possess more.

The result is that a very few possess power and affluence that ancient myth ascribed to gods, while many live in poverty that would be considered deprivation in third world countries. Those in between these economic extremes trend toward extinction as material wealth trickles up and moral rot trickles down.

We live in a culture where all identities, age, gender, economic, and even religious, have been commandeered as mechanisms of subjugation and exploitation. Practically all our public institutions have been enlisted in preserving and enhancing white male privilege, often under the banner of protecting the public good.

Such social, sexual, and spiritual aberrations are historically the marks of a species in terminal disarray and dissolution. Watch the news media for a single week, and a reasonable mind might be tempted to lose hope for the survival and continuance of our democracy, our country, or human civilization.

During our last Dark Age, monasteries, of all places, preserved the seeds of compassionate enlightenment in their libraries and communal life. We can’t count on religious communities in our present round of unbecoming, but scattered and unheralded, small bands of kindred souls are already gathering across the world, within and outside institutional boundaries, to nurture among themselves a transformational evolution from egocentric to ecocentric engagements, and to foster this spiritual enlargement among those encountered in times and spaces touching their immediate communities.

Earth will have the last word regarding our residence here. Whether or not that is a welcoming or damning word depends on how soon we can grow beyond our instinctive tribalism to embrace our creative role as vocationed servants to all our fellow creatures, familiar and alien, near and far, human and non-human. We will survive together, if at all. The future depends on our attributing to all Creation the same sanctity we have coveted for ourselves.

Sunday, April 29, 2018


     On the hottest afternoon of the year, when the ridgetops appeared vague and insubstantial in the blue haze of summer, Mary and her nephew worked together in her garden, picking okra.
     "I hate okra," declared the boy, "It prickles so when it's hot."
     Mary's smile collapsed into a laugh, in spite of her valiant efforts to contain it, "You like it well enough pickled or fried. I love okra. When it is this hot, squash wilts in the shade, and peppers drop their blossoms before they set, but the heat just encourages my okra."
     "Why's that?"
     "Because it comes from Africa, where it is hot all the time. Africans were brought amongst our folk as slaves and gave us okra, now what think you of that?"
     Ben thought on it a moment, "I think that was mighty Christian of them." 
                                                                                                        -from The Summer Boy

So far, I haven't been able to grow okra up here on the ridge like it flourished for me down by the Reedy in South Carolina. I know mountain folk do grow fine okra, though, so every spring I try a couple of varieties, hoping to find the one best suited to Tsaludiyi, the Green Corn Place. This year, thanks to Sow True Seed, I have some heirloom seed from the Bradley family. I'll sow them on my birthday. We shall see...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Let's go...

Oh, the waking woods are going green again
and the lilting light calls us out to see
and the warbling water is begging us to hear
her singiing music more ancient than the birds;
The day's too short to catch it all, so hurry now,
Let's go.

Friday, April 27, 2018

An Unaccustomed Music...

I've started work on a new novel, another expedition into Appalachian noir. Not quite a mystery, but there is a crime involved, and a love story, maybe even a ghost or two

If An Unaccustomed Music ever gets written and published, the book probably won't resemble the above picture at all, but I do have a tentative title, and a couple of fairly solid chapters, along with a rough idea of the plot.

This one requires some research, as it is a made-up story about real people. They are safely dead, however, and in their fictional disguises, readers would be hard put to recognize them now. More than the startling things uncovered, the chief rewards of doing literary research are the new friends made in the process.

For those few still interested, the Slick Rock Creek manuscript currently resides in the slush piles of several U. S. publishers. A couple of them claim to be actually reading it. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


What we're reading at our house. The Overstory is a mind-bending novel of revolution, resolution and resurrection. It is a hard book to describe. If you've read anything by Richard Powers, you don't need a description. But here's one from the author himself, via NPR.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Despair is black, they say.
I walk somewhere between
There and hope today,
Closing in on green.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A picture is worth a thousand words and a story is worth a thousand pictures...

 My good friend (and mountain guide) Wayseeker came to visit Saturday. We talked about an old photograph he'd come across a few days before. In it, a young couple, a man and a woman, stand together on what appears to be the porch of a large house or a hotel. They are dressed in thirties-style clothes, look as if they just got up from a good dinner. They are smiling. Their stance is relaxed and open. The woman bears her weight on her right foot and leans toward the man. They obviously know one another well, and are finding mutual pleasure in their company.The photo exudes happiness.

The man is a photographer, and single. The woman is married, perhaps writes for magazines and newspapers. He will be dead within a few years of having their picture taken. She will come and stay with him during his final illness.

I'm trying to find out what I can about them. Perhaps they will resemble characters in my next novel. Thanks, Wayseeker. You've set me off on one more mysterious trail, one more adventure into lives and times I never saw coming.