life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Monday, December 31, 2007

happiest of holidays

having a nice evening at home with friends tonite, people are milling about and coming in and out. jason cooked a wonderful venison ham, and we had collards, rice, okra & tomatoes, black eyed peas, cornbread, and that was just the main course. before that we had several kinds of appetizers that people had brought, then shucked oysters in the yard, and afterwards, desserts and coffee.

rachael and i had put in the supernatural season 1 dvds to play in rotation, sortof as background for the evening's activities. like subliminal induction, hoping to indoctrinate friends. before too long a couple of people had actually started watching, and then saying, "hey, I know this show. one of the brothers is supposed to maybe go darkside, right?" and then we all had to sit down and watch ...hee! it's like roofies, see.

if i weren't so tired and this was not a mackintosh am certain i'd be writing something erudite and uplifting. as it is, i can only think about how dark the sky is outside, how the stars shine so unspoiled by city lights up on this hill in the middle of nowhere, how we can hear fireworks from a mile or so away, and the friends who'll be spending the night are laughing downstairs to some hysterical story my husband is telling. these are nuggets of life here at Hilltop, the Borough, in Stateburg. if you haven't been here, you should visit. it's a world away from anywhere else, there is no place like it on earth.

Wednesday i start my new job across the street, as parish administrator for Holy Cross. hey, you cannot possibly beat the commute. plus, crunchy things for my brain.

happy new year, everyone.

amen, and amen.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

transitional dynamics

feeling the worth this morning of reporting on things that get into the meat of necessary change. so often what is out there is so much fluff, which is why we luddites and deep thinkers must just pass over it or puke. but some people are apparently getting it, even though the vast majority are still either caught up in the sparkly bits, or hiding their collective Gucci-clad heads in the sand.

it will affect us all some day. it affects us now, you know. why do you think we rush so hard to get to the computer & log on to check everything in the morning? is it because we half-way believe it might not be there, maybe sooner than later?

i am not here to convince anyone to do anything other than think. and to do that, you'll have to --ahem --educate yourself. not going to recommend any books, papers, or websites. you have access to blackle and you are a smart person.

zut, alors.... have to slap a certain website on the wrist this morning, howsomever. since when is it more "green" to buy French than Carolina or Virginia wines if you live east of the Mississippi? i ask you. the subject didn't even come up.... the choice as far as they are concerned is, napa or europe. and lo, papa, stop whirling in your proverbial urn. you know it's positively true that if you were alive today you'd be sipping virginia merlot dripped from right up the road at chateau marmoset morissette. or jefferson's meritage, say 2001. that is some yummy stuff. goes with the venison hubby bow-shot last weekend quite well.

meant to include linda's recipe for carolina venison chili and my apple tart recipe this morning. that will have to wait, out of time.

rest easy, papa. and you greenies? wake up and smell the local vintage, for chrissakes.

Monday, November 05, 2007

standing down

I am *not* going to whine about the effect this work stoppage could have on The Show. Stop me if it looks like I'm about to Start. This goes for all future posts until the issues are resolved and the strike is over. (Inside? I'm wibbling alot about this tho', so am certain reminders will be in order.)

At the same time I am educating myself about the issues, I strongly urge us to show strong support for the striking members of the Writers' Guild, and
especially those who are kind of caught in the middle
, at this critical time.

I am especially not going to whine about the effect this could have on any of my own writing aspirations. Everything in good time. All things come to good for those who wait. I joined the WGA-East as an associate, and may my membership fees go to buying Lots of Placards and Hot Coffee for the strikers.

Meanwhile? I have six novels in various stages of completion, one in final re-draft, a book of poetry to finish editing, and there are articles and fanfic to be written. None of this is going to pay for awhile anyway, if ever.

I need a list of struck companies, though - to be sure I don't try to pitch a book or write an online article for or to any entity that is connected to any struck company. At least I think that is what I should do, anyway.

This is somewhat confusing for little me. I mean, I have a book that one day I'd hoped to make into a screenplay that would maybe one day become a movie. I assume I can continue to polish that and try to find a publisher. Right? As long as the screenwriting part isn't dealt with until the strike is over?

Obviously I have alot of work to do in any case. I just want to reiterate my support for the Writers' Guild, and hope and pray for a speedy and authentic end to the unpleasantness. I am on their side, and will stay there.

Addendum: Today is Guy Fawkes Day. Somehow there is more than a little irony in that fact.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Men hate passion, any great passion. Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

I defy the tyranny of precedent. Clara Barton.

I am faced with an exposition of the most ridiculous kind. It is almost as if, by turning round and round upon myself, within myself, I am finding out the true nature of the world at large. Fie! It is an old shoe, a bastard, losing daily whatever dignity it has gained at its own behest. I am well to be rid of it.

The world itself is an oasis that draws us out of ourselves, to interact and play nicely with our neighbors. I am all about community, of course. Enjoying friends and family is one of the greatest joys on earth. And here is the rub, see. An oasis is only that which stands out in the middle of the wasteland, providing nourishment and the opportunity for rest for weary travelers. An oasis! Yes, there I’ll be bound.

And miss the boat entirely, of course.

Why linger at an oasis? Why settle, why drink, why sleep? If life is a journey, hadn’t we better get on with it? Saddle up the camels, do something, for heaven’s sake. Or if life is a banquet, should we at least find a place that has good food? God. Get me away from these mongrels, who do nothing more than clasp and smile and make us all feel so damned good.

Take me somewhere I can hear myself think. I have work to do.

I am a promethean, which means I take my work seriously not as art, but of the fact of its usefulness, probably more so than many. It is the work itself that is the point, and nothing that comes after. And I have no opinion at all on whether or not the work is successful, only that it is good, and says what I want it to say. Otherwise, why do it? Why produce, unless to express oneself? If I were going to express another’s opinion, or mimic another’s work, what reason would I have to exist? I do honor by the fact of my existence in bringing my own view to the forefront. Which, I realize, is basically what Ayn Rand said, in billions and billions of words.

That being said, too often the world itself gets in the way. Why? Because I am shy, introspective, and withdrawn by nature. I listen too often to others and quiet my voice. I write what people want to hear, I know pleasant turns of phrase, am witty, clever, and so I am quite repugnant to myself. I mimic so well the acclaimed voices. Eventually I must stop, it will be my undoing. The roar in my ears does not go away when I lift my hands from the keyboard to cover them. I shout at those nearby; I am shouting at myself. Only when I write does my real voice speak. You will almost never hear it from my lips. That is the way of things, perhaps it makes me who I am. I no longer apologize for being several things at once, I am who I am. That cannot change, or who would be me? What of worth would I have to offer; again, why else should I exist?

I know things, things that I left out of the most recent work. I am a miner of the soul; I will go and put them back in. It was wrong to take them out –I am happy now that someone pointed it out to me. As if to say, “Why did you not –“ and “It would have been better if you had –“ when all along I truly believed no one would have understood had I done so. I am glad to put them back. They will complete the work as I originally envisioned. I sigh a deep sigh of completion, and gratitude.

copyright Susannah Eanes, 2007This past week was a vacation for me and the children. We went home to the mountains, to the blue sky and clear air of Virginia. We visited post-card towns and had tea & cakes with the vicar –okay, he was imaginary, but we had them outside on the lawn behind the library not fifteen feet from where I first made out with the father of one of them when I was about thirteen years old –and no I did not mention it! That would have been gross. To continue painting the pastoral scene, we shopped and walked and took miles of pictures. We bought fabric at Schoolhouse Fabrics to make new fall dresses for the girls & me, and a cool grey shirt for my son. We lived and breathed and sang and tromped down to Asheville to take in Biltmore and the highlands in all their pre-fall glory. And about halfway through it, while walking along atop a century-old rock wall in Rocky Mount, Virginia, my youngest said to me, “Mommy, it feels like we are in a movie.”

And I said to her, “That is passion, dearest.”

“What’s passion? I thought what happened to Christ was The Passion.”

“Yeah, that’s passion, too. Passion is when you love something so hard it becomes real.”
copyright Susannah Eanes 2007She giggled, skipping ahead. “Oh, I get it. Like how I love my turtles when I talk to them.”

“Yeah, like that.”

“Get me down, Mommy.”

I held out my arms to her and she jumped, landing neatly on the cracked sidewalk. “I love you.”

“I love you too, baby.” And hugged her tight.

She walked on ahead of me, and eventually climbed back up to walk along the top of the wall. “It still feels like we are in a movie,” she said presently.

“That is good, I’m glad.”

“I like it.”

“You should. In fact, that is the best. You should feel that way every single day. Don’t ever lose that feeling, OK? Don’t settle for anything less.”

“Really? ‘Cause I don’t feel this way hardly ever.”

“You hold onto it. It makes you strong. Don’t ever lose it.” And I laughed with her.

The work will be a beacon, when it is finished. Again. This I know. And yes, it is all about me. I am the only one left to tell. It is my mind, my entrance upon the world’s stage. I gather up the bits of straw from the threshing floor – the fleeting bits that fall from my fingers in the times when I must compulsively be writing something about passion, for the voices will not stop – and toss them skyward. They fall on happy faces who lick their lips and feed upon them, devouring the little bits of my heart I’d sewn in so carefully. I am happy to do that, their happiness makes me smile.

But there will be more in the morning. So watch, and see. It is practicum for the larger work, it flexes my working muscles and makes me concentrate on plot and character and making something totally imagined real.

Soon I must leave the oasis. It is discipline, yet it is too much in the world. When I have completed it, it will be time for surgery on the original work. The one that has followed me around for the better part of two decades. That has received two lovely long letters of encouragement from now two editors who press me to add voices to it, find an agent, and submit to, as one put it, “a larger publisher with a more literary (quieter, less pop-fiction-readership-oriented) audience.” This is the work that defines my vision of experience and reality between the perfectly imperfect man and woman. That rocks my boat. That frustrates me no end because I just don’t want to give up and feel all the things working in this mine field makes me feel. And so I take the coward’s way out, and try to make it a popular read. I got what I deserved.

I received the go-ahead to basically be true to myself, my vision, and write what I know. What good does it do within me, when it is obvious that the work would be so much better with it out?
And so I will do. That accomplishment will give me the peace I affirm is the only true peace, in the end. That is the point of my existence.

For nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scatt'ring bright, can love inhere
--John Donne, Aire and Angels

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wild Grape Jam

My recipe, found & posted courtesy of RaeSofSunshine!

Wild Grape Jam

Recipe by Susannah Eanes
Yield: 4 12-oz jars jam, or approx. 6 half-pints

11 cups whole grapes (abt. 3-1/2 lbs.)

You will also need:
A stockpot and/or water-bath canner
2 cups water
Prepared Jars
4-1/2 cups sugar
Large, wide-lipped bowl (like a salad bowl)
Prepared Lids & Rims

Wash grapes, pick stems & leaves, wash again thoroughly but gently. Divide into two equal portions. Put half of grapes in large, heavy stockpot. Peel skins from other half, reserve skins, put pulp into stock pot with other half of grapes. Cook on medium temperature about 12-15 minutes until soft and skins start to split on their own. Grapes should mash very easily. Remove from heat.

Put grapes through sieve, reserving all pulp and juice. You should get about 3 cups. Discard cooked skins and seeds. Put pulp mixture back into stockpot with reserved skins and water. Bring to boil on med-high heat setting. Add sugar. Bring to boil again on medium-high heat setting (if the stove setting is too high, the jelly will stick and burn before it cooks properly). Stir frequently and test often for jelly consistency. I set atimer and be sure to check it at least once every 7-10 minutes, and stand over it once the temperature reaches 215 degrees.

Cook until mixture reaches 220 degrees and maintains this temperature for at least 5 minutes. This should take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. One way to be sure jelly stage has been reached is to observe mixture as it drips off a metal spoon, it should form little sheets as the drops run together off the edge. Watch to be sure two or three drops are combining into one sheet.

When jelly stage is reached, remove from heat and pour into large, wide-lipped ceramic bowl (like a big salad bowl). Cool for five minutes, then ladle into prepared, hot jars. Wipe rims and seal. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove and cool on towels. Check to be sure lids have sealed.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Link Exchange

Wanna exchange links? I'd be flattered. Drop a comment here with your email - all are screened so no one will see it but me - and describe your site. Don't forget to provide the URL so I can check out and see how awesome you are!

Here are a few icons I've made for people to use to link to a bit of earth.


If they don't suit your site, please feel free to resize, make your own, provide a text-only link, or maybe we can work together to come up with something.

Thank you for your interest! I'll get back to you soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

joy in the morning

i'm really visual lately, so i'm just going to share a few images of what we did sunday morning.... (click on images for larger version if you want).

This is my friend...



they'll go to make the best grape jam in the universe. come & share some with us!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

non timebo mala

Coming of Age in the Family Renaissance:
An Emerging Cultural Reality

“Who of us could endure a world… without the divine folly of honor, without the senseless passion for knowledge outreaching the flaming bounds of the possible, without ideals the essence of which is that they can never be achieved?” –Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms. You gods, since you are the ones who alter them and all other things, inspire my attempt, and spin out a continuous thread of words from the world’s first origins to my own time…” –Ovid, Metamorphoses

Blink quickly and they will pass you by. It's time I came into being with my own connections, and lo and behold! I like it. Alot.

Some parents --it seems to me an inordinate number of them, actually --look forward with trepidation to the years when their children become teenagers. Having already raised one, maybe I'm a bit relaxed on the subject. Or maybe it's just obvious that my children (15, 13, 11) are only continuing to unfold into the caring, creative, all-out wonderful creatures they always were, only more so. Every day brings a new step toward enlightenment, as much for me as for them.

i find bright young minds
unspoiled and open
beyond limits imposed
by successive
generational layers,
accepting as a matter of course
all the differences they find
in humanity.
wasting no time on particulars
never turning it over and over
and over in their minds ad nauseum
pointing out and categorizing
better appreciated
more established minds
often described as wordly wise
often see nothing in differences,
or refuse to accept them when they do,
may even belittle them
say they don't matter
and are more likely to immediately find
a pigeonhole or tightly lidded box into which they resolutely attempt to make one fit otherwise they cannot see what is even there much less the wisdom.
the world evolves
or we die.
that, in truth,
is something
of which acceptance
has no part.

--susannah eanes

my dad --eternally youthful and questioning --used to say:
if you have to ask, you wouldn't understand the answer.
in some ways, i'm finding out how wise he was. i am hearing the echoes of his longing, his epistles, his passion, in the words i read written and hear said by my children. who are the main youth in my life.
someone mentioned recently, how the generation who came of age in the 1960s, was supposedly more "with it" than the youth of today. and then went on to make the predictable comparisons with his generation and angst-filled young moderns.

i soooo beg to differ. it is well known, and one of the observations of our times, that the 1960s generation sold out to wall street, walmart, and mundane life a long time ago.
in other words, turned their back on your youth, and walked away.
and, imho, this person hit the nail on the head when he wrote, "I see the music some of these folks (including the 40ish crowd) are listening to, and it might as well be another planet as far as I can tell.. with some exceptions. "

he might as well have said, "I can't hear the music..."

neither could my dad. and it's sad, really, because it just means neither of them cares enough about other people to really give a damn, and LISTEN. as if, it's not worth anything that they might come up with in their own minds: to hell with youth. the hubris is real, and all-pervasive.
that, my friend, is obvious. when my older daughter was listening to Nine Inch Nails almost a decade ago and watching movies like The Crow and Donnie Darko, I couldn't hear the music either. I just "saw" men being tortured and violence and darkness.
But when I listen to my very oldest daughter, as well as her sister and the younger 3, because I now suspend judgment and keep holding them up as examples of light, unspoiled, fresh from God --because that is what they are --I found it was fear of the unknown, and fear of going back, of losing myself, that stopped me from hearing the message of all of the above, and so very much more.
i rediscovered pieces of myself i had rejected when i was as young as 9, and had left behind completely by age 14. and the rest of my youth was totally destroyed by age 19. so now i feel like, hell yeah, i've gone back and embraced that young, questioning, innocent young girl. 'cause she was a good person who deserved to live. she had enough violence in her life to cause her to run away from herself, avoid any mention of violence or follow true passion in her life.
but... thanks to my youthful companions, and those like them --who are all around, thank god, i am finding that exploring humanity in all its forms instead of running away from what scares me or alarms me or at one time would have been put away in the "inappropriate" box has allowed me to climb up on top of it and crow.
Now I hear the music. And I put alot of it on my MySpace page.
J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan in the original form said basically the same thing.

It's a universal idea. Not dead, not even resurrected. Just enduring.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

tears & laughter

those of you who know me are more than likely aware that i get choked up about certain things. for instance, i can not watch the part of sound of music where maria comes back to the von trapp children, striding across the lawn, her silvery voice picking up the notes to "my favorite things," just as they become unable to sing for sadness from missing her. my face was a blindingly wet marshmallow when we left the theater after "bridge to terabithia." for goodness sakes! they shouldn't make such movies. my armor gets all cracked.

but then again, thank god they do.

don't get me wrong. i am perfectly sensible when situations require it, i don't get all silly in an emergency and can drive on through the darkest rain. it's just that since reaching adulthood i feel the tug and pull on the strings that hold the shades closed over my vulnerable sensibilities, and can't always ignore the lump in my throat --sometimes it's happiness, sometimes heartache. and over the years i've decided it's not necessarily a bad thing. i do not turn away from strong feelings, i've learned to take them and mine their depths for meaning and insight. and sometimes, the feeling turns into a beacon, that upon further exploration brings me to a place where i find a poem, a story, or even the beginnings of something more, a new understanding of what it means to be human in this century, on this earth.

a recent story told to me by a myspace friend resulted in this very thing. you know, we are an extremely cerebral, emotional, and tactile culture, and yet we move at the speed of light. we want everything we experience to have meaning. when we find something that speaks to us, someone or even a character in a book or television show, we make it a part of ourselves. it is part of how we grow into who we are meant to be, whoever that is. we take ownership of that and cultivate it like a relationship. and because of the depths to which technology can take us, it is even possible to reach out and claim for a brief span of time --a breath in the wilderness of our emotions --an affirmation that another person shares our thoughts, our opinions, our feelings, our triumphs and even our worries. it is possible to know someone almost better than our own families by typing back and forth over a keyboard. i myself have cultivated friendships this way, i can vouch for the fact that they can be profound, indeed. it is possible to put your heart out there, talk about your very deepest hopes, wishes, whatever, and never even know the last name of the person to whom you are speaking. it's not wierd, it's not detrimental, and it's not dishonest. in the past, because these feelings were never explored in a safe or positive way, many people became addicted to drugs, sank into depression, abused alcohol, or worse.

today, we can do something really fine: we can keep our masks over our identities, and yet put certain things out there for the world to see. we experience something i call "hiding in plain sight." only the important stuff remains hidden, so that the other important stuff might be shared, and hopefully understood by someone else. and hey, sometimes we learn something glorious and wonderful this way. so don't knock it. let it stand on its own. be respectful of the mystery. it's important.

but to continue with my reaction to the story recently told me by my friend: if the person on the other end happens to be well-known, a person hounded by fans and paparazzi because of his or her line of work, what can happen? are those people able to get the same satisfaction and life-affirming confirmation of a shared, somewhat anonymous online friendship? sometimes. but it's dangerous. by the very nature of their work, which involves imagination, fantasy, and belief in something larger than life, by being accessible they are more likely to be the targets of obsession. which makes the fact of any shared experience like this that much more valuable.

after hearing the story of one such relationship that had to end when fans became scary, i was moved to write something. you can read it here. i'll keep the identity and situation secret for what i hope are obvious reasons. it's the feeling and validation that i believe are important.

that, and i hope perhaps someone out there may learn a lesson, and realize that famous people ARE people. not objects there for your possession. they're not perfect or insensible, any more than you or i. so be respectful. have some class.

evolve, damnit.

the poem is called, "hiding in plain sight" and is, or will be, up on my website in a day or two. you can find it under the poetry page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

venus in retrograde

funny little thing happened on the way to virginia.

some background: years ago, i married my best friend. it didn't last. we had 2 lovely girls together. he doesn't acknowledge them or speak to any of us. it's for the best, believe me. after all the lies and the hurt and unbelievable unfairness, it's been relegated to the "scope for a novel" file and bedded down.

dollars spent on therapy are sometimes very well spent. because of him, i developed a shell thick enough to have survived some pretty horrible things, even afterward. in retrospect, i could almost say i'm grateful for the lesson. almost.

never let it be said that the gods do not possess a divine sense of humor.

said ex and i have not spoken much in the impending decades... i wish i could say exactly why, but it just boils down to awkwardness, broken dreams, maybe a little too much honesty, but i don't regret it. the quiet has been peaceful, even blissful at times. it is hard to be married to someone who knows you better than god himself.

but getting back to the funny thing on the way to virginia.

karma is a wonderful thing: you never know when you will have to rely on help from those whom you've screwed.

my oldest daughter and i --the one he fathered and i gave up for adoption when i was much too young to be a mother and he has to this day never acknowledged, even tho' she is a full sister to our other daughter who was born while we were married --and is a dead ringer for him --were driving up the interstate as it began to rain. the clouds had been gathering for some time but thankfully traffic was unusually light. as we neared an overpass i noticed a truck, with a flat-bed trailer, on the side of the road. it was somewhat near a landmark truck stop but absolutely nothing else. the truck caught my eye for just a moment, and i started to look away when i noticed a tall, thin, blond-headed male walking up the steep hill away from the truck toward the overpass. as we passed he raised his cell phone to his ear.

"that's p******," i said to my daughter, who turned to look.

she sniffed. "no way," she answered, shaking her head in her sensible way. "that's impossible. you can't see who that is from this distance."

i shrugged. it was several thousand feet, to be sure. and it was raining. "no, i can't. but it's him."

we hadn't seen him in several years, except i had glimpsed him momentarily at his mother's funeral several months back, which we'd attended with my daughter, who was particularly close to her grandmother and was pretty broken up about it.

but i knew it was him. you see, i have known that person since the sixth grade. and we were close, at one time. we --well, suffice it to say i was certain.

i said, "i'm going back. it's him."

r****** said, "well, ok, like, you could do like in the messin' with sasquatch commercial, you know, make him run a little bit. that would be amusing." we laughed.

"yes, it would," i agreed. and we laughed again. but i knew that i wouldn't do that. no, the opposite would be far more adventurous.

it was a ways to the next exit, so i had to drive a bit before i could turn around. but about 10 minutes later we pulled off the exit near the truck stop. i knew he'd be headed for that. but would he let us help him? would he even acknowledge us? i had to know. it was raining harder now. r. still wasn't convinced it would be him, she was going on the fact that he lives four states away now and what were the chances, really, that he and i would be on the same road at the same time in the rain and his truck would break down at almost the exact minute i'd be passing by? it was highly unlikely. i agreed with her. still, i knew it was him.

we pulled to the top of the exit, which turns out on an old, unimproved gravel road down to the truck stop. he was walking down that road, having gone up the hill, over the overpass, and turned right. walking. hurriedly. phone to ear. he turned to look as we pulled up, just across the road. i blinked my lights at him and he raised his hand politely, nodding and pointing down the road to the truck stop, motioning me on and indicating he was fine. i waved and rolled down my window.

"don't you want a ride?" i laughed at him.

he said, "i'll call you back," and clicked the phone shut. grinned. i pulled across the road and opened the door. before i could change my mind i just went on old times, the times that should be preserved. the good memories. before it got ugly.

i said, "you need some help, don't you? we are nice people, you should let us help you."

part of the problem always was his ridiculously suspicious nature. once i had known how to break through that. like i was nineteen again i held out my arms and said, "no one is watching. no one will know. only her," i gestured over my shoulder at our daughter, the one he wouldn't acknowledge, although i know that at one time he'd drawn a broken heart with her birth date and time in the middle of it. i held that image in my mind and hugged him, quickly, before he could back away.

he needed it. and so did i. it is more blessed to give than to receive. it is.

one thing i had learned over the years is to grab things and then let them go, quick, before they can bite you. to do the right thing before you think about it too much and chicken out. he was alone, and god only knew how many years it had been since he'd been hugged by someone he could trust. he lives in a walled-off fortress among situations of his own making. his mother had died convulsing in his arms, not too long ago. his shell is thick --but he knows me. and deep down, he knows i only want the best for him --when i remember the little boy i knew in sixth grade, and the awesome young man he grew into. i loved that young man. i always will.... even though he left him behind and became someone else, long ago. as did i.

i turned to him and said, "i finished my book. the one i started in alabama."

he looked confused. "book?"

"you don't remember. i was writing a book --several books --and i began in alabama. in enterprise, when we were there."

"oh. well, that's great. congratulations."

"one of them is about fred."

"fred? that book needs to be written. i always said that."

"yes. me, too. you do remember."

he was grinning from ear to ear, shaking his head. remembering the good times.

"but you know," i continued. "most of what i know about fred is hearsay. i wasn't there for most of it. it was before my time."

"well, you know what happened."

"only because someone told me. i do remember hanging outside a window, upside down and not knowing if it was you or fred holding me by my ankles." he laughed, nodding at the memory.

i looked at him. "it was fred, wasn't it?"

he nodded again, still laughing. "you made him stop," i finished. "you saved me. i could have broken my head."

"yes," he said, barely audibly, still grinning down at me. he is so tall.

we laughed and chatted and i introduced him to r******. he leaned into the car, hand extended in a friendly, courteous manner. "hi, I'm p******," he said. she smiled and shook her head in wonder, thinking, "i know who you are, you a******. and you know who i am, too." but she smiled, and played along as courteously as he.

i don't know why he kept up the charade but at least we could laugh at it. we gave him a ride down to the truck stop and stayed with him while he figured out what to do. at one point he even considered going up to the ville with us, since we were all headed that way. but later he decided he needed to stay with his truck, since he was on a "tight schedule," and he didn't know how long it would take to fix the truck. he was always on a tight schedule. indeed, i don't think he knows how to live any other way.

he's a curious combination of laid-back and uptight, sensible and full of shit, observant and blind. he didn't seem to have changed much, if at all. but it didn't creep me out - i knew exactly what to expect. somehow that can be comforting, when you know there are no surprises.

r & i laughed all the way up the road after we left him, after taking him back to his truck to get a few things, and then back to the truck stop to wait for the towing vehicle. he laughed too, a bit. he was incomparably polite, even affable.

i looked at him from the rear-view mirror. "you know, we are nice. you should talk to us."

"i can see that," he replied, nodding and smiling. i pulled into the parking space. we were back at the truck stop, and it was time for him to get out and go about his business. i shook my head. the present was back, palpable, in the car with us. camaraderie was fading back into the dimness, and i struggled to make it real, to catch at the threads of time that were dwindling away, breathless, like smoke escaping thru the open window.

"here. write down my phone number. you can contact me anytime," he shuffled through the calendar he carried, wrote the number down carefully, bending his head to the task. i saw him again in math class, diligently writing numbers on a page. he looked up. smiled, and shut the book. opened the door, and was gone.

i know that the past rises up before us whenever we are there to re-create it. it is still as tangible as it was every hour that we lived it.

but i also know, just as certainly, that i'll never hear from him. that as soon as we were gone one of two things happened: either he forgot us completely, or his paranoia kicked in and he worried all night long about repercussions from talking to me, which in his mind could range anywhere from the wrong people (who? i wonder) finding out he actually accepted my help (like he had any choice? he was in the middle of nowhere without transportation and it was raining!) to my running my mouth to godknowswhat. and that, my friends, is not my problem.

it's his.

the nice thing about divorce is, their problems are no longer your problems. their craziness is no longer your craziness. their issues are not your issues.

but you can still give them a hand up when they need it --and then move on.

that day our daughter got to meet her biological father for the first time, and that has to be some closure for both of them. only the three of us know just what that meant, and i'm not going to share that here. the point is, as i said: karma is a really cool thing. you never know just when you'll get the chance to kill the one person with kindness who was unforgiveably bad to you once --and that it will make you giddy with joy, and laughter. and for just one minute, time stops, rolls back, and people are alive again all around who have been dead for years.

that's a pretty cool occurrence, all in all. i'd recommend it to anyone.

(for r*'s version & p-o-v, check out her blog here. )

Monday, July 23, 2007

midsummer finds

these were taken by my hubby atop a mountain in my home state of virginia, at the cumberland gap, specifically. will be traveling this week for a visit with relatives and to be revitalized by all the old familiar places. it'll be cooler there, a welcome respite from the heat.

here in sc, the air is still and hot as we await yet another afternoon thunderstorm. there is a hum in the air, a quickening that heightens the senses, hovers, and yet refuses to alight. it spears the calm. in the garden the bees advance like gleaners gathering beads of tranquility, spiriting into hidden pockets and disappearing under limp, curling leaves. they beg for the storm to bring its cooling effervescence, life-giving sweetness to the packed bare earth.

i move about between the buildings from early morning to late afternoon, attending to various duties, weaving wishes together to make something artful. if only for myself. as i wait, the summer beckons: don't stay in, come out, come out, the winter will be here before you know it, and you hate cold weather. i stand still, letting the countless archaic souls of this place wind throughout my heart and mind, encompassing all manner of thieving rhythms and timeless nightmares etched in rhymes down the winding paths, white with dust, my brow wrinkled to heaven. the place is timeless. it whispers platitudes in my ear, telling me "all in good time, my dear. all in good time."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

finding peace amid rapidly truncating options

Hanging out on the porch with oldest daughter Rachael, June 2007 other words, watching your big fat world shrink. there is a parallel for what has happened in my own life over the past few years or so and what is happening in the world at large. this is so often the case that i have ceased to wonder at it, and only rarely stop to comment on the phenomenon.

the health is not good. it is a result of long ago choices that were ill-conceived and momentarily self-serving. while the popular culture of my youth espoused chemical pleasures and lack of remorse, my own experience was a grueling dedication to succeed physically and mentally but with no more thought than anyone of what might be happening within my own body, that would later require a reckoning.

the same might be said of our earth. long ago, or maybe not so long ago, the world began spinning on its axis at a much faster rate. or so it seemed. we reached out across miles of wilderness to grasp at whatever we wanted. if we saw it we calculated its effect on us and made the decision to go after profit as a matter of course. we did not stop to visit other options. profit equalled progress. students of history and social systems foretold the nasty outcomes and estimated the length of time we had left to adjust our behavior to avoid them. we as a society of individuals largely ignored them, save for a few feel-good celebrations of our existence and the good of sharing the seemingly unstoppable wealth here on dear mother earth.

Delivering a water quality report to Rural Water Board Members, Barbour County, Alabama, 1987. At the time weighing about 90 lbs., funny how piling on the layers of clothing hides that so well... typical trick of the anorexic, along with wearing things that fit too loosely.

it does not matter that those of us who were aware of impending climate and societal changes that would be brought about by over-reaching on so many levels knew they were coming and tried to do something about that. we will reap what we all have sown. and that's ok in my book. it is fine to be challenged, perhaps especially by ourselves. we who foretold --if we were all that smart --should be out in the forefront, continuing to feed back to those who struggle to understand just how we are supposed to continue to function in the face of a shrinking planet's growth pains the hows and wherefores of our continued existence. we should not cease to be scientists just because it's starting to get downright wicked and hot up there in the crow's nest, and because the mists of doubt and distaste that are rolling in obscure the horizon that was clear not so very long ago. we now see what we foresaw --what makes that so difficult to discern? we must now see beyond that horizon, and press on to the future that awaits.

i welcome that extreme of categorical oblivion. it is true that some of us see bliss in the hardest press of faith. to us the journey is the most pleasant option --to hell with the outcomes. when we find ourselves struggling with the present, we know that if we look up and outward, we will find the present disintegrating and our future ahead of us once more. continued effort will only yield a difference. it is up to us to choose whether to press on, or to succomb to our own ineptitude and lack of vision.

to apply this to myself is my own personal challenge. the damage wrought in youth by ignorance and inattention to my health at times just kicks my ass. lupus is a disintegrating disease. i refuse to acknowledge the damage without a hefty dose of envisioning renewal. that philosophy is largely what has kept me going forward... and has kept me largely able to deal with this drug-free. the time may soon come when i will have to consider those options. i am searching for ways to continue to avoid them, and am presently considering a somewhat radical change in my activity pattern.
Age 26, 87 lbs. and hanging over the edge. Note the loose-fitting clothing trick.

so for now, more palatable to me than drugs is facing my propensity to overdo and undereat. for the past ten years i have avoided strenuous exercise because of the rush of adrenaline and appetite suppression that accompanies it. i know these are learned psychological reactions, not normal ones, but apparently these do not go away even after years of therapy and healthy eating. in past years whenever i have picked up ballet and modern dance exercise the weight always plummets. this was the trick i used in youth that kept me hovering between 88 and 93 lbs until i was over 30. and my doctors eventually convinced me that "you can kill yourself alot quicker by not eating than by overeating. you need to get used to what you consider fat --and embrace it." so i did, so that hopefully my children would still have a mother when they graduated from college. i haven't weighed myself in over a decade, since i threw away the scales. and my husband, the gourmet, assures that i eat wholesome, regular meals regularly, watching constantly for signs of avoidance like ribs and hip bones that look more like sticks and plowshares than the inner supports for a human being. with his help i have been able to survive and care for my children.

Precious moments

but i am heavier and softer than i can possibly stand --even with all the mental tricks I can utilize --or can reconcile even given my warped sense of what is and is not "fat," and i believe the stress on my legs and the circulation problems that are being exhibited must be aggravated by the extra weight and lack of muscle tone. ok, we are probably talking about less than 10 pounds here. to some that is laughable. but i am a tiny person, and the niggling suspicion driven by daily pain is, shouldn't i do something? and perhaps it isn't the weight so much as the tone. my arms feel like pudding, my legs are starting to look like my 75-year-old mother's --fine for her, untenable for me. surely a moderate amount of exercise, beyond the walking and stretching that i allow myself to do, would help. so the question now is, how to find middle ground? it is easier to understand how to solve the world's consumption problems than my own. i find i have no knowledge whatsoever of what constitutes middle ground in an exercise regimen. this is exacerbated by the fact that when i work out, i have no sense of time or stress. i am carried aloft by the chemicals my own body generates that are akin to a dose of methamphetamine for an addict. i know when that happens i will swallow it whole and press on until i can feel nothing but the light and air that surrounds me. and so it is only afterwards that i may realize i went too far, and by then the damage has been done. this happened so much in the past that i can ill afford to do any more damage, and so i stopped exercising, rather than collapse one day before my kids were grown and still needed me.
Dance class, 1983.

so my prayer today is for middle ground. i don't believe this is the answer for the earth --i believe that concerted effort toward conservation and cutting back on economic fortitude is the only thing that will stem the tide of environmental backlash. but i could be wrong... in that, too, the answer may be "everything in moderation," as it seems to be in my own life, and so often is the case. then again, the answer could be in the definition of what constitutes "middle ground." perhaps that might be found by looking at the earth overall --in which case, extreme measures should still be taken by the most developed countries, so that the overall result the world over is moderation, buffering, slowing down to a less dizzying pattern of growth, renewal, and faith in the future --reaching toward the light, yet never losing conscious contact with our feet upon the ground.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

hanging out, letting loose

the last month has brought some new challenges and opportunities, many of which i could not have undertaken had i solely remained in my professional career as a certified land use planner. i have become increasingly involved in the media as a writer and editor for Project Laundry List's Hanging Out! newsletter, in which capacity i find myself --finally, where as a geographer i feel i always belonged, but as a land use planner was prevented from doing so - in the middle of the environmental movement. yes, you may think it odd that a planner is 'not allowed' to embrace environmental ideals and apply them. after all, isn't it the mission of planners, and written in the aicp code of ethics, to 'have special concern for the long-range consequences of present actions' and 'pay special attention to the interrelatedness of decisions' and moreover, 'to conserve and preserve the integrity and heritage of the natural and built environment'? actually, the old, pre-2005 code had stronger language than was watered down by apa in march of 2005. i tried to preserve the foregoing, but was stymied again and again by the people who signed my paychecks. over time, it became impossible to reconcile what i knew was right with what i was observing on the ground. i became no more than a cog in the wheel of constant permitting; my body of environmental knowledge was not only not sought, it was not wanted. it is the main reason i left the profession in june of 2005.

The issue of line-drying laundry unfortunately became a symbol of poverty sometime in the past 30 years in America, and has therefore been banned or severely limited in thousands of communities and homeowner's associations. this, even though there are many of us who associate line-drying with nostalgic childhood memories of home, not to mention the sweet smell of sunshine-drenched towels and bed linens. as a planner, i had been frustrated for years being caught between ordinances and the public too many times, seeing the regulations enacted by short-sighted organizations and public officials chopping away at the roots of citizens to live their lives --and care for their homes and property as they saw fit --one invasive, prohibitive sentence at a time. the covenants adopted by myriad homeowner associations are in many cases outright authoritarian and extremely restrictive to the point of being fascist, in my humble planner's opinion. many of these restrictions are hidden in the back pages of monumental layers of paperwork signed by buyers in the midst of the excitement of owning the property, and are not discovered --or actually read --until a representative knocks on their door, alerting them to an "aesthetic problem." these can range from the location of vegetable garden plots to the size and construction materials of doghouses, to the outright prohibition of laundry lines.

in retrospect, i am glad i had the experience of seeing the wheels of government turning from the inside out. i can verify the suspicions of many: that government does not serve those it was designed to protect, it caters to the wealthy. but not in the way many think - it is an inefficient mechanism for big brotherhood. that honor belongs to big business, who merely assures that the regulatory and political yes-men are in place to approve and give credence to their greedy outcomes.

but all this is happily undergoing change, which i have been shouting about now for years to anyone who would listen. people thought me a charming cassandra, they would pat my head and say, 'there, there. don't get so upset. it'll never get that bad.' but i knew that it would. my educational background as a geographer was either completely invalid or the mighty were going to run smack up against mother nature at some point. and see, i was right. so glad i am now in a position to lead people to the answers they are so desperately seeking now. all around us, people are wondering what to do. not to worry --most are simple changes. like hanging out laundry. raising a flock of chickens. planting a garden. looking for new value in the simple things in life - writing a poem, going for a walk, reading to your children. i saw a group of neighbors last week doing something i'd not seen for ages: playing horseshoes, outside, on a weekday evening. bravo - much to be preferred over electronic evening entertainment of any sort.

i wonder if the homeowner covenants in their neighborhood have anything to say about that.

Friday, March 23, 2007

things of note

best i can do today is pass on for your edification & perusal some things i am totally embroiled in & consumed by at the moment... too much so to really comment right now. so much to learn, so little time!

the first time i voted for al gore was when he was running against clinton for the democratic presidential nomination. i was devastated when he dropped out. and i read & actually admit to owning a copy of "earth in the balance." but that's old history.
Emotional Return to Congress for Al Gore

Here's another spin on same:
The Goracle

Go get 'em, Al.

Jim Kunstler has condescended to go round & round with me on some things (notably his yankee ethnocentrism on inhabitants of the southern united states), but when writing on the end of oil, he's right on target. His recent Orion article demonstrates:
Making Other Arrangements

Project Laundry List - National Hanging Out Day is April 19th!

No Impact Man - "A guilty liberal finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nazi, turns off his power, composts his poop and, while living in NYC, generally turns into a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, four seasons-loving wife along for the ride..." You gotta love a guy who jumps in with both feet. Experiential (also called experimental) archaeology at its best.

and alongside that:
The Compact - just click thru and read... and read... and read...

The Forest Stewardship Council's FSC Certified Paper program: or, how to use paper and save the forest at the same time. still trying to figure out how this works.

and last but certainly not least:
carbon offsets - only the latest in the "if i pay enough i can make my conscience cleaner" anti-logic that brought us PDR's, TDR's, and Wetland Mitigation Banks:
Another Inconvenient Truth

Monday, March 05, 2007

spiritual recourse

Lots of interesting items in the inbox from the past few days. i could wax poetic on more than a few, but for lack of time to pontificate i'll just drop these here and expound upon them later:

Distributism - ran across this in a list of replies to an article on the Myth of Organic Farming, in Business Week. The poster said, "Look it up." I did. Wow. So this philosophy I've been developing all by me lonesome for the past 15 years has a name, I'm not the first one to think of it, and I'm not crazy? OK, maybe I am, but so are some other people. Take a look. I'll write (alot) more on all the thoughts this intelligence provokes soon.

Keep the Chickens Out of Cages- this is totally a no-brainer for anyone who raises chickens. I mean for those of us who actually RAISE chickens, not build a big metal building just over the hill and cram 118,000 birds inside it. As Page Smith explains in the marvelous work, The Chicken Book, the history and the ultimate fate of the human race is inextricably tied to that of Gallus domesticus. We are what we eat, fellas.

Don't fence us in!

Which leads me to...

New Study Details Devastating Effects of Eminent Domain Abuse on African Americans
“Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and politically powerful,” concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her new report released today titled, “Eminent Domain & African Americans: What is the Price of the Commons?”

'Nuf said. But don't say I didn't tell you so.

Rethinking Suburbia - Neighborhoods that once held the suburban dreams of many have become havens for crime and the all-too-familiar problems of the inner city...

um.... duh.

this is why whenever i see a 800 to 900K, 7,000 sf home in the 'burbs being built by mexicans i think to myself, "nice apartment building."

what goes around just keeps spinning 'round.

School of Rocky
You know, the most interesting part of this whole story is, the guy seems to be doing an Al Gore (as in, no thanks, i'm not running, i've got more important things to do. things that will actually make a difference one day). That's 'cause when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, and you can take only so many fleas.

Sustainable Cities
ahem... if that isn't an oxymoron.
the only thing keeping me from writing more on this obvious silliness is the worry that in their haste to be chic and politically correct, that Cities will do to 'sustainable' what WalMart and Dean Foods did to 'organic' and Public did to 'education'.
you can't make black into white by painting over it --you'll only get grey. you have to remove the black and start over.

on a lighter (and perhaps saner) note:
I missed the weekend Field Day at Georgia Ladies Aside, but I hear it was a "really, fun, windy, time!" Aside, IMHO, is the only way to ride, if you are of the gentler persuasion, and a student of history as well. "life's too short not to ride aside."

And finally...

BBC Three's new show: Kill It, Cook It, Eat It This is so awesome. I don't know where to start. Why don't we have shows like this over here on the stupid side of the Atlantic? My dh is all over this --elbowing the vegans out of the way, he'd bark, "Thanks, I'll have your share!" This from a guy who names all the cows we pass on the highway: "Lunch, Filet, Au Jus..." and whose favorite Christmas gift one year was a genuine old-fashioned southern country ham. I thought he was going to take it to bed with us. Needless to say, he's a master with the chicken knife. I just get to pluck.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


well, girls (and guys).... drum roll, please!

Today I finished The Novel.

Well, ok, so I finished the First Draft. But, you've got to understand... it's only taken me since the fall of 1988.... that means it's been a whopping 18-1/2 years I've spent on this. So at least let me take a deep breath and say "whew."

Enny hoo. It's off to the primary editors, namely family and friends who've promised to sharpen their red pencils and give me good criticism. Hopefully it won't be another 18 years before I've worked thru all that.

Will keep you posted, as always.