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OMG It's September

El Salvador!

Here's the crew with whom I dug a septic tank all last week.
Another great trip to El Salvador with my Habitat Charlotte buds. Once again I am amazed at the resilience of the Salvadoran people, their generosity of spirit, and good and open hearts. In short, we here in the U.S. have everything and they, by our standards, have little. It's 20 years since the end of a brutal civil war and memories of their personal losses are still fresh and yet they are a positive and hopeful people. It is a pleasure and gift to work together with them for a few short days, helping to make the world a better place if only for a small handful of folks. Showing up there, it feels to me, does matter. And that is reason enough to go. (Click on the Photo Essay tab above for more pictures.) Read More 
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FEBRUARY WORDKEEPERS!

The next Wordkeepers salon is Saturday, February 18, at the Ashe Arts Council, 303 School Street. Henry and Scot will warm the crowd up with their singer-songwriter magic at 3:00 p.m. At 4:00 p.m. writers will begin the open mic readings. Refreshments will be provided. For February's Wordkeepers, writers should email Julie Townsend at finally@skybest.com to reserve your open mic spot. I will miss this month's salon because I'll be in El Salvador with my Charlotte Habitat for Humanity crew. Pictures will follow! Read More 
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Christmas Day

Self portrait, Christmas on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For Christmas day doings, Henry and I packed up an outdoor dinner. For those of you familiar with the Blue Ridge Parkway, we went to Julian Price Park, hiked the Boone Fork Trail (about 5 miles) and then cooked out our noontime Christmas meal.

Boone Fork is a great trail. It's got a good bit of variety down through a gorge and along river and stream. There's also a high meadow and beaver-made wetlands. Clearly recent heavy rains have done some wash-out damage, but it's still a good trail. When there's no snow like Christmas this year, I recommend gaiters. I got my pants pretty muddy. But then I always seem to manage to do that...

Our menu was a buffalo steak (a "Cowboy" steak, bone-in ribeye, to be precise - from our friends at wildideabuffalo.com), baked potatoes (pre-cooked the night before) and a pop-top can of corn. We also had bright green-iced cupcakes, which we actually ate first because we were too hungry after the hike to wait for the main course to get done! Needless to say, the food was excellent. It was good to cozy up to the cook fire in the grill, too. Temps were in the low 30s so we cooled off from the hike pretty quickly. Read More 
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Wordkeepers!

Anna, Luis & Chris at Wordkeepers.
What a fabulous day today at Wordkeepers in West Jefferson. Fellow writers Scot Pope, Julie Townsend and I started the Wordkeepers salons last year. We thought the annual Night of the Spoken Word, through the Ashe Arts Council was always such a big hit that there was probably an audience and a wide group of writers who would be game more often than once a year. We were right.

So, now, every other month we get together at the Arts Council with local writers and avid listeners to hear the latest work. From a handful of people at last year's first Wordkeepers, we've grown to a dandy crowd.  Read More 
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Tree Spirit

The house we live in is a local treasure. It was architect-built in 1960 in the Frank Lloyd Wright genre, so, there are lots of cool things about it and in it. We have many large windows in the public spaces, gorgeous ceilings of Douglas Fir, sleek modern trim features and mahogany bookcases.

It is very modern. So, it needed, cried for, was desperate to have what? An aluminum Christmas tree -- one with a color wheel of course.

Truth is, I'd been thinking about it since I saw Dee Ann's on Facebook. She's a bona fide Christmas decorating freak and she posted a picture of her silver beauty on her page last year. By the beginning of November this year, I was thinking about Dee Ann's tree and lusting over one.

I remembered my brother and his wife at the time, Donna, had one when I was a kid. It was all sparkly and gorgeous and it had a pink light on it. I thought it was the coolest. I have even verified with Donna's sister Francine that it was, in fact, a pink colored light. I can't believe I remembered that.

I talked with the former owners who built this house and they confirmed, yes indeed, they had one of these trees displayed in the early 60s. So, see? It is destiny, fated, intended that I have one of these trees!

I ordered one up. Yes, the miracle of internet shopping. You can, indeed, find just about anything online.  Read More 
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No Joy in Mudville

My 1984 World Series bumper sticker.
Well, the Mighty Casey did not strike out last night. In fact, Miggy hit two home runs, one a tremendous blast that might well have trailed a banner behind it saying "Screw This." It wasn't enough, not nearly enough.

My Detroit Tigers took a brutal beating last night to end all dreams of going to the World Series in 2011. I won't go into all of the brutal play-by-play, a 15-5 score tells that sad tale. Suffice it to say that mistakes were made, mostly by players. A couple of bad calls by umpires only added insult to self-inflicted injury. In short, it was a total Murphy's Law game. Everything that could go wrong did. Even with Miggy's two home runs.

I have been trying to figure out this morning which hurts more -- getting the absolute shit beat out of you, or losing in a nail-biter? I'm thinking the nail-biter would be better. It lacks the humiliation factor. I kept thinking about how truly awful it must have felt to be a Tiger on the plane going home last night.

Additionally, while not a very sporting sentiment on my part, I have to admit that I hated getting beat by the Rangers. As far as I can see, the only thing good about Texas is Lyle Lovett. You can keep the rest. And knowing that W was there cheering for the Rangers (which, during his tenure with the club, he about ran into the ground) made it suck just that little hurtful bit more. The only bright spot about the Rangers is their manager. Washington surely does have a good time at games; you can see why his players want to perform for him. But all in all, I'm hoping they get their asses handed to them in the World Series.

So today I will retire my Tiger souvenirs for another year. I'll put away the pennants and the button and the cartoons and the ears from the 1984 World Series. Maybe I can talk Henry into going down to Florida for Spring Training in March... Read More 
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Wow Wildacres

What a great week at Wildacres. Thank to Mike and the whole crew. I got to eat with the staff each day, and that was a treat. Thanks also to the Blumenthal Foundation and family who make it possible for writers and artists to have this rare opportunity to work.

I made serious progress on six essays and also started a brand new top-secret project that is way out of my usual comfort zone. Look for some bits of the essays on this blog soon. And I'll be posting a new photo essay here on this site in the next few days as well. Read More 
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Off I Go

I'm just about all packed up for my Wildacres Residency. I head over there after lunch tomorrow. It's only about 90 minutes away, but from my preparations you'd think I was making a 2 week European tour.

Thanks for all the great suggestions on what to bring/not bring! I am for the most part taking your good advice. Especially in the traveling light mode. Here's what I'm bringing:

- lap top for writing (not for internet, none there);
- IPad to write other places than the cabin and to try out the Omm Writer (I will let you know how this writer's app works out);
- ratty comfortable non-public clothes;
- "chillo" (more about this another time - it's a menopause necessary);
- a small handful of books, non-recreational, related to what I'm working on;
- rain gear (meals are a 1/4 mile away). Read More 
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Help Me Out

Sorry Travis, no pets are allowed at Wildacres.
OK friends, I have a request. In a couple of weeks I'll be heading off to Wildacres for a week's retreat. It's an incredible opportunity for me - I'm the recipient of one of their residencies! Wildacres provides a solitary bit of time away from it all, in a cabin in the woods, with meals at the dining hall if you want them, and the solitude in which to accomplish something.

Here's where you come in... I've got some thinking and writing to do, as you can imagine. It's time to quit fooling around. I need to organize ideas, prioritize (and delete) projects, and outline a work plan for going forward...

Here's my request: If you were me, what would you bring along to your Wildacres residency?

P.S. In view of the many excellent suggestions I've so quickly gotten from y'all, I think I shall publish a packing list on this blog before I go! Read More 
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Platte River Sunset

Watching the sunset on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Platte River. It's about a 9:20-9:30 p.m. event this time of year. At the end of this little vid a self portrait of my younger sister and me.

Copy and paste this link to go to where the video is stored on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrALTlekeU

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