Monday, September 28, 2009

The day was well underway by the time I rolled out of bed at the crack of afternoon. Dogs restless, eyes bleary, nightgown twisted--I'm hung over from too much sleep. Fall is such a sleepy time of year, but it didn't hit me until today. The quality of the light changes, becoming more golden and somnolent.

I make a pot of lapsang souchong, steeped exactly 6 minutes--it's my special tea, different from the Middle Eastern Assam Earl Grey I drink on a daily basis. I have to drive to Asheville to find it unless I'm having formal tea at The Gallery. Don't know why I decided to drink the Sunday tea on a weekday, but it tastes like fall--tastes like a faraway fire. I go and sit on the bench looking out over my view--the dogwood is just beginning to turn over on Sol Messer Mountain.

I close my eyes then open them, focusing on the tiny bits of thistle and motes blowing through the air. It's one of those things I always look for in spring and in fall--the change of materials shuttled on the back of the wind. The wind column coming from the holler 300 feet below carries chaff stirred up by the bush-hogging in those fields. The air sparkles with seeds and small lives.

A pair of blue-tailed skinks have taken up residence on my mantle. Not sure how they got in, but I've enjoyed their company, these two small beings. Every once in a while, one will lose balance and fall, sounding like a pencil dropping. I wonder if skinks feel embarrassment somewhere in their lizardy brains. Surely, it's a cause for shame to lose footing when your prehensile toes fail to grip? I don't know why I haven't put them outside. They have poisonous tails, they say.

It's just one of those days, I guess. Sparkled and sleepy, where somewhere between Zen seeing and skink tails, you dance on the head of a pin. Alone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The God of All Blackberries appears today on Dew on the Kudzu: A Southern Journal.

Idgie was the first editor to notice my work and publish it, so I really owe her a debt. I'm not sure I would have started subbing my work had it not been for her. I've got another one coming up there soon, an all new one. And something on the next issue of Right Hand Pointing.

Lookit! I got's wild turkeys in my pasture this morning! All hens, but close enough to shoot from the front porch. Not that I'd do that. Okay, maybe if there was a tom, but only because I love the feathers.

Of course, once Max noticed them, they ran for the hills.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Well, my birthday is tomorrow and I decided to splurge big time. Hey, I'm going to be eating ramen noodles for the next five weeks, but I got's me a big rock. Actually, I got's me a lot of rocks. 20 tonnes of rocks in a great whopping truck. Yay, me!

I'm actually pretty excited. My road has been washed out so badly by the heavy rains that I've thrown the jeep way out of alignment. It's a good thing.

I think Bravo needs to do "Real Housewives of Grassy Fork." Just a random thought.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time moves swiftly now--I remember when a summer seemed an eternity. When fall came unexpected, as though it snuck up upon us. Goldenrod was always that first sign and my mother's favorite precursor to fall. She'd point it out growing on the verges of the Highway 17, big clumps of yellow. A prettier yellow I did not see until I moved to Europe and saw the fields of rapeseed blooming. Goldenrod makes me a child again each time I see it. I'm sitting in a station wagon with bumpy clear plastic seat covers--thighs sticking, wearing shorts that will soon be thrown in the attic with hopes I can fit into them again next year. If not, they'll add to the house insulation. I'll find those same shorts fifteen years later and remember that afternoon. The goldenrod blooming and my mother's face glowing in anticipation of the coming fall. Oyster roasts and hooking night trout under the dock light.

Here, it has some medicinal uses. It's an anti-inflamatory and sometimes used for kidney ailments and tonics. Though here in Grassy, the old folk tell me roots of Queen-of-the-Meadow are preferred. Queen-of-the-Meadow blooms at the same time here--same plant sometimes called Joe-pie weed (though they swear it's a different plant--it's not). Not to be confused with Meadowseet that blooms at the start of summer and is also called Queen-of-the-Meadow in some parts of the country.

Queen-of-the-Meadow (Joe-pie weed) (Eupatorium Purpureum)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I have a story up on Writer's Bloc, Rutger's University's online literary journal. It's a newish journal, only in its third issue, but I like the clean look of the thing and I appear in some good company--Roxane Gay, Michele Reale and Dennis Mahagin to name a few.

The story, "The Storm in the Park: A Flash in Five Acts," is a series of five vignettes, each telling the story of five interconnected individuals who, for various reasons, are in Forsythe Park at the same time before a storm breaks. The characters are completely fictional (though I did actually know a guy whose pets intentionally matched his carpet) with the exception of the dog...who is modeled on a much beloved dog that belonged to some close friends of mine.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Friend and noted Appalachian playwright, Gary Carden, has a clip up on his blog, Holler Notes, of his play Nance Dude--perhaps the most popular of his works. You've probably seen or heard Gary narrating documentaries on PBS and the Documentary channel if you are an Appalachia buff as I am. He's a lovely gentleman, accomplished and talented out the wazoo. (I've got a bit of a crush on him, truth be told!)

I first heard a bastardized version of the Nance Dude tale told here in Cocke County. The actual story happened in neighboring Haywood County just across the state line. I considered it a story fragment at the time and did base a short story loosely upon it. It's a archetypal tale, Medean and horrible--just the sort of thing they love here in Cocke County. So, of course, they co-opted it into their own mythos. I've been here long enough to have some of my fiction told back to me as fact--it's all part of the rich Appalachian storytelling tradition.

Here's some background from Gary's post on the Nance Dude story:

Nance Dude is a "real person" who was charged with the murder of her two-year-old granddaughter back around 1913. She was sentenced to 30 years of hard labor and was released after 15 years. She was 80 years old and came home to find that her own family rejected her. She ended up living in a one-room shack on Conley Creek in Jackson County. She remained a social outcast and was considered a witch by many of her neighbors. Her only companions were a pack of stray dogs that followed her. She supported herself by splitting kindling which she sold to "the Floridy folks." She died alone at the age of 104.
Pretty amazing, eh?

So, go visit Gary's blog and check out Elizabeth Westall performing her monologue from Gary's play. She's been performing the role of Nance for 12 years. Check out some of his other posts while you are there--he's a wonderful writer.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

blossombones is a literary e-zine that prides itself in featuring work that in some way deals with the female experience.
And, if you've been following my writing--I tend to show up more often than not in publications like this. It's not that I ever try or consider myself to be a "women's writer." But I've noticed my stories are sometimes polarizing--often by gender. The theme for Blossombones' Summer '09 is "Marked."

The narrator of Batik is a woman with hands so beautiful she must hide them in gloves. This is one way in which she is marked. I don't think I mention that she is a woman--it's one of my lesbian stories. And it's not really important that she's a woman--or a man--I'm just attracted to characters who have one uncommon and exceptional feature that stands out. And lesbians have this thing about hands. The story is about an encounter she has on the ferry crossing the Channel. She's the sort of woman I would fall hard for. Courtly and aloof.

The title of the story always draws attention. When I wrote it, the title just jumped into my head. It refers to the technique of dying cloth using wax to protect areas between dyes. The wax protects the fabric from dye, much like the woman's gloves protect her. And there is other marking going on here involving a batik design rendered in an unusual fashion.