Friday, August 27, 2010

After fourteen years of snack stealing, unrepentant repetitive barking, trash scrounging, undeserved entitlement and all around outrageous behavior--Fat Buddy has left the building.

He taught me a lot about loving life, despite health challenges--of which he had many. I liked to say that FB was the canine version of me--autoimmune disorders a-go-go and poor impulse control when it comes to all things food. I've nursed him through so many health scares that I should have been ready for this day--but I'm not. He's been my happy jester and my heart hurts.

I don't really have any words--so I thought I'd share my favorite Kipling poem--which pretty much sums up this particular moment those of us who give our hearts away know too well. And some images of what made Fat Buddy--well, Fat Buddy.

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not Helpful

I am turning into my mother’s best friend as I age. Which is just fine, since even as a teenager, I wanted to be just like this nutty woman when I grew older. She was the sort of woman who looked everywhere for her eyeglasses as they sat atop her head. The sort of woman who had a “Co-cola” with an aspirin before retiring. The sort of woman who shamelessly flaunted her idiosyncrasies. There was something not quite sane about her. The thing that made her so wonderful is that she had one of the most powerful intellects I have ever run into, then or now. It was as though she willingly decided to sacrifice her competence in the realm of everyday activities and normalcy instead of losing her intellectual cookies. I’m hoping that’s me, too.

So, today I had one of those days when I was channeling her. I forgot what day it was, showed up to my therapy appointment a day early with my shirt inside out.

As I’m walking out the door, a woman says to me, “Your shirt is inside-out.” She says this in a drive-by fashion, loudly and publicly. This is how I came to know I’d put the shirt on incorrectly and if I hadn’t been told, I would have gone about my day, harming no one and being blissfully unaware of my faux pas. And honestly, after I knew about it, I wasn’t that concerned. I am the sort of woman who wears mismatched socks and no lipstick anyway.

The point being—this was not helpful. She pointed it out in the middle of a busy waiting room as I was leaving so I’m quite sure she didn’t expect me to shuck off the shirt right then and there—though that could have been amusing and might have been an option if it hadn’t been—well—my therapist’s office full of chock full ‘o nutcases anyway. Maybe she wanted me to go to the restroom or go home and change my shirt. Really, there wasn’t much I could do about it that wouldn’t inconvenience me.

There’s a gulf of difference between this sort of person and the sort of person who fondly tucks your shirt label in or brushes lint from your lapel. She’s the sort of person, I suspect, who goes about looking for bra straps that show, slips peeking out indecently and unzipped zippers. She (because it’s almost always a woman) has made it her personal mission to seek such things out and snidely point them out. The shirt-label-tucker-inner seems to always do so in a proactive yet loving way—it’s the contact that says, “I care”. They usually do this with a self-effacing smile, too—unlike the smirking drive-by commentator on your personal appearance.

As I said—not helpful.

For my part, I reached a hand up to confirm the tag was out and replied, “No it’s not, the tag is on the wrong side.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The summer issue of Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine is out and it's a really good one. I think this is my favorite of the Appalachian themed mags and not just because they are so supportive of my work. This issue's theme is "Appalachian High" and they were kind enough to publish my coming of age story, "The Truholt Madstone".

Fred Sauceman writes eloquently about one of my favorite topics--barbecue--in his article, High on the Alabama Hog. A very interesting piece by Michael Joslin titled High Time for Change examines the changing attitudes toward birds of prey held many Appalachian folks--something I used in my story Hawk Kill. Many other great stories in this issue--so please order a subscription. ETSU produces a big, glossy beautiful magazine full of Appalachian goodness.

"Truholt" is set way back in a time before the chestnut trees died out and is about a folk cure for rabies called a madstone.


I'm very busy with the garden these days. Am going to go out there in a minute and pick corn. I have all sorts of things coming in--cucumbers, squash, beans, new potatoes, okra and fresh purple hulls. Made a pot of my momma's South Georgia garden stew. I actually associate that soup with the winter, but it's meant to be made right from the garden. Hardly even needs salt for seasoning and is heavy with corn, okra and beans. We used to use stew beef for the meat--but I had a goat haunch I needed to use up and it turned out great. So, I can honestly say I made everything in the stew from stuff here on the farm.

Yesterday was one of those odd days where it rained like the dickens in the midday sun. So violent it spat a rainbow rare and turbulent up on the mountain sky. I didn't do much but did pick blackberries--I'm getting down to the last of them. It's the right time of year "The God of all Blackberries" to make an appearance.

I'd noticed there were some tunnels under the blackberry canes that I had not put there. They were low to the ground and all the easily got to berries were gone. The only other time I'd seen something like this was at my old blackberry field that I shared with a bear and her cub. I was a bit perturbed to think I had bears visiting so close--these canes are right next to the house. Mystery solved---I heard some gawdawful snuffling--numnumnum--and it was Max. Max the blackberry eating Cocker Spaniel.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Hot enough?

I've not been keeping up with the blog--basically, the time has come when I have to make a decision about the dial-up.

So what have I been up to? Well, I've got the garden that is doing well despite the dry weather. Been taking some huge mutant straight neck squash from one of my plants. Unfortunately, I planted it too close to the giant pumpkins, so the seed will not breed true. You would not believe the size of these things--over a foot long and still green, tender and delicious just like a small baby squash. Beautiful new Yukon Gold potatoes. Corn is high and tasseling. But the varmints are eating my green tomatoes. I think it's the damn crows. It escapes me exactly why we aren't supposed to kill them. Is there anything good about a crow? But I've got bird netting that I will put up to stop that nonsense. My blackberries are bearing something incredible and I've been trying to keep ahead of them--arms scratched and bleeding. Vicious, hard-won fruit are blackberries, but I love the dark, sweet taste of them.

I've been busy. Lupus is kicking my but these days, but I refuse to let it get the best of me. I just wish walking weren't such an effort--I long to have quick light feet with no pain.

I've got a few stories to plug. Will do that in their own posts. I've been concentrating more on print journals. It's not that I think print is better than online, but I do like to keep a balance between them. Working on my Appalachian collection and getting queries out. Okay, been sort of lazy about that.

But life is overall very good, except for the health thing and the dial-up thing

It looks like I'm going to have to figure out a way to afford satellite if I want to continue to do things online. I've been saying for a while now that AT & T (aka The Evil Empire) would eventually shut us rural beings out completely and I think that time is now. It takes fifteen minutes to load my email. Further, they charge me an outrageous amount of money to make long distance phone calls. I made one long distance phone call in the past three months--to my sister--and they charged me almost fifty dollars. In this day and age of unlimited long distance, it's outrageous. I hate them. I can't afford on a fixed income to keep in touch with family and friends and I hate it that people think I'm ignoring them. I'm not. I just don't have the money to pay AT & T. If the government thinks AT &T will release their stranglehold on rural phone lines--we seem to be something of a cash cow to them--well, they are adorable.

So. If you've tried to reach me via Facebook--I cannot reply to email there. I try to reply from other places I still can use like Zoetrope, so check your mailbox and you might have a reply there from me. 24K dial-up no longer works on FB. And I have to shut down my computer every time I go there.

Hope everyone had a great Fourth. We shot fireworks off the bluff!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

It's the first time in several years that I've felt well enough to plant the garden and I've gotten off to a good start. Planted the corn too early and must reseed but everything else is going to plan. My lettuces and radishes are coming up nicely and the sugar snap peas will be breaking the surface and twining their tender vines skyward any day now.

I decided to start my trapping early and wage a pre-emptive strike against the varmints. I have one of those "Have-a-Heart" humane traps big enough to handle a good sized raccoon. Though--in my case it might be more aptly named a "Have-a-.22 caliber bullet" trap. My neighbors have the same trap, but give their raccoons to the local coon hunters. It does absolutely nothing to help the situation since raccoons teach their young where food sources are and they have excellent homing skills. You can drop a corn-loving coon off 20 miles away and he will unerringly make his way back to the place where Momma's best forage spots were taught to him as a wee kit. So, after being tormented by hounds, the PTSD-shocked beast comes back with revenge on his furry mind.

Before going all waaah-you-kilt-the-woodland-creature on me--I do eat what I kill--or make the dogs something nice. I'm not wasteful and these animals are by no means scarce here. And I find that leaving bits of dead critter relatives, strategically placed around the garden or chicken coop, sends a message. Just as they register places where easily obtained food is to be had, they also register where murderous chickens or coon-eating carrots reside.

One of the challenges in the spring, when food is plentiful, is what to bait the trap with. Some prefer catfood, others like sardines, but I use peanut butter on bread. You need something stinky and peanut butter has a pleasant odor that doesn't worsen over time.

I seem to have attracted something with a college degree. The bait has been taken and the trap unsprung several nights in a row. This last time, it made off with the bait jar (a small peanut butter jar) as well. At first I thought it got its head stuck a la Fat Buddy in the jar, but if it did so, it did this after carefully removing it from the trap. Surely getting its head stuck in the jar would cause a panic bad enough to spring the trap? But now I need to find another bait jar. Perhaps I'll use a jelly jar.

Then, I'm a little glad it hasn't sprung the trap. There are a few creatures here clever enough to do this and all are members of the weasel family with the exception of the foxes. And I think a fox is too big to get in and out of the trap without springing it. Foxes are also too clever to approach something that reeks of humans. So that leaves weasels, minks and skunks.

I haven't trapped a skunk before. There's a special procedure, I believe it involves a tarp, for extracting them. And the spotty ones are so durned cute, I'm not sure I'd be able to kill one. Weasels and minks are another matter--not cute at all and vicious animals. But at least the peanut butter is keeping them away from my kale and kohlrabi transplants and the tender things coming up.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bebe Birds

You know the post where I showed you the pictures of the birdnest with the eggs? I checked in on them tonight and they were hatching! Looks like one straggler there has "pipped" his shell. And the others are all nekkid and ugly--looking all big eyes and skin. The skin is always a little obscene looking on baby songbirds who come out not quite done yet. Not like chickens who are all furry and downy and peeping. I really want some more chickens. I really do. I miss hatching them in the closet and hearing them start to complain before they even bust open the shells. So, as soon as the weather permits, I think I'm going to pull down the old goat shed and recycle the materials into a backyard coop--close to the house so I don't have to hike up the hill like before. Just enough room for maybe six hens and a roo. Of course, then I'll want to hatch them and before I know it I'll have a yard full of chickens again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wren's Nests

Each spring they build them. Little shelters of moss, grass, twigs, but also shreds of plastic Wal-Mart shopping bags, paper towels and cellophane. Sometimes they use the discarded wool I leave out. I find locks of hair from the past groomings of long dead dogs, much beloved. Cozy little wreckages. Twisted heaps of memories. Baskets of the forgotten and thrown away. All done up with a hole in the middle, ready to receive new life who will look at such things as the ultimate newness. Such a marvelous thing, bird nests.

These aren’t special birds, the house wrens. They are common little birds that some think of as pests. But I love having them nest on my back porch. They build these nests in every space they think might work. They lay cinnamon toast eggs in surreptitious clutches. I try to be careful not to disturb them. This year, her nest is in my tool cabinet. I was going to move that thing but now will have to wait until her babies are hatched and flying. Flown away to their own little lives.

I’ll try to give you updates on their progress. Cheep. Cheep.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Shall I write to you of food again on Fridays? Maybe. While I'm not avoiding the comfort foods of the past, I am working with some major portion control disciplines. So--I'm not eating out so much anymore unless I have someone I can say, "I'm not going to eat this--do you want it?" And the one person I do this with most often mostly eats very healthy food--so I'm not haunting the greasy spoons I used to haunt. There is this place in Oak Ridge the Goat Yoda told me about I've been wanting to check out though.

But I'm dropping pounds, so it's worth it. And I'm not exactly giving up things. I'm using Julia Child's philosophy of just enjoying small portions of the best available. With me and the steroids, it's more like tiny, minuscule portions to have success.

I've also been reading food writing. This, Bourdain, Zimmern and The Food Network seem to hold my attention when I can't actually eat as I would wish.

I picked up a copy of Isabel Allende's remarkable book of aphrodisiacidal (I think I just made that word up) recipes and memories, Aphrodite, A Memoir of the Senses, kept me rapt throughout my vacation just past. I've always loved Allende's writing--it's rich in sensual metaphor and ripe with tactile promises. So I wasn't surprised her food book zeroed in on the rope that binds together sex and food.

The thing about truly good food writing is that it's not so much about the food (well, it is but it isn't!) as it is about the connections between humanity, society and food. The breaking of bread, the communion of souls, the licking of mousse au chocolat from the tender spot behind a lover's knee. That's what makes for beautiful food writing--and Allende does this so well, diving into intimate anecdotes from her life. Including the tip to make sure that chocolate mousse is on you--so you don't have to absorb the calories!

It's not a new book, but I missed it when it came out in the late '90's. I think I picked it up at McKay's, Knoxville's big second hand bookstore, but I think now that I've read it, it's a "must have". And it does have recipes--excellent ones. They are all very simple, but elegant. All using very fresh ingredients, perfectly seasoned and clearly influenced by Allende's Chilean heritage. Nothing too heavy, but everything fraught with suggestion. Also very basic--so it's an excellent book for newlyweds who can't boil water, bachelors looking to impress the objects of their affections and 20-somethings lost in the kitchen. And so much fun to read.

I'm tackling M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating next.

A recipe for today is something not in Allende's book, but something I recently rediscovered. It's a salad dressing, pasta sauce and spread. My sister served us Caesar salad while I was visiting her recently and I remembered how much I enjoyed this. It's very garlicky so everyone must eat it if kisses are to be had.

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

1 large clove garlic
1 large egg
Dash of salt
Cracked pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh is best!)
About 3/4 cup Pompeian (or some other good olive oil--this is my favorite) olive oil

I make this with my stick blender but you can use a regular blender. Put all ingredients except the olive oil in your mixing cup (or in the blender) and pulse until creamy. Then, with the blender going, drizzle the olive oil in until it becomes thick. Not too thick as then you have a mayonnaise and the olive oil will make it solidify in the fridge to a spread anyway. Then toss your salad, pasta or put out to dip bread in. Also good for making garlic bread.

In other news...Fat Buddy's back legs are beginning to move! He's discovered that being paralyzed puts him at a distinct disadvantage when food is around to be begged for. It's so pitiful watching him drag himself around when food is in the offing, but also strangely funny. He bitches and complains about everything, but he's determined to get his legs back if only to steal a few more snacks.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I've gotten a bit lazy with my writing, I think. I've been working on edits and collections, but no new material. I think it's time I remedy this, but I started a story yesterday and found myself struggling. It's a new feeling. I've never been one of those people who believed in "writer's block". Have always maintained it's just laziness and can be remedied by discipline. But I've never felt at a loss for tales before and now I'm wondering... So. My plan is to come back here. Here where it all started with an exercise in discipline using this blog. I'm going back to daily blogging to fight off this ennui. And I'm going to try to pick up reviewing again on Zoetrope. So there.


Yesterday and the day before were the sort of glorious spring days in the mountains that make one glad one lives here. Visually, it's an orgy of brightness, color and contrast. Out in the deep woods, you can see the white blossoms of the serviceberry trees dotting the mountains. Rarely do you see them on the verges of the roads as they used to grow here. But if you mark the location of those white blossoms and return in mid to late summer, you'll find the dark, sweet fruit. If the birds don't get them first, that is.

The other tree that is so lovely to look right now are the Bradford pear trees. They've planted those fruitless pears as landscaping--managing to breed out the quality of the tree that makes them yellow-jacket traps later in the season. No fallen fruit to clean up. It seems counter-intuitive to me--to make a fruit tree that has no fruit. That is only good for it's visual appeal. But we do that with people all the time, don't we? Ignore the hidden, intrinsic values in favor for that which is pleasing to the eye. We are odd creatures.

But they haven't been able to rid those pears of their stench. In fact, I think these pretty pear trees are even stinkier than their fruited cousins. There's this dramatic stand of pear trees just on the other side of the dump past the bridge where they dump the stocker trout. Cor! What a pong! Absolutely stunning, but stinks of rotting meat. It would be too much to ask for them to smell of hyacinths or peonies.

At least the pears are partly honest. Not their fault for being barren. Peonies are the true liars. Lovely and sweet smelling, but harboring the troubled darkness of nightshades.

Friday, March 26, 2010

There is this ad playing ad nauseum on one of the local top 40 radio stations that's been setting my teeth on edge. Every time it starts, I switch over to NPR's Begathon. It's so incredibly east Tennessee.

A young woman's quite reasonable voice interrupts my listening pleasure of Lady GaGa with:

Be famous...for God!


She goes on to explain that I might not be happy with the current role models coming out of Hollywood and that if I think I can do anything...any old thing at all along the lines of singing, dancing, modeling--maybe yodeling that I should show up for this enormous cattle call for a Christian talent agency. (Which is all fine and dandy except this so isn't how this is done.) So...

Be famous...for God!

She tells me Christian actors and models are taking Hollywood by storm! It's revolution! (Obviously the invasion hasn't begun, or they'd know by now exactly how many days of LA sunshine it took before their Christian soldiers were snorting coke off a 21 year-old blond's firm buttocks. I swear, there's something in the bean sprouts out there...)

God evidently wants me to be famous. I wonder if God has his own photographer that He will insist I use for a modest fee of around 800 dollars. Or if God runs His own acting/modeling school on the side He might insist I enroll in. I wonder what sort of signing fees God is charging these days? And what's His cut?

I think this is Porn & Donuts fodder for sure--right up there with the Christian sex toys trade.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

...a real shitstorm is brewing.

I often wonder about the karma thing. It seems to make an awful lot of sense in my case. I've noticed that positive experiences are usually followed by horrid ones of equal or greater magnitude. Strangely though, the converse is not always true. You can have horrid events any old time and there doesn't seem to be a need for something happy or lovely to happen to balance them out. I desperately long for a mediocre, uneventful life.

I haven't updated in a long time, I know. I had the most fabulousest vacation down to the Lowcountry ever. I got to see my brother and sister, walk out on the dock, eat lots of local seafood, hang out at the Oyster factory and even drove up to Charleston to see the Angel Oak. It was so special and I felt restored, healed and so many other wonderful things. I probably have some stories to tell--the Bambipocolypse, for one.

But...I don't know...things just went south real fast when I got home. Bad things. Really bad things beyond post vacay blues. I can't really get into it all, but Fat Buddy is paralyzed in his hind end and he's hard to lug around, I'm sick, exhausted and so depressed I don't know what to do with myself. And of course the effing insomnia. You know, I need lots of rest after a major exertion and the vacation was certainly that. It just doesn't take much to send me over the tipping point. I can't sleep--when have you ever known me to update the blog at 7 a.m.? Now I've got the mother of all kidney infections. All I really want is to curl up by myself. I vant to be alone...

Have you ever noticed that when people know you want to be alone and you are pretty clear about it and it's a sort of dire need that it's like cats and the people who hate them? They understand you want to be left alone--but they seem irresistibly drawn to getting one last word in. Or one more tchotchky dusted. (Yes, dear, I'll be leaving this room as soon as I ...) But I've always been this way. It's the most canine thing about me. Like old Fat Buddy. He's totally acting like everything is OKAY. Except his hind legs don't work and he can't walk. (I'll steal snacks without any legs!) The more wounded a dog is, the more he wants to spend that time with himself. That's how I am.

And really, all that last word, whether it's comfort or condemnation , is going to do is prolong my suffering. I just need to curl up in my hidey-hole until I can work it out for myself. Don't worry. I'll come out eventually.

Either that or you'll find me here dead with some very obese cocker spaniels.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 up on Dew on the Kudzu. You may read it HERE.

I hope you enjoyed it. I need to write more short story length work. Flash is so addictive, satisfying like dark chocolate, that it's hard to give up.

I have a cold. A bad one. I'm pitiful. I've been awfully sick many times in my life. The thing about being seriously ill is that you don't care about things. You lose interest in everything that is important to you. And because of that--you feel very numb, even in the midst of unbelievable pain and physical trauma. What's what's so sadistic about the common rhinovirus, is it makes you feel like you imagine you would feel if you were dying. Sort of an imaginary sense of dying--but trust me--dying doesn't feel nearly this bad. It's scarier, but not nearly as miserable. This, they should put me in a coma for.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

...on Dew on the Kudzu.

"The Ghosts are Dancing" is a story I wrote some time ago loosely based on the flood of 1972 that struck the Hartford/Grassy Fork area. It's a long one, so Idgie has been running it through the month of February. Would of let you know sooner, but I forgot it was out there and scheduled to run.

It runs each Monday. Here are the links to the past three installments:

The Ghosts are Dancing: Part One

The Ghosts are Dancing: Part Two

The Ghosts are Dancing: Part Three

There should be another one tomorrow.

This flood weighs heavily in the minds of everyone who lives here and lived through it. Everyone has vivid memories of it and I collected many of the stories from local residents to get a feeling for what it must have been like. The flood wiped out every single bridge in the area. Livestock washed away ten miles from where it lived. They say it was a freak rainstorm that hit "The Gulf" and washed everything away down Big Creek.

The title comes from the Cherokee myth of their great flood story. It's one of the more haunting stories from their mythology--with one of the most evocative images. I chose to begin the tale with it:

This was what the old women told me when I was a girl. The dog came to the man and said, “Build a boat for a great deluge is coming.” So the man built the boat for his family to ride out the great storm. The water rose until it covered the tops of the mountains. When the waters receded, the man and his family built a fire in celebration. They heard in the night, drums beating in the distance. They went to look, happy others survived the great flood. But all they found was a great pile of human bones and they realized--the ghosts were dancing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I have a story just up on the new issue of Up the Staircase. "Tandava" was inspired by the deceptively sweet looking canine (I say sweet looking, but you can clearly see he has mischief on the brain) above. Well...him and a host of relationships I've had that eventually, literally, went to the dogs.

Dogs in stories are like dogs in movies or dogs on stage or dogs just about anywhere. They steal focus. Everyone loves a dog story. You just can't help it---dogs make stories that make you smile, cry, laugh or react in a purely visceral manner. Cats are more thoughtful, subtle story devices. You know they are up to something, you just never figure out exactly what. Dogs, though--dogs are obvious, wysiwyg animals. Their pratfalls are almost always slapstick and foreshadowed.

But the coolest thing about dogs is that when one is your friend, you always have a willing conspirator. A being who will goad you on to do your worst--and unerringly say you are the very best, most brilliant, most sublime person on the face of the earth, whatever foolishness you have just committed. Whatever egg is drying on your face. Whatever lover has just walked out of your life. The dog will still be there. Wondering if you taste like chicken.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I wake up this morning to 50 mph winds and blowing snow. It's already snowed more this year than it ever has since I came here seven years ago. Of course, I'm in the tiny little tail of this storm that is wagging over the NC/TN border.

I have always loved the winters here. There's a certain Zen beauty to the bareness of the mountains. The stark gray-green forests--misty, linear outlines marching steadily toward a vanishing point. Who knows what's beyond that? Some dark glade where In the Hall of the Mountain King is playing softly and a troll gnaws on a human femur, no doubt.

Friend Scott used to get dreadfully depressed here during the winters. He would be full of dark stories and imagine "Three-Toe"--the monster purported to live in his dreary little holler--scraped at his bedroom window. The mountains always have a little bit of magic, whatever time of year--sometimes dark, sometimes whimsical, always dangerous.

But even I am not immune to the darkness this winter has wrought--I find myself trapped in my little cabin as the snow piles up outside thinking dark, Friend Scott thoughts. Okay, not exactly Friend Scott thoughts--he's always so over the top about everything and I'd need to be seriously depressed to get that dark. But I do wonder sometimes if there is an end to this cold. I can't envision the warmth of spring or the apple blossoms at Carvers. I feel like throwing a fit. I feel like raging at the sky. I feel like the end is nowhere in sight and serious magic must be brought to bear to end this frigid winter.

Friday, February 05, 2010

I don't know anyone who drives a Toyota but I can only imagine how awful it must be to be looking at your mild-mannered Japanese import turned serial killer in your garage--wondering when it's going to cut you up into tiny pieces and stuff you in its trunk. It must be very stressful to have one of these cars about now.

I go pick up my paper down the driveway today. I'd taken a drive because we were without power for most of the day (I know, big surprise). I was cold. It's Thursday's Newport Pie Hole--it's delivered late in the day and The Pie Hole isn't all that urgent a paper that it's important for me to read it hot off the press. It's a dish best served cold. And a little soggy. Of course, Newport would put it's own spin on the Toyota thing.

The headline reads:

Accelerator blamed
Toyota hits Manes Funeral Home

Yes, that's right. A 2008 Camry LE ran amuck on the streets of Newport and of all the places it could have attacked, it chose the funeral home. Ran itself right into the lobby.

Of course, it could have been much more serious. There could have been a casket with a body the car hit, throwing the body up into the air so it landed in a crowd of horrified mourners. The immediate family might have screamed out the deceased's name and the funeral directors would be so shocked that their pleasant expressions might have slipped. Finally, the evil, possessed vehicle might have come to rest right in the middle of a "Jesus Calls" floral arrangement--it's spinning wheels spraying crushed mums and lilies all over the place. None of that happened, of course. But it could have.

The driver is okay so, yeah--I'm snickering a bit. It's just so Cocke County.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I've got a new story out on DecomP's new and improved site. It looks great and while I was expecting this story out in January, it's well worth the wait to be on such a handsomely designed page. I'm in good company with fellow Zoetropers Ethel Rohan, Bonnie ZoBell...and many others.

It's is one of my "ships in the night" stories. I keep revisiting that theme for some reason. There's probably some submerged psychological reason for that. I wrote the story for a dear, dear friend, who gets dearer by the day. I hope you enjoy Cold Dark Matter.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It's Turkey Day

Haven't seen hide nor hair of the groundhog that lives in the big woodpile in my pasture, but the turkey "herd" saw Max this morning (and he saw them) resulting in great flapping of wings, gobbling and outraged turkey flight. It will be six more weeks of miserable cold, drizzle and slush. Or not. I hope my firewood holds out.

The turkeys group in small groups, I've noticed, during the early fall--then they seem to gather in one huge turkey conflagration (I made that up--but it sounds like it might be right. A conflagration of turkeys). Even the white turkey I saw earlier in the season is with them. So, about forty of them were in the "bowl"--the steep hollow in front of my house.

Max jumped into the midst of them like a kid into a pile of leaves and damn, those suckers can fly! Not at all like my guineas, geese or chickens used to. I'm still left with the question as to why they are so hard to hunt when they are so careless in the road or field when I see them. I could have easily murdered one of them, even with the sights of my .22 being all messed up.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ack. Snow. Bad

I've not been keeping up lately with the blog. So sorry. I'll try harder.

Basically coming on today to tell you I'm most likely going to be disappearing from the Internet for a few days. We are expecting somewhere in the realm of 16 inches of snow here in the next 24 hours. I take it a foregone conclusion that Newport Utilities will be unable to keep the power on.

But I'm ready this time. Took an overly long hot shower. Filled the tubs with water and filled extra jugs for dog and drinking water. Pulled down the hurricane lanterns--forgot to restock candles so the lanterns will have to do. Shame, since candles give much better light for reading--the only thing to do here when power goes out. Though I do have a lot of yarn I'm spinning and will be able to do that in the dim light--and knit on my knit only projects. Light gets too dim for counting rows. I cleaned the house, since it gets impossibly dirty when the power goes out for days. Have ramen noodles, camp coffee pot and foil and potatoes to cook on the stove. A rick of wood on the porch stacked. Did the laundry so I have clean wool socks, long underwear and sweaters. Clean wool socks make me happy.

So. Here I am awaiting the inevitable blackout. It gets so cold in the house and I think I'm supposed to be stying off my feet. But I'll be schlepping firewood instead. Left leg has gone all hinky and I'm thinking clot. I'll get it looked to when the roads clear and I take the meds they'd give me in the hospital anyway so there's not much else that can be done. I don't mind the cold and snow--it's just the unreliable utilities that depress me.

I'm hoping they'll be able to keep the power on through the night, but it is Friday--aka Drunk Hillbilly Night. Every Friday people get together here to drink rottgut at people's houses--at least that was what Scott used to do. It's not actually a social event--it's just to get drunk. So that combined with the weather is going to take out a few utility poles.

But the frogs woke up twice this past week! So spring can't be that far away, can it?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Should we bleed orange while others are actually bleeding?

I'm not the biggest football fan. It's just not something I care about. In fact, when I first moved to Tennessee, I thought it damn odd they named their football team for a small rodent. I just think sports are a fun, healthful activity but a very silly thing to get worked up about. Yet, people have been violent about it throughout history.

Now, I'm not beating up on Vols fans for being upset about the Coach Kiffin thing. But you've heard me go off before on the local news--Newport Pie Hole, included. So, really, my beef is with them. They are responsible for Tennesseans, once again being nailed as insensitive, uncaring, xenophobic rubes. After all, it's not like the viewers actually have any say over the K-town affiliates breaking into the national newsfeed for everything from homey cooking shows to high school sporting results. Knoxville, like that selfish blind date from hell, just seems to think what it has to say is so much more important than what the rest of the world has to say.

I turn on the television to check the news about Haiti. Haiti is a big deal--200,000 people thought dead. It's the sort of huge news story we all need to be concerned about. It's the sort of news story that needs to be reported whether or not the viewers can bear to look without hiding their eyes. A story for responsible journalists, but evidently not for the Knoxville affiliates.

No, across the board, "breaking" news had interrupted all programming to report on Coach Kiffen's defection to USC. How it was going to impact Vols football. How enraged the students were. Blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, people are smothering under rubble in Haiti.

WTF? Knoxville? Grow a damn conscience, some balls and oh--how about a heart while you are at it. News flash. You ain't all that important in the scheme of things. In a week, no one will care about Kiffen--but people will still be agonizing over this earthquake. What the hell were you thinking?

There are things everyone needs to listen to whether or not it's the popular thing. It's your job to know the difference. Do your fucking job, already.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

For crying fucking out loud--how much longer am I expected to live in this godforsaken frozen hellscape?! Tell me. I need to know.

I think it's official. It is never going to get warm again in the American South. Not now, not ever. I think it's time we pull on our muttluks and start the mass exodus the hell out of here before the glacier covering my jeep envelopes my house.

I've not even gotten down the driveway to check the mail since I last posted. It was 10 degrees this morning. The sun is out this morning--perhaps the third time I've seen it in two weeks.

Anyway. I'm cold, broke, itchy and irritable. Thought I'd share. Muah.

Monday, January 04, 2010

I drove into town today to pick up some drugs at the pharmacy. Have been sticking pretty close to home with the cold. It's bitter--not summery or fall bitter like the pucker of a green persimmon, but winter bitter like dryness of hearth ashes long dead. There's been pitiful snow squeezed from clouds too frozen to shiver.

On the drive down, the creek is iced over and in another few days it will be solid ice. I'm attracted to those white stretches broken by violent black water. It's the contrast of it I love. Hard with liquid, dark with light, stillness with motion. The temperature sign at the bank said 19 degrees at three in the afternoon.

I didn't stay in town long--guess I wanted to get back to my warm little nest and there wasn't much to do in town at any rate. The library was packed--cold weather brings bookworms out of the ground. I've been trying to slog through The Story of Edward Sawtelle by David Wroblewski but I think it's about time I admit defeat and declare it unreadable--at least by me. It's been the book I've been keeping on my bedside table to read at night and in the morning, but for some reason my eyes just glaze over when I pick it up. Blah, blah, blah, Almondine. Blah, blah, blah. So I checked out Dan Simmons' Drood. What's not to like about Dickens and his weird personal life? It's a nice chunk of book--hopefully I'll have better luck with it.

The trip back made my day. Sorry I didn't bring my camera with me because Mt. Cammerer was covered in snow and just stunning. If I'd had my camera, I might have chanced a drive up on The Parkway to get a good pan of the mountains. It was most likely closed--the rangers shut it down at the first snowflake. But I wish you could have been there to see it--it was lovely.