If you’ve followed my blog very long, you’ve probably seen mention of the fact that I grew up on a farm that’s been in my family for seven generations. It’s a big part of why I write about Appalachia and have such strong nostalgia for the past. Today I thought I’d share a new poem reflecting on a piece of that history . . . SEVENTH GENERATION How many greats does it take to reach back into the days when a cousin named Electa rode a broke down old horse four days across the mountains to find her wounded brother? A great plan indeed. The bullet broke the bone and lodged there. He ought not to have lived, but he said no Rebel bullet would kill him. So, instead of dying, he sang songs. Surely there was a rock of ages and a sweet hour of prayer, blessed assurance and great is thy faithfulness. Electa found him. Nursed him and brought him back a way that seemed familiar now. Today, paved roads hide that trail. Houses and cars a great washing up of flotsam in the wake of the past. Standing here, on land that’s been passed down and down and down, it’s easy to count back from seven. It’s easy to imagine that I, too, might manage something great.
Five years ago today my first full-length novel released. On the Sunday before, I held a launch party at my church with a reading, book sale, beans & cornbread supper, bluegrass music, and even some square dancing. It was pretty awesome. And not just because I was finally an honest-to-goodness author. It was wonderful because of the people who came and the way they supported me in celebrating my dream-come-true. Here’s what I wrote on this very blog five years ago: “In Appalachian Serenade Delilah realizes that family is something deeper than blood kin. My FAMILY gathered around yesterday evening and we had a celebration. There was church family, work family, neighborhood family, friends family, family family–and it was one of those times when I felt love wrapped all around me like a soft blanket on a cold night.” Much has happened since then. Some of the dear friends who joined us that night have passed on. Both of my parents now have health issues that prevent them from traveling to NC. We have new friends who have become like family. And yet, some things are the same. Most significantly the love and support of my extended family which now also includes author friends and reader friends. It kind of makes me want to have a party and invite you ALL. Hmmmm. I’ve got another book releasing in November. I might do just that . . .
The hero of my next story is Colman Harpe. I chose the name Colman for two reasons–first, he’s inspired by Jonah (the one swallowed by the whale) and both of the names–Jonah and Colman–mean “Dove.” The second reason is that I grew up knowing a fellow named Coleman Ware who was a local fur seller. Dad took him many a hide for a little extra cash and had quite a few Coleman stories in his repertoire. I even wrote a poem about him. COLEMAN WARE His house, as knock-kneed as he, holds to the hillside with claws buried in the flesh of a mountain. He kills for a living, steel-jawed traps have tongues quicker than the black snake coiled beneath the shed thriving on spilled guts. He opens the bellies of his liveliehodd with a flicking blade and a line of talk that flows sinuous, like blood. He piles hides in a corner. Case-skinned, hollow animals lack only heads and feet; lack only claws and teeth. Wiping death from his knife on a dirty pant leg, he cuts into an apple. Slicing chunks of fruit against a steady thumb he eats from the blade as one who knows how all our stories end.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of teaching at the WV Writers Conference in Ripley, WV. The last time I was at Cedar Lakes Conference Center I was attending Conservation Camp and I was 11 or 12-years-old. It was even better being there this time around! In addition to leading some classes, I got to take some. One was led […]
Memorial Day is a day set aside for remembering those who have died in the service of our nation. Originally, it was proclaimed in honor of the Civil War dead by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The order became official on May 5, 1868, and was first observed on May 30 of that year. Memorial Day has also been called Decoration Day because it was the tradition to decorate the graves of those who died in the war. The day was moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 to ensure a three-day weekend. In 2000 a resolution was passed to try and help remind Americans of the true meaning of the day. Signed by Pres. Bill Clinton it includes the statement: “Encouraging individual department and agency personnel, and Americans everywhere, to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.” So I encourage you at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to stop whatever you’re doing and say a prayer of thanks for those who have died to protect us and for those who are, even now, willing to do so.
Monday is Memorial Day–the unofficial start to summer. And in Appalachia it means time to start planning for Decoration Day. Usually held on a Sunday in June, this is a day when cemeteries would be tidied and flowers placed on the graves. I’m not talking about those silk monstrosities either. I’m talking roses and daisies and mountain laurel. Maybe some […]
I still have to work hard to resist them. The catalogs filled with beautiful, full-color images of corn and strawberries and squash and green beans . . . The displays of candy-colored seed packets at the store . . . I don’t even have a garden. Oh, sometimes I grow a pot of tomatoes on the porch or plant some herbs in the flower bed, but I don’t have a place to grow rainbow blend carrots no matter how gorgeous they are in that picture. All clean and perfectly straight. The problem is, I know all too well how wonderful fresh garden produce is. And it’s been long enough that I’ve mostly forgotten the agony of weeding, harvesting, and putting up. So when the catalogs start rolling in and the displays start going up, I begin to have delusions of grandeur. I can envision glossy, yellow ears of corn; watermelons that split open with a satisfying crack; and multi-hued peppers hanging like Christmas ornaments. Bush beans, sugar snap peas, heirloom tomatoes, and baby lettuces wilted in a little bacon grease. Oh, the seed companies have my number! When we were kids, Dad would sometimes let us choose something to grow in the garden. One year it was popcorn (which didn’t do well at all!). I always wanted watermelon, but the only time I remember it growing satisfactorily that far north was when we pitched rinds over the fence and the […]