Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Photos from the Appalachian Festival


Phyllis Moore took the photos below. She had some trouble with the camera, but you can still see everyone's having a great time!

West Virginia friends at the festival singing West Virginia Hills:
Maggie Anderson, MSW, Phyllis Moore, Cheryl Denise, and Sandy Vrana.

Sixteen of the seventeen writers at the 25th Emory & Henry Literary
Festival (Lee Smith had to go to her high school reunion in Grundy!)
Front row, left to right: Sharyn McCrumb, Lisa Alther, Gurney Norman,
Denise Giardina, Fred Chappelle; Middle row, left to right: Jeff Daniel Marion,
Jo Carson, George Ella Lyon, Kay Byer, MSW; Top row, left to right: Ron Rash,
John Ehle, Robert Morgan, Maggie Anderson, Michael McPhee, and David Huddle.

Banquet table at Emory & Henry: front row, Maggie Anderson,
Denise Giardina, George Ella Lyon, backrow, MSW, Ann
Olsen, Anna, Phyllis


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Returned from Old Dominion State to Garden State

September 24 in the waning hours, back in the garden state

It was a long, long drive, most of it in I-81, all those great views of green farms and Blue Ridge in the background. I listened to lots of tapes and was remarkably alert after a groggy first hour or two (see the wee hour one a.m. note below). I was fine after I had breakfast at an Omlet Shop, a sausage and egg sandwich on toasted white bread! I promise that’s the end of my very bad eating! I had a salad for lunch, and Andy made pasta with red sauce when I got home.

Five #$%!! deer waiting for me in the back yard, the young ones gamboling again. They had not been in my garden, but the slugs have-- they've eaten most of my lettuce. I have some started in pots that I hope I can save for winter and spring salads.

Someone at the conference-- I think maybe Denise Giardina-- offered to bring up a dozen friends with rifles to cull the herd and take the meat back to people who could use it back home. I like that idea! It was so good to be with someone as deeply ethical as she who doesn't see deer as Walt Disney tear jerkers but as animals who as a group would do far better with some predators in their lives.

Thirty miles from home when I got caught in a forty five minute traffic jam from a big accident, medical helicopters and the whole thing. But I’m home now, and I think the parakeet said “Taxi!” I’ve been trying to train him to call a cab or say his name or whatever that would mean.

I’ll have to do my debriefing in the morning– it was a truly wonderful conference-- moving on so many levels, to hear the voices of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia home, a few from the far south.

September 24 in the wee hours

It's after midnight, and the conference is over--what a couple of days! Utterly amazing. Lunch with Maggie Anderson, and Phyllis Moore was my dinner date for the banquet, at which we had a great time with Maggie and Anna and their friend Jeannie, and George Ella and Ann Olsen and Denise Giardina. I wish I were a real blogger like my brother-in-law-- I'd have been sitting in the readings and panels with Trusty Toshiba on my lap, noting down all the neat ideas from the religion panel this a.m, our Tall women panel (Maggie, George Ella, me, and Sharyn McCrumb), the readings-- oh my. So many conversations. Finale a generous party at Barbara Kingsolver's terrific rebuilt and expanded farmhouse. I had fun learning about the tricks of driving and writing about NASCAR from Sharyn McCrumb.

Now I have to get a little sleep before facing the enormous long drive tomorrow.

Special fun moment: WV crew having our photo taken singing "The West Virginia Hills."

Mercy upon us.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Abingdon, Virginia

September 22

I'm writing this from the Quality Inn in Abingdon, Virginia. This is beautiful rolling country, the long, long I-81 valley that runs from Wilkesbarre PA down through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. On to North Carolina? I'm here for the Appalachian Writers Festival , and we've got Fred Chappelle and Lee Smith (and Robert Morgan and Sharyn McCrumb) coming and Phyllis is here and I had dinner with Karen Morgan, that was intense, and David Huddle and his wife brought me home and breakfast today with the Dancing with God poet and George and Connie and George Ella and Joyce Dyer and Maggie-- oh this could turn into a list fast.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Travellng tomorrow

September 19

I'm off tomorrow to West Virginia and then farther south to Abington and Emory, Virginia for the Appalachian Writers Festival -- it should be a lot of fun. I'll be exhaused when I get back, and NYU starting, but always revivifying to do these things.

Monday, September 18, 2006

James Webb

September 18

Always interesting to me when people who are also writers get into politics. JamesWebb, the author of Fields of FIre, and a Secretary of the Navy under Reagan has gone democrat and is challenging the incumbent senator. I do politics too, but I'm much more grass rootsy. Maybe I just don't have the connections.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


September 17

My brother-in-law the internet guru David Weinberger always as interesting things to say about a lot of things, but this time it's about what he calls "freechasing" to rhyme with "purchasing," and it's about copyright and sampling and stealing. He's a big supporter of making things available online.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Applachia, Coalition, Voting Machines

September 16

I'm getting all geared up for my big trip next week to the Appalachian Writers Festival at Emory & Henry College. It's their 25th anniversary, and we've got a great crowd of people coming, including a lot of old literary friends of mine: Maggie Anderson (she organized a big reading/sing in NYC in like 1982 and was a writer-in-residence in Shinnston and got my mother to write); George Ella Lyon who I know from the Appalachian Writers Workshop at Hindman, plus a bunch I've met there or elsewhere: Lee Smith, Gurney Norma, Denise Giardina, Robert Morgan, Michael McFee, David Huddle, plus people I haven't met but am looking forward to: Lisa Alther, Sharyn McCrumb, Fred Chappell-- plus Phyllis Moore is coming down from Clarksburg (and will be my date for the banquet since Andy can't come!) and also George Brosi who's trying to bring copies of the Appalachian Heritage with articles about me in it.

All very exciting, and also nervous-making: what to read? How to run the panel I'm moderating, what to wear (I'm sorry, it's true! there's both late September Appalachian weather and one's interior weather: who am I projecting this time?) Have to pick which lectures to listen to as I drive down, too. I've been working on the early history of Christianity, but I have Buddhism and others as well.

On the political front: I worked for a couple of hours last night with Audrey Rowe of the Coalition and a girl scout troop on the giant 2200 piece mailing about the Coalition's Tenth Anniversary gala. I know it's about integration, but this is going to be an Event!

Also, tomorrow at Ethical Culture, we're doing a big Teach-in on the dangers of voting machines. If you aren't worried, here's a short video at U Tube that will make you get worried.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Parakeet and Tomatos

September 14

Latest photo of Taxicab and the tomato harvest, which has been late but substantial. I've been getting a large paste tomato called Big Mama and something delicious that is either Prudens Purple, Brandywine, or Black Krim. Unless it's a Cherokee Purple. I used labels with ink that washed away! I do love those big purple/red/blackish tomatoes though. The deer haven't been here in a couple of days--I think the ones we've had this year are more occasional, wanderers. Which would only be improved by them going away altogether. An article in the News-Record today about how the untrammelled herd in the South Mountain Reservation is eating any new trees and generally destroying the ecosystem up there. What we need is a nice pack of wolves in Essex County.


September 13

It's my sister's birthday today. My gift to her was the West Virginia Encyclopedia! Happy Birthday, Chrissie!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Memorials & Block Parties

September 11

Yes, it's the fifth anniversary, and I'll be speaking briefly at an event at the South Orange Library this evening, representing the Coalition, but what I'm feeling most strongly today is that it's cool and sunny and the deer ate my zucchini and we had a great block party yesterday. I've been to a bunch of them in my 19 years on Prospect Street, and this one felt the best, maybe because we didn't have one last year, or maybe because of today's anniversary. Crowds of kids and dogs and old and new friends and the limbo and the great shared food. It was the kind of event that reminds us of what ties us together as communities, what we need more of, especially in sad and dangerous times.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Freedom and the Four Freedoms

Boe Meyerson gave a talk on freedom today at Ethical Culture, and made some interesting distinctions– external coercion or no coercion from internation freedom which may be best
had through knowledge and disciplined ( an idea from the Western tradition) or through self-rule (an idea of Gandhi).

I realized as she was talking that when people wave the flag about Freedom, they want each of us to have our own emotional image of freedom, and mine is an image of myself at six bursting out of my repressive old school on a sunny June day. The sun is in my face, and wind, and I am free free free! It’s an ecstatic feeling, but of course what is happening is not that I am going wild, but rather that I am using my legs naturally, at will, to walk or skip or run, to read a book or play with my parakeet or tease my sister: a whole world of activities that I’ve been trammelled and unable to do. Sometimes, of course, we think we are free– we do exactly as we please– and we are actually doing things we are being forced to do internatlly– addictions to, say, alcohol or love. Or things we’ve been trained to do like shop.

I drifted a little, thought of the line from the song, “Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose...” And then there were Roosevelt’s rather wonderful political four four freedoms, and how long since George Bush ever imagined anything as graceful as these?

From Roosevelt’s speech Jan 1941:

“The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere in the world.

“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world.

“The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants --everywhere in the world.

“The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the wold. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”

Freedom from fear? They delight in fear as a way of controlling us.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Teachers at Ground Zero

September 8, 2006

Yesterday evening I went to a book party for a publication that I had the great privilege of helping bring to life. This book from Teachers College Press is a collection of the stories of teachers who were working in New York CIty on September 11, 2001. Some of the teachers literally had to flee with their students with ash from the collapsed buildings falling on their heads. Some had to set up four different classrooms during the coming year. There is a piece by a young woman who was a student at Stuyvesant High School at the time who, with her classmates, saw people jumping off the buildings. There is a piece by a Muslim teacher who was threatened afterwards because she wears the hijab head scarf. These are wonderfully written stories of witness, and it was my great good fortune to have been called in as a writing coach for several sessions in late 2003 and early 2004.

This is one of the most satisfying teaching assignments I have ever had. I had felt wildly useless after the attacks on the World Trade Center. I wasn't a trained EMT. I didn't have anyone close who had a direct death there. I lived near enough to see the smoking site but not to feel that I had been attacked the way my friends who lived in New York City did. So when I was called in to do workshops with skilled teachers and administrators who didn't necessarily aspire to be writers, it was frightening but deeply gratifying. Some of these pieces I had nothing to do with (the Stuyvesant student, for example, I never met till the book party). But others actually began their pieces with writing exercises I offered, and I see that many took my suggestions. There was also, of course, a two and a half year long editorial process for most of the contributors with a special editor, Maureen Grolnick, who worked long and hard. The pieces are powerful, even stunning, and I am so proud and gratified to have been even a small part of this project.

Teachers were heroes, too. And the ones who don't count as heroes (they literally saved children's lives-- all 20,000 public school students in the immediate Ground Zero area lived) have important things to say about surviving trauma, about helping young people deal with trauma, and perhaps especially about a facet of human experience that most Americans know only most abstractly: the direct effects of human caused disaster: terrorist attacks, acts of war-- things that our nation has cruelly continued to perpetrate on others even as we have been largely spared, with a handful of terrible exceptions.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Medical Day

Well, it's been my medical day. I rushed up to Livingston to Dr. Evans' office to get my referral for Dr. Richmond the orthopaedist, and there I got (a) a lot of question asked; (b) x-rays of my knee taken; (c) a lot more questions asked and an exam; (d) removal of fluid in my knee and a shot of cortisone. Now I have to get some physical therapy for the knee, do exercises at home, go back to see the doctor and not run till then, but I can walk if it doesn't hurt and bike. The diagnosis appears to be wear-and-tear, and the doctor made an analogy: "It's sort of like gray hair of the knee," he said. Mercy upon us. Gray hair, kept clean and styled properly can be quite lovely. Knees hurt and stop you from moving easily. I think maybe he needs a poetry workshop. Plus Andy's sister had eye surgery. We talked to her and she seemed fine.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day 2006

September 4, Labor Day 2006

We're back from the lake, lovely lake, quiet and cool and closing in on itself today. I suppose a gray Labor Day week-end leads you to be less sad at closing the house. We had a typical busy Weinberger week-end with lots of laughter from David and Nathan, Ann study to teach a class on the book of Jonah at her shul, everyone alternating between computers and eating and a rousing game Saturday night of Fictionary. Today we divided up the food, vacuumed, changed beds, brought in the hammock and the docks, put away the rowboat, etc. etc.And all got off by noon!

September Lake Buel

Tonight’s hills lean in–
Canada geese dogs crickets–
Green, green near my face.
September 2, 2006

Andy and I had some traffic coming back, but not terrible, and went over to Tony and Mary Sciaino's to catch the end of their Labor Day barbeque, Marygrace and Bill Robinson, Helen and Mike Dalbey, Ryan, Jane Rauen, Heather McNamara and her husband-- they were ready for dessert, but Tony tossed burgers on for us. I'm tired, enjoyed all the folks.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

End of Summer

We'll be getting up early tomorrow here and the lake and beginning the clean up and dismantling of the house. We'll empty the fridge, vacuum, put away the boats, make beds, move furnitur inside, bring in the docks. Lots of hard work, sad good-byes all around. I've been coming up here to Lake Buel for forty years or so, and Andy and his folks for almost fifty.

Labor Day at the Lake

This is Sunday morining, and it looks like it's going to be warmer--yesterday was wild and wooly windy with lake water lapping over the dock and wind whistling in through the walls. We had a mouse last night while we were playing Fictionary, but we haven't seen the bear. My knee is much, much better due to the Naprosine probably. They took my nemesis the boat to Twin Lakes Connecticut to a boat guy, and it's a typical Weinberger Cavanagh Geller Willis week-end, only fewer children.