Friday, October 10, 2008

Oregon and/or Bust!

For those of you who may check in regularly, I offer my apologies. Fellow road sister Carla and I did not get lost or kidnapped or enveloped by the great American Western landscape. Computer time just hasn't been a priority these days. So now, a week late, I will try to catch you up on our adventures. From staying at Carla's Aunt Vicy's home south of Grand Junction, Colorado, our small troupe ventured into the out of this universe territory of Southern Utah, specifically Arches National Park. While we were on somewhat of a schedule to get to Portland by Friday, we took it as a sign from the God of Wanderers when, just as we arrived at the entrance of the park, I got a phone call from the moving company saying that they could just as easily deliver my Relocube on Saturday morning as they could Friday afternoon. Hooray! This translated into spending half a day exploring the wonderment of nature's grandest sculptures and driving in late afternoon sunset through the expansive, red Utah desert, coming as close as either of us has ever to Grand Canyon-like scenery. We were just about delirious about the time we got to Salt Lake City, and we were disappointed in the serious lack of coffee shops open after 10pm. Even Starbucks, when we found one, closed at 10! We got a room just north of Salt Lake, and I think we both must have been asleep before our heads even hit the pillow. I was pretty impressed with how well the cats did with hotel stays. For the most part (well, with the exception of that night in Kansas), they really behaved themselves. They even did well in the car, for the most part!

Friday was spend driving through Idaho and Northern Oregon. What a change of scenery! From rusty desert filled with canyons, mesas and natural sculptures, to rolling scrubby grey hills to larger green hills scattered with valleys of fields overflowing with onions and potatoes! We met up with a displaced Kentuckian and friend of Carla's for lunch in Boise and then continued to Oregon. How happy we were to reach the state line and be welcomed by some friendly volunteers at the Oregon Welcome Center! We got a list of hot springs and made a plan to stop at Hot Lakes for a soak en route. The hills got greener and more wooded as we got into Oregon, and more mountains came into our sight both in the South and the North. It also started to get grey and rainy. To our dismay, the Hot Lakes hot tubs were closed just for Friday due to construction. So onward we went, a wet drive through the Columbia Gorge and the Dalles and into Portland - my new home!

We were so happy to have a home to sleep in, and even though we all got to bed before midnight - much earlier than we had the entire trip, we were all wide awake by something like 7 AM. Damn all those time changes! We took advantage of still being on Eastern Standard Time and took Bella for a walk through the neighborhood. The Relocube was delivered just before noon, as did my friend and neighbor, now known as "Super" Barb. Barb came ready for business, even providing us all with gloves to protect our delicate paws! The three of us emptied all my worldly belonging from that small metal container into my garage in about 45 minutes time. Then it was time to explore the insane world of Ikea in search of a bedframe. I think Ikea was what did us in more than anything. We may even have had enough energy between us to do another jaunt across the nation, but enough juice to handle a trip to Ikea? What were we thinking. Thank goodness they have cheap food and really strong coffee, or we probably would have both melted into the floor or crawled into one of those display beds and gone comatose. Somehow, after Ikea, we managed to find another displaced Kentuckian's house in Beaverton, OR (that's Western Portland suburbs) so that Carla could play a house concert. She did a stellar job, and I was quite amazed, as I was having such a difficult time keeping myself upright by the time we got there! We met a lot of really great folks, and I made a couple of new friends that I am looking forward to hanging out with real soon.

After continuing our tradition of going to bed at the point just beyond exhaustion, we both - once again - found ourselves wide awake at around 7AM. This morning we decided that Voodoo Donuts was the place to go. We had read about it in our Road Food book, and we thought what better thing to do on an early Sunday morning? I bought a huge bright pink box of last night's donuts, including the signature voodoo doll shaped donut filled with raspberry, chocolate covered chocolate donuts covered in cocoa puff cereal and many other unbelievable goodies. Unlike Krispy Creme, I have learned that Voodoo donuts taste good many days after coming out of the oven. I got about two dozen+ non-vegan and over a dozen vegan donuts for less than $15 and we were set for my housewarming party. I still wish I had bought the Sarah Palan Voodoo doll donut, though...

Carla made old school biscuits and sausage gravy, and we had a full day of housewarming house guests from noon until about 6pm. It got chilly, and we enjoyed a fire in the fireplace and quite a few good tunes. Ends up I moved into a great neighborhood for old time music. Some call in the Old Time "Hood," some call it the Old Time "Highway." I'm just glad to call it home! We headed over to the Moon and Six Pence for more music after the housewarming, and I treated Carla to a Portland specialty - Spanish Coffee.

Monday was marathon shopping all over Portland. We hit Powell's and just about every cool little vintage and gently used clothing shop in downtown and Northeast Portland. Another full, exhausting day. We capped off the end of our great adventure by both splurging on some really nice boots, having a drink at Beulahland and then dining at one of my favorite Portland eateries - Pambiche, a Cuban restaurant.

Carla flew home on Tuesday, and I am now settling in and beginning the great job and housemate hunt.

And that catches you up...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Doin’ KANSAS in the DARK

(Posted by Lil' Birdie)

Day two of the great road trip. I was in no shape on Day 1 to blog at all, having staying up until 4AM alone at my parents’ Tennessee home with the dilemma of having a strange and random assortment of items scattered about house and garage that somehow did not make it into the “Relocube” currently en route to meet me in Portland. For the five thousandth time in a three-week period, I was faced with having too much stuff for the space I was allotted. I have no idea how many times I have purged and repurged, packed, unpacked & repacked (repeat the purge cycle and start all over again) my belongings over the past couple of weeks, but I wish I had kept track, because I may have been close to hitting a world record. Leaving that all behind me (in my parents’ garage), I did my best to endure all the other challenges that occur when one tries to leave town, and the point I consider the Real Beginning of this Grand Road Trip was a truly lovely dinner at Lynne’s in Louisville, a tasteful (as in tacky and wonderful) diner I’d always heard about but never gotten a chance to try out while actually living in Kentucky (Judy Branch is a long way from Louisville, my friends!). After emerging from the incredible mental challenge of trying to once again repack my car in the Berea Post Office parking lot and then reattach my bike rack to the car, both Carla and I were like kids in the candy shop when we entered Lynn’s. It was just what I needed to kick off the trip and get in the mood – festive and busy and kitchy and just wonderful. We nearly bought a yodeling pickle from the diner shop– it was so tempting… but we instead settled on the amazing head scratcher and a skull & cross bones air freshener for the car (in the spirit of Portland and of covering up the kitty and dog flatulence issues).

So on very little sleep from the night before (hit the bed at 3AM, got up at 6AM), and an emotionally exhausting morning of trying to get this adventure started… the westward trek began, fueled by Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee and accompanied by what started in Louisville as a light rain and in Indiana turned into a torrential downpour. Maybe attaching Carla’s suitcase to the roof of the car wasn’t such a great idea afterall… Fortunately, when we pulled off in Evansville, IN we were greeted at the first hotel we pulled into by the Patels, who set our entire entourage in one of the most comfortable and clean hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. Boy were we all tired, and while Bella, Carla and I slept like logs, the cats began to recover from sedation. I ended up having to shut Rosie in the bathroom, because she kept jumping on me and demanding attention and love, waking me up just about every hour. Revenge, perhaps for drugging her and dragging her unwillingly on a road trip?

Currently it is about 11PM and we are driving through the blankness that is Kansas at night. We awoke this morning in our oh-so-comfy hotel room, refreshed and ready for th road. While the drugs were getting into the kitties’ systems, I completely unpacked the car and repacked it so that 1. we can see out the back window, and 2. things that are needed are within reach so that we don’t have to continue the erratic pack and repack cycle on which this trip was christened. So far so good. Our food goal was to make it to Columbia, MO. I had two restaurants recommended by one of best friends since childhood (she lived in Columbia for a really long time), but by the time we got there, they had both closed. At the time I asked her, I thought we’d be in Columbia by breakfast. We enjoyed a couple hour break, walking through the neat little Midwestern college town. Bella LOVED the brisk autumn breezes and all the scents there were to sniff. We ended up eating at a neat little vegetarian café and then headed Kansas way. Goal is to end up in Hays, Kansas and then get up & drive to Loveland, CO where I get to meet up with my brother, who is a paramedic in North Denver, at Johnson’s Corner, a joint recommended by our trusty road food guide. What course we’ll take from there, we don’t know yet…


(Posted by Appalachian Diva)

Sometimes life hands you unexpected and serendipitous things. In my case, that thing was the chance to take a cross-country trip to Portland with my dear friend Suzanne, who is moving there. Since I had some free time, I jumped at the chance to not only hang out with a dear friend, but also to take a great road trip and see a part of the country that I’ve never experienced, and which I’ve heard is beautiful. We’ve decided to share our adventures with you, dear reader. We’ll both be adding entries, so check back often.

We got a later start than we had intended, due to the fact that Suzanne had a much harder time than expected cramming all of her stuff into her new Volkswagen Passat. Oh, and did I mention that in addition to LOTS of cool shoes, some antique furniture, quite a bit of organic coffee, and a really cool old ceramic churn (that I am coveting really hard), we are also traveling with Bella The Wonder Dog and three cats. The cats are currently drugged in their little carriers, so they are not much of a presence except for the occasional weak meow or strong bout of flatulence.

We finally got out of Berea around 5 PM, after much cussing and gnashing of teeth induced by Suzanne’s new bike rack, which seems to have been designed for persons with more manual dexterity and/or spatial skills than either of us seem to possess, AND after stopping at the post office to mail out several boxes of cool shoes and pillows to Oregon.

Since Suzanne and I are both foodies, we have decided that food will feature prominently on our journey. We are aided in our quest by a book called Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern. It tends to emphasize diner and barbeqeue-style restaurants over any other style of cuisine. We stopped to eat at one of the restaurants recommended in Louisville, KY, called Lynne’s Paradise Café. I’d been there before, but it was Suz’s first time. The décor is funky and kitschy, with a wacky store that sells bacon gift wrap, guns that shoot tiny nuns, and “angry mob” action figures. She had a fried green tomato BLT and I had some black bean chile. We toasted our trip with a mojito (me) and an espresso martini (Suz) and stopped on the way out of town for some Krispy Kreme donuts (because calories don’t count when you’re on a Momentous Road Trip) and drove as far as Evansville, Indiana, where we were welcomed warmly by the Patel Family of the local Comfort Inn. After a great night’s sleep, we drugged the cats and are now on our way again….

Life Away from Judy Branch

NOTE: I don't know if I'm going to change the name of my blog or not, but I figure that I will keep on writing to keep you all posted on this new chapter in my life. Right now, we are on the road - the official westward journey to relocate in Oregon. It has been a really long few weeks of uprooting and packing and getting rid of so many things and saying so many goodbyes. But now the fun has begun. The ROAD TRIP. The next few blog entries will be coming both from me, and my guest blogger and cohort in travels, Appalachian Diva - my soul sister and very fine friend. We'll try to post pictures as well as we go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Dearly Departed

I meant to write during my last days on Judy Branch, but something happens to time once you set yourself on a path. Ever since I decided that I really was moving, I have had twice as many things to get done than I usually do. Those of you who really know me are aware that I typically try to fit at least 36 hours worth of living into each and every day. Lately, it's been more like sixty hours a day. And even though I am as incredibly talented at packing as many tasks into a day as I am at packing lots of stuff into small spaces, a full three weeks of this behavior most certainly has had its toll. By the time it came down to packing up the Uhaul and moving my stuff out of Judy Branch, I had gone two weeks with an average of four hours sleep per night. I was wobbly at times, to say at the least. But I pushed on, and with the help of my friends and family, I have managed to get this far.

Somehow, in the midst of all the packing and tying up of loose ends, I was able to squeeze in some quality time with some of my beloved friends and my adopted family. Now that I have slept a little, I can recall some of the highlights:

1. We held a CD Release party down in Big Stone Gap for the Uncle Charlie Osborne: The June Appal Years CD (a special project I produced with the help of some really good friends), and it just so happened that the Osborne family reunion was going on that weekend and a great deal of Uncle Charlie's descendents were on hand to enjoy the music and get a copy of the beautiful CD. I really enjoyed being able to give this music back to Charlie's family and to see some of my good friends down Virginia way.

2. I got to enjoy my last Carcassonne square dance as a local, dancing almost every dance with my good pal Woody Goodman and playing the last dance with Lee Boy. Sadly, Woody was killed last night when a tree fell on him, and I am gonna miss him something terrible. He was my favorite dance partner and most certainly my favorite DJ on WMMT. And, perhaps most important, he and his wife (sister to neighbor Billy Jo) and Carcassonne were my link to Judy Branch. They helped get me here, and I am torn up that my pal Woody isn't going to be out there on Elk Creek or running around saving the world in his Prius anymore. All day as I've packed, I have heard his voice in my head, talking to me about my move to Oregon. At times I can even hear him reacting to the way he died. How ironic, and in someways how perfect, that a true treehugger like he be taken out by a tree?

3. After a dinner gathering of Cowan Creek Mountain Music School faculty, a bunch of pals hosted a special set at the local coffeehouse/bar (yes, the county seat recently got liquor by the drink for the first time in 60 years!), and I got to visit with quite a few friends and play some tunes with some of my best buddies. Faerie Godmother was there and Rich and Brett and Woody. It was sweet, and even though I had to fight sleep and exhaustion to be there, I wouldn't have missed that night for the world - especially when my buddy Haywood serenaded me with Lil' Birdie and Baby Brett sang me Free as a Little Bird.

4. We had a grand goodbye gathering on Judy Branch, hosted by neighbors Bill & Billy Jo, and I got to spend my last "official" night on Judy Branch in the company of my neighbors, my real parents and my two set of adopted parents (Bill & Billy Joe and Cheryl & Ray) and my dear sweet friends Lee Boy and Opal and Charlie & Joyce and Beverly and Shawn & Tammy (and all their wonderful yonguns). We had a great dinner and then sat around the fire, made music, told stories and just enjoyed each other and the beautiful place that is Judy Branch.

It took longer to pack, and I had way more stuff than I thought I did, so I ended up staying one extra night on Judy Branch. Luckily my friend Lora kept me company and helped me plow through the exhaustion and get everything done.

Although I am incredibly excited about my new, yet to be seen, life out west, It was both physically and emotionally exhausting to pack up and leave Judy Branch. And I'm not referring to the three cat carriers, complete with squalling kitties, stacked next to me while I drove away. I have really loved this place and the community of which I have become a part. There's a big part of me that would love to stay in that moment around the fire with my Judy Branch family for the rest of my life. Leaving, in so many ways was impossible to think about. I just had to do it and not dwell on what I was leaving but on where I am going.

There's a whole new level to that now that my dear friend Woody is gone. I cannot bear to think of going back and him not being there. It looks like I may make one more trip up to the hollow before I hit the open road with Bella, the three cats and my dear (brave and kind) friend Carla. I know that Woody wouldn't want me to let his tragic and far too soon passing put a shadow on my big adventure, but I reckon he'd also understand the heartache that his absence leaves with us all. I just can't believe my buddy is gone. Eastern Kentucky has lost one of her finest stewards and colorful characters, and I know that nobody will ever be able to fill his place in our community and our hearts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Well, I have hinted at it for some time. Now it is a certainty. My time on Judy Branch is coming to a close. I have loved this place so much. I get a big lump in my throat when I realize that I must say goodbye to my sweet home at the head of the holler. It has kept me warm, given me food and family and watched over my baby critters as they have explored their ancestral wild instincts. When I get back home, I will have to begin packing and letting go.

But it's not all tears and heartache! Bella, Sid, Rosie, Beulah and I have a great big adventure ahead of us. We've got a house waiting for us in the great Pacific Northwest. There's a lot of miles between Judy Branch and our new home, so getting out will be an adventure in itself. And once we get here, we'll all have a pile of new experiences to sort through!

More later...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Change has Gotta Come

The garden on Judy Branch turned into a jungle after I returned from a ten-day vacation to the Pacific Northwest. Veggies and weeds alike are thriving. Except for the eggplant. I managed to get the flea beatles under control, but the poor things just haven't grown at all. I harvested my first zucchini yesterday and while weeding the rest of the blooming squash, I saw the beginnings of a few patty pan! My beets, which I had worried about being puny, must have been really busy while I was gone, because they are now twice the size that I left them. Little okras are coming out and should be ready for the kitchen any day now. And I unexpectedly grew the most divine lettuce - drunken woman. Beautiful green ruffles that are delicious.

I've got a lot of weeding to do as payment for my time off. Good news is that I should have more time for garden work now that I've quit one of my jobs and have put my notice (a few months notice, but notice all the same) for my main job. Things are going to change for me in the next few months. My hope is that quitting these jobs will launch me into the next great adventure, whatever that may be. Who knows?

I got to spend time with my best friend, who moved out to Seattle about seven years ago. The day before she and her boyfriend came out to meet me on the Olympic Penninsula (where I was camping), I somehow managed to get the most severe sunburn of my life (I hope). She took me home with her and ended up nursing me with medicinal herbal tea and icing my poor legs down with Ranier beer and a bag of frozen lotus roots. It was so nice to have somebody to take care of me and keep me company when I couldn't even manage to walk around due to swollen ankles. I realized how much I miss living near any of my closest friends.

Life on Judy branch has been amazing, especially because of my wonderful neighbors and my crazy zoo of a family. This weekend, the nearest town had a little festival. One of my banjo students, a nine-year old girl, and I played a few tunes for the crowd while my current housemate/intern accompanied us on the fiddle. I loved that I knew most of the people in the crowd. I especially enjoy my neighbors/landlords Bill & Billie Joe. We all love living on Judy Branch so much and can talk for hours about gardening, the state of the world and anything else that comes to mind. They came by the house later in the afternoon to check on a problem I was having with the oven and to show me how Bill had rigged the starter of the lawnmower. I sure will miss them when I move on. If I could take Judy Branch with me, wherever I go, I surely would do it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

planting seeds, watching things grow


the past few days have been rich and full. i started with a quick trip down to knoxville where i sat in on a digital storytelling training that carpetbag theatre was doing for teenagers, who i will be helping to connect with other youth groups across the city this summer. the kids in this training will be teaching other teens how to use digital storytelling to reflect on their own experiences. it's a really cool project, and i'm so glad to be part of it, even if it's a small role!

then i headed up north to lexington to get ready for a big day of benefit events for the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. for nearly 24 hours, i was embraced by an amazing community of music and friends that i seldom ever get see or hear all together at the same place. the musicians and the people involved with CCMMS are all such beautiful people. it's hard to pinpoint what exactly it is about the CCMMS that brings people together in the way it does. the closest thing i can come up with is that CCMMS is like this alternate family. once you become involved in this indescribably beautiful, enriching experience, your roots begin to intertwine with those other folks experiencing this with you and there's this bond that grows between everyone, traveling through the music and the stories and the shared experiences and creating this wild, beautiful garden of people, music and mountain culture. saturday was like a brief preview of what's gonna happen the last week of june here in letcher county. we played music, danced and just enjoyed a great time together. the first half of the day was an outdoor concert and square dance on the shady grounds of an old house in a lexington neighborhood. then we all headed over to al's bar, about two blocks away, and had a great big jam session for about two hours. we didn't really want to stop, but we did so we could get the benefit show started. more amazing music. one of the best nights of music or nights out on the town (any town) i've ever had!

this weekend provided far more social interaction that i normally get in a month, much less two days. so after saying farewell to the seven or so friends who all piled into the hotel room with me saturday night and catching a brunch with a few more friends, i headed back to eastern kentucky, feeling my entire body and soul relaxing deeper and deeper the closer i got to judy branch. i met up in blackey with my friend george gibson (also a CCMMS musician/supporter), and we headed over to lee & opal's house for a visit. lee has lost all hearing in his right ear and has not been playing much music at all lately. having george over got him to playing his banjo and his fiddle, and even though we had to help him with tuning, he sounded just as good as ever! i'm glad that we got him playing, and we're all hoping that his ear will heal and he'll get some of the hearing back.

once i got home from lee's house, i was more than ready for a good long patch of time without laying eyes upon, hearing or talking to another person. after a good long sleep (went to bed early & slept late), i got to working in the garden, and i spent all memorial day doing just that. for the first year i've been out here, i've planted the entire garden spot, and that's a mighty big garden! i'm glad to report that things are looking really good. right now the only harvestable crop i've got is curly mustard, and because of the cool weather we've had the past week or so, it's doing really well. i'll have to eat a lot of mustard greens in the next few days and weeks, b/c as the temperature goes up, they'll start to seed. the herbs i have planted around the house and on the porch are also doing well - the mint is reaching for the sky. the oregano smells lovely, and the lavender is getting ready to flower. cilantro is coming up in a pot, and i believe that the thyme (or is it marjoram?) is getting ready to bloom.

back to the garden: the peas are also coming up, but no pods yet. i didn't get them planted on valentines day. in fact, i didn't get them planted until early april! i expect i'll have peas by mid to late june. here's what else is coming up: okra - lots of it and several varieties, including cajun jewel, cow horn, alabama red.... watermelon, patty pan squash, zucchini squash, crookneck squash, silver queen corn, another variety of corn left over from last year (came up where last year's crop had been). i planted some three sisters (cherokee method), which is planting corn in the center of a hill with beans and squash on the outer circle, sort of like the points of the four directions in the medicine wheel. they are all looking great so far, although neighbor bill thinks that the squash won't do well in the shade of the corn, but that the beans will really thrive (they grow up the corn stalks). just in case, there's plenty of squash planted without the corn, so there will be squash a-plenty no matter what, as long as i can keep the bugs away! also coming up are eggplant, tomatoes, chile & gypsy peppers, basil, beets, potatoes. i've got butter bean (pole) and butter bean/fordhook (bushes) planted, but they haven't come up yet, nor has the dill.

today i built a raised bed for lettuce, as the lettuce growing in the big pot on my porch doesn't seem to want to get big enough to eat. i also did a lot of weeding. i transplanted even more of the baby okra plants that have been growing thickly on my porch into the long rows of okra i've already got planted and coming up. transplanted a few baby eggplants and tomatoes. i planted the lettuce beds with drunken woman and red salad bowl lettuce and then put in a couple rows of beans: blue lake and provider snap beans. i planted a bed of collard greens, and a few more marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers around the garden. then i got out the sprayer and sprayed the squash, okra & watermelon plants with diluted neem oil to keep the bugs off. neem oil is pretty neat stuff. it's a botanical extract that naturally repels most garden pests. i'm hoping it will work wonders on the squash! i started building tomato cages when the sky darkened over, and it began to thunder. got everything under the porch and started up the steps just as the downpour began.

now i'm enjoying the smell of honeysuckle (it's finally bloomed!) and the sounds of the crickets, frogs and distant bark of dogs coming in my kitchen windows.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


i woke up this morning feeling something terrible. the kind of terrible that got me a late start on the day and then had me stumbling about like a drunkard. amazingly, it all began to lift in the afternoon, and i ended what i thought was a wasted sunny day - and not too hot - working in my garden. even though i didn't get home until after 6pm, i managed to finish clearing out the side flower bed next to the front porch steps, break up the soil and plant some zinnias, echinachea, okra, basil and peppermint (the mint was planted in a a separate raised pot to keep it from taking over). i rigged up a fence of netting around it to prevent the dogs from trampling (or napping) on my little mini-garden.

then it was on to the big garden, where I took my new garden work bench (inherited from Granny), post driver, tall posts, garden tools, seeds and netting and did an extraordinary amount of work before night set in. i added a few more stakes to the perimeter of the garden border, which involved me balancing on top of the bench, lifting the post driver above my head and then bringing it down with force upon said stake, repeating several times, hoping not to damage my ear drums too severely (metal on metal - ouch), and then finally having to lift the post driver (which is actually pretty darn heavy) over my head again, while still balancing on the bench, and finally dismounting without falling over. i think i did that five times today - hooray! did not have enough old and new netting to entirely cover the perimeter of the fence, so i'm not quite done yet.

in addition to my little side bed, i did manage to plant: marigolds, sunflowers, beets, dill, sweet pepper, okra (two varieties), watermelon and the three sisters. the three sisters is a method of planting corn, beans and squash together in hills. i've tried this a few times in the past, but never with much success. mostly b/c i wasn't really that focused on what i was doing. this time, i hope i got it right. i built up small mounds of loose soil, put a corn seed top and center, then sort of made a medicine wheel with bean and squash seeds - two of each, alternating to make the four directions. then cover the seeds with a light layer of loose soil. i really hope i can make it work this year. i think i'll try mulching with straw once they come up...

i already have some curly mustard greens and peas coming up and potatoes planted in a trench covered with straw. the next big thing is to get some tomato and eggplants transplanted, put in some patty pan squash and get some basil going. i've got to get some new basil seeds and maybe even break down and buy some seedlings, because i've still got last years seeds, and they never did come up last year...

i worked in the garden until the critters in the woods started heckling me with strange noises and i lost all light. even though some of the sounds i was hearing would scare even the bravest outdoors person, i wasn't bothered. bella stayed close by, laying in the tall grass and keeping sentinel. no panthers, rabid deer or escaped cattle were gonna get near me without her getting to them first!

i don't know what it is, but there's something about getting on your hands and knees and getting your hands in the earth that will cure just about any ailment. i don't know why i don't just go stick my hands in the dirt at the first sign of a headache. sure works better than a little pill!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rambling Thoughts on Family

There's a great song by the Decembrists that tells a long winding tale of ancestry. A mother who was a Chinese Trapeze artist. Being lost in a game of high stakes Canasta to a Brigadeer on a ship... a sister who moved to America to start a punk rock band.
While I didn't grow up with my relatives all living around me, I have always belonged to a family who really valued being part of a family. And I mean the whole extended deal - not what is called the "nuclear" family (how creepy does that sound?!).

Even though I have always lived in communities where the norm is to live in the same hollow, if not in the back yard, of one's grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, et. al., I sometimes find that I am closer friends with my aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, third cousins twice removed than many of the people who live in the same community with those folk. Perhaps distance does make the heart grow fonder? All I know is that ever since I can remember, it has been a priority to attend family gatherings - from the usual - the annual Thanksgiving and family reunions- to the weddings and funerals. Even if it's for a sad reason that we get together, I find I always enjoy every second I spend with my family. We spend our time telling stories. Most of my life, I have listened, but as the older generation passes on, my cousins and I've begun to share in the storytelling about ancestors passed with my parents, aunts and uncles.

There are so many characters in my family that I have known about my entire life. Some, I was lucky enough to know as a toddler. But others, I feel that I know so well, I continue to learn more about with each family gathering.

This weekend I attended my cousin's wedding. I shared a table with my cousins, aunts and uncles and parents. I wore an antique hat inherited from granny that had belonged to her aunt - the legendary Aunt Ruth! I ended up with a lot of Aunt Ruth's stuff. She was my great grandmother, Nanie's sister. As one of the only cousins to actually have known Nanie and Aunt Ruth, it was natural for much of their belongings to be passed on from Granny to me. Everyone really appreciated the hat. To them, it was like having that generation at the wedding with us. Then we got to talking about Nanie & Aunt Ruth's dad - Poppa. I have a few pieces of furniture, sewing cabinets and wood carvings that he made. He's one of the relatives that I grew up hearing about since I was a small child. I know well the story about what an outgoing man he was - always the first to greet a new neighbor with a homemade pie or a basket of biscuits. He made the best biscuits, and he lived to be a very old age. He befriended a crow, and each morning after breakfast, he would go out on his back step, call out "Crow! Here crow!" That same crow, every morning would fly down, perch on Poppa's arm, and Poppa would feed him (or her) leftover biscuits from his breakfast. Poppa lived alone for a very long time and never had to have anyone take care of him. He prayed everyday that God would not let him become a burden to his family and that he be taken in his sleep when it was his time to die. One night, a tornado swept through Lyon, Mississippi during the night. The next morning, they found Poppa's body high in the branches of a tree. He had died in his sleep. That was sometime around 1970, I believe.

My whole family from my parents back are, for the most part, from Mississippi and Louisiana. I had always thought of my Mom's family as being more of the Louisiana/Southern Mississippi side of the family. This weekend I learned that Poppa was originally from southwest Mississippi, had lived for a long time in New Orleans where he had been a streetcar driver and played music! He played the fiddle and made several fiddles. Later, once he had a family, he quit drinking and playing fiddle. My uncle remembers Poppa showing him how to play the bones and the spoons. He never quit smoking, though. My aunt would roll his cigarettes for him. I still have a pack of Prince Albert papers that once belonged to him.

I could spend days on end hearing those stories. Who needs television with the living memories to be found all around you?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dogwoods & Fireflies

The Dogwoods joined the party last week, and together with the Redbuds and the newly greened treetops, Judy Branch was decked out in full spring array. There are many things I love about life on Judy Branch. The quiet you can find here is something you could rarely find in any small town or relatively populated area. At night, the stars are the main attraction, with a variety of animal and insect calls and the movements of wind, water and train providing the soundtrack. Sometimes a little old time string band music or a lonesome banjo add another layer. The other night I was sitting on my porch swing with a gentleman caller - that's how we court in the Southern backcounty, on the porch swing - and I noticed a really bright light in the night sky. At first I thought I'd seen an especially bright shooting star. But then I saw it again. It took me a few minutes to figure out that the fire flies had arrived! It seemed too early for lightin' bugs, but there were a few out scouting the night skies of Judy Branch last week. I guess summer is getting ready to begin!

On the garden front, I've got my peas coming up in the garden. In pots on the porch I've got some lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cilantro coming up. I've even tried putting some okra in a pot on the porch, and it seems to be coming up. I may end up transplanting those, but we'll see how it goes! My oregano, thyme and lavender have come back strong, and I've got flats of seedlings of cherry and other tomato varieties, three varieties of okra, peppers, eggplant and basil. They've got a couple of weeks yet before I think they'll be ready to go in the ground, but I've moved the flats out onto the porch to let them get used to the outdoors. Today I've got to get my seed potatoes in the ground. This year I'm going to try a method I've heard about for some time - planting them in a trench and covering with straw. I'm planting Yukon Gold and Caribe varieties. Once I get those in the ground, I'm going to try to get my garden rows more clearly defined, add some taller stakes and chicken wire to my pea patch (it's a bit short right now), and get the netting up around my fence. Right now the deer are out in the woods having their babies, so I've not seen much of them lately. After last year, though, I don't want to provide them with any opportunity to eat up my young seedling vegetables as soon as they get an inch above the ground!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fence Building

Spring is taking hold of Judy Branch, with the red buds leading the way to the greening of the hills and hollows. It's amazing how much the sight of that odd shade of purple dotting the hillsides inspires the trees to begin pushing out little yellow-green shoots of leaves. My garden spot is plowed & tilled. The peas are coming up. Little shoots are coming up in the flats of okra, tomato, eggplant and basil I started indoors. This week, my main projects are to plant my potatoes and get the deer fence up. Oh yes, and to borrow neighbor Bill's lawnmower and mow the overly enthusiastic grass around my house.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Just Breathe

Judy Branch is coming alive with plants growing and bugs coming out of hibernation. Do those buzzing creatures actually hibernate? It's a sight at the mouth of the hollow to see the variety of flowering trees and then to come toward the head and be nearly blinded by the bright forsynthia. I love being able to keep the windows open both during the day and at night (well, not tonight). I know that I'm going to have to move on to a new place sometime soon, but the thought of leaving Judy Branch now that spring has started to work its magic is just about unbearable. I know this about myself: I get way too deeply attached. It's so hard to leave. But I also know that once I get to my new home, it takes no time before I fall deeply in love with that place. I'm a nester. It's really hard for me to uproot and leave my nest, but I relish in flight and in the act of building a new nest.

So where will I fly off to and where will I find a place to make my nest? It's thrilling and terrifying and exhausting, and pretty soon I will have to choose a direction to fly - even if I don't know where it will take me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Change of Pace

It seems life life has dramatically picked up pace over the past few weeks. I feel as if I went through a pretty long period of calm. Lots of sleeping with many quiet evenings and weekends at home here on Judy Branch. Certainly, some of that mellow life pace was due to the sloth-ing effect of depression while some was the tradition of winter hibernation. Somehow, I missed the transition. It seems I've suddenly switched from snail speed to super sonic sprinting. I am stunned that it is Sunday evening and I have not really gotten a decent amount of down time or sleep in several weeks. There's just too much to do, and I'm glad to say that the doing is not all work-related. On top of all the things that are keeping me too busy, I also have a running list of things I would like to aim this nervous energy at: getting my garden planned and started and a thorough house-cleaning are on the top of that list.

There are other things I'm putting off. These are the decisions I've got to make about what is next. There are a few options opening up, and my renewed appreciation and engagement in my life and work here in EKY makes it incredibly difficult to even consider these new opportunities that I worked so hard to make happen. Now that they are real possibilities/offers that I must either embrace or push aside, I am not as certain as I was when they were simply dreams of escape...

But Im also pretty damn curious (and hopeful) to see what's going to happen next. All I am hoping for is that the epiphany will gently wash over me and I will be able to skip off in whichever direction I'm meant to go without looking back and wondering if I made the right decision.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

promise of spring

there's something about early springtime in the mountains that gives my heart a little hug. lately, i feel like i have been falling in love with judy branch all over again. i love the sound of the rain on my tin roof & the bubbling of little judy branch when it is full with waters rolling down from the mountain top. i love how one evening i will have my kitchen windows open listening to the songs of the peepers, and the next night and day a snow storm will drop several inches of snow. one more day, the sun melts it all away and the deer are back to grazing near my soon-to-be garden spot.

this weekend has been a simultaneous uplift and challenge to my spirit. i got snowed in, which is a truly lovely experience out here on judy branch. wood stove roaring, fuzzy critters to keep me entertained and also keep me warm, and a beautiful wonderland to explore in the day. i went on a long walk with bella and the JB pack, taking photos of all the judy branch wonders covered in snow. inside was a different story. as soon as the snow storm really began, around 4AM friday night, little beulah went into heat. talk about a change in atmospheric pressure! so while we've all been uplifted by the snow, we've also nearly lost our minds with the incessant yowling and often unwanted affections of a kitten who just now became a queen.

with all this going on, i have also come to terms with how i feel about my job situation. i have made a tough decision and decided to be patient rather than accepting a job that would take me to a place i'd like to live but not really fulfill me in the ways that i really need to be fulfilled. i am learning that geography isn't everything - and the "progressive" mountain area of WNC isn't really worth what i'd have to give up to move back there.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I know I've talked and pondered and daydreamed out loud about wanting to live in a more lively place. A city, with people close to my age and all the perks of public transportation, close proximity of home & work & fun, eating out, entertainment and nightlife. In theory, that all sounds ideal. I certainly appreciate these aspects of more urban places when I go for a visit.

Tonight the peepers have come out and are singing their little hearts out from all sorts of soggy places here on Judy Branch. The wind is teasing the tips of trees and playing tunes on the wind chimes that hang all along my porch. It's times like this that I must be honest with myself (and with you, my two or three blog readers). There is no place I feel better than way out in the country, preferably mountain country, where the neighborhood noises are the sounds of the wind winding it's way through trees, dogs barking across the distance, cows munching on grass, peepers and bullfrogs celebrating a temporary escape from winter hibernation. Here on Judy Branch, I love how the sound of coal trains mingle with the sounds of insects and people working outside and the creek bubbling over roots and rocks. I love how I can feel somewhat alone but also in comfortable distance of the handful of neighbors living in this hollow. In the day and early evenings I love how I can hear (but not usually discern the words) of my neighbors sitting on their porches or working out in their yards. The chickens and horses down toward the head of the hollow. These sounds seem to bounce around the bowl in which we live, so that you can never really tell how far away that four wheeler or that newly weaned calf really is. You feel like you have your own space and privacy, but you also have the comfort of knowing there's good folks around should you need some help or some company.

My nearest neighbors are a young couple, just one year older than me. Whenever they see me, they tell me that one of the things they love about the warmer days here is when the sound of music drifts over from my porch into their windows. I love to practice my banjo on the porch swing, and I've been known to host a few all night jams on spring or summer nights. It's nice to live in a place where the neighbors get up in the middle of the night to open more windows to let the music drift in rather than calling the police and filing a complaint!

In my heart, I am such a country girl. I love that I cannot hear the sound of traffic from a busy road and that I know well in advance if anyone is approaching my house - whether by four-wheeler, car, horse or by foot. I love that there's no street lights, and that on cloudy or moonless nights, if I forget to leave on the porch light, I have to use my keychain flashlight to find my way to the house. I love that if I'm preparing a meal or working on a project, that if I don't have something I need - like a cup of all purpose flour or a socket wrench - that instead of running to the store, the first thing I do is call my neighbors and see if I can borrow. Going to the store and back would take up so much time, and when there's an option of staying here on Judy Branch, I'd much rather do that almost any day.

So tonight, accompanied by a chorus of peepers, windows and porch doors wide open and surrounded by my furry family, I give thanks and sing the praises for my life here on Judy Branch.

Edge of Winter

As I was driving home last night, I was thinking about how my life really isn't that bad. The desperation I've been feeling to move on to something new basically comes from a severe case of depression. Those feelings are not based on my situation so much as my psyche.

This weekend was pretty full, but all with familiar things that blur the line between my professional and personal life. I suppose that a lot of my time is spent with half my head covered by my work hat, the other by my time-off hat. We had a really great old time jam this Saturday, followed by a square dance that night. Life has gotten quite a bit better in our county since the county seat began allowing liquor by the drink a few months ago. First time alcohol has been allowed to be served or sold here in 40 years! That's a big change, and I think it has mostly been positive. At least my experience of it. A new cafe/coffeehouse opened up downtown that seems like it came straight from Asheville or any of these other downtown-revitalized places. Nice atmosphere, original artwork on the walls that rotates every couple of months, very nice sandwiches and a selection of beer, wind and spirits that is atypical of this region. I can now eat out and have a hummus sandwich instead of my usual grilled cheese. And I have my choice of a cold PBR or something a little fancier. I even have the option of trying beers whose names I've never heard nor could I ever pronounce! These little details may not seem that special to some folks, but they are pretty novel for folks living in deeps of Eastern Kentucky.

Sunday I worked in my garden, clearing out the tomato cages and various fences that, without success, I attempted to deter last year's deer population. As soon as the ground dries up a little, I need to get it turned over and plant my peas. I spent the later part of the day over at Lee and Opal's house. Learned a couple of really nice tunes, had a good dinner and sat around and talked for a few hours. I'm putting together a couple of big celebrations in honor of Lee Boy's 80th birthday, which falls on Easter Sunday this year.

Yesterday was a pretty busy workday, but it felt productive. Had a home-cooked country dinner at the community center at our monthly board meeting and then had a relatively new experience. I went downtown and saw a great band, the Felice Brothers, play at the little coffeehouse/cafe. Just a few months ago, going out on a Monday night to hear live music- with the exception of bluegrass- anyplace other than somebody's living room was unthinkable unless you drove a couple of hours to the nearest "city." So life IS getting better here, and I am aware of it. I wish I could fully feel the joy of these parts of my life. I'm hoping the combination of a new garden season, the anticipation of festival and camping season and trying out this whole therapy thing will pull me out the dregs and allow me to feel a little more than a watered down version of happiness.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bright Stars

You can only see a piece of sky, tucked in the mountains here on Judy Branch. But when there's stars to be seen, they are the brightest in the whole world.

I'm so glad the clouds have blown away, at least for this one night!

Friday, February 29, 2008


I didn't grow up Catholic, so I don't really have much understanding of the faith other than from what I've picked up through secondhand sources - literature, movies, etc. But I did grow up Southern Baptist, and I always felt there was a bit of affinity between the two religious cultures. Especially when it comes to issues of guilt, repression and a tendency to punish oneself more than rewarding or celebrating. Why do so many people fall into a belief system that tells them that it isn't okay to be happy or to do things that will bring personal joy or satisfaction? Why do so many of us hesitate to do nice things for ourselves and opt instead to get those good feelings vicariously by doing nice things for others?

I'm not advocating for the "me first" attitude that is so prevalent in the world, especially among the aristocrats and free market capitalists. there's plenty of people that always put their own personal gain above all else. what i'm pondering is why there are so many good people - the best people in the world- who treat themselves so poorly, beat themselves up and never seem to be able to do enough good for others and the world to make themselves feel good or satisfied. and why do so many of them forget themselves and their own needs and desires in this quest to make the world a better place?

some people have a passion that only allows them to be aware of their own desires without any sense (and apparently no care) of how their actions in following those desires might impact others. i had a friend like that once. it was intoxicating how intensely she would go after whatever it was she desired most. everything in her life was magnified and melodramatic, and it seemed like her emotions, her current dilemma was the most important thing in the entire world. i'm sure it was in her eyes. but that wasn't enough. she couldn't understand how everyone around her wasn't on board. surely, the outcome of her dilemma was the most important thing in everyone else’s lives, and if it wasn't, then damn them - they must an enemy (we've heard this before: "you're either with us or against us!"). at first, it is easy to get swept up in the passion of such a person. to really want to help to bring that desired outcome into fruition. but eventually that contact buzz wears off, and you're left realizing that to people like, you only exist as a pawn or an obstacle. these people are often some of the most sincere you ever meet, at least while they are in that moment with you, and it is heartbreaking when you realize that they really don’t (and perhaps can’t) see the impact their actions have on others.

the other kind of passion is one that is focused on trying to make a difference in the world, and perhaps do some damage control from all the horrible "collateral damage" that results from the worst pursuit of personal gain. I know so many people who work non-stop to try to ease some of the pain or make the world a little better in the aftermath of human greed. there are so many people and animals suffering in the world, that the passion these people have for mending as much of the hurt as they can will never be fulfilled. there's a string of making a difference on a small-scale all throughout one's life, but it never seems to be enough. and it never will be. these people care so passionately that they don't give up. they work day and night and burn themselves out because of this passionate desire that pushes them on and tells them that the work is far more important than the self. in the worst case scenario, these people burn out, becoming shadows of themselves and forgetting how to find or experience personal joy and pleasure. i've seen this happen, and it is truly heartbreaking.

i know that it's not a dichotomy. there are all kinds of folks out there. i tend to be more of the save the world first then save myself breed. but i'm trying to learn how to get in touch with what i most passionately want for myself (outside of saving the world!). i know i dwell too much on the "impactfulness" of every single thing i do or say, and that this is not helping anyone. i need to adopt some "don't give a damn" and apply it to my own life, while keeping a solid footing in the ideals that guide my life.

last year i tried out a chiropractor and also went to a masseuse - two things i never would have "splurged" on, but finally tried in attempts to get relief from my back injury. this week, i tried therapy. it's too early to tell if i'll take to it, but i'm ready to give it a try and to keep an open mind and heart. i hope that maybe i will learn how to figure out what it is i really do want for myself and my life. right now, i just can't see beyond my life as it is right now - which is defined by the work i do, not by what i want for myself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's next?

I'm glad to be back on Judy Branch after a solid week of going all over the place and trying to fit 36 hours into each day. A lot of my working trips have plenty of down time to play and sleep, but this trip was not one of those. It was nice to be in New Orleans and Memphis, but it took every drop of my will power to keep myself going. Why did this trip take so much more out of me than usual? I guess that drawn out bout of illness didn't really allow me to bank up some energy before I hit the road.

My trip was supposed to start last Monday with a day trip up to Morehead for the Women in Traditional Music symposium. I was so excited about finally getting to see Hazel Dickens, and even more excited to see her performing with some of my favorite women and friends. Those plans got trumped by the worst stomach bug I've ever experienced. So, my trip started off with me bedridden and missing yet another chance to meet Hazel! I had to be down in Knoxville Tuesday for a meeting, but I rescheduled for later in the day so I could move at my barely recovered state. Flew to New Orleans Wednesday morning, totally drained and on the third day of not eating. Then it was three days solid of meetings, watching a rainy New Orleans through the windows. My hotel mate came down with the stomach flu and I switched rooms to keep myself from getting sick again!

A 6am flight to Memphis on Saturday meant getting up at 4am to get to the airport. Then a presentation at Folk Alliance, delirious and really tired of being around far too many people. An unexpected highlight was that I finally did got to see Hazel Dickens - and a piano didn't fall on my head to prevent me! First, I sat in on a great interview session that John Lily did with her and got to hear her talk and also sing with Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwartz (he played fiddle). Then, I got to go out to dinner with her! She is so witty and intelligent, and so incredibly funny. I didn't need to do anything else at Folk Alliance. That was all I needed. I was ready to sleep. And that would have been so wonderful, except that my hotel room was packed with squatters that my roommate gave floor space (before I got in from New Orleans). I was nice as I could be and tried to be coherent and talk with folks, but all I really wanted to do was take a long shower and go to bed. I mean, it was 10pm and I'd been up since 4am! Oh well, 6am and I was back to the airport and headed to the next step. Got to have lunch with Mom & Dad, pick up Bella from the kennel, take a nap and then hit the road to be in North Carolina for the last meeting of the trip.

And now, I am home and ready to get snowed in with my furball family and my own bed and peace and quiet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Strike One

Well, it seems that a doctoral degree in Ethnomusicology is not in my immediate future. Which shouldn't really surprise me. I'm surprised I ever even considered that as an option. I dropped out of every ethnomusicology class I signed up for the last time I was in grad school. I got so annoyed at the academic approach to music that I feel so personally connected to. I was misled. What I really am interested in writing about for five years cannot be approached in the way I would want to approach it through Ethnomusicology. So I am back to that damn question again. I would like to do further graduate study, but where am I to go after two interdisciplinary degrees?

I must admit that I am a little bit disappointed in myself for letting myself be courted and led on by a program that I knew deep down wasn't a fit. Especially after I just went through that this summer on the romantic front. It's just depressing to be rejected by someone or someplace you didn't want to be with in the first place, but were willing to go along with just because there wasn't much else to do...

At least one option has been cleared away. It would have been pretty crazy to move three cats and a hillbilly dog to a big Yankee city, and I'm relieved that I won't be dealing with that as a new adventure!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On the Mend

After sixteen days of being sick and consequently spending most of my time at home either on the couch or in my bed, I finally succumbed to cabin fever. I got myself out of Kentucky and set off for Mom and Dad's house in hopes that a little parental care might speed my recovery. I don't know if I put this in previous blogs, but my flu/cold dropped a few symptoms and then morphed into a very nasty case of bronchitis. At least, that's what my doctor (who is actually my neighbor here on Judy Branch) told me once I broke down on day 14 and went to the walk-in clinic. Some of you may recall from my recent back injury that I don't go seeking medical treatment until I become convinced that I'm really not going to heal by myself.

I'm not completely back on my feet, but my spontaneous decision to hit the road and head down to Tennessee proved to be just the treatment I needed. I needed a pick-me-up, and running away for a weekend certainly did the trick. Friday night, I called of my old friends to find that his girlfriend who had recently moved out had just moved back in. I was so happy to hear her voice that I made a stop by their house and dinner out with the two the first thing on my "escape from cabin fever" agenda. We had a great dinner, even though we were told by our waitress that we were boring. We all ordered the exact same thing: the Santa Fe Veggie Burger. If you are ever in Knoxville, you should try this out yourself at the Downtown Brew Pub (I don't know the official name, but it's the brewery on Gay Street). They baste a really delicious, thick (homemade?) veggie burger with bbq sauce, grill it and serve it on a Kaiser roll with melted Monteray Jack, jalepenos and guacamole. Delicious!

Even though we were all pretty tired and us gals were both feeling sorta sickly (the guy NEVER gets sick...a total mystery), we had a great dinner out. These are the friends who lived in Poland for a year and inspired my first adventure to that great land a few years back. I was so psyched to hear that they have plans for a trip around the world, hopefully next year. Hell yeah. I am SOOOO glad that are staying together, because they are just so wonderful to be around when they are together.

Over the past few years, several of my good friends, who also happen to be couples and seemed to be really good matches, have split. Almost all of them had kids. As much as I have been happy for each as s/he have pursued new paths in life and romance, a part of me grew even more cynical about the feasibility of love and human companionship in this day and age. I really don't need any further validation/promotion on that line of thinking. So hooray for my pals for realizing just how great they are together!

Saturday, I spent the day hanging out with Dad and my dog, Bella. We sat in the kitchen and talked theology and politics and then took our conversation into the unseasonable sunshine, walking the greenway and then grabbing lunch downtown. I really love talking theology with my dad. He has such a grounded, thoughtful and open-minded perspective, and it's because of him that I never lost touch with the really great spiritual teachings that can be found in Christian texts. We spent the afternoon relaxing in front of the TV watching SEC basketball games, most notably Kentucky beating Alabama (go Wildcats!).

Saturday night, I met up with my friend L. for sushi at this AMAZING place in Knoxville called Nama. Arriving at 6pm, we were told there was an hour and a half wait. So we put our name on the list, gave them L.'s cell phone number and decided to walk a bit. Both of us being Maryville-raised gals, we were noting how this urban revitalization that has hit downtown Knoxville is something neither of us ever imagined possible, commiserating at the Knoxville of our teenage years. We didn't get far until we came across an upscale wine and spirits shop - right downtown on Gay Street! How novel! So we went inside. I bought a bottle of red wine called "Bitch, just because it was called "Bitch" (and b/c it was only $10). We both bought some Polish potato vodka. Then we were called and offered seats at the sushi bar. So much for an hour+ wait! I cannot even begin to adequately describe how wonderful and sensual the Nama experience was. The sushi chefs were really friendly and fun. I immediately loved the working atmosphere among the staff. All the brilliant colors, textures and smells made us feel tipsy before we even had our first sips of apple infused saki, which was AMAZING. We had both always just had "house" saki and not b/c it tasted good. I wanted saki b/c it was warm, but to our delight the apple infused saki was also delicious. Just what my bronchial passages had been calling for, and it was nice to switch up my nightly routine of a moonshine hot toddy before bed. The sushi chefs were true artists, and the rolls we ate were divine on every possible level. All of this and the fact that I really love hanging out with L. made for a great night out. Between talks of my friends' world-wide trek and discovering that L. and I share similar dreams of getting a bunch of land in the mountains and having a commune of sorts (some of you know of my dreams to open a slow food, old time music B&B), and I could feel myself being lifted out of bronchitis and depression and feeling a tinge of inspiration and hope for the future. That is certainly an improvement!

Getting home to Judy Branch this evening, I found an unexpected package hanging in a black garbage bag tied from my mailbox. I love this solution that rural mail carriers have found to leave oversized packages at the row of mailboxes that makr the head of the hollow. Once I got everything unloaded and got my accusatory welcome home from the kitties, I opened the mystery package to find that my old friend E. (old, as in we've known each other since we were like 6) had sent me a get well care package. What a great surprise of wonderful comfort treats, including an assortment of teas a volume of McSweeneys(!), cookies, hot cocoa, coffee, soup (dried) and a fantastic mix CD. I love music mixes from E., because he has such an eclectic taste. Being so immersed in the old time music world, I've lost touch with what all is out there, and thanks to friends like my Seattle sister and E., I do manage to get introduced to some newer (as in post-Civil War), hip tunes. (Thanks E.! I hope this super long blog entry makes up for my lack of consistent blogging...)

In the next week I should find out about whether or not I've been accepted to the PhD program in IVleague/Yankeeland. There's a couple other possibilities up in the air as well that will reveal themselves as well. A lot is up in the air, and I am finally waking up enough to feel the electricity in the air, static anticipation of coming change. What will it be? To quote the Replacements (with the disclaimer that I'm not using this quote in reference to Judy Branch but to my life in general): "Anywhere is better than here."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

so fresh & so clean

since bella came to live with me when she was just a little pup, i have been amazed at her ability to keep herself clean. she's got this white, silky fur that seems to clean itself. bella is not a prissy dog by any means. she loves to drag her belly in muddy bogs and run up and down mountains and through creek banks. there have been many times when she has come home covered in mud. i'll leave her on the porch, and when i come out an hour later, she is miraculously spotless! fortunately, she is not into rolling around in the remains of deer carcasses or other dogs' poo.

she has, however, had muddy moments that required my intervention. a couple of nights ago, bella had the fourth bath of her fours years of existence. she was very well behaved, and even though it has continued to rain these days following her bath, she has not gotten a bit of mud on her shiny coat.

why am i writing in my blog about this? well, it's something other than my battle with "post-viral bronchittus" or my waiting to see what the hell is going to happen with my life (job A, job B... phD?).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

the waiting game

i feel like this winter has been a waiting game. right now, i'm waiting for this nasty flu to get done with me. i'm also waiting to see what doors are going to open. i know my life is going to change pretty drastically, no matter which doors may swing open. i'm just having to be patient and try not to imagine what my life will be like in a few months. i probably should be grateful for this persistent flu, since it has done a good job of keeping my mind focused on making sure my lungs stay inside my body while i violently cough everything else out!

i got sick the day after i returned from portland, but i think the bug actually went on the trip with me and respectfully held off it's full-fledged invasion until i got back home.

i have to admit, the most recent portland trip was a bit more low energy than those in recent years. maybe because i was at the cusp of getting sick, or maybe because i have been really low energy for some time now. or it could just be because i am currently subsisting at a crossroads of uncertainty, and that can be a pretty mellowing, somewhat numbing experience.

bella, my steadfast companion, has been really sticking close to my side for the past week or so. she usually will ramble about with the judy branch pack during the days, but with me being sick, she has become a house dog/canine nursemaid. she wants to go everywhere i go, even if it means sitting in the car and/or sleeping at the foot of my bed for hours. it's pretty amazing how dogs have such a keen intuitive sense when it comes to their chosen two-legged companions. bella was also stuck to my side like this after my back surgery. you couldn't get her to leave my side for anything. it's pretty humbling to experience such loyal companionship. i just hope she isn't sensing some kind of more serious illness than a stubborn case of the flu!

Monday, January 07, 2008

new beginnings

last night, i checked in with the tarot deck to see how my path is unfolding. i'm not the most adept tarot card reader, but for over a decade i've found that laying out the cards has really helped me put my life in perspective. what keeps coming up in my cards, and what came up last night was hard work accomplished: time to move on to new beginnings.

i'm getting there, but i want to give a pat on the back to my best pal and soul sister for her own "moving on" to a new job. a job that opens up her life so she can do all the creative things that she is meant to spend her time doing! she never fails to inspire me, even from 2,000 or so miles away...

at the hot springs retreat, a couple of the french broads (those are the gals who gather at hot springs) and i took a day trip to asheville where i took a look at my favorite bookstore for a new tarot deck. what i found has brought whimsy into what has lately been a somewhat somber soul search. it's the housewives tarot. and you can get a reading online. come on girls (and guys), discover your inner housewife:

Saturday, January 05, 2008


i never did tell you what happened to my foster kitties: the grey and white cat was adopted and moved back to virginia, while the black and white one has been christened "beulah" and become part of the judy branch circus.

why beulah?

in portland there is a bar called beulahland. even if it was a horrible dive (which it isn't), i would still love that place just for its name. i find it comforting to know that you can get a cold beer, sardine sandwich (if that's your thing) and a moon pie there. for those of you who don't get why that's so cool, study up on your old gospel tunes. beulahland is a classic, a real beauty of a song that is commonly sung in country churches in appalachia and the south. i reckon it's in the bible somewhere, referring to that place you go after you die. beulah got her name because there's a bar named after my favorite gospel tune. that sort of wonderful fusion seems to capture who she is.

in about a week's time, i should be walking through the doors of beulahland. and i mean for it to be the one that's in oregon. i think i'll order a bloody mary with my grilled cheese sandwich and save the sardines for my beulah back home. yum!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

(from the OED)
v. trans. To make addle; to muddle; to confuse (the brain); to spoil, make abortive.
a. In addle egg: ...A rotten or putrid egg; one that produces no chicken. Applied usually to a fecundated egg in which through exposure to cold the chick dies during hatching; but also to an egg having no germ, which soon begins to decompose; and apparently sometimes to an egg no longer fit for food because partly hatched. (The idea of abortiveness led to many word-plays on addle and idle.)

This word has kept popping into my head. I believe it is my brain's rebellion against two solid weeks of countless hours of writing within the confines of a few pages, or in today's case, in the space of 2,000 characters. After twelve or so hours at the keyboard, my back aching, my lower legs and toes numb and my fingers cramped and stiffened, my brain most certainly is addled, and if it has its way it would throw addled eggs at me until I quit this ridiculous behavior. I have no doubt, if it had the ability, my brain would have aborted my stubborn, workaholic spirit and gone out to celebrate the New Year doing anything other than writing a personal statement for a Ph.D. program.

I gifted myself with two Xmas presents this year: an online subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary and a new bicycle. So far, I have put the OED to great use, but not have not yet done a lot of pedaling about. The bicyle has been useful in cutting down the time it takes to do chores around Judy Branch, like feeding the dogs, squirrels, ducks and chickens when Bill and Billy Joe go out of town. The electronic OED has really made my life easier, and as much as I would love to sift through the millions of pages in those twenty volumes, my bank account and my recently stitched-up back are both grateful for my prudent decision to go cyber.

Now that I am coming to the close of one of three major writing projects, I may take a bit of a vacation from the laptop and the OED and just focus on those small pleasurable tasks of everyday life like washing my hair, cooking a proper meal, playing a little banjo, reading a book for pleasure, wrestling with the dogs and taking long walks in the snow. I'm even feeling eager to clean house.

For those of you who wonder if I've made any progress on "the big life change," two of those writing projects could clear paths in two very different directions. Is the move going to be toward intellectual reflection and scholarship in Yankeeland or a new direction within my current profession on the Left Coast? Only time will tell. I'll let you know when I get to that crossroad. Right now, I'm just pulling doors and seeing what's on the other side.