Sharing Some Good News

A few of you reading this have been following this dog and pony show since the early days (five years ago almost to the day). Suffice it to say that when this epic began, the destination was far from certain. In late March, 2002, the handwriting was on the wall, and it bode ill for my professional future.

I knew I would not continue to dig the same hole deeper. Just where I would plant my spade, and what treasure I would find there in the next excavation into the future, I did not know. But I had the strong and abiding notion there was treasure just outside my door, through my window that looks across at our barn and field. But what was it?

The blog started that month, and the mantra “write every day, write from the heart, write what you know” became the first thing in my mind when I awoke every morning.

And four years later, this week of this month last year, the manuscript for Slow Road Home was in the hands of Edwards Brothers, Inc. Soon, 1000 books would arrive on my doorstep.

And yesterday, five years from the inception of Fragments from Floyd, I learned that Slow Road Home – a Blue Ridge Book of Days will be acquired for distribution in all the Blue Ridge Parkway gift shops and book stores along the 469 mile length of the National Park.

The “reach” of the book is extended many-fold by this means of dispersal, and will find a population of readers to whom I very much wanted to speak. This news, for me, is a major encouragement and reassurance. And so, I wanted to let you know just where the slow road has carried us, you and me, here at the five year mark into the unknown.

And what chapter will unfold by this time NEXT early spring?

Hard frost last night. Sky is pinking up. The reflection of the woodstove flames dance orange against the windowpane, framing an utter calm, cold landscape beyond the glass. The barn roof is white, the butterfly bush outside my window limp with ice crystals fringing every curled and faded leaf.

How womblike-the warmth of the stove, the familiar touch of chair and desk, this old flannel shirt I wear as if it were my birth skin. I love this place, so constant, so fully known and at hand. This place: this room, this house, this valley, these mountains, this time in our lives. Especially now, as winter creeps closer and the days grow short, I appreciate the roof overhead, the full stacks of firewood, the canning in the basement and slow moments like this to see our blessings, the ordinary that we too often take for granted.

We can’t know what’s coming around the bend in the road. But it has been a very nice road, that’s for sure.
from the last page of
Slow Road Home ~ a Blue Ridge Book of Days

The WHEREs We’re From

Spring. A time of new beginnings. A time to take nourishment from our roots to our winter-resting branches and grow a little taller–no matter how old we are.

And for this purpose–to give you an idea of the soil you grow in–I’ve posted a link to the Where I’m From template permanently in the sidebar. This “meme” is still circulating to good effect out there in the online world. And closer to home, even wife Ann sat down and wrote her own version for her reunion. Here’s mine.

Let me emphasize that my only role in this is to make available two things I didn’t have any part of creating: 1) the original poem by George Ella Lyon (which you can find via a link on the template page) and 2) the poem template with blanks and prompts that guide you to create your own version of George Ella’s original. I am simply the messenger.

I will see George Ella again this summer at Hindman at the Writers Workshop, and tell her once more how popular and poignant her work has been.

If you haven’t sat still long enough to ponder what you’d put in the blanks of the template, what are you waiting for? Finished, it will be a gift to your family. And to yourself. Trust me, it’s worth the time.

Giving Nature Back: To Our Children, Ourselves

…Abby had found the broken remnants of a tailless kite, and entertained herself (and us) for a delightful hour under the blue prairie sky.

That afternoon I witnessed in a most striking way the contrast between the old-fashioned play of children actively entertaining their bodies and imaginations in the out-of-doors, and the modern, physically-passive, over-stimulating kinds of “recreation” that happen to kids almost exclusively indoors and may involve use of the thumb muscles alone.

“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are” explained one urban fifth grader.

Read More (quick-loading Scribd pdf). This is an early draft, editorial comments welcomed and appreciated.

Day-after Debriefing

No matter how “successful” one my little book events is, there is a feeling of both relief and regret when it is past and not filling that spot on the calendar where it was for months. And I alway have preconceived notions of how it will be, who and how many will come, and where and how I will steer the conversation and readings just so–and none of this transpires according to imagination’s script. Often, it’s even better. But there are always regrets, no matter how “well” things have gone.

There were many I hoped to see last night who did not come. And some who came that I did not expect. The crowd filled all the chairs provided for the event, and they were responsive enough, if a bit “Lutheran” in their restraint–except for the front row: two grammar-school-aged girls listened to every word and followed me with their eyes and their imaginations as I acted out the story of Zachary, our lost dog who found his way home.

And they asked questions:

“How did you write your book?” one asked.

“I didn’t write a book. My words became a book. I just wrote paragraphs every day.You write a book one sentence at a time. Then find two sentences that fit together. Soon you’ll have a paragraph. Write another that belongs to the first. And soon you’ll have a page. Do this every day, and your sentences and paragraphs and pages will do a better and better job saying what it is you want to say. And in time, if you really want to, you’ll have written a book.”

And “Is your book TRUE?” asked the other.

“True? Yes, but it is a painter’s reality. A painter looks out at a landscape–a pretty barn, a couple of cows, the hills in the distance, and some power lines. He leaves out the power lines in his picture. With writing, you can leave out the power lines and just focus on the things you want your readers to see in the subject of your words. This isn’t dishonest. It just uses words to focus attention on parts of the view.”

After the program, the two girls twittered excitedly. “I’m going home and write the story of my life!” One said. “I’m going to tell my teacher about this!” said the other.

They both came up to the book table with one of my bookmarks and asked me to “autograph” them. Made me smile.

But who knows how this small influence on these young minds might take root and grow to become something of substance. My small appearance and fumbling half-hour could represent a gentle nudge towards a future for one of both these young girls to take writing as their voice to the world.

So I have my satisfications and my regrets. But who knows how we touch the lives of others in ways that can’t be known until their sentences that we inspire finally become their book.