The Party Balloon

The orange balloon pulled at the thin pink ribbon that tethered it to the green mailbox, the party done and nothing to celebrate.

The sun rose, lighting just the tops of tallest trees and I untied the child’s toy from its hitch, moved back into the clearing to let it go where it would with space to rise free of the branches of maples and poplars by the house.

There had been the barest whisper of wind on the banks beside the creek at first light and from there, the orange teardrop rose vertically, slipping gracefully through the bare limbs outside the back door, drifting north up behind the little white house on a gentle slant into rising sun–itself an orange ball with a blue planet tethered to it.

Fifty feet above the silver metal of the roof, invisible waves pushed down, tossed and jostled the thin rim of elemental air in the undertoe of the surging wave, lurching, twisting, uncertain which way to go–pulled, tossed, lifted and swirled, the ribbon traced the erratic scribble of an alien hand.

At 100 feet, the golden dot was released, let go from the hold of the chaotic swirl that bedeviled its rise, found hints of the persistent northerlies, still bobbing and lurching a little along what would be its final course southeast.

At 200 feet, the struggle calmed above the level of the upwind ridge, a barrier like a snow fence that drops winds down our valley like drifts, crazy, erratic and weak.

And at 250 feet the tiny speck of gold lifted above the rim of our hollow, into the sun, out of the turbulence, its tail gone stiff behind it, rushing with certainty, driven above the bowl that holds home by the great blow of arctic air pushed heavy down from Canada.

Then on, no wavering, no ripples, no looking back. And at the rim of the distant ridge, it cleared the treetops as I knew it would and disappeared.

Thursday Blurbs

Score One for The Guys!

I achieved the Glowing GasPump Dashboard Icon award recently, traveling on mere vapors while on the remote and gasless Blue Ridge Parkway. I was traveling alone of course, as my copilot begins to panic when the tank falls below 3/4 full. I’m serious.

Pain Vs Pleasure

I suppose after last week’s party the new room (the ANNex) does have some usefulness and can provide us with some pleasures. But every morning since then, I’d have much preferred (and this was roundly voted down) for our construction dollars a garage so that I don’t have to scrap ice every morning , twice on the days I also leave the valley before first light for work. Grrrr!

Dr. Pain

I am about to celebrate my first anniversary of my return to physical therapy. There have been more good days than bad, more patients I look forward to working with than dread, and enough income to make me feel less guilty about indulging in the much less financially-rewarding enterprise of the book-related events of the past year. I think I am only recently regaining my sense of “best care” and the results of treatment have been more and more rewarding. I doubt I will return to teaching anytime soon, as it takes far too much time for the dollars, and takes too much out of me. My PT license is good for two more years, and we’ll re-evaluate at the end of 2008 what happens after that. To some extent, it will depend on how able the hands are to go on in this work. The trend in that regard is somewhat bleak.

Bloggers Blogging

Fragments friend D writing under the pseudonym Metropolitan has “penned” a nice study (Fountainpens: a Place to Start) of the joys of and varieties of fountain pens over at DIY Planner. I confess to a pen fettish myself, though too cheap to spring for a real ink-powered pen. My favorite (especially for book signing) is a nice Cross Pen given to me by a patient some years ago. And David Sobotta, Roanoke blogger / beach blogger rallies to the defense of blogging and bloggers against the foppish rantings of a “real” journalist who suggests blogs are “written by fools to be read by imbeciles.” Hmmm.

Proof in the Pudding

Actually, no pudding. Maybe no proof. But possibly. I got word yesterday (after spending literally ALL day Monday reading the fine print, making the slight but tedious revisions to make the cover comply with a new template, yadayada) that I may have in my hands by tomorrow the complete book (version two, digitally printed) from Lightningsource. Then, I’ll have to decide if that is the way I will go for future book printing and distribution. I’m prepared to be somewhat (or significantly) disappointed with the interior graphics, possibly the cover (gloss laminate is the only choice.) I also will need to get my head around how much less per book this option will offer me, while holding the potential for many times the distribution. More on that soon, I’m sure, for the two of you who have been following this little continuing story of the climb up the learning curve of publishing.)


image copyright Fred First

She got her horse.

image copyright Fred First

After all these years.

Beauty kept her out of trouble. Beauty, the first horse, also sent her to the ER with a broken arm. But now there’s Cassie, and granddaughter Abby will have her own love affair with the sweaty, obstinate, romantic beasts because her momma couldn’t live any longer without a horse in her life.

If it will keep her a safe distance from other harms and wastes of time, I’m all for it–especially given the fact that I don’t have to call the vet, the ferrier, or the neighbors to see if the horse showed up over at their place after getting out of the pasture. Those duties I happily confer to son-in-law Mike (who is wearing my shirt, I notice here! Some styles never go out of style, eh?)

And So It Goes

“Ann, you should see some of the great suggestions Fragments readers are offering for the lead-in and byline fade-out for the radio essay” I told her yesterday morning.

“Like what?” she wanted to know.

“Well, like Stranger on the Shore. It’s such a haunting…”

“No! That comes from my brother’s era, not ours. I don’t want to be dated any older than I already am!” And so the search took on a new twist, with acceptable tunes only within a narrow window of time (not yet negotiated) though I argued (if she would just read the piece again) that the essay was about “the times” both before and after we graduated from high school, so that the exact year was less important than the emotional weight the music would lend to the piece. Venus. Mars. In separate orbits of course.

But then later in the day, it no longer mattered. An email from the radio station said the piece (which I figured was destined to air sometime in the spring) would be up on Dec 22 (this Friday!) and due to time constraints, they had to select something instrumental and get it uploaded and done.

And so, as you can hear, the piece ends with some music that is pleasant enough, but lends nothing to the memory of the times. I’m sorry about that. But it was fun “producing” this piece with your great suggestions. Heck. I may just have to download the radio file and splice in my own intro–WITH musical bookends: intro maybe the instrumental organ leadin to Whiter Shade of Pale; fade out: last bars of Floyd Cramer’s Last Date. Hmmm….

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, catch the little reunion tale real-time broadcast on WVTF this Friday morning, or listen to the unreal-time mp3 file here. The Way We Were / An Essay by Fred First

This was fun. Thanks, all.

Aint Ant Aunt

I suppose the most “authentic” and unaltered mountain-talk I’ve been around since moving north from Alabama was at an impromptu meal at the home of Ray Hicks, storyteller and along with the rest of his very gracious family, keepers of the language of the mountains.

But then, I guess I grew up with a double dose of language-baggage, being both southern and Appalachian. So most of the words and phrases in this article about Appalachian language seem commonplace, or at least familiar.

Makes me remember my AINT Sara who once when I was small offered my brother and I a glass of SWEET MILK. To our disappointment, it turned out to be only not-buttermilk.

Ann and I heard some terms only after moving to southwest Virginia in the mid-seventies, and it took us a while to KETCH on–like the first time some country neighbors asked if “YUNS wanna come ta dinner at AIR house directly?

Lots of older folks still DRAP the first letters of THAT and add an H to it and change words like ruined to RURNT and it all sounds quite normal to our ears now.

For those who don’t come from these mountains, if you heard such language from a visitor, would you think them simple and backward? Could you accept them as an intellectual equal? Is there any wonder that those who must make a living in the larger world outside the hills and hollers often abandon the “native tongue” now spoken by fewer and fewer until some day, our children’s children will only read about it, and listen to a few old WAV files and laugh.