Category Archives: Big Stone Gap

“Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light – – -“

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

The great Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson  was a product of the European ‘Enlightenment’ led by thinkers and scientists based in Edinburgh. The word ‘enlightenment’, of course, plays to my Quaker beliefs as it suggests shining light into the darkness. That movement was very much about lining up rational thought and empirical evidence against superstition and ignorance.

Stevenson expressed his understanding of the battle between these forces wonderfully in ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, where darkness and light are taken to extremes within the same body.

Like many others of the Quaker persuasion, I have a very questioning  faith that probably comes down at bottom to this: we each have the capability for extreme evil and extreme good within us. There’s a continual battle going on between our Jekyll and Hyde and we aren’t in complete control of that battle. Paul said something like that in the Bible in Romans: ‘we hate what we do and know what we should do, but still do the wrong things’.

What I’m getting to, loyal readers is, Charlottesville and everything surrounding it. Like you didn’t see that coming?

Most of us believe that we want to strive toward good, but sometimes  when the stars align (so much for the enlightenment)  our bad side gets a severe nudge. That’s usually powered by feelings of insecurity (think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

There are large segments of the population in the US (and England) that feel very insecure right now because they see their standard of living threatened and need to blame someone for that. They also feel they need to retreat back to a more comfortable set of circumstances. Hence – ‘Make America great again’ and Brexit (Make England great again).

The enemy, therefore (and as usual) becomes anyone not like we who have the power. The difference can be nationality, color, religion, denomination – anything convenient.

So back to my beliefs and faith – My faith is that light will ultimately prevail, as it’s a living thing and is at the beginning of everything. But the darkness is also powerful and we are the ones who feed it.

Finally – Quakers believe in non-violence and the peaceful challenging of violent behavior. I have absolutely no doubt there were many Quakers in Charlottesville and I’ve no doubt which side they were on – the side of the Light. It may become increasingly confusing to decide who gets to say what is light and what darkness. But it can never be said that genuine seekers of God’s guidance don’t find it. I am holding you, and all of us, in the Light.

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The Monday Book-turned-Movie: CLOUD ATLAS

Cloud-Atlas-Actors-Different-Characters

I know, I know, you’re very disappointed in me. But I’m on a crochet deadline, and was  looking for Netflix background–less Netflix and chill than Netflix and hook, but there you go.

So I watched Cloud Atlas because the book by David Mitchell had intrigued me but we sold it before I could rad it. And three hours of movie lets one get a powerful lot of yarn moved into correct position.

The thing about this movie is it was able to add something the book wasn’t: jokes about who was playing what part.

For those unfamiliar, Cloud Atlas is pretty much based on the idea that no matter what century it is, people are behaving pretty much the same. There are good guys, bad guys, hustlers and altruists, and it all moves around in a big circle.

The funniest part is, the hunk hero from 2143 or so is the matron of an evil nursing home from 2012. That part cracked me up. Although the fact that “soylent green is people” was a funny line in 2012 and a real thing about food in 2143 was a bit sobering.

Cloud Atlas runs from the 1800s, when on ships running from Jamaica a bad guy is trying to poison a nice guy who saves another nice guy from getting beaten to death, through the 1970s when corruption in the oil industry is getting nice people killed, past 2012 when it’s the publishing industry and nursing homes that get the scrutiny, into ethical futurist questions in 2100 and 2300 (after the fall a few winters, if that tells you anything) when Earth is back to barbarism. If you don’t take it too seriously, it’s a good film. If you start to ask questions about how people know certain things or can gain access to certain places, forget it. This is a shallow, bright ride.

But it is a ride with some breadth, as the 2100s are shoot-em-up thriller, the 1970s are detective novel, 2012 centers around money, and 2300s is eat or be eaten with a few surprises thrown in. It was as bright and breezy as the afghan I was crocheting while watching, and less knotty if one didn’t ask too many questions.

For escapism or background noise, Cloud Atlas works well. For serious thought fodder, one doesn’t need two hours and 51 minutes of star-studded cast to know that everyone is pretty much after something, for good or ill, and that we recycle stock characters in the parade of our life. History repeats itself because we don’t learn the lesson the first time. Just ask Charlottesville.

 

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Erin Go Bragh – – –

When you get an email from an old friend saying they’re in New Orleans it wouldn’t normally be an occasion for puzzlement or surprise. But this was our good friend Erin, who is usually pretty much stuck here in town because of her medical condition. Erin has Marfan Syndrome and is also legally blind.

We first met Erin through her enthusiasm for amateur drama and our bookstore. She went on to be a stalwart of our weekly needlework night and eventually a great support to Chef Kelley’s ‘Second Story Cafe’. Many a time she slaved late into the night making desserts for the next day and then came in to help take orders, serve and clean up afterwards. She also makes hundreds of mini Cornish pasties for our annual Celtic festival!

Just a few years ago Erin, who trained as a classroom assistant, took on the local Presbyterian Church Sunday school and the kids love her. I love the idea that she is an example to them that not everyone is the same and that no matter the obstacles it’s possible to succeed in life.

However her greatest gift is with infant kittens. She has her own pets, of course, but she is also an expert with very young orphans. Because of her condition she doesn’t sleep well, so she can feed them at the required four hourly intervals. She carries the babies around close to her so they feel secure and even bought a special buggy to wheel them in when she’s out and about–frequently found parked outside our bookstore.

It’s not uncommon in a small rural town anywhere for folk who are seen as ‘different’ to be stigmatized, but Erin is the equal of anyone who looks at her the wrong way. She has kept us entertained many a time telling about the confrontations she has had on the highways and byways of Big Stone Gap.

nollins

A Spitfire and DC3 in D Day markings

The email she sent me this morning was from the WW2 museum in New Orleans and she included pictures of a number of historic aircraft of the period. She had remembered that I’m pretty crazy about classic airplanes. I replied asking her how on earth she had got there, and she explained that she had attended a Marfan conference in Atlanta and then got a Greyhound bus to ‘nollins’ because it wasn’t much further. She had an old friend there who was driving her around and would be back when she and the city were tired of each other- – –

Erin Go Bragh!

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Organizing the Westerns

westernAbout a week ago I realized that our Mancave needed cleaning. We call this the Guys with Big Guns sections, housing Westerns and War novels. It was dusty and hadn’t been culled or realphabzetized in some time.

Dealing with Guys with Big Guns is not something we as Quakers want to spend our time doing.  Although we don’t read these genres, we certainly sell a lot of them, so last Saturday, there was nothing for it but to bite the bullet and move in.

It’s enough to make a bookslinger cynical, I tell ya. First of all, the  expressions on the faces of the cover art guys are the same (grimacing with determination). Also their posture: they lean into the action but slightly away from the gun. Yes, they’re all holding guns, but here’s where it differs. Western guys hold six-shooters (I think) while the War people vary: post-apocalytpic weapon of choice is a Bazooka. Go figger. The spy guy  ranges from little pistol-ma-bobs to those huge rifle-esque guns you see flashed from the backs of Toyotas in countries where things are not going well.

Guns I don’t know much about; the alphabet I can handle. That’s what I was trying to do, organizing them by author. Some, like Terry or William Johnston(e) or good ol’ Louis L’Amour, move fast. Others go at about the speed of cattle crossing the Great Plains. So it’s important to keep them sorted, but at a certain point, whether First-time Author Hoping to Break Into the Genre or whoever is covering L’Amour these days wrote Shootout at Wherever gets old. Did you know that about half of all Western titles start with Shootout, Gunfight, or Crossing? Go ahead, check it out.

It seems to me that Westerns are Romance for Men. In fact, I once put a bunch of Native American romances back there in the mancave, mixed in with the other Shooters, and sure enough, they got scooped up. A word to whoever is designing the covers: a girl with big heaving bosoms and a guy with gritty determination in his eyes will do; you really don’t have to worry about anything else. Near as I can tell, in the Westerns she heaves in the background as the guy covers her with his big gun, while in the Romances she heaves in the foreground as the guy, again…. Anyway, you get the (cover) picture.

It took several hours, but our Westerns and War sections are now relatively dust-free. Jack did suggest I leave a bit, for atmosphere. “Guys want a little True Grit,” said my husband.

 

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Socializing with Friends – – –

Jack’s guest Wednesday post –

There’s a favorite Scottish saying that goes – “we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns” (which roughly translates as “all human beings are part of the same big family of mankind”). When laid alongside Robert Burns’ famous song “A Man’s a Man for a’ That” it pretty much sums up my political views. I would therefore describe myself as a European style social democrat.

Scotland is an odd place in terms of its mix of entrepreneurship, inventiveness, canny financial acumen and sense of shared community. That last one perhaps stems from the highland clan system – the idea of extended family. Which neatly brings us back to Jock Tamson’s bairns.

I believe that there are certain things that any civilized community should provide to its members. That would include those that have health issues or just struggle to maintain an acceptable standard of living. That shouldn’t depend on the vagaries of charitable giving, but be organized, planned and paid for through progressive taxation. Of course this requires a healthy economy that can pay people sufficient to generate the tax income to pay for it. As a Quaker I have to also say that I believe far too much tax income is spent on making war!

Just twelve miles from my hometown is the one where Adam Smith, the father of economic theory was born. His famous book “The Wealth of Nations” is popular with lots of Neo-Liberal conservatives, however they always ignore the part where he says that market forces have to work alongside a safety net to protect the most vulnerable members of society. So even good old Adam was a social democrat at heart! Of course he was part of the European Enlightenment of the early 19th century and Edinburgh was an important part of that through medical research, philosophy and political theory.

In case this sounds like an advertizing feature for the Scottish tourist industry, I should perhaps remind you that Jock Tamson’s Bairns are all of humanity – black, white and every color in between – all religions and none – – –

So there you have it. I guess some of my American friends will have had their worst fears confirmed now. I’m the socialist their parents warned them about!

Duck and cover – – –

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“Baldrick, the only way you’d get a wet kiss is in the water closet!”

19429917_1872839233039103_365946916303730842_nToday’s post is from Mike Still, a volunteer at Hazel House. Please rest assured that what happened to him won’t happen again….. and we wish him well in therapy.

My name is Mike Still, and I am an adjunct lecturer Communications. I’m also a nice guy, and a cat lover, so I volunteer at Hazel House.

I made a vital discovery Thursday while doing cat duty at Hazel House. A seven-pound (estimated) cat can move an eight-pound weight with relative ease.

Having filled up one of the large pitchers to top off the inhabitants’ water bowls, I found myself distracted by the charms of resident older kittens Frankie and Licorice. Telling myself that Dido – the usual occupier of the dresser in HH’s Hemingway room – is long on personality but short on body mass, I set the pitcher on top of her dresser and sat down in the floor to romp with the kittens.20258203_1891515134504846_4609540728349224597_nDIDO, pre-deed

After five minutes of play culminating in Licorice in my lap and Frankie on my knee, it happened. The relative humidity jumped without warning to an audible saturation and precipitation point. Frankie leaped and ran, avoiding much of the drastic physical change. Licorice was a bit slow, catching a substantial portion of the gallon of water that flowed onto my left side.

As the pitcher landed on the floor and the air turned rapidly into indigo around my mouth, Licorice sat there in amazement, shock and water. I caught a glimpse of a tannish-gray flash from the dresser to the far side of the room as Dido made her escape.

20246268_1891515204504839_1308763949938646724_n(Incidentally, there’s nothing like drying off a black kitten still in denial of the presence of liquid appearing in mid-air.) Licorice is a good kid, though, and shouldn’t show any signs of shock for some months.

As for Dido, she understands that mass AND velocity overcome mass any day of the week.

After mopping up the water, I headed out to get dry clothes. Stopping at the Valero gas station in Appalachia for a Diet Dr. Pepper, I was helpfully informed by the clerk that I could get a second one for just a dollar.

“No thanks,” I said. “This should just about meet my fluid needs for the day.”

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DIDO, post-deed

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That Line between Hoarding and Recycling

The grandchild of two women who survived the Great Depression, I grew up watching my paternal grandma stick straight pins into a potholder on her stairs. No matter how bent, she would hammer them straight if necessary, and into the little blue felt heart (made from scraps of another project) they went. She had a jar of thread balls. Meanwhile, maternal grandma “Nanny” cut plastic milk jugs into scoops or used them to store well water against drought. Both hoarded bread wrappers and the plastic bags inside cereal boxes.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never found the line between hoarding and recycling. Plastic storage containers with no lids? Heck, I can start tomato seeds in them come Spring. Books from 1970 about education policy? Craft time, baby!

Repurposed-Books.jpg

Except, it never is craft time. Neat stacks of “things I’m going to make as soon as I have time” turn into spider condominiums in the garage. Boxes of one project get pushed to the rear behind other projects.

Still, I persist in refusing to throw things away, because gosh darn it, we all need to reduce our footprint on this planet. It feels more gracious to save the string too short to be saved in an old mint tin, then throw the whole thing away when a mouse starts nesting; now it’s a health hazard rather than my wastefulness.

(I would have set it out for birds to use, but FB says that’s bad for their health….)

Old bottles I can figure out; paste funny slogans on the side of them with scrap paper: Tincture of Smarm, Diplomacy syrup, Integrity Supplement. These are on a shelf in my office, and they amuse me. But there’s only so much room on the shelf.

Ziploc bags get rewashed and reused, but when I tried to make ice by freezing water in one the other day, it had pinholes and all the water leaked out into my chest freezer and now there’s something of a defrost crisis out there. And sometimes people edge away at the pool when they see my sun hat is crocheted from plastic grocery bags.

I was unraveling a sweater to save the yarn, and the big hole up its back meant every piece was about six inches long, but I kept tying them into the next string until Jack physically took it out of my hands and said, “Dear. Really?”

Save money, save the planet, but they never tell you how keeping stuff loses time–the other American failing. Saving time is a virtue in our society, perhaps more important than saving ourselves?

Having been a student for 12 years, every late July/early August, the urge hits to reduce my belongings to what can fit into a Toyota hatchback. It’s a grad school thing. It’s not good for marriages. But it does keep me from becoming a permanent hoarder, when my grad student side fights with my grandmothers’ DNA.

Should I throw away the box of envelopes stamped with an old professional address, or keep blacking them out with a marker and writing mine below it? Will I take that bag of mismatched socks to the trash (but they’re great for stuffing crocheted animals!) and give up ironing wrapping paper? Can I deny the penny-pinching miser I am for the sake of a home where I’m not tripping over stuff that will come in handy someday?

It’s a dilemma – to save or not to save, that is the question. Whether ’tis better to pay up at the store or feel like you’re beating the man and saving the Earth every time you stuff another box of weirdness into a closet?

Simplicity was never this complicated in Nanny’s day….

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