Monday, March 30, 2009

Too Wet To Plow, Too Windy To Pile Rocks

Too Wet To Plow, Too Windy To Pile Rocks
By Roni Gilpin

Warm sun through the window beckons us. “Outside, Outside.”
Across the field, brown grass wears a green glow.
Stiff bones creak, “It is time, it is time”.

March wind, incessant and unforgiving, disagrees.
It drones on through the distant trees
Like a torrent over rocks in the stream.

There is no quiet, no rest from the tempest, the dull unending roar.
As the last leaves of the burr oak
Are loosed in the current and sent like debris,

Natural detritus mingled with the neighbor’s garbage,
Fast food cartons and plastic bags
Catch in the trees and wave like pennants announcing a spring not yet come.

There is work to be done, but like the crows, tired of fighting the headwind,
We acquiesce, go inside, and pore over seed catalogues.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Evening With the Mountain Keepers

The University of Kentucky Writing Program
Community Engagement Series
Proudly Presents

Thursday, April 9, 2009 from 6 - 10 pm
UK Student Center Grand Ballroom
Free and open to the public

The Evening celebrates the way that public writing and grassroots community action work together to ensure a healthy, participatory democracy. Learn about Appalachia's endangered culture and its uneasy relationship with coal, and experience how journalists, poets, speakers, artists, and musicians use creative activism to make their voices heard.

Take a look at the Beehive Collective's incredible new work of art The True Cost of Coal and talk with the artists who created it, see Jeff Chapman-Crane's breathtaking sculpture The Agony of Gaia, visit with our community partners about their unique coal-culture exhibits, browse art and culture displays, watch MTR visuals, listen to activist music from Public Outcry and others, and enjoy refreshments.


MC Erik Reece begins the program with a brief reading from Lost Mountain and a discussion of the way that public writing and grassroots community action work together to safeguard the participatory democratic nation our Founders designed. He highlights the way in which engaged citizen-writers have worked for decades to make disturbing environmental and social justice issues visible to the public eye

Frank X Walker offers an introduction to Appalachia's endangered culture and performs his new poem—a reflection on a photograph of WV coal miners.

Judy Sizemore reads The Badlands of Kentucky

Dave Cooper gives a geographic and ecological overview of MTR

George Ella Lyon reads original poetry

Silas House and Jason Howard read from Something's Rising: Appalachians Fighting MTR

Public Outcry! plays original acoustic MTR music.. meet Silas House, Jason Howard, Jessie Lynn Keltner, Kate Larken, George Ella Lyon & Anne Shelby

Anne Shelby reads original poetry

Larry Gibson, the WV activist featured by CNN, Nightline, and People Magazine, shares his moving personal narratives on MTR and community

9p—Q&A and . . .

Audience Q&A discussion with presenters, talk with participants, peruse the art, culture, and information exhibits—and hear more MTR activist music.

Friday, March 27, 2009

April Challenge

April Challenge: May Flowers (755 words)

The Midnight Garden

By Helen Curtis

I called them my midnight gardens and filled them with dark flowers. It started with an advertisement for a black rose. I was intrigued and ordered one. It was really a deep red and there will probably never be a truly black rose, but I was hooked. I bought a black iris which was deep purple. I recently saw a cultivar that is supposed to be actually black, called Superstition. The black lily was a dark orange. I planted a black elephant ear in the back with coca-cola holly hocks. The holly hocks were more of a brown. There is also black Heuchera (coral bells) called obsidian, a superb specimen. A gardening magazine suggested pairing the dark with white flowers, but I like the stand alone effect.

When we moved from northern Ohio to east of English Kentucky, the midnight garden was one of the first theme gardens I recreated. I lived in the woods in Ohio and mostly had shade flowers and a minimal vegetable garden. I had to learn a new way of gardening in sunny English and could have a larger vegetable garden, but flowers were my main focus.

My second love is wild flowers, which abound in May. The front of my house in Ohio was a feast of them in early spring. We had a fortune in ginseng, but I didn’t realize it until we had already moved. May apples peppered the front with their tiny, mushroom like umbrellas. Violets, yellow, white but mostly purple salted everything, as did the wild geraniums and ramps. Not as plentiful was the jack-in the pulpits, trout lilies, and my favorite blood root. There were a lot of Stinking Benjamins (trilliums) as well. If you want to know why they received that nick name, bring some into the house!

I decided to plant a wildflower garden in English. If I had waited, I would have seen that God had already planted one on the hill behind our house. Dutchmen’s Breeches abounded as did wild ginger. The funny thing is, I had always wanted some ginger and ordered some from the internet. (Warning: don’t EVER type wild ginger into your search engine!) The next spring, I knew what it looked like, and ginger carpeted the hillside!

My husband erected a wooden cross in the English garden. I surrounded it with the black, a red, a purple, and a white garden. I continued the color theme throughout the rest of the gardens there. St. John’s Wort was the focus of the yellow garden. I had yellow Summer False Sunflower and knew the effect I wanted, to pair them with Butterfly Blue Scabiosa. I never did get it to my satisfaction, probably because the Scabiosa is an annual. But my granddaughter, who was three last year helped me plant and she got it exactly right with the two flowers!

I planted a Fourth of July garden beside the patio, with red, white, and blue flowers. It was my second favorite. When we moved, I was working on a chartreuse garden. There is a company that specializes in chocolate flowers. If I still lived in English, I would have to have one of those as well.

Since moving to Mercer, I have concentrated mostly on a vegetable garden. We moved in July and left the garden up north and it was too late to plant one here. Last year I planted traditional vegetables from the local store. This year, I incorporated my taste for the unusual into the vegetable garden. I spent a lot of time since Christmas with my nose in seed catalogues. I ordered rainbow peppers and carrots in hues of coral, white, cosmic purple, yellow, and red. Cheddar (yellow) and purple cauliflower, brocciflower went on the order blank as well as white eggplant which is not as bitter as the purple. I like the heirloom tomatoes – they taste like they are supposed to. This year I started a West Virginia tomato. I drew the line at the red corn, however, but only because I was afraid it would cross with the yellow and we had to put in an electric fence to keep out the raccoons. We not only had to fence it, but Ken had to install a controller with a higher joules. They laughed at the regular electric fence. They are not laughing at this one!

It will be interesting to see how the veggie garden turns out, but I still miss my midnight garden.

Monday, March 16, 2009



March is a time of drips and puddles as shimmering ponds appear in the low-lying areas where grass lay dormant in winter and grew thick in the summer. The spring rains cause creeks to swell and triple their size and chunks of ice imitate melting cubes in a glass of lemonade. But the month which straddles winter and spring, begins with bitter winds and bursts of snow that continue to grip the northern regions. Yet March can also be blessed with days when warm winds blow and we have faith the spring thaw will arrive and the winter winds will lose their punch.

March winds continue to blow, even when the temperature edges above 40 and jackets were unzipped but left on for fear of a parental scolding about “catching your death of pneumonia.” It is impossible not to feel one’s blood running swiftly like sap in the trees as the biting wind harkens back to youthful springs.

The older we get the stronger the wind gets, and it’s always in our face, but forget not the earthly delights of feeling your bare feet in the cool spring grass as the March winds play with your hair, blowing puffs and strands in a wild disarray around your head. When a great wind is blowing, it gives you either vivid imagination or a nagging headache.

Botanists say trees need the powerful March winds to flex their trunks and branches, so the sap is drawn up to nourish the budding leaves. Who was it that said, “When the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by?” Perhaps we need the gales of life in the same way, though we dislike enduring them. It is an all too human frailty to suppose a favorable wind will blow forever.

When the March winds blow in like a lion, I always worry for the daffodils as they begin poking their green tips through the cold crust of soil and start opening their yellow heads. Will they survive the force of the wind, or will they bend in compliance to the greater blowing power? I have found, no matter the strength of the blowing March winds, the daffodils survive the onslaught of gale and hale, and live to hold their heads up high.

Children love the March winds, all the better to fly a kite. The same winds which blow the birds about the sky are also the ones which toss the kites so high. Flipping and swirling with no care of its own, the winds cruise on with a mind of their own as if trying to make a last curtain call from the bitter to sweet.

So if the March winds come in like a lion, the old wives will tell you, it should go out like a lamb. Winter has past and spring sunshine begins to glow, sending a welcome as birds begin to chatter and flowers begin to bloom. Gone is the pearly snow and icy crystals, the Earth has started to warm and a new song is on the breeze. A time for rebirth and renewal, fresh starts and clean slates, a new picture of what the March winds mean to me.

Tempered Glass


I'm so distorted and wavey, not at all serene
My thoughts are captured like the curves in tempered glass
Frosted over, trapped in dark, trapped in light
Always my own, and trapped inside my head

Why can't others see as I do, the rapidly changing world
The dangerouse times in which we live
Hazy waves of violent hostilities, destroying the fabric of life
Leaving us in staggered amazement and full-gale trepidation

When will peace prevail, or at least a steady calm
A breath of tranquil kisses in the face of all alarms
I send a prayer onto the wind to blow a gentle wish
Then I'll remain like tempered glass as hazy as my fears

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Letter to Jason


March 12, 2009

Dear Jason,

You turn 34 today. Each year at this time I remember all the plans and dreams I had for you. I remember when I first found out that I was pregnant with you. Your daddy and I were so happy. We had a little girl who was 3 and you would have been her baby brother. We bought a bigger house and had your room all ready for you to be born. God had other plans though. The day before you were born I had a doctor’s appointment and the doctor said, “I can’t hear a heartbeat.” He said you could have been behind the placenta and maybe that was why he couldn’t hear it.

Then he sent me home. That was the longest 30 minutes I had ever driven. I prayed all the way home, begging for the doctor to be wrong. I was so upset and scared that I went into labor that night.

We left early for the hospital the next day. The doctor came in and said he still couldn’t hear your heartbeat. He kept trying and trying. He put a monitor on you and still there was no heartbeat. He told me you were dead. I didn’t believe him. I just kept praying and crying and praying and crying. After hours of labor you were born. They wouldn’t let me see you. The doctor told your daddy that I shouldn’t see you. I wanted to so bad, but they wouldn’t let me. I guess that is why I still don’t believe you’re gone, even after 34 years. I still think about you every day and love you as much as I do your sister and brother. I know you are in heaven and I know you are happy and that is how I can go on living without you.


I Remember

I saw on the news last night that Parkette Drive-In on New Circle and Liberty had reopened after being closed for renovation. Just the mention of the name brings back floods of memories. Those big double-decker Poorboy Sandwiches with fat crinkle French fries and pink lemonade make my mouth water just thinking about them. There were two Parkette’s in Lexington when I was growing up there, but this one was my favorite. We had a lot of fun cruising, eating and talking.

I remember the Saturday daddy let me drive his 1967 Dodge Polara convertible for the first time. My sister, her date, my date and I went “cruising” through Parkette. You can’t just go in and park especially when you are in a yellow convertible with the top down. You have to drive around the circle at least three times to make sure everyone notices you. We finally stopped and ordered into the big silver speaker and waited for our lunch, noses up in the air like we were really special. After we ate and talked awhile, we decided to leave, I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened – again - nothing happened, by this time the two guys were turning red, which didn’t match the yellow Dodge at all. I turned the key again – still nothing. Both guys slid down in the seat so they couldn’t be seen and it looked as though my sister and I were the only two in the car, she in the back seat and I in the front seat. Needless to say we were both a little red in the face too. Finally I got out and went to the pay phone to call daddy to come and get the car started. This is still one of my most embarrassing moments to this day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

April Assignment

Hello Ink Blots;

The April assignment for Nomadic Ink is slightly different, mainly because we will be trying new "technology" or "equipment."

The assignment is "MAY FLOWERS" and it should be more than 500 words, but less than 800 words. Now for the new technology: Tony would like for everyone to post their May writing here on the Nomadic Ink blog.

After you have posted your writing, check out everyone else's writing and leave a comment with constructive criticism.

**Scroll down for newest posts**

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kissing Lessons

Photo is: SA Schimmel Gold's Shut Up and Kiss Me Again

Kissing Lessons

I don’t know how to kiss,
But somehow im sure,
You’ll show me.
Lips are such a fascinating part,
So simple yet,
With many uses,
I hope you’ll,
Teach me well.
Im following you,
As you move,
My hands match yours,
As they,
Fit together like,
Puzzle pieces.
Funny how they have nothing to do,
With kissing,
But are so very,
Your eyes are mirrors,
Mirroring mine as big as moons,
Orbiting you,
Creating waves and current,
I follow you and you follow me.
I see your lips move and,
Mimic them,
And soon those lips will be mine,
This lesson has only just,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sisterhood of the Unraveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Unraveling Pants

Why is it that sometimes I think my youngest daughter is raising me instead of the other way around? With a 10-year age difference between my oldest and youngest daughters, Christine has practically been an only child because her older sisters have been out of the house for so long.

Although the stereotypical "only child" has been portrayed as spoiled, pampered and selfish, I can vouch for the fact this is not true.

Case in point, "the ripped pants."

"Honey, do you have to wear those ripped pants?" I looked at my daughter, shaking my head.

"But I like these pants, Mom. They're comfortable." She proceeded to pack her backpack for school, ignoring my exasperated sighs and rolling eyes.

"The teachers are going to think you don't have any good pants to wear." I tried turning on my pleading voice.

"But I do have good pants, Mom; they're just not as comfortable." She walked into the bathroom to pull her long hair up into a ponytail.

"What will your friends say? They are going to make fun of you because you have a big hole in your pants."

"But I don't care what my friends say. If they make fun of me, then they weren't friends to begin with." She turned on the water and started brushing her teeth.

"What about the dress code? I don't want to be called to school to bring you a decent pair of pants." I was running out of objections, but I didn't want her wearing those pants to school.

"But the dress code says you can't have holes on the butt of your pants. They don't want us showing our underwear. It doesn't say anything about holes in the knees." She rinsed her mouth and headed for the front door.

"But honey, I just don't want you wearing those pants!" I knew my voice had gotten forceful, but I couldn't help it.

"Why Mom? Are you worried about me, or are you embarrassed for yourself?"

I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at my daughter with different eyes.

"Mom, these pants are comfortable. I'm not wearing them to make a statement. I'm not wearing them to upset my teachers. I'm not wearing them because of my friends. I'm not wearing them to go against the dress code. And I'm certainly not wearing them to make you mad. You're a great mother! You shouldn't worry so much about what other people think of you." With her speech complete, she kissed me on the cheek, threw her backpack over one shoulder and headed out the door to the bus stop.

I was dumbfounded. I suddenly realized I was more worried about what people thought of me. I was afraid her ripped pants would be a bad reflection on me. I was going against everything I had ever tried to teach her.

Out of the mouths of babes.

(Edited to add: this post appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Tuesday, March 17, 2009)