Tag Archives: #writing_of_place

A weekend of cold, wet weather sends me back to work on a beautiful Monday!

Thanksgiving Day was the last decent weather day we had through the long holiday weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all wet, windy and cold. Most decidedly cold for the wife. Forty degree weather in this neck of the woods qualifies as winter, not fall, so throw in the rain and the wife was miserable.

At sunset on Sunday the clouds finally began to break and Monday dawned clear and sunny. So as I trudged back to work and my temporary office in our training room as we are in the process of adding new offices around the facility, the weather made me want to play hooky.

I put the long rainy hI think we live by ours to good use though. I picked up the latest Robert Ludlum novel in travels early on Friday so as the weather set in I set to reading. Late last night I finished the book. Enjoyable Ludlum escapism, just what the weather ordered. I also found this nugget of dialog in the mouth of one of the main characters…

I think we live by stories. We organize our lives around stories. You ask me who I am, I tell you a story, But stories change…There’s no experience outside of narrative.

Robert Ludlum, The Bancroft Strategy

When I sat down with Fred First a couple of weeks ago I was telling him that the main attraction I felt to the western North Carolina area we visit was the stories. The stories of place, the stories of people, the stories of family long gone to other areas.

One of the things that now attracts me to Floyd County, Virginia is the stories being told there. I “met” Doug and David and Marie Freeman and Harley and all of their friends through the stories they told on their blogs. I “met” Fred through the blog of Marie Freeman, whose pain I share this week over the lose of her companion Harley. I “met’ Marie because of her connection to the location of the stories I had fallen in love with…And so the story circle continues, as it has for generations.

One of my beliefs, one that has developed over the past few years, is that we all live in our own myth. We are the main character in the story of our life. But we do not write this story, this myth, by ourselves. This particular story is written by all of the people we interact with in our life. The myth we live is the story reflected back at us by the mirror of our family and friends. We are what we are because we try to live up to that image, we try to be what others see. We only control the story in the broadest of strokes of the pen. Our actions are read and told through the pages of other peoples stories…They write the myth of our lives.

Our control of this is only as big as the guiding principles we live by. But these principles are seen through the lens of others cameras, recorded on the tape of others memories, written on the pages of others life stories. These interactions make what we are into what we become…In others minds, our myths…

Pardon the ramble. I knew not where this was going when I started it…So add another chapter to my “myth”…

It’s Friday so let’s play “Photo Friday”

This week’s challenge: ‘The City‘.

Houston on a beautiful winter day in February of this year.

Taken while attending a National Geographic Photography Session at the U of H Downtown Campus.

This week’s challenge: ‘The City‘.

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I have this site set up with Amazon linking “smartly” to the content. Oft-times I have a real problem figuring out the links relevance to the words or phrase the link is attached to. On Tuesday that wasn’t a problem. I had made a comment on the Brazos River. Amazon linked to John Graves’ Goodbye to a River: A Narrative. That book is one of my favorites and led me to acquiring many of Mr. Graves’s later works.

“Goodbye to a River” is one of the best pure Texas books I have ever read. The mixture of nature, history, and personal narrative leaves me longing to learn to string words together in a like manner.

I have spent very little time around the Brazos of John Graves’s stories. The Brazos in my life is the river in it’s dotage just before it dies in the Gulf of Mexico. Broad, slow moving, full of color washed down from the far reaches. Not the river that once flowed free and are chronicled for the last time in Mr. Graves’s book.

There is a form of writing that has come to be known as “writing of place”, Mr. Graves has the distinction of being one of those writers who can put the place wholly into the stories he spins. And the place he loves and writes about are the hard scrabble places of west Texas. Dry, dusty, thin soiled places. Places a person has to work at just staying afloat. Places where living hasn’t had the life wrung out of it.

If you haven’t heard of John Graves before, do yourself a favor…Go float down a river about to be tamed with a man who knows the story of every little named bend and stream. It’ll be time well spent…


Time to hit the road…catch you on the other side…

New Blogging Machine…

My new toy finally arrived from Dell yesterday…A 17″ laptop with some bells and whistles to make photo editing easier. I planned to post the first blog this morning. I got a little sidetracked with a phone call from a high school buddy making arrangements for the 35th reunion this weekend. What with playing catch-up with what’s been going on in the last few months the time ran away from me.

I had been formulating a quick post about Cook’s Illustrated Magazine…So you all will get the condensed version this evening…

I discovered the editorial page in Cook’s Illustrated just recently. Now mind you, I’ve been aware of Christopher Kimball for years. For a big portion of the past few years I caught America’s Test Kitchen on PBS every Saturday. Each months issues editorial brings a story of place. The place he writes of are the mountains he calls home and the people who inhabit those mountains with him. The magazine he edits has always attracted me. As much for the artwork on the covers as for the stories inside. I have always felt the covers called for frames and walls to hold them, but once I actually started reading the magazines I discovered I am willing to pay the price of admission just to read Mr. Kimball’s monthly musings about life and history and the folks he shares his life with.

If you haven’t stumbled on the Cook’s Illustrated Editorial, do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or steal a copy and see if you don’t agree that they are worth the price of the magazine. And if you don’t find Christopher Kimball entertaining, you’ll still have some great magazines with lots of cooking tips and recipes…enjoy.

Saturday morning muses at the end of summer.

As I was reading my email this morning I received the latest “News from Vermont” written by Burr Morse. Burr’s essay this time had to do with a trip into foreign lands and the welcome he received.

September 14, 2007

Hello again Maple People,

I’ve always had an “attitude” about our neighbors north of the 45th parallel. Even though my car can take me there in a mere 60 minutes, the language is different and entrance is gained only through a gate with armed guards…it’s a foreign country. The other day my brother Elliott asked me to accompany him and his Civil War Roundtable group across the border to visit The Abenaki Museum at Odanak. When I demurred, he said I could “sleep on it” and give him the answer the next day. That night when I checked the atlas to locate Odanak, the straight edge that physically separates Vermont from Quebec “jumped out” at me. “Makes as much sense as a flat-top haircut on a round-faced boy”, I thought. Perhaps my most radical bias, however, is over something that should be peaceful…maple syrup. Quebec is a huge maple region and its competition with Vermont has not always been, shall we say, sweet.

In spite of my reservations, I decided to make the trip. We met members of the Roundtable early in the morning at a shopping center parking lot in Derby Line. In the car pool shuffle, Elliott and I welcomed Ed Bearss, a nationally known historian on American wars, as our passenger. We proceeded, caravan style to the Canadian Customs Station at Rock Island, Quebec. I was surprised there was no waiting line but was on edge, never-the-less, envisioning my Nissan Altima being ripped to pieces by sharp knives and pry bars. A female Customs agent came to the passenger window, asked where we were going and requested our identification cards. “What are you taking into Canada?” she also asked. Inwardly I screamed “bad attitude, prejudice and the ability to make better maple syrup”. Outwardly I said “nothing but our personal items”. After a short time, she handed back our IDs, waved us on and wished us a good day…”That’s all” I thought, feeling like a prisoner suddenly on the outside.

After enjoying the rest this issue’s essay I began thinking of the wordsmiths I enjoy who make their primary living working on the farm. I haven’t made it a point to search these folks out, but maybe I should. There is something about the solitude of farm work that seems to allow the wordsmiths it produces to let their words steep and age before they commit them to paper (or electronic replacements thereof). To read Burr’s work you’ll have to sigh up for the newsletter at the link above. He has some samples at his website.

The first farming wordsmith I stumbled across was Andy Griffin out of California. Andy posts at The Ladybug Letter and his essays are always entertaining and usually sneak in a bit of teaching in the process. It was an essay of his on the growing of packaged salad greens at the time of the E. coli spinach scare that I stumbled upon that introduced me to Andy’s writing. Sampling his newsletter for a while convinced me I enjoyed his style and content…

The Ladybug Letter

The Jerusalem artichokes in my fields aren’t artichokes, and they’re not from Jerusalem. So what are they? For one thing, they’re a problem I need to solve soon.Scientists call Jerusalem artichokes Helianthus tuberosa. Helios is Greek for sun, and anthus means flower, so the Jerusalem artichoke is a sunflower that makes a tuber. A tuber is an enlarged, subterranean stem, not a root, with buds that can send out roots, other stems, or leaves. Botanists will tell you that plants evolve a tuberous habit to survive harsh environmental conditions. A tuber can remain alive under an insulating blanket of soil for a long time. When rain finally does come, underground tubers are stimulated to sprout stems and greenery, and the plant grows up into the sun. As conditions get hot and dry again, or freezing cold, the life force of the plant retreats from the foliage back down the stems into the tubers that nest protected in the soil. A tuberous plant stores enough nutrients and water in it’s tissue to survive until the soil warms up and the rain comes.

So starts his latest offering, a big dose of learning followed with an amusing informative ramble through the history and life cycle of a plant that had never really been on my culinary radar…but now is. Thanks Andy.

Take a wander over to both of these sites and check out the writing. If you have any suggestions of additions to these two farming wordsmiths drop them in the comments ’cause I’m lookin’ for more of this type to add to my reading list…

Have a great weekend…I’ll catch up with ya’ll on Monday.