“Think positive and positive things will happen.” ~ Unknown
It was finally time for Ky Crafted: The Market. It was a totally rotten weather day; perfect to be inside soaking up lots of good art. I met Annie Bassoni, fellow art soaker upper, and off we went. We were on the lookout for a few people, and sure enough, we found them. Our first victim, I mean, friend encounter was the ever beautiful Deb Chenault. As usual, she shied away from my camera. Annie somehow thought that this silly symbol would stop me. pfffftttt We continued our meandering ways when we spotted Rebecca Campbell, sending Annie into recon mode looking for David so I could spring the paparazzi on him. It was not a successful mission for David saw us first. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all. It does my heart good to visit with my people however short the time. And visiting among art? As good a day as it gets in my book.
“Life: It’s about using every crayon in the box.” ~ Unknown
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the package today. Inside was this gorgeous hardcover coffee table book put together over many months by my soul friend Pam Thurman and her colleague Shawna Cain. It’s stunningly beautiful – seriously. Cherokee National Treasures highlights “Cherokee Nation citizens with exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art forms and cultural practices…” A book devoted to these gifted folks is not only an honor for them (bestowed by The Nation), but it gives the rest of the world the opportunity to enjoy and honor them, too. It’s vitally important that cultures cherish their torch bearers like this, but it’s especially important for U.S. indigenous cultures to do it because, historically, the country has committed unspeakable atrocities to destroy every last one of them. Modern U.S. politics has a long way to go to convince me that they’re not still trying, what with the North Dakota pipeline being just one of the more recent tragic examples. That’s why I’m especially proud that the Cherokee Nation formally embraces the people keeping the culture alive through the arts. They could have picked no one better to put this book together than Pam. When she’s not busy flying all over the world making it better and being a kick-ass academic, she’s busy being an artist and musician. As someone who has devoted her life to her native heritage, I suspect Pam will be a Cherokee National Treasure before long herself. One thing is certain: she’s a treasure to everyone who knows her, and I am deeply honored to call her my friend. I’m sure Lance is beaming right now.
“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
I came home to a box in my mail. I opened it to find this book, coffee mug, and the sweetest handwritten letter from Ellen Fagala. She read my post last week about my love of Kenya, Out of Africa, and Peter Beard. It seems I’m not alone in those loves. I recognized the book cover. I’d just seen it online last night, and like Peter Beard’s work on the Fleetwood Mac album, at first I didn’t make the connection with Beryl Markham, the subject of the book. But when I held the book in my hands today I realized on a shelf nearby sat ‘West With The Night‘ by Beryl Markham, one of the first female aviators and the third person in the love triangle of Karen Blixen (Isek Dinesen) and Denys Finch Hatton in Out of Africa. Ellen’s timing was eyebrow raising, and the book selection outstanding. Oh, but the best part was the coffee mug. You see, Ellen has been learning the art of ceramics as a way to work herself out of her grief over losing her Danny Boy last year to a heart attack. She made this cup just for me. I’m deeply honored. It’s the perfect Kopana color. The last two weeks have been a little trying for me on almost every level of my existence (growth will do that, so I don’t see it as a bad thing). This gift lifted my spirits at the right time. Even though we’ve always lived far apart, I’ve felt a kinship with Ellen since day one. Thank you, Ellen, for perfect timing, and your gracious, giving soul. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m taking hot tea in my new mug and curling up with a good book.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” ~ Thomas Merton
I’ve been doing some fun work the last two days. As you know, I’ve had a hand in a literary journal called Solidago. I threw together the website in a hurry last year, so there were some things we – myself and co-editors Catherine Brereton and Susan Stewart – never really liked. As we opened the submissions window for the Spring 2017 issue, it seemed the right time for a make-over. The grooviest part, I think anyway, is that header images revolve, and their titles change to highlight whatever we want, such as featured artists and past issues. I really love doing this kind of work. I hope you like Solidago’s new look, and if you’re a writer or artist, I hope you’ll consider letting us bring your work to a wider audience. It’ll be fun. It pays nothing but it’s fun!
“The Lord will bless you for being kind to people.” ~ Reva Hubbard
Last night as I was pouring over Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, relishing the ancient art of vinyl album covers, something caught my eye. Tusk is an elaborate vinyl package, even among double albums. There are slips inside slips inside the outside cover. Of particular interest were the outer (or middle) slips. Instantly, it was 1979 and I was back in my tiny bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of a second-hand stereo, where I scoured the intricate collages for hours. Now, they reminded me of Peter Beard‘s work. In 1993, I came across a book called “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa” by Jon Bowermaster. It captured my attention for two reasons: 1. Beard is a fascinating artist known primarily for his collage diaries (he sometimes uses his own blood to draw on them) and 2. I’ve loved Africa since early childhood, particularly Kenya where Beard has a home called The Hog Ranch. As Tusk continued to spin its quirky pop tunes, I pulled out my copy of the book. I rifled through the pages, memories flying back to me; Beard’s friendship with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen who wrote the autobiographic Out of Africa, one of my all-time favorite books), the sheer beauty of Africa, the shame of big game killers, the privileged life that afforded Beard such an adventure that most people, certainly most artists, could never have. And then I saw it: a photo from one of the Tusk collages. Beard made the collages for Tusk. I knew about Peter Beard before the Bowermaster book. He’s listed on Tusk’s credits. As someone who used to absorb every piece of information from albums, the connection between Beard and Tusk had been buried in my brain all these decades, subconsciously rolling around, waiting to resurface. It was a beautiful moment to reconnect with these two things I loved so much when I was younger. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to go to Kenya and Tanzania, roam the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve, and wake up “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” What a blessing that would be, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the blessings Tusk and Peter Beard have given me for decades. I’m lucky that they’ve come back home.
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Over the holiday break, even with all the cooking, visiting, and hospital business, I managed to read two books. This is a big deal because I have, over the last several years, become increasingly distracted to the point of having zero attention span. I can manage to get about 50 pages into a book, but that’s about it. Things began to turn around last year when Michael Slone loaned me Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. Immediately, I fell in love with Pratchett. I mentioned this to Bobby Ray who then recommended Wee Free Men also by Pratchett. Who doesn’t love a story about tiny Scottish sounding men and a teenage witch in training? Still, it would be months later before I read Margaret Verble’s Maud’s Line. The rest of the time I just felt bogged down with a bunch of non-fiction and other stuff that just wasn’t very good. Just before the break a co-worker and I were commiserating on our lost passion for reading after Graduate School. Maybe that’s what did me in, instead of the lackluster material. Maybe it was both, I don’t know, but I knew I desperately wanted to reconnect that part of my brain. So, the first book I read over the break was News of the World by Paulette Jiles, recommended by Jen Reynolds. It did not disappoint, and it set the stage for the second book, which I picked it up with my usual Christmas gift card from Doug Boyd. It was Ron Rash’s Above the Waterfall. Here was a book that’s been stalking me since 2015. By stalking I mean it’s a book that keeps showing up in every bookstore or grocery line I walk into until I read it. I have yet to be disappointed in these stalker books, and Above the Waterfall was no exception. Rash writes about Southern Appalachia as a smooth, contemporary storyteller, devoid of the expected dialect or dreamy theme. It was refreshing, to say the least, and the story was excellent. I made myself a promise when I finished it this morning: I’m not buying any new books until I’ve read the two stacks I’ve already got, and that’s going to be hard because I really want to read more from Rash. Still, reading more – specifically more good writing – is my goal for 2017. I’m off to an excellent start.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
~ Albert Einstein
For probably fifteen years Stacy has given me an Anne Taintor calendar at Christmas. She didn’t disappoint this year. I don’t always snort at the cover, but I did with this one. It sounds like something I would say to my daughter if I had one. Thanks for the <snort>, Stacy. What a great way to start the new year.
“Health does not always come from medicine. Most of the time it comes from peace of mind, peace in the heart, peace of soul. It comes from laughter and love.” ~ Unknown
I had never been inside Commonwealth Stadium before today. The Libraries held our annual holiday lunch at the Woodford Reserve Room at the stadium. Hands down it was the best location for our gathering, and you couldn’t beat the view. The room opens onto a spacious deck at about the fifty yard line. I imagine the games are wonderful to watch from here. Crystal, Podge (Jeff Rion), and I were all sorry we weren’t properly dressed to take a run down the field. It looks so inviting with no one on it. It also looked much smaller than it does on TV. The Dean’s remarks before lunch were also memorable. He very rightly pointed out that we are an inclusive institution of higher learning, and that Christmas is but one of many holidays celebrated during this time of year. Given the vitriol that has bubbled to the surface of our society around the recent election, I found his comments appropriate; reaffirming that we as librarians are stewards of democratic principles, and it is our duty to offer a safe place for our students and colleagues. He then pointed out the recent bronze sculpture of the four football players who integrated football at UK and in the SEC. It’s just outside the stadium beside the new practice facility. Naturally, Crystal and I walked back to work in that direction. It’s a really well done, moving piece of work. The perfect cap on a delicious lunch with some very, very special people. It was an excellent day.
“Give the best gift of all this season. Be good to one another…” ~ V.L. Cox
When I chose today’s quote I had no idea I’d walk into work and be gifted twice before I ever got my office. Every gift I receive makes me feel loved, and when they come from colleagues and people I’ve helped throughout the year, I just feel bowled over with joy. Then, when one of those gifts is a Joe Molinaro original coffee mug with peppermint sticks? You can bet my coffee is gonna be good to the last drop in the morning! I am so truly blessed in this life.
“Walk in peace. Shine love into every dark corner. Show kindness. Maybe a little sassafras.”
~ Vicki Caroline Cheatwood
When the Thurman – Plested clan were here in the fall I told a story about Wally confronting a possum. It’s not as funny without the visuals, but essentially it goes like this: I heard unusual barking after I let Wally out for his evening constitutional. It wasn’t a, “Hey, I see you walking past my house,” bark, or a, “Hey, what are you doing in my driveway?” bark. It wasn’t even a, “Squirrel, squirrel, I hate you, squirrel,” bark. It was more like the talking bark he uses with Leo the cat. It’s conversational, not at all aggressive. Knowing the cats were inside, and the yard was fenced, I didn’t know what could be happening. I popped my head out the back door and there he was about five feet from a possum. Wally was talking. The possum was hissing. I was thinking, “Thank God he’s had his shots,” followed soon after by, “this could get expensive,” when I saw the possum’s teeth. But Wally wasn’t charging. He was just talking. The possum would take a few steps away from him, and Wally, in his best rabbit imitation, would hop. Yes hop after the possum as if he was giving chase…but not really. It was just part of the game, and clearly the possum was wise to the rules. The possum would stop and hiss. Wally would talk and hop. And on they went down the fenceline until the possum made his way under the fence and out of the yard. It was the funniest show Wally has ever put on. Barb and Pam remembered that story, and yesterday, this painting of a possum on a piece of cannel coal (yes, as in Cannel City cannel coal) showed up in my mailbox. I haven’t stopped laughing. Those two remember everything I tell them, and I love it! I love the possum, and I love them, too.