january 3, 2019

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“We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated by purpose.” ~ Bob Goff


still brook


I had such a restful break last week that I’m having trouble getting up before dawn again. For those who don’t know, I’m so not a morning person. I never have been and I never will be. I’m just not made that way. I’ve always been at my best in the late, late evenings, but the only time I can stay up that late is during the Christmas break. Otherwise, I’m so tired that I’m no good any time. That’s neither here nor there except to say my lack of sleep means I’ve already finished a novel this year and it’s only January 3. This morning, bleary eyed coffee in hand, I was thinking about how important reading is to me. Plus, I love it so much. So, I decided to write down the books I’d finished in 2018. I say finished because I’ll bounce between three or four books at once until I finish all of them, or until I fall in love with one that I can’t put down until it’s done. Knowing that I am currently reading as many titles as listed here, the books I actually finished in 2018 were (in no particular order):

    • All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
    • Southernmost – Silas House
    • Lincoln In The Bardo – George Saunders
    • Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
    • Melmoth – Sarah Perry
    • From Here to Eternity – Caitlyn Doughty
    • Just Us Kids – Patti Smith
    • Country Dark – Chris Offutt
    • Birds of Opulence – Crystal Wilkinson
    • Night Garden – Carrie Mullins
    • Stardust – Neil Gaiman
    • Dodger – Terry Pratchett
    • Above The Waterfall – Ron Rash
    • One Foot In Eden – Ron Rash


    I’m disappointed in how few books are on this list, though I am hardly surprised. If you’re as busy as I was in the fall, watch too much TV as I do, and are generally a slow reader as I am, you’re not going to finish a lot of books, especially if you read four at a time (I don’t recommend it). Part of my goal in 2019 is less TV, less extracurricular work, and fewer posts. That should help make time for more reading. One of the reasons reading is important to me is because good writers read a lot. I’m a slow reader and an even slower writer, so it’s already an uphill battle for me. Add a billion other distractions and things churn like molasses. But what I really want from reading is to absorb the goodness of language; the poetry of a single sentence; the essence of thought; so that maybe one day I create my own beautiful sentence that inspires and provokes others. As far as this list, every one of the books was awesome in one way or another (or I wouldn’t have finished it) so I’ll just say this; All The Light We Cannot See is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, the characters from Birds of Opulence and Country Dark will stay with me forever, and Sarah Perry is an unexpected extraordinary storyteller. I’m looking forward to more characters and great stories in 2019.

october 19, 2018

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“If you feel like you’re losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and they still stand tall and wait for better days to come.” ~ Unknown




I spent a lot of my childhood with Mark by a creek much like this one. If we weren’t in the creek by Mamaw’s, then we were in the creek that ran beside his house at Malone. We spent hours building roads and bridges and boats and dams. The world was our oyster. The creek that runs beside Uncle Harold’s farm house is not only a few miles from that creek at Malone, but it looks eerily similar. My life is complete beside running water. 

may 7, 2018

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“When we are continually lost in our fears, worries, judgments, and assumptions, we miss the beauty right in front of us.” ~ TinyBuddha


from here


This old stump was once a wondrous walnut tree beside Mamaw’s house, today Aunt Janet’s house. When I was growing up, it dropped walnuts big enough to put a knot on your head. Mark and I used to throw them at each other, throw them in the creek, throw them at the hill. They kept falling, rotting, making a black mess, and we kept throwing. Despite that, it felt like a protector of the yard and the house. I suspect they cut it down because Mamaw had issues with it, by that I mean, she didn’t like trees too close to the house. She was a wise gal that way, so it was little surprise that it was three white pines that destroyed the original home. Trees, I might add, she begged to be taken down because she knew they would destroy the house. The old man who owns that land that those trees were on? He spoke to me after the tornado. I made sure he knew he’d done Mamaw wrong by ignoring her warnings. That was the last time he spoke to me. I’ve been paying for his bad decisions ever since. 


in the bend


There used to be an outhouse beside the walnut tree. It was there that mom was first caught smoking cigarettes as a teen. I understand that, when times were hard, she turned to smoking corn husks. Lawdy, can you imagine? She’s a hoot! By the time I came along, they had indoor plumbing and the outhouse had been turned into a storage building. They did away with it when I was little, and from then on, the tree was free to grow any which way it pleased. I don’t necessarily miss the tree because look at what beauty has taken its place. Mountain moss thick as carpet accessorized by lichen has turned a relic into a thing of beauty. Nature knows how to care for herself if we let her. I could look at her art all day.


nature’s art

july 10, 2017

posted in: photography | 3

“Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon…
must inevitably come to pass!” ~ Paul J. Meyer


water dog


Bree and Eric’s corner of paradise is bordered by two creeks. We followed Wally down to one creek bed; the one that has produced gold. Real gold, not fool’s gold. In fact, Wally discovered a few folks out panning for it. I was fascinated by the whole idea. When one thinks of gold, one does not generally think Southern Ohio. I’m telling you, it was one of the best days ever!



july 20, 2015

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“Only the adventurous spirit will see the mountain and believe they can walk to the top.”
~ Deni Fearman


the last stand
the last stand


When we drove down highway 172 toward Paintsville, we didn’t stop. We just looked on in silence. But when we came back, we had two places we wanted to stop. The first was the Ramey Branch church that I posted yesterday, and the second was Pennington Trailer Park where mom’s friend, Willa Mae, had lived. I was extremely reluctant to stop anywhere to be honest. When the tornado hit West Liberty I had no hesitation in going through town, camera in hand, snapping to my heart’s content. But that was my home place. It was my story to tell. Flat Gap is not my story, and I didn’t want to be another gawker with a camera capturing so much misfortune and death. Obviously, I favor documentary style photography, but not necessarily in a situation like this. I didn’t want anyone to feel as if I was taking advantage of them. My mother, on the other hand, felt desperate to find Willa Mae’s son. She really wanted to give him her condolences in person, and perhaps share with him stories of their youth. So, we stopped.




As soon as we got out of the truck this young man came to mom from one of only two trailers that remained untouched. I was sure he was going to berate us for being there; interlopers, or God forbid, looters. Instead, he asked if we needed some bottled water. He proceeded to tell mom all about Willa Mae; what a fine neighbor she’d been, her final moments, and showed us exactly where she was found. He talked at length about the folks in the trailer park, people he knew as friends and family, and he gave us detailed descriptions about where things used to sit before the water carried them away. It was he who pointed out the handcuffs still attached to the headboard. “I keep telling all the news people about it, but they ignore me,” he said. “I think it’s funny. Well, the situation ain’t funny – ain’t nothin’ funny about what happened – but this is funny. The Sheriff found a big bag of dildos on down the creek, too.” If you can’t laugh at something like this you might need some professional help. Laughter can carry you through just about anything.


remains of the day
remains of the day


Talking to the young man, whose name I didn’t catch, helped me feel better about being there. Annie Bassoni had gone along with mom and I. At the church, she’d talked to the deacon’s wife, explaining that I had a blog. Annie knew I was uncomfortable, and told me later that the deacon’s wife was thrilled by our presence, and by my camera especially. “Oh, tell everyone,” she said. “We want people to know what’s happened here.” That helped. The kindness we experienced from these people in the throes of complete devastation is a testament to mountain culture; to human endurance, fortitude, and resilience in the worst of circumstances. What a gift these people, and this day, were to me. We never found Willa Mae’s son, but I’m pretty sure he knows she was loved by a whole lot of people.


deck of car(d)s
deck of car(d)s

march 7, 2015

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“No matter how hard life gets, remember to go to bed grateful that you have one.”
~ Unknown


Mamaw's creek
Mamaw’s creek


This is the creek behind Mamaw’s house (now Aunt Janet’s) in West Liberty. It’s called Long Branch, and it empties a mile downstream into the Licking River. I spent half of my life playing in this creek. No trip home is complete without a peek at her. Yesterday, when I was home, I got just a peek before the day unraveled into something unexpected and unpleasant, causing me to miss this original post. Ultimately, the quote for today hits the mark for me.