Monday, March 31, 2008

Highlands, NC

Off Buck Creek Road, Highlands, NC, March 29, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Remembered Earth

Cornwallis Service Station, Moore County, NC

Once in our lives we ought to concentrate our minds upon the Remembered Earth. We ought to give ourselves up to a particular landscape in our experience, to look at it from as many angles as we can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. We ought to imagine that we touch it with our hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. We ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. We ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

There is great good in returning to a landscape that has had extraordinary meaning in one’s life. There are certain villages and towns, mountains and plains that, having seen them, walked in them, lived in them, even for a day, we keep forever in the mind’s eye.

They become indispensable to our well being; they define us, and we say, I am who I am because I have been there.

It is here that I can concentrate my mind upon the Remembered Earth. It is here that I am most conscious of being, here that wonder comes upon my blood, here I want to live forever; and it is no matter that I must die.

-N. Scott Momaday

Zoar Cemetery, Montgomery County, NC

Monday, March 24, 2008

John Muir - North Carolina and Beyond

John Muir made his great "floral pilgrimage" in 1867 and as he wrote in A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf his aim "was simply to push on in a general southward direction by the wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find, promising the greatest extent of virgin forest."

Muir described his crossing of Unicoi Gap from Tennessee to North Carolina:

September 18 . Up the mountain on the state line. The scenery is far grander than any I ever before beheld. The view extends from the Cumberland Mountains on the north far into Georgia and North Carolina to the south, an area of about five thousand square miles. Such an ocean of wooded, waving, swelling mountain beauty and grandeur is not to be described. Countless forest-clad hills, side by side in rows and groups, seemed to be enjoying the rich sunshine and remaining motionless only because they were so eagerly absorbing it. All were united by curves and slopes of inimitable softness and beauty. Oh, these forest gardens of our Father!

What perfection, what divinity, in their architecture! What simplicity and mysterious complexity of detail! Who shall read the teaching of these sylvan pages, the glad brotherhood of rills that sing in the valleys, and all the happy creatures that dwell in them under the tender keeping of a Father’s care?

Several days later Muir had left North Carolina and was descending the Blue Ridge:

September 22. Hills becoming small, sparsely covered with soil. They are called "knob land" and are cultivated, or scratched, with a kind of one-tooth cultivator. Every rain robs them of their fertility, while the bottoms are of course correspondingly enriched. About noon I reached the last mountain summit on my way to the sea. It is called the Blue Ridge and before it lies a prospect very different from any I had passed, namely, a vast uniform expanse of dark pine woods, extending to the sea; an impressive view at any time and under any circumstances, but particularly so to one emerging from the mountains.

Traveled in the wake of three poor but merry mountaineers — an old woman, a young woman, and a young man — who sat, leaned, and lay in the box of a shackly wagon that seemed to be held together by spiritualism, and was kept in agitation by a very large and a very small mule. In going down hill the looseness of the harness and the joints of the wagon allowed the mules to back nearly out of sight beneath the box, and the three who occupied it were slid against the front boards in a heap over the mules’ ears. Before they could unravel their limbs from this unmannerly and impolite disorder, a new ridge in the road frequently tilted them with a swish and a bump against the back boards in a mixing that was still more grotesque.

I expected to see man, women, and mules mingled in piebald ruin at the bottom of some rocky hollow, but they seemed to have full confidence in the back board and front board of the wagon-box. So they continued to slide comfortably up and down, from end to end, in slippery obedience to the law of gravitation, as the grades demanded. Where the jolting was moderate, they engaged in conversation on love, marriage, and camp-meeting, according to the custom of the country. The old lady, through all the vicissitudes of the transportation, held a bouquet of French marigolds.

The hillsides hereabouts were bearing a fine harvest of asters. Reached Mount Yonah [Georgia] in the evening. Had a long conversation with an old Methodist slaveholder and mine owner. Was hospitably refreshed with a drink of fine cider.
Mount Yonah, GA

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Jonathan Williams, 1929 - 2008

My early book Blues and Roots was done by walking a big piece of the Appalachian Trail: I listened to mountain people for over a thousand miles and I really heard some amazing stuff. And I left it pretty much as I heard it. I didn't have to do anything but organize it a little bit, crystallize it. That's the thing I love about found material—you wake it up, you "make" it into something.
Jonathan Williams,
from an interview with Jeff Beam

There’s something to be said for a person who makes you more comfortable with your own idiosyncrasies.

I confess that on more than one occasion I’ve found entertainment value from leafing through a telephone book and scanning for unusual names. So I experienced a little validation when I discovered Jonathan Williams’ poem, Selected Listings from the Western Carolina Telephone Company’s Directory (Bryson City, Cashiers, Cherokee-Whittier, Cullowhee, Franklin, Highlands, Sylva). The poem is precisely, and merely, what the title suggests.

Looking again at Williams’ book of poetry, Blues and Roots, I see the names of more than one than person I’ve met. And I see the names of many places that I’ve visited. But I never met Jonathan Williams, and now, I never will.

We lost him yesterday.

Jonathan Williams listed his occupations as "poet, publisher, designer, essayist, iconographer."

Others described him as:

-a busy gadfly who happened somehow to pitch on a slope in western North Carolina

- a species of cultural anthropologist

- a living link between the experimental poets of Modernism's "second wave" and the unknown vernacular artists of Appalachia.

- a patron of the American imagination

- our Johnny Appleseed

- a kind of polytechnic institute

- the truffle hound of American poetry.

Jonathan Williams was an inspiration to me. His poem, A Round of Nouns in Jackson County, is little more than a list of place names taken from a topographic map. But it reflects a deep sense of place and an appreciation for the language of place.

Williams revealed something new by celebrating the commonplace language that surrounds us. And from what I’ve seen of his photography, he did the same thing with visual images. His portraits of friends at Black Mountain College were as casual as snapshots but provoke the imagination. You want to know more about his subjects.

Those are my random ruminations upon receiving the following news today:

Poet, publisher, and photographer Jonathan Chamberlain Williams, founder of The Jargon Society press, one of the most renowned small presses of the last half of the twentieth century, and champion and publisher of some of the most important mid and late century poets in the United States and England, died on March 16, 2008 in Highlands, North Carolina.

Williams, 79, began his avant-garde press while a student at the Chicago Institute of Design, naming it "Jargon" not only for its meaning of personal idiom, but after the French spring pear, "jargonelle" and the French "jargon," meaning the twittering of birds.

The only child of the late Thomas Benjamin and Georgette (Chamberlain) Williams, Williams was born on March 8, 1929 in Asheville, North Carolina, grew up in the District of Columbia and spent summers at the family’s North Carolina mountain home. His father, who designed office systems for government contracts in Washington, grew up in Hendersonville, North Carolina; his mother, a gifted decorator, was the daughter of a successful banker in Atlanta, growing up there and on the ancestral farm near Cartersville, Georgia.

Williams' interests and talents, revealed him as a Renaissance man – publisher; poet and satirist; book designer; editor; photographer; legendary correspondent; literary, art, and photography critic and collector; early collector and proselytizer of visionary folk art; cultural anthropologist; curmudgeon; happy gardener; resolute walker; and keen and adroit raconteur and gourmand. Williams' refined decorum and speech, and sartorial style, contrasted sharply, yet pleasingly, with his delight in the bawdy, his incisive humor, and his confidently experimental and inventive poems and prose.

His interests, in his own words, raised, "the common to grace," while paying "close attention to the earthy." At the forefront of the avant-garde, and yet possessing a deep appreciation of the traditional, Williams celebrated, rescued, and preserved, as he described it, "more and more away from the High Art of the city" settling "for what I could unearth and respect in the tall grass."

Despite numerous awards and honorary degrees including a Guggenheim, numerous National Endowment Fellowships, and a Longview Foundation Grant, Williams was never sufficiently acknowledged for his achievements as a poet or prose stylist by the writing establishment, nor for his press's generosity toward artists from all walks of life. His southern Appalachian origins created in him a deep sympathy for the underdog, for society's throwaways, and for the unbridled creativity of the outsider. He unapologetically celebrated his gay identity long before it was fashionable.

By the Reagan years he began to object even more vigorously to the failure of American democracy and education. Williams' concerns about threats to the natural world; the loss of a humane and well-mannered society; and his distaste for hypocrisy in government, religion and the arts; made for vivid poetry, prose, and conversation, and informed his choices as a publisher. Known for his irascibility and opinions, he once stated (quoting Henry Miller paraphrasing Celine), "one of the things Jargon is devoted to is an attack on urban culture. We piss on it all from a considerable height."

Nevertheless, acclaim came despite the poetry world's general indifference. Buckminster Fuller once called Williams "our Johnny Appleseed," Guy Davenport described him as a "kind of polytechnic institute," while Hugh Kenner hailed Jargon as "the Custodian of Snowflakes" and Williams as "the truffle-hound of American poetry." Williams held a number of poet-in-residencies early in his career.

The Maryland Institute College of the Arts honored him in 1969 with a Doctor of Humane Letters, and in 1974 he received the "Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels" for services to the arts in Kentucky. Publishers Weekly awarded the press its Carey-Thomas Citation for creative small-press publishing in 1977; in the same year Williams received the North Carolina Award in Fine Arts. Williams joined a handful of other poets to read at the Carter Administration's White House Poetry Day event in 1980. In 1998 Williams was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. Distinguished Houghton Mifflin Editor Peter Davison stated in 1990, "a sensible society would set up a permanent outsize subsidy for...Williams and let him go to whatever his hand fell upon...Jargon is still searching out astonishments; it is one of the irreplaceable American small-press institutions."

Williams began his education at Washington's Cathedral School at St. Albans, entering Princeton in 1947 where he soon found the academic track stifling. He wrote in a 1984 self-interview, "I clearly did not want to become a Byzantinist in the basement of The Morgan Library; or an art critic for The New Yorker; nor did I want to live in the world of competitive business." Escape, much to his parents' dismay, was inevitable and leaving Princeton in his sophomore year he studied painting at the Washington's Phillips Gallery with Karl Knaths, later joining Bill Hayter's Atelier 17 in Greenwich Village to study etching, engraving, and printmaking.

Williams' interest in photography and bookmaking led him eventually to the Chicago Institute of Design. Here, again, Jonathan found the commercial focus too confining, and his interest in photography deepened. Photographer Harry Callahan, a professor at the school, unable to allow a lower-classman into his seminars, suggested that Williams go to Black Mountain College in the summer of 1951 to study with him and Aaron Siskind. Before leaving for Black Mountain, Williams set off for California to meet with Kenneth Rexroth, Henry Miller, and Kenneth Patchen, all with whom he had been corresponding. Their enthusiasms for the enhancement of words through visual dimensions, and Black Mountain's principles of learning by doing and the tactile importance of art, were to play an important role in the development of Williams' aesthetic principles as a poet, photographer, publisher, collector, and critic.

Jargon and Williams came to life at Black Mountain where Williams, under the tutelage of rector poet Charles Olson, began writing more of his own poetry. Olson hired his talented student to be the college publisher. Ultimately Jargon, along with New Directions, Grove, and City Lights became one of the four most famous small presses of a burgeoning 1960s movement that continues not only on the printed page, but today, even on the Internet. Jargon's books, in particular, became collectibles, setting the standard for the small press, and were widely praised for their meticulous beauty and refined craft, and for Williams' ability to discover new and important talent. In the late 1950s, the 1960s and 1970s Williams was known for filling his Volkswagen Beetle with books and traversing the country, selling books out of the back seat, giving readings, and spreading the word about the many writers and artists he had come to know.

Writers and artists, nurtured by Jargon, number in the hundreds. Many of their careers began or blossomed under Williams' and Jargon's patronship, including American authors James Broughton, Robert Creeley, Guy Davenport, Robert Duncan, Russell Edson, Buckminster Fuller, Ronald Johnson, Denise Levertov, Mina Loy, Paul Metcalf, Lorine Niedecker, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer, and Louis Zukofsky; photographers Lyle Bongé, Elizabeth Matheson, John Menapace, Mark Steinmetz, and Doris Ullman; British poets Basil Bunting, Thomas A. Clark, Simon Cutts, and Ian Hamilton Finlay; and bookmakers Jonathan Greene, Doyle Moore, and Keith Smith. Some of the artists and photographers who contributed visually to Jargon designs include Harry Callahan, John Furnival, David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, James McGarrell, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Guy Mendes, Robert Rauschenberg, and Art Sinsabaugh. Thornton Dial, St. EOM, Georgia Blizzard, Howard Finster, Annie Hooper, and James Harold Jennings, are just a few of the visionary folk artists whom Williams began to champion in the 1980s, and whose work is represented in his outstanding personal collection of outsider art, in his essays about visionary art, and his yet unpublished monograph Walks to the Paradise Garden.

One Jargon title, Ernie Matthew Mickler's White Trash Cooking, took America by storm appearing on the New York Times bestseller list, with major interviews and reviews in the national media, standing alone as the book which temporarily made Jargon a household name.

The Jargon Society archives, containing personal papers as well as press materials, rest at the Poetry/Rare Books Collection - SUNY at Buffalo. Williams' correspondents were legion. In his letters, no less than in his poetry and essays, Williams - who was known to write under various noms de plume such as Lord Stodge, Big Enis, Colonel Williams, and Lord Nose - held court, preaching the art gospel with his usual flair.

He was fond of quoting Robert Duncan, "Responsibility is to keep the ability to respond." Yale University recently purchased Williams' personal photographic archive, including his uncommon portraits of poets, painters, writers, and artists - major works documenting Black Mountain College and Williams' peripatetic wanderings across America and Europe. His letters, negatives, and photographic prints alone will provide bountiful insight into 20th century culture, history, sensibility, and community.

Celebrated as a Black Mountain Poet, Williams' work argues the primary importance of imagination as a foil to ignorance, and pinpoints ignorance (whether in the arts, civic or personal realms) as the source of cultural blight. As a poet he has been described as a cross between Martial, Socrates, Basho, Tu Fu, and Richard Pryor. Experimental and open in form, the symbiotic relationship between music and poetic composition and the possibilities of beauty found in the high and low, the ribald and the erudite, the metaphysical and the concrete, set his writing apart as audaciously original. Oftentimes expressed through word-play, found poems, paeans to pastoral significance, and rails against contemporary despoliation, the poems and essays draw on a wide range of subjects and themes including politics; jokes; local speech and customs; classical music and jazz; and visionary, photographic, and abstract art.

In them Mahler, Bruckner, Delius, Ives, Satie, Samuel Palmer, and William Blake commune with Mae West, Jelly Roll Morton, Thelonius Monk, Frederick Sommer, and Richard Diebenkorn. Articulated through an unconventional synesthetic panache, commanding musical economy, and vinegary wit, they demand attention to, rather than carelessness toward, ecological guardianship of the arts, nature, and local traditions. His works of local speech equally capture the unpretentious nuances of country vernacular and the refinement of the "aristocracy," as well as the sometimes dumb misapprehensions of each.

Williams' over one hundred works, published by many of the most important small presses in this country and Britain, exemplified his playful blend of polish and earthiness, and revealed his massive and impressive circle of friends. Williams seems to have known practically everyone of consequence in early and mid-twentieth century American alternative arts. An Ear In Bartram's Tree (1969, University of North Carolina) and Blues & Roots/Rue & Bluets (1971, Grossman; 1985, Duke University) demonstrate his sensitivity to the nuances of language and the simple charms of Appalachian and White Trash culture.

Quote, Unquote (1989, Ten Speed Press) was one of many editions of Williams' astonishing accumulations of revelatory quotations discovered in his wide reading. A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude (2002, David Godine) offers a select view of Williams' photographs of unique people and places accompanied by pithy, revealing mini-essays. The Magpie’s Bagpipe (1982, North Point) and Blackbird Dust (2000, Turtle Point) collect spicy essays on artists and culture. Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems (2005, Copper Canyon) contains a selection of over 1000 of Williams' poems.

Williams and his partner of forty years, Poet Thomas Meyer, lived since the early 1970s in a seventeenth century shepherd's cottage in the English Cumbrian hills in the summer and at the Scaly Mountain home near Highlands in the winter. For the past decade they have resided mostly at Skywinding Farm, in Scaly. Williams is survived by Meyer, their beloved ginger-cat H-B, and numerous devoted friends and supporters. In the Appalachian poem "Epitaphs for Two Neighbors in Macon County No Poet Could Forget" Williams captures Uncle Iv Owens. It seems a fitting epitaph, too, for this remarkable man of American letters, Jonathan Williams:

he done
what he could
when he got round
to it

[Thanks to TRC and JB for the preceding.]

Many more JW links from February 19, 2007:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Enjoy Historic Old Fort

If you’re like me, you’ve never had much reason to spend time in Old Fort, North Carolina. Sure, on a long trip back from Raleigh, it’s a good place to pull off the interstate and grab a cup of coffee at Hardees before making that white-knuckle drive up the mountain and back to Paradise.

Last week, though, I had an hour to spare while headed west toward Old Fort. After exiting I-40, I saw a couple of restored log cabins, and an old stone building that housed the Mountain Gateway Museum.

For now, the museum, the library, and several other locations in Old Fort are displaying photographs by Margaret Morley, a fine photographer of early twentieth century Southern Appalachia. This is the same Margaret Morley who rode the Hippie Bus through Cowee (with Horace Kephart!) last summer.

Morley’s 1913 book, The Carolina Mountains, has been reissued in recent years, in two different editions (I thought I was going to recommend one over the other, but looking at both again…I’d say each has its strengths.) The 2002 reissue by Land of the Sky Books is a faithful reproduction of the original edition. In the more recent Historical Images edition, the text has been re-set, and the volume includes dozens of Morley photos that did not appear in the original edition. An extensive introduction and biographical notes make this version indispensible.

Staff at the museum answered all my questions and then some, and recommended places to explore. One thing you’ll notice if you get out and about Old Fort is that it’s neither strictly a piedmont town nor a mountain town, sitting as it does at the base of the Blue Ridge.

In 1566, the Spanish gold prospector Juan Pardo built a blockhouse in Old Fort. And recent archaeological digs confirm that Spanish miners were active in the area through the 1600s.

Though the Western North Carolina Railroad reached Old Fort by 1860, it was another 20 years before the line was extended to the top of the mountain. By 1879, a resort hotel and a geyser next to the railroad (just west of Old Fort) attracted vacationers.
Unfortunately, the train caught the hotel on fire in 1903 and it burned down. Several years later a wealthy New Yorker rescued the geyser, moved it across the creek and renamed it to honor Colonel A, B. Andrews, the first president of the Western North Carolina Railroad.

This was the first recorded instance of someone successfully moving a geyser.

In truth, it wasn’t.

Andrews Geyser is not a geyser at all, but merely a fountain that is gravity-fed by a long pipe leading from a high mountain spring. I call it Andrews Not-A-Geyser.

But don't allow the news that Andrews Geyser is actually Andrews Not-A-Geyser to spoil your trip to Old Fort.

I didn’t.

I returned to town and stopped to admire a genuine roadside wonder, the thirty-foot tall granite arrowhead towering over Main Street. It was, in fact, used by prehistoric peoples to slay dinosaurs of the Upper Catawba Valley…
…many years ago.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We Who Prayed and Wept

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the fields spurn their seed.
We have failed Thy grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.

-Wendell Berry

Mother Jones Hot Tub by Legasus

[Here's a re-posting of a story from July 6, 2007. I suspect one of the whiz kids at that British Columbia PR firm hired by Legasus played a sly joke on the developers by coming up with the Mother Jones Hot Tub. But, you be the judge...]

Here’s another one of those circuitous tales inspired by two sightings of Mother Jones in one day. Would that be synchronicity? Or serendipity?

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837? – 1930) became known as "the most dangerous woman in America" because of her union organizing, her community activism, her willingness to speak truth to power. As a friend wrote to me today, "This little old white-haired granny would walk right up to a McCormick, a Rockefeller, an Armour and a Swift, and bellow BLOODSUCKER!"

His comment, with the mention of Armour, reminded me of a letter I found several years ago, a letter published in the Asheville Democrat on January 23, 1890:

The Armour Packing Co., of Chicago, the great meat ring of the country, have leased a house on South Main street, and propose opening at once a meat supply market for this city and section. their methods they have forced the price of cattle down to unprofitable rates, so they could control the markets of the country and command the market for the sale of cattle. if farmers in a section would not conform to their terms, they put up stores, pens, and everything requisite to a butchering house and undersell them, so that producers and dealers must either make terms with them or go out of business. ... Our farmers, unless they work through the [Farmers] Alliance, have no help.

If that’s the way it was in the mountains in the days of our grandfathers, here’s the way it is now - I’ve been visiting River Rock, and must say their promotional literature has more literary merit than your run-of-the-mill real estate brochure. Whoever wrote their stuff came up with some doozies. Take for example, this description of just one of the FIVE River Rock developments located between Lake Glenville and the Tuckasegee River:

"Tuckasegee. Mature. Refined. Relaxed. At Tuckasegee, water in all its sonatas is the soundtrack. The perfume is moss."

Whhhaaattttt!!!??? "The perfume is MOSS"?

After that cryptic lead-in, I was introduced to the Hotspots of Tuckasegee, including:
-the Grand Tuckasegee Lodge
-the Orion Spa & Lula Bar
-Eyrie Fusion Restaurant & Culinary School
-Hunter Jim Park & Pavilion
- and, get this
The Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook.

What in the world are these developers thinking? The Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook?

In 1901, the real Mother Jones wrote about the boys who worked in the Birmingham mills :

As one looks on this brood of helpless human souls one could almost hear their voices cry out, "Be still a moment, O you iron wheels of capitalistic greed, and let us hear each other's voices, and let us feel for a moment that this is not all of life."

I have seen mothers take their babes and slap cold water in their face to wake the poor little things. I have watched them all day long tending the dangerous machinery. I have seen their helpless limbs torn off, and then when they were disabled and of no more use to their master, thrown out to die.

Such a factory system is one of torture and murder as dreadful as a long-drawn-out Turkish massacre, and is a disgrace to any race or age. As the picture rises before me I shudder for the future of a nation that is building up a moneyed aristocracy out of the life-blood of the children of the proletariat. It seems as if our flag is a funeral bandage splotched with blood. The whole picture is one of the most horrible avarice, selfishness and cruelty and is fraught with present horror and promise of future degeneration. The mother, over-worked and under-fed, gives birth to tired and worn-out human beings.

I can see no way out save in a complete overthrow of the capitalistic system, and to me the father who casts a vote for the continuance of that system is as much of a murderer as if he took a pistol and shot his own children.

And so, it all comes full circle. You hear those words of Mother Jones. And then you hear the words of River Rock, calling out to the readers of the Wall Street Journal:

Since the Gilded Age, the mountains of North Carolina have beckoned, and America’s children of fortune have answered their call. Here on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, River Rock conjures the high life.

Somehow, the image of America’s children of fortune luxuriating in the Mother Jones Hot Tub overlooking the Tuckasegee doesn’t work for me.

At least not without Mother Jones herself there to turn up the heat.

(The views expressed are not necessarily those of the John Locke Foundation.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Masked Marauder

I've been enjoying my new bird feeder.

Until tonight when I was a little disappointed.

But after all, it was labelled a SQUIRREL-BE-GONE! feeder.

Not a RACCOON-BE-GONE! feeder!

Oh well.

He became impatient with my telling him to face the camera.

Show's over!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March 5, 1862

I first posted the following letter on March 5, 2007. Just as relevant now as it was one year ago, and as it was 146 years ago. I'd like to imagine there will come a March 5, ???? when these words no longer describe the present day.

Mary Bell to Alfred W. Bell, March 5, 1862:
Whilst some are made to mourn all the days of their lives on account of some dear one who had died whilst fighting for their country, others will be glorying in the wealth they have made by staying at home and speculating while the war was going on and other poor wretches were fighting for them.
(The Bells were from Macon County, NC. Alfred was serving as a captain in the Confederate army)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Permaculture Paradigm Shift

I admire permaculturalists for doing some of the most important work being done these days.

Over at Permaculture Reflections, Douglas Barnes has posted a discussion of the challenges he has encountered in sharing the permaculture message. Essentially, he has been surprised at the degree of animosity from people in the more affluent parts of the world:

What could possibly set someone off against a system that treats long-term sustainability as a serious endeavor and works to develop simple, affordable systems that lead us in that direction, I wondered.

By contrast, Barnes found that permaculture strategies were welcomed by other residents of the planet:

For the Third World, there are few illusions regarding their future. They know they are in trouble and the trouble will only increase without serious changes being made regarding the capture and storage of energy and resources. The Third World not only comes from poverty, they remain in poverty. The First World, however, has come out of poverty into a spurt of opulence. Once one acquires a taste of opulence, though, it is like a drug – hard to let go. And any suggestion that living high is no longer possible is met with lashing out similar to the confronted junkie.

Barnes concludes:

As the physicist cannot go back to the Ptolemaic model of the universe revolving around the Earth, the permaculturist cannot look at the status quo conceptual framework of industrial society as even remotely sensible. Change becomes a necessity, even if that threatens some.

The entire article is worth a careful read.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work

You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those

Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.

May your work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you be present in what you do.

May you never become lost in the bland absences.

May the day never burden you.

May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams,

Possibilities and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.

May your soul calm, console and renew you.

-John O'Donohue, 1955-2008