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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

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#RapMonsterRadio Will Interview You On Our Hip Hop Rap Radio Station

Get interviewed by Lil Dee of Rap Monster Radio.  Rap Monster Radio is an online hip hop radio station with more than 60,000 listeners a month in over 180 countries.We will interview and provide you with an mp3 copy of the interview.Get the worldwide exposure you deserve.…See More
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A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 21, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm, join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her "Taking the Stage" workshop participants, for an enchanting evening of storytelling in picturesque Black Mountain, NC. You'll enjoy a variety of stories and storytelling styles featuring tellers Jane O Cunningham from Rome, GA; Gabriele Marewski from Black Mountain, NC; Christine Phillips Westfeldt - Fairview,…See More
Mar 21
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Writers Circle around the Table

We are located in Hayesville, NC. In April we begin our new season with outstanding Poet Mike James. Mike will read at Writers' Night Out in Blairsville, GA on Friday evening April 13. On Saturday, April 14, he will teach a class at my studio.Formally SpeakingThis class will focus on different types of traditional poetic forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina, and will also include other verse forms such as erasures, found poems, prose poems, and last poems.Contact Glenda…See More
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Rachel Carson, Silent Spring Chautauqua History Alive at UNC Asheville, OLLI Reuters Center, Manheimer Room

April 15, 2018 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Step inside the revolutionary book, Silent Spring as its author Rachel Carson reveals the reckless destruction of our living world. Written more than 55 years ago Silent Spring inspired the Environmental Movement and has never been out of print. And now you have a chance to ask the author, Rachel Carson, how this came to be. But these aren’t just performances. They’re a chance to step into Living History – to ask questions and go one on one with a women whose books shaped our country and our…See More
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"She looks like I look in my imagination right before I've had my coffee ... relaxed, bothered (by something, anything) and fully aware that I'm almost, but not quite, the center of the universe ... a feeling that quickly fades after that…"
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"This is so perfect ... the thought of every woman, who KNOWS what the men are thinking!  But now at least we have an idea! This makes me happy in a sad, lovely sort of way!"
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Mom in Her Writing Nook ...

She was working on the "About the Authors" section of "Echoes Across the Blue Ridge" when I captured this one morning. Though you can't see it, her coffee cup was within gentle reach that morning. Roxie is at her feet.
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Latest non-fiction book

In 1945 Indiana prohibited marriage between a white person and anyone with more than one-eighth "Negro blood." Yet Daniel (black) and Anna (white) gave up family, friends, and eventually even country to create a life together. Their 42-year marriage…
Feb 5
Nancy Werking Poling replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Bent Creek, the 4-part story
"Rob, Thanks for putting this into one document. I've been following the narrative in the Citizen-Times. I find it an added resource for my next writing project. In 1910 my husband's grandfather (1866-1947) showed up in Missouri and said…"
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Lee Ann Brown replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Writer Olive Dargan rises from obscurity
"Great Article!  Heart wrenching about her destroyed manuscripts and letters and notes but I will look for more of Olive Dargan!     Lee Ann Brown"
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South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration

 

            “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.

            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things that did their jobs better and easier, but “nobody came up with anything to replace the cradle.” 

            Parris, the late, great columnist for the Citizen-Times, had roamed the mountains from Brasstown to Blowing Rock for 42 years, beginning in 1955, often gravitating to Sylva, his hometown, and to Burningtown, 20 miles southwest, in Macon County.

            Burningtown was where his maternal grandma and grandpa lived.  This grandpa, whom Parris sometimes called the “Old Man of the Mountains,” was a go-to source for reliable lore.

 

Rock-a-bye

 

            “My Uncle Eli was the masterest cradle-maker in these parts,” the Old Man avowed.

He’d take a short length of buckeye log and work on it like he was makin’ somethin’ that was gonna hold a king.  He pegged it with oak pins to two hickory rockers,” because “rockers out of hickory won’t creep.”

Caretakers would rock the cradle with a foot while sewing, knitting, or churning; or, when moving about the house, they’d set the cradle rocking as they passed by.

The comforts of home reached a peak at Christmastime, and merited Parris’ prose poetry.

 

Homemade poetry

 

            “In the Carolina Highlands, December is an old man with memories and a young man with dreams.” Parris wrote.  It’s a time “when the stars come close and night winds are winds of song.”

            “It’s when,” he adds, “a house, be it cabin or mansion, reveals its true character and abody gets to know the meaning of a home.”

            The nostalgia attached to an old-time mountain home is not all in vain. The recollections cause us to reconsider progress and value such blessings as a world full of evocative smells.

            “A man can no longer drink into his lungs a thousand proud, potent, and mysterious odors,” Parris wrote from Little Savannah, his paternal grandparents’ place west over the mountain from Cullowhee.  “Gone are the smells that whip the senses and plough a furrow on the memory.”

            The smell of warm foaming milk; the manure-hay-leather-oats smell of a barn; the blue smell of hickory smoke; the bread-molasses-kerosene-coffee-vanilla smell of grandma’s kitchen; the starch-cabbage-wax-tobacco-mint-paint-cat smell of the country store; the smells of rain-wet plums, corn pollen, and burning leaves; and the “exciting smell of the hills blooming in the dusk”—these and other odors “have been tamped down, obliterated, or extinguished.”

 

Going home again

 

            “The road back to childhood is a road to shattered illusions,” Parris related after visiting the place where his father had grown up and his grandfather is buried.

            “The springhouse, shaded by a gnarled old oak, is gone...The peach trees have withered and died and the apple trees have been cut down...There’s only a slight depression in the earth where the barn stood, and I remembered the last time I had stood there.  Neighbors with saw and hammer had been there then, making a coffin of pine for my grandfather.  And I remember how they talked in hushed tones, their hammers ringing in the September afternoon.”

            The old house still stood, sagging, its oak shingles replaced by a metal roof.  Inside, Parris saw “the big bed on which his grandfather died...in the front room, fast by the fireplace.  And over it is spread one of my grandmother’s coverlets.”

 

Cornshuck rain hat

 

            Cash-scarce times were heart-filled times on the farms. 

            The Old Man remembered that during the Civil War and Reconstruction, ladies made “the prettiest bonnets you ever saw” out of corn shucks; and “the menfolks got to wearin’ hats out of the same stuff.”  

            Corn was a way of life.  “It was corn-shuckin’s and hoe downs, fiddle-music and banjo pickin’” Corn was “pudding and soup, hominy and mush...It was dolls and whistles.”  It was feed for the cows.  “Many a family slept on cornshuck mattresses.  They burned corn cobs for fuel.”

            “There was no finer pipe than one made out of corn cobs....(and) I remember once,” the Old Man recalled, Uncle Eli “made me a cornstalk fiddle and bow.”

 

Mountain cooking

 

            Grandma was “mighty peart with a skillet,” Parris observed.  “In the early summer when the corn first ripened, we’d start havin’ gritted bread.  Now that’s somethin’ to make your mouth water.”

            There’s a recipe you can look at in Parris’ 1978 book, “Mountain  Cooking,” but Grandpa gives a pretty good description in “My Mountains, My People,” Parris’ second of five books of collected columns.

            “You take fresh corn and rub it over a piece of tin that’s been holed with a nail, rubbin’ the ear of corn on the rough side, and make a meal that’s milky-like.  Sweetest, tastiest thing you ever tasted.”

            Every resource got used in every way—peach trees, for example.  They used to be more greatly favored than apple trees, the Old Man stated.  “What we didn’t dry or make into peach butter or pickle we sold over at the stillhouse where they run ‘em through a mill and made brandy.”

            Folks also made peach leather, pressing the peaches through a coarse sieve, adding brown sugar and cooking them, and spreading the sauce on plates to put out in the sun until it dried and could be rolled up.

            “No one was ever known to go hungry at Grandma’s,” Parris proclaimed about his father’s mom; and it also applied to his maternal grandmother.  “Nor was it necessary to make a flying trip to the store.”

            At times, after the meal was distributed, Grandpa, holding his plate said he reckoned “the chickens didn’t have livers and gizzards anymore, teasing Grandma and knowing all the while she had held them back for the children.”

            Grandma was happiest, Parris attested, “when the house was bulging at the seams with company.  And it was the same with most of her contemporaries here in the mountains.”

Originally published, with a few changes, in the Asheville Citizen-Times.   Follow Rob Neufeld on Twitter @WNC_chronicler.

 

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Cover of “Mountain Cooking”

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