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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25.

East Asheville history and sites

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Feb 27.

The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

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Mark de Castrique posted a blog post
Friday
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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Oct 8
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at MACA Authors' Booth

October 14, 2017 from 9:30am to 1:30pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be signing her new books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 14, from 9:30-1:30. She will be located at the MACA Authors' booth on Main Street.See More
Oct 7
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Sample 8 Great Smokies Writers at Malaprop’s, Oct. 15

Writers in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP)read atMalaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sun.,Oct. 15 Elizabeth Lutyens, editor of the GSWP’s Great Smokies Review, leads the Prose Master Class and will host the reading. ·        Ellen Carr, who works in the financial industry, will read excerpts from her novel of uneasy relationships, Unmanned. ·        Sarah Carter, an artist and photographer who will publish an excerpt of her novel, Jolene, Joe-Pye,…See More
Oct 6
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Oct 6
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post

How To Kill Your Reader

Danger is a crucial element in a mystery novel. A killer is on the loose and no one is safe. But sometimes the killer can be the writer, and the victim, the reader.I'm talking about when the author turns into a preacher and the story becomes a sermon. Now I am not against using a mystery novel for social commentary. Writing doesn't happen in a moral vacuum, and, after all, isn't a mystery a morality play? As fellow North Carolina author Margaret Maron said there is no topic that can't be dealt…See More
Oct 5
Mark de Castrique posted a video

Hidden Scars - A Sam Blackman Mystery

Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson investigate a 70-year-old death that unleashes a killer.
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a discussion

Black Mountain College as Backdrop for Mystery

My new book, HIDDEN SCARS, is released Oct 3rd.  D.G. Martin notes the star of the story is Black Mountain College.  http://chapelboro.com/town-square/columns/one-on-one/one-one-lost-college-still-shinesSee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Upcoming book--Sacred Sites for Secular Times

Sacred Sites for Secular Times: 50 Commemorative Experiences in Western North Carolina by Rob Neufeld              Among the many sites dedicated to history, there are some—both overbooked and overlooked—that provide full and moving experiences.  They involve a physical component, connecting to landscape; an imaginative one, entering other times and minds; and an interactive one, maintaining relevance.             The entries in this book help create full experiences through descriptive…See More
Sep 25
Susan Weinberg posted events
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Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Aim for Beauty

In honor of my blog Plant Whatever Brings You Joy's 10th Blogiversary I've posted a chapter from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. This particular chapter was also excerpted in Fairview's GreenPrints magazine, which was greatly appreciated. Read more here: http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/aim-for-beauty/…See More
Sep 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

McCrumb ghost-opened world in The Unquiet Grave

McCrumb sees stories behind haunting ghost by Rob NeufeldPHOTO: Sharyn McCrumb and her dog Arthur, 2017.  Photo by Laura Palmer, courtesy, Sharyn McCrumb In “The Unquiet Grave,” Sharyn McCrumb once again demonstrates her mastery at turning a folktale into something larger, different, and greater.The legend of the…See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Vestus Miller

­HISTORIC PHOTO James Vester Miller James Vester Miller had been a boy when his mother, a Rutherfordton slave, had responded to Emancipation by taking her three children to Asheville and getting a job as a cook in a boardinghouse—some say Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse, Old Kentucky Home.  Growing up, Miller hung…See More
Aug 26
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Aug 25

A walk through nature with the Ellisons

by Rob Neufeld

AUTHOR EVENTS

George Ellison talks about his new book, “Literary Excursions in the Southern Highlands: Essays on Natural History,” at Macon County Public Library, 149 Siler Farm Road

Franklin, 7 p.m., Dec. 7 (828-524-3600); and at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Mar. 12, 2017 (828-254-6734).

 

            When you read a book by George Ellison, you get, in his nature writing about our region, six voices blending into a unique style.

            First, there’s his informal voice, as when, in his new book, “Literary Excursions in the Southern Highlands: Essays on Natural History” (History Press), he talks about hornblende and admits to cribbing a Geology 101 textbook and consulting experts “who are in no way responsible for my conclusions.”

            He’s always there, in between his gifts of wisdom, like a folksy teacher.

            Then there’s the mystical Ellison.  His task in this mode is to advocate for divinity in an everyday way.  “At night, I don’t count sheep,” he tells us in the first chapter, “Geography of Place: Inner and Outer Landscapes.”   “I name the mountain ranges and rivers from east to west.” 

            In his chapter, “Inward Eyes,” he asks, “How do we go about making sure we continue seeing the world about us with fresh eyes?”

 

Observation packets

 

            Ellison titles his new book “Literary Excursions” not because he’s providing author tours, but because he treats other authors’ observations about nature as if they were, along with wildlife, part of a spread.

            William Bartram, in his 1791 book, “Travels in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Ellison reveals, loved the magnolia blossom, which, Bartram precisely described, “fits in the center of a radius of very large leaves, which...form an expansive umbrella superbly crowned or crested with the fragrant flower, representing a white plume.”

            Ellison then turns to James Costa, director of the Highlands Botanical Station, who informs us that the flower dates back to pre-bee times, when beetles had been the most sought pollinators.

            Finally, Ellison ends with a quip, quoting biologist J.B.S. Haldane, who, when asked what nature told him about God, replied that “the Creator apparently had an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

            When Ellison serves as the chief explainer, seeking conciseness and clarity, he often throws in a punchy line, such as: “If you happen to be a spider, the female dirt dauber is your worst nightmare.”   

            But it’s not all wit and charm.  At certain times, Ellison must be the scientist.

            For example, writing about the northern harrier in his chapter, “The Gray Ghost,” Ellison advises, “The diagnostic feature to look for is the white rump.  Less apparent are the facial disks.”

            He goes on a while longer about male and female coloring and size, and about nesting and roosting habits.  And then, extending the description to courtship and foraging behaviors, he gives poetry some space.

            First he borrows from “The Birds of America,” which portrays the male harrier “sweeping in great semicircles, gradually lessening in diameter,” at which point “he stops suddenly in the top of a swoop, closes his wings, drops, turns head over tail, drops again, turns over and swings upward from the last somersault, just clear of the ground on another ecstatic performance.”

            “What sort of female of any kind could resist that sort of display?” Ellison muses.  Then he does his own visually enhanced job by picturing the bird in foraging mode, “spreading the feathers in their wingtips, creating ‘slots’ that...allow low-speed maneuvers...hovering several feet above the ground, face always pointed downward.”

            Poetry, for Ellison, is knowing the world.  And that includes being able to distinguish between variations of the same species, a discipline that guidebooks often don’t do very well.

 

Poetry

 

            Ellison’s sixth voice is poetry.  His 2012 book of poems, “Permanent Camp,” issues such lines as: “Certain images rivet attention/ and lodge in memory banks:/ a timber rattler coiled beside a trail/ a kestrel hovering on blurred wings/ a hellbender in gin-cleared mountain water...”

            In “Literary Excursions,” he reins that lyrical voice in because, you get the feeling, he has a job to do, like a farmer who has to actually tend to his crops before taking a break and breaking out.

            Ellison’s job-like job is, first, to be precise.  Then, he can pause and be amiable. 

Don’t take for granted his favorite songbird, the redbird, he tells us.  “From time to time, we have to remind ourselves to pay attention to the commonplace.”

            The “Redbird” chapter is one of my favorites in that it builds a personality and a legend within the framework of natural history.

            “Elizabeth and I,” Ellison says about walks with his wife, “have observed that they (the northern cardinals) are almost always the first bird to sing in the morning during the breeding season and that during the winter months they are almost they are almost the last bird to visit our feeders before dark.”

            Ellison surmises, “They like to be in charge of the other songbirds in their area, so they wake them up in the morning and see them to bed at night...the male perhaps carries things a tad too far when he engages in lengthy battles with his own reflection.”

            There is a seventh voice, in a manner of speaking, in Ellison’s book, and that is Elizabeth’s brilliant watercolor artwork.  The photo-quality pages of their volume are rife with illustrations, all apt.

            For instance, when George set about showcasing witch hobble, he wrote Dan Pittillo, retired professor of biology and founding editor of “Chinquapin,” to have him look at “Elizabeth’s rendering of what I think of as a sort of Stained Glass Window effect.”  The artwork is in the book, as are Pitillo’s and his colleagues’ musings about the color phenomenon. 

            Ellison is a nature journalist, and he has created a community of naturalist-songbirds, in a sense.

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