Friday, July 23, 2010

Where I Work

This is where I work: Red Bird Clinic, located in southeast Kentucky. It is related to the United Methodist Church & follows in the tradition of healthcare provided in these mountains since 1922. It began with one nurse, Lydia Rice, followed by a physician and then a succession of medical professionals. The made their way on horseback into remote hollers--just as we continue with Jeeps & other four-wheel drive vehicles. The entire 3-wing building was built in 1956 as a hospital, which then closed in 1986. Today we provide outpatient services with two physicians, a mid-level provider (a Physician Assistant right now), Public Health, Dental serivces, & a Dental lab, & support staff. Our doctors still make housecalls, they attend the celebrations and funerals of community families & are well known & respected throughout the region. Ours is a fine staff & the Clinic is a very pleasant place to work. Some of my favorite memories were made at lunch as we laughed & shared stories as only friends can. Since the staff is mostly women, they have given me insight into the strength & resiliency of mountain women--awesome indeed.

Where We Worship

This is Covenant United Methodist Church, our church while here in KY. Located in Middlesboro, it is a mid-sized congregation with a great minister, wonderful music, a mostly professional congregation, & a wide outreach of service. We found the sermons of Dr. Philip Hill always inspirational and instructive and the music well-planned & excellent. I'll never forget "This is my Father's World" done on bells, guitar, flute, drums, & other percusives with a video of nature scenes surrounding us on 2 walls. We couldn't get to Covenant when bad weather made getting over Red Bird Mt. difficult; we missed much of Jan & Feb. Although we missed being more active, we were always renewed when we were there on Sundays.

Kentucky Horse Park

The huge "Big Barn" & paddocks of the former Walnut Farm, now KY Horse Park

We spent a day at the KY Horse Park, a place we'd gone years ago & knew we would enjoy again. They were hosting an exhibit from Saudi Arabia on the history & culture of the Arabian horse. The grounds are part of the beautiful blue grass area around Lexington famed for horse raising & racing. These lovely words were included in the Persian lore of the creation of the Arabian horse: “And God took a handful of south wind…and said I give thee flight without wings.” We saw Morgans in competition, the Arabian exhibit, a club folks with horses & carts/wagons, several old champions 'put out to pasture,' the lovely grounds, a parade of varied horses, & an assortment of horses in fields. It was a day to be up close & personal with these who fly without wings.

The Quilt Trail

above: This is my favorite Quilt Barn & it's located just a few miles from Red Bird.

There is a practice in Kentucky to paint quilt squares on old barns or other structures. This celebration of an old art form pops up in surprising places. It seems there is no road far enough off the beaten track that doesn’t have a barn quilt somewhere. They dress up many otherwise non-descript tobacco sheds into something rather wonderful. One can even follow a map of quilt squares around the area for a scenic drive.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Will Play for Food

Don't you love a lively spirit? We encountered these two wonderful women, Mary and Jane, at the Cumberland Gap Dulcimer Festival. They shared their stories of picking up dulcimers to ease the grief of widowhood and the ongoing adventures that have come with the music. Here they are wearing shirts that say "Will play dulcimer for food or for any other reason at all actually." Their extravagant encouragement and lively spirits were infectious. They even had Alan joining in the music and me believing that learning to pick and chord a dulcimer are do-able endeavors.

My dulcimer

I had visited the shop of Warren May in Berea. Known as a skilled woodworker and master dulcimer maker, I had hoped that if I ever were to buy a dulcimer it could be one made by Warren May. The prices caused me to pause, especially since I didn’t know how to play one at all. But the sound was so lovely, especially when chorded and picked, that I hoped to one day learn. One evening our local dulcimer player, Craig Dial, played and sang at Red Bird. He let me know that the Craft Store on the campus had a Warren May dulcimer that had not sold at any craft shows and was being put back on the shelf. It was a traditional dulcimer beautifully made with cherry wood and simple design. Warren May’s name graces it and I now own it. The learning is yet to come, but just holding the beautiful instrument makes me happy.

My psaltery

Rick Long demonstrates proper psaltery bowing technique.

The bowed psaltery.

Psalteries are not ancient instruments and are fairly new to Appalachia. They are not the psalters of Biblical times, but the invention (I am told) of a German musician who wanted to craft an instrument fairly easy to learn and available to many. The triangular shape and the bowed strings create a sharp, ringing sound similar to a violin. The larger the instrument, the lower the pitch. They stand out distinctively as solo instruments. I have been intrigued with them for some time and was happy to purchase one this year. It was crafted by Rick Long of Ringing Strings in Tennessee and is beautiful of sight and sound.

The Dulcimer Festival

Even Alan got in on the fun playing a washtub fiddle.
An informal afternoon jam.

Early May brings the Dulcimer Festival to Cumberland Gap National Park. Its organizers, Terry & Pat Lewis, attend our church and so we received a personal invitation to attend. But we wanted to anyway. Held at the campgrounds, musicians from around the U.S. arrive in RVs & tents for a week of music and visiting. We attended Friday and Saturday for the lessons and concerts. What fun!
The beauty of the Park, the blue skies and mellow evenings surrounded by music were wonderful. We met a lot of very interesting people—it was a mixture of old hippies, folksters, artisans, retirees, families, serious performers and luthiers, and more. Most were skilled on dulcimers, but there was an assortment of other instruments evident like the “hurdy gurdy” (sounded like a bowed bagpipe-weird), Indian flute, varied drums, banjoes and banjammers (banjo/dulcimer combinations), fiddles, guitars, mandolins, ukuleles and more. Large and small groups jammed all day and into the evening. Even Alan got into the action with a washtub fiddle. One extravagantly encouraging older woman continually assured him he was “doing just fine.” And he was.
I went intent on discovering more about bowed psalteries. I had seen one several years ago and was determined to learn to play one. The class illustrated just how difficult bowing and technique can be in what I thought would be fairly easy. But I was not deterred and bought myself one for Mother’s Day. A few days later, with the sound of dulcimers in my head, I bought myself a dulcimer too.

Appalachian Spring

The dogwood bloomed in pinks & whites throughout the mountains.
Ornamental crabapples brightened many yards with early blooms.
Tulip, or magnolia as they are sometimes called, were generous in their early bloom.
The emerging greens of spring painted a chartreuse landscape across the hills.

Appalachian Spring: 2010

Spring comes in waves of emerging greenery and blooming trees and bushes in the mountains. It overlaps with winter in a series of “Little Winters” known as redbud, dogwood, sarvice, or blackberry—depending on what’s in bloom at the time of occasional dipping temperatures. Everyone welcomes the brighter skies and lengthening days. The gray skies, the shadows of encircling mountains, the inhospitable roads, and series of heavy snows made the winter of 09-10 a hard one—even by local standards.

Festivals herald spring’s arrival in Kentucky, just as they do in other places. An early one for this area is the Redbud & Quilt Festival in Barbourville. A quaint old town and home to Union College (a United Methodist institution), it is a fitting backdrop for a gathering of quilters & crafters. Red brick buildings of the college house the festival’s indoor activities while Red Bud and Dogwood bloom around the historic campus grounds. Spring has to get very warm, very quickly to get the redbud and dogwood to bloom at the same time; it did in 2010.

It’s hard to know what’s prettier: redbud, dogwood, crab apple, cherry, magnolia, mountain laurel. They’re all beautiful. For me, the redbud that lined the roads and bloomed mightily on rocky mountain spots were special. Maybe because they bloom so early & last quite a while. White dogwood were a close favorite as they dotted the mountain sides amongst the greenery of spring leaves.

Of course, there are many more festivals—civil war enactments, the Poke Sallet sounded interesting, the Mountain Laurel at Pineville may have been fun for kids with its inflatables. Lots of arts, crafts, food, and history are to be had on successive weekends through the area. Oh yes, another sure sign that spring has come are the early cars shows that will continue in most areas from months to come.

Emerging greenery on the mountain sides is like a bargello canvas being sewn. Waves of green—dark and light—undulate across the uneven surfaces. The first hint of green is barely perceptible and then one after another of the varied trees begins to dress for summer. Homes that were visible in the leafless winter begin to disappear. The stark metal buildings and conveyors of the coal mines soften in appearance from passing roads. Over a period of weeks the greens change to their mature fullness of summer and the forest settles in for the heat to come.
People emerge in spring too. Tillers get cranked up and gardens emerge in many of the flat bottoms of local hollers. Four wheelers begin to share the roads. One hears about the first ‘Cemetary Reunion,” knowing that their season is just beginning. School children begin their field trips and special end-of-year programs. Baseball starts, graduates party, pools open.

I love spring. New life and energy, accompanied by the flowering that promises new growth is a sure sign that life renews itself in a cycle of beauty and hope.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Looking Up from Under

Don’t ask me why, I just love looking up from underneath. And so you will find me continuously gazing up through a tree’s leaves, crouching under the shrubs and bushes, peering up through every treed blossom I can find. Light looks different from the underside. Leaves and flower petals look more translucent, more delicate. Small veining emerges. Colors are changed and muted. The color of sky and clouds become backdrop. Orange looks one way against blue and another against green. Perhaps I should think more profoundly about why I love this perspective—or maybe not. Maybe it is enough just to say: I love looking up from under.

Sanders Cafe

Sanders Café: the first

Whether you love Kentucky Fried Chicken or not, the Sanders Café is a must if you’re driving down highway 75 in southern Kentucky. This is the home of the first KFC, the enterprise that started with a social security check and the entrepenurial skills of Harlan Sanders, otherwise known as Colonel Sanders. Here you can order anything off the KFC menu and eat it at the well-worn tables of the original serving site. Here one will be surrounded by a museum of KFC memorabilia, including the original kitchen, tables and chairs, cash register, hutches, weather vane, and more. The restaurant was part of a small motel and The Colonel advertised his rooms by setting one up at the restaurant. He believed that if “Mom” could see how clean and well-done the rooms were, they would gladly take their family there to stay. The motel and restaurant served many people traveling through. The Colonel had a long career in business, owning an oil distributership, even running for the Senate. His legacy, however, started with less than $200. (one Social Security check) and a lot of hard work. His franchises continue to thrive and the chicken’s still good. Nobody yet knows what’s in its “11 herbs and spices.”

Cumberland Falls

There is a beautiful spot where the Cumberland River falls over a rocky ledge and where a moon bow glows in the full moon. Preserved in a state park, the falls continue to draw many to its peaceful setting. Trails and rocky overhangs, ferns and lichen, water and sky, and the eerily beautiful moon bow are a little treasure with magic all their own.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Festival of Nations

Festival of Nations

We saw the ad for “Drum,” a group from Nova Scotia celebrating the many cultures of that province with drumming, song and dance. The thundering drums convinced us that we just had to visit the annual Festival of Nations at Dollywood. We were not disappointed. So we made our second trip to Pigeon Forge in three months, this time to celebrate music, dance, story, and food from around the world. We listened to Zambian acapella harmonies, watched Peruvian folk dances, gasped at the Chinese acrobats, chilled to Ecuadoran flutes, and sat enthralled by the drumming and story of Drum. Two days of international culture in arts and cuisine were exactly what these two travelers needed.

Redbud Festival

Redbud Festival

Spring is official when the redbud bloom and the Redbud Festival comes to Barbourville. The Festival takes place on the Union College grounds, Union being a venerable old United Methodist school. This annual event draws quilters and crafters from throughout the area. Fortunately our day on the grounds was sunny, blue sky-ed, and the redbud were in full bloom—right on schedule. We enjoyed viewing the quilts (I even bought a package of fabric squares to make a “charm quilt”), purchased some glass mosaic tiles for our gardens, talked to crafters, ate barbecue, and enjoyed the early promise of spring.

Appalachian Winter

Appalachian Winter

How does one tell the story of a winter that lasted too long and brought a lot of misery? I’m told that the winter of 09-10 was unusual—unusually long, unusually snowy, unusual for sickness and death and distress. I don’t know; it’s been my only mountain winter but I’ll take their word for it.
We had six major snowfalls of several inches each. Each one brought the schools to a standstill and made driving on the mountain roads treacherous. School was out for most of January because of road conditions. I’m thankful we made it through winter without hitting a guardrail or another car or going off a road. Alan had a lot of fun plowing and blowing snow at Red Bird; he seemed to be one of the few enjoying the snow! However, we discovered there is also a great stark beauty to winter here. All the little rivulets and streams of water froze as they tumbled over rock ledges. The roadsides were edged with frozen waterfalls of all sizes, widths and lengths. I called them frozen music and could never get enough of looking at them.
A wet snow knocked out electricity for five days just before Christmas. Although we slept at our house in 40 degree temps, the clinic had a generator and I could go to work like normal. Alan worked on generators, blew snow, & helped in other tasks. A few slept in the mission guest rooms; we all took meals together and worked to cook up our quickly rotting food on a camp stove. The experience redefined the term “Red Bird Family.” Fortunately, most had left the campus for Christmas in other parts and those remaining survived the week. We were mighty glad to get power just in time for Christmas Eve services and other celebrations.
Unfortunately, winter brought sickness and death to people we love. Two friends were diagnosed with serious cancers, friends just too young and vibrant for such a thing. Another friend was hospitalized and struggled all winter to breathe. In January our lab tech’s husband was killed in a coal mining accident. A safety violation left unrepaired, a 29 year old husband and father crushed to death by coal, and the clinic and community were left in mourning. We still grieve for the young widow, Pam, and her three year old son.
So winter settled long and hard in these mountains. Everybody endured, or course, but all were anxious for the first signs of spring.

Little Winters

The big winter is followed by a series of little winters. These little winters appear after the days have begun to warm but are interrupted by cool days with night temperatures that reach down toward freezing. They are named after the plants that might be blooming at that time and appear in this order: Sarvice Berry Winter, Red Bud Winter, Dogwood Winter, and Blackberry Winter. Hopefully there aren’t any more cold snaps than that. One may need to cover their plants during one of these ‘winters’ but they’re never very threatening and are soon gone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Winter Wilderness

The Daniel Boone National Forest is spectacularly beautiful in any season. Winter spareness exposes its strong basic shapes.

Winter Flowers

Dollops of snow remind me of flowers on the winter greenery.

Winter Fun

Nobody had more fun than Alan when snows came. Trucks, scrapers, blowers, scoops--big toys for big boys.

Red Bird Winter 2

Red Bird Clinic never closed, no matter how hard the snow fell.
A rare blue sky turned snowy hillsides into shimmering grandeur.
Winter's gray tones soften the terrain.
The view that greeted us many winter mornings at our front door. Fog often obscured the mountains in any season, but especially in winter.

Red Bird Winter 1

Cardinal House is well-known to the thousands who eat meals here each year.
Even a fake cardinal looks beautiful under a coat of snow.
Winter was a long season of gray, white, and cold. The occasional green pine added interest.
Little streams and rivulets flowed freely to fill the Red Bird River nearby.
Thanks to Bob Pohli for this lovely view of the log cabin & wood shop from above.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountains
Smoky Mountain National Park is beautiful in January too! Our drive over Newfound Gap Road offered vistas of cold, blue mountains and snowbanks on its summit. Most roads are blocked in winter, but hikers & bikers still appeared. The rhododendron, mountain laurel, and dogwood are waiting to wake to springtime splendor. It is said that no other place this size in a temperate climate boasts such diversity of plant and animal life. We have seen the Park in summer and winter; now I look forward to seeing it in the spring.

Bean Station

Bean Station
We drove through Cumberland Gap and over Clinch Mountain in northeast Tennessee on our way to Smoky Mountain National Park. Clinch (TN) and Pine (KY) Mountains must have looked like such formidable obstacles to westward-bound adventurers and settlers. Now Cumberland Gap is easily traveled through a spacious tunnel, and the little town that marks its southern entry is a destination for a good meal at Webb’s Restaurant. Summertime brings Civil War reenactments, a reminder of the divided loyalties of mountaineers and the multiple exchanges of Union/Confederate power in the Cumberlands.