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Field Report
High Country Ramblin' -- Completing the Circle

Field Report from the Appalachian Heartland

Obama Campaign Volunteers, Boone NC October -- Tuesdays through Thursdays I've been helping out as a volunteer at the
Boone North Carolina campaign headquarters for Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, encountering in the process a widely diverse array of citizens from counter clerks to Appalachian State University professors, babies to the very elderly, out-of-region residents from Springfield Illinois to Coral Gables Florida, and experiences from rudeness to the heights of mountain class. This is "High Country" where home prices can range up into the millions and others rent rooms in boarding houses or seek shelter through church missions. America in progress thousands of feet up in the air geographically and by spirit in many instances. Most of my work involves calling a lengthy list of registered voters -- Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated -- in four counties to determine what issues have been most important to them in determining their ballot and, if possible, for whom they have decided. Additionally, we encourage them to vote early in their best interests and that of officials to avoid congestion on Election Day. A few specifically decline while expressing anticipation of the excitement, conversation and community usually extant on that very special American occasion. Quite a few say that everything is an issue for them now, but the gradation in sensibility seems to be the economy, war and security, health care, energy and gas prices, retirement, and choice in that order more or less.

Some of their answers are humorous and witty. One older and very Caucasian-sounding gentleman, when asked what is most important to him of the issues Obama discusses, refuses to address that and says instead in reaction to some subtle racial divisiveness, "I like his looks." Another, when asked his Presidential preference, answers, "Anybody else," meaning perhaps that a mentally-challenged street person he met recently exhibited more perception and intelligence than our recent leaders have from his point of view, and that an unemployed janitor he knows from childhood also has. Others expound very seriously on their concerns for the next generations and their families and friends as well as themselves, including the elderly on fixed incomes and with medical exigencies to address. Reacting to respondents is sometimes problemmatic. One asked, "Why are you voting for that black man?" A little startled, the volunteer answered, hoping to be clear, helpful and encouraging, "Well, he's half-white. Hello? Hello? Are you there?" An Appalachian State University professor of political science is not impressed that the Democratic candidate received his law degree from Harvard University and was its first ethnic head of the Law Review. "It's an elite school," he protests. I point out that Barack Obama entered on his merits, not as a relative or acquaintance of alumni, and that, considering the complexity of national problems now, "I don't think this is any time to be anti-intellectual" in our choice of the next President and Vice President of the United States of America. The professor has another call waiting and signs off without explicitly expressing his preference, although he states cogently his dislike of socialism over capitalism. There's no time to tell him that I've owned several businesses, as have and do others working in the Obama campaign, and am an enthusiast, particularly on the low to mid range, of that economic system too.

A few respondents have moved to other areas and are working in the campaigns there: one in Colorado, another in Nashville Tennessee, and a third in Raleigh North Carolina. We exchange pleasantries and notes on what's happening in our respective regions. One younger middle-aged student says that he's voting for Nader and looking for a woman who's a "fascist environmentalist." He wants his bumper stickers to read, when he runs for office, "Polluters will be neutered." I end by pleading with him not to waste his vote during this crucial election on a third party candidate but can't tell if he concurs. A querolous-sounding man explains that he's received before calls for the person whose name I read but that that person has never lived at his address. He goes on to tell me of a friend with the same last name who's lived for years by Watauga Lake down a road unfamiliar to me, but he doesn't believe they're any relation to each other. When I ask if he's planning to vote on Tuesday, he answers, "I don't know. I'm 86 years old. Maybe my son will take me." I urge him not to miss the opportunity to participate in this historic election, and he murmurs agreeably.

Two congenial and minimally-remunerated headquarters personnel -- one an Air Force veteran who served as military police during his tour of duty in Alaska and with a masters in Political Science, and the other a Georgetown graduate of English and Philosophy -- provide coffee, pop, cookies and lunches like sandwiches and pizza for themselves and volunteers, as well as direction and assistance. For the opportunity of a lifetime to be involved in precedent-setting political activities, Mark left his position with the Illinois Governor's office for the campaign, and Blake is biding time energetically before entering law school to follow generally in the footsteps of his father, a corporate attorney practicing in Manhattan, New York. There's a long table with literature and sale items like buttons and bumper stickers with yard signs propped up against the walls. We run out fairly frequently and refer some to Democratic Headquarters just the next block over. Foot traffic is usually busy and entertaining. One man is from England and requests explication from me of our puzzling Electoral College sytem. I summarize with some clarity its history and the theory behind its makeup. He remains pleasantly curious, wishing us good luck as he leaves. Another visitor in the company of her six-month-old son walks through the door opening to request literature and stickers. While we're talking, I ask the baby's name and she answers "Jude." Bending over the stroller, I smile saying, "What a great name! What a lucky boy you are!" and Jude grins back making a happy, gleeful motion with his whole body as if he completely understands what I said and agrees, absolutely.

One respondent recounts her conversation just previous with a McCain supporter who has assured her that Obama will disband the Boy Scouts and similar organizations by insisting on the installation of homosexuals as their leaders young and old. A walk-in complains that the machines switched all his votes for Democratic candidates to Republican ones. A volunteer recounts with distressed horror talking to prospective voters in one area that nearly all react voluably that they "would never vote for that nigger." In contrast, a few who turn out to have already voted express their delight at being able to cast a ballot for Barack Obama and the Democrats with involuntary and joyful giggles. A woman volunteer with a law degree and experience as a corporate litigation attorney details the inexplicably odd experience of having her straight hair come out in clumps and grow back with curls while her body exuded strange-smelling chemicals for about two years, perhaps in response to some countrywide meltdown of previously-assured Constitutional guarantees in the personal and professional lives of citizens. The bumper sticker on a volunteer's vehicle reads, "WHO WOULD JESUS KILL?" There is general agreement that the last eight years have been criminal and miserable in violation of truly religious and democratic ideals and that we don't want anything more or less than our Constitutional country, and a healthily progressing world, back.

Betsy, a retired middle-aged Cobol programmer has her fingernails painted red, white and blue and sits her three-and-a-half foot long body on the floor to assemble yard signs whose buyers complain are stolen regularly and need replacement. She wears a pin some days that says, "1/20/09 End of an Error." One undecided voter married to a Democrat switches parties in irritation and disgust with tactics of the opposition, which have cost him another five bucks. A sign on the wall reads: "You steal our signs; we get more money for our campaign." The back of a USA-colored tee-shirt Blake wears one days reads: "'If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.' -- John F. Kennedy, Jr." Betsy tells anecdotally of wearing once a shirt to the mall imprinted with "Vertically Challenged," which she found amusing but no onlookers seemed to notice or understand. Two African-American Appalachian State University professors -- one of English Composition and another of Music with a prestigious jazz band he leads as its alto sax player -- show up now and then to help, and the owner of an automobile dealership delivers a large tray of deli meats and cheeses for making sandwiches. Two massage therapists, a man and a woman made up in cat face for Hallowe'en, come in on consecutive days to volunteer their professional services and set up minimal equipment in the meeting room for weary and sometimes stressed volunteers.

Around 10 p.m. on the Saturday evening before Election Day Jo, our volunteer office manager, and her husband were eating in a neighborhood downtown restaurant before attending a late night film. Her cell phone rang and a voice asked if it was she. Responding affirmatively, the person said, "I have a conference call for you with Barack Obama. Please hang on to talk with him." Jo was sure it was a joke-trick and thought to herself and aloud to her husband, "Sure it is. I'm gonna get Mark in the morning for this." A doubt rose within her and shortly thereafter the voice of the Democratic candidate came over the waves. Jo stood up on her chair, waving her arms and telling all the other patrons to be quiet, Barack Obama was on the telephone! When I asked her the next morning if she'd written down everything he said so she could remember it, she shook her head in a little sorrow and said that she hadn't but the gist of the message was, "Keep the power going." And we did and have done our best.

During the final two days numbers of volunteers swell until we are literally running into each other in the hallway. Jo, mother of a six-year-old son who visits us once for awhile, is one of those in charge. She's never really worked before and is pleasurably challenged and energized, as well as efficiently organized. Dr. Hall Beck of ASU's Psychology Department joins us with assistance and interesting conversation. So does April Flanders of that university's art department. A specialist in printmaking, she's lived all around the country and in Canada. During a Florida sojourn for the year 2000 election, she and a friend registered to vote in that state at the same time and together. When that Election Day came around, she was allowed to cast her ballot but the friend, an African-American, never received a registration card and became, at the last minute, disenfranchised by missing records. Susan, a clinical social worker, has been my best and warmest friend at headquarters since the first day and we've laughed and giggled together frequently about various happenings past and present. Twelve hundred yard signs delivered on Saturday have been distributed and many of them purloined, according to their owners. A new sign taped to the front room wall reads: "You can steal our signs, but you can't steal the election." In the dwindling hours of "phone banking," a disabled veteran argues with me that none of our governments are any good, they don't really make any difference, there's no use in voting, and the country is about to implode totally any minute. In the midst of a rousing defense of active and participatory democracy, the importance of every single vote and widespread citizen participation in all aspects of government and community with honorable mention for ground-breaking programs that have been initiated historically cross-country and worldwide, the superb qualifications of Obama and Biden, and warning that he'll "hate himself in the morning" if he misses this precedent-setting, portentious and prestigious vote -- the man suddenly imparts that he hasn't registered to vote and won't therefore be allowed into a polling booth this year. I wish him a good day, suggest that he register later for the next round, and hang up. Maybe he'll convince his wife, or a neighbor. Off and on we enjoy with the others sandwiches handmade by a local friend and Betsy's extraordinary culinary gift to us all in the form of huge prepared platters of barbecued pork, green and baked beans, slaw, and the pieces de resistance: over-sized cookies and cupcakes topped with photo icing of the two Democratic candidates that she ordered Saturday from a baker, and Democratic supporter, in California. We agree that perhaps, like pieces of a wedding cake, they should be home-frozen and saved for eating on an anniversary occasion, say Obama/Biden in 2012. Dispersing little by little as work to be done wanes in the final hours, Susan and I exchange a parting hug and e-mail addresses.

Emily, a widow a few decades junior to me, has been my hostess for overnight stays. One of three daughters and a son to her Republican father, a retired elected Judge who studied to understand the law rather than earning a formal degree and a mother whom she much admired for her profound and unassuming Christianity, she has just switched parties in the past six months to devote all of her extra energies in overturning policies and leadership with which she now whole-heartedly disagrees. She assists variously in Obama offices and also makes the rounds canvasing with voting information and encouragement for citizens to get to the polls and cast their ballot for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Emily's insightful knowledge about background and issues is impressive and enlightening. As an intelligent humanist, she's a joy to question on viewpoints across the spectrum. She's also a very successful and long-time real estate broker who's owned and remodeled her three-story home over a period of 15 years. Her conveniently-located sales company employs 15 agents; her home is an endless joy of unusual and unique mountain folk art interestingly placed and arranged. The setting is a fairly developed wilderness up a winding road, and "the digs" are totally comfortable including a front porch and generously-sized back deck. Emily's older cat Freddie and the two young curly-haired, mid-sized and mixed-breed sister dogs are obviously pampered and loved. They have their own mattresses on the floor but sleep, and come and go, where and when they please. One morning as I'm drinking coffee, her very large gray feline sits on my lap for awhile communicating how fabulous his life is, his superior intelligence and consciousness, and his worldview, which is -- sorry, dog-lovers, but I'm just conveying what he said -- that "Cats never totally bliss out, but are always aware, and that's why: Cats Rule." Attractive and flexible, Emily's an excellent cook, funny and smart in conversation, friendly, and laid-back, at least when she's not working, so I feel extraordinarily blessed in both the unexpected assignment to "High Country" and the relaxed fun of spending nights and mornings there.

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High Country Ramblin'

Abandoning the Purple Heart Trail to and from Boone somewhat later and feeling rich with a tankfull of gas at $1.99 a gallon, I head upwards geographically south instead of east for a Gary Carden reception celebrating the release of his DVD An Evening with Mountain Storyteller
Gary Carden (a few kudos from the cover: "Gary Carden is North Carolina's answer to Garrison Keillor," Tom Davenport, filmmaker; "One of the funniest and most entertaining devils on earth," Dot Jackson, author of Refuge; "Carden lifts his stories out of his life the way a collector lifts gemstones ... holding them up ... knowing the place where the light hits them best," Mary Ann Claud, Hendersonville Times-News; "I have heard him tell his stories, at which he is a mater, and I have watched his plays, goose bumps on my arms and tears in my eyes," Kay Byer, Poet Laureate of North Carolina; "I have performed at the International Storytelling Festival many times and have seen and heard storytellers from all over the world and they are some of the best to walk onto a stage. But, my favorite storyteller is still Gary Carden -- he doesn't 'perform,' he talks -- with a heart full of mountain and a mouth full of real. Nothing can beat that!" Sheila Kay Adams) in Sylva North Carolina by way of Asheville. With a stuffed shopping bag of that city's free newspapers and magazines, I relax as usual at Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe ("Using our imaginations is a radical antitode to our societal numbing by computer-ease and advertising slamming.... I am still slowing my way through Mirrors of the Unseen by Jason Elliot. I am learning so much about the Persians and the culture that created the bse of most everything (unless it is of Chinese origin) that we do and believe in.... What is amazing to me is the ability of the human mind to create everything without machines and advanced technologies, as the Persian, Mayans and Chinese have done.... As Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe enters her 27th year, we will continue to serve a community willing to read and support a diverse and eclectic selection of worthy literature!... Celebrate who we are and what we have! Vote for your community by shopping in locally owned businesses, and make small but essential positive environmental changes in your daily habits to protect this beautiful place we call home: The MOUNTAINS, the RIVER, the ARCHITECTURE and her READING and GREEN community." -- Emoke B'Raez, owner and founder of Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe and Downtown Books & News) with bread pudding and coffee before a quick tour of the latest offerings at the Woolworth Walk's two story art galleries before moving on toward the Smokies before sunset.

Mason Jars in the Flood,' a collection of stories by Gary Carden Taking the last beautician's advice, I've decided not to comb my curls after they dry, so my hair looks kind of like a used country mop by the time I get there, and I can't find my lipstick. I locate a comfortable, cushioned wicker chair on the last row, from which it turns out I can seldom hear or see Gary tell his stories, inside the back room of Sylva's City Lights Bookstore. My friend the author and teller, lecturer and professor walks from the next room to the lectern, looks around at his audience, and says, "Is that Jeannette Harris I see back there?" Heads turn as I nod and grin. "Yes, it is, Gary," and look down at the free book we each have been given by the owner of the shop. John Quinnett, retired Qualla Boundary counselor and poet, arrives toward the appointed time of 7 p.m. and ends up in the "standing room only" overflow area where we exchange greetings following Gary's energized performance which has had the crowd smiling and laughing for an hour. John lives in a neighboring county and has had to park his car with its Obama/Biden stickers on Main Street there to protect it from vandals who've undertaken political statements like placing a bear cub carcas wrapped in Democratic Party posters on the lawn of Western Carolina University (the students involved were relieved of their classroom responsibilities for awhile) and throwing beer cans at and through windows of "mislabeled" properties. Dave Waldrop, a friend of Gary's with a Masters degree and 30 years of professional experience in Counseling and Guidance some of whose lyrics have been recorded and performed by the bluegrass and gospel group The Smoky Mountain Boys, introduces himself at the buffet table and gives me signed copies of his poetry book, am I, which includes verse written by his admirable mother Lillie Clayton Waldrop Pannell, and CD, Freedom!, ("These songs and poems are rich with mountain living. Humorous and profound, they are as natural as trout in the Tuckaseigee. Freedom! is a joyous celebration for us all." -- Michael Revere, author of Fire and Rain, Lizard Man, and other acclaimed poetic works) as we discuss socio-political pasts and present with humor and current rejoicing.

'The Prince of Dark Corners,' a play by Gary Carden Later, as I walk toward Gary's house, I choose the wrong side of his car to round and end up calf-deep in a mud hole. In his book-lined den we discuss literature and events involving mutual acquaintances. He has written an epilogue for Lewis Green who died the previous week but can't find it at the moment. We agree Lewis was a poetic soul run amuck, and Gary says that he had the great American novel in him thwarted by psychopathological violence, obsessive paranoia, and prejudice as his mind took an increasingly wrong turn over the years after writing And Scatter The Proud. Gary tells me about prolific Cherokee author Robert Conley being appointed recently Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies at Western Carolina University and recommends any of his 80 or so books. He also recounts the legend of Nance Dude, about which he has earlier written a play, based on The Legend of Nance Dude by UNC at Wilmington professor of religion and philosophy Maurice Stanley, in production off and on over the years. Roaming mentally through mountain lore, he recalls the 40,000+ Lumbee tribal natives who claim partial descent from the Virginia Dare (name of the first child born in the Americas to English parents) Colonists on Virginia's Roanoke Island. He also mentions an FDR era Federal Writers Project collection of Tennessee folklore entitled God Bless The Devil. Finally, we discuss for awhile the meaning of "dark corners," as the most recent play of his to be produced publicly is called "The Prince of Dark Corners." It is the true story of Lewis Redmond, an "outlaw" during the desperate mountain times of Reconstruction, which sometimes required extraordinary survival behaviors from individuals and families. The protagonist joins others in a region called "a dark corner," where three or more states collide and no one, or one county or town, claims jurisdiction so no law is applied.

'The Raindrop Waltz,' a play by Gary Carden For a few years, Gary relates, he's experienced the attentions and affections of a now-wealthy female acquaintance from high school, a traveler who's visited "Stratford-on-Avon where some writer guy lived" and "a big building in Paris with lots of famous stuff in it." (Shakespeare? The Louvre?) She also bought him a designer wardrobe to help in marketing his performances as an Appalachian mountain storyteller in the process of introducing him to some upscale area restaurants. Finally, clutching a pair of old jeans and a flannel shirt, Gary pecked out an "asta la vista" e-mail to her and retreated to his soapstone woodstove for reworking his latest book review to be published as ever by Smoky Mountain News. Now free from her accusatory jealousies of every other woman he does or did ever talk with or notice in passing, he envisions also completing the large canvas entitled "Rapture at MacDonald's" on his easel of naked and satisfied MacDonald's customers rising up over the golden arches, topped by a fully-clothed Ronald MacDonald, munching contentedly on their hamburgers and french fries in ecstacy toward the figure of Jesus at the top. Gary introduces me to the computer game Chickenary, which is very funny graphically and phonically, and we play one game until neither of us can construct another word from the randomly generated letters displayed. Our score totals 16, which he adds to his accumulation of points. At 10,000, he'll have won a new keyboard.

Jack, the Jack Russell terrier, has grown large and rotund. He nuzzles my leg but desists from eating my shoes, and Gary takes him in his car to breakfast the next morning at The Coffee Shop, built originally before World War II and used thereafter as a popular drive-in diner with a front porch overlooking the Smokies. In conversation with an older man -- who turns out to be a retired minister writing a book on the healing aspects of humor -- at a neighboring table, Gary recounts the story of a fiddler back then who traveled around the country with his band staying in the finest hotels, eating in the best restaurants, and generally "living the good life" everywhere. He always came back to Sylva, though, "stone broke" and washed dishes at the diner for a spell until returning again to the road. Admiring the Smokies through the diner's picture windows, I listen as Gary recounts the story of a young, attractive and shapely waitress who put her nude picture out publicly and then had to quit her job for awhile because it drove some citizens and customers a little bit wild. My country breakfast of pork tenderloin, eggs, hash browns, endless coffee refills, and biscuits with gravy is delicious. We part company with the preacher, and I am soon again on the road west to Cherokee with the car windows up and doors locked due to its Obama/Biden stickers and internet-relayed post-election threats by some displeased "real Americans" to shoot or otherwise harm other real Americans. (Will all the unreal Americans please stand up now?)

Views of remaining fall foliage and mountain waves swimming in mist are enjoyable, but I decide to forego the sometimes garish commercialism of Qualla Boundary and head on, with the radio tuned to local live bluegrass pickin', through Great Smoky Mountain National Park toward the out-and-out, in-your-face hype of Gatlinburg, which I still remember as a small laid-back ski resort in the mid-to-late 60s where I first saw and heard informal mountain storytellers on stage performing with country musicians. Some folks believe the back road from the Shenandoah Valley's King's Crossing to the river's South Fork is curvy; however, they need to experience the pavement from Cherokee down to the flatlands to really understanding the meaning of "curvy." Hairpin turn, you say? How about a figure-eight? Okay, I'm exagerating. A little bit. There are a lot of cars traveling and on the sides of the two-lane with a few suddenly deciding to brake and turn off at a scenic overlook. It's very exciting, especially if you remember not to ride your brakes but just pump them, regularly, instead. The views are truly breathtaking and I've bought various inexpensive and beautifully photographed postcards at the Visitors Center, which also has an extensive display cataloguing the history of FDR's New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps in creating the tunnels and road. Amidst stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic there, passing by the Hard Rock cafe to my left, I decide to pass on through to Newport Tennessee and home.

But I miss the turnoff to the right and end up in Pigeon Forge instead. Passing by the Police Museum, which appears from its deserted parking lot to be closed, I manage to find the next road east leading toward the Tri-Cities and pass the "hot boiled peanuts" truck parked to the left on the four-lane. I begin wondering if drivers have gotten crazier lately. The posted speed limit is 55 mph. The guy driving to my right puts on his right turn signal and swerves abruptly left, causing me to brake to a near-stop. Back up to 55 mph, the whole line brakes because someone in the lead has to come to a complete stop apparently before turning off to the right. Nearly all the contents of the passenger seat of my car dive to the floor and later I can't reach the brownies or my cigarettes when I need and want them. I do learn quickly not to take my eyes off the car in front and beside me for more than a few seconds. Bluegrassed out, I feel the need for rock music and change the car radio station and volume to Ronnie Milsap singing, "(I'm A)Stand-By-My-Woman Man."

You know you're finally on a country road when the pavement narrows to a winding, hilly two-lane, isolated barns and cows appear, and you have to grit your teeth to pass a tractor traveling at 7 mph as you round a blind turn. Surprised that the route ends in downtown Greeneville, I stop at "A Gathering of Friends," my favorite antique store there, for regrouping before continuing on to Jonesborough with a few extra odds-and-ends treasures along with the usual accumulation of free magazines and newspapers collected en route and begging to be enjoyed and read.

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Completing the Circle

Due to campaign exhaustion, I've missed the $12/per person Tribute to Veterans, which was free to any who'd served in this nation's military and who were also invited to be voluntary participants in that program -- in addition to their leadership representation in local festival parades -- at Jonesborough's beautiful new two-story and sprawling International Storytelling Center with its brick-lined plazas, diversely ample rooms, and floor to ceiling windows and doors. I am able though, subsequently, to attend a film and art exhibit that are part of this season's Abingdon Virginia region fabulously varied and always excellent Arts Array(
sample offering from 2006 and 2009 winter film offerings) series.

"Mongol" is a cinematic tour of the terrifying and hazardous early days experienced by Temüjin (played by Tadanobu Asano) who became known as Genghis Khan, warring factions amongst his ethnicity and region, love of his child-bride Börte (played by Khulan Chuluun) and their little son and daughter despite obstacles and separations, and final success in uniting them under laws which seem fairly modern in their values. The dramatic performances are riveting and the ending battle sequence against one-time friend and life-saver Jamukha (played by Sun Honglei) orchestrated like a ballet in beauty and technique with the encounter scenes of blood and body parts flying reminiscent of abstract paintings. Co-produced by German, Kazakhstani, Mongolian and Russian companies, scenes were shot mostly in the People's Republic of China (Inner Mongolia -- the Mongol autonomous region), and in Kazakhstan. The movie was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Although media reviews were mixed, I thoroughly enjoyed the sweep of history, custom, culture, and vistas and the revelation of personages and their interactions. Translated from Mongolian to English subtitles which allows the music and nuances of native speech to shine through also.

William King Regional Arts Center's exhibits featured "Female(s) Form(s)" and "Rebis: New Paintings by Virginia Derryberry." The latter is a professor of Art at the University of North Carolina in Asheville and her work blends realism with myth in interestingly modern ways. The former, spotlighting "seven individual female artists who were chosen not for their particular views on or involvement with Feminism, but instead for their individual artistic merit, interesting and experimental aesthetic and the content of their work," featured seven artists: Jennifer L. Collins, Jennifer Cox, Mary Nees, Suzanne Stryk and Joni Pienkowski (painter, printmaker, illustrator, and my personal favorite for concepts and technique) in painting and diversely productive Val Lyle, a relative of ACR contributor John Lyle and whose recent found-object rope work from a Manhattan sojourn has a socio-political slant, and Mary Tartaro, whose imaginative detailings are whimsically meaningful, in sculpture.

The Center has been nearly fully-funded, through federal grants and loans and private donations, for an excitingly extensive expansion of buildings, space and offerings for public and artists to begin construction early in the year 2009. These welcome and joyous extensions for the Mountain Empire arts community will include artist studios, a performing auditorium, doubling of the gallery size, and gardens.

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mountain empire happenings/events -- regional on-going and upcoming events/happenings
appalachian art and healing resources -- freely distributed magazines and newspapers
appalachian visitors centers -- inter/national cultural events/happenings

mountain empire happenings/events

links to regional sites listing on-going and upcoming events/happenings
some strongly suggest advance tickets and reservations

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freely distributed, mostly monthly, magazines and newspapers
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appalachian art and healing resources
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appalachian visitors centers
providing free brochures, magazines, newspapers,
and staff for travel directions and area information

Alabama [Huntsville and Birmingham] -- Georgia [Rome] -- Kentucky [Ashland and Middlesboro] -- Mississippi [Tupelo] -- New York [Binghamton] -- North Carolina [Winston-Salem and Asheville] -- Ohio [Portsmouth] -- Pennsylvania [Scranton, State College, Pittsburg, and Cumberland] -- Tennessee [Knoxville and Chattanooga] -- Virginia [ Bristol] -- West Virginia [Wheeling and Charleston]

For help in choosing a destination and traveling or moving, check out the federal government's high-tech and multiply informational atlas.

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inter/national cultural events/happenings


The Power of Positive Thinking

The very affable, attractive, and charismatic Roberta Herrin, PhD, Chair of Appalachian Studies and Services, ETSU, presented on the morning of March 13, an engrossing and inspiring lecture to the Alliance for Continued Learning class at Carnegie Library on the Johnson City Veterans Administration grounds. Among her helpful observations:
  • there's a new field called Positive Psychology and the new ETSU department chair is a graduate of that;
  • we live in an "instant gratification" society -- based upon external, rather than internal healing -- of discontent and unhappiness, with a market created for selling solutions and encouraging the identification of more and more physical and psychological problems and an enveloping, pervasive message of fear, guilt, violence, threats to our health in every way brought to us particularly through media -- radio and television, newspapers especially.
  • maybe it's time for humans to follow the great teachers of the ages -- Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu, Ghandi, King -- or for the demise of humanity
  • Oprah has a new Web seminar based upon A New Earth
  • we spend a lifetime "trying to get it right"
  • there is a magnetic energy, which can and has been measured, attached to thoughts, which become a field and can even go through steel walls. We all vibrate, like tuning forks. Turning one on will turn on all the others at the same frequency because the same wavelengths attract each other
  • a total identification with the material is defined as evil
  • forgiveness means "it doesn't matter"
  • in response to stress, we can turn on anabolic endorphins or adrenalins
  • malice makes us literally sick; laughter and joy heal
  • we should react to each other as spiritual beings, not physical bodies
  • we have eternal souls in temporary expressions of flesh, an inner voice, and a stream of consciousness which are not the same as the self
  • there is a universal mind of pure energy which creates us
  • some good books are Power Versus Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior; The Eye of the I, and I: Reality and Subjectivity; Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, by Wayne Dyer (2007); The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (2006); Feelings Buried Alive Never Die.... by Karol K. Truman (1991); The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer; Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, by T. Harv Eker (2005)
  • Grabhorn has a four-step process for channeling positive energies: identify what you don't want; identify what you do want; get into the feeling place of what you want; expect, listen, and allow it to happen
Dr. Herrin also distributed a chart of the energy released by different emotions/levels, etc. Those at the top around 1,000, like Ghandi, release enough to affect 10 million people. That's the course of [God-View] Self, [Life-View] Is, [Level] Enlightenment, [Log #] 700-1,000, [Emotion] Ineffable, and [Process] Pure Consciousness. The next lower course is All-Being/Perfect/Peace/600/Bliss/Illumination which affects 1 million people. The lowest level is Despising/Miserable/Shame/20/Humiliation/Elimination and the next up above that is Vindictive/Evil/Guilt/30/Blame/Destruction. I brought up the holocaust and she said that some of the survivors felt a release in having lost their personal possessions, but nothing about the physical and psychological harm to people personally and in their seeing, in some cases, relatives and friends harmed and/or killed. About being a victim of crime, she said the stress at the time must be off the scales but it's what you do about it afterwards that counts and heals. After her presentation, a sampling of members from ETSU/CASS's Bluegrass Ensemble played for half an hour to an enthusiastic and grateful group of around 40 mostly retired or semi-retired participants.

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Whisk me away -- Where the heck am I?

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Original material © A Country Rag, Inc. April, 1996, 2008. All rights reserved.

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