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"Tennessee is home to the most caves in the United States, with over 8,350 caves registered to date. Forbidden Caverns, located in Sevierville, Tennessee is one of America's most spectacular caverns. Visitors are provided with an entertaining and educational tour past sparkling formations, towering natural chimneys, numerous grottos and a crystal clear stream."
"Bluegrass Underground can be seen live at Cumberland Caverns. Live performances are streamed world-wide on wsmonline. For more info & to purchase tickets: Bluegrass Underground
"In 1998, while mapping Rumbling Falls Cave in eastern Tennessee, surveyors Marion Smith, John Swartz, and Bill Walter discovered the Rumble Room - a chamber that turned out to be the largest cave room in the eastern U.S. and the second largest in the country."
"For many years the cavern lay in silence broken only by the sound of the water, the animals that called it home and the occasional human who made their way into it. It was home to many wild animals, used by local people as a home, celebrated by the Native Americans as a place to hold special meetings, a weekend hangout for local kids, and had many other varied uses down through the years. In 1991 it was opened to the public as a show cave for the first time in its long and varied history. Since that time the [Blountville TN Appalachian] caverns has had many visitors through its magnificent chambers. It is home to over 10,000 bats, a sanctuary for the endangered gray bats as well as home to eastern pippestrelles, large and small Virginia browns, Indianas, reds and hoary bats. It is a testament to the beauty and glory that God has created not only in the world above but also in the world underneath that many have forgotten exists.... Archaeological evidence released in February of 2006 revealed that the caverns were used by Early Woodland Native Americans over 1300 years ago. The archeologists found burnt firewood located in a fire pit that has been radiocarbon dated to 675 A.D. They also found pottery, arrowheads, and other evidence of habitation. The log cabin located on the property was discovered to have been built in 1777...."

Messin' With the Best

"So many nights I sit by my window/ Waiting for someone to sing me his song/ So many dreams I kept deep inside me/ Alone in the dark but now/ You've come along/ You light up my life/ You give me hope/ To carry on/ You light up my days/ and fill my nights with song/ Rollin' at sea, adrift on the water/ Could it be finally I'm turning for home?/ Finally, a chance to say hey,/ I love You/ Never again to be all alone/ You light up my life/ You give me hope/ To carry on/ You light up my days/ and fill my nights with song/ You light up my life/ You give me hope/ To carry on/ You light up my days/ and fill my nights with song/ It can't be wrong/ When it feels so right/ 'Cause You/ You light up my life"
Debbie Boone

historic homes near Main Street, Jonesborough TN Waiting in line on Sunday, it's my turn at the autograph table to choose from four CDs. I pick up finally "Beau-ti-ful" and "Sidewinder" to hand over. "Jeannette," Chic Street Man looks up, smiles to my laughter, and spells my name right. "You probably know this," I comment as he's writing, "but you're the most extraordinarily excellent blues musician I've ever heard." "I hope some of it reached you." "It did." The crowd murmurs approval and agreement. "And human being, of course," I add. Everyone laughs and he answers in detail my question about a reference he's made the evening before on stage about the difficulty and expense of creating original CDs that maintain an artist's real vision, vitality, message and talents with a general explanation and specific anecdote of mayhem and madness in producing one during an L.A. week's studio time with a phalanx of other musicians and sound engineers. author and Chic Street Man on Jobo's Main Street Jackhammers outside doom one day's work, two more are mangled by company equipment malfunctions, and four days are left to do the best they all can, which is very, very good. My absolute favorites of his unique tunes are "She Moves" and his version and lyrics to John Lee Hooker's "Sidewinder," but all are expressively sublime, including the one dedicated with sentiment and affection to a then near-death 9-year-old girl paralyzed by birth trauma and honored with an evocative French belly-dancing ceremony by her peers and caregivers in that country. One of his outstanding stories entailed being treated first as a serviceman in our Air Force via hypnosis and later of several virulent illnesses by that and by light. On leaving I mention feeling that I could easily fall asleep listening to him speak French, in whose country he's spent over a year traveling and working to end up most spectactularly in Paris. He responds with a fluently soft sentence or two unintelligible to me, but sounding like a soothing lullaby. I drift toward the checkout counter and out into ISC's little park where morning crowds are massing to plan their last day's storytelling assault.

sales tailgate and tent outside old town home on College Street, Jonesborough TN during Storytelling Festival 2009 There have been 24 storytellers and teller/musicians equally divided between those two categories and by gender over the three days in performances ranging from 15 minutes to over an hour and a half. In between I've sandwiched four hours of volunteer time at the popular Friends of the Library fundraising food booth, where we've stumbled and tumbled into each other waiting on passing audiences from behind the u-shaped tables. African-American locals Robin and her granddaughter, Rebecca who's 11 years old and a potential ballerina, helped in the Friends booth along with Roland and Maryanne, retired here from upstate New York twenty years ago or so, and Library Director Pat Beard, who was also in charge of props for a stint of "The Philadelphia Story" being directed by her son and acted in by her husband and daughter-in-law at downtown Johnson City's Blue Moon Dinner Theatre beginning this weekend. We seem to have garnered a good amount of money -- around $3,000 altogether at closing -- for supplies and programs ahead and also share some of the pop and home-baked goodies during our "down times." Members of the Jonesborough Novelty Band, along with others including a sound man, have manned the shuttle carts for transporting the elderly and disabled from somewhat dispersed venues of large white tents with their oriental peaks and folding chairs. The band also plays during the dinner hours. There are colorful African turbans, muslim hijabs, cowboy hats, a waist-length braided and beaded beard and babies in strollers to be seen and heard on the historic hilly streets of Jonesborough. Intrepid visitors from the nation and the world hike briskly by informal food booths set up on adjacent lawns.

Friends of the Library fundraising food tent, Jonesborough TN, during Storytelling Festival 2009 A friend being led down Main Street by his dog stops and chats for awhile. Another tells me Kathryn Windham is her complete favorite, and I'm lucky enough to catch one performance by this wonderfully warm lady who's nearly seen and lived a century of change in America and most particularly smalltown Alabama. Bill Lepp is about the most hilarious teller, or human, I've ever experienced. A one-time West Virginia preacher, his ... well, it could be a tall tale or a whopping white lie ... of encountering a chipmunk and a mountain lion soon after entering a California public forest preserve -- in which he "saves" the lion, among other things -- has everyone in the audience nearly rolling in the aisles and also earns thunderous applause. Chuna McIntyre sings and dances the ways of native Yup'ik -- who call themselves The Real People -- from his tiny Alaskan village for us, preceded by traditional "streamers of welcome" to establish respect between performer and audience, and Baba Jamal Koram weaves mysteries of myth, fantasy and spirituality from the Americas back to Africa in a sonorous low voice accented by his drumming. We're hypnotized as birds fly and tribes walk on and through waters. Bill Harley strums through the horrors of childhood homework trauma recalled, and Syd Lieberman shares anecdotes for nearly two hours during "Abraham and Isaac: Sacrifice at Gettysburg" for an overflowing, serious and appreciative crowd. The husband-and-wife team of the Storycrafters are the most unusual rappers I've ever heard, she being of Russian Jewish heritage and he being an anglophile "from Joisey." The Rev. Robert Jones tells and sings and plays as audience members fill in an enthusiastically harmonious chorus. The Lollipop Shop has overflowed out onto the sidewalk. The food vendors and restaurants along Main Street have also been busy, as have the various shops from imports to antiques to Christmas trees and ornaments.

Like all publically commercial town events, the National Storytelling Festival is organized and enabled by volunteers, mostly local ones, but last year I worked in the sales tent with Lucindia, a tween from Knoxville whose whole family had also arranged to swap a few hours of labor for free attendance. The consequence of that beneficent trade in endeavor-for-entertainment is more operating revenue for the community and wholesome involvement, understanding and interactional fun for volunteers who've become increasingly proficient at putting on a comfortably outstanding show all around.

On my last trip up hill by the International Storytelling Center, I pass Steve Cook -- creative director of MOTS, musician, craftsman and co-owner of Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery. "Did you have a good weekend?" He smiles and nods. "We did okay."

Friday evening I've not been able to resist my monthly visit to Johnson City's "First Friday" arts and music events, most particularly at the Arts Council and the Nelson Fine Arts Gallery. At the former, I pick up some hors d'oevres and study abstracts by an Asheville woman. A voice behind me suddenly comments, "They're colorful. I don't understand art very well, but I'm learning." I turn to see a sandy-haired man around my age, and we begin discussing that before turning more enthusiastically toward music, since he comments that he's a professional pianist, most recently for Russo's Cajun-Creole restaurant and cafe next door. Robert S. Kostreva -- whose business card says "Sounds Good! Music That Works Producer Arranger Pianist" -- has studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, lived and performed out West, and met Ahmad Jamal, known to his childhood friends particularly as "Petie." Robert mentions Third Stream musical theory and some others unfamiliar to me, along with the observation that pianists are at the mercy of lead guitar players in terms of notes and notations. He occasionally has the accompaniment of a bass player instead. photo of pen and ink drawing by Katya from Johnson City's Russian Orthodox church community On my way upstreet, I spot Russian Orthodox immigrant Katya in a bright red and black punky wig which she explains with a grin belongs to her son and his Hallowe'en costume. She has a new display of intricate pen-and-ink drawings along with her usual decorative garden tiles and knitted accoutrements for sale. Katya smiles as we talk for awhile before I finally chose just one of her fascinating and reasonably-priced oeuvres d'art. The Nelson, crowded with babies in strollers to the elderly and infirm, is also peopled this month by roaming scantily-clad models in decoratively different and colorful body paints amongst hugely enlarged closeup photographs of nudes in various poses, and more abstract paintings along with its standard displays by artists like photographer Bill Lea and multi-media Val Lyle. Having sampled the punch and sated my remaining appetite from cake and assorted baked entrees, I sit with Val's cousin John Lyle for awhile discussing Jonesborough personalities and events as another man eventually places himself with us. A model walks by and I comment, "We are breakin' outta this joint." That man throws his head back laughing and says, "We are breakin' outta here."

Some time later, I drop by the local quick-stop where the usual young pale-skinned male clerk is joined behind the checkout counter by a somewhat heavy young Afro woman with a bouffant "do," and a very tall, thin, deep-voiced and grinning young man of cropped blonde hair streaked in front with bright pink. He is wearing jeans, a tight black scoop-necked jersey shirt with a black cross and another necklace hanging on his chest, heavy blue eyeshadow, pink lipstick and other less lavish makeup on his attractive face. We all converse as I make a purchase and disappear smiling into our near-dawning night. Dusty.

Graphics below: Photos of body art on display along with paintings, sculptures, furniture and photographs at Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibit.
Click icon for enlargements.

Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits
Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, Johnson City TN, October 2009 exhibits
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mountain empire happenings/events -- regional on-going and upcoming events/happenings
appalachian arts 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

  • Arts Alliance Mountain Empire, organization covering and listing regional events monthly
  • The Crooked Road, heritage music trail in SW VA
  • The Loafer, Tri-Cities bi-weekly coverage of arts and other activities
  • Mountain Homes Southern Style, quarterly coverage of events and developments
  • Music On The Square, Jonesborough TN's popular warm weather weekly outdoor performances by outstanding regional musicians and artists in other media
  • My Asheville, published by the Citizen Times
  • The Orange Peel, Asheville NC, one of the five best music venues nationally according to Rolling Stone magazine

  • WETS, NPR affiliate broadcasting inter/national and regional news, opinion, interviews, events, excellent live and taped music of all genre, and commentary
  • WNCW, another NPR affiliate with outstanding live and recorded music, commentary, news and regional happenings
  • WPVM, community-based internet and radio presence
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freely distributed, mostly monthly, magazines and newspapers
distributed through art and visitors centers, restaurants and shops

appalachian arts and healing resources

"Val Lyle of Bristol TN is the Virginia Highlands Festival's 2009 signature artist. The Festival selected Lyle after seeing her award-winning sculpture 'Feminine Entwinement' on display in Bristol, and a newer piece, 'Entwined Dancers,' at William King Museum in Abingdon. 'Feminine Entwinement' is constructed of tugboat rope, 'Entwined Dancers' of aircraft carrier rope made of Keviar. The two sculptures are heavily coated with resin. Both are whimsical and lyrical, 'dancing between abstraction and representation.' Lyle says, 'The rope as a metaphor entered my sculptural vocabulary around 1987, a metaphor for what ties people down and for what binds people together. Meditations on the simple baling twine used for square hay bales I helped put up in my grandparents' barn led to reflections of time and heritage as a series of twisted and woven events.... The textures of hand-hewn wooden barns, tobacco leaves, bailing twine, and trees grown around barbed wire fences have influenced my visual vocabulary.' She continues, 'I look for ways to make contemporary sculpture more approachable -- using common materials in an uncommon way and a figurative reference help to accomplish that. I believe one of the primary purposes of art is to help us consider ourselves as well as the world around us in a fresh way.'... In addition to contemporary sculpture, Lyle creates portrait sculpture. She also teaches one-day and six-week classes several times a year and occasionally does public demonstrations in portrait sculpture.... Born in Johnson City TN, Lyle grew up in Knoxville TN, longing to find out what was going on 'out in the real world.' She spent much of her adult life in Hawaii, Arizona, Florida and New York City, where she credits much of her artistic development.... She earned her BFA in sculpture at the Ringling School of Art and Design and her MFA while maintaining the family home place in Bristol TN. She teaches art courses and workshops, and is a full-time studio artist." -- Highlander Magazine 7/25-8/9/09, introductory brochure and scheduling for Virginia Highlands Festival, Abingdon VA

"[John Case, lecturer, appraiser, editor and owner of Case Antiques, Inc.,, Knoxville TN said] .... There is a profound mystery afoot regarding the redware from the East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia area. While our region was often considered the 'backcountry' in the 19th century in respect to culture, population density, economic conditions, and the arts, we had some of the most aesthetically beautifuly pottery forms being produced anywhere in America. For many years, the earthenware found in our region was considered to have been made elsewhere, because no one could conceive that such complex and artistically beautiful pieces could have hailed from our region.... It was even said that antique dealers in the early 20th century like Joe Kindig from Pennsylvania would come through the region, buy our pottery and other antiques, take them back up North, and sell them as 'Northern' pieces. Consequently, it is very plausible that there are some magnificent East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia pieces in New England Mid-Atlantic pottery collections. We have difficulty understanding how the population from our region could have supported potters making such magnificent and iconic objects. The use of complex copper oxide and manganese glaze decorations with elaborate stamping that we find on Greene County pieces was both time-consuming and expensive.... Some of the more beautiful jars and jugs made by Sullivan and Greene County potters have the artistic and historical merit deserving to be displayed in major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the finest American examples of their day.... The consignor who previously owned the record-setting J.A. Lowe ($63k) jar said her children were using it as a waste can.... Christopher Alexander Haun (1821-1861) was a potter from Greene County TN. Haun was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War. He and several other potters conspired and succeeded in burning a Confederate railroad bridge (Lick Creek) in Greene County. In 1861, Confederate forces captured the perpetrators. Five conspirators were hanged, including Haun. Haun's pots clearly speak to his having been a master potter... East Tennessee is rich with sutiable clays for both redware and stoneware.... the large number of potters operating in East Tennessee during the 19th century was an indicator of the number of rich clay deposits available. The redward clay from Easte Tennessee is often recognized by an orange appearance versus darker red clays found in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The stoneware from the region will often have a red tinge and dark grey colors, indicative of iron deposits in the region.... One of the potters who worked with Haun was J. A. Lowe. Lowe joined the Confederate Army shortly after Haun was hanged for buring the Lick Creek bridge.... There was a wide variety of forms produced. The most common forms were cream pots, canning jars, jugs, pitchers, and jars. Less common were butter churns, bowls, plates, inkwells, cups, and presentation jars with names and dates with elaborate decoration.... Most regional pottery was sold within the region.... Ceramics is the general term covering a broad category that includes pottery.... Redware is fired at lower temperatures (1800 to 2100 degrees) than stoneware (2200 to 2400 degrees). The lower firing temperature of redware results in a higher porosity, often requiring it to be glazed to hold liquids.... Stoneware clay becomes 'vitreous' at the higher temperatures and the clay transforms to a 'glassy' surface that is essential impervious to liquids...." -- A! Magazine, publication of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire ("nurturing, advocating and celebrating the arts"), July 2009, in Early Regional Pottery by Angela Wampler

some representative sources of alternative therapies Go to Activate! -- Go to top

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

  • 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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    Original material A Country Rag, Inc. October, 1996, 2009. All rights reserved.

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