Turning – #writephoto

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Abigail was curled up in a corner of her sofa going through the photos in the photo album she had kept. She’d just finished a huge project. She’d gone through her mother’s personal belongings. A lifetime of photos, letters, other personal things. It had been very hard, very emotional. Her mom had been gone for a long time and, only now had she been able to bring herself to sort through the dozens of boxes she had left behind.

She knew now, after the discoveries she had made, that her mother had spent a lifetime climbing a mountain like the beautiful mountain in the picture she had taken years before. She’d never known her mother until she went through her things. Odd how you could live with someone all your life and never know them. There was so much more to her mother than she’d ever known.

Abigail looked up from the photos, thinking to herself how she could have been closer to her mother and understood her so much better if her mother had only talked to her. If her mother had talked to someone. She didn’t. She closed herself up in a cocoon and when she did talk to family and friends, it was only about the good stuff. She wouldn’t open up, confide in anyone. Pride. Foolish pride. Pride that cost her family, friends, loved ones, and the affection of her husband. But, perhaps most importantly, her daughter and her own self-respect.

Her mom came by that pride honestly. Her family was so prideful that it silenced them, even between each other. There was no such thing as an apology, an honest discussion, or real interaction. Abigail was glad she was more like her father’s family. Of course, they were proud, but they weren’t afraid of expressing their feelings and they didn’t feel jealous of each other. Looking back, she felt sorry for her mother.

Abigail had been turning away from her mother’s family for many years, even before she realized why she was. There were a few members of the family that were still in her life but very few. As she grew older, she had no patience for the type of pride that cost you loved ones. It was common in Appalachia, in the mountains.

She looked back at the photo album and realized that it was time to turn away from the kind of life where pride was more important than love. She closed the book.

 

*Thank you for the challenging writing prompt, Sue Vincent! What a beautiful photo!

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Track – #writephoto

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As she walked down the long, dark track in the Appalachian forest, she thought of the wild things that used to be so populous here and how few of them remained. The deer had once walked up on her porch and ate from the troughs surrounding her house. There were hundreds of species of birds. It was quiet, peaceful. Over the last few years, humans had stolen their habitat.

She thought of the author, Wendell Berry’s, poem, “The Peace of the Wild Things,” and wanted to lie by a tree and know their peace. She knew she never would. She hadn’t seen a fawn or a pileated woodpecker this year. This was the first year they were gone. All she had heard was the screech of chain saws and the clang of heavy equipment as they tried to turn the forest into a park or a crowded subdivision. Why did they move here and claim they wanted quiet and solitude and then make it like everywhere else? Was this progress? She didn’t think so.

The track wasn’t as deep in the forest and the wild things were gone. It had only taken twenty years in this small corner of the Daniel Boone National Forest. She had once loved it here. Now, she supposed she would have to leave in search of solitude once again. She had been young when she had come here. She wasn’t young anymore and this had become home.

She considered following this track where the wild things walked all the way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where her roots were. She felt she was too old now. Life wasn’t easy there. She couldn’t deal with feet, not inches, of snow in the winter. How could she live without seeing her beloved wildlife daily? She’d kept her blinds closed this summer so she could pretend they were still there.

Suddenly, she remembered that very old movie called “Elephant Walk,” starring Elizabeth Taylor. She thought it was shot in the 1940s. The characters built a home in the jungle and took the elephants habitat. The elephants returned the favor by walking right through the home.

Would the wild things take back their home here someday? Part of her hoped so.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for this writing prompt and photo!

 

July 10: High Summer

 

A pictorial of high summer around northeastern Kentucky, on the fringes of Appalachia. The middle of July is definitely seen as mid-summer. Another few weeks and the “dog days” arrive, which mean the end of the summer is approaching. It’s been an extraordinarily hot summer here. 90s almost every day and high humidity. HIgher than usual. As I sit at my desk typing, it’s 91 degrees. Tucker, my puppy, refuses to go out in the afternoons. The deck burns his paws, so I have to carry him.

I have very few flowers blooming this summer, even though I live in the middle of the forest. It’s just been too hot for them.

It’s a slow day here at my house. Tucker and I got in some outdoor time very early this morning. I sat on the deck with him while he played a little and chewed on his bone. I like slow days. I don’t have many of them. They give me time to relax a little. More importantly, they give me time to reflect on my writing. What direction do I want to take with my current writing projects? Are there new projects I want to undertake?

I write a little about Appalachia. There is a book some of you may have read called “Hillbilly Elegy.” A bestseller. J.D. Vance is the author. I saw J.D. on television recently. On a news station giving his opinion, which I thought odd. I grew up here and even though this book is a bestseller, I don’t agree with most of it. I have been pondering my own version of Vance’s story of Appalachia. His family migrated from the area. Most of my family stayed here. I don’t like the picture he painted.

Have any of you read “Hillbilly Elegy?” What do you think?

The photos are the area around where I live. My property has been declared a National Wildlife Habitat. Enjoy!

 

Dark #writephoto

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The stress that permeated his family was unbearable. There were no jobs. No way to make a living. He was thinking of leaving the small town in the Appalachian Mountains to find work elsewhere. He would try to come home on the weekends. So many in generations before him had done the same. Others had moved their families to cities, to other towns, where they could find work. Their families weren’t usually happy. The people of Appalachia were clannish. They loved their mountain life existence, their extended families, their neighbors. They didn’t want to go to a strange place. He was thinking of going it alone, sending money home, coming home when he could.

He walked before dawn at the foot of the mountains. Thinking. Pondering. It was so beautiful here. The sun was about to rise and he stopped to watch. He had seen this sunrise many times and each time it was more beautiful as it rose over the mountains. No wonder the family didn’t want to leave. People from the outside didn’t understand. They thought them lazy. That they were people who wanted to be on the government dole. That wasn’t it at all. Their culture was different from that on the outside. They knew they wouldn’t fit in out there. Their families and their lifestyle was important to them.

The coal mining jobs had gone away due to the movement toward clean energy. Farming had gone away because tobacco was no longer a cash crop and the corn and other crops had been usurped by the big corporate farms. Because they were geographically isolated, industry did not want to locate there. What were they supposed to do? Abandon the life that they had known for generations?

He had been a specialized machinist in the mines. He could get a job on the outside and had even interviewed with other companies. As the sun rose over the mountains, he knew he had to leave to support his family. He had to send his children to college. There was no place for his wife to work and both their parents depended on him. As the sun rose higher in the sky, he made his decision and started walking home to tell his family. He would not lose them or his connection to this beautiful place. He would drive home on weekends. He would give them the gift of keeping their lives intact.

A Simple Christmas

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The cabin was deep in the heart of Appalachia. She was a city girl and he had worked in the city for years. They weren’t on the same page any more. They had been fighting, constantly bickering. He was desperate to save their marriage.

He surprised her with a trip to the cabin for a simple, country Christmas. She didn’t think she’d like it. Just the woods, a tree, their dog, and them. It was awkward at first, but then they began to talk. They rediscovered what they loved about each other at that cabin in the woods that Christmas.

100 words

Photo Credit Sandra Crook

The Death of a Small Town

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Granny Atkins sat, hidden in the shadows, on the porch of the old house looking at what used to be a busy street in her hometown of Littleton, West Virginia. Drug addiction had killed this town. Littleton wasn’t even a town anymore. It was a death trap. Only a few people her age remained here. The rest had fled or died off. Her generation had worked on the gas wells, but they weren’t pumping much anymore. There was no work.

All that remained were a few families trying to raise some children. They didn’t have any money to move away. The teachers taught drug awareness classes in the only remaining school, but when the heroin came to town, it didn’t matter. The kids used it anyway. They got crazy, burned buildings, and overdosed.

Littleton was a ghost town now. Soon, she would be a ghost too.

Little Dude in Rehab

 

Coal Mining, Appalachia, and Alternative Industries

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I’ve written several articles on the plight of the Appalachian people and the occupation of coal mining always comes up. Many coal miners cast their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. They will see no long-term benefit in their chosen occupation. It is a fact that Donald Trump dropped a regulation that stopped coal mine owners from dumping waste water into rivers and streams. It is also a fact that since he became President, a deep mine about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh came online. That mine contains metallurgical coal, not thermal coal and 90 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. is thermal coal. What’s more, this mine, the Acosta mine, was planned in September of 2016, long before Trump’s election. It created about 100 jobs.

Since Donald Trump became President, about 1300 coal mining jobs have been created. Even if he drops coal mining regulation after regulation, it will only stem the tide of the loss of coal mining jobs temporarily. The rise of natural gas as an alternative source of energy has seen to that as has automation.

Donald Trump could do something to help coal miners. He could support retraining of miners and give tax breaks to alternative energy manufacturing corporations if they would locate in coal mining country. Former coal miners need stipends in order to feed their families while they learn new occupations. Firms like wind farms and solar companies could be promised tax breaks if they would locate near where the miners live. Those would be positive things that the President could do for the miners instead of making them empty promises. Alternative energy firms need tax breaks to locate in coal country because geographic access is difficult.

There is one thing that coal miners could do to help themselves. They could relocate. I understand their wish to stay in the place where they are, where their family is. My mother’s family came from Appalachia and I spent 27 years teaching Appalachian young people on a university level. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices and one of them is that you do not sit and starve in place. You learn the lessons of the past when there was an out-migration from Appalachia to find jobs.

Unless the world changes in a way we don’t expect, coal mining is a dying industry. If you are a miner or former miner, don’t die with it. There is something better out there for you.

Trump’s Empty Promises about Coal Mining

Donald Trump, Health Insurance, and A Big, Ugly Mouth

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Fair warning, friends, readers. I’m pulling no punches, holding nothing back in this blog post. You can do the same if you post a comment. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you can’t take the heat, hear the truth, stay out of this particular kitchen. Trump has finally gone too far and, by the time he meets with Vladimir Putin of Russia this week, those among you who still support him, may even agree with me.

I have tried for six months to find something redeeming about Donald Trump. Some reason why he got the majority of the electoral college votes for President of the United States. Some legitimate rationale. I have determined there was no legitimate rationale. Some people bought his rhetoric, bought what he was selling. He can be pretty convincing. It sounds good when someone totally different from a previous administration says they are going to step in and fix everything. It sounded good that he was a businessman and was going to run the government like a business. But, the government is not a business. Running the huge machine that is the federal government is not very much like running Trump’s real estate businesses. For one thing, we just try to balance the budget. We do not seek to necessarily make a profit. Not that Donald has made a profit many times. He’s taken bankruptcy several times. So the profit-seeking motive is still eluding him. His billions (if they are billions) came primarily from investing his father’s money. Do you know the last President that balanced the federal budget and, actually, had a surplus? Bill Clinton.

Trump apparently has an attention-deficit problem. He does not read. He spends his time tweeting and watching Cable News. He was great screaming out all of the things he was going to do at his famous rallies. But, sitting down and reading his briefings and his foreign policy reports is something he does not do. He doesn’t even have anyone in the White House that can talk to him about the contents of the briefings verbally. No one there has any experience. They are either his family or his own appointees who are as inexperienced as he is. Even the Secretary of State, a deeply experienced man, has been reported to be screaming in the White House that he can do nothing because he finishes second to Trump’s son-in-law.

I cannot say this strongly enough. Donald Trump does not know what he is doing. Not with regard to domestic policy nor foreign policy.

Health care insurance. Everyone is upset about health care insurance. Do you know what the problem is? YOU elected him. YOU elected a man who is going to take away Medicaid and, eventually, Medicare and probably some Social Security benefits. You thought that Obamacare was so bad? Well, parts of it are, indeed, terrible and way too expensive. Was that a reason to elect a toddler to serve as President of the United States? If you voted for Trump, YOU caused this horrendous situation in which we find ourselves. Your health care insurance may be going away? Really? TOUGH. You did it. You voted for him. Why didn’t you nominate a Republican candidate for President that was experienced and wasn’t a con artist and grifter who would rather bash the Morning Joe program than help figure out health care? Don’t even mention Hillary Clinton. There were sixteen other Republican candidates to choose from. Obamacare could be fixed if Congress had support by this so-called President to fix it.

Speaking of health care, now we have a situation where Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from MY state (a fact of which I am deeply ashamed) running things with regard to developing a new health care bill. We have millions of people in our state, a poor state, who voted for both Trump and McConnell because they are low-information voters who were taken advantage of. I am not giving them a pass. Educate yourselves, people. Do not vote for the person who just SOUNDS good. Now whatever is passed will likely scale Medicaid way back as well as Medicare benefits. That will decimate Appalachia. Half of my family comes from Appalachia. This saddens me more than I can say. But, the Appalachian people can educate themselves just like anyone else. I am sad, but I do not feel sorry for them. We had enough choices in the primary election that we could have elected someone head and shoulders better than the gross, disgusting man that sits in the White House. Mitch McConnell is one of the senators highest paid by the lobbyists. Do you suppose that might be a reason that he is sucking up to the drug and insurance companies? OPEN YOUR EYES AND FOLLOW THE MONEY. Mitch McConnell is not representing his constituency.

Let’s talk about Trump’s disgusting tweets about Joe and Mika, particularly Mika, of the Morning Joe show on MSNBC. Mika is a consummate professional and the daughter of a brilliant politician and expert in foreign policy. Trump has been tweeting, for two days now, disgusting tweets about Mika’s appearance and sanity and has been doing the same toward Joe. So he is the President? SO WHAT? If I were Mika, I would hire a lawyer and do whatever is necessary to stop him from tweeting one more time anything about me. He is a disgusting pig for doing what he is doing. He is not morally or ethically fit to serve as President of the United States and, instead of being on recess, Congress should be in session determining how to remove him from office due to the fact he has proven himself not “fit to serve.”

Trump’s tweets are nothing but a distraction and he thinks that we, the people, are too stupid to know it. He is trying to distract us from the real issues, the fact that he can’t pass any legislation being one of them.

This is what happens when we let emotion rule our important decisions. People did not like President Obama and I contend part of the reason was because he was half black. I am horrified to have to say that in the United States of America. I’m sure that is not true for everyone, but it is true for some. So many let their emotions rule them when they voted for Trump and this is what has happened. Our democracy is literally at stake and our government is on the verge of authoritarianism. This is not something we want. Imagine Trump as all-powerful leader.

This week, we have to be embarrassed by Trump’s meeting with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, who will likely have him for lunch. Just remember. YOU voted for him. Those of us who did not vote for him are horrified at his activities. I want to believe that America, the shining city on the hill (a characterization by Ronald Reagan) does not have a society that has deteriorated to the point that we can accept a classless thug as a President.

 

 

Desolation

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Photo credit to courtney065 flikr

Callie knew she shouldn’t have come here. She was glad her cousin, Daniel, was with her. She had been gone from Kentucky, the state where she had grown up and lived most of her adult life, for five years now. It had been at least ten years since she had been to the old homeplace deep in the heart of the eastern part of the state. Deep in the heart of Appalachia. If her uncle’s old house on the farm looked like this, she wasn’t sure she wanted to see the main house, her grandparent’s old home. The home she had spent so much time at as a child and teenager.

Eastern Kentucky was decimated. It had been sliding downhill for years. When coal mining started to decline way back in the 1980s, the whole region started to decline. The farming that was secondary to mining also declined when the subsidies on growing tobacco were stopped. There used to be tobacco bases everywhere you looked around here. Her grandparents lived on tobacco and oil money. There wasn’t a tobacco base to be found now. All the tobacco was grown overseas.

As Callie and Daniel drove around Eastern Kentucky, where their mothers grew up, she thought of what could be done for these poor people who loved their culture and their way of life but had very little means to support themselves. Coal mining would never come back in any big way. There was a bit more mining going on under President Trump because he had done away with most of the mining regulations. All that did was make an unsafe working environment for the miners and pollute the environment. It would only last until the first big mine disaster.

The obvious solution to the job problem in this area is to let the people grow marijuana. At the very least medicinal marijuana and, in Callie’s opinion, recreational marijuana. This was the marijuana capital of the United States anyway. Why not let them grow it legally? It was used medicinally for so many good things. Regulate it if they want. President Trump was trying to do away with laws in the states that allowed legal marijuana purchases, even for medicinal marijuana. Callie and Daniel both thought that was criminal. It was a pain reliever for cancer patients. It could be used as a pain reliever for so many things, even the crippling rheumatoid arthritis like her mother had.

Letting these people in Eastern Kentucky grow marijuana legally would be such a good thing for this area. It would bring it back from the desolate state it was in. Eastern Kentucky was known, now, for its high drug use. Mostly prescription drugs but heroin had crept into the picture. Drug use was high because the unemployment rate in many areas approached 40 percent. The people felt hopeless and helpless. Give them a cash crop to grow in the valleys between these mountains and make them feel a useful member of society. The drug problem, in Callie’s opinion, would drop.

Hemp was another cash crop that these people could grow. It had been grown on an experimental basis on the University of Kentucky farm. It could be used to make clothes and other products. Trump had promised to bring back manufacturing to the United States. If he kept that promise, hemp could be used in manufacturing. Just like the Eastern Kentucky area was a prime area for growing marijuana, it was also a prime area for growing hemp.

Before Trump became President, there was progress being made on the legalization of marijuana and hemp production that would have helped Appalachia so much. Any progress made had been rolled back under his administration. He seemed to want to take us back to the days of his youth. The people she knew were in one camp or another. Either they were still Trump supporters or they were scared to death he was leading the country straight into Fascism. She was in the latter camp as was Daniel.

People seemed to be trying to go on with their lives. That’s why she and Daniel were taking this tour of the land where their mother’s grew up. The only relatives they had here now were very distant cousins who they didn’t even know. So they were visiting the places familiar to them, taking stock of the changes, probably for the last time. Callie had come to Kentucky for a visit and she and Daniel had decided to do this on a whim.

There was her grandfather’s house! Just as rundown as the shack her uncle used to live in. She could see the oil wells behind it in the same place they were when she was a child. They were pumping. She had noticed that her oil royalties had gotten a little better recently, but she was sure it was a short-term thing. She and Daniel and the rest of the cousins feared the wells were just about dry.

Oil, health care, and education were just about the only jobs left in this area. A few oil workers were needed as were primary and secondary teachers. A lot of health care workers were needed but they were hard to attract to the area unless they had family here. There was a lot of illness. President Trump’s immigration policy had swept all the foreign physicians out of Eastern Kentucky and they had been the backbone of the health care system.

As Callie and Daniel started home, depression hovered over them like a cloud. It used to be so beautiful here. If the federal government would provide the right kind of help, it could be again. As long as Donald Trump, or anyone like him was President, they knew it would never happen. Callie knew she would go back to her home in Florida now and would never look back. She had worried about this area and looked back too long. Time to move on.

#weekendcoffeeshare 12/10/2016

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“Jenn, I’m so glad you’re back for our #weekendcoffeeshare! It’s been a long time since we’ve had coffee together,” I said as Jenn came through the door.

“Oh, I’m glad to be back. I’ve been gone too long. I’m anxious to hear what’s been going on. Let me help you serve everyone.”

“Thanks, Jenn,” I said.

As folks started coming round, Jenn and I served coffee, cappuccino, expresso. We also served apricot, chai, and Indian spice tea, along with hot chocolate. Everyone settled in with their hot beverage of choice. They were all glad to see Jenn.

Jenn started our coffeeshare by telling us about her recent trip to the Ft. Myers, Florida area, which is also one of my favorite areas in Florida. They had actually stayed in Punta Gorda but had visited one of my favorite Florida towns, Matlacha. It is a small, “old Florida” fishing village and one of the communities on Pine Island, FL, a place where Jenn and I have both vacationed many times. Matlacha has some of the best seafood restaurants and bars in all of Florida, in my opinion. Pine Island is also one of my favorite places to vacation, at least on the Gulf side of Florida. Great deep sea fishing and sightseeing to the outer islands. The best grouper I’ve ever eaten. A quiet old Florida culture.

I wish I was in Matlacha right now! It’s getting cold in Kentucky. Last night was in the low 20s and today, we’ll be lucky if the temperature gets out of the 20s. The dreaded polar vortex has decided to pay us another visit as it did last winter. Kicks my seasonal affective disorder and newly-discovered claustrophobia right into high gear! Maybe I’m getting used to winter. I’ve haven’t noticed it as much this week.

I want to tell you about the most interesting book I’m reading. Writers have to read, of course. It’s called Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Some of you may know that I come from an area of the country very near to Appalachia. Vance wrote this novel about Appalachia, his home, and it is an excellent story and also a good look at the culture of the area. If you’re interested in Appalachia or just in different cultures, give it a look. It really is a good story. I hear it isn’t terribly popular in the Appalachian region. Vance doesn’t always paint a flattering picture of the culture but what culture doesn’t have unflattering aspects? If you are interested in the Appalachian culture, try books by the author Silas House who is a good writer technically and knows the culture inside and out. House is a wonderful storyteller.

I have gotten very little work done on my novel this week. This novel seems to be so character-driven. The characters have taken on a life of their own and, in any psychological thriller, there are a number of twists and turns. One character has caused a major twist this week. I have to see where this one takes me.

I’ve been really fond of listening to classical music this week in my writing studio. Do you find that music with lyrics disturbs your writing? I surely do. So classical or jazz it is. Sometimes, I prefer silence. I moved out into my writing studio to escape the television in my house. I do have a television in my studio but, so far, I’ve only turned it on for the news. There is so much news, these days, that I sometimes watch too much of it.

We know, as writers, we all need a good printer. I finally broke down and ordered a Brother Laser Printer. I can’t wait for it to arrive. I’ve used a problematic Epson Inkjet for a long time now and I am so tired of buying the extraordinarily expensive ink cartridges. I was shocked at how far down the price of the Brother printers have come. You can also get wireless ones, which I did. If you’re interested, I encourage you to check them out. The price is more than reasonable.

I may have another cool “writer” purchase to tell you about next weekend!

That’s it for this weekend. I have to wrap-up our coffeeshare a bit early. I’m doing something exciting today. I’m going, with my girlfriend, to a performance of the ballet, “The Nutcracker,” at the Lexington Opera House, this afternoon! I’ve never seen it so I’m super excited, I will tell you all about it next week.

Have a great week and a productive writing week! #amwriting #amblogging #writing

*This post is sponsored by parttimemonsterblog.com

Thanks, Diana!