Tag Archives: writing

A Quiet Place Apart

Windy Knoll Farm

I spent this afternoon with six other officers and advisors of Write by the Rails, a nearly three year old organization for and about promoting and supporting writing and writers. We were fresh from the Tacketts Mill Poetry and Jazz Festival the Saturday before, where two Poets Laureate for Prince William County were named (Robert Scott, an English teacher from Osbourn Park High School  and Zan Hailey, an undergrad English major at V.C.U., an artist and a French speaker. Well over 500 people attended and were treated to jazz by Common Ground and a live broadcast hosted by Garfield High School grad Guy Lamberton on WPGC 95.5 which included announcement of the laureates in attendance. Local writers were well represented with about 20 in attendance.

With these memories fresh in our minds, we met at the richly beautiful and serene 95 acre tract of land of Windy Knoll Farm in Nokesville. The 75-year-old farm historically has raised beef cattle and traditional crops, but has moved under the direction of Don and Helen Taylor to agritourism. The Taylors generously offered space for us to meet to evaluate the previous year’s work of Write by the Rails and to plan our programs and emphases for next year. We spent a profitable afternoon doing just that, and plan to return soon for meetings and workshops.

Facilities at Windy Knolls include paths, a playground, two ponds (one natural and one managed). They welcome families, business and other groups, fishers, hikers and  campers, among others. They host country weddings, birthday parties, tour groups and business conferences. Children under 6 are free to visit; all others pay $10 each.

This quiet spot is a rare gem of a setting, and a sorely needed venue for the community. Prices are reasonable, and I was impressed by the passion and compassion of the Taylors. They want to give back to the community, and they certainly have done that. Here’s wishing them all the best with their endeavor!

One final note: while we were there I saw a bald eagle fly by. I thought this was especially propitious for us as we planned our future since many Native American tribes associate the bald eagle with strength, courage, wisdom, illumination of spirit, healing, creation, an ability to see the overall pattern, and a connection to spirit guides and teachers. The eagle represents great power and balance, dignity with grace, a connection with higher truths, intuition, a creative spirit, grace achieved through knowledge and hard work.  All these qualities are involved in being a writer as well.

Here’s a link to their website, http://www.windyknollfarm.com/#contact, , and one to the Center for Environmental Education: http://www.ceeonline.org/

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Random Impulses

Camping

Generally, as most of us get older, we have a very good idea of what our likes and dislikes are. Recently, though, I have been thinking about doing some things that I know I do not enjoy or usually want to do. It’s an odd feeling.

As I wrote before, I don’t like to be outdoors. Maybe I spent too much time outside when I was growing up, but the great outdoors has far too many hazards and discomforts for me to want to spend hours there. I know there are people who love the outdoors and spend a lot of time there, and that’s all right. They can have my share.

The odd thing is, I’ve been thinking about aboriginal Americans who lived very close to nature. Whether their shelter was a lodge or teepee or pueblo, they had to have been aware of the elements. With a fire for heating and breezes for cooling they were right in the midst of nature.

I have been camping exactly once in my life. I was ten years old, and I remember not sleeping much and just about starving since each of us was responsible for his own food. Lately, though, I been wondering what it would be like to stay outside in a tent. I could pitch one in my back yard and not be that far away from the comforts of the indoors. Of course, I’d have to buy almost everything I need, including a tent. I do have a sleeping bag from my daughters’ Girl Scout days. It’s a thought, but a strange one for me. Still, I find myself thinking that being outside with nothing but a thin nylon wall between me and the outdoors would be intriguing, although I’d probably wait until spring to try it.

Then there’s traveling. I’ve decided I don’t like to travel. Oh, I like to see different places, particularly places with history and good restaurants and good bookstores, but actually getting there is pain. I don’t care for driving, which is mostly monotonous and occasionally terrifying. My wife is a great driver (and a wizard parallel parker, even left-handed), so she does most of the driving when we go somewhere. I do the navigating, and I’m good at that, except when I’m not. That’s a subject for an entire column, but not just now. Anyhow, if there were a Star Trek-style transporter available, I’d use one, even at the risk of scrambling my molecules. To be able to be some place instantly has a huge appeal for me. And don’t even think about flying. That used to be fun and an adventure, but I don’t have to tell you what a pain it has become. No, I’m comfortable where I am, with everything I need right here. That’s why my travel impulse is a strange one. I’d like to fly around the world. I’m not talking about flying around the world non-stop on one tank of gas. What I’m thinking would be fun would be to fly around the world using scheduled flights. I’ve checked and it’s possible. It would take about three days. I think I would like to go business class since I would plan to be on an airplane most of the time. I wouldn’t even leave the airports or clear customs—I would just go right on to the next flight. This is even crazier when I consider that I am mildly claustrophobic. That’s why business class. I could leave on a Friday and be back Monday if my calculations are correct. It would be cool to say I had done it.

Then, I’ve been having an impulse lately to have another career. That’s not that unusual for an early retiree like me, but I’m talking about an entirely different career. When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a rocket scientist. (I was too tall to be an astronaut then.) What dissuaded me from this career path was the sad reality that I was not very good at math, and math is important to being rocket scientists. My impulse is to take science and math classes and earn a degree in astronautical engineering. I figure with the coursework I’ve done already I can skip the core classes and things like phys ed. and go right on to advanced science classes. It would be a whole lot easier for me to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing, but becoming a rocket scientist in my 60’s sounds much more appealing, even if I am probably worse at math than I was in high school. Grandma Moses started painting when she was in her 80’s, so maybe I do have a future with NASA.

So I have these random impulses, but I’ve found if I lie down for a while, they soon pass. Thank goodness for small favors.

 

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Friday Poem of the Week: “Write by the Rails”

I practiced railroad safety and did not take this picture.

I practiced railroad safety and did not take this picture.

Write by the Rails

a poem of appreciation

Here’s to you, my colleagues, my friends,
My companion toilers in silence and solitude,
In appreciation for a shared vision
A shared divine madness
For this most peculiar enterprise.
For times and ideas shared
For afternoons spent talking at tables
For nods of comprehension
And smiles of recognition
Stories shared, pasts remembered
Futures imagined
We who are so different
Who animate our singular kingdoms
Of the mind and heart
And yet who move in a great swell
Together forward.
Forward.

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Picture Pages

Image

I had been reading some other blogs lately and noticed that they have pictures. Lots of pictures. Even my daughter Alyssa’s Shame Squad blog (address is http://theshamesquad.blogspot.com/) has some fabulous pictures (and hilarity and recipes). With my background in essay writing, I tend to write. A lot. A friend of mine who reads a lot of blogs told me mine was usual in terms of the amount I wrote. She also said some other nice things about Biscuit City, but it would be self-serving to print them here.

I didn’t have pictures in my blog for a long time, except for the trademark picture of a biscuit on the title page. My posts were all words. I can’t figure out how to put a picture of a biscuit on this blog since I am using Word Press now, so the “cover art” is a nice picture of books. I like books. No, I love books. Then I have a picture related to the post. Please note the pretty cool picture of lightning above. Lightning is pretty cool except if you get struck by it, in which case it is pretty hot. And shocking. Ouch.

Anyhow, in line with more pictures in my posts, and fewer words (too late for that with this post), here’s a really cute kitty picture:Image

Isn’t that precious? We all know the internet was created so people could post really cute pictures of kitties. I love kitties and cats. I know everyone does not love cats, but we are cat people and have always had one or two in the house since we started housekeeping. Currently we have Nacho, “my” dilute tortie, and Tuxedo, Becky’s tuxedo cat. They are endlessly amusing and impress me with their ability to sleep most of the day and to ask for food at inconvenient times (.e.g, when I’m sleeping). Wacky cats! Get off the table! Stop fighting! Both of them are afraid of mice, which raises the question of how useful they are. They’re too old to be cute (Nacho is ten, a “senior cat,” and Tuxedo about six or so) and as I said mostly lie around so I guess they would best be described as “decorative.” Yes, that’s a good word to describe our cats.

I also love books, but there’s a picture of some books in the cover picture. And I like music and airplanes, so here’s a picture of some of each for you. Enjoy!

Image

(This is a picture of a J-3 Piper Cub, a little later model of the Piper J-2 the hero of my novel, On the Wings of Morning, learned to fly on. <— Shameless plug, which is the best kind.)

Image

(This is not a picture of actual music I have sung in the Manassas Chorale or the Chorale Ensemble or the Sanctuary Choir at our church or played in Evensong Bells, our adult handbell group. It’s generic, but I think you get the idea.)

I hope you have enjoyed these words and pictures today. Have a great day, look at some pictures of cute kitties and cool airplanes, read a book, and sing some music! You’ll enjoy all of them!

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Poem of the Week: For My Student, Upon Her Rejection of My “Easy Praise”

Student Writing

For My Student, Upon Her Rejection of My “Easy Praise”
(a creative writing student who went on to become a successful writer and novelist)

Forgive me when I say
You do not know what you are talking about.
I who have trekked the high parched deserts of indifferent expression
And labored through low tedious swamps of lack of intent
Know what it means to stand on the pinnacle of a high mountain
In clear air and fresh wind
To hold the fragile moment of the first light of day
Dawning on the distant horizon
And know that it is good.

And so, though my praise be twenty times too much
For you and your work,
I promise you this, my young writer:
It is still apt and it is still true.

–Dan Verner

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