Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lighthouse Deliverance Church

Last fall I drove by when someone – I assume the minister or an inspired congregant –was out painting this mural on the previously unadorned front of the Lighthouse Deliverance chapel.

Located near Plum Creek, VA, between Radford and Christiansburg, this log cabin of worship a one my favorite examples of local folk art. Check out the crown of thorns, the lightning bolts, and the stigmata on this cornerstone Jesus.

Snow day! January 2008

Ah, mid-week snow in southern Appalachia,
which dumped about 6 inches in Blacksburg. Snow alone typically doesn't close Radford University, my place of employment, unless there's more than the half-foot we received last week. What shut everything down for a day was the forecast of ice and sleet in the afternoon, which, fortunately, never materialized. So it was a full day home in the snow, complete with frolicking on the nearby golf course. Here's some photos from the day, beginning with the fairway, and ivy on an oak tree below.

A final shot, at the end of the day, when it's time to leave the course and head home...

Monday, January 14, 2008

David Crosby, and the dream of a better world

Sometime today David Crosby’s “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” came into my mind, and hung around with me for hours. A haunting, wordless track from his wonderfully spacey 1971 album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, the tune gently rolls with multi-tracked vocals by Crosby, along with guitars by Jorma Kaukonen and Jerry Garcia. This LP has been a favorite since the early 70’s, one of those albums I wore the tracks out on, and never replaced on CD until just recently. There's so much to love -- the long, electric saga "Cowboy Movie," the graceful cry for peace "What Are Their Names, " and the breathtakingly beautiful "Traction in the Rain" and "Orleans." The record cover unfolded to reveal a photo album of San Francisco's finest, including members of the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and CSNY. The album was reissued last year, and I finally got reacquainted with this old friend after several decades away -- and discovered that I still knew nearly every lyric and melody by heart.

If I Could Only... came at the right time in my musical progression, when I was about 14 or 15, and the album had been out a year or so. Crosby wasn't afraid to shuck any pretense of commercialism, and he recorded a record awash with rich harmonies and all the promises and hopes of a better world. As a young kid listening to every record he could get his hands on, Crosby's message resonated: music is love, a small cabal of men run this country and they don't care about peace, art and politics belong together, and there is beauty amidst the clamor. It was a time when the nightly news was filled with Vietnam, the cities were rumbling, race relations in my home North Carolina were shaky, and I was catching hell because I tried to grow my hair out. This recording embodies the whole hippy dream, of course, and the message was beautiful and the music and singing gently soared above it all. There wasn't a hit on the entire record, and that was just fine. Art transcended money any day, he seemed to be saying, and it's a message that's resonated ever since. So I'm thankful on a day when one of these melodies comes to romp in my conciousness for a while, making me smile and hum to myself as I do my quotidian tasks. Thanks, David. It's still a great record.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wintertime is coming, the windows are filled with frost…

This line from Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” always resonates this time of year. December brought in some ice and hints of snow, which frosted the trees in my backyard rather nicely (except for the lonesome pine limb that snapped off under the weight of the ice – no doubt its time had come). This week brought the temperature down to single digits a few mornings, warming to the mid-20’s during the day. The windows are indeed filled with frost.

The wind chill brought it down to around 3 degrees the other evening when I walked Asta around the block. Her lineage is certainly undetermined, but she has a thick coat and a Husky-esque tail, so there’s something in her gene pool that makes her love this weather. A good snow would make us happy – she’d frolic in the deep white stuff, while we humans would rejoice in the snow while dealing with commuting to our various jobs. Here in Blacksburg, Virginia, on the edge of the Allegheny Mountains in the southern Appalachia chain, the altitude is around 2200 feet, and we do get some snow, but not much. According to the National Weather Service (which has a station in Blacksburg), Blacksburg received over 35 inches of snow over the winters of 2002-03 and 2003-04. It’s always hit-or-miss for snow in the Southern Appalachians, but the NOAA website does have an interesting essay on “Heavy Snow Climatology” for Blacksburg on their website.

There’s a long tradition of paying close attention to the weather in western Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was a noted weather junkie, and carefully recorded precipitation and temperature ranges daily. Jefferson was methodical, as this entry from the Monticello wiki site indicates:

(Jefferson) described his daily ritual, the results of which are illustrated in the page from his meteorological diary here reproduced, as follows: "My method is to make two observations a day, the one as early as possible in the morning, the other from 3. to 4. aclock, because I have found 4. aclock the hottest and day light the coldest point of the 24. hours. I state them in an ivory pocket book in the following form, and copy them out once a week. The 1st. column is the day of the month. The 2d. the thermometer in the morning. The 4th. do. in the evening. The 3d. the weather in the morning. The 5th do. in the afternoon. The 6th is for miscellanies, such as the appearance of birds, leafing and flowering of trees, frosts remarkeably late or early, Atrrora borealis, &c. In the 3d. and 5th. columns, a. is after: c, cloudy: f, fair: h, hail: r, rain: s, snow. Thus c a r h s means, cloudy after rain, hail and snow. Whenever it has rained, hailed or snowed between two observations I note it thus, f a r (i.e. fair after rain), c a s (cloudy after snow &c.) otherwise the falling weather would escape notation. I distinguish weather into fair or cloudy, according as the sky is more or less than half covered with clouds."