Friday, October 2, 2009

my new dulcimer

Ever since I saw them on the shop walls of Wood-n-Strings in Tennessee, I've wanted a Walnut Creek dulcimer. I finally was able to get one, and she's beautiful. She has a richer tone that resonates in her larger body. When I ordered it, I asked for a redgum wood top and deer sound holes. You know me...always looking for my antlers.

I've been on quite the dulc kick lately. Probably because I'm planning this beginner's workshop next weekend, but also because as October rises my thoughts of the Smoky Mountains rise alongside. Last weekend was the Old Timers' Festival down in the park and I wasn't there. I wasn't at the grist mill, or sprawled out in the high grass of the cove. I wasn't hiking up to the Balds or standing on top of Chimney Tops. I have an old postcard of Chimney Tops at my desk at work. Sometimes when I glance up at it it turns into shrapnel. Hitting me hard, by accident, reminding me how far I am from home. Which is a ridiculous thing to say, having grown up in the Northeast my whole life. But some things can't be helped. You love what you love, and while finding a new home here where sap runs and creeks freeze...i'll keep playing mountain music. It'll keep the memories of that great state heavy. I learned I'll Fly Away last night. Sitting in front of the fire on a quilt and strumming that tune made me forget a lot of things. Sometimes, that's a blessing.

Living in New England, it's not uncommon to hear the occasional crack about the south. It's an easy scapegoat for mockery—always a stupid comment duct-taped to a corny accent. It used to insult me. Once a coworker actually said "Aren't you glad you escaped Tennessee" and had I hackles to raise, they would've. Now whenever anyone mentions Tennessee (even in jest) it feels like a how you remember falling in love for the first time, all hollow and warm.

Which, Incidentally, is what a good dulcimer sounds like. So the combination of a broken heart for a state that hardly remembers my footsteps and that sweet music warm me up tonight. I don't mind feeling hollow if it's warm. Even while the rain falls and fireplace remains ashes: I'll fly away.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

finally home

In celebration of October I'll be posting a photo from Sandgate everyday this month. This first one was taken by Sara Stell on her visit to the farm last year. We took a walk down my dirt roads and this one is in our old West Sandgate Cemetery. Most graves are pre-Civil War. (My town's older than our country, son.) You can see a mess of her photos from the farm in October here.

P.S. Thank you to the reader who posted one of Sara's photos in the current issue of Mother Earth News!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a grand tomorrow

If I ever have a family of my own, tonight will be a great holiday. A night when everyone takes off work the next day and spends the early hours of the morning in front of a bonfire in the shadows of yellowing corn stalks. We'll have sheepdogs curled at our feet and hear the distant cries of fattening lambs in the fields. It'll be a night for dancing and laughing and stories and songs. Fiddles and guitars and enough food to shame Thanksgiving. A night to forget about everything save for what really matters, which is to say what keeps us alive: food, animals, friends, good dogs and great love.

It's the Eve of October: the greatest month of the year. Tomorrow we'll wake up and everything is different. Trust me on this people, I would never lie about such a holy thing. You'll wake up and feel the difference. If you can't feel it, the crows will show you. And if you can't listen to crows, then by god, you'll read about it here.

October is when nostalgia and hope grab hands and jump off cliffs together. It's a month of harvest and celebration, of history and agriculture and a hundred religions taking time to pause and pray and reflect. It's a time for memories and love, but also a darker time of faster nights and quicker shadows. Everyone has their own opinion of this month, but here at Cold Antler, this is it. This is why I kiss the ground I landed in Vermont. Around here we're jaw-punched with such relentless beauty it makes us pull over our cars at 7:48 AM on the way to the office just because a fiery maple deflated our lungs.

I can't wait for tomorrow, and for the next 31 days right up to Halloween. This is my month, our month. Grab your mugs of cider and toast the night with me friends. Tomorrow is October, and October is when everything happens.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

if they only knew

Another rainy day here in the hollow, but not an unwelcome one. The drive up into the mountains after work was gorgeous. Swirling panics of leavesm pairs of crows launching into the air like the ground was poison. The whole painting from the cab of the truck seemed comforting. I have never lived away from mountains, trains, and crows. God forbid I ever do.

I came home and before even walking into the house grabbed three logs off the wood pile and split them with a level of skill no one should obtain having grown up watching Night Court. I carried my kill inside, started a blazing fire, and hugged my kind dogs. I always ask Jazz and Annie the same question, every day. "Are you getting all the love you need?" and they oblige me with a nuzzle deep into my side. Siberians don't really lick or wag their tails. If they're happy to see you they bend back their ears and place their thick foreheads into your body, nuzzling like wolves. Lifting their heads only to have their eyes meet yours to ask for a scratch behind the ears or permission to nuzzle more. Sometimes when I walk the dogs in town parents drag their kids by the arms away from Jazz and Annie, as if they were indeed wolves. The kids always reach out and Annie licks a splayed finger as they go. If they only knew.

Joseph is now living with the flock full time. He is no longer sharing the kid pen with Finn. Maude and Sal have made him one of the tribe, in their own way, which is to say they aren't chasing him away from the grain bin or morning hay pile anymore. He sits at the big kids table now. He seems like a happy guy. This shepherd's work is done. At least for now.

They are calling for snow showers tomorrow night. No joke.

Monday, September 28, 2009

sometimes you're the horse

It's a miserable evening here at Cold Antler. One of those days you give up on by 3pm and spend the rest waiting for the next sunrise. It's been overcast, raining, and windy here in southern Vermont. Days like this I usually revel in, adore really. I like the comfort of the cabin and the fireplace, but today for some reason I'm not feeling too offensive with my attitude about weather. The gold, red, and orange leaves are being ripped off the trees and racing across the roads. Everything's damp. The kind of damp that makes your clothes, indoors, seem musty.

I do apologize for the thin posting this weekend. I had an impromptu visit from my old college roommate, Erin. We went to design school together and now she lives in Cambridge, in the heart of Boston. I think she enjoyed her self-imposed Urban exile though. We spent the two days driving, shopping, talking. Pretty much being college roommates again. We talked about shoes, men, and our jobs. The kind of conversations I can't have in Vermont unless they're imported. I've made some close and wonderful guy friends here, but so far, like always, finding women that I enjoy the company of has been hard. (This is completely contrary to Idaho, where most of, if not all, my close friends were gals).

So I'm back. Still fighting with Chuck Klosterman who has grown more and more violent and who I subdue every time with a shepherd's crook or rake. (Don't freak out, I just brush him away. I don't beat my poultry. That's tacky.)

Sorry friends, I give up on this crappy day. Some days you're the horse, and some days you're the cart. Today I was 100% buggy-fuel. Now I'm going to walk outside and make sure the sheep are all content and the gate is locked. Then I am coming back in for the diine therapy that is Wilcox pumpkin ice cream with crushed ginger snap button cookies. Then I'm going to crash in front of the fire and watch some Buffy (season 4, Hush, if you're in the club) and chalk this day up as a loss.

The bright side is this: October is almost here. And October, darling, is when everything happens.

October is cart time, baby.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

mountain dog

I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.
-The Dharma Bums