Category Archives: Berkeley Springs

let there be dark

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Tomorrow the tilt of the earth and its long-standing relationship with the sun will result in the onset of winter. Humans have known this for a long time, because the darkness of night reaches its longest duration.

Where I live, the moment the sun shines right over the Tropic of Capricorn will be in the daytime, just before lunch, but I’ll mark it with a bright fire and warm drink when darkness comes, well before supper.

And I’ll look up, as I don’t do often enough, to notice the night above and all around, that has diminished in our age, giving way to the brightness of the many shiny and glowing objects, symbols of our prosperity and consumption.

Use this day as a chance to turn out some unnatural lights and let the darkness in.

 

 

rings of eternal strength

Friend, artist, and current Berkeley Springs neighbor* Michael Gotwald gave me two iron hoops he no longer needed for the wheels for his non-existent buggy.  I buried the bigger one in the meadow and mowed a fairy ring around it.

The smaller one is suspended at the end of the porch, creating a visual hook but not a barrier. Inside it is a small element of fired clay.

*His sweet place on Hageman Street is for sale.

wilds of West Virginia

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If you think these are not wild carrots, please do not let me know until tomorrow, after they have been sauteed in butter and eaten.

the past is prologue

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William moves on in the Berkeley Springs renovation, last weekend tearing down bedroom walls with the intent of putting up better ones. Soon.

There on the electrical box is a chunk of plaster from the demo — hidden under paint, wallpaper and paneling — that happens to match the bathrobe on the goose painting in the kitchen up there.

Coincidence? or just spooky?

photo by me, October 2015

the larder fills and empties, the to-do list grows

3 January 2015 (out of range for a few days)

Haiku for today:

The sky is leaden,
Rain falls liquid and solid.
Best stay warm in bed.

Well, William did, deservedly, until about 10. I favor inclement weather, so got up earlier at the sound of rain on a metal roof, to make coffee, build a fire, write some words, and enjoy this transforming place.

Those tasks planned for the first day of the new year are accomplished, and more. I also baked bread, turned dry beans into a soup, made a list of what’s needed and procured supplies for the “larder.” (Listening to Bill Bryson’s At Home as an audio book, we learned the origin of that term is not really lard, but rather the word for “bacon,” and thus referred to the room where meats and food were stored.) I have spent some time with poetry books and with pottery magazines, where I did not look at just the pictures, but also read the stories, learning about glazes and kilns, what I should know but do not.

The accomplishments of these first days lead to new ideas for more projects — domestic, artistic and linguistic.

music soothes beasts

2 January 2015 (off-line for a few days)

Haiku for today:

That music soothes beasts
Has never been disputed.
The Black Cat heals woes.

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It’s Friday night at the Black Cat School of Rock, blessedly just down the hill from our house. A group of mostly regular characters shows up for open-mic night in this one-room school. The playlist is mainly rock, but also some blues, bluegrass, and grocer Tim Newton’s beautiful, sad ballad “Timber and Coal,” lamenting the enduring loss that quick fortunes brought to a West Virginia town.

Someone (the owner?) has baked cookies and served potato chips on a platter on the piano, in proximity to the big tip jar, which is also passed around the room.

(William always marvels at how the performers fearlessly “put it all out there,” saying he could never do that. Maybe one day he will.)

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Perky Yellow for a happy new year

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Haiku for today:

A new day, new year.
McCormick’s “Perky Yellow”
Gives warm glow in Bath.

We have come up to Berkeley Springs (the historic town of Bath), with, as usual, a long list of alterations, beautifications, and general improvements in mind. I drove up one a day earlier than William, anxious to get to the homemaking here that I don’t do at home. I have paint to be applied, curtains and rods to be hung, shower curtain to be replaced, home to be made.

Early humans probably draped some tissue over gaps in walls without giving it much thought, but I started days ago with a visit to JC Penney, where I burned through an hour of a worker’s time as I struggled with too many choices of fabric to cover windows. Ridiculous. That fiber choice steered to a paint chip selection – Perky Yellow it is, mixed up at Hunter’s Hardware.

I called sister-in-law Erica after prepping, but before dipping a brush, to share with someone the anxiety of committing wet paint to wall. “Oh, like glazing a pot,” she said. Yes, like that.

Two walls are newly yellow with paint and fabric, giving a boost to the artwork acquired a year ago for the then bare, white walls, and the house is transformed. Happy new year.

Well, the wait is over; healing and salvation offered here

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The town of Berkeley Springs is considered by some to be a sacred place, where good spirits converge.  There’s that magical hot water just bubbling out of the earth, right? Thus, it’s the annual gathering spot of all kinds of alternative healers at the Festival of Light.

For a five-dollar entry fee, you can find massage therapists for whatever hurts, palm readers, crystal handlers, future-tellers and past-life revealers.  You may commune, spiritually, with a lost loved one, human or another species.  You may purchase a stone or stick that was blessed under a full moon.  (I’m sorry I did not buy the special socks showing acupressure points but attractive enough for daily wear.)

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All of that harmless activity drew out this proud cross-bearing citizen, with his deep background of holy texts and protected by the First Amendment, who just needed all who enter here to know that this was contrary to the Christian Bible, and akin to devilry and witchcraft. (I heard that the local gendarmerie made a sweep of the building but found nothing technically illegal.)

I did not see his socks, but I think the burlap robe could be cited for a fashion crime.

the white stool — thinking down, not around

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My photo of the white stool, Berkeley Springs, 28 July 2014

Now that I’m not working at a proper day job, I’m spending more time doing manual work, time-consuming, sometimes smelly or otherwise untoward, usually in some way creative – baking bread, pulling weeds, sorting books; the mind has time to wander more deeply. I’m not looking around horizontally — not looking about to see who else is around, wondering why I’m doing the pointless thing at a desk in a cubicle, knowing that it doesn’t matter to me at all, nor much to anyone else either. Instead the thoughts go vertical.

I’m now in the wake of refinishing a piece of furniture, an old stool once owned by partner William’s grandparents, that has been somewhere for all these years, I think with his mother, Sally, who took it up to our Berkeley Springs house when she did some of the initial furnishing there.  It has been sitting in the kitchen or the bathroom there, or traveling between them. I’ve been painting other things here and in Berkeley Springs, and maybe it’s bewitching, because I tend to look around for the next project, so far two chairs on our DC porch (similarly vintage, never upgraded), a canvas ‘rug,’ the kitchen floor. There’s always a little paint left over — or I see where to get more.  I have invested in my own paint can, brushes, roller, so that I don’t have to share with William or suffer through his complaints about my improper cleaning. (I’ve improved at that.)

So I have this odd bench with a strange, u-shaped top shelf.  For sitting?  So that you can set a tall object on the second step, like the vase here?  Was it like a potty chair? It has clearly been painted a few times, so surely it needs to be painted again. First you strip the old paint layers.  For that, I bought that product I knew existed, helpfully called “paint stripper.”  The words on the can suggest that after applying the thick pasty stuff to the surface and waiting a few minutes to an hour, multiple layers of paint, applied even way back when the family had household servants, will just want to jump off the furniture and head out somewhere, job done, leaving bare wood, exposing the tree it once was.

It doesn’t happen that way.  The first application probably cleans the old paint a little, and scraping does little to remove it.  A second application and second scraping reveal that the white stool was once green.  A third application and scraping show some wood.

You see what I mean about the slowness of time and ability to think and ponder. Once you have made such a smelly mess, you cannot stop whenever you feel like it – not like just putting the book down or the knitting aside — because that would mean cleaning it all up and admitting defeat. So you start to observe and wonder, deeper, below the first layers, going vertical instead of horizontal. What is this thing now and what will it be? Who sat here? Who fell off?  Why green? Then why white? It’s not pretty, but sturdy; it wobbles not at all. Was this made by a true craftsperson? Do the screws tell its origin? Why do I care about it?

When will all this paint be gone, if ever?

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the trouble with labels

the trouble with labels

Her name is Christian, but she may not be what the sorter had in mind.

Photo by me (blurry, sorry) at the Rag Shop thrift store in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, 12 April 2014.