Saturday, September 6, 2008

Appalachian Journey

I came across an amazing web site that contains OLD documentaries made of lots of aspects of southern and Appalachian culture life, and other areas as well. The site is I watched two of the videos and found them fascinating -- one on old gospel religion among Mississippi blacks, and the other on Appalachian music and culture, which I love.

The Appalachian documentary, called Appalachian Journey, is one of the Alan Lomax films which I've read about but have never seen. He was an American collector of folklore and music from all over the world. From the 1930's through the 1950's he went about filming and recording Southern culture mountain music (among others) for the Library of Congress and other institutions. This Appalachian film is one he produced. One of the things I most enjoyed was seeing the late Ray Hicks, the legendary tale-teller who lived near Boone, NC, before he died just a couple of years ago. People would come to festivals and shows and sit on the edge of their seats to listen to Hicks (whose Appalachian accent is barely understandable -- fortunately, Alan Lomax provided subtitles in the film) tell tales. He is featured prominently in this film, plus lots of OLD Appalachian music, an explanation of the blend of African/black influences on Appalachian music and on flat-foot dancing (the precursor to modern precision clogging). Stuff I've never seen before.

The Appalachian film is here. There are two viewing options: Real-Broadband and MPEG-4. Only the Real Broadband link works, but it requires the Real Audio player which most folks have. When it opens, you can expand the RA viewing window to 2x the original size for better viewing with no loss of clarity.

Coming on Strong

The last of my four tomato plants has decided to surge in September. It's seven feet tall and is flowering and producing fruit in clusters not previously seen.



Avo Orchard

Here's a composite of the Stonewood Avocado Orchard. Some of the pictures contain more than one tree, but all total there are 28 trees growing:


My friend Priscilla in California has a friend who owns an organic avocado orchard. He picked her a baker's dozen of avos and she sent them to me -- got here within three days of being picked. They have been delicious. Here are a couple -- one ripe and one that is still green from having been in the 'fridge. I don't think my avocado trees will make it through the coming winter, but wouldn't it be nice to go out the front door and pick one?


Severe Mercy

One of my best friends from high school, Rick, has been battling an extremely rare and aggressive cancer the last several months in Dallas. I have been a link between Rick and our high school class's email news list, forwarding updates on Rick's condition.

Rick's wife, Susan (Rick's high school sweetheart and also a good friend and classmate back in that day), called this morning with a post-op update. Following is the update I sent to our class email list. I share it here just as a window into the world of two souls who have endured a severe form of the mercy of God -- spared, so far, from cancer's ultimate goal. They are encouraged and hoping in God for grace to be completely free of Rick's cancer in the days ahead, and committed to making lifestyle changes that will support that outcome.

Their experience has dialed up my sensitivity in recent days to those who suffer, to my gratitude to God for what health I enjoy, and to practice more diligently what I preach. For all who live on praying ground, when you remember your own needs, a word of humble intercession on Rick's behalf will not go unheard in heaven:

Greetings All,

A good conversation with Susan this morning with an update on Rick's post-op status.

I won't repeat all that Susan shared with me, but let me summarize it this way: Our friend Rick has been through an unbelievable ordeal -- hell on earth, if you will. But, in spite of it all, by the grace of God he is pulling through.

I say "is pulling through" because the battle is far from over. Here are the highlights of what Susan shared with me:

•Rick will leave the hospital on Monday and return home. This will mark a major medical and emotional benchmark -- a sign that he is physically recovering and the ability to sleep in one's own bed and be among familiar surroundings.

•The doctors said that, on a difficulty scale of 1 to 10, Rick's surgery was a 12. (Nine and one-half hours.)

•He was connected to all manner of drainage tubes for a week or so, that caused excruciating pain, but is now free of those and is ambulatory, able to (slowly) get up from bed and move around.

•The doctors are very (cautiously) optimistic about what was accomplished in the surgery -- removing the vast majority of the cancer. They placed markers (that will show up later in MRIs) to be able to focus further radiation treatment.

•Rick will have to do more chemo and radiation, hopefully on an outpatient basis approximately every two weeks. The original chemo treatments were the strongest available to the doctors, and they don't think the future treatments will have to be that strong. But how much and for how long will depend on ongoing diagnosis.

•Because of the extreme rarity and severity of Rick's cancer, his doctors are going to present Rick's case to a medical conference next Friday. It will then be presented to the doctors at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to the doctors under whom Rick's primary physician trained. All of this to try to elicit further feedback on Rick's case and to share what's been learned with other doctors. Rick and Susan are both convinced that God led them to the doctors that have treated Rick -- that they could not have received any better medical treatment based on what they've learned through this experience given the rarity of Rick's cancer.

•Rick, of course, lost all his hair due to the chemo treatments, but is beginning to re-grow his facial hair which is a sign of the body returning to normal. Susan said that his bodily functions (stomach digestion, kidneys, etc.) are returning to normal and his blood markers are good -- more good news.

•Susan has been at the hospital non-stop the last two weeks and is looking forward to getting him home and feeding him juices and nutritious foods to give his body what it needs to heal. She was encouraged to hear her doctor put a strong emphasis on the need to build up Rick's immune system so it can do its God-given job of sweeping up remaining cancer cells. [WK note: What I've been sharing with Rick and Susan in recent weeks is the paradigm shift I've been through in my own life in recent years: that God designed the human body to be a self-healing organism, whether healing a minor scratch on the skin or destroying rogue cancer cells. Yes, in emergency situations, like Rick's, emergency surgery and treatment may be needed to arrest the progress of a disease -- every person has to make that decision. But in the end, cancer and other abnormalities will be self-healed as the body is given the nutrients it needs to perform that healing work. That's why diet, nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle are the best defenses against disease -- keeping the body in a place of health; giving it the upper hand against abnormalities that might erupt. Rick and Susan are committed to that perspective along with the medical modalities they've employed -- another reason to get Rick home so Susan can begin feeding him!]

•In the midst of all this difficulty, Rick and Susan were blessed with the birth of a new granddaughter a few days ago! (Both their children live in the Dallas area.) Rick hasn't been able to see the baby yet, but we can only imagine the pleasure he will have in holding that new little life in his arms after such a close brush with his own mortality.

As I said earlier, Rick "is pulling through." He is not completely out of the woods yet, but definitely seeing the edge of the forest as compared to the dark place he was in before the surgery. The doctors told Susan that had they not gotten to Rick when they did that he would not be with us today. So we thank God for the severe mercy that allowed the confluence of Rick's disease, his doctors' commitment, Susan's tireless support, and their determination to do everything healthful they can to win this battle.

Susan again extended her thanks to all who have expressed their love and prayerful support for Rick. Please continue to pray for his complete recovery, for the doctors' wisdom and decisions, and for God's healing grace to attend Rick's every moment.

Blessings to all,


Young and Old

"I often reflected on the needs that the old and the young have for each other as I sat on a bench outside the stucco house with Angel Modesto. His great-grandson, Luis Fernando, not yet two, usually was at his side. They seemed sewn from the same bolt of cloth. They walked at the same pace, with the gait of kinship. They had time and love and attention for each other. For long stretches, I would watch the tireless Luis Fernando romping and running and laughing, testing his legs and his arms and his place in the world, and daily growing more secure in the knowledge that the loving eyes of his great-grandfather countenanced with enormous approbation his every move. Each was aware of the other and shared their love with an unaffected ease. I felt having his great-grandfather in his life was as important for Luis Fernando's sense of well-being, now and in his future, as his having nursed from his mother's breast."
Those lovely words are from the pen of the late Grace Halsell, journalist and anthropologist, from her book Los Viejos (The Old Ones) written after spending two years in the 1970's with the people of Vilcabamba, a village in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. The Vilcabambas are one of three people groups that have been studied in recent decades because of their long life spans (the other two being the Abkhasians of southern Russia and the (better known) Hunzas of southern Pakistan.

All three groups are described by John Robbins in his most recent book
Healthy at 100. I have never read anything of John Robbins that was not interesting, compelling, well-researched and thoroughly documented. (His other books include Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, and Reclaiming Our Health.)

His descriptions of the values of these three people groups are moving, to say the least. They have been studied by lots of scientists and anthropologists, and Robbins has done a great job of culling this research for the best insights about their values, diets, and lifestyles. The quote above is typically descriptive of the gentle, intragenerational ways of these people. The contrast with our Western lifestyles is at once stark, discouraging, and embarrassing.

You'll probably read more quotes from this book in the days ahead as I make my way through it, but wanted to recommend it after just the first few chapters.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Like a Moose Going After a Cabbage"

The title and link above are from the UK's Times article on the atmosphere in a local bar in Sarah Palin's Alaska hometown, where the locals had gathered to watch the guv's acceptance speech last night. The Brits, who love political theatre (note the spelling) better than anyone, are wildly taken with the rabid support for Sarah Palin.

Last night was one of the most entertaining evenings I've spent in a long time, watching the speeches of Huckabee, Juliani (who lit the place up), and then Palin. I said "entertaining" -- my interest in watching these events (as I did the Dem. convention) is to enjoy the theater and drama. And there was plenty of it last night. The energy in the Republican hall last night made the Democratic meetings look tame by comparison, Greek columns and rock stars notwithstanding.

I'm posting the five parts of Palin's speech for those who may have missed it and are interested. If you don't know all the players' faces (her family and other VIPs in the audience) you'll lose out on some of the enjoyment -- watch especially for the pixie-like youngest daughter of Palin -- too cute. Regardless of who wins this election, something historical is going to happen: either the first black President or the first female Vice-President. It's worth paying attention to both sides for that reason alone. (And should McCain win and decide not to run in 2012, we'll likely see Clinton vs. Palin -- now that would be some theatre!)

NOTE: I repeat -- I'm posting these videos purely for the enjoyment of political theater (which I found so much more entertaining than the Dem. convention -- that's why I didn't post videos from theirs). Since I'm not posting my political opinions, I'd appreciate not hearing yours. (Ah, the privilege of owning the blog!) Let's save that for another venue. Just sit back and watch the entertaining political process at work, warts and all (a process that would have been considered tame and subdued by the founding fathers):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sunflower Sprouts

Hadn't sprouted sunflowers over the last couple of years and when I tried again recently, the seeds failed to sprout. So ordered new seeds and they sprouted promptly. I didn't know that sunflower seeds could "go bad" over time, but apparently they can.

Based on my previous experience, these sprouts will get about twice this tall, but they're ready now for clipping and eating in salads, sandwiches, and as a snack. They're easy to grow -- let me know if you'd like instructions:




Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Finally decided to stop contributing to the waste of paper grocery bags and get some permanent canvas tote-bags to take to the store. I never get plastic bags, and recycle both the paper and occasional plastic ones I come home with. But still was not happy with the process. The plastic glut in landfills goes without saying, but the amount of trees cut down to make paper bags isn't much of an alternative. Besides, my friendly EarthFare grocery store is exploring plans to begin charging shoppers for paper and plastic bags -- even the thin film plastic bags in the produce section. (EarthFare is always trying new ways to encourage customers to shop elsewhere.)

Found these bags at, where they have a large selection. The canvas and straps are a lighter weight than I would have wanted, but I'll give them a try:



Pears for the Picking

I took these pictures out of the window on the back side of my house. The pear tree is in the yard of an older home that was here when my subdivision was built. A typical rural/country plot, it sits on 2-3 acres and is populated with several wild fruit trees, this pear being one of them. Every year the tree loads up with pears which mostly fall to the ground and rot. The tree never gets pruned and is so tall (40+ feet) that most of the pears are inaccessible. When I first moved here I asked the owner if he would mind if I gathered up some of the fallen pears, and even pick a few off the tree, and he said, "Okay" -- not enthusiastically. So I haven't asked again. It's a shame for this food to go to waste every year.