Category Archives: VA

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Jack once again posts his Wednesday guest post on Thursday – sigh – – –

It’s amazing the quote I remember from a School science lesson – –

The vacuum is, of course, what our lives could have become during the pandemic for the last year and a quarter!

The most obvious thing for us in fighting that vacuum is how our house has changed. Our ceilidh room was where we entertained friends, held house concerts, and even ceilidhs (hence the name). But it became our home entertainment center, with a big screen and a projector to plug into my laptop and a good set of speakers. Wendy bought a box set of all twenty seasons of ‘Law and Order’ which we along with favorite movies on some nights. (Currently rounding toward the end of season 19!)

The library morphed into Wendy’s home office whence she somehow managed to orchestrate the supply of PPE to health centers and hospitals all over the area from March-May 2020. After that it was her writing studio as she churned out a book with colleagues on COVID conspiracy theories. And it accrued quite a lot of craft items, as she discovered decoupage. Recently a friend visited and commented, “I see you found a new hobby, Wendy.”

Our guest room continued to double as my studio where I prepare my radio show. But there was a period when I unusually had to pre-record the links out in our backyard log cabin, which was slow and tedious. That was due to some noise control efforts, since we have a sound proof box in the cabin.

But a lot of our time has been spent outside trying to learn how to grow vegetables. Last year wasn’t too successful but we have better hopes for this year. Some good friends tilled an extra section of the yard and it has carrots, beets, onions and the ‘the three sisters’ (corn, beans and squash), which all seem to be coming along fine. And Wendy has taken up foraging, which she calls lazy gardening. Why ignore nature presenting us with things like purslane and burdock—especially when we turn out to suck at gardening in the first place?

Our corn is as high as a baby elephant’s eye!

It would have been very easy for us to be ‘couch potatoes’ looking at the walls, but Wendy deliberately set her face against that and made sure, from the start, we would be occupied. We read lots of books—not to mention she had two published and has another two on the way. I took on some small construction projects and we made a fence to keep our chickens away from the back deck. Despite our failures, the garden has seen results. And we had the window visitors; people came by to drop off or pick up items (when the PPE runs ended Wendy kept going with a buy nothing list for the county, ranging from food to clothing to household detritus. I believe our neighbors might think we’re dealing drugs, the number of window packages that have been passed around here, and items left on doorsteps in mysterious lumpy packages. But she’s done some wonderful things for some community members with these free items.)

I believe this has kept us mentally and physically healthy and this seems to chime with other folks’ experiences. Once we finish season 20 of Law and Order, I’m not sure what we will do with ourselves, of course…..

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, crafting, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Appalachian Yoga

About two months ago my sister Nora convinced me to join a gym. This was just as firewood and gardening season were picking up speed, two facts that didn’t co-register until my muscles began to point out the connection.

This is not me

“I can’t go to Core Strength class today; I have to pick up and cut and stack firewood.”

Or, to my friend Dawn, co-conspirator in finding and hauling home dead trees of other people, “I can’t go hunt firewood today, I have to go to Zumba.”

It got complicated, and between the classes and the workload and my day job at a desk, I found stiff parts and sore stuff that hadn’t been there before.

That’s how I came to invent Appalachian yoga. A couple of days ago, still in my pjs, I went out to pick the abundant black raspberries growing on our little homestead. Hard rain had fallen last night, and one of the best spots requires walking under a kind of topiary arch, which of course would shower my thin cotton jammies and me with cold water if I touched it.

Sneaking between the bushes to my favorite picking spot, I observed a cluster of ripe berries just out of reach. One leg lift over the low thorny vines, a careful placement, toe up for balance, lean forward, back leg extended for balance….

Thus was Appalachian yoga born. I call that one “the berry picker.” It has two variations: “the berry picker and the mosquito,” which focuses on agility motions with hand slapping, and “the berry picker and the dropped bucket,” which involves core strength because you have to bend down at the waist without losing your back leg extension and scoop up the fallen object.

Discussing this with Nora as we prepared for Low-Impact aerobics, she felt the idea was an instant winner. We quickly invented “Milking recalcitrant cow” and “pulling pokeweed from the root,” both involving simultaneous dexterity and core strength.

Other moves (patent pending) may include “the chop that goes wide,” in which you fling your arms over your head, and then downward, hands joined in a single fist, to try and hit an imaginary target. We also have “the chainsaw,” in which you lock fists, squat so your knees and toes are aligned and your butt is pushed back, and shake for 30 seconds.

“Pulling the ivy” is an upward thrust of one hand, other down for balance, and a shift of weight from one leg to the other, leg up with toe point, leg back with squat. If you’ve ever pulled Virginia creeper from a tree, you don’t need further instruction. There is a variation, “pulling poison ivy,” which repeats the move from the ground up, but adds a sudden swift revolving circle of toe-hopping panic running and a primal scream.

Finally, “chasing the chickens”: you power walk, legs wide, toward a location, shuffle sideways without turning, and then race forward for 10 seconds, all while flapping your arms.

Nora and I plan to introduce this class to the good people at the Wytheville Community Center soon. We are sure it will be popular.

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch