Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Virginia

I spent the month of November at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains doing an artist residency there. I got a lot of work done, enjoyed some great walks, and spent time with some talented and wonderful folks there. There are usually about 30 writers, composers, and visual artists there at a time. I can't say enough how meeting dedicated artists inspires me.

I performed the Elizabeth Whitmore shadow puppet crankie down in Virginia at VCCA, Rapunzels in Lovingston, Amherst Elementary, The Palisades in Eggelston, and at the the Floyd Country Store. The best audience I had was the 50 2nd and 50 3rd graders at Amherst Elementary. They didn't stop asking questions til the teacher made them stop. I will always remember one little girl who raised her hand and just asked me to sing them more songs.

Maggie Smith, a fellow resident at VCCA, began writing poems about the crankie during our time together there. She has written 12 so far. Here is the first one she wrote.


They are alone, the woman and the girl child.
The man has gone over the mountain

to work for a year, maybe longer, and the sunlight
here is a little bitter, the color of turmeric,

the same gold-green as the leaves floating down.
The girl has an eye like a spyglass for birds.

She must be marked, the woman thinks.
Wherever she walks, the shadow of a hawk

falls on her, the way a light trains on something
but in reverse. In this thick forest, light can’t

touch every leaf, but the woman watches
wind touch all of them. If they weren’t paper-

thin, this rustling would be a hammering
like hooves on hard ground. The man will return,

but what a strange homecoming to the world
belonging to the woman and child. They cut

its intricate shapes from nothing, like silhouettes
from paper. They have a rhythm. Mornings,

to the creek on horseback, ochre leaves falling
through ochre air, nearly indistinguishable.

Evenings, at the fire, telling stories the man
won’t know. Maybe there is something about

his hands, rough as bark, the girl will remember.
But if she’s grown wild in this wilderness,

who could blame her. Once small enough
to fit inside the hawk’s fallen shadow,

now she can almost outrun it, only the dark
blade of a wingtip scissoring across her face.

photos above by Margaret Woodson Nea

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