Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2019 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Arlo the Artist

by Tanner (resident house cat)

As many of you know, I took in Arlo some months ago and have been trying to raise him, but it has not been easy. I have been trying to find him some meaningful cat-work to do, but he hasn't been cooperative.

Lately, however, he has been developing his artistic side, so I decided to interview him about what he says is his true purpose in the household, so here goes:

Tanner: Arlo, tell the readers of Mommy's blog what it is that you do.

Arlo: I'm a deconstructivist feline artisticat working with paper disassemblages.

Tanner: Arlo, what you do is bite up paper and make a mess!

Arlo: Art is in the eye of the creator, Tanner. I think that not only am I cuter than the average kitty, but I'm also wonderfully creative. You have no appreciation. But that's to be expected since you came from the dumpster.

Tanner: Well, there's no use arguing with you—especially since you are now big enough to hold your own in cat-rasslin'. Why don't you tell the blog-readers about your, er, work.

Arlo: I work with newsprint, primarily the Roanoke Times, which is easy to deconstruct and reduce to its essential elements, that I then rearrange to make meaningful statements about the impermanence of words, the transcendency of the feline spirit, and the wasteful nature of our times. Here, let me show the blog readers some of my disassemblages so they will know whereof I speak.

In the above installation, for instance, I carefully select pages that make a statement, then dissassemble, reimagine, and rearrange those pages and parts thereof to reflect a cataclysmic state of the feline interpretation of life. I find my decontructionism techniques wonderfully cathartic.

Sometimes I immerse myself so totally in my work that I become a part of it, and it is hard to tell where the cat ends and the newsprint begins.

Sometimes I hide myself in my work—the better to find myself later, and thus my work becomes a catalyst for my own self-discovery.


Other times, I just catapult my work out there and let it go where it will. I try to cover a lot of territory—or at least a lot of carpet—when I do an installation.

Sometimes I work small and subtle. Notice that in the installation below, the cat (Moi!) is the dominant figure. In this one, I show how the cat dominates and separates his art, while at the same time becoming a central part of it.

Below, my art covers my head, showing how scraps of inconsequential media can obliterate our identities. Purrsonally, I think this is one of my best disassemblages when it comes to social commentary. Notice how my tail balances the destruction and yet keeps me grounded.

In the disassemblage below, I show how I have dominated the media and squashed it. Only my reeled-in tail betrays that I have no completely slipped the bonds of print.

Tanner: What you're telling me makes no sense, Arlo!

Arlo: That's because you do not understand art, Tanner. You cannot comprehend my purrpose. Now in the disassemblage below, notice how I divide and conquer the media, while reducing some of it to smaller bits which orbit the central figure, which is yours truly. Note how my tail reaches to the outer edge of my galaxy while reinforcing the idea that I am the center of my universe.

Here's a different perspective, in which I have one of my hi-beams on, the better to illuminate my message of dividing and conquering.

Below is still a work in progress.

Sometimes it helps if I look at my art from a different angle.

And sometimes I just dive right in and start work.

Luckily I have a lot of material to work with. Purrhaps this assemblage in progress will be a political statement. Purrhaps not. I'm open to ideas.

Tanner: OK, OK, we've seen enough of what you do. Your point is—?

Arlo: What's black and white and shred all over? Me and my art!

Tanner: I think your art is a catastrophe in the making.
Update: more on Arlo's art here:

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Home-Made And On the Road

When I was a kid in the late 40s–early 50s, Mama made most of my clothes. In fact, she made all my dresses, slips, and nightgowns. I still have a lot of the baby clothes she made. Here's one of my baby dresses.

A closer look. Mama not only made it, she also embroidered it.

She made me a lot of sun suits when I was a baby. . . .

. . . and when I was a little older.  In the picture below, my cousin Marty and I wear matching sun suits that Mama made us.

I still have Mama's treadle sewing machine, but it hasn't been used for decades. I never learned to sew on it.

I suppose I'm still into homemade stuff. My latest book—Them That Go—an Appalachian coming-of-age novel with paranormal overtones is homemade, if you consider self-publishing (albeit through the services of CreateSpace) as being homemade.

A commercial publisher might send its author on a book tour. A home-made author has to set up her own "tour." My first stop was at the Franklin County Library in late March where I sold some books even though I didn't have as big a turnout as I'd have liked. My second stop was at the Westlake Library, and stories in two lake papers, The Laker Weekly and The Smith Mountain Eagle, gave me some good press. A couple dozen folks turned out to hear me read and talk about the book, and I sold a respectable number of books. Last Saturday, I sold books and talked to folks who stopped by my table at the Franklin County Library. At the public presentations of the Lake Writers anthology, Reflections on Smith Mountain Lake, at the Moneta/SML Library and the Westlake, members of Lake Writers were able to sell their books, so—as one of the editors and a contributor to the anthology—I sold some books there.

And my tour continues. In May, I'll be on the road to the Wytheville Library on May 7 (10 AM-2 PM), the Fincastle Library on May 12 (6 PM), and the Vinton Library on May 14 (11 AM) as part of the Vinton Heritage and Storytelling Festival. If you're in the area, come see me.

If you can't make it to one of my stops on my home-made tour, you can buy my novel on Amazon and at a few local places. While home-made books aren't available in bookstores, you can get Them That Go at Virginia Office Supply in Rocky Mount and The General Store and Southern Roots at Westlake.

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Saturday, April 02, 2016

What Was Once

. . . Is No More

Less than a mile down the road from me, the rabid clear-cutting so popular lately in Franklin County has revealed what used to be the Wright Farm. The cemetery and what's left of the house and barn are now exposed—and their remains now expose a way of life that's gone.

In the picture above, the fenced cemetery is in the foreground.  To its right, in the background, is the barn's roof. To the right of the barn is what remains of a two-story farmhouse.

Only a few graves are in the little cemetery. This was the easiest to read:

I'm not sure what kin Ina J. Dudley was to the Wrights. A daughter, perhaps? The parents graves are side by side. The father's stone is leaning.

 On the stone inscribed "Father," most of the information has worn smooth.

The mother's stone is only slightly more readable.

Outside the iron fence is a small plot.

Little Nelson Wright was born sometime in 1922 and died in either 1923 or 1928.

It looks like someone has been removing lumber from the farmhouse, but its framework is still visible.  To the left of the farmhouse, a chimney stands. No doubt that marks the spot where the kitchen once was.

The house isn't very far from the barn, so it was convenient to tend the stock. Also, the closeness no doubt made it easy to keep an eye on things.

The barn, at least from a distance, still looks sturdy.

But the farm itself is no more. 
UPDATE: Thanks to and the Franklin County Genealogy Facebook group, I now have more info. The Wrights buried in the cemetery are Wilson James Wright (1860-1940) and Ada Ammon Dudley Wright (1864-1921. They were married 16 October 1885: Here's their picture:

Ada's death certificate was signed by their neighbor, Dr. George O. Giles, who lived second house from where I live now.

Ina J. Dudley was their daughter, the wife of S. T. Dudley. She and her husband lived on Jamison Avenue in Roanoke.  Her death certificate:

Nelson Wright died when he was only seven months old of "cholera infantum." He was the son of Charles William and Ethel Lee Brooks Wright. Charles—known as Will—was the son of Wilson and Ada. Nelson's death certificate:

Wilson and Ada had eight children: Ina J (1887), Elmo S. (1889), Annie W. (1891), Claude Leonard (1893), Henry Joseph (1895),  Gladys B. (1898), Charles William (1899) and Early (1901). No wonder they had such a large house.

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