Wednesday, November 17

Unleashing the Poet Within

A few new poems by yours truly written at a retreat led by Nevin Comptom Trammell.

The Irregular Heart

The irregular heart
knows not the confines
of chamber walls or rhythms
of the lub-dub doctrine

Look there, in the corner
where pigments swirl
birthing a fifth chamber

an irregular heart
made new
for a new way
a new day
a new doctrine


A mirror image lies
beneath the soaring boughs
of a white oak tree

it's astounding,
the luxury of it all

as golden hues of fallen
and to be fallen
compete for my gaze

it's reminiscent,
the duplicity of summer

when crepe myrtles
drop their pink petticoats
on the floor

rushing into another season


A Journey in Two Stanzas

on a journey
with words suspended,
between the lines
old thoughts upended

hands moving cautiously
left to right,
voices give wings
words take flight

Monday, November 15

Ma'am...Excuse me Ma'am

I'm standing at the Kangaroo Mart in Ashland City pumping gas, minding my own business and this disembodied voice floats over my head from behind. I don't know, I must have been daydreaming because I realized he'd said it several times before I turned to see an aged black man handing me a business card. His pea green cap was emblazoned with "Koren War Veteran" along the crisp creased side.

I look down at the business card. It read:

Cremation or Burial

Like I said, I was daydreaming so it didn't sink in. It was the words "Beloved Pet" on the facsimile of a headstone that did it, sort of like a lightening bolt.

I looked at Mocha's sweet brown face peering out the open car window, looked down at the business card in my hand and a little piece of me died.

Thursday, November 4

Beaufort Ghost Tour

On our way to Beaufort, we couldn't resist stopping for this photo op at the Gay Fish Co. in Port Royal.

Have mercy! This Southern Belle is draped over the porch railing of the oldest home in Beaufort, SC. This is just one of the ghostly residents portrayed on the annual Ghost Tour. We traveled by horse-drawn carriage beneath ancient live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. As daylight turned to dusk all manner of creatures greeted us with their tales of whoa and sorrow.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed entrance to any of the stately homes on the tour. At the pace our horse took, we had ample opportunity to peak in the windows!

Many of the homes were for sale. Word to the wise, the annual upkeep would soon surpass the purchase price, so make sure your pockets are very, very deep and full of coin.

Wednesday, October 27

Dataw Island Treasures

An unimposing sign read "Dataw Island" with an arrow pointing right. Linda and I looked at each other and said, "I'm game!" so down the road we turned not knowing we'd stumble upon a treasure trove, one discovered by Spanish explorers in 1514.

Here, you see one of the many winged inhabitants, a Great Egret. Sir Bird was wading casually through the marsh grass shopping for a snack. He turned his magnificent head my direction as I craned my body out the car window to get a good shot.

Linda drove slowly keeping pace with Sir Bird, who did not take kindly to our attention. He unfolded those massive wings and swooped over the top of the marsh grass. I swear he looked back at me with a "get thee far, far away" look in his eye.

Much of Dataw Island is now a posh, gated golf community complete with a manned guard house at the entrance. I've never been deterred by gates or no-trespassing signs, especially if something on the other side has caught my eye. Linda brought the car to a stop and the guard eyed us warily, asking the nature of our business. Before I could open my mouth, Linda told her we were considering having dinner in their upscale restaurant at the Club House and would like to take a look before we made up our mind. Ha, 'atta girl!

The development is pretty much what you'd expect, clean streets, manicured lawns, cookie cutter architecture and shiny cars. Except, as we passed the golf course, the ruin of a building caught my eye. "Turn in here!" I exclaimed.

We couldn't believe our luck, the ruins of Williams Sams' 1786 cotton plantation, constructed of tabby, a unique material made by burning oyster shells to extract lime, then mixed with sand and shells and shaped into wooden molds to form walls and columns. The enormous fireplace casts a long shadow on the leaves which litter the floor of the cook house.

The remains of the Sams family rest under the far-reaching, Spanish-Moss-draped arms of a live oak tree. Seems a fitting and peaceful place to spend eternity.

Friday, October 22

La La Knee and 167 Steps!

The lighthouse on Hunting Island State Park stands 132 feet above ground. Originally built in 1859, the Confederate Army destroyed it to prevent the Union Army from navigating by its beacon in the night. Luckily, the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1879 and has witnessed a much greater enemy, erosion.

A modified spiral staircase of 167 steps is the only means to get to the top and experience a 360 view of the horizon. Although briefly hesitant to take that first step, the Lovely Linda, me and LaLa Knee started the climb and holy cow was it worth it!

From the observation platform looking north, we towered over the tops of the maritime forest and the Atlantic Ocean. Although a windy day, the ocean was serene, not the cacophonous and moody Atlantic I know from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

The Lovely Linda looks a little nervous, wouldn't you say? After we made it safely back to Terra firma, someone stopped us to ask if it was a difficult climb to the top. I assured him that if I, a middle-aged and rotund wielder of one artificial knee could do it, he certainly could too!
Tomorrow: Faking your way through security and stumbling upon the ruins of an old plantation!

Thursday, October 21

In Need of the Horizon

For weeks, the muscles across my chest and shoulders have been tight and I've not been able to breathe deeply. I've come to understand that this tightness is not an illness (of the medical variety) but of the spirit. A physical prompt to let me know it's time to seek the landscape which feeds my soul, clears my mind, loosens muscles and lets me breathe deeply. That landscape is the horizon. To be surrounded by uninterrupted sky meeting land without a single object stopping the eye is for me, soul food.

Lucky for me, the Lovely Linda planned a belated birthday trip to the South Carolina Low Country. For the uninitiated, like me, the "Low Country" is a string of barrier and sea islands from Charleston to Savannah. Topographically, what this area offers are wide and uninterrupted views of golden marshes that march right down to the Atlantic Ocean. The perfect setup for horizon-gazing. In other words, heaven.

At the end of a boardwalk stretching deep into the marshes on Hunting Island is this view. The marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) reminds me of mature fields of rice ready for harvest. And look at that horizon! I said out loud, "Who could not love this view?" to which Linda replied, "When you look at the horizon, you see endless possibilities, but someone else may look at it and see emptiness." As I stood there transfixed, the muscles across my chest and shoulders began to loosen. I took in a deep breath and let out a long sigh and again stood in the presence of a vast horizon.

As the sun rose higher in the sky an interesting thing occurred. Looking out over the marsh, the air just above the tops of the grass appeared blurry and the color of the light was golden, almost mirage-like. I was lucky enough to get this picture, which saw what my eyes saw.

The backdrop in this photo is the edge of a maritime forest that grows all the way to the ocean. Semi-tropical in nature, the predominant trees are pine and palmetto.

alterniflora up close. When first taking this picture, I thought those were seeds, but now I'm not so sure. One of the naturalists we met along the way told us that as the tide rises, snails and other creatures climb the stalk until the tide ebbs, and then feeds again in the nutrient-rich pluff mud.

Tomorrow...Day Two...We climb a lighthouse!

Thursday, September 23

Five to the One

It's my birthday and I'll swing if I want to
Swing if I want to
Swing if I want to
You would swing to
if'n you could too!

Yes Blogosphere, today is my birthday. It's also the first day of Fall and the first day of the sun sign Libra. Quite an auspicious day to be born, don't you think?

Here's my agenda for the day:

1. Sleep until 8:30
2. Work for a few hours in the office
3. Put on wandering clothes
4. Wander
5. Stop for a celebratory cupcake
6. Swing
7. Have dinner with a good friend

Are you curious about #4 and #7?

#4 - Wandering has been a favored activity in my life for many decades. In my twenties, I would grab a bunch of change, walk to the nearest bus stop, get on and ride until I saw something interesting, get off, wander around/explore, get on another bus, rinse and repeat until I finally made it home - usually well beyond dark-thirty. Today, my wandering will be done by car, but I will embrace the spirit of well, letting the spirit lead me with no set destination.

#7 - Swinging is one of my favorite activities. How could you not love playing fast and loose with gravity? I love the rhythm of forward and back, the pulse of pumping arms and legs, the soaring higher and higher until your heart (and stomach) are doing a dance. And then, the penultimate experience of making your body like a board, then pulling up as the arc of the swing reaches its apex. That's when you know you are ALIVE!

It is good to be living in this 5th decade of my life. My birthday wish for you is that you know, embrace and participate in those things that make your heart and always.

Sunday, September 19

My Constant Companion

I can feel Miss Mocha sleeping soundly behind my big comfy chair. No, she's not snoring or moaning or chasing bunnies in her sleep, she's simply there. Her birthday is coming up in October and she'll be 12. She's always been a strong, healthy dog only going to the vet for annual vaccinations. As more whiskers start to turn white on her brown nose, she's slowing down a little, showing some aches and pains and just a touch of little-old-lady crankiness.

This week she had her teeth cleaned and the vet had to extract a cracked tooth. I agonized over the decision to subject her to anesthesia at her age, but am glad I said yes. She seems to be bouncing back just fine.

These days, my mind opens the door (just a crack) to the reality that there will come a time when her presence will be but a memory. A warm, brown, sweet, bossy, snugly, romp-through-the-woods kind of memory.

Saturday, September 18

Lead and Follow

What I saw on my morning walk:

a butterfly and a bee
dance on the face
of a flower

it bows its head
in ecstasy
and I pause

if they are
willing partners

and who leads
and who follows?

Thursday, September 9

Bells Bend Bliss

Red morning glory atop soon-to-be unfurled goldenrod

dueling hummingbirds against a morning-glory-blue sky

Tuesday, August 31

There's a pill for that right?

I don't know why I was reminded of Erma Bombeck today, but as I was walking across the room I sneezed and peed on myself simultaneously. That's never happened before. I must be moving into the exert and squirt stage of life.

Tuesday, August 17

Bright Eyes

What a surprise! During Mocha's morning constitution, we did not walk into a wall of heat and humidity. Dare I say there was a cool breeze, a hint of fall?!? It's much too early to wish for fall-like weather, but this brief respite from the oppressive heat (110 degrees with the heat index) is welcomed with open arms.

I promptly went inside and opened the windows to breathe life into the stale, air-conditioned rooms. Bunnies and birds were foraging at a leisurely pace, appreciating the morning too. I poured a cup of coffee and nestled into my comfy chair to read a bit and listen to the morning sounds.

Mocha didn't succumb to her usual morning nap, but sat at attention staring at me while I read. I don't know about you, but it's difficult to read when a 50 pound dog is staring you down. I let the book drop into my lap and locked eyes with the dog. What was she trying to tell me?

I took inventory. Food and water in bowls - check. Morning treat given - check. General petting and praise showered on the brown one - check. Hmmm...

She broke her gaze and swiveled her head toward the open window, raising her nose and breathing in messages on the cool morning air. Ah...might she be hinting at a romp on the land?

I quietly rose, went into the bedroom and began changing clothes. She leaped onto the bed, watching closely for any indication I might reach for footwear that means "romp!" I silently opened the closet door and rummaged around for tennis shoes. Drat, they were outside covered in grass and dirt. My hand paused over the hiking boots for a split second and she bounded off the bed, over my back and toward the door. This seemed an extreme choice, so I opted for some flats, but she didn't seem to mind that last minute switch. She was up the stairs and prancing by the front door before I could tuck in my shirt.

I walked while she zoomed down the trail, stopping here and there to sniff the scent of deer, wild turkey or bunny. She'd zoom back to check on me and then turn tail and run at full speed, ears plastered back on her head. The lake trail was cool and inviting. The breeze gently tussled leaves that in a few months will carpet the forest floor with brilliant fall colors. We made our customary circuit around the lake, down into the meadow, past The Well and back to the Main Retreat House. Along the way, we found a long-ago discarded dog toy that was perched atop a picnic table. Some kind soul must have happened upon it and placed it there for future discovery. Mocha grinned at being reunited with "yellow duckie," the one with two squeakers!

We returned home thirsty and a little tired, but happy to have been reunited with the land. As I exited the shower, I was greeted by a brown dog sitting obediently by the bathroom door. She was panting and her eyes dancing with bright light, her way of saying 'thank you Momma.'

Friday, July 23

When "it" was a pronoun

There are days when it seems I have an ok handle on IT and Social Networking applications. And then there are days when trying to get: 1)this tag or 2)that button or 3)a blinking link on the Penuel Ridge website or email marketing campaign or Facebook page makes my head explode.

When will the cranial plug-in be functional so that what I think will appear on the screen?

Is there an app for that?

Have I lived in the woods so long that all the IT knowledge has blown past me at 80 mph on the freeway in a shiny red sports car?


Wednesday, July 21

Shadow Selves

Do you feel it too, a presence in the air that doesn't have a shape or form, but is there nonetheless? A few days ago, someone referred to "it" as "shadow selves" coming out in people so they can be seen, dealt with and released.

Maybe more explanation is warranted. I see people acting in ways uncharacteristic to their normal way of being. I hear people saying things they would not normally say out loud; hateful, biting, hurtful things usually locked up in their heads.

Maybe that's it. Maybe so much has been held in and not spoken or acted upon that the pressure valve has to be released or their heads will explode.

I've a not-so-charming habit of saying what's on my mind, even when it might have been prudent to keep it to myself. When I do manage to leave "it" unsaid, "it" shows on my face. No, I'll never do well at the poker table.

Maybe it's the heat? Maybe it's a shift in the Universe? Maybe the world needs a collective colonic.

For me, I'm going to tiptoe quietly through this minefield of human expression gone gritty.

I'm suddenly reminded of a quote, "We don't see the things as they are, we see things as we are."

If that be the case, then maybe I should be an observer of how I'm expressing myself in the world.

Dang it...might be time for another ah-ha moment.

Sunday, July 11


The summer reading programs of my youth are to blame for the glutenous manner in which I consume book after book while the heat and humidity rage outside my window.

It also helps to have been invited into a long-standing book club in the area where I live. With them, I recently read "A Gathering of Old Men" by Ernest Gaines. If you haven't read it or it's been a while, I highly recommend it. Be prepared to squirm in discomfort at the honest portrayal of race relations in the South and to celebrate the triumph of knowing that it's never too late to stand up for yourself.

"The Bridge of San Luis Rey" by Thornton Wilder is another recent read. I wanted those pages of richly-drawn characters to go on forever and for the narrator to step out from the shadows. I've spent many an hour discussing this novel's overarching question with some deep thinkers: "are the events of our lives pre-ordained?" Seems to fly in the face of free will, but I imagine this question will continue to be discussed, challenged and rolled around for many generations to come.

What have you read this summer that gave you pause?

Monday, July 5

Independence Day

Stuck in the muck of mediocrity.

That's how it feels to be me at the moment. This is the time of year when I go deep, to shine light on that which is ready to be released, a declaration of independence of sorts.

This usually results in a list, a renewed sense of purpose, swelling passion to propel me to the other side of now.

Problem's not coming to me as readily as in years past. This may call for a turning inward with flashlight in hand to ferret out what might be hiding in the shadows.


Tuesday, June 22

Lost for the Day

It's 7:36 am and I've been up for hours. The first hint of morning light hit my brain like a laser beam, so I acquiesced to the new day. Miss Mocha had other ideas, ones that involve sleep and mamma's bed and sleep and "oh isn't this the best pillow ever?" Needless to say, I would be companionless until she was good and ready.

Seems the day wanted to ease in gently, so I resisted the urge to make coffee and opted for a shower. Standing with eyes closed under a warm stream of water, gentle steam and soapy bubbles rocked me awake in the kindest way. You can keep your Big Ben alarm clock, thank you very much.

I raised the bedroom window to let in cool morning air. It's too early for birdsong but the breeze is enough to sway summer leaves, creating brushstrokes of sound so subtle I'd of missed it if I hadn't been listening. These are sacred moments to hold in escrow, a counterbalance to other times when discord is the song of the morning.

A seemingly sleep-sodden dog bolts upright the moment I pull shoes from the bottom of the closet. How does she know? She just does and that's but one of the many reasons I love her. Roused abruptly, she pauses as if needing a verbal clue as to what to do with these four feet and what about this tail? Should I wag? When I ask her if she wants to go O-U-T, that's all the prompting needed. "Oh yeah, that's what these feet are for...going up the stairs, to the door, to the yard, to the glorious smells of the morning."

[sidebar] It's true, I don't know what she's thinking most of the time, but it's entertaining to write dog dialogue and since I have digits and can use them to type words, I get to put them in her mouth...words that is, not digits.

The woods are a dusky blur except for the occassional patch of morning light peeking through dense growth, illuminating a young paw-paw tree heavy with fruit. A flash of red catches my eye as a female cardinal flies through the beam of light, only to dissolve into the canopy of branches overhead. I walk alone, but not truly alone in these woods. Mocha lingers over fragrant traces of unseen animals who have moved undeterred in the night. Her nose leads her on a zig-zag path, drunk by the heady fragrances, unknowingly wandering off the trail and out of sight. I call to her several times...sniffus interruptus. [your Latin lesson for the day]

We emerge from the woods onto the dam where swirls of mist are dancing atop the surface of the lake. They resemble the perfect peaks of my mother's meringue, a swathe of curl-e-ques suspended in perpetuity. Yet these are moving, drawn to the center of the lake only to be twirled back to shore and into the flow toward center, again and again.

I feel myself being pulled into their reverie, but it's too early for this kind of headiness. I'd be lost for the day and found sleeping in the woods, surrounded by a fairy circle. A cleansing breath helps to lessen the dizziness and right my brain. I look up to survey the sky. The rising sun has breached the east ridge (which lies to my back) and is illuminating the highest point along the western ridge, articulated by soaring white oak, beech and hickory trees, each a different shade of green, each a monument lit up for this moment.

I blink in disbelief, but in the presence of such holiness, I know I am lost for the day.

Thursday, June 17

A Few Haikus

At writers group last night, the prompt was "my hell is no worse than yours". Sometimes, I'll write a few haikus to get the juices flowing. Here are a few:

My hell is no worse than yours
exhibit one: breath
mine goes in and out...yours not

My hell is no worse than yours
or so I believe
as daylight turns to darkness

My hell is no worse than yours
an autumn leaf falls
as do your sins on the ground

Friday, April 30

Life Marches On

Yesterday I became a great aunt. Today I found a hair growing out of my chin. It seems I'm entering the Crone phase of my life. Then why am I still ovulating?


for a voice in the wind
to speak your name,
an invitation
to anchor you in this moment
that belongs to no one
but this moment

for a growing thing
to feel its pulse
between your fingers
a validation
of a life

for as long as it takes
to see with shuttered eyes
the path to the water’s edge
a homecoming
through the soles
of your feet

for the white iris
to unfurl before you
revealing its cavernous depth
a seduction
that whispers
to the gnawing hunger

for the aroma
of that which feeds you
to seep inside the hollow places
a prelude
whetting your appetite
to be sated

a phantom limb
will awaken
a reminder
that a withered spirit
severed from the body
can too be awakened
to all that is

Saturday, March 27


there will come a moment
a pause
when your bones will remember
what it’s like to be embraced
by the night sky
and in that moment
your heart will whisper
and your hand will reach
for the key
that takes you back
to silence
and peace
and stillness
and the cold night air
on your face

there will come a moment
a pause
when your bones will remember
what it’s like to be weary
in the body
and in that moment
your heart will whisper
and you’ll hear the bamboo weeping
not from sorrow
but from the ecstasy
of resurrection
being born
raised up
cut down
raised up again

there will come a moment
a pause
when your bones will remember
what it’s like to be awed
by the sight of creation
and in that moment
your heart will whisper
and you’ll feel the fluttering
of a cardinal’s wing
in your breast
the home of the heart
and the lungs
moving in tandem
to bring you back
to a moment of pause

Wednesday, March 17

Waiting No More

The foremost topic of conversation with anyone these days is how sick they are of winter and where the hell is Spring? If red buds, Japanese magnolias, dogwoods and forsythias don't bloom soon, I swear people are going to start rubbing gravel in their hair and rending their garments.

Yes, we are all weary of enduring the gray, frigid, snowy, wet, foggy days that have dominated the winter landscape in Middle Tennessee.

After a morning stroll around the retreat center, I have good news. The lilac bushes are budding out, as is the flowering quince. Sedum, iris, day lilies, chives and yes, wild onions are sending up green shoots of new life through brown grass and decaying leaves. The goldfinches are dusting off their dull feathers.

Spring truly is coming. It may take longer than we'd like, but it will come. I wonder, once it's arrived, will those who've bemoaned its absence partake of its glory? Will they look up from their Iphone or Blackberry long enough to notice? Maybe between errands and appointments they'll stop long enough to take a deep breath of warm, loamy Spring air?

Is all the complaining more about a society who wants what it wants NOW and can no longer savor the tingly joy of anticipation; the gift of waiting for seasons to unfold?

As for me, I'm going to bundle up, walk into the World and let my eyes and ears find Spring.

Care to join me?

Monday, March 8

Untethered in the World

What do I want to do with my time?

 to walk untethered in the world  to wander without a compass only to find my way home at the end of the day  to carry only that which feeds me wholly  to embrace silence until the language of the land becomes my own  to pause when the bones say rest under the outstretched arms of a forest green  to honor the hoof prints of the doe with words rippling down a blank page


 to say, “Here, take these words and know the freedom of honoring the yearning of your soul.”

Wednesday, March 3

This Native Land

Do strains of music stop at the border's edge?

What of the wind
of the rain
of the sun

and its healing rays
shining down
on the Mother,
this native land?

A nomad's foot pauses
on the cartographer' s line
between nations.

Does the soil
feel foreign to the heel
but home to the toe,

or does he walk on,
one horizon
one world outstretched?

These imaginary borders
we bump into
on our way to somewhere else

cut us off from each other,
the fractured allegiance
to flags of different colors.

There is peace,
there is plenty,
there is the single strand

our tribal nature weaves,
reweaves again

to the rhythm
of the native drums
the calling out

the calling home
to brothers and sisters
of the Mother,

this native land.

Monday, February 15

Cooking for One

I finally saw Julia & Julia, so how appropriate to get a call from a reporter writing an article about cooking for one.

Here's the article.

Bon Appetit!

Dial-Up Dilemma

It's good to get ink...behold, a recent article in the newspaper about the dial-up dilemma.

Monday, February 8

Newton's Third Law

Laughter floats in
from one of the rooms
at my back

to find me sitting alone
in my high chair
at the kitchen table

Watermelon red with chrome trim
shiny enough to reflect
my pink chubby toes

I don't mind being alone
with disembodied toes
to keep me company

But what do toddlers know
of the push-pull theory?

Still the laughter
still alone
bored with "this little piggy"

I peer over my shoulder
lean back as far as I can
to catch a glimpse of laughing faces

around the door frame,
just need a push
of pink chubby toes against chrome

and I careen backwards,
a dizzying crash to the floor
my soft skull trapped

a father's rough, tan hands
looking for a way in
his eyes, blue with a dark ring

fixed on his breathless child
too shocked to scream
or laugh

Friday, February 5

Comcast Update

Despite my silence in the Blogosphere about my tango with Comcast, much has been happening. For the most part, I've been passed up and down the food chain several times. Had some encouraging conversations with folks on their payroll who truly sympathize with the situation and conversly, had some very infuriating conversations with folks on their payroll who spoke to me with condescension and righteous indignation. Always a winning combination in my book.

So where are we, you ask? In tandem with the Office of Economic Development, a series of articles will appear in several publications laying out our case for service. Additionally, I will submit a letter to the editor with copies going to persons at the top of the food chain at Comcast who could effect change.

All studies I've read about bringing access to broad band services in rural areas suggests that communities work in tandem with internet providers to pay for the cost of the upgrades. When I asked one of the Comcast folks how much it would cost to bring broad band to our area, he snottily responded, "that's proprietary information and I will not share it with you." I wonder if the true cost to bring broad band service to my community is as much as the Luxury Suite belonging to Comcast at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia? Hmmm...I don't know, but aren't reading financial statements and tax returns fascinating?

More soon.

Monday, January 11

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part V

My goodness but a flurry of phone calls came pouring in on Friday afternoon from all manner of folk representing Comcast.

Here's the problem request was de-escalated to the local market, not escalated to decision/change makers up the corporate ladder who have the vision and authority to say "yes."

One of my favorite quotes from a local representative for Ashland City was, "not only can't we do the build out in your area, but we WON'T."


We are nowhere near done.

Friday, January 8

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part IV

Some of you may have noticed a comment left two days ago by someone from Comcast offering to help. My first reaction was elation, my second reaction was suspicion. How did I know this person was a representative from Comcast and what made him think I would divulge my address to someone on the internet? It also gave me the willies to think that a Corporate Giant is trolling the internet daily for a mention of their name. That's both paranoid and egotistical at the same time. I wonder if the money they spend on this effort couldn't be better spent building out a network that reached everyone across America? Just a thought.

Anyway, I sent him an email thanking him for his comment and requested a phone number at which he could be reached during business hours. He responded in kind and I have now left two phone messages, neither of which have been returned.

Although the idea of climbing the City water tower to voice my dismay is appealing, I'm not interested in breaking laws or launching a smear campaign. What I want is access to high-speed internet service. So...documenting my efforts toward that goal on this blog is the first step. I have some ideas on what comes next.

In the meantime, I'm still getting solicitation materials from Comcast, AT&T and now Charter who all want to sell me bundled business services, which include high-speed internet. Services which NONE of these providers offer in my area. It's disrespectful to wave the metaphorical carrot in front of someone's face only to snatch it away.

I'm not certain how this is going to wash out, but what I do know is that the power of the purse coupled with the power of the pen are mighty. Mighty enough to get the attention of a Cororate Giant and more importantly, some action.

Thursday, January 7

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part III

You're probably wondering how I made the mental leap from my "Dear Jane" email from Comcast to contacting the Executive Director of the Economic Development Office of Cheatham County. In short, the brain is a wonderful tool.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered receiving a survey several months prior from the Office of Economic Development about the countywide need for high-speed internet access. I went to their website and lo and behold, the survey was still on their home page, so I clicked on it, expressing our critical need for service. Since the survey was several months old, I put a call into the Executive Director to see if there were any preliminary results and/or progress with local service providers. My call went to voice mail, so I sent a well-worded and respectful email and waited for a response.

I wasn't expecting a rapid response since escalating the issue to the level of County Government, so waited patiently for a reply. Let me tell you something, living in a rural county does have its advantages. Within a few days, I had a response and not from an assistant to the Executive Director or an Intern but from the Executive Director himself. With a glimmer of hope, I opened the email, which began:

I wish I had some good news to present to you.

My heart sank. He went on to describe how difficult it was to get any of the major providers to be forthcoming with information and/or a timeline for development in our area. Much of what he cited I had heard from Mr. Sales Person; the excuses/justifications for lack of service. Misery may love company but I didn't find a lot of comfort in knowing that he too had been working with the local service providers to no avail and shared my dismay. He closed his email with a chilling statement:

We have had more than one business that did not locate in the county because of the lack of [broad band] services.

I imagine at this point, most folks would say to themselves, "if the County's been working on this issue and can't get anywhere, then surely I can't get anywhere." Except, I'm not most folks when it comes to issues I perceive as an injustice. And this one smacks of injustice when a select few (those like me in the outlying areas of the county) cannot access the same quality of life services as our neighbors. I know, you're thinking "what does high-speed internet access have to do with quality of life?", but think about all the ways you use the internet. I and my neighbors can't take on-line classes to further our education, we can't be competitive in the job market as we have no exposure to rapidly changing/improving technology, etc... In essence, we are stuck in a time warp during a time when the job market is shrinking while the number of unemployed is rising.

Want a little irony in the middle of this saga? Studies have revealed it's the rural communities who benefit the most from high-speed internet access. President Obama knows this and has included money in the economic stimulus package to bring the much-needed technology to those very communities. Do you think someone at Comcast knows this? That there's money to pay for the huge build out costs they claim is too exorbitant to justify bringing high-speed internet access to our area? Hello, is anybody listening?

Armed with this information, I send an email to Mr. Sales Person relaying that it's not just one isolated person [me] on a country road asking anymore, but the Office of Economic Development for Cheatham County and could they kindly see through their myopic haze and get to work?

His response:

Basically, this would be a huge build out cost for Comcast and it will not be available in that area for at least 6 months and quite possibly longer because of all the upgrades that we will need to do to offer services in that area. We may consider it a build out in 2010 but nothing has been decided on it at this point. If you want to check back with me in 6 months, I will attempt to get another update for you at that time. I'm sorry for the bad news.

This is the same song and dance I've been getting for the last 4 years from Comcast and to be fair AT&T as well, who is now also courting me for bundled business services.

My reply:

I am a longtime activist and will not go quietly. I imagine Comcast is profitable in Cheatham County from the households to whom you currently provide service. I'll be talking with [the Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development] about how we might exercise our collective consumer muscle in a positive way. It's the rural communities who benefit most from high-speed internet access. It makes good business sense for Comcast to look beyond the bottom line toward improved community relations.

His final shot across the bow:

*I'm typing this verbatim, so fill in the blanks with the appropriate word choices when what's before you isn't quite on target.

I understand and really appreciate that you want Comcast in your area, but there are several factors, not *such monetary, that go along with providing service in any area. We want to make sure we are *proving the right amount of bandwidth to our customers so that we do not run into problems and so we don't have unhappy customers. So there has to be a certain standard that we will have to attain.

One word comes to mind when I read this...horseshit. I imagine this also came off a script somewhere, just like his sales pitch, but forgive me for scaling the City's water tower and painting "Comcast is full of horseshit" in big bold letters so tall you can read them while driving down Hwy 12.

Tomorrow...Installment 4 or "What will her next step be?"

Wednesday, January 6

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part II

Where were we...ah yes, Comcast has been courting me for "Triple Play" service. I begged the sales person not to use that phrase when talking to me, but a script they must follow and follow it he did.

After an initial conversation with Mr. Sales Person it truly appeared that high speed internet access was within my grasp. I dreamed of spending [wasting] hours cruising You Tube, ITunes and adding music/video to my blog. I was giddy!

Assured that service was now available in my area, Mr. Sales Person asked if he could draw up a contract for my approval. I had butterflies in my stomach just like the first time my boyfriend in the 6th grade held my hand! Let's face it folks, I've been here before, only to be rejected. But he seemed so sincere. We'd had light conversations. He laughed at my jokes. He was ready to make a commitment with this contract. Was it really this easy after so long a wait? Still, I wanted to see it in writing so agreed and waited anxiously for the contract to arrive.

While we're waiting for the contract to come in, let me backtrack a little. I had called in the services of a wonderful tech-savvy volunteer at the beginning of my quest for high speed internet access. Being a small non profit where every penny counts, we needed to do some comparison shopping to ensure we were getting the biggest bang for our buck. She did a great job not only assessing our internet needs, but phone/long distance and cable too.

She made a recommendation accompanied by a color-coded matrix of cost vs. service. I was ready to make a decision and sign the contract. As promised, Mr. Sales Person sent it over and I read every word, which not only meant reading the contract, but all the hyperlinks to their website that contain the "fine print" they no longer include in said contract. I'm nothing, if not thorough. Everything seemed to be in order.

My call to Mr. Sales Person was promptly returned during which I posed one final question, "Are you SURE service is available at my location?" His response, "Yes, I'm sure, but if we get out there and find out it isn't, you have 30 days to cancel the contract." My retort, "Why would Comcast go to the expense of sending a crew out to install cabling if it wasn't available?" I believe his reply was a cross between a snort and a guffaw.

Hmmm...giddy me and jaded me are now having a fist fight in my brain. I end the brawl by agreeing to go on line to Comcast's website and do a little recon work. You see when I had been on line earlier to read the "fine print" for the contract, I noticed a handy search tool whereby you can enter your address and determine if you are in their service area. With trembling hands, I typed in the address and waited for the reply. I must have been holding my breath because suddenly my lungs began to burn. As I exhaled and drew in life-giving oxygen, the screen flickered and the following message appeared...


7 cold, cruel words. I couldn't dial the phone number to Mr. Sales Person fast enough. Upon hearing the news, he was shocked, aghast with disbelief!!!! I asked him calmly if he would check with the engineering department to confirm whether he or the website search result was correct.

I few days later an email popped up from Mr. Sales Person. After inquiring with the engineering department, he was wrong, the website was correct in that NO SERVICE IS AVAILABLE IN MY AREA. He'd sent an email...couldn't even bother to call. Of course, why would he since I was no longer a potential sale?

The post card, the solicitation calls, the contract, all hollow gestures. I felt as if I'd been jilted by a lover. I was not going to take this lying down. My next call was to the Director of the Office of Economic Development for Cheatham County. You see, Comcast does serve PART of the County, just not ALL of the County. least not yet.

Installment 3 tomorrow

Tuesday, January 5

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off

There are conveniences I knew I'd give up moving from a city in Texas with a population of 2.2 million to a small county seat in Tennessee with a population of 4,000. Living in the middle of a thriving metropolis can be invigorating however as an aspiring writer, I craved a quiet, slower pace in which to create.

One of the conveniences I didn't think I'd give up was access to high-speed internet. Imagine my dismay when I called the local internet provider to begin service and was informed that it wasn't available at my location. A long-time activist, I was not about to take this news lying down, so got on the phone and started inquiring [read as demanding] service. Funny thing, the people on the other end of the phone didn't seem the least bit interested in bringing 20th century technology to our humble village. They cited "low population density" and "development costs they'd never be able to recoup" as justification for thumbing their high-speed noses at us.

That was four years ago.

Not to be deterred, I place a call to the respective internet providers in our area on an annual basis to see if we are yet worthy of high-speed internet access. The usual response is laughter, "not yet", or "not in your lifetime". Without high-speed internet access, I can't download files bigger than 1 mb, access streaming video, update our website, etc..., etc..., etc... My only 14 miles to the Cheatham County Library to access their wifi. This is neither convenient nor fun for me.

So imagine my delight when a flyer came in the mail from Comcast several months ago announcing high-speed internet access for our area. The flyer was soon followed by copious phone calls from their sales department. They REALLY wanted our business and not just high-speed internet, but phone, cable TV, etc... All that "bundling" that's so popular now. I gladly took their call and the bait. Sure enough, my dreams were about to come true.


(This post is getting way too long. Check back tomorrow for Installment #2)

Monday, January 4

Hunkered Down

Miss Mocha hunkered down with her new toy, the Ant Eater. It has a wonderful squeaker that has a voice like Lauren Bacall. Fun times are ahead in 2010 for the Brown One.

Sunday, January 3

The Horizon

The Texas horizon allows me to breathe deep, my shoulders to relax, my mind to wander. When a trip home and a steady diet of flat land, long-reaching horizons and sapphire sky aren't possible, then the views from atop Skyuka Mountain serve as an hors d'oeuvre.

Winter is best for horizon-seeking on Skyuka Mountain. In other seasons, the dense growth of hardwoods and their foliage create an effective screen, blocking the magnificent views. And they are magnificent, especially atop the lookout rock which gives you a 180 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Newly fallen snow, high gusting winds and bitter cold didn't allow for any rock sitting to drink in the horizon, but here are a few photos, reminders that a clear horizon is always in sight, offering limitless possibilities.