The land of the "rain crow"

The land of the "rain crow"
The old road home. (c) 2014 by RLMT

About the author:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhonda L. M. Tipton, writer and visual artist, is a lifelong resident of eastern Kentucky.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Observations of a personal sort.

Under the distant eye of a cold moon, the forest sleeps. (c) 2012 by RLMT

Each year, I enjoy watching the seasons change. I learned to do this during a personal tragedy: watching my father die. He was a man of great enthusiasm and curiosity, a watcher and a hands-on person. I'm told that I have his sense of humor and constantly evolving view of the world in general. I would hope so... because the seasons do change, and while a still water may "run deep," a pool remaining still too long stagnates. Dad was still thinking of fresh things when he passed on, wondering what lay beyond this plane of being, which had become hard for him to endure.

Snow in winter, mud casting up flowers to bloom in spring, the heat of summer bringing it all ripe, and then autumn's celebration of the harvest. I must love it all, because I am a part of it, though the human seasons pass more slowly.

Climate change is something I see happening on a personal level, and from reading I've done in the past, I know it isn't the first time climate has changed. As an individual, I can't do anything more than adjust, plan, try to hedge my bets the best I can. It's not a perfect solution. It's not a game, though, and I do take the observations seriously... allowing that others might not.

We live, we age, we die. We eat, and something dies. It's a circle. Some cultures celebrate death and mourn birth; I come from a culture that does just the opposite. Skin color, belief, national origin, skill types... there's room for everyone. There's room to grow, adjust, work together.

Adversity makes strange things happen. War... or understanding? It's a free choice. I prefer peace.

Walking in the snow at night, big fat flakes spinning slow, falling on a thick mat of earlier crystals, each and every one of them different, and yet the same, is an education in diplomacy. Unique design falling into a pattern that will never be the same again, which will melt all too soon into a quagmire of soupy spring mud, where wildflowers will sprout because they can.

It makes me humble. It makes me want to walk in the snow, listening to it whisper secrets to the stones and the trees. I only wish the language could be one I might share.


Note to readers: I have voluntarily withdrawn my first book, Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings, from the market. It's no longer available on Any remnant printed copies will be at the publisher's (, where one may reach Jerlene Rose on her cell phone during business hours. The number is (859) 771-3323; the main office's number is (606) 663-1011.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Do you feel dogged?

Do you feel dogged?

  A friend named Simon, enjoying a day's farmland outting. (8-9-2011, copyright RLMT)

"Dogged." What a word. It brings up some interesting visuals, doesn't it? Giving my imagination free rein, I see dogs from the past. Dogs of every description, each of them with a kind of stubborn faith in strange things.

A dog who knew when his Boss had cancer. A dog who disliked certain people, even if they were familiar and had never harmed the dog. Dogs that ate certain foods or deliberately left certain foods alone entirely, even picking them out of soups and stews shared by generous humans.

The size and the shape of a dog depends on human-shaped predestiny,  varying from Chihuahua to Tibetan Mastiff, from love-sponge spaniels to hard-working collies. They're large or small, long-haired, wirehaired, shorthaired, blue or brown eyed, cold or heat or water tolerant, and altogether devoted to the service of humans by genetic decree... or not. Yet they intrigue us, become part of our "packs" and defend us. They babysit children, herd livestock, help us hunt, or just sit nearby and worship us with their eyes.

I'm thinking I need to devote a little time to talking about dogs. About a book's worth.

What say the readers? Would you like to talk dogs next, or cats? People are divided on the cat-dog issue, for the most part. I'm non-partisan; I like most animals. What I'd like to hear is your personal opinion about this. Comments are welcomed, and even encouraged.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The season of spinning leaves

I love spring, innocent, bouncy, mud-puddle happy, loaded with fresh life and no guilt, little sorrow. I love summer in all its green elegance, its sweaty ambition, its long days of procreation and buzzing activity. I even love winter, the cold minimalist season that so many people find colorless and unwelcoming.

It's autumn that intrigues. Mysterious, spicy, a loose cloak of many colors spinning, spinning. The spiral, that ever-turning circle of life, is at its most brilliant in the season between growing and waiting to be reborn. Anyone who loves the concept of reincarnation cannot help but lift a bouquet of lovely colored leaves to their face and inhale the scent of tomorrow's gardens and fields. Autumn is what it is, ripe and ready, decked out in colors of fire and lorded over by a crown of sapphire or blue topaz sky.

Welcome to apples, cinnamon, pumpkins, whispering corn fodder shocks, heaps of leaves with laughing children and happy dogs, warm sweaters, and a chuckling, happy fire safely contained. Oh, yes, and marshmallows and bonfires.

I stay outside all I can, if I'm able. When I can't go out, I look at the woods and the sleeping garden spaces and think, "Tomorrow." The open spaces call me. I was born to them, grew up with them, and will lay the bones among them someday. The ancestors are here, and many a redtail hawk has flown across this land, many a fox or deer or rabbit has trod it. This place is the place home came to be by accident and perhaps design.

Every falling leaf I see is a prayer, this year. Happiness and satisfaction tells me that tomorrow's hope, the same as today's, rests in the yondering past. Prayers are what the living call on, regardless of religious or faith affiliations, when prayers from those long gone have turned to ash in memory.

Turn with the seasons, spin with the leaves. Smile, laugh, and when it's time, set your foot down and make a stand. The trees know. They throw a wild party before the wind, cast away all they own, then stand and watch it build a new future, beyond snow and ice, loss or sorrow. The Great All has sentinels. Stones and trees exist slowly, with devotion.

Can we do less?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Going home was easy, staying there is harder.

Do what you can with what you have when you can for as long as you can, 
and try to aid the greater good while doing the best you can. That's about as good as it gets.

These mountainsides are my cathedrals. 
There are none finer in all the world that those built by nature's own touch. . 
~ Rhonda

Dirt roads will take you to places of deep learning. (c) RLMT

Autumn's song is played in vivid color. (c) RLMT

What a paintbrush Nature wields. (c) RLMT

Casual art, and the hope of a spring filled with life. (c) RLMT

For the winter months, there must be good, seasoned firewood. (c) RLMT

Rainwater, liquid life. (c) RLMT

From the high places above towns. (c) RLMT

Old time inspiration: the making of sorghum molasses. Acrylic on canvas, 3' x 5', original (c) RLMT

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

To light the fire..

The hills have gone the colors of fire. (c) RLMT

This autumn, this fine autumn, comes treading heavily, awash with rains and morning mist, and it has turned our beloved hills to the colors of fire. Each day that passes brings winter closer, and the scent of woodsmoke in the air rivals the odor of apples and cinnamon, the defiant orange of pumpkins, and a coat of many colors laid chill upon a land. A dragon's hoard of jewels could be no more beautiful than the forests I've called home since childhood.

A roadside shop, selling all manner of country-produced goods. (c) RLMT

 It is my favorite time of year. Harvest moon, howling thunderstorms, children playing among heaps of leaves, and granny-women stewing up pots of steaming, delicious soup, hot, fresh cornbread, and sweet wonders concocted of pumpkin or apple, and spiced just so. These are the memories of Appalachia, of the Kentucky hills.

An assortment of autumn produce: pumpkins, squash, gourds, and so on. (c) RLMT

Corn fodder shocks still stand for real use in some parts of the country,  stuffed with field-grown cushaws, pumpkins, and other squash, as well as gourds.

The once-busy front porch of an abandoned Mom and Pop type store. (c) RLMT

“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”
Ray Bradbury

In the center of this woodland road scene is the the shadowy outline of a female Great Horned Owl. (c) RLMT/RLT

The forests are awash with mist, silent wings at work among the trees in the low light telling of survival stories still to come, for the Great Horned Owl is our neighbor.  Hard times come and go, and the land stays. Days follow days, nights hallowed nights, and the between times are earthy magic, life and death, blood and feathers on the ground.

This is my home. My homeland. Beleaguered by greed and thoughtless action, it is still my home, and I will defend it as best I can while I may, for I am a part of it. And when I am gone, it will do well to defend itself against all comers, with my blessing.

A small bird will drop frozen dead
From a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself.
- D.H. LAWRENCE, Self-Pity

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Transition to harvest time.

Beet pickles. (c) RLMT

An oddly shaped cayenne pepper. (c) RLMT

Tomato juice. (c) RLMT

Several kinds of heirloom tomatoes. (c) RLMT

Sweet banana peppers. (c) RLMT

Every summer, we struggle to plant gardens. We mix in flowers with herbs and vegetables and hope for the best, using no chemicals. We save seeds as we preserve foods along the way. Many of our flowers provide habitat for birds and other beneficial creatures, so that everyone benefits. There are many low-stress, low labor methods of gardening, and we try all of them, including companion gardening, no-touch gardening (Fukuoka), raised beds, and more. The above images represent some of the fruits of our labors, such as we're able to contribute. When possible, we share with those who have less than we have. The earth provides so much. Beauty, peace, food, medicine.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brief news.

I was a child once. That's me, on my first pony. Back when... and in my mother's parents' yard. ~ R.
We exist, like many people these days, in an economic hell not of our own making. I am trying to dig from beneath the trash heap, but it's going to take time. Please bear with me, as this blog is not closed permanently. I hope. 

~ Rhonda.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A long-delayed update from the author.

It has been months since I had a chance to update this blog, for which I do apologize to you, the readers. I assure you, none of this was of my free will.

Health, economic situation(s), family illnesses, and more have conspired to send my hard-to-juggle world into complete disarray. Be that as it may, I am doing my best to make a comeback, and at that with the help of friends who have supported me through all the insane drama (which I dislike intensely) of it all. Many thanks to each of them, and many thanks again for their unending patience. I am not an easy person to like, up close. There are days I don't even like myself, so I can hardly blame others for what I agree with... instead, I hope we all keep a good sense of humor. Some things are so silly that taking one's self too seriously is downright insane. It's a thin line... (ahem).  

Anyway, to get on with the update, my first book, Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings, is doing fairly well. It's still available as both ebook and print through Amazon or my publisher's office.

Economically, it's not a perfect cure. I need to continue working. That's where the health issues come in. I have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome, which I (yes, laughing!) call "Princess and the Pea Syndrome." If you don't know about the symptoms, please take my advice about not laughing at those who suffer from similar. There are many causes of FMS, some of which can be tested for... others, not. I'm also chemical and medication intolerant. Add food allergies and sensitivities into the mix, and life gets interesting, to be mild about it. Not to mention chronic inflammation issues, such as tendinitis and ganglion cysts. 

Were it not for friends who have helped me keep a working computer, contributed Dragon (hands-free writing software) and other items, I would have no hope of completing the book I'm working on now, an Appalachian-based novel for which this blog site was named: Song of the Rain Crow: Psalms from the Book of Memories. We are, again through no fault of our own (and involving health again), struggling to keep our home. Worse, due to a suggested limestone quarry, we're worried that our home will neither be safe nor peaceful. It's a mess. A mess we're trying to get sorted out. Soon, I hope. 

In the meantime, we're optimistically growing a garden again. It keeps me moving. I can't do the standard kind of garden, but our joyous apparently scatterbrained mix of vegetables, flowers, and wild plants (and the occasional neighborly wildlife) produces a large amount of goods with far less labor and misery. We dry, can, or otherwise preserve all we can of what we can glean through the growing season. 

If I stop doing things, I will stop being able to do them. So pain or no pain, natural remedies applied as possible, I keep poking along, and dragging my faithful mate, Ronnie, with me. It beats becoming a vegetative sop of illness. I refuse to do that... I have my days, but the good ones are gradually becoming farther apart. So... I will write. And if that fails, I think I must learn Morse Code... (cough). 

Please bear with me. I'm over age 50, and learning voice-to-text software and how to write a gargantuan kind of novel. Every day is a challenge. Every day is a blessing. Every day is precious. 

Here is the first Psalm from Song of the Rain Crow, my novel-in-progress: 

~ * ~ 

Last night the full moon sat hunched in the sky, round and benevolent in mien. Around it gathered the glittering stars, like eyes reflecting the vast fire of a storyteller. A single plump cloud hovered close, looking much like a small child growing softly weary with the liquid rhythm of the words, thumb in mouth and satisfied so.

Once I was like that child, and once my eyes reflected the fire, and once, I was that storyteller. Someday so shall you be, in the fullness of life.

Come, listen to me. I will tell you a story of intricate cathedrals woven of green and growing beauties where jewels, living, nod bright at every turn. I will spin for you a tale of a land where the forest gods may have worn antler crowns and silken fur with necklaces of bone, tooth, and claw agleam.

For this is a land rich in past; as the spiral has turned and turned, legends have been born, lived, and died. Blood and ash have fed the hungry earth, and her bones have been hewn in turn by the hand of man, even as has human bone been cleaved of flesh.

Let the wild choir sing, the voices of the land have not yet been silenced. The dark eyes of the night seek the fire, but yet do not dare to come too close lest they burn in a hell of their own weaving...

Here, this night, this moment, we are safe. Come closer, child.

~ * ~ 

I will try to update the blog as I can. The only promise I can make is that I will be working on the novel (which is about 1/3 finished at present, and has vast stacks of notes and much work to be done) even if I don't post here. Peace, friends. ~ Rhonda

That first pony... always a special one to remember.

The author, approx. age 3, on her first pony, Freddy Boy. Freddy was a raw little personality with adults, but gentler with children. Freddy was the same age as his mistress, a mind-boggling six months old, when introduced. They had many happy years together. The picture was taken on Church Street, just on the edge of Stanton, Kentucky, at the home of the then-child's maternal grandparents. The image is imperfect, restored from a photo carried by a proud father of the child for years. Stories within stories, and the company of horses. There is no better way to enjoy life. ~ RLMT

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Home ground is precious.

Email letter sent to State Representative and Attorney General (KY)....

Dear _________:

This is a highly time sensitive item, and we ask that you do both take action and reply as soon as possible.

A tiny article in the Clay City Times was almost overlooked by the people of Furnace Mountain (Powell County). It was on page A-13, buried, and in tiny print that discouraged reading of it. It read as follows:

"Notice of intention to Mine Non-Coal Mineral
Pursuant to Application Number 099-9402

In accordance with KRS 350.055, Notice is hereby given that Red River Materials, LLC P.O. Box 13577, Lexington, KY  40583 intends to apply for a non-coal surface mining permit for limestone affecting 44.3 acres located approcinately 5.25 miles south of Stanton in Powell County.

The proposed operation is approcimately 425 feet West of Knowlton Road and Furnace Road and located 0l25 miles South of Pecks Creek. The latitude is 37^47'04". The longditude is 83^49'49".

The proposed operation is located on the Stanton U.S.G.S. 7 1/2 minuted quadrangle map. The Operation will use the pit method of mining.The surface area is owned by Brian and Carmen Billings.

The application will be on file for public inspection ar the Department for Natural Resources Frankfort Office, #2 Hudson Hollow, Frankfort, KY. Written comments, objections, or request for a permit conference must be filed with Director, Division of Mine an dReclamation & Enforcement, #2 Hudson Hollow, Frankfort, KYY 40601, within 15 days of the date of this advertisement and briefly summarize the issues to be raised at a conference."

Sir, there is so much wrong with this application for the given location that it's painful to describe.

For one thing, quarry type operations have been closed down in the area before, ie: Furnace Mountain. The Mountain has an odd geologic pattern, for one thing. For another, the roads will not support the kind of heavy traffic that the trucks going back and forth to a crusher would constitute. The roads are already narrow and without adequate guard rail in places.School buses would be endangered, unable in places to negotiate safely against oncoming trucks; it's already a problem with logging trucks and some farm equipment. The roads are simply not suitable for that kind of traffic.

Another thing is that, as the mountain is primarily sandstone, and sinkholes are increasingly showing up, fracturing the bedrock would cause unsafe conditions for miles. We see no evidence of this being taken into consideration. Point in context, numerous mountain homes have basements that would be damaged. Our own home is in-ground, a modified earth bermed.A few feet from our house, one can stand and tap the ground, hearing the reverberations of water within rock tanks below ground - our property has numerous seepage springs on it. Within roughly a mile of the site, at least 10 to 15 homes fall into the danger zone.

This brings us to the damage to ground water; many people on Furnace Mountain use wells or springs for their water. If the structure of the mountain is damaged by blasts, this water may be fouled or lost entirely. We, none of us, can afford the damage.

Also, what of the numerous gas wells, some in use? People depend on those wells for heat, cooking, and more. Not to mention the possible danger of a gas well being ignited in the area. There is little fire protection, no fire station closer than Stanton, an average of some 8 miles away.

The site is also a historica landmark, including the Brandenburg Cave and a Civil War soldier's gravesite. Generations have visited the cave, and some of the mountain residents have family history there. (We have notified the Red River Historical Society of the situation.)

This operation would create a great deal of dust, loud noise (I repeat, many homes exist within a about a mile of the location), and disturbance in the process. The area is by no means an abandoned property zone. It is a quiet residential and farming area, where the residents enjoy it as such.

The damage to land, health, peace of mind, the wildlife and hunting, local plants and animals and livestock, simple garden crops, would be irreversable. No one of the residents of the mountain moved there to live in the kind of atmosphere created by a rock quarry with the inevitable big trucks and noise, health risks, and destruction that would ensue should this application be approved. Most of the residents are, like us, not rich by anyone's description. In fact, most are low income and live affordably on the mountain, where they can and do raise gardens and children, have pets and livestock, and live and let live quietly. Should this proceed, we all expect the already low property values to plummet. We will all lose.

We would like to continue doing the same: living peacefully and quietly. Can you please help? We have only a few places to turn to, and this operation must be stopped. The deadline is Friday, the 9th. A petition has made the rounds, a Mr. Martin gathering them up. Let us know if you need more information. Thank you for listening.


Rondall ("Ronnie") L. Tipton
Rhonda L.M. Tipton