Saturday, December 27, 2008

Newest Article in Mountain Traditions Magazine

Hi, folks.

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

If you're interested, my newest article in Mountain Traditions Magazine, "Woven By Hand," is available online. Enjoy!

Go to:
Scroll down on the left side to Special Sections, and click on Mountain Traditions.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Our Christmas "Photo"

In lieu of a traditional family photo, this year we thought we'd save trees (and money) by downloading some photos here, of a year in the life of the Crawford-Dodsons.

May you find peace, joy and comfort in this season of wonder,"May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white."

Our love,

Katie, Stuart & Scout

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

God Bless America!

Attributed to AP: Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech, as prepared for delivery on Election Night, November 4, 2008:

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Politics in America

For the upcoming election, I offer these quotations:

"I'm in love with this country called 'America.' I'm a huge fan of America. I'm one of those annoying fans--you know, the ones that read the CD notes and follow you into bathrooms and ask you all kinds of annoying questions about why you didn't live up to that. I'm that kind of fan. I've read the Declaration of Independence, and I've read the Constitution of the United States, and they are some liner notes, dude."
~ Bono

"Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

"I want either less corruption, or more of chance to participate in it."
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

"If you can't convince them, confuse them."
~ Harry S. Truman

"In politics stupidity is not a handicap."
~ Napoleon Bonaparte

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."
~ Ronald Reagan

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
~ Thomas Jefferson

"Vote early and vote often."
~ Al Capone

"What luck for the rulers that men do not think."
~ Adolf Hitler

"Sometimes it has been said that man cannot be trusted with the governmen of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."
~ Thomas Jefferson

"Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason."
~ Anonymous

"Take our politicians: they're a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize."
~ Saul Bellow

"We have, I fear, confused power with greatness."
~ Stewart Udall

"The problem with political jokes is they get elected."
~ Henry Cate VII

"A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation."
~ James Freeman Clarke, Sermon

"As you know, my position is clear -- I'm the Commander Guy."
~ George W. Bush

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
~ George Bernard Shaw

"The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office."
~ Will Rogers

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
~ Thomas Jefferson

"Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write."
~ John Adams

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world."
~ Abraham Lincoln

"I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."
~ Abraham Lincoln

"I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries give, give. The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the prerogatives of Government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Humane Nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances."
~ Abigail Adams

Friday, October 31, 2008

Snow in October, Hallowe'en in My Head

On Tuesday morning, it snowed in Brevard. And not just a few, miserly flakes: the stuff came down--so thick it hid the mountains from view, and made my drive to work feel like inching through a blizzard. But, because it is the South and only October, it melted by 9 a.m.

I am a fool for snow. If it had stuck around long enough, I would've tromped my students outside to stand in it, and somehow managed to make the weather relate to writing... just so I could get my time in before it melted. I come by this snowmadness honestly: When I was growing up in South Carolina, my parents--especially my Dad--made snow days more magical than Christmas. (And Christmas was pretty freaking magical in my house.)

The year of the Big Snow, something everyone who grew up in the '80s in Greenville, S.C. still talks about, it snowed well over a foot, and school was out for nearly two weeks. My father took buckets of water and washed down our driveway and road, so it'd be perfectly slick for sledding. He and his friends tied our sleds with old ski ropes to the back of someone's Waggoneer, and they tugged us around our neighborhood for hours, the moms in the way back with the hatch open, giggling and hanging on. We sledded for hours down the hill near a local Baptist church, a gang of StayPuff marshmellow kids in our snowskiing gear (bibs, jackets, gloves, boots, hats)--which the nearest house with the nearest mom would dump into her dryer, filling us with hot chocolate before sending us out again.

My neighbors, formerly of the coast, pulled out their surfboards and removed the fins, and we surfed down the hill in front of my house. My black lab, Magic, raced circles around the house in a blur of white. Each morning, my sister and I woke up, raced to our parents' bedroom where they had the radio on by their bed, to wait anxiously to hear whether My 102.5 would announce that school was cancelled again in Greenville County. My God, it was magic.

It doesn't snow much any more. And even though I've moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, a much higher elevation than my hometown, I've only seen a few inches each year--mostly ice--that melts in a day, leaves me sad and a little slushy. I long for those preternatural sunrises, pressing my face to my cold bedroom window and praying that my world would still be white. I miss the igloo my Dad and his friends built us, the real fires in the fireplaces, the way my neighborhood became a festival of friends for two straight weeks, the fun neverending.

But now, there's Hallowe'en in my head. Feile Samhna to all! Happiest of All Souls' Days, All Hallow's Eves, the night just before Samhain, the night when the door supposedly creaks open between this world and the next, and the spirits roam. No matter what anyone says, or how much we've 'roided Hallowe'en up with commercialism, it is a preternatural night: a night our ancestors (just about all of them, no matter what your DNA looks like) recognized as different. If you stand outside in the chilly dark tonight, away from the squealing kids and orange lights and ringing doorbells, you might feel it brush your face, give you a little shiver. If you do, I say you're lucky. Hallowe'en has many faces, many traditions, many legends associated with it... and not all are scary.

My husband and I have been debating for a week about what to do with ourselves tonight. Our neighborhood, which is not even a half mile from downtown, will become swamped with trick-or-treating children at about 6 p.m., and will not cease until after 10 p.m. They are mini-vanned in from all corners of the county... and sometimes the street up from us is blocked off by police cars so the kids can wander freely. It's not anything out of the ordinary for folks in our neighborhood to spend $400 on candy each year.

Suffice to say, we cannot afford this. And so, we flee after a time... and I think that's what we'll do tonight. But first, we'll buy a couple of bags of candy from the dollar store--if they've any left--and pass it out to the first little ghouls, the cutest ones of the entire night, and then we'll walk downtown to eat, maybe to a movie. We'll leave Scout, our dog, to guard the dark house.

For the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns's famous poem about Hallowe'en, check out:

For an interesting article on the Celtic origins of Hallwe'en, go to:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apple Picking in Western North Carolina

What a gorgeous weekend, and Columbus Day. I spent it picking apples with my dear friends the Mountcastles (including dog Woody) at the Stepp Family Orchard in Edneyville, N.C. It was an incredible day: October-blue skies, bright sun, and apples of all kinds: Gala, Mutsu, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Crispin, Arkansas Black, Granny Smith, and more!

We filled our baskets to the brim, fed the neighbor's horses, and took plenty of photos. I loved spending the day, most especially, with Hardy and Heyden Mountcastle, the two coolest boys I know.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sam's Knob Backpack

Ah, cooling, crisp, aquamarine-skied Autumn. October is absolutely my favorite month in the North Carolina mountains. The summer humidity has retreated, the skies are clear, mornings are foggy and icy, and the landscape turns all shades of fire.

Our little town of Brevard is filling up with tourists once again: they come in droves (and minivans and SUVs bearing Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina tags) to take in Fall in the mountains. And even when they drive exceedingly slow and block traffic because they have no clue where they're going and refuse to pull over to find out, I'm happy they're here. In these increasingly sad economic times, they bring sustenance to our local businesses. (Now, if they could only increase the number of students attending Brevard College, I'd have a job next semester.)

I spent most of the weekend with three fabulous friends--Erin McManus, Mike La Voie and Liddell Shannon (plus dogs Finn and Scout)--in Pisgah National Forest, up above the Blue Ridge Parkway at an area called Sam's Knob. The colors were incredible, and will surely be peaking at that elevation by next weekend (Note to leaf-watchers headed to the area). We hiked out on Saturday--our packs overflowing with a ridiculous amount of food and adult beverages--to celebrate Erin's 32nd birthday in the woods. We secured a prime campsite along rocky, gurgling Laurel Creek, built a fire, and enjoyed Mike's fabulous cooking: cheese, proscuitto and fresh bread appetizer, wine, beer, and pasta with red sauce and shrimp.

We told ghost stories (and some real ones) around the campfire, checked out the stars and settled in. Were interrupted rudely in the early AM by a couple of drunk guys who stumbled through our campsite and fired their headlamps into our tents. At the dogs' growling, they departed--but not before they poked and prodded at our bear bags full of food and trash. Punks.

Early the next morning (because my dog is like an antsy two year-old) I woke and took a solo walk down the trail in the frost, breath fogging in front of my face. The woods were silent, the creek bubbling, and ice magically coated everything, turning the earth crystal in the rising sun. I breathed in the cold, fresh air, and thanked the Divine for all of it.

Now it's time to return to the world of grading papers, trying to write a second, better novel, and attempting to better and enjoy my home and family. The most reassuring aspect of it all is that I can return to Sam's Knob and the forest just about any time I want. Such is the glory of living here. Again, I say, "Ah."

(Photos graciously supplied by Ms. Liddell Shannon.)