Why Write This?

Hughs Wordquilts

IMG_E7872-001My fourth novel is out.  Titled “PIPELINE,” it breaks away from my previous Dinkel Island Series, moving to the Virginia mountains. It features events, tensions, and pressures of a community impacted by construction of a natural gas pipeline.  

Some have asked, “Why did you write about this? Why didn’t you just stay with your series? I’ve been waiting to see what happens next with the characters in your other books.  What gives?”

Good questions.

I wrote it because the situation intrigues me. Decades ago I did a sociology project in college studying life in a remote Blue Ridge mountain community. Life there was centered in shared history and primary face-to-face relationships. The people had always been self-sufficient, providing for their basic needs through local interdependence.

At the time of my study, however, the basic needs for food, clothing, employment, education and health services were supplied from outside their community in…

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Why Write This?

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“The wind whistled and tree branches chattered, but he did not perceive the voice of God. Time warped as he clenched his fists and shut his eyes. The judgmental wind rattled his bones. He shuddered and bolted back to the car where he started the engine, turning the heat on high. Billy sat immobilized for a moment. The sound of a passing truck nudged him forward. Life goes on, he told himself as he pulled back onto the road.”

My fourth novel is out.  Titled “PIPELINE,” it breaks away from my previous Dinkel Island Series, moving to the Virginia mountains. It features events, tensions, and pressures of a community impacted by construction of a natural gas pipeline.  

Some have asked, “Why did you write about this? Why didn’t you just stay with your series? I’ve been waiting to see what happens next with the characters in your other books.  What gives?”

Good questions.

I wrote it because the situation intrigues me. Decades ago I did a sociology project in college studying life in a remote Blue Ridge mountain community. Life there was centered in shared history and primary face-to-face relationships. The people had always been self-sufficient, providing for their basic needs through local interdependence.

At the time of my study, however, the basic needs for food, clothing, employment, education and health services were supplied from outside their community in a nearby town. None-the-less, self-sufficiency was highly valued, creating resistance to the values of the larger culture surrounding them. 

Two real-life Virginia natural gas pipeline projects, and resistance toward them, have been increasingly visible over the last few years. As I read and listened to debates about this issue, my mind went back to my college study. I wondered how people in that remote area would have responded had eminent domain caused disruption to their settled world.

I knew, in fact, that such had occurred when the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed. How would it play out if the issue was a pipeline in the setting of  our current time? How would it feel to be part of that experience?

Using the templates of current pipeline issues and my earlier sociological study, I began to imagine a present-day isolated community, its people, history, traditions, and stresses in the modern world. Within that framework I designed the village of Strong’s Creek, and the adjacent, more isolated section called Frog Hollow.

Most authors write from the perspective of their own training and experience. Having spent decades as a local church pastor, I use that lens for my perspective.

In “PIPELINE,” a brand new pastor, Billy Upshur, is assigned to Strong’s Creek and Frog Hollow. He runs headlong into emotional reactivity toward the pipeline project. He also discovers much of the reactivity is centered around the house of an aging Cherokee healer whom everyone respects. Her house is threatened by the pipeline.

One of Billy’s early challenges is dealing with fear. Another is clarifying a faith perspective on the pipeline issue. Both tasks are embraced by scripture passages from Psalms 23 and Jeremiah 29. 

“PIPELINE” has many twists and turns, folksy moments as well as dramatic, even violent times. Romance also comes to play when a local Frog Hollow woman, Cindy Barker, and Billy fall in love. 

Writing “PIPELINE” was an intense emotional experience. I collected newspaper articles, consulted online sources, and shared excerpts with my two writer’s groups during the process. For a long time I could not envision exactly how these various strands would come together in the end. Then one day in early August, while doing my morning fitness walk, the wrap-up came clearly into my mind. While I had aimed for an early October release, I was now able to finish and publish a few weeks earlier.

“PIPELINE: A Novel” is available on Amazon in both e-Book and paperback formats. I hope you will be curious enough to get a copy and have a good read. Let me know your thoughts by writing a review for Amazon.

Blessings from Frog Hollow.

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Endurance

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It’s the Fourth of July…our nation’s birthday.  As I returned from walking this morning clouds were building, sometimes blocking the sun briefly.  The view captured here struck me…the sun shining through the blue field on the flag just before disappearing.  I thought of endurance.

Our nation was formed two-hundred-forty-two years ago.  Today’s newspaper carried the full text of the Declaration of Independence, which I read at breakfast.  The ideals that formed our nation were like sunlight bringing faith, hope, purpose–a higher view into a world landscape frequently marred by greed, self-interest, intolerance, and hatred–clouds that confuse and disrupt life.

Clouds always fascinate me.  They can move in with a vengeance, bearing storms that kill and destroy.  They can also paint an overarching canvas of majestic radiance across a sunset landscape.  Clouds change constantly.  Sometimes, as this morning, they can swallow the sun, dimming its presence.  But the sun has endurance.  the storms pass, the sun returns.   

At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln described this enduring sun that our nation represents.  He defined it as government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  That’s what makes us different, strong, flexible, tolerant, and durable.  Sometimes clouds of dissent dim the sunlight of our character, but we come through those ordeals with strength and resolve, wiser for the experience.  We have endurance.

It was on a July morning sixty-two years ago that I stood in a U.S. Army recruiting station and took an oath to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic–to be part of the sun that endures beyond the clouds.  Recently one of my grandsons did the same thing.  He said his country had given him so much, and he wanted to give back.  He wanted to be part of keeping the sun shining.

At the heart of this nation’s formation was a faith in God’s enduring love and purpose, and a desire to order life around that source of sunlight.  That center of endurance will persist with us as long as we remain connected to God at the core of who we are.  Today there are many clouds moving across our landscape.  Sometimes the sun seems to disappear.  But clouds always dissipate, and the sunlight is still there.

Faith, love, hope, and trust in God are essential at the heart of life…of our choices, actions, attitudes, behavior, hopes and dreams…in order for us to be people of sunlight and strength.  We will suffer, grow, and change over the years, but endurance for such times comes from the sun, not the clouds.  Psalm 136:1  says it well:  “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  (NRSV)

 

 

    

Rainy Day Dominoes

Hughs Wordquilts

IMG_E8206It was raining yesterday morning when my wife  and I left the house for our round of Saturday errands.  We decided to stop at a doughnut shop.  After being served we took our sugary treats and coffee to a table where we settled into reading the newspaper.  In the background were the sounds of the bustling enterprise, and the conversations of families with children.  

Putting down a section of the paper I looked up to see a couple at the next table engaged in a game of dominoes.  As I watched, their interactions took me back seventy or so years to domino games with my Grandpa Harris.  He had a Double Nine set and always seemed ready to challenge me to a few matches whenever I visited.    

At the time, we lived in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati.  Grandpa and Grandma Harris lived fifty miles east at Mowrystown.  He…

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Rainy Day Dominoes

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It was raining yesterday morning when my wife  and I left the house for our round of Saturday errands.  We decided to stop at a doughnut shop.  After being served we took our sugary treats and coffee to a table where we settled into reading the newspaper.  In the background were the sounds of the bustling enterprise, and the conversations of families with children.  

Putting down a section of the paper I looked up to see a couple at the next table engaged in a game of dominoes.  As I watched, their interactions took me back seventy or so years to domino games with my Grandpa Harris.  He had a Double Nine set and always seemed ready to challenge me to a few matches whenever I visited.    

At the time, we lived in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati.  Grandpa and Grandma Harris lived fifty miles east at Mowrystown.  He had a 16-acre farm where he rented out land to neighbors for grazing or raising crops.  He also kept some chickens and a milk cow, and had a pond where he taught me to fish.  A field behind the barn was perfect for flying kites on windy days.  

Several summers my folks dropped me off for a two-week “vacation” there.  I spent hours of free-range imagination time on a swing grandpa put on the branch of a large tree outside the kitchen.  We fished with a bamboo pole he made for me.  Sometimes we went shopping or took a picnic lunch and visited the Native American burial mounds.  But the thing I always enjoyed most were the domino games.

We’d start out vying for who had the highest number of dots on a single tile in order to go first.  We built roadways of linking numbers across the table, always looking for the double nine and a chance to play it.  We laughed at each other when we had no usable tiles and had to raid the “bone pile.”  It was fun.  I never tired of it, and it seemed, neither did he.

All of this came back to me in the doughnut shop Saturday.  It was obvious from their conversation that the man was playing dominoes with his grandmother.  In our hurried world, it seems rare to find someone unhurriedly and gently nurturing a caring relationship with a simple game at a table.  The rain poured outside, but the sun shone inside.

I spoke to the couple, “Would you mind if I take your picture?”

“No, go ahead.”

I did, and then asked if they would mind me sharing it on Facebook.

He said “No.”

Soon after that we gathered our papers and got up to leave.  I thanked them for sharing a little of their world with us.  He looked up and smiled…Grandma matched her six to the six on one of his tiles.  We waved goodbye.

Maybe we could all use a few more rainy day domino moments in our busy lives.

    

 

Clouds of Confusion

Hughs Wordquilts

IMG_6837-002Sometimes I feel bombarded by clouds of confusion that masquerade as communication.  It happens on those morning talk shows where co-hosts engage each other or guests in trivialities with increasing volume.  One speaks, the other interrupts to shift the focus, two or more people talking past each other.  Sound bullets fly randomly through the airwaves, striking unknown listener targets. 

I recall a live fire exercise during my army basic training.   Walking through a field with loaded M-1 rifles (I know, I’m an old guy!)  we were to fire at pop up targets when they appeared.  On one occasion a  guy behind me fired without a clear view of the target.  I actually heard the bullet whiz past my helmet.  The training sergeant chewed him out and a moment of confusion became an occasion for clarification.

Sometimes our words are like that bullet, flying right past someone’s ear.  Words aimed for…

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