By: Marilyn McVicker
I dance in circles.
My feet pirouette to
the ¾-beat of a waltz.
Slow, my arms ballet an arc.
Flow right, two, three,
left, two, three.
My hair brushes my shoulders,
skirt caresses my thighs.
You dance with me,
your black velvet coat at my fingertips.
We weave through the room,
your brown eyes gaze into my blue.
the crescendo rises
blend of woman and dog,
connection beyond species,
pas de deux,
canine and she wolf.
Feed the new green
So our tears feed our cheers.
So our grief feeds our relief
And our bitter feeds our sweet.
If your heart is broken…
At least, it is open.
R. Philip Toy, Chan Tue Lon, True Mountain of Insight
By: Sandi Tomlin-Sutker, Editor
In our recent Reader’s Survey, over 75% of respondents told us they have pets (a bit higher than the national average of 62%). Not surprising, really, since 39 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog; and 12 percent own three or more dogs (I use the term “own” with caution but these stats come from the Humane Society and they use the word.)
Regarding cats, they found that 33 percent of U.S. households own at least one cat; and on average, owners have two cats.
Nine in ten pet owners surveyed say they consider their pet a member of the family. Fish, birds, lizards, etc., are also included in the category of pets.
Twenty-one percent of owned dogs and cats were adopted from an animal shelter. Seventy-eight percent of owned dogs and eighty-eight percent of owned cats are spayed or neutered; but only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. So, are we making progress in caring for animals?
Sadly, there are other statistics: Approximately five to seven million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats).
And yet, the ASPCA found that the cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year.
I know I’m “preaching to the choir” here, but the numbers are quite dismaying; it’s about personal responsibility, yes; but isn’t the treatment of animals (domesticated or otherwise) also a good indication of one’s belief in the sanctity of life… and vice versa?
By: Jeff Smith, DVM
A new monthly column presented by local experts in pet care
Nutrition: Closer to Nature is Always Better!
I am asked all the time, “What should I feed my dog or cat?” There is not a single simple answer to this question but hopefully you will gain some clarity from the following information.
There are three main diet considerations: budget, ingredients, and convenience.
Budget – One of the main points I emphasize at my puppy and kitten visits is the importance of nutrition, especially in a fast growing animal… I convey, “the more you can spend on food, the less you will need to see me…”
The spectrum ranges from frozen raw food with an eye toward sustainability on the one end to the other end: food sources deemed unsuitable for human consumption (by-products such as beaks, feathers, claws, even tumors) that are combined with fillers and artificial colors & flavors and then cooked.
Another important and often overlooked factor to consider is that it can take up to four times the amount of low quality food to equal the calories from higher quality food. (Side note: food in = stool out…)
Ingredients – Dogs and cats are carnivores. They have not evolved to eat grains – their sharp teeth are designed for tearing! In nature, they ingest a balanced diet by eating an entire carcass, which includes protein from muscle, calcium from bones, fiber from the hide/hair/feathers, fruits & vegetables from stomach contents, and vitamins, minerals & enzymes from organs.
With ongoing pet food recalls, it is tempting to prepare a homemade diet for your pet and, though this is a good idea, it is important to ensure it is balanced. Please seek a recipe from a veterinarian to avoid creating bone and vital organ deficiencies. Note that raw meats from the grocery store have high bacteria counts on the surface, as they are intended to be cooked (regulated by the USDA); certified raw frozen pet foods are not (regulated by the FDA).
Unfortunately, processing food with heat and pressure denatures the proteins/enzymes and destroys vitamins, making processed foods far inferior to fresh or fresh-frozen. If you choose to feed processed (dry, moist or canned) food, you will need to do a fair amount of label reading (the back of the bag, not the front) to ensure a quality diet.
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight before they are cooked. Therefore, even if a meat source (no by-products, by the way) is listed first, it will shrink up to 80% upon cooking. So any grains listed next will likely be the dominant ingredients. Meat meals are not all bad. They contain some bone (for calcium, to balance the phosphorus in the meat) and have less moisture content so they can provide a higher protein content after cooking.
Ideally, grains and potatoes (carbohydrates and starches) should be avoided as these simple sugars typically provide more energy than an individual needs, challenge blood sugar-regulating mechanisms, and are easily stored as fat if unused by exercise in short order.
Avoid all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives – at all cost! All processed food needs to be preserved but look for mixed tocopherols (vitamin E and C) as opposed to BHA/BHT and ethoxyquin. On the subject of artificial colors, I often tell my clients, “Your dog doesn’t need to poop a rainbow.” Think about it…
Convenience – We are fortunate that Asheville has an abundance of independently owned pet food stores where the owners have extensive knowledge of evolutionary nutrition and can guide you to the best food for your pet that your budget will allow. Pay them a visit!
By: Gretchin Whalen, daughter of Kate Bertram
Her dying was quite merciful and the home burial was miraculous.
Katharine and I came up on Sunday—and Mom breathed her last the following Wednesday. Scott and Ella had come the day before. Mom was very weak, down to 94 pounds and could not get up to talk much. They baked French bread Saturday from her recipe—when they showed Mom the loaf, she said, “beautiful” and a little later she tried to get up, “to slice and butter the bread.”
She did not say many words to me—nor were they needed. When she had not moved in many hours, she raised her face and kissed me.
The morning she died, after a hard night, it was like transition in a birth. Scott turned her on her side, as she used to like to sleep, and she got very comfortable, her color came back, she breathed normally with her mouth closed—a peaceful deep sleep. Her beloved caregiver, Linda, was there; when she was leaving, Linda said to Mom: “I love you always and forever.” A hawk came and sat outside Mom’s door.
Scott was baking bread again. It was one of those amazing 70 degree days in December. He came out and said, “I think Mom’s gone.” It was deeply peaceful and beautiful.
Just then Mom’s newer caregiver, Debbie, came; she had met Mom only the week before but they had a powerful connection. Mom had come out of her silence and shown Debbie her books and told her about her life—a new audience!
Debbie knew all about how to wash and dress Mom and she knew how to let us proceed at our pace as we needed.
Kim had gone to town, so we called and he came back. I got to pick Mom’s clothes—her warm red wool socks, the red thermal shirt I had gotten her, her favorite old sweater vest (Pendleton, grey & pink). The dark blue sweat pants with pockets for Mom’s handkerchief—she would never go anywhere without one because her eyes teared; and her slippers, more comfortable on her old gnarled feet… her favorite blanket. People had told me that once a person stops breathing, they are gone—but that was not my experience.
The nice woman came from Hospice to declare Mom dead. We all sat around the table there in Mom’s little house and ate fresh-baked bread and drank tea and coffee. Mom lay beautifully at peace in her bed there in the same room.
Then we moved her up into her old bed in the cabin room where it was cooler. Beautiful light there; her face was radiating love and light and so it was until her burial. I could put my face next to hers and feel her love.
Kim and Scott and a friend built Mom’s box from boards her best farmer friend had given her. They pulled her on the farm trailer behind the tractor—Mom’s best friend Regina’s husband had dug the grave with his backhoe. It was a beautiful warm day—violets were blooming in the fields.
Kim played guitar and sang a hymn he had picked and had a friend read the 23rd Psalm, which is one Mom liked; she could recite it all of course, with her phenomenal memory. I like the part: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”
She was buried on her farm, right next to where she used to have her big garden, under an apple tree she grafted years ago. The place looks out over the rolling back hay fields, and there will be lots of summer lilacs and maybe a few gladioli left from their hey-day—when the time comes—blooming.
By: Cathy Sky
Blackie, with your amber
Sweet as wild honey
Or soft morning rain —
Frail old lady,
Grey flecks salt your obsidian coat;
You are will itself in furry form.
A nudge or two on my bare feet,
You are a whisp, a brush past my calf.
Bellows – breathing
An effort for you,
It’s not long now.
The long grasses will whisper and part
The way clean and beckoning
You will enter
On small feet
Your black pencil tail tracing the air
In a tempo regal and calm,
Right as the sigh of leaves.
By: Joanie Harrison
If you concentrate
Toss the thought around,
It should land
In a pile of possibilities
Begging you to
Sift and sort
Mold and meld
Making vessels from a
Muddle of ideas
To carry your conception
To fill fruitions’ basket.
So get digging and planting
Raking out and composting in,
Till and turn,
Weed and water ,
Nurture the tender cotyledon of your desire
And the once barren spot in your soul
Will fill with the bounty of your dreams.
By: Margaret Steiner
Leo and I are sitting around last night, Lay-z-Boy reclining actually, when the phone rings. It is our neighbors Leda and Soloman (and, no, he is not very wise); strange folks, they are. (An example: once Leda called and asked Leo if she could use his pick-up truck. Use it. His vehicle. She had something she needed to pick up. Leo said no but that afternoon he drove her, picked whatever up, carried it up a long flight of stairs. I do remember that whatever it was was heavy and required Leo to complain all night long. He came home cussing because Leda had said thank you but had not offered him a beer or any form of liquid nourishment. I said, next time say that your truck is broken. And he said, Theo, you’re the liar in the family. And I let him get away with that one. I did not remind Leo of the time Leda called me on a hot, hot summer’s morning to say, you know, we don’t have ac and I was just wondering if you would mind if I come visit with you this afternoon. Wits alert and antennae twitching, I had quickly replied, so sorry, but I am going to be out all afternoon. That was the day I hung drapes in the garage so no passerby could see if our vehicles were home or not.)
Anyway tonight Leda asked to speak to Leo. I held my hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “It’s Leda. Get your lie ready.” (I think Leda is still miffed at me because where our property line touches on hers way back next to the woods, there is an old fence, probably a hold-over from the days when all of this land was a farm—that grows every vine known to the human race—honeysuckle, wisteria, ivy, trumpet vine—and Leda, who tries to organic garden (Really! As if the bees are going to respect that no-pesticides rule!) wants all those vines dead without using pesticide. I had no interest in the project, especially in the manner she chose, vine pulling by hand. PLEASE. I said, I have allergies, terrible skin reactions to such elements, but, honey, you have my permission to come on my part of that land and pull my share of vines all you want. I could feel the contempt through the phone line. Leda, I say, chemicals are our friends. Go forth and spray. Kill. Put on your spurs and Round Up. Agent Orange it all. She hung up and hasn’t called me since.)
Leo puts her on speaker phone. “It’s Jose,” I hear her say. And then a tight sob. “He’s run away.” “Who’s Jose,” Leo asks. “One of our rabbits.” A sniff. “He’s white and black. If you see him.” Another sniff. “Please call. He’s been gone since morning.”
Then I remember. Before she stopped talking to me, Leda had invited me to come to see her weave her five rabbits’ fur into wool. I almost went. I do love an entrepreneur. But this day one hare had hared. (Don’t you just love it when you use a verb like hare and then look it up and see that it does exist and that you haven’t just malaproped it into existence.) “When Soloman called him, he didn’t come,” Leda continues.
“Well,” I tell Leo, “Jose has a rabbit sized cranium so what did she expect.”
Later that evening, Leo and I feel some sort of guilt and put on real clothes and go out into the dark to see if maybe we can help. “We’ll give it a shot,” Leo says, “but I think Jose’s new name might be Coyote Snack.” (What is it with the coyotes! They get lost or something? Suddenly they are everywhere. Well, I do admire that entrepreneur spirit—coyote or no.)
“Bunny, here Bunny Wunny,” I say, mostly because I have had my half of a bottle of red. Then I tried, “Here, Fiver. Here, Flopsy. Here, Mopsy.” I have to think for a moment (see previous statement about wine). “Oh, yeah, here, Cotton Tail.” And just like that, (I am snapping my fingers as I write) there was a flash of white. Right in the bush where my neighbor Wendy threw all the vegetable peelings and such from the last cookout we had. “Look,” I yelled, “it’s Jose.”
He was huge. Think Jimmy Stewart’s Harvey. What my uncle would have called frying size. Bigger even. Major pot. Long time boiling. Black and white and gray and very, very dirty. He picked up a lettuce leaf and bounded away. Throwing his legs back. Showing his scut. Proud and wild. “Jose,” I screamed. You would have thought I had found my long lost Latino lover. He took off again up the bank. “Do something, Leo.” Lord knows, I have said this before. And Leo says, “Herd him this way.” So up I go, slipping and sliding. Herding, for those of you who have never done so, is easy. You just walk forward. I circle. I walk down the bank and Jose looks back once before Leo grabs him by the foot and puts him in rabbit prison, our back porch.
When I phone, I hope Soloman answers (see previous statements at the beginning of this story) and for a moment, I want to tell him half that rabbit is mine but I remember the Biblical Soloman’s answer to the riddle so I just say, come and get your baby.
So we saved a hairy hare. I feel good. I hope he had himself an amazing night. King of rabbits. The does, family Leporidae, probably swooned and showed off their own more common scuts. Maybe there will be little Joses. Somewhere the legend is growing already. Maybe a new religion. And if he crapped on my back porch, well, sobeit and amen.
Yours in Retirement, Theo Mentant, reporter of the insignificant
I grew up in Galax, Virginia, an Appalachian mountain town, and ran from the poverty that was my heritage. I find that I love that place still: the high rolling hills, the green land, the people who say kn i fe with that long i, the strength of mountain women that makes me me. But I cannot go home. Instead, I write about the South—because I have to. Now I live in Asheville, type on my back porch, and watch the wild turkeys eat all my blueberries.
By: David Lamoureaux
Greetings, dear Grandpa, with love and affection
It’s been a year-and-a-half since my wedding reception.
I just thought I’d tell you how life really is,
Not like those fairy tales you told us as kids.
Your lectures on women still ring in my ears.
Treat them gentle and dearly
they’ll love you for years.
Being dainty and fragile, they need special care.
Bring them flowers and candy,
and they’ll always be there.
Grandpa, what a shock you’re about to receive,
Because there’s a new breed of female
you wouldn’t believe.
The fashions they’ve altered;
they wear what they please,
Including leather and metal and men’s BVD’s.
Their hair color, too, now ranges supreme.
It has more shades than a spectrum machine,
From oranges, purples, blues and reds.
You may even see more than one color per head.
Others dress up like men, wearing our ties,
Smoking big black cigars, like one of the guys.
They’re independent and stronger, less in need,
Than the way you said and led me to believe.
With high self-esteem they roll with the punches.
They ask us for dates and pay for our lunches.
It’s not always clear to see what you’ve got,
‘Cause sometimes it looks like what it is not.
These things I’ve found out much on my own,
But not before I’d settled down
and established a home.
I did what you told me, but nevertheless, I still got myself into one hell of a mess.
After I married, somehow you see,
It all ended up quite differently.
My wife took this job, which she loves and adores,
While I stay at home to do all the chores.
It looked like a snap; I thought I’d made out.
Get plenty of rest, just straightening about.
But I’m up with the birds and sometimes before.
This cleaning’s too much I can’t take anymore.
I’m changing the diapers, making the beds,
Cooking and washing, making sure they’re all fed
While she’s driving a truck, having a ball.
Right now she’s pumping iron in the back hall.
Hell! It’s not like you said a marriage would be.
My wife doesn’t obey and administer to me.
Those wonderful things you neglected to teach me
Have finally caught up and are starting to reach me.
I’m always a frazzle my nerves are all shot.
I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’m crying a lot.
I keep hearing these voices about taking a trip.
Do you think perhaps I’m losing my grip?
I have to close now, grandfather dear,
And see what they want,
those two men that are here.
They keep mentioning this room,
very small and all white,
With pads everywhere and an overhead light.
They have this white coat they want me to try.
I hope that it’s free; it’s not one I would buy,
‘Cause it’s not my own style, I know it won’t fit,
Those sleeves are too long and it’s tight at the hip.
There’s no room for your hands,
With buckles and straps.
Who’d ever buy a jacket like that.
By: Peggy Ratusz
Rockell Scott has a tremendous amount of class and passion in everything she does, says and sings. And it’s fortunate for Asheville that she recently embarked on a musical journey that many have been urging her to pursue for quite some time.
I first caught wind of this billowing wonder of a songstress/pianist almost two years ago when a mutual friend gushed about her after hearing her perform at Sharon LaMotte’s Jazz Vocal Showcase at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues. That was just the start of a cavalcade of unsolicited accolades I received about her from many folks in my circle of friends and fans; so I made it my mission to track her down. When I did, I invited her to share her presence and prowess with us at Tressa’s Female Artist Spotlight Night back in March of this year. I was thrilled when she accepted the invitation. That night was the first time I’d heard her do her thing, and though she performed six or seven slow love and love gone wrong songs, you could hear a pin drop as we all sat hushed, mesmerized by the texture of her vocal instrument. The affection and homage she was paying to sentimentality in song was palpable.
As Rockell and I engage in a late afternoon chat over the phone, we start with present day and work our way back and forth through her years as singer and pianist:
Minister of Music for Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville for the past many years, she’s a mother of two: daughter Taylor Whiteside who is 11 and son Carter Whiteside who is 7 years old, are her “world.” She’s one of three daughters and friend to everyone she meets.
Musically speaking, Rockell has always exuded confidence and shared her leadership skills in church. But that’s not always been the case in venues on the other side of the pastoral walls. While ours is to not ask why, it’s hard not to, given the earthy, intuitive voice, fingers gliding over the piano keys, the captivating and confident performance she delivers. Witnessing this, parishioners, fans, friends and family who have wanted more have beseeched her and she has answered the clarion call by orchestrating a long-awaited two-hour concert she’s calling The Dream Tour which takes place at Diana Wortham Theater on Saturday, July 7th at 7:30pm. She chose the name because of her drive to achieve personal goals now, and to finally not let anything anyone does or says affect her level of confidence. She’s a proponent and preaches to women in particular that at any age it’s never too late to pursue and dig up dreams that have been buried, ignored or otherwise set aside.
Rockell will be performing an array of Jazz Standards as well as Sacred songs she’s had specially arranged. She’ll be accompanied by a rhythm section dream team: Bill Gerhardt on piano, Mike Holstein on upright bass and Sonny Thornton on drums. For those of you not familiar with these players, please take it from me that the chemistry between these three Jazz savants runs deeper then deep. The thought of this astoundingly gifted chanteuse fronting this line-up makes me want to stand up and holler! You can purchase tickets on line or attempt to get in at the door the evening of the show, if it’s not sold out by the time you arrive.
A worshiper by nature, this forty year old “crooner” has been singing since she was a child. She believed for a long time that the ballads and love songs she’s been drawn to and yearning to sing would bore people; therefore her motivation to pursue a partly secular career waned. Now that everybody has succeeded in helping convince Rockell to step onto stages outside of church she realizes those “torch songs” are touching hearts and souls in ways too big to explain.
Her “influences” when I asked her to name them aren’t singers. They are songs themselves. “I don’t listen to voices; I listen to songs.” She explained that the lack of confidence she endured and overcame was due in part to the pressure in making comparisons that we well-meaning live-music fans place on musicians. And make no mistake about it everybody… Rockell Scott has found and knows her own voice, expresses her own style and posses unique musical convictions. “Though the artists people compare me to are famous and wonderful, I just want people to say that I sound like me. So when I’m learning a song, I learn it without listening to the vocals.”
From 1992 to 1996, her job in the United States Air Force was that of “Jazz Singer” for the Scott Air Force Base (Illinois) Jazz Band. Her intention was to make it through Tops In Blue, an all-active-duty US Air Force special unit made up of talented amateur performers. Though members undergo an audition process and eventually go back to their units to perform their duties as doctors, nurses, chefs, cooks, etc., Rockell’s sole job in that four years was that of Jazz Singer. That title brought with it validation and a balance she hadn’t known was missing in her life. A born leader, she learned that being a follower had its merit. Working with other musicians, who also had great ideas and the expertise to execute them, taught her to be a keen listener. It gave her the opportunity to hear and admire other singers who could “bring it” too.
Rockell has not yet released a CD and she has very little on-line presence. This is a beautiful thing in my opinion. The reason is because the fans she’s accumulated have all arrived through word of mouth and through personal experiences with this incredibly lovely woman; someone who doesn’t pause at lending a helping hand. What goes around does come around. Besides, word of mouth has always been and always will be the best form of advertisement and promotion. She intends to compile a song list of Jazz and Worship songs and begin working on a CD release soon. (And if we all keep on her… )
It’s all about family for Rockell and though her sisters Twinetta Bayran and Drusilla Ridgell don’t perform per se, they will be joining her on stage on July 7th on a selection or two, as will her daughter Taylor. “She out sings me!” says this proud mom. “If you don’t believe me, and few do until she sings, you’ll hear for yourself!”
Though she doesn’t try to emulate any other artist, Rockell says this: “My first musical experiences were inspired and encouraged by my mother who is a phenomenal woman, pianist and singer. She’s been my hero, my idol, who I emulate musically and in everything I do. She’s admired by many and thought to be one of the best Gospel musicians in the states. My idol is definitely my mama, Joan Bell, Music Minister at Brevard’s Bethel A Baptist Church. Truly, I have walked in my mother’s footsteps and for this I know there are great things to come!”
For tickets to the Dream Tour, Saturday July 7th at 7:30p Diana Wortham Theatre www.dwtheatre.com
Peggy Ratusz is a songstress, writer and vocal coach firstname.lastname@example.org www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz
Other noteworthy July dates from Women Making Music in WNC:
Sat, July 7th 5pm – Nikki Talley – Early free show Jack of the Wood
Friday, July 13th 9pm – The Broadcast, fronted by the phenomenal, Caitlin Krisko – Jack of the Wood
Sat, July 14th 5pm – Leigh Glass & the Hazards – WNC Ribfest in Fletcher, NC
Sunday, July 15th 8pm – Gina Sicilia Band – Altamont Theatre, 18 Church Street
Friday, July 20th – 10pm – Peggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs – Tressa’s Downtown Jazz/Blues
Sat, July 21st – 7:30pm – Peggy Ratusz & Duane Simpson – Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack
The Local Women Making Music at Bele Chere 2012:
Friday, July 27th 5pm – Whitney Moore Band – Biltmore Ave. stage
Sat, July 28th 12:15pm – Lorraine Conard
Sat, July 28th 2:30pm – The Swayback Sisters
Sat, July 29th – 4pm-6pm Peggy Ratusz, Duane Simpson, Danny Ianucci – Come in from the heat of Bele Chere and step inside Tressa’s and cool off with some Jazz & Blues
Sunday, July 29th 2:45pm, stephaniesid at Bele Chere, Haywood Road Stage
Sunday, July 29th, 2:15pm, Lyric
Sat, July 29th 6:15pm – Delta Rae from Durham, NC