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Several of my friends are dealing with cancer or are facing major surgery. I have written recently on this blog about moments of exultation, moments of grace, moments of mystery. Our sadness is an important part of living and often is the gateway to one of those uplifting moments as we move around our own emotional curve. Being mindful of each one, to the best our ability, enables us to love, to anticipate with joy, to grieve, forgive, apologize, give thanks, and let go of our attachment to specific outcomes.

Moments of sadness and the acceptance of imperfection both have the power to help us to live fully in the present moment. Isak at Work After the March jobs report came out showing a slight decline in unemployment caused in part by an increase in the number of discouraged workers, I heard a radio call-in show on the subject. The next caller also thought she might have been one of those labeled as discouraged; she had decided to quit looking for work and bake cupcakes, which she delivers to nearby offices in time for mid-morning coffee breaks.

Not finding a job turned out to be a good thing because now she is doing what she really wants to do and hopes to open a little shop very soon. When Bill and I moved to this rural mountain community, our Winston-Salem friends kept asking us what we would do for a living. People rarely move to Celo for job opportunities, they come to live the life they want to live. Therefore it has long been a small incubator for entrepreneurs, usually starting with something they love to do. While the recovery has dragged along, I have noticed an increase in Celo job creators and want to introduce you to a few of them.

As the woolly adelgids continued to find victims in our hemlock grove, Robin decided that we needed to take down a number of sick trees that might come crashing down on one of our houses in a windstorm. In addition Robin wanted to take down a gigantic old oak tree that was mostly dead. He decided to call Isak Pertee, a young man who grew up in Celo and recently launched a tree-work business he calls High Lonesome Timber.

Uniting the Nation's Best Undergraduate Minds

When I heard the sound of voices and a chain saw, I walked down the road to watch as Isak carefully climbed the large oak trunk with protective gear and a chain saw to remove some branches. As he moved slowly and deliberately upward, it felt to me like a meditation. After high school, he attended Deep Springs College and obviously learned how to learn. Even though family gardens keep me supplied with many vegetables, I signed up for Goldfinch Gardens, a vegetable-farming endeavor started by Ben McCann and Cedar Johnson.

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Their excellent business model is perfect for an older person living alone, who likes fresh vegetables in quantities that do not overwhelm the produce drawer. Every Tuesday their weekly list of available produce arrives on my computer and gives me the opportunity to provide more variety to my meals. When Ben and Cedar set up their business, they combined elements of two different models and leased a software system from Local Foods Marketplace.

Ben left school early to finish his gardening education through internships, an opportunity he now provides for others. They maximize their space with greenhouses, and each year they keep one-third of their acreage in cover crops, which are eventually tilled under to replenish the soil. Future plans include chickens in moveable coops and sheep to mow the grass and fertilize.

Another Evergreen alum, Anna Vislocky, majored in art and education, studying ceramics, printmaking, painting, and drawing. She also learned how to develop school programs, such as garden design for elementary grades and creative writing for middle school students. This summer she is offering a program of pre-school childcare and outdoor activities including bookmaking, clay, drawing and painting, music, dance, stories, and walks to explore nature.

Anna does this at her home, which enables her to care for her own two-year-old at the same time.


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Art programs enable her to use her experience and provide a service for other parents and their kids. He designs and manufactures electronic equipment, like pedals that create electric guitar effects.

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At first he was splitting his time between Celo and Asheville where he had a shop that combined sales and repairs of new and old guitars on the first floor with the workspace for EAR on the second. His sales and distribution are largely through the Internet. His plan is not to grow too fast at the expense of quality or sanity. Polly Lorien, my granddaughter-in-law, is a glassblower and has worked in that field for many years. Glass artists were hard hit by the recession and slow recovery, and for now she has made a decision to invest time and energy in other interests.

A few weeks ago, my old eyes were complaining as I re-read my weekly post for the tenth time, trying unsuccessfully to achieve my goal of one last reading with no needed corrections or changes. Frustrated, I asked Polly if she would read it for me. She found a couple of typos I had missed and made some helpful comments about the copy.

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After I entered those changes she read it again, and then I posted it with confidence. I think of it as assaying my essays. The author Michael Lewis gave a graduation speech at Princeton this spring where he asserted that many successful people do not like to acknowledge the role of accident, luck, or coincidence in their lives.

He believes that while successful outcomes are not entirely random, they do involve a large amount of luck: where you were born, who your parents are, your education, and the environment of your childhood. I think a lot about the people who have been out of work or underemployed for years; clearly not everyone can start a business felling trees, manufacturing sound gear, or perfecting prose. They have my vote. Tuesday, June 12, Eyeball to eyeball with a Raccoon. Those of you who have been reading my blog posts regularly are familiar with my brother David and his wife Anne, who are currently visiting me.

I had planned to write my next post before they arrived, but was interrupted by a close encounter with a raccoon that I am certain was trying to kill my dog Nigel. In a moment of high adrenaline, with no other tool at hand, I grabbed its leg and swung it up into the air with Nigel still in its mouth. The 'coon quickly let go of the dog, curled up its body, and bit my hand as we locked eyes—I didn't look away.

Then I threw it down the steps and it turned and ran off.

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Donna Jean Dreyer '53 Authors Decrescendo: A Memoir of Love and Caregiving

It was in the evening, and I had been shocked to see a raccoon in my yard by daylight. My feisty miniature poodle also saw it and raced toward it, barking loudly. I started screaming Nigel come ; he turned and ran toward me with the raccoon in hot pursuit. It pounced on Nigel as he ran up the steps to the deck. It may have all happened in a few seconds, certainly not much more. My reaction was not thought out and could have been disastrous; but with the help of my guardian angel, the damage to me was minimal, and Nigel is fine.

Because it was a raccoon and the behavior was suspect, the doctor said we had to assume it had rabies. Three years ago I had the rabies serum series after a bat crawled out from under my pillow so this time I only needed two booster shots. Even though Nigel was re-vaccinated just a month ago, he was also required to have a booster shot.

There was paperwork for the Health Department to do, and visits to doctors, mine and Nigel's. I have four small puncture wounds to tend, and I don't yet have full use of my left hand.

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Although the incident was brief, the stress of the trauma continued. It has been a hard process for me as I wrestled with fears of going outside after dark, of taking my daily walk at dawn, and even of letting Nigel have free run of the yard by way of his dog door. I haven't, however, stopped taking walks. Two days later my route took me past a community garden where friends of Robin's were working. Jeff asked me if I was freaked out, and I answered in the affirmative. He then told me that he had a way of dealing with near misses when something could have had disastrous consequences, but didn't.

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If you almost fall off a ladder and don't, he told me, you will then have information that can help you avoid problems the next time you're working on a ladder. He told a story about getting caught in a rip tide.

So he advised me to focus on what I had learned. He kept repeating the word information, like it was an intellectual buried treasure. But the biggest boost came from his wife Margot who told me that I was a regular old mountain woman. I have always been a great admirer of the older mountain women I have known here in Yancey County and back in Kentucky when I worked there. I have also been drawn to the older female characters in Appalachian literature.


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  8. I don't feel tough or brave, but if I was at least strong enough to earn Margot's praise, it's a big step toward healing. My brother and I have been close since we weathered the stresses and maximized the joys of our childhood. We are sounding boards for each other, but the surprising thing to me is the email correspondence we continue to have about things we have read or are pondering. David had scarlet fever when he was eight and developed mastoiditis as a secondary infection.

    He's been hard of hearing ever since, and it has gotten worse as he aged. About three years ago he acquired new hearing aids with the best technology available. Now we can have phone conversations with the sound being transmitted directly into his ear. At eighty-three, he is healthy; plays tennis nearly every week; follows football, baseball, and tennis; and has a very active life in his community.

    This is all in addition to caregiving, cooking and tending to household chores. With some frequency these days I find myself strolling the grounds, remembering the afternoon in when I walked this land for the first time, back when it was just trees and weeds, in an effort to discern if this was where God was calling me. Inevitably my thoughts turn to this congregation's development throughout the last two decades. And it always leaves me feeling humbled when I see the beyond-my -imagination-ways our ministry has developed.