This Life I Have Been Given

There’s a song that has been coming back to me from long ago. It’s one my mom played on the piano and then my sister and I would take turns singing the verses. The title of the song is, “This Life” and it’s by Evie Tournquist. She was a contemporary gospel singer popular in the 70s when we were in high school.

 

A couple of weeks ago I asked mom to send me a copy of the music she has. I’ve looked for the Evie songbooks for years just to have copies of the songs I sang with my mom and sister. The music still speaks to me all these years later.

 

“This life I have been given is but a moment’s time. This life I have received it as a gift from [God’s] hand.”

 

Written in first person as one singing a song to God it is quiet, respectful, and full of heart. A lot of Evie’s songs were that way. As a trio of short women, we did also love the fun song she did called “I’m Only 4 foot eleven but I’m going to heaven and it makes me feel ten feet tall….” My theology has changed a lot since then so there are some of the contemporary gospel hymns I wouldn’t sing today because my understanding of God is more magnanimous.

Beech Mountain, NC 2018
©2017 JRobin Whitley

The song moves gently into my mind again today as I look through old pictures taken through the past thirteen years. Since my divorce, I’ve tried moving those thousand pictures of life with my wife to a safe keeping place. It’s been healing in many ways and of course, when I see pictures of our happiness and love it has been hard.

The pictures I am moving to the Flickr account today though, are ones I took on walks in forests. The walks were mostly in various places of the Nantahala Forest because it is so large, and Sylva is dead center of it. That place in the forest is one of the million reasons I loved living in Sylva.

 

Forests have always been exciting places for me. Exciting for the potential to see wildlife, but also to discover wildflowers, birds, nests, paths, and all the ways that nature changes in the forest. When I was in high school, we took one of those tests that gave you ideas about vocation in life. I always got Forest Ranger. As I look through my photos of today and get excited about new walks on Beech Mountain, I wonder if I missed my calling.

 

Seeing photo after photo of the wonder of the forest, I can see why I am so happy here. When my ex and I would vacation, we would only go an hour from the house staying in the mountains. The rivers and the trees were too peaceful to leave for the city or a harried trip on the interstate. Even now, when I want to go somewhere, it’s usually to explore this area. This month is dollar days at Grandfather Mountain. I’ve not been there in over twenty years. I can’t wait to see Birdie up on the top of those rocks looking down to the mountains below.

 

Linville Gorge is nearby and so are the caverns. I’ve truthfully no desire to see the caverns again. The last time I was there I realized being underground freaked me out a bit. Yet, I don’t have any photos of the

It felt like I was being watched. I looked up and saw this girl hoping Birdie wouldn’t see her. After we walked on, I also saw she had a fawn hidden behind a tree behind her.

trip I took in the 80s. Film cameras were too expensive, and I was one of the musicians singing in the mountains with Resort Area Ministry (R.A.M.) out of Boone. We all had just enough money to buy a ticket into the cavern. With my new digital cameras, would it take my mind off of the damp underground? The freaky bats that I don’t like (even though I know they are beneficial)? The water that could hold the Loch Ness Monster; even if it doesn’t have a water monster? Evidently, my sci-fi imagination goes a bit haywire in underground caverns.

 

A lot of the photos I uploaded today were photos I took of the forest floor. It is amazing at the life and

growth that occurs on the floor of the forest. First, the mosses begin to green up. Then there are sprigs of other plants. My friends already post pictures of trillium and trout lilies sprouting in Southern Appalachia. We have only a few greens here on Beech. Yet, I can’t wait to discover what they are and where they are.

 

Each day in a forest is an adventure because things are blooming. The frogs started singing last night. The night before the owls were hooting it up that it’s spring. Birds sing in the morning and the new red squirrel is already trying to tease Birdie. One of my new writer friends in the area posts regularly about the wonders she finds on her hikes. Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a great poet too and she sometimes posts her poetry as well. Check out her site at Appalachian Ground. Wonders await you in your own back yard or back forest. Take the time to look around at the ground around you. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

Content Protection by DMCA.com

New Music Coming

I have been so busy with writing in the past year that music took a back seat in many ways. It is time to get back into creating new music as well as keeping up with the old. Many of my readers were after me to begin the sequel to my novel. My mind wanted to complete my short story collection. My muse, however, has other ideas and they are all musical!

 

Dan Shepherd and Robin play guitar for congregational sing-a-long. Photo by Pan McCaslin

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I have always loved church music. We just completed a wonderful concert at Holy Cross where we also sang with Banner Elk Presbyterian’s Choir. I hope to have a link later this week on Robin’s Radio for you to hear the concert if you like sacred music. Elaine Kallested*, our choir director, has given me a chance to play on an anthem and play with the congregational sing-a-long. Dan, the guitarist who plays with me here, was nice enough to also allow me to play with the Holy Smokes group and sing a few harmonies.  I loved that we sang some songs I grew up singing with my Whitley family.

 

It was great to be able to play my guitar again. I’ve not played as much as I want since moving here. It also makes me want to play and sing more. I will be playing two solo pieces for worship on June 17th if you are in the area. My hope is also to begin singing in Beech Mountain and Banner Elk

Singing jazz and blues at It’s By Nature Gallery in Sylva, 2012.

when I find the right venues. As I practice, I miss playing with my friend David Brewin and The Shepherd’s String Choir. The difference playing with another artist or a band is that the performance pressure is eased with other musicians. I am still new to the area though.

 

I was blessed to have the opportunity to sing at an event sponsored by the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation. My realtor, Irene Sawyer, helped me find a great place to live AND she gave me the opportunity to sing for an appreciation dinner for patients and their caregivers. The event was held at The Chetola Resort lake area in Blowing Rock and will be held again in the fall. I’m going to be able to sing there again, but my hope is that I can find other ways to sing in this area.

 

For those of you who haven’t heard my music yet, let me tell you a little bit. Though my formal training was in voice (classical), I play guitar and sing a variety of music. These days, I usually only get to sing classical music with the church choir. My preferred genres to sing at gigs are folk, pop, blues, and jazz. You can hear a bit of my original music too. Though songwriting is not my strength, I have written some songs. Ordinary Miracles was my first CD and it came out in 2015 after being awarded an artist’s grant from Jackson County’s Arts Council. The CD has a folksy feel which was my goal.

The next CD I would like to put together is one of the English Country Dance Tunes that David Brewin and I played together. There are not many of these songs recorded. They are rewarding to play and relaxing to listen to. You can hear them and buy them online at J. Robin Whitley’s CD Baby site. Since I no longer live in the same town as David, it may be a while before we can get more of the tunes recorded. He is also back working at his blacksmithing job. As he often says, “blacksmithing pays more than music”. While that’s true, I certainly hope that David finds it worthwhile to record a few more pieces. His musician interpretation and skill as a lead guitarist is a gift to all who listen.

 

 

______________________________

*Elaine Kallestad is an Organist and Choir Director based in Boone, NC. Serving as a musician at Holy Cross Episcopal Church for 11 years, her church music career spans more than three decades.  She has worked in both large and small church parishes in Texas, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Freiburg, Germany.  Her work has also been ecumenical as she served in many different denominations, including Episcopal, ELCA Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, and Evangelical.  Her studies include the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (Organ Performance) from The University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Music degree (Organ Performance/Church Music) from University of North Texas, and additional studies in Organ and Musicology from Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg, Germany.

Content Protection by DMCA.com

Overwhelming…

Overwhelming odds sounds good doesn’t it? We use the term to talk about odds balanced in favor of some victor. The past week the people in our area have been overwhelmed by wildfires. Loss u

pon loss. In our specific community, we also lost beloved community members who changed this area by activism and/or love and kindness. Living in the Appalachians is a blessing because of the wonder of nature and the majesty of the mountains. Vacationers often don’t know the poverty that lives behind the hotels and resorts. 

Not everyone lives in poverty of course. There are those who are able to make a decent living. But according to the US Census of 2015, 23.5% of our population in Jackson County lives in poverty. The surrounding counties will be similar. Many of those who live in poverty work hard and are employed seasonally working at resorts in the area. From Memorial Day in May to the last Fall leaf tourist date, that is the time when those resorts and those families make the money to live through winter.  

Our area was hard hit by the economy. It looked like we might have a good year in 2016 because nothing really bad happened…until the wildfires. Not only has this ended jobs early for many in our area, the promise of a job in the spring has been burned to the ground for those in Gatlinburg. I have no idea how many of our people drive to Gatlinburg to work. It’s surprising what people will do to live in the mountains and survive. One of my previous co-workers drove two hours one-way to have a good job, but live where it was good for his young family.

As you approach this holiday season, I ask you to consider the folks in Western NC and in Tennessee who have lost their sources of income (most people in our area work several jobs). Below are only a few organizations working to restore trails, homes, and keep fires at bay. There are still several fires that could become active again. Thank you for taking time to read this. God bless you.

Places your donations can make a difference

Dollywood Foundation

Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Firefighters Donation Points

 

 


Statistics from 2016 US Government Census for Jackson County NC
iMedian household income (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014       $36,705
iPer capita income in past 12 months (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014    $21,033
iPersons in poverty, percent    Warning Sign 23.5%

 

iMedian selected monthly owner costs -with a mortgage, 2010-2014
$1,143
iMedian selected monthly owner costs -without a mortgage, 2010-2014
$300
iMedian gross rent, 2010-2014
$620
Families and Living Arrangements
iHouseholds, 2010-2014  15,872
iPersons per household, 2010-2014  2.33
Content Protection by DMCA.com

My Favored Season – Fall

Fall has always been my favored season. The cool winds begin to play with the leaves, improvising their own song. As the nights go by, the trees begin to participate in the song of nature. It’s a great time to get out with loved ones and take a hike. Come see us in the Nantahala Forest sometime!

 

fall

Content Protection by DMCA.com

Vacation in Nature and Listen

Panther Road, Bryson City ©2016 JRobin Whitley
Panther Road, Bryson City – ©2016 JRobin Whitley

 

Nature is a mystery that reveals herself to us in many ways. I’ve always been a fan of nature. Just this morning, as I drove to my friend’s house, I had to roll down the window so I could hear the quiet out where he lived. While I live in the mountains, I am also near a major highway. Because I am by nature first an aural person, I most often hear something before I see it. That makes the sounds of nature even more beautiful for me. No special effects or Hollywood producer can create anything as beautiful as the sights and sounds of nature.

200px-eastern_band_cherokee_flag-svg

We live in an area where many people camp or choose to vacation. There is white water rafting, hiking, camping, Cherokee is nearby. You can access the Blue Ridge Parkway from several different areas. That can mean a lot of noise pollution. As you camp, vacation, and hike, please keep in mind that there are many who have never heard the sounds of nature. Be respectful of nature as well. In the section from NPR’s Morning Edition, today’s episode talks about how many animals are also affected by our noise. Get out of the house. Have fun. But remember, there’s always someone listening!

Content Protection by DMCA.com