Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.




This is how it’s done. Or was done. Back then. They called it hoofin’.


She flies.

All grace, flowing and free.
For a moment she is splendor.
She will always be
a dancer.

She flies.
Into his arms, sure and strong.
Together they are elegance.
She will always be
a dancer.

She flies.
Strength, beauty, trust.
One voice, one spirit.
She will always be
a dancer.

She flies.

copyright 2014, joseph e bird

We can’t talk dance, without talking about Misty Copeland.

a different country road

I have a special needs brother-in-law who has lived in Logan, West Virginia for the past few years. More specifically, Whitman Junction, which runs along the holler formed by Whitman Creek. And yes it’s holler, not hollow. The houses of Whitman Junction – some ramshackle, some very nice brick ranchers –  sit so closely together that you could sit in your kitchen and hear your neighbor’s cat purring next door, and so close to the road that a misjudged first step off the front porch could put you directly in the line of traffic.  It’s what you would call a tight-knit community.

My brother-in-law has been in and out of Logan General Hospital recently, and is now recovering from a serious illness.  Because of all of this, my wife and I have spent a great deal of time in the Logan area over the last few years.  To know about Logan – and southern West Virginia – you need to know about the state in general.

Economically, West Virginia typically ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in just about every category. At one time, though, southern West Virginia was a booming coal mining region. But as mining has declined, so have the fortunes of southern West Virginia. Communities like Logan have been hard hit.

The geography and geology of southern West Virginia, specifically, the coal formed in the mountains eons ago, is what spurred the boom times of yesteryear. Those same mountains also tend to isolate southern West Virginia.  The terrain is rugged. Check out this photo of the main highway leading to Logan. That’s a major cut through hard sandstone.  And the next photo. It took a massive earthwork project just to build another Walmart.

logan highway cut for web
The rugged terrain in Logan makes for expensive highways.


fountain place for web
Even the shopping centers are carved out of the rock.

Add all this up and you get people who are different. I know I talk with an accent, but it ain’t nuthin like the accent of southern West Virginia. It’s also the land of camo. As in camouflage hats, camo vests, camo shirts, camo pants. You also see a lot of miners in their work clothes, easily identified by the bright orange reflectors.  Yeah, the people are different. And they seem to have a little bit of a hard edge.

The other day we stopped to get a bite to eat and saw a couple coming out of the fast food restaurant holding hands. They were thin and wiry. He wore a scowl. So did she. Tough love, maybe? I’d be afraid of either one of them.

But maybe I shouldn’t be.

We had driven to Logan that morning, a Saturday, and were listening to This American Life. It was an old episode about a prison production of Hamlet. It was one of the most engaging shows I’ve ever heard on that broadcast. They interviewed convicted criminals who were trying their best to be actors.  One of them acknowledged that his tough guy persona, the very thing that had landed him in prison, was an act. It was who he thought people expected him to be. It was, for him, a cloak of protection.

The people in Logan have had it rough. I’d probably scowl, too, if for no other reason, than to keep the world at bay.

And there are many, many good people in Logan. You can tell by the way the old guys wear their camo ball caps tipped back on their head.  You can tell by the way the young girls in the stores go out of their way to make you feel like a long, lost cousin.  You can tell by the 10-second conversation in the hospital elevator where a stranger tells you about the heartbreak she’s dealing with. Just like people all over the world.

If you lived in Hawaii, you’d probably smile a lot. Perfect weather, beautiful people, laid back attitude.  If you lived in Logan, it would be tougher to smile. And yet they do.  Even the scowling couple probably find contentment when their guard is down. They were holding hands, after all.

Wherever you go in your travels, you’ll find good people.  It might take more of an effort to find them, but they’re there. Look past what’s on the outside, and find the goodness within.





This is no good at all.

Ever say that about your work? Consider this:

Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Steven Pressfield

time and chance

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

morning conversation

mountains for webDo not go gentle
that good morning.

Isn’t that supposed
to be good night?

But it’s morning.

And why not
go gentle
that good morning?

The day is coming.
And it has teeth.
Lamb to the slaughter.
That kind of thing.

Be the wolf,
not the lamb?

Just be ready.
Be on your toes.

I’m not a dancer.

It’s an expression.
But of course you know that.
You’re just being obstinate.

I’m listening to jazz.
I can’t be a wolf while
I’m listening to jazz.

See those gray clouds?
They’re a portend
of things to come.

But its warm.
And breezy.
I might just sit
and watch the squirrels.

Don’t say
I didn’t
warn you.


Takuya Kuroda.
I’d rather go gentle
good morning.

the last story

He was 64 years old. He had lived his life making the correct decisions, always doing the right thing and never causing anyone any trouble. He and his wife had raised a wonderful family. He had grandchildren. He lived alone, his wife having died several years earlier.

He ate dinner at 5:30, took a walk in the woods outside his house, and was back in time to watch Jeopardy.  This he did every evening.

And then he retired from the company he had worked for for thirty-nine years. That day they had brought in a cake. Chocolate cake. He sipped coffee from a styrofoam cup and everyone asked what he was going to do in his free time. He just shrugged and smiled. He would not see his coworkers again.

That evening, he didn’t go home. He drove to the city, to the big park where people walked dogs and threw frisbees and rowed boats in the lake. He had heard of the walking trails. They stretched for miles, meandering through the park and beyond, connecting the various neighborhoods of the city with meticulously planned greenbelts. He had never walked the trails before. He had never been to the park.

He started walking along the big, open field where children chased one another. He walked along the lake. Along the edge of the woods.

Then a fork in the trail.

Which one?  It didn’t matter.

On he walked. Deep into the woods. Bicycles passed him. Joggers, too.

On he walked. Into neighborhoods he didn’t know. Then among the trees again.

On he walked.

He was hungry. When he came out of the woods again, he would find a place to eat.  Maybe a diner. Maybe a He was home in time for Jeopardy.bistro. Maybe a food truck. After that, a drink in a bar. He didn’t drink, but all was new, the possibilities before him were rich.

On he walked.

Ahead, the light flooded the trail as the trees parted. His pace quickened as he anticipated the world that awaited.

The lake. The field. His car.

A circle. One long circle.

So. No new world. No new adventure. The possibilities before him were not rich, but predictable.

The New Mastersounds

jazz fusion from the UK, The New Mastersounds

Strike the match.

It’s a cold, rainy day. Perfect for the blues.

But wait.

Even if you’re not into the blues, check out this video from Mountain Stage a few years ago.  Mark O’Conner and friends with something special. It starts out with what you might expect (that is, if your expectations include playing the blues on a fiddle) but around the 5:30 mark, O’Conner really gets warmed up.  All three of these guys are really good, but O’Conner lights it on fire.

Don’t skip ahead. You need the first 5:30 to set the stage.

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