Sunday, June 30, 2019


Inn at Shaker Village

Inn at Shaker Village

At the top of a Kentucky road map are the words: “Unbridled Spirit,” and we discovered the best evidence of this spirit a few years ago in Berea, Kentucky, billed as the State’s Folk Art and Crafts Capital in the foothills of the Appalachians. It’s the home of Berea College, the first interracial and co-ed college established in the South, and a center of art galleries and working studios... as well as the site of the Boone Tavern Hotel where the best spoon bread in Appalachia is served! (This treat usually precedes dinner, and we were too polite to ask for more, but we could have devoured the entire bowl from which a Berea College student dished out a conservative portion).

On this second visit to the town, we discovered an entry in the guide book advising us to visit the Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, about an hour’s drive from Berea, so we drove over to find more serendipity in this once-thriving community of  “The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearance,” or more commonly known as Shakers, members of which practiced a dramatic religion, raised livestock and produce, created beautiful handicrafts, and explored communal living during the 19th century. 

Water House and Bath @ Shaker Village, by V Sullivan

Water House and Bath, Shaker Village

Ann Lee, the priestess of the Shakers’ New Light religion, had come over from Manchester, England to New York to develop her version of faith after being thrown in prison for her belief that Christ would reappear in female form…and she self-proclaimed that incarnation! Her religion called for members to forsake the world by privatizing property, dissolving marriage vows, and making full public confessions of sins. Members were also to preach peace and mental contentment.

However, Ann Lee died at the age of 45, and a ruling body of elders and eldresses went down to Harrodsburg near Lexington, Kentucky to form a communal organization on land that became a domain of over 4,000 acres. The Shakers’ settled on a site high above the Kentucky River, on a level limestone plateau with fertile soil, and the town was placed in a pleasant air current that made farming and human habitation favorable. The Shakers became one of the most industrious communities in the U.S., isolated but bound by a covenant that required them to be actively religious: celibate, openly confessional, and when they met for worship to use physical vigor, shaking themselves to get rid of their sins and gain spiritual release (Our tour guide demonstrated their behavior by shaking her entire body energetically).

Men and women lived together in family houses the Shakers built under the guidance of the young engineer, Micajah Burnett — family homes, craft shops, sheds, barns, water supply, and bathhouses. Men and women were considered to be equal, but men slept on the bottom floor of the family homes, and women had to climb the stairs to sleep on the top floor. The houses were built in the tradition of Federal architecture with walls of native bricks and stone foundations quarried from Pleasant Hill property.*

By 1896, only sixty Shakers remained in the Pleasant Hill community, and the village had deteriorated. In 1910, twelve Shakers deeded 1800 acres of Shaker lands to George Bohon with the agreement he’d care for them until the end of their lives. The Shaker population has been completely decimated, but in 1961, the restoration of the Shaker village became largely possible through a Kentucky citizen, Earl D. Wallace. He and friends crusaded to raise enough money to purchase options to later buy the village and farm. 

Within a year the Federal Economic Administration had granted a loan of $2 million to be repaid over forty years. Today, thirty-three restored buildings form the Village and as many as 5,000 tourists from throughout the world come to view the village of a former community of believers who thought they were part of a perfect society but deteriorated because of a narrow religious ideal, persecution, and poverty. 

Stone fence @ Shaker Village by V. Sullivan

Stone Fence at Shaker Village, Kentucky

When we visited the site, docents continuously led groups through the grounds and buildings. Along with other visitors we marveled at artifacts and structures that represent the history of the dedicated Shakers of Pleasant Hill. 

Shakers kept voluminous journals and records of their Society of Believers which have provided material for fascinating lectures. Today, visitors are touted as the major supporters of exhibition tours, a museum, a river cruise, overnight accommodations, a restaurant, and several crafts shops. The site still bustles with life and continues to thrive as an unusual example of a spirited religious awakening in America. 

A parting note: As I claim Cajun ancestry, the following notice on the wall of the Inn at Pleasant Hill, fascinated me: 

Plaque in Inn at Shaker Village

Plaque in Inn at Shaker Village

*Reference: Pleasant Hill and Its Shakers by Thomas D. Clark and F. Gerald Ham.

Photographs by Victoria I. Sullivan

Friday, June 21, 2019


Border Press announces the July publication of The Consolation of Gardens by Diane Marquart Moore, a poet living in New Iberia, Louisiana and Sewanee, Tennessee, with photography by Dr. Victoria Sullivan. The duet of poet and plant photographer, Moore and Sullivan, has produced another book featuring their pursuits of plant life scattered throughout the southeastern United States and as far afield as the Mideast.

Poet Diane Marquart Moore observes humanistic elements in the diversity of plant forms, from mayapples to the everlasting rose; and Sullivan’s trained eye records the color and structure of typical and atypical forms of leaf and flower.

A special page in Consolation of Gardens, derived from drawings delineated by the poet’s mother, Dorothy Greenlaw Marquart, in 1926, lends interest to this volume.

Poems about those living forms that provide beauty as the principal adornments in garden and field provide botanical bounty for plant collectors, explorers, and lovers of gardens.

The cover of this volume is a photograph of a beautiful glass piece, Spring Annunciation, rendered by Karen Bourque, glass artist in Church Point, Louisiana and designed by Martin Romero, Vice-President of Landscape Design for Mullin Landscape Associates, St. Rose, Louisiana.

Available by July 15, 2019 from or order from Border Press Books, P. O. Box 3124, Sewanee, TN 37375

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


I was reading E. B. White’s One Man’s Meat yesterday when Four Ravens, a book of poetry by my friend and editor Gary Lee Entsminger, arrived. I had just finished reading about White’s wife complaining that she didn’t quite understand poetry, and he told her that a poet’s pleasure is to “withhold a little of his meaning, to intensify by mystification, zipping the veil from beauty but not removing it.” Entsminger’s new book of poems certainly bears out White’s assessment of poetry while reminding us of his awe for nature and organisms and, at the same time, embracing metaphysical thoughts in many of his musings.

I particularly liked Entsminger’s poems about his wife, Susan, who is an artist and who drew the raven on the cover of Four Ravens and sketched this bird in simple line drawings throughout the book. In “Second Reality,” Entsminger reveals the force of Susan’s work as an artist in a poem that shows his respect and devotion to his talented wife: “…sky reflects through the window/smudges resemble puddles/bright yellow circles simmer/like sunflowers six feet high./…When did she realize her sketches/said something words cannot explain/as objects came together without touching/the way they once reigned.” 

The Entsmingers live in a rustic cabin on a plateau in Colorado and exemplify the philosophy of a “Thoreau-like” life, doing tasks that the modern world would call drudgery, including the task of cutting wood. For a winter fire that Susan performs in the poem “Oak,” as husband Gary watches: “Paté done he glances out the window/sees the girl still building trail/work not easy but satisfying/attention focusing her energy/as the waning light casts/shadows of unfamiliarity/she picks up her tools/and goes to the woodpile/stacks the oak/looks at him/through the window/already smelling smoke.” Such poems often concentrate on every day, revealing the couple’s devotion to sustainability and uncomplicated dramas that occur in their daily life together.

Another poem that exemplifies Entsminger’s concern for the environment and objection to a chemical that has proven to poison human life on a large scale is one entitled “In Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply,” in which the poet speaks out about Roundup, “buckets and thickets/poisoning everyone/around him…long ago people here/knew to grow/sun-loving crops/in a leafy moon/roots herbs berries/learning how to eat.” 

In “Guide,” readers could surmise that Entsminger is inspired to portray his wife at musical play (Susan also composes and plays guitar and other string instruments): “Bare shouldered/mountain maiden/plucks melodious/strings of sunshine/drawing the youth/who listens/to her paintbrush/glistening/in a meadow/he has climbed to/dawn after dawn/Knowing he’s there/she stops playing/sets aside her psaltery.” The imagery in this spare poem is reminiscent of a long haiku, another rich drama in everyday experience.

Gary’s oeuvre is not without wryness in the pithy lyrics entitled “Cowgirl” placed within the opening pages of Four Ravens, when a mysterious woman roams mountain slopes: “misplaced perhaps/or meant to be/alpine chic/and lengthy curves…in this gentle range/no one spends/their lives/on indifferent things/she rises now and sings/as the cows look up/still chewing patiently/ready to follow her/down to the milking/She looks across the meadow/seeing something we don’t see/and tips her hat to me. “

This book is the second collection of poetry Gary Entsminger has published and contains new work as well as older poetry that adds to an abundance of original nature lyrics and existential musings that constitute a profound volume of rewarding reading. 

Four Ravens is available from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403 (

Saturday, June 8, 2019


In E. B. White’s Writings From the New Yorker, 1927-1976, White includes an essay entitled “Disillusion” in which he writes about aging humans hanging onto or “groping toward things that give us a sense of security.” He names clocks in telegraph offices as vanguards of the correct time, and when he passes a clock in a telegraph office that has lost time, he feels that life is slipping away from him. This entry was written in 1929, but it carries the same message for me 90 years later — a thought underlined in a quatrain of The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayaam: “Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run, the wine of life keeps oozing drop by drop; the leaves of life keep falling one by one.”

Unfortunately, I’m a time watcher, and I think at 84, it’s too late for me to develop a new behavior unless this behavior slips up on me when I’m not looking at clocks. There are five clocks in our house here in Sewanee, Tennessee, not including the clock on the computer and in my iPhone, and the only one I feel I can count on, like White’s clock in the telegraph office, is my iPhone. However, I use these clocks for a variety of activities. The clock radio in the bedroom is fast, so this means I can sleep ten minutes longer (I don’t have to punch in at an office but am shame-faced if I’m not at my desk at 8 a.m.). Two clocks in the kitchen advertise two different times: the one on the stove is a bit early and announces breakfast when I’m really hungry; the other on the opposite wall is ten minutes behind the correct time and means I still have time to dawdle before breakfast preparations begin... and so on. 

My good friend Janet Faulk-Gonzales, who, bless her, always manages to be late, often reminds me that too much emphasis on heeding time could bring disastrous results similar to what she refers to as “walking off the porch,” a story that appeared in a book entitled Porch Posts we co-authored several years ago. 

Painting by artist Paul Schexnayder for Porch Posts

Painting by artist Paul Schexnayder for Porch Posts

In the essay, “The Pacing Porch,” I relate how I obsessed over being on time for school every morning while my brother and sister chanted “Hup two, three, four, hup two, three, four,” and I paced the front porch in a frenzy until I walked right off the porch, treading air for a few moments before falling with a loud thunk. I was nine years old at the time, and ‘though this event chastened me and my impatience for a day or so, I was back at it a few days after the “flying high” moment. I never fell off again, but I figured out how many paces I could make before reaching the dangerous edge.

Diane's sketch for blog Time Was, Time Is...

Diane's sketch

Although there’re many synonyms for time; e.g., flash, spell, instant, jiffy, twinkle, wink, etc., my favorite is “jiffy,” which resonates with my translation: “joyfully on time.” I’m one who couldn’t abide using such an instrument as an hourglass —what if the sand got damp? Or someone gave me a genuine cuckoo clock from Switzerland and visited often to see if I had hung it even though I was made nervous by such a loud announcement of an entire hour gone forever? The silent, digital hands on a cell phone keep me attuned to movements of day and night in the revolving universe and suit my time watch quite well.

Let’s face it — some people watch second hands; some people  watch minute hands; and some people watch hour hands on the clock. Then, some people lose all sense of time, and the latter isn’t in my DNA. It’s now 9:37 a.m., and I’ll end this reflection on the passage of time by 9:38. Whew, I made it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


"Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset" by Cindy Lou Chenard

If travelers want to indulge in visual overload, Asheville, North Carolina, home of the River Arts District, (aka RAD) , is THE destination. RAD is a place where 23 industrial and historic buildings have been renovated to accommodate 200 artists who have set up their studios inside. Here, artists work in a variety of mediums — fiber, metal, paint, wood —producing some of the South’s finest art in old warehouses along a mile of waterfront on the French Broad River. 

We spent three days in Asheville, sampling art and international cuisine, and managed to catch the last show of Neil Simon’s “Proposals” at the Flatrock Playhouse in Hendersonville, North Carolina, thirty minutes away from Asheville. The visit to the playhouse was a hairy experience as we lost our way for a few minutes on the return trip to the motel in Asheville., arriving at 11 p.m. with my anxiety at high levels and vowing never to attend functions in unfamiliar places after dark again. 

My favorite visit (the fourth one in recent years) remains the River Arts District where I encountered Cindy Lou Chenard who creates two-and three-dimensional contemporary landscapes and abstracts. I was attracted to the use of horizontal lines in her work which she calls “Art Des Couches De Bois,” (Art in Layers of Wood) I purchased two cards, one entitled “Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset;” the other named after one of my favorite contemporary hymns, “Morning Has Broken.”

"Morning Has Broken" by Cindy Lou Chenard

A former weaver, Cindy Lou begins the process of creating her art with a photograph or sketch of a mountain landscape or an abstract design. In the process of creating these scenes, she scales her design to a desired size and transfers the layout to pieces of thin birch plywood. Using either a bandsaw or scroll saw, she cuts out shaped pieces of wood, sands and paints the pieces, then assembles and secures layers and custom frames her three-dimensional artwork. I was drawn to the purple, yellow, and orange colors in the two cards that showcased her work and talked awhile with Cindy, long enough to meet her husband and a huge dog weighing over 130 pounds that plopped down in front of me. Mr. Chenard, a French Canadian, listened to our stock lecture on Cajun Country, and we passed a good time reviewing the merits of French cuisine for him.

A North Carolina native, Cindy Lou has a BS from NCSU School of Design and exhibits her work in the River Arts District and Woolworth Walk in Asheville. Her work is reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe’s landscapes and creates a grand sense of space in viewers.

When we returned to the motel, I was surprised to see the vivid orange and yellow line designs in carpeting throughout the halls and rooms and wondered if decorators for the new motel had taken a leaf from Cindy Lou’s beautiful work.