Tuesday, July 10, 2007


About five years ago, I was diagnosed as bi-polar. Initially, I was thought to a victim of S.A.D. (Seasonally Affected Depression) since I became withdrawn and moody each winter when the sun went away and the nights became longer. Eventually, however, psychiatrists began using the term "manic depressive" and started prescribing a variety of anti-depressants. I found myself in a constant state of "good-natured idiocy" due to the effects of lithium, zoloft and/or prozac. Although I was no longer depressed, I couldn't talk to my friends, either (I immediately forgot what the conversation was about) and I couldn't read a book or watch a film. Above all, I couldn't write. I went through some bad experiences at this point, and finally found myself in a "crisis center" at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville, N. C. What happened there would serve as a basis for a novel, but that is a topic for another blog. When I came home I was determined to find a substitute for medication and seized on a casual remark made by an over-worked psychiatrist who said that some manic depressives found an alternative to medication in some form of creativity - especially painting. I knew little about painting, but since I was desperate, I simply went to the local Wal-mart and bought 60 little bottles of acrylic. Then, borrowing a box cutter from an employee of Massie Furniture in Sylva (my hometown), I asked permission to cut up some cardboard boxes in which furniture had been shipped (refrigerators are the best). I came home with a stack of cardboard and began painting. The paintings "Daniel in the Lion's Den," and "Two Foxes Dancing on a Moonlit Road in Georgia" were among my first efforts.

I knew that I had found a viable substitute for anti-depressants when I sat down to do my first painting and found myself totally absorbed in the process. I quickly learned that cardboard "drinks" paint, and I was fascinated by watching the acrylic soak into the paper. When I looked at the clock, thinking I had been painting for an hour, I discovered that four hours had passed.

I've been flirting with the idea of starting my own blog for three or four years now, but I always type a few timid observations and end up abandoning my posts. I guess they are out there somewhere in cyberspace. Well, this time, I am sticking it out. I guess what inspired me is a bunch of beautiful blogs (all about Appalachia) that not only inspired me but made me keenly aware that I had a lot to say about that topic. I've been a teacher, written a book and six plays - all about the culture that produced me.

Twenty years ago, I met Jim Wayne Miller, a poet from Kentucky by way of Buncombe County, N. C.

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