Morning Poem, June 14, 2017

Home Economics

This summer morning is of deepest green

As if the old oaks and maples along the lane

Had taken bits of last night’s darkness

And hidden them under their arms.


I think of the empty classrooms in the town below

And the rows of old desks that bear the carved initials

Of one boy and one girl


All is silent in these rooms

Even as the morning sunlight pours through the tall casements

All of the school’s life is away

Except for the janitor who sweeps in the hall

The children pity him, confined as he is

To that world they have so happily and completely escaped

They run barefoot in the grass in the shade of the old elms.

But the janitor is happy in his lot

His days are easy now

And the empty classrooms speak to him of time and season.


It is good…

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Donnie Burford


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Inasmuch as Shelton College is a liberal arts institution, we recognize not only local writers but also – as of today, at least – visual artists as well.  Our first hat tip goes to Donnie Burford, a young man I know from church.  He’s a Saint Albans dweller and has been painting for a little while now and – as I think he would admit – is still in his formative stages as an artist.

I don’t recommend every local artist I see and I don’t recommend every artist whom I know, but Donnie caught my eye through a recent Facebook post.   That post featured a painting of a man sitting on a rock in a trout stream, fixing some tackle to his rod.   The work in general is very pleasant and praiseworthy – it catches the subtle light and color tones that are unique to mountain streams.  I think one of the reasons so many people love trout fishing is the immersion in the beauty of these hard-to-reach environments and it’s a credit to Donnie that he’s captured a bit of that rare world in this painting.


Here, with permission, is Donnie’s painting:


Image may contain: outdoor, water and nature



Around the same time I first saw this one, I was taking another look at some of Joni Mitchell’s paintings.  She did one of Charley Mingus that is famous and I’ve got to say that Donnie’s work here compares favorably to it.  In fact, I see a similarity in the color shades and the forms.

Here is Joni’s painting of Mingus:



But the thing that most impressed me about Donnie’s painting was the detail of the fisherman’s face.  You see, I know that guy.  He’s Donnie’s father and I would have recognized him in the painting, even if I had not known who painted it.  It’s just something about the lines in his face, particularly his mouth, which Donnie got just right with one stroke of the pen or brush.  For my money, the ability to do that is what separates the real artist from the wannabe.  Joni Mitchell could do it, of course.  In just a few lines she could give us a portrait of Neil Young that was immediately recognizable.




Donnie’s painting of his father is evidence that Donnie has that same talent.

Let’s have more.

a different country road

Joseph E Bird

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…

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no passport required

Joseph E Bird

hawks nest for web

The New River, one of the five oldest river’s in the world, is an hour away. If I count the hike to get to the overlook at Hawks Nest State Park, make it two hours.

Clear Fork for web

There are rivers like this everywhere.  This one is in Raleigh County, an hour and a half from my front door.

greenbank for web

ET, phone home. Green Bank, West Virginia is home to the largest fully-steerable radio telescope in the world in the heart of Pocahontas County.  If you wanted to pick one place to go in West Virginia, Pocahontas County would be a good choice.

alban fresco for web

No, it’s not New York.  Just another small town Main Street in St. Albans. When I was a kid, we watched Frankie Avalon and Anette Funicello in Beach Blanket Bingo.  For a while it was a Jehova’s Witness Kingdom Hall.  Now the Alban is a theater again featuring plays and…

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Morning Poem, May 16, 2017

Home Economics

On a morning in May you can walk bright and early

Down the alley and lane where the grapevines are curling

The shadows are old and the sunlight is new

And the lawns, newly cut, cradle diamonds of dew

And the moon is still high in the south sky out there

And the scent of the honeysuckle floats in the air

All the houses look neat, with their porches swept clean

And the birds sit and sing in the bushes and trees

The breeze is still cool and it moves like a breath

And it flutters the drapes on a world still at rest

And I walk on alone, taking all of it in

Wishing life would stand still and that time was my friend

copyright 2017

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almost heaven

Joseph E Bird

tree for web

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.

Take Me Home, Country Roads, the signature hit of John Denver, was adopted by my home state, in part because of the first line of the song, Almost Heaven, West Virginia, but also because the spirit of the song is about coming home to the country roads we all love so much.  West Virginians are scattered all over the world, but the mountains seem to have an irresistible pull that tells us we should have been home yesterday.

But let’s talk about the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River.  In truth, both of those geographic features, even though they cross the border into West Virginia, are better known as Virginia landmarks. But let’s call it the songwriter’s artistic license.

It’s easy to understand how the Blue Ridge Mountains could inspire Denver and his co-songwriters.  It’s a relatively short drive from my home to the Blue Ridge Parkway…

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Church This Sunday

From Andy Spradling

Andrew Spradling

Church was two counties on two wheels

Church was the silence of morning sunlight

Church was knowing Pastor Richie was at the pulpit as I passed

Church was hay up in the barn

Church was a butterfly down but twenty-five more flying

Church was green grass stretching into the hollers

Church was the songs of birds and new lyrics in my head

Church was the thought of my family at home

Church was the underside of leaves as the wind blew in rain clouds

Church was Rutledge Farm West and its many neighbors

Church was a man on a tractor taking time to wave

Church was knowing the daunting hill I turned on will later be conquered 

Church was the creek bed that cut its way through the hills

Church was observing and reveling in the Lord’s work



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The free spirit.


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GCB-sailor edited

This hip chick is my mother.
The photo was taken around the time she began her career as a stay-at-home mom.

After giving my father credit for his hidden artistic talents (and at the risk of turning this forum into Joe’s nostalgia corner), I wanted to take a look at a different creative type.  If my father was a left-brain analytical, my mother personified the right-brain free spirit.

My mother had artistic ambitions. She was good with sketches, and I think I remember her working with pastels. But she was raising a family and it was hard to stick with it.

She was also a musician. She played the clarinet in the high school band (or faked it, as she would say, a skill I managed to master when I was in the band), and she was an excellent piano player. But she was raising a family and it was hard to stick with it.

She loved to write and was a master of the funny story. She wanted to be the next Erma Bombeck (a popular humorist of her day) and probably had the skills to pull it off. But she was raising a family and it was hard to stick with it.

Did I mention poetry? No, not the soul-searching free verse that is popular today, but poems that actually rhymed. And again, many were humorous. But she was raising a family it was hard to stick with it.

She also sewed and made clothes for the family. I consider sewing an art form, but for my mother, it was a necessary skill, one that she was able to stick with, because she was raising a family.

Like most right-brain thinkers, my mother had dreams of making it big, but they never panned out. Even so, at every stage of her life she was able to find contentment in the work that she did. Yes, she found happiness in her art, her music, her writing, her poetry. But she knew what was really important. It wasn’t a sacrifice for her to let her dreams take a back seat, it was her act of love for her family. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Times have changed. With more options available, many mothers are able to work outside the home, fulfill their obligations as a mother, and still find time to pursue other interests. Roles are changing, too. Stay-at-home dads are much more common and give women even more choices.

But my mother’s world was different. Still, one truth remains.

Our time is short and our work is ephemeral.

Know what really matters and make the most of it.

5 thoughts on “The free spirit.”


  1. My favorite “friend Mom”. She was hilarious and classy at the same time. And insightful, so that her humor was witty rather than merely funny. Those qualities were passed on to her children.
    Apt tribute – thanks for this post.


  2. I don’t ever remember seeing that picture of her. I love it.


From Joe Bird


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Do your thing.

Eugene Bird at work

This young man is my father.
The photo was taken in the early days of his career as an electrical engineer.

In many ways, he is the stereotypical engineer.  He’s analytical.  He’s a logical problem solver.  He pays attention to detail.  He would be considered a left-brain thinker.  Creative types – your artists, musicians, actors, dancers – are generally considered right-brian thinkers.  If you think with the left side of your brain, you’d make a good engineer.  If you think with the right side, you might be a good writer.  And for much of what I remember about my father, this would seem to hold true.

When I was growing up, I never remember him doing anything very creative.  He was very much an engineer, and was a great (if sometimes intimidating) teacher of math and science to me and my sisters.

Most of his career he worked for Union Carbide and when they began to build new production facilities in Texas, he was transferred to Houston.  My family moved to Texas twice, and when he was sent to Houston for a third time, he opted to go it alone and not put the family through another move. So what does an engineer living by himself do in his spare time?

Golf?  Maybe jigsaw puzzles?  No.  He took up painting.  When he returned home we were astounded by what he had done. Among other things, he painted this scene of the old Morgan homestead near Winfield (WV), across from what is now the John Amos power plant.

eugene painting for web

As far as I know, he had never painted anything before.  There were other paintings, including a very lifelike portrait of Pittsburgh Steeler great, Mean Joe Green.

But when he came back home, he was done with painting.

In the 4o-some years since, he’s completed home improvement projects and done some woodworking, but not much that would label him as a creative type.

Then last year, my sister suggested to our then 86-year-old father that he should do pencil sketches of his great-grandchildren. He agreed.  Here’s one of the twins, Bear.

bear for web

For most of his life, my father has played the role of engineer.  He is still very practical and analytical, and his fondness for logic would make Mr. Spock proud. And then he’ll surprise us with those sparks of creativity that seem to come forth every forty years or so.

Lessons in all of this?

Don’t sell yourself short. You may not even realize the potential within.  Do your thing.

Too old? Nope. That just doesn’t cut it. Do your thing.

It will make your life better.





12 thoughts on “Do your thing.”


  1. That’s awesome!!


  2. This is just great. The picture of your dad carries me back to that time that was marked by decent and able men who took care of their families and built a better world. Your dad and mine. (and how many other Carbiders whose kids we went to school with) They were handsome and brave and hard working. I see sort of the same thing in my dad as you do in yours. Most of the time he’s strictly business – working at the office, building houses, fixing the car and the drain and the door and the outside lights and anything else that his family needed. But then. But then. Every now and then he was called on to put together a Sunday School lesson and his work there was poetic. And on good days he can look up and quote the entirety of that Shakespeare sonnet on love. We were fortunate, Joe. We are fortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. BTW When we lived in Houston, my dad worked for your dad. My dad always has something good to say about what a good boss he was. Every now and then I meet someone who, later on, worked for my dad and they have the same kind of affection (they would not call it that) about him.


  4. I didn’t know he did the Morgan house in Texas.
    Another good one Joe.


  5. Love this. Your dad was slightly intimidating to me in high school, but he was married to your mom so I figured he was ok. My chemical engineer dad ‘S talent was music, but he didn’t use it until he & Mom transferred to Texas City when i was at WVU.


  6. Great tribute and important life lesson!!


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Music of my day.

Joseph E Bird

guitar 2-6-16 for web

Listening to the music of the Wonder to escape
Digging words and stories cause he always tell it straight
Life be scarred and dogs bite hard, to that I can relate
Soulful grooves, the spirit moves, tells me it ain’t too late

Driving horns lay down the tune, I’m hearing now the Tears
David Clayton Thomas sings, it’s not the dying that he fears
Spin the wheel, cut the deal, find wisdom in the years
Blues sung hard, and hope stands guard, a triumph for the ears

Singing with a nasal twang and tangled up in blue
The poet tells his story ‘bout the people that he knew
Stars are crossed and loves are lost, his heart we see straight through
A simple song to sing along, to change our point of view

A banjo picks the intro with a groovin’ upright bass
A nice and easy song of love, till…

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