Hillbilly Zen – R.I.P. Joe Cocker


I was smoking a cigarette when I heard that Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer at the age of 70.   My first thought was of John Belushi’s spot-on impressions of Joe, back in the day, on Saturday Night Live.  I found a couple of those videos on YouTube, and had to laugh at the silly grin on Joe’s face as he watched John, being Joe almost better than Joe himself.

Then as I clicked on my favorite songs, the ones included in the soundtrack of my life, a few tears slid down my cheeks.  God, we were so young, and so sure that we were going to change the world into our vision of a peaceful, loving planet.

Ah well.

So here’s my tribute to Joe Cocker, inadequate as it may be.  Think I’ll have another cigarette and listen to them again.




Hillbilly Zen – Hazelnut Coffee and Pancakes on a Stick

I’ve had what I thought was difficulty writing before: no inspiration/motivation, trying to find  just the right phrasing, sweating a deadline, etc.  That all pales in comparison with this last week.  What began as a simple writing exercise morphed into a maelstrom the likes of which I’ve never experienced.

Surgeons are discouraged from operating on family members, detectives aren’t assigned to cases involving relatives or friends, judges and juries are dismissed from deciding the fate of anyone with whom they’ve had prior contact.  So why is it that writers are driven to fill pages with visceral thoughts and feelings?

I’ll ponder that later.  Right now I’m going to seek out the most mindless recreation available, while drinking hazelnut coffee and scarfing down a couple of pancakes on a stick.  The reason for these neuron-numbing, pound-producing indulgences?  The “Haiku for Two Trees” series is finished.

The story it tells may be impossible for anyone but me to follow, but I hope readers will find some beauty in the words.  The memories and emotions that swarmed from this Pandora’s Box have been duly noted and properly dealt with, for now anyway.  I know they will always haunt me, but they are less strident, less accusatory.  Grief has been softened by retrospection.  A fringe benefit of that inexplicable writer’s drive, I suppose.

As stated before, this series was inspired by a photo posted by lovinchelle.  I admit that during this last week I vacillated between wanting to thank him and wanting to throttle him for starting all this.  Now that it’s in the rear view mirror I can sincerely say it’s the former.

If you’d like to see the series presented in one chronological post, it’s here.  I’m still debating whether to use the subtitles or go with I, II, III, etc., and would greatly appreciate feedback.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all who have visited and shown their encouragement.

Online Bingo, here I come.

In Loving Memory of Miss Joan Davis

(Reposted in response to today’s Daily Prompt, Teacher’s Pet)

“’I don’t care what Donny Osmond says, one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.’ This statement was made by my sixth grade teacher, Miss Joan Davis; a wonderful, funny lady whose gentle nature, deep faith and just all around good sense has enriched my life more than I’ll ever be able to tell her. She sought to avoid the domino effect of bad behavior on our class, but as with so many other things she has taught me over the years, this particular lesson transcends the boundaries of the classroom.”

That’s the first paragraph of a column I wrote for the Danville Advocate Messenger a few years ago. When I asked for her permission to tell that story, Miss Davis was typically modest about her positive influence on her students’ lives. Had it not been for Miss Davis’ guidance and encouragement, however, I would not have had the ability or the confidence to write anything. Any one of her former students will tell you the same thing – she had a knack for discerning our talents and helping us develop them. Walking into her classroom was like being enveloped in a warm, soft fleece blanket. You knew you were safe, that your skills would be praised and your flaws overlooked, or gently discouraged. Always gently.

Miss Davis was not, however, a pushover. She never raised her voice that I can remember, yet she held total sway over her classroom. If we were less than attentive to the lesson she was teaching, she simply stopped speaking. Standing in front of us, usually with her hands folded and a pleasant expression on her face, she waited until we got the hint and settled down. When she resumed speaking, it was in an even softer tone that had us leaning forward in our seats to catch her every word. That tactic might not work on today’s students, but let me tell you it sure worked on us.

I lost touch with Miss Davis for several years after leaving Glendover Elementary. In reflection, I really believe it was divine intervention that prompted me to find her again. Her influence was missing in my life, and even if I didn’t realize it, God did. The blessing of being her student blossomed into an adult friendship, and the way she lived her life continued to teach me invaluable lessons for the next 42 years.

Her sense of humor is legendary, and more often than not our nightly phone conversations inspired helpless laughter in both of us. When she asked me a year or so ago to write a eulogy for her, Miss Davis absolutely forbade me from mentioning some of the really funny stuff, so suffice it to say that at one point I was inspired to nickname her “The Wayward Schoolmarm”.

Miss Davis told me that the hardest part of teaching was letting us go at the end of the year. After giving us everything she had during the school year, catching glimpses of the adults we would become, and providing the love and support than only Miss Davis could give, she had to let us go. She had to release us to our destinies, to bigger and better things. Knowing in her heart that it was inevitable didn’t make it any easier for her, just as it doesn’t make it any easier for us to let her go. But we know that she has beautifully and completely fulfilled her destiny; that she, too, goes on to bigger and better things. She has left us for a place where there is no pain, where her incredible soprano will ring out pure and strong, and where knowledge is infinite. And wherever there’s a group of giggling angels, it’s a safe bet that Miss Davis will be right in the middle of them.

One quick word to the educators gathered here today, both retired and “active duty” – don’t ever doubt that you have made a difference in this world. Some of your students may stay in touch, some may not, but please, know in your heart of hearts that you have made this planet a better place.

Joan Phyllis Davis was a marvelous lady who has been an inspiration on so many levels, a mentor, and a treasured friend. My deepest love and gratitude to you, Miss Davis, for always bringing out the best in me, and in all of us.


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