Alice Hale Adams is a mixed media artist who lives in Fordsville, Kentucky. Her work is regularly featured on the radio program Keep Hearing Voices, which airs on Crescent Hill Radio in Louisville. Adams explores new venues of putting her work out into the world, perhaps most notably through enormously popular Facebook statuses that tell the ongoing stories of Father and the many other people in his family and community. A teacher for many years, Adams is now retired and has been published in the anthologies Motif 2: Come What May and Crossing Troublesome.
Father walked up to the clearing on the mountain, stretched out on the grass and watched the stars. He imagined floating through space, looking back at the Earth and seeing the tiny spot that was Cumberland Gap.
What Father saw as he floated touched him to his very soul. He saw his home, the place that gave him joy, purpose and even life. The trees gave him his greatest pleasure and his most severe pain.
Grey clouds covered the trees in winter, subdued the light from the forest floor, left the leaves to rot in darkness. Winter days made Father get up early to go out among the trees and listen to the ice crackle on the limbs. He could hear words and music as the branches shook in the wind. Father stood without moving, hardly breathing, he let the sounds fall on him.
He knew he heard what his fathers had heard. He listened to the pounding of feet running across the mountain. Voices, tender and quiet. Voices, terrible and fearful. Voices, close and far away.
A fiddle played … A girl sang …
Sometimes, Father only heard the quiet.
In summer, the leaves grew so thick his boots would tangle in the undergrowth until he found himself face down where his senses were overtaken by the fragrance of the mixture of old and new. He felt his feet travel the mountain, each crevice, each rock, every patch of dirt he had trod since he was a boy. Father knew the woods as he knew himself, as he knew each individual tree.
Father’s best times were spent in the woods. All things seemed real amongst the trees. He discovered his thoughts in the forest floor, his memories gathered, he uttered them to the air where they bounced back and forth between live, young trees and stumps dead since before he was born.
When poetry fell on Father he rested his back against a hemlock while he wrote pieces of verse on the folded paper he carried in his pocket. Words poured from the lead until it lost itself in the wood of the pencil and required sharpening with his knife. Father kept his poems in a box stuffed behind the davenport in the parlor. Spiders spun webs inside the box to hide Father’s secrets.