Saturday, January 28, 2012


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (1/28/2012)

First, the necrology report. Remember good, old Jack Aspen? He suffered from Arbor nervosa. Well, he froze to death last winter. In our Class Year Book he wrote how he’d wanted to “live beside the road and be a friend to man.” At first, he was reported as “went missing,” but then in the spring after the snow melt, his neighbors found him entombed in a berm of snow, ice, cinders, and salt, buried by the city’s snow plows. Although he had extensive roots in the community, he hung around with The Aphids, a street gang, whose leader is called Slime. Looks like he suffered from road salt and “honeydew,” fell over, and was trapped in the five foot blizzard last winter.

Also, I’m sad to report the death of Sally Rhododendron from a failure to acclimatize. She won the beauty pageant her first year. She roomed with Susie Gardenia down in the foreign exchange student dorm. Their sophomore year, they were put on probation for “flashy behavior,” as Dean Henri Lapin-Brosse put it, during the Ice Carnival and Parade. I think he meant flaunting their bare skin while everyone else was stylishly decked out in LL Bean mummy bags suitable for 30ºF below. Officially, the probation report read, “Failure to Adapt.” He predicted they would come to no good end. Sally’s death was slow, but Susie went quickly. Susie had lush dark green hair and lily white skin and used a lot of perfume. Man, were they something! Not the kind you “take home to Mamma.”

Now, the good news. We all remember Scarlet Penstemon and her brother Rocky at the Class Day Ceremonies. Scarlet and Rocky were the first of their family to go to college. Rocky got the True Blue Mountain Award for spending every night breathing heavily on his heirloom tomatoes until the danger of frost was past, some sixty-five nights, a record.

The family even won the Governor’s Acclimatization Award. Their emphasis has been horticultural authenticity, like in Sunset Penstemon. Another authenticity advocate is Freddie Fescue. His nickname was Arazz, short for Arizona, because his great grandfather was a first-settler, homesteading a big spread out near Lava Flow. Well, anyways, his cousin Ferdie Fescue got nicknamed Sheep for reasons that don’t need to be spelled out. He got admitted as a legacy because his grandfather donated Fescue Organic Commons.

You’ll remember that Arizona and Sheep started a fraternity called The Pioneers. Some of our classmates called them The Clumps. They were finally disbanded because of their discriminatory policies for black balling some foppish dude who called himself Colonel Blue Grass. He sported a string tie instead the bolo tie. Talk about out of place. Well, it turns out that Arizona and Sheep were right. Colonel Blue Grass was a subversive, who should’ve been on the university’s Weed Watch and Ward List. Expelled in his junior year for exoticism, thought he was some kind of trophy grass.

Nobody can forget Rosy Antennaria. Her nickname was Pussytoes because she wore little fluffy things on her Wellies. She was a little low to the ground if you know what I mean. Well, anyways, she’s chairwoman of our tenth reunion festivities. She’s got several contests. One is called the Hang-In-There contest, like about surviving winter with the least damage. Jethro Juniper and Gerry Gambel have already thrown their names in the pot. Remember, Jerry was really good at the twist and won lots of dance contests. Even though it was kind of out-of date, he was so good at it that he kept on twisting himself right into a permanent cockscrew. Wouldn’t you know, I heard he’s in some kind of orthopedic treatment down at a vortex in Sedona to unwind him.

This year Pussytoes is accepting flowers only, no veggies. I’m putting in for Rose Woods. She still gets listed backwards as Woods Rose in the alumni directory. Anyways, she gets glossy red hips in the summer. Never seen them, but I heard tell they’re really something when she’s “struttin’ her stuff.” See you at Winter Fest.

Copyright (c) Dana Prom Smith 2012
Dana Prom Smith edits the column GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun in which this article appeared in 1/28-2012.  He can be reached at

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (1/14/12)

“Growing up with chaos, trauma, violence, and alcoholism, music became my lifeline. I picked up the guitar at around age ten and the clarinet and saxophone shortly thereafter. It was a lifeline to some form of spirit and a way to connect with my true self and others. I don’t consider myself to be, first and foremost, an entertainer or actress but music keeps me alive. I can lose myself for hours in the pursuit.”

Lori Crowe’s story is not uncommon for children growing up in domestic violence, victims of abuse, and young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with stories of unspeakable horror. The experience is terror, a terror not just of the moment, but for months and years on end. I’ve been terrified four times in my life, but they were for a few hours, not years on end. Such a terror as Lori’s, unless it is to dominate of one’s life, eventually means some way of looking back at the experience, not as a victim, but as a victor.

Lori Crowe has dealt with her years of terror with music. She fugues in beauty, carrying her spirit on graceful journeys, not as an escape, but as a re-creation and reenactment of her life’s story. If those who’ve lived in terror want to move beyond being dominated by the terror, they eventually become psychic pilgrims, traveling from being victims, to becoming survivors, and finally to prevailing as pilgrims on life’s journey, becoming “more than conquerors.” It is a journey in which they are liberated from the tyranny of the past the better to celebrate the present and anticipate the future.

Music was Lori’s vehicle for her journey, not merely as an escape, but as a means to power. Victims first see themselves as powerless, and making music, as is any other form of art, is an experience of power, such as making a melody. It also is orderly. Chaos is the life of a victim. We thrive in the stability, knowing we have a purpose.

Another of her fugues during her childhood and adolescence was ranching, horses, and the great out-of-doors. Her father homesteaded a ranch in California’s Gavilan Hills. She experienced the gradual creation of a ranch. If anything, ranching and horses, give a person a sense of power and purpose. She felt an affinity with the land and the sky.

She was drawn to NAU because it was set in the midst of a wilderness. Both she and her husband, Jeff Karl, graduated in 1975. She studied sociology because she liked it and to “gain insight into her childhood.” She says: “I was able to squeeze in classical guitar and saxophone classes, and I found I could make some extra cash playing guitar and singing at various venues around town.” She became a country and western chanteuse.

When she moved into her present home, she replaced the grassed-over front yard with native plants, wanting something of the wilderness, such as blue fescue and wild gooseberry, but in her backyard she set about gradually reclaiming the land for a garden of berries and vegetables. She started out with a couple of small fenced parcels with high anticipations of gradually turning the chaotic debris and detritus left by the contractors into backyard garden. Gardening for her is, as is it for everyone else, an experience of power, turning chaos into a design, enriching the soil, and drawing both beauty and food from the earth.

And so it is that she became a tutor at The Literacy Center, wanting to share the power of language by equipping others to read, write, and speak English so that they could read a menu, a manual, a ballot, a magazine, and a newspaper, as well as carry on a conversation and get an education.

Speaking as a pilgrim, she says; “There is always so much to learn and relearn. So I try to play as much as I can and see what comes of it. My hope is that the listener can feel a similar connection to the musical muse that I do and be uplifted by it.”

Copyright (c) Dana Prom Smith 2012 

Dana Prom Smith edits GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun in which this article appeared 1/14/2012.  His email address is