grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

a good HAIRisonburg day no. 27: the studio.

There are many reasons I–and other women–like to go to the salon. You go in feeling kinda droopy and frumpy, and come out looking all trimmed and polished (literally). Fingers and toes massaged and glossy, locks and tresses smoothed and shorn, “unruly areas” waxed and plucked, tension relieved, gossip released, ego boosted and mood restored. It’s therapy. It’s miraculous, really. For a few minutes you let yourself imagine you’re outfitted in a gorgeous gown and gigantic diamonds and a tiara… or maybe a sash, yes… and you step outside and see your pumpkin carriage waiting as you click click click your glass slippers toward it… Of course that fantasy shatters when you get in the car and realize you’d been sitting on a melted crayon all day. And the car smells like cheese or feet or something. And then you remember that you meant to go to the bank first and checks are bouncing all over the place… and then you look in the back seat and think, “What the heck is that?? Oh, yeah, my kids.” And then you go get a round of Slurpees. And you’re the best-looking mom in the whole 7-Eleven.

What I haven’t told you, though, is that as great as my salon is (and I’ll get to that in a minute), I hate getting my hair cut. This has nothing to do with the salon or the staff or some scarring event from my childhood. It has to do with how ugly I feel with wet hair. Yes, it’s ridiculous.

I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. First of all, it’s red. And if you are or ever were a redhead, you know that it garners a certain attention from people…and not the same kind of attention as, say, blonde hair gets. So growing up as a tall, geeky, scrawny redhead was not the easiest.

What’s more, when my hair’s wet, it sticks up, it sticks out, it curls, I have a horrible cowlick that becomes pronounced, and it causes me to have an “ugly girl” moment. This is why I cringe at the thought of having wet hair in public. You’ll never see me standing under a tropical waterfall allowing water to cascade down my head and back. No. If I’m ever doing something that involves water–canoeing, the beach, a pool–I’ll have a hat on my head nearly the entire time. You can see my hair after I get home, take a shower, and get it back under control. And so I looked at this mortifying experience (not only of having a friend witness the hair cut, but TAKING PHOTOS OF IT–oh, the horror…) as a way to face my fear.

UGH. Okay, so I’m kinda glad my crow’s feet are there to divert attention from my dorky head.

And I’d rather face my fear at The Studio than anywhere else. I’ve been going to the The Studio since 2008 and I can honestly say that since then, compliments about my hair have skyrocketed. Last Wednesday I had my monthly appointment for a hair cut. Instead of dishing about my personal life in the chair, as I usually do, Brandy and I tried to initiate a more blog-appropriate conversation. My stylist that day, Ashley K., had actually not cut my hair before because my usual stylist was recovering from a pesky hand injury. Ashley K. wasn’t at all intimidated and welcomed the “challenge of a fresh head.” It’s kinda like solving a mystery: she followed the clues Elizabeth had left a month before. That got us on the topic of the creepy practice heads.

Ashley used to leave her practice head in various positions in her car just to freak people out. Someone else left her practice head in her living room window when she went on vacation so people would think someone was home. Or they’d think there was a severed head in there and not want to break in.

Then Brandy asked Ashley if there are questions she’s frequently asked. One is, “Do you cut your own hair?” The answer is no. I imagine it would be hard to reach all the way around, even if you’ve practiced on hundreds of creepy plastic heads.

But haircuts are not all they do. They have a long list of services ranging from waxing and facials and even makeup lessons to body polishing and hot stone therapy and massages, from manicures and pedicures to hair cuts, coloring, and conditioning.

They offer bridal services for the bride and groom, and guys–you can even get a beard trim. Now, gentlemen, don’t freak out! I see lots of guys there. If you haven’t tried it, you should. At the very least, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous women. Just promise me you won’t look when my hair’s wet.

The Studio is located on 33 East, on the same side of the road as Burger King, in a large beautiful old house with gorgeous flowers out front. One last remark: if you know someone in dire need of therapy, get them a gift certificate. It works. I know firsthand.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.