Appalachian Author/Yogi Kelli Hansel Haywood’s life and practice is firmly rooted in the soil of her native East Kentucky. In this interview, she speaks about home, art, motherhood, healing, and her artistic processes.
Some of the things we talk about include:
welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. i’m your host carla govan and appalachian musician flatfoot dancer, mama creative and dreamer from kentucky. i’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. grab your mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger, and pull up a chair, because it’s time to get your dream on
that’s what dreamers do.
hello, dreamers, and welcome to this week’s episode of the wet dreamers do podcast. i’m so excited to be here today because i have a very special guest, who is very dear to my heart. her name is kelly, hansel haywood, and she is a writer and a yogi. i have had the privilege of knowing her for many, many years. and we’ve been through a lot of milestone life events together, we’ve seen each other have children and marriages and in my case divorce and
go through various initiations and various stages of life and in our transition into motherhood and artists hood and becoming i hope and and i feel like the people that were meant to be. so it’s really cool to watch somebody’s transition like this, to watch a woman give birth or children. but what’s really cool about kelly is i feel that i have watched her as she has given birth to herself. now she has a book out called sacred catharsis, we’re going to talk to her about that she has a thriving yoga and fitness practice, she’s faced some health challenges that i think in some ways have helped her come out even stronger, and she has other new projects in the works. so welcome, kelly, thank you so much for being here with us today. thank you so much for having me. i’m really excited about this conversation. yes, because it’s been too long since we,
since we’ve sat down together, and i’ll tell my listeners, kelly and i had started kind of a remote accountability pod. not too long before the pandemic hit. and we were meeting on zoom, because we live in different towns once a week, and you know, trying to figure out what our next strategies and business things we’re going to be and how we can, you know, balance all the stuff we’re doing and motherhood and our practices and,
and then like, shortly thereafter, the pandemic hit, and we just had, basically like everybody else go up against the wall, full tilt, tried to figure out what we were going to do so. so this is cool to be connecting in this way, again, this time on a podcast. so
i was thinking, i was wondering if maybe you could just kind of tell us a little bit about this could go a lot of different directions, but just your your cliffnotes of your story, how you wove together, maybe some of the different things that you’re interested in to arrive at where you are today. and some of the things that got you there, whatever leaps out, yeah, well, i mean, stories are really complex, you know, and, and i could probably tell my story 20 different ways, and have a listener or a writer draw 20 different conclusions about who i am, what i am, and what brought me there. so that’s the yeah, that’s the interesting thing about a story. um, but i think the things that really stand out for me is that i live still in the same place where i was born, and i’ve lived within the region, all but seven years of my life. and this is true, for probably say, at least five generations of my family now.
we’ve all been here, and this place, probably more than anything else in my life has shaped me.
and, and brought me forward to be able to be who i am today informs everything that i do, even when i’m not in this place. i will always be a bit and that’s something that i even if i wanted to let it go, i cannot. so this place is actually
a very integral part of my story, one that i can’t separate myself from, but i was really fortunate as a young girl to have two really wonderful grandmother’s especially grandmothers
who taught me
the short version of the say appalachian culture values? who we are. and my paternal grandmother in particular was the keeper of our family story. so she did a lot of genealogy. and she made sure i knew exactly where i came from. and it was a really odd thing to me, as a young person to realize that not everyone had met all of their great grandparents. i met all of my great grandparents, but one, not everyone knew the names of their great grandparents, even for their brothers and sisters, or where they came from, or any of those things. so anytime i needed to ground myself and something in an existence that was bigger than me, i could always pull from my family story. and for me that i don’t know, it almost made me feel older than what i was always. so
is it’s a strange thing. i relate so much to that, because i’ve always i, i’ve told people that i’ve always felt like a little a woman. and again, same deal to granny’s. one of them was such a such a genealogist. and i just like you said, i didn’t realize that not everybody
kept track of that stuff. i didn’t realize that it was unusual in any way. but she was really into it. and it it is, it’s such a huge shaper of your identity. well, and what one thing that really shocked me as i traveled is to realize that some people didn’t even spend much time around their grandparents growing up, which is shocking, shocking to me.
yeah, that was a he, i didn’t really, it didn’t really hit home to me until i was in college. and in a sociology class, where my instructor had never met his grandparents, even though they were living. wow. and i just it floored me, i couldn’t have imagined that at all.
so, no, i don’t know if i’ve always wondered, because i’ve not had the opportunity to travel a whole lot. like i have not even seen a lot of the united states. i’ve never traveled out of the country never had a passport. last time i was on a commercial flight, i was 15 years old. so that was prior to 911. and all of that, you know, so i’ve not seen a lot outside of here and within a drop that he’s dropped out of here, you know, and it it just
i don’t know if i believe, based on reading literature and, and seeing films that there are other places that are where people are deeply, deeply tied to the actual physical location.
lidar, there are i’ve found a few. yeah. when i started discovering that i was like, oh, no, you know, it almost felt like everybody else was just floating around, and had no place to land. in my head, you know, and it took me a while to reconcile that, you know, yeah, that connection to to land and to extended family. it’s something that certainly historically has been really one of the cornerstones of appalachian additivity and appalachian
value system, culture, there’s just that that sense of deep connection for me, i have a different relationship to it now, because you know, i’ve lived now, for the first time, 12 years out side of appalachia. i mean, i’m one county over from appalachia. and there’s a lot of appalachian expats here in lexington for various reasons, but
at all my grandparents have passed. and so i’m kind of the elder now. and it’s just, it’s disorienting, and i’m still finding my way with that. but
i don’t know what else that you want to say about your story. but another thing that always stands out to me about you is that knowing what i know about home
there’s so many ways in which you are like, just deeply quintessential mountain woman, you know, you’re strong, you’re independent. you think for yourself, you’re proud. and
to me, that’s that’s what i see. but i know that there are also things that you choose to do like you have short hair, which in the church i grew up with, in would have been, you know, tantamount to being a satan worship. so that’s not like, not what maybe everybody in the mountains would think of as a typical mountain.
woman, but certainly outside with some of the stereotypes people have about appalachia, if they see, like my daughter, at one point had green hair, and somebody commented on one of our videos like, well, music sounds good, but she doesn’t look very appalachian. i just thought that was kind of absurd, but like, you have a lot of tattoos. and that’s, that’s something that i’m sure doesn’t play to the stereotypes that, you know, people want to see the calico and the bonnets and all that kind of stuff. right? yeah. now, it’s
i don’t know how to say this. without it sounding really, maybe childish. i don’t know what the right word is for it. but i never, while i feel like i belong to the land here, and especially to the older folks, i have a hard time feeling like i fit in even here. right? so and then when i go out, as soon as i open my mouth, or as soon as i interact with the bigger world, it’s recognized that i also don’t belong there.
i had a really hard time other than to the actual land, to the rocks, the trees, the mountains themselves, to myself to my own body,
and to the legacy that the people that are love have left me. other than those things, it’s been really hard for me to feel like i’ve even found the place where i belong.
and i feel like that’s still up in the air, you know?
so yeah, it’s, it’s, it is really interesting, because when i go out and about here, and my daughter, my oldest daughter has even encountered it, going places with me. it’s very, very common, that someone will comment to me directly to my face on my parents. and it’s not always nice. yeah, i’m always comfortable. no, it’s not always comfortable or nice. and my daughter was with me one of the last times that it happened, man got out of his car and came at me making the macho man randy savage sound of that, oh, ye.
and i was trying to get to my car with my buggy of groceries and my child. and she was so upset and didn’t understand how i could just, you know, look at him and be like, whatever, man, and go on about my way. i’m like, because it happens really, really often.
and i’m just used to it. but then on the flip side of that, i’ll never forget, i mean, there’s, i opened my mouth, i have this accent that even when i trot like my great grandmother was an english teacher, and she tried her best to help me learn how to not have a long ah, when i say brought in us and
and so bade me she forbade me to say ain’t now this wasn’t at home, this wasn’t a code switching. sure, we’re not talking to someone outside of the region. she said, you don’t want them to think you’re stupid, because they’re gonna think you’re stupid. and this was my great grandmother. so she trained me try to train me brought back sent and there used to be a time when i would really really give it all i had, but i don’t anymore.
so what comes out comes out. and i get comments on that quite a bit. even laughing in my face.
and i’ll never forget one time i was at a training we were in the cafeteria and this was when i was doing dual work. and we were in the cafeteria
and i was looking for a bold it for my salad. now let me try to pronounce it correctly boiled egg.
the person who had been partners with asked me, you know, what was i looking for? and i said a boiled egg. and she screamed out into the cafeteria bowl. hey, egg, real exaggerated. and i literally i had to leave the cafeteria. where was she from? can i ask where we wish she from another part of kentucky or yes. from louisville were not that kentucky.
that’s another thing that i heard a lot when i lived in louisville. we’re not back kentucky.
i don’t know it’s i know exactly what you mean. and it’s
my accent changes depending on who
i’m talking to i have a hard time with that sound in particular that those dip thongs, i was telling my friend i was hanging out with a friend just just a couple of nights ago. and i was telling her how hard it was for me to say, beard like a man has on his face because i say beard and stuff like that. yeah, all bold. and the long vowel the long i lexington, we’ll we’ll get people looked at you. i tried to ask somebody actually wasn’t the long i was trying to ask for a pin, a pin to write with in a coffee shop. and she kept saying what is it? what do you mean? and i was like a peon, i need a pen.
a pen? a pen? yeah.
anyway, we could. that’s another entire podcast about accidents. and it’s fascinating. but yeah, the values that we put on them, the ways that we’re marked by our accents, both. you know, it’s kind of like you’re saying with you’re not feeling like you fit in appearance wise anywhere or identity. it can be that way with accents. and i think
maybe part of it is just a function of being an artist, and somebody that thinks that things thinks of things. outside the box. it’s my graduate school where it is, it’s being in a liminal place or a liminal state, you live between two worlds.
and that’s just how it is. well, your your existing largely in that part where worlds are created? oh, yeah, that’s kind of exciting. yeah. it’s, it has, like everything else.
our reality, you know?
well, so you mentioned, you know, this experience that you had that, that influenced or, you know, that affected your daughter, when you’re out in public with her, and i know, you have three daughters. and so having daughters, i know, because i have to, it’s like,
they’re such reflections and they’re such teachers. and i know that, you know, you take motherhood very seriously. and it’s, it’s like an art form, the way you practice it. and
i’m always interested in how the process of parenthood has shaped people as an artist, because especially, i mean, there’s a lot of ways you can answer that question. but one of the things that i know from talking to you, and from my own experiences, that also, you have to have this crazy discipline, to just carve out a little bit of time to do the art that you’re wanting to do. so, anyway, maybe i’m not trying to answer the question for you. but i’d like to hear your thoughts about motherhood and being an artist. absolutely.
so i never set out to be a mother actually thought i would not be because my favorite aunt was childless. and i was so so close to her. she was like my mother. and i thought, well, i’ll just be the aunt for my nieces and nephews.
but my mind changed, as i got a little older. and it was funny, because i was so much older, i was 25 that my parents and grandparents had decided that they weren’t getting grandkids. for me.
i was 25, you know.
but now i have three. and the way that i work in terms of routing is my,
i guess, the most time consuming art form that my creativity takes on and, and as a rider, you know, for me, it was i had to write, as soon as the inspiration hit, i had to sit down, and i had to not stop until it was done, until it had to come through. and so having babies having children totally changes that that’s not possible. and so i’ve had to learn to rework my mind. and, and i have to make notes on my phone and make notes i’ve got, like, if you saw my desk right now, it’s covered in little papers,
to make notes, and then hope that i can come back to that when the inspiration hits, because i still have to work when the inspiration hits, you know, and sometimes i’ll have to let it pass, which used to break my heart and frustrate me so so much when i would feel that moment and know that i could get some good rotting in but just couldn’t, you know, because i had other responsibilities. so there was part of me that grieved that for a long, long time,
because i have mostly been the primary caregiver of the children, you know,
and not a lot of help with child care. and so you know, there was
it felt a lot of like a lot of giving up.
at first, especially it is it takes a long time to get used to how much of your old way of being you have to give up.
when you become a mother, and then with each additional child that you added to the equation,
it happens even even more. but i think there was a part of me that by that by the time i had my third one, i was just whatever, you know.
but yeah, but you kind of you kind of realize you kind of learn that
inspiration will come back, there’s a source that you can return to, and it’s not going to be gone forever. and i took a lot of comfort in that. and like you
have many little pieces of paper all over the house, i had a really proud moment as a parent, when my oldest was about 15, i was cleaning the house one day, and i found this little scrap of paper. and i was like, oh, it looks like a song. i don’t remember starting this. and then i realized it was a song that she’d written down on a scrap of paper. so it made me feel really happy to think that i had been modeling how to stay true to my muse, in spite of all of the demands, you know, of motherhood, of life of work of keeping the house and all those things. yeah, that’s, that’s definitely something that i have tried to model
for my children. and, you know, in the early days, my creativity had to be filtered into other things. so i didn’t write as much, but it didn’t mean that i was less creative.
it turned into more artwork, for example, like visual artwork, to crafting to wildcrafting, i lived cyma off grid there for about seven years, when i was raising my girls, when they were little, you know, so it was a lot of like foraging, going out in the woods, homesteading top stuff, you know, which is all very, very creative work. and then i also chose to homeschool for about 10 years.
so that was a lot of creative outpouring there. and just doing a lot of that type of work, you know, and at the same time, i was working with pregnant women, and also doing reproductive health, educating and, you know, so it feels like, just wherever i could find that outlet that was workable, that’s where i would funnel my creativity. so it didn’t look like what i thought it would look like when i was 20 years old, you know.
and it still, i’m still molding that into what it what i would like for it to look like it’s still not there yet.
but my all three of my daughters are very creative. and artists, especially visual artists, one of the things that has been during the pandemic, especially that has been really brought me a lot of joy is
a yoga practitioner, and also teach but during the pandemic, it was mostly deeply into my practice. and also which informed the writing of my book, and my oldest daughter, who is 16 now be 17. in august, she did a lot of the photography for the promotion of my work, and my yoga, and it has been really
brought me a lot of joy simply because when i was her age, i
looked at my body in a very, very shameful way. and carried a lot a lot of shame around my body and any way that it could be looked up on as a sensual sexual thing.
when doing yoga poses, you know, sometimes it’s ideal to show more of the body, you know, rather than to cover it so that you can see the way that the muscles are working and what’s engaged and what’s not engaged. and it’s just the art of the pose, right. so having her be the one to take my pictures, you know and decide what angle she shoots me from. and to have her see me finally coming into my body and learning it and embracing it. i feel like is one of the best gifts that i could possibly give her. but i’m also seeing that she is a lot less apprehensive about her own body
now than i could
have you ever dreamed about at her age? you know, well, it’s that’s healing generational curses, generational trauma. and i think as women, i mean, as women all over the world, we deal with those issues. but certainly, you know, there’s a lot of pretty
how would i call it, in my case, like fundamentalist ideas about women and sexuality and bodies and sinfulness. and i also carried so much of that shame. and it’s been quite a process to work through it. so i think it’s beautiful that, you know, you’re, you’re healing that on such a deep level and your children get to witness it. and in the case of, you know, your eldest?
like you said, taking those photos.
yeah, getting to create art with her,
you know, has been,
there’s a phone ringing, sorry. but getting to create art with her has been just a huge gift to me. and, and i don’t think she realizes that as a gift yet, but i think she will, eventually. yeah, back on that, you know, what did i do during the pandemic? oh, me, and my mom
worked on this project, where my mom’s twisted herself and all kinds of shades.
you know, i don’t have those memories with my own mother. and so i’ve been very grateful for this time in that regard, as well as many others. but yeah, now that we’re the age, we create art together. and i know you do some of that. so it’s, it’s magical to get to make music with my daughters, with my son’s only 10. so and he’s, i don’t know, he’s a different breed than his sister. so i’m not sure if we’ll make art together or not, but he’s going to have a good time. just so that our listeners know, that is kelly’s rooster in the background. so don’t be alarmed. there’s no nobody suffering or, you know, being tortured.
now, he just likes to make, he likes to make himself known. my chickens. i have some big windows in my house, and they stand at the windows and watch me.
like, i’ve got little provet eyes watching me all the time.
anytime i’m sitting in this chair, he gets up really high on crows. so
well, since we’re talking about, we were talking about, you know, women and mothers and daughters, there’s something that i think about a lot
that i’m always interested to hear other opinions on. but for me, it’s always been
kind of a cognitive dissonance to to know how much when i was growing up, there’s all kinds of little comments about well, she wears the pants in that family, or like it was looked down upon.
if a woman was too assertive, or too strong, you know, the it was like, the man was the head of the household. and, you know, men were the rulers of it all. but in, in my family and so many others, it was the women that were like holding down the fort, and taking care of all the grandkids and making sure everybody was fed and making sure the garden was okay. and like just really pillars of society. and in least in my family, in some cases, especially my extended family, a lot of the men, they struggled more with addiction than the women like alcoholism, and
so much really fill on the shoulders of the women. and when i think of, you know, appalachian women strength, and endurance, and grit is something that i always think of, but it’s like a, it’s kind of not what the
what would you say, the party line? supposedly, it’s x, but really, it’s why is was it like that in your experience? or? absolutely. so, you know, what, what i was taught, or what we hear, say, said, you know, was almost the opposite of my experience. growing up, now, the,
my, both of my grandmother’s worked and brought in a significant portion of the income. and then my maternal grandmother actually divorced. so by the time and this was when my mother was still in high school. so by the time i was born, you know, i only met my mother’s father twice. he dealt with his own demons, you know, as you were mentioning, and so i only met him twice and
we lived with my maternal grandmother for until i was about 10 years old. so
the example that i saw were that women worked, you know, they worked outside of the home, they worked in the home, they took care of things. and my paternal grandmother had always worked.
i don’t think she ever didn’t work outside of the home.
so, you know, well,
we are taught that the men are the leaders of the church, for example, the men are leaders of the household. that
wasn’t as much the example that i had,
as the example that i was told.
so it was interesting to me. and both of my grandmother’s really instilled in me, and even my great grandmother, she was a school teacher, she worked outside of the home.
so it was really deeply ingrained in me to be an independent woman, to at any moment in time, regardless of what i’m doing, to be able to take care of myself. and if i bring any children into the world to also find a way to take care of them,
then that was a highly important thing. and i was never to give that up. you know, even another of my great grandmother’s was dropping from alabama to kentucky going to alaska, 92 years old by herself.
yeah, so. so yeah, the idea of a woman, not being able to be independent, or be headstrong, or any of those things just wasn’t the way that i was raised. and, you know, my dad, we’ve had two major kind of
bumping hit issues. and
he raised me to believe i could do anything i want it, like, i could be a fighter pilot, i could go to the moon, i could be anything that i wanted to do. and i could do it just as well as any boy hit that he instilled in me that i was strong. all of that, that i could find a boy physically if i needed to. he taught me how.
and i mean, literally, quite literally. but there were two things that i couldn’t do, he would say, and one was be president, because women are too emotional for that.
and okay, second one was that i, i didn’t want to change my name, when i got married, and the plan was not to. and he didn’t want me to be one of those women.
i remember you telling me that. yeah. and it’s still to this day,
an issue for me to have another name that isn’t mine attached tomorrow night.
it’s a and i’m still working on the reclamation of that.
and so and i got so angry with him, i changed my mind.
so, those but even at that, in practice, my father has never not supported me in doing anything else.
and so it, it’s been a really interesting
thing to explore in that regard, and i think religion has played more into that idea than just about anything else, because i think the culture broadly that i’ve experienced here is very matriarchal.
right? but the, but the talking points have to be patriarchal, because of ephesians and titus and all those things. you know, it’s i heard so many of those certain, there’s like a verse from paul and a verse from ephesians. diverse from titus, those are quoted, like, as a way of reminding a woman what replaces and i heard him so many times in church, but but yes, and that was that was always the mental gymnastics. for me. it was this what i heard in church versus what i observed in the communities in my family. anyway, i just think that’s i’m always curious what other people’s experience are about that other women? well, one of the interesting things is in my book, refer to this article that was in the new york times it was actually written based out
up here in letcher county where i am talking about now that the coal industry is dying out, and how most of the jobs that are left in our economy are traditionally seen as women’s jobs, right? there has been an increase in addiction and various things, depression, mental health instabilities in the menfolk around here, because a lot of the women are now having to leave home. and they, they haven’t been able to replace their jobs. right. so therefore, the the women are the breadwinners, and then it’s talking about how they’ve had to change their mind, you know, and actually go into nursing, you know, that more are entering the nursing and teaching fields here, because that’s what’s left. but it was a really interesting article, and i included it. and in my book,
just to talk about, you know, where we fit in here,
but i feel like our man folk are quietly very quietly and sometimes loudly, struggling, but in terms of being able to express that it’s, it’s rare, and i do so very quietly, you know, and that’s something that i’ve tried to
be a safe space for as, as many of the people who need to express their frustrations around that stuff, you know, to that?
well, it’s clear that the whole world needs a paradigm shift around masculine and feminine identities, and the masculine and feminine energies that we carry, for lack of a better word masculine, feminine within ourselves. i mean, we just basically need to rewrite 90% of the cultural narratives that we have in appalachian and everywhere else in the world.
i’m curious about if there’s anything that you feel
that most people get wrong about eastern kentucky, or anything that you would want to tell somebody who’s not from here that you feel like maybe there’s a story that doesn’t get told her that the mainstream is wrong?
there’s a lot of things, probably so many things. but the main thing that, and i talked to a lot of people, because i’m finding that a lot of my work speaks to people that aren’t in the region, for whatever reason, okay. so i talk to people all over the world, and the main misconception that i encounter, and it’s even a problem within our own communities now, as a misconception, is that who we are the song i think my tractor sixy
is an example that i use, like we are not i think my tractor is 60. you know, that’s not us.
and, but that is what has been fed. to us. that’s what has been fed to folks outside of the region. you know, and, and the whole calling us just trump country without even understanding why someone here actually would make that choice to vote for donald trump. you know, the flyover region?
the comments that i see when we have, for example, the floods, you know, like, we deserved that. because we vote against our own best interests. that’s another one that just really gets me like we don’t, it’s
perpetuated that we don’t have enough intellect to even know what is good for our own sales. i hear that one a lot. do you hear that one? a lot, too. yeah. and and we’re scapegoated, i think,
especially among caucasian. what
urban educated, i think we are a very easy scapegoat, to blame for some national systemic problems.
but one of the things that i would like for people to know is that while some of us have never left, the area where we were born. and while some of us sound the way, for example, that are sound, i have a master’s degree, i have multiple certifications, you know, it does not mean that we’re not educated. and, for example, my neighbor, he may have went to the fifth grade, when i was growing up, and we would say that around here, we’d say he was touched, you know, right, right. that’s, that’s the way it was referred to it or different. you know, you
and while he was like that, and and didn’t read and didn’t wasn’t cultured,
i don’t even know that he ever left letcher county, you know, he was immensely was about how to live long enough, you know how to make do as we call it,
how to be conned, you know, he’s he literally saved my sister’s life one day, you know, not to underestimate our area
just based upon the obstacles that we might face
not to underestimate our wisdom, and our resilience and our capacity for compassion and empathy.
and our intellect, for crying out loud. do you know those are those are great points.
one thing that i learned about was the differences in value systems between literacy oriented cultures and non literacy oriented cultures. and while in appalachia, i mean, there have always been strange strains of people that did lean more towards what bernie would have called book learning. and those who lean more towards, you know, an encyclopedic knowledge of how to live off the land, for instance, which is about as complex as any phds level of knowledge and my personal opinion.
in general, i think a lot of the values in appalachia have been more towards that subsistence, non literacy oriented culture. and i think our american society and maybe certain other societies in the world are very
prejudiced and bigoted about very proud about, well, literacy is the pinnacle in the summit of all and i got some training in i got a master’s in teaching world languages. and one thing that i realized is that as many immigrant populations have come from different parts of the world, where the traditional culture is still very intact in certain parts of africa, in certain parts of asia. and we would find these immigrant populations suddenly living in the united states, and being funneled through our school systems. and they’re from a culture that objectively has great wisdom and great skill sets and great knowledge, but maybe was not oriented towards learning things out of books.
and then you start to encounter the prejudices that are built into our educational system, our school system, and i think certainly appalachia suffers from that. that conception of, you know, like you’re saying ignorant and backwards, and don’t have the good sense to even vote for the right person that’s going to help them
when, in fact, you know, your accent, or the types of things that you’ve developed skills and knowledge in is not indicative of your iq, as many people seem to assume, if you look, and i know you’re familiar with this, especially with what you just shared, that a lot of
the cultures that developed pre print, you know, or pre written books that were massively distributed, but it did not eliminate their ability for a higher cognitive function. and, in fact, is it the richness of how we pass down oral histories and how, you know, the stories that we told and the art that we made, and the ingenious way that we rigged things up to work here, you know, with very, very little, what my grandmother would always say, during the great depression, that they didn’t really even realize that they were supposed to be feeling anything. that’s exactly what my granny said, when i when i learned about the depression in school, i came home and asked her cuz she was born in 1998, and just live through with all her children. and i was like, what, what was that? like, you know, what was it like to live through the depression? she was like, oh, you just weren’t right out or live in how we’d always be to live in?
was it different, but she did have like a ph. d level ability to save seeds and make special bids for the seed titers, and like medicine and like clothes and just everything, you know, they didn’t notice it as much because that’s how they always lived. yeah.
yeah. and it had nothing to do with whether or not there was a book in the house and cognitive function is not inextricably tied to literacy.
well, i think it’s interesting. i don’t i don’t know if a lot of people know
this but you know, the philosopher plato.
during his time, they were starting to write more stuff down, because because his education is i understand that, and i’m certainly no expert on this, this era. but i did read an interesting article, a lot of he and his contemporaries. they memorize great swathes of
speech famous speeches, which i assume had to be written down somewhere, but it was a very oral tradition. and it was becoming it was starting to come into vogue. during his, you know, heyday that they were writing more stuff down, and children were being taught to read more, and he was concerned that learning to read was going to mess up their ability to retain.
he’s his thing was, if you don’t memorize these pieces, if you don’t memorize this information, then you will not be able to access it. when you’re in a debate, or when you’re, you know, giving a speech. and it’s not really your knowledge. if you just read it in a book and then lay the book down, then it’s not really your knowledge. i was like, oh, my god, i didn’t realize that plato
had concerns. you know, there’s, i guess there’s two sides to every
i mean, now more thinking the same things about smartphones, you know, right. no, exactly. exactly.
well, and whether or not our kids should use calculators to suffer, yeah.
when i got my master’s degree, which was recently, i went back to school to get my masters in 2015. and i had a linguistics professor, who, you know, one of the key tenets of linguistics is that all grammars serve the users equally, and that no one grammar is better than any other. apart from, you know, class puts one grammar in front of the other or rich, you know, we associate certain grammars with power and prestige and other grammars with ignorance and backwardness. but they’re all equal in the eyes of grammar, you know, of a linguist. and so that made it all more shocking what this professor said, he’s lecturing one day. and so in the world of when you’re measuring linguistic ability, you know, for instance, if somebody’s learning a second language, you place them into categories based on novice advanced. there’s something they say, besides intermediate, it’s, i’m drawing a blank right now. and then there’s superior, which is like the highest level that’s like a native speaker, or somebody who’s a spy who’s just that good at languages that they can impersonate a russian even though they grew up there. well, he says in the class, and he knows i’m there. and i’ve already made several comments about appalachia and appalachian english, and he’s already made fun of the way i say tan and stuff like that.
he comes out with,
you know, a superior level, that’s, that’s going to be, you know, a great orator or a speech, i can’t remember who he gave as an example, you know, somebody’s giving a speech, who is at level five, and he was like, probably in appalachia, there’s nobody at that superior level of verbal mastery, would you? i mean, he did have the grace to look over at me as the, you know, resident self appointed appalachian expert, just like, would you agree with that, carla? and like, i just had to kind of stop the steam coming out of my ears long enough to answer him
in a calm measured tone, because we were in a classroom, but oh, my god, i mean,
the oral culture, the storytelling culture. and, and our men of letters and our women of letters are we have great writers and poets from appalachia, it is quite arguably an incredibly gifted oral culture. of course, we have superior level masters of the english language, you know, even even if some of them use appalachian grammar instead of standard english grammar, but this is 20,015. okay, and he still teaches at uk i’m sure he still feels the same way. so this is what we’re up against. and and you as a writer,
you know, here you are, you’re putting words on the page, little hillbilly girl
out there, and we can we talk about your book and how i know you mentioned to me once that your, your writing was part of your healing practice. i just i want to make sure that we talk about your book and your writing. yeah, absolutely. so i’ve been writing mostly in like citizen journalism, creative nonfiction fiction, poetry, and and publishing short works, you know, since i was very, very young, and they’re in the pandemic. i was asked to write a book, and i never dreamed that
that’s how my first full length book would come about. well, i didn’t know that. so so a publisher asked you who asked you? yes, yeah. a magazine? yeah, yeah, that is not typical. so like, i don’t know, for anybody who’s listening, who, because i have a number of friends who are writers, the typical thing is you write something, and you look like mad for a book agent, and you try to get an agent, if you’re fortunate enough to get an agent and your agent tries to get you a publishing deal and tries to get i mean, it’s like a big slog for most people. so this is different. yeah, very different. now, they are an independent press, you know, very small indie press.
but he the the main person had followed me on instagram. and speaking of, you know, having little tidbits of paper all over the house, instagram was is the only social media that are used at this point, on a regular basis. and it had become for me like a journal. so whatever the main theme was, that i was thinking about that day, that’s where i would write it down, was in a post on instagram. and i did my best to craft those posts, like i would any piece of writing that i was going to show to anyone. so i put a lot of care in those with that little bit of time that i had, you know, to be creative. and, and i also tried to do the same sort of care with the images that i put with.
so this person, followed me on instagram, and enjoyed those, and wanted to publish a book about what i was writing on instagram.
so that was really interesting, too, because i didn’t think it would take that sort of form, that it would be about my yoga practice, my movement practice, which is also my spiritual practice. at this point in time, i would consider it my faith even.
but, you know, he wanted a full length description of what i was doing, and how i was combining movement and spiritual practice and the study of world religions and philosophies. and applying that to then my mental health and my physical health and wellbeing. and so that is how sacred catharsis was born. he actually asked me to write it before the pandemic started. but just like when we were talking, it started
very much became, i realized very early on, because they’re right after it started, we were without power for five days.
and it was cold. and i have a physical condition that makes it very, very hard for me to regulate my body temperature. and it was like, lit quite literally, i could not move hardly for five days. and i realized during that time, i still have the i had to sit with a pen and just scribble scribble scribble all over a page when i got warm, to just let out all the anxious energy and i still have it hanging above my desk. but i realized during that time that if i did not put my tools to use that i was going to end up in a bad bad way.
and you know, there’s there’s a big difference between learning and having information, and then applying that information. and actually true. and i love being a student i love it to the point that i don’t know when to quit being a student and start actually like practicing what i learned. and so this was the opportunity for me to take all of this esoteric knowledge, this philosophical research top stuff and world religions and, and literature and all this miss mismatch of things that
study and actually put them towards something useful.
one thing that folks may not know is that where i’m from, to see most types of specialists, whether it be physical or mental health, you’re driving at least at the very least 45 minutes from your house most of the time, if not upwards of three
hours, yes, just to receive normal care. so the there was a time when i had to see a psychiatrist, i had to drive an hour and 15 minutes to the closest psychiatrist. and if you were even three minutes late for your appointment, they would not see you.
and yeah, so that’s how and so if you can imagine, and i would always sit and think, how fortunate i was to have a car that would even get me there, to have the ability to schedule around my child’s schedule, you know, my children’s schedule. and i just would always think about all of the people who did not have that option, and therefore could not receive care.
but even at that, my journey with my mental and physical health both
got to the point where what was available to me was not sufficient.
and there was no way aside from moving, that i could access what i needed. and it it became
the, to the point and especially so during the pandemic, when nobody was able to access what they needed, right? that i had to be very, very, very proactive, or i would end up in a dangerous situation. and so i wrote the book, i wrote the book, as i put my tools to use, and explored the topics of home, and personhood and
personal sovereignty. and what does love mean? and what does it mean to speak your truth and
try traumas that we’ve all experienced? what does it mean to be sensual? what does it mean to have a body and how to reconcile to a body that doesn’t seem to fit you sometimes, and
various things like that are all in this book.
and my journey with that as an appalachian woman, and a gen x er, and there’s so many labels that you could put on it. but when you break it down, and i do so about the chakra system, oh, nice. oh, i love it. yeah, so it might really, it makes it really easy for me to break things down into themes,
and apply various techniques to healing and healing again, as a
word that people have made taboo.
but there are all different types of healing. so i still use it.
but healing those parts of me that i can, or at least learning better ways to cope with those things that will never actually leave me, but will always be a part of who i am now.
learning to bring them forward in healthier ways.
and, and so on. but the chakra system allowed me like a scaffolding to bring those forward and work through those themes. and the thing about it is, is that we all have those things, regardless of who we are where we’ve been in the world, you know, so that makes it applicable to anyone
the process, but i love the synchronicity of it, because the theme song of this show, what dreamers do, i wrote, kind of as my own healing song, just processing stuff. and it’s each verse is based on a chakra. so it’s also, i don’t know if a lot of people know that, but it’s just how i wrote it.
it’s much, much shorter than a book, obviously. but
the things that you you just dropped so much wisdom at once. i mean, from, i think wisdom and also things that i believe will be helpful to my listeners who in large measure are people that really want to live their most actualized lives, they want to heal, they want to use their creativity to make the world a better place. they want their
world changers and learners. i think a lot of the listeners to the show. and so just things that i find inspiring about this stuff you just described are, you know the way that you have been able to really
dive into instagram and meet a whole new world of people, make new connections, find find your people, you know on that on the platform, the way that you have created content created
journal entries in the bits of time that you had and were very intentional and mindful in how you
you wrote those and selected the photos with it. and i’ve seen that, you know, if you haven’t, we’ll give you information about it, you should follow kelly, because she has one of my favorite instagram accounts. it’s really nice, really rich. and then and then as it turns out, lo and behold, in his world, that’s kind of how people need to get their wisdom in these little, something they can read with their cup of coffee in 15 minutes on instagram in the morning, you know, because that’s honestly, that’s the thing, most people are getting a lot of their information, but then what you said,
about taking the stuff that we’ve learned, and really putting it into practice, man, that’s, that is so huge. and i feel like at this, this point in my life, i’d say, as a woman in midlife, that’s when it’s finally started to happen. i mean, there was stuff that i knew when i was in my 20s stuff that i knew better than to do. and i did it anyway. and it’s like, suddenly, in my 40s, the information started to
i like to think of it, it was all in my brain, and it just couldn’t get dropped down into my heart and into my body. and i was able to finally live what i had always known.
which, it just reminded me what you said, reminded me of that. so i just love it that you’ve,
again, a theme that comes up for me over and over is alchemy. and it’s this process of taking the base substance of life and spinning it into gold, taking our trauma, taking all of the things that have been challenges and
creating something beautiful, using it to help ourselves earn a living using it to help
help ourselves heal, using it to help other people heal. and i hear all of those things in what you’re saying. yeah, yeah. and actually, that’s what i call it myself. i call it personal alchemy.
and i actually study hermeticism, or hermetic philosophy, which also incorporates alchemy. so i think, of course you do, of course you do. that’s awesome. yeah. yeah, i think of it much that way.
and the, the process that i use, and, and my book and, and for myself, has become very comfortable for me.
but it’s, it’s taken me quite a while because i’m a loner, i’m very introverted. and so i’m quite happy as a lark hanging out by myself.
and i’ve had to learn that facing these bits that we like to call the dark bits, you know, the the shadow parts the
that that are
and are what i would call toxic positivity, kind of culture
looked at as less than the love and light parts.
but one of one of the the main people who brought forward this type of work was the psychoanalyst. he was a student of sigmund freud. his name was carl jung. and one of his quotes that are my favorite is until you make the unconscious conscious, it will roll your life and you will call it fate.
so good. i love that. that’s so good. yeah. and so he developed what is called shadow work, where you dive headfirst into the dark bits.
and a really, when you talk about that liminal space, you know, and
do we even know what the lot is if we have not experienced the darkness? is there one without the other? and thinking about that owlchemy cheat? like, what’s the difference between love and hate, for example, very, very fun lawn there. because how many stories have we heard where hate turned to intense love or intense love turned to hate?
very, very fun lawn. so it’s all a spectrum of the same thing. love and hate, for example, hot and cold. you know, how many times have you stuck your finger to something very, very cold and it burns you?
so all all of that
kind of thing is is that there’s beauty to be found there. and i think as creative folks, as artists, you know, a lot of artists will say art should make you feel something. i think it was david joey actually that recently posted about this quote, that art should make you feel something very strong.
honestly, it doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t matter if it makes you very, very angry, or if it makes you weep, you know, with joy,
it doesn’t matter what it is, the goal is that it makes you feel something. and i think as creatives and as artists, we have that very, very special ability to face some of these things through our art, and in whatever form that it takes that for some people who haven’t tapped into their creative sides, it might be a little harder to look at. so we have this immense capacity to explore ourselves in a very safe container, which is our art. and that’s, that’s just a gift to really not to be miss misused or taken for granted.
well, and if you don’t use it, even not using it can be misusing it. because i know, people who had gifts like that, who failed to use it, and it destroyed them.
and i wouldn’t even i wouldn’t even postulate the or i would propose that part of the gift that we’re talking about with with creatives or artists is this intensity of feeling. and i was just thinking about this yesterday, because i mean, all human beings feel things, but i think some people maybe have a greater capacity to bury stuff, or just to turn it off somehow. and i’m one of those people i’ve never ever, ever been able to turn it off, i feel things with a white hot burning, you know, like passion, since that’s my my memories of being a small child. it’s just filled everything so much. i just built it. and i was just realizing yesterday, i was talking to my partner that not everybody is like this. i know that sounds dumb, but
but i think maybe that’s part of what allows creatives to
to have some of the perspectives we do and to offer those perspectives with the world is the intensity with which we feel things and notice things and observe and
i don’t know, i’m just spitballing. but something i’ve been thinking about. yeah, and i think it’s what makes art such a wonderful thing is because rather than that be translated into addictive behavior, for example, or intense anger, or
complete and utter self sacrifice and those types of things, whether instead it be presented forward in this container of art, you know, art has the ability to bring up opposing sides of an issue together to discuss that piece of art because it creates a safe container for the conversation.
so it’s, it’s, it’s a healthy thing, if that makes sense. and it’s also something that i am also learning is i’ve got this funny meme on my phone. and it’s a dolphin. it says me with my philosophical questions. and then it’s got this woman running away from it, and it says my friends and family. so
i’ve had to really learn that because i’ve unpacked so much of my trauma and so much of my story i’ve gotten to where i can tell some pretty dark parts of my story with little to no emotion. you know, but it’s not a big deal. it’s like me talking about whether or not it’s raining or sun shining outside. right, the way you hear about surgeons being able to have a body cut open. yeah, and hold a sandwich or something like yeah, i mean, maybe that’s a stereotype but i think the same kind of idea. yeah, yeah. well, like one of my friends said a nose is a nose and arm is an arm and and feel that in with any bit of body part.
yeah, it’s just a thing, right? and but i’ve had to learn that not everybody is up for those conversations. and that’s another thing that art does is it allows them within the lyrics of a song, for example, within that two to three minutes, to maybe feel something that they’ve kept buried
and slightly safe, and a way that they don’t have to share with anyone else.
it is just to me a really beautiful, beautiful thing.
that reminds me of a story and i know we’re about out of time but
when i was pregnant with my oldest daughter
my brother’s best friend got killed that he had worked in the mines with. and they were actually working together on a drilling rig when he got killed, and it was really traumatic. and
i was so pregnant that i couldn’t go to the funeral. but i woke up at 6am crying with a song. and it was a song that i’d written for his children. so i wrote it, i recorded it. and my brother drove back to letcher county. and he played the song at the very end of the funeral, they played it over the speakers. and it was a bunch of coal miners in the in the church for the funeral. and
he said that everybody said they’re just quiet through the whole service. and then the night with the sound on every one of the coal miners just broke down sobbing. and he was just like, man, what a sight this roomful of big burly coal miners just sitting there bawling our heads off, and i just, i felt so honored to be a part of that, you know, that’s, that’s what it’s all about. yeah, whatever. you know, whatever form that takes, it might not look like bawling. but
i’m wondering if you have any, any little tidbit or any kind of advice that you would want to give to my listeners, these people that are just wanting to be more creative and, and dive more into their art or explore their art for the first time, whatever it may be you have any any words of advice?
don’t sell yourself short before you even began would probably be my main advice. and because
how do i say this?
it doesn’t have to look like some big spectacular thing. you know, don’t don’t shoot don’t kill the project. before you’re even able to begin it by overthinking it.
art can look so many different ways. and whether or not you’re being compensated with money for your art, or whether or not you’re actually publishing something in a print form, or you have a song on the radio, those things yes, they matter. but in terms of creating anything, they don’t,
the creative process is enough. so by fixating on, what should happen with your creation can often stop all you from even being able to start or feeling like you’re capable of starting, your process is probably not going to look like anyone else’s, because it’s yours. and therefore your finished product is not going to be like anyone else’s. because again, it’s yours. and my advice is just do it. just do what you can when you can. and don’t think that it has to be under any certain conditions or any certain format or any certain way. and among those things, there’ll be a lot of things that no one ever sees, or the that you never share with the public. but among all of those, all of those tests, you can call them, there will be things, there will be those gems that you do want to share, and you will find a way to do that, or someone. in example, for my stuff on instagram, you know, someone else saw the value in it before i did
you know and asked me to create. so you never know who you might be reaching with what you’re doing.
well, that’s, that’s more than one tidbit. that’s a bunch of tidbits. that’s a lot of great advice. and
very important, i think to yeah, it’s kind of like don’t edit, don’t edit before you’ve even done the work. don’t start editing until after you’ve done the work.
just nike just do it. yeah, just be in it and feel.
well, so your book is called sacred catharsis, a personal healing journey amidst the forced pause of pandemic, is that the full title that is, okay, so i want to make sure that we tell everybody where they can go to get the book. and also i know you’re starting to do live events in eastern kentucky, in
in east tennessee, and maybe even other places. so i want to let folks know where they can catch up with you and find your latest events. yeah, for sure. so, my website is kelly hansel.com. and that’s kelly with an od. so ke ll h a n
sc l hansel loc, hansel and gretel.com. and they’re under events. you’ll see all the listings of upcoming events. and you can also get my book there. and there are a few bookstores around that are hearing it appalachian books in northern virginia, read spotted newt and hazard kentucky roebling coffee and books in covington. also carries it. so they can be found there or at my website, kelly hansel.com. and i’m on instagram. so that would be at dark moon, underscore kelly with an aw, where you can find me there.
awesome. well, i’m also going to put these links in the show notes so that people if they’re driving or something, and i need to reference it later, they can find it there.
well, it has been such a treat to talk to you, you’re such a soul sister. i feel like we have so much in common. and i think everybody’s gonna really enjoy hearing your insights and
checking out your instagram, checking out your book.
i wish you all the success in all of your upcoming endeavors. i know you mentioned to me before we got on here that you’re maybe doing some guided meditations. yes, on instagram. i’ve already posted one. under my ig tv tab. it’s still there, if anybody wants to check that out, learning to think of our bodies as allies.
that’s awesome. and i’m really, really into guided meditations, especially because of that, quote, you mentioned the young quote about how until we address the subconscious it’s going to be ruling our lives. and i think those guided meditations are one of the best tools we have to reprogram anything that’s not working that’s going on in our subconscious mind. so i love it. i’m happy that you’re doing that. again, thank you so much for being with us. it was an honor to be able to talk to you and i very very grateful for you asking me to be on the podcast it it’s a good conversation. and i always enjoy having the so it’s like a gift to me. so thank you so much.
you can find more tips from kelly along with 15 other amazing artists in the how to live your most creative life guide that this podcast is put together for you as a free gift. you can find that at www dot carla covid.com forward slash creativity. we’re so glad we got to spend some time with you this week and keep on creating art keep on doing what you do. keep on dreaming because that’s what dreamers do.
thank you so much for joining me this week. if you want to make sure you never miss an episode. please hit subscribe wherever you’re listening now. or visit my website to get on my email list at www dot karla grover.com when you sign up, you’ll instantly receive my milton mama digital care package, a bundle of music and videos to help you wring every drop of yeehaw out of life. you’ll even find a dance lesson as well as my granny’s cornbread recipe with new goodies being added all the time. i’ll see you next thursday on the wet dreamers do podcast
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