CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Miles Dean has been at the center of things and he has been at the edges of things.
For eight years, he was at the center of Jay Rockefeller's governorship of West Virginia, as finance commissioner and director of economic and community development.
"I worked for a pretty spectacular guy. Very generous and very helpful in terms of allowing a finance commissioner to do what a finance commissioner should do and a development director to do what was consistent with his objectives for the state."
Whether it was removing tolls on state roads, clearing impediments to the construction of the West Virginia University stadium or aiding the creation of Weirton Steel's employee ownership plan, Dean had his hands full in state government.
He has also worked as a financial executive for some big companies, did a stint in the Peace Corps in Poland, raised sheep because his granddaughters were delighted by some lambs, and worked in a soup kitchen.
"My career has never been much based on some orderly progression," he said.
Now, at age 72 and living in the woods in Fayetteville with his wife of 50 years, he has studiously turned to poetry. He has self-published "Furrows on Parchment" (available through Amazon.com) and will have another collection out at the end of the year titled "Musings After Midnight."
His mindful reflections on family and daily life were initially spurred by hearing former Poet Laureate Billy Collins read on National Public Radio. "I thought: 'What a beautiful picture!' I started exploring that. I loved putting together words that made pictures. So I started writing and went to some workshops and joined a writers group."
He has been writing steadily now for more than five years and has had some success, winning multiple awards for prose and poetry from the West Virginia Writers Inc. group. He has read his poetry four or five times at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, in Lewisburg, and elsewhere.
He still has his hands lightly in government as a member of the Fayette County Planning and Zoning Commission. But he doesn't miss being a regular in the headlines of the Gazette during the Rockefeller Statehouse days.
"We all pass through this life, and we have various points where we're important and other times when we're not important, and if we don't get hung up on the process, there's much to be gained. When I stopped working, I went to a soup kitchen and said, 'Can I help you cook?'
"Being at the center of anything is not of any real importance. Having a good and rich life is important."
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Poems from "Furrows on Parchment":
When I Was a Little Boy
Grandma Gallagher had no small children
my mother her only child
tough to visit her
behavior disturbed tranquility
led to banishment
to the side yard
Once, I found a branch in the lilacs
began dragging it around
running it against the fence
using it as a sword
After awhile, I settled next to the oak tree
digging in the dirt with the heel of the branch
deeper and deeper it went, and
then my stick broke through
peering down, I saw masses of people, and
tigers, bears and monkeys all welcoming me
With certainty from a bedtime story,