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Showing posts from 2010

Caroling

What follows is a short story I wrote for my family and friends this holiday. I know it's a longer post than usual, but I wanted to share it with you here. Happy Holidays!
Caroling A chatter of icy snow whipped against the plastic covered windows, driven by a wind that sought the seemingly insignificant cracks as invitations to Charlie’s home.The invading chill battled the meager heat produced by the trailer’s little furnace, but the result was always the same.Charlie knew he was in no danger of freezing to death, but neither was he likely to be comfortable without the help of thick socks and warm sweaters.Winter wasn’t too bad in the old mobile home except when the bitter wind was blowing like it did tonight.He set aside the paper he had been grading and pulled his chilly hands under the blanket to warm them a while. Christmas break, he thought as he looked around his darkened living room, and here I sit alone in the quiet, working.The light of one table lamp glinted on the garla…

Empty Pages

If you've ever taken an art class, chances are, you have been taught to notice negative space. Maybe, you've taught yourself or recognized it accidentally at some time when your mind was left to play ungoverned. The term and its definition could be new to you, and in truth, the two don't mesh as neatly as one might expect. Negative space is the blank part of the composition. It comprises all the unmarked territory on the canvas, the empty piece of the picture. By calling it negative, we are expressing that this is the part without. No line, no form, no active participation of the artist. However, as I've said, the term is deceptive. In recognizing negative space, we are seeing the shape of what isn't there. The artist comes to know the weight and texture of those absences and respects that what the artist doesn't do can be as powerful as what they do.
Once you unlock this idea, you start to sense the spaces between all things. Negative space is not lim…

Your Voting Voice

Americans have an odd relationship with politics. Some are obsessed with it, vocal champions of their side who give passionate sermons on the issues of the day. They never pass up an opportunity to debate, loudly, because it just isn't fun without a fight. Others are apathetic or so disgusted by the ceaseless bickering that they would prefer to avoid the subject altogether. Before and after every election, we hear news stories about how Americans just don't care to vote.
And who can blame them after being subjected to months of mud slinging, negative ads, telephone polls, and a ton and a half of junk mail from both sides (each declaring their opponent to be just short of a baby eating monster?) Who can blame them when elected officials are exposed as scoundrels on a regular basis? How is a person supposed to choose in a maelstrom of misinformation, hyperbole, and rampant insincerity? All of that works to the advantage of many political candidates. What remains of the vo…

Write Timing

My notebook is well-travelled. This one has been with me for thousands of miles, taken along on road trips and camping adventures so it would always be handy when inspiration struck or to fill long hours with useful activity. It's been written straight through from the top of each page to the very bottom. Notes and rewrites clutter the margins. There are lines marked out and rephrased in half-height letters sandwiched between the usual rows. For clarity, I began the book by writing only on one side of each page, so that the marks wouldn't show through to muddle the other side, but when I reached the last page, there was nowhere else to go. So, I flipped the book and started a second pass. There are notes scribbled on the covers, and the whole book is so dense with ink that I imagine you could measure the difference in weight compared to when it was new.

This current notebook holds chapters of the novel as they were when first conceived, scraps of other stories, outlines …

A Chill in the Air

There's a tone of harvest's richness and abundance that ripens in late summer, growing fat and gold until one day you realize you've slipped into autumn. I think it's always been my favourite season. This is the breathing space between the summer's frenzied activity and the hectic winter holidays. The air is cooling and filled with the scents of ripe apples and dying leaves. Where green ruled the view, now all is flame and gold, and a papery rustle accompanies each crisp gust of wind. It's time to dig out the sweaters, to see the new patterns and promise in another school year, to plan costumes and fun for Halloween. But autumn, for all its joys, cannot be separated from the principles of death and loss. We recognize that the world around us is dying, drying out, moving from summer's blush to winter's shroud. Through all the celebrations of the season, we feel that ancient wheel turn. Autumn is a time to contemplate the darkness.
In the world of…

Happily Ever After

As a child, I loved folk and fairy tales. I love them still.
Every one has the promise of adventure. There's excitement in the hero's quest and satisfaction in the series of challenges presented and solved in ritual fashion. Dress it in an exotic setting, a far-off land or alternate time, and the tale engages my curiosity. Imagination embellishes familiar themes with the trappings of another culture. Build your story on a foundation of magic and spirituality, and you make it irresistible. The fabric on which a fairy tale is embroidered is a world in which things happen for a reason. Dangers may threaten, but good prevails and adventures are neatly tied up with all as it should be in the end. There's a wonderful mix of comfort and excitement in this type of story, and familiar ideas are allowed to mingle with the whisper of magic.

I read all the fairy tales, folk tales and mythology I could find when I was young. I read them over again as I grew and added the worlds …

Sleepless

I open one eye to peek again at the glowing green digits. 1:30. Mental calculations follow. How long have I been trying; How long before I have to rise; How long since the last time I checked the clock? I could think of a hundred interesting reasons to be awake all night, and none of them include lying in bed tossing and turning...well, maybe one of them, but that's not the case tonight.
Insomnia creeps up on me like this every once in a while, giving little indication early in the evening. I'll head for bed sleepy, ready to sink into dreams, and end up floating just on the surface. Hours pass with no change except a periodic shift in position and a mounting frustration at the slow crawl toward morning responsibilities. Of course, I recognize that frustration robs me of the rest I sorely need, but calm is not easy to come by as the night ebbs away. I try all the tricks: counting, telling myself stories, breathing exercises, a little midnight snack or short warm shower, a…

Just a thought...

This morning the sky was an upside-down ocean, hung with rolls and waves of foamy cloud, spitting drops of spray infrequently on my windshield. Though the surface of it was layered in dull shades of slate and blue, something glowed beneath the waves. At the stop sign, I held my breath, eyes on the waves above my world. It was the kind of sea that tempts you against your better judgement to take out the little rowboat and see where the storm might blow you.
But in the end, I chose to go to work instead.

Estudiamos

My grandfather died when I was fairly young, but I still have a few fuzzy memories of him. They are mostly just a sense of the man, stitched together in the time since then with family stories and old photographs. It all layers into an image not unlike a smiling, sun-browned apple doll, a man who had packed his years full of hard work, full of living. Though I can't remember anything he said specifically, I know that it was probably in Spanish.
He had come here from Mexico at fifteen years old and hadn't stopped working long enough to study English. I'm sure he had picked up enough to get by. He was capable of communicating with his German-American wife who spoke no Spanish. He held a job and raised his children, but whatever little bits of English he knew were never as comfortable as his native tongue.

My father, his son, is bilingual, as is often the case with the children of immigrants. My generation, however, was raised without that gift. English was the language…

Guess Who

From birth, we are all on a quest to figure out who we are and what we're doing here. We start by exploring simple physical things. How do hands work? What does that taste like? We stare at shapes and colors that catch our eye. We touch things and test our muscles. We play with sand and water to understand how the world works. Infancy and early childhood are a series of experiments that increase our knowledge of our bodies. In short, we define ourselves in the physical world.
At some point, we become aware of a less tangible realm, and instinctively, we begin to explore in the same fashion. "Who am I" takes on a whole new dimension. Religion, philosophy, culture, history, all are new ways to contemplate our existence. What do I like? What do I believe? Who do I love? These become the focus of our journey, and the answers to these questions shift even for the most steadfast. We waver between accepting the traditional identity offered by family or society'…

Love Your Weeds- Part II

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It began as a border war, a conflict of philosophies that exploded in harsh words between my husband and our neighbor one day. As described in a previous post, ours is a yard kept in a natural style. The more green, the more wild and vibrant, the better. There are deliberate plantings here and there, but we also welcome the weeds and wildflowers that sprout up among them. In spring, our back yard is a carpet of wild violets. In high summer, a lush tangle of vines creeps along the fence and up the birdhouse pole. In fall, the maple tree that shades our deck drops its helicopter seeds -well- everywhere they can fly. Our front yard is kept shorter out of respect for our neighbors' preferences, but our back yard is kept more or less as Nature intends out of respect for Her preference. We are sparing with the mower and clippers, and we avoid the poisons and chemicals many consider a must for maintaining a perfect lawn.

Conversely, our neighbor takes pride in his well-planned landscaping…