I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD-SLAPS, SPEED-BUMPS and LIGHT-BULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life.

They were published once, and as every writer knows, once is not enough.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Amen


 
In the late 80's a local newspaper, now a memory, published one of my first op-eds. It was a Fourth of July piece. I always thought the lead best befits this time of year. So I decided to dig it out, dust it off and share.
Aunt Bethany of Christmas Vacation may have made it famous, but I did it first.

Pictorial Gazette, July 1988

“Shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee we gathered around the beautiful Thanksgiving table. My mother asked, “…and who will say grace?” I being all of six and new to “big-school” eagerly raised my hand. Everyone smiled and comments of how nice it would be for the youngest of the family to say grace were expressed. We bowed our heads and in a strong but childlike voice I solemnly recited The Pledge of Allegiance. When finished, I and all the others gathered around the table, said Amen. No one laughed or snickered or made fun of me that Thanksgiving. They went along with a little girl who made a charming mistake, and to this day when we gather and say grace, someone always mentions my special prayer.”
“In my innocence I believed that the Pledge of Allegiance was a prayer to the flag and to the nation that protected and provided for us our liberty. I guess in a way I still believe that.”

The family members who, each year, recalled my special prayer are all gone now. More than a quarter of a century has passed since I wrote the piece. Our nation has experienced wars and tragedies and government inaction which defies understanding and yet, the pledge still stands, the flag still waves. In a couple of days most of us will gather with family and contemplate what we are thankful for. Sure, I have a lot on my grateful list, it is very long indeed, but up there, toward the top of it is my little girl prayer, my grown-up pledge, to and for this ‘uneasy’ nation. 

Amen everyone, Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dreaming of the impossible


https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=enigma%2C+atb

Skip the ad and listen to Enigmatic Encounter. The video is weird/interesting/wow, maybe not your thing but creative. Hope the link works.

Enigma/ATB, unthinkably awesome music.

Forty years ago I made out-worldly music, before synthesizers, before electronics, very Moody Blue like. People told me I was ahead of my time. They were God-damned right. If I had stuck with it I would be the old lady of today’s Enigma-like, fantastic sounds and furies.

Amazing how passions pass and then centuries later we revisit what we once dreamed as possible.

New dreams, mixed with reality tempers our future I guess.
 
What have you dreamed and dropped for a paycheck, a person, or the idea that you were way ahead of your time?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

From, REFERENCE TO THE UNSPOKEN

Not my boy, but almost.

 
I wanted to post something a little different so I am sharing the opening of one of my 'trunk' novels. I am doing this for two reasons.
It's an example of how a real event can become a part of fiction and it's a tribute to my good old boy Harley.
Though the scene took place on the shore of a another river very far from here, what happened to the dog in this opening, is what happened to my dog, when he was a puppy, twelve years ago.
Once a handsome young adult, we call him our old boy now. Though he struggles on some days, he is not suffering. We have given him a good life, keep him comfortable and let him know that he is adored. Though his days are sometimes difficult, he is still able. We feel this will be his last winter but until the day comes when we may have to make the decision, I would rather leave to God, we hold him tight and tell him he is the best of the best and loved.
There is a lesson here I think. Maybe two. Don't underestimate spirit and heroes are everywhere.
 

The Spirit of the Connecticut
 
When pleasure by the river settles in the mud,
it may become unspeakable.
 


            At the end of Marsh Lane, the short dirt road leading to the Connecticut River, there is a small parking lot with a state boat launch. It’s not a fancy launch, where huge SUVs pull up to back their Whalers down a wide and sturdy cement ramp into the river. It’s a place for hikers to park, and kayakers to wade in the mud while gently setting the belly’s of their small boats in the water. Secluded, it is a contemplative place, where a person can watch the ebb and flow of the current and seek solace. Or, if it is within their nature, they may take advantage of how remote the location is and perform ineffable acts.

            With no thoughts as to whether anyone was watching, two boys with a puppy, splashed in the muddy shallows by the launch. A stick, tossed by one of the boys, landed in the water just beyond the pup’s reach. He bounded after it like it was a T-bone sliding off a picnic plate. A woman, watching from the parking lot, was entertained at first, until the game changed.

            The ball of yellow fluff, a golden retriever and yellow lab cross, was energetic and eager to play. Standing at the edge of the water, his hind end wagging, he looked as if he’d wag himself right over. When the stick first landed in the water, he didn’t know what to do; one paw wet, and then the other, until finally stepping in to reach the stick, he brought it back to shore. The boys started throwing the stick further out into the river until the puppy, struggling to swim, reached it. Finally the dog, after the farthest throw, stood firm, as if to say, you’ve thrown it too far, boys, I’m not going out for that one.’

            “Fetch it!” The older boy yelled.

            Even from the edge of the lot, where the woman stood, she could see the boy, red faced, ‘spit’ the word fetch. He was livid.

            “Fetch it you little shit!” The younger boy screamed.

            Glancing among the few parked cars the woman searched for someone to step in and control the boys, the cars were empty.

            Tilting his head, the dog looked as if he were reasoning why his friends were mad at him; he was having fun up until that moment. He turned away from the yelling, ears down, head dipped. The boys’ nasty voices had changed the temper of play, the puppy was scared. He lay flat as if to make himself disappear.

            Stomping over to the dog and grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, the younger boy yanked him to a stand. Pulling away, the dog yelped, the boy smacked him.

            The older boy grabbed the puppy’s tail; squirming, he snapped to get away. With his fingers buried in the scruff, and the dog’s mouth held shut, the first boy stepped further out into the river. The other boy sunk his hands into the muddy fur of the puppy’s back. They struggled forward with the squirming dog farther out into the water. Waist deep the two boys plunged the dog under and held him there.

            The woman, watching from the lot, could not believe the horror happening before her eyes. Frantic, she scanned the shore for someone to stop the sickening scene.

            She never felt how cold the water, and how strong the current, or how the river bottom filled her shoes with mud. Digging her fingers into one kid’s shoulder, she yanked until he let go of the dog. Grabbing a handful of the other kid’s hair, she pulled back, until he raised his hands to fight her off. Both thrashed away as she scooped up the puppy and headed for shore.

            Emitting a filthy word-barrage, the boys were pissed that the woman had spoiled their demented game. For an instant she turned and stared them into silence. Slowly backing downstream toward shore, once their feet hit dry dirt they ran.

            Placing the limp puppy on the hood of her car, muddy rivulets of water wept from the metal onto the ground. His tongue hung from the side of his mouth; the puppy was not breathing. Shedding her sweatshirt the woman began to rub the dog down, chanting over and over again, breathe, little guy, breathe. The shirt, as wet as the dog, became a hug of sorts, massaging and stimulating, as she continued her mantra, breathe, little guy, breathe.

            Shuddering from a spasm, his body squirmed under her tender hands, until he finally settled calmly on the warm hood of the car. The woman spoke kind words to the little dog, telling him he was alright and that no one would hurt him again. Raising his head he looked at the woman and tucked his tongue into his mouth. At first tapping out a slow rhythm on the car’s hood, the puppy’s tail quickened, and soon became an energetic thank you to the woman.

            Gently lifting the dog, she set him on the ground. Looking up to her, his tail swiftly sweeping side to side, he stood on his hind legs as if asking to play.

            “You sure have spirit little guy,” she said as she petted his muddy fur. His tale started to wag so hard she thought he’d wag himself right over.

            “Yup, you sure have spirit. Hey," she said, “that’s a great name for you, Spirit.”

            The woman took the puppy home that day. Once his fur was dry she brushed him clean and settled him beside her favorite chair. With all her heart she wanted to keep him but because her landlord would not allow pets she had to quickly find him a home.

At work, during a meeting with colleagues, the woman told the story of how she saved a puppy from two boys intent on drowning him. One of her co-workers, a college professor, stepped forward.

            “I’ll take him,” Professor Dennison said.

            “He’s yours,” the woman said without a moment’s hesitation, because she knew, of all the people she worked with, of everyone she had ever known, Professor Lillian Dennison was the one most needing Spirit.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I shall name my llama Alfie


I’m lucky. I live is a house that is remote, yet is pretty close to amenities. So, even though I’m planted in the middle of the woods, with only the wind in the pines as my traffic noise, one mile down the hill another world exists; life on a roll.

A mere two miles beyond that, a new shopping center opened with an American, independently owned, supermarket that this area has been waiting for, for twenty-five years. The only other one is Dutch owned and it has been around since my husband was a stock boy. There’s a few other stores in the center, and a restaurant, but that’s not what this is about. The heck with the stores, I’m wanna’ talk walls.

For a little less than a year I’ve been driving by the new shopping center building site. It’s been fun watching commerce rise from woods and an old tomato field. Once the buildings were pretty much complete a crew of landscapers came in and then the wall builders, headed by an old guy who looked like a Llama herder from the mountains of Peru. (I asked, he was from Peru. My prejudice regarding Peruvians, they all live in the mountains and own llamas.) The rest of his team, dressed in worn t-shirts and jeans without knees, were hard-working salt of the earth wall sculptors.

I watched them work during the heat of the summer, in their broad brimmed frayed straw hats, and when it rained, in yellow throw away parkas they didn’t throw away. Literally, dawn to dusk, seven days a week, they built some of the most beautiful walls I have ever seen. Here in Connecticut we know our walls. One wall at the entrance, they assembled and disassembled a couple of times until it was just right. I never saw a string line or a level and yet these walls, built with soft edged, rounded field stone are a sight to behold. The way the walls curve, and offer entrance, is just plain beautiful. Those hard working men have created a stunning legacy.

About a half mile up the road a small condo complex went up about two years ago. It’s also on my way to work. A few weeks ago a string line went up and a ditch was dug. At first I thought they were putting in a sidewalk until I saw several pallets of flat stones arrive. Two more walls. These walls were straight, low and made with flat topped stacked stone. 

The SUV guys building these walls wore polo shirts, canvas pants and baseball caps. They were hot shot engineer types with their string lines and lasers and all manner of things to get their walls just right. The walls are straight, flat and though labor intensive, uninteresting. I realize that uninteresting is probably what the condo owners wanted but really, come on, it’s a wall, it’s going to last for generations, show some creativity.

So what does this have to do with writing?

I’m like the old Peruvian guy, with my years of practical knowledge and not a single signed certificate of higher education to hang on my wall. I don’t use strings and lasers, I use my experience, what I have gleaned from trial and error, (in the beginning mostly error), and what I have cultivated from years and years of lifting and placing word-stones.

Lately I have noticed that the hot shot MFA-ers get a lot of attention. I’m not downing a writer’s formal education, (maybe I’m jealous), but without experience, without the hardcore effort of lifting, lugging, assembling, disassembling and putting back together what we do, what’s it all about … Alfie.

It takes a long time for writing to end up as stunning as the walls at the entrance of that shopping center, a long time for a creative endeavor to go beyond pedestrian and endure.  The walls at the condo are nice, and they will last, but they aren’t the ones people will talk about and remember years from now. Like the old Peruvian llama herder, I want to be a ‘talk about me and remember’ writer.

I praise the company that gave the old guy and his rag-tag bunch the opportunity to build those spectacular walls. I admire the agents and publishers who dismiss the need for framed certificates and do not hesitate to look to those of us who started by making typewriters sing. Sometimes stunning started with pencils, wears frayed straw hats and loves llamas.

Do you use a laser and a string or do you stack and sculpt until it looks just right?