Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Season Is This Anyway?

Truly, the weather is crazy. Two days with lovely warm 83 degrees and now rain with freezing temps in the forecast. Lately we work like stevedores
here for a few hours or a day and then return to our chairs for reading wrapped in blankets while the gutters run. It is a slow business getting the yard into shape again.

DH has pulled the shrubs out in the front. It was a job for sure. While he hauled off stumps and tilled the earth, I mowed the back. Mower ran rough and DH ran for a replacement belt. Improvement was marginal! I was dead tired.
We will replace the shrubs, although we were told to do it first week in April. Well, that didn't work due to freezing and snow flurries. So now we are heading in the direction of getting this job done. Today we decided to replace one of the shrubs with statuary. I chose The Huntress because she holds a nest of birds and pats a dog—two of our favorite things! DH poured a pad for her to stand on with hopes the earth won’t shift as much this way. She is still in the truck because at 300 pounds, we are not sure how we will get her out. The men at the store had a fork lift. Hum….

Last fall, DH took down a crab tree in the back yard, one of my lilac bushes, and chopped hard at the remaining lilac so he could pull vehicles through the large gate. I know the lilacs will come back, but with the severe cut and the weirdo spring, I got no blooms this year. However, while mowing near the south side, I spotted these few blooms hanging near the bottom. I was so happy to see them. I brought this little fistful in to enjoy and to smell…until next year.

So tomorrow we will work again in the morning before the air turns in the afternoon. Then I have a book, a tea book thanks to blogger friend Lynn, and a new Writer magazine for settling in to deal with our spring-winter or winter-spring, however you see it.  Tomorrow is also the first of May, so Happy May Day to all!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pushing to the Gilcrease

Mercy, what a week! Days of pain, fear, and worry that came from much trauma and drama in the lives of our family, friends and the country. Yesterday the sun shined and spring put her toe out once more while the forecast called for rain and cold including frost yet again with the new week. We were tired both physically and mentally tired yesterday morning, arising late. We could let the day slip by or push forward to try and grab some joy. It was a late start in more ways than one, but we headed west dreaming of Santa Fe but knowing we could not make it in the half dozen hours we had.

Shortly beyond Joplin the land leveled into the longer stretches of flat land reaching for distant Oklahoma hills. The fields were velvet green while rivers and rivulets raced forward from recent rains. DH observed the cattle seemed satisfied. They too appreciated the nice day. We headed for the Gilcrease Museum and drove right into town with complete ease which was helpful in our low energy state. We had visited here over a quarter of a century ago with kids…enough said. I always wanted to return. While we did make it to the Philbrook last year, it took a while to make it to the Gilcrease again. It definitely was worth the push to get there.

The Gilcrease grounds were beautiful. Passing through grand gates, we wove among just budding dogwood, redbuds, and azaleas trying to bloom. Once inside, we did not begin to absorb all we saw. Once the mind sees so much color and content, it reaches a saturation point. Starting with tired minds did not help us, but again, we pushed on. Photos were not allowed here which saddened me. The pictures of Remington, Charlie Russell, and other famous western artists were wonderful. We met the work of new artists too. The wood carving of Willard Stone was absolutely amazing. and the museum had a good deal of his work since he was Oklahoman. The works in cherry and walnut ached to be touched, but I did not dare. The wood seemed to speak under the influence of Stone’s hands. He not only found shape and design, but he slicked the wood as satin smooth as a river stone.

There was a special exhibit of Woody Crumbo’s work called Bending, Weaving, and Dancing. Also an Oklahoma artist, Crumbo supported himself as an artist by doing traditional dancing. Some of his work was in Kiowa Flat style, other work had more depth. It all reflected movement. In a little work room aside, a Fancy Dancer costume was set up in front of tables obviously used as a model for painters. Beautiful.

The museum was busy due to a special artists day. The restaurant was serving only an expensive brunch for the day. I was sorry to miss the buffalo burger with fried green tomato and breakfast food is not my favorite meal anyway. However, we were so hungry it was better than fighting traffic to find a place to eat. So we sat in the beautiful dining area that overlooked the beautiful Osage Hills, which would be nicer later in spring for sure.

We wore out long before we wanted to, but DH said we would return someday. Ha, I don’t have another quarter of a century left! But both were glad to see all that we did. DH remarked on the color in the paintings. I liked that there were also many colorful headdresses…such lovely feathers and beading. Some were more than 120 years old…one can only imagine the men who wore the war bonnets. I loved seeing the many moccasins…the deerskin dresses and shirts, some trimmed with horse and human hair. It was all fodder to mull over in the brain once we returned to our ordinary life.

                              The day had been well worth the push.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Charlie Bain Hated Books

I never forgot Charlie Bain. However, I did lose track of him for years. I found him on the obituary pages of my home county newspaper, dead at age 95. He had been born in Miami, Oklahoma, grew up at Pineville, Missouri in the Ozarks, worked a lifetime in Chanute, Kansas, and died in Rogers, Arkansas just a ways down the road from me now. If I had only known…

Charlie was one of my very first bosses. I was in junior college and a new friend I met there was working at Bain’s Bakery. She needed more hours and went to work for the hospital, but she wanted to help Charlie find her replacement. I was an unlikely candidate with no experience, but he took me on. Jeanne showed me the ropes and continued to visit us at the bakery whenever she could. Charlie trusted me right off, and left the bakery in my hands as soon as he could get out in the early afternoon. He was tired.

I went in at noon when the really hard work was over. Charlie had been baking bread since 3:00 am. He made the dough, raised it, and patted it into loaves, buns, and sweet rolls. He baked it and cleaned up the elephant-sized copper mixing bowls. When I came in, I sliced the freshly cooled buns and bagged them for next morning delivery. I washed cookie sheets, attended the front sales, took orders, and locked up the store at 5:00, leaving things ready for Charlie’s work to begin again in a few hours.

Charlie had gray curly hair and an eye than slightly strayed to the corner, but he was fit for his age in his white baker’s pants. A white tee rolled up to the shoulder put muscles on display that he had developed lifting first the industrial-sized bags of flour and then the heavy pans into and out of the blistering ovens. He was quiet and hardworking, steady to a fault on getting his doughy job just right. Sometimes when we worked together on a big job bagging or cutting rolls, we would engage in conversations, and I could get a good story out of Charlie. I think he had an ornery side, but his manners kept him from being crude or disrespectful in any way in my presence.

The only thing Charlie every disapproved of was my desire to become an English teacher. He begged me to do something else. My friend was going into physical education meaning sports, exercise and physical fitness, something he could understand.He knew I wasn't the sporty kind so maybe I could be a secretary. He told me many times that English teachers were the meanest bunch of women he ever saw. They wore their hair in little tight buns tucked at the back of their necks, their glasses on a rope, and never ever showed a smile. Oh, how he hated to think of this happening to me, but I promised I would not be that kind of English teacher. (There are people walking the earth right now though that would say I failed at THAT promise.)

Charlie didn't like to read, didn't see the need of it. He thought it was a good waste of time. He believed in fishing, working with his hands, growing strawberries, and being outside in some way. Since he was confined inside the bakery for so many years dutifully earning a living or sleeping to get ready to go back to the bakery, he had few precious hours outside; they were treasured. Free hours were too valuable to be spent with a book in hand.

However, Charlie had ONE book he praised. He had to read it while in school and had a copy he read over and over again. He loved Shepherd of the Hills, a book with a setting close to where he spent his childhood years in the Ozarks.  He could not believe I had never read it. I tried, but I could not understand the dialect of those hill folks! I was to read the book much later as an adult…an interesting story that made me wonder what part, which character, so intrigued Charlie for his entire lifetime.

I was only to work at the bakery for a few months before transferring to PSU. Shortly after my friend and I left town, Bain’s Bakery was closed as Charlie retired to do woodworking and have some life outside in the daylight hours. My months there were fairly quiet, but they were a learning time, seeing life under the sweet tutelage of a gentle man. Those simple days are so long ago, but the memories are rich and satisfying as warm bread.  

I hope Charlie found a copy of Shepherd of the Hills  in Heaven’s library when he got there.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wayne Groner on Memiors

I never liked books written in first person when I was a child. I would pull out an interesting title, flip to the first page, and if the pronoun I or we started off the story, I reshelved the book quickly. Somewhere in my adulthood, my tastes took a sharp turn, and I fell in to love with memoirs. I got lost in the pages of books of real people doing real things.

So I was anxious to hear Wayne Groner speak at last night’s Writers’ Guild meeting. Groner is vice-president of the Springfield Writers’ Guild and teaches classes on memoir writing. Last night he reviewed his twelve steps for writing memoir, biography, or family history.  The author has “massaged material into books” with four titles to his credit thus far.

Below are the basic twelve steps:

            1. Decide format. Will you write a memoir about a segment of your life, a biography about your whole life, or a family history?
           2. Decide motivation. Do you write to inform, to save information, to heal?
            3. Read what you like and look for clues how to write the same.
            4. Make a list of memories and remembers scenes from your life.
            5.Write in your natural voice, as you speak.
            6.  Free write in the beginning without any editing.
            7. Open with action or dazzling beginning.
            8. Show, not tell.
            9. Use dialogue.
          10. Let yourself write about painful memories.
          11. Ask trusted people for editing reads.    
          12. Edit, edit, edit.

This list is not just for memoirs; it has excellent points for any writing. Groner’s presentation was vivid and rousing, making writers break through any hesitation and inspiring them to get right to writing. You can visit the author at www.waynegroner.com

How about you? Do you read or write memoir or family history?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Small Stones Poetry

Do you know about Small Stones writing? You can read it on Facebook at Writing Our Way Home. https://www.facebook.com/groups/smallstones/doc/135768619921065

It is simply a place to write tiny pieces of figurative language that try to capture a simple moment or experience in time. Writers post their efforts and leave comments on other writers’ work. It seems to be very popular because it is a creative outlet, and it allows a writer to dash off a line or two when she can’t seem to write longer pieces due to time or block.

Check it out. In the meantime I have included a few of my own stones from this past winter.

New Year’s beans bubble with expectation,
Boil in a broth of optimism.
Leaving the bed at dawn is challenging;
The cold bites my ankles, urges me to hurry.
Winter sky, the shades of a house mouse,
Hammers down my mind and soul,
Nailing me to a dark season.
Quiet wings crouching on bare limbs,
Muffled chirps instead of song,
Winter birds shudder and
Wait for spring too…
The earth and sky wrestle over spring this morning.
Heavy snow falls from gray skies, accumulates;
Streets puddle as warm earth melts the cascading flakes.
Who will win in March?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April Sunday Musings

                                Ignore the wrinkle; I did!

Last week I expected company but plans changed.  I expected spring, but the season didn’t show. Four days of forecasted rain are on their way here now. I know, April Showers Make May flowers. But yesterday we had just a taste of what we are waiting for. Way too early for opening the deck or planting fragile plants, but the clover was mowed down, some minor repair on birdhouses, and one pot of blooms!

The first farmer’s market of the year opened, and I visited. Only one brave soul was there with just flowers. The blooms were gorgeous and I so wanted some geraniums, but sense prevailed. I will wait at least another two weeks. However a few pansies made their way home.

I swept out a corner of the deck, set out some ceramic bunnies, and potted the pansies. Now, even in the rain, I can look out and see a tiny corner, a small promise of what is to come. It was warm enough to eat a light lunch on the deck and think of future meals and gatherings there. Almost here!

Nice weather is conducive to reading outdoors. I took out my short stack that I am working on this weekend. The White (novel based on history about Shawnee captured white woman Mary Jamison in 1700’s), Wheat Belly (gluten free eating), The Burgess Boys (on Kindle) and Sabbath are the books I am working in now.

Tomorrow I start a book study with a group who will read Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest  together for a few weeks. I have started the chapter on rest and find this book full of thought provoking bits. One that I highlighted was an idea by Sharon Salzberg called “guerrilla compassion”.  It is merely blessing or noticing others at stop lights, bank, supermarkets with the silent thought of “May you be happy. May you be at peace.” I used to do something similar but have fallen out of practice. Salzberg reminds me to try again. Imagine if this world was filled with compassion for ALL those standing near us!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Centus/Change

It is a warm and windy Saturday. A gorgeous relief between winter cold and coming spring rains. I dash in and out today, torn between chores. But it is Saturday Centus day and I wanted to join Jenny! So below is my effort to her six word prompt: It was the summer of 1974....  For more 100 word stories and rules, go to http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/2013/04/saturday-centus-week-154.html

I never liked Nixon anyway, but still I wished no one to suffer such abject humiliation. It was the summer of 1974 as I watched the television while rocking my first born. The geometric pattern in my double knit orange pants moved with each rock of the chair, but the baby didn't notice.

Nixon said he was resigning for the good of the country, and I hoped it were true. Remembering Washington’s cherry tree confession and Lincoln’s honesty at returning a dime from my grade school patriotic history lessons, I hoped for the country’s healing after deceit. Yet, I feared power would be the new evil.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Meet Jane Kenyon

I have several favorite poets, and one is Jane Kenyon. She was poet laureate of New Hampshire and produced only four books before her early death from cancer. She was married to Donald Hall, also a poet, who would become a National Poet Laureate.

Kenyon’s poems aren’t difficult which I appreciate, and they don’t rely on classical references. She speaks of rural life, simple things, nature, and even depression from which she too suffered. Her poems are like a flashlight streaming in late dusk. They light up what you know are on the path but single them out with a beam of concentrated attention. Through her eyes you see a ray of new perspective.

I love so many of her poems, but Let Evening Come is my all-time favorite. If you haven’t read it before, you are in for a treat. If you have read it before, I am sure you never tire of seeing it again…a prayer, meditation, something more than a mere poem.

Let Evening Come
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Wasn't that beautiful?

Monday, April 1, 2013

April National Poetry Month, Again

Today April begins with 45 degree temps and a cutting wind. Tonight we are to see rain and some snow after an Easter Sunday in the 60s with beautiful sun. The yo-yo of weather in March makes it a lesser month in my mind. But April…even with chill and drizzle, allows me to see beyond to nicer weather coming. April is a hopeful month!

April is also National Poetry Month, a month long recognition of poetry that I have always enjoyed. Since I have been neglecting poetry a bit, I welcomed a reminder to pull out a few poetry books. Today I wanted to read in a middle school book of poems about color. Darned if I can find it! But this is nothing new as I loan or give away so many books; I never am sure what I will find on my own shelves.

While searching, I came across a copy of Grist, 2011, a publication of the Missouri State Poetry Society. As often is the case with books, I find an old acquaintance or a new friend as I search my own shelves. I pulled out the volume and began to read, only to surprise myself with my own work. I had forgotten the poem Nicodemus had been printed there! Writer pals, does this ever happen to you?

Nicodemus, Kansas is an all-Black town founded after the Civil War when former slaves moved West. I passed through only once and was unlucky enough to find the museum at this National Historic Site closed. The people that settled there had to fight Mother Nature out on that wind-beaten prairie. The first winter they had to dig holes in the earth and live there until spring. Once a thriving community after the people managed to build it up, the berg now is a failing collection of clapboard houses. There is so much history here and I am inspired by the story of the people who settled here.
                                          Nicodemus, Kansas
                        Like dark-faced Vikings, they arrived from the East,
                        Navigating over tall grass prairie and short grasses
                        Curled tight resembling their own nappy hair.

                          Conestoga wagons, buckboards, mules, and feet
                          Lumbered across the plains, heading for new lands.
                        Gone from sight were plentiful trees, craggy cliffs,
                        Recognizable deep dredged rivers.

                        Moving into a new and unproven state,
                        Bringing their own fresh freedom along,
                        Dark men carrying only hymns, hope, and hands
                        Callused by sharecropping, working other men’s ground.
                        Journey ceased where horizon stroked the sky,
                        Stopping in the middle of nowhere some said.
                        They burrowed deep and hunkered into earth,
                        The soil serving as their only shelter.

                        Then set to work, breaking sod with plow and sweat,
                        They begged a living from the prairie’s heart,
                        Living free in a new hamlet to be called home.

Do you read Poetry? Have a favorite Poet or