Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writing in October

The autumn continues to be splendid. Each chore is less daunting because of the beauty that surrounds me. In the early morning or late in the afternoon when the sun hits the dazzling trees, the leaves look like they glow and shimmer.

We are preparing for a fall repair of ceilings and walls at this house. I could just cry at the thoughts of it all.  I am going to have to say goodbye to 30 year old wallpaper that still looks good enough for me. Oh, I know it is dated…but so am I, and that wallpaper has looked down on a lot of living in this house. Not only will rooms of furniture be moved, but LOADS of tea pots, tea cups, and “stuff”.

Among other things this week, DH drove a few miles to buy a load of oak and cherry for winter projects. He buys from a great Ozark lumber place that cuts, dries, and planes nice wood. Once this first project is finished, he will move to some handcrafted pieces of furniture. Already I am looking forward to winter days where maybe I can write while he builds.

I belong to a wonderful poet’s group out of Cuba, Missouri called The Bombadils. I've never met a single soul there, but they were gracious enough to include me through my participation in Missouri Poetry Society. Leader Dawn Harmon gives us a prompt every month or two and then we can post our work in group emails. Others can comment. It is like a writer’s group only online!

I have missed several of her last prompts due to time and opportunity to work on a poem. I notice that others have been quiet too so everyone has a busy life these days. This month’s prompt seemed like a good assignment to work on.

October Writing Prompt
Pick out a poem either from your own "Dead Letter" file or choose one of your favorite poet's pieces.
Read it through, line by line. 
Re write line by line telling the same story in the opposite emotion.
Re write this two more times changing the emotion each time. 

This is a good prompt because writers should be readers too. Many great writers use the work of others to put them in a writing space, a mood, a genre to write. So when DH drove away to fetch wood and I found the new Mary Oliver book Blue Horses in my mailbox, I gave myself permission to put down the dust mop and sit a spell under autumn skies for a read. It wasn’t long before one of Oliver’s poems moved me to work on a poem for the October writing prompt. While not an exact opposite…and it could use more work…it was fun to do, to play with.

Now that is what a poem, any writing, should be, fun, right?

 First stanza from Mary Oliver’s  I Don’t Want to Be Demure or Respectable.

I don’t want to be demure or respectable.
I was that way, asleep, for years.
That way you forget too many important things.
How the little stones, even if you can’t hear them are singing.
How the river can’t wait to get to the ocean and sky, it’s been there before.
What traveling is that!

My take was I did not want to be thin. (Actually I would, but chances are it won’t ever happen so accept it!)

I Don’t Want to Be Thin

I don’t want to be thin and lean anymore.
I have fought portly pudge for years,
Missed the chewy pull of taffy on my teeth,
Avoided sugar to soften the sharpness of my tea.

Is that really called eating?
What joy to indulge in sauce-drenched pasta
Followed by a decadent frothy tiramisu.
I would be a hefty bulge then but still be me,
As fascinating and sensitive and intent as now.

So instead of suffering the crunch of kale
And sipping chalky protein drinks,
I’m going to enjoy the taste of luscious food,
Savor each salient calorie.
Who I am will still be there--
Just cradled under soft mounds of tasted happiness.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Favorite Bracelet

I was about nine and my sister five the year Gran gave us bracelets for Easter. It made more sense than an Easter basket filled with candy that would be eaten by the next Sunday. The bracelets were alike except for the colors of the stone. Gran gave us our choice, and while reaching for the blue one, my sister squealed for the blue. Knowing the constant admonition to “be a big girl”, I was fully aware of what was coming and just gave in taking the orange stone I was less fond off.

While the bracelets were sterling, the stones were some form of glass. I wore mine forever, through college and into marriage. The stone became rough and pitted. One day I noticed it was cracked. However, the stone continued to hold fast though I was sick about it. I eventually put it away taking it out occasionally to ponder, to remember Gran herself.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across it again. I was amazed I could still wear it. Thankfully Gran had thought ahead and got us bigger bracelets that would grow with us, not tiny baby type pieces. I was still sad to see the broken and abused stone.

But I remembered a jeweler only a few miles away that had impressed me with his work. He repairs, builds, and designs even. He is an artist. He does not like to overcharge so is quite honest about things, refusing to do simple jobs that will take man hours to execute thus costing much. That was his response to this bracelet. Hubby asked about turquoise and there was no way he had a big enough piece. He wasn’t sure he had any stone to fit…was afraid it would be costly…agreed the sterling was worth saving so he said leave it a few days and let him think.

We left it on Wednesday morning and Friday morning he called. I could tell from his voice he was pleased with himself. He had found a piece of turquoise with pyrite in it. Pyrite is a mineral deposit of iron and sulfur giving off a metallic gleam. The charge was less than a dinner out.  I just love it, and though it took fifty years, I got my blue bracelet in the end.

Nice to have a memory back on my arm again!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Autumn Splendor

Autumn in the Ozarks can be marked by a frothy fog that lingers early morning in furrows of plowed fields, near creek beds, above valleys that rest among hills and bald knobs. The temps have been chilly, but the sun brings delightful temperatures as it rises. One starts the day with a jacket, eases into a sweatshirt, and finally peels down to shirtsleeves for bright and temperate afternoons.

These last months we have missed favorite pastimes and crowd in all we can now at the end of the year. Yesterday we arose early, packed a lunch, loaded Miss Biscuit among fishing poles and headed for Roaring River. Unfortunately, it was her first ride on Ozark curves and twists making her lose her breakfast as we coast down the big hill into the park.

The day was cloudy in the beginning but soon the fog and chill burned off. People were few and all were older, slower paced folks casting lines across the roiling stream or lingering over warm campfires. The trees were beautiful to say the least. Not the vibrant reds of some areas but muted shades of orange and yellow. 

Biscuit and I walked some. I had books and paper, as always, but found myself unable to concentrate on distant locations and varied stories when I sat in front of such calming splendor. Mother Nature had her own story to tell using color to spin magnificence. I did not want to take my eyes away for fear of missing a single minute of pulsating transformations among the trees. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tiny Library in a Tiny Town

My tiny hometown had a tiny public library, but it was a gigantic window to the world for me. It was built like a brown shoe box. The front door had to be pushed a bit, and in summer the wall unit air conditioner rumbled like thunder.  The librarian was a tiny white haired lady with wireframe glasses and heavy tied black Granny shoes who spoke in a tiny voice that made you speak softly like you were in a church.

I can still tell where some of the books sat. Katherine Ann Porter’s Ship of Fools was on the top row of the first set of shelves by the front door. Second row hat horse stories and nurse love stories. Then an area in the middle of the long room opened up with some magazines and a table for browsing in a chosen book. Right under the air conditioner on the east wall was a long row of the classics…Last of the Mohicans, House of Seven Gables, Around the World in Seven Days, War and Peace and others. Below them was the children’s section, a feast for me on many a summer day.

It was close to the bottom that I found the set of chapter books dealing with Native Americans. I can see the turquoise covers yet and wish I knew the publishers today so I could re-find this series of books. Each book told stories and myths of different tribes. I felt right at home with these books and became so absorbed in the tales that I read them over and over again. I did not know that my own blood ran Red so to speak. The stories were full of moral lessons, of First People’s beliefs about living responsibly, respecting the earth, honoring elders and right living in general.

My grandmother put silver and turquoise bracelets on my arm before I started school. My dad vetoed any baby ear piercings or I might have had them too is my guess. She was a quiet but proud woman. She did the responsible thing always; she respected the thoughts of others. She held her temper, spoke in soft voices, and turned the other cheek. She put more on me than just jewelry. She was a visible form of the little turquoise books I found on the tiny library’s shelves that gave me a big start in life. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Telling Our Stories

Editors are an unexplained lot these days. I think there used to be a rigid protocol to follow by both the writer and the editor. Now days many editors do not even acknowledge receiving a submission. But you can’t be sure it is rejected just because you haven’t had a response in six weeks. It can be many months and then you get maybe a question or inquiry back so when you answer you can wait another six months to hear more! Alas, I submitted Sunday and already have a rejection today so there is no rule for time.

I recently got a rejection that was most unusual. They were sorry because my poem did not fit their issue. However, they were impressed and would like to see more. The editors (more than one) rather picked apart the first stanza of said poem although they liked the rest. I have not visited the poem again yet. After all, the editors’ opinions are just that--opinions. Someone else might not agree. However, I do appreciate ANY feedback at all so I can consider it.

My opinions often differ from others. For example, the rave reviews of Gone Girl did not include one from me. I hated this book. Oh, I thought the writing was very good, kept me reading. It was fast paced…snappy and read like a Facebook post in brevity. But the ending…a surprise, but I also felt duped as a reader. Maybe I was just not a sharp reader! Now it is a movie…maybe that will be a good venue for the story, but I do not intend to watch unless it appears at the local video store for a cheap price.

We rarely go to the movies anymore, but this is birthday week so a movie with theater popcorn! was on my week’s list. Very little draws me to pay the price and inconvenience of our local theater, but I chose to see The Judge.  I am glad I had seen few reviews as they say story leans on clich├ęs and is poorly told. Not so in my book. Here were real people, suffering human faults, portrayed by very good actors. Duvall as always shows his stuff; Downey is not a particular favorite of mine, but I was mesmerized by his work in this film. Yes, some of the points are melodramatic, but so is life with real people. I found the relationships painful to watch because I know people living them. The ending was about ten minutes too long in that it would have been more poignant had it stopped in the boat scene. Enough said until you see the movie for yourself.

Telling our stories, preferably without vampires and space ships, is what I love to do, to read, to contemplate. This month’s Country magazine carries an essay of mine, a scene from my “story”. You can read it online if you wish—or not. http://www.country-magazine.com/short-stories/nostalgia-stories/grandpas-dx-a-true-old-fashioned-gas-station/

I hope your story today is a good one.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Family Storytelling

It is looking like full-blown autumn here, inside and out. The rain set in yesterday…last night...and more is coming. This morning it was so dark I overslept for me. The deck was wet and the air rested at a damp 49 degrees. While I brewed the tea, Miss Biscuit looked at me forlornly. “Yes, I know, our tea time is not the same inside.”

This week I have baked apples, baked beans, bake a pie (that we should not have), hungered for cookies, and have recipes laid out for soup. The oven is on more now. I feel my insides pulling inwardly like overdone custard pulling away from the pan sides. I shrivel a little in this weather knowing winter will come; my body knows what is coming and preparing. No, not yet please!

It does feel like writing weather though. I have sticky notes all over my desk as scenes and conversations come to my mind. No time to write them at moment what with fighting Social Security (a story you do not want to hear!) and other things happening. However, I want to save these glimpses of story for dark winter mornings when maybe I can hammer them out on the keyboard before dog and man arise each day.

Yesterday, my cousin came through town and spent many hours with us. It has been a couple of years since I saw him last, but before that it was decades. Slightly younger than I, he shared my family on Dad’s side. For long while we only lived a block apart. Then I married and moved away while he joined the Air Force during the Vietnam years and traveled the world.

Of course, our favorite subject to hash out is our shared and often dysfunctional family. Now we are old enough to piece together the scenes and events of our childhood, seeing them from a distance of what we hope is fairness and wisdom. We are now at an age where it is comforting to know someone who knows us from our past, who can share memories. I think there are lots of seeds for story from my family!

I have been searching my family history hunting answers for what makes us who we are. Although I still hunger for answers I have not found yet, I have found good writing topics in these people I never met. That is what I like about writing fiction. I can have a seed or an experience or even just a feeling from my life, and if I don’t know all the facts, why I just make them up! Sadly I can’t share most of these particular family inspired stories with my family because while they are fiction, people will most assuredly recognize themselves…and not be happy!

So when you write about family inspired events, how honest do you tell the story? How do you deal with your family’s response to your writing? Are they happy with your tales…or do they even know?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Southwest Flavor

When I was young, I dreamed of owning a large two storied house with spacious rooms where I could show “who I was” on bookshelves and piano tops. That never happened because my home is a one level ranch style, and I don’t play the piano!

I do not change decorating styles based on the latest fads. I am eclectic…and sappy over things that represent all phases of our life, not just the latest and most popular items in decorating magazines. But when we repaired and removed wall paper in our bedroom last year, we painted the walls a shade of desert sand. A new bedspread was in shades of sand, rose, mint and blue stripes. This room makes for a place to use some Southwestern flavored mementos. 

This year we bought this numbered and matted photo because we both loved the blue door, actually window. DH just finished building a frame for it. The hollyhocks are a note card printed from an artist's own painting. I bought it a couple of years ago and framed it poorly. While building the bigger frame, DH took time to redo this sweet little picture of hollyhocks against adobe for me.

This pottery was from last year's trip as well. The artist was marketing her work at Earl's in Albuquerque.

This adobe pueblo inspired clock I bought at a garage sale down the street last spring. I paid a whopping $1 for it!

Just tiny touches here and there in this room will keep the Southwest alive for us this winter when snow flies and wind blows!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Last Stop Sand Creek

The foothills of the Rockies stretched out to grasslands and prairies that rolled eastward like a huge ocean of saffron colored grasses. From Bent’s Fort, we traveled northwest about 80 miles to our last stop before heading the Ruby Slipper towards home across Kansas. I have seen many wide plains and do love the expanse of undulating lands in the Midwest. But I don’t think I have ever seen such a span of land as I saw near Chivington, Colorado. The breadth of the view stretched forever to the horizon and was breathtaking. I took numerous pictures but none can hold the awe of standing right there.

The destination was Sand Creek Massacre Site. I knew the story but wanted to see this sad National Site for myself. After miles of traveling roads nearly alone without other cars…or homes…we turned on a gravel road for eight miles. The loneliness was almost spooky. A ranger walked out to meet us as we drove into the main area (obviously he doesn’t face herds of people so visitors are welcomed one by one).  When we stepped out of the car, wind nearly knocked us over. It wasn’t a storm wind, just good old hard and strong prairie wind.

The ranger talked about the history….about the area’s weather including the relentless wind….about the spotty cottonwoods…the stream. Sand Creek was known as a battleground until 2007 or so when it was properly named a massacre site. This was no battle; this was murder. In November of 1864 while the Civil War raged, a group of Cheyenne and Arapahos lead by Black Kettle was peacefully camped on Sand Creek. Many surrounding Whites liked and worked with these people. William Bent (of Bent’s Fort) had two sons living here.

Col. John Chivington took about 700 volunteer soldiers out to destroy these people who were not fighters. He planned it with the sole intent of killing people. Nearly 200 Natives were killed; two thirds of them were women and children. Then the men also raped and mutilated women including cutting a baby from its mother’s womb. A couple of unit leaders were so sickened by what was being done that the officers refused to let their men fire, refused to let them partake in this mass murder.

The ranger told us how to drive up to the banks of the creek. There were memorials and more history signs. Visitors were asked not to walk beyond some posts out of respect to the killing grounds spirits. Descendants of these victims still return to this spot to mourn their ancestors. I stood there as the wind whipped my hair in my face and felt such sadness for the suffering of the mothers that day. Unfortunately, I thought of how the world has not changed much as rape, killing, and mass murder still run rampant in our world…new tribes of people but same old story.

The eight miles back to the highway, DH and I talked of how sadly moving the site was. We met another car going in. There had been three cars in about an hour and a half. A few people do trickle into this National Historic Site either to pay respects or to reach for understanding of ugly history. When we hit the paved road once more, we inched our way eastward pass Goodland, Dodge City, and on to Pratt. The next day it was visiting our son in Wichita and then on to family in Neosho County, and finally home again. We brought home some homegrown pinto beans, cracked blue corn, books, pictures, a tiny bit of New Mexico chili powder, and memories that will warm our winter days that are gathering force to come our way much too soon for me. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Last Day in New Mexico and Sites in Colorado

Friday morning and the week was going too fast. We headed north going to Tesuque Indian Flea Market. It is large but not many booths open on Friday morning. We looked around and enjoyed the looking. Bought a nice numbered print from a photographer and some basketry.

                                           Note the aspens....

Again, DH found a new road through familiar territory. We saw Ojo Caliente where warm springs were. It is a secluded place and would be fun to stay there sometime. The road had few travelers on it…we dawdled along looking a vistas. We stopped on top of a mountain pullout and had a diet soda, beef stick, and pretzel and called it lunch. Fine dining!  In the distance we could see bit of yellow aspens dripping across mountains like melted butter. We could tell that in the few days we had been out, the trees were really changing.

Then we saw a sign that said 18 miles east to Rio Grande Bridge. DH suggested we try it again so we instantly changed the plans, changed the direction. We headed for the bridge…found one of our favorite vendors and shopped like crazy! ( Unfortunately, a second jumper had taken his own life that week...two in one week.) So we then went a few miles on, returned to the Enchanted Circle, and headed for a motel in Raton.

The roadside to Raton was loaded with pronghorns. It was a great drive north seeing these antelope.

We drove in early morning across the Comanche National Grasslands. Our destination was Bent’s Fort near La Junta, Colorado. We had been there years ago when the kids were small…translation: we did not see a lot. DH had read a history of Bent’s Fort and another of the Santa Fe Trail this summer so we decided to look again. Great decision too. This was a real highlight of the trip…like a whole new place. Bent’s Fort was pivotal in settling the West…was where the Santa Fe Trail broke into southern and northern routes.  

The adobe fort had two levels. From the top, men could see the surrounding areas and watch who was coming in to trade. There is an amazing amount of room in this fort, but the rooms are small and dark. But the adobe kept it cool in summer, warm in winter. 

Note the size of this wagon...it was large to haul suupplies and freight over the prairies.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The West, Taos High Road and Los Alamos

On the High Road we looked for Anasazi beans but found only pintos and some heirloom ones called Bolitos. Once back on the Low Road, we headed for Los Alamos. We had always opted to avoid this side trip because other things were on our Must See List. This time, I had read Wives of Los Alamos and wanted to see the compound where the atomic bombs Fat Man and Little Boy were developed. The museum there was nice but too full of technology. DH loved it and wished he had more time. For both of us the 15 mile drive out was worth it due to scenery. The views were phenomenal and probably my favorites of the day.

Then it was Santa Fe and the Sage Inn, a rest, and then out to supper at the Cowgirl where locals and tourists both congregate.  The food is wonderful and there is music. You can sit inside or outside in a patio build around a tree strung with tiny white lights to listen to the music. We opted to be outside even though it did get cool. A man and a woman were sitting with a drink at our reserved table and the waitress was going to make them move. I said they could stay and once again at the Cowgirl we met some very original people! Veronica said she was a master permanent makeup artist, sort of like tattoos? She lived in a very nice area of Santa Fe with many famous people, and she said she was having coffee with Ali McGraw in two days.

Gray or Ray, never quite sure, said he was a scholar…that he wrote about Western Religions and set up social media sites for people. He was a very different fellow. (He is standing in front of the glass and has his hands in his pockets.) They advised us on what to eat. I got a smoky chicken short stack which was blue corn tortillas and beans. It was so hot! I ate the chicken and beans and some of the tortillas, but had to stop due to the heat. Gray asked if he could take the rest home with him. Ah, okay…so the waitress brought him a box and he scraped my leftovers into it with my fork.

Then they both suggested an ice cream potato for dessert. DH and I shared one, and alas, we took no picture. It looked exactly like a huge backed potato….vanilla ice cream in a football shape…rolled in powered chocolate, split in top with a square of butter (white chocolate) and a mound of sour cream (whipping cream). It was a fun desert!

The next morning we headed for the square early so we could get a parking place. Got a good one right across from the cathedral. We meandered through the shops and stores…studied jewelry sold by Indians under the portal of Palace of Governors. Everything is SO expensive here but fun to mosey around and look. We sat in the square on benches…watched pigeons…absorbed New Mexico air.

For lunch we went to The Shed, a home-owned place for 60 years or more. I got help I choosing my food and heat here. It was all wonderful! You could sit outside but we opted for inside rather than wait a half hour. I got a cup of posole with my meal and it was best I have ever tasted. I am definitely going to try to make this! The waitress said when she was sick as a child, this is what made her feel better…a version of our chicken soup! DH and I also shared a cup of Chilled raspberry
 soup…different and good.

                                                Orchids in window at The Shed   

Then we took our little bags and tired feet to the motel room and were in for the evening as we were quite tired.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Taos on Day Three

Nightfall found is in Taos where we stayed at the Taos Inn, a set of old adobe buildings right across from the town square. There is a patio eating, inside restaurant, and a bar as well. This is a known place for the Taos people to linger. We were so tired by the time we reached here, we did not avail ourselves of much. We checked in and then walked across the street to eat at a balcony restaurant, and then walked back to it in the bar/lounge to listen to the night’s music. Unfortunately, DH does not like bluegrass and that was the choice that night. The group was very good and we stayed a while before heading straight to bed.

We were going on to Santa Fe but not before driving out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We had seen it before but were looking for some favorite vendors that set up there. We got into a long, backed up line. Finally we were told it would be two more hours at least since someone had just jumped off the bridge. The rescue units were there already. So sad, and we turned back.

We caught sight of a sign: Red Willow Farmer’s Market and we followed the directions out to near the Taos Pueblo. Of a dirt road, tucked into some bushes and small trees was an open market of about seven vendors. Such interesting things…some beautiful carrots!!! So tasty and sweet. I bought some parched blue corn for posole and the most delightful gal gave me a recipe to use. She gave me tips on how to use blue corn flour too. My one effort at posole was not very good, but I will give this new recipe a try.

Then we headed out of town on the Taos High Road. It is so, so beautiful this drive. Slow and easy…air clean and pure…clouds that look like you could wrap your arms around them.