Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Thought or Two

When downsizing or weeding, there are so many things that just don’t fall into a clear cut category. I look around and wonder what I can do without…and often think nothing, think it is all so important. In the small hut sits a plate that was an advertising promotion and a calendar for the year 1908. This was the year my Granny was born. How could I ever let it go although it is meaningless to probably almost any other human right now?

I don’t know how I ended up with the plate, but of course, got it when her house was broken up after she died. It doesn’t look like anything else I own, and when I was younger I tended to not keep anything that didn’t function for me in some way. However, I guess even I recognized the uniqueness of a plate marked with Chelsea, I.T. This would have been the Indian Territory my Gran was born in. Family story says she was Cherokee, but I can’t find paper proof. At this late date in life, I wonder if she could have been Choctaw. She had an aunt named Tishamingo which was a Choctaw chief’s name, and I don’t think White people named their children after Native Americans in that time period.

Right now, I am reading an older book called Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan. It is a novel about the Indians of Oklahoma and how they were swindled and killed for their oil rights and oil money. It is a sad, sad tale, but then it is very contemporary—the power of one group of people over another and of racial bias. I just finished reading a classic for the May book club, and that was Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. This book was also contemporary in that it dealt with cheating real estate deals, crafty bankers, of people of a certain class leading empty lives as they tried to beat each other to the top of the society stack.

I have been so disheartened by the political scene the last few months, by the greed I see in big companies, by the lack of civility in human beings, by the struggle for money and by the treating money like it were a Greek god. Once again literature is showing me that we are not much worse than we ever were. Our sinking into the darkness of evil really isn’t new; this is the same old story.

So I run my hand across the plate before sitting it back on the shelf, think of the storekeeper who built his business, of the great grandparents who took the plate home in 1908, of the Indian Territory that would become Oklahoma years later, of the grandmother who kept the plate into her final years as I am now doing. I guess if the plate could talk it would tell us of all the injustice, trouble, crookedness it saw along with joy and celebration. In the end, I think the plate would say, “Life goes on.” I just wish we could get a handle on the evil which would make the going on so much nicer to do!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

More Spring Rituals

We had planned a short ride to Pittsburg with boards and things for son’s continuing house improvement.  But DH had a bad night and son was sick with a comeback of congestion. DH still wanted to go, so I volunteered to drive Man and Dog on a mini-trip. The price they had to pay was listening to Hank Williams all the way!

Since I drove, I chose the roads, and I took us down a lovely secondary pavements. Earth was rubbing her eyes and waking up to spring.  Freshets ran from last week’s rain. Winter grasses stood tall, and ankle high wheat rolled green to the hedge rows like unfurled undertaker turf. Wildflowers were popping up and there was even some brillant Indian Paintbrush in some meadows. We spied a couple walking ditches picking random stalks of fresh asparagus.

We stopped on the way into town at the Pittsburg Farmer’s Market. We had not been here since they moved to a new area with a roofed area for shade and dry spots on rainy days. Though early in the season, there was a vast variety of things to buy. One man was selling goat meat and swears by its healthy properties and tastiness. Ah, I saved that experience for another day. I did buy lush lettuce, crispy radishes, green onions and eggs.  

I bought a dozen of lovely brown eggs and then down the row I found these too. Laid by  Americana hens, these green and aqua eggs are beauties!!

After a brief time with our son, we headed home.  Since he lives in the north end of town, we headed another mile or so north before turning  back east to a road we had not been on in a long while…his college days in fact. One we left the rolling land around Pittsburg, the land flattens out reaching for the Missouri border. Here the farmland is prize material, the earth dark as wet coffee grounds and rich in nutrients for row crops. Lots of men puttered out in fields and barns today while the weather is about perfect.

A detour of only four miles out of our way took us by Prairie State Park. This is a small but gorgeous area set aside in the middle of farm country. They are saving the prairie as it once was and have herds of elk and buffalo. Today the buffalo are numbering 101 after a buffalo calf was born this week. We could only see them at a distance as they were far away from the road…but they were frolicking and running, enjoying the spring air we could tell.

On to Lamar and around their town square after not being there for years. Like all small Midwestern towns, it fades.  We found one cluttered flea market open where I bought on new tea towel someone had made and then would sell for a song.   

It wasn’t far or long, but the little ride satisfyed an urge for a road trip. Taking our time, meandering past green pastures, roving by grassy meadows, and just roaming around prairie fields made us feel we had left winter behind to unfold and green up a bit

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday, Book Blurb # 11

It's time for Sioux's Friday Book Blurb #11. This week I finally can join in again! It is only 150 words, but sometimes words nor time either one come along!  But loved this hat and had to work it!!!

Go to Sioux's page at http://siouxspage.blogspot.com for complete rules on how to participate and links to other writers' stories based on the photo. 

                                 Stetson on a Fence Post

Clarrisa didn’t know what had happened to her cowboy. Lines appeared around his mouth, his eyes lost their spark, and the bedroom had become a dark cavern with no light. Sander had known nothing but cows and prairie since he was a boy, but suddenly he was ready to hang up his Stetson and he wasn’t saying why. She had no clue why her husband was no longer interested in anything with the ranch, including her.

Finally in a last ditch effort to rodeo up her old cowboy, Clarrisa picked a night, put on her best fringe, and cocked her own cowboy hat to meet him at the front door. Tonight she WOULD get answers. Could she handle what she was going to hear? Was this the end of the their rodeo? What was really going on in Sander’s life?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Change and Spring Again

For years, I unloaded most of the deck, sealed it, and reloaded most of it again. Then things changed in retirement. DH took over the sealing part.  This spring another change happened as we had to adjust how much we take off the deck. It is getting to be too big a job. DH can still lift the bird baths off the side, but soon that will not happen either. This year we moved the big pieces on the deck and I took off smaller things, sealed half, moved again and sealed other half, and replaced things as they should be for summer. It took us three days and we both were tired!

But the good part is we are ready with open deck a little earlier than usual. We found a few days with just right temps and went for it. I also sorted flower pots this year, gave up old and worn ones. Am thinking the years of HUGE amounts of flowers are gone as well. Not only are they time consuming, but they are more expensive. I bought garden seeds this week at $2 a package!

My wooden chairs are coming apart, rotting to pieces. DH glued on legs and backs, and he repaired wooden birdhouses too.  I have decided to use my grandparents’ metal chairs as the wooden ones deteriorate.  These chairs are 60 years old, and I painted one a lovely yellow last year which worked well. I could not get the same shade this year so I jumped into neon green. It works for now. The green chair by a red geranium reminds me of William Carlos Williams' poetry!


Here in our area we are way short on rain for this year so far. I know we need the rain, but I am grateful for this taste of lovely weather and the time to work outside. We even ate on the deck yesterday. I so appreciate being outside and know someday I won’t be able to do these things. But for now, YEA!!!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dusty Richards Speaks

Dusty Richards is a big man in a big hat with a somewhat gravelly voice that reminds me of actor Tommy Lee Jones. Richards is on the brink of publication of his 150th book. Last night he drove up from Springdale, Arkansas to speak to the Joplin Writers’ Guild about his books and about writing. He assured the listeners that western writing is not unique; it just tells a good story with the same craft of all writing.

I made some notes from his program:

Be sure and tell the reader WHERE the character is, as in the kitchen, the barn, the bedroom. Let the reader get located first.

When writing, never stop at the end of a chapter even if tired. Push on to a page or so more because if you end with a cliff or a chapter stop, it will be hard to revive the energy the next day. So push on, write and set up a scene that gives a good place to start the next day because the energy was already put in gear.

Publishers don’t count words, they count pages. An average book should be 300 pages which will equal 75,000 words.

Best advice he got early in his career:

Think of a clock as a book. The first fifteen minutes of the hour should be about 75 pages. The character is lost or has lost something. Next fifteen minutes, the character is alone—no one will or can help him. Next fifteen minutes, someone comes forth to help the character or the character has some confidence building that makes him deal with his problems. In the last fifteen minutes on the clock, the character is either a hero or a martyr.

Everyone left enthused about writing no matter what their genre!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

More Poetry in National Poetry Month

I love National Poetry Month. While poetry falls to the background most of the year and is many readers’ least favorite genre, for 30 days once a year, everyone appreciates the minimal or clever lines that make up a poem of some kind.

I struggled with poetry in school because 1. I never heard the same beat as others and could NOT measure a foot and 2. I never interpreted the lines as I was “supposed” to see them. Often this was influenced by life experience or the lack of it. In college, I had to write a paper on “Return to San Francisco Bay, 1946” which was about returning soldiers from the war. I had NO understand of WWII at that time, and I read the poem as prisoners returning from Alcatraz. The grade was a disaster!

I so appreciate my blogger friends for encouragement in both poetry and prose. I have met some delightful people on the page. One, Linda over at Write from the Heart, has encouraged me, prompted me, and propped me up many times. Recently, she said I needed to read my work in public. Horrors! I have stood before classes, parents, boards, audiences, and such, but speaking is one thing and reading your own work is another.

The lines I write I are my babies. They can be cute and cuddly, or they can be homely and unruly, but they are mine. Therefore, they are dear to me. But I listened to Linda and read at the program held Thursday at Grace Church, a fairly safe place. But tonight, I took a step into deeper water when I read at the Spiva Art Center in Joplin. I am glad I had no idea the amount of talent of the readers beforehand!

Spiva is an art gallery in Joplin. They hold an international photo coopetition each spring and have many parts of the country represented by pictures.  After the photos have been up about a month, they have a 1000 Words Writing Night. Writers are invited to name the photo that inspired them and then read what they wrote as a result. It is all under a 1000 words and tonight there were many talented readers.

My picture was one called EARL by a Robert Moran from Bar Harbor, Maine. I will post his photo and hope I am not breaking a law. The poem I read was called Seamus McCall and told of an old boat builder from Maine, his dreams of building a wooden boat and sailing away. One woman in the audience was from New England and was very impressed so I know I moved at least one person tonight!

Thanks for the push, Linda!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Company and National Poetry Month

It has been a very busy first week of April. Right now the redbud, dogwood, spreading flox and tulips with a dash of iris are brilliant in the early spring sun. It is a pleasure just to drive down the street and look every direction for signs of rebirth, of coming again. DH’s sister and husband have been here from Montana and we drove them down our main street dominated by old well-kept Victorians where mature flowering trees offered scenes like a French painting.

I managed to make a good evening meal but Easter rabbits still dominated the scene. I had no time or inclination maybe to change out bunnies. We had cranberry meatballs over rice, minted green beans, salad, cranberries in wine, and hot rolls followed by Black Russian cake. This morning brother-in-law treated us to breakfast out. We are stuffed like little spring toads.

                                                  Father Steve reads after cooking

Also yesterday I read my poems at Grace Church where they celebrated National Poetry Month at their Encore lunch. Encore is a lunch once a month during the noon hour and costs a $5 donation just to cover the expense for food. Church members take turns creating meals and Father Steve is one of the main cooks himself. In summer and autumn months the cooks use fresh vegetables from the church garden.  During lunch there is a speaker of some sort and every one is free again shortly after 1:00.   

This month members of the church and I read our work. It was fantastic the variety and richness of poems. One woman wrote about her cancer fight; a grade school principal wrote about growing up-his and others, one read an Elizabeth Bishop poem, and much more.  People enjoyed it, and I heard comments that they hoped to hear something like this again. They could do it every April! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Spring Visit!

Last week we had a 70 degree day; on the weekend, there were freeze warnings at night. Today it was a windy 81 degrees here. It is hard to know what season we are in. The sweaters and heavy pants are put away and then dragged out again. It is spring and everyone fancies flowers and green grass.

This last weekend we met our friends in Branson for a long overdue visit. It has been roughly four years since we had an extended session of catching up. Texting and email make for fast memo type postings, but gone are those long letters we used to both write and wait for. We also had phase of exchanging 90 minute cassette tapes and that was wonderful. Finding a tape in the mail meant grabbing some tea and hiding out in my rocker to listen to their life’s events. It was almost like being there.

We all met in some duplex type apartments in Hazelwood, Missouri near St. Louis in the 1970s. DH had just gone to work at MacDonnell Douglas aircraft and Jim had just returned from Vietnam. The wives followed. We all came to the city from small towns. Neither couple had any money, but we sure had fun. We played marble games and dominos; we each had a dog; we pooled our leftovers together to make a new meal about once a week.

After a couple of years, we each moved back closer to families, to live in small bergs where we hoped to sink roots and have families. We ended up living roughly 400 miles apart, but we stayed in touch on paper. Then we both had the first babies and when they were about a year old, we got together for a visit. They taught us macramé and we taught them basket weaving. Thus a tradition of gathering every couple of years was started.

Eventually, we each had two boys. My oldest was to go to college an hour and half away from them and he used their home as a “visit home” when he needed. I will always appreciate their open door and their generosity of their washing machine! We took turns attending the boys’ weddings and shared tears when some failed. We waiting on grandbabies together.

So it was great to see them again in person, to really catch up on each other’s lives. The men, old retired gents now, get to fish all they want as long as they want. But guess what, they tired out early this weekend!!! We agreed to eat one good meal out and to snack in the evening. Ah, so much less dishwashing now! We met at the Keeter Center at School of the Ozarks for lunch on Saturday. It is a lovely place to eat, the students make great waiters, the food is wonderful, and the restaurant has the best iced of any place we know.

For the last few years, I cry as we drive away. We have always had a good time, but age has made me even more aware of how precious life is, how things can turn on a dime, how someday things won’t always be the same for us four. So often friends come and go. It is a gift that we all have hung together for 45 years.