Friday, June 30, 2017

What We Are Nostalgic For



I recently watched a documentary called "If These Knishes Could Talk: The Story of the New York Accent." At one point an interviewer asked Pete Hamill what he was nostalgic for. I thought that was a great question so I posed it in the writing groups and we used that as our spark for a 5-minute warm-up on the last week of circles before summer break. Here is a sample of the responses:



the yellow T-shirt I had with the word "yellow" written across the front (in red); holding a warm dachshund on my lap while reading; running downhill as fast as I could; living with a total lack of self-consciousness; playing kickball in the middle of the road

cigarettes; wearing make-up (for stage characters); my thin body; meeting my parents half-way between Buffalo and Ithaca, to eat and talk and laugh and love; my cats, and how we all lived and slept together

looking at life through a clear, positive lens, and feeling easy about things; the comfortable feeling that each day is filled with possibilities for a peaceful time without anxiety or depression; living with less pressure to be perfect; my first romantic relationship

the Mr. Softee ice cream truck coming down the street, with that jingle playing, and the window so high up in the truck that the ice cream man had to lean way to down to collect our 25-cents and give us all a cone of sweet twirled ice cream in our favorite flavors

life on the road in a motor home; the excitement of the first day of school and also the anticipation of the last day of school; my dad's barbecue chicken; crabbing in the bay off Somers Point; the 4th of July family picnics at my grandparents' home; sailing on Skaneateles Lake; carmel corn

Amazons; real southern fried chicken, the way my mother made it; my father's favorite tractor; intelligent legislation; my sailor hat from 3rd grade

maple "sugaring off" parties; walks through an Austrian village, with the castle before me, the river behind me, and the glorious mountains on each side; making blanket houses with my sister on the porch railing; mom's chocolate pie; mom and dad singing duets; marching around the bandstand at concerts, a part of every summer Thursday evening; finding new paths through the woods on walks with my husband

purple popsicles; my shooter marbles that my mother gave away, along with the marble bag I'd made myself; my one-person pop-up tent; summer days at my grandparents' farm where we could wander in the woods as we pleased; kickball games and croquet tournaments with neighbor kids; the screened-in porch of our childhood home, which served as a summer living room

warm sunny summer days when I could take a nap under the white pine trees, on a soft bed of golden needles

the Beatles; my long hair; my father's laughter; my mother's hoe cake, fried chicken, and turnip greens (cooked with bacon); being a carefree child; my Annie Oakley costume; hot sex

my mother's voice when she read "Winnie the Pooh" to me; the Corner Bookstore's children's book section; being able to find shoes I liked, in a size that fit, in a real store; the farm where I lived as a child, for only three years, but being in that place remains one of my fondest memories

leaving the front door of the house open; riding my bike; holding a cat on my lap; receiving a paycheck; reading the Nancy Drew mysteries; my New York City apartment — a 5th floor walk-up in Little Italy, with the bathtub in the kitchen

Friday night dinners at my grandparents' apartment — roast chicken, peas & carrots out of a can, pineapple cheesecake for dessert — all the cousins coming together ever single week; wearing paisley; the ability to sleep through the night without waking up to go to the bathroom; small shops devoted to selling one single thing, like buttons

the enormous courtyard of our apartment building, filled with as many as a dozen kids, sometimes more: jumping rope, playing jacks, dressing our Barbies, drawing a new hopscotch court every day, bouncing a ball to the rhythm of A-My-Name-is-Alice

summer drives along a winding creek road with my best friends filling every seat in the car; all the fragrances in my grandmother's house; Neil Young playing on repeat through loud speakers; tube rides down the creek, giggling all the way

time spent in Zeno's Pub and also in The Gaff, where happy hour turned into 2 a.m., with no time in between — conversations, laughing, dancing, and beer-soaked optimism allowing this nightly time warp to occur

eating ice cream sandwiches at noon on a hot day, with the vanilla ice cream melting quickly between the chocolate wafers; the sound of the lonely loon, searching for its mate across the lake at night

McCall's sewing patterns; Jimmy Carter as president, airplane trips with no TSA pat-downs; dresses with smocking; rouge; pencil boxes; Crayola crayon colors that have since been retired; television with just 3 networks to choose from; roads without potholes; Chevy Novas

being too young to make decisions; the way Jell-o and Cool Whip tasted, together; an old-fashioned small town fair; having lots and lots of days with nothing to do; writing everything with a fountain pen; having a live Christmas tree, fully decorated, every year

revolution; free love; Be-Ins; dancing in the street; youthful idealism; passion, commitment, and hope

rampant flirtatiousness; instant arousal; constant eroticism — feeling it in the air, in the street, with anyone I met or came across; sexual tension; Marvin Gaye

new things to learn and discover; endless possibilities; that dreamy state of innocence and joy

telephone booths; strawberry ice cream sodas with whipped cream and a cherry, served in a ruffle-topped glass goblet at the soda fountain in the drug store

radio shows that my parents listened to but if I crept quietly out of my room and stood in the hall I could hear them too: The Great Gildersleeve, Dragnet, Inner Sanctum, Meet Corliss Archer

all the kids playing stick ball on my block, gathering in the middle of the street to pick sides — Bruce's driveway was home base, first base was the Lombardi's, and across the street was my driveway — second base

the first kayak trip on the Bog River in the Adirondacks; an old-fashioned doctor's visit and the friendly nurse whose name I knew and whose uniform was always clean and crisp; when people had jobs pumping your gas for you; the clacking sound of typewriter keys

my vast expert knowledge of the New York City subway routes, especially the trains running from the Bronx to Manhattan, and back again; The Shari Lewis Show, with Charlie Horse, Hush Puppy, and Lamb Chop; rowing a boat on a clean lake, my sister and I sitting beside each other, one oar apiece, singing "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" until we become hoarse

a kind of general innocence among us that is now difficult even to name


Thank you to all these contributors:

Barbara Anger
Barbara Cartwright
Chris McNamara
Gabrielle Vehar
Grace Celeste
Heather Boob
Kim Falstick
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
Marcy Little
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Nancy Osborn
Patti Witten
Sara Robbins
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Sue Norvell
Sue Perlgut
Susan Lesser
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava





Friday, June 2, 2017

What Makes You Happy?



This collective list was gathered over many months, by Zee Zahava, the 2017 Tompkins County Poet Laureate. The "Happiness Project" was designed to be featured during the weekend of Ithaca Festival (June 2, 3, 4) — a time of celebration! We hope you will enjoy reading what makes other people happy. And perhaps you will feel inspired to think about the things that make YOU happy!

Happiness is . . . .
seeing the sky change from night to day — the way light and color come through the darkness; rocking on a sailboat; holding my granddaughter in my arms; feeling free, feeling respected, feeling connected; being calm, being one with nature; all my people liking each other; feeling my dog resting his chin on my knee; imagining what animal I was before I was me; throwing away the alarm clock because it no longer matters what time I wake up; being lost in the creation of a painting

Happiness is . . . .
realizing that my lingering cough has packed up and moved on; learning a new way to hear an old song; my daughter's smile, different now that she is a new mother; being alive in the world; the aroma of baking bread; hiking the Cascadilla Gorge with friends; looking upon the complexity of Ithaca and seeing some sort of order; spring flowers, cardinals, and bright yellow rubber boots; eating bean soup on a cold day; eating ice cream in the heat; feeling close to a dear friend — having good conversation and knowing I am totally accepted

Happiness is . . . .
a well-cooked meal, spiced with stimulating conversation, and good laughs for dessert; being surrounded by loved ones, humans and others; a summer day, sitting on the porch, feeling a gentle breeze; winter sunshine, warm enough to melt icicles; keeping balloons up in the air to entertain my two-year-old granddaughter; sitting under blankets on the porch, with my family, which includes rats, pigs, dogs, and cats … as well as people; warm-hearted times with good friends, laughing, loving, and living; sitting in my green corduroy chair, a warm dog on my lap, reading a really good book; feeling the sun on my face as I walk with a friend on the waterfront trail; swimming and floating in a pond on a beautiful summer day

Happiness is . . . .
a cascading waterfall of bliss; sitting with my 13-pound, 13-year-old tiger-cat; tossing a piece of your heart to a friend and knowing that it has been caught; bringing a smile to others; a warm enveloping hug from any one of my special friends; catching the scent of lilacs after dusk; the rush of wings and the cry of a black, white, and red beauty — a pileated woodpecker is flying by; discovering that your checkbook balance exactly matches your bank statement balance; walking in nature with a pack of joyous dogs; figuring out what the story was, when you see tracks in the snow

Happiness is . . . .
spring flowers blooming in February; when you feel completely free from the fear of misjudgment from other people; Tic Tacs, in a 12-pack; the first medicinal cup of coffee; waking up in the morning and not having any place I have to go; sleeping on the screened-in porch in the summer; bright sunshine extending to a far horizon; eating ice cream on a winter day; the moment after you finish writing a new song; when my head hits the pillow at the end of the day; accepting what is, and what might be; knowing that my mother loved me

Happiness is . . . .
self-respect; setting a boundary that doesn't harm another person; finding just the right place to sit, in a delicious patch of sun; walking slowly, bowing deeply, feet planted on the earth; a new friendship that you know will cause you to ask important questions about how to be happy; a slight change in the day that I notice but don't cling to; waking before dawn, reading and writing before the day begins; tossing a blue frisbee; having multiple unabridged dictionaries in my room; eating a succulent mango and avocado-on-toast; knowing that my children have found what they are looking for; looking out the window the same second a woodpecker appears

Happiness is . . . .
having no particular place to go but still going anyway; watching a muted football game while listening to a Verdi opera; rain, just enough, followed by sun; knowing there is enough yummy leftover casserole for tonight's supper; finding a parking spot right where I need it; feeling arms around my legs — a surprise hug from my five-year-old grandson; riding my bike downtown, no parking worries; plowing through dozens of cookbooks, food magazines, and recipe cards and stumbling upon something unexpected; going to the mailbox and seeing a handwritten letter from my sister; seeing the tulip buds in the garden and knowing I'll be there tomorrow to see them bloom

Happiness is . . . .
seeing deer hopping over a fallen log; having a breakthrough in my thoughts and then sharing that with someone who really understands; realizing that it doesn't matter why something makes me happy, it's enough that it just does; drawing stick figures on the sidewalk with egg-shaped chalk; having at least four murder mysteries sitting on my shelf, waiting for me; greeting strangers with a smile and a few friendly words, during my morning walk, and realizing that this is a good trait I've inherited from my father; knowing I won't have to wear heavy wool socks again for at least six months; rehearsing a play; a good hair day; rain on the roof, a cat in your lap, a new notebook, and a working pen

Happiness is . . . .
walking across the grass and realizing that I'm no longer sinking in mud; listening to Brazilian music and watching children dancing; not something I take for granted; finishing a project I've been working on for months and discovering that I like the way it turned out; eating a wonderful piece of Swiss chocolate that has a surprise filling of raspberry jelly; being the favorite uncle; knowing that everyone who should be home, and asleep in bed, is; when the oatmeal turns out just right and I find a ripe banana in the fruit bowl; my dog, always at my feet wanting a treat, but I believe it's really love she wants; she can't fool me

Happiness is . . . .
when my brother calls on the telephone and we laugh all the way to our childhood; seeing a chipmunk and a sparrow drinking together at the bird bath; finding my car in the parking lot at Wegmans; watching a mother robin bring long blades of grass to add to the nest she's building; is the slightly downhill part of a path toward the end of my seven-mile run, where I feel fast and invincible; laughing with friends over shared mistakes; going for a morning walk without feeling any back pain; seeing a smile on a stranger's face; making plans to go on a trip and have an adventure

Happiness is . . . .
simplicity, acceptance, joy, gratitude; repeating my daily mantra; watching my skittish dog, stretched out in the middle of a king size bed, sleeping; growing emotionally and spiritually; watching the spring flowers as they smile toward the sun; coming close to accomplishing my biggest goals; feeling the love of my parents, supporting me; returning to Ithaca after 6 months away and hearing a good friend call out my name; a literary festival, where I get to go to 3 readings, 1 theatre performance, 1 demonstration, and 1 workshop; going to the Friends of the Tompkins County Book Sale, after hearing a reading given by an old friend

Happiness is . . . .
the thrilling colors of ranunculus; feeling my grandma's soft, aged hand in mine; having access to arts, and to artists, in Ithaca, New York; listening to evocative language and having glimpses into the past; always learning something new; going into Rite Aide and having a clerk lead you to exactly what you are looking for, with a cheery voice and smile; seeing the first blooms, peonies; feeling a cool ocean breeze after the rain; wrapping up in the coziest blanket just when I need it most; having a bowl of popcorn all to myself; returning home during a damp, cool May after many  months of hot, dry, drought in South Africa; thinking about a person you love and knowing that she is thinking about you at the very same moment


MANY THAKS TO ALL THESE CONTRIBUTORS:

Ailish Mckeever
Amy Callahan
Annie Carter
Annie Wexler
Antoinette Powell
Ari Wunderlich
Barbara Anger
Barbara Kane Lewis
Beth Brunelle
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Cheryl Gallien
Christine Sanchirico
Connie Zehr
Daniel Cooper
Debbie Allen
Diana Ozolins
Diane Ferriss
Edna Brown
Emma Abbey
Fran Helmstadter
Frances Fawcett
Gabrielle Vehar
Gerri Jones
Ginny Rukmini Miller
Gwen Daniels
Howard Chong
Ileen Maxwell-Kaplan
Jane Dennis
Janet Byer Sherman
Janet Steiner
Jannie Lee Lewis
Jean McPheeters
Kim Falstick
Larry Roberts
Liam Lawson
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
M J Richmond
Maimouna Phelan
Mara Alper
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Matthew McDonald
Michelle Kornreich
Nancy Osborn
Nancy Spero
Olivia Jasinski
Patricia Longoria
Patty Porter
Peggy Stevens
Peter Ladley
Rob Sullivan
Ross Haarstad
Ruth O'Lill
Saskya vanNouhuys
Sharon K. Yntema
Shirley Hogg
Spike
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Sue Henninger
Sue Norvell
Sue Perlgut
Susan Austern
Susan Koon
Susan Lesser
Tara Kane
Tina Wright
Trish Schaap
Veronica D. Pillar
Zee Zahava

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Names: a collective list of nicknames and self-names

In all the writing circles this week I asked people to take a minute or two to jot down the names they have been called (by others) as well as the names they have called themselves. Here they are … all the names we have been known as:


Nina-Nina-the-Hyena
Nini
Mamacita
Ninotchka
Nin
Ninsky
Ni-niKnee-knee
ninak39
Mom

Kimmy
Kimalooski
Kimmoe
Kimmer
Kimiker
Auntie Kim
Kimbo
Star of My Life
Olive Face
Baroness of Ballet
Deli Queen

Gab
SpiderSexy
Gaby
Stork
Vee
Gabe
Gabriel
Brie
Denny
GV
cwebmseed
Crazy Cat Lady
Broadway Buddy
Stuck-Up
Smartypants
Princess Grace
Flabby Gabby
Mrs. Cumberbatch
Elle

Pooky
Say-Say
Sayrah
Her
Your Highness
MyMinnieMoose
Sardie
Grandma Sara
Sarala

Perlsuegut
Susie
SueP
Grandma Sue
Shana Madela
Pearl
Clare Wylie

Pistrome
Strome
My Dear
Mrs. Richards
Mama
Mommy
Pgrrl
Madre

Lin
Linny
Harbs
The Horrible
LinDA
Aurora
Gramma
Mema

Susan Jane
Susie
Squeak
Shrimp Boat

Squirt
Tornado
Slowpoke
Dodger
Blue
Bluey
Blue Jeans


Irenechickle
Princes Potch-in-Tushy
Renny
Livingstone
Georgia Grey
Emma18
The Big I
Hippie Chic
Miz Story Lady
Izzy
That American
Z Z Top
Ivriah

SuperDoo
Rebel
Suz
Panda
Cinnamon Girl

Wilder-dork
Nani-eoo
Arthur
Cabeludo
Angelo
Dani-boy
Daniel-son
Amor
The Scorpio

Buddy
Jane

Lauraline
LaurieHighCrotch
LauriePorry
HippyDippy
Sweetie
Darling
Dear
Oma

Mickey
Crisco
HailMaryFullOfGrace
Speaker of the House
Hon
Mrs. Church
Ibu

Tina
Chrissy
Chrisco
Kitty
Ronio
Marmee
MooMoo
ChrisAnn

Care
Caro
Carebear
Sissy
Caraboo
Shishi
Snufflewagus
Sloth

Suzie-Q
Lydia
Su-Su
Maggie
Sugar
Nana
Yellow Rose of Texas

Babs
Toots
Kiddo
Mimi
BebarBareba
Little Joe
B.B.Q.
Wagonwrong
Bob

Sully
Tiger
Tall Glass of Water
Roberto
The Dancing Mailman
That Voice on the Radio
JohnPaulGeorgeRingo
Slick
Chief
Dad
Bro
Robbie

Toad
Marce
Marcelita
Babes
Ycram
Marsupial

Spike
Mikey
Love
Honey

Lizard
Lizardbreath
Burnsie
Lizola
Chabelita
Betsy

Snooks

Patti
Ace
Long-legged Giraffe

Bobbie
Bobsie
Barbarino
Babs
Lovela
Barbsie

Sam
Scoozie
Cerebral Sue
Scrowley
Suzipedia
Sis

Maggie
Marge
Peppy
Piggy
Pita
Peg
O & D
Mams

Chrissy
Mac
Tris
Chrissiemac
Pete
Baby Girl
C
Baby of the Family
Sweetie Pie

Roberta
The Beast
Bettie
Dr. Be
Wethie
Red
Weetie
The Great One
SisterLoverMotherChild

Snappy Tomato
Sly
Syl
Josephine
Zery
Dear One
Sister From Another Planet
Cuz
Pseudo Aunt
SJB
Ginger

MJ
Mjane
Ms R
Smiley
Perrypane
Honey Bun
Marijuana
Grandma

Pat
Pattie
Patty
Patsy
Parti
Iris
Trish
Pitti Bird
Amarina

Kimmie-Ann
Ants
Funny-Face
Kim-Rae
T-Rae
Little Lou
Bim
Bimmy
Bobby Fairclough's Little Sister
Mama Z

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Things We Miss: a collective list by 65 contributors


I miss … riding in the back of Gramps' little yellow tractor and waving to neighbors on the slow ride to the water hole; the taste of a Yoo-hoo after walking two miles to Tetta's general store in the summer; the thickness of my youthful hair; the rush of being in love; the sound of bells as the Good Humor truck arrived; eating sugar with abandon; tooth #12; my father's laugh and my mother's scent; receiving unlimited hugs from my children

I miss . . . my hands in the earth, now that the gardens are covered with a blanket of snow; my grandfather playing "Swanee River" on his harmonica; the way my grandmother pronounced the word "girls," and the hand-knit hats and mittens she made me every year; the hot winds of Oklahoma; my grandfather pulling a quarter out of my ear; the smell of dad's pipe tobacco; unexpected paths that beckon during a walk in the woods; the smell of talcum powder on a newborn baby; the sense of belonging and safety that I felt when my born-into family was alive; sand from retreating ocean waves washing over my feet

I miss . . . running as fast as I can; the taste of my mother's fudge which was different from others but I'm not sure how; my cat stomping into the living room and sitting with his back to us because his food bowl was empty; the call to prayer coming from the mosque in the village; the excitement of opening a letter addressed to me when I was a child; the old maroon bike that my sister and I bought at the auction when the old hired man from the farm next door said it was too rich was for his blood; munching on fresh silver queen corn and okra from my father's old garden; reading Archie and Jughead comics in my treehouse; singing doo wop songs on the band bus, driving back from football games; old loves, dead now, who once filled my heart with joy; the wind in my hair when I biked by the ocean at dawn; innocence

I miss . . . those fearsome tug-of-war games with the dog, now toothless; the melting heat of North Carolina summers; the friends we left when we moved up north; talking about what we would name our children; being the audience as my grandmother practiced delivering the same jokes year after year; having a best friend; having the confidence that I could do anything; being nervous before a race and then finishing the race; bottles of milk with cream on top, left near my grandmother's door; writing six-page letters, by hand, to a distant lover; being able to do the lotus position in yoga; my childhood parakeet, Keeto, whose favorite phrase was "I love you what's your name?"

I miss . . . evenings spent with my grandma, drinking brandy; my father, strong and fit; a time without pain; rollerskating to disco music; being alone; days of being wild; conversations with my mother, who was a brilliant woman; summertime and the buzz of the bees as I collect blueberries; Brutus, the best dog-human I have ever known; not knowing mortality; the bright smiles and bright eyes of my twin granddaughters; the bakery in my hometown that sold big bags filled with less-than-perfect donuts, for $1; when going downtown on the bus to shop for school clothes was a major event; phones with party lines; my father singing along with Bing Crosby — "White Christmas"

I miss . . . taking the stairs two at a time; the old paperboy; getting foot rubs from my husband; day trips to the beach, and eating salt water taffy; Molly Ivins, Erma Bombeck, and Ann Richards; impromptu visits to the root beer stand; food counters in drug stores; the days before I had a carbon foot-print; birthdays, when receiving a small box of paints was pleasure enough; Raggedy Ann dolls and hand-made paper kites; watching tadpoles and ants and dragonflies; playing with string and making cat's cradles

I miss . . . eating Klondike ice cream bars and Cocoa Krispies; drinking a concoction of Hawaiian Punch and ginger ale; watching "The Walking Dead," which I had to give up when I started college; bringing the cows up to the barn for milking; my first car when it ran okay, which was not often; swinging off the rope into the creek in Colosse, New York; my 17-year-old son, who never got to be 18; the possibility that all four Beatles would record together again; shopping for the newest Harry Potter novel; card catalogues in libraries; the tip of Tommy's cigarette glowing at me from across the street; my mother's wedding ring, which was stolen from me

I miss . . . climbing the monkey bars at recess; my grandmother's rich alto voice singing the harmonies as she holds me close during the Christmas Eve candlelight service; his fingers hovering over my arm, giving me goosebumps from the electric energy between us; the scent of mignonette in mother's garden; chickens clucking in the yard; my brother's balsa wood airplanes hanging from the ceiling; the shortcut I used to take to get to my friends' houses; hearing my grandpa reciting rhymed verses that he created on the spot; my ability to climb tall tress and taste their fruit, or just look up, or down; Sunday nights, eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, watching Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom"

I miss . . . my mobility and my stamina;  the stuff that was left behind by the movers, in my last move; both of my grandsons, who lost their lives to mitochondrial disease; my hearing; windows that go all the way to the floor; my piano and my harpsichord; the smell of the ocean and the sound of a foghorn; twirling the coils of the phone cord on my finger during those long calls; a big armchair to curl up in; watching the New York Yankees with my mother-in-law; the South in the spring when the night air is filled with the scent of wisteria, honeysuckle, and jasmine

I miss …. taking bubble baths; the sound of my grandmother's voice calling me for supper; the heavy feel of a horse's breath on my neck; the scent of the first lilac; seeing the first snowdrops push their way through golden leaves; my father looking again at the blooming pelargonium; the days when being five years old felt grown up; when 10 p.m. seemed so very late; being entertained by a tiny green inchworm; the way the wind blew through our house in the summertime; the sound of mandolins playing in that South American church; my father's beard; having money in the bank; the way I became uninhibited after eating those special brownies

I miss . . . tromping through freshly plowed farm fields; wasting time; my old 240 Volvo with a stick shift and leather seats that smelled of sweet grass; believing that life would turn out to be everything I imagined; playing cowboys and moseying up to the bar; walking five miles to school in the snow; the stillness of a Rocky Mountain night in February; being in love; warm donuts at 3 a.m.; olallieberry pie with lard crust; the clear top of the hard mountain, looking out over mists and rocks; very late afternoon naps

I miss . . . the Rainbow Chorus I once sang with — our camaraderie, our victories, our performances; the Denver March Powwow — 90 drums strong, three days of dancing, being mesmerized by the music; big prairie thunderstorms crackling on the horizon; having a 32-inch waist; the bookstores and bars — the glorious stations of my coming out years; the early years when I could not even imagine death; those burgundy colored pants, when they fit me; sushi with fish, not just vegetables; the pink socks I got in the Hakaniemi market; the feeling of resolution

I miss . . . the plastic record player and the Bob Dylan records we played over and over and over, knowing all the words to every song; the fur mini-skirt with the cheap metal belt that my brother bought me; large brown bottles of peroxide, purchased at the pharmacy, then poured onto my hair to bleach it — age 16; spelling tests, when I knew all the answers; being called to dinner by the ringing of a brass bell; the smell of diesel in old European cities, on chilly, lonely mornings; my purple denim overalls, even though the straps always fell into the toilet; spinning like a dervish at Grateful Dead concerts; the sound of static-y fuzz on the in-between channels; hanging clothes out to dry on a line; setting up the annual sukkah; folk dancing; the owl who called at the end of the day "who cooks for you, who cooks for you"

I miss . . . riding a pinto pony across the kansas prairie; hearing a western meadowlark sing its heart out atop a fence post; Haiku, the lazy cat, purring loudly from her cushy bed on the windowsill; shucking peas with my grandma at her kitchen table; seeing my sister swing a golf club back when she still had her strength and mobility; the time when a quiet, efficient, old-fashioned broom was the tool of choice because leaf blowers had not been invented yet; the call of loons echoing across the lake in Canada; learning to groom and care for Grandma's dogs, and attending dog shows with her; sitting in Grandpa's chair, wrapped up in his hunting coat; cooking in coconut shells, then feeding the fern leaves and shredded blossoms to my dolls; listening to my mother chanting gatha under the bodhi tree while I made pagodas in the sand, for ants to climb

I miss . . . believing in Santa Clause; skinny-dipping in the Susquehanna; being newly in love; sitting on the back porch singing Hoagy Carmichael's "Buttermilk Skies" with my grandpap; my mother: calling her from the beach so she could hear the waves; hearing her say "that's wonderful" when I tell her about my day; the way she laughed at the funny poems I wrote about her; singing, dancing, and playing my tamboua for her, and hearing her gleeful reaction; the way she would laugh when I sang "Mamma Mia" to her; her gentleness; polite and caring doctors; calls from friends inviting me to meet up with them; being around people who know what they are doing; my husband saying how beautiful i am

I miss . . . my father, who was kind, gentle, and funny and who loved me unconditionally; my mother. who was not the perfect mother, but as I have realized in my later years, I was not the perfect daughter; my pink flannel skirt with the white poodle in a rhinestone collar with a rhinestone leash; my gold charm bracelet with charms from all the important events of my life until age 21 — which was stolen when my car broke down in rural Utah and I put my bag on the side of the road to hitch a ride and a car came by and grabbed the suitcase but didn't take me; deciphering my mom's crypto-clues that led to the big Easter basket; hunkering down to read books with a friend, under the quilt tent we'd built in the stairwell; dabbing on a little Evening in Paris perfume, sitting at mom's vanity, and feeling all grown up; the butterfly bush outside my bedroom window, full of fluttering wings

I miss . . . picking dandelions for dandelion wine; dancing "the stroll" with my girlfriends; the milk man delivering milk, especially in winter when the cream froze at the top of the bottle; helping my grandmother bobby pin her chignon to the back of the head; many family members, friends, and animal companions, now long gone; my hermit abode, tucked in, lonely as hell, free; the freedom to walk out the door and wander; the feeling that I have all the time in the world; ice caves burrowed out of 5 - 6 foot snow drifts in the corner of my yard; the comfort and warmth of four cats positioned around the house; going to Baskin-Robbins with my father to get Rocky Road ice cream cones; playing hopscotch; the maple tree in our front yard that was cut down and fell across Main Street with a loud thud

I miss . . . the pungent smell of ink from the mimeograph machine; the scent of lilacs when their blooming time is passed; "Weekly Reader," from elementary school days; Saturday morning cartoons, "Monster Movie Matinee, and Marvel Comics; speaking with God; playing "Rhapsody in Blue" on the piano; strapping metal roller skates over my shoes and skating down driveways and on sidewalks; running fleet-footed through the forest; a night of sound sleep in these post-menopausal times; eating too much bacon and feeling no guilt; phone calls from my parents on Sunday afternoons; dancing in bare feet to George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"

I miss . . . dunking hot popcorn into a dixie cup of red Hawaiian Punch; performing in a marching band and learning new color guard routines; being part of the silliness of a group of teenage girls and laughing until we cried; jumping rope, with freedom, confidence, and skill; the feeling that my whole life is ahead of me; living in Berkeley in 1969 and discovering a whole new life; wearing just one layer of clothes and being warm enough; banana splits divided among the whole family; telling lies at weekly confessional; talking on the phone for hours, even with people I didn't know very well; being anonymous; being able to walk long distances without tiring; wearing denim every day; the security of having a long wooden box filled with sharpened pencils; possessing the patience and time to start and finish a novel in one day

I miss . . .  today, when I worry about tomorrow

= = =

Thank you to all these wonderful contributors:

Adeena Dworkin
Alan Bern
Angelee Deodhar
Aniiyah Christina Klock
Annie Wexler
Barbara Kane Lewis
Barbara Tate
Brenda Roberts
Candace Mingins
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Chris McNamara
Christina Martin
Christina Sng
Claire Vogel Camargo
Daniel Cooper
Debbie Allen
Heather Boob
Jan Benson
Janie L. Nusser
Jayne Demakos
Jennifer Hambrick
Jo Balistreri
Joan McNerney
Joanna M. Weston
Joyceanne
Kath Abela Wilson
Kathy Kramer
Katya Sabaroff Taylor
Kelly Hopson
kjmunro
Laughing waters
Laurie Peterson
Liz Burns
Louise Vignaux
Madeleine Cohen Oakley
Malintha Perera
Mara Alper
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Michele Sawyer
Mike Schaff
Pamela A. Babusci
Pat Geyer
Paula Marshall
Phyllis Lee
Pris Campbell
Rainbow Crow
Ray Petersen
Rob Sullivan
Rosa Clement
Ross Haarstad
Saskya van Nouhuys
Sharon Fellows
Stacey Murphy
Stacey K. Payette
Sue Crowley
Susan A. Currie
Susan Lang
Susan Lesser
Susanna Drbal
Theresa A. Cancro
Vibeke Laier
Yvonne Fisher
Zane Petersen
Zee Zahava

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A happiness poem written by 11 people

These moments of happiness were written by some of the members of the Thursday Morning Writing Circle, November 3, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson


Annie Wexler

happiness is when
i make squash soup
sauté ginger and curry
add a tart apple
finish with coconut milk

happiness is when
i wake up
in an alpine refuge
eat a baguette with butter
drink a cafe au lait
set out with my backpack

happiness is when
i start to paint
wetting the paper
brushing yellow and red
playing with color

happiness is when
i do morning meditation
no alarm clock
quiet rhythm
soothes my soul



Barbara Cartwright

happiness is when
the faster
the car goes
the more space i see
between the trees

happiness is when
i race through a book
never sensing myself for a second
and find another
in the series

happiness is when
i find the right words
to describe my feelings
and my listener feels that feeling
like an echo in their heart

happiness is when
a shaft of moonlight
makes a corridor across the water
a means to the other side
a gateway to the stars



Jayne Demakos

happiness is when
i feel cold
and lying there with my mother
i hold her hand
it is warm, fleshy, and comforting

happiness is when
i finally play piano
too many weeks have slipped by
my fingers are like lead
but still chopin nocturns are there

happiness is when
it's my birthday
and my friends come over
we sit around the living room
creating surprising and serendipitous writing



Mara Alper


happiness is when
you laugh and
even happier
when it's at
my joke

happiness is when
my heart is clear
and my mind
settles
into peace

happiness is when
sun streams on the
bike path
and the wetlands
radiate light

happiness is when
my wave of sighs
subsides
and i yield to complexity,
let change change me



Marcy Little

happiness is when
the car won't start
but then i realize
i've simply forgotten
my key

happiness is when
the onions, garlic,
tomatoes, and basil
all ripen
at the same time

happiness is when
the snow starts
with earnest at 3 a.m.
and i awake to the notice
"school closed today"

happiness is when
i return home late
to the gentle hum
of jazz
and a hot pot of tea



Mike Schaff

happiness is when
after 108 years of struggle
the chicago cubs
win the
world series

happiness is when
i have this to look forward to:
my son-in-law reading his poems
this saturday, 1:30, at buffalo books

happiness is when
i have this to look forward to as well:
my daughter reading from her book of short stories
"Say Something Nice About Me"
next saturday, 1 p.m., also at buffalo books



Rob Sullivan

happiness is when
a child smiles back
giggling at the game
entranced by their power
to enchant and endear

happiness is when
music pulls me back
to embrace all
i have forgotten to love,
cherish, and honor

happiness is when
a new day dawns
to find me
once again
above ground



Stacey Murphy

happiness is when
it's breakfast for supper
and next morning
the house holds the scent
of bacon and syrup

happiness is when
the music is loud
and there are friends
to dance with
and time flies too fast

happiness is when
i feel known
and understood
just by looking into
a dear one's eyes

happiness is when
my wiggly 10-year-old
forgets himself
and climbs onto my lap
after dinner



Sue Crowley

happiness is when
the waters of the clyde river
reflect the sky like a mirror
and the bow of my little boat
cleaves through the clouds in silence

happiness is when
an old favorite song
arrives unexpectedly on the radio
and i sing with abandon
alone in my car

happiness is when
i catch sight of four young deer
three does and a yearling buck
grazing in the high grass
before they turn, white tails disappearing



Yvonne Fisher

happiness is when
i go to the movies
i buy the popcorn
and the previews
begin

happiness is when
i sit at my computer
and make a plan
to go
somewhere else

happiness is when
i stay home cozy
the wood fire burning
i'm petting
the cat

happiness is when
i step into the shower
the hot water
runs over
my body



Zee Zahava

happiness is when
a friend sends an email
that says TY TY TY
and i don't know what it means
but then i figure it out: Thank You Thank You Thank You

happiness is when
i buy a new box of 10 pens
all different colored inks
and feel secure
for at least one month

happiness is when
everyone who is expected arrives
the circle is complete
a grey wet thursday morning
brightens

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A happiness poem written by 9 people

These moments of happiness were written by some of the members of the Wednesday Morning Writing Circle, November 2, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson


Chris Sanchirico

happiness is when
i call my cat
and he comes home
and i give him
a salmon treat

happiness is when
i am walking on the bike path
on a crisp fall morning
the sun sparkling on the leaves
and i smile

happiness is when
i make a cup of ceylon tea
and smell it before
adding the milk
the cup warm in my hands

happiness is when
i think of each of my children
picture them when young
think of what they are doing now
grateful

happiness is when
i wake up in the morning
and slowly come alive to the realization
that there are no plans
i am retired



Fran Helmstadter

happiness is when
i see my dog jump up
on the bed ... turn three times
and lie down ... her head on two blue pillows
her warm presence

happiness is when
i sink back into a lounge chair
on the deck
and smell the salty ocean
along penobscot bay

happiness is when
i remember the first news of
my grandson's birth
at home in his father's arms
in santa fe

happiness is when
i release great anger
after keeping it company
and emerging slowly
from it



Janie Nusser

happiness is when
i awaken without the sound of an alarm
stretch my fingers and legs and arms and
snuggle into the warmth one last time
before my day begins

happiness is when
i begin the day with a long difficult hike
take a break
retrieve the rake from the shed
and end the day with the last leaf

happiness is when
i have put the gardens to bed for the winter
snow shovels at the ready
long underwear traded back into the dresser
and the geranims snuggly asleep in the cellar



Liz Burns

happiness is when
i eat a cupcake
with chocolate frosting
and rainbow
sprinkles

happiness is when
i take a hot bubble bath
and sink
into the water
up to my nose

happiness is when
i start my computer
and don't have to call
the geek squad and chat with an agent
for an hour and a half

happiness is when
i read
words
that resonate
in my life



Mary Louise Church


happiness is when
i look up from my knitting
and see my friend
who always has some interesting comment
either about what i'm doing or what he is doing

happiness is when
i pull all the left-overs out of the fridge
put them together in a creative way
and my husband says "this is really good
we'll never have it again, will we"

happiness is when
my dearest friend suggests some adventure
and we have time together
to chat and laugh
and plan on doing it again soon

happiness is when
i'm working on a very difficult acrostic puzzle
where i not only don't know the word that fits the definition
i don't even know the words in the definition itself
but through working the puzzle i get the anwer to both


 

Rainbow Crow

happiness is when
i walk a path
of dying or dead plants
and grass
and find a purple violet staring at me

happiness is when
i am struggling
to find a comfortable
way to sleep
and my cat curls up
behind my knees

happiness is when
i find worms
and toads
and snakes
after putting the garden to bed

happiness is when
i see my physical therapist
and she flashes her dazzling smile
along with a little cleavage




Ross Haarstad

happiness is when
the sodden wrap
dripping with gloom
breaks off
in the brisk autumn wind

happiness is when
i write of it
in a circle
of friends
writing of happiness

happiness is when
the town fills up
with wizards
wands flying
through young enchantments

happiness is when
i am not unhappy
or stressed
or panicking
or many other things



Susanna Drbal
 

happiness is when
i look up at the stars
and at my feet
fireflies gather
and spark

happiness is when
i write
and the words flow
and i feel
unemcumbered

happiness is when
i cross that bridge
from to-do
to
finally done

happiness is when
i hear the creak
in jerry garcia's voice
and i feel the
careless joy of youth

happiness is when
i hear thunder
followed by bulbous
plops of rain
and feel washed anew



Zee Zahava

happiness is when
i feel a bit drab
and then remind myself that
i can put on mis-matched socks
and i do

happiness is when
i decide i just don't care
and i let the leaves blow in
and i don't
vacuum them up

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A happiness poem written by 14 women

These moments of happiness were written at the start of the Tuesday Morning Writing Circle, November 1, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson



Gabrielle Vehar

happiness is when
i'm lying all curled up
huddled in bed against the cold
and i realize that i'm toasty warm
because my two cats are lying with me

happiness is when
i go to a play
and i'm dreading seeing it
but then all of a sudden
it turns out to be soul-saving

happiness is when
i wake up on that special day
and realize that i actually did get enough sleep
to be all ready
to write with my friends

happiness is when
i get out of a cold swimming pool
on a cold day
and give myself permission
to take a long hot shower



Grace Celeste

happiness is when
i resist leaving home
but i do
and then i am delighted
that i did

happiness is when
i hear my children and grandchildren
sharing memories
and laughing
at family holiday gatherings

happiness is when
i listen
to the silence
of the first
snowfall

happiness is when
i sit
in front of
my crackling
fire



Kim Falstick

happiness is when
i give one cat a tummy rub
the other cat a chin-chuckle
then commune with my rabbits
and cook dinner for maureen



Linda Keeler

happiness is when
i wake up
and realize
my cold
is gone

happiness is when
our two bags
of halloween candy
last
all night

happiness is when
the day is cool
and the wind is at my back
as i ride my bicycle
around keuka lake

happiness is when
the storm windows are down
the garden pots
are stored away
and i am ready for winter

happiness is when
i put my thoughts
on paper
and the reaction that i get
is what i wished for



Lottie Sweeney

happiness is when
i have more time
than i realize
to read a favorite book
uninterrupted

happiness is when
i feel clean —
clean laundry
clean bedding
and showered

happiness is when
i am trying to get to sleep and
my cat leaps up
to sleep beside me



Margaret Dennis

happiness is when
i discover a pound of coffee
way in the back of the cupboard
when i thought
i was out

happiness is when
i go into the library
and find
immediately
three new mystery novels

happiness is when
i look out my window
and see that the rain
has left a carpet of
glistening gold leaves on the ground

happiness is when
i open my computer and find
pictures of the new twins
looking like darling little
wrinkled elves in pointy caps

happiness is when
i walk to writing group
worrying that i have
no new ideas
and then i discover that i do



Marty Blue Waters

happiness is when
after 25 years of sitting empty on a shelf
or waiting in a closet of the house
a beautiful bamboo box suddenly finds a job
in the trunk of my car, bringing chaos into order



Nancy Osborn

happiness is when
i come up the steps
into harvard square
and see
that the bookstore is still there

happiness is when
i sit at the table
with my two sisters
laughing with
our newly-discovered cousin

happiness is when
my sister's cat
does not hiss at me
and i do not
step in his water bowl

happiness is when
i arrive at the end of my journey
and discover it is raining
and i have wisely brought my umbrella

happiness is when
i visit my mother
who savors her coffee
and smiles across the table at me
even though she doesn't know who i am



Nina Miller

happiness is when
i hear the voices
of my children
on the
phone

happiness is when
i go to the cemetery
and talk to george
even though i don't believe for a second
that he can hear me

happiness is when
i find the handicapped parking meter
and discover that
i  have enough quarters to pay for it


happiness is when
i cook
a soup
and it lasts
all week

happiness is when
my granddaughter runs up the gangplank
from the boat in provincetown
her arms open
for a hug



Paula Culver

happiness is when
my 13-year-old daughter
who is now becoming a young woman
calls me into her room
and wants to snuggle

happiness is when
a friend posts a recipe on facebook
for caramel shortbread bars . . .
i check all the cupboards
and find everything to make them

happiness is when
the tea meets my lips
soothing lemon and ginger
sure to cure all
that ails me

happiness is when
my foot searches for yours
the first cold night —
a beacon of warmth
and comfort



Sara Robbins

happiness is when
i hold my grandson
and breathe in his sweetness
and he melts into me
and holds me right back

happiness is when
the wood stove is full
and more wood stacked
right near the stove
on a cold raw night

happiness is when
a friend gives me a new coat
and it fits
and it's warm
and i look just fine, not shabby as usual

happiness is when
i have a pot luck
and all my neighbors come
bringing treats
and laughter and sharing

happiness is when
i sit in a circle
breathing deeply
surrounded by friends
anticipating hearing their words



Sue Norvell

happiness is when
my demanding
cat
lets me sleep
another hour

happiness is when
i find
the only remaining
purple
fall crocus

happiness is when
the missing gardening glove
appears
in last winter's
coat pocket

happiness is when
the red-bellied woodpecker
lands on the seed feeder
and shows his really
red belly

happiness is when
i am sitting
in a circle
alone but together
writing



Sue Perlgut

happiness is when
i wake up
to the sound of
my granddaughter's
knock on my bedroom door

happiness is when
my former students
come to ithaca
to visit me
bringing love

happiness is when
i have a shelf
of murder mysteries
just waiting
to be read

happiness is when
i'm tired and achy
and my husband
makes the very best
chicken soup



Zee Zahava

happiness is when
i wake up with music in my head
it could be a sanskrit chant
or maybe aretha or martha and the vandellas
and it stays with me all day

happiness is when
my mother sends me an email
that contains only symbols
hearts, stars, fruit, silly animals, red exclamation marks
and i know she's been having fun with her smartie phone

happiness is when
i ride in the car with the love of my life
and we come to an open stretch of road
just as thousands of leaves
come dancing by  — right to left and back again