Sunday, December 31, 2017

"What We Are Looking Forward to in 2018"

A few days ago I asked some people I know to share their Hopes and Dreams for the new year. Here are some of their responses. Perhaps you'll feel inspired to ask yourself the question: what are YOU looking forward to in 2018?

adapting to new surroundings, by downsizing physically and expanding mentally; expressing myself in new, more focused ways, that are yet to be discovered; seeing the second full moon of January, and thus a Blue Moon, on the 31st; reading the works of Proust for the first time; sitting quietly for hours, just thinking, and watching my cold lava lamp ever so slowly warm its globular way to acrobatic fluidity; saying a pleasant hello to that recurrent spider on the wall and, instead of trying to squish it, thanking it for eating all those invisible mites

being kind to myself (and to others too, of course); learning about winged creatures, like butterflies, dragonflies, and even dragons; completing the second full year of my new job at the university; working even harder to get out of debt; seeing what size our Westie-Labrador puppy will wind up by the time she turns 1; planning a real life get-together for my online mama friends in the spring; welcoming seasons as they once were before this weather scrambling; dreaming lucidly of those I miss and those I missed

entering retirement with clarity and grace, with energy and peace; continuing to call out my demons for a wrestle, and if they don't come, gaily running off; writing from the undergrowth, the hip, the head, and the soft heart; loving well and having that good love returned; speaking the truth as I can, even among the many falsehoods; heading out to sea, with the wind in my hair, hoping to catch sight of migrating whales; having a book published; living a healthy lifestyle; spending a week at a writers' colony; purchasing a new laptop computer

rock climbing outdoors for the first time; summiting my first Adirondack Mountains peak (and dreaming of becoming a 46er); eating last summer’s pesto from the freezer; buying more during the dime-a-book days at the Friends of the Library Book Sale; seeing my daughter choose the colleges she wants to apply to; playing Scrabble online with my dad; planting a new apricot tree in the yard; eating a ripe papaya; baking bread with dill from my garden

traveling to Italy with my girlfriend, to attend a Pearl Jam concert; feeling the space between fingers when I hold hands with another person; feeling the sun on my face and seeing the moon rise; living in a world without war; making cheesy videos; holding my breath and letting it go; walking, walking, walking; speaking truth to power; speaking to a cousin I never knew I had until two weeks ago; swimming in the lake; breaking free; creating more art; learning the basics of playing the recorder and/or the harmonica; walking and/or biking every day

spending more time in parks, and by waterfalls; laughing more often; incorporating more music into my life; being a little braver about trying new things; listening more, talking less; doing more, thinking less; sharing time with people who understand me; doodling on old school paper with my sister’s fountain pen; finally making good on the overlooked promise to clean my room; skiing down the slope of the yard, my breath a foggy ribbon; finding white strawberries beneath decomposing leaves; ice skating with real skates, not rain boots;

my first day of college — looking around, breathing it all in, repeat; the steady click and clack of the old computer keyboard; the twelfth day of the second month when I will really be twenty; bravely going for that short-short haircut; being myself, for myself, by myself; filling page after page with scribbles called words; letting my heart speak out loud; connecting with my Pisces spirit and learning to swim laps; trying something new once a week: a way to work, the food I eat, the way I spend an evening; hosting more dinner parties; being sillier

finishing my novel and being happy with it — perhaps even getting it published; releasing stress, especially regarding family issues, and finding ways to say "so what" more often; deepening my connection with the tarot; singing more often, and louder, even if I don't sound like Billie Holiday; tracing my family tree & learning about my ancestors; camping in the wild — sleeping under the stars, finding secret streams, and climbing mysteries of mountains; exploring the river in a kayak, perhaps meeting a sea lion; seeing a dolphin in the wild; creating a beautiful herb garden for the butterflies, and  building a water lily pond for the dragonflies & frogs

retiring from the job I've held for 32 years and discovering who I am without it; watching light return to the morning and green return to the hills; resisting, persisting, and rising up; painting what my heart sees when I close my eyes; closing my eyes and seeing the otherworld; cooking more creative things than omelets, jacket potatoes, or fried-up leftovers; writing a story that's been in my mind for a while, about Tommy and the Bear; spending more time in the woods and on the beach, discovering cool stuff

practicing radical self-care; learning to speak Spanish again; traveling to Guatemala; finally learning at least 10 chords on my ukelele; falling in love; getting rid of all the unwanted, unnecessary things that bring my energy down; leaving the Christmas tree, and lights, up through February; walking to work; reading more poetry; finishing my novel; hiking in sparkling snow; sitting by the fireplace; coming home to soup for dinner; bicycling along the Erie Canal; hanging a hammock

going on more local adventures; finding a small library with a perfect room where I can sit and write; preparing for retirement by leaving work earlier every day, and investing my time in activities that bring me joy; sketching in many of the gorgeous parks nearby; being more active; noticing something that makes me laugh, every single day; appreciating winter for its quiet glory, spring for the first blossoms, summer for abundant gardens, and autumn for extravagant color

wearing less black; making friends with my aging face and body; playing the piano, occasionally for others, without nervousness or embarrassment; riding a boat to the Farmers Market; throwing five good pots; finding my voice, and using it; moving to a warmer climate; taking daily walks and letting nature be my guide; writing two pages every day; practicing haiku as a way of life; going on at least one silent retreat; meeting lots of new friends who have similar interests; getting together with old friends.

becoming certified to teach Tai Chi; finding the true rhythm of my days; writing and receiving real letters in the mail; finding new, beautiful, fun, and/or quirky stamps at the post office; working on my book about women and dolls; folding and putting away last year's clean laundry; finding new places for my teetering stacks of books; organizing my cluttered study; seeing lots of fabulous art; gathering with women friends; discovering a new writer whose many books I can't wait to read; compiling a new poetry manuscript called "The Long Habit of Bowing"

catching up with myself; finishing everything I have started; taking a short trip to Japan and visiting Portugal again; walking in the woods with a dear haiku friend; spending more time with my tai chi and yoga practices; cycling on the old familiar roads, as well as exploring new routes in new places; picking up a paint brush and playing with colors on a canvas; encouraging my sisters to join with me in writing memoir pieces, so we can reminisce together and laugh and maybe cry a little; discovering new things about the natural world

slowing down enough to be able to see beauty in small things; going out into the bush to walk among the trees; never having to have radiotherapy ever again; becoming the queen of the carnival ball; going to Kyoto and seeing the cherry blossoms; writing a perfect haiku; spending more time with some friends whom I've not made the effort to see in quite a while; visiting a couple of countries I haven't seen yet; going through my mother's papers and "stuff" that is stored in a big box under my book shelf; mending a few relational fences

having a healthier approach to life — physically, mentally, and spiritually; coming home to myself again and again; remembering that there is a happiness within that isn't dependent on outside circumstances; maintaining boundaries that allow love and connection to come in, and keep harm and self-doubt out; cherishing the beauty and wonder of this precious human life; finishing construction and detail work on the new guesthouse in time to host my daughter and her family this spring; relishing each impeccable moment of virtual and/or actual solitude

finally playing bass runs and clear barred chords on the guitar that I’ve been hauling around for the past fifty years;  exploring the island of Sumatra, and discovering amazing new tropical fruits; allowing myself to cry when I need to; becoming more accepting when people leave my life because of the limitations imposed upon me by my illness; seeing signs of significant improvement with my back, after earlier fractures; being able to walk without my transport chair

the warmth of my flannel sheets; our Japanese New Year's meal — oden; binge watching "The Crown" on Netflix; spending time on the beach in Costa Rica; a big February dance party I'm planning with a friend; marching in Seneca Falls and in New York City; working on becoming more peaceful and calm; a good long cross country ski adventure; finally doing a chin-up; turning 50; finding a blue house with white window boxes and a yellow door

taking a hot-air balloon ride with my husband and, after coming down, savoring a champagne brunch; learning ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs so when I finally get to the pyramids I can read what's on the walls; digging out my old pastels to paint a sunset; pampering my African violets, then enjoying their delicate blue, pink, and violet blooms; reading some big fat novels in long sessions while curled up in bed; visiting the local observatory to catch a glimpse of Saturn's rings and Jupiter's spangly moon, Callisto

leisurely afternoon walks through the arboretum's butterfly house as gossamer wings brush past my head and alight on my shoulders; more ripe tomatoes; the first bloom of the hot cocoa rose; the morning the blue dragonflies return; living on the high desert plateau in a town with no name; trusting my intuition and tuning in to the wisdom of my inner guide(s); reading at least one novel a week; using the public library more

buying a house after years of barely getting by; planning for a third child; publishing my own chapbook; watching my husband flourish as an actor; making a snowman with my children and their grandfather; taking my toddler to the beach for the first time; celebrating my grandmother’s 100th birthday; hearing my baby speak her first simple sentences; carving a pumpkin for the first time with my children; developing a deeper relationship with my sister now that we have reconnected

laughter creeping up unannounced, but welcomed; my heart breaking a little wider to allow more love to come in; witnessing wisdom and compassion outstripping ignorance and hate; seeing love extinguishing the embers of fear; eating lots of glorious locally-grown food; keeping gratitude as my loyal and constant companion; rediscovering my wardrobe; rekindling contact with friends and family;
writing with my esteemed sister and brother wordsmiths

slowing down and being intentional; listening, really listening, to those around me; visits with far-flung family and hugs that last; laughter that makes my stomach hurt; the weight of a new pen on crisp paper as a story unfurls from infancy to maturity; solving problems that make my mind ache in the process; cooking with my family and enjoying our creations; singing and sewing and swimming; completing the year’s circle with a satisfying hum

I am looking forward to my next breath

THANK YOU to all these contributors:

Agnes Eva Savich
Alan Bern
Alison Coluccio
Anni Johnson
Barbara Anger
Barbara Kane Lewis
Barbara Tate
Blue Waters
Brenda Ross
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Caroline Skanne
Catherine Shipos
Cheryl Adams
Christina Martin
Edna Brown
Jean Wittman
Jennifer Groff
Jennifer VanAlstine
Jo Balistreri
Joan McNerney
Judith Sornberger
Kath Abela Wilson
Linda Keeler
Marietta McGregor
Marta Chocilowska
Mary Louise Church
MaryJo Cobb
Mimi Foyle
MJ Richmond
Pris Campbell
Rob Sullivan
Simon Hanson
Stacey Murphy
Theresa A. Cancro
Tia Haynes
Tricia Knoll
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava

Friday, October 13, 2017

flash: RED — short-shorts on a theme

I'm half-awake and this city is stripped down, broken down into panels, where people smile in fractions of less than ten per cent. Some of us wear bandages over our eyes, and do not see green balloons that shape and shift the trees. The skies are streaked in post-box red, my favourite kind of shepherd's warning. But red is not always beware, a rule of thumb used for weather forecasting; it can be a garden escape by Geranium sanguineum. I fall in with the leaves of autumn and a red bucket where white hens are rusting.
    - Alan Summers

I can relate to the flat red of Henri Matisse's "The Red Studio," with a hookah in the foreground and a woman, also in red, in the upper left corner. I still remember my mother's angry demeanor when she discovered the first rivulets of red between my legs, when I was twelve years old. My strict, orthodox mother furiously pronounced that now I had "become a woman" and must no longer play games with boys. This bleeding would happen every month. Sobbing, I asked her for an explanation, but I was left uncomforted. During the days of my menstrual period, I was forbidden to enter the family shrine. Every month I was a pariah, isolated in a red room.

a red hibiscus   laid  gently   on a roadside shrine
    - Angelee Deodhar

When I was young I would blush easily. It was awful because I knew that everyone else could tell when I was embarrassed. I think it started in the 2nd grade when I had to raise my hand to go to the bathroom and Mrs. Thornton told me to wait 10 minutes until recess. Luckily I didn't pee in my pants, but turning a bright shade of red was almost worse. I could feel the warm flush start in my neck and slowly rise up my face until the blood settled in my cheeks. After that first time the blushing became uncontrollable and I would turn red if I received a compliment or a criticism. I felt so exposed, thinking that other people could see into my brain, or my heart.
    - Annie Wexler

I painted the floor of my daughter's bathroom red. She had wanted a white floor, so it was painted white, but it always looked grey. One day when she was gone I painted it red. And she realized that was it, the right color. After all, her kitchen floor is a deep red and she was the one who chose those tiles.

    - Barbara Anger

Raspberries are red and so are strawberries. And cherries. And some varieties of grapes. And watermelon. And pomegranates. And persimmons. But you would never mistake one for the other, based solely on color.

    - Barbara Cartwright

I had received a special Christmas gift: a lightweight, Henley style sweater in red. A girl for whom I held a torch, but who had (perhaps wisely) rebuffed my clumsy attempts at romance, asked to borrow it on a cold day. A year passed. A second year passed. The flame died. The friendship remained. Though I often saw her wear my Christmas gift, I never asked for it back. She had (perhaps unwisely) allowed herself to be seduced by another one, one who could promise her uncompromising masculinity, a steady career, and stable finances. The week of her wedding, I saw her wearing the sweater and finally requested its return. But history had been revised, and this red sweater — the one now bleeding its color up her neck and into her cheeks — belonged to her intended. A moment passed. I insisted. She deflected. I withdrew. A decade passed. The friendship faded. Yet a cursory glance through photos on social media confirms that she still wears my red sweater, and I wonder why it was so important to her that she would lie to keep it. And I wonder if she even remembers that it was a lie.

    - Bevan Michael Haynes

"Are you related to that red-haired preacher?"  Yes, I am. He is my grandfather. My father's father. But I am also related to that red-haired beauty my mother calls Doro. Her sister. And there are others as well — remembering an uncle, cousins, ancestors, and much-loved friends. Red all around me. Ribbons and shirts and shoes; flowers and feathers and kitchen walls. Like the root chakra it represents, red grounds me — gives me strength. Makes a place I can call home. If I could, I'd always live in a red house. My husband says red is my color. It might be.

    - C. Robin Janning

One Fall Saturday afternoon my father came to me and asked "Do you want to see something special?" I went with him to the kitchen and I could see on the counter he had out a cutting board and a very sharp knife. On the cutting board were two of the reddest apples I'd ever seen. Without being told to, I moved the green kitchen stool over to the counter and climbed up. Normally, I would automatically begin to spin on this stool. I never tired, it seemed, of moving the seat around and around. But this day I didn't spin. My father explained that he had been to the apple orchard that day and brought home a new kind of apple. It was called a "Pink Lady." "But it's red, Dad. It should be called a Red Lady." "Watch!" he replied, and he took the big knife and split the apple in half. The inside of the apple was different than any other apple I'd ever seen. It was rosy pink at the bottom, with no white whatsoever. As you looked up toward the stem the flesh of the apple became a lighter and lighter shade of pink. "Try it," my dad said, handing me a slice. No kidding, it was the sweetest apple I'd ever tasted. My dad smiled and helped me down off the stool, while I finished my piece, and we moved over to the kitchen table. We sat there, mostly in silence, enjoying slice after slice of the Pink Lady apple. When we finished he looked at me and smiled. "Tastes pink, doesn't it?"

    - Chris McNamara

My mother wanted her new car to be red. But not just any red. It had to be a classy red. "What was the color of that nice station wagon you drove back in Minnesota?" she asked me. "Wild Strawberry, they called it," I responded. "Yes, your Wild Strawberry car. I want something like that." We looked at red cars whenever we went driving together. "Nope, nope, nope," my mother would say. We looked at cars in parking lots. "Too brassy. Too loud. Not sophisticated enough." She looked through brochures of car colors and, finally, she found a color she liked. Venetian Red. "It's perfect," she declared. So we went to a car dealership. The salesperson showed her the model she wanted. "But do you have it in Venetian Red?" my mother asked. Alas, the answer was no. Luckily my brother ended up finding her the car she wanted, in another city, at a much cheaper price, and with the requisite heated seats. He delivered the car to my mother this past weekend. All she could say was "yes, yes, yes." And everyone who saw it could not help noticing what a handsome color my mother's new car was. "Oh well," she said. "It's Venetian Red."

    - Gabrielle Vehar

The tiny red pedal tractor that my kid brother used to ride in circles around the downstairs  — through the hallway, around the staircase to the living room, into the dining room — as fast as his short legs could pedal, his face beaming with the purest pleasure, exuding joy.

    - Heather Boob

Red is the color of pomegranates — red leather outside, nature's blood, sweet-sour, inside. My father bought me my first one. He loved Greek myths and had wanted to call me Penelope, but my mother found out that was his girlfriend's name and saved me from being a "Penny" by tying me down with "Heidi" —  a good-natured, irrepressible goatherd, instead.

    - Heidi DeCoo

I had had a miscarriage and was miserable, grieving. A couple of friends offered to take my husband and me out for dinner and dancing, to cheer us up. We set a date and
I decided I should have a new dress for the occasion. I chose a pattern: a long swooping style, sleeveless, with a scooped neck. And a soft fabric, brilliant red. Just making the dress gave me a lift, and when the evening of our date came I was ready to have fun. The four of us lingered over dinner and then we danced. I felt not beautiful, but exotic, a flame that burned high. The miscarriage could never be forgotten but the darkness of it was matched by the light and joy of the evening with my husband and two good friends, as I swirled and twirled in glorious red.

    - Joanna M. Weston

He was her lifelong love she would not have another, even though he left suddenly without explanation and never an argument after their 22 years of marriage and five children. He left on Independence Day, ironically, and after the door closed and his suitcase was out of sight, the rest of her life was repercussions. She worked hard all day to make it all work, but at night she walked in circles in her dark room upstairs, I knew because I listened. Early one night she called me (I was the oldest, seventeen, and ready to start my own life, poised for college). She opened her door holding a pair of pretty red high-heeled shoes. She was always colorful, but she said to me, now you have to wear them. And so I did and she always smiled encouragingly to see me in them, and she loved my red dancing dresses too. From that day on, until her last day, almost 95, I never saw her in anything but blue. 

    - Kath Abela Wilson

Red traffic lights seem to hold no meaning in Ithaca. Red coquelicot (wild poppies),  dancing in the French field, a long-time memory. Red light, green light, a backyard game from my childhood. Red and pink together, a fashion faux pas from years ago. The house across the street from mine, painted Cherry Cobbler, do I like it? Red strawberries under green leaves, hiding from the color-blind fruit-picker. Red bathing suit, worn only once, soon to be a Good Will donation. Red geraniums, not my favorite, a spring  compromise. A painting of red apples hanging on my kitchen wall, the artist, my uncle at age 18. Bright red Austin Healey sports car zips around the streets of Ithaca. Traded in on a red Volkswagen bus that carried us across the country. A red Dasher, a red Gran Torino, a red Saab — the red cars of my life. Red tomatoes warmed by the sun, a gardener's dream. Red Christmas sweater celebrates the season.

    - Linda Keeler

Sophia Loren loved to wear red, it was her favorite color. I had the honor of writing a script for her, where she taught the CEO of JCPenney how to speak Italian. Back in that day the TV cameras couldn't handle red, so she wasn't allowed to wear it. She wasn't happy. She would wear yellow instead. So I bought myself an outfit that was all red, from head to toe, bright red high heels and all. But Sophia Loren never got to see me in it because her husband, Carlo Ponti, postponed the filming. Then they had to return to Italy and we were left with only the CEO. I kept that red dress and shoes for years, and the teleprompter version of the script.

    - Mara Alper

Red leather purse. Or jacket. Or shoes. Or couch. Red leather love. Red leather thoughts. Red leather feelings. Red leather soap. Red leather cat. Red leather shower. Waves of red leather sensation hitting the back of this body. Of this universe. Red leather spiral into the unknown. Red leather clouds. Red leather lover. Red leather boot straps that lay, untouched, on the ground.  Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps. I 'm done. So, so done with red leather bootstraps. May they lay on a dust-covered shelf, at the back of the closet, next to the greasy bottle of WD-40 and the pile of rusty nails. No more red leather bootstraps for me.

    - Marcy Little

When I was a kid I had a dog named Princess. I've always wished I had come up with a more creative and original name for her, but I totally blanked at name-choosing-time. She was a funny mix of Black Lab and Beagle. Black everywhere except at the very tip of her long tail. One Christmas my Wichita cousin, who had a dog named Duchess that looked like Princess except bigger, bought them both a present: bright red rubber galoshes that strapped onto their paws. We thought this was hilarious and couldn't wait to try them out. There was a bit of snow on the ground so we all ran outside to play. Duchess took to the boots instantly and pranced around the yard. Princess totally freaked out and stood there trembling. I called to her and knew she desperately wanted to run to me, but she couldn't make her feet work. Maybe the feel of the rubber between her paws and the ground was too much for her to comprehend. She could manage to scoot her front legs forward but then she wasn't sure how to get her back half going. It was as if she suddenly forgot how to walk. She stretched one back leg high in the air but she couldn't bring it back down to the ground. Her leg shook so badly I thought she was going to cry. So I removed those stupid red boots from her paws. Instantly she was happily dancing around the yard with her usual delight. I never made her wear them again.    

    - Marty Blue Waters

My go-to slip-ons are red. They were never bright shiny red, but now they are dull-tarnish red. That's what comes from about seven years of wear in all kinds of weather. The nice thing about their present color is that they don't clash with anything I wear, so I can just slip into these shoes as I leave the house to embark on the day's adventures.

    - Mary Louise Church

Poinsettia plants, wrapped in gold foil, were delivered to our house every Christmas by someone my father worked for. I hated them. Their look, their color, the way their red leaves would soon dry up. Then the plants were relegated to the basement, where they'd reside for far too long, as though hoping for a second life. A life which never came.

    - Nancy Osborn

I am a proud member of the tribe of red diaper babies. You know all the signals  — moist eyes when you hear a recording of Pete Seeger singing union songs; flashes of red hot anger at the mere mention of Joseph McCarthy's name; embarrassed failure to make eye contact with anyone who accurately, but irritatingly, reminds us that Stalin was not a lovable father figure, but rather was a murderous anti-Semitic monster. We brag about unannounced visits to our homes by FBI agents in trench coats and fedora hats. "How many raw eggs were you bombarded with at May Day rallies?" we ask each other, competitively. What have we carried with us into our seniority from those halcyon days? Some deny the past, have swung so far to the right that they tip over. But most of us cling to the intensity of our parents' belief that the human condition could be improved, could be more egalitarian. We still think the barriers which divide us by race, class, religion, and nationality could be lowered, if not eliminated. Bear with me if you see me tear up at certain song lyrics: "If you want better wages let me tell you what to do . . ."  or "I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night . . ." Especially in these days of rage, I'm grateful for the continuity of the values and beliefs that came tucked into our red diapers.

    - Nina Miller

Red-haired ones, your time is nigh, you know how to live and you live life well. Marry each other, be fruitful and multiply, let your numbers swell.

    - Rob Sullivan

I went to the mountains outside of Urumqi, China, to collect insects for ecological research. While I worked I stayed with a group of nomadic Kazaks. Each day I came back to the compound worn and cold after searching the steep slopes for caterpillars. A young woman befriended me. She invited me into her family's yurt, sat me down, and lay her head against me. Her mother served me salty sheep's milk tea while her grandmother smiled, toothlessly. On my last day there we met on the muddy path between our homes. I handed her my wool gloves as a parting gift.   She handed me a square of deep red velvet with a florescent orange yarn border, crocheted by her grandmother. My daughter was angry that I had gone to Urumqi. When I came home a few weeks later she was angry anew because I had dared to leave, and then to return. Her round toddler face was hot and wet with tears of rage as she watched me unpack, suspiciously. I wanted to scoop her up and kiss her all over because I had missed her so much. But out of respect for her singular fury I waited, confident that eventually my embrace wouldn't be a violation. I pulled the red velvet cloth from my bag, folded it neatly and offered it to her. She eyed it, came closer, and touched it. It was soft. She took it and pressed it gently against her lips. Tears filled her eyes, and mine. Then she put her hand on my open hand, and climbed into my lap.

    - Saskya van Nouhuys

This morning: a red robin, singing in a tree, serves as my alarm clock. The red fox in the backyard, looking for my cat. A red deer, peeking around a tree, just to scare my wife.

    - "Spike" Lee

What if I painted my house bright blistering red? Red is the color of the root chakra, after all, the center of groundedness, of firm foundations, of consistent support. Would it make me want to stay put, at long last? Would it finally make a home?

    - Stacey Murphy

I don't care for the color red, unless it is worn by a maple tree in October. Then red is a joyous reminder of beauty yet to come — again and again and again — as round we go. At least for a while.

    - Sue Crowley

My son's Subaru is red. He and my husband drive ahead of us as we travel to the Tetons. In our car, my daughter-in-law, her mother, and I follow their  red dot through the golden, rolling hills of Idaho. Their scarlet car is vivid against the ochre wheat fields and the dark blue-grey of low clouds that are promising snow. The red of rock maples spatter  the hills, tracing the paths of small streams as they descend to valleys dotted with red barns. In the distance, hulking green harvesters docilely follow huge red tractors across the tan expanses. We fly past hills which grow to evergreen-clad mountains dusted with the first snow. As in a Japanese print, the brilliant dots of red remind us how bright are all the other colors. 
    - Sue Norvell

There have been so many wonderful reds in my life. My first car, a 1965 red Corvair. My 2000 wine-red Toyota Camry, which I had for 15 years. Ruby Colorganics lipstick. Earth-red Colorganics lipstick. The red leather wallet in my pocketbook. My red suede pocketbook now living hours away in Canton, New York. Strappy red high-heeled sandals, worn when I was single. A long-sleeved Habitat blouse, almost ready to wear (as soon as the temperature drops a bit). The queen-size cherry-red pull-out couch in my office. Red walking shoes, made by Clarks, purchased in Dublin. The pair of red dangly earrings I borrowed from my good friend Roberta to wear at my nephew's engagement party. A red wool swing jacket, ideal in fall or spring, from Lands' End. A red silk scarf, just one of many scarves I own.That red, orange, brown, and yellow scarf I bought on the street in Florence. An image of red eye glass frames, featured prominently on my new business logo. Red-framed eye glasses that I actually wear. The red Persian rug, left behind when I moved from New York City. Red. My favorite color.

    - Sue Perlgut

The bride, that would me, had little say in the wedding preparations. The m.o.b., that would be the mother of the bride, was throwing the party. An extravaganza wedding event for her only daughter, and that was that. So there would be the dress in the high-waisted empire style, and a carved ice swan looming ominously over the hors d'oeuvres table. The music was carefully chosen, exactly what my mother loved. "Mum," I said, "about the bouquet, the one I carry down the aisle, I would like to carry red roses." "What? That would never do! Pink roses and stephanotis will be fine." "But I like red roses. I really want them." "No," she replied again. "Red roses stand for passion," my mother said, straightening her back, "you wouldn't want that." I wore the dress, carried the pink roses, watched the ice swan melt in the summer heat. I didn't like that wedding. But then I didn't like the groom either. We divorced after two years.

    - Susan Lesser

I have always loved red shoes. I had red sneakers in my early teens that I wore with tight designer jeans. My signature colors at that time were red, black, and white. When I became a more surly teenager, I bought a pair of red high-top sneakers. I wanted them so badly, I bought them even though they were too big. They flopped on my feet, poking out from under my father's old trench coat. Red started to seem too violent and also had a tinge of patriotism about it that made it problematic for me, once I became more politically aware. I didn't wear shoes much at all during that period. I started collecting red sneakers again when I became jaded and sarcastic. I still have them, even though I divorced my jaded and sarcastic husband. Now they look like joy on my feet, like hope and humor and ease. I still like red shoes. I probably always will.

    - Susanna Drbal

First grade, not the first day of school but the second. My first-day-of-school dress, one that Mom made, was black-and-white checked, pompoms around the wide collar, matching my saddle oxfords. Ho-hum! My second-day-of-school dress is special, bought on the road during our summer trip to New Mexico, at a Navajo gift shop. It's exotic: silky desert brown with multi-colored stripes that encircle the skirt, the middle stripe a bold red. I'm so excited. It will be my show-and-tell item. The crinolines, usually stiff and scratchy against my knees, aren't so uncomfortable this morning. As I step into the classroom, I see a girl I don't know in an identical dress. The red stripe around her skirt glows; my heart sinks. How is this possible? A dress from over 1600 miles away, so different, so unusual? Grim faced, I look up at our teacher. She smiles and says, "You can go first today." She becomes my favorite teacher.

    - Theresa A. Cancro

In my wardrobe there is one great oddity: a red fleece nightdress with Scottish Terriers going this way and that all over it. Most everything else in my closet is unobtrusive, passive if you will. Consequently, this strange garment sits in my closet like an out of place exclamation mark. My mother would have loved it. She was a flamboyant woman with bizarre taste. A paisley French scarf with a zebra striped shirt wouldn't have been the slightest bit unusual. The winter after her passing, in the curious state that grief proved itself to be, I remember being fixated on the idea of purchasing a nightdress. I had never owned one before and it became almost a frantic necessity to have one. While scrolling through various styles online I came across that particular print. Oh, the sly smile and chuckle it elicited. It was the antithesis to my state of being. I don't know why, years later, it sits in my closet, unworn and mostly forgotten, except that it reminds me that maybe there might be a little of my mother in me after all.

    - Tia Haynes

I used to dye my hair henna red plum eggplant auburn deep dark red. The color of my hair dyed and dyed again to be vibrant and brighter than the sun, to be seen, to entertain, to be on fire, a burning flame like the red of my heart, a flame on fire.

    - Yvonne Fisher

A few years ago a young woman came to town and opened a Pop-Up shop  — one day only — in an unoccupied storefront near my house. The hand-lettered sign in the window said "Amazing things happening inside here." So naturally, I walked right in. Before I could ask about the amazing things the woman ran over and wrapped me in a tight embrace. "Hello hello hello and welcome," she said. She was all smiles. She had a deep laugh. I recognized the signs. This woman was from Brooklyn. She informed me that she was an artist and her chosen canvas was other people's bodies. "Let me paint your face," she urged. When I shook my head no she said "Okay, your arms, or your back or . . . ." I cut her off. "I'd like you to paint the fingernail of my right thumb." She bowed toward me. "Excellent choice," she said, gesturing toward a stack of art books piled high on a chair. "Choose a painting and I will reproduce it on your thumbnail." I selected a volume of paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe and found an image of poppies. "Poppies!" the young artist exclaimed. She begged me to let her paint a poppy on each one of my fingernails but I demurred; just the right thumbnail. So she got to work creating a miniature masterpiece, a red poppy with tiny flecks of white and the barest hint of green. If you saw it you might have thought it was a tomato but you would have been wrong. It was a poppy. A beautiful red poppy. I was very happy with it. "What do I owe you for this?" I asked, when she was finished. "How about a hug?" she suggested. I paid her with a hug. "Bye-bye darling," she called as I left. I love it when someone I barely know calls me darling. I mean it. I really do.

    - Zee Zahava

Friday, September 15, 2017

flash: BLUE — short-shorts on a theme

It’s a blue-grey day, pointillism of trees shivering in the wind and driving rain. It’s late, I’m tired, and I just want a train to get me home safe. Everywhere there are tones of blue, a couple entwine into a single long scarf. The train arrives, and I’m in, the couple sit opposite me giggling through a game of paper rock scissors. They endlessly punch out rock to rock or rock to scissors. Long journey into night, there is never paper wraps rock. I count down minutes after minutes to my stop, everything fast and slow, fast and slow, all its own blur. The train doesn’t really take forever, and I am sure paper gets to wrap rock. The train hits my stop. I race up the hill. A trashcan lid clangs for no reason: It could be cats, a fox, or something escaping the empire of owls that control this time. At this hour I’m also ready to light the blue touch paper of a different kind, for the one waiting. We can retire for the remains of the night. There’s a fledgling moon, it lies on our bedroom ledge, where stars can slip.   
    - Alan Summers

Ground fog obscures the formless clouds moving slowly through the dimly blue sky. I watch as the clouds seem to talk to each other. I wonder at their communication and the nature of their travel. They don't seem lonely; in immense space they are at home. My road has boundaries and is endless. The blues that swirl in my mind tell of struggle and discord, but also promise going forth.
    - Fran Helmstadter

Early morning sunlight greets me, streaming through windows onto a blue-swirled carpet. I take the invitation to sit upon it. The sky hasn’t offered a shade of blue for at least two days. So, in honor of this, I rest quietly in a swirl of blue beauty.
    - Heather Boob

My husband and I hardly ever disagree on anything. Except color. When I moved into his condo he had a black couch which I abhored. He insisted for months it was not black. It was dark brown. Finally we had it reupholstered with red velvet, which we both love.  We always argued about tbe color of one suitcase that no longer exists. I always thought it was blue. He insisted it was green. Finally one day when he was driving us somewhere and we were talking about the suitcase, and discussing its true color, we approached a traffic light and I, exasperated, said "you see that green light there? It's THAT shade of blue."
    - Kath Abela Wilson

My mother used Whatman Blue fountain pen ink for her writing, but usually she typed on an office-sized Royal Typewriter. It was noisy and I often awoke in the mornings to the sound of the clatter of her thoughts flowing on to the blue aerograms. She could fit more words on one air letter than anyone else. She was proud of this. One of the many economies she practiced.
    - Laurie Snyder

My boyfriend from tenth grade stayed up all night in his mother’s kitchen, melting crayons into a club-like candle for me. Each layer of color was supposed to symbolize some aspect of our relationship, constricted as it was by difficult mothers on both sides, and the twelve miles that separated our houses. He dumped in a whole bottle of Hai Karate Cologne for Men, and sealed it all off with the deepest-colored crayon in the box, because, as he explained in all caps in the note that accompanied his gift: “LOVE IS BLUE!” Love was also fleeting, and by the time I left for college I had thrown that candle away. But for most of my high school years my bedroom closet smelled as though a sensei were about to burst out from among my shoes and skirts to teach me his best defensive stance against adolescent angst.
    - Laurinda Petersen

Softball has been my favorite sport since I was a kid, and over the years my shiny blue aluminum bat has become a special friend of mine. Traditionally, the game was played with wooden bats. I liked the sound of those bats, and appreciated their character and integrity. High-tech, ballbastic whackers didn't show up until relatively recently and, on principle, I refused to go metallic for a long time. I never minded the laughs, and looks of disbelief, each time I stepped up to the plate with my piece of lumber. But when I was in my 50s and started playing with a traveling Senior Slo-Pitch team, competing in tournaments around the country, I finally caved in, deciding I needed to beef up my batting average. I went to a sporting goods store and let myself fall in love with a gorgeously sassy, exquisitely balanced, cobalt blue, metal bat, called the "B-52." It has served me well for many years. As I approach the age of 70, I'm still playing softball. And now, when I'm settling into the batter's box, I ask my shiny blue friend to help me hit a triple or a double, so I can safely trot down to first base.    
    - Marty Blue Waters

Blue used to be my favorite color. I think perhaps that was because my mother often chose blue as the color of my dresses. She chose pink for my sister, Kaye. I was glad I got blue, since I never liked red or pink. In fact, I thought pink was an especially disgusting color. One Christmas, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I received a gift of a box of 64 crayons. That opened me up to a whole new spectrum of colors and I discovered a variety of shades of browns, greens, and oranges that really appealed to me (and still do).
    - Mary Louise Church

I've begun wearing blue, turquoise, teal, these bright colors, deep colors, the tones of liquid nature, to remind me of water, lakes, the sky, rain. I wanted to start this time with peace, with blue — not fire, not orange. Before, I dressed like a tree at dusk: green, black, gray, brown, my safe colors, my earth tones, with this headful of orange hair like flame spilling down my back. A tree on fire. A woman on fire. I have burned myself out to warm others, but never again. I burn for myself now, and I learned to make my own rain. Orange, blue, fire, water, balance. You can come at me with peace, love, devotion, joy, but not passion. I don't need people that burn out. I need blue. I need water. I need sky. I can love you from my fiery soul all day long, but at the end of the day, I am mine alone. I have learned scarring lessons on how to love, how to give, how to lose, how to stitch myself back together with raindrops and flame to survive. My soul is flame ringed with cool blue waters. Come wildfire or flood or deep love, I will keep on burning, floating, burning, floating.
    - Maryam Moss

Alone in the cafe I catalog things blue. A boy in azure shorts runs out of the bathroom, whose stall dividers are a blue bordering purple. Above the fountain is a shelf laden with cobalt-blue glasses. A water-filled one on my table beckons. To its right my Carolina-blue bicycle helmet has three blue stripes right of center running front to back. Women comment they like it. They should — it is a woman’s model. But it fits properly, is visible, and the price was right, fifty percent off the manufacturer’s sky-high cost. I wear a red T-shirt. If I were to move towards you at lightspeed it would appear blue. A streetlight outside the second-floor window has a blue cap. For what purpose? Beyond, the sky is tinged brown by thick forest-fire smoke. The orange orb at sunrise and sunset is reminiscent of air-polluted Delhi’s midday one. I enjoy India, its predominance of yellows, saffrons, and reds, and wonder if behind the smoke choking this valley, the local mountains, and India, still exist. Dogen’s walking blue mountains remind us we abide in a re-creating flux we call the Universe. Suddenly, my catalog turns every shade of green.
    - Michael G. Smith

My last car was sky blue because someone told me I looked good in blue. After two years I changed the color name to dented blue. Now, all vanity gone —okay, mostly gone — I drive a dull beige car.
    - Nina Miller

She wore blue velvet/Bluer than velvet was the night  . . . Bobby Vinton’s voice filled my friend Alice’s family cabin on the Pamlico River in North Carolina. People were slow dancing, but I wasn’t. People seemed to be at ease, talking and laughing. I was just feeling terribly awkward; knot-in-the-stomach-tight-breathing-almost-dizzy awkward. This was my default emotion in high school, if awkward can be an emotion. I was not into drinking, or even compulsive nervous eating back then, so I just soaked in awkward.  When I got home from the party I could smell awkward on my clothes. This song takes me back there every time. She wore blue velvet/Bluer than velvet were her eyes . . .
    - Reba Dolch

Blue skin told the tale, finding her still, alone, no roof, cover, no warmth left to stave off the endless night.
    - Rob Sullivan

Blue is the color of the throat chakra, of expression of our voices.  Of spinning yarns, of telling tales, of releasing secrets once and for all.
    - Stacey Murphy

Blue, an array of hues that had no name until the mid 1800s. I would have preferred it be Disraeli who coined the word "blue," but it was William Gladstone instead. Blue, how could you be so illusive? How could Homer speak of the wine dark sea and not name you? Blue, you are an endless open sky, the color of possibility, of childhood memories, of lying in the tall grass with my cousin-sister, Joanie, discovering the play of clouds drifting away. There were rabbits and alligators and elephants and old men's noses that morphed into sky rockets. The wide blue sky we filled with our innocence and imagination.
    - Sue Crowley

Blue Jays! Three of our yard-birds are molting and look as bald and ugly as vultures. They scream when the suet is gone. "Go be honest birds in the woods!" we tell them. On the other hand, we encourage our woodpeckers . . . but there's no blue on them. Another thought: The sensuality of blue oil paint squeezed from a tube onto a palate. Cobalt, indigo, lapis, cerulean, ultramarine — such rich colors. Running a brush through the silky textured paint feels like opening a door, not knowing what is on the other side, but being certain it's going to be something good. Where to put the first stroke?
    - Sue Norvell

He said he knew how to fix the problem. He was staring into the camera like there was a poisonous spider on the lens and his yellow striped tie hung at an angle down the front of his shirt. He was on TV so he could tell us the secret, the thing to do, the perfect remedy. “Insomnia,” he said, “can be cured without meds, without any bedtime rituals. All you need to do is close your eyes and imagine a huge white canvas stretched across your conscious mind. Then you start at a corner, any corner, and you color it in. However, you cannot color it just any color. No, no! You must color it blue. That is the secret. Color it blue. You will be asleep in three minutes, guaranteed. Well, maybe four minutes.”
    - Susan Lesser

My mother loved blue — not “the blues” — no, that wouldn’t do for a woman who loved Sousa marches and “Onward Christian Soldiers.” She loved the color blue. It was the color of most of the things she surrounded herself with. Her double-knit polyester pants, the ones with the seam sewn down the front to look like a crease — they were royal blue. She had numerous pairs and wore them every day. They were part of her “uniform.” On top she wore short-sleeved blouses (never pullovers), usually with a flower print, and almost exclusively in shades of blue. My mother had a collection of Wedgwood pottery, mostly in Wedgwood blue, and her favorite Oriental rugs were blue too. One had a medallion in the center where a fierce dragon crouched. She bought blue glass wherever she found it, and if she wore eye shadow, which was rare, it was blue too. Her eyes were blue, as were my father’s and my own, and in my crayon drawings of our family, my mother wore a blue housedress, my father wore a plaid flannel shirt, my hazel-eyed sister towered above us all, and three of us had big blue spots for eyes.
    - Susanna Drbal

Her first birthday. My husband picked out her gift, a fuzzy blue blanket. When it arrived memories of my own blue childhood blanket trickled in. We were inseparable. Everywhere I went it came trailing behind me. Even in college, I kept it hidden in the back of my closet. I couldn’t let go. As I watch my daughter curl her little fingers around her now beloved blankie, I find I long for that same sense of security. For her it’s a symbol of the love and comfort of us, her family. Something I lost long ago. I ache for that peace. That ease of consolation. The family that came with it. Maybe for my daughter it will be different. Maybe she will never know what I have known. Maybe I can offer what I was never given. Over the years, I have learned to cope on my own, grieve on my own, heal on my own. I hope one day she will look back with fond memories on this blue blanket. And that for her it will always hold a place of security, and will never have to be a little girl’s shield from an unforgiving world.
    - Tia Haynes

Blue fertilizes the berries that grace the muffins. My thanks when the wind washes away wildfire smoke and a cloud pops up white against clear. Blue for the head bent in remembrance of the old dog, mistakes made at the turn in the road and the mailbox, for the fleece robe whose zipper skips. For a bald head in an Ancient Tree hat, soup bowls full of lentils and greens, a willow pattern teapot and three cups that hold the hopes of a humble man and the duke’s daughter fleeing over the bridge.
    the feeder swings
    two bluebirds
    jostle for room
    - Tricia Knoll

Back in the early 1970s, when I worked at The American School in London, I spent my weekly salary on small luxuries: I had my hair permed; I bought the 2-volume, hardbound set of Virginia Woolf's diaries; I chose a tidy bouquet of anemones at every opportunity; and I lined the windowsill of my bedsitter room with bottles of colored ink, even though I didn't own a fountain pen. These indulgences didn't leave much money left over for clothes and my wardrobe was meager. In winter, a pair of button-up-the-front navy wool pants and a black sweater that made me itch. The rest of the year I wore an inappropriately long (to my ankles) velour skirt. It was royal blue and I did, indeed, feel regal in it. On top, T-shirts in a variety of colors, covered over by my Laura Ashley smock. Was it periwinkle? Cornflower blue? I made no distinction between shades back then, and my memory is no help to me now. But I remember how attached I was to that smock. When it became threadbare I went right back to the store and bought another one in the same beautiful shade of blue.
    - Zee Zahava

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


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
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:


Auntie Kim
Star of My Life
Olive Face
Baroness of Ballet
Deli Queen

Crazy Cat Lady
Broadway Buddy
Princess Grace
Flabby Gabby
Mrs. Cumberbatch

Your Highness
Grandma Sara

Grandma Sue
Shana Madela
Clare Wylie

My Dear
Mrs. Richards

The Horrible

Susan Jane
Shrimp Boat

Blue Jeans

Princes Potch-in-Tushy
Georgia Grey
The Big I
Hippie Chic
Miz Story Lady
That American
Z Z Top

Cinnamon Girl

The Scorpio



Speaker of the House
Mrs. Church



Yellow Rose of Texas

Little Joe

Tall Glass of Water
The Dancing Mailman
That Voice on the Radio





Long-legged Giraffe


Cerebral Sue

O & D

Baby Girl
Baby of the Family
Sweetie Pie

The Beast
Dr. Be
The Great One

Snappy Tomato
Dear One
Sister From Another Planet
Pseudo Aunt

Ms R
Honey Bun

Pitti Bird

Little Lou
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
Kath Abela Wilson
Kathy Kramer
Katya Sabaroff Taylor
Kelly Hopson
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