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