Friday, September 30, 2016

How Things Came to a Head in the Music Room

I sub for the Louisburg, Kansas, school district--whatever hole they need filled, I try to expand into for a day. Today, I covered for Broadmoor Elementary's vocal music teacher. She gave me the option of showing a video on drumming and rhythm around the world nine times or rehearsing nine batches of kids for an all-school Veteran's Day performance at the high school. 

I reached for the high note, and 16 classes took their turns warbling their way through six patriotic tunes, some traditional, one really sad, and some great fun--e.g., Neil Diamond's "America." We totally nailed the ending of five exclamations of "TODAY!!!"

Friday, September 9, 2016

White Moths and Challenged Children

A student discovered this white moth on the red brick
building and shared it with classmates filing into the
room after recess, 24 index fingers carefully stroking
the strange, fluffy head.
Some of us are  more special than others.  

I've been subbing in the Louisburg, Kansas, schools, at nearly every grade level--that's how hard up they are for subs. I mean, a former English teacher cluelessly waving her arms in front of 60 band students is probably not how you'd choose to invest your education dollars. But needs must.

I've always known teaching is a great way to learn, but recently I experienced an actual epiphany. Delivered by 24 fifth graders.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Can We Talk? Plan B for Romantics

I know a minister and his wife (NOT pictured here) who struck an agreement early in their long marriage: they would be faithful unless, wait for it... she got lucky with Paul Newman and/or he got lucky with Sophia Loren. They're definitely one of the coolest couples I've ever met.

Monday, August 29, 2016

if you won’t be coming back this way

paint me a landscape
of Navajo blankets
string a necklace of seashells
with life still in them

sculpt a Manzanita bowl
to hold tears and small truths
capture the sigh of breezes 
in tall pines beyond the open window

replicate your smile
in the iridescence of mica
your eyes in starshowers
across the fat cheeks of the moon

engrave a happy ending
into my long white bones 
and touch my hair to the sun

#author #writer #writerslife #poem #poetry #parting

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trophies (short story)

Lorien strained forward in the crowd at the concession stand. She could hear the engines revving and back-firing as the super-modifieds were started for the A-feature, and she didn't want to miss any of the race.  Squeezing ahead of a man who was still reading the menu on the back wall, she ordered the hot dogs and Cokes for her mother and her friends, then bought a Baby Ruth and a pack of Juicy Fruit with her own money.  She tucked the gum into her purse and hurried toward the grandstand.

Some of the cars were already in line by the time she got back to her seat.  Her mother passed around the food and change while Lorien studied the cars at the starting line.  She was looking for number twenty-six, but L. Ray wasn't on the track yet.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Last Rodeo

hot wind whipped my hair 
across my face
in Cheyenne, Wyoming
where a drunk truck driver
twirled my adolescence
on his sun-tanned arm
raising my skirt and pulse
in street dance frenzy
and I never forgot 
that beautiful bucking horse
that broke his neck 
on a fence he never saw coming

#writer #writerslife #author #rodeo #cheyennewyoming #poetry

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Puppy Love

Featuring Carl J and Anne Bonan


 #writer #writerslife #author #doggieplaydate #dogsrus #romance #puppylove

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What Do You Think YOU'RE Doing?

Anyone ever ask you, "What do you think you're doing?" Not "What are you doing?" That's pretty obvious. But "What do you think you're doing" is a poser. My stepdad asked it regularly. And not just of me.  Of an impatient driver pulling around on the shoulder back in the days when you could cross Kansas at 80 mph. Of some woman struggling to parallel park in a spot he'd been eyeing for half a block. Of my mother, when she'd gather up seemingly empty plates from chicken dinners before he or my Aunt Carolyn or my Aunt Juanita had sucked the marrow from the ends of their drumsticks and wings.

Here's the thing:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Space Dust and Human Ashes (Part One)

Look closely at your hand. Everything you see there has been on this planet in some form since the beginning of earth time. That used to blow. me. away. The outcropping of new life forms and new lives from the original blue bobble we call home as we dance about in our galaxy. (You can see how I try to grasp this concept in "Space Travelers," below.) And yet . . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Trash Talk and Bob's Bread

I saw this adorable clip on Facebook a few days ago, definitely worth a watch if you’d like to get a few more of your happy synapses snapping. It’s of triplet girls--about three years old--dancing around the driveway in their anticipation of giving their trash collection guys each a cold Gatorade.

I found this especially endearing in light of my recent attempt to show gratitude--FAIL. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

What You Wish For

Mugging with Mother a few months before the accident.
All I ever wished for was to be a writer. (And that elusive pony.) At 10, I wrote my first book: The World and I. Fully illustrated. And then there followed a looong, dry spell.

My dreams of a writing life didn't begin to materialize until Wichita State University established its MFA program, and I went back to school--a divorced mother of three with a weekly study-work schedule of 110 hours. My mentor and life-long friend, Distinguished Professor Bienvenido Nuqui Santos, told me I was writing to find my mother, who was killed in a car wreck when I was 26. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Fathers Frank and the Birds and the Bees

In Santa Catalina with Sister-cousin Carol Dick Jansen.

Both of my fathers were race car drivers named Frank.

My first father raced on asphalt with the Sports Car Club of America 
and later stewarded for them, once fixing a gas leak in Paul Newman's motor home. 

My step-father was a three-time Grand National Champion of stock car racing, which took place on dirt tracks.

In spite of their mutual love for racing, stockpiles of trophies, and taste in women, they couldn't have been more different--one 
an only child of a wealthy family and one a farm kid with nine siblings being raised by a widowed mother. But what struck me during my growing up years was their very different world views, which was especially evident when it came time for "The Talk."

My 18th summer, both of them decided to have a heart-to-heart to explain what their expectations were sex wise--to me, not to each other. These fairly one-sided conversations came long after my first serious boyfriend said he might die if I didn’t “give in to him,” or at least he’d be really really sore “down there” (in the 60's, that was the anatomically correct terminology.) At the time, I thought that was an odd sort of power to hold over someone. 

Anyway, that summer, Father A came through town and told me that if I were being sexually active I’d better be using birth control. His friend had just paid for an abortion for his daughter, and “damn, it was expensive.” 

Father B, noting that I was pretty tight with my college boyfriend, said that if we felt we might give in to “our animal urges” to let him know and he’d give us money to get married with. 

The messages couldn't have been more mixed, but there was definitely a financial motif. 

Ironically, they also planned identical driving vacations that year--from the scorched checkerboard of Kansas to the temperate bliss of the southern California coast. Luckily, cloning hadn’t been discovered yet, so I got to visit my beloved Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Beach twice that summer. 

Even back then, I recognized what a fortunate and privileged girl I was. On the other hand, I figured my celibacy was contributing significantly to my four parents' financial wellbeing.

Now I’m almost to the age where a boyfriend might die if his girlfriend did give in. I still think it’s an odd sort of power . . . .

#writer #writerslife #writing #author #birdsandbees #racingfromthepast

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Long Lungs

In the dim glow of the x-ray lab, I overheard one technician talking to the other behind the safety screen: “Darn. That’s odd. We’ll have to take another one and lower it; she’s got long lungs.” He sounded rushed and irritated.

Wait. Come again? Long compared to what? I wanted to ask them about it, as in, is this unusual? Am I a freak? I didn’t ask because, to be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable. As if they were being judgmental, and what would I use as a come back? “Oh yeah, well so are your mother’s!” 

So of course I’m still pondering this revelation. Have my lungs always been long, and no one ever thought to mention it? Is it hereditary? Do I come from a long line of long-lunged people? And are long lungs an advantage or a disadvantage or just an irritant to over-worked x-ray technicians?

True I’m tall; 5’11” at my peak, I’ve compacted to 5’9” in my dotage. Along with dreading my annual weigh-ins, I cringe with my annual height-ins as I surreptitiously stretch to graze the 5’9” mark.

But that got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, my lungs appear long because they’re closer to my waist than they used to be. And what about gravity? We all know what it does to our outer selves. Does it actually drag down our innards? Are our insides in a perpetual cascade? Are pot bellies and collapsed chests a result of this long inglorious slide? If so, could a web of mesh slings pull us back into the glorious alignment of our youth?

These are things people probably don’t give much thought to until they’re saturated with radiation and their innermost outlines held up to the light and possible derision. Do I wish I hadn’t overheard that conversation in the x-ray lab? I don’t really know. I do know I left there with a long face, and am still wondering if I should bring this up with my GP.


This reflection on length got me remembering bits of a poem I wrote in junior high. I think I’ve finally reassembled it. Yes, I do see a pattern of obsession here. So’s your mother!

Tall Troubles 

People say height doesn’t matter
but this cannot be true
for I’m a very tall girl
and because of that I’m quite blue.

Take short Stanley for example
we got along just fine,
but after I stood up
he suddenly called time.

He said height didn’t matter,
he preached on and on,
but then a few minutes later
Stan was gone, Man, gone.

Then there was Jerry D,
boy that guy could flirt,
then his neck got stiff,
now he can’t see me for dirt.

The latest one was Adam,
but that will no doubt end
like all the times before it,
before it can begin.

So I’ll just have to cool it
and learn to bide my time,
while I wait for them to grow,
they will some day you know.

#writer #writerslife #writing #author #rehab #teenpoetry

Friday, July 1, 2016

Me Before Me and the Poopy Dog

First, please don’t throw a ton of shade for this ludicrous comparison, but in week 10 of imposed inaction from a fractured tibia, I’ve been reflecting on a novel I read three months ago, Me Before You, now a movie. 

It’s about a quadrapalegic who entertains the idea that death would be better than an action-packed life siphoned down to an existence dependent upon a third party to keep an ebbing life force sludging along into a future without hope of recovery. Whew.

As I’ve spent day after day after day perfecting the imprint of my backside in my leather recliner, it got me thinking about the mind-body connection. Here’s what I think I’ve learned: as goes my body, there goes my mind. 

Think about it: if you had 10 weeks during which you were freed from any and all mundane tasks--with the only mandate to stay off your right leg and take care of yourself--what might you achieve? The possibilities are staggering (I had to go there).

Maybe you would finally read the classics? Learn French? Address and send out those Christmas cards languishing under expired coupons at the back of your desk? Fill in the kids’ baby books? Start--or finish--the great American novel? Learn to meditate? Translate the Bible into emojis? I know, draw up a plan to end world hunger! 

Ah, if only.

Not so much for this shut-in. It's as if the immobilization of one leg--just a knee really--also shut down my ability to see past the TV (resulting in the side effect of dry-eyes from lack of blinking). 

I thought I'd hit bottom when I started making smart-ass comments to what passes for news commentators on my omnipresent TV, including scorching retorts regarding the ever-present Trumpitis that has infected the air waves. But then something outside the boob tube occurred, and I realized that my brain has as far to go recovery-wise as my steel-laced tibia.

BJ Auch, who is like a beloved daughter, sometimes leaves her dog with us, and the other day, I was convalescing on the upper deck when Annie Banannie ran up to me smeared with dog poo she had rolled in. 

I held my nose and called out to Glenn and then sent a picture to BJ. And I laughed. With delight.  

I laughed while Glenn gave Annie a preliminary rinsing with the hose while BJ texted she was on her way with doggie shampoo!!  

I laughed as poor Annie endured her second shower of shame and at BJ's stream-of-consciousness admonishments as she lathered and rinsed. 

At long last, I was in the moment and having the best. time. ever. Watching poop run off an otherwise endearing dog. 

Starting next Monday, I'm to once again navigate sans chair, sans walker, sans brace. I'm hoping it won't be too long before I'm once again walking with a steady, if measured, gait and that my gimpy brain will eventually catch up. (But really, you had to be there.)

#writer #writerslife #writing #author #rehab

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Paper Boats (Novel Excerpt Two)


In his room in the small clapboard house he shares with Binh Nguyen and his nephew, Thanh, An Lau lies sunk in dreams as the lightning-scarred sky rumbles above him like a beast mired in nightmares of its own.  

Once again, An is a boy, naked between the billowing clothes his mother has hung out to dry.  "The air in the provinces is always sweeter," she told him after his soldier father was killed and they left Saigon to join his aged uncle's family, "for see," she had said, "how the clothes smell of lime and coming rain," though there had been no clouds in the sky.  

In this dream, he plays where the winds nudge the moist fabrics to caress him, like pale lovers whispering against his brown skin.  His back arches like a dancer's as he offers his genitals to the moist licks and sweeps of the clothes billowing around him—until their edges are caught by a shear of wind that pops and claps the towels and shirts.  

Their corners lash at him like stingers before tangling around his legs as he twists and flails to be free.  Then carried on invisible wings to the top of a mast, he is caught fast in ropes and tattered sail-cloth.  Tangled there, he rocks back and forth across the earth's curvature like a human metronome ticking out the final moments of lives being bled out on the deck below. His sister's sleek black hair rides the wind up to him like a supplication, caressing his feet as the sea rises up to claim her.

When An finally struggles out of the dream, his bed is soaked with sweat and semen.  He rolls to the other side and lies shivering, even though the room is simmering in the close air of the Kansas summer night and he is burning up.  It wasn't like that, he whispers into the ears of the night, puzzled and a little frightened that his dreams are always wrong.  It wasn't like that at all.

He sits up, his back cooling as air touches the moisture there, and pulls on a pair of boxer shorts.  On his way to the bathroom he reaches out for the plastic crucifix the ladies of St. Paul's give each of the refugees when they arrive in Wichita.  Leaning his head against the wall, he turns his face and lets his lips rest briefly on Jesus' thin, gold legs and crossed feet.  It is the first kiss he's given in a long time.  He tries to remember when the last one was, far back before coming here to a second life, before the long wait in the camps in Thailand, the boat trip that cost everything but his life, even the two weeks in hiding as he waited for word that there would be an attempt, a fishing boat waiting to the south of Da Nang.  

There had been hurried partings the last trip to his village of Phnom Ky, where he had found only a young nephew and his dead sister’s friends who were caring for him.  Long before that, after one of the raids on their village, his lips had caressed his young wife's hands—one side of her face missing from the screaming metal chips that killed and maimed his people that afternoon.  A chunk of flesh had been torn from his own right arm that day and planted in the smoking underbrush.  He tries but cannot go any farther back this night—back to when air carried the rich smell of growing vegetation and smoke of wood fires, to a night when he'd had no way of knowing that was the moment of his last good kiss.

There is no sound from the room where Thanh and Binh are sleeping.  An tiptoes down the hall to the bathroom, closing the door before running his hand along the wall for the light switch.  He relieves himself, noticing that the toilet needs to be cleaned.  It is Binh's week, always bad news for An, because Binh is young and careless, while An is a tidy man, a man who prizes cleanliness and order.  

He would love to take a shower now, let the cool water flush the pungent smells of the restless night, fear even, from him, but he cannot risk waking the others.  They too have their night agonies—suffered in different ways, to differing degrees.  Not any one of his countrymen he's met since fleeing Vietnam has escaped unmarked, able to look ahead only, sleeping like babies through quiet dreams.  On the worst days, he thinks to himself that even their graves will be places of unrest.

An soaks a washcloth in cold water from the tap, feeling guilty as always in this new country at letting the water run freely down into the pipes.  Then he presses it to his face, breathing in, sighing audibly as he wipes the cloth over his neck and chest, up into his arm pits and around his ribs.  He rinses the cloth and fills it again, washes his buttocks and inner thighs, wraps his genitals, then drops the cloth into the plastic basket and stands there a moment longer, his shorts still down around his knees, while the night air cools his damp skin.

In the kitchen, he pulls a can of Coke from the refrigerator, pausing in its cool vapor while he pulls the tab and lets the stinging foam run down his throat unchecked.  Then he takes a book from a shelf under the phone, spreads a thin cotton dish towel over the torn vinyl chair cushion, and sits down.  He begins reading in chapter four in the English for Speakers of Other Languages reader.  

His teacher doesn't know he has this book, that he sneaks it in and out of the Learning Center at the vocational school over the weekends.  It's one she herself held for him once, caressing the pages with her long, pale fingers to ease the book's newness, its resistance to lying open for him.  In his good dreams, the ones he controls—usually just before falling off to sleep or on weekends when the others go out, leaving him alone with his music—he has pulled those white fingers to his lips, run his tongue over them lightly.  

At the vocational center, he can actually taste her, the flavor of her hand cream and shampoo, even when she's several feet away.  This is because he has a nose like a dog, his older brother Lam used to tell him.  An could smell the lingering aroma of papaya on his brother's hands hours after the older boys would have devoured their ill-gotten goods, feeling it justified to steal from the stall-keepers in Saigon who were getting rich off the American soldiers.  

To An, America smells nothing like his own country.  There is so much concrete and steel spreading out across the land, and so many automobiles with their choke smoke.  The first indoctrination center he went to was in an old school administration building that smelled of aged wood and waxy buildup.  He had been afraid there because he knew no English—only "Where to find?" and "Tank you."   

When they were divided into groups, he thought that meant only some of them would be allowed to stay and study, to learn the language that would unlock the secrets of survival in such a huge land.  An worked hard, concentrating on the voices around him even when they sounded like no more than small hammers drumming on woods of differing hardness.  

Eventually, whole words began to emerge, then phrases.  He learned to read a little and scolded the older countrymen for talking in their own language while at the school.  An was one of the first of his group to be passed on to the vocational training center.  It was there he began to think that he might actually find a way to rebuild his life.  There was nothing of the old one to build on, everyone gone.  

Thanh told him once he was lucky to have no one left behind, no one to fear for, to feel guilty about having abandoned.  Thanh still has two sisters and an aunt living in the countryside, near what is left of their home.  Even if he earns enough money to get them out, there is no guarantee they will survive their escape.  So Thanh says An is lucky to be so completely alone.  Even his own company is like being with a ghost, An thinks, there is so much of him missing. 

He focuses on the pages of the book, whispers the words out loud, Mister Gomez comes home from work at six o'clock.  Mrs. Gomez is in the kitchen cooking rice and beans.  She smiles at her husband as he looks into each pot on the stove.  "Umm, smells good," he says.  "It will be ready soon," she says.  An is getting to know the Gomez family pretty well, especially likes the parts where they struggle with some problem, like leaky plumbing or their son's troubles with his studies.  Their normalcy seems almost exotic to An.  

He rests his forehead in the curve of his intertwined fingers and thinks of Miss Joy, her cool fingers and wide brown eyes, which sometimes snap with pleasure when one of her students makes or gets a joke in English.  The learning center—a small upstairs room once used for storage in the middle of the print shop—is a place of hope and smiles.  That is the unspoken rule of all who go there.  In that room, people from different countries but similar pasts come close to touching each other in their daily struggle to speak of the simplest things.  

It is just as well, An thinks, that he has not the words just yet to tell Miss Joy how he feels, how thoughts of her—of them together—fill the empty places all around him, inside him even.  The words that pour from her mouth—many of them still undecipherable to him—are like a stream of hope carrying him where he will go.  Added to his grief for what is already gone from his life is the new fear that something bad will happen to ruin this new life he longs to embrace.  

He looks at the new-words list at the back of the chapter, but is too tired to concentrate.  Leaning over the table, he cradles his head in his arms and drifts off to sleep as thin white fingers stroke his stubborn hair to one side, preparing his brow for a kiss.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Paper Boats (Novel Excerpt)

This amazing man became my mentor and inspiration while he was Distinguished Writer in Residence at Wichita State University from 1973 to 1982 and life-long friend and kindred spirit. I miss him every day (as he once predicted I would), and everything I write is inspired by him or something I wish I could share with him and laugh and/or lament over. 
My novel in progress, Paper Boats, covers my time developing and running a learning center in Wichita for boat people, but it was Bien who first taught me about exile and the palpable human hunger for belonging.

Today ghost hands still push along the shore
my paper boat the shape of dreams 
which never went under in the flood 
that frightened me away.  
—Bienvenido N. Santos, Distances, In Time


The trees along the bleak Kansas horizon look like dandelions half blown away.  Startled by a flapping exodus of birds that have been feeding on the shoulder of the road, Joy grips the steering wheel more firmly and checks the speedometer.  The needle quivers between seventy-five and eighty.  

She lets up on the accelerator and glances over her shoulder at the kids in the back seat.  Cammy, just six, sleeps with her mouth open and her head vibrates against the window in staccato jolts.  Trey, two years younger, is scrunched up on the seat next to her with a pillow under his upper torso.  She cannot tell if his eyes are open.

It isn't worth it.  The phrase repeats itself in humming revolutions, like the tires against the highway.  Leaning over, she confronts her gaze in the rear-view mirror, rubs her fingers along the shadows beneath her eyes.  

It will help if they get to the hotel in time for her to shower and rest before going to the church to drop off the children for her ex-sister-in-law’s wedding rehearsal and dinner.  Joy has been invited, of course, the proper thing.  She has declined, not so proper, perhaps, but realistic.  She hasn’t seen any of her ex-husband’s family since the divorce. In that small gathering, her single presence would figure too prominently. 

As she leans back again, the highway rushes at her, and she wonders how long her attention has strayed from the road this time. There are few landmarks between Wichita and Hastings, Nebraska.  Silos and billboards swing by like cardboard ducks in a shooting gallery.  It isn't worth it, almost audible this time.

The message at the front desk tells her what time the children need to be at the church Friday evening for rehearsal and Saturday afternoon for pictures before the ceremony.  It is in her former mother-in-law's precise, diminutive script.  The room is just off the indoor pool and has been paid for, less a surprise than a relief.  

While Cammy and Trey fling themselves in and out of the pool, Joy keeps checking her watch.  Her new swimsuit is still in the suitcase.  She was to have worn it two months earlier in Las Vegas, lounging around the pool while Andy attended the R.E.I. national meeting.  It would have been their first trip together, but he learned that there would be several others going from his division and decided it would be awkward since her divorce had not been final then.  

Besides, the children might have learned of her being there with Andy, and Joy knew that they could not have dealt with that easily, especially Trey, who had taken to clomping around in his father's out-of-season hunting boots, and slipping into her bed early in the mornings, and whispering, "Is the divorcement final yet?"

Joy stands up, searching the surface of the water for the children, who have grown too quiet.  She walks to the edge and discovers them bobbing along the near side of the deep end, their fingers curled around the curved concrete ledge of the pool.

"What do you think you're doing?"  Her voice is a hollow broadcast in the moist enclosure.  She looks out through the trellised walkway into the huge hall with its impressive atrium under which the wedding reception and dinner will take place the following evening.  Two workers are parking a long cart stacked with chairs along one wall.  One of them, a Latino man in a crisp white coat, looks up, she thinks at her, but it's hard to tell from that distance. "Stay in the shallow end," she says, looking back down at the children, their hair sleek and glistening against their scalps, beads of water on their smooth, eager faces, "or you'll have to get out right now."

Cammy raises herself half out of the pool, her feet splashing the surface of the water.  "There's a mermaid down there.  At the very bottom." Trey grabs hold of his sister's shoulders, slips loose, then paddles back again, wrapping slippery arms and legs around her.

"Cut that out," Joy warns him.  "It's too dangerous in the deep end."  She watches them flail toward the buoy-rope and duck under, to the relative safety of the shallower water.  She peers into the deep end.  The image is imperfect in the wake of the children's waves, but she can make out the pale green body of the mermaid, a mass of yellow hair quivering like tentacles.

By the time Joy is settled back into the chaise lounge with a book, a family has joined them, settling their gear at the far end of the pool.  Their three children and Joy's two bob and paddle around in one another's orbits fairly randomly at first.  

Joy is sorry now that she didn't fix herself a drink before she left the room.  Eventually, the children's voices rise and blend as they adopt roles and design a watery game of  Star Wars.  She sees the mother of the other children looking over at her, returns her smile, and looks away, feeling alien.

Once back in the room, Joy mixes scotch and water in one of the plastic cups, and takes it into the bathroom with her.  She intends to take only a quick shower and then run the children to the church before going somewhere for dinner, but instead, she steps into a steaming bath. 

She sinks back, closes her eyes, and feels the familiar tension in her shoulders and stomach start to ebb.  The steam will undoubtedly frizz her curly hair, and there won't be time to tame it.  She will arrive at the church to drop off the children looking slightly undone. Reaching over to get the cup from the toilet tank lid, she takes another sip, then lies very still and feels herself drifting toward that safe little inlet that shelters her from caring all that much.

#writer #writerslife #writing #author #bienvenidosantos #boatpeople

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rear Windowing

As Arthur Hitchcock fans will attest, being housebound with a broken leg gives one the license to spy on neighbors.

While I haven't spied any neighbors committing murder or mayhem yet, boredom has been somewhat alleviated as I've raised my father's field glasses to watch (1) fencing going up to the south and west (like watching grass grow), (2) the neighbor on the south (NOT the owner of the fence going up) planting bushes to disguise the new fence posts and field wire that will eventually house another neighbor's cows (humorous), and (3) the new house construction on the 20 acres directly across the road from us.

For those spatially challenged (I include myself), 20 acres in the city could yield a close-knit neighborhood of at least 40 families. Out here in the sticks, we're used to a lot more elbow room. If the wind is just right, we can occasionally hear our neighbor children's voices, but can't distinguish between shouts of joy and screams of terror.

So where is the young couple pouring their dream foundation on their gorgeous 20 acres with two ponds? Directly across from our driveway, I'd guess 30 yards back from the dirt road, the abundant dust of which is the only drawback I've found to living here.

Fortuately our view of their pond will be restored once the gravel and porta-potty are retired.

As I focus daily on their progress, or lack of it, questions arise--enough, fortunately, to keep a one-legged woman cogitating on a host of issues:

Why when you dig a huge hole for a new house do you need to haul in dozens of truckloads of new dirt?

How do men work all day in temperatures nearing 100 degrees?

How much money does the pudgy guy who parks his white truck in the shade and watches the others work get paid?

Why is their driveway to the far south when their garage is going to be on the far north end of their house?

Have they noticed me watching them yet?

Why don't the workmen wave back when I wheel myself onto our driveway and
coast down to the barn (I only yelled "whee" the first time).

When they've moved in and we cross the road to empty our mailbox, should we avert our eyes?

In the meantime, here's looking at you, kids.

#writer #writerslife #writing #author #rehab

Winter Sculpting

in a workshop in the land 
of redwoods and cool pine air 
he caresses the possibilities
of what might emerge
from the wood before him 

on the bench are knives, rasps
a mallet—deceptively heavy
because divining what has been 
long-buried is not light work

a laying on of hands and a long 
calculated cut begins the winter 
sculpting, smoothing and slicing
toward a vision of what awaits
the shape that draws him to it

on a train that slices through snow
tall buildings of concrete and steel
she fills a poem with wood smoke
the scent of pine, the way the sky 
reflects a silver ocean when 
the world turns upside down 
in a circle of Cyprus on the headlands
a hollow of tangled limbs 
sprawling vistas

beneath his searching hands 
her reflective images
the long-buried possibilities  
of their imaginings 
taking shape


  IS THAT YOUR MOTHER CALLING? Advice that Echoes Down Through the Ages tracks words of wisdom as well as cautions through the generations--...