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Archive for November, 2011

The skylight

Each day I wake to the morning light streaming through the skylight above my bed. It presents a slide show of varying views of the sky, as if to give me a constant weather report. At night, if I am so blessed with a clear, cloudless sky, I can watch the moon and its shifting phases; the full moon shines a beam of light that kisses me at times. The writer in me has found inspiration in my skylight, and so the words came out to try and describe the images I see…

Kaleidoscope

 

The skylight captivates me

With an ever changing view

Of all things appearing

In the heavens above

A spinning wheel earth turns and turns

Shifting and changing

Each frame I see

Ethereal colors

Move through an artist’s palette

Sun bounces from east to west

Moon follows a path from west to east

A cloudless sky reveals

Every shade of blue

A gathering of clouds

Paints the canvas white and gray

Wind becomes an energetic sculptor

Shaping and molding the gossamer clouds

Plumping them up like pillows

Pulling them long and thin like taffy

Stretching out a white woolen blanket

Constant works of art created

Drenched and heavy clouds of rain

Happily release their burden of moisture

Raindrops sing and dance on the skylight

Broken glass from the sky

Clouds part, sun appears, blue sky reigns now

A mosaic of prism raindrops

Reflect the sun as it bursts through

Azure blue colors the spaces in between

The kaleidoscope is still

For now

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Why do I blog?

Before the first writing workshop I attended, we were asked to submit a short essay about why we write. I had really never written anything of substance at that point, but knew I loved writing and wanted to learn more. And I surprised myself at the reasons I came up with; mostly reasons about expression of self and sharing that with others. So now that I have entered the world of blogging, I have to ask myself that same question, why do I blog? I ask myself this because I could hear my ego, whispering in my ear, that I need to do more to attract the masses. It pushed and pushed, saying that I should strive for as many comments as possible, and I began to experience “comment envy”. Look at the number of comments that so and so got for their post, why isn’t that happening to me? I could feel it turning into a competition, and that is not the reason I decided to start a blog. I finally decided to start a blog so I can have an avenue to go down besides the traditional world of trying to publish my work in the written form. I have had works published, in some smaller publications, which is great! But I have a plethora of poems and stories that will turn to dust after I leave this earth, and in this wonderful format of a blog I can assure them eternal life! Oh, they may never be read by anyone but myself, but they will not end up forever forgotten, cleaned out and thrown out by well meaning family members after my demise. There is a big difference between sharing my work in a genuine manner and selling myself in order to be the best or most popular. I may not have the most colorful site, with lots of images and pictures, but for me it is all about the words. I may find a photo or two to share at some point, but only when I deem it appropriate, not in a vain attempt to become Freshly Pressed or the collector of numerous comments. I am so happy when others do find my words enjoyable and share a “like” or a comment, but my best reward comes from being able to share my words, and share in the words and works of other creative souls.

Words vs. numbers

A friend of mine is going back to school; like me she is trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up, even though she is certainly grown up at 44 years of age. After I spent a year at college, I decided what I really wanted to be was retired, not immersed in another career. But my friend carries on, taking different classes and trying to find her direction. She fills me in on all that she is learning, and I’ve been able to help her with a couple papers, doing some editing and grammar checking. The other day when I spoke with her, she was telling me about her math class, and that she is now moving into geometry.  As she started to tell me about all she has learned, I found myself enthralled by the terms used in geometry. Words like rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid, quadrilateral, isosceles, and all the “gons” – pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, decagon – and the list goes on and on! Words that are fun to say, that just twist and turn and jump around! Maybe that was what pulled me into laboratory work in the first place – all the lovely medical terms. I always loved microbiology the best, and part of that was speaking in the language of bacteria and parasites – beautiful sounding names given to less than beautiful organisms. Numbers have always seemed so bland, so boring, so black and white. I could never play with them and have fun with them the way I can play with words. But I try to understand those who love working with numbers; we need them! Yet I am happy to stay on the side of the playground where the words come out to play.

Playtime

They come to me

Unbidden

The thoughts

In a line

Or an idea

To wrap up in verse

I ask which words

Would like to come out and play

I place them on the paper

In a certain fashion

 My hand is guided

By my mind

Which is guided

By an unseen force

Which propels me to write

Asking me to come out and play

Bye bye coffee, Hello tea!

The city I live in, Portland, Oregon, is most definitely a coffee city. There is a Starbucks on every corner(maybe a bit of an exaggeration), but coffeehouses abound, with so many varieties of coffee to be drank. So one might find it a bit odd that after living here for a couple of months, I found myself giving up my morning routine of half a pot of coffee to start the day, when I had the coffee world at my disposal. But it all came to a head one day in Trader Joe’s. I was out of coffee and had to purchase some for the next morning’s pot – I had never gone without! But I slowly became frustrated as I searched for ground coffee, not whole bean, which seemed to be all they had to offer. I finally found a meager offering of overpriced ground coffee. And as I stood there, overwhelmed at the price, I felt like an addict spending my last few dollars on a fix – enough! I was ready to break out of my coffee prison. So the next morning I fixed myself a cup of tea, my new morning friend. There should be enough caffeine in tea to keep my body happy I thought. I was so wrong! Caffeine withdrawal was not pretty – but I made it through a week of headaches, constant naps to stave off the tiredness and voila! I woke one morning and felt alive and refreshed as I sipped my tea – no longer a coffee addict! Why not drink decaf, you ask? Because I have yet to find decaffeinated coffee that tastes right. And entering the world of tea has opened me up to the heavenly tastes of loose leaf tea, at the tea shop in my neighborhood that has both magical tasting teas and an ambiance that feels like my own cozy home.  One day though, I found myself craving a cup of coffee, and missing the atmosphere of my nearby coffeehouse. One cup can’t hurt, can it? So off I went, books in hand to read as I dipped my toes in the waters of coffee again, and I allowed myself the treat of a shot of caramel in my coffee – a reward for having given it up in the first place. Oh my! My taste buds danced with the remembrance of coffee, but my body reacted with a shaky, jittery feeling as the caffeine flooded the places it used to reside in. Coffee is like someone who is trying way to hard to be your friend, when all I really want is the quiet gentleness of tea. Soft, soothing tea – everything about it is so smooth and easy, not loud and boisterous. But despite the tender seduction of tea, every now and then, I journey to the coffeehouse for a cup of house coffee with a shot of caramel – and just wait for that caffeine buzz.

A Morning Melody

 

I waken so slowly

To this new day

Lying still as a church

When it starts to pray

 

Light tiptoes in

Trying not to disturb

Birds also awaken

Their song to be heard

 

Unwrapping myself

From soft, cotton sheets

Ambling to the stovetop

The teapot and I greet

 

I pour water in

And turn on the flame

Then wait for the moment

When it sings out my name

 

I hear a soft hiss

Then the whistle sets in

A song so familiar

Let this new day begin

 

 

 

Should I tell?, part 2

I had previously posted in Should I tell? about the decision whether or not to reveal my inspirations behind the words I write. For the most part, I choose to leave the interpretation up to the reader, but in thinking of works I would like to share, there are some where I like to tell the story of their creation. At times it is fun to hear how a writer comes up with their words; that in itself is a story to be shared, enjoyed and gives other writers food for thought. It has been said that we write about that which we know or love, or have lived or experienced. I can see that in my own writing, where many of my short stories have a music theme, which is a great love of mine. Writing was also a means of therapy for me, as I went through many changes in my personal life – divorce, retirement, and basically just waking up to life and who I really am. And there are some poems that are so very personal to me that I just cannot share them beyond my reading of them only. Now with all that being said, I want to share a short story I wrote. It is based on an actual encounter that my step mom had in Wal-Mart, except I gave the ending a bit of a twist. Seeing as how we are into the holiday season I thought it would be fun to post, as it takes place during that season. Happy reading!

Help Needed in Housewares

Mary stood in the housewares aisle in Wal-Mart, trying to decide which type of serving spoon she wanted to buy to replace the one she had used for decades. The plastic handle on the metal spoon she had used for scooping up all kinds of foods had finally cracked beyond repair. She found it a bit silly to place so much importance on an item like this, but at the risk of sounding like an old person, they just didn’t make things like they used to. And so many choices! Almost too many choices it seemed. Maybe that was the young man’s dilemma also, that there were too many choices. Mary noticed the lost look on his face as he glanced from one set of silverware to another.

“Can I help you out at all?” Mary asked.

The young man, who appeared to be in his early 30’s, looked at her with relief. He must have dressed in a hurry, Mary thought. He had on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt with dried paint on it, obviously paint that didn’t make it on the wall. On his head was a baseball cap with tufts of dark hair sticking out from under it in every direction.

“Yes, I could use some advice. I’m having some friends over for a belated Thanksgiving dinner, and to celebrate my new home too I guess. I moved here a month ago – job transfer – and I’m kinda starting over from scratch as far as my kitchen goes.”

“What do you need to buy?” Mary asked him.

“What don’t I need to buy is a better question. But right now I really need some silverware, dishes, basic utensils, and pots and pans would be useful too. I guess whatever a person needs to cook and serve a decent Thanksgiving dinner,” the young man replied.

Mary found out his name was Tim. He had just moved from Wisconsin to Texas and didn’t bring much with him when he moved.

Tim asked Mary, “Do you have time to help me?”

“I have more time than money!” Mary told him.

“Thank you!” Tim sighed with relief. “Most older people don’t have time for us younger people. Not that you’re that old,” he stammered.

“Well, I don’t feel old, but I do have a granddaughter who is 26,” Mary told him.

“No way!” Tim exclaimed. “You certainly don’t look or act old enough to even have grandchildren,” Tim told her. Mary’s looks certainly didn’t match her age – with her full head of blonde hair only slightly mixed with gray and her youthful attitude, many people assumed she was years younger than she actually was.

Mary smiled, “Well, I do have grandchildren – four to be exact. But enough about me – let’s get you what you need for your dinner!”

The first thing Mary did was to take the separate spoons, forks and knives out of Tim’s shopping cart and put them back on the shelf. Tim watched her with a puzzled look.

“It will be a lot cheaper if you buy a set of silverware instead of each individual piece,” Mary told Tim.

Tim looked at what he had wanted to buy and what Mary was suggesting he should buy and did the math.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right about that. I’m not really much of a shopper – I just grabbed the first thing I saw,” said Tim.

“That’s alright,” said Mary. “I’ll help you out and make sure you get the best deals and don’t spend more than you need to. I’ve been doing this shopping thing for a lot of years – you have to pay really close attention. Maybe I can teach you a thing or two.”

“This is really so nice of you to help me. I’ve never put on a meal for anyone besides myself and I’m afraid I didn’t really know what I had gotten myself into. But I feel much better knowing that I have an experienced dinner planner helping me,” Tim gratefully told Mary.

After picking out a nice but inexpensive set of silverware for eight, Mary helped Tim find a set of dishes that included serving dishes also, a few basic cooking utensils and a set of pots and pans that would work just fine but not drain his bank account.

“There, that should be all that you need for your table and some cookware so you can cook your food. And speaking of food, I don’t see any in your cart. Maybe we should head over to the grocery section next and see what we can find there,” said Mary.

Mary turned in the direction of the grocery department, with a grateful Tim close behind, pushing the cart that was waiting to be filled with whatever it was that one made for a belated Thanksgiving/housewarming dinner.

On the way to the grocery department, Mary asked Tim, “Didn’t you already celebrate Thanksgiving with your family a couple weeks ago, when it actually was Thanksgiving?”

“Actually, my folks have been gone for a few years now and I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I grew up here, in Texas, but I ended up working in Wisconsin until now. I was happy when my transfer came through – I still have friends here so I came up with the idea of having Thanksgiving with them – it’s been so long since I’ve celebrated the holidays with family or old friends.”

“No one should be alone on the holidays. I’m so glad that you have friends here to celebrate with. I know how I treasure the holidays with my family,” Mary said. They had made it to the meat department by now.

“What size turkey do you think you’ll need?” Mary asked.

“I wouldn’t have any idea how to pick out a turkey and I kinda had my heart set on ham, even though it isn’t what people usually eat on Thanksgiving,” Tim replied.

“Then ham it is! You can have whatever you want – it’s your party. Besides, I’ve served pizza for Christmas and boy were my grandkids happy that year! So let’s get a big enough ham that you can have some leftovers too.” Mary helped him pick out a good sized smoked ham, and proceeded to show him the cooking instructions, which didn’t seem too difficult. Ham was much easier than turkey Tim decided –a good choice!

Even though the traditional turkey was not a part of Tim’s Thanksgiving meal, he wanted all the other traditional foods. He was pleasantly surprised to find that stuffing came in a box and only took a few minutes of preparation on the stove. Stuffing a turkey would have proved to be a challenge he wasn’t quite ready to face. Into the cart went a can of corn, some heat and serve dinner rolls, instant mashed potatoes (another wonderful convenience in a box!) and a package of ham gravy that Mary assured him would turn out just perfect.

“What about dessert?” Mary asked.

“Well, I know that pumpkin pie is the favorite for this meal, but I’m really not a big fan,” Tim told her.

“Remember, you can have whatever you want. How about a couple of fruit pies instead?” Mary suggested.

“That sounds good. I like apple and I see they have cherry too so I’ll take one of each.” Tim set the pies in the cart, which was a lot fuller than when he had first come to the grocery department. He was happy to see the mountain of items in his cart although the thought of the total at the checkout made him a bit nervous. But with Mary’s kind help, he had all he needed. Or so he thought.

“There are just a couple more things that you need for your table. Follow me.” Mary started off towards the other part of the store; this time to where they sold candles.

“You’ll want to set a nice table, and candles are such a nice touch – your guests will be so impressed!” Mary helped Tim find some elegant taper candles; one set of white and another set of red, just in case he needed some for Christmas entertaining. She also found a pair of simple yet decorative pewter candleholders to put them in. “These candleholders are good for any occasion – maybe for a candlelight dinner sometime, in case you meet someone special?” Mary winked at him.

Tim blushed, “I hadn’t really thought that far ahead, but thanks for the advice. You’re almost like my mother.”

“Well, one other thing a mother would have you buy is some napkins. And not the paper kind – for a holiday one should have cloth napkins. So let’s head over to that section and see what we can find.” Mary found some napkins that once again she explained could be used at a future date and she also explained to Tim the use of napkin rings. She picked out napkins that were darker colors such as forest green, a deep blue and once again red, just in case for Christmas, and found a set of silver napkin rings to match the pewter candleholders.

“You should be all set now. Let’s head over to the checkout and see what the damage is! Oh, don’t worry – it won’t be as costly as you think. Time spent with friends is priceless, don’t you think?” Mary saw Tim smile at the thought of seeing his friends again.

They got to the check-out area and stood in line. While Tim waited for his turn to unload his cart, he turned to Mary. “I can’t thank you enough for all your help. Most people are in such a hurry these days. Why don’t you give me your phone number and after I get settled in I’ll cook dinner for you, just to show my appreciation?”

“That’s awfully kind of you,” Mary said, “but you don’t have to do that. Besides, I’m so busy when I come down here for the winter that I really don’t have a lot of free time. But I like it that way – better than spending it cooped up in the house during the long Minnesota winters.”

Finally it was Tim’s turn to start unloading his cart. As the person at the register started to scan his items, Tim told her “This nice lady here helped me to find everything I need to cook an overdue Thanksgiving dinner for my friends – I was so lost until she took time to shop with me. Isn’t it nice to hear about people like that? I told her she is just like my mother, didn’t I Mary?”

But when Tim looked behind him, there was no one there. He had just been talking to Mary a minute ago. “Did you see where the older lady who was with me went?” he asked the cashier.

“There was no older lady with you – I wondered to myself who you were talking to when I saw you standing in line,” the cashier replied with a look on her face reserved for slightly odd people she came across.

“But that can’t be! I just spent the last 45 minutes walking through the store with this person – her name is Mary – I didn’t just imagine her!” exclaimed Tim.

Or did he? It’s said that there are times when angels come to earth, in human form, to help us here when we need it. Could Mary have been one of those angels? Tim would always wonder about it; who was the kind lady who helped him that day when he was so bewildered? He always told the story, every Thanksgiving, first sharing it with his wife and her family. And yes, he always used the same candles and napkins that Mary helped him find – they always graced the Thanksgiving table. Then as the years went by, he told his children and grandchildren the story when they were old enough to understand. It came to be a traditional story that they loved to hear. He wanted them to hear the story about the kind lady – the lady he believed was really an angel – so that they would always believe in angels too.

 

 

 

A beer bottle question

Sitting in my favorite pizza place, waiting for my favorite veggie pizza to be done, I grew tired of watching the traffic outside the window go by. I had already read the copies they had there of the Portland Mercury and Willamette Week , so out of boredom I started to read the label on my bottle of beer. And the label on the bottle posed a question to me: If I could have only one album to listen to forever, which one would it be? For a music lover, that is a very deep question. I have at times played the mind game of desert island picks; you know, if you were stranded on a desert island, what music would you want to have. And I usually limit myself to 10 albums when playing that game. But only one? That really narrows the playing field. I could go with something really classic; something from The Beatles or Dylan or maybe Dark Side of the Moon,or even  The Rolling Stones, although I am not a big Stones fan. But then I’m just going with the status quo, perhaps what a music critic might pick in order to cover all the bases. Then I thought of a perfect solution – a compilation album! That way, it would include all kinds of music, with different artists. But really, there are always those tracks on those types of offerings that I program out with the delete button on my cd player. So back to square one. And when I really thought about the music I listen to the most, I came to my obvious choice, the music of Elliott Smith. I have mentioned my love of his music in previous posts, and I may sound like an obsessed fan, but I like to think of myself as more of an admirer than a fan. To me his music can range from pop perfection to quiet acoustic offerings, all surrounded by lovely melodies he crafts and sung in his gentle, whispery style. By the time my pizza was ready, I had decided which of his albums I would choose. I decided to go with his last effort, From a Basement on the Hill. It was said that he wanted it to be his “white album”; a reference to The Beatles, who were a big influence on his music. So there is my pick for my “forever” album – and what would your choice be?

Sharing the words

I’ve gone to other blogger’s sites, and found some amazing works in the written form, in artwork, in photographs. And in reading the profiles of these creative souls, I find a common thread in the joy of sharing with others. It is creativity spilling out, the inherent nature to express ourselves in some way. When I first starting writing, after many years of focusing on work and family, I thought that I could just keep it to myself. I loved writing for the expression of my thoughts and visions. But then I attended my first writing workshop, and the facilitator there gently told me that I would eventually want to share my work – and she was right. I found a wonderful quote from Julia Cameron, who has written many marvelous books about the craft of writing; she states, “a piece of art needs a recipient.” Very wise words indeed. And now as I enter the world of the “blogosphere”, it is like a chain reaction as bloggers read each others’ works and comment on them. It is inspiring, and once more I find the words coming out to play….

The Days

The grey days are here

The tea and coffee days are here

The good book friends have come

Pen and paper dance together

Light filters in

Through cotton soaked clouds

Rain jumps on the skylight

Then slides down like a child

Homes become cozy shelters

The inside days are here

 

 

 

 

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