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Archive for the ‘short stories’ Category

Blogging, just because…

It’s time again to revisit the reason I started a blog in the first place, as I find myself pouting recently over the minute number of responses to my blogs – oh, get over it! is what I keep telling my overactive ego. I have fallen into the self-gratifying habit of checking and rechecking my site stats, poring over the numbers like a statistician and trying to figure out how to attract more readers. Maybe I should only publish posts during the week and not the weekends; seems like that’s when more people view my posts, during the week, and early on in the day, not later in the evening. Then I start to ponder, what do the people want? Obviously it isn’t always what I think is interesting or entertaining or enlightening. Otherwise I would have surely been on Freshly Pressed by now – and by the way, what does it take to earn that featured status? Oh, the sad manipulation, all to try and gain attention – just like a child.

I ask myself the most important question of all, why do I write in the first place? Is it to try and get somewhere, to an exalted place in the world of writing or blogging? Or maybe, just maybe, it is the real reason that I started writing – because I love to write! When I rediscovered the joy of playing with words, with having thoughts come to me in a poem or a musing or a short story, I found a part in me that had been hidden for so long. I found that I am creative! And I found the most enjoyable outlet for my creative juices, the art of writing.

And really, I do this thing, writing, because it is a kick to create something. I often find myself reading my poems and stories over and over, and I love them! And I have to know that even if I only connect with one solitary soul as I write my blog posts, then I have done a great thing in reaching that soul. We don’t have to do such grandiose acts of connecting with one another to affect joy and inspiration in our fellow human beings. Sometimes we can touch others in ways that we may never know. My words are out there, the energy behind them is out there, and that is the key to why I blog. Holding back what I have to give in lieu of attention getting defeats the whole purpose. Reaching in and letting myself create, and then sharing that creativity is what this blog is all about, no matter if one person reads it or no one at all.

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Sharing stories

I had coffee with a friend this morning, and she was relating to me a story about an adventure she had this past weekend with her daughter while they were out of town. The writer in me found it delightful, wanting to capture it and share with others. The sharing is the storyteller that I believe is in all of us, although in our modern era we seem to have given it the back seat of our lives. Our ancestors were wise and perhaps blessed, in not having so many distractions that deterred them from taking the precious time of the telling and retelling of stories; stories that both delight us and help us to find a commonality that we can share in.

Circling the City

     We had a whole afternoon to kill after checking out of our hotel. I wondered what in the world we could do in this city we had never been to that would keep a young teenage girl entertained, without hearing the strains of, “Mom this is so boring! Oh my God, when will we be able to get on the plane and go home?!” I had wandered around the city one day while Anne was meeting with a group of other prospective college students. To put them at ease the group was led by some student volunteers at the college, not much older than the visitors themselves, gladly herding the masses of those making the rounds of college visits. These hard working volunteers had put together a “students only – no parents allowed” time, designed to allow the group of oftentimes shy teenagers to feel more at ease without mom or dad standing nearby asking possibly embarrassing questions. In my sojourn of the city that day, I found plenty of restaurants, museums, and the sports stadium but to my surprise I couldn’t find anywhere to shop. I asked about this at the front desk of the hotel when Anne and I returned after her campus visit; where was the nearest place to shop? We found out that the mall 10 miles away was the nearest shopping experience, and was easily accessible by taking the number 19 bus. So after checking out by noon on our last day, I asked at the front desk if they might be able to secure our luggage somewhere while we went out for a little adventure before heading home. They graciously found a place behind the desk for our things, and out the door we went to find bus number 19.

We searched high and low for the bus stop, when Anne spotted the train stop. “Look Mom, there’s a train just like we have at home. Why don’t we just take that instead?” Oh, the unbridled enthusiasm and lack of fear that the teenager possesses. Well, why not? I thought. We were used to taking public transportation at home, and I figured it couldn’t be that much different than any other city train. So with tickets in hand, we boarded the next train that came our way. We found a place to sit, and I started studying the map of the train route. I thought I had found our stop, so we got off on the 1300 block. But as we started walking, I thought to reach into my pocket to double check the street address of the mall – a thought that had come to me before we left the hotel. In horror I realized that the mall was 4300, not 1300 – we were 30 blocks away! Much too far for us to walk, even if we had to time to do so. But once more my daughter’s keen eyes spotted the ever elusive number 19 bus stop. Finally! Now we could just hop on and ride the 30 blocks, do a little shopping and head back to the hotel in time to catch out airport shuttle. So once more with tickets in hand, we climbed aboard for another ride. After a time though, I started to wonder as we begin to loop our way around the streets, rather than making our way from 1300 to 4300. In all actuality, we seemed to be headed in the opposite direction! My fears were confirmed when I saw the familiar buildings around our hotel; we had just completed a very large circle of the city! All we could do was laugh it off, and pretend that we had really meant to take a tour of the city like any other tourist; and we walked off the bus empty handed of shopping items but full of the excitement and satisfaction of having survived an adventure in a strange city.

Love is all you need – the last music story

I saw those words written in the sidewalk – Love is all you need – preserved for posterity, for all to see. What a great message to leave in the wet cement, words of wisdom we should all live by. Yes, it is Valentine’s Day – my very favorite holiday! But here’s a thought – what if we could celebrate love every day? Not just relegating it to one day out of the year. Wouldn’t that be something…. My gift to you on this day of lovely celebration of all things love is a love story, a love poem, and tokens of love in the form of some photos from the International Rose Test Garden here in Portland, Oregon featuring the flower of love, the rose. And I leave you with a favorite quote from William Shakespeare, in regard to something that fills me with absolute joy, the lovely strains of music –  If music be the food of love, play on.

Love at the Listening Station

He saw her there, her long brown hair swaying all around her, covered by the black plastic earmuffs of the headphones. Jason came here often, to the place appropriately named An Earful of Music. It was a hold out in the dying breed of independent record stores who tried to stay afloat in a sea of digital downloads. But there were still enough music lovers who wanted the whole package; an album with all the songs, not just the popular ones, with the cover art and liner notes, be it in cd or vinyl format, the latter format making a comeback in recent years. The listening station at the store was like a tree in the forest of cd and record bins. But it was a haven for those who wanted to check out all the new music and even the old music at times. There were four branches of the listening station tree, each holding a cd, a small cd player, and a pair of headphones. Jason walked over and pretended to study the cds available for listening, yet he couldn’t help but stare at her, the woman with the long brown hair. She took no notice of him, she was deep into the music – eyes closed, hands cupped over the headphones, her body moving back and forth in time to the music that only she could hear. And that gorgeous hair, it moved to and fro like a soft and sweet metronome. It was all Jason could do to not reach out and touch a strand; he just wanted to feel a brush of that delicate hair against his skin.

Who would have thought he would find a goddess at the record store? Jason couldn’t help but beat himself up over his poor choice of clothing that day – the threadbare black t-shirt that said “Rock!” on it in large white letters, complete with a hole worn through in the letter o. This was paired with the jeans he had found on the floor of his bedroom; destined for the laundry basket but good for one more wearing, or so he had thought at the time. Jason had meant to shower before leaving his house, but he really needed that cup of coffee he had gotten on his way to Earful, so he had made a last minute grab of a white baseball cap with a bright rainbow colored peace sign on it – it worked just fine to cover his somewhat greasy hair that really needed to be washed. But the goddess, who was standing so close to him, she was dressed as a goddess should be. She wore a bright yellow sundress, light and gauzy, and it twirled around her as she danced to the music. And her feet, with toenails painted in pretty pastel pink, were graced by a pair of sequin covered flip-flops. Jason swore that he could see a glow of pale white light all around her. He was mesmerized! He could feel Cupid’s arrow as it pierced his heart.

He reached to one side of the listening station for a cd that caught his eye, but his eyes weren’t on the cd, they were on the dancing woman. Jason watched in what seemed like slow motion as the cd fell to the floor, glancing off the toes of the goddess.“Ouch!” she exclaimed as she was snapped out of her musical reverie and bent down to massage her injured toes, glancing up at Jason with a goddess of war look in her eyes.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry!” Jason profusely apologized. “It just got away from me – I must have butterfingers – sorry I’m so clumsy. Are you okay?”

“Oh yes, I’ll be fine; it just startled me more than anything, that’s all; no damage done.”

“My name’s Jason by the way – and you are?”

“I’m Isabella but my friends call me Belle.” So now the goddess had a name, also befitting her. Jason would have rather called her Isabella; it moved like a beautiful waltz as he said her name in his head.

“Do you come here often?” Jason asked, and then wanted to smack himself in the head after saying what sounded like the most clichéd pick-up line ever.

“When I decide it’s time to buy some music I like coming here more than anywhere else – I love the listening station – it helps me decide what I really want to buy and sometimes I find new music I haven’t heard that I end up buying.” Belle seemed oblivious to Jason’s botched attempt at conversation.

Jason breathed a silent sigh of relief – at least so far she didn’t find him to be a total loser. He still had a chance to try to speak like a normal person and redeem himself, after looking like both a clumsy oaf and a smooth talking player.

“Yeah, I love this place, especially with all the vinyl they carry now; I’m kind of into that when I can find it. And the listening station is great, you’re right about finding new music; the radio stations don’t always play what I want to hear so I can come here and find new stuff,” Jason said. “And I think it’s really important to support the independent record stores instead of just going to Target or Wal-Mart for music – those places just don’t have the right vibe for buying music, you know?”

“I agree,” said Belle, “We really need to shop local and support the little guy who’s trying to make it.”

Jason reached down and picked up the cd that had fallen and put it back on the holder.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee, to make up for injuring your foot? Maybe we can compare notes on who we like, or you can tell me what you thought of the album you were listening to before my rude interruption,” Jason inquired.

“Thanks, that sounds great. I know a really cool coffeehouse a couple blocks down if that’s okay. They make an awesome cup of coffee with a shot of caramel in it, if you like that. And they also have macaroons that are amazing!”

“Yeah, that sounds like a great place. Are you ready to go?” Jason asked her.

“I’m ready when you are. Don’t you want to listen to the cd you found though?”

Jason just smiled at her; the reason he came to Earful in the first place, to find some music, was so far from his mind now. He was ready to run out of there – quick! – before Isabella, Belle as she wanted to be called changed her mind.

“No, I’ll come back later; it’s not a big deal. I’d rather talk music with you right now than listen to any – and I’d really enjoy a cup of coffee with such a lovely fellow lover of music.” Now that was more like it, sincere words meant to show her that he really was a nice guy and not a dork who fumbled like a schoolboy. And judging by the sweet smile Belle gave him, she seemed interested. She hung up her set of headphones and followed Jason out the door, grabbing his hand as she led him in the direction of the coffeehouse.

Behind the counter, Sean just smiled and shook his head. He had worked at An Earful of Music for 10 years now, and in that time he wondered what it was about the listening station that brought so many couples together. It had to be some sort of love energy that radiated in that spot; why, they had actually had two couples come back and ask to be married there, in the place where they first met. And being such a sucker for a love story, Sean took out the small notebook he kept behind the counter and tallied another mark on the page, entitled Love at the Listening Station.

Needing

 

I am

To his love

Like a flower

Needing rain

To quench my thirst

For him

For his touch

I am

To his love

Like the moon

Needing the sun’s light

So that I may glow

In his presence

When he comes to me

I am

To his love

Like all things

That need each other

In order to flourish

He is my every need

Yes

I need him

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Getting lost

Time once more for the weekly 100 word challenge, brought to you by a marvelous blog, Julia’s Place. This week’s prompt was “it wasn’t my fault” – another fun group of words to play with. And here is what I came up with…

A typical scenario

          “It wasn’t my fault we missed the turn!” I shouted as we drove down the seemingly endless country road. “How can you not read a simple road map?” was the reply from the driver’s side of the car. “You call this simple?” I countered, “I need a magnifying glass to figure out which thin line of a road we are actually on.” I stared at my husband’s stubborn face, waiting for a response. “You could have stopped miles back and asked for directions.” Still no response. And I made a mental note – Valentine’s gift this year, a GPS unit.

Finding “our” place – music story #4

Most couples seem to have a special place; be it a  favorite vacation spot, a restaurant they love, or maybe even a park where they sit under a certain tree and share each others thoughts. Memories are made in these locations, and they are claimed to be “their” places, where the energy shared is unique to each couple. This story talks about staking that claim, of a place where love was born.

Reclaiming

The words shot out of him and lay at her feet – spent shells from the shotgun that had become his mouth. Sophia stared at Chad – shaking her head in amazement, she grabbed her purse and without saying a word she walked out the door. She got into her car and with shaking hands on the steering wheel she somehow managed to drive to the coffee shop. In a trembling voice she ordered a cup of coffee that she hoped would calm her down despite the caffeine. She sat down at a table, glancing around nervously, hoping she didn’t see anyone here she knew. Sophia looked around for something to write on. All she could find were the napkins in the dispenser on the table. Perfect – they were so perfect for writing out the words she had wanted to say for so long – it’s over, their marriage; Sophia no longer wanted to share her life with Chad. The pen tore through the flimsy paper of the napkin as she wrote the words.  For five long years she tried, she had tried so hard to make it work. But what she had really done was try to make him be someone he wasn’t. Chad could never be Joshua, her sweet Joshua – she missed him so much! It had been a mistake thinking that marriage to someone so different from Joshua would help blot out his memory. And they were so different from each other in every way. As far as appearance went Chad was a giant compared to Joshua, and not a Jolly Green Giant either, more like the fee fie fo fum type. Sophia had grown tired of Chad’s judgments of everyone and everything – Joshua had been so open minded. Sophia and Joshua could sit for hours, having deep philosophical discussions about so many things. Chad just didn’t find Sophia’s opinions or thoughts that important.  Every time that Chad acted like Chad, it just seemed to cause a voice in her head to scream how much he was Chad and not Joshua. But his biting words had finally become too much, although she couldn’t really blame him. Joshua hung like a specter in the air between them at times. They had become like a love triangle – Sophia, Chad and Joshua – and everyone knows that marriage needs to be a straight line between two people, not a geometric shape made up of three.

When she got home he wasn’t there. Good, Sophia thought and relaxed a bit. She knew that she owed him an explanation after walking out in silence, not bothering to stay and fight about it, but she was so tired right now. Oh my, Sophia swore she could hear his voice again – at times she wondered if her grief made her crazy. “Hey baby”, the voice said, “you need to get out of there. Come to me – you know – our spot. I’ll be there – I miss you.” It wasn’t really his voice, yet it was. It was the voice that used to speak to her so gentle, so tender – oh, it was Joshua alright. Sophia opened the hall closet and found the duffel bag. She threw it on the bed and packed what she would need for the next couple days – clothes, toiletries. Then she found the cds – hidden back in the corner on her side of the bedroom closet. Sophia grabbed them and saw his face staring back at her – “Please baby, sing to me” – she would always plead. She uttered that same plea to him now. She changed into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt that said UMD Bulldogs on it – a symbol of “their” time. Grabbing her sunglasses off the dresser, Sophia thought she better leave Chad a note, not just about where she had gone but about the end of their marriage as she saw it. But she was just so damn tired and wanted to get out of their house and out of town. There were too many memories here and she only wanted the memories from the place she was going to. It may have been an act of cowardice and a slap in the face as well, but Sophia took the napkins from the coffee shop out of her purse. They said all that needed to be said, except for this part that she added:  I’m going to Duluth for a couple of days and we’ll talk when I get back. Please don’t call – I’m really sorry it went down like this – Sophia. She lay the napkins on the kitchen counter, along with her wedding band on top of them and walked out the door; her heart already on the road miles ahead of her.

The radio station was fading out; along with the anger and sadness that Sophia had felt when she started on the road to Duluth. Now her emotions were from a time past. Remembering was bittersweet; bitter because Joshua left her, yet sweet because he had been with her for a time. And the time they had been together was only sweet – not bitter. Sophia reached across to the passenger seat where she had put the cds. She slid the plastic disc into the cd player and waited for it – the first notes of the song and then that voice. It was just like the first time she heard him sing, how something touched her heart and she felt some sort of connection, crazy as it seemed at the time. Sophia allowed her mind to drift and play the movie in her head that had been her and Joshua. She remembered with a smile how they met – and how he had gently teased her – she actually blushed thinking of it.

The trip to the Platter Palace was her reward to herself for getting an A on her first college research paper. Sophia had cried tears of frustration over writing that paper, but they were worth it after seeing her grade. She loved psychology and wanted it to be her major, but her professor for Intro Psych was so tough! So when she made it past that first paper with flying colors, she felt she deserved a little something. The Platter Palace was the name of the record store in Duluth were you went to buy your music if you were a true music lover – not like going to Best Buy where you were in and out of there in 5 minutes, and most of the music department staff could have cared less about music. Sophia loved the atmosphere at the “Palace”, the name given to the record store by the regular customers. It was quaint and quirky; they not only sold music but also incense, clothes and  jewelry that reminded Sophia of the 60’s, and the display cases that held the “paraphernalia” that so many of the college students seemed to have money for. The people who worked there knew everything about music and not just the top 40 stuff. Sophia had engaged in many long and deep discussions with the staff there about different artists and their music. And there was always great music playing in the store. She was looking for a cd by someone she had heard on the college radio station – his name was Joshua Walker. When Sophia heard his song on the radio, she felt as if her heart was taken over by the lovely voice she heard – it was incredible! It was the strangest reaction, as if she knew him. She shook that aside for the time, but had made note of his name. Now as she scanned the aisles for Joshua Walker in the cd bins, she just couldn’t find him there. Sophia went up to the counter and asked the clerk for some help.

“Who are you looking for again?” he asked her.

“Joshua Walker – I think he may be a local artist but I don’t know. I heard him the other day on KUMD and I just loved his song – and most of all his voice! He has the most beautiful voice – I hope you can find his cd for me.” Sophia thought she had better stop talking or else this guy helping her would think she was a flake and she was finding him rather attractive. He was not too tall, kind of skinny with straight jet black hair that almost hung in his eyes. Sophia was barely five feet tall and she preferred being with someone who wasn’t towering over her.

“Here it is – we have a special section for local artists – you know, so people can find them easier – at least most of the time it’s easier finding them there. But I don’t mind helping you out at all. I really like this guy too. And I hear he puts on a great live show. In fact, he’s playing at The Thirsty Sailor this Saturday night if you really want to hear him sing. I’m planning on being there for sure so maybe I’ll see you there if you decide to go.”

“Thanks for all your help and for the heads up on the show. I’ll see if I can talk my roommate into going with me so maybe I’ll be there too.” As Sophia paid for her cd she secretly prayed that her roommate Laura didn’t already have plans for Saturday night. She wanted to get to know this Palace guy better.  As she drove back to her dorm Sophia realized she didn’t get his name – oh well – she wouldn’t forget what he looked like. When she got to her dorm room Laura was there and Sophia told her about Joshua Walker and the upcoming show he was playing. She also mentioned the attractive guy from the Platter Palace who had invited her – kind of.

“Yeah, why not,” Laura said when Sophia asked her about going to The Thirsty Sailor on Saturday. “It might be fun and maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a thirsty sailor.” Sophia was sure that Laura’s main objective of college was not getting a degree but getting a man. She was cute and perky, and always dressed as if she were going out somewhere, unlike Sophia who preferred jeans and a t-shirt, which usually had a band or musician on the front of it. Laura left to go to class and Sophia had the tiny room to herself. Good, she thought, now I have some time alone to listen to the Joshua Walker cd. She opened it and saw the picture inside the case- he looked familiar. Now she recognized him – it was the clerk from the Platter Palace – there was no mistaking him. Oh, that was really cute – the way he led her on and didn’t tell her who he was. Actually, it was kind of cute and now she was intrigued. Was he just being humble? Or had he been flirting with her? Well, she was going to find out Saturday night. Sophia was going to make sure she let this Joshua Walker know that she caught on to his little game – and she smiled a little smile thinking about it.

The Thirsty Sailor was one of those bars that had been around forever it seemed. Years ago it had been full of the workers off the huge ships – the freighters that came through Duluth on their way to either load up or unload cargo. But then the college students took over the bar and on the weekends the stage was frequented by the local music talent. Sophia and Laura walked into the small tavern and took notice of the obvious nautical theme – pictures of ships everywhere, stuffed seagulls on the walls along with thick rope strung across the front of the bar.

“God I hope this Joshua Walker isn’t going to sing any sea shanties,” Laura commented.

“Very funny,” Sophia replied, “If you had listened to his cd like I told you to, you’d know what kind of music he sings. And it isn’t sea shanties!” Joshua Walker probably fit best into the singer-songwriter genre; a bit of folk, a bit of rock – kind of Dylanesque but with his own style.

Laura took off her coat, revealing a tight, low-cut purple shirt along with the very tiny denim skirt she had on, paired with black boots that went to her knees – “hooker boots” is what Sophia called them.

“I feel out of place here – how long do we have to stay?” Laura said as she took a seat at the bar.

“We just got here and we are staying long enough so I can talk to Joshua Walker and tell him ha, ha, very funny,” Sophia said defiantly. They both ordered a beer and turned toward the stage; someone with a guitar was making his way out. He came and sat down on the empty chair that was in the middle of the stage. It was the familiar face that Sophia recognized from the Palace – she was trying to decide if he was the type who would mess with her or if he was just being humble. He played around with his guitar as if he was trying to tune it to perfection. Finally, Joshua Walker spoke into the microphone.

“Thanks for coming. Here’s a new song I wrote for someone I just met this past week. I don’t know if she’s here, but I hope she decided to come.” And with that he launched into a song called Who Am I.

“Oh my God!” Laura said to Sophia above the music, “He already wrote a song for you! How romantic!”

“How do you know it’s for me?” Sophia replied. But she knew – somehow she knew he had written it for her. But he still needed to explain himself, why didn’t he just say who he was from the start? She didn’t like playing games. He played a few more songs and then announced that he was taking a short break. Good, Sophia thought; now I can try and corner him.

Joshua came out to the bar area, looking to order a beer. They spotted each other and Sophia left Laura with the new friend that she had just made. He gave Sophia a smile and said, “Thanks for coming to hear me play. I guess my secret’s out, huh?”

“Yes, the secret’s out alright. Why didn’t you just tell me from the start?” Sophia asked him.

“Sorry – I guess I just didn’t want to come off like some kind of egomaniac. It was too embarrassing to tell you “yeah, that’s my album and why don’t you come hear me play?” I’m always surprised when people come in and buy my cd but I shouldn’t be – after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Putting my music out there? I just love writing the songs for the sake of creating them, and being able to record an album and play for people is the icing on the cake, you know?”

“Well, you shouldn’t be so humble about your music – it’s amazing! You have the most beautiful voice. And your songs – they are so touching,” Sophia gushed.

She could have sworn he was blushing, even in the dim light of the bar. “I was inspired to write that first song after I met you – after I realized what I had done, not telling you who I was. I’m sorry I wasn’t completely honest with you. Hopefully the song makes up for that, maybe?”

Sophia didn’t know what to say. “It was lovely,” she said in a quiet voice that made her wonder where it came from.

It was time for the second set to begin. Joshua walked out and gave a quick wave to the audience before sitting down on the lone chair. His slight figure seemed to be swallowed up by the stage, even in this small venue. He played his quiet songs and while Sophia listened the noise from the people around her seemed to fade away. It was just Joshua and her. He played songs with such lovely melodies and words full of meaning. Sophia watched him as he sang with his eyes closed, gently touching the strings of the guitar. It was as if he made love to her, his guitar, and she rewarded him with luscious sounds. Then it was over and Sophia came back to life as the lights came on all around her.

“Are you about ready to go?” Laura had made a new friend, male of course, and she was anxious to go somewhere else and keep the party going.

“Just hold on – I’m finishing my beer.” Sophia was trying to drink it so slow, hoping that Joshua would come out again. She got her wish when she saw him come through the backstage door. He was obviously looking for someone, and Sophia realized that someone was her when their eyes met.

“Hi – did you enjoy the show?” he asked her.

“It was great,” Sophia told him, “I didn’t want it to end.” She wondered if maybe that sounded a bit too forward.

“Can I buy you a beer?” Joshua offered.

“Well, my friend who drove me here is anxious to get going.”

“I can give you a ride home if you can wait around a bit. I like to hang out for a while after I play,” Joshua explained. Sophia almost ran to Laura. “I have a ride home so you can leave anytime you want.” That was fine with Laura as she seemed engrossed with her new friend.

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Sophia told Joshua after she hurried back to him.

“Great!” he said. “I wanted to ask you – do you like watching the ships coming and going out of Canal Park? I was going to go down there and see if I could catch the one coming in about an hour from now. Do you want to join me?” Canal Park was the area of Duluth where the huge cargo ships came in and out of Lake Superior. There were two piers on either side of the canal, with a lighthouse at each end. The street was lined with eclectic shops, a variety of restaurants, as well as places to stay – inns and hotels – and then there was the Lakewalk – the walking trail that ran alongside the lake with wooden benches set on the rocky shore. Sophia loved watching the freighters coming and going – the massive ships of crimson red steel that seemed to move at a snail’s pace never ceased to fascinate her.

“I’d love that,” Sophia told him. They finished their beers and he told her to wait while he grabbed his guitar from the backstage area. Joshua had the sweetest smile on his face when he came out to meet her, guitar case in hand. “Let’s get going so we don’t miss it!” he said with such enthusiasm. It was so infectious and Sophia found herself wanting to skip out to the parking lot, wondering what had gotten into her. She was usually more reserved but Joshua had seemed to find a place in her that she had kept hidden. It was the place of sheer enjoyment; the place of letting go and having fun! It was the place of not caring about what anyone else thought of her.

He came around and opened the door of his rather beat up car for her – such a gentleman! She had to kick aside the empty fast food bags and papers by her feet as she got in – he wasn’t a neat freak like her by any means.

“Sorry about the mess,” he apologized, “I was going to clean it up tomorrow – I’m not scheduled to work. If I had known I’d have such a pretty passenger I would have taken care of cleaning it out sooner.” Oh, he had quite a way with words, Sophia thought. Was he really sincere or just trying to get somewhere with her? She didn’t want to be so cynical, but too many guys just wanted only one thing and she was tired of that game.

“Well, thank you – it’s just fine. I tend to be a bit obsessive about neatness myself, but I don’t judge anyone by their messiness,” Sophia told him.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, but Canal Park was only a five minute drive from The Thirsty Sailor. In the early hours of the morning, the main street of Canal Park was deserted; all the shops and restaurants were closed and the mood was one of a dark calm. Even so, Sophia didn’t feel unsafe with Joshua. Her intuition told her that he would be a perfect gentleman and he had already shown that in the brief snippet of time that they had spent together. Joshua parked the car and they got out and went to check the shipping news monitor that continually flashed the arrival and departure times of the big ships. They didn’t always run true to schedule and Sophia hoped that they hadn’t missed it.

“It looks like we have some time to kill – the James R. Barker arrives around 0200 – that’s 2 a.m. in regular time – and it’s a little after 1:00. How about if we take a walk down the Lakewalk a ways until we see the lights of the ship?” Joshua offered.

“That sounds great, but I’m not really dressed for the weather.” Sophia hadn’t worn her warmest jacket and even in summer the breeze off the lake dropped the temperature quite a bit.

“I have an extra sweatshirt in my car if you don’t mind wearing it – sorry if it isn’t the cleanest but I just keep it around just in case, you know – the weather here changes in an instant sometimes.” Joshua went and grabbed the well worn Platter Palace sweatshirt and offered it to Sophia, who gladly slipped it on underneath her jacket.

“Thanks – I would have dressed warmer had I known I’d be outside watching the ships.”

They started off down the wooden planks that made up the Lakewalk. It wound around the lake until it veered off into downtown Duluth. Sophia had never been down to Canal Park this time of night, morning actually, and it was pristine silence. She could actually hear the lake. It had a sound, all its own – a roar like the ocean. The waves slapped against the rocks on the shore and she could hear the splashing of the water. And the moon was a golden reflection on the water that shimmered as the waves came in. They walked a ways and then started back towards the pier as they spotted the lights of the ship, barely discernable but like a firefly on the water. The ship moved slowly so they still had time to kill before it made it to the pier area and through the canal. And besides, the liftbridge would have to be raised and that was an audible signal that no one could ignore.

“Why don’t we sit for a bit until the ship is a little closer?” Joshua found a bench on the shore for them to rest on. They sat there, in silence again and Sophia hugged herself tight, despite the extra clothing Joshua had given her.

“Are you still cold?” Joshua asked. “You can move closer to me – I don’t bite, you know.” Sophia sidled a bit closer to him and he gently put his arm around her, almost as if he were afraid she would break. But Sophia didn’t mind at all; it felt so comfortable with him. She relaxed into his arms and felt her heart start beating, so strong. As if she knew exactly what to do, she lifted her head to his and their lips found each other in a sweet kiss – nothing intense, nothing passionate, just a kiss full of innocence. But they both felt more than innocence underneath that kiss and knew there was a connection building between them.

“You are so special – I felt it when you came into the store. Call it instinct or intuition but we have something. Don’t you feel it? Even though we’ve just met?” Joshua was pouring his heart out to Sophia.

“I felt it the first time I heard you sing, crazy as that sounds. Like I knew you, even though I didn’t at the time,” Sophia confessed.

“Would you get up for a minute? I want to do something.” And with that, Joshua took out his car keys and carved into the wood of the bench, Our Spot – Sophia and Joshua.

“There – now this is our spot – to come to every time we come here.” What a touching romantic gesture – Sophia was genuinely moved by what Joshua had just done.

“Oh, look!” Sophia cried, “The ship is almost here!” She started running towards the pier where the huge mass of steel was slowly making its way. She was jumping up and down and had forgotten all about Joshua in her excitement, but he was close behind, smiling at her enthusiasm.

“You really love watching this, don’t you?” Joshua smiled at her.

“Oh yes!” Sophia gushed, “I can’t explain what it is, but I never get tired of watching the ships – it is so exciting!”

Joshua stood back and watched Sophia with a fondness that he knew would grow to be much more than that. After that first night watching the ship at Canal Park, they came back when they could to their “spot” – the bench with their claim on it – until that fateful night when Sophia’s sweet Joshua left her.

Sophia came back to the present – the undeniable present of no Joshua on this earth any longer and now her marriage in pieces that could never fit back together. She tried to turn her head as she came closer to the spot – she knew it so well even though the flowers that used to mark it were no longer there anymore. Those damn ice storms that came to Duluth and all because of that damn lake that blew in storms of large proportions – storms that not only caused cars to slide off the road into  road signs that could kill but could also sink ships – ships as big as the ones they had loved to watch. Sophia knew that the endless tears could never bring him back but they came anyway. She tried to push them down as she drove so she could see the road as she drove to Canal Park. When she got to the familiar area, she pulled into the parking lot of one of the hotels, hoping against hope that she could find a room at such late notice. But first, she had one place she needed to go to. Early on in their marriage, Sophia and Chad had come to Duluth a couple times. Chad knew how much Sophia loved to watch the ships, and he tried to make it “their” place, as if he could wipe away her past with Joshua that seemed to cover them like a light mist at times. But it was never the same with Chad, even though Sophia tried to make it fun. It would always be “their” place – her and Joshua – and now she walked to the familiar bench. She found it easily and ran her fingers over the words, now worn but still visibly carved into the bench. With a weary sigh she sat down on the bench, grateful that there were few people around.

“Joshua, can you hear me? Baby, I came – just like you asked – to our spot. I’m reclaiming Duluth as ours again, it always was. I was wrong, and I hurt someone trying to make them be you. There can never be another you. I miss you! I miss you so much. I don’t know what I’m going to do now, except just sit here and hope that you’ll help me. Tell me what to do sweet baby, what do I do now?” Sophia heard only the sound of the waves for a time, no voice speaking to her. She had almost fallen asleep when she heard a voice. “Excuse me, but do you know where I can find out about the ships coming in? I just moved here and everyone says I have to watch it at least once.” Sophia looked up to see a ghost – the voice came from someone who looked just like him – they could have been twins!

“I’m sorry,” the Joshua twin said, “I didn’t know you were sleeping.”

“No, no – I was just resting. Let me show you where the shipping schedule is. I love watching the ships – your friends were right, it’s something you just have to experience. My name’s Sophia by the way, and what’s yours?” She got up from their spot and Sophia knew that everything was going to be alright.

Saying more by writing less

Oh, how we writers love the words! We love to be articulate, verbose, expressive, picturesque, grandiloquent (yes, that is a real word), and any other host of words that describe the propensity we sometimes have in our writing to say more than we really need to (just reread the above sentence). The thesaurus becomes our trusted ally in the search for all the right words, when so many times we can say something so simply, so sparingly as to evoke a picture in the reader’s mind that would be muddled up by too many words. Take for instance the famous short, short, short story by Ernest Hemingway, using only six words: For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn. This is a great example of why Hemingway is considered such a gifted writer – what genius! No more needs to be said; the context of those six words speaks volumes, and conjures up images to be woven into a much longer story. My favorite poem of all time is only six lines long:

Fog

by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

And a rich, full picture is painted, in so few words. No more needs to be said, it would only make it garish and cluttered. For a time I played with different forms of poetry, to get out of a rut. I wrote some haiku, happy to limit myself to three lines of  poetry governed by certain syllabic rules. I also tried acrostic poems, as more of a writing exercise of sorts, but it got me to think about writing in a different manner. And although I sing the praises of “less is more”, I still find that I love to be a bit overly descriptive when I write – and I shake hands once more with my old friend, my trusty thesaurus.

Shadow of a leaf

Falling down to touch the ground

Final place to rest

Something in our

Hearts

Allows us to

Reach

Inside and

Never forget to

Give to one another


Admiration from the stage – music story #3

I remember watching the movie “The Doors”, about the rock group of the same name. And there was a scene in the movie where Jim Morrison serenaded his girlfriend with a song. That scene has stuck with me for years, a little fantasy I harbor, that I may find someone who will sing to me in that way. To me that is the joy of music; poetry with a melody, the perfect combination of words and sounds. This story is a twist on the usual scenario of  the fan who watches and admires an artist – sometimes the artist can also become the fan. I am also including a poem about how deeply music touches my soul, how moving it would be to have a private audience with an artist that I admire, wanting to almost melt into them as they perform.

More than Just a Fan

Maggie saw him there in the crowd – she had just finished her first song, mumbling a quick “thanks” to the audience – she was always so nervous until she got that first song out of the way. She had her head down, with the heavy red curls that made up her hair, draping around her face. As a performer she was one of the quieter ones. She usually didn’t watch the crowd too much but he kept gazing at her, and not in a creepy kind of way but with a genuine look that pulled her in. Maggie knew that a lot of her fans identified with the music she sang; her songbook was made up of songs about love in all its different forms – the joy, the heartache, the roller coaster ride that love could be. The word that came to mind as she tried not to stare at him was captivating. This man in front of the stage, in his plain black hoodie and baby blue stocking cap that covered his shoulder length brown hair – certainly not anything fancy but there was just something about him, a feeling every time she caught his gaze. Get a grip – she told herself, as she started in on the next song. Soon she found herself lost in the music, but the thought of meeting the man in the crowd just would not go away.

After finishing her set and the requisite encore, Maggie went backstage and set her guitar down in the corner of the dressing room. Normally she would sit down and unwind a bit, gathering her thoughts about how the show went. But this night her thoughts weren’t on the show she had just played, they were on the captivating mystery man – she had to meet him! Maggie walked through the backstage throng of people that always seemed to assemble after a show – a mix of music people and those who were hangers-on – the ones lucky enough to get back there past the bored security guy. She hurried out to the bar area of the club she had just played in, scanning the crowd for the baby blue stocking hat. The club she had just played in, Cacophony, was one of the smaller venues in town. But it had a warmth that seemed to embrace music, with posters pasted up on the walls from different people and bands that had played there since its opening in the late 70’s. The diminutive size of the club made it easy to find him. There he was! She found him sitting at the bar with a friend of his she assumed, and she breathed a sigh of relief to see it was a male friend. She walked up to the bar, standing in the empty space next to him, on the pretense of ordering a drink.

“Hi – I saw you there, in the front by the stage – did you enjoy the show?” Maggie asked him, trying to stop the quiver in her voice.

“Yeah, you were great! – just like the last time I saw you play,” the stocking hat stranger replied.

“My name is Maggie – well duh, I guess you already knew that. And what’s your name?” Good lord, she was coming off like a complete idiot!

“My name is Nathan – and I really love your music,” he replied in an understated fashion; but it was so lovely, Maggie thought to herself.

“Where did you see me play before?” Maggie asked him.

“I saw you a couple months ago when you played at Bohemia – you were wonderful. But with my crazy work schedule I don’t get out as much as I’d like.”

“Well thank you,” Maggie replied. “What do you do for work that keeps you from getting out?”

“I’m a firefighter – I love what I do, even with the odd hours – it gives me a lot of free time to work on what I really love,” Nathan explained.

“And what would that be?” Maggie queried.

“Well, I write and play a bit of music myself – but mainly just for me. I don’t know that any of it is good enough to see the light of day outside my window,” Nathan told her modestly.

“Would you consider playing something for me? It’s been so long since I’ve had anyone play for me – I’ve been so busy playing for everyone else. Please, come backstage with me – if you don’t mind – I would love to hear your songs.” What in the world had gotten into her – Maggie had no idea if this person was single, taken or just didn’t care, but she wasn’t going to let him get away without finding out.

“Sure, why not – if you’re sure you don’t mind. Sometimes I think my friends get tired of having to listen to me play all the time, but I love to play for people when I get a chance. But it’s been awhile, so I may be kind of rusty,” he said in a shy and humble manner.

What a refreshingly genuine person Nathan seemed to be – so many artists seemed to be full of ego and pretentiousness, especially around other artists – as if they were always competing against each other. But Maggie sensed none of this in Nathan. She was very anxious to hear what he had to offer in the way of his music; would it fit his down to earth demeanor, she wondered?  She was hoping so bad that it would, and soon she would find out.

They walked to the back of the club and through the backstage door. Maggie’s manager, Theo, was standing there and started to say something like “who the hell” before Maggie gave him the evil eye to shut the hell up. Even though she wasn’t big news on the national scene, she had gathered quite a loyal fan base in Minneapolis, and bringing a fan backstage was sure to cause a ruckus once the news got out. But Maggie didn’t give a damn what the local music papers said, she was captivated by Nathan already. She felt like he understood her; call it women’s intuition but they had some kind of connection – she felt it every time they locked eyes.

Nathan found a chair in the dressing room and sat down, while Maggie got her guitar from the corner of the room where she had left it.

“Would you like something to drink? It’s on me – they don’t charge me anything you know.” Oh for crying out loud, there she went again, sounding like a schoolgirl with her first crush.

“Thanks, that would be great – I’ll just have a beer – whatever they have on tap that’s the cheapest is fine with me,” Nathan told her.

He was so polite, in a quaint sort of way and he certainly wasn’t taking advantage of her hospitality. “Okay, I’ll be right back – that’ll give you time to tune the guitar the way you like.” Maggie walked out of the dressing room and almost ran to the bar; afraid that Nathan might sneak out while she was away. But he was still there when she got back, in the same chair, lazily strumming away on the guitar.

“Did you decide what you wanted to play?” Maggie asked him.

“Yeah, it’s a song called I Part the Sky – I wrote it for a friend of mine who’s gone now.” Maggie sat in the chair across the room from him and settled in – and she began to hear the most beautiful melody coming out of her guitar – how could he be so modest about this lovely music? He sang out a song with heartfelt, yet introspective lyrics – not like so much of the superficial songwriting she heard, even from some of her friends. Nathan finished his song and Maggie excitedly clapped her hands in appreciation.

“That was wonderful!” she cried. “How long have you been doing this and why haven’t you tried to put your work out there?”

“I’ve been writing songs since I was a teenager – I learned to play guitar and piano when I was a kid. I guess I just do it for the sake of doing it, you know. I never thought about doing it as a career but I love to play for my friends when they let me,” Nathan said.

“Let you!” Maggie exclaimed, “They should be begging you to play! You’re good – and I’m not just saying that – would you play something else for me?”

“Alright – here’s a song I love, and I really love playing it.” With that, Nathan played the familiar notes – the beginning of the song that Maggie remembered so well, playing it so often when she was still a member of Wildflowers, the band she used to be a part of until she decided to go solo. It was a song called Moon Love, and she had written it for a lover from so long ago – it was her song of loss; her love having died two years ago. Nathan strummed the last chord and Maggie was surprised to find tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry – that was lovely. It’s just a very personal song about someone I lost too – I miss him – we both loved the moon so much and I had forgotten that.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you. I miss my friend too – she was my best friend and funny thing is, we loved to try and find the moon at night – like hide and seek, you know?” Nathan reminisced.

Maggie wiped her eyes. “Well, enough of sad songs. You really need to bring your songs somewhere so they can be heard – if you want, that is. I’m good friends with the owner of Metronome Records, the label that released my solo album. If you want me to, if you have anything recorded, I could bring it over there and see what they think. But I have a feeling that you could be looking at a possible album in your future.” Nathan had real talent and Maggie liked to think she had a good ear for talent that deserved to be heard.

“Well, I have been recording some stuff on the 4 track equipment I have at home. It sounds a little rough around the edges, but if you really want I’ll get a copy of what I have so far. This is so nice of you – helping out someone you just met like this,” Nathan quietly told her.

Oh my God, he was so genuinely nice – Maggie was smitten! But besides that, he played such pretty music – he was a natural – why did people hide such talent away? Well, she was going to take care of that. But first, she had an idea.

“Here’s my number – please give me a call and let me know when that demo tape is ready and I’ll take it to my friend at Metronome. And before you go, would you do me one other favor?”

“Sure,” Nathan said, “what is it?”

“Would you walk outside with me so we can play hide and seek with the moon?”

Nathan gave her the most beautiful smile as she reached for his hand; Maggie knew, she just knew that Nathan was going to turn out to be more, oh so much more than just a fan.

May I?

 

When I hear your music

I am mesmerized

It pulls me in

I glide along with the melody

Your songs touch my soul

They sing to me

Others sing yet I feel nothing

I only feel your passionate voice

You play your guitar

Caressing so gently

I am awestruck watching

May I touch you while you play?

You stroke the piano keys

Melodies so angelic

Floating

May I touch your fingers while you play?

You breathe out the words

Full of passion

Full of meaning

May I touch your lips to taste the words?

You live and breathe

The beauty of music

Take me with you

I am carried away

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