Monthly Archives: October 2014

Revisiting Spaces

In the last six months, I found myself visiting old spaces or places where I had once resided. The old adage goes that you can never go home again; but I have found that sometimes we have to return to the former to put some missing pieces in place.  I recently finished Daniel Black’s book called Twelve Gates to the City.

TL returns to his birthplace and is not quite sure why he feels compelled to stay and not return to New York City.  As it turns out, he is there to get some needed answers about his life that will make him more complete.  He always felt as if his mother did not love him and on this particular trip, he discovers that Marion  is not his biological mother.  He is in fact the ‘love child’ of his father’s and the local school teacher’s.  He now understands why he had such a great affection for his teacher and why he was the apple of her eye.

Twelve Gates to the City

One quote from the book reads, “Grandma used to call God the Great Orchestrator because when you look back over your life, she said, you realize that things happened just so other things would happen and God would get His way.  It might look crazy at first, but, in the end, it all makes sense“(Twelve Gates to the City, p. 275).

Sometimes, we return to old spaces and it is like trying on an old pair of shoes.  Some feel pretty good and there is a silent welcome home feeling.  Others, we try on and our feet begin to hurt right away. The pain is unbearable so we immediately take them off.  In reference to old spaces, we leave as quickly as we can, if there is no fit.

S.E. Hinton, the young author of The Outsiders, wrote in essence that there are stayers and goers.  Some people live their entire lives in one space or city and find total contentment.  Others have that invisible pull which draws them into a life of travel and they venture into several spaces or cities.

TL is back in Swamp Creek for now and stories have to end somewhere.  But I have this feeling that he is back for a reason and a season.  I would venture to say that he probably will leave again.  Towards the end of the novel, he has already begun to feel some of the constrictions of the small community.

Sometimes, people have to go backwards to go forward.  I believe that TL will fulfill his mission as the new schoolmaster to settle the score with his now deceased mother. But, ultimately, I think TL will be singing along with Chaka Khan and Rufus when they said that “the universe is calling you,” in Pack’d My Bags and Swamp  Creek will become his next launch pad.

Lynn                                                                                                    October 31, 2014

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Cliffhangers

Twelve Gates to the City

I like that Goodreads asks its members what they are ‘currently reading.’  As my mother used to say, “I’m reading two books simultaneously.”   Well, I have followed her lead.  First, I am reading Daniel Black’s Twelve Gates to the City. I previously read another book by him called Perfect Peace. His writing style is captivating and I actually went to the library to get this one.

TL, the main character, has gone home to Swamp Creek, Arkansas to spend time with his family.  He lives in New York, but when he gets ready to catch the bus, something will not let him leave.  The family is a little surprised when he shows up at the church because they thought that he had left town.

As it turns out, TL ends up taking the teaching post that has been left vacant by the teacher who recently passed away.  He also finds out that this beloved teacher was his biological mother.  This explains the strained relationship between him and the woman he presumed to be his mother. The plot thickens as TL searches for the cause of his sister’s death.  Deeply buried secrets began to unfold as he better understands why he could not yet leave Arkansas.  What all will he discover? What does TL need to know about the family?

Englishwoman's Guide

The other book that I am ‘currently reading,’ is An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns.  I was led to this book because of its reviews on Twitter.  Kearns is a UK writer and they called this one a humorous western.  What an interesting mix! I purchased it and downloaded it on my Kindle.

In this read, Annie is traveling the American West in a stagecoach with her aunt and cousin.  She is about to be wedded to an older gentleman in New York who she finds uninteresting and a bit repulsive.  They have traveled to San Francisco and are now somewhere in the area of Arizona and Texas when there is a mishap.  Annie wakes up with a man standing over her nursing her head, after she’s had a concussion. Her aunt and cousin are nowhere to be found. She has no choice but to trust him because she is truly ‘damsel in distress.’

Annie has to leave all of her belongings behind as she goes on an adventure with this total stranger.  She sees a paper coming from his satchel and notes that he is a horse thief and wanted for murder.  But there are Comanche Indians all around so her options are few. How will this English lady fare in the dangerous American West with this cowboy?  Will he help her or harm her?

Lynn                                                                                      October 29, 2014

The Harvest

Leaves of grass; oh, how they blow,

Colorfully spread for someone to mow.

2014! Astoundingly rich in hue,

Orange, yellow, red and even blue.

Autumn or fall whichever you may call it,

A time of harvest and to reflectively sit.

Gathering those fruits of labor from all around,

Moving to the year’s end with a mind, sound.

All pieces of work stacked in a neat stock pile,

Reviewed, proud; giving smiles lasting a mile.

harvest

Lynn                                                       October 27, 2014

Colorful Leaves: Great Significance

Golden Leaf

I have always been fascinated with leaves.  It probably started with a 10th grade project when I collected a notebook of leaves and attempted to identify them for a science class.  My teacher seemed to appreciate my efforts.   In college, I studied Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  I still remember certain poems from that collection, but the title itself speaks volumes.  Many are still drawn to that work today.

After doing some quick research, I learned that the autumn leaves are colorful because during this season they stop producing their food or chlorophyll, which gives them the green color. As a result, the colors behind the green are revealed or unmasked and we see the oranges, yellows, reds and a host of other pigments and tints.

This particular autumn has been notably spectacular and many people have been tweeting out beautiful pictures of colorful trees in all of their glory.  People who are not photographers have been moved to snap these pictures because we all know that things can change ‘in the twinkling of an eye.’

The other day, I tweeted a picture of a yellow tree that I took from my window.  Today, it looks totally different.  Many of the leaves are gone.  The research also told me that the brown leaves are filled with waste or as we might say, they are on their last legs.  They then become brittle and will soon be in a heap or pile.

This makes me think of the cover design of my novella called A Golden Leaf in Time Revised. I had my own visual in mind and gave it to the design team of the publisher.  They stayed close to my idea but chose to take the leaves in an upward position.  I originally had them going across.  However, I was very pleased with the finished product.

Golden Leaf thumbnail

The color of the leaves is quite significant because they represent the stages that Phoenix goes through in order to reach a higher state of existence.  She starts off as the green leaf on the bottom of the branch.  In fact, she is in what we call a pickle or a set of difficult circumstances.

Yet, she continually sheds wastes, baggage and worn-out conditions as she transforms.  Her stages of growth are shown by the different colors of the leaves on the cover. She vows to ‘turn over a new leaf’ throughout the book and ultimately becomes that ‘golden leaf.’  She has become the best person that she can be at that point in her life.

Yes, colorful leaves can be very captivating and their richness in hue has caught the attention of many spectators this autumn season. For writers, leaves can signify a number of things like the pages of a book but in my case they represent the metamorphosis of my main character, Phoenix.

Lynn                                                                                                October 25, 2014

Swan Lake: Descriptors!

ballet shoes

According to Merriam-Webster Online, a descriptor is  something (as a word or characteristic feature) that serves to describe especially: a word or phrase (as an index term) used to identify an item a subject document) in an information system.

After recently seeing Swan Lake presented by the Joffrey Ballet Company, I chose to use mere descriptors to share my experience.  Rather than retelling the story of good versus evil, here is a list of words describing what I felt as I observed this fantastic performance.

Reactions to the Dance Form

elegant

flawless

exquisite

cooperating costumes

twirling skirts

breathless

toe shoes

precision

silent awe

timed choreography

grace

lifts

jumps

high leaps

quality cloths

silks

satins

sequins

colors

perfection

inaudible storytelling

designers

stage props

pointed toes

tiaras

swans

gentlemen

When I think of the orchestra who accompanied the ballet company, I think of Denise Levertov’s poem, Tree Telling of Orpheus.  Here are a few lines:

“But the music!

The music reached us.”

… and the way we danced.

The music!”

The music descriptors

conductor

orchestra

mastery

perseverance

specialized solos

bassoon

flute

oboe

piccolo

strings

violin

bass

cymbals

tympani or kettle drums

bells

clarinet

French horn

trills

It was a day to remember!  Swan Lake was beautifully done!

Lynn                                                                                                                                          October 23, 2014

A Clearing: Short Story (Part 3 of 3)

Daniel and Mira continued their private therapy sessions. He talked and she listened with little input. He informed her during one of her visits that the team of doctors said that his healing was miraculous. She beamed upon hearing this report and again said virtually nothing. But she thought, “Healing is holistic.”

Listening to Daniel and his philosophy on life was opening new ways of thinking for her. She was seeing greater possibilities just by listening to a man with an entirely different mindset from Brian’s. Daniel continually improved and regained his strength.  One night, during her shift, he said that he wanted to walk down the hall.  He had been practicing with the physical therapist so this was an approved move.

She helped him up and handed him his deep maroon robe.  She noted that it was quite plush and she could tell that it was quite expensive.  She silently wondered, “Who is this man?”

They walked slowly towards the end of the corridor and both agreed to go out to the atrium.   The hospital had a balcony where visitors could look down at the lobby and see the serene water fountain. They found a place by the guard rail and paused.  There was silence as they looked down from the 9th floor.

He looked down and stared.  It was as if he was in a trance-like state as he peered into the open abyss. Mira was attentive as she stood close by. She noticed that after a prolonged silence his shoulders begin to shake as he leaned uncomfortably forward.  She saw the tears as he asked, “How could she do this to me?”

Mira knew that he was having a moment and temporarily leaned forward with him as a balancing act.  She privately had her own misgivings about life’s throes. As he was steeped in his anguish, she thought of her own.  Her mind went back to the screaming match she’d had with Brian before coming to work. ‘What is this really all  about?’ she inaudibly wondered.

She looked back over at Daniel who was undoubtedly in deep emotional pain.  She drew in a deep breath as she felt his pain and her own.  They both stared down to the ground level as if to say, “Were there any answers?  Was it all futile?  Was there any hope or a way out?”

For a moment in time, they both felt the bleakness of life.  He was in pain both physically and emotionally.  She was also tired of fighting and she knew that her bleary eyes gave her away.  For a moment, she thought of all of the dreams she’d had about her falling down, down, down.  She wondered when she would stop feeling like she was continuously tumbling in a downward spiral.

They both quietly looked down at the miniature people in motion below.  That was where all of the confusion laid. That was where all of the mazes were endlessly winding, twisting and turning. They had a bird’s eye view and were temporarily above the fray.

Mira somehow came back from the dark corners of her mind.  She first pulled him back into an upright position. She handed him a tissue.  He took it without ever looking at her, obviously a bit embarrassed that she had seen him like this.  She gently rubbed his back to comfort him and a slight electric wave emanated from the touch. She wondered if he had felt what she’d felt.  She said in a low voice, “It’s going to be okay.”

He turned to her and simply said, “My sweet, sweet girl.” She slipped her hand into his and squeezed it for reassurance.  He held on and they silently walked back towards his room.  When they had made it halfway back to his room, she realized that they were still holding hands.  There had been a clearing and they both knew what they had to do as they walked forward.

holding hands

Lynn                                                                                                                                     October 21, 2014

A Clearing: Short Story (Part 2 of 3)

“Hi Mira,” he smiled.

“Hello, Daniel,” she answered warmly.  His smile gave her a good feeling.  It seemed to say, ‘I’m glad you are here.’  This was quite different from the way Brian made her feel.  His curt responses made her feel as if she irritated him in some way.

“So-o-o, Daniel,” she rolled it out slowly.  I have thirty minutes.  Talk.  Pour.  That is if you still want to talk,” she said in a perky voice.

“Oh, yes. I do.”  He carefully adjusted his position on the bed. He did not want to disturb the attachments.

“Mira.  You are a sweetheart for listening.  Somehow, I felt that you were someone who had a listening ear and I have some things that I need to get off my chest,” he added.

“Okay,” she said.

He began.  “About three years ago, I met this girl or shall I say, woman.  We became close and I eventually asked her to marry me.  She suggested that we live together first.  I did not really like the idea, but thought, Oh well.  Everybody else seems to be doing it.”

‘Like me,’ Mira thought privately.

“Things were going along fairly well until one of her old girlfriends came back into her life.  I noticed some changes in her behavior but did not think too much about it. She became more callous and had this sense of entitlement like a queen bee.

That was the first red flag, but I did not notice a big change in our routine. She seemed to talk even faster and did not give me time to think on many occasions. We were both so busy working and it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on.

To make a long story short, Mira, I found out that she had been defrauding me by duplicating private papers and documents and making use of them in devious ways. The details are too much to share and I am still  tied up in legal proceedings.  I guess you never really know people.  Things happened gradually but the results caused a sharp pain deep down within which contributed to my physical state. Let’s just say I got burned. I was totally caught off guard and I am still playing catch-up from her actions.

She decimated me and she broke my heart.  I thought I was a better judge of character, but obviously I was not.  I thought I knew her better than that but when it rains, it pours.  My doctor advised me to slow down and get myself together.  Otherwise, he warned me, I was headed towards some type of threatening disaster.  I heeded his warnings a little too late and here I am.  I believe that I was more into her than she was into me,” Daniel continued.

‘Obviously,’ thought Mira who crunched down on her apple as the tale was told.

“I am an only child.  Parents deceased.  No first cousins.  I thought, Debra and I would create that family,” Daniel went on.

‘Debra.  Humph,’ thought Mira as she continued to chew, never speaking a word.

She threw a handful of raisins in her mouth in an effort to remain healthy as well as to keep her thoughts to herself.  Listening to Daniel’s voice was like listening to a melody of a singing bird.  Even though it was woeful tale, there was something about his presence that had staying power.  She did not feel anxious nor in a hurry to exit the room as she often did with unhappy patients.

She compared Daniel to Brian.  Here was a man pouring out his heart.  Brian shared very little with her.  If he did, she would better understand why he was so agitated.  Daniel wanted a wife and a family.  Brian almost went berserk whenever the word marriage was mentioned.

Daniel paused and took a drink of water.  She looked at the clock and realized that her break was over and she had to return to her duties.

“Daniel. I have to get back to work.  Would you like to continue this tomorrow night?  It looks like you will be here for a while,” she said.

“I would like that very much,” he said in an exhausted voice.  It was as if the wind had gone out of him.

She packed up her things and heard a gentle snore.  She sighed and with a sense of new energy, she returned to her nightly duties. That evening, time seemed to fly by. Before she knew it, it was time to punch out and go home.

Lynn                                                                                                                             October 19, 2014

A Clearing: A Short Story (Part 1 of 3)

Mira punched in as the night nurse at the city’s hospital.  She checked the charts to see what rounds she had and which patients she would be attending to that night.  She looked at her image in her pocket mirror and saw how haggard she actually looked.  She sighed,  “At least, I made it to work.”

She had been up during her sleep time arguing with her live-in boyfriend.  Mira was trying to make sense of it all, but the haze enveloped her.  She simply knew that she could not go on like this.  Something had to give.

She momentarily forgot her woes as she reviewed the patient charts.  There was a new patient and from what she could tell his prognosis did not look good. He had had surgery and she saw that he was 42 as she was. Her jaw dropped when she saw that they had the same exact birthday.

“Wow! This is really deep,” Mira mumbled under her breath.

After Mira did her routine beginning duties, she decided to look in on her new patient, Daniel.  She fully expected him to be asleep from heavy sedation.  When she entered the room, she gently checked his vitals and made sure that the attached IV’s and machines were properly working.  Everything seemed to be in order.

She noted that he was a handsome man and automatically, she wondered about his personal life.  Did he have a wife?  A family?  Kids? Anyone?  She privately knew that she was delving into territory that was not ethically correct, but who would not at least wonder.

Mira decided to look at his records and flipped through the clip board.  She saw that there was no ‘next of kin’ listed.  In fact, the line was left empty.  She knew that there was certainly a story here.

“How disturbing!” she thought.  As she turned to leave the room, she heard him cough or clear his throat.  She spun around when she heard a weak, “Hey.”

“Hi Daniel. I am Nurse Mira.  How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Oh. A little groggy,” his voice strengthened in a heavy bass tone.

“Wow!” she thought.  That voice.  Mira instantly recovered from her private thoughts and responded, “Okay.  Let me check to make sure you have everything you need.  We want you to be comfortable here.”

“Mira, is it?” Daniel asked.

“Yes,” she responded. “It is Mira.”

“I need to talk,” he stated promptly.  He raised a little to get a better look at her.

“Okay,” she said weakly.  His voice alone seemed to command her attention and as a willing child, she found herself obeying.

“Let me make my rounds and I can come back during my break and listen.  Okay?” she asked.

“Yes.  Thanks, Mira,” he said as he leaned back in a more comfortable position.

Mira left the room and had temporarily forgotten about her own war at home.  As she prepared the medication for the other patients on the floor, her mind briefly returned to what awaited her when she did get off from work. Brian, her boyfriend, seemed to be more argumentative lately.  She could not put her finger on what it was, but something was not right.  Either, he was looking for an escape hatch or something.  She brushed off the thoughts and tucked them away.  She almost said out loud, “Not now.”

When her break rolled around, she took her snacks and returned to Daniel’s room.  He slept lightly as she peered closely after entering the room.  His breathing was steady and as she was about to move away from the bed, his eyes opened.

Lynn                                                                                 Originally written: October 17, 2014

Why Do We Write?

Cherry Monte Blanc

Why do writers write?  For me, it is a rather compulsory action and I feel there is little choice in the matter.  Writers and most real artists are highly sensitive people.  Our antennas probably extend a tad further upward and outward into the atmosphere.

What some people may ‘blow off’ or ignore affects the writer more deeply.  Others may walk by and barely give a sigh, but with a writer, an event or incident remains and stays a little longer.  Earlier today, I was driving along and noticed that a man in a pick-up truck had pulled over to the right.  It was raining lightly and I could see that there was a ladder and several long 6- foot metal poles in the middle of the street.

He was apparently in distress and I immediately pulled over behind him.  It was not much that I could do, but I put on my flashers to alert the other drivers to at least slow down.  He had lost his work equipment and was trying to retrieve it.  What most amazed me was the insensitivity of the other drivers.  They seemed to speed up and not one other person stopped.    It was not a huge street, but it was certainly busy enough for there to be a catastrophe if conditions had deemed it so.

I just sat there as a silent support as he made at least five trips with full arms to get all of his equipment. He placed the items back on the open flatbed of the pick-up truck.  After he had finished, I pulled off and headed on home.  This was a prime example of what I meant by people blowing things off.

I empathized with this man and that is what we as writers do well.  We write because we feel.  We feel others’ pain and we most certainly feel our own.  We write to heal, to feel better and to reach another state of mind.  We can talk it through on paper until we see situations from another angle and we are then able to advance.

Writing helps us navigate life’s meandering road.  If something is unsettling, we write to get our bearings.  We write to reach our own truth, our own reality and for me this helps me validate my feelings.  I can take ownership for what I am feeling and cleave to my right to have those feelings until I can turn the corner and find some new perspectives.

We also write to probe or discover what is hidden inside.  We all have stored information and writers are often surprised at what emerges from those suppressed files during the writing process.  Sometimes there are snippets of stories and tales somewhere down at the bottom and as we write, some of what we have heard or seen may come pouring out on the page.

I was reminded of one of the Greek myths and had to revisit the story of Midas and the whispering reeds.  Apollo gave Midas the ears of an ass (donkey) because he was angry with him.   Midas wore a turban to conceal his shame but his servant had to cut his hair and saw the ears.  He could not keep it inside but he knew that he could not tell anyone.  Instead, the servant went towards the waters, dug a hole and whispered the secret in the hole and covered it up.  The reeds grew and the wind blew as the reeds waved and told the tale, “Midas has the ears of an ass” (donkey).  Soon, the whole world knew his secret.

What was hidden inside may come to light in our writings as we heal ourselves and entertain others.  All writers hope that they can make that connection and some reader will say, “I can relate to this.  I understand.  I have seen this. I have felt this way.” We all want to touch others with our words. But one thing is certain, we write because we must.

Lynn                                                                                                  October 15, 2014

Perfect Peace & Claire of the Sea Light: Characters, Plot and Setting

Perfect peace

I chose two books when I visited Barnes and Noble last month.  I was pulled towards them as they seemed to say, “Try me.”  I left with Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light, and Perfect Peace by Daniel Black. I had read Danticat’s other books, Breath, Eyes, Memory and The Dew Breaker.  I saved her book for last because I thought it would be serious in nature.

Starting with Perfect Peace, I found that the element of characterization was most pronounced.  The mother, Emma Jean, was an unloved child and a victim of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her mother. She desperately wanted a little girl to adorn and shower with the love she had never received.  She took her seventh son and decided to dress him as a little girl.

She was able to fool the entire family and they thought that Perfect was a girl until she turned eight years old. When Perfect started asking questions about becoming a woman, Emma Jean took her to the woods, told her that she was a boy, cut off her hair and gave her some overalls.  She showed her what a woman really looked like and told the family what she had done.

Gus, the father, was outraged, beat Emma Jean and changed Perfect’s name to Paul.  This book was strongest in characterization because every member of the Peace household was affected by this horror.   Gus and the six boys, Authorly, Woody, Mister, Bartimaeus, Solomon and James Earl were forever changed by this family anomaly.  They then had to try to teach Paul how to be a boy.

Of course, Paul and his reactions were central to the story and Emma Jean later faced the consequences of her actions.  I felt as if I was sitting in the Peace home watching the events unfold.  It was set in rural Arkansas and the setting was important because I am not sure if this shrouded secret would have remained in a metropolis or large city.

The other book, Claire of the Sea Light, by Edwidge Danticat, had a surprisingly lighter tone than her other two works that I had read; however, this book was quite entertaining.  The strongest elements here were both plot and setting.  This story took place on the small island of Haiti and the author showed how the people’s lives were interwoven and connected by an invisible thread.

I thought of two interlocking hands because as the islanders looked for Claire, so many of their own stories were told through subplots.  Claire’s widower father, Nozias, was about to give her away to an affluent woman who had lost her only child.  Claire disappeared after her seventh birthday party and as the reader waits to see if she returns safely, there were tales of a tragic drowning, a couple of murders, a cover-up, clandestine affairs and an attempted suicide.

The plot was the strongest element but the setting on an island helped to show the relationships amongst the people. One life truly touched another in this limited geographical space.  The reader was held in suspense while waiting to see if Claire returns in one piece to face whatever life holds for her.

Claire of the Sea light

Lynn                                                                                                                        October 13, 2014