March 8th, 2011
A pear tree drapes herself in white lace,
Blushing behind clouds as she slips on her garter,
Preparing to renew vows to Spring.
A hard mint winter is finished
She trembling in breeze, gown billowing,
Cloud curtain parting, morning sizzling.
Colored birds fire up their instruments,
Singing fluted emotional melodies,
Let the bride be the envy of nature
Let the bride dance and be desired.
And she waltzes in wind, scattering fragrance and lace,
Luring all to her fiesta,
Earth sighing, breathing and remembering,
The yearly celebration.
And Spring, giddy as ever, sprinkles guests with flower cake
And rich vanilla ice cream promises,
Of more to come.
But he saves the best for her,
Ringing lavender tulips beneath her skirt
A wedding band of promise,
Which melts cold winter limbs,
Now written in white.
November 4th, 2010
A good fire is stunning. I’ve been known to burn leaves just to see flames lick the sky. In my opinion, there’s nothing finer than sitting around a campfire on a crisp evening, hearing conversations and laughter of family and friends. Or inside, when windows are iced, fireplace roaring, wood snapping and crackling. It warms bones and hearts chilled by a sometimes cold world.
Words to me are like fire. Pick the right ones, and our stories flame and mesmerize. They can illuminate a black night, or crack out the sun on an overcast day. We don’t need fancy selections. Put too many snooty words in, and all we’ve got is one stuck-up story. But I still believe a story told with added flare warms us.
We could say, “ As I was driving, leaves blew from the trees.” Or we could say, “As I was driving, wind high, every tree seemed to shiver, their raggedy foliage blowing away, leaving them naked in fields.” Can you picture that? It was my visual today.
Not every sentence in a story needs to be that descriptive, but throw one in occasionally and it’s like tossing a handful of dry pine needles into a dead fire.
If we extend our vocabulary, choosing words that breathe, we can make a story live. And still grasp our hearts when, we, the reader, are long finished.
Once, I walked past a campsite at dusk and spotted a man, stretched back in his recliner. I loved the visual so much I used it in Jack Rabbit Moon. Here’s what I came up with. “Under a shady oak tree, a man sat in a green recliner. I thought he was the epitome of intelligence, bringing his chair like that. Without moving, he could have the moon for dinner and stars for dessert.”
That chair, and a man I didn’t know from Adam, will long live in my memory. In my opinion, he was one smart dude.
Words are everywhere. To write well, we only need to pick them up, over and over, and spin them into flame. Besides reading many fine books, by some outstanding authors, I sometimes study the Dictionary and Thesaurus. I’m not lame or boring, just a woman who has a thing for words. And a hot fire.
October 25th, 2010
When winter laughs at her icy secrets,
and blows her ragged skirt,
Rose, once adorned in red velvet,
whispers, “I was a queen.”
Winter howls and her branches droop.
But blackbird arrives, festive as ever,
his shiny black cloak,
smoldering up her cold limbs.
He sings of spring; aromatic orchards bursting into bloom,
and bees murmuring while sipping nectar.
He plays his flute like a gentleman.
“I know you, Rose,” he trills.
“You are lovely and delicate.
Ignore crackly old winter.”
Rose weeps at blackbirds melody,
there through sunlight and shadow,
in velvet and rags,
he adoring them equally.
As he plays for her, snow tiptoes down,
coloring him white.
October 15th, 2010
I’ve never met a garden I didn’t like, although some I’ve taken to more than others. Growing up, we always had a huge vegetable patch, which we had to toil in, so on hot, sweaty days I didn’t favor that kind.
There is another variety, though, I’ve never minded working; the flowery, delicate garden. Even better are those brazen sweeps of color erupting in lonely fields, nothing but Mother Nature cradling and kissing them. They are wild and raw and turn your head affairs. If your car windows are down, you can sometimes detect the smell of cherry licorice or cloves, the air thick with scent. They shock and awe us. Rattle us awake. Like a little kid they shout, “Look at me! I made this just for you.” And we are left gaping.
I’m never more alive when I discover a field bursting with Indian paintbrush, like millions of ragged orange tubes of lipstick smearing the landscape. Or purple Popsicle bluebonnets, tinged with vanilla on top. And a dirt floor of Queen Anne’s lace, winter white fancy skirts on long, scrawny legs, dancing real slow as far as the eye can see.
Recently, in Vermont, I happened upon these amazing trees, decorating old cemeteries, limbs screaming with creamy white and pink buds. They look like lilacs, but not quite. Maybe someone will recognize this lovely thing by the picture I took.
Today I discovered a wild patch of black-eyed Susan’s, mingled with cedar, along a busy roadside, putting on a lavish butter yellow show. Tall and regal, they exploded in the sun. These tickets were all free. Joy comes in all kinds of packages, but I prefer my gifts from a Garden in the Wild.
September 29th, 2010
Ruts in the writing life happen. We grasp our way through a story, do the research, and realize it’s not the one we’re supposed to tell. At least not yet. We bump along in that rut for awhile until a new path appears, scattered with red and orange leaves, shining glass-like in the sunshine. If we’re really lucky, we figure this out before page ten, which was the case with my recent novel. The only problem was, I didn’t have another start from scratch story.
Or so I thought.
It does a writer good to peer through a new window. Visit places we’ve never been. Meet people we’ve never met. If we can’t do that, we can always explore areas in our own neck of the woods that we’ve neglected. Anything to show us the mysterious, quirky and fresh side of life.
On a recent trip to Vermont, a place I’d never visited, a shiny new story snuck in. I was sitting on the steps of our cabin at sunset, wind bristling in trees, leaves like candy wrappers, colliding with each other, swirling, twirling, and dancing, air fragrant with roots and conifers. Straight ahead an abandoned dirt road, a rusted model T Ford off to one side. To my right a red barn, skirted next to an 1800’s colonial farmhouse. Just as I looked, a woman’s black silhouette appeared and paused in the window. I could feel something beginning. It slid through the wind and landed, smiling on my lap.
Sometimes a clear moment is all it takes: a sunny day flecked with the unusual, or dusk in Vermont. The writer in us is always drawn to what’s behind the mountain and down the lonely dirt road. We excavate stones from these places and arrange them in a circle. These stones represent life: the sensual, brutal, wonder, abandonment, love, honor, awe, failure, and death of our existence. We arrange stones we collect along the way into stories that help us make sense of our world. Sometimes we, as much as our readers, just need to be entertained. And there’s the rub-a good novel can and does do both.
I fancy this ancient Chinese proverb: A bird does not sing because it has an answer-it sings because it has a song.
Look through a new window dear writer and your song will find you.
August 27th, 2010
Stars like jewels seed the sky
Blooming flowers drenching the black bed of night,
Shining above creeks and rivers and dreamers
Resurrected until the sun turns them transparent.
But you can drink them while they’re fresh
On a blanket tossed on the ground,
They pour into your mouth and eyes
Universal juice to the soul.
Night after night after night…
August 16th, 2010
“Are you telling me those albums I sold for practically nothing at a garage sale several years back are now worth something? Dang, I knew I should have hung onto those.” This was a recent conversation I had with a dear friend.
Now I’m remembering everything I let go. Let’s see, I had the Doors. Remember the line from Break on Through? I found an island in your arms, a country in your eyes? Words stuffed like emotional crème puffs.
There was also Journey, and Pink Floyd, The Who, Stones, Eagles, Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin. Yes, I sold them all. I even threw in comedian Steve Martin’s album, Comedy is not Pretty. Someone pried that one out my hands. I shared the laughs. And the weird thing is, Steve still looks almost exactly the same as when I saw him on stage all those years ago…ha!
These days I’m feeling a little like classic Vinyl myself. Can anyone relate? The kids are growing up and out, yet another daughter recently spread her wings and flew on over to California, and one a couple of weeks before that to Missouri. For the first time in twenty-three years, quiet time has erupted in my world like a volcano.
I’ve had five full days to myself, and after initially feeling like crap on a cracker, I decided to soak the tiredness out of my feet after two decades of running. For the past few days, I’ve slept in, and when I wake swing around in my chair, drinking coffee and watching cardinals at the bird feeder. I’ve scrubbed floors and dusted and put the house in order and it hasn’t moved! One day I rented fantastic chick flicks and watched them in mid-afternoon, while eating extravagant Chinese takeout. In the evenings I’ve written and began to understand how one can get lost in silence, the delicious rhythm and rhyme of it. By day three, quiet slipped on me like a new dress.
Now I’m ready for noise again: family, friends, a little dirt, clutter, the messy business of life.
I miss my children like crazy, but knew full well they would grow up one day. I’m excited for their new adventures and excited for mine, too. I’m happy to still have a sweet, colorful bird in the nest for the time being.
Life is a continuous journey of change. We must learn to connect new dots, to reinvent ourselves.
Classics are superb at this!
July 19th, 2010
Many people collect things, from paintings, to baseball cards, right down to magnets.
I collect memories. Maybe you do too.
We don’t have to shell out much money for those, although some have cost more than others. The limit is the moon. I’ve been chasing down memories for years, and they are now sitting on porches,watching the sun rise. And I’m thrilled they are remembering, lest I forget.
I’ve laid my hands on black tie memories, champagne corks popping all over pages. There are also those that creak and wail under the weight of sorrow and loss. Life drags us down rutty dirt roads as well as slick glossy highways, and a diary travels them all. Capturing our feelings and writing them down; that’s why we write, to peel back layers of life and hold them up to the light.
Above is a picture of my latest diary, fancier than most, but Audrey Hepburn just spoke to me, so I couldn’t resist.
My first diary was started back in 1995, which puts me at fifteen years worth, and eighteen diaries, minus one year, 1999. That particular diary was lost six months after moving to Texas from Missouri. I’d put it on the back of my car to check the mail before heading to school to wait in the carpool line, where I sometimes made diary entries. Running behind, I jumped in the car, not remembering the diary until a mile or so down the road. We searched high and low, to no avail. Either it had fallen into a muddy ditch, or had landed in someone’s hot little hands. Girlfriends were calling every day to see if I’d found it yet, intrigued with the idea that a man might have discovered the diary and was reading about my life.
Ye gad! Every little “for my eyes only” entry waltzed in my memory, some taking a bow, some tripping in front of me, making me cringe. But after the initial shock died down, I had the plot for my novel, The Passion Diary. What would it feel like to have your uncensored thoughts read by a man you’d never met? What would happen if he fell in love with you by your words alone? Not that anyone would after reading mine, but heck, I decided to run with it anyway. How would that woman feel if this man wooed her, keeping her diary a secret, winning her trust and love, and then the secret was exposed by someone else who made it their business to know? The diary is the frame the story hangs on.
Even after losing one, I still keep diaries. My youngest daughter is the only one intrigued by them. For awhile, she bugged me to read entries, but of course I wouldn’t. She said, “You might as well let me read them now. When you’re gone, I’ll get my hands on them!” I told her we might need to have a ceremonial burning at my passing.
But maybe not.
One day, when I’m raisin-faced, and my eyes cloudy with years, I might take those diaries out and read every young memory, the lovely, ugly , and funny, those thoughts dashing in and out of time tunnels, reminding me how much I lived, loved, lost and gained. The far will be near again, the near, nearer.
And, ahem…if someone out there did happen to find my diary, all those years ago, please just stick it in my mailbox, no questions asked.
What about you, do you keep diaries?
June 23rd, 2010
Trains have always fascinated many. Runaway cabooses, passenger cars filled with drowsy diners, or boxcars brimming with wild hobos, transporting all far off to fragrant destinations. Yes, there’s something mysterious about a good train ride.
A few years ago, we took the famous Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad excursion from Durango to Silverton-fifty-two miles of the San Juan scenic byway. The choices varied on how classed up you wanted to ride, but being the hillbillies we are, we chose the cheapest way, standard class, open air gondola seating. We didn’t want to miss an ounce of scenery and certainly weren’t disappointed with that choice. I can’t say I’ve ever seen such excitement in the eyes of my children. It seems everyone relishes a good train ride.
We hung our faces out open air windows and drank in wind and wild. The train whistle would bellow, black smoke blow, and the tracks twist and turn around yet another mountain, where aspen trees shimmered and rusty colored beavers flapped and swam under leafy forests without footprints of modern life. That day we walked away with soot on our faces but pure nature tattooed on our hearts.
To remember this trip,I bought a splendid watercolor of Durango Station, Engine 473, painted in watercolor by Russell Steel. Appropriate name, don’t you think? I had it framed and it now sits on the mantel, a memory of us, once upon a time, on a Colorado train. If you’re ever in that area, please don’t miss this exquisite experience.
Recently, I saw a program discussing The Chocolate Train. Please get me on that train! My mouth perked at the mention of chocolate, so I had to watch. Would you like a little chocolate with your train?
Switzerland is well loved for its scenery and chocolate. Throw in a train and you’ve got a first class experience called the Swiss Chocolate Train, which operates from June to October out of Montreux.
Running on the Montreux-Oberland-Bernois Railway, this train takes you on breathtaking views of the Swiss countryside, rolling through the medieval town of Gruyeres, also known for their fabulous cheese making.
In Gruyeres, the train stops for an excursion by bus to a local castle. Sound good so far? You’ll also get to experience a cheese factory. On board the train once again, you’ll head to Broc. The Nestle Chocolate factory is there. You can watch the production of chocolate and sample the goodies. Then buy all you want.
Nine hours later you arrive in Montreux, a sleepy resort town on Lac Leman and home to the Castle of Chillon.
Now how’s that for a train ride, eh? Let’s go, shall we? All aboard!
June 8th, 2010
Before I begin, let me say I’ve missed you guys! Wait, I’ve missed y’all. That sounds right.
Now that summer is here, I hope you’re able to kick back,splash in a river, listen to some music, or just read a good book.
Speaking of books, I did manage to finish that second novel, The Passion Diary. Whoopa! See, I really was working. Finishing the book hadn’t really sunk in until yesterday, when I began constructing that query letter to send out to agents. It has to be wild, short and attractive. Sounds a bit like an old boyfriend, but all kidding aside, it’s daunting trying to sell yourself and your book in a couple of paragraphs. Lady luck-please wish me that.
And speaking of luck, my dear friend and Author, Jeff Yeager, dubbed The Ultimate Cheapskate by Matt Lauer on The Today Show, has created his own luck with hard work and a creative streak that sizzles. His second book, The Cheapskate Next Door debuts today. www.ultimatecheapskate.com
Yeah, he’s no southerner, but I’ll make an exception in his case and here’s why: I believe he could kick tail in a seed spitting contest, and flat do a jig if he wanted, and that’s good enough for me. I do hope you’ll check out Jeff’s lively work for yourself.
Now back to southerners. We know summer has set in here, due to brutally hot weather. When you walk outside before noon and feel as though you’ve been shoved into a sizzling sauna, you know you’ve landed in south Texas. On days I’m not fortunate enough to be in and around the water, I crank down the air-conditioner, pour some iced tea, and listen to Willie Nelson tunes. This original outlaw never fails to satisfy my musical hankering. To this Texan, his voice is velvety as melted chocolate. And I’ve always loved his braids. And chocolate.
Born and raised in Abbott Texas, Willie’s grandparents gave him mail order music lessons at age six. He wrote his first song at age seven and was playing in a local band at age nine. I finally got to see him in concert last year, and I danced around for days, so excited. He didn’t disappoint, his voice as pure and rawboned now as it ever was. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain is one favorite, along with Whiskey River and Always on my Mind.
I thought of Willie Nelson the other day when I watched my older girls drag in from Summer Fest. They had sat in blistering Texas sun to catch these bands: The Flaming Lips, Girl Talk and Kid Sister. At 11:00 p.m., they got back, worn but happy, saggy pants and sunburned faces, and bandanna’s wound around their sweaty heads.
Of course Willie wears a bandanna. Stay cool!