Steinbeck

The camper truck “Rocinante”, which Steinbeck took on a cross-country trip described in Travels with Charley. Photo by LordHarris at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability…Sometimes, I seem to do a good little piece of work, but when it is done it slides into mediocrity… – John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born on this day in 1902. Though he died in 1968, his name and fame live on. I think he did a lot of good little pieces of work, my favorite being Travels With Charley.

In researching his background, I came upon this tidbit that I thought was interesting: “Steinbeck complained publicly about government harassment. Thomas Steinbeck, the author’s eldest son, said that J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI at the time, could find no basis for prosecuting Steinbeck and therefore used his power to encourage the IRS to audit Steinbeck’s taxes every single year of his life, just to annoy him. According to Thomas, a true artist is one who ‘without a thought for self, stands up against the stones of condemnation, and speaks for those who are given no real voice in the halls of justice, or the halls of government. By doing so, these people will naturally become the enemies of the political status quo.'” – Wikipedia

Writing is a dance

July 17, 2004

 “Writing is a dance with all those other books you’ve read and the ones you’re going to read. Writing is making a house within the house.” – Heather Sellers

I love the lyrical sound of the above quote. Writing, indeed, is a dance. Our words are the steps; the paper (or computer) our dance floor; our flowing thoughts the music. Some days we dance the slow pace of a personal essay waltz. Others days find us joyfully doing a boogie as we share exciting news. We might tap our way through a tutorial or gracefully perform a poetic ballet with our words. Our vocabulary might be a tango or a square dance; our delivery a salsa or a break dance.

The important thing is to write what’s on your heart. What you’ve read, your family, your friends, where you live – all these things will come into play when you sit down to write. Draw from your experiences and twist the night away!

I want to express sincere gratitude to all who read my feeble words. Writing is therapy for me. The majority of my writings the past seven months or so have been songs of lamentation. But, we find those songs in scripture, right next to songs of pure joy and songs of gratitude and worship. I embrace it all.



A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4

Our stories

Shades Mountain, Bham

“But when we are grieving, it is our personal stories… that become so important. If we tell the story of our loved one’s death twice a day, three times a day, or more, and we still have the urge to tell it, then that is what we must do. The stories of our love, our life, and our loved one’s life are the most important pieces of information we have. We need to indulge ourselves, to hear the telling, to listen to our own words, to say the same thing again and again and again until we don’t need to say it anymore.” – from A Time to Grieve by Carol Staudacher

I’ve thought lately that maybe I’m writing too much about loss, too much about Chuck. But, then today I read this and I think I’m on the right track. Writing is my way of grieving and healing. And though I only have a handful of faithful readers, maybe somehow, somewhere, my words will touch someone that needs to hear them.

April in my Heart

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Helena, AL

 

April. The month of poetry. The month we used to celebrate our mothers’ birthdays. The month we moved to Birmingham six years ago.

I’ve been writing poems everyday this month. In the midst of corona-craziness, it’s one of the things that calms me. Not to give them equal value, but God’s Word, poetry, sunshine, and fresh air get me through these uncertain days. I’ve been using three different sites for prompts each day: Writer’s Digest PAD, Poetry Super Highway, and NaPoWriMo.

The following poem was inspired today by NaPoWriMo.

 

I Love Us

 

Sometimes it’s hard to say it

I try to convey it

I try to show it

Though I know you know it

 

I love us

The very thought of us

We are two peas in a pod

Though we are flawed

I am awed

At how we are still in this together

 

I love us

We are more than love like the movies

We are groovy

Stuck like glue

Each day new

Who knew?

All those years ago

We saw each other across the dance floor

And you asked for

My number

 

You weren’t so great at disco

We didn’t want to go to Frisco

But oh those Redwoods trees

The Pacific ocean breeze

We make each other laugh

In all those photographs

And memories

 

I love us

We made some precious babies

Grand-babies

No maybe

About it 

 

I love us

We’re an A-plus

Top grade 

Like a sweet dessert

A crisp dress shirt

A little bit introvert

A little bit extrovert

 

I love us

We’re a Pulitzer Prize

Flying blue skies

Over Montana’s mountains

And Savannah’s fountains

Our love

Fits like a glove

Just a couple of

lovebirds

 

I love us

Our records and roses

Touching noses

A glass of fine wine

Hearts intertwined

 

I love us

So romantic

Hearts gigantic

Peanut butter and jelly

Lots of belly

Laughs

 

I love us

I’ll always love us

For-e-ver

 

I wish I could sing, I wish I could play

I’ve been inspired by creative kids to come up with lyrics to fit these trying times.

The song in the video below came to me this morning and I wrote another verse for it. If I could play an instrument or carry a tune in a bucket I’d perform for you. But, here’s my verse for you to sing.

I know a guy who dreams of work

He’d love to be there

About to go berserk

He doesn’t have gloves

He doesn’t have masks

He doesn’t have toilet paper 

Although he asks

He uses Quarantine

Quarantine

Quarantine

 

Book Browsings #3: Voices

 

tiaIn Book Browsings #2 I referenced the writing club I sponsored. It was called the Young Author’s Club. I found a copy of the first, and I think only, issue we put together. The girls chose the name Voices for the title. It had four sections: Book Beginnings, Short Story, Poetry and Essay. As I look over the list of contributors I can see most of their faces. Tia was the one who came to me with the request to sponsor the club. I still keep up with her via Instagram and occasionally her blog.  She works in publishing among other things. I still have the scarf she brought me back from China when she visited there with her parents. Her mother, Yulin, was our parent sponsor and a huge help. I can semi-recall the faces of Kylie, Haley, Anna and Jakob who also contributed work to Voices.

One essay, by Anna Rea, came, as I recall, from a short in-class writing prompt. Hers was titled How to Be a Bad Neighbor.  Pretty hilarious! Here are a few excerpts:

Every person in their life comes across a bad neighbor. Why wait for a bad neighbor when you yourself could be a bad neighbor? In a few easy steps you could be the most hated person on the block…

One of the many things to do to be a bad neighbor is to have parties. Now, not just any party. It has to be a loud, all-nighter. …

Another thing that really gets your neighbor mad is having an obnoxious yappy dog…

Step three of how to be a bad neighbor is to leave your garbage cans out for long periods of time….

Finally, the most important part: HOLIDAYS! Around Christmas you have to buy those big, blow-up things… you must buy at least six of them. 

I loved teaching these kids. They were not just smart, but funny, fun-loving, caring, and full of energy. One student, Caroline, really stood out. I got to know her through her writings, but also while visiting her home when we were working on a charity project and meeting her mother and younger brothers. Her mom was just one of many parents who supported me and my students that year. Caroline graduated from Princeton and is now a fellow at  Washington University School of Medicine. She is following in the footsteps of her grandfather who was a prominent and well-loved physician in Jacksonville.

JP is a logistics officer in the Marines and living in Hawaii. Carson, now married, comes to mind whenever I see the scarf he brought me back from his trip to Vietnam where his grandfather was in in the war. Same with Harrison, who brought me playing cards from his trip to Africa.

I will always be grateful for the students who crossed my path and left a footprint. I am thrilled whenever I happen upon good news about one of them.

 

 

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Hello, Goodbye

Word Art 17

So, I was talking to 2019:

She said, “Goodbye”

I said, “High.”

She said, “Low.”

“But, these are my goals for 2020,”  I told her. “If not high, at least higher. In three categories: books read, miles hiked, blog posts written. So, 2019, let’s take a look and you’ll see what I mean.”

“With you, I read or listened to 43 books. That averages 3 1/2 a month. With you, I hiked 132 miles. That’s an average of only 2 1/2 a week. With you, I wrote 67 blog posts. That’s about 5 1/2 a month.”

She said, “Why?” And I said, “I don’t know” 

She said, “Stop”.

I said,  “Okay. I’m done with you. Finished. You are kaput!”

So, I talked to 2020 for a bit.

“Hey, 2020!” I said,  “Hello, hello, hello.”

I said, “Go, go, go.” At first she misunderstood me.  

“No, no, don’t go away. I mean go WITH me. We’ve got some goals to take care of to beat 2019. We need to read at least four books a month. And hike at least 3 miles a week.  And write at least six posts a month.” 

2020 said, “Yes.”

 

Avetts in October #14: Telling Stories

 

 

 

 

“…if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.”-   From Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

According to Ray I must be a whole writer. I have love. I have fun. I have zest and gusto, though not every single time I sit down to face the page.

This zest, gusto, love, and fun are what come shining through when I hear The Avett Brothers. They inspire me. They have fun when they are sharing their gifts with others. Their lyrics illuminate the good and bad all around us. With love.

And they tell stories, as in  The Ballad of Love and Hate

It begins like this:

 

Love writes a letter and sends it to hate.

My vacation’s ending. I’m coming home late.

The weather was fine and the ocean was great

And I can’t wait to see you again.

 

Hate reads the letter and throws it away.

“No one here cares if you go or you stay.

I barely even noticed that you were away.

I’ll see you or I won’t, whatever.”

 

And tells such a story, ending with:

 

Love has been waiting, patient and kind.

Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign,

That the one that she cares for, who’s out of his mind,

Will make it back safe to her arms.

 

Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door.

Weary head hung down, eyes to the floor.

He says “Love, I’m sorry”, and she says, “What for?”

“I’m yours and that’s it, whatever.

I should not have been gone for so long.

I’m yours and that’s it, forever.”

 

And here’s a cute video…

 

Mom

80a

April, 2016

 

Mom was born April 9, 1936. She would have been 83 today. It’s been 14 months since she died. So many little things happen throughout the days that knock me back, that remind me over and over that she isn’t here. I wrote the following poem in April, 2010. It was the first year I completed the PAD Challenge. I never really shared my poetry with her. Haven’t really shared it with anyone much in my family. Perhaps I should apply these words of Ray Bradbury…

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art.”

 

Mother

There at the end of the line
The hand of my dear mother
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

Never a woman so fine
There is not another
There at the end of the line

Her spirit, gentle, kind
None else would I rather
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

Growing round her like a vine
Myself, my brothers
There at the end of the line

So lovely, so divine
No, there is no other
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

For days of old I pine
Yes, one after another
There at the end of the line

On the Surface

af

I’m really glad she felt like writing.

“I have a family, loving aunts, and a good home. No, on the surface I seem to have everything except my one true friend. All I think about when I’m with friends is having a good time. I can’t bring myself to talk about anything but ordinary everyday things. We don’t seem to be able to get any closer, and that’s the problem.” – Anne Frank

I stumbled on these words from Anne Frank and I was overwhelmed with an affinity for what she was feeling. When I’m with most people, this is me. We don’t seem to be able to get any closer. And that’s the problem.

And that’s all for today., except for this picture I found of Anne that I love.

anne