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Archive for December, 2007

The Places I've Walked, brick labyrinth, Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

The Places I’ve Walked, walking a brick labyrinth, Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


It’s New Year’s Eve (almost a whole New Year, ybonesy!). I’m working on the black-eyed peas and rice post. And I’ve got to say the orangutan’s butt is a pretty hard act to follow! But I’m going to risk it and post an ABC meme morph of my practice and Gratitude List for 2007.

I met with friends a few nights ago for poetry, music, and silence. We did timed writings. I chose to make a Gratitude List. It was 99 items long. I admit, I was slowing down a bit near the end, but I think I could have gone longer. My scattered, discursive thoughts turned a corner into this giant web of connection.

When I got stuck, I’d think of the places I walked over the last year. Where did my feet hit solid ground? From there, the strong, silky tendrils spun out across the room, connecting one detail to another.

Each place held its own blessings. I was an unreluctant traveler. There is some sadness in looking back. But through the lens of gratitude, it’s mostly Joy.


Some things I learned along the way:


  • Looking back with gratitude, provides clear vision for the future.   After we reflected and wrote about 2007, we shared. Then we visioned about 2008. Not resolutions – Visions. I took the web of gratitude and laid out a detailed visual map of 2008. In the cluster map, everything seemed clear.

  • The Vision for 2008 is in place. Creating a workable structure and learning how to prioritize my time (balancing internal with external) are paramount to making the Vision reality.   Balancing writing, work, art, relationships, and care of the self are my challenges: (1) Setting up a structure detailing where I spend my time and sticking to it. (2) Limiting the things that seem most addictive or time wasting. I find that I can easily get lost in frittering away time. I know exactly how long it takes to get a task done. I am good at planning. I need a yearly structure that honors and balances internal time with outer action.

  • Time alone is a must for me. Taking action out in the world will be the hardest part of realizing my Visions. Setting intention. Following through.   A friend said how she needs creative space every day, time to just sit and stare at a wall. Most extroverts don’t understand the act of wall-staring, but I’m in full agreement! I get my energy from going within, not from other people (true definition of an introvert). I love connecting with people. I have good social skills. But my creative energy, my refilling of the well, comes from reflection, internal musings, silence.



Practice. Structure. Community. Intention. Follow through. Action. Many of these connections came from sharing my writing practices in community. My original gratitude practice was a free form list. I revisited the list and boiled everything down into general categories, the ABC’s.

May your New Year be filled with peace and gratitude, as close to balance as humans can get, and some semblance of what we homo sapiens like to call happiness.



Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved



A – APPRECIATION – appreciation for what has passed. People, places, and spaces – I want to preserve and write about them. Places contain our roots. People are memories. History, I don’t want to repeat it or make the same mistakes. I have to know the past for a clear future. The ability to deeply feel leads me to empathy and compassion.

B – BUZZING AROUND ON THE MOTORCYCLES – our little purple Honda Rebel 250 (Ramona) and Suzuki Savage 650 (Suzi) floating by the Mississippi River in summer. Can’t ya smell that smell.

C – COFFEE & CATS – Colombian or French Roast every morning. We make one pot and split it. That’s it for the day. Hmmmm. Don’t forget to take a good long whiff. And then there are the 3 Musketeers: Mr. StripeyPants who made it through a near-death experience in the last few months (a miracle); the elegant mistress of the house, Kiev; and nervous but sleek, Chaco (after the canyon).

D – DULUTH – going up to Lake Superior at Duluth once a year for our weekend getaway. I look so forward to that. Lake Superior is like the Womb of the Earth. It feels like I could be anywhere in the world.

E – EXPLORATION – outside of my comfort zone. In many ways, it was a hard year for me. I was challenged to push myself through situations that were not comfortable but were good for my growth. Sometimes I failed and went back to the drawing board. It was a hard year financially. But I didn’t give up. Looking at 2008, I feel willing to do more exploration. I’m hoping all the structures I put into place this year will bear fruit. Both financially and spiritually.

F – FRIENDS & FAMILY – many communities. I only have a few very close, intimate friends (I’ve known my friend, Gail, since 1980). My blogging partner, ybonesy. And ever-widening circles of communities like red Ravine, Flickr, Taos writers and people at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, recovery communities, all people I’ve met by showing up and stretching myself beyond my comfort zone. Family and extended family – at least one person in my blood/extended family supports me and my writing in some small or large way, every single day.

G – GRANDMOTHERS, GHOSTS, & GENERATIONAL HEALING – the Grandmothers that guide me, not only the Ancestors, but Elise and Ada who come to visit me often. The ghost of Mabel Dodge visited in Taos and I often feel her when I’m there. Her creative vision was admirable. And I wonder if she feels how writers and artists are still convening under her roof. I believe these Spirits guide us in healing the wounds of the past. In letting go between generations. I saw this on every trip I took home this year.

H – HOMETOWN – Minneapolis, living in the most literate, clean, and green city in the U.S. We’ve got the Walker, the Loft, the Guthrie, Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN Book Arts, Talking Volumes, Minnesota Public Radio, the Fitzgerald (oh, that’s Saint Paul!), all the warehouse district artists and writers, and on and on and on.

I – INDRIA – the white cottage on the gently sloping hill, new gutters, freshly painted deck, small flower gardens, cardinals, flickers, downys, nuthatches, bluejays, view of the sunset, changing of the seasons, I love living just outside the city proper. It’s silent, quiet, peaceful.

J – JOY – the pure joy of doing art and writing every day. Journaling, blogging, business, lists, practices, poetry. Photography, papermaking, painting, printmaking, sketching, mapping. Any of it. All of it. These creative endeavors bring me JOY.

K – KINDRED SPIRITS – those who walk parallel paths. The faces change from time to time. Some walk hand in hand for a while, then drop away. So many different reasons. But I’m grateful for the time I walked with them. And now I’m grateful for those who are new to me and have come into my life at just the right time.

L – LIZ – her belief in me, her love, acceptance, gratitude, giving nature, smile, giggle, support of my writing, huge and open heart. When she’s in the mood, she also loves to cook, bake, and do laundry. 8)

M – MENTORS – Natalie Goldberg, books, writers that came before me, great literature, my business partners and clients of every nature. What about all the writers and artists I saw this year in the Twin Cities: Ann Patchett, Galway Kinnell, Mary Oliver, Josephine Dickinson, Steve Almond, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Riane Eisler, Mirabai Starr (oh, that was Taos), Ani DiFranco, Nancy Crampton, Diane Arbus (retrospective). All the art profs who mentored me in school.

N – NO REGRETS – I’m never bored. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I haven’t always made the best choices. But I’ve learned from them. I’m learning to forgive myself.

O – OPPORTUNITIES – so many presented themselves this year. Teaching with and assisting Natalie twice, helping others to write and structure their time, the writing Intensive at Taos, unexpectedly traveling home for Mom’s 70th, cheap flights to New Mexico (twice) and Pennsylvania (twice), road trips to New Mexico and Georgia, quality time at Mabel Dodge Luhan House, time spent in my childhood homes, researching, taping, discovering personal histories of the past.

P – PROMISES & PROSPERITY – the Promises of Recovery hooked me on letting go of self-destructive behaviors. It works if you work it. And you’re worth it. I’m lucky to be able to (almost) make a living doing something I love. I’ve also got a part-time job that is flexible, supportive, and allows me independence in my writing. I’m getting there. I believe.

Q – QUALITY TIME – with myself, with the people I love. The most important thing to me is connecting with those close to me. And learning how to keep the well full so I still have something to give back. I’m especially thankful for all the extra time I had with my mother this year. To walk along the Susquehanna and Savannah rivers, to meditate together, to travel to Georgia, to work on the family tree, to spread mud masks on our faces, to excavate memories, to eat homecooked meals, to be with family.

R – RECONNECTING & RED RAVINE – Mrs. Juarez (after 39 years), Aunt Annette (after 50 years), Aunt Emmalyne (after 41 years), my step-dad (after 41 years), my immediate family, siblings, and Mom and I are the closest we’ve ever been. Launching red Ravine has reconnected me to writers and creative people I’ve met in Taos, to extended family and friends, to other writers all over the world. Through writing and comments I learn new things about people I’ve known all my life. And old things about people I only just met.

S – SILENCE & SNOW – the golden sound of silence, meditation, practice, slow walking the labyrinths of the world. The silence of snow and winter. Winter Solstice by the fire. The exercise from shoveling the driveway with every muscle in my body. Strength in the vulnerability of silence.

T – TAOS MOUNTAIN – for sitting there century after century, just being the mountain.

U – UNDISCOVERED DREAMS – an openness and willingness to go where no QM has gone before!

V – VINTAGE – I’m into what’s old, not what’s new, borrowed or blue. Studying vintage items (books, music, stereos, lawnmowers, tools, historic places, etc.) how they work, the place they once held in the world, fascinates me.

W – WARM COATS, HATS, MITTENS – And don’t forget all my hooded sweatshirts that keep my body thermometer (the neck) warm. I’m grateful for the warmth every day. Your survival here depends on knowing how to dress and being prepared for anything in winter. There are some who only have the clothes on their backs.

X – X-RAY VISION – No, just kidding. I’m more thankful for my Wonderwoman wrist cuffs and strange powers of getting people to tell the truth.

Y – YOU – whoever is reading this at this moment. I’m grateful for you.

Z – piZZaZZ – I lived 2007 with courage, bravery, and pizzazz. I haven’t been perfect. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve made bad choices, hard choices, but I tried to do the right thing for the moment. I ran myself ragged early in the year. I rested in December. But life keeps me on my toes. I’ve got gratitude for pizzazz.


Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved  Walking The Winding Brick Road, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


-Happy New Year, posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 31th, 2007



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“Em, let me brush your hair. It’s all tangled in the back.”

“NOOOO! I refuse to let you brush my hair!!”

“Em, you have no choice in the matter. Until you’re old enough to brush your hair right, you have to let me or Mom brush your hair.”

“NOOOOOO! It’s my hair, and I say who gets to brush it!”

“Em, do you want me to take another picture of your hair to show you what it looks like in the back?”

“NOOOOOOOOO! I don’t care what it looks like in the back!”

“You don’t care that the back of your head looks like an orangutan butt??”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”



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   Winter Leaf In Pink Ice, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Winter Leaf In Pink Ice II, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

  Winter Leaf In Pink Ice I & II, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan
  House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.
  All rights reserved.

  

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore. Wasted time. Wasted space. I never seem to follow through. Why project promises into the future, I’m not likely to keep? I’d rather head over to a friend’s house tomorrow night, sit in community with others, reflect on the year, and make a Gratitude List.

What’s a Gratitude List? Some call it counting your blessings. If you’re in recovery, gratitude and service work are a big part of the way to freedom from the chains of regret (past), self-pity (present), and longing (future). The idea is not to dwell on scarcity and the people, places, and things you don’t have – but to focus on what you do.


Winter Leaf In Pink Ice, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’ve been making a Gratitude List for the last 2 or 3 years. At the end of December, I sit down and list all the good, positive things that have happened to me over the last year.

I’m not talking about monumental occurrences, although they can surely be included. I mean the small stuff:

  • the way I feel when I see Mr. StripeyPants at the end of my work day and want to eat him alive
  • the sound of “Love you, Honey!” or “Hi, it’s Mom” from the electronic bowels of the answering machine
  • the smell of Rocks baking in our kitchen
  • the trickling flakes before the scarlet Moon on Christmas Eve
  • big round Bear hugs from you know who

                 

I was right in there with ybonesy about how the space between Christmas and New Year’s can be challenging. And to tell you the truth, I was doing great yesterday. This morning I woke up to go to work feeling disoriented and lost. Thick-headed. I wanted to run ahead, far away from the present, and long jump into the New Year, both feet stretching forward.

But what’s the rush? Why not stop for a moment and write down the Good Stuff. Have you really slowed down long enough to look closely at the snowy down of a thistle? Or a leaf captured in the icy claws of Winter? This year I feel lucky to be able to make my list in community with others who will bear witness to the process.

                 

Winter Leaf In Pink Ice II, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I received this lovely email from my friend reminding us of tomorrow’s gathering. I don’t think she will mind if I post part of it:

I am looking forward to having you come on Saturday to write, reflect, and commune. Remember to come with notebook, pen, and any beverage you need outside of water and peppermint & chamomile tea.

Please plan to arrive between 6:45 & 7 p.m. I’d like to begin at 7, so if you get here 5 or 10 minutes early, we’ll have time to socialize and get settled.

We’ll begin with a bit of silence & poetry (Hey, I didn’t study with Natalie Goldberg for nothing!), so if you’re running late call me because we’ll be waiting to start until everyone is here.

Two, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  

What are *you* grateful for? If you are so moved, you can add your Gratitude List to the Comments.

If you want to get creative, use an ABC meme. Or do a Writing Practice that begins, “I am grateful for…”


It doesn’t matter how you do it. But write everything down. It’s amazing the power that words have. And a community to bear witness.

I guarantee you’ll feel better when you’re done. Your Holiday blues will turn a corner, and warm to a crimson shade of frosty pale.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, December 28th, 2007

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Christmas Letdown. Yesterday my youngest had a meltdown when her sister left with a friend to Santa Fe. That’s when it dawned on her that Christmas was over. I know that feeling. It’s memorized in my bones.



After Christmas Sales. I always say, “Let’s wait til after Christmas to buy the pants, shoes, coat, etc., you wanted for Christmas; that way we’ll get ‘em on sale.” Then I never hit the malls because I’m out of money, energy, or both.



Movies. I feel like I should be going to see a movie or several during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do during this time? Who made up that rule? Hollywood?



Favorite Gift. Em can’t put down her Nintendo DS. I think it’s the stylus — makes her feel grown-up. I can’t put down the book Run by Ann Patchett. And the Jelly Bellies that were in my stocking. I’ve eaten all the ones that have anything-green in them.



Parties. We’re invited to a party on December 29. I keep thinking I’d better write it down. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party on a day between December 26 – December 30. Oh, and Sal’s annual New Year’s Eve party. That one happens like clockwork.



Festival O’ Farts. One New Year’s Eve, Jim, Andrew, Mimbres Man, and I changed the sign of a gallery near our house to read Festival O’ Farts. It had read before then Festival Of Arts. The change lasted a few days.



Ski Biking. The night we changed the sign, we then went ski biking and sledding at Sandia Peak. The ski area was closed, but we climbed the mountain with our bikes and with sleds Andrew made from a truck bed liner. It was fun. We were crazy.



Resolutions Or Reflection? I’ve never done resolutions – I don’t want the expectation and guilt associated with them. But I am apt to reflect on what I’m committed to in 2008. I’m not sure I see the difference between the two, but I feel it.



Taking Down The Tree. It’s so pretty. I like to leave the lights on all day. I hate the thought of taking it down. (Hey, Jim just told Em that he’ll take the tree down after I go back to work. He must have sensed my reluctance. He’s witchy and kind that way.)



Memes. Smiler called this one a “hoopla” (actually, someone else renamed it a hoopla, but Smiler tagged me). Anyone can do it — QM, you game? Random things, having to do with the holidays. Twelve things, whatever you want. Random space.



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By E. Elise


Liberty's Torch, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.

Liberty’s Torch, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.



It’s my Granddaddy’s birthday. We were going to New York by train. In New York we’re going to see the Statue of Liberty, and the “Vampire State 50 Cents, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by reccos62. All rights reservedBuilding” as my cousin, Isaac, used to call it.NYC - Room With A View, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.

My family that went with me was Granddaddy, Jenny, Uncle Larry, Isaac, Erica, and Paula. We had to wake up extremely early at 3:00 am to be on the enormous train by 5:00 am. I could hear people yawning and groaning like bears coming out ofhibernation because it was so early. The train can go more than 170 mph. I could barely see a city full of energy because of the smog.

When we got out of the train, I could smell the nice warm breakfasts. Also I saw so many suitcases, I thought it was an airport! We went on the subway Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.quite a number of Face Of Freedom, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by reccos62. All rights reservedtimes. The seats felt like ice. I could hear it roaring and screeching to a stop, like a car about to drive off a cliff. Also it was really nerve-wracking to jump on the train.

On the ferry ride to Ellis Island, I could taste the fruit punch Gatorade from the snack shop on the lower level of the boat. Some people were standing on the benches with high-priced cameras trying to take beautiful snapshots of the Statue.



“This is the original torch,” said the tour guide. In the Statue of Liberty, the base is like a museum of her. The Statue of Liberty was supposed to be the artist’s mother, but she was unable to stand. So he used his wife’s body and mother’s face. At her feet are chains to resemble the end of Ellis Island, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by reccos62. All rights reservedslavery.

When it was time to go to the train station again, we were tired and hungry like an animal who didn’t catch their prey. We had dinner and a smoothie. On the way to Harrisburg’s station, we saw a skyscraper with a flashing light in every window. It was almost like everyone was taking pictures of the train. I love New York!

Yes, that’s what I said, New York was awesome! One of my favorite parts was security. In the Empire State Building youhad to go in a box where it blows air from the ground. My hair went wild. Next time, if ever, I want to see everything in New York.



The Statue Of Liberty, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.           The Empire State Building, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by reccos62. All rights reserved




About E. Elise:  E. Elise lives in Central Pennsylvania with her mother and older brother. She is currently a student at Broad Street Elementary. She likes to swim. One exciting time was when she went to New York. This is her story.




Liberty's Robe, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.

Liberty’s Robe, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.



The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This tablet with her sonnet to the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty engraved upon it, is placed upon these walls
in loving memory of Emma Lazarus

Born in New York City, July 22nd, 1849
Died November 19th, 1887


-quote on the bronze plaque from the Liberty exhibit in the base of the Statue of Liberty (photo above). It was presented by philanthropist Georgiana Schuyler in 1903, twenty years after Emma Lazarus wrote her sonnet. Originally displayed on the interior wall of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, it was placed in the Liberty exhibit in the base of the monument in July, 1886.

Post Script:  When I was visiting home in November for my Mom’s 70th birthday, my niece, E. Elise, tugged at my sleeve, and asked if she could read me her latest pieces of writing. She said she had asked her teacher if she could bring her writing folder home to share with me. And even though the folder was never supposed to leave the classroom, her teacher agreed.

I listened intently as she read (Whose B-Day) Going To New York out loud to me and my family in the dining room on the couch before the cake was cut. The story was about her Granddaddy who came up to visit from South Carolina last August. And over his birthday, my brother arranged a family trip to New York City.

I was ecstatic to see E. Elise so excited about writing (she is named after her Great Grandmama Elise). I loved her piece. And after I saw the family photos of the New York trip, I knew it would be a great post for red Ravine. I hope you are thrilled as I am to see my 10-year-old niece as our Guestwriter this week. And to see the young ones so jazzed about writing!

 

 

Chrysler Building, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by reccos62. All rights reserved  South, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by januaryshadows. All rights reserved  Ode To Ground Zero - Detail, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved. Vertigo II, visit to New York City, August 2007, photo © 2007 by R3. All rights reserved.

 

 

Photoblog Credit:  The photographs were taken by members of my family who graciously allowed me to upload and post them in this piece. I gave anonymous credit in the links (thank you reccos62, R3, and januaryshadows). And if you click on each photograph, it will take you to my Flickr account with larger views and more NYC photographs not included on this page. I also wanted to mention that the names in this post (other than the author’s) were changed to protect the innocent!

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 26th 2007

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peace          hope           love         alegría

     joy          reflection         solitude   

persistence             paz            awareness



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           A Charlie Brown Christmas, snippets on YouTube by FlyingForGlory



Patty:  Try to catch snowflakes on your tongue. It’s fun.
Linus Van Pelt:  Mmm. Needs sugar.
Lucy Van Pelt:  It’s too early. I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.
Linus Van Pelt:  They sure look ripe to me.

I love to watch the snow fall. I’m a huge fan of Winter. I’m also a big Peanuts fan and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every single year (you can’t beat Vince Guaraldi’s score). The snow theme captures the best of both worlds for me. I’m not apt to take Lucy’s advice though. I love December snowflakes!

There are two other shows I make sure not to miss over the Holidays: Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story. I’m sad to say that Bob Clark, the director of 1983′s A Christmas Story, died unexpectedly earlier this year (see Remembrances on NPR). His cult classic will live on.

I’ve also been inspired by a couple of snow posts by fellow bloggers. One is on Joe Felso: Ruminations, 13 Ways Of Looking At Snow, a tribute to Wallace Stevens. And Snow Sculptures at Leslie’s Blog, complete with vintage black and white photographs. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s Christmas Eve. This is my last post for a few days. I’ll be checking in once in a while for comments. But what I really want to say is thanks for writing with us and visiting red Ravine. We are grateful for your presence here. And thanks to my faithful blogging partner, ybonesy, for holding up the other half of the sky.

It’s still and silent outside the window this morning. The storms of yesterday have passed. The day Moon is clear. Liz pointed it out to me off the deck this morning on her way to work. And have I thanked you enough Lizzie for all of your patience and support around my crazy writing life?

Finally, whoever is reading and writing with us, however you celebrate this time of year, I hope your Holidays are sweet.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 24th, 2007

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Bakers Dozen, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Pinwheels & Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Baking rocks for the Holidays is a tradition in our family. The name “Rocks” sounds kind of iffy. But trust me, they are delicious.

Liz had never had them before. I turned off the computer, turned up the Christmas music, and convinced her to bake up a batch to take to Solstice. I was the right-hand cook, chopping dates, locating the buried hand mixer, digging out the muffin tins, stealing tasty swipes of raw batter while Liz rolled together the ingredients.

Mom sent me the recipe a few weeks ago, adding all the little tips and tidbits Aunt Cassie passed down to her. Recipes weren’t written down in the past. They were passed from mother to daughter by story and word of mouth. (When I called to ask my sister the baking time for smaller muffin tins, she was making Rocks, too! And was only a few steps behind Liz in the mixing.) Now recipes are passed on to fathers and sons. My brothers are as apt to bake as I am.

I searched high and low for the history of Rocks. I came up empty. They seem similar to the Rock Cakes that originated in England (and are featured in one of the Harry Potter books). The batter has some of the same ingredients. But, no, they’re not Rock Cakes.

Rocks are not cupcakes, cookies, or cake. They aren’t fruit cake either. They seem to be a variation of all of these recipes. I am sure they are Southern. But when I was surprised by a call from my Aunt Annette in South Carolina this morning, and told her I was making Rocks, she said, “What, Honey? Rocks?” She had never heard of Rocks in her family. That caused me to scratch my head since I thought they were well known and widespread across the South.

If anyone knows the history of Rocks, please feel free to chime in in the comments. Meantime, I’ll keep my eyes open and continue to research as I write my memoir.

There was another little surprise today. While I was working on this post tonight and watching the Vikings play the Redskins, my brother called from Pennsylvania to say they had just taken a family portrait and I was included.

“Hmmm, that’s curious,” I said, “since I’m sitting on the couch in Minnesota.”

“Oh,” Mom said when he passed the phone to her, “you were here alright, QuoinMonkey. Even had a cute little bow in your hair.”

“We’ll send you the photos,” my sister said. “We’re having a blast taking family Holiday portraits.”

Same sentiments when the phone passed to my other brother, step-dad, and sister-in-law. There was laughter all around. Stay tuned.

And now, Amelia’s Rock recipe. Southern style.


6 1/2 Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  6 1/2 Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  6 1/2 Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  6 1/2 Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  6 1/2 Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





BAKING ROCKS – SOUTHERN STYLE



SHOPPING LIST


1 1/2 scant cups sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups nuts (chopped) (I always use pecans in my recipes)
1 box dates (about 2 cups, cut
up) (Dromedary are best around here. Buy them whole and cut them into quarters; store-bought cut dates are coated and dry.)

2 1/2 cups plain flour (not self-rising flour) (sifted or fluffed with a fork; not packed or thumped; should be light and airy)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice (sift/fluff spices into flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda (in 2 tablespoons sour milk or warm water)



COOKING INSTRUCTIONS


Mix:

Rock Batter, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Cream butter and sugar.
Then gradually add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Gradually add flour and spice mix.
Mix soda in sour milk (or warm water). Fold into mixture, just until combined.
Stir in nuts and dates to coat all the pieces.


Bake:

Baking Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full.
Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 25 mins (or until toothpick comes out clean).


Eat:

5 Golden Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Rocks keep well and are better after the second day. Keep in covered container (you can also wrap in cloth towel). If they become too dry, add a slice of bread, broken up, to the container. They will absorb moisture from bread.

My recipes were written by Aunt Cassie and didn’t have any directions. We were suppose to know all the extras, so I wrote them in for you. Mixing really well makes a difference with a lot of cakes.


That’s Mom’s recipe for Rocks. I like them warm. Right out of the oven. But the best part of baking Rocks? Rocks smell like home.


6 1/2 Rocks, baking Christmas rocks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

-related to post, Southern Banana Pudding – A Family Tradition

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Solstice Fire In Winter, outside at the Winter Solstice celebration with friends, December 22nd, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Solstice Fire In Winter, December 22, 2007, Winter Solstice in Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


We celebrated with friends outside by the pond. It was frosty cold, hovering around 5 degrees. Frozen hands. Sparks fly. A light wind blew from the West. The brilliant sunset was undone only by a circle wreath of blazing fire.

We called in the ancestors, the grandmothers and fathers. We drummed and rattled and slipped paper and wood into the fire – the things we no longer wanted to carry.

Death of the old, let us bring into the light what is new.

Sunday morning it is snowy gray. Though we are socked in by a blizzard, darkness moves into light. Blowing snow howls from the North. But I face West.

I let go of whatever blocks me. I let go of fear. We let go in community. The circle is unbroken.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

-related to post, Winter Solstice – Making Light Of The Dark

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Winter Solstice, cropped linocut © 1991 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Midnight is Winter Solstice. I sit in the coming darkness alone, watching the sky. Snow melted and dripped off the roof. Puddles formed in the driveway. A storm will skirt the Twin Cities by morning. I am hoping for a wallop of snow. The more the merrier, a frosty covering for our friends’ pond at the Solstice celebration tomorrow night. There will be a Yule fire. And good friends. And food fit for a Queen.

A few weeks ago, Mom sent me a scan of this old Christmas card. It was after I made a comment on one of ybonesy’s pieces about the process of creating linocuts. I had no idea she had saved it, tucked away in a memory drawer.

There were two Christmases when I wrote long Holiday letters slipped into parchment envelopes with round string clamps; printed snapshots of a plank porch grin somewhere in the Bitterroots of Montana; hand made linocuts with a rectangle of 1/2 inch glass, cattail paper, printers ink, and a baren. Paint was smeared from faucet to jeans. I love getting art-messy.

I look at ybonesy’s detailed linocuts and wonder if people understand how labor intensive the process is. Measuring. Cutting the paper with a straight-line metal ruler. Inking the roller, the clean up, mess, drying period. But it’s all worth it. I want to go on record with that right now.

I’ve been looking at studio spaces again. I need a space to create. And write. I do love being at home. But there is something about getting out of the house that jolts the memory, burns the synapses, jumpstarts the body. And there is the element of community, a vital ingredient. You can’t create in a vacuum. No one can do that for long without losing some semblance of sanity.

I celebrate Winter Solstice this time every year. Honoring the darkness that sits sheltering and cavelike over the Northern climates of this country. It’s Bear energy. Hibernation. West. Introspection. Going into the cave pregnant with potential. Shooting out of the birth canal full of promise. Refilling the well. To create, I have to replenish the coffers. Hold a little bit back for me. Fire in the belly.

Liz will be home from work soon. And we’ll finish our baking. She made the double chocolate walnut fudge last night while I took care of some business items. And tonight, at the end of the darkest, shortest day of the year, we’ll razzle up the cherry oatmeal cookies, the maple glazed walnuts and pecans, and Mom’s family recipe for Southern Rocks. I wrote in a practice the other day, “When Liz bakes, the whole house smells like a Holiday.”

That’s what I want. For the whole house to smell like a Holiday. Scent is powerful. The succulent history of the senses. Connect smell to story. I could tell you a few tales.

One is of Santa, Old Saint Nick. And the other of the birth of a Saint. Don’t forget the celebration of seasons. Winter is delightful. Soulful. Quiet as snow. Dark as molasses.

But you have to make light of the dark. Go inside and write. Visit with the people you care the most about in the world. If that’s not possible, if you are alone, make arrangements to do community service. Give to others. It comes back a million.

Light up the world with blinking strings of dazzle, twittering tinsel, a Pooh tree topper. Of course, I believe in Santa Claus. Are you nuts? That bright red suit can light up these dreary gray Midwestern skies anytime now. I’m ready for Light.

And starting tomorrow, minute by minute, second by second, Spring is on the way.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 22st, 2007, exactly 12:08 a.m. CST, Winter Solstice in the North

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Pig in a Cornfield, Christmas card from 1993, linocut and ink wooden spoon print © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


My poor mother-in-law. For years and years, she received pig-everything for Christmas. Pig statues, flying pigs, pig art, pig earrings, pig containers. Jim and I single-handedly contributed to at least a fourth of her vast pig collection.

It sat in a corner in her kitchen. The carved pig folk art piece that I thought was so adorable stood on the floor, next to the iron pig shoe scraper. Other pig paraphernalia congregated there, too, as if queuing for entry into a pig convention.

And then there were the two old wooden coke bottle trays whose many stalls were filled with mini-pigs. Plastic squishy pigs, glass pigs, porcelain pigs, metal and wood. She even had half a black walnut shell that someone noticed resembled exactly the snout of a pig and, thus, gave it to her.

I once asked my mother-in-law how she came to love pigs. She told me that she didn’t actually love pigs at all, but rather someone had given her one as a joke. Shortly thereafter the pigs started coming.

Even when she told me this story I blanked out the part of her not loving pigs. Instead I glommed onto the idea that from there on out and forever more, I knew what to buy my mother-in-law for Christmas, Mother’s Day, and birthdays.

It wasn’t until my in-laws moved to a new home a few years ago that the pigs were banished. My mother-in-law made it clear that she didn’t want any more pig gifts.

So far, only one unsuspecting neighbor has given her a pig. I, on the other hand, now take the time to find the kind of cotton or denim shirt that I notice she likes to wear.

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The first time I heard Beatles ’65 I was 9 or 10. It was a big deal because it was my first LP, the FIRST vinyl 33 1/3 Long Playing record album I ever owned. Before that, I had a series of 45′s, neatly stacked in the small bedroom I shared with my younger sister. We lived in a suburb near North Augusta, South Carolina, off the north bank of the Savannah River.

Beatles ’65 was released in December of 1964. After 40 plus years, I don’t honestly remember if my parents gave it to me for Christmas in 1964, or later in 1965. I only know I wore the wax grooves right down to the base. The Beatles stormed the U.S. in ’64. I saved a few 45′s, originals from that period: A Hard Day’s Night on Side A, I Should Have Known Better on the B Side. I Love Her on Side A, If I Fell on the B Flip. I was nuts for McCartney back then. Later it would be Lennon (of course).

The original Beatles ’65 album, with the lads from Liverpool in (almost) collarless suits and ties clutching playful black, red, and beige umbrellas, is packed away with my other 9 or 10 boxes of vinyl. I should get the cover framed. Even though it’s over-worn and has “one” of my last names (yes, I decided to change my name for a while in the 60′s) splashed in 4th or 5th grade backslant cursive across the front corner in black magic maker.

Back then there weren’t 800 different kinds of markers. A pen was a pen. It was a big deal when the Finepoint BIC with the white barrel (instead of orange yellow) and navy cap came out. And most permanent markers were used to scribble initials on waist bands of cotton laundry before summer trips to Girl Scout camp. Sharpies didn’t come with fancy neon carabiner clips that hook around your neck like the set clipped to my pack today.

I don’t remember headphones when listening to Beatles ’65. They must have come later. But those 11 songs remain some of my favorite Beatles music. Obscure. Understated. Un-blockbuster. I Feel Fine (beginning with George’s famous guitar riff, ending in his reverb feedback), I’m A Loser, I’ll Follow The Sun, and No Reply are just plain sad. Then you’ve got John’s raucous Rock And Roll Music with lumbering Ringo’s slow moving country on Honey Don’t.

What I remember most about that time is starting to know what it meant to fall in love, elementary school style (after all, Michael Suggs gave me his ID bracelet). And I remember what it felt like to lose love (how could Ronnie Collins fall for someone else?). I remember my Uncle Bill having dance parties at our house. He and his friends lined up like trains to do Little Eva’s Locomotion; they’d scoot around the corner of the house to steal a kiss in the dark by the luminous magnolias.

I remember my parents doing The Twist in the living room, the balls of their feet rotating on the Johnson’s paste wax floor (they loved to dance). I remember the succulent magnolias, the lone Charlie Brown pine out front, the massive green water tower built on the layers of pine needles back behind our house. (My step-dad reminded me in June that I went inside the tower with my friends, even though I’d been given strict orders not to. I got in so much trouble that day.)

I remember that music became a shelter for me. Shelter from the coming storms. The suitcase record player I carried from room to room had a setting for 45′s, a setting for LP’s. Later, I would get a green RCA spindle style record player for Christmas. I’d stack album after album; they spit a dull clack! when they dropped on top of each other. The static cling that hit the diamond needle, the counterbalance on the arm that had to be just so not to wear out the grooves in the wax. (If it was a double album set, Sides 1 and 4 would be on one record, Sides 2 and 3 on the other so you could listen in order.)

Records had a smell, too. Not plastic – vinyl. Have you ever smelled vinyl? And sometimes they were pressed in dull red, yellow or blue. The Beatles? Basic black.

My friend, Gail, saw the Beatles play in Minneapolis in the Twins old Met Stadium. Built in 1956, the classic outdoor stadium in Bloomington was abandoned for the Metrodome in 1982 and torn down in 1985 to make way for the Mall of America. The Beatles played at the Met during the Shea Stadium days and they were only a finger’s width big against the distance to the nosebleed seats.

The Beatles were the biggest thing ever to hit America up until that point in time. I loved them right through my 20′s and 30′s. When the Beatles Black Box Master Collection of albums came out in the early 80′s, I bought it. And when I first met Liz, I played a couple of the wax masters for her on the refurbished turntable Gail gave me for my birthday that year.

What I really want to say is music gave me a place to hide. Growing up in a large family where space was at a premium, I fell straight down into the headphones during my privacy starved junior high days. I don’t know when I decided it was okay to crawl out. In the 70′s, FM radio was king, the alternative to pop love songs and country twang. I first heard Neil Young, CSN, and the Grateful Dead on FM radio.

And remember quadraphonic speakers and albums? Reel-to-reel or 8-Tracks? Everything was analogue and simpler then. I went to Brown Institute in recording for a few semesters in the 1980′s. I had an instructor who taught me how to mix albums. He hated digital. Why? He said analogue captured the guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards in their purest state, the closest to Live. And to this day, I can hear the difference. He taught me what to listen for. Deep listening.

I still use deep listening. In writing. Art. And, yeah, when I listen to music. I still love music. And I remember those Christmases in North Augusta with great fondness. My heart thumps a little faster when I think of race car tracks winding through the living room or the smell of train transformers (remember that bottled liquid you dropped into the smokestack with an eyedropper to produce train smoke?).

I remember real tinsel and my grandmother’s first aluminum tree with the color wheel that rotated through primary green, red, blue, with a dash of diffused orange. Her birthday is tomorrow, Winter Solstice. She comes to visit me from the other side quite often.

I remember feeling safe and scared at the same time, something not unfamiliar to me now. I remember Beatles ’65. And I feel fine.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, December 20th, 2007

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – LOVE ME LIKE MUSIC (TOP 10)

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Sitting Pear-ty, Christmas card from 1993, linocut and ink
wooden spoon print © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


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               Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
               Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico,
               February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




The Petroglyph Practitioners are four women — Jeanie from North Carolina, Melissa and Katherine from Houston, and Sally from Rome, Italy — who write, alone and together, following the rules of Writing Practice. They tell the story of how they met and what their group means, in a post titled Alone Together – The Beginning of The Petroglyph Practitioners.

What follows are four writing practices, one from each member, on the red Ravine writing topic I Want To Let Go Of…. These raw practices — which, per one of the rules of writing practice, are not edited for punctuation, spelling, or grammar — show how a single topic can lead individual writers to very different places.



     Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Jeanie Bernard

I am reading a book called Romancing The Shadow and am reminded that in that darkness hides my secret shame, my poison arrow. During midlife, the shadow rears its ugly little head, it finds me; I don’t have to go look for it. The first half of my life was creating work, love and developing the shadow. Now, I am involved in creating consciousness in those areas that have been neglected or ignored, a time for romancing the shadow, a time for letting go of what doesn’t work anymore.

The shadow wears the camouflage of physical symptoms. I may deny but my body doesn’t it. In March when I decided to go to Peru I woke with a severe pain in my right hip that tortured me up to the day of hiking the Inca Trail. With its disappearance, I strutted through the streets of Taos until I strained my tendon in my right heel. After podiatrist, chiropractors, acupuncturist, I finally listen to the pain. I see myself flat on my back with a golden fiber optic beam shinning from my feet through my head making the connection of my dissected parts into a sacred wholeness/holiness. What I don’t see, is where the rod comes from or where it goes when it leaves my head. I wonder, what is my body trying to say, what secrets are being revealed, what betrayals?

The shadow dances through my dreams revealing feelings desiring discovery. During one haunting dream, I am visited by a cape draped person who knocks at my door. I do not invite; I ask what is wanted. My visitor walks away. I call out. Who is this that appears in my night life and what is wanted?

Shadows begin in families and make us who we are. In doing shadow work, I find who I can become. I remember my daddy finding fault with my mother. He would come home late at night from cooking in a hell hot kitchen and she could do nothing right. I saw him as having the power. If I had a choice, I would rather be like him. Her life didn’t look very appealing. His Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde improvisation kept me vigilantly on the lookout for the family soul. He was a cook and the missing ingredient was soul, the container for connection, deepening and acceptance. In this family, the space for soul shrunk limiting my authenticity and vulnerability. So I face my shadow. My “heeling” begins with shinning a light of reconciliation on what was sacrificed in my family of origin and playing out in my intentional family. I step, heel first, into letting go of the “sins” of my mother and father to reclaim my family soul. In my own family, I assume my father’s role of power. My second step of “heeling” is to move from power over to power with. The next step is then to let go and forgive my many missteps.


   Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Katherine Reynolds

What I want to let go of.

My first answer without really thinking about it would be nothing. This has been the year of losses for me: my mother, a husband, a good friend — all of whom I loved very much. It was a bad year. I know the biggest loss was of course my mother. She was 92 and passed away November 30th of kidney failure brought on by congestive heart failure. That disease is a miserable one. You watch a person grow weaker and weaker until something gives: the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, or the heart, that red beating muscle that controls everything. My mother was in many ways the heart of my life. I believe we bonded intensely when I was born because my father walked out on my mom and the four of us kids when I was only five weeks old and it broke her heart. In fact she never quite recovered from it. Never remarried, never dated. She was only 43, but she was a survivor. She went back to school and got her teaching degree in music education and taught in high schools until she lost her job after seven years of teaching. I only know this: she had trouble controlling her kids. I can see that in her. She was always soft spoken and in some ways intensely shy. She never went back to the public schools but instead began teaching privately in her home. She also was hired as the organist for the Champion Methodist Church in Champion, Ohio. She stayed in that position for 25 years.

My fondest memories of her are listening to her teach yet another 7 year old child the beginnings of piano playing. I would come home from school and hang out on the couch reading quietly until she was finished at 7. I learned how to walk lightly through that house so as not to disturb her. The floors creaked because we had a cellar below us. None of this concrete slab housing I live in now. We lived in wood clapboard house that my great grandmother was born in. I have no idea how old the family homestead house is, but I know it is at least 150 years old or more. My great grandfather was a doctor who visited his patients in a horse and buggy and his office is on the property. I used to love going in there to play until the place got too dilapidated. My mom’s cousin totally restored it and now it is a historical landmark in Bristolville, Ohio. So what does this have to do with loss? I don’t know. Maybe I feel loss because the entire family I grew up with in that town are now dead or moved on. My grandparents passed when I was in high school. My mother’s only sister died of alcoholism, as did her husband, as did her daughter, the only living cousin I had. When I think of that small town in Ohio there now, there are renters in the homestead house and the rest of my family is in the graveyard. And the four of us kids scattered all over the country and the world (a brother in Australia).

So I guess the loss I feel as well is that of home. My grandparents beautiful rambling yellow Victorian house where my grandfather who was once a supreme court judge in the State of Ohio was sold long ago. I remember people coming to my grandparent’s house when I was a kid still asking Judge Carter to do small legal things for them. When I think of going home, there is no where to go. My brother lives in a suburban house in Cleveland which is like a different country compared to small towns in Northeastern Ohio. So yes that’s it. I feel like I’ve lost my home. Now I have to make a home for myself again: New friends, new connections, a new love. The idea overwhelms me in the middle of my life. So do I want to let go of anything now? No, I want to hold close to my heart all that comes my way.


   Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sally Sontheimer

I want to let go of life as I knew it. I lived a life for a very long time –- it is over now -– but it wasn’t the sort of life I wanted. I’m going on a track here that I’m not sure I want to follow. It’s a beautiful day, Sunday, November 4, and I’m sitting the celery green chenille armchair in my bedroom in Siena. Outside the window, across our field of olives, I have a perfect and clear view of the town itself, its’ medieval towers, the Torre del Mangia that we are planning to eat underneath today at lunch.

There, I feel grounded now in a place and time, I have roots down to the earth sucking up nutrients, feeding this writing practice.

I want to let go of …how can I name it, what is it I want to release? Needs. A need. Yes, I see it now. It’s a need to be fed by others. Now that we’ve brought up the question of roots, I’d like to totally and completely feed myself. I’d like to let go of any need for approval, for my husband to give me some signal that I’m OK, that he admires me. That’s an old story, you see that weakness inside me, speaking, yet it’s almost gone, I’m almost there, I feel such strength inside.

‘I banish all dis-ease from my body.’ I heard that on a meditation tape by Deepak Chopra that a friend lent me and when I said it to myself it blew me away.

So here we have another circle –- I’d like to be free of dis-ease, unease, discomfort, a feeling of lack in myself and in others and I’m almost there.

Yesterday we all worked together –- my two kids, my friend Vicki, her two teenage daughters, my husband, me, to save the capanna. It almost burned down two weeks ago when a fire spread through the fields. After the firemen left, we went to check on the capanna –- the hay barn –- and found the wooden door still on fire. It was full of hay. So yesterday we cleared it out, burnt all the overgrowth, the brambles, forked out the hay, pulled out the detritus of that old abandoned structure.

And it felt good. No aches and pains like I’ve had in the past, for once upon a time I was very ill.

I banish illness from my body.

I wanted to let go of that –- at the very end and in the end, it was only a concept –- and I did it.


   Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Melissa Studdard

I want to let go of my urge for an outmoded version of perfection. I want to glorify my flabby, feminine thighs — to praise my fat butt — to thank the divine spirit of creation that my nose, by American (hell, by any) standards, is too big — with it I can smell better all the scrumptious foods that will help my thighs progress towards my new and better version of self.

How much time I have wasted, how much time, trying to be a better me. Better looking, smarter, funnier, kinder, more soulful, more intellectual, more athletic, more assertive, more feminine, more gentle, more vivacious, more sophisticated. Phooey. I was a full time project, a first class procrastination from the real work that needs to be done, the work that is not focused on changing myself but instead on accepting myself and those around me as we already are.

All this time — and there I was already perfect. Yes, perfect — I snort when I laugh too hard. What could be better than that? I’ll tell you: I cry at weddings, funerals, movies, plays, symphonies, graduations, museums, anything that moves me at all. I burn dinners. I can’t do math, not even to average fgrades. I have no uterus — gone. I break up with everyone I’ve ever been with once every three months, like clockwork, and then usually I take them back. I can’t remember what I walked into the room for half the time. My daughter often has to advise me to be cautious, because at ten, she is already more sensible than I am. And, for all of this I am thankful, for it is my particular, messy, glorious version of life.

It’s not just what I want to let go of — it’s what I need to let go of — the idea that perfection is perched, like some kind of shimmering trophy, on a shelf just two inches higher than I can reach — that perfection is solid, unchanging, and just almost attainable — that perfection is something that I should or do desire—

Because it’s the imperfect stuff I like best — my retarded, cross-eyed cat Cosmo who can’t hear well and can’t even leap from the floor to my desk without slipping and dragging down a pile of papers on top of himself — I love his overbite and the snaggle-tooth that keeps his lower lip permanently indented. I love, even adore, his imperfection.

And the imperfection in the world — I love the crooked smile, the fattest puppy, the pink rose that accidentally got mixed in with the red, the kid with one brown eye and one blue—

Time’s up — I’m going to practice my sermon — to let go — no clean conclusion, tied up like a bow, no final answer, no perfect statement condensed to an aphorism — just the end of a ramble, not even pucntuated — spelling for shit — beautiful


   Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Petroglyph Rock II, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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The story begins like this…Five hundred years ago, the large petroglyph rock that marks the border of the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos was placed there by the Tiwa Indians to help anchor the energy of the Pueblo Mountain, from whose Blue Lake they trace their origins as a tribe.

The petroglyph rock has had an additional function over these years. It has been used as a navigational guide for extraterrestrial visitors because the site also marks the entranceway to other dimensions.

— Lois Palken Rudnick, Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture


Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


This rock that sits in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos was the inspiration for the formation of a writing group by four participants of Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshop, Living Color, held at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in July of 2007.

The four women — Jeanie from North Carolina, Melissa and Katherine from Houston, and Sally from Rome, Italy — now come together by email the first and third Monday of each month to share their writing.

They follow the rules of writing practice as Natalie Goldberg teaches it. They write for ten minutes without interruption, their hands move across the page without stopping. They don’t comment on each other’s work; they provide a short recall of what they remember after they read each piece.

They call themselves the Petroglyph Practitioners in recognition of what writing practice, and the rock in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House are meant to offer – flight into other dimensions of the self, of the mind, and just possibly, the Divine.

But it’s best if the writers speak for themselves. Below are quotes from their writing practices on how they formed the Petroglyph Practitioners.



Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On my first night in Taos at Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshop, I walked out to the quiet courtyard for a view of the night sky and was hit with the aloneness of being with the crowd of ancestors who have written and painted in the Mabel Dodge Luhan home. As I opened the screen door I expected to see many people with writing notebooks, books, paper, and paints expressing their dreams yet there was a silence that haunts the breeze. I find the evocative colors of lanky hollyhocks, the dust of these faded red walls, and an empty wooden bench that calls me to sit a while and meet these ghosts that stay here because it is the place they call home.

—Jeanie Bernard


When I went to Taos I thought I needed a break, but what I really needed was to meet the mountain — and to meet the immutable within myself. I needed awareness of my interconnectivity with ants, sun, dust, hollyhock, and, yes, even other humans. I was already traveling with Katherine, but I learned her on a whole new level — what was before an intellectual friendship became also a spiritual friendship. I met Jeanie and Sally, and Sally helped me make sense of a meditation experience I’d had years before.

—Melissa Studdard


We wanted the practice to do what the stone was meant to do – open a portal into our minds, into our hearts, into places we needed to go. We finally hit upon a name. The Petroglyph Practitioners. We set rules. We would each submit a piece on any topic we wanted the first and third Monday of every month. We would each provide recall of each piece and share that response with the entire group. We would not edit our writing practices beyond punctuation and spelling errors. We would stay true to the practice as Natalie had taught it. If we wrote shit, that’s what we sent that day.

—Sally Sontheimer


That was an amazing night as Sally took us by flashlight and led us to the rock that had been there all this time. I had no idea it was there. I do know that Natalie always had us do walking meditation near that rock every year I had been there. Now I understood why. I felt a deep connection with Sally and Melissa that night. At the end of the week we decided to join together as a virtual writing group along with Jeanie, Sally’s friend, and we formed the Petroglyph writing practice group.

—Katherine Reynolds



Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We sit that last day anchored to the idea that we need each other to ground our practice and navigate beyond. For us, this solid rock shores us up for more writing. We talk of ways to sustain our desires, to witness our words and to prop us up. We make our plans: we write, we read, we recall and we dream…alone and together.

—Jeanie Bernard


She said petroglyphs were believed to be portals to other dimensions and that the Natives believed this and this is why the petroglyphs were considered sacred. I remember her telling me that that is why I always felt like I was home at Mabel’s. She told me that I didn’t need to move to Taos, but that it was always good to visit these places around the world because all petroglyphs feel like home. They connect us to the Source, The Over Soul, or as I choose to call it: God.

—Katherine Reynolds


I find that the rhythm we have set for ourselves is good; it’s neither so frequent that we feel stressed about it, nor too distant to lose interest. We all submit on time. We share emails in which we say how much we enjoy the sharing. We aren’t supposed to comment, but we do, just a little bit. We share support for one another, share a thought, give a pat on the back. Did the name live up to our expectations? For my part, I’d say so and I think the others would agree. Something new and unexpected always comes through for me. I discover myself, and I also discover the others by reading their work.

—Sally Sontheimer


Since then, we have all kept our obligation to the practice — we have shared humor, shame, defeat, happiness, spirituality, intellectual obsessions, family secrets, dreams, beliefs, insecurities, friendship, and respect. I have learned from these women how to listen, how to share, and how to grow my heart.

—Melissa Studdard


I’ve learned to honor the writing that comes out in each of us because it connects us. Katherine, Melissa, Jeanie, and I — we are the Petroglyph Practitioners, united in being there for each other, united in wanting to explore every other week together what it means to be human.  

—Sally Sontheimer

   


      
            Petroglyph Practitioners in front of the petroglyph rock, Taos, NM, July 2007
            Petroglyph Practitioners in Taos, NM, in front of the
            petroglyph rock for which their group is named, July 2007,
            photo © 2007 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-Related to post The Petroglyph Practitioners On “I Want To Let Go Of…”.

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Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006.

Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, photo by alcinoe, 2006, image released to public domain. 

 
 

I’m having way too much fun with these old family recipes. The comfort foods we grew up with connect to memories. And memories connect to family stories. In a comment on Memories, Writing, & Family Recipes, Mom mentioned the delectable Whoopie Pie and my nostrils curled with the scent of little cocoa cakes rising in the oven.

 
 

What’s a Whoopie Pie?

I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not a cookie, or a cupcake, and, nope, not a MoonPie. I had to do a little research on the history of the Whoopie Pie, and found an excellent account at What’s Cooking America. Originally made from leftover batter, this chocolaty dessert didn’t emerge from my Southern roots, but much further north in Lancaster County (locals emphasize the 1st syllable in Lancaster, the last two falling away quickly), the emerald Pennsylvania Dutch Country, 15 or 20 minutes from home.

Home is a relative term. For me, home was the Deep South from birth to age 12:  Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. But from ages 13 to 21, I lived in a rural area of Central Pennsylvania where my mother and most of the family still reside. The cultural differences in North and South speak for themselves. But one of the things that happens when families crisscross the U.S., digging up and replanting roots, is the adoption and adaptation of geographical foods and culture. If you’ve traveled around this country in culinary delight, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

All that said, I do come by the Whoopie Pie honestly. When tackling the family ancestry, Mom discovered that my great grandfather (on her side) grew up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania; the rest of the family roots are in South Carolina and Georgia. My Southern grandmother also met and married a Pennsylvanian when she lived with us a few years in the 1960′s.

Miraculously, she convinced the genteel Yankee to fly South for the winter, and the two of them eventually moved back to Georgia (probably taking the Whoopie recipe with them!). I guess you could say the family history is a proud mix of North and South, which makes the palette of foods we enjoy that much richer!

 
 

How Did the Whoopie Pie Get Its Name?

Mom emailed the recipe (below) for Whoopie Pies; it was adopted by my sister (another excellent cook and baker following in the tradition of my mother). Whoopie Pies are also a New England specialty, and one of Maine’s great comfort foods. Check out Labadie’s Bakery site to order the Maine Whoopie Pie in every size imaginable. They’ve been baking them since 1925.

I even found a recipe for Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (see Red Velvet Cake commentary at Home & Hearth – On Turning 70). But the best way to experience this treat is to head out to Pennsylvania Dutch Country for the real deal. The Amish have been passing the pies down for generations and you can often buy them at mom-and-pop roadside stands across the area.

But how did the scrumptious Whoopie Pie get its name? According to Amish legend, when children would find these treats in their lunch bags, they would shout “Whoopie!”

My thoughts exactly. Here’s to making Whoopies. Whoop on!

 
 
 

Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006.  Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006.  Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006. 

Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006.  Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006.  Whoopie Pies, Falmouth, Maine, by alcinoe, released to public domain, 2006. 

 
 
 

How To Make Whoopie Pies

 
 

Shopping List – Pies

1 c. shortening
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. hot water
1 c. sour milk (or buttermilk)

2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
4 c. flour (plain)
2/3 c. cocoa (add water to cocoa)
1/2 tsp. salt

 
 

Cooking Instructions:

Mix hot water and cocoa and set aside. Cream shortening and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Add buttermilk alternately with flour, then add cocoa mixture. Spoon by teaspoonfuls (or tablespoon, depending on how large you want them) onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees – about 8 minutes.

 
 

Shopping List – Filling

2 egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla
4 Tbsp. flour
1 c. Crisco
4 c. 10X Powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. milk

 
 

Cooking Instructions:

Beat egg whites, vanilla, flour, and Crisco all together. Add powdered sugar alternately with milk; beat well. When pies are cool, spread a giant scoop of filling on a pie. Place another pie on top, and gently press together. (You might want to wrap them individually to store, as they tend to stick to each other.) Enjoy!

 
 

You can also freeze Whoopie Pies and eat them later. That’s good to know for one and two person households! Liz and I made way too much banana pudding over Thanksgiving!

 
 

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, December 14th, 2007

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My Right Foot, pen and ink drawing © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



A few years back I found myself in San Jose, Costa Rica, in early June with my friend and colleague Gail. We decided to celebrate our birthdays our last evening there — we’re both Geminis — by getting full-body massages before dinner.

That day our Costa Rican hosts took us sightseeing. We hiked a muddy trail to a hidden lake, went to a butterfly preserve, and visited a coffee plantation. We ate lunch at a roadside restaurant overlooking a forest canopy, monkeys crying in the distance. We ended the day with another hike, to the rim of a volcano.

Our hosts dropped us off at the hotel five minutes before our scheduled massages. We ran to our rooms, threw down our bags, ran to the outdoor cabana where the massage therapists waited.

We were in separate yet adjacent rooms. I got the male massage therapist; Gail got the female. My massage was not as strong – the masseuse’s touch not as hard — as I normally liked, but it was relaxing given the excitement of the day. Mostly it ended sooner than I expected.

I dressed quickly then waited for Gail in the quiet reception area. The place smelled of pine. We were the last clients of the night.

Gail didn’t emerge, and I waited. Ten minutes passed, then fifteen. I wondered what was taking so long.

Finally, Gail floated into the semi-darkness, therapist trailing. She rustled through her purse, pulled out a $20 bill and handed it to the woman, all the time effusively praising the massage. We headed slowly in the direction of the patio restaurant.

Gail talked in dreamy tones about what an excellent massage she had. She asked me about mine. I told her it was fine but nothing like hers, from the sound of it.

We found a table, sat, ordered fruity drinks. Gail’s was called “Sex on the Beach.” We laughed when she asked the waiter for it. I had a mojito.

I told Gail I didn’t understand why my massage ended before hers being as we started at the same time. I told her my therapist seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time washing his hands and arms when he was done.

At that moment, I kicked off my sandal and crossed my right calf over my left thigh. I crossed with knees apart, the way men do. Gail and I both looked down at my bare foot. The mud I’d picked up from a day of walking had ground into my sole. It was black, black.

We burst into laughter. We could hardly breathe, we laughed so hard. No wonder my massage therapist was in a hurry to get rid of me. My other foot was just as bad.

Feet are one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Each foot holds over 7,000 nerves, and my feet, especially, hold the weight of my demanding days. When I travel I often indulge in a massage – sometimes just a foot massage. But ever since that Costa Rica experience, I always make sure to wash my feet first.

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