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Archive for March, 2008

Swirl, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Swirl II, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved






Eye Of God, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Eye Of God II, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






Dust Devil, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Celtic Cross, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I’m cutting it close on the March mandalas! In a few hours, it will be April. Though you would not know it by the 9 inches of blizzard outside the window. The Great Round: Stage Three mandalas follow one of my favorite forms — the labyrinth.

These have been the most fun for me yet. And to my delight, Liz began hand-drawing her own mandalas in March. She has a natural sense of design and color, and creates intricate patterns with line detail more delicate than the templates.

Again, I used Crayola markers and colored pencils. Liz used Fimo modeling clay (for the snake), Uniball gel pens, glitter glue, and Crayola markers. The Stage 3 mandalas are about exploring the body and its surroundings, and organizing the information into a map of reality.


According to the book Coloring Mandalas by Susanne F. Fincher, The healing benefits of the labyrinth as mandala are:

  • creating flexibility & openness in healing old wounds
  • communicating with the Ancestors
  • contacting animal Spirit Guides
  • encouraging active searching & exploring that is not goal-directed
  • translating information from the ego into symbolic language that communicates messages from the unconscious to the Self


FIRST PAIR:  The first mandala pair is designed after M.C. Escher. They are the same mandala, photographed from different angles. The challenge of Stage 3 is to show up and keep walking, even if you don’t know final outcomes and goals.

SECOND PAIR:  The second mandala pair is also the same mandala, shot from different angles. The center rings were added in the process of coloring (the center space on the template is empty white space). Stage 3, the Labyrinth, includes experiences of divergent realities and nonordinary states of consciousness. Shamans cultivate their abilities to move in and out of this stage at will.

THIRD PAIR:  The two mandalas in the 3rd pair are different templates, the Spiral and the Celtic Cross, often designed and used by medieval Irish monks. In the Celtic knot, what appears to be a single endless meander is actually two separate pathways, crossing many times but never joining each other.



Spring Dance, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Chromosoma, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Diptyph, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Turtle Bread, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spring Dance, Chromosoma, Diptych, Turtle Bread, hand-drawn labyrinths created by Liz, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The four mandalas above are the beautiful hand-drawn labyrinths that Liz created for The Great Round – Stage 3. She agreed to let me photograph them from her sketchbook and post them with the March mandalas. The coiled snake below is 3-D, made out of clay. You can see names, titles, and more about each one if you click on the image.

Mandalas have been used in Christian churches in the form of stained glass windows and labyrinths since the 12th century, and their centers are often occupied by a mystic rose representing Spirit coming into matter. Walking the labyrinth is a metaphysical pilgrimage, and many travel to Chartres Cathedral in France to walk and meditate on the medieval labyrinth there. The grass labyrinth I walked last year at Sisters of Carondelet in St. Paul is based on the Chartres design. More mandalas to come in April!



Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, March 31st, 2008

-related to posts:  Coloring Mandalas, The Void – January Mandalas, Bliss — February Mandalas, and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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Somewhere over Arizona, the flight home from California, photo (not taken with my cell phone camera) © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






how come the return
is shorter than departure?
finally, exhaling







-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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All is quiet in my home. I am staring out at wind rocking the trees. Mr. StripeyPants curls up on the wool blanket beside me. I connect to something wild in him. I’m reminded of my March practices — mandalas and writing about the moon. Where has she been hiding? I don’t remember seeing her this month. Has it been too gray. Or have I not been paying attention. The light has come back. The sky is lighter before bed. Maybe she disappears into the white skies of summer.

There are many names for the March moon. I resonate most with the Eastern Cherokee name of Wind Moon. I came out of a meeting this afternoon, walked across the macadam parking lot. The wind kicked through my hair. There was a coolness about her, not like the dog days of August, or the warm breezes of June. It was as if the sky had licked the top of a mound of crusted snow, sucked up her coolness, and swept it across my face. I woke up.

The Farmers’ Almanac calls the March moon, the Crow Moon, a name from many of the Northern tribes. There is the Kiowa Bud Moon, the Shawnee Sap Moon, and the Alaskan Haida Noisy Goose Moon. There is the Worm Moon and the Moose Hunter Moon. But I walk with the Wind, and the poetry of the Hopi — Month of the Whispering Wind. The names are connected to the land, grounded there. That is why I like this practice. Even if I can’t see the Moon, it doesn’t mean she is not there. The tides rise and fall to her rhythm.

I haven’t walked the land this week. But I slow walk any chance I get. Across the streets, parking lots, and sidewalks in the cities and suburbs where I live. Along the steps that lead up to my studio. I always remember to look up. On the ground, my feet hold the connection. Rooted. Every angle counts. As above, so below.

The wind has been blowing all day long. Dark winter branches fall from leafless trees. Twigs snap and drop on the deck. Strong winds strip away the dead wood, prepare the land for renewal. I saw one patch of green on top of the driveway garden when tires splashed through puddles of melted snow. There is an ice dam by the garbage can, melting and freezing, puddling and coughing, spitting and sputtering toward warmth and sun.

The three cats run to the door when we return home. They stand on their back legs, noses against the screen, and stare out at the return of migrating birds. I saw my first robin on a branch near the downtown Minneapolis library yesterday evening. Traffic was heavy. We were looking for a parking spot. “Look! My first robin!” I said to Liz. “Where?” she peered out the window in the direction I was staring. “Oh, I see it! Yeah, Spring!”

Then we parked and walked across crumbled cracks in the sidewalk and into the high-rise library. We went to see a writer, Will Weaver, and a filmmaker, Ali Selim, talk about their work. The writer wrote a short story, A Gravestone Made of Wheat. The film maker read it and wept. Then he bought the rights and spent 15 years writing the screenplay and trying to gather enough money to get the film made. It is called Sweet Land. I wept when I watched it for the first time last week.

That’s the kind of writing I want to do. I want to write a story that is so true to its time, that it makes others weep. We sat in chairs in the Minneapolis public library, each with a small brass plate on one arm. The plate is etched with the name of a writer who is, or once was, connected to Minnesota. I listened to writers talk about their work. Money sometimes surfaces in these conversations. How do you make a living and write. I believe we find our way. If we continue to show up.

Continue under all circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good. The positive effort will take you a long way. And the giving to others. I’ve witnessed it countless times. It creates an opening in me. A whole place where I can learn to receive.

I don’t see the Wind Moon tonight. I hear the knocking of the chimes. If I don’t see the Wind, it doesn’t mean she is not there. The sky is black. Two planes flash, rerouted across distant skies. I don’t hear them. I see wing lights flashing in the dark. I know the moon is behind me, rising above the oaks. If I look out the bedroom windows in a few hours, I might see her pale face, 3rd quarter – half dark, half light. There’s a symmetry, a balance in that. I count on her. The Moon is dependable. She is never tossed away.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, March 29th, 2008

-related to posts:  winter haiku trilogy, PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min, and PRACTICE – Snow Moon (Total Lunar Eclipse) — 20min

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We buckled in Colby Jack.
(Monkey also came.
So did Wally the Platypus.)




We saw snow on the mountains.
(But where we were going,
there was no snow.)





It was down there somewhere.
Underneath all the smog.

   



Finally, we could see something.
Ah, yes, an airport parking lot.





We got our Ford Escape.
Look, the underside of a plane!





We drove our car to our hotel.
(Such a lovely place…such a lovely place.
Such a lovely face…such a lovely face.)





Threw down our bags and hit Muscle Beach.
But instead of showing our biceps,
we hung upside down.






Happy happy.
Spring Break for all!

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By Teri Blair


Parkway Marquee, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Parkway Marquee, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In 1989 the Academy-Award winning Cinema Paradiso was released. The Italian film takes place in a post-World War II Sicilian village, and chronicles the friendship of a young boy, Toto, and the town’s gruff but lovable movie projectionist, Alfredo. Toto is fascinated by everything at the theater — the celluloid film, the projector, and the lion’s roaring mouth on the wall through which images pass from film to screen. We watch Hardware, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Toto mature from mischievous child, to earnest young man, to successful filmmaker. But in-between scenes of first love and failing health and a changing Italian community, we see and know something else. We are witnessing the life of someone who is undeniably, unequivocally passionate about one thing — movies.

Nineteen eighty-nine was also the year I began attending a theater in south Minneapolis that showed art house films, the sort of movies that weren’t on every screen in town. I rather stumbled upon the Parkway. There was a foreign film playing there that I hadn’t seen, and the theater’s recording said there was free lighted parking a block away. When I arrived, I knew I was at a theater that was different from any other in town. But what I didn’t know was that the theater was owned by someone who is undeniably, unequivocally passionate about one thing — movies.

Bill Irvine’s livelihood in the theater business began, like Toto’s, as a youngster. At thirteen, he was already an avid movie From Here To Eternity , Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.enthusiast who saw at least one picture a week. One Thursday evening in spring, young Bill was walking by the Parkway Theater. The owner needed someone to change the marquee for the upcoming weekend movie. His regular marquee man hadn’t shown. Bill heard, “Hey kid! Do you want to make a buck?” He brought the ladder outside and put up the new film, Romeo and Juliet. He was paid a dollar, a Nut Goodie, and offered the same job the following Thursday. Before long he was working behind the candy counter, then selling tickets, and by the time he was a junior in high school, was managing the entire theater.

That was 40 years ago. Last summer, the 53-year-old fixture at 48th and Chicago ended his career at the Parkway and turned over his theater keys to Joe Senkyr, owner of next-door Pepitos restaurant.Rows, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I caught up with Bill a few weeks ago. I wanted to hear his story. After all, who stays at a job for 40 years, let alone at one location? There is a boyish openness about Bill, a casual baseball hat, a ready smile. He was ready to talk, and as willing to divulge the hazards of his chosen profession as the rewards.

Bill never had a grand scheme to become an actor or a filmmaker himself. After high school he attended St. Thomas and Brown Institute to study Journalism and Broadcast Journalism. But at the young age of 20, he decided to make an offer on the up-for-sale Parkway. He knew the business inside and out, having already been an employee for seven years, and had no trouble getting several banks to offer him a loan to buy the place.

But instead of selling the theater to this neighborhood kid, then-owner Mel Lebewitz sold it to Jim Sparks, a man from Omaha who The Peerless, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reservedspecialized in porn theaters across the country…a move that mystifies Bill to this day. The community was outraged and months of demonstrations and picketing ensued. After six months of hassles, Sparks was ready to unload the Parkway, and Bill (still 20), bought it for $140,000 with his business partner Pat Nikoloff. Papers were signed in March of 1976, and six days later Bill opened with a double feature, The Pink Panther, and Bill Cosby’s Let’s Do it Again.

Bill was quickly enfolded into the Twin City theater-owner community. It was a Jewish-dominated industry, and with a name lParkway Goddess, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.ike Irvine, Bill let himself pass for Jewish…even though his heritage is Scottish and English. “No one asked me, so I never told,” Bill laughs.

Bill’s outgoing personality lent itself to the business. He grew to know the stories of his customers’ lives, and they became his friends. He saw their children grow up, celebrated job promotions, and grieved a lost parent. And along with the relationships, he created a theater known for its documentaries, foreign films, and thought-provoking dramas.

“I have loved what I have done, and I am happy,” Bill mused. “If you don’t love your job, you start to hate life and become bitter and mean. If I were talking to a 25-year-old, I would tell them to set their sights high doing something they love, stick with it, and be good at it.”



The movie industry changed during the 40 years that Bill owned the Parkway. When he began, there were several one-screen theaters in town. They are now the rare exception, having given way to 10-and 20-plex theaters. “When I started in the business, actors were well-trained in their craft. Now, theaters are desperate to fill screens. The integrity of films has suffered, and most movies have no shelf life. If someone has an attractive face, they slap them up on the screen and call them an actor.”

But in the midst of this, Bill maintained a caliber of quality movies that brought his faithful customer base back week after week. He spent hours combing through sample DVDs to find good selections. “I think most people would be surprised by how time-consuming this job is,” he says. “It takes so much time to find a good movie.”

Simplex, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bill has his own personal favorites, of course:  the documentary Brother’s Keeper, Waiting for Guffman, and Shawshank Redemption. The actors who top his list are Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Woody Allen, and Michael Caine. The longest-running movie in Parkway’s history was Shirley Valentine, the story of a woman who flees her stale life in England to begin again in Greece. It stayed at the Parkway for 38 weeks.

What is next for Bill? “Well, I’d like to travel. I want to see New Zealand and Australia. I may open up another theater in St. Cloud or St. Paul; I’ve had a job offer from Columbia Film Society in South Carolina. But I haven’t really decided.”

Blueprint, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Blueprint, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


And how about the Parkway? New owner Senkyr has already begun major renovations:  a newly exposed balcony railing, rich colors and murals, seats torn out to make room for a larger stage for live theater. Weekly changes are quickly making the old Parkway harder to remember as the new one is born.

And what about us, those of us who look first at what is playing at the Parkway when we open up the movie section? We likely won’t find another movie theater where the owner calls us by name when we walk through the door, where we can ask for a glass of water and not be charged for it, and where our business is so clearly appreciated.

     Ladies, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Up The Down Staircase, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Stripes, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Cut Out, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I have never minded that there were some lumpy seats and peeling paint on the ceiling. Because the Parkway has maintained something that is hard to come by these days — a sense of belonging and community. In a big city we have had a place that has felt a little like a small town. A place where we could enjoy the talent of someone who knew his business and the quality of films never diminished. A place where the popcorn was always fresh and the movies ever enchanting.

We have been lucky. We have gotten to be a part of a Bill’s 40-year love affair. A love affair with the movies.



Lights, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Parkway Lights, inside the Parkway Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. She is currently writing a profile series on teachers who taught in one-room rural schools before, during, and after WW II. They are appearing monthly in Senior Perspective.


About profiling, Teri says:  I stumbled onto profiling quite by accident. I owned a dairy barn that had been a dance hall during the Depression, and I wanted to meet people who had danced there. When I heard their stories, it was obvious they had to be recorded. One thing quickly led to another, and before long I had a series of essays on my hands that people wanted to read.

I typically go into an interview with 10 questions, one tape recorder, and two cameras. I’ve learned through many fits and starts how to adapt questions, change directions, and let the real story emerge. I’ve had two tape recorders break during interviews, several rolls of film come back blurry, and been in situations where I was so nervous I could barely keep from passing out. I’ve also had the time of my life…adventures worth their weight in gold.

Profiling gives me the chance to shine lights on people who deserve attention for adding something of value to our world. That is my greatest reward.

Favorite profile experience to date:  After interviewing a 14-year-old musher, he took me on an invigorating dogsled ride through ditches, woods, and down snow-covered gravel roads. I learned that a 14-year-old boy has only one speed he is interested in: FAST.



Through The Rain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Through The Rain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Through The Rain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



About the photography:  All the photographs were taken on September 20th, 2007 by QuoinMonkey during an Ani DiFranco poetry reading at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis. She would later find out, the timing occurred shortly after Bill Irvine transferred ownership of the Parkway Theater. The seeds for a collaboration between Teri’s profile and the Parkway photographs were planted in a Comment thread on The Brave One. The result is this chance meeting between language and the visual.

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By Bob Chrisman


I took a photograph of my mother’s hands before the visitors arrived at the funeral home. When she was well, she cared for her hands and nails everyday, but that stopped in the nursing home when she lost the strength in her hands and arms. Her nails grew long and dirty. That bothered her.

As she physically declined in the nursing home, she stopped caring for her nails. Instead, she would wait for me to arrive on Sundays. She would look at her hands and say, “My nails sure are long” or “I haven’t had my nails trimmed in a long time” or “My fingernail polish is chipped.” Those were clues that I should find the clippers and the nail file and go to work.

She had never directly asked for anything from me; instead she had relied on me to assume what she wanted and to do it. Many times my assumptions had fallen short of her expectations and she let me know of her disappointment in my failings.

When I could take the subtlety no longer, I would ask, “Mom, do you want me to clip your nails?”

“I wish someone would.” That was the closest to “Yes” that I ever received.

The intimacy of taking her frail hands in my big, powerful ones was almost too much for me to bear. How many times did I say to myself, “Come on, Bob. It is only her hands?”

To hold my mother’s hand connected me to her in a way that I didn’t want. Her inability to care for her most basic needs, her aging, and her impending death flowed into me through her hands.

This woman, who had ruled much of my life, who had consumed me in many ways, sat in her wheelchair and offered me her hands. So much of my life I had distanced myself from her and here I was, in the end, sucked back into her world through her hands.

The last three weeks of her life I noticed her hands every time I visited. Her fingers and hands had become skeletal as her weight had dropped to about 70 pounds. I trimmed her nails one of those weeks.

“I scratch myself,” she had said that afternoon. I held her hand and carefully trimmed the nails making sure that I didn’t pull on her skin or clip her nails too closely because my mother’s top layer of skin had become like plastic wrap and a scratch, however slight, would open her skin and she would bleed profusely..

One week her fingers were pure white and the tiny blue veins that ran down each finger stood out. The backs of her hands were a mass of age spots and bruises, a dark brown mixed with deep purple. The juxtaposition of her fingers to the backs of her hands looked as though someone had grafted the fingers of a stranger onto her hands.

The Sunday before she died her fingers and hands were a dusky, purplish-blue color. Her blood is pooling in her extremities, I thought. I knew from looking at her hands that she would not live that much longer.

She died that Thursday morning at 5:50…Thursday, February 28, 2008.

The mortician erased many of the signs of aging from her face and hands. She looked more beautiful in death than she had in life. Her nails had been trimmed and painted a pale pink. Her hands laid one on top of the other.

I wanted to remember those hands forever — even after everything else I remember about her disappears from my mind. I raised my camera to my eye, focused on her hands and took the picture.



My Mother’s Hands, photo © 2008 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




Bob Chrisman lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he writes. Natalie Goldberg gave him permission to call himself a writer many years ago, and he has been writing ever since. His writing friends, particularly those from a Goldberg year-long Intensive that he and 23 other students took, have made it possible for him to continue and, thankfully, only occasionally be tossed away.


About writing practice, Bob says: My practice is simple. I meditate for 30 minutes every morning and then do six 10-minute “writes.” Sometimes life interrupts the schedule, but I return to it as soon as possible.

As so many writers have suggested, including our teacher, write first thing in the morning before anything interferes with the writing. But, if you can’t write in the morning, write sometime during the day. Don’t let it slide!

After my mother’s death I couldn’t always focus for an hour, but I made a commitment to myself to write enough to catch up for the days (or writes) I missed. I did them all. That’s how important these six 10-minute writes are to my practice, to my life and to what little sanity I have left.


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El Rancho Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

El Rancho Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Writers love pens. And paper products. Those are our tools of the trade. When I was younger, there weren’t that many choices: Sharpies (1964), BICs (1950), and Flairs (1966). I used them all. My current pen of choice for Writing Practice is the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point (1979), in a spectrum of 24 colors. (Since 2007, they come in a 4 inch size with a carabiner clip.)

Sharpies don’t smell as toxic as they did in the 1960’s (though the odor is still noticeable). They aren’t what some would call a fast writing pen. But for me, the rough, porous tip slows down my writing so I can read what’s on the page at the end of a practice.

In grade school, I wrote letters with a Schaeffer fountain pen, complete with robin’s egg stationery. After a thousand years of using quill-pens, the fountain pen was invented in 1884 by an insurance broker named Lewis Edson Waterman. In 1901, at the time of his death, Waterman was selling 1,000 pens every day. In 2008, Schaeffer and Parker dominate the fountain pen market.

What kind of pen do you use? Have you ever used a Ring-Pen? Do you prefer a ballpoint? What about paper products? I can’t walk by an old fashioned stationery store (hard to find) or an art materials store without ducking inside.



     Vertical, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Vertical, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Vertical, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Vertical, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Tell me about your tools of the trade. If you are an artist, list all of your materials: canvas, brushes, paints, charcoal, watercolors. Do you use high-end papers like Arches, Canson or Bienfang?

If you are not a writer or an artist, what are the tools of your profession? Are you a cosmetologist, dental tool sharpener (yes, I used to be one), doctor, butcher, baker, ski bum.

Make a detailed list of all the pens, pencils, art materials, drawing papers in your home or studio. Sinclair Lewis was a master list maker. Here are a few random snippets from Main Street (1920):


Dyer’s Drug Store, a corner building of regular and unreal blocks of artificial stone. Inside the store, a greasy marble soda-fountain with an electric lamp of red and green and curdled-yellow mosaic shade. Pawed over heaps of toothbrushes and combs and packages of shaving soap. Shelves of soap-cartons, teething-rings, garden-seeds, and patent medicines in yellow packages — nostrums for consumption, for “women’s diseases” — notorious mixtures of opium and alcohol, in the very shop to which her husband sent patients for the filling of prescriptions.

Howland & Gould’s Grocery. In the display window, black, overripe bananas and lettuce on which a cat was sleeping. Shelves lined with red crepe paper which was now faded and torn and concentrically spotted. Flat against the wall of the second story, the signs of lodges — the Knights of Pythias, the Maccabees, the Woodmen, the Masons.

Axel Egge’s General Store, frequented by Scandinavian farmers. In the shallow dark window-space, heaps of sleazy sateens, badly woven galateas, canvas shoes designed for women with bulging ankles, steel and red glass buttons upon cards with broken edges, a cottony blanket, a granite-ware frying-pan reposing on a sun-faded crepe blouse.



       Sharpies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Sharpies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Sharpies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Sharpies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Sharpies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



She rose to a radiance of sun on snow. Snug in her furs she trotted up-town. Frosted shingles smoked against a sky colored like flax-blossoms, sleigh-bells clinked, shouts of greeting were loud in the thin, bright air, and everywhere was a rhythmic sound of wood-sawing. It was Saturday, and the neighbors’ sons were getting up the winter fuel. Behind walls of corded wood in back yards their sawbucks stood in depressions scattered with canary-yellow flakes of sawdust. The frames of their buck-saws were cherry-red, the blades blued steel, and the fresh cut ends of the sticks — poplar, maple, iron-wood, birch — were marked with engraved rings of growth. The boys wore shoe-packs, blue flannel shirts with enormous pearl buttons, and mackinaws of crimson, lemon yellow, and foxy brown.

No ones save Axel himself could find anything. A part of the assortment of children’s stockings was under a blanket on a shelf, a part in a tin ginger-snap box, the rest heaped like a nest of black-cotton snakes upon a flour-barrel which was surrounded by brooms, Norwegian Bibles, dried cod or ludfisk, boxes of apricots, and a pair and a half of lumbermen’s rubber-footed boots. The place was crowded with Scandinavian farmwives, standing aloof in shawls and ancient fawn-colored leg o’ mutton jackets awaiting the return of their lords.


    Blue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Blue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Blue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



  • Make a list of all of the tools of your trade.
  • Do a 10 minute Writing Practice after you make your list. Start the practice with What’s in front of me….
  • Be as detailed as you can:  name brand, color, size, shape, smell, memory associations.


How are 21st century tools the same or different than when you were growing up. What are your favorite tools for writing, drawing, gardening, farming, painting, working. Start out with the details of the objects — see where they lead you.



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, March 26th 2008

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Holding Space, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Holding Space, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






lake frozen in place
yellow sun sinking behind
holding silent space





-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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There is a lot I don’t know about insects, spiders, and bugs. I do know they are connected to memories, sometimes traumatic memories. I had no idea my family had so many connected memories about bugs and creepy crawlers until this Writing Topic was posted and I started reading their comments. Memories are part of the family glue.

I had forgotten about the yellow jackets in my sister’s long blonde hair. She had the blondest of locks. So did two of my brothers, though they have lost most of their hair now. Why is it that blonde hair turns darker with age?

It is traumatic to be stung by a bee when you are a kid. I have only one memory of a bee sting. I was playing on a red and green swing set, I think it was when we lived in Tennessee. For some dumb reason, I stuck my finger into a hole, maybe where a bolt used to be. Or where the hollowed out space of the metal tubing meets and joins. The pain was instant. So was the scream. There were yellow jackets in there. Or were they wasps?

What is the difference between a wasp and a yellow jacket? I remember the doodlebugs (I read that they are larvae). Last night I was trying so hard to remember the song. I think I remember the tune..doodlebug, doodlebug, come out to play – kind of like the k-i-s-s-i-n-g tune of “blank and blank, sittin’ in a tree”….that’s what I remember. And there is reference to the doodlebug’s house. But what are the words?

I remember part of the doodlebug ritual is swirling your index finger in the pile of sand hovering over the wrinkled gray ball of a bug. Swirling, swirling, swirling, like a finger in delectable cake batter. I have fond memories of doodlebugs. Not of ants. Fire ants were the worst. I watched the same Animals Gone Bad show oliverowl did last night. It talked about the history of fire ants, and killer bees, and the tree frogs that have invaded Hawaii.

The animals are acting the way they always have. It is humans that have changed. Humans in their quest for excellence, always end up messing with Nature – that one last good thing. Transporting one species in to eradicate another, messing up the balance of things. That’s what happened with the killer bees. An aggressive species of bee (I forget which one) was imported and mated with the honeybee.

Then there were the Asian carp, only a stone’s throw away from invading the Great Lakes. They respond to electricity and were leaping out of the water, huge carp, jumping in droves. It was like something out of a sci-fi movie. They eat everything desirable that fish like perch need to survive. Carp are bottom feeders, mate like crazy, and are NOT good eatin’.

I remember my dad bringing a giant carp home from a fishing trip once. It was the largest fish I had ever seen. Where did the Asian carp come from? If memory serves, they were imported into Arkansas in the 1950’s to stock a river or lake? Memory fades.

When I was a kid, I used to walk up and down our driveway on Audubon Circle and snap ants off the end of a bullwhip given to me by my Uncle Bill. I loved that bullwhip. It had a worn wooden handle, dirt etched into the rough grain of the wood. Brads fastened the braided leather of the whip to the pine handle. It was way too long for my 9-year-old body. But I made it work anyhow.

To this day, I think that’s part of the reason I have such good eye-hand coordination – spending hours in the sultry summers, slow walking the driveway, rapt concentration, snapping ants at the end of a whip. I’m horrified at that now. I elect not to kill any sentient beings if I can help it. Every insect, critter, and creepy-crawler has a purpose on this planet.

But I’ve got to tell you, the bugs Down South are a force to be reckoned with. It’s not the casual sugar ant we get in Minnesota. Or the little black ants that invade a picnic by Lake Harriet. It’s the fierce pinchers and stingers of the fire ant, the venomous bite of the water moccasin, tenacious roaches (creatures who refuse to die and only show themselves at night), and the black widow spider I watched weave a 4-foot web between scratchy branches of Carolina pine.

I miss the fireflies, the aurora borealis of the insect world. I love fireflies. And never see them in Minnesota. I used to catch them in a glass jar, add a little Tennessee grass, poke holes in the metal lid with the hooked T of a manual can opener, and carry them into my room at night. Insects will be on this earth until the end of time. We might as well learn how to live with them.

In reality, the more we invade their spaces and build on their habitat, the more we will perceive them as a nuisance. They are mutable, adaptable, and evolve more quickly than humans (I just flashed on a memory of flying ants. Those things used to freak me out). Through eons of galactic evolution, insects and creepy crawlers are way ahead of the game. They are not afraid of change.


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – INSECTS & SPIDERS & BUGS, OH MY! and big spider haiku

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I don’t know much about bugs. Not their scientific names nor which ones are considered to be insects and which are not. I think insects are a subset of a larger group called arthropods, of which spiders are also a subset. And I think there is something about a bug’s body — how many sections it has and how many legs — that makes it an insect or not. But honestly, I must have been asleep during that part of Biology.

And, where do we learn about bugs? Is it 6th grade Science?

I remember toads, the ones we dissected in Mr. Gruner’s 10th grade Biology class. I remember how we made fun of Sheila R. for how she used her long manicured nails to pull the large intestine away from the frog’s stomach lining, and how later, as she ate her ham and mustard sandwich at lunch she took her thumb and mined and licked the mustard from under the same fingernail she used earlier to poke at the toad.

Ew, Laurie Harris and I said in unison. We didn’t like Sheila’s thick auburn hair, which she expertly styled. Laurie’s thin hair barely held a quasi-Farrah Faucett flip, which she got only after holding the curling iron for way more seconds than she was supposed to. Me, I had major hair envy. And nail envy, and height envy. It was satisfying to see Sheila inadvertently eat toad innards with every lick of mustard.

I know some people have bug phobias, like Aunt Erma, who once freaked out inside a moving car when she saw a moth flutter on the dashboard. We were headed from Grandma’s house to the racetrack, and I thought Uncle Henry was going to swerve off the highway, what with Erma lurching this way and that on the front bench seat. Tina and I were in the back, already sitting low since we considered ourselves too cool to be riding with her parents. When Erma started flailing and screaming, we sunk even lower.

I think I have a healthy respect for bugs. Today I raked leaves for two hours in the back courtyard and underneath the almost black loam of partially decomposed leaves I unearthed two healthy earthworms. They were fat and lively, writhing in the sudden light and air. I picked them up with gloved hands and walked them to the bunches of daffodils growing under the apricot tree.

I hope they managed to burrow into a cool spot down in that dirt, where they will continue to fatten and eat grubs and other bad bugs. I wonder, are earthworms insects?


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – INSECTS & SPIDERS & BUGS, OH MY!

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Piglet Bearing Gifts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007, photo © 2007 by Skywire Alley. All rights reserved.

Piglet Bearing Gifts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007, photo © 2007 by SkyWire Alley. All rights reserved.



I’m afraid the photograph of Piglet gives me away — I’m a little late posting this piece. I had wanted to get it out in January. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

Still, it wouldn’t be right to go without acknowledging our 2007 Guests. We’d like to offer our gratitude to the writers and artists who submitted their work to us in 2007. It has made the red Ravine community a richer place to visit. Please accept our heartfelt thanks.

We are well into March and ybonesy and I have been doing Spring cleaning. We’ve got some changes planned for 2008, and a few surprises, too. We went live nearly a year ago this April. We are still here. The experience has been rewarding, challenging, thrilling, and humbling.

Somehow, people continue to visit, risking that long walk to the bottom. Believe it or not, it’s when our energy is flagging, that we feel the most gratitude to our dedicated readers. Especially those who dare to join the conversation with their comments.

Just in case you missed any of our Guests in 2007, I’ve added links to each of their posts below (our 2008 Guests can be found on the sidebar). Revisit if you wish. Let them know what you think.

Deep bow. And thank you.




April 2007


25 Reasons I Write by Judith Ford

Til Death Do Us Part by Laurie L.

Fuchsia High Tops by dzvayehi

Continue Under All Circumstances by Teri Blair



May 2007


On Candy by Barbara Rick

PRACTICE – Place – 15min by mimbresman 

A Place To Stand – Greenwich Country Day School by Nat Worley

Help Wanted by Sharon J. Anderson

The Art Of Love by Juanita McDermott

Wishing You A Peaceful Heart – An Open Letter To Cindy Sheehan by Beth Bro Howard



June 2007


Killer Water, A Desert Rat Chronology by mimbresman

My Father’s Smile by Beth Bro Howard

The Devil Came Down To Austin by Carolyn Flynn



July 2007


From A Poetry Virgin by Shira

Everyone Has A Story by Annelise

Dreaming Of Frida Kahlo by Laura Stokes



August 2007


Thornton Wilder & Bridges by Teri Blair

Abandoned Is… by Elizabeth Statmore

A Letter To Agnes Martin And A Surprise Reply by Joanne Hunt



September 2007


Writing The “Remembering Grace Paley” Piece by Elizabeth Statmore

40 Days, 8 Flags, And 1 Mennonite Choir by Teri Blair

Interview With Author And Teacher Robert Wilder – Part 1

Interview With Author And Teacher Robert Wilder – Part 2



October 2007


The Turning Point: Two Poems by Alissa King

Under Your Voodoo by Sharon Sperry Bloom

The Unanswered Question by Beth Bro Howard

Inner Rhythms by Gail Wallinga



November 2007


Poetry: Garden by 94stranger

Kindness by Marylin

Coffee Rorschach, Part I by OmbudsBen

Coffee Rorschach, Part II by OmbudsBen



December 2007


Alone Together – The Beginning Of The Petroglyph Practitioners by Jeanie Bernard, Katherine Reynolds, Sally Sontheimer, Melissa Studdard

The Petroglyph Practioners On, “I Want To Let Go Of…” by Jeanie Bernard, Katherine Reynolds, Sally Sontheimer, Melissa Studdard

(Whose B-Day?) Going To New York by E. Elise




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

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Coming Up For Air, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Coming Up For Air, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






buried in March snow
cedar branches flex and bend
coming up for air





-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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big spider, somewhere in Pennsylvania, photo © 2008 by R3. All rights reserved.

big spider, Rock Creek Regional Park, Maryland,
photo © 2008 by R3. All rights reserved.





bugs, bugs everywhere
why do we invade their world
swirling stick circles


4 or 5 inch legs
webmaster spins silken tales
spider sense prevails




-posted on red Ravine, Friday, March 21st, 2008

-related to posts: haiku (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC – INSECTS & SPIDERS & BUGS, OH MY!,  and My Totem Animal

-collaboration between R3 and QM:  photograph by R3, haiku created by QM from lines out of R3’s Spider Tales (Comment 13) in Writing Topic – Insects & Spiders & Bugs, Oh, My!   

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Sun! Thank you!, Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

Sun! Thank You!, Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






dark in a half light
seed buds pull out of hiding
snowless sun, thank you





-posted on red Ravine, Spring Equinox, Thursday, March 20th, 2008

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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Child of the Earth and Me, a Jerusalem Cricket in the Rio Grande Valley on a March morning, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The weather is getting warm, which means insects and spiders are coming out.

I almost burned the sausage the other morning on account of running outside to look at an unusual creature in our front yard.

“It’s a CHILD OF THE EARTH!” I screamed.

We used to see them all the time when I was a child of the earth myself. They scared the pee out of me, with their shiny translucent casing and black-dot eyes on either side of their humungous heads.

The Child of the Earth is really a Stenopelmatus Fuscus, or a Jerusalem Cricket. In other, less dramatic parts of the world, it’s commonly known as the Potato Bug, and I guess one could argue that it vaguely looks like a spud. (I, however, think it more closely resembles a crawling fetus.) It’s innocuous (like you’d expect a child to be) and lives mostly burrowed underground, which accounts for its pale complexion.

I’m fascinated by most bugs. The other day we came across a big, thick centipede. I was simultaneously freaked out and hypnotized by its long, plastic-looking body and pincers on the tip of its head (or was that its bottom?). It wasn’t until it started to amble — with its oodles of legs — in my direction that I let out a yelp and high-tailed it out of there.

In short, I’m both attracted to and repulsed by creepy crawly critters.




What about you? How do feel about moths and ants and crickets and beetles?

Do you run the other way when you see them, or are you the one others call to come get the Daddy Long Legs out of the bathtub?

Think about all manner of bug-like creatures. Think about your response when you see them. Which ones creep you out? Which ones do you consider to be magical?

Set your timer for 15 minutes and at the top of your page write the words, Everything I know about bugs….

Get your hand moving (as if you have ants in your pants) and don’t stop until the buzzer rings.




Ants in my Croiss-ants, the first ants of spring having a picnic in our kitchen on a warm March day, photo © 2008 by Jim. All rights reserved.


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March Leaves, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

March Leaves, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






wet snow and brown leaves
chase the budding potential
rivers through gutters





-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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Something about Mess nags at me. I can’t put my finger on it, although I know it has to do with control, wanting a perfect life. Wanting nothing to get out of hand.

It’s not me, I’m not a tidy person. Although there is something there as I age. A desire to finally and at last live without mess.

I think it’s an imperfect thing, this notion that mess can be banished. Messy people, people who walk around with their dramas emanating like steam from their bodies, constantly knocking on the doors of the healthy and sane, looking for something to muddy up.

Much as I don’t want mess in my life, mess finds me. Emotional wrecks and crisis at school or the mess of nerves Mom seems to have become.

And yet, yet, I look around my clean, pleasant space. Nothing on the floor that doesn’t belong there. I notice a water bottle on the table, a third of the water left. I’m annoyed that it will be wasted, and if I’m thinking about it when I empty it, I’ll put the water on my aloe vera plant.

I don’t have many plants, I just realized, not many in the house. Is it because they’re messy, one more life to take care of, dead leaves to sweep? When Jonathan lived here he had the entire east bank of windows filled with plants. Hanging falling tangled plants, and birds, finches and parakeets. I swept bird feed for weeks. Even the people who refinished the floors asked about the seeds, which, it appears, can never be entirely purged. I found one a few weeks ago, almost a year since we bought the house.

I picture mess like I picture fingers, forming in the womb. Slender fingers, or stubby, even in their tiny-ness. And hazel eyes, kinky hair. Big nose with a hump level with the cheekbone. A high tolerance for mess, but one that goes lower and lower over time like water receding, or a man’s hairline.

I first noticed differences in mess between me and Janet. We shared a room until I was nine. I inherited her Barbie collection, two Barbies — one blonde, one brunette. A red-headed Skipper, and Ken. They were perfect, all of them, in two white vinyl cases that smelled like plastic, and tiny hangers, accessories, ballroom gowns with glitter. Tiny slip-on shoes, everything matching and perfect. The pink boa for the pink fringe party dress.

Janet came into the world with a low tolerance for mess, allotted like a small dot on a chromosome. Dark hair, straight, black eyes, an aqualine nose. I wonder what she thought, what I did to that sensibility when I cut Skipper’s hair into a pixie like my own. Cut it and cut it again, trying each time to make it even, but it was thick and would move like a bloc when the scissors came down, causing it always to run uphill.

I drew permanent make-up on the blonde Barbie’s eyes, maybe I wanted her to have dark lines, not clear skin. Who knows why, just that there was no such thing as purity or cleanliness or something that shouldn’t be changed.

I wonder if mess can be like hair, maybe you’re endowed with a mess of it in youth but over time it thins and grows dry, the essential oils leave you and so does that haphazard way about you.

Sometimes I think it’s encapsulated in the notion of “maturity,” that as I strive to finally reach that longed-for place I tell myself it’s time to let go of childhood traits. Messy room, clothes on the floor, unmade bed, or even the tangle of desire and sadness and fear — not even sure which one paralyzes, just aware that I can’t move forward so stuck I am in all my mess.

I don’t know what it is, or why, but I do know I want simplicity and beauty and if there is mess in my life I want to learn from it, I wish it to have a purpose other than flubbing me up.

I threw away the Barbies when at age 14 I noticed that they were completely ruined. No more shoes that matched, no more tiny hangers, no more vinyl carrying cases. The thing I missed most were the clear, transparent slip-ons, a kind of Everywoman shoe, too high, yes, and made for impossible arches, but they went with everything and in the end they were nothing.


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MESS

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