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Archive for October, 2008

Halloween Spider Exit, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Halloween Spider Exit, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spider Walk, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spider Walk, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Casket Arts Halloween, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Casket Arts Halloween, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



There was a Halloween Open Casket event at the Casket Arts Building last weekend. We spent several days hanging out in our studio, visiting with community artists and art lovers who stopped by to view and talk about art.

One couple had just moved into the building and we were talking about how the entire 3rd floor was once filled with women who sewed silk casket linings for the Northwestern Casket Company. And the polished maple we were standing on contained patches of thrown away boards from the casket builders downstairs.

That got me to thinking about caskets and, well, things just snowballed from there. Here’s my short list of fun things to do on Halloween.




1) Take A Casket Decorating Class


All things associated with death, including obituaries, caskets, and burials used to be an art form. People spent painstaking hours building and decorating caskets with the art of Rosemaling or Dalmalning. And there are people who still excel at this craft.

Rosemaling is Norwegian decorative painting. In an interview, Casket Painting Uplifted by Folk Art Tradition, Alegria talks about how she got started in casket painting. It’s spiritual work for her:


I do what I do because I have been given opportunities to experience dying, death and loss in the biggest ways, and I want to take what I’ve learned and experienced and help transform grief to glory.


If you head over to the Alternative Funeral Monitor News, you can read the whole interview with Alegria and see a photograph of a casket with Rosemaling.


Here’s an excerpt:


I paint Folk Art, primarily Rosemaling, a Norwegian folk art. I also use other forms, including Dalmalning, which is Swedish flower painting, and Baurnermalerai, a Bavarian folk art. In fact, every country has specific ethnic folk art forms, with designs and patterns that have been used for centuries.

Rosemaling actually comes from the early itinerant painters who traveled throughout Scandinavia. They stayed with families, became part of the family and decorated precious dowry trunks, beams, walls, ceilings and pews in the churches for the people. This art helped to bring light, color and joy into the long, dreary, dark winters.

The patterns and designs invoked spirits that the wood carvers had first carved on the Viking ships, such as acanthus vines, serpents and dragons. The shapes have meanings which they incorporated into the designs of this early work.

In addition, in the earliest burial customs, people were buried wrapped in a shroud. Later, when customs started to change and people harvested timber and used planks of wood to make caskets to bury people in, the custom began of adorning and decorating caskets. The ancient motifs and designs I paint with rise from the subconscious that now really is a form of tribal art.



2) Learn To Build Your Own Casket


The North House Folk School up on the Harbor of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota is offering a Build Your Own Casket class. I don’t know about you, but this looks fascinating and fun to explore. What better way to prepare for that final resting place.

There are photographs and more at the link below. Just scroll down the Woodworking page to get to the casket building class.


Bury Yourself In Your Work – Build Your Own Casket
Instructor: Randy Schnobrich
Session Options: 12/5/2008 – 12/7/2008


None of us are getting out of this alive, so you might as well bury yourself in your work. Join a growing number of independent-minded people looking for a more meaningful alternative to today’s burial arrangements. This course covers a range of important details such as: proper sizing, joinery, handle construction, hardware and design options.

The finished casket need not wait for a final departure before being put to use. Above-ground applications include use as bookshelves, coffee tables, storage containers and entertainment centers.




3) Read Old Obituaries (1920’s – 1950’s) & Write Your Own


This one offers immediate satisfaction. We’ve talked about the obits many times on red Ravine. After reading today’s obits, I’m stunned by the richness and character of the old obituaries, how people used to take time to honor people in death by writing about their lives.

Mom uses obituaries in her research on the family tree and they often lead to uncovering buried skeletons. What a treat!  It makes me wonder if there used to be people in a community who excelled at writing obituaries, writers that the grief-stricken would turn to to write the obit of a lifetime.

Here’s a link to FR – FZ section of a few Wisconsin ancestral obituaries. And a little bit about the poetic character of Anton N. Freng in this short excerpt from his obituary:


Anton Nilson Freng was born in Brottom, Norway, on July 31, 1852, and died at his home in South Valley, town of Summer, on November 6, 1933, having lived 81 years, three months and six days. He learned the painting trade under Master Erick Alm. In 1873, the family immigrated to America, stopping at Chicago for a few weeks and then making their home in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

A.N. Freng was a man of action. He served on his school district board for many years, was an organizer and director of the Osseo Canning Company, and served for thirty years as director and agent for the Pigeon Mutual Fire Insurance Company. He was secretary of the South Valley church for the past 45 years.

Mr. Freng was the leader in his community. He was endowed with more than ordinary amount of common sense and courage. His neighbors depended upon his counsel. He was a man of sterling character. He had a kind and jovial disposition. He was loved and respected by all who knew him well. His oft repeated phrase, “Another of our old and venerable pioneers has gone to his well-earned rest” has again come true, and may we add that the greatest of them all has gone.

Coming from a foreign country at the age of 21, not knowing a world of English and having had but little schooling, he rose to heights and power unsurpassed by many who had much greater advantages. He was great because he had ability, because he was honest and sincere. He expended his energies in the right direction, for the betterment and advancement of his community and country. The world is better for his having lived.

      -Written by J. Reese Jones. THE WHITEHALL TIMES – NOVEMBER 15, 1933

 


Mr. Ghoul, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Pumpkin Man, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mr. Ghoul, & Pumpkin Man, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Any takers? There’s nothing boring about death and dying folks. And for an extra special treat, visit Heather’s blog, Anuvue Studio. She goes crazy every Halloween with all things wild and wonderful.



Happy Halloween. Happy Day Of The Dead. Happy Samhain.





     Casket Arts Glow, Halloween at the Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ghoulish Toast, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2006, photo © 2006-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.String Theory, Halloween at the Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 31st, 2008

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hope change hope, A Fourth Street resident in Albuquerque expresses wishes for the ’08 presidential elections, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




My daughters are in on it now. This weekend, driving down Fourth Street in Albuquerque’s north valley, Em points one out.

“Mom, we just passed a really good sign.”

“Was it worth stopping for?” I ask her.

“Yes, yes!”

I pull over, wait for the cars behind me to pass, then do a U-ey. She’s right, this one is gorgeous.

Here’s what we’re noticing as we drive around town. People in the central Rio Grande Valley are expressing their support for Barack Obama in very creative ways. Signs are cropping up everywhere—and not just your ordinary signs. We’re seeing oodles of the large Hope sign that features the bold graphic of Obama’s face. And we’re seeing handmade forms of political expression into which people are putting time, energy, beauty, and humor.

All along the main roads in Albuquerque’s north valley, as well as Corrales, you can see ‘em. Yes, there are plenty of your standard political signs for both sides, but the ones we’re stopping to admire and photograph are standout.

Maybe it’s because New Mexico is a battleground state. In the 2000 presidential elections, Al Gore squeaked by with less than 500 votes. In 2004, Bush won by only 6,000 votes. And in the 2008 Democratic primaries, it took a week before the winner was declared. (Hillary won by about 1,700 votes.)

We get serious about our races in this state, and this year Albuquerque and Corrales—two cities in the central Rio Grande Valley—are working hard to make New Mexico “blue.”

Personally, I’m knocking on doors in historically “red” precincts, and even though it’s not my favorite type of work (last election, homeowners nearly chased me off their lawns by election day) I’m still putting myself out there.

And I can tell you this. Deep in my gut, I know that NM will, indeed, be “blue” this election. I feel it in my bones.

Here are five completely non-scientific reasons why:

  1. The signs. No one ever got this into it in 2004. No one seemed to do anything more than slap a machine-made yard sign in front of a wall. The signs we’re seeing this round tell me something about the level of passion people have—they’re going out of their way to express themselves.
  2. At an early vote rally on the day after early voting began, about 100 Obama supporters and I stood with signs on one of the busiest street corners in one of the most conservative precincts around, and we got a surprisingly large number of thumbs-up, high-fives, and cheers from passing cars. Yes, we heard and saw a few obscenities, but the positives far outweighed the negatives.
  3. Going door-to-door in a “red” district, I’m seeing a lot of Obama signs (ordinary garden variety) and I’m hearing people say, “Yes, you can count on our support!” Some of these folks are NM’s version of so-called “Dixie-crats,” Democrats who in the past few elections have voted based on so-called “culture” issues. One guy came out and said, “I don’t like homosexuals, gun control, or abortions, but I like Obama.” On my most recent round of canvassing, I even ran into Republican couple who said, “We’re done with the Republicans; we’re voting Democrat.”
  4. I’ve gone from being a nervous Nellie to having hope. I worked the 2004 elections and I can tell, something is different this time ’round. I’m proud to wear my Obama buttons and drive around with my “Obamanos” bumper sticker on my car. Last election, people flipped me off when they saw my Kerry bumper sticker. I got to where I cowered over my political expression. All that fear is gone today.
  5. Finally, my kids tell me that most of their friends are voting for Obama. Of course, my kids’ friends can’t vote, but their parents can. I have a feeling these young’ins are echoing their parents’ preferences.



So there you have it. I see hope on the ground, and I feel hope in my heart.

Now let’s go make it happen.
  

 

 



-Related to post WRITING TOPIC – WHY I VOTE.

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Night Flower Faces The Sun, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Night Flower Faces The Sun, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



ONE: The 8th Stage of the Great Round, Functioning Ego, allows you to stand on your own two feet, reach out, and engage the Universe, much like a flower turns to face the sun. Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Rainbow Magic pens that change & erase color.




5-Pointed Star, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

5-Pointed Star, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



TWO: In the rising star of Stage 8, others begin to take notice of skills, abilities, and dedication to your craft. The 5-poined star mandala has a firm foundation, arms outstretched, head held high. Medium: Reeves Water Colour Pencils.



Laws Of Nature, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Laws Of Nature, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



THREE: During Stage 8, you take life by the hand and learn to manage the many circles spinning around you. Whether a complex project, people working together in the spirit of cooperation, or the waxing phases of the Moon, you are learning to work in harmony with Nature. Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils.




Thunderbird, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Thunderbird, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



FOUR: In this Native American mandala, the static cross sprouts wings and becomes a spinning Thunderbird form, ancient symbol of the Sun. Archaeological evidence of this shape on ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils.





August Mandalas — Stage 8 – Functioning Ego


Whether starting your own business, remodeling your home, or managing interpersonal issues as a community leader, Functioning Ego is about taking Action. A time of doing, not being, Stage 8 becomes activated when you take the initiative to bring an inspiration into reality, and really kicks in when you are engrossed in the challenging tasks required to reach your goals.

These mandalas are from the 8th month of a year-long mandala practice that began with the post Coloring Mandalas . Early this year, I made the decision to follow the twelve passages of Joan Kellogg’s The Great Round. According to Susanne F. Fincher, the healing benefits of The Great Round: Stage 8 – Functioning Ego are:

  • ability to work comfortably in group settings, organizations, or alone, whichever is needed to accomplish your goals
  • inspiration becomes reality through great effort, and takes on a form that is seen and appreciated by others
  • you are actively engaged toward personal goals, living life on life’s terms, using the imagination to the fullest to create new and wondrous things
  • on the spiritual level, healing takes place through finding ways of sharing wisdom gently and respectfully with others, in ways they can understand



I’m currently working on the tail end of October’s mandalas, along with a painting in the studio. The textures and colors are kind of wild on the canvas, so I thought I’d continue to use the mandalas to talk about color. Some time ago, when I was researching information on Providence, I ran into Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Theory of Colours (original German title, Zur Farbenlehre).


Goethe's Colour Wheel, 1809, image Public Domain

Goethe, originator of the concept of World Literature (Weltliteratur), took great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, and Persia, and wrote what is considered a high point of world literature, the two-part drama Faust. Theory of Colours was published in 1810 and Wassily Kandinsky called it, “one of the most important works.”

The last major color breakthrough had been in 1660 with Sir Isaac Newton whose work in optics led to his creation of the color wheel. For Newton all the colors existed within white light. But Goethe’s Colour Wheel arose from the interaction of light and dark, and the psychological effects of color. Goethe didn’t see darkness as an absence of light, but polar opposite and interacting with light. Colour resulted from the interaction of light and shadow.


He wrote:

Yellow is a light which has been dampened by darkness; Blue is a darkness weakened by the light. Light is the simplest most undivided most homogenous being that we know. Confronting it is the darkness.

–Letter to Jacobi


Goethe's Triangle, image for educational purposes, from Color Mixing and Goethe's Triangle (csbrownedu)

Goethe wanted to uncover color’s secrets and investigated whether rules could be used to govern the artistic use of color. He created a Colour Wheel but later found his ideas were best expressed within an equilateral triangle. In Goethe’s original triangle, the three primaries red, yellow, and blue, are arranged at the vertices of the triangle. He chose the primaries based as much on their emotional content as on their physical characteristics.

To Goethe it was important to understand human reaction to color, and his research marks the beginning of modern color psychology. He believed that his triangle was a diagram of the human mind and linked each color with certain emotions. Blue evoked a quiet mood, while red was festive and imaginative. The emotional aspect of the arrangement of the triangle reflects Goethe’s belief that the emotional content of each color be taken into account by artists.

Goethe’s theories of color and emotional response, once considered radical, are commonplace in today’s world. Over the course of the year, I am learning about my own color preferences in relationship to the circle. Perhaps color observations about our work say as much about us emotionally, as they do our art.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 30th, 2008

-related to posts: The Void – January Mandalas, Dragon Fight – June Mandalas, Winding Down – July 4th Mandalas, Squaring The Circle — July Mandalas (Chakras & Color), and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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By Bob Chrisman


My mother and her three sisters believed in the Law of Threes. Well, actually they believed in a “hard” law and a “soft” one. Let me explain.

The basic Law of Threes states that all bad things happen in groups of three. Only bad things, never good ones. The hard law states that if a death places the law in motion, the next two events must involve deaths. The soft law allows for a bad thing (not a death) to happen and then two more bad things, which could involve a death or two, although deaths are not required to fulfill the soft law.

I thought for the longest time that only my mother and her sisters believed in the Law of Threes, but I found out I was wrong.

A college friend called me to say that his 92-year-old mother had died. I expressed my sympathy and made all of the appropriate noises. I couldn’t help but think that his mother’s death had fulfilled the Law of Threes started by the death of another friend’s 92-year-old mother in early February and my own 92-year-old mother’s death at the end of that month—a perfect example of the Law of Threes. Inside I felt guilty for even thinking that way.

When I went to the house to pay my respects to my friend and his family, I sat on the sofa next to his youngest sister. She told me how much she would miss her mother and then paused.

“You know, Bob, I worry about the next two deaths that will follow. Who will die?”

She must have seen the look of surprise on my face because she quickly explained, “Deaths happen in threes. At least that’s what my family always said.” What a relief to know that other people believed in the Law of Threes.

“I understand,” I said. “Let me tell you my story.”

When I was little, my mother would fix my breakfast and then sit at the kitchen table and read the paper while I ate. I knew something was up when she would “Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!” before closing the paper, folding it, and heading for the phone.

“Faye, did you see where Mildred Shunkwilder died yesterday? You know her. She was in Vera’s class in high school. Yes, yes, that’s the one. She married the Sweet boy and they moved to his parents’ farm. Yes, I know. You better call Annie. I’ll call Vera. We can all keep our eyes out for numbers two and three.”

She would place the receiver of the old black phone back in the cradle and shake her head. “I wonder who the next two will be.” She would then call Aunt Vera to place her on alert.

Phone calls flew back and forth. The sisters watched the newspaper. They contacted relatives and friends for information about people from whom they had heard nothing in years. When they discovered someone else who they all knew had died, they would breathe easier yet they didn’t relax until the third death had occurred. Then life for the sisters would return to normal, for a while.

My Aunt Faye fell victim to the Law of Threes in the late 1970s. My Aunt Vera joined her group of three in the late 1990s, followed by my Aunt Annie, who died a few years later. Even as their numbers grew smaller, they carried out their death watches. Finally, my mother was left alone to keep track of the law, but by then she was in her 80s and people she knew were dying all the time.

Even when she resided in the nursing home she would greet me with the news of the latest death. “You know Herbie died, didn’t you?” Herbie was a distant cousin by marriage. His second wife lived down the hall in the same nursing home. “That’s number two. Woodie died last month.” I waited for news of who was number three. I think Emmett, another church member, completed the law a couple of months later.

Then my mother died—number two in the series of three. The Law of Threes wasn’t completed for another five months, at least as far as I knew.

My friend’s sister looked at me after I finished my story. “Would you mind if I borrowed your mother’s death and the death of your high school friend’s mother to complete my three deaths?”

I couldn’t deny her request. I gave her those deaths. You don’t want a Law of Threes—especially not a hard one—hanging open.




Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer whose pieces Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too have all appeared in red Ravine. Hands is about the death of his 92-year-old mother.

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funkadelic!!, and a collection of other words and phrases I love to say, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




When I was in high school there was this guy, John Armijo, who had big stretchy lips, white Chiclets for teeth, and a clown smile. He wore his hair ala Vip’s Big Boy, and he talked like a Valley Girl, except masculine.

He made up a word—funkadelic—which he used the way others might say cool.


          “Hey, Charles Castillo is having a party this Friday night.”

          “Funkadelic, man!!”


And there was the way he said it. Funk-a-DELLL-LICK. Emphasis on the DEL with a stretching out of the L, then a slow transition into LICK. Before long, John’s word became part of the lexicon of our entire group of friends.

But more important, hearing John say funkadelic was the first time it hit me that I love the way some words sound. I like how they form in my lips, how they make my tongue touch the roof of my mouth, and how my voice lingers over certain syllables.

That word—funkadelic—had all sorts of word-love associations in my mind, none of which you might expect. Funkadelic made me think of Helsinki made me think of melanoma made me think of lucidity. Something about the way the mouth and tongue and lips worked together got me going in a ribbon of sound and shape.







I will go out of my way to say certain words and phrases. Take the name of that famous discount clothing store, the one where you have to pore through racks to find designer brands in the right color and size. Ross Dress for Less.

I love that place, will frequent it instead of Marshalls all because I have bonded with the name. Never plain ol’ Ross, but Ross Dress for Less. (I was in there the other day looking at trench coats for a Halloween costume and I noticed an abundance of home furnishings. God forbid there’s a name change on the horizon; it just wouldn’t be the same.)

I realize my love of the way certain words sound must have begun long ago, when my brain was still forming synapses (there’s one I enjoy saying). I think back to words of my youth—Piggly Wiggly, Gilligan, Ellie Mae. I can see the dotted line to funkadelic and why whenever I see one of my co-workers, I go out of my way to say her name. Nellie.






When Dee was little, everything she ate she had to dip into sauce—ketchup, salad dressing, barbeque sauce. This led Jim and me to coin the term dippin’ sauce, which ten years later is still one of my favorite things to say.


          “Dippin’ sauce with those artichokes?”

          “Yes, please!”


There are words I start out not liking that later grow on me. Gasamat. Once a word enters that special place between my cheek and gums, I tend to use it as much as I possibly can. Gasamat, Gasamat, Gasamat.

The newly coined staycation was a real annoyance when I first heard it this summer, yet lately I notice it’s growing on me. I think even if the price of gas plummets and airline travel becomes incredibly cheap, I will nonetheless take nothing but staycations for the rest of my days.

Webinar is another word I thought was dumb, and yet I seem to be growing fonder of that one by the day. I might even consider hosting a webinar just so I can say it few hundred times. Who know? Maybe I’ll do four webinars in a week and call it a weborama.

Even when I disapprove of the meaning of a word, what it stands for, I can still like the way it sounds. Robocall, for example.







I’ve decided to start a list of words I love to say. It’s kind of anemic (hmmm, I might consider that one) but I plan to add to it over time. (I also considered making a list of words I didn’t like to say but realized those had less to do with the structure and sound of the word itself and more to do with words being over-used and/or not terribly meaningful.)

Feel free to add words for which you hold a special fondness. Together we can celebrate the joy of vocabulary—in all its funkadelic-ness.




Of all the Words I’ve Loved Before…

   funkadelic
   Helsinki
   melanoma
   lucidity
   Ross Dress for Less
   synapses
   Piggly Wiggly
   Gilligan
   Ellie Mae
   Nellie
   Gasamat
   staycation
   webinar
   dippin’ sauce
   sassy
(pronounced sas-seh)
   gangly
   cauliflower
(pronounced collie-flower)
   billy goat
   marigold
   robocall
   kleptomaniac
   Quetzalcoatl
   bourgeoisie
   Blas
(a man’s name)
   memento
   pimento

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Two Weeks Before Snowfall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Two Weeks Before Snowfall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







two short weeks ago
before winter stripped her bare
the face of an ash



oak branches bend, sway,
leaves darting, one with the wind
October’s last breath





Change Of Seasons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Face Of An Ash, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.End Of Fall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Face Of An Ash, Change Of Seasons, End Of Fall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, October 27th, 2008

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

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Two old author friends, beloved by generations of readers and pranksters alike, came together for a brief reunion on red Ravine to talk about the challenges of publishing and staying relevant in today’s world.


I.P. Freely: It’s been ages, Seymour, ol’ boy. What have you been doing??

Seymour Butts: Likewise, I.P. What a pleasure to see you! Well, I never got married—just a perennial bachelor, I suppose. I live with my brother Harry and write books. Pretty sedentary life. Oh, although I just published a new book, inspired by the current financial crisis and the sudden rise of “Joe the Plumber.” It’s called Under the Sink, and it’s the first bestseller I’ve had since Under the Bleachers.

Freely: You don’t say?! Congratulations! Don’t tell me you’ve not been writing for that many years, though. Under the Bleachers must have been at its pinnacle back in the late 1970s.

Butts: You’re right, I.P. I wrote a lot of other books since then but none took off. I had a whole series—In the Locker Room, Women’s Sauna, Memoir of a Proctologist—but for whatever reason, they never made it out of manuscript. It was a bum deal, and I was pretty sore for a long time. How about you?

Freely: Well, Yellow River was great while it lasted, but it set off a host of copycats, notably A River Runs Through It. I was disappointed, of course, that Brad Pitt passed over our film script—in fact, that was a real pisser, but such is life. I had some blockage after that, but things finally got moving. I met a great woman, Toots, and we’ve been married for 15 years.

Butts: Hey, I noticed that red Ravine used your name for a title on a post about bathroom habits and stress incontinence. That might generate a stream of opportunities for you.

Freely: Doubtful, although I was pleased to see ‘em pick it up. Hey, I heard through the grapevine that “Seymour Butts” was the other title they were toying with. That would have been a nice plug for you.

Butts: Oh, indeed. It would have worked, too. Oh well, win some and lose some, or, as I say, see some and see none. It’s been grand talking to you, I.P. One last thing, do you see Mister Completely any more?

Freely: Nah, he got really depressed after his sole book, Hole in the Mattress, was such a downer. He and the Missus got a divorce.

Butts: Ah, that always a risk. Writing—it’s a hard life.

Freely: That it is, Seymour, that it is.


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Antique Stove (Fire), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Antique Cooler (Metal), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.View From The Lawrence Ranch (Air), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Frieda Lawrence's 1930s Home (Wood), D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Turtle Window, D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.OKeeffe From A Distance, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Memory Of Georgia (Earth), D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Attention To Detail, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Metal, Water, & Wood, Kiowa, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I have lived most of my life near major rivers: the Savannah, the Susquehanna, the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot rivers that run through the deep mountain valley of Missoula, Montana. But for the last 24 years, home has been near the Mississippi in a Midwest state that boasts the river’s birthplace – Lake Itasca, Minnesota.

Liz and I explored Itasca State Park a few years ago and stood at the source, the Mississippi Headwaters, on root clusters of some of the oldest Red and White Pines in this country. Closer to my Southern roots, I recently started reading Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, part of The Family Twain published in 1935, an original volume bought at a garage sale last summer.

If you follow the river’s flow, you will gain a whole new respect for Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) who published more than 30 books, hundreds of short stories and essays, and gave lectures while touring the world. That’s part of the reason my ears perked up at a recent NPR piece, Finding Finn, when I heard writer Jon Clinch plea for financial support to help preserve the financially-strapped Mark Twain Home in Hartford, Connecticut.


Clinch, author of Finn, and a host of other writers gathered at the home in September and read from some of their favorite Twain books to show their support. The list of authors included such heavy hitters as Tom Perrotta (The Abstinence Teacher), David Gates (Jernigan), Arthur Phillips (Angelica), Tasha Alexander (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Philip Beard (Dear Zoe), Kristy Kiernan (Matters of Faith), Robert Hicks (The Widow of the South), and Amy Mackinnon (Tethered).

Maybe you’re thinking, what’s this got to do with me?

Everything. Maybe for you, it’s not Mark Twain. But have you ever seen Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, then longed to visit Abiquiú or the Pedernal near Ghost Ranch, New Mexico? It throws a whole other perspective on a lifetime of painted desert. What about Hemingway’s early days in Kansas City, Missouri. Or Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.



D. H. Lawrence Cabin at Kiowa, the Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Maybe for you, it’s visiting the home architect Frank Lloyd Wright built, Fallingwater near Mill Run, Pennsylvania, or a few nights in the Willa Cather room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (did you know ybonesy’s dad worked there one summer as a teenager?) in Taos, New Mexico. We had one red Ravine Guest who dreamed about the home of Frida Kahlo. It was such a powerful experience, she felt compelled to travel to Mexico and see it for herself.

Why? Because Place matters. Ground where writers, painters, architects, artists and visionaries lived, worked, and died matters. The places we call Home shape who we are, who we want to be, who we will become. North, South, East, or West, the geography of land, water, and sky influences our work, filters into our vision, helps us hone our craft, whether we are aware of it or not. And the preservation of these places is paramount to our own development as writers and artists.



Turtle Window, D.H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.OKeeffe From A Distance, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Memory Of Georgia (Earth), D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Attention To Detail, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



While researching On Providence, Old Journals and Thoreau, I stumbled on the Walden Woods Project which was founded in 1990 by recording artist Don Henley. At the time, 60% of Walden Woods – a 2,680 acre ecosystem surrounding Thoreau’s Walden Pond – was protected from development. But two large tracts of land were endangered when developers sought to construct an expansive office and condominium complex in the mid-1980s. The National Trust for Historic Preservation twice listed Walden Woods as one of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places.

But the story has a happy ending. The Walden Woods Project embarked on a national campaign to raise public awareness and the funds necessary to purchase and preserve the endangered areas. In January 1991, the Project bought the 25-acre tract that had been slated for the development; a few years later, the second tract of land was acquired. Since then, they’ve protected 150 acres in and around Walden Woods and provided quality programming for hundreds of researchers and more than 200 high school teachers and students.

Just Sitting, D. H. Lawrence Chair at Kiowa, the Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I’ve walked around Walden Pond, stood in the doorway to Thoreau’s cabin. I’ve been to Hibbing, Minnesota, in the living room of Bob Dylan’s childhood home. And a few years ago, ybonesy and I took a day trip to Kiowa, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch outside of Taos, New Mexico. The place was given to Lawrence and Frieda by Mabel Dodge Luhan. Dorothy Brett lived there for a time using Aldous Huxley’s typewriter to type Lawrence’s manuscripts.

Georgia O’Keeffe sat under the giant pine outside the Lawrence cabin and immortalized it in paint forever. Would you rather read about the Lawrence Tree? Or touch its barky skin, slide your feet through the pine needle beds beneath it, stare upside down at the New Mexico stars and sky.


To be able to go back to the place a writer or artist worked and lived is an inspiration. The authors calling attention to Mark Twain’s home in Hartford are sounding the alarm. Not everyone has the resources to donate money, but we can all work to raise awareness by spreading the word. Or visit the homes of writers and artists in the areas where we live and travel.

Those who blazed the trail before us are our mentors. For Jon Clinch, it’s Mark Twain. He’s willing to donate time, money, and energy to save Twain’s home and preserve the literary legacy of place. Who is it for you?




New Mexico Homesteaders, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corrugated Ice (Water), D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Love Triangles, D. H. Lawrence Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The Mark Twain House & Museum
351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
860-247-0998



Other links to explore:


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 24th, 2008

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Taos Mountain, behind the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Taos Mountain, behind the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.











thousands of years pass
summer, winter, spring, and fall
where mountain meets sky











-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

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

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stress incontinence

yellow rivers by I.P. Freely, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I had a flashback the other day. I had to pee badly, so I ran into the bathroom, unzipped my jeans, peed, wiped, flushed, and walked out of the bathroom while pulling up my pants. Suddenly I saw my mom, 30 years earlier, doing the exact same thing.

She did it all the time. Ran into the bathroom, peed, walked out while pulling up her pants. No closing the door. Just pee and run.

One time I had just come home from school with my boyfriend and two friends in tow. We walked through the front door, turned the corner toward the kitchen, and there was Mom, heading out of the green bathroom off the entryway while pulling up her Bermuda shorts over white nylon panties, the toilet flushing in the background.

She must have said something like “Oh my!” but all I remember is, she was embarrassed, I was deathly embarrassed, and my boyfriend and two friends were speechless.

Yet, that was such a “Mom” thing. She never closed the bathroom door when she peed.

And now, I seem to have inherited that trait.



tinkles 2tinkles 2tinkles 2tinkles 2




Besides the obvious aspects of our peeing proclivities (the fact that we don’t wash our hands when at home and that we’ve fallen into this loosey goosey don’t-care-if-someone’s-in-the-next-room groove whenever our pants are down) I’ve gained another insight from this flashback.

I realized that I never bother to close the door when I pee because, frankly, I don’t have time. I’ll be standing at the sink washing the dishes and then, BOOM, it hits me. I have to pee! (In Spanish, they say, “Me estoy meando,” which literally means, “I am peeing on me!”)

Maybe it’s a familial thing. Maybe it’s from having babies. Maybe it’s the last thing I ought to be sharing about myself on the blog, but for whatever reason, once my brain registers “I need to pee,” my pee seems to scream, “I need out!”

Sure, I can wiggle and squeeze and even do what my sister (who used to work with toddlers) fondly calls “the pee-pee dance.” And in a professional setting I somehow manage to hold it until I reach the bathroom. But when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home, I have a tendency to push the envelope and barely make it to the bathroom.

So I’m thinking, if I have this problem, I bet Mom also had it; ergo, Mom never closed the door when she peed because, like me, she suffered from stress incontinence.



                       tinkles (one)
                                                                              tinkles (one)



There are other signs, too. Jim plays this trick on me whenever we shop for groceries where when we get to the aisle with toothpaste and shampoo, he waits until someone is within earshot and then yells, “Honey, don’t forget your Depends!” Then he zooms off with the cart in the other direction, leaving me facing the person who’s just come down our aisle.

And there was that one time I got a coughing fit at the grocery store. I was eight months pregnant with Em, and Dee was about three years old. With an almost baked eight-pound baby pressing down on my uterus, every time I coughed I peed just a bit in my pants. (Actually, I was wearing leggings over a maternity top.) Fortunately the coughing finally stopped, allowing me to finish up our shopping and head to the check-out line. 

There we were, standing in line. One lady was in front of us, one man behind. Being shy around strangers, Dee clung to my legs. I could feel her little hand probing around the spot where my leggings were soaked, so I tried to push her away, but before I could she looked up at me, eyes wide, and said, “Mama, you peed in your pants!”

I tried to ignore her but that only made her think I couldn’t hear, so she backed up a bit and yelled this time.

“MA-MA, you’re wet DOWN THERE, you PEED in your PANTS!”

I bent down and whispered in her ear that if she stopped talking and went over to find the kind of gum she liked, I’d buy it for her. As she disappeared around the point-of-purchase display, I looked at the three people staring at me—the cashier, the woman checking out, and the man behind me—shrugged, smiled, and gazed back down at my cart.


 
                                                                                               tinkles (one)




Truth is, though, I don’t think I technically suffer from stress incontinence. I mean, stress incontinence is a pretty serious issue, and once you get to reading about the many incontinences there are—stress, urge, overactive bladder, functional, overflow, mixed, transient—well, I’m not ready to go there. 

My little problem? A bad family habit of peeing and fleeing. Or fleeing, peeing, and fleeing. That’s all.

I just need to listen to my body and get to the bathroom more frequently. And I need to start closing the door before my girls inherit our trait.

I know. My apologies. Too much information.

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Monkey face (also known as cat face or humpback; official name Araneus gemma), Jim found this large Orb Weaver spider in our yard in the Rio Grande Valley, October 19, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.









oh humpback spider
so ugly you are pretty
now leave me alone








here kitty kitty
tabby or a calico?
what strange eyes you have








Em wrote this haiku:


monkey face spider
spooky creepy and crawly
a halloween fright













NOTE: A search on “monkey face spider” will also turn up this and this. However, I did validate that the spider Jim found in our yard is, in fact, a “monkey face” spider.

According to Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, the A. gemma is “sometimes called the ‘cat-face’, ‘monkey-face’ or ‘humpback’ spider since it has a pattern of dark markings and raised areas on its back that seem face-like. Females of this spider are generally rounded with angular ‘shoulders’ and can reach a size exceeding a quarter. They make webs in undisturbed corners, often near porch lights, and are often found in late August and September around the eaves of houses… A. gemma hides in dark corners at the edge of the web during the day. She remains in contact with the web via a ‘trap-line’ thread that signals when insects have been ensnared.”

Jim found this spider under a cropping of overgrown juniper bushes. It was a large spider but not nearly as large as the Orb Weaver pictured in recent post Reflections On My Love Of Fall.




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

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I remember the blue Chevy Caprice, how I almost always sat in the middle of the back seat between Janet and Larry. I remember our air conditioner going out one summer vacation, en route from Albuquerque to Los Angeles…or, wait…maybe that was in Carmen Chavez’s car, the year her parents invited me to Disneyland.

I remember that trip, sweating in the back seat with Carmen, we must have been 12 or 13. We were crossing the Arizona desert, and for the first time I discovered that I smelled. I remember clamping my arms tight against my sides, I didn’t know about deodorant yet or bring any on the trip, and I was too ashamed to ask Carmen if she had any. Somehow, discovering that part of bodily functions was almost worse than starting my period years later.

I remember the car we got after the Caprice. It was a Plymouth Valiant, 1974, gold, and about the most non-descript mid-sized car you’d ever seen. I drove it when I was 14-3/4, that was how old you had to be in New Mexico in those days to get a drivers license.

On one of my first driving gigs “sans” parents, I went cruising with Carmen and Diedra in a neighborhood off Griegos Road. I zigged-zagged up a street, turning the steering wheel a sharp right, then a sharp left. I remember how much we squealed as we slid across the front bench seat. You never wore seat belts in those days, so slip and slide we did.

I wasn’t going fast, maybe 20 miles per hour, but when I turned the wheel left both Carmen and Diedra slammed against me, causing my arms to fly off the wheel and out the open window. I was pinned to the side of the door and couldn’t get control of the car. It traveled up onto the sidewalk and into someone’s front yard before being stopped dead by a big tree.

We weren’t hurt, but we were panicked. It was night, I put the car in reverse and high-tailed it out before anyone could come out of the house. I drove the three or so miles home as fast as I could on a flat front tire. I remember how we rehearsed our story of “what happened.” A dog came running out of no where, we were going to say, and I swerved to miss it.

When we got to the house, Dad admonished me for my having ruined the tire rim by driving on it. He asked us what kind of dog it was. I looked at Carmen and Diedra, we all shrugged, and then he asked how big a dog? Big, I said just as Diedra said Small. That was it. My friends got sent home, and I got sent to my room.

I eventually named the car “The Box,” and to counteract the embarrassment my friends and I felt about being seen in it, I came up with catchy phrases:

The Box, economical yet sporty
The Box, little yet big
The Box, fast yet slow

Dad tried to give me The Box when I graduated from high school, but I declined. He sold it to someone then used the money to buy me Larry’s 1971 Honda Civic. I was a spoiled brat.



-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS

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I remember my first car, an Austin-Healey Sprite. It wasn’t new. In fact, it was so used, it wasn’t even running. The car was stored in my grandparent’s barn. It had belonged to my uncle. He said I could have it if we towed it away and did all the repair. I imagined that he had raced it across emerald corn fields and yellow crops of wheat.

My grandparents and uncle lived in a rural area near East Berlin, Pennsylvania. When we moved from the South in 1966, we stayed with my grandparents for a time. I slept in a room with my sister. There was a door leading up to the attic and sometimes we heard bats scraping around the eaves up there.

The Sprite was tomato red, a 1962 or 1963, I can’t remember for sure, and had a black roll bar, 4-on-the-floor, was a soft-top convertible. That Summer and Fall would be one of the bonding moments between me and my step-dad. He worked his butt off repairing the engine, well, even getting that car to run was a miracle.

I didn’t do much of the hands-on. But looking back, I wish I had. My brothers were all good at fixing their cars, taking care of them, changing the wheels out, replacing spark plugs (do cars even have spark plugs anymore?), fixing the brakes. Even my mother had helped tear down and put back together an engine once in her twenties. It seemed like there was nothing my family could not do in taking car of their cars.

I learned by osmosis. I stood in the cool garage, watching my step-dad work on the engine, helping him out when he needed an extra set of hands, learning about metric tools. I thought it was my first year of college. But my sister remembers it as being my junior or senior year of high school. I must have been 17. Time becomes fuzzy. It’s good to document with photographs or write things down. I only have one or two photos of the Austin-Healey, and I haven’t been able to locate them. Yet. I wish I had taken more photos. It was once-in-a-lifetime kind of car.

I learned to drive a stick. I’ll never forget the day we took the Sprite out for its first spin. My step-dad was tall, over 6 feet. He hunkered down and slid into the driver’s seat. I am much shorter. I hopped into the passenger side, excited, a little scared. Off we went on the two-lane rural road down to the post office, flying about 80 mph. Did the thing even have seatbelts? I can’t remember. Just the roll bar.

I remember the convertible top was up that day; I think it had metal snaps. But what I remember most about the first time we took the Sprite out is my step-dad teaching me to slip the clutch. He told me racers used that technique to gain speed, and there we were, racing down a slow moving Pennsylvania road, rrrrrummmm, rrrrrrummm, rrrrummmm, every time he changed gears.

My mother got involved, too. She helped to fix up the interior of the car, added carpet where there was exposed glue and rough edges. By the time we were all done, it looked like a million bucks. I can’t say it ran like a dream. It had serious wear and tear from use and abuse by my uncle. But I was so proud to be driving that Austin-Healey. Me and Mary, my girlfriend at the time (she had purple suede boots, flaming red hair, and red tinted glasses to match), would show up at softball games with the top down, hop out with our cleats, gloves, and bat bags, and head over to the dugout. There is something about leaving a convertible parked with the top down. What is it?

I don’t know if I would do that today. There is an overall lack of respect for other people’s property that seems to permeate the greater public. I don’t know if I trust people the way I used to. We live in different times. But my mother wasn’t very trusting of the public back in the early 70’s when I was driving the Sprite either. I remember one thing about that car – the muffler kept falling down in unexpected places at uncommon hours. Once on Interstate 83, it happened again – the muffler fell to the road. Mary and I often would tie it up with a wire coat hanger. This time it wasn’t working.

We got out in the roaring traffic, stared under the car, looked at each other, and decided to hitchhike the 5 or 6 miles home. My mother was furious with us. How could we be so trusting, hitchhiking along a major freeway? Who knows who might have picked us up! Back then, we were coming off the tail end of the 1960’s. It was common for women and men to hitchhike wherever they needed to go. I cringe at the thought in the year 2008. I have to tell you, I’d never hitchhike anywhere today.

Mary and I took one long trip in the Austin-Healey, down to the Washington D.C. area to see a concert. We were going to see the Allman Brothers. It turned out, the Grateful Dead were also playing in that outdoor concert. We weren’t Dead Heads. But now I can say I saw the Grateful Dead play. And don’t tell my mother, but I remember we slept with a blanket on the ground in this open green field with a bunch of other concert goers that night, went to McDonalds for breakfast in the morning, and drove back home on backroads. Wanna-be hippie that I was (even though at the time, I was a jock and as straight-laced as they come), I had the time of my life. I felt like a rebel; a female James Dean.

I did love that car. Doesn’t everyone love their first car? But my parents made it special for me, a labor of love, a gift. I think I only drove it a year, maybe two. It was already almost 10 years old. And needed too much maintenance and upkeep for me to take it away to college. But the smell of the engine, the chrome, the sporty headlights, the way the knobs were simple flip switches on a carved wooden dashboard, the feel of hopping in under the roll bar, the way it felt to run down the road with long 70’s hair flying in the wind — I never felt so free.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, October 20th, 2008

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS


Post Script: I was excited to see if I could actually find a photo that looked similar to the Austin-Healey I owned. No exact matches. The closest I could find was this 1963 Austin Healey Sprite MK II (HAN7 37761). It’s a cool link because you can see the steps he went through to rebuild and refurbish the car. The Mark II’s were second generation; they made them from 1961 to 1964. You can also read more about Sprite history at Austin-Healey Sprite.

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Look me in the eye, an iridescent-bellied lizard that Jim caught October 17, in the Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




The days are beautiful in the Rio Grande Valley. The other morning we woke to a thick fog hovering just above the field. Sun rose, and the warmth slowly burned off the mist.

I wonder if we’d get sick of our favorites seasons if we could magically make them last twice as long as they do normally. If we collapsed summer and fall into a new season, Extra-long Fall, I’d be perfectly happy. Although, we’d miss out on swimming and eating popsicles in the scorching sun. And weekend getaways spent at 9,000 feet.

Eh, scratch that idea.

This is Jim’s favorite time of year. He’s been outdoors every day, raking and cleaning up the yard. He’s working on a project to take out overgrown juniper bushes, rotted railroad ties, and an old leaning fence from the back courtyard. He disappears for hours out there, calling me now and then to come look at the critters he finds.

There are Black Widows galore, although Jim usually leaves those alone. He caught one, a huge girl with a big red hourglass on her belly. The shots I snapped are obscured by the plastic tub we put her in. We’ll release her soon—it’s just a matter of finding a spot far enough away that she won’t be a menace. I know, she’s more afraid of us than we are of her, but she’s the biggest black widow I’ve seen and I don’t want our paths to cross ever again.

Speaking of big spiders, Jim also found a most extraordinary Orb Weaver. Its web filled the entire corner, floor to ceiling, of a shed that came with the place when we moved here. Motivated to put the rarely used space to use, Jim was clearing out a set of old screen doors when he stumbled upon what appeared to be a large walking mushroom.

He coaxed the spongy yellow-white mottled spider onto a walking stick and brought the whole contraption to the back porch for me to see. After I took a few shots, Jim carried the dear back to her home in the clean shed.


It’s a gentle time. Except for last Saturday, when a wicked wind whipped through the valley, turning the sky a gray-white and lashing sheets of rain and hail onto the world. We were drawn to the windows but at the same time fearful that a branch might break from a tree and in through the glass. The storm lasted about 20 minutes, then settled into a steady rain.

Today it’s about 72, on the way to a high of near 80 degrees. Trees are in different stages of becoming yellow, and the Virginia Creeper has suddenly bloomed a ruddy red.

At Sunflower Market, where I just went to restock the pantry, folks sat at tables and chairs set up in the parking lot and ate hot dogs and hamburgers bought off the grill for a dollar. I bought three hamburgers and brought them home with the groceries.

Something’s in the air. This is a fabulous time. We are inside the eye of change.




                      

fall morning (four), a misty morning looking out at the pond in our field in the Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






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Reflection Of Things To Come, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Reflection Of Things To Come, performance & installation art piece, b&w photo from sketchbook & journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Providence
1382, “foresight, prudent anticipation,” from O.Fr. providence (12c.), from L. providentia “foresight, precaution,” from providentem (nom. providens), prp. of providere (see provide). Providence (usually capitalized) “God as beneficient caretaker,” first recorded 1602.




Old Journals

I stumbled on a lost box of old journals in the studio last week. I thumbed through one and tossed it aside. It was half-full of incoherent thoughts. On the cover of another was a painting by the Zen monk, Ryōkan who lived most of his life as a hermit. I remembered the cover, but not what was inside. I had bought the blank journal at Orr Books on one of my monthly trips into Uptown.

I used to spend a whole day walking the pavement, visiting bookstores, buying art materials, taking myself to dinner at The Lotus. Dinner was the icing on the cake — beef lo mein, iced tea, fresh spring rolls, and a smorgasbord of books spread out on the table around me. Delicious.

Orr Books, Borders, and The Lotus are gone. Uptown is a shell of its former self. What used to be trendy has moved on. Or maybe it was me.



Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I sat down in my rocking chair and opened the cover of the journal. On the first page was a black and white glossy I’d printed of an art performance collaboration with Jennifer. That was followed by a color drawing of a mandala with Gaelic names and symbols, the Celtic Wheel of Seasons. Samhain (pronounced ‘sɑːwɪn) or Day of the Dead, has morphed into Halloween. It is the beginning of the seasonal calendar, the first High Holiday of the Celtic New Year.

The drawings reminded me of my old sketchbooks from art school. But that was long before. The journal I held in my hands was from the year 2001 — the first year I traveled to Taos, New Mexico to take a weeklong workshop with Natalie Goldberg. I had a corporate job back then, and big dreams. After 9 years, I was working hard emotionally to let myself leave. I wanted to jump off into a life structured around writing and art.

How high was the cliff? I was petrified.



Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Providence

The effort came in learning how to get out of my own way; I used every tool, rope, and carabiner in my arsenal. The Universe seemed to conspire in my favor. After two years of self-imposed isolation, I drove 1200 miles to Montana and hung out with my old friends in the Bitterroot Mountains for a week. I was in a gay bowling league in Minneapolis that year and met tons of new friends.

The last night of the Strike Pool, my name was called. All I had to do was bowl a strike on the spot, and I would win the kitty. Every eye in the place was on me.

Something must have guided my wrist. The pins fell in slow motion like the parting of the Red Sea. I left with pockets stuffed — over a thousand dollars in $1’s, $10’s, $20’s, and $5’s; a buff friend walked me to my car. The next day, I went down to the bank and exchanged the stack of green for a money order made out to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. That’s the only way I could afford to go on my first writing retreat sitting under Taos Mountain.



Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



There were other things in the journal/sketchbook that reminded me of how hard I worked back then, how hungry I was, how much I wanted to live an abundant life around writing and art. I became fearless and put myself out there in strange and unusual ways. There were four pages on the stages of Alchemy, drawings from Prima Materia to Solutio, starting at the Full Moon on 5/7/1.

On a page marked June 9th was a Medicine Shield, I think it was a Butterfly spread. There was a page of drawings on the Ancient Tree Alphabet and its relationship to the Runes. “What Is community?” was written at the top of another page, followed by writing exploration, ideas, and meanderings.

I had forgotten I had taken an Enneagram workshop that year (the Ego forms around 1 of 9 enneagrams). There are positive aspects to each identity, but the False Cores of the Enneagram are harmful, learned belief systems, Monkey Mind mantras, that when studied, help answer the question of why we feel separate and alone, rather than part of a larger whole.

With Providence we are aligned with the Universe; whereas the separation of Ego causes us anxiety, insecurity, and pain. The Enneagram types and False Cores were listed in the journal this order (turns out I’m a Four) with notes that followed on ways to turn the tide:


  1. Perfectionist – False Core: Something is wrong with me
  2. Helper – False Core: I am worthless
  3. Performer – False Core: I have an inability to do
  4. Romantic – False Core: I am inadequate
  5. Observer – False Core: I am nothing; I don’t exist
  6. Loyalist – False Core: I am alone
  7. Epicure – False Core: I am incomplete
  8. Boss – False Core: I am powerless
  9. Mediator – False Core: I am loveless




Wilderness & Thoreau

My favorite journal spread was a rough drawing of 10 Mile Canyon in the Pintler Mountains of Montana. I had taken a once-in-a-lifetime pack trip with a friend, 2 dogs, and 4 llamas that we carted in the back of her Toyota pickup. I had never saddled a llama before or even been that close to one. Their names were underlined in my journal with the following notes:

  • Crow - for the Crow Reservation where she adopted him, part coyote, she called him “Crazy Indian Dog”
  • Camas - from the purple flower, like a gentle lap dog
  • Rumpel – Stiltskin – The King, The Old Man – he was 15 years old and all white
  • Chaco - for Chaco Canyon in New Mexico – he was feisty and black
  • Willie – the friendliest, roams free, he was brown, she called him William III
  • 10-Mile - for 10 Mile Canyon – the lead and the youngest with a white stripe, very stubborn


I never would have remembered these details without writing them in my journal by the fire (it reminds me why it’s important for a writer to take good notes):

The glacial Montana lakes we passed that trip were not named. There was a Snow Cave at 9000 feet. We saw a pair of migrating Sandhill Cranes on the hike in. Llamas do spit but it’s okay; it’s only cud, regurgitated grass or hay. And they only spit if they are irritated. The moon rose on Friday, July 5th, 2001 at 11:45, one day past full. The wind was constant, keeping the mosquitoes away. Until later that night, when the tent zipper broke and we spent the buzzing night with our heads covered.


The journal was so alive. Did I really go on a llama pack trip in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness? Drive twice cross-country by myself, join a bowling league, win $1000 on a single strike, attend a writing retreat on the edge of Taos desert with 48 complete strangers, all in one year? When did I stop sketching and drawing? Have I become complacent? Lazy?



Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan Journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I don’t know if I’m supposed to be laying low, slipping inside like the turtle way I feel. Or force myself to get back out there, take the next step, walk hard in the world again. It’s alright to rest, reflect, fill the well. But that journal woke me up — nothing comes easy. Nothing comes without hard work and risk. In 2001 I was working my ass off. The Universe lined up beside and behind me, nudging me along.

It’s kind of like those few lines from Natalie about the angels cheering her on. Or the way W. H. Murray and Goethe write of Providence. Or these lines in scratchy block print from the first few pages of my journal, penned by Henry David Thoreau:


I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be explained, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.

In proportion, as he simplifies his life the laws of the Universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Journal/Sketchbook Entry, March 18th, 2001
Near the Spring Equinox
Time of Crane Migration Through Nebraska




Providence Revisited

Do you believe in Providence? Not magic or miracles. But that if you make positive effort with Great Determination, the Earth and Sky, a Higher Power, will help you along? Do you believe in Fate? Or do you call it Faith?

Providence extends to the neighborhood, the state, the region, the country, the world. If the time is right, the old systems will crash to the ground, making way for the new. The right person will come into power, into the place they need to be. Change is not always positive. But it may be necessary.

Providence – is it fate or faith? Neither or both? Usually when it’s time to move on, challenging personal opportunities present themselves. Do we bite? Show a willingness to sink into the gristle? Or ignore the signs and keep living the status quo. Every day, we are presented with the chance to make a new choice.

If we’ve built castles in the air, then those are our dreams. The time is not lost. With effort, and practice, structure creates a solid foundation. What once seemed impossible is now routine. Am I living old dreams? Maybe it’s time to replace them with something new.



Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan Journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Journal Entry – Thoreau, Ryōkan By Hand, Ryōkan Journal, Corners, from 2001 sketchbook & journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, all photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 16th, 2008

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Inspired by Teresa Valle



Feminist Suffrage Parade, NYC circa 1912, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).




In the United States, every citizen at least 18 years of age has the right to vote. It is a right we take for granted.

The highest voter turn-out we’ve seen in recent times was in 1960, when 63.1% of the voting-age population exercised its right to elect a president. That year, Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy received 34,220,984 (49.72%) votes, barely beating out Republican Richard Milhous Nixon, who received 34,108,157 (49.55%) votes.






The right to vote is a fundamental liberty granted by our Constitution. But it wasn’t always so.

The U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787, defined the process our country would undertake to elect its presidents and vice-presidents, including the concept of an electoral college. However, state constitutions determined eligibility to vote and in most cases excluded Blacks, Women, and The Poor. With few exceptions, only White, Land-Owning Men could participate in the creation of this country’s government.

Eventually and thanks to the blood and sweat of many who came before us, the Constitution was amended to expand voting rights:

  • The Fifteenth Amendment (1870) established that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” (It took almost a century longer, for the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, to fulfill the full promise of the Fifteenth Amendment in all states.)
  • The Nineteenth Amendment (1920) established that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional for Women Suffrage in 1913, and successfully brought about this amendment, which Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton originally sought in 1878.
  • The Twenty-Fourth Amendment (1964) established that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”




Women Suffragists picketing in front of the White,
House, 1917, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)





Write for your right

Don’t give up your right to vote by not exercising it on November 4! It doesn’t matter who you vote for—just please, VOTE!

Fellow blogger Teresa Valle hit home this message with a poignant and powerful expression of why she votes. Read her words, and then sit down to your own Writing Practice.





Why I Vote

By Teresa Valle


I vote because I believe that citizenship has certain rights and responsibilities. I vote because I believe in supporting the common good. I vote because I believe in freedom of religion. I vote because I believe in the principle that those of us who are fortunate enough to be strong and successful have a responsibility to help those who are less able or less fortunate. I vote because I believe the health of our people translates into the health of our country. I vote because I believe in freedom of assembly. I vote because I believe in freedom of speech. I vote because, as someone who drives on the roads, relies on the fire department, the police department, the hospitals that treat our illnesses, and the schools that educate our children, I believe I need to pony up and pay my taxes. I vote because I believe we get what we pay for. I vote because I believe we need to work hard and pay attention in order to protect ourselves, one another and our system of governance. I vote because I believe appropriate regulation can help protect our children from tainted toys, tainted foods, and the consequences of poorly controlled toxic overload. I vote because I believe the common good is best served by an informed and involved electorate. I vote because I believe in the civil treatment of individuals during wartime, and I believe in the rule of law. I vote because I believe in the power of posse comitatus to limit the excessive use of military intervention against our own citizenry. I vote because I believe the rights of the individuals and families in our country rise above the rights of corporate monoliths. I vote because I believe I am part of the natural world and that it needs our protection and stewardship. I vote because I believe in the right to bear arms. I vote because I believe in the separation of church and state. I vote because I believe in the power of the human mind, for good, for evil, and for the full range of possibilities in between. I vote because I believe in choice: not simply reproductive choice; rather, the larger concept of choice that allows us to agree or disagree without fear of reprisal. I believe in the larger concept of choice that allows us to pursue higher education, to pursue the religious convictions that speak to us as individuals and as members of formal religion, to pursue happiness and meaning in our personal relationships and our marriages, to pursue the freedoms that have defined us as a nation. I vote because I believe in sharing the burdens, the joys, and the blessings of living here and living now. I vote because I believe.

 


Teresa Valle is the pen name of Teresa Phillips, a writer, goose farmer, and therapist living and working in a river community in central New Mexico. Although she is primarily a writer of short fiction—which she publishes on her fiction blog, Cuentos—she’s recently been experimenting with creative non-fiction and essays at Trees for the Forest.





To vote is human

  • Problems in the 2000 Presidential Elections prompted voting process reform, specifically via the Help America Vote Act of 2002. This act provided state funds to replace punch card machines with electronic voting machines (on-going), established the independent, bipartisan Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and developed minimum election administration standards for states to follow. 
  • Currently there are five methods for voting in the U.S.—paper ballots (used since U.S. independence, with secret ballot inroduced at the end of the 19th century), mechanical lever machines (introduced in the late 19th century and the most common method of voting through the mid 1980s), punch cards (first implemented in the early 1960s), optical scan (first used in the 1960s and currently the most common method of voting), and direct recording electronic (introduced in the mid 1970s and the second most used method).
  • Three groups of individuals are vital to the voting process: voters, poll workers, and election officials.




Vote early, vote often

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By Katherine Repka*


My boyfriend got a tattoo when we were in Florida. We were leaving Universal Studios with “his and hers” children in tow, our feet aching from a day spent zigzagging through the park to catch the best rides and avoid the longest lines. We spotted the tattoo parlor as we approached the park exit. He said we should just keep going—it was late—but I saw a flash of longing in his eyes as he spoke. I suggested we at least check it out; after all, being from an obscure Canadian town, when would we be near a Hart & Huntington again?

We trudged up the stairs like drones, the glitzy neon sign beckoning with its promise of adventure. As we flipped through endless pages of sample designs, I told him he should go ahead and get one. A tattoo he had “commissioned” years ago, in the back of a Greyhound bus, looked more like an amoeba than a peace sign, and he always talked about replacing it with a more professional image once he could afford to. As it turned out, a little encouragement was all he needed.

While he negotiated his choice with the artist, I continued to browse through the photos of inked flesh, intent on finding a Lily of the Valley design I could display as a symbol of my artistic spirit, my appreciation for simple beauty in nature, and my birth month of October. One of the tattooists, clearly skilled at helping potential customers realize their dreams of entering the world of rebellion, helped me look for images of Lily of the Valley on the internet and explained the cons of using white ink in any tattoo. As I contemplated how to avoid white ink in an image comprised of white flowers, my boyfriend made his way to the table to get his tattoo.

The kids rambled aimlessly about the store. The sugar high from candy used as a bribe to get them through the hour-long wait was wearing off and their faces wore telltale signs of the exhaustion I felt. My window of opportunity to enter the world of nonconformity was rapidly shrinking.

At some point I figured out how to avoid white ink but I could not decide on a location for the emblem of my individuality. I was convinced that in order for any indeliable piece of artwork to enhance rather than disfigure, it had to be located in a spot where it could be tastefully revealed or concealed, a place that would not sag or wrinkle as I aged nor become distorted when I gained or lost weight.

I looked over at my boyfriend. He was fixated on his tattoo artist—herself tattooed and pierced—as she worked at turning the amoeba, unsightly evidence of his decision to trust someone while inebriated, into a symbol of his newfound passion for dirt biking.

Unable to decide on a location for my tat, and after convincing my boyfriend’s five-year-old that the rack of t-shirts and belts was not the ideal place to practice for a career as an international spy, I resigned myself to the knowledge that this was not my night to get inked. I succumbed to the lure of an upholstered vinyl bench near the wall and waited until my boyfriend’s tattoo was finished.

As we made our way to the vehicle, my boyfriend’s eyes sparkled in the moonlight. I could taste the sizzle of exhilaration and excitement that emanated from his pores. The satisfaction on his face was as fierce as the brand he now sported on his ankle. I glanced down at my own feet half expecting to see blocks of cement.

Pangs of envy stabbed at my insides as we walked. I had encouraged him. I had pushed aside my own hope for a tattoo, too concerned for everyone else—concerned that three young children couldn’t possibly endure waiting any longer in an adult oriented environment at the end of a long day, concerned that my boyfriend’s desire should be fulfilled and that he have a memory to tell and retell his friends back home, and concerned that I find just the right tattoo for myself so as not to offend the sensibilities of strangers.

Like a coarse tag on a shirt collar, the envy irritated and scratched. I was sure my boyfriend’s lack of clairvoyance was proof of his lack of insight in to my soul. I questioned my sense of practicality, which suddenly seemed more a yoke than a virtue.

We followed the freeway back to our hotel. The children dozed in the backseat, their heads lolling from side to side as we drove over the grooves in the pavement. My boyfriend gazed ahead, far away in his thoughts. As my own thoughts drifted over the past few hours, days, and months, I began to feel like I was treading water, my feelings of panic and despair accentuated by his assuredness, his distance, his thinly veiled contempt for my insecurity and his attempts to hide his waning love for me with displays of affection that lacked depth or intimacy.

The vacation, filled with fun and activity, had provided us both with some distraction from reality. The hollow space between us, which had once been overflowing with passion and unconditional love, seemed to open up to the lurking shadows. The lights of each passing motorist illuminated a well worn pathway for my self-doubt, beginning in my head and ending in my chest. Clearly, I was not ready to get a tattoo. There was no room for regret when the ink-filled needles pierced the skin.




Katherine Repka (*not her real name) lives in a small northern town in a remote region of British Columbia, Canada. She shares her life with her two children, her boyfriend, two stepchildren, two dogs, and two cats. Katherine, who works for a community college, has recently returned to writing in her spare time.

About her writing, Katherine says: Writing is something that I am beginning to open up to and make space for in my life. I know I have at least one book in me and possibly several other pieces looking for a way out. I have this mass of content all squished up in a ball inside me that I feel I have to unravel somehow.

I have written poetry in the distant past and some short stories when I took a creative writing class years ago in my first year of college, but overall my writing has taken the form of workplace communications and the occasional love letter or journal entry.

Personal writing is a way for me to explore deep feelings and process emotions, but to date none of my writing has made its way to any publishable format. I see this return to writing as a way to do something for the purpose of personal development, something I can do to get in touch with who I am and nurture my spirit.

My goal is to give myself permission to take time to write more than just on an intermittent basis in the hopes that writing will allow me to reach deeper levels of self awareness and give me a an outlet for self expression and creativity.




-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – TATTOOS

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