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Archive for September, 2010

cat on the fence

Cat on the Fence, greeting (sort of) visitors to the homestead one late afternoon in September, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Something about October’s approach. Strange things start to happen.

Earlier this week I drove up the long drive to our house. There on the mahogany fence was The Cat. I don’t know where she came from—originally that is. Probably came with the house, along with the 1950s powdercoat-yellow metal lawn chairs, left behind by the former owner.

I do know that Sony the Pug mangled the poor tabby and that Jim keeps her (the cat, not Sony) because he has likes to move her from place to place around the yard. She lounged in the wide Y of an old cottonwood all summer long, and then suddenly there she is, sitting on the fence one late September afternoon, looking as real as real can be.

Then yesterday when I got up, I heard rustling in the laundry room. The tea kettle was about to whistle, and I had just come in from dumping the day-old coffee grounds out onto my ice plants. I could hear the noise, like a rummaging through paper. I hit the light switch; the sound went away. Turned off the lights and went back to my morning routine, disturbed by the notion that a mouse must have gotten into Sony’s dog food bag and couldn’t get out. (Of course, I planned to wait for Jim to get out of the shower before testing that theory.)

Moments later as I approached the kettle to pour hot water into the French press, I noticed a dark blob moving across the linoleum. Oh no, I thought, a hurt mouse! I moved closer. It hopped. And hopped and hopped, toward the Chambers stove. I thought it was going to hop right into the crevice between stove and cabinets and back behind the appliance where I’d never be able to capture it. There it would hide out for years only to emerge five times fatter and bumpier. I held out my hand and turned away as if I were picking up dog poop. It took me several tries but finally I caught the toad and took it out the shade garden.

This isn’t the first reptilian visitor to the house. Week before last I had to escort a young bullsnake out to the garden. I found it trying to slither across the floor in our bedroom. It wasn’t getting far, thanks to the miracle cleaning product vinegar-and-water; in fact, it looked more sidewinder than bullsnake.

And this wasn’t the first snake, either. Jim found one once when I was traveling. Nor are snakes and toads the only reptiles that like to visit us inside the house. We also once found a box turtle making its way down the hall, and one night I caught a lizard that had fallen asleep under a lamp near our bookshelves.

The great outdoors has been making its way indoors through the doggy-made doggy-portal, which is actually a large right-angle slit in the screen door that Sony the Pug (yes, she is a bundle of chewing, scratching energy) created so that she wouldn’t have to wait for us to let her in and out.


cat close up




What is it about fall? Harvest moons and long shadows.

Tonight Em spent an hour brainstorming Halloween costumes. Last year she was a Porta-Potty. This year she thought maybe she’d go as something more stylish—Lady Gaga, for example. But her older sister warned that everyone and their brother will be Lady Gaga this Halloween, so the search continues.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for unique costume ideas. Hey, maybe we could dress her up as one reptile-creature that I hope to NEVER see in my home. The chupacabra.

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Undecided

summer prepares for a fall, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




autumn wind bristles
painted in yellows and blues —
blurred, undecided,
summer prepares for a fall,
from the garden’s point of view.




Undecided


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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centipede (one)



centipede.
distant relative (third cousin twice removed) of the lobster, crayfish, and shrimp—which is why the centipede likes to live under rocks





centipede (four)



legs.
anywhere from 20 to 300 pairs, depending on the type (this one being Scolopendra polymorpha, or Desert Tiger centipede)







centipede (two)centipede (three)



centipede (five)



bites.
yes, indeed, inflicted by the poison claw that exists  just under the head (and some centipedes have stingers in their many legs, so best rule of thumb: Don’t handle centipedes!)





centipede (seven)



dinner.
centipedes are meat-eaters (munching on lizards, insects, toads, rodents) and they get eaten by fellow carnivores (owls, coyotes, roadrunners)






centipede (six)



size.
up to 6-8 inches, average 4-5 (either range spells “t-o-o  b-i-g”)







_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

This centipede showed up on a walk on the ditch that my daughter and I took shortly after I wrote the piece Centipede Dreams. My daughter was in no mood to hang out with me while I picked up a small stick and caused the centipede to walk in circles as I tried photographing it with my iPhone. I don’t think the centipede thought much of me either, but I had fun.


-Related to post WRITING TOPIC — INSECTS & SPIDERS & BUGS, OH MY!

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My Refrigerator, photo © 2010 by chickenlil. All rights reserved.


From chickenlil:

This is a photo I took last summer, my grandson decided to play a practical joke on us by loading the fridge with trolls! Had to take a picture of that!



My Refrigerator, photo © 2010 by reccos62. All rights reserved.


From reccos62:

What is on my D or no D? BITE ME from Assateague Island, two PSU football player cards that match the jerseys my daughter and I have, a picture of my honey, weight loss ideas, a school photo of my bonus son.


When we posted WRITING TOPIC — MY REFRIGERATOR on red Ravine last week, our readers were inspired to take photographs of their refrigerators. The above are a few of the images we received. Hope you enjoy them as much as we do. We’d love to see the inside/outside of your refrigerator. If you are so inspired, send your FridgeFotos to info@redRavine.com. Or make a list of what’s inside/outside of your refrigerator and join us in a Writing Practice. When inspiration strikes, follow the Muse!

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YELLOW SOCK

Hello From L&P Sock Puppets Invade Osteo, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, September 2010, photo © 2010 by Pam Wilshere, haiku by Louis Robertson. All rights reserved.






yellow sock haiku

footed yellow sock
breathe deep the essence of earth
love, my yellow sock






NOTE: My brother Louis has been pretty sick for the last few months. A few nights ago, he went into the hospital where he still resides this evening. Earlier today, his partner Pam sent me a text message, followed by a photograph. This photograph. I can’t tell you how big my smile was when I saw that yellow sock puppet pop its head up on my BlackBerry. My brother’s sense of humor is shining through. A glimmer of hope. It made me happy when they said I could post their collaboration on red Ravine. 8)

Louis wrote with us a few weeks ago when he was inspired to join us on the WRITING TOPIC — SCARS. He also sent along a photo of his liver transplant scar (not for the faint of heart). To meet Frankenbelly 2 and learn a few things he’d like to pass along to his kids, see his Writing Practice post PRACTICE — SCARS — 15min.

Thank you L&P Sock Puppets. You lifted me. I have so much gratitude for the gift of family. And laughter.

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By Linda Phillips Thune

 
 
 
 
 

This Wind
 
     (For Annie and her sisters — Mother’s Day, 2010)
 
 
 
This wind lifts through
the grass and leaves and curtains
taking with it some dreams
     but not all
some tears
     but not all
some joy
     but not all.
What weighed unbearably
becomes light
riding away on this wind
brushing by my face —
invisibly, softly, sweetly —
on its way to where ever wind begins.
A fresh chance remains.
A clear view remains.
Prayers remain.
Love lives.


_________________________

 
 
 
 

About Linda: My name is Linda Phillips Thune. Writing, for me, has long been a series of offerings, gifts, to those who needed a thought, a prayer, a part of me. Now, as the focus of my life moves away from my children toward my self, writing is becoming my raft… I’ve loved words always, and after a long road to a Master’s in Literature, I am fortunate to share that love with my students. Recently, I lost a daughter. Her father, her sisters, and I are still wavering in the pain of her loss…hopefully, words will keep us looking to the light.

To read more of Linda’s writing, please visit her blog, In the Margins.

 
 

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My Refrigerator

My Refrigerator, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To some, refrigerators are bare places, slick and spit-polish clean. Enamel, stainless steel, plastic. Avocado greens and lemon yellows in the 1970’s. Black, white, and stainless steel, the current aesthetic. For some, appliances are pieces of art — sleek, retro, places that make a statement through even curves and vintage hardware. In our house, the fridge is a place that collects — grocery lists, receipts, magnets, calendars, bits and pieces of our lives. One day, we realize the clutter for what it is, throw the valuable photos and magnets in a shoebox, and toss the rest. Until the cycle begins again.

The front of my refrigerator reflects a timeline of my life, something I call fridge typography. Magnets from Ocean City, Maryland, an old photo of Liz’s sister when she was a small girl, the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl, the official Geocaching logo, Lily and Hope black bear swag from our trip to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota last July. There is a school photo of my niece, a postcard of Hershey Kisses I sent to Liz when I was in Pennsylvania in May, another of the World’s Largest Boot (size 638 1/2 D) sent to Liz by Bob (or was it Jude) when we were down near Red Wing, Minnesota for a writing retreat earlier this year.


Fridge Topography - 259/365

Fridge Typography, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


What does your fridge look like? Is the outside uncluttered and sparse? If so, open the door. What food do you have inside your refrigerator? Is it all fresh and ready to eat? Or are there a few rotten items to be tossed. What about the freezer? Do you have old-style vintage refrigerator coils (remember what it used to be like to defrost condenser coils)? Or is yours state of the art, energy efficient, humming along quietly in the night.




Fifteen minutes should do it. Or if you’re on a roll, go for 20. Get out your fast writing pens and Writing Practice notebook. Jot down My Refrigerator, and Go!




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 19th, 2010

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…During Labor Day weekend, the thought of making the same ol’ pendants all the live-long day sounded monotonous…
 
…so we pulled out the Dominoes and starting playing.
 
 
 
 

Domino collages in process, in all stages of becoming domed resin pendants, images and photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
 
And so now instead of having only a sea of game board pendants…
 




Sea of Pendants, different sizes of pendants in process of being made, images and photo © by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




…I have a sea of Domino collages.





Sea of Domino Collages, some covered with domed resin and others not, images and photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 




This Sunday, September 13, is the We Art the People Folk Festival at Robinson Park in downtown Albuquerque. If I didn’t have so much to do yet to get ready, I would provide a thorough how-to on making domino collage pendants. But time is of the essence (plus sleep calls) so I will leave you with these tidbits on what you’ll need to make your own:

  • Dominoes. I like to use vintage that come from incomplete sets. Why incomplete? Because vintage domino sets, especially those made of Bakelite, are worth a lot, and I hate to break them up given that people pay top dollar to collect whole sets. I found an antique store owner who had a bunch of random dominoes in her sun tea jar back in her kitchen. She brought in about 60 and sold them to me for $20!
  • Images, including your own words from journals, pictures from magazines, stamps, doodles, photos—anything you can find. Stickers work well, but mostly I cut mine from crafts magazines.
  • Mod Podge to glue the images down to the domino.
  • Doming resin, which is described in the tutorial that I linked to in my Scrabble pendant post (see above link).
  • Once the resin is cured, you can turn the domino collages into pendants, magnets, or key chains. I’ll make pendants out of mine.

 

I will try to provide a more thorough How-to once I get past this show, but I can tell you now that it’s so easy, my girls got into making them with me. And I loved how quickly they did it; their Beginner’s Mind did not over-analyze what to put where and whether the message was just so. They slapped down their images and threw on the Mod Podge.

 

But the folk festival is afoot, and all my energy between tonight and Sunday morning will go to getting ready. I hope all you Albuquerque folk will go to the festival, too. There will be a giant puppet parade, theater, over 100 vendors, and fun for the whole family.

Come on out and see us! Let’s play a game of Dominoes. (Or Scrabble.)



we art the people

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The Master Butcher (Revisited) - 255/365

The Master Butcher (Louis Erdrich) – 255/365, BlackBerry 365, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To celebrate the World Premiere stage adaptation of The Master Butchers Singing Club at the Guthrie, Liz and I have started reading the novel aloud to each other. I savor each moment. This will be second time I have followed Fidelis from Germany with his pristine set of knives and suitcase full of sausages, walked the streets of Argus, North Dakota with Delphine and Cyprian, and sat at the clean and ordered table of Eva Waldvogel.

The first time was at least five years ago when my relationship with Liz was just getting started. We quickly discovered that we both loved art, music, writers, and books — lots of books. Liz grew up in North Dakota and Louise Erdrich was one of her favorite authors (she had gone to see her speak in the 80’s at Moorhead State). To help win me over, and in a courtship ritual I didn’t find the least bit bizarre, she checked out two library copies of The Master Butchers Singing Club on CD, handed one to me and said, “I thought we could listen to them separately in our cars and compare notes. What do you think?”

Seven years and some odd months later….we learned that Master Butchers was coming to the Guthrie and vowed to pick up tickets. A few weeks ago when we attended The Scottsboro Boys, we stopped by the ticket window and sealed the deal. Then Birchbark Books (the independent bookstore owned by Louise) announced on Facebook that it had a few signed, First Edition copies of The Masters Butchers Singing Club for sale. I returned home that evening to find the book gleaming off the coffee table. And there on the cover, in a photograph taken June 8th, 1912, in Pforzheim, Germany, was the Master Butcher himself, Louise’s grandfather, Louis Erdrich.


Can you imagine having your novel adapted for the stage in such a prestigious venue as the Guthrie Theater? If the Guthrie’s photograph of Louise and her daughter on set before the preview opening on September 11th is any indication, it is a feeling of elation and pure joy.

We’ll be attending the play in October (with several friends) and will come back and check in later this Fall. According to Minnesota Monthly, director Francesca Zambello didn’t know Louise when she frequented Kenwood Café and picked up a copy of Master Butchers at Birchbark next store. But over time, “With Erdrich’s blessing (and advice), Zambello and Pulitzer-winning playwright Marsha Norman began condensing the sprawling family saga, set in the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota, between the world wars. There’s more singing and less butchering now. And that’s fine with Erdrich…”

In my humble opinion, The Master Butchers Singing Club is one of her finest. I can only imagine that Louise’s grandfather would agree. It is a book about the importance of place and culture, a universal story. There is a way that Louise’s books honor those who came before her, generations of ancestry in perfect imperfection. As above, so below. So may it be.


IMG_7690 PS Crop 5 x 7 Color

The Erdrich Sisters, Heid, Lise, Louise, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Additional Resources:

MPR Midmorning: From the page to the stage - The Master Butchers Singing Club. Kerri Miller’s interview this morning with Louise Erdrich and Francesca Zambello.

Minnesota Monthly Profiles Author Louise Erdrich, September 2010 – Staging Erdrich by Michael Tortorello including 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Louise.

Play Guide, Interviews, and Ticket Info on The Master Butchers Singing Club at the Guthrie Theater.

Louise’s bookstore, Birchbark Books where you can get your own First edition, first printing, hardcover of The Master Butchers Singing Club signed by Louise Erdrich, or the newly re-issued Fishing for Myth from Heid Erdrich.

Bill Moyers interview with Louise Erdrich on Bill Moyers Journal, April 9th, 2010

Louise Erdrich on Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr.


-related to posts: The Company Of Strangers (On Louise Erdrich & Flying), Book Talk — Do You Let Yourself Read?


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IMG02262-20100906-2238

Double Ferris Wheel, Minnesota State Fair, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






dark cycles of life,
giant octagonal stars —
dive into your fear






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 12th, 2010

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), red Ravine At The MN State Fair — Minding Our P’s & Q’s, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (F. Scott Fitzgerald — A Night At The Fair)

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Centipede Dreams, scar from a benign tumor taken out when I was 12 (37 years ago), September 2010, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





Most people no longer ask about the large blemish I have in the center of my throat, down where my larynx meets my chest. It’s a tracheotomy scar that must be getting lighter the longer I have it. When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for perfect strangers to approach me in public places and ask, “What happened there?”

I had the tracheotomy at age 18 months after a croup turned to pneumonia. It was an emergency operation, part of my childhood mythology, the small Mexican doctor with wild hair who stabbed open a hole in my trachea so I could breathe. She had a frantic look in her eye, her hair loose and Bride-of-Frankenstein-like, and she held the sharp instrument up in the air before bringing it down to pierce my throat.

That’s the image I hold of her anyway, an image formed out of the seemingly hundreds of times I heard my parents tell the story. It was the kind of improbable drama — the dying child whose life is saved by a small doctor who is both Mexican and a woman — with a happy ending that held friends and relatives rapt year after year. I loved the attention, standing near my parents, Mom nudging me to lift my chin so everyone could see the scar. A few gentle strokes of her fingers on the chamois-soft skin, rubbing as if to say, “See, it’s permanent.”

In each telling I embellished the imagery. When my parents described the moment they decided to rush me to the hospital, how my lips had turned blue and I’d stopped breathing, my mind’s eye pictured the veins and blood from my body shimmering purple through translucent skin. Or when Mom and Dad said that my hair went from straight to curly “just like that” as I lay in the oxygen tent in ICU, I saw it happening as if in time lapse photography. Like the stockinged feet of the Wicked Witch of the West curling after Dorothy removes the ruby slippers, so went my hair, forming into tiny ringlets all over my head.

It must be natural, I think, for a young kid to turn her childhood stories into morbid scenes, but what strikes me is how much staying power those scenes have. I don’t replace them with more reasonable pictures — a modest Mexican woman with hair pulled back in a bun, a ride on the gurney into a stark emergency room at the hospital. No, my scenes involve my parents bursting through a set of double doors, my limp blue body draped across Dad’s arms, them watching in horror as the doctor plunges a knife — or better, a pair of sharp scissors — into my throat. Or my parents watching in awe as my hair springs up in a bouquet of curl all around my head, like an angel’s.

I don’t have such vivid imagery when it comes to the scar on my knee, although being that I got it at the impressionable age of 12, I did manage to fabricate a mythology around that one, too. I developed a crush on the orthopedic surgeon who did the procedure — my parents said he looked like a hippie, which made him all the more intriguing. In my mind, his golden hair flows out from under a light blue surgeon’s cap and he dons a small silver hoop in his ear. I clearly recall him coming to visit me after the operation, carrying the kind of Bell jar used for canning fruit. Inside is my white globular tumor floating in a yellowish brine. I’m surprised it isn’t perfectly round, like a golf ball.

The scar from that procedure resembles a centipede on the inside of my right knee, and once after a real centipede crawled across my leg while I played hide-and-seek in the coat closet, I decided to tell any kid who asked me how I got the scar that it was left there by a centipede that seared itself into my skin. “That’s how centipedes bite,” I told them, “they burn themselves right into you.”

Kids looked at me with respect after that, but my story fell apart once they began asking all the questions that come with the idea of centipede-as-branding-iron. “What happened to the centipede?” “Well, it dried up and fell off,” I said one time, and then another time, “It dissolved right into the skin, see?, you can still see parts of it here.” Soon I became tired of the technicality of it all, I couldn’t keep the story straight and over time I left behind the centipede saga and kept only the image of my long-haired doctor.

My latest epic scar involves two puncture wounds on the outer bridge of my nose, close to my eyes, that our rooster Lindo gave me when he tried blinding me with his spurs. Lindo and I shared a mutual animosity, he was a beautiful cocky bird who had such an intense hatred that the moment he spied me coming out the door he would strut my way with the intent to fight. I took to carrying a bundle of dried bamboo stalks, which I used to whack him as I made my way to whatever part of the yard I needed to go. He’d come after me again and again until my stalks splintered into pieces, at which point I took off at a full out run.

Ultimately he got the better of me, one evening when I let down my guard. I had gone armed only with a bowl of compost into the bird pen. I bent down to throw a piece of lettuce to the bunny who lived there with the roosters, turkeys, and ducks, and Lindo saw his opening. He flew up at my face, spurs aimed at my eyes. He almost got them, too, and I’m not embellishing when I say that I traumatized my youngest daughter when I stood up screaming, blood streaming like tears down my cheeks.

The strange thing is that no one notices the scars unless I point them out. One time, at a luncheon in China, I sat next to a German man who had the exact same two puncture wound scars near his eyes. All through lunch, I wanted to ask if he, too, had been attacked by a rooster. But I barely knew the man. I tried to imagine every other possible reason he might have carried scars identical to mine. Maybe he’d suffered terrible acne that resulted in two pimples near his eyes. Or perhaps as a teen he wore black leather and sported a purple Mohawk and a piece of bone pierced through the bridge of his nose.

In the end, I couldn’t think of a way to broach the subject without embarrassing us both or drawing attention from the six other European men at the table. However, in my mind, I am certain that the very thing that happened to me also happened to him. Anything is possible.


________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Postscript: This essay is based on a 15-minute Writing Practice in response to WRITING TOPIC – SCARS. The details that emerged from my Writing Practice were similar to other times when I’ve done timed writing that led to stories about my tracheotomy (specifically here and here) so I figured it was time to polish the narrative. Plus, since it contains important elements of my life story, especially my earliest years, I wanted to go with the energy, hoping it might turn into something I can weave later into memoir.

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Most people no longer recognize the patch I have in the center of my throat, down where my larynx meets my chest. It is a tracheotomy scar that must be getting lighter the longer I have it. When I was a kid, it was not uncommon for a perfect stranger would approach me in some store where I was buying sunflower seeds or Jolly Rancher apple sticks and ask, What happened there?

I had the tracheotomy at age 18 months after a respiratory virus turned to pneumonia. It was an emergency operation, part of my childhood mythology, the small Mexican doctor with wild hair who stabbed open the hole in my trachea so I wouldn’t die. She had a frantic look in her eye, her hair loose and Bride-of-Frankenstein-like, and she held the sharp instrument up in the air before bringing it down to pierce my throat.

That is the image that came out of those many times I heard my parents tell the story, it was the kind of story they would repeat to relatives and friends, even after we’d heard it for years, and in each telling I would embellish the imagery. Just like when they said that in the oxygen tent in the ICU, where I stayed for days afterward, my hair went from straight to curly, just like that and I can see it happening, in time lapse photography. Like the stocking feet of the Wicked Witch of the West curling and shrinking away under the house after Dorothy removes the ruby slippers, so goes my hair, forming into tiny ringlets all over my head.

It must be natural, I think, for a young kid to turn their childhood stories into morbid scenes, but what strikes me is how much those scenes have stuck with me through the years. I don’t replace them with more reasonable pictures, a modest Mexican woman with hair pulled back in a bun, a ride on the gurney into a stark but clean emergency room at the hospital. No, my scenes involve my parents watching on in horror as they see the doctor plunge the knife into my throat, or watching in awe as my hair springs up in a bouquet of curl all around my head, like an angel’s.

The scar on my knee came at an impressionable age, around 12 years old, and I fabricated a mythology around that one, too. I developed a huge crush on the orthopedic surgeon who did the procedure, my folks said he looked like a hippie, which made him all the more intriguing. Even though this seems unlikely, I clearly recall him coming to visit me after the operation, carrying the kind of Bell jar used for canning fruit, and inside was my white globular tumor floating in a yellowish liquid.

The scar from that procedure resembles a centipede crawling on the inside of my right knee, and once after a real centipede zipped across my leg while I was playing hide-and-seek in the coat closet, I decided to tell any kid who asked me how I got the scar on my knee that it was left there by a centipede that burned itself into my skin. That’s how centipedes bite, I told them, they sear themselves right into you.

Kids looked at me with respect after that, but my story fell apart once they began to ask all the questions that came with the idea of centipede-as-branding-iron. What happened to the centipede itself? It dried up and fell off, I said one time, and then another time, It dissolved right into the skin, see, you can still see parts of it here. Soon I became tired of the technicality of it all, I couldn’t keep the story going and over time I left behind the centipede and kept only the image of my long-haired doctor.

I have two puncture wounds on the outer bridge of my nose, close to my eyes, that our rooster Lindo gave me when he tried blinding me with his spurs. One time, at a luncheon in China, I sat next to a German man who had the exact same two puncture wounds near his eyes. All through lunch, I kept wanting to ask him if he, too, had been attacked by a rooster, but I couldn’t think of a way to broach the subject without coming off sounding like a whacked out American.

Now, in my mind, I am certain that the same thing that happened to me happened to him. Anything is possible.




-Related to Topic post WRITING TOPIC – SCARS and Guest practice, PRACTICE – SCARS – 15min by Louis Robertson

NOTE: Scars is a Writing Topic on red Ravine. Guest writer Louis Robertson was inspired to join QuoinMonkey and ybonesy in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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I have not wanted to write on the Topic of Scars. Why? All the more reason to dig in. I see the tiny nicks on my hands and wrists every day. They remind me of what I was doing when I got them. Pulling the stainless steel blade across a grinding wheel when the dental tool shot into the air, gravity intervened, it landed on top of my hand. Lathering dark brown bees wax across handmade paper and birch bark, drips of scalding wax on my wrists.

The next thing I think about is the stage of life I was in when those things happened. My twenties in Montana. I went from moving cross country and having no job, to working at a gas station for a while, then went to the job center, took a dexterity test, and landed at a dental tool sharpening company on Reserve Street. Looking back, it was a crazy time in my life. The second scar, art school, late nights, living on fumes. I felt alive, on the edge of something.

Last night on the news, there was a woman being interviewed about her daughter. She is a few days away from giving birth and in a burn unit. She was sitting around the fire ring with some teenage friends when a couple of the boys threw bottles filled with gas into the flames. She got up to leave, turned to look back, and that’s when the bottle exploded. She still has not looked at the scars on her face. Scarred for life. Holding on to a past that is not there anymore. Maybe that is what a scar indicates — change. A past event, no longer the present, still impacting our bodies and minds in some unexplainable way.

Scars represent choices we made along the way. More so if they were obtained as adults, while we were undertaking a task that might have been unfamiliar to us. Or maybe we were tired and running a chainsaw, or working around chemicals, machinery, fire. There are deeper scars, emotional, that grip like the vise, unless we work to let go of them. Feelings of abandonment, abuse, uncertainty. Maybe a close loved one died when we were young. Our parents were divorced or in an accident. We moved from California to North Dakota, Georgia to Pennsylvania, where cultures are polar opposites. I learned to run from scars when I was a young adult. Dug in my heels. At some point, I just dug in, and did the work. The work of transforming those experiences into fuel for the future.

That’s the part I like to see in the novels I read. I like to notice where the person took the wisdom of age and transmuted some horrific event in their lives into a spark of passion, into something better. Maybe they became a doctor or nurse and gave back to others. Maybe they raised their children to have a different life than the one they led. I am noticing when I listen to The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, noticing how she wraps the characters’ lives around them at the end of the book, like a woven sheep blanket, one with an uneven stitch, a place of imperfection where Spirit can enter. I want to study the structure of the book, look for places in her life that might have contributed to the details she writes about.

I do that with fiction. I scour the novel for tidbits of truth, something that relates to the writer’s own life, the scars they may have endured. If I know the writer well, have read their life story, or they have written a memoir, I can get under the surface, read between the lines. Of course, it’s only my take on things. Every reader has her own version of the same story. That’s the deliciousness of writing. And reading. And of living. None of my five siblings ever remember my stories, the narrative of our growing up, the way I remember them. And neither do my parents.

When I went to see The Scottsboro Boys at the Guthrie a few weeks ago, that is what I noticed. That we bring to a piece of art or writing, our own age, history, and experience. And our baggage. We attended the after-play discussion and listened to members of the audience talk about race, prejudice in the North and the South, about the minstrel shows and what they represented, about scars our country has left behind. Scars that slowly heal. And become transformed.

It is slow. And each time we take a giant step, everything splashes back in our faces, knocking the breath out of us. There is a backlash that becomes tempered with time. America is a country of extremes. We elect a black President yet have a hard time looking at the legacy leading up to the moment in time when we elected him. History is behind us, yes. But not really. If you had seen The Scottsboro Boys, you would know what I mean. I was pushed to laughter and tears from the scars. Yet, it opened me. That is what good art does. It opens us. If you can’t look back, you can’t really go forward. At least, that is what I believe. Scars are teachers. What have I learned?



-Related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – SCARS, and Guest practice, PRACTICE – SCARS – 15min by Louis Robertson

NOTE: Scars is a Writing Topic on red Ravine. Guest writer Louis Robertson was inspired to join QuoinMonkey and ybonesy in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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red Ravine At The MN State Fair — Minding Our P’s & Q’s, September 2010, photo © 2010 by Liz Schultz. All rights reserved.


We spent hours at the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Fall made her official debut with a cloudy, blustery 68 degrees. I bundled up in my Lily and Hope North American Bear Center sweatshirt and made the rounds with Liz and two friends we go to the Fair with every year (it’s a Fall ritual!). We also met our friend Teri for the few minutes she could steal away from her duties at the Fair. We had a fabulous time.

This year’s annual Minnesota State Fair post (along with a list of 71 foods-on-a-stick) focuses on writers, and our day at the Fair did not disappoint. Author Peter Smith did a book signing at the MPR booth for his new book, A Porch Sofa Almanac. You can hear an interview with him sharing his favorite Minnesota State Fair memory at MPR. We also attended a book signing by this year’s Minnesota State Fair Foundation Author-In-Residence, Debra Frasier. We met the author at the J.V. Bailey House and bought her new book, A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.

After chatting with Debra about the Alphabet Forest, we decided to stop by her little log cabin at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. Kids and adults alike love it here. You can spell out your name in Fair alphabet letters and your banner will be posted on her website the next day. I spelled red Ravine (the last “e” in Ravine is from the Cheese Curds stand) and Liz took the photograph for me. The Alphabet Forest is one of the most peaceful stops at the Fair! There are benches and lots of activities for kids.

We came home last night with a bucket of warm Sweet Martha’s cookies, a new pair of cornflower blue Brasko shoes for Liz (bought from a man from Kansas with a Swedish accent), and both of the author’s books. They were all out of Camel on-a-stick but other food highlights included Peaches & Cream, and Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes on-a-stick with the best honey mustard I’ve ever tasted. Yes, I think we have to buy those again on Monday. We’ll be there for a ride on Ye Old Mill and the last concert at the Grandstand, Dukes of September Rhythm Review (featuring Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, and Michael McDonald). See you there!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, September 4th, 2010

-related to these posts with tons of history about the MN State Fair: MN State Fair On-A-Stick, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku, Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, the fine art of Princess Kay of the Milky Way (and the Butter Queens), Minnesota State Fair poster artists, the history of Fairborne and Fairchild, and the tradition of Tom Thumb Donuts.

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