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Lately I have begun to measure time by the way I savor or squander it. Yesterday, I had the day to myself. I spent many hours reading in silence. When I find my writing languishing, it is good to read the words of those willing to share the places they have stumbled and succeeded. “The Getaway Car” has traveled both paved and potholed roads.



Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath.

—Ann Patchett from “The Getaway Car” in This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, HarperCollins 2013.




Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is the key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.

—Ann Patchett from “The Getaway Car” in This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, HarperCollins 2013.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, April 19th, 2014

-related to posts: The Ant & The Grasshopper – Ann Patchett & Lucy Grealy, Which Came First, The Grasshopper Or The Egg?, Ann Patchett – On Truth, Beauty, & The Adventures Of “Opera Girl”

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Cattail Bog, Sony NEX Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.


When you live in a land of lakes, you tend to develop an intimate relationship with wetland geography. Liz passes Theodore Wirth Park on her journey to and from work and sometimes stops to take photographs of one of its hidden gems—the Quaking Bog. The park’s Quaking Bog is a five-acre acid bog where nearly 200 mature tamaracks shade the understory sphagnum moss. Bogs (also known as mires, quagmires, muskegs, and fens) are remnants of the last glacial age. They each develop differently, depending on climate and typography, and often occur when the water at the ground surface is acidic and low in nutrients.

Bogs are often classified based on their location in the landscape and source of water. There are valley bogs, raised bogs, blanket bogs, quaking bogs, and cataract bogs. Quaking bogs develop over a lake or pond, with bog mats (thick layers of vegetation) about three feet thick on top. Quaking bogs bounce when people or animals walk on them, giving them their name. My most vivid memory of walking a bog was a side trip we took on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. Here are the impressions of two writers from one of my favorite books on topography, Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape:


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QuoinBog Path, Sony NEX Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.



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bog

The low-lying area saturated with water creates a hollow of decomposed vegetation in wet, spongy ground. This strange land is called a bog, a word that’s been used since about 1450 to refer to such places. The ground sinks underfoot—-collapses, sucks under. It is a netherworld dimly lit, and a rank smell hangs in the air. Yet a bog is far from dead. It supports plant life; as an ecological system, it can be described as a plant community. Cattails, rushes, sedges, and bulrushes are plants that initially creep into a lake and begin to transition that body of water into a bog. The term most often applies to wetlands that have little inflow of water through streams and are fed, instead, mainly by precipitation. What happens is that the plant material growing in the lake dies off and eventually becomes peat. When the dead and dying vegetation rises to the water level of the lake, this accumulation of peat forms a dome, which prohibits any new plants from growing. Without the inflow and outflow of water, a black skin forms, an oily and idle mire locked in a world of its own contrivance. A foot stepping in goes beneath the surface, fast like a thief. Bogs can be found throughout the United States—Web’s Mill Bog, New Jersey, for instance, and Hanging Bog near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The term bog is also often used in literature to represent the cessation of growth, or a human’s stuck place. In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane uses a bog to express the conditions of the Civil War. “He is obliged to walk upon bog tufts and watch his feet to keep from the oily mire….The youth went again into the deep thickets. The brushed branches made a noise that drowned the sounds of the cannon. He walked on, going from obscurity into promises of a greater obscurity.”

-Elizabeth Cox from her home ground, Chattanooga, Tennessee



quaking bog

The quaking bog is one of the most novel features of forests of the northern United States, especially those in New England and Wisconsin. It’s an area of sphagnum moss, rushes, sedges, and decaying vegetation, the whole mass of which is floating on a pool of water. The surface appears solid and stable, until trusted with the weight of a step. What seems to be firm ground then shivers, sinks, and rises, like a natural trampoline or waterbed. If the first shimmy of this rich root mass underfoot is not heeded, one might easily break through the entangled mat into water and loose mud below, as if one had stepped into quicksand. The quaking bog suggests in perceptible human time the larger ripple, rise and fall, and shifting of the Earth’s surface in geologic time.

-Robert Morgan from his home ground, the Southern Appalachians of western North Carolina, though he has lived in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York for thirty-five years, and in many ways that seems like home also


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Quaking Bog Tree, Sony NEX Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.




RESOURCES:

National Geographic Education – Encyclopedic Entry – Bog

Video – What Is A Quaking Bog?

Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape


-related to posts:  Standing Your Ground —-Arroyo, Gulch, Gully & Wash, Midwest Poets & Writers — When Can You Call A Place Home?

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 6th, 2013


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See The World Without Going Anywhere – 88/365, Archive 365, BlackBerry Shots, May 2010, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, photo © 2010-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Seen on a walk through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2010. The things that are important are sometimes invisible to the eye. Like the images that develop in the mind and heart when we read.

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ARCHIVE 365: Archive 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 7th, 2012

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My Top Ten Favorite Poets, acrylic on canvas 1995 by Frank Gaard, Droid Shots,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2012, photos © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All
rights reserved.


There aren’t many things more satisfying than the combination of music, literature, philosophy, and art. In January we attended opening weekend of Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy, a 40-year retrospective at Walker Art Center. The work is a visual feast. Layers of eye-popping color on canvas, vinyl, and CD fuse the past to the present with timeless themes that stretch far into the future. By the time I arrived at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), Frank Gaard had been teaching there for 17 years and was a legend. From 1974 to 1994 Gaard was the mastermind behind Artpolice, an underground ‘zine about art, war, politics and life. The Walker show features over 50 works including portraits, illustrations, and sketchbooks (he has kept a dairy all his life) and runs through May 6th.

After attending the opening, I could not pass up the opportunity to hear Frank speak. Gaard On Gaard, his gallery talk on February 9th, woke me up. I’d like to listen to it again and write a longer piece. When you hear lifelong artists speak about their lives, you learn things about the craft that can’t be taught in books. The artist in me came away inspired by the strength of his voice; he was fearless. The writer loved the way he incorporated his love of writing, philosophy, and music into his art. My favorite paintings include his walls of portraits and his lists. Which of his poets would be at the top of your list?





RESOURCES:

Walker Salutes the Old Gaard by Mary Abbe – Star-Tribune, January 26th, 2012

Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy, Walker Art Center, 2012

The Life & Work of John Keats

Emily Dickinson Electronic Archives

Ezra Pound: The Poetry Foundation

Ted Hughes: Poetry Archive

Rilke at The Poetry Foundation

Bertolt Brecht at International Brecht Society

RPO Selected Poetry of Alexander Pope

Stephane Mallarme – Biography

Edmund Spenser at Poetry Foundation

The Life & Works of Vladimir Nabokov

Georges Bataille – 5 Poems


Frank Gaard Portraits At The Walker: Poison & Candy

Frank Gaard Portraits, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2012, photos © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

-related to posts: Does Poetry Matter?, Got Poetry? National Poem In Your Pocket Day, Emily’s Freedom


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Twin-Lens-Reflex Camera, illustration from Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual by Henry Horenstein, Droid Shots, original photograph edited with Paper Camera, Golden Valley, Minnesota, February 2012, photos © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



One of the goals that came out of my last writing retreat with the Midwest writers was to focus on organizing, storing, revisualizing, and selling my photographs. I took a photojournalism class this week from a journalist who makes a living from her stories and photographs. I spent much of this morning perusing old photo books while sipping French Roast (I have a Twin-Lens-Reflex in my collection just like the one in the illustration above).

Old print photograph and design books are inexpensive and inspirational. It is exciting to view the work of the photographers who came before us and to learn from their art. At MCAD, I focused primarily on black & white photography, along with alternative processes. I’d like to do more along those lines with my digital photographs. I remember…


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 18th, 2012, with gratitude to Liz (one of my Muses) who consistently brings home tons of books from our local library

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Lincoln’s Birthday, Indie bookstore window photographed with Canon Powershot & edited with PhotoShop Elements, Wayzata, Minnesota, February 16th, 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A few years ago, Liz and I went to see Ronald C. White, Jr. at the Bookcase of Wayzata, an independent bookstore on Lake Minnetonka. He was there to discuss his new book, A. Lincoln: A Biography. I had heard him interviewed earlier in the morning on MPR; Liz and I decided to be spontaneous and go hear him speak. The little Indie bookstore was packed.

White talked about how Lincoln loved words. And because of that, his words were like poetry. White wrote his book for those who might be reading a Lincoln biography for the first time, or to introduce Lincoln to a younger generation. He also spoke about how Obama started to shine a light on Lincoln, and how he (White) was booked for speaking engagements in Mississippi and Alabama, and also in Europe where many think Abe Lincoln personifies the American Dream.

More than 16,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. Yet not all of his story has been told. At the end of the Civil War, between March and April 1865, Lincoln went to Northern Virginia to meet with his generals. He shook hands with thousands of Union soldiers and visited the former Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia. But little is known about the last week of his life before his assassination on April 14, 1865.

Historian Noah Andre Trudeau thinks that in their rush to get to Ford’s Theater, historians have overlooked this important part of Lincoln’s life. After the Civil War, the President of the United States met Generals Grant and Sherman in Virginia to talk about the surrender of the South and its impact on our country. Lincoln visited Richmond, then considered enemy territory, as an observer. He was looking for ways a torn nation could begin to heal.

Having spent my childhood in the South, and most of my adult years in the North, I am compelled to follow literature about the Civil War. One of my ancestors was a courier for Robert E. Lee. When we moved to the North, one of the first places we visited was the Gettysburg battlefield. I am fascinated by the work of photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan who took this photo, one half of a stereo view of Alfred R. Waud, artist of Harper’s Weekly, while he sketched on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863. (See links below for the rest of the Atlantic series on photographs of the Civil War.)

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Trudeau is known for uncovering its secrets. His previous books, Bloody Roads South and Gettysburg, have unveiled information about General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea in 1864, and the legacy of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Now, in preparation for the book about a largely unexamined period of President Abraham Lincoln’s life, Trudeau is in search of witnesses.

He is seeking diary entries, letters or stories of people who encountered Lincoln at the time. During the NPR story, I was surprised to hear several people call in with leads to family scrapbooks and letters relating to Lincoln. (To share information, contact him at lincoln65@earthlink.net.) About his quest for truth, Trudeau states: “My one nightmare is that I’m going to do a very good job of discrediting all the good stories.” I think it’s quite the contrary. The more stories revealed, the closer we are to weaving together the textured layers of the past, and unraveling the sometimes painful chapters in American history.


Resources:

Historian Seeks Artifacts From Lincoln’s Last Days : NPR Talk Of The Nation (LINK)

A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White, Jr. at his Official Website (LINK)

Abraham Lincoln and Slavery | Minnesota Public Radio News (LINK) – historian Eric Foner examines Abraham Lincoln’s complex ideas about slavery and African Americans, casting fresh light on an American icon.

The Civil War, Part 1: The Places, the Atlantic – February 8th, 2012 (LINK) – First installment of amazing b&w photographs of important places in the Civil War. (Some images in the three Series are graphic.)

The Civil War, Part 2: The People, the Atlantic – February 9th, 2012 (LINK) – Second installment of b&w photographs of the Civil War. Includes a photo portrait of Abraham Lincoln taken by photographer Alexander Gardner on February 5, 1865.

Traditionally called “last photograph of Lincoln from life”, this final photo in Lincoln’s last photo session was long thought to have been made on April 10, 1865, but more recent research has indicated the earlier date in February. The crack comes from the original negative, which was broken and discarded back in 1865. The entirety of the American Civil War took place while Lincoln was in office, starting a month after he was elected, and ending just days before his assassination in April of 1865.

The Civil War, Part 3: The Stereographs, the Atlantic – February 10th, 2012 (LINK) – Third installment of the Stereographs of the Civil War with the work of photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 12th, 2012, birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Related to posts: Abraham Lincoln & Nikki Giovanni (On Poets & Presidents), Presidential Poetics — Elizabeth Alexander, President Barack Obama, Book Talk — Do You Let Yourself Read?

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Healing Heart Mandala, created on gray, rainy day while listening to Mandala Healing: Using Sacred Symbols for Spiritual & Emotional Healing by Judith Cornell, Golden Valley, Minnesota, September 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

Once you turn the light around,
everything in the world is turned around.
The light rays are concentrated upward into the eyes;
this is the great key of the human body.
You should reflect on this.
If you do not sit quietly each day,
this light flows and whirls,
stopping who knows where.
If you can sit quietly for a while,
all time-ten thousand ages,
a thousand lifetimes---is penetrated from this.
All phenomena revert to stillness.
Truly inconceivable is this sublime truth.


—from The Secret of the Golden Flower: The Classic Chinese Book of Life, translated by Thomas Cleary, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991, p.19


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HEALING INTENTIONS


   acceptance                   appreciation                   authenticity
   awakening                   balance                            beauty
   beginner's mind          creative play                  clarity 
   compassion                  connectedness               devotion 
   egolessness                  emotional healing          faith
   fearlessness                 forgiveness                     freedom to be 
   grace                             gratitude                         harmony
   healing laughter          honoring diversity         illumination 
   inspired creativity      integrity                          joy 
   kindness                       life as a celebration       listening with the heart
   living in the present   mental healing               miracles
   non-judgment             oneness                           opening the heart to love 
   patience                       peace                               perseverance
   practice of truth         radiating love                 soul illumination 
   spiritual healing          surrender                       transformation
   trusting intuition        unity                                wholeness 
   wisdom                        wonder




Healing Heart Mandala (Detail)-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

-related to posts: Labyrinth Mandala At The Aquarius Full Moon, Ears Still To The Lonely Wind — Mandala For Rabbit, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise, ode to a crab (haiku & mandala), Eye Of The Dragon Tattoo

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By Teri Blair



Lawrence Welk’s Boyhood Home, Strasburg, North Dakota, July 2011, all photos © 2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.


The Lawrence Welk Show was a Saturday night staple when I was growing up. My favorite acts were Cissy and Bobby, tap-dancing Arthur Duncan, and the guy on clarinet with big glasses. I didn’t pay much attention to the show’s host, though I wondered about his accent. I had a vague sense he came from the state just west of mine, but he mainly seemed tan and Hollywood and Californian. Not like the people I knew.

I’d seen his birthplace marked on my North Dakota map for years, and then one day, just like that, my mom and I decided to go. We checked out library copies of Wunnerful, Wunnerful: The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk. Mom read it first and told me she couldn’t put it down. I figured that was because she still watched his reruns on public television. Then I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down either. That’s when I found out Lawrence Welk wasn’t just a tan and smiling Hollywood face. Far from it.

We took two-lane roads to get to Strasburg, ones where you can tell where you’re heading. Mom reread the first chapter out loud to us, the one about Lawrence’s childhood in North Dakota and his passion to play music and get off the farm. We wanted everything fresh in our minds.

Lawrence was born in North Dakota in 1903, one of eight children of immigrant parents. The ten of them lived in a tiny sod house, milked cows, and spoke German. Lawrence had four years of schooling before he begged his parents to let him quit. Since he knew how to read and write, they let him. A farmer wouldn’t need more than that, they figured. But Lawrence’s father had carried an accordion all the way from Europe, and that one musical box lit a fire under the third Welk son. He had an affinity for music, an insatiable appetite for chords and melodies and rhythm. He tinkered with homemade instruments, and learned everything his father would teach him about music.

Though his family assumed his future as a North Dakota farmer, Lawrence knew he had to live a different life. He didn’t know how he could, only that he must. Then when he was 11 his appendix burst. By the time his parents found someone with a car and he was driven to the hospital in Bismarck, he was almost dead. He lived on the edge of life and death while his poisoned blood was treated. Though only a child, he determined if he survived he would make his living as a musician. No matter what.

He spent the rest of his childhood hiring himself out to play accordion at every event he could find around Strasburg. Every nickel he made went to pay off the $400 accordion he bought through a mail-order catalog. A deep satisfaction stirred in him to watch the joy his playing brought to people, an intrinsic reward that would fuel him for decades.

The View From Lawrence Welk’s Bedroom, Strasburg, North Dakota,
July 2011, all photos © 2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.


When he left the farm on his 21st birthday, his father predicted his ruin as a musician. He told Lawrence he’d be back in six weeks looking for a meal. What followed were years of small gains and huge setbacks—trying to find work as a musician during The Depression wasn’t easy. Lawrence often went hungry. One time his band quit on him, embarrassed by his broken English and the way he tapped his toe to find the beat. He was naïve and trusting, taken advantage of more than once. He had to start over again and again with nothing but his accordion. But his internal compass was undeniable. His wife said years later that he was like a cork. When one plan failed, he’d be momentarily submerged before he’d pop up in a different place with a new strategy. By the time he landed the television program, he had paid his dues and then some. He had already spent 30 years on the road playing ballrooms.

After our tour of the homestead, I slow-walked around Lawrence’s childhood farm. I stood in the places he talked about in the book: the spot by the barn where he asked his dad for the $400 loan, the upstairs loft where his appendix burst, the tiny living room where he listened to polka music. I went to Mass on Sunday at the German Catholic church and sat where he had. I looked at the stained glass windows, the same ones Lawrence had looked at when he was a little German boy. He didn’t know how his story would end, but sitting there, I did.

Lawrence knew who he was, who he wasn’t, and he stuck with himself. And from that, I take great inspiration. By the time of his death in 1992, he had had the longest-running television program in history, and had helped launch the careers of dozens of musicians.

What is possible when we don’t deny our true selves?




_________________________




About Teri: Teri Blair is a writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her first piece for red Ravine, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb in 2010 and published a sequel, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time. Since then, she has written Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group, Discovering The Big Read, a piece about the largest reading program in American history, and Does Poetry Matter?, an essay about the Great American Think-Off.

Earlier this year, Teri was a writing resident at Vermont Studio Center in the heart of the Green Mountains. She finds inspiration on the road. Her writing pilgrimage to the Amherst, Massachusetts home of poet Emily Dickinson inspired the essay, Emily’s Freedom. At the end of September, Teri will be flying into Atlanta, Georgia to embark on her latest writing adventure — a two-week road trip in a compact Cruise America rolling along the Southern Literary Trail.


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Art Changes Everything – 27/52, BlackBerry 52 — Week 27 Jump-Off for week beginning July 4th, 2011, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: Droid snapshot of the wall outside Intermedia Arts, taken Pride weekend, altered in Photoshop Elements, b&w version.


Heat index over 100, sweat soaking through clothes. Last week was one of those weeks when I was searching for inspiration. Lids heavy from the day, the eyes kept roaming, leaped over to the bookshelf, and landed on Ray Bradbury’s Zen In The Art Of Writing. There are books I go back to again and again—for reminders that it’s okay to struggle. For stories about moments of success, paragraphs that sum up in a few words what it means to be an artist or a writer. I don’t separate the two. For me, writing and art are connected. They collectively make up the Arts.

I ran my fingers over the worn cover, then opened Ray’s book to the Preface. That’s as far as I had to go. Maybe a few tidbits in these paragraphs will have meaning for you, too. There are hours when I stop dead in my tracks; I don’t want to write anymore. Somehow, the practice keeps going. Not perfect. Tracks. Cairns inside eroded pockets of sandstone cliffs.

I enter the Preface right after Ray’s story of the day he breathed a second life into his childhood hero, Buck Rogers:


So I collected comics, fell in love with carnivals and World’s Fairs and began to write. And what, you ask, does writing teach us?

First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.

So while art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.

Secondly, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that.

Not to write, for many of us, is to die.

We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audiences would know.

A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever it is, would melt out of shape in those few days.

But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed.

I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.

     -Ray Bradbury from the Preface of Zen In The Art Of Writing: Essays On Creativity, © 1990 Ray Bradbury, original from “The Joy of Writing,” Zen & the Art of Writing, Capra Chapbook Thirteen, Capra Press, 1973.




And that is why I went to my studio and ate up the time with myself. So the world would not devour me. Time to sit and listen to music, to stare out the window, to write a few lines of poetry, to sketch at the ragged edges of the page, to find inspiration on a wall outside Intermedia Arts. Time to take up arms and fight, the smallest battle, the smallest effort to win.

Art changes everything.







Art Changes Everything (Color) Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, July 7th, 2011

-related to posts: Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, The Sketchbook Project, Under The Rainbow — Twin Cities Pride

Art Changes Everything – 27/52, BlackBerry 52 — Week 27 Jump-Off for week beginning July 4th, 2011, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: Droid snapshot of the wall outside Intermedia Arts, taken Pride weekend, altered in Photoshop Elements, color version.

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Carlsbad Cavern f autoPS

On The Trail In The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, mailed in 1947 from Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Jim White, the discoverer and explorer of Carlsbad Caverns has his experiences written up in a book of thirty-two pages with 30 illustrations, of which 16 subjects are in beautiful colors, and a wonderful colored cover entitled: Jim White’s Own Story.” Be sure and read these thrilling experiences of a lone cowboy three days under the world in Carlsbad Caverns.”


Before Ione wandered through the Joshua Trees & Desert Sands of California, she went spelunking deep in the underground caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. She would have accessed the park’s only entrance road, New Mexico Highway 7, by turning north off of US Hwy 62/180 at Whites City, New Mexico – which is 16 miles southwest of Carlsbad, NM and 150 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas.

The scenic entrance road stretches 7 miles from the park gate at Whites City (formerly the entrance to Walnut Canyon) to the Visitor Center and cavern entrance (which explains why the card is postmarked Whites City). To make it even more confusing, the address for the park’s Visitor Center is 727 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM, even though it’s located 23 miles from the actual town.


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Carlsbad Caverns – Jan 23 1947, Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Carlsbad, N.M.

Here we are at the Caverns. You can’t imagine what they are. The most desolate country around here. All well. Everything going fine.

Ione.


Ione would have traveled 1300 miles from Dover, Minnesota to Carlsbad Caverns a year before the new visitor center was built, and one year after Jim White died in Carlsbad, on April 26, 1946 at the age of 63. Did you know April 16th – 24th is National Park week? What is your favorite national park? If you took a visit to Carlsbad Caverns you would find:

  • 117 (known) caves formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone
  • During the Summer, the caves are home to 400,000 Brazilian (more commonly called Mexican) free-tail bats [NOTE: To learn more about bats, visit Bats, Beautiful Bats! a piece about bat evangelist Michelle McCaulley who spreads the truth about the benefits of bats and other wildlife. Michelle runs the Rio Grande Basin Bat Project, which was created by her late father, Jim McCaulley.]
  • Carlsbad Cavern is only one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. The limestone rock that holds Carlsbad Cavern is full of ocean fossil plants and animals from a time before the dinosaurs when the southeastern corner of New Mexico was a coastline similar to the Florida Keys.
  • Twelve to fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains; some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been found within the present day boundaries of the park.

Jim White began to explore the cave as a teenager in 1898, using a handmade wire ladder to descend 60 feet into the cave. As an early visitor to Carlsbad Cavern, you might have entered the cave via an old guano mining bucket. In 1901, Abijah Long, a fertilizer expert, realized that guano could be used as a nitrate rich fertilizer. The following year, Long filed a claim for guano mining inside the caverns, and he offered Jim White work as a foreman. In about 20 years, an estimated 100,000 tons of guano were taken from Carlsbad Caverns at as much as $90 a ton. It wasn’t until years later, January 6th, 1912, that New Mexico officially became a state. If you had visited the park in 1928, you may have bumped into Amelia Earhart who gave underground park tours that year.

Though there are many legends and myths about which immigrants first discovered “The Bat Cave” (Native Americans knew of the caves thousands of years before), Jim White spent much of his life trying to convince others of the need for preservation. In October 1923, President Calvin Coolidge declared Carlsbad Caverns a national monument, and Jim White became cavern guide. In 1924, geologist Willis T. Lee explored the caves with White and wrote an article for National Geographic attracting national attention. On February 9th, 1937, Jim White began selling his book Jim White’s Own Story (ghostwritten by Frank Ernest Nicholson) in the cave, and his wife Fanny continued to sell it until her death in 1964.


-related to posts:  WRITING TOPIC: ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, greetings from artesia haiku, Roswell, NM — Aliens Welcome Here, and for a more modern visit to the caves check out Postcards From Carlsbad Caverns

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By Bob Chrisman


The idea of spring cleaning stayed with me through the night, but vanished this morning, when outside, sleet peppered the streets. My tax appointment required me to catch the bus to go downtown. I rushed around and all thoughts about the meaning of spring cleaning disappeared.

As I pulled the front door closed behind me. The sound of sleet hitting the grass and trees sounded like the dry, clacking bones of dancing skeletons. What an odd association. I played with that idea as I walked.

Monday, February 28, would have been my father’s 97th birthday (and the third anniversary of my mother’s death). Perhaps they returned as dancing skeletons to remind me.

My relationship with my father has troubled me for years. I’ve written about it and published the pieces on red Ravine. The troubled times between us and the difficult life he lived aren’t all I remember about him. Perhaps the idea of the skeleton came to me as a spring cleaning of sorts, a chance to pull out the good memories I hold of him and air them.

From my dad I received a curiosity about the world and the people who inhabit the planet. My father observed the goings on around him. He liked to see how people acted in different situations and could predict what they would do. He frustrated me with that ability when he would say, “I can read you like a book.” And he could too, which made me mad.

My father read voraciously: books, magazines, newspapers, whatever printed words he could find. When he attended family gatherings he would collect reading material and retire to a chair where he would spend the time reading.

His greatest pleasure came when he found a box of books for sale. He bought it, carried it home and searched for reading treasures. The contents of those boxes rarely disappointed him because he liked books about any subject. Really he just liked books in general. He passed on that love to me.

He instilled in me the importance of questioning everything, especially religion. We had the Bible in various editions, which the late 1950’s required in the fight against godless communism, but we also had The Book of Mormon and the Quran. Although a Presbyterian, he didn’t believe that one denomination, or Christianity itself, had an inside edge over other religions or spiritual practices.

He knew how to fix cars and kept our used cars in working order. We never owned a new car, only different ones. He bought odd cars like the brown, streamlined Hudson with the plush interior when the cars of the time favored extravagant fins over aerodynamic design.

He brought home a Simca, a tiny French car, and probably the only French car in the entire city. Unlike most American cars, the gearshift stuck up out of the floor rather than off the steering column. When the shaft broke off one afternoon, Dad welded a metal bar in place and would have driven the car forever had the giant hole in the rusted floor board on my mother’s side not allowed water from a giant puddle to gush up and soak my mother’s favorite pair of Sunday shoes.

The last car he purchased before his stroke was a Corvair, the Nader deathtrap. I learned to drive in that car.

He loved the outdoors and took us on long drives through the countryside to see how the land was doing. Despite my hatred of those drives and my frequently voiced wish for Indians to scalp us, I learned to love the landscape around me. Seemingly pointless drives in the countryside bring me peace nowadays.

He helped out the neighbors. The elderly man next door spent a lot of time at a bar. He sang and shouted as staggered up the sidewalk. He fell. My mother would say, “Len, go help him. He won’t make it up those stairs to his house without hurting himself.”

Although Dad left for work at 5:30 a.m. and the neighbor returned home well after midnight, my father pulled on his pants and went outside to help the man home. Frequently my father assisted the wife in putting her drunk husband to bed. He never judged the man and never complained about the loss of sleep.

My funniest memory of Dad involves a Sunday morning church service. As an elder, he introduced applicants who, as a part of the hiring process for ministers, preached a sermon. During the weeks prior to that Sunday, Dad had worked many long hours and not had much sleep. He introduced the minister and then sat down in one of the plush, red velvet cushioned chairs on the platform and promptly fell asleep. My father snored like an approaching tornado.

Aunt Annie, director of the adult choir, motioned for someone to wake him up. Despite a variety of hand signals, no one moved. My father snored his way through a rather lengthy sermon. When the guest minister finished, he waited for Dad to announce the final hymn, but my dad had died to the world.

My aunt asked the choir and congregation to stand and sing. Dad slept on. When the ministerial candidate realized that my father wouldn’t say any final words, the young man approached the podium. “I hope I’m not responsible for Mr. Chrisman’s sound sleep.” My father remained oblivious to the world and to the congregation’s laughter. The minister shrugged his shoulders and walked down the aisle alone to the main door to shake hands with members of the congregation. That incident became a church and a family legend.

As I write, sleet continues to fall. The skeletons dance outside my window. In my mind spring cleaning reveals fond memories of the man I called my father. Happy Birthday, Dad!




About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his family. His last pieces for red Ravine were Exit The Telephone, Desecration Day, and Uncle Howard At The Cemetery.

Other pieces of Bob’s in which he writes with humor and compassion about his family members include: Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He also published these pieces about the life and death of his mother: Hands and In Memoriam. And he produced a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad. Spring Cleaning In The Attic Of My Mind was inspired by the birthday anniversary of Bob’s father and Writing Topic — Spring Cleaning.

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The Mirado Black Warrior - 3/52

The Mirado Black Warrior – 3/52, Week 3/BlackBerry 52, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I was at the Casket Arts Studio last night (Liz and I finally completed, scanned, and mailed our sketchbooks to New York) and saw this still life on the art desk. The Mirado Black Warrior is one of my favorite pencils. I bought about ten of them years ago when I read that author Thad Beaumont, the main character in Stephen King’s The Dark Half, wrote his books with Black Warriors. By association, I made the leap that the Black Warrior was also Stephen’s pencil of choice. (I just knew that if I used them to write, his uncanny ability to weave a story together would rub off on me.)

I am fascinated by the way ordinary objects impact our daily lives and have read about the history of pencils. Liz included the pencil on the cover of her sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project because pencils changed the world (her theme was Things That Changed Other Things). I learned at Pencil Revolution that part of what makes the Mirado Black Warrior so enticing is that it is rounded (rather than octagonal), smells like heaven because of its cedar construction, flows smoothly on the page due to the waxed-ceramic and graphite core, and has a semi-soft Pink Pearl eraser that will not burn holes through your pages.

Did you know Henry David Thoreau’s family owned and managed a pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts? According to The Thoreau Society, “Thoreau family pencils, produced behind the family house on Main Street, were generally recognized as America’s best pencils, largely because of Henry’s research into German pencil-making techniques.” (For more on Thoreau and pencils, check out Henry Petroski’s classic account The Pencil; the thick, tall book is on my bookshelf.)

The Dark Half tops my list of books by Stephen King, along with his nonfiction work, On Writing (see 10 Tips From Stephen King On The Craft Of Writing). I even went to see him at the Fitzgerald Theater in November 2009. So when I saw the Mirado Black Warrior on the desk last night, I knew it would be Week 3′s Jump-Off in the BlackBerry 52 collaboration with Lotus. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration).


-related to posts: icicle tumbleweed (haiga) – 2/52, Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, WRITING TOPIC — TOOLS OF THE TRADE

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Orbs In The Barn

Orbs In The Barn, Glenwood, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2006-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s Halloween, the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Have you ever taken a photograph and were later surprised to find you had captured an orb? Orbs are small, floating, transparent balls of light, most times unexplainable in the context of the photograph. Some claim that orbs are the building bricks from which ghosts are formed.

Do you believe in ghosts? When I was in high school, we would drive around looking for abandoned buildings that might be haunted. We rarely saw anything supernatural and most times managed to scare ourselves silly. But in the years since, I have been visited by two ghosts. One was from my grandmother in Tennessee the night that she died. She came to see me in (what I thought) was a dream, and told me she loved me. The next day I called Mom to ask if Granny had passed away. She said, “Yes, how did you know?”

The second ghostly visit was from my friend Leslea not long after she died from pancreatic cancer. She appeared in my bedroom, pulled on my toe, and knocked a writing book off the shelf at 3am in the morning. It was one of those cover your head with the sheets moments. I didn’t want to see, but could not forget. There are many TV shows that deal with the paranormal these days. Ghost busters and ghost hunters who travel the world documenting the presence of ghosts. What are your ghost experiences?

In his new book Ghost Hunting — A Survivor’s Guide, John Fraser documents a brief history of ghost hunting and explores definitions of poltergeists, doppelgangers, animal ghosts, and crisis apparitions that occur at the point of death or near death of a loved one. Fraser has several chapters on methods of ghost hunting. He divides ghost hunting tools of the trade into scientific and low-tech. Many of the paranormal ghost hunters we hear of today are using high-tech, scientific methods.


High-Tech Ghost Hunting Equipment

  • EMF Meters — commonly called ghost detectors and used to measure electromagnetic fields of various frequencies. These devices measure fluctuations in electromagnetic energy in the environment. [Last week I heard a radio interview with a psychic that said many times EMF detectors are not useful because ghosts like to hang out where there is an abundance of electrical currents like airports or malls.]
  • Cameras — used in ghost hunting for well over 100 years, commonly to capture orbs or mists
  • Thermometers – traditional mainstay of a ghost hunter’s kit used to register changes in air temperature. Digital is the best today. Some use infrared thermometers for target spotting. The theory is that ghosts often suck up the warm energy around them, leaving cold spots where they hover or stand.
  • Tape Recorders — Ghosts and poltergeists often make audible sounds or electronic voice phenomena called EVP. You will hear EVP’s recorded with digital recorders in many of the ghost busting TV shows.
  • Camcorders – camcorders are placed in paranormal hot spots and later reviewed for images or disturbances
  • Night Vision Scopes — for open-air locations where mediums feel more comfortable operating in the darkness
  • Barometers & Motion Detectors — compact and digital, to measure changes in air pressure. Like EMF meters, barometers do not detect ghosts but indicate a change in the environment or warning of poltergeist activity.
  • Spirit Box — a regular portable AM/FM radio modified to continually scan up and down the dial without stopping. The radio produces small snippets of clearly distinguishable voices as it scans the stations, noises that are clearly not part of any broadcast. Many believe that the spirits, who lack a voice of their own, are able to harness and manipulate radio signals to give voice to their thoughts.


Low-Tech Ghost Hunting Equipment

  • Graph Paper — for drawing clear plans of the haunted site
  • Rulers or Tape Measures – used to measure distances of objects moved
  • Watches – digital and viewable in the dark for timing events, synchronized among investigators
  • Voltmeters – used to check electrical power faults and cuts
  • Strain Gauges – to measure the force it would take to open a door or drawer, or the weight of an object that has been moved
  • Magnifying Glasses — for closer viewing of evidence
  • Transparent Envelopes — safe place to store unusual objects collected
  • Flour – simple device for sealing off a room, sprinkling a large area, seeing if footprints are left by any intruders
  • Black Thread — for sealing rooms to detect and prevent hoaxes
  • Torches – to light dark ghost hunting corners, castles, and caves
  • Candles – for lighting and to detect air flow changes
  • Whistles – to call for help if needed. Can also use a two-way radio.
  • Survey Maps -- to document history of what the property may have been used for in the past
  • Chalk - to make temporary marks showing the location of objects before and after they have been moved


Many ghost hunters also use human sensitives, intuitives, psychics, or mediums to help detect paranormal activity. If you want to read more about ghost hunting, your local library is a great resource for books on the paranormal, including the newest from John Fraser. Get your ghost hunting kits ready because tonight is Halloween. We’ll have a fire in the fire ring and candy in hand, ready to stave off tricks in favor of treats.

Ghosts make for good Writing Practice too. Whether haunted by figurative ghosts or the real thing, there is juice in ghost writing. Write the word Ghosts at the top of your page — 10 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 31st, 2010

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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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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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MN State Fair -- Fairchild & Fairborne

MN State Fair — Fairborne & Fairchild, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2010, all photos © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off this week and it’s time for our annual State Fair post on red Ravine. We’ve covered a lot of history over the years, including the debut of 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.

This year we honor the work of two writers who have written about the Minnesota State Fair. In 1928, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic short story “A Night at the Fair.” And this year, Debra Frasier, author of On the Day You Were Born and the Minnesota State Fair Foundation’s current Author-in-Residence, has written and illustrated A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.



Debra Frasier — A Fabulous Fair Alphabet


What started as a collection of photographs taken by Minneapolis author Debra Frasier on daily visits to the Minnesota State Fair, has turned into a work of book art. A Fabulous Fair Alphabet is Frasier’s tribute to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” and the impetus for the State Fair Alphabet Project, a labor of love for hundreds of Minnesotans who are passionate about early learning. The book has also gained national acclaim, with the New York Times noting,  “Frasier brings to life a jaunty Ferris wheel, a sunburst-yellow pitcher of lemonade and a swirling roller coaster.”

The book is interactive and there is a wonderful article about Frasier’s process in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She intentionally left the front-piece page blank in hopes that families will use the page to personalize their copies of the book as a keepsake, a place to store their own Fair memories, images, and words:

Going to the State Fair together is a ritual for many families. Grandparents have passed along their favorite Fair traditions to their grandchildren. The book is a place for all generations to record their experiences together. Imagine if we had a list of favorite words from our relatives’ 1901 trip to the Fair, or 1945, or 2010 for fairgoers of 2060!

-Debra Frasier

Debra Frasier will be giving book signings from Noon to 2 p.m. daily at the J.V. Bailey House (across from the Space Needle) and I plan to visit her there. You can also visit the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. There are teaching materials based on the book, coloring sheets, instructions on making animals-on-a-stick or a cereal box stage, a bibliography of fair-themed books, display letters, a script that deepens the story and a look at how Frasier created the book at her official website.



F. Scott Fitzgerald — A Night at the Fair


IMG00661-20100723-1957.jpgF. Scott Fitzgerald is a Twin Cities icon who continues to live on through art and author happenings at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Most Minnesotans know that he penned the short story, “A Night at the Fair,” but after a comment from one of our readers, I started to wonder how many had actually read the story (myself included).

It begins like this:

The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river; their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State Fair. Because of this advantageous position, and because of the agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most magnificent in America. There were immense exhibits of grain, livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie show. As a compromise between the serious and the trivial, a grand exhibition of fireworks, culminating in a representation of the Battle of Gettysburg, took place in the Grand Concourse every night.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald,  A Night at the Fair

If your imagination is captured, you can read all 15 pages at Project Gutenberg. One of my favorite parts is when Scott writes about Ye Old Mill. Fitzgerald - Commodore HotelThe same Ye Old Mill at the Fair today. Located at the southwest corner of Carnes Avenue and Underwood Street, and touted as the “original tunnel of love,” Ye Old Mill is the oldest ride on the fairgrounds and is owned by the same family who first operated it in 1913.

The ride runs on a 40-horse power engine that turns the mill wheel and keeps water running through the 1300-foot channel. When you read Fitzgerald’s descriptions, you can imagine Basil and Riply chugging along on the Fair rides and Midway of the 1920′s. Memories preserved through story.



F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour — St. Paul, Minnesota


I’m a writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for over 20 years. Until this summer, I had never seen the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born, walked on the steps of St. Paul Academy where he went to school (with a Fitzgerald IMG00657-20100723-1952.jpgstatue created by Aaron Dysart), or taken a photograph of the sign at the Commodore Hotel where Scott and Zelda lived when their baby girl, Scottie, was born. Those old hotel walls have breathed in tales we can only imagine, real life stories of their drinking and partying at the Commodore bar.

For my birthday this year, our Poetry & Meditation Group walked the 13 stops of a self-guided Fitzgerald tour, from 481 Laurel, where Scott was born, to Mrs. Backus’ Boarding School at 586 Holly, the building where Scott enrolled in dance class. However, the heart of the tour is a four-block radius surrounding the intersection of Kent Street and Summit Avenue, “one of the grandest rows of Victorian Boulevard architecture anywhere in America.” From there, Summit IMG00643-20100723-1938.jpg stretches nearly five miles to the Mississippi River in the country’s longest span of residential, Victorian architecture.

Slip on a comfortable pair of shoes, and walk in the footsteps of the writers who came before us. Francis Scott Fitzgerald (named after Francis Scott Key) has a birthday coming up on September 24th; take the tour to celebrate his birth, brushing oaks along streets his parents walked in 1896. At the time he lived in St. Paul, F. Scott visited with writers like Sinclair Lewis and Donald Ogden Stewart. Here’s a link to every stop on the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.



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Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the lineup for 2010. If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair. The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 6th. From the 20,000 gallons of milk served by the the American Dairy Association, to the 338,000 dozen mini-donuts consumed, and the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper used at the Minnesota State Fair, there is nothing else to do but ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  9. Camel on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  19. Chocolate Tornado on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Dessert Pizza on-a-stick
  24. Dixie Wings on-a-stick
  25. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  27. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  28. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  29. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  42. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  43. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  44. Pickles on-a-stick
  45. Pizza on-a-stick
  46. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  47. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  48. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  49. Sausage on-a-stick
  50. Sausage and cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers on-a-stick
  51. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  52. Shrimp on-a-stick
  53. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  54. S’mores on-a-stick
  55. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  56. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  57. Spudsters on-a-stick
  58. Steak on-a-stick
  59. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  60. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  61. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  62. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  63. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  64. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  65. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  66. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  67. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  68. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  69. Walleye on-a-stick
  70. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  71. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 71*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2010
(including *2 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)

    Caramel Apple Puppies (a Fudge Puppy with baked apple and covered with caramel)
    @Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building
    Cheese Pizza Served With Corn Dogs (a cheese pizza topped with corn dogs sliced the long way)
    @Pizza Shoppe, located inside the Food Building
    Chicken Fried Bacon (thick cut bacon, battered, breaded and fried, and served in a boat covered with gravy)
    @Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue
    Chocolate Tornado (spiral-cut Tornado Potato dipped in chocolate)
    @Sonny’s Spiral Spud, located inside the Food Building
    Cincinnati Chili (spaghetti noodles smothered with chili and topped with shredded cheddar, beans, and diced onions)
    @Sabino’s, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Danny Boy Burger (burger made with corned beef and covered with kraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing)
    @O’Gara’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street
    Deep-Fried Avocado (avocado pieces batter-dipped, deep-fried, and served with Ranch dressing)
    @Tejas, located in The Garden
    Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes On-A-Stick
    @Potato Man and Sweetie, located on Liggett Street, south of Carnes Avenue
    Deep-Fried Bologna On-A-Stick
    @Netterfield’s Food Court, located on Cooper Street, north of Dan Patch Avenue
    • Deep-Fried Breakfast Wrap (scrambled eggs and bacon in a soft shell wrap, deep-fried and smothered in cheese)
    @Axel’s, located outside on the southeast corner of the Food Building
    •Deep-Fried Shortcake (shortcake batter deep-fried and covered with strawberries and ice cream)
    @Granny’s Cheesecake and More, located on Dan Patch Avenue at Underwood Street
    Fresh Fruit Salsa and Chips (salsa made on-site with fresh fruit and covered with tortilla chips)
    @Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park on the east side of the Grandstand Ramp
    Fried Pig Ears (thinly sliced pigs ears dusted in seasoned flour, fried until crispy, and served with lime chipotle glaze)
    @Famous Dave’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street
    Ghost Wings (chicken wings covered in a habanero pepper sauce)
    @Wings and Things, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Grilled Marshmallow Chocolate and Banana Sandwich
    @Moe and Joe’s, located on Judson Avenue by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
    Korean Moon BBQ (Korean “street vendor” style tacos with beef short ribs, spicy/sweet pork or chicken)
    @Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street
    Sausage and cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers
    @Sausage Sister & Me, located inside the Food Building
    Sloppy Joe served over spiral-cut potato chips
    @Sunny’s Spiral Spuds, located inside the Food Building
    Turtle Puppies (Fudge Puppy covered in caramel and nuts)
    @Fudge Puppies, located against the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 29th, 2010

-related to posts: 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, F. Scott Fitzgerald: On Money & Mess, Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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In honor of Women’s History Month, the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, in partnership with local arts organizations, artists, writers, and businesses has organized a month-long celebration: Women & Creativity 2010. All over the city, you can attend workshops, exhibits, panels, and many other fun activities. Case in point:




creativity + the artist

Seeds: The Spirit of Women Writers



6 p.m. March 11 at National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 Fourth St. SW, Salon Ortega

A featured event in the Women & Creativity series





Join us for an invigorating evening of readings from women writers featuring poet Kathleen Driskell, whose collection of poems, Seed Across Snow, was on the Poetry Foundation’s best seller list twice in 2009; Lisa Lenard-Cook, author of Dissonance and Coyote Morning, as well as The Mind of Your Story; Carolyn Flynn, award-winning literary fiction and creative nonfiction writer, as well as author of numerous books and editor of the Albuquerque Journal’s SAGE magazine; and yours truly (aka ybonesy, Roma Arellano), writer, artist and co-founder of this wonderful writing and art community blog.

Santa Fe poet laureate and organizer of Women & Creativity, Valerie Martinez, will kick off the evening with an introduction and reading.

The theme of the panel will be the interrelatedness of the arts — other forms of art as inspiration for writing. Admission is free.


If you are in Albuquerque or the surrounding area, please join us!

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