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Camp Savage – 4/365, Archive 365, Camp Savage, Savage, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Independence

Banging fireworks against pre-dawn chatter.
Red night, white galaxy, blue smoke
in the air, flowers made of fire.

Freedom does not rest
or sit softly on her laurels.
She is war-like and stubborn,
not blind to the truth.

“Fight for what you believe in” she liked to say.

Independence remains passive,
13 stripes, 50 stars
but fiercely springs to life
when freedom is stripped away.

never rest easy –
in the dawn’s early light
there is much work to do





ABOUT THE PHOTOS:

Liz and I stumbled on Camp Savage in 2009 while out on a day trip to take photos. I was shocked and surprised because I had no idea such a place existed in Minnesota. The Nisei (second generation) at Camp Savage were translators of language, maps, and documents during World War II. When Marylin submitted her piece about her childhood friend whose family was sent to a Japanese internment camp, I was inspired to go back and take a look at these photographs again. It’s the first time I have consciously written haibun (more about the form at haiku 4 (one-a-day) meets renga 52). I like working in the format of both prose and haiku. Independence Day in the United States reminds me of all the ways that people fight hard to gain freedom, independence, and equality, even within our own country. Below are the words on the plaque at Camp Savage:

_______________________________________

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Independence, flag at Camp Savage, Savage, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

During World War II, some 5,000 to 6,000 Japanese American soldiers, members of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service, were given intensive and accelerated classes in the Japanese language at Camp Savage.

Their subsequent work translating captured documents, maps, battle plans, diaries, letters, and printed materials and interrogating Japanese prisoners made them “Our human secret weapons,” according to President Harry Truman, who commended them following the war.

The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) program began in the fall of 1941, a few weeks before Pearl Harbor, at the Presidio in San Francisco.

For security reasons it was moved in May, 1942 to Camp Savage, a site personally selected by language school commandant Colonel Kai E. Rasmussen, who believed Savage was “a community that would accept Japanese Americans for their true worth — American soldiers fighting with their brains for their native America.”

The 132-acre site had served as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s and was later used to house elderly indigent men.

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Plaque At Camp Savage, Savage, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Conditions there were extremely difficult in the early months of the war, when the first students studied without desks, chairs, or even beds. By August, 1944 the program had outgrown Camp Savage and was moved to larger facilities at Fort Snelling

Most of the English-speaking Japanese Americans, known as Nisei, were from the West Coast area. Some were already in the U.S. military service when they were selected for the language school, while others were volunteers from the camps in which American citizens of Japanese ancestry had been interned following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

According to General Charles Willoughby, chief of Intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur, “the 6,000 Nisei shortened the Pacific war by two years.”

-erected by the Savage Chamber of Commerce, 1993



_______________________________

ARCHIVE 365: Since the completion of BlackBerry 365, I have missed a daily photo practice. There are so many photos from my archives that no one has ever seen but me. So I asked skywire7 if she wanted to do a daily practice for one year, taking turns posting an unpublished photograph from the past.

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, Independence Day, July 4th, 2012. Related to post:  Abraham Lincoln & Nikki Giovanni (On Poets & Presidents)

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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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2011-08-22 18.02.04

MN State Fair Button, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2011, all photos © 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off last week and for the first time since 2007, I am writing my annual State Fair piece after attending the Fair. That means I can speak from the voice of experience (that, and the fact that I spent 11 solid hours tootling around the fairgrounds last Saturday). 2011-08-27 13.50.14This year there are over 80 foods on-a-stick; I recommend the Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick from Chan’s, a new vendor for 2011. Liz and I shared the combo and topped it off with The Original Minneapple Pie smothered in cinnamon ice cream.

Of course, the Minnesota State Fair is about more than food, or the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, so our State Fair posts are always chock-full of history. Last year we covered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s A Night At The Fair, Ye Old Mill, and artist Debra Frasier’s debut of the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park. Debra is back again this year and you can read more about her work at her official website. Or check out red Ravine dressed in her State Fair alphabet (yes, that’s me standing a letter behind).

In 2011, the Minnesota State Fair celebrates its 100th Fine Arts Exhibition (over 2300 pieces were submitted in 2010). In the past, I’ve written about the history of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the Butter Queens (2011 marks the 40th year sculptor Linda Christensen has carved their likenesses out of butter); Minnesota State Fair poster artists; mascots Fairborne and Fairchild; and the 2011-08-27 14.24.13 autotradition of Tom Thumb Donuts. To change it up this year, I’m going to focus on the integration of the Smartphone and digital technology into the State Fair’s 150-year-old traditions. When the past meets the present, you get a gleaming new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App and the Minnesota State Fair History Tour on your mobile!



Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App & Mobile Web Site


I was thrilled to download the new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone app on my Droid this year (also available for iPhone) a week before I attended the Fair 2011-08-27 15.57.58. All the information I needed was right at my fingertips. The Food Finder is organized alphabetically (or you can search by food item). When you click on a vendor, all details of that vendor are listed, including a Show Map feature that pins their exact location on the2011-08-27 14.14.49 auto fairgrounds. Other tabs include Merch Search, Fun Finder, and a colorful digital map. We used the app constantly during our 11 hour visit. Oh, and if you don’t want to download the app, you can visit the Minnesota State Fair Mobile Website with Google Maps integration. I’m grateful to Liz for pointing me to the new app. If you have a Smartphone, I encourage you to go paperless!



Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour


Liz and I had a blast listening  to sounds of the Minnesota State Fair’s past on the new 13-stop cell phone tour. By calling (877) 411-4123, you can hear recorded history narratives from your cell phone (or any land line), or use your Smartphone to locate QR codes, and brush up on State Fair trivia while you shuttle to the Fair’s 2011-08-27 15.11.44 autogate. We downloaded a bar code scanner app on our Droids, scanned the QR code (Quick Response code for Smartphones) at each information board, and Whoosh!, we were jetted right to the history page for that stop. (If you press the Like button at the bottom, a link is also added to your Facebook page so family and friends can follow your tour!).

The Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour offers a fun 2011-08-27 14.57.03 and engaging way to learn about State Fair history and explore all corners of the grounds. When you complete the self-guided tour, you receive a prize (I won’t say what it is!) at the J.V. Bailey House or (before 8pm) at the Minnesota Historical Society’s booth on the first floor of the Grandstand. Tour brochures are available at information booths and the 13 tour stops. The tour is presented by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and the Minnesota Historical Society.



_____________________________________________________________

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 © 2008-2011 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 2011-08-27 17.43.36lineup for 2011 (the Sweet Corn Ice Cream really hits the spot). 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 (0r use the Smartphone app I wrote about above!). The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 5th. 2011-08-27 17.49.10 autoAnd if you happen to eat just a little too much, feel free to visit the brand new 5,500 square foot restroom with 51 sinks and 75 shiny white toilets where many of the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper are used up at the Minnesota State Fair. Above all else, 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. Breakfast Lollipop
  9. Butterscotch Cake 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 Teriyaki on-a-stick
  19. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Custard on-a-stick
  24. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  25. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  27. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  28. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  29. Gyro 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 (Greek) on-a-stick
  42. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  43. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  44. Northwoods Salad on-a-stick
  45. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  46. Pickles on-a-stick
  47. Pizza on-a-stick
  48. Pizza Kabob on-a-stick
  49. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  50. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  51. Pretzel Dog on-a-stick
  52. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  53. Sausage on-a-stick
  54. Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers on-a-stick
  55. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  56. Shrimp on-a-stick
  57. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  58. S’mores on-a-stick
  59. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  60. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  61. Spudsters on-a-stick
  62. Steak on-a-stick
  63. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  64. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  65. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  66. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  67. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  68. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  69. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  70. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  71. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  72. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  73. Walleye on-a-stick
  74. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  75. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 75*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2011
(including *6 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)


• Breakfast Lollipop (sausage patty dipped in corn muffin batter, deep fried and served on-a-stick with a side of maple syrup)
@Axel’s, located on the southeast outside corner of the Food Building
• Carnitas Asian Fusion Taco (pork carnitas served on a flour or spinach pepper, and topped with Asian sauces)
@San Felipe Tacos, located in the Food Building
• Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers on-a-stick (a hot and spicy confection)
@Andre’s Watermelon, located on Underwood Street next to Ye Old Mill
• Coushari Rice with Lentils (rice and lentils with Holy Land sauce, served with a side of pasta or fried onions)
@Holy Land Deli, located inside the International Bazaar, southeast corner
• Crab Fritters (crab meat, Caribbean herbs and spices with veggies all rolled and deep-fried into a fritter, served with a side of southwest dripping sauce)
@Ollie’s Crab Fritters, located on the corner of Underwood Street and Murphy Avenue
• Deep-Fried Cookie Dough (fresh cookie dough coated with a sweet batter, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar)
@Sonny’s Spiral Spuds, located in the Food Building
• Dirt Dessert (Oreo cookies, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, cream cheese and gummy worms)
@Spaghetti Eddie’s, located on Cooper Street and Dan Patch Avenue
• Fresh Fruit Wrap (sliced fresh fruit wrapped in a soft tortilla shell with a sweet and creamy cheese spread)
@Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park east of Grandstand Ramp
• Grilled Yankee Apple Pie & Chocolate Sandwich (Minnesota grown apples sauteed with spices and topped with chocolate, grilled in Brioche bread)
@Moe & Joe’s, located on Judson Ave. by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
• Jamaican Jerk Fries (french fries dusted with Harry’s own Jamaican Jerk seasoning)
@Harry Singh’s Caribbean Restaurant, located in the Food Building
• Mexican Horchata Beverage (cold drink made of rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar)
@El Sol Mexican Food, located on the southwest outside corner of the Food Building
• Minneapple Pie (homemade deep-fried apple pie served hot with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream)
@The Original Minneapple Pie, at the corner of Judson Avenue & Underwood Street, north of the Dairy Building
• Northwoods Salad on-a-stick (a caprese salad-mozzarella cheese and grape tomatoes on-a-stick with dressing and served over a bed of Minnesota wild rice)
@Giggle’s Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue in The North Woods
• Pizza Kabob on-a-stick (three individually flavored Green Mill Pizza rolls served on-a-stick)
@Green Mill, located near the Baldwin Park Stage
• Pretzel Dog on-a-stick (a hot dog baked in pretzel dough, served on-a-stick)
@Der Pretzel Haus, located on Liggett Street, in front of the Horse Barn
• Sweet Corn Ice Cream (cream-based ice cream with blended sweet corn kernels, served in a waffle cone with a choice of wild blueberries or caramel bacon topping)
@Blue Moon Dine In Theater, located at the corner of Chambers Street and Carnes Avenue
• Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick (served with fried rice, egg rolls, and spring rolls)
@Chan’s Concessions, located on Judson Avenue near the Dairy Building
• White Razzie Puppies on-a-stick (Belgian waffle with white chocolate baked inside, then dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with raspberry sauce)
@Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

-related to posts: double Ferris wheel haiku, 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

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by Teri Blair



Home of Emily Dickinson, Amherst, Massachusetts, October 2010, all photos © 2010-2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.



On October 30th, 2010, I stood in a room I had wanted to be in for years. It had a bed, a desk, a dresser, a lantern, a basket, and huge windows. From this second story perch Emily Dickinson composed her wonderful, strange, profound poetry.

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Emily was born in the same house where she died. And with the exception of a few trips and a little schooling, she never ventured from her hometown. Ever. She lived for 55 years, becoming increasingly reclusive the older she got. She published seven poems under pseudonyms while she was alive, poetry that went practically unnoticed. It wasn’t until she died that the big discovery was made. Emily’s sister was cleaning out her bedroom dresser and found nearly 1800 poems in the bottom drawer. They were written in handmade booklets and on scraps of paper.

Four years after her death, Emily’s first volume of poetry came out and she was famous. Now, 124 years later, she is considered one of the most influential American poets; her work has never been out of print.


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I drove to Amherst, Massachusetts with my niece, Anna. We pulled up to Emily’s house on Main Street, an impressive yellow brick surrounded on two sides by massive gardens. The moment we stepped onto this National Historic Site, I was looking for clues of how Emily did it. Was she simply brilliant, or was there some evidence of influence? Our tour guide told us that as soon as Emily’s first book came out, speculation about her largely private life began, speculation that has never stopped.

They honor Emily by sticking with the facts, only the things that are authenticated. I am compelled to do the same, simply observing some habits that made up part of her writing life.





A Period of Woolgathering


When Emily was 10, her family moved temporarily to a different house in Amherst. Her bedroom faced the town graveyard, and during those next impressionable years, she watched hundreds of horse-drawn funeral processions.

When she was 19, her father gave her a puppy she named Carlo. For the sixteen years of her dog’s life, they explored the woods and fields of Amherst together. Emily made extensive collections from what she found outside on these long hikes.

Contemplating death and observations of nature run heavily through Emily’s poetry.


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Writing Practices


Emily was a voracious reader. Her family received daily newspapers and several magazines, all of which Emily read cover-to-cover. She read poets; Keats and Browning were two of her favorites.

She wrote at night by lamplight. Moonlight walkers consistently saw a light burning in Emily’s window. They didn’t know what she was doing. Though there were virtually no external rewards for her work, she kept writing. An internal force propelled her.


Simplicity


Emily’s life was very simple; there were few distractions.

She had only a handful of family and friends, and kept in touch with most of them through letter writing.

She baked. She read. She wandered through her gardens. She lowered baskets of gingerbread to her nephews and niece from her window. And at night…she wrote in her bedroom by lamplight.


♦     ♦     ♦


After the 90-minute tour, we were allowed to wander through the house alone at our own pace. Anna and I both gravitated back to Emily’s room. We sat on the floor, stood by the windows; we looked at each other across the room.

Can you believe we’re standing here, I asked Anna. She smiled and shook her head no. We kept looking at each other, smiling and shaking our heads because we knew. There was nothing more to say; and we could both feel the pulse of what had happened within those four walls.


IMG_0654 From The Garden Large

View of Emily’s From The Garden, Amherst, Massachusetts, October 2010, all photos © 2010-2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.


When Emily died, the funeral was held in the library of her house. At her request, six Irish immigrants carried her casket from the house to her grave. She asked her sister to burn the thousands of letters she had amassed.

But she didn’t say a word about the poems in the bottom drawer.

Emily’s brother and his family lived in the house on the far edge of her garden. One time Emily’s niece, Martha, came into her room with her, and Emily pretended to lock the door so no one could get in.  She looked around the room—at the writing desk, lamp, and paper. “Martha,” she said, “this is freedom.”



“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.


-Emily Dickinson c. 1861 from The Pocket Emily Dickinson,
Edited by Brenda Hillman, Shambhala Publications, 2009.



IMG_0670 in memoriam



About Teri: Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey has fondly and frequently written. (See Letter From Poet Elizabeth Alexander for the last post on the group and Teri’s piece titled Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group for a step-by-step on how to start your own.)

 

Teri’s first red Ravine guest post, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb in 2010 and wrote a sequel, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time. Her last piece for red Ravine, Discovering The Big Read, is about the largest reading program in American history. Its mission is simple: to restore reading to the center of American culture.

Teri will be spending the month of February at the Vermont Studio Center, writing, walking, and finding inspiration by the Gihon River in the heart of the Green Mountains.

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Loteria Journal

Lotería Journal, altered Moleskine cover with ybonesy doodles (plus Caran d’Arch, gouache, and ink pen), design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




I love journals. I’ve written about my love of journals. I have doodle journals and writing journals, and I even have my first ever journal, a gift from my sister Bobbi, who got it for me as part of a Scholastic book order she made for her new class. She gave it to me about the time she started teaching: 1974. I was 13 years old, a newly minted teen, and my journal (it was actually more of a diary, although I’m not sure what the difference is) was the perfect place to log news of piddly babysitting jobs (for which it was not uncommon to make 75 cents!), swim lessons, and crushes. That early journal got me believing that any life—even one so boring as my own—was worth recording.

That’s the beauty of the journal. That it might collect the ordinary and occasional extraordinary goings-on of your existence. And that someday you might look back on it as one experiences the family photo album. Memory, insight, a looking glass into your world, or at least a snippet of it.

So it is not surprising that I’ve recently discovered the joy of making journal art. I’m not sure what else to call it. I take blank journals—the basic Moleskine works great—then figure out designs to create on the covers. It’s a fun project, one that can easily be done over a long holiday weekend.


♥ ♥ ♥


loteria journal in process (one) loteria journal in process (two)



To make the Lotería Journal, which I fashioned after the Mexican Lotería cards, I used the following items:

  • Moleskine or other journal – I like the Moleskine brand, but it is a bit pricey. Any simple journal will do; for this project it’s best to stay away from leather or cloth covers.
  • Gesso – to apply to the cover so that you can color or paint the cover (the gesso acts both as a whitening agent to better absorb and reflect light in color, as well as a primer so that whatever you apply bonds well to the surface).
  • Evenly sized images – for this journal I used my own, but you could cut images out of magazines or tear out cool papers and draw different designs on each one.
  • Mod Podge – to glue the images to the Moleskine cover, and later, once the piece is completely done, I’ll paint the entire cover with Mod Podge to seal the design and give it a glossy finish.
  • Paints and wax crayons – to add color.
  • A black pen, preferably permanent, but if you use an impermanent one, just make sure it is completely dry, and when you do your final paint with Mod Podge, do a quick brush; don’t go back and forth or linger else the black ink will smudge.
  • Brushes – a one-inch one for the Mod Podge and a small one for my paints (both of which I keep in water while I’m not using them).


♥ ♥ ♥




And given that we are in the Thanksgiving season, I can’t think of a better use of a lovingly created journal than to transform it into a Gratitude Journal. Now, folks out there may practice daily Gratitude, but for my part, this is an area that I’d like to improve. I want to spend more time giving thanks for what I have and less time wanting whatever it is I don’t have.

A Gratitude Journal can take several forms. One idea is to use it as a way to say Thank-You to someone in your life. My sister Janet once created this type of Gratitude Journal for me, although we didn’t call it that back then. But now as I think about it, that’s exactly what it was.

About thirteen years ago I organized a trip to Spain for my dad, Janet, another sister, and my sister-in-law. The five of us spent two weeks traveling all over the country, staying in unique and at times quirky places. An olive-farm-turned-bed-and-breakfast, a renovated monastery, and a former brothel, for example. We had a wonderful time, and afterward Janet made me a journal as a memento of our experience. Handmade paper adorned the front and back covers, and inside on a long single sheet of paper that she folded like an accordion, she made a collage of different scenes from the trip.

You could create a Gratitude Journal and inside turn it into a personalized Thank You to someone close to you. I know I often pull out the journal my sister made for me. It’s so much richer than a Thank You card.



gratitude journal (one)
gratitude journal (two)



A Gratitude Journal could also be something you keep for yourself over a certain period of time—say, the upcoming year—to help practice gratitude in your life. There are a lot of ways you can do this. For example, each day you could think about what it is you’re grateful for and then write about that particular topic. Or make a doodle about it, or do a collage on that page.

QuoinMonkey wrote a post at the end of 2007 titled Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List. She made her list at the end of the year, as has been a tradition of hers for several years now. Here you can see her Gratitude List from 2007 looking forward to 2008, along with mine. And here are QM’s Gratitude Lists from 2009 and 2010. You could follow QM’s example and dedicate a sheet of paper to each letter of the alphabet and see what flows onto the page.

Or maybe your Gratitude Journal project is more about simply focusing this weekend on creating a beautiful cover for your journal. Maybe that in itself is the act of Gratitude, giving Thanks by allowing yourself to spend a few hours making art.

And speaking of giving Thanks, QM and I are immensely grateful for the community and inspiration we’ve received over the years from working together and from all of you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!



♥ ♥ ♥

♥ ♥ ♥





love journal



prayer practice journal

Journal Art, mixed media journal covers—washi paper, Caran d’Arch, collage, small wooden canvases top two), postage stamp (third), stickers, etc., design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.


♥ ♥ ♥

♥ ♥ ♥






-Related to post On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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HaNoi ceramic wall (one)HaNoi ceramic wall (two)
HaNoi ceramic wall (three)HaNoi ceramic wall (five a)
HaNoi ceramic wall (six)HaNoi ceramic wall (seven)
HaNoi ceramic wall (eight)HaNoi ceramic wall (nine)
In a flash, HaNoi’s Ceramic Mosaic Mural as seen from the taxi, October 2010, iPhone photos © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




Entering the city of Hanoi last week, I immediately notice that the ceramic wall is done. This four-kilometer-long work of art, which has been in progress for the three years since I started visiting here, runs along the city’s Red River dyke system. Earlier this month, just in time for last week’s celebration of Hanoi’s 1000th birthday, the completed wall officially became the world’s largest ceramic mosaic, as recognized by Guinness World Records.

The idea for a ceramic wall along Hanoi’s Red River came from young journalist and painter Nguyen Thu Thuy. About the world record, she said:

We are very proud to have successfully gained a Guinness World Record achievement. This project reflects the vibrancy and complexity of Vietnam’s capital city, and is the ideal way to commemorate Hanoi’s 1,000 year anniversary. The integration of international artists and children’s art depict many different moods, cultures, eras of history and styles, and they have all been created with the greatest craftsmanship. We hope that this achievement brings pride to Hanoi and that the people of the city enjoy the mural’s beauty for many years to come.


The collective public work of art—Vietnam’s first—began in 2007. The mural is organized in 21 sections and was designed by 35 professional artists from ten countries and supported by hundreds of artisans from traditional ceramic villages in Vietnam, Vietnamese and other children, and students from fine arts colleges throughout the country. The murals depicts Vietnam’s landscape and peoples, and is said to be a visual narration of the country’s history.

The mural embodies the country’s rich tradition in ceramics, of which I barely scratched the surface during a day of sightseeing to the town of Bat Trang. The entire village, it seemed, was dedicated to the making and selling of gorgeous plates, cups, vases, sculptures—you name it, they made it.

More than anything, Hanoi’s Ceramic Mosaic wall reminded me of the color and buzz and energy of Hanoi and all of Vietnam.

You can read and see more about the wall, including video clips showing artists working on the mural, in the official Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural website. The Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural blog includes many interesting photos, such as the original Photoshop artist renderings of the mural back when it was only a concept. That site also talks about the artist and staff of the project. Finally, this Travel Blog entry includes close-up photos of the wall in progress.

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purple eggplantIt’s that time again. The harvest is winding down. Jim bought a small basket of red and green chile so we can roast, peel, and freeze a few baggies to pull out in the middle of winter, when our bodies crave the chemical capsaicin (which produces the heat in chile). The air conditioner is closed up, and the heater turned on.

But it’s also time for one of my frequent journeys to Vietnam. I’ve stopped counting how many this makes — surely I’ve used up the fingers on both hands and am now onto my toes. I can tell you that each time I prepare for another trip, I go through the same bizarre process of mental gyrations.



green (and purple striped) beans Wagner's chile




Roma’s Five Stages of Travel Preparation


Stage One: Avoidance. As soon as I know I have to go on a long trip abroad, I put it out of my mind. After all, the trip is weeks, maybe months away. I sometimes neglect to tell even my family; I don’t want them to fret any earlier than necessary. Although I’ve gotten better about this, it would not have been unusual a few years back to hear the following conversation in my household:

ME: Hey, Jim, I did tell you that I’m leaving on Monday to (fill-in-the-blank-country)?

JIM: What?? No, I had no idea.

ME: Oh, I’m sorry. It was spur-of-the-moment.

JIM: You mean, they only gave you four days’ notice?




Stage Two: Nostalgia.
I walk around my house, the patio, my yard, the girls’ rooms with a sweeping sense of loss and dread. How can I leave all this? I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go!!



jelly
Corrales Growers Market with the iPhone, all photos © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Stage Three: Guilt.
Surely my children will be damaged by all my globe-trotting. Don’t people ask me every time I tell them I’m off again, “What about the girls?” I rush around like a crazy woman, trying to make my absence more bearable. I take Em’s Halloween outfit to the seamstress so it will be ready by the time I return. I hang up Dee’s clothes in her closet so she could find them easily while getting ready for school. Jim gets a homemade apple pie–his favorite. So this is what inspired Superwoman, I think.



Stage Four: Panic.
This is the frenzied state I find myself in the day before I leave, my suitcase still not packed. I am relieved to find that my multientry visa is still valid. Whew! It would have been disastrous had it expired. (Been there, done that.) At 8 pm, the hour I should be hitting the sack given that I have to wake up at 3:45 am, I start flinging clothes into my suitcase. It’s cool in Hanoi, hot in the south. Whatever I forget to pack, I’ll just have to buy there. Hmmm, was that a goosebump I just felt?



yellow peppersred potatoes (big ones)
Roma tomatoes




Stage Five: Calm.
Bags are checked, boarding passes in hand. I got an upgrade on the leg from ABQ to SFO. Wandering through airport stores, it dawns on me that I forgot to pack my neck pillow. Pick up a super soft one to add to our collection back home. Also picked up two books I’ve been wanting to read: lit by Mary Karr and Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves. Between the books, my writing and doodle journals, plus a presentation and a bit of writing for work, I will make good use of my alone time. I’m ready for this. Let the fun begin!









A Sampling of (Recent) Vietnam Posts


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ChambersThermadorBig Chill (one) Big Chill (two)
My appliances: Chambers stove, Thermador oven, Big Chill fridge
(front and side), photos © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






Chambers, Thermador, Big Chill
hot, hot, cold
duck, duck, goose







-Related to posts PRACTICE: My Refrigerator and FridgeFotos – Assateague Island To Frozen Trolls

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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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Flowers Closeup, images of flowers grouped together,
photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





The girls were at camp for a week, which is the first time since this time last year that we had the house to ourselves. It’s late August, almost September, and this particular camp — which is always held the week before school starts — is the last hurrah of summer.

My oldest starts high school next week. During a few days off recently I began a room redecoration project with her. We had intended to go to the cabin for two days with Jim and Em, but I forgot about an orthodontist appointment for Dee that couldn’t be changed. So off they went while Dee and I set about redoing her bedroom.

She decided on a black-and-white color scheme with lavender, light blue, light pink, and other accent colors. We bought a new bedding set, plus two white shag rugs (I know!), a white desk chair, and a zebra print lamp. But the best part was when she got to select artwork for the walls. She found seven photo prints of different flowers, black-and-white with hints of color, in double-white mats.

I then purchased ready-made frames from Michael’s (my boycott there didn’t last long) and did something I rarely do. Instead of procrastinating and letting the new prints and frames sit untouched for weeks, I actually put them all together and hung them in a group on Dee’s wall.



Wall of Flowers, to hang multiple pictures together on the wall, I used this excellent “how to,” photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




The end of summer and beginning of school is a welcome time for me. Much as I enjoy the excitement of vacations and a general lazy feeling that lasts for two-and-a-half months starting in May, summer reminds me how much I cherish the routines that back-to-school brings in our household.

One such routine is quiet time for my artwork. With the girls back in school, that means they’re not staying up late on weeknights. Weeknights, often after 9p, are when I can pull out my jewelry and lose myself in the tactical work of designing bracelets, gluing on designs, sanding edges, and mixing resin.

Just last night, I worked on several new bracelets. I am always amazed at the vibrancy of the work and delighted any time a new color scheme or design emerges. I turn my music on loud — usually k.d. lang belting out hymns of the 49th parallel, James Taylor, or Collective Soul — and don’t look up again for hours.



Bracelets in Process, pieces coming together, (calendar
stuck on June), photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





But summer ain’t over ’til it’s over. Besides a couple of New Student orientations, the first day of school isn’t until Thursday. There is much yet to fit in over this last weekend.

Em is starting a new transition, too, from elementary to middle school. She also got new accouterments for her bedroom, such as bedding in bright oranges, magentas, lime greens, and turquoise. Jim has to fix the cool and colorful lamp inherited from Dee’s room, plus we have a few items yet to purchase. And there is still more to do to finish up Dee’s redecoration — the full length mirror, more wall hangings, and putting up the curtains that are being hemmed by a local seamstress.

It’s only now that summer is almost over that I can see how important these particular new beginnings are for my daughters. I like to mark beginnings — transformation in one’s life, new seasons, milestone dates, new roles.

And as I celebrate, it’s with a bittersweet heart because as the saying goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”



Mother and Child, antique framed Catholic print, hung to look over my art-making space, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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From Dad, excerpt from a two-page letter that my dad sent to me when I was 17, November 22, 1978, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





From my Writing Practice on “Be Impeccable with your Word,” the first agreement of don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements:

Dad was impeccable with his word. Words were important to him. They still are. He still wants to be heard. When I was a teenager and unwilling to listen, he wrote his words down in two or three letters he then slipped under the closed door of my bedroom or left on the kitchen table for me to open after he left for work. He was like Felix Unger in some ways, a tidy man with small and precise handwriting. His handwriting is shaky now, but then his writing looked like a professional cursive font.

The letters he wrote on yellow legal pads, and so he fit a lot of words on them. He told me the things he had tried to say to me but that I would shut down. What was important to him, the things he wanted to pass on, the wisdom he wanted to impart. He worried about me, the friends I had chosen, my boyfriend. He acknowledged that even though I had many bad habits, I was still keeping up my grades, and for that he was grateful.

He did pass something on to me, didn’t he? His honesty with words. That’s a powerful gift.





Thanks, Dad. I listen to you now.



-Related to posts PRACTICE: Be Impeccable With Your Word – 15min and WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

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Exactly three weeks have passed since the girls (my daughters and my nieces) and I made the journey back from Vietnam. It feels like a dream, those days walking through Saigon and feeling the energy of the city. The beach city of Nha Trang is my new favorite spot, and I’ve been to many wonderful places in the country.

One of the things I noticed about the trip was that I didn’t have much time alone, and yet I was not torn between solitude or not solitude. I relished the hours spent with my family. We traveled together well. We shared a similar sense of adventure.

I would love to share in this blog post a story or two about our trip, but I’m in the middle of writing a print publication essay about exactly that. So I’m at a loss of what to say. Unfortunately, I need to save all my best words for the essay.
 
I can share this screen shot below from the last essay of mine that was published, this in SAGE, a monthly magazine for women that appears as part of the Albuquerque Journal. It came out while we were in Vietnam, which was fun timing since the writing happened to be about one of my previous trips to the country. You might recognize the photo from one of my previous blog posts. It was especially cool that three of my photos got published along with my writing.

The country has become as much a muse for my writing as my art. That’s a recent shift. I wonder, when I sit down and think about it, how many essays about my travels there I have in me. Maybe quite a few.



Let there be Pampering (from SAGE)
Let there be Pampering, by Roma Arellano, screen shot from SAGE, The Albuquerque Journal, July 2010, © 2010 by The Albuquerque Journal.

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By Judith Ford
 
 

You’re Invited, lang•widge, March 27, 2010, Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.




Poetry is a lot like music. Music evokes visual images; visual art can stimulate poems. Read that backwards and it’s true that way, too.

Last March, while visiting a friend in DC, I had the opportunity to experience all three — music, my friend’s paintings, and a spontaneous poetry happening — mixed together for one entertaining evening. The event: lang•widge. The setting: Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.

My friend, artist Freya Grand, paints landscapes. Not your ordinary landscapes. Landscapes filtered through Freya’s vision and open to interaction with the viewer. In Freya’s words, “Painting landscape begins as an internal process. As in abstraction, forms transmit a mysterious secret life, exert a presence.”

Presence was abundant on March 27 at Gallery Neptune, even before the rest of the evening’s events unfolded.  I’ve always had my own strong responses to Freya’s work, partly because I’ve traveled with her to some of the locations she later painted. More because her work is emotional, full of motion and light. Like me, the lang•widge participants responded in their own unique ways.

So here’s how it went: A few weeks before lang•widge, Freya and gallery owner Elyse Harrison asked jazz musician Steven Rogers to preview the paintings and compose short pieces of music in response. Once everyone had had a chance to walk around and see all the paintings (munch on cheese and crackers, drink wine), we were asked to gather in front of a podium and listen to a short poetry reading by Charlie Jensen, poet and director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and the poet, Reb Livingston.








            



                            



                                       


Works by Freya Grand, Rock at Low Tide, 48″ x 60″, 2008, Burning Fields, 30″ x 30″, 2009, Cotopaxi, 48″ x 60″, 2006, and Fog, Benbulben, 30″ x30″, 2010, paintings © 2006-2010 by Freya Grand. All rights reserved.




Suitably warmed-up, we were each given a clipboard, a few sheets of paper, and a pencil. As Steven Rogers’ techno-jazz music played, we looked at the paintings again and quickly jotted down short lines. Whatever came to mind.

I was surprised by how much I liked the music. I am not a big jazz fan, but looking at Freya’s work and listening to this weird contemporary music, I found myself enjoying the way the visual and musical bits blended together. Whatever it was I wrote in response — I didn’t preserve any of it —  was full of the light and movement I’ve always seen in my friend’s work.  Hope, change, powerful natural forces, awe, wonder. 

When the four short pieces of music had finished, we reassembled in front of the podium. Volunteers did most of the reading, but first Charlie Jensen and Reb Livingston demonstrated the technique. They chose two from a diverse collection of colored dice. The number rolled determined the number of pieces of paper to be read together to create a spontaneous poem.

The results were surprising, to say the least. Where I had seen light and life, others had seen darkness and death, despair and violence. Sexuality. New life forms. Being lost, being found. Memories of blankets, clouds, and chaos.


 
 

During lang•widge, poets Charles Jensen and Reb Livingston explain the process, draw poem pieces, then read the resulting poetry, photos © 2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.



Here are some of my favorite lines:

smiley in foam, red glee

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

I’ve made a mistake coming here

I’ll never eat butter cream frosting again




When my husband, Chris, who loves to perform for an audience, volunteered, things got even stranger. He happened to pick a very long series of lines that were written in five different languages. Chris speaks nothing but English. His courageous attempts to pronounce Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, I think, Swedish, were sidesplitting.

Afterward Chris sought out the writer of those lines, and, yes, she did speak all those languages. She told Chris he’d done a pretty good job at guessing the pronunciations.

I sought out Freya. “Did you realize how much pain and despair was hiding in your paintings?” I asked. Freya is not prone to darkness or despair. She told me she was actually more surprised by the butter cream frosting than the pain. She said something like, “People project into my work whatever is up for them at the present moment.”

Not sure about that butter cream.



Freya Grand and Chris Ford, photo ©
2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.




So here’s an idea:  How about trying a little mini da-da poetry writing sans Steven Rogers’ music? Take a look at any of the Freya Grand paintings in this post (or visit her website). Pick out a piece of music you currently like a lot. While the music plays, quickly, without much thought, jot down five (or so) lines or phrases.

Email them to me at pinkeggs@gmail.com.  After two weeks or so (about August 9) I’ll randomly pick out lines, type them in the order I’ve picked, and post them here in the comments section. Let’s see what we come up with.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Here are two poems created during the lang•widge event; these are also posted on The Writer’s Center website.




1.



this is reversal

clouds coming up through earth’s crust

all my orange drizzles around in dust

I fly over this, I needn’t touch down

Earth is melting

manna comes down

my wings are lifted by

heat from the ground

Lift off!

Earth Burnt and Fractured

Evaporated Anger

Unexpressed Blindness

earth’s breath

greeny pastures of ooze

trudging uphill I see my shadow and a whale

I’m near a synthetic ocean

one that’s flat and even dry

cured epoxy cement

fake lily sky

but here’s where I swim

and here’s where I’ll die

your piano carries me anywhere

you play

standing stones

scottish shore

volcanic mist

walk to the top edge

as above, so below

coolness rising

You and me

never the same

mountain ranges between us

ocean depths……storms

air that we breathe

the only media

that unites

I lived there so long the ocean was like a person to me.

A giant meatball rolling towards its destiny.





2.



East coast sunsets

are less brilliant

but the sand between my toes

feels more like home.

Scary golf course littered laced

and smoking with traps sandy

silken tofu nowhere is there a

flag or a hole to crawl into

Dark fog charcoal wall

surrounding me give me grass

but it wriggles this grass

maybe the rocks will protect me

marshmallow antlers and steamy pea soup

There’s a smiley

in the foam

red glee

misty canyon aerie wheat

volcanic atmosphere rock strewn beach

geyser rivulets

yves tanguy

shadows

cliff hanger

steam

heat

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

wash of creation

thrum

pure thin air

Moses parts a red and vanillas sea

A single, persistent surfer.

I’d made a mistake coming here.

bleed





___________________________________________________________________________________________

Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with her 25 Reasons I Write post. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min.

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Our guide was named Anh. Like Anne, but a long a. Ah. Ah-n. She had the look of a backpacker. At first. When I took in the rucksack and light jacket, I thought maybe she was a trekker who’d landed her dream job. Tour guide on a medium-sized wooden boat, fits about 20 passengers, floating up and down the Mekong Delta.

But first impressions are deceiving. Anh was from Hanoi originally, now living in Can Tho. She wore thick flesh-colored socks with sandals. A face mask and a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the sun off her skin. In Vietnam, the women want to remain as fair-skinned as possible. Stark contrast to the Norwegians who shared the boat with us. The two women in that group tied silk scarves over their bathing suits and sat in the hot sun until the silk turned dark with sweat and their skin a sort of freckled orange-brown.

My friend Marcia says that eventually, given enough time, we will all evolve to look like one another. Vietnamese women will get lighter; fair-skinned Norwegians will turn a crispy brown. We’ll all go after the universal beauty ideal. Add a KFC on every corner of every city in the world and Wham-o!, we’re all the same.

Until then, I will enjoy our differences. And prawns with attached heads, which we had for lunch. And cuttle fish, passion fruit, rice. Meals on the Bassac II are gourmet. How it turned out to be just me and the girls plus a Norwegian family of four—I don’t understand. This is the best boat ever, the best crew. The captain is the same one who steered the boat the last time I was on it, and both times he masterfully navigated our vessel through narrow passages where barges carrying silt dredged from the bottom of the river came within a foot of boats that are floating fish farms. And us.

As we gawked at other people’s lives, all while eating steak and fish for lunch or sipping Tiger beer, I imagined we were a nuisance on this commercial waterway. The Vietnamese float by with all their worldly possessions contained in boats only slightly larger than canoes. And yet, they are so tolerant, even nice to us as we float by in all our laid-back luxury.

The crew of Bassac II recognized me when I boarded, and I reminded them that I said I’d return and bring my girls next time. Dee was enamored by the boat immediately, the cool of the cabin and its smell of hibiscus and lemongrass. She wandered around the boat as if under a spell, that slow walk from this end of the deck to that one, all the while tracing her hand along the deep brown wooden railings. The place suited her internal clock, slow and content to not do much.

Em explored every corner of the boat she had access to, bouncing a few minutes around the upper deck, then a few more on the deck below. “Mom, I’m going to check out the front of the boat,” she informed before shooting off again. She waited impatiently for hours, unable to just rest, before we finally boarded the canoe and made our way to a village along one of the canals.

Not being from Can Tho, Anh didn’t know the off-the-beaten-path spots where you could find a temple that wasn’t officially on the tour. Nor did she have the same sense of adventure that prompted our last tour guide to stop in at a Cao Dai temple while making our way back to the boat from the village.

But that was fine. Anh was calm and friendly, and she loved the girls. She spent a generous amount of time in the floating market, took us to a cottage factory that produced soy sauce and salt, and let us sit for almost an hour eating exotic fruits while she showed the girls how to make jewelry and animals out of palm leaves.

When I asked her if she liked her job, she smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and then looked out in the distance. “I miss my children,” she said, “when I come overnight for the tours.” Believe me, I wanted to say, I can relate. Instead I looked over at my own girls and said, “Bring them with you one day, Anh—they’ll never forget it.”

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vietnamese children (one)
 
 
                   vietnamese children (two)
 
 
                             vietnamese children (three)
 


Here I am, crouching in front of a temple in Hue, surrounded by children. They squeal, I smile. They tug at me, I hug them. When my guide enters the courtyard and sees me, he marches toward me, beside himself. He pulls me up from the spot where I am, a small child like them. “Watch your purse,” he hisses.

He’s not unkind. He just knows how children can be with tourists. But I’m not afraid. If they take something from me, more power to them. I shouldn’t be such a naive soul, should I?, for letting them dupe me like that. It’s the price I’m willing to pay to be with children, even if they’re not my own.

But the truth is, these kids don’t even try to take my things. They want to test their broken English and throw me some universal signs. Peace, love, all that. At this point on a trip to Vietnam, I need all the peace and love I can get. I notice children everywhere I go. I am beyond homesick.



child monk




Fast forward to today. Em packs Froggy and Meow. Froggy is a frog pillow that presently rests in the space between me and Em. His green warmth at my side assures me as our plane lifts from the tarmac and begins its bumpy ascent. Dee packs no stuffed toys, although this morning she took Merry, the horse she’s had since age three or four, to stay with Jim for the almost three weeks we’ll be gone. We’ll be gone. Me and my girls. Finally. In Vietnam.

This is something I’ve always done with my girls. Not the international travel, but whisking them away, the three of us sans Daddy. I’ve taken them to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, where we tried unsuccessfully to put up a tent in the wind and ended up walking into the administration office and sheepishly asking for a room. We’ve been to Santa Monica, at the Hotel California, and when we drove into the parking lot from the airport—you won’t believe it!—that Eagles tune was playing on the rental car radio.

We’ve gone to Denver, with my sister and her kids, and also taken a road trip with them to San Francisco via Las Vegas. In Taos, the girls and I stayed in Mabel‘s room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and I didn’t tell them that my blog partner had once seen the ghost of Mabel in that very same room.

But those adventures pale in comparison to the three plane rides it will take to get us to Ho Chi Minh City. One of the flights is 13 or 14 hours long. I try not to dwell on it but wonder if I’ll be able not to when I have an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old sitting next to me. Not to mention Froggy.

And this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see my girls’ reactions when I take them to the crowded colorful market where women tug at your sleeve and say “Madam, Madam!” or when we eat a steaming bowl of rice noodles and chicken for breakfast or morning glory sauteed in garlic for lunch. Will they agree that Vietnamese food is the best in the world?

We’ll float down the Mekong Delta, travel by domestic plane to a beach town I’ve heard about but never been to, stay in a luxury two-bedroom apartment right in the heart of bustling Saigon. All month long as the trip looms closer, I drive them around our hometown and tell them that driving on the streets of Saigon is nothing like Corrales. I want them to feel the chaos, the aliveness of it all. To see how a place half a world away wakes up, eats, lives, go to sleep. Is.

We are on the plane now. Em shows me a photo she just snapped with her cell phone camera of the landscape out the window of our plane, somewhere west of the Grand Canyon. The image on her small screen resembles those photos of Earth as seen from outer space. There’s the curve of the terrain, layers of atmosphere growing from light to dark blue as you move away from the land toward the expansive sky.

This is like us, I think, in the world, high above it all. On our way to places beyond.


safe travels


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By Bob Chrisman



Allen Cemetery on the outskirts of Gower, Missouri serves as the final resting place for my mother’s parents and some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Names like Patton, Divelbiss, Pogue, and Williams mark the plots of family members. Every Memorial Day we decorated those graves. As time passed and more relatives took up residence among the tombstones, we didn’t attend to as many of the graves. After my father’s stroke in 1969, which left him bedridden, and my sister’s departure to teach a distance away, we decorated fewer graves because my mother didn’t like to leave my father alone for long.

After my father died in 1984, Aunt Vera, my mother’s younger sister, and her husband, Uncle Howard, joined us for the annual, grave-decorating trip. Neither one of them drove anymore so they gladly came along for the outing and the lunch that followed. I would swing by their house, just up the street a few blocks from where my mother lived, and pick them up.

Uncle Howard had a great sense of humor despite the hardships of his life. He managed to find something funny about most everything. Going to the cemetery provided him with an opportunity and a captive audience. Much to my mother and aunt’s chagrin, my uncle always told me the same story on the way there.

“Bob, did I ever tell you about buying those cemetery plots?”

Although I had heard the story many times in the past, I would say, “No, Uncle Howard. What happened?” With that question he launched into the story.

“Your mom and dad and Vera and I made an appointment with Eldon Lee. You know Eldon Lee, don’t you? He was the funeral director and caretaker of the cemetery. We drove out to Gower one evening. We picked four spaces right in a row. The girls decided that we would be buried boy-girl-boy-girl.

“Eldon Lee put your father’s name down first, then your mom’s, and then he started to write my name. I said, ‘Eldon Lee, hold on. I’m not happy with this arrangement.’ They all looked at me like I’d lost a marble or two, but Eldon Lee put down his pen to hear me out.

“I said, ‘When you die, you lay down for your eternal rest to get some peace, don’t you?’ Eldon Lee nodded his head. ‘Well, how much rest and peace do you think I’d get planted between Lucile and Vera? Not much. I can tell you that right now. You better put the girls together between Len and I so all that chatter between the girls won’t disturb us in our graves.’

“That’s why your mom and Vera have places next to each other.”

He laughed in that mischievous way of his. My mother and Aunt Vera sighed. Aunt Vera said, “Oh, Howard.” No matter how many times I heard the story, I laughed. I could imagine my mother and her sister gossiping in the grave while my father snored on one side and Uncle Howard tossed and turned on the other end.

Uncle Howard had another routine that he started when we pulled up the gravel road into the cemetery. He never failed me in doing this one, which irritated my mother and aunt beyond words. That made it all the funnier because they should have known it was coming, but it always appeared to take them by surprise.

My mother and her sister decided which set of graves we would visit and in what order. My Uncle Howard pointed at new graves we passed.

“Look, Bob, see that one? Hey, you girls, would you pipe down? All your talking drives the ground squirrels away. I’m trying to see how fat they are. Looks like we’ve added lots of new dishes to the graveyard buffet lately.” He laughed.

That stopped the women’s conversation. Aunt Vera usually said, “Howard, that’s no way to talk about the dead.”

“I guess you’re right.” He paused for effect. “But, they’re dead and they don’t care about my little joke.”

Mom said, “Howard, someday you’ll be lying here in the ground and you won’t want someone talking about you like that?”

“You’re right, Lucile, but I’ll be dead and I won’t care. I’m so little and skinny the ground squirrels will be very disappointed when they lift the lid on my coffin. They’ll probably look at one another and say, ‘Ain’t much meat here. Let’s move on.’” Then he’d laugh and I’d join him.


Uncle Howard and Aunt Vera's headstone, photo © 2010 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




Uncle Howard hit the buffet line in April, 1990. Aunt Vera followed in December, 1993. In February 2008, my mother joined them. My family won’t add any more people because we have scattered all over the country.

On January 1, 2009, I drove up to the cemetery to pay my respects and to remember the stories of my childhood. When I entered the cemetery I found myself looking for the new graves and the ground squirrels. I stood at the graves of my parents and my aunt and uncle. I listened as the cold wind blew through the place. I didn’t hear Mom and Aunt Vera talking. Maybe Uncle Howard’s plan worked. I hope he enjoys his eternal rest in peace.



About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his family. For Memorial Day 2010, we published Desecration Day, Bob’s humorous yet moving piece about a grave decoration day that got a bit out of hand.

You can see these other pieces of Bob’s in which he writes with humor and compassion about his family members: 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.

Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too.

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poker mom

Poker Mom, ybonesy’s mom, Margie (hair up in curlers), on poker night, circa 1950s, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






To my mom, QM’s mom, Liz’s mom, and all the moms out there:






you are the best!


happy mother’s day!






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