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Liz Shoots the April Moon

Liz Shoots The April Moon, Minneapolis at night, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s hard to get back into the practice of writing for red Ravine after two months away. Where have I been? The business of life. And love. Art and passion. Mr. Stripeypants was sick for a time, a bug he contracted during surgery. He’s fine now. I was sick for three weeks, then it was time for Art-A-Whirl. Liz and I spent hours in Casket Arts Studio 318, talking art and writing and authors. Explaining panoramas on brushed metal and the latest installment in the Writers Hands Series. After Art-A-Whirl, I am so energized by the people that stop by that I want to spend every waking moment in my studio.

My mother went to Georgia without me this year. I missed traveling with her; she continues to research the family tree. I take it up, too, in my spare time. I will never lose my passion for history — the people, places, and things that lived before us. While I was away, the seasons changed. Quickly and without apology. What would normally be Spring has bloomed as Summer. We lost a few limbs on the two cedars in an ice storm. An arborist is coming to give the oaks and cedars a trim on Monday.

Where have I been? I went to see Anne Lamott at a bookstore. And Leslie Marmon Silko at the downtown library. I photographed the clouds with my Droid. I stood on a bridge and shot the Moon with Liz. We are working on a business together. It’s slow and steady, like the Turtle I am. I am working on the project plan. Liz digs into business details. We will meet with a designer soon to begin work on our website. More to come.

I can say I missed you. I did. When I come back to this place, it is like coming home. I have a guest piece coming up soon. And a new Writing Topic. While I was away, red Ravine turned five. Five years and a million hits. I didn’t know when I started writing and posting my art here that years would fly by. That I would be exposed for the gaps in my practice. One year, I took a photograph every single day. Another, I wrote Writing Practices all day long. One year, there was a haiku a day. In 2012, I take time to breathe. And expand within my own absence. I have not lost my gratitude for you. There is no way to explain where the time goes. I always come back to the things Natalie taught me. Continue. Continue. Continue. Get up. Jump back in.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, May 31st, 2012

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The gift of time. Rocking in a white porch chair, drinking Stash Fusion Green & White tea. My stomach is full on residual Thanksgiving, a small feast for two (plus two cats). I am grateful for those who checked in on red Ravine while I took a break. It started as a short week away from the Internet, and turned into boots on the ground living—time for Liz, for my brother’s visit to Minnesota, for Mr. StripeyPants and Kiev. I checked in with my family on Facebook once in a while, but rarely fired up the laptop during the week. It was refreshing to take time to think, to sit, to be.


Unconnected.


I stopped all my practices for a month, including red Ravine. Since 2001, I have done at least two yearly practices, one writing, one visual, each beginning in January and ending in December. Writing practice, haiku, haiga, renga, BlackBerry 365, the Great Round mandala series; I stayed true to them. I honored them. This year it felt like all I was doing was trying to keep up with the many practices I had taken on, my agreements to others, my commitment to myself to keep going for a full year. I made it January through September. It was freeing to choose to take a break rather than force myself to continue.

But I miss this place, this creative space. Something I learned when I stopped doing my practices was that a part of me went into hiding. I am not happy when I am not taking photographs, writing, painting or drawing. Last night Liz and I watched A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. Lady opened up in a short interview. She said her song, “Marry The Night” was about the moment she made a choice to give her all to music. Right or wrong, up or down, her first relationship would be with the music; she would be true to herself.  It is another form of befriending the Black Dog, the dark shadowy side that comes with deep exploration of your writing or art.

When I listened to her, I knew she was right. It takes great sacrifice to marry the night. And part of the ritual is to know when you need a break. Near the end of the silent workshops with Natalie in Taos, there is a short meeting with her in the round. We sign up on a sheet of paper taped to the zendo wall. Five or six at a time, we slow walk to the cabin at Mabel Dodge Luhan, take our shoes off, sit in a semi-circle, candles lit, in silence, and Natalie goes around and checks in with each of us. Almost every time, there is one person who says they don’t want to write anymore. Natalie inevitably responds, “Then don’t write. Take a break. See if you come back to it.”


Those words are as important to me as the day at my first workshop when she told us to plan on at least two years of Writing Practice before stopping. Oh, and don’t quit your day job.

If you are listening to your teachers, good advice sticks in your craw, and rises to the surface when you need it. The list of things Natalie has taught me over the years would fill a notebook; I bring each one out as I need it, and practice those I believe will make me a better writer, a better artist, a better person. Sometimes I fail. And that is okay, too.


At the one month mark away from my practices, I started adding them back in, one at a time. I added Writing Practice first and continue to write with my online group. I am grateful they have stuck with me. After a little over two months away, the next thing I am adding back into my practices is red Ravine. I have noticed that I am happiest combining writing and art; red Ravine is a good venue for the collaboration and synthesis that happen between the two. I want to look at restructuring, infusing the past with a burst of new life.

It is Thanksgiving weekend and I have much to be grateful for. I will take time to make my yearly gratitude list and begin work on another mandala. I have not been tossed away. The work continues. Positive effort for the good is the best practical response to a hungry world. I am grateful to be back on the page, thankful you are still here. The silence doesn’t scare me anymore; it is filled with light. The wind bristles and becomes her own wingman, sailing to the next stop. The best I can hope for is a gentle landing.


-posted on red Ravine Friday, November 25th, 2011, Thanksgiving weekend, an edited Writing Practice

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My first bicycle. Royal blue, silver fenders, metal training wheels bolted on to the frame. Practicing, practicing, practicing until I got it right. Riding a bicycle, my first taste of freedom. My second bicycle, a 26 inch with a wire basket in the front to hold my text books. Books covered in brown paper that was once a bag, drawn on, colored on, with stickers and awkward handwriting. I never had good handwriting. I remember learning to ride a bicycle. The scariest part was the space between the wobble from one training wheel hitting the ground, then the other. Or maybe the scariest part was when the rubber actually hit the sidewalk and it felt off balance, like I was going to tip over, fall to the pavement, scrape my knee.

What I remember about my first bicycle isn’t as much about the object as the person who cared enough to hold the back of the seat until I got my balance, the person who ran along beside me when I teetered, who knew when it was safe to let go after the training wheels were unbolted—let go and let me fly. It’s the memories more than the objects. The objects are triggers. When we moved to Pennsylvania, our breezeway was always full of bicycles. Kids and bicycles. There was always one kid learning to ride a bike. It was the way my brothers roamed the streets with their friends.

I don’t remember riding in a group. It was more of a solitary effort for me. A way to get away and be alone. I clearly remember one ride to elementary school. I was so entranced with the ride, with the process, with looking down and viewing my feet turn the pedals, that I forgot to look up, and ran smack dab into a parked car. It jolted me, my text books flew out of the basket and on to the ground. I caught myself before I fell over but that jolt! when the tire hit the chrome fender, I will never forget it. I was embarrassed and looked around to see if anyone saw me fall. Which matters most? The fall or those who witness the fall.

Now that I think about it, my first bicycle taught me to trust. The second taught me how to fly solo, to be faster than anyone else, to not be afraid. My bicycles taught me independence, to trust myself, how to balance when things were careening out of control, how to stop on a dime right before the pothole swallowed me. My first bike was more than a bicycle. It was the beginning of learning to hold the world in the soles of my feet and the handlebar underneath my palms. It was a way to get away from the crowd, time to think, the feeling I’d later experience again when I learned to ride a motorcycle. There is no freedom like being on a two-wheeler, running under the power of your own two feet.


-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MY FIRST BICYCLE

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An Open Letter To My Father

An Open Letter To My Father, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I haven’t seen my father since I was six years old. He reached out to me that day for the first time since I was a toddler. But I was scared and didn’t want to come out of my room. I was only a child; he had become a stranger. I never saw him again.

I keep a pack of letters tied with red string in a shoebox on the top shelf of my closet. What is important comes in small packages. Snippets of correspondence become family heirlooms; letters are reminders of people whose memories and handwriting I want to remember.

One letter is from my mother, dated August of 2000. I had a hard time that year and (in an extroverted moment) reached out to 7 people in my inner circle. I asked if they would write a letter and tell me what my good qualities were; at the time, I just couldn’t remember. My mother wrote a beautiful letter to me from Pennsylvania, a story about the day I was born.

In the same shoebox is a letter from my father’s two sisters. Several years ago, by an act of grace, I reconnected with my aunts after 50 years, and stood with my mother and Aunt Annette under the Georgia pine over my Grandmother Estelle’s grave (the back story and photographs in Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave.) It was a few months later, New Year’s Day 2009, when my aunts sent the letter from South Carolina, and something more:


I feel so badly our family never got to see or know you before now. I know Mother would be so pleased about our reunion. Mother left this ring to me and I would very much like you to have it. She had it a long time and wore it as a pinky ring. This is not much, but I never want you to be left out of our lives. I hope you feel the same about us. Maybe you could try to come for Christmas one year while Annette and I are still here. We are all very much family oriented and want our kids to know you. I’m proud to pass your grandmother’s ring to you, her granddaughter.


It’s as if all that time between us never happened. My trips to the South with Mom to research and explore family history have paid off in unexpected and miraculous ways. During our brief visit, my aunts showed me old family photographs and filled me in on the paternal side of my family. They told me my father had been estranged for 10 years; a dispute had erupted after my grandmother died. I don’t take serendipitous events lightly. I believe we are reunited with the past for reasons beyond our understanding.


Letter From My Mother

A Letter From My Mother, BlackBerry Shots,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo
© 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


That’s why when I called my aunts on Christmas Day 2010, they told me my father had called them out of the blue; he has cancer. He found out in September 2009, a few months before they mailed the letter with my grandmother’s ring. He didn’t contact them until a year later. During their visit, they told him they had seen me and my mother on a recent trip to Georgia. He did not jump at the chance to reconnect. Maybe for him, the past is the past.

My father was 17 years old when I was born, my mother 16. They divorced two years later—still teenagers. My mother went to work and provided for us. She eventually remarried a wonderful man who became my step-father.  After the age of 6, I never saw my blood father again. And now I find I may never get another chance. Should I write him a letter? What would I say?


Dear ______,

A few years ago on a visit to Georgia, I reconnected with your sisters, my aunts, after 50 years apart. They briefly filled me in on the family history; it made me think of you. I live in Minnesota now, have lived in the West and Midwest for most of my adult life. I try to get home once a year to visit family — for me, home is both Pennsylvania and Georgia. I may be visiting the South again this year and thought it might be a chance to touch base. Maybe we could meet for coffee or dinner.

Your daughter,

__________


I start the letter, I stop the letter. The drafts seem to fall short. What would you say? Should the salutation use his proper name? Or Father. Would you ask him to meet for dinner? Or talk on the phone. What if he doesn’t want to have contact with me? Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation where you haven’t talked to a close family member in many years. In reconnecting with my father’s sisters, it’s as if we were never apart. With parents, no matter how old you are, they are still your parents. Should I send a letter to my father?


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 6th, 2010

-related to posts: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), You Can’t Go Back, WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, WRITING TOPIC — 3 QUESTIONS

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Joy Is, Joy Is Not, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The days are dark, the nights long. Five days until Winter Solstice. Holidays draw us to friends and family, gift giving, service work. I want to go inside. Reflective heat, ambient light. Darkroom blues. I have spent hours under red safelights in black and white darkrooms. What color is Joy?

At times when there is the least light, we need to find ways to tap more joy. I look to the small things. Sunrise, Tuesday morning. Snowstorm, Friday night. Digging out. Digging deep. An old recipe. A new flame. Joy takes many forms. Clay dangling from red string. One new liver. Two hibernating black bears. Three things I am grateful for.

Some are afraid to feel the full strength of Joy. The intensity makes them fearful. What if Joy leaves in the middle of the night. How will I fill the hole.

What brings you joy?

Joy is a giant taproot of swirling lava at the center of the Earth. Joy is a burning ember in the middle of an indigo night. Behind every Black Dog, Joy sits like the mountain.

Write I feel joy at the top of your Writing Practice notebook. Or sink into the underbelly — I don’t feel joy

Joy is, Joy is not. Ten minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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shadow auto 2

Moon Over Taos Mountain, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X black & white film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


December marks a time of darkness and silent reflection leading up to the Winter Solstice. Most Decembers, Natalie holds a writing retreat around the time of December 1st through 8th. In Zen, this time is called Rohatsu Sesshin and marks the enlightenment of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. For those heading to Taos to write, it’s a time of community solitude, an opportunity to go within.

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Slow Walking, Natalie Goldberg, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X B&W film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

This week ybonesy and several other writing friends will be making the jouney to Taos to sit in silence. I find comfort in knowing they will be there under Taos Mountain. When they sit, they sit for all of us. The zendo casts a wide circle. Everything is connected. We can sit and write in solidarity.

There will be long nights under Mabel’s lights and slow walks into Taos. Some will walk the morada, visit the graves of Mabel and Frieda, soak up places that Georgia walked on her first visits to New Mexico. Notebooks will be filled with Writing Practices, later to be reread.

Whatever’s at the surface will fall away. What’s important is what is underneath.  Underbelly.


Sit, Walk, Write. With Gratitude to a long lineage of mentors and teachers. For all that has come before. And all that will be.


Note: ybonesy and I met in Taos at a Writing Retreat. We’ll be forever connected by that thread. And the practice that became red Ravine. We’ve written many pieces on our time spent in Taos. To learn more about Sit, Walk, Write or our experience of studying with Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, check out the links in this post. Or click on any of the posts under Taos. With Gratitude to our readers, those at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Natalie, and all the writers and artists who keep showing up to brave the silence. We are all in this together.


–posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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I’ve always noticed the trees where we’ve lived. Growing up on Neat Lane, we had out front a big sycamore that Dad kept trimmed into a tidy globe of leaves. In my memory, there is a sidewalk under the tree where the itch bombs fall and gather. We pick them up and for fun explode them, throw them with all our might onto the sidewalk.

Except, I’ve been back to Neat Lane several times as an adult, and there is no sidewalk. I think there’s a curb, but beyond the curb it is up to each family to landscape their yard. Some people — like Dad — kept their yards worthy of the street’s name. Others (and again, in my faulty memory I see a washing machine and old love seat on the front porch of the neighbors across the street) did not.

It is the trees that attracted me to the house where we live now. Someone, and I imagine it to be a her, lovingly picked out the many trees and placed them all around the house, knowing that one day they would grow huge and tall and would shade the place, keeping it cool from the summer heat.

There are Ponderosas and an ornamental plum that blazes a deep red you can see from the road. There are poplars, one is now diseased on one side, that grow high without becoming wide. The leaves look like the cottonwood except silvery on one side, and in hindsight I realize the poplar reminds me more of an aspen than a cottonwood, although I believe all three are from the same family.

In our old house there was a locust tree that drew me in, outside the kitchen window. How many times did I sit on the cozy warm tiles in that house and write, pausing to stare out at the small deep green leaves of the locust?

Some trees are invasive, I’m thinking now of the elms that Jim got permission from our neighbors to cut down. The elms were on the fence line, Chinese elms, of the variety a former mayor long ago imported to Albuquerque thinking they would grow well in the arid landscape. When Jim felled those elms (and I like using the word “felled” although it seems unnatural to my language) I mourned them. I looked at them as living things, yes invasive, but they provided shade and privacy. Jim saw them as water mongers, non-native species, and I suppose he imagined a different kind of tree, one better for the water table, in their place.

Dad always disliked certain trees. For a long time he and Mom complained about the large Russian olive out front next door. It dropped tiny leaves and spongy fake olives, causing Dad much consternation. A tree is a tree, I would think. Why in the world, how in the world could they dislike a tree?

Russian olives are in fact bad for the valley and come up like little weeds everywhere. Jim has gotten rid of quite a few, but I look at them and think of the old olive trees I saw once in Jerusalem, in Gethsemane’s Garden, and I see how the trees get gnarly and thick, and each layer must have seen a different scene. If you cut back the bark, you’d find a layer that saw Jesus himself.

That’s what I think of when I think of the Russian olive. Or I think of a family photo I remember that hung in the hallway of Jim’s parents’ house. I would stare at that photo when I first went there to visit with Jim. The trunk grew sideways instead of up, and it eventually did grow up, but the sideways portion made a natural bench on which the family sat or leaned. It was a photo of them long ago, when everyone was young and Jim’s parents were at their most vibrant. Something about that photo appealed to me, like I could see marrying into a family that sits around a tree.

I think of trees like people, and I think about how we want to be like trees. Grounded and firm, with strong roots going deep into the land. Sometimes when I water a tree, I think about how the root system underneath is probably as long and wide as the portion of the tree that grows above the ground. Like a mirror image.

If people are like trees, that means that beneath us we have our mirror images, supporting us as we walk, reflecting back to us whatever it is in the core of our earth.

I couldn’t imagine living in a place without trees, and yet what I love about New Mexico is that the tree is sacred. It is not abundant, and when we see it we seek it out for shade. If I had a patron tree, like a patron saint, it would be the cottonwood. Dark, rough bark that protects the soft wood inside. And deep roots. A sign always when you see it that water is nearby.



-Related to Topic post WRITING TOPIC — TREES

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This happens to me almost every month — I have to stop and think about how many days there are.

Some months I know by heart. January has 31, February 28, October has 31, December 31. But those months in between — March, April, May, June, July, August, September, November — I honestly don’t know.

I use the fist method (aka the knuckle method). It sounds crude, and it is. I form my hand into a fist then act like I’m about to do a fist bump with a friend. As I’m looking at the fist from the top, I use the knuckles and valleys that my fist makes to count the months.

Knuckles stand for 31 days, valleys for 30 (except in the case of February, which is 28).


fist with months
Counting Months on your Fist, iPhone photo of ybonesy’s fist,
March 30, 2010, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



So, using the fist method we learn:

  • First knuckle hump is January — 31 days
  • Valley is February — 28 days
  • Knuckle is March — 31
  • Valley is April — 30
  • Knuckle is May — 31
  • Valley is June — 30
  • Knuckle is July — 31


At this point we run out of fist, so we start over:

  • First knuckle is August — 31 (this is when we remember that July and August both have 31 days)
  • Valley is September — 30
  • Knuckle is October — 31
  • Valley is November — 30
  • Knuckle is December — 31



If like me you were trying to remember if March has 30 days or 31, now you know. And you’ve learned an easy method to always be able to figure out how many days there are in a given month.

I know, I am a font of helpful information.

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By Charles Ederer


Should have been in the letter I don’t remember
Where I wrote in cursive script that I was lost
In the trailing wind
An oblique horizon levitating with the sun
Setting on me

I told you about my life then asking
Whether things lost are never found again in daylight
Only in dream and night
I said this was a French ballad sad and strong
With an audience that sings with me

And now I press my hands to these salted floorboards
Thinking of you my English Channel
My Rome 25 years on
But few things are so close
Not tomorrow if all we have is stuffed into bags
Shut to the rest of us

There is a snowflake in this burned-out house in winter
If there is one in you
Drift with us
Over charred postcards and Polaroids
Under kitchen-sink faces
Through rays of diamond summer dust

Near the well where I watch unicorns play
Is a fallen tree on which to imagine
The ride home or some such scheme of war
In haste as the nights of Oostende
Flee tonight again

But the last you will see of me after tomorrow
Is reaching far into space
Footsteps outside this door
That every mile or so leads to my nobody name carved in ice
An arrow of pine needles crudely angled
Toward anywhere but here




Door, photo © 2010 by Charles Ederer. All rights reserved.





Charles is marketing executive who lives in San Francisco with his son, Alexander. About writing, Charles has this to say: It’s surprising to me how long it’s taken to move my writing to a place where I’m finally satisfied, though perhaps my gestation process has more to do with finding my voice than anything else. Having a reason to write is important, but having something to say with a road-proven voice is altogether more challenging, especially if my themes are to be universal.

About two years ago I completed my first official volume of work, titled A Perfect Vessel. In reading it from time to time, I often wonder where I found the grit to complete it the way I did and have it render the intensity I hoped it would.

Poetry to me is an iterative process, part of which is brutal editing. I’ve gotten to the point where I know (usually by the next morning) whether it’s good or not worth anyone’s time. Everything I need to say is contained inside me and it’s not so much a matter of writing well but finding myself through the journey of selection and placement. I’m seeking to be in love with what I’ve written, and if I’m not there yet I work it until it forms into something that speaks true for me and, hopefully, for the reader. It’s similar to the process of painting on canvas, really.

This piece was inspired by red Ravine’s post WRITING TOPIC — DOOR. The door icon speaks for me in my present state of life.

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Here’s what I know. Mom and Dad were living on Neat Lane in Albuquerque’s south valley. There were four kids at home, three girls and a boy. Larry had been the youngest, he was four, and Mom and Dad were hoping for a boy to play with him. That’s one of the details of my birth that I grew up knowing.

I also grew up knowing that I was named after my mom’s mom and that Dad hadn’t wanted to name me that but they’d run out of names. They’d named the oldest daughter Patricia, after mom’s brother Pat. The next one Roberta, after Mom’s other brother, Robert. Janet must have gotten a name that came with no obligations; just a name that Mom and Dad liked. Larry, or Lawrence—his must have been a name they liked, too. I can’t think of any Larrys in the family. And then when I was girl, they gave me Roma. And Mom always says that grandma was “tickled.”

Mom had me in a hospital. The old Saint Jo’s. Whenever we drove on the freeway out to Los Lunas, Mom would point off toward the new St. Joseph’s and say, “See the older building? That’s where you were born.” All these years I thought it was this really old building that is about two or three stories, made of thick granite stone that has turned a sooty gray. I had taken to pointing it out whenever we were near there and telling my girls that that was where I was born. But just the other day, when I took my mom to the new St. Jo’s to get eye surgery, she pointed to a different old building and said that one was the old hospital. “Well, what’s that building over there,” I asked. “Oh, that’s the old sanitarium.”

So all this time, the place where I thought I had been born was actually the old mental institution. It was a letdown to know that the old St. Jo’s was not nearly as old looking. It just looked like a lesser, worn-down hospital.

I do know that back in the days when Mom had her kids, they let mothers stay for three or so days afterward in order to recuperate. I imagine that must have been the calm before the storm. Back home, waiting, there were a 4-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 12-year-old. Wow. Just tonight I went shopping with the girls for two hours and afterward, on the drive home, the girls were chatty and excited, and I had to say, “Hey you two, I’m a little overwhelmed so can we drive the rest of the way in silence?”

They were good about it, and so was I. Mom would have just screamed, “I can’t stand it anymore!” Poor Mom. Five kids is an awful lot to have.

That’s about all I know of my birth story. Everything fast forwards from there on out to when I got sick with the croup and the emergency tracheotomy. It’s funny, though. I can picture them coming back home with me. I think in those days moms held their infants in their laps in the car. I’m pretty sure Dad had a big car. I’ve seen a big car in the old photos. And I picture Dad and Mom walking into the small house they had, and all the kids being excited. I wonder if Larry was disappointed. I bet he was.

I think I slept in a crib in Mom and Dad’s bedroom for my first year, maybe two. I remember sharing a room with Janet, and did Larry share a room with us, too? I know the house only had a couple of bedrooms. Dad converted the garage into a den. There are a lot of gaps in my memory about the house on Neat Lane.

I don’t have a baby book, but we had lots of old pictures. I was in plenty of them, often being held up on Dad’s knee for the camera. And we have lots of old movies. Jim took them and had some made into a video for my parents’ 50th. Or was it for their 60th?




-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the third of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to posts: PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman), PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by QuoinMonkey), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman); PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? — 15min (by ybonesy), and PRACTICE — Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? — 15min (by QuoinMonkey); PRACTICE: Do You Know The Circumstances Of Your Birth? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman)

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Most of the things I’ve been accused of, I did do. Not terrible things. Normal, living day-to-day things. I once got into trouble for walking into the larger-than-life, under construction, sky barrel that would later become the water tank for the little subdivision I grew up in. I wanted to hear how it would sound to yell inside the green tank. Would it echo? Fall flat? I must have been only 9 or 10. I got in so much trouble when my parents found out. It scared them to know where I had been, what might have happened. I did it, I did.

I wish I could think of something ruthless or edgy that I’ve been accused of. Or even done. I can’t. I’m mundane, run of the mill ordinary. Yet I’ve done some extraordinary things. I thought about this topic while driving through yesterday’s snowstorm. The 35mph winds nearly blew the pickup off the road. At one point, I had to do three of those turn-into-the-curve corrections when I hit a patch of black ice on a freeway curve. Thank goodness no one was near me.

On a snowy backroad, I started to wonder what kind of people get accused of things they didn’t do. What about the American who recently was found guilty of murder in Italy for a crime she says she didn’t do. Is she guilty? Innocent? Who are we to believe.

What about Tiger Woods. Is he being accused of things he did or didn’t do? Are all those women lying? Or is it his wife. I have to admit, when I heard about the early morning jog off the road, the crash and burn, I immediately thought “domestic situation.” And wondered what he had done. I noticed he seemed angrier this year on the golf course, less focused, throwing his clubs around. No wonder. Who can keep all that pent up inside?

I don’t think I have the kind of thick skin it takes to be accused of things I didn’t do. Maybe it led me to play it safe. It makes me seem boring, even to my own self. Where’s the drama? Like I said, when I was accused of things, I often did them. Have I ever lied about what I’ve done? Yes, on occasion in order to get out of a messy situation. But not as a rule of thumb.

I’ve been accused of being quiet, moody, crabby, over-emotional, shy. I’ve been accused of being fearful. Are those things true? At times. When I was in second grade Mrs. Hamrick took a ruler, bent the palm of my hand backwards so the inside of my hand was taut and facing up, and slapped my palm with a ruler. She did the same thing to my friend Melanie. We were cracking up in class over the word “smelly.” It was the way Melanie said “smelly” that had me in stitches in the middle of class.

Should I have been accused of laughing too hard, too loud, too much? I don’t know. But I was. And the ruler stung. I rarely got in trouble, rarely got a spanking. Why was I so goody two-shoes? Always running down the middle line, playing it safe. I don’t know. I prefer to be accused of being the good guy than the bad. Yet I like the tough guy rebel reputation. That just doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense in the world of false accusations. Nothing makes sense in the world of truth. Everything is subjective, even the way facts are presented. I’ve been accused of being too detailed and long-winded. That’s a good reason to draw this practice to a close.

If I took the time to list all the things I’ve been accused of over the years that I did do, it would fill another writing practice. Most I’m not proud of. I’m flawed, human. I used to be a jealous person. I feel like I’ve dulled down in the area of personal relationships. And that’s where all the drama is. I don’t step in the mire as much as I used to when I was young and trying to figure out what made relationships tick. I crossed boundaries, stepped through quicksand, threw a few tantrums. “Throwing a tantrum.” Where do you throw one. Out the window, across the river, slithering through the psyche of a loved one?

Pitching a fit. That’s an old Southern phrase. I used to say it. I hear it still when I visit the South. “Don’t pitch a fit, Shug.” Or “She’s fixin’ to pitch a fit.” I love that phrasing. There is something more colorful about the Southern dialect. Descriptive and loose. Uncontained, visual. You can not accuse Southern dialect of being stilted or canned.

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Lawdy-mercy, no.




-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the second of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to posts:  PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman), PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (QuoinMonkey), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? (by Bob Chrisman), and PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? (by ybonesy)

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I have a tracheotomy scar that I got when I was 18 months. Mom said I used to get croup and that this particular time my croup turned into pneumonia. By the time they realized how bad it was, I was turning blue. They rushed me to the emergency room, and Mom says that a little Mexican doctor, a woman, performed the emergency tracheotomy on me. They kept me in an oxygen tent for days, and Mom said that’s when my hair went curly. She said I looked like an angel under the plastic of the tent.

Later, as a young girl, any time I got fever, I would have dreams where it seemed angels were hovering in the room with me. I could hear people talk, my brother and sisters, but it was the underwater sound of voices. And I felt like there were other children with me, except these children were calm and light. Those were the angels who visited any time I was sick, and I often wonder now if they related at all to the time I almost died.

Also, in my mind, I picture that little Mexican woman. The doctor. Mom and Dad had great pride in saying that it was a Mexican woman who saved my life. Mom’s grandmother on her dad’s side was a little dark woman with a long thick braid. Mom talks about how as a child she would go in and see her grandmother, who was sick in bed. Her name was Elena, and Mom said she’d be in a white bed dress, sitting up, her gray-black hair pulled back in a thick braid. Mom says that she thinks Elena had Indian in her, Spanish and Indian, which is Mexican. And somehow, when Mom talks about the Mexican doctor, I often think of Elena as being that woman. She wasn’t, of course, but that’s who I picture saving my life.

The other thing that I picture is the doctor puncturing my throat with a pair of scissors. I don’t know why I see that, but I do, and it’s comical now to think that someone would take whatever object they could find, a good pair of steel scissors with black handles, and poke them into my throat to open up a passageway.

And I see myself under the tent afterward, sweaty from the oxygen and heat that builds up. And then like when the house falls on the Wicked Witch of the West and Dorothy takes off the witch’s ruby slippers, and all of sudden the witch’s feet curl and retract under the house, this is how I picture my curls happening. Mom and Dad are staring at me in the tent, my hair is wet but straight, and suddenly the entire head of hair starts to curl into ringlets. I picture my parents’ eyes getting big and the two of them looking at each other, incredulous.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my parents to almost lose a child. Mom says that after that, she didn’t like to take me out. She didn’t like it when people with colds came over. She tried to keep me covered and away from germs. Back then we had relatives visiting all the time. And neighbors, too. We were a big family, social. All my sisters’ friends would come to our house to play and hang out. And Mom’s friends, too. On Sundays my Aunt Barbara and her eight kids would often drive up from a town just south of us. Eventually Mom must have just let it go, let me be a normal kid again. What do they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.




-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to PRACTICE: Hair – 15min

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Woodstock On Vinyl, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
For last week’s 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I spent a few hours in the studio listening to a vintage copy of the original 3-set Woodstock album on vinyl. Then Liz and I met up with a fellow group of geocachers at the Lake Harriet Band Shell for a potluck and the live music of Woodstock Re-Rocked.

Providence conspired in our favor. Liz’s “parking angels” were in full swing when we drove into the only spot left in the jammed lot next to the band shell. The wind shifted and ferocious bundles of black storm clouds heading straight for us diverted west. We opened our portable lawn chairs, slipped a few flowers in our hair, and rocked out to Santana, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, Canned Heat, and Jimi Hendrix.

Liz wore patchouli and a tie dye T-shirt. The air temperature was a cool 72 degrees and at dusk we wrapped up in blankets. The Music in the Parks concert event coordinator broke out in her version of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz right before the outdoor screening of an expanded edition of Woodstock. Released on June 9, 2009 in Blu-Ray and DVD, the remastered 40th Anniversary Edition of the film features 19 new performances, adding two extra hours of rare footage.

 

The Woodstock concert was billed as An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music. The Woodstock “dove” symbol was originally drawn as a catbird.

Here are a few other fun facts that were read aloud at Lake Harriet before the film rolled. (I jotted them down in one of my new pocket notebooks):

 

  • people who abandoned their cars walked an average of 15 miles to the stage
  • 250,000 people never made it to Woodstock that day
  • 17 miles of bumper to bumper traffic piled up
  • $18 was the 3-day price of admission
  • 18 doctors saw 6000 patients with 50 additional doctors flown in from NYC
  • only 33 people were arrested for drug charges
  • there were 15 cauldrons of rice-raisin combo made by Lisa Law and the Hog Farm
  • 60 public telephones
  • a lone 80 foot stage
  • 150 volunteer cops, 346 NYC policemen who volunteered
  • 450 unfenced cows
  • 600 portable toilets
  • 1300 lbs of food ferried in by emergency copters
  • cost was $50,000 to use Yasgur’s farm
  • 315,000 feet of film was shot, 120 hours straight through
  • 1/2 million long distance calls made first day of festival
  • 1/2 million franks eaten the first day

 

In 1996, the movie Woodstock was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” I was too young to attend the concert. But the year I entered high school, the movie Woodstock was released and 400,000 ripples from Max Yasgur’s 600 acre dairy farm could be heard echoing through the halls of Red Land. We are still celebrating the music 40 years later.

Yet I have to be honest — after almost 45 minutes of long, drawn out guitar riffs from the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, we left before the screening ended. It was already 11:30 p.m. and Liz had to work early the next morning. Maybe I’m getting too old to make it through two extra hours of Woodstock. Still, when we drove by the shadow of the Lake Creature on our way home, we felt peaceful and full from the experience, a Summer night of music in the park with Woodstock fans, old and young.

 
 

 
 

I’m looking forward to Ang Lee’s new film Taking Woodstock scheduled to be released August 28th. The movie is based on the memoirs and memories of Elliot Tiber. In 1969, Tiber was an interior designer in Greenwich Village. That June he’d been at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Village, when patrons fought back against police brutality, touching off the modern Gay Rights movement.

Elliot Tiber felt empowered by Stonewall but still staked to the family business – a run-down Catskills motel called the El Monaco. He moved back to save the motel and became instrumental to Woodstock by offering a permit and connecting Michael Lang of Woodstock Ventures with Max Yasgur, gestures that would mark his place in Woodstock history.

I want to wrap up with my favorite piece of nostalgia about the concert. The iconic cover of Woodstock was shot by photographer Burk Uzzle, a Life magazine alumnus and a member of the elite Magnum photo agency (Uzzle also shot the funerals of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy). During a year of great violence, the 1969 photo exudes a sense of peace.

The couple in the famous photograph, Nick Ercoline and Bobbi Kelly, are still together (here’s what they look like now). They had dated for only 10 weeks when their photo was taken by Uzzle (unknown to them until the Woodstock album came out). Nick and Bobbi, now 60 years old, married two summers after Woodstock and are going strong.

To me, that’s what Woodstock was really about.

The love.

 

 

Woodstock At The Lake Harriet Band Shell, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Resources:

 

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

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ootb avatar 90 pxls widered Ravine -- a writing & art community blog

red Ravine -- a writing & art community blogootb avatar 90 pxls wide

 
 
Whom and what do you ENVY? Who has envied you? What’s the difference between jealousy and envy? How has ENVY impacted your life?

Barbara Rick, a Peabody & Emmy award-winning filmmaker/journalist based in New York City, and president and founder of Out of The Blue Films, Inc., explored these questions and more in Tuesday’s essay at red Ravine, Cracking Envy (Or How I Learned To Stop Romancing A Deadly Sin).

Now it’s your turn! The Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine has officially launched. This is a call for entries to share your essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, photographs, and music about envy. One of you will win a new Amazon Kindle. And any and all entries, or excerpts of them, could end up in the groundbreaking documentary on ENVY from Out of The Blue Films, Inc.

Is ENVY the worst of the Deadly Sins? How does it look and sound to you? Can you touch, smell or taste envy? To get the juices flowing, you might want to read a bit of history at WRITING TOPIC – THE 7 DEADLY SINS. Then do a few Writing Practices that you can turn into a polished piece. 

Below are the details you’ll need to submit your work. Contest ends at midnight, August 15th, 2009. Don’t miss this opportunity to feature your work in film. Or the chance to win an Amazon Kindle from Out of The Blue!

 
Amazon Kindle (from amazon.com website)

 
 
_______________________________________________________

Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest”

 
 

Submission Guidelines

ENVY is the latest project from Out of The Blue Films, Inc., in keeping with the company’s longstanding mission to tell inspiring stories that explore, articulate, educate, and celebrate humanity. Below are the guidelines for the Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine.
 
 

♦ What To Submit

All original writing and artwork is accepted for prize consideration. This includes, but is not limited to, essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, collages, drawings, photographs and music. We will accept entries in most formats, but prefer doc, rtf, txt, pdf, jpg, tiff, wav, mp3. Please limit your writing to 1000 words or less, and keep all attachments under 5MB.

 
 

♦ How To Submit

Send all entries electronically (do not send originals). If submitting more than one work to the contest, please send a separate email for each. Write ENVY CONTEST in the subject line, include the following information in the body of your email, and attach your submission:

 
Full Name: (If you prefer to remain anonymous please put the word ANONYMOUS in caps, after your name.)
Email:
Address:
Type of Submission: (short story, essay, poetry, photography, drawing, oil, collage, haiku, watercolor, audio, other)
Format of Submission: (doc, rtf, txt, pdf, jpg, tiff, wav, mp3)

ALSO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT: “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions of this contest and I certify that this is my original work.”

 
 

♦ Where To Submit

Send all submissions electronically by August 15th to Out of The Blue Films, Inc. at contest@outofthebluefilms.com.

 
 

_______________________________________________________

Terms & Conditions

The following conditions apply to the ENVY Contest sponsored by Out of The Blue Films, Inc. Before submitting, please read the Terms & Conditions:

 

June 11, 2009

Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and/or Barbara Rick, Inc. (together, “Producer”) welcome you to submit any writings, artwork, photographs, poems or other materials created by you (all of such materials being “Materials”) for possible inclusion in Producer’s documentary (the “Film”) currently titled and whose subject will be “ENVY”. By submitting any Materials, whether via this website or otherwise, you agree as follows:

1. Producer and its assigns and licensees will have the perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty free right and license (without the obligation to pay you any sums or other consideration), throughout the universe to use all or any portion of the Materials in the Film and in the distribution, advertising, sale, licensing, commercial use or other use thereof in any and all media, whether or not now invented (including theatrical or television exhibition, viewing via DVD, the internet, on cell phones or other devices), and in the exploitation of any and all ancillary and subsidiary rights relating to the Film, including merchandise, soundtracks and books based on the Film. Producer need not return any Materials, however as between you and Producer all underlying copyright and intellectual property rights to the Materials will remain your property. Producer’s sole rights to the Materials will be the uses described in these terms.

2. You waive any claims against Producer and its officers, directors, principals, employees and representatives, assigns and licensees for any alleged or actual infringements of any rights or privacy or publicity, moral or other rights resulting from or relating to any use of the Materials contemplated by these terms, and you warrant and represent that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the Materials and that the use of the Materials by Producer, its licensees or assigns will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party.

3. It shall be entirely in Producer’s discretion whether or not to make use of any Materials in connection with the Film. Should Producer wish to use any of the Materials in connection with the Film Producer will notify you that it plans on doing so (but Producer will have no obligation to make such use regardless of a notification). If the Materials do in fact appear in the Film you can receive on-screen credit under your real name or a pseudonym, whichever you prefer. You may also not be credited at all if you wish. If the Materials are to be used you should send an email with your credit preference to: info@outofthebluefilms.com.

4. An Amazon Kindle will be awarded as a prize to the person who submits what Producer deems, in its sole discretion, to be the best Materials. The criteria to be used for making such determination will be up to Producer, the decision will not be subject to any appeal and Producer need not explain the basis for its determination.

These terms shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York, and any suit or action relating to these terms may be brought only in the courts located in New York County.

PLEASE NOTE that (i) by submitting any Materials you agree to all of these terms, and (ii) Producer reserves the rights, at any time, to revise these terms, and the terms as so revised will apply to any Materials submitted after the time of revision.

_______________________________________________________

red Ravine is a vehicle for the promotion of this contest. red Ravine is not liable for any actions by the Producer, nor the Film. Any submissions are made directly and solely to Producer and not to red Ravine. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for submissions nor for any outcomes from the contest.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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