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Archive for the ‘Holding My Breath’ Category

I didn’t know what I wanted to write about this afternoon. It’s Friday, the day I set aside for creative work. I’ve been lax in completing any kind of art. I’ve been culling, gathering, harvesting. Languishing while the mighty Ceres swings her scythe against the grain. I have filled countless journals with sketches and writing practices. I don’t know the end result. I do not know where I’m going. I envy artists and writers with completed bodies of work. They inspire me.

I’m reading the Three Tenets for a writing workshop this weekend. We’ll be doing two days of Writing Practice and a lot of sitting meditation. When I scribbled the daily schedule into my calendar, I could feel the resistance. I’m rereading The True Secret of Writing. I’m a few chapters into Standing at the Edge by Joan Halifax; this morning I read her blog piece Rites of Passage and the Three Tenets.

In the right light

In the right time

Everything is extraordinary.

-Aaron Rose

We all stand at the edge at some point in our lives. That place of not knowing. I’m standing at the edge of letting go of a day job I’ve held for 13 years. The edge of a geo-move next June when Liz and I pack up all of our worldly possessions and move to Montana for a year-long creative retreat. We have no idea what happens after that. It’s uncharted territory — leaving the familiar behind, cutting away the old. After nearly four decades of living in an urban Twin Cities landscape formed by glacial lakes, our new roots will break ground in the rural, more isolated and dry Bitterroot Mountain valley in western Montana.

Not knowing is letting go of preconceived notions of who I think I am and who I believe others to be. No attachments. It might look like it takes courage, but what choice do we have? Everyone tangles with birth and death. And all the messiness in between. We have little control. We are faced with choices each day for new direction. What do we choose?

We stopped at Noon for a webinar by Out of Chicago on A-Ha Moments in Flower & Plant Photography. Nine photographers spoke about the process and joy of photographing some of their favorite macro images. Grounding. Inspiring. Earthy. Perfect for the shift of Mercury into Cancer and a happy place for my Taurus Moon and Taurus rising. It’s the little things. A photograph. One footstep into Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden & Bird Sanctuary. To not know is to reconnect to the wild.

A few reminders from the photographers at the A-Ha Moments webinar:

  • Take your shoes off. Go barefoot when photographing the wild.
  • Details matter. Commit to work the scene. Experiment.
  • Never give up on your vision.
  • Pay attention to what turns your head.
  • Spend time on what you love. Let yourself be taken.
  • In the right light, in the right time, everything is extraordinary.  -Aaron Rose

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Georgia, Haiku, Bones, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Partial Solar Eclipse, April 30th, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Georgia, Haiku, Bones, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Partial Solar Eclipse, April 30th, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Landscape – The Osprey

The walk along Boone Avenue skirts the edge of Northwood Lake, a shallow 15-acre section of the North Branch of Bassett Creek. I drive home from work through busy Twin Cities suburbs to avoid rush hour traffic. Liz moves the opposite direction down Boone on her daily walks. We meet in the middle. Last Wednesday I spotted her orange neon Nikes, index finger high to the sky, jousting the wind. I pulled over. “Do you see it, do you see it?” she said. “You’ve got to get out?!”

I put my hand up to visor my eyes. The raptor soared on the thermals, dipped over two great blue herons nesting in cattails, swooped above a pair of loons in the middle of the lake, glided over our heads, and rose again. Finally, her yellow eyes spotted her prey. We watched as she jettisoned underwater, talons first, splashed lean like an Olympic diver, arose with dinner, and flew away. In all the time we have lived here, this is the first we have spotted an osprey on Northwood Lake.

Osprey dive for fish from heights of 30 to 120 feet, plunging feet first, submerging their entire bodies beneath the water. Airborne again, they reposition the fish for streamlined transport so that the head faces forward. While underwater they close their third eyelid which acts like goggles to help them see clearly. Pairs return to the same nest year after year, each contributing to the structure of their home, much like we have during the pandemic. Raptors bring us great joy on our daily walks. Yet they are susceptible to a virus in the wild – the highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI).

The answer is yes. I have enjoyed my life. But in the underbelly, I have thought long and hard the last few years about the reality of death. Pandemics. Viruses. Wars. Age. So many lost. My mother died in hospice at my brother’s a year ago in April. By some miracle, vaccinations had become available and we road tripped to Pennsylvania to spend her last weeks on Earth with her. She continues to teach us even in death.

Lineage – Root Teachers

The day of the osprey fell in the first week of whittling my job down to 32 hours, Fridays off. At the end of the year, I will no longer work my day job. In celebration, Liz presented me with a package, a surprise gift to mark new beginnings. We sat in Veronica, my aging 2006 red Mini-Cooper, windows open to spring. Liz smiled and slid a haiku book out from under her windbreaker — Diane di Prima. The 1967 version is a handprinted collaboration with her friend, artist George Herms. Each page presents like haiga. The cherry woodblock illustrations by George were originally printed on a cleaned up rusty press from the Topanga Playhouse that later became LOVE Press. He used an individual color for each print on Mohawk Superfine Eggshell White paper. I now own one of a thousand of the first bound editions of Haiku issued in 2019, commemorating the 50th anniversary.

The second gift from Liz was a set of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones Deck, a 2021 extension of her 1986 classic, Writing Down the Bones. (Have you enjoyed your life? is Card 51.)

The last time I saw Natalie in person was at a haiku workshop in Santa Fe at Upaya Zen Center in February 2020. I was able to briefly connect when we sat down at lunch. I told tell her how grateful I am for everything she has taught me. It’s a gift to have had the opportunity to see her again. On the layover flight back through Salt Lake City, I noticed one lone man wearing a surgical mask, a precursor of what was to come.

By March 2020, everything in Minnesota shut down. So much has happened in between. I worked in the field through the pandemic, where we masked every day and built nuts to bolts machines that filled vaccine bottles. Liz worked from home. We signed up for Zoom and joined Upaya as members. In 2022, Natalie co-taught a Upaya haiku workshop on Zoom where she read Diane di Prima’s haiku. We continue to know Roshi Joan Halifax and the Upaya community in virtual ways unimaginable two years ago. Our gratitude is boundless.

Life – Planting Seeds

The snake plant in the lead photograph was given to my mother Amelia Ernestine by my grandmother Della Elise in 1966 when our family moved from Georgia to Pennsylvania. When my mom died in April 2021, my sister Cassandra (named after great Aunt Cassie) and I split the plant in two. One half road tripped back to Minnesota with me; I named her Georgia. The other half my sister named Belvedere; she put down roots in an antique teapot on Cassandra’s kitchen window sill in Pennsylvania.

Georgia’s leaves stand tall against our north facing windows. She has seen some things, heard some things, traveled around the country. She is rooted to our family and has lived a long and joyful life. Twenty, thirty, forty years moves at light speed. We don’t know when our time will arrive. On my deathbed, I want to say I loved my life with its pitfalls and craters. I dig deep and look to the ancestors to show me the way.

-Written the weekend of the Taurus New Moon in a Partial Solar Eclipse, April 2022

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Cody, Wyoming, iPhone Shots, May 13th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

View from Marylin’s, Cody, Wyoming, iPhone Shots, May 13th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It was a month ago to the hour when my mother-in-law died. Liz was on her way back from a business trip in Tulsa, Oklahoma when her sister called. I was sitting by Lake Como in St. Paul, Minnesota about to eat my lunch when the phone rang. The Dallas airport echoed in the background; Liz’s voice was brisk but heavy. “Mom just passed away,” she said. “She went peacefully.”

Marylin had requested a bath the night before. Tracy, Liz’s sister and her mother’s caregiver, had gotten up, given her mother a bath, and was combing her hair when she stopped breathing. I could picture this because when Liz and I were in Cody, Wyoming in May, Liz brushed Marylin’s hair as she sat in her favorite chair by the window with a clear view of the bird feeders. When Liz was finished, Marylin gently closed her eyes, smiled, and seemed in total peace after a night of tumultuous dreams.

I miss my my mother-in-law; grief takes many forms. Marylin was like a second mother to me. She championed my writing like my own mother, Amelia, who supported my creative life even when it twisted, turned, and spiraled up and down. Marylin and Amelia never met, but felt a love and kinship to each other. They were there for Liz and I through courtship, dating, and marriage. They saw only our love for each other and the compatibility of our lives together; there was never any doubt. I will always be grateful for that.

A few weeks ago, Liz and I watched the documentary on writer Joan Didion, “The Center Will Not Hold” by her nephew Griffin Dunne. When the film ended we sat in silence and wept. Dunne uses intimate archival footage, photographs and on-camera interviews to document the span of Joan Didion’s life. Having lost her husband and daughter within the span of two years, Joan knows grief; it gnaws at her bones.

I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.

We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.

-Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

After Liz called on September 5th, 2019, I could not finish my lunch. I sat in a Chevrolet Silverado staring at the lake, wondering at the breadth of Marylin’s spirit as it lifted skyward. The day was cloudy, the wind erratic and scattered. Summer was letting go.



Summer’s End, September 5th, 2019, iPhone Video, Rain Garden, Lake Como, St. Paul, Minnesota, video © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Rest In Peace, Marylin. I miss the way you smiled and called me your daughter-in-love. I miss the depth of our conversations around writing, haiku, and politics. I miss the way you held Liz and me in your heart in a bubble of love. I miss your love of theater, your writing and your contributions to redRavine. I miss your optimism and the way you gave back to your community and the world around you. I know you are with your father, maybe running by the Pacific Ocean with Queenie, wild and free. I am a better person for having known and loved you. We will meet again.

-written October 5th, 2019 between 10:45 and 11:30 a.m. CST. Everything is in Divine and perfect order right now.

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When my brother died last January, I started to walk the willows. It wasn’t until late July that I read our ancestors planted willows for the Dead. And if the branches form a shadow large enough for a grave, someone will die.

My brother was 60 years old. He had a chronic illness that finally got the best of him. There is something sad about a winter willow. In spring, their branches fade into yellows, ochres, and fluorescent lime. Rebirth.

At 8:35 p.m. my mother told me she felt my brother passing and started to cry. By 9 p.m., he was gone. She was miles away. She has the sixth sense. As kids we knew we couldn’t lie to our mother. She recognized the truth on a level we did not understand.

Now I understand. Because I have the sixth sense, too. An empath. Some call it intuitive. Maybe we all have the Gift. But some are more comfortable with it, push it further. You have to suspend disbelief, trust yourself, open to whatever may come.

I woke up this morning with a story in my head, a story about willows. Liz’s mom came into one of my dreams. She is 82 and transitioning in a small western town in Wyoming. We drove 1000 miles to visit her for ten days in May. It was the most intense ten days of my life. Spirits hovered in the air waiting to greet her on the Other Side. It didn’t matter if you believed they were there or not; every night they returned. Guardians, Angels, and people who had already passed, for better or for worse. Liz, her nephew, her sister, and I stood vigil. We banished those spirits who were not there out of Love.

Love. It’s about love in the end. And respect for those who have come before us. If you believe there is good and evil in the world, the Willow protects.

When I was a child of eleven or twelve, we moved from the Deep South to Pennsylvania. My new grandparents had a mature willow in their backyard that butted up against a cornfield. I would swing on the branches at a time when they were strong enough to hold the weight of my body and bones.

There is something I learned about Death this year: the Spirit has to bend, and be strong enough to hold the Soul’s weight.


NOTE: 10 minute handwritten Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — WILLOW, the latest Writing Topic on redRavine.

 

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Sandhill Crane Migration, October 2016, iPhone Video, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Santiago, Minnesota, October 2016, photo © 2016 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Years ago I traveled to a blind near the Platte River in Nebraska to see the sandhill crane migration. And on another road trip through North Dakota, I witnessed The World’s Largest Sandhill Crane. A few weeks ago, I drove just outside of Zimmerman to view the cranes again at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in my homestate of Minnesota (go to the link to download a crane viewing map). By the middle of October, the refuge hosts more than 6000 cranes as they roost at night in refuge wetlands, then fly out to area croplands to forage during the day.

Part of the thrill of the migrating sandhill cranes is hearing their collective call and recognizing that some studies date their DNA back to the dinosaurs. For more information about the evolution of the sandhill cranes in Minnesota visit The Resilience of Sandhill Cranes, Once common here, then rare, this native bird has returned to Minnesota by Carrol Henderson.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 5th, 2016

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Top Of Minnehaha Falls, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2014, video © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Top of Minnehaha Falls

Twilight turns the water to mist.
Mosquitoes hum, a cool breeze
grazes the hair on my arms.

Laughter echoes off steep walls,
the three of us pull close
for one last photograph.

“You are lucky to have her,” she told me.

White winter night,
bundled beneath down comforters,
the warmth of your skin sizzles against mine.

silent monarch wings –
top of Minnehaha Falls
drowning in summer




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 4th, 2015
-related to post haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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Finally. Spring. , Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Finally. Spring. , Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





May disappears—
beneath the weight of her death
a blossoming light






-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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Vertical Bubble - 1-05-14 - 2

Vertical Bubbles, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2014, photos © 2014 by Liz anne schultz. All rights reserved.


The -22°F drop in air temperature in the Twin Cities this week closed schools and businesses, persuading most of us to stay inside and curl up with a good book. But after seeing the images of photographer Angela Kelly, Liz was inspired to mix up a concoction of soap bubbles, strap her Sony NEX around her neck, and head out into the cold.

I was recruited to blow bubbles, while she chased them around the deck, hoping to grab a quick shot before they flew over the roof and collapsed into tinkling ice crystals. It was -9°F with wind gusts dropping the chill to -30°F below. Liz’s camera even froze up a few times. Yet with everything that was going on around us, she captured a sense of stillness and serenity in these photographs.


Red Dual Bubble - 1-05-14 - 2

Red Dual Bubble, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2014, photos © 2014 by Liz anne schultz. All rights reserved.


After we were back inside, warming our bones in front of the heater, we read up on the details of blowing bubbles in freezing temperatures. Here is what we learned:


1) For the best frozen bubbles, add corn syrup to thicken the water base and increase the surface tension. It is surface tension that allows the solution to form a bubble. Use the ratio of ingredients below. Then mix and let cool.

1 part dish soap
1 part corn syrup
6 parts hot water


2) Use a bubble wand, instead of your breath.

A bubble is formed by a layer of water molecules trapped between two fine layers of soap molecules. When it is very cold, and the bubble wand is waved slowly, the water layer freezes before the bubble can burst. By contrast, if you make a bubble by blowing into the wand, the bubble takes more time to set because the air in the bubble has been warmed by your lungs. When this warm air comes into contact with cold air it contracts, and the surface of the bubble sets more slowly.


3) It’s natural for frozen bubbles to collapse into themselves.

The layers of soap freeze, making the walls of the bubble more solid. After a few seconds, the air captured inside the bubble disperses to the exterior, like a balloon deflating, and the wall of ice collapses under its own weight leaving what looks like a broken eggshell.


Green Frost Bubble - 1-05-14 - 2

Caving Bubble - 1-05-14 - 2

Green Frost Bubble, Caving Bubble, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
January 2014, photos © 2014 by Liz anne schultz.
All rights reserved.


We are counting on Minnesota to produce another round of sub-zero temperatures (and less wind) so we have a chance to practice more frozen bubble photography before spring.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, January 8th, 2014, with gratitude to Angela Kelly for the inspiration

-Resources:  Science Fun In The Snow – Try This Out – Frozen Bubbles,  Angela Kelly’s website: Kelly Images & Photography: Acclaim for the “Frozen in a Bubble Series”

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2012-06-10 04.48.28 - foshay 4 yes

Top Of The Foshay Tower, Droid Shots, Northern Spark, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June, 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It was 4:45am when we walked into the Foshay Tower lobby, hoping to catch the sunrise from the 30th floor observation deck. We had stayed up the entire night of June 9th for the second Northern Spark; it was now June 10th. After a random tweet from the Northern Spark app, I won a Jump The Line At The Foshay prize, a gift that proved fruitful. We walked straight to the front of the line and flashed my Droid screen toward the guard. “Wow, that’s cool. Off you go,” he said, shooing us in the direction of the packed elevator.

My stomach dropped on the ride up; the tower view to the east took my breath away. The light was just beginning to change. The deck was crammed with Northern Sparkers, waiting for the sun. It was the perfect ending to the Nuit Blanche, a community shared art event for the soul. Sunrise on top of the sky; a tour of the Foshay museum. Details. Details. Details. Not just tree, what kind of tree. Not just building, what kind of building. A Minnesota icon, built to last, still inspiring sunrises after all these years.



FOSHAY FACTS


  • Named for Wilbur Foshay, the original owner & builder
  • Modeled after the Washington Monument as a tribute to George Washington
  • 32 stories high, tallest building in the Twin Cities for 4 decades
  • Construction began in 1927 & ended August 1929. Built completely by all-union labor.
  • Wilbur Foshay & Gottlieb Magney patented the shape and method of construction
  • Faced with Indiana Bedford limestone, 750 window bays, able to stand up to winds of 400 mph
  • Numbers: 447 feet, 3 inches high, mast on the top 160 feet; 81 by 87 feet at the base; 59 by 65 feet at the top; contains 2,599,666 cubic feet
  • 60 feet below ground with four basement levels
  • John Philip Sousa wrote the Foshay Tower-Washington Memorial March for the Foshay Dedication Ceremonies
  • Tower Observation Deck is located on the 30th floor where you can see 30 miles on a clear day
  • Foshay lights are 10 feet tall, 44 feet across, lit by 900 60-watt bulbs
  • Placed on National Register of Historic Places in 1977
  • In 1987 the Tower was adorned with a 50-foot by 50-foot banner (the largest ever installed on a highrise office building) congratulating the Minnesota Twins for their championship year
  • In 2008, the renovated Foshay opened as the Foshay Museum & Observation Deck, part of W Minneapolis — The Foshay


2012-06-10 05.33.05 - foshay moon

Foshay Moon, Droid Shots, Northern Spark, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June, 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






____________________________________________

2012-06-10 05.35.07 - foshay 7




-related to posts:  Northern Spark — Twin Cities Nuit Blanche, Northern Spark 2012 – Night Owl Paradise, Northern Spark — Sunrise To Sunset

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

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2013 03 24_1551 auto 2

Walking The Bluff, last Midwest Writing Retreat, Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Grafton, Wisconsin, March 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Writing friends are hard to come by. Friends who are good practitioners of writing, even harder. The last time I saw Bob was at the Milwaukee airport in March 2013. He smiled and gave me a hug, then we walked to separate gates after five days of Sit, Walk, Write with Jude and Teri. We met many years ago at a Natalie Goldberg writing retreat in Taos, New Mexico. The Midwest Writing Group we formed has continued to meet every year since to practice writing. To honor silence.

For me, Bob was one of the pillars of our writing group. He held the space, led the slow walking, kept time when we wrote, engaged in lively discussions at the dinners he prepared. He was an excellent cook. I will never forget his laugh. Bob contributed work to red Ravine and continued to post practices with me after others fell away. I could count on him. Today, Sunday, August 4th, 2013 at 3:30pm, a memorial service for Robert Tyler Chrisman will be held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 4501 Walnut St., Kansas City, Missouri.

Bob Chrisman, born Robert Tyler Chrisman on May 3, 1952 in St. Joseph, Missouri, passed away peacefully Friday, July 12, 2013, at Kansas City Hospice following a massive stroke. He was surrounded by family and friends who sang to him until his final breath. When I was reading back through Bob’s writing on red Ravine, I realized we had done a Writing Practice together in 2011 on Death & Dying. I find comfort in his words:


__________________________________________________

Why all this focus on death at a time of year when the world screams with life and beauty? Why must death occur during these spring months when the earth bursts forth in new life and beautiful shades of yellow-green, when flowers of all colors open and scent the air, and when we can say, “Winter is gone for at least seven months”? Why?

Maybe all this life and beauty replaces the darkness and depression of the winter and I want no more of it. Give me life in all of its forms and beauty. I suffer enough during the winter and I’m over it, but I’m not, it seems.

I notice the beauty and revel in it because I know the bleakness of winter. Joy returns to my life because I know that the good times may not last forever. The friends I carry in my heart as the treasures of a lifetime will die. I must rejoice in their being while they are with me and not put that off for a change in the season or the approach of death.

How is it that the richness of life requires us to know the poverty of despairing times? Does it work like salt on cantaloup or watermelon? The saltiness makes the sweetness that much sweeter as death makes life more precious.

If I could stop death and dying, would I? No, I would let things happen as they must. I might even bring death to those I love earlier if they desired it, but that’s not my place in life. Sitting next to the bedside of a friend who’s dying makes me aware of the value of the time we had together and what a loss their death will be. If they must die (and they must), I can spend the final days and hours with them and carry them and those times in my heart until I pass from this earth.


-Bob Chrisman, excerpt from a 2011 Writing Practice on the WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING.

___________________________________________________


GATE GATE PARAGATE
PARASAMGATE
BODHI SVAHA

Gone, gone, gone beyond
Gone completely beyond
Praise to awakening


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 4th, 2013. I miss you, friend. And I carry you in my heart until I pass from this earth. I believe..

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Northern Spark kicks off on Saturday, June 8th, at 8:58pm in Lowertown St. Paul, Minnesota. This will be our third year attending Northern Spark (a little history of the Nuit Blanche movement in this piece). Last year we stayed awake from dusk to dawn, and ended our night viewing the sunrise from the top of the Foshay Tower. It’s more difficult than you think to stay awake all night, an insomniac’s dream!

Here’s a link to Northern’s Spark’s full schedule and two more to their Facebook and Twitter pages. Last year we downloaded the Northern Spark app on our Droids and highly recommend it. The slideshow is a glimpse into our night walk around Minneapolis at last year’s Northern Spark, and at a pre-Spark gathering the week before. We are looking forward to Lowertown, St. Paul. It’s a gift to share the night, the light, and the Arts in community.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, June 7th, 2013

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Santa At Holidazzle - 178/365

Santa At Holidazzle – 178/365, Archive 365, Droid Shots, December 2012, Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Christmas Day. Presents opened, eggnog half gone, phone calls East and West. Longing, joy, gratitude, loss. What to leave behind, what to keep. Emptiness. Love.

Reading Dylan Thomas aloud, Christmas Eve. The moon-buried sky over a village churchyard in Laugharne. The close and holy darkness must have haunted him. A child’s sugarplum dreams—tufted hooves flick mediæval snow off the rooftop Castle of Abercorran.

Waiting for Santa—
the frigid windless night
soothes and comforts me.



Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept. –Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Laugharne is a town in Carmarthenshire, Wales on the estuary of the River Tâf, and home to Dylan Thomas from 1949 until his death in 1953. Thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood, the Township was originally known as Abercorran. The name was changed to Laugharne after the English Civil War.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

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By Marylin Schultz




Dragonfly, Cody, Wyoming, photo © 2012 by Tracy Clark. All rights reserved.





Dragonfly


No audible cry do I hear,
but am drawn to see your plight
mired in mud, frozen there.
I offer a small branch of hope.


luminous lapis blue eyes
recognize reprieve in faceted lens,
delicate pattern of wings against
sky and soft distant mountain.


Freed from earthy prison,
this was not your final sunrise
after all.


On my morning path
as though resigned to her fate
patiently waiting.




_________________________




About Marylin: Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated with her grandson on two illustrated books for children. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. Her previous pieces for red Ravine include the travel essay Rollin’ Easy, Writing Practices Kindness and Cloud, and two memoir pieces, Images From The Past, and Two Little Girls & A World At War.

In 2010, Marylin was published in the book, From the Heart — Writing in the Shadow of the Mountain, a collection of work from members of Write On Wyoming (WOW), a group of authors and aspiring writers living in northeastern Wyoming. Her contributions to From the Heart include two works of fiction, To Love Bertie Lou and The Appointment Book, and a collection of haiku, Seasons in Wyoming.




-related to posts: dragonfly revisited — end of summer, first dragonfly, Flying Solo: Dragonfly In Yellow Rain , Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 23rd, 2012

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By Marylin Schultz

Clouds of black dirt rolled across the plains of midwest America in the late 1920’s and the 1930’s, giving a generic name to the era, “the dirty thirties,” as well as “the dust bowl” to the affected land. PBS has publicized a Ken Burns’ documentary on that bleak time in our country’s history, and I have a personal story to add, told to me by my mother.

My parents were married in 1932, a brave and hopeful couple, living more on dreams than dollars. Although my father was employed in the insurance company begun by his father in Childress, Texas, before the “crash of 1929,” most of his income came from commissions, and insurance was considered a luxury by many people during those poor economic times. He was in charge of the branch office in Albuquerque.

The first child was born to the couple in 1934. My mother decided to visit her mother who lived in Amarillo. She was on a bus with her infant, about halfway through their journey east, when a cold wind picked up. Off in the distance was an unbelievable sight. In the sky, to the north, a huge black wall seemed to be approaching them. A wave of darkness, reaching from the ground, hundreds of feet into the sky, was rapidly rolling towards them. The driver pulled the bus off of the road and hurried down the aisle with a container of water, shouting an explanation and directions.

“It’s top-soil, comin’ fast, and here’s what you got to do. Dampen your handkerchiefs with this water and hold it over your nose and mouth, ‘else you’ll choke to death!” My mother was terrified, especially for her infant. She carefully dipped two handkerchiefs into the offered water and tied one across her baby’s face and the other across her own. Of course, the tiny infant was upset by the unusual circumstances and began crying. The anxious mother hugged him to her breast and tried to comfort the struggling child.

“Close your eyes,” the driver continued, now back in his seat. “We just got to wait it out and hope it don’t take long to pass by us.”

The black cloud was now upon them. It was darker than a moonless night; absolute, total darkness. The bitter, cold wind shook the bus. With the eerie whistling of the wind came muffled screams and moans of some of the passengers. The few minutes it took for the cloud to move beyond the bus, seemed like a long journey down into the depths of hell and back!

The welcome relief of stillness and daylight lasted several minutes, before anyone spoke.

“Everyone okay back there?” the driver called out. Then, like a flood, the comments came forth. Exclamations of the incredible experience filled the air. Dirty faces now emerged, but with grins that showed how no one minded “a little dirt,” because they all survived the momentary terror!

Many years later, my mother and I were tourists in the Black Hills of South Dakota, being guided through a deep cave. The tour guide, as part of his usual lecture, turned off the lights to let us experience the total darkness. However, he did not tell the group ahead of time, that this was his intention. The result of being plunged, once more, into total darkness, my Mom grabbed my arm and screamed! When the light was turned on, she gave a brief, embarrassed explanation of the fright she had experienced so long ago.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CLOUD is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Marylin Schultz is joining QuoinMonkey and Bob Chrisman in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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bridge memorial 2012-07-28 22.21.48

I-35 Bridge Memorial – 36/365, Archive 365, Droid Shots, 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden, Minnesota, July 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I passed by the 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden three times over the last few weeks. Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 marked five years to the day since the I-35 bridge collapsed. The third time I drove by, I was traveling home from the Guthrie with Liz and her mother who was visiting from Wyoming.

Ironically, on August 1st, 2007, Liz’s mother was in the air on her way to Minneapolis when the bridge collapsed. Liz and I were folding laundry and doing last minute preparations for her visit, when we received a phone call from my mother in Pennsylvania asking if we were okay. Confused, we quickly turned on the TV to see that one of the busiest bridges in the Twin Cities had fallen into the Mississippi and was a twisted mass of concrete and steel.

Thirteen people died that day; 145 were injured. They had been going about their lives in what was until that moment, an ordinary day; it could have been any one of us. The Memorial to the victims and survivors of the 35W bridge collapse sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, next to Gold Medal Park. There was a dedication and opening ceremony for the 35W Memorial, August 1st, 2011. It is a quiet place where water falls over a granite wall inscribed with the names of the 145 survivors, and the words:

Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.

Last week, I listened to survivor Lindsay Walz tell her story from the perspective and wisdom of the passing of time (you can read her story at this link). On August 1st, she painted details on the back brace she wore for injuries sustained when the bridge collapsed. In addition to a broken back, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. She states that everyone’s recovery is as unique as their experience on the bridge that day. Some people are still dealing with ongoing crippling pain and can’t work. They can’t do things they used to take for granted. The survivors stay connected through a Facebook page; they are still there for each other.

The night I passed by Bohemian Flats, under the new I-35 bridge, and around the bend to the Memorial, I saw 13 steel girders lit in neon blue, one for each person who lost their lives. I felt compelled to slow down from all the busyness of summer, and remember their names. (To learn more about their lives, there are biographies at the links.)


________________________________

Sherry Engebretsen
Sherry Engebretsen knew how to take care of details, especially when it came to her daughters.

 

Artemio Trinidad-Mena
Originally from Mexico, Artemio lived in Minnesota for about 10 years, and worked at New York Plaza Produce in south Minneapolis for almost a year.

 

Julia Blackhawk
Julia Blackhawk had recently taken a new Indian name. The 32-year-old from Savage was given the name Thunder Woman during a pow-wow at Easter. Her uncle, John Blackhawk, is a Winnebago Tribal Council member. He says Julia was a kind person who always showed respect for her elders. And he says she had one attribute that was very special.

 

Patrick Holmes
Patrick Holmes, 36, of Mounds View, was found dead at the scene of the bridge collapse that same night. He was on his way home from work. His wife, Jennifer, heard the news a little after midnight.

 

Peter Hausmann
Peter Hausmann, 47, was a computer security specialist worked at Assurity River Group in St. Paul. The company’s president says Hausmann was a quiet leader and a man of faith.

 

Paul Eickstadt
Paul Eickstadt drove a delivery truck for Sara Lee Bakery for 14 years. He was just beginning his shift, on his way to Iowa, when the 35W bridge collapsed. Eickstadt, 51, lived in Mounds View. He is survived by a brother and two sisters.

 

Greg Jolstad
Greg Jolstad’s friends called him Jolly “because of his name, and because that’s just how he was.” Bill Stahlke remembers ice fishing almost daily, as teenagers, with Jolstad and Jim Hallin on Knife Lake, near the Jolstad family farm. The three haven’t missed a winter on the lake in the nearly 30 years since they graduated together from Mora High School.

 

Scott Sathers
On Aug. 1, Scott Sathers left his job in downtown Minneapolis at Capella University, where he worked as an enrollment director, approximately 40 minutes later than usual. Sathers called his wife Betsy at 5:50 p.m. from Washington Ave. and 35W, where he was about to get on 35W to go north to his home in Blaine.

 

Christina Sacorafas
Christina Sacorafas was running late, and called her friend and fellow dance instructor, Rena Tsengas, to say she would be late. But Sacorafas never made it the Minneapolis church where students in her Greek folk dancing group were waiting for her to begin class.

 

Sadiya and Hanah Sahal
For Ahmed Iidle, the I-35W bridge collapse has brought a double loss. His daughter Sadiya Sahal, 23, and her 2-year-old daughter Hanah were headed to a relative’s house when the bridge crumbled beneath them.

 

Vera Peck and Richard Chit
Vera Peck and her 20-year-old son Richard Chit were traveling in the same car when the bridge collapsed.

 

________________________________
Related to posts: 40 Days, 8 Flags, and 1 Mennonite Choir, Memorial — Day & Night, Bridge To Nowhere — The Great ConnectorFear Of Bridges, Thornton Wilder & Bridges, Minneapolis At Night, The Name Game (What’s In A Name?)

Resources: Hundreds turn out to dedication of 35W Bridge Memorial, New 35W bridge memorial honors those who died — and the community that disaster brought together, Remembering the Dead, Bridge survivor on 5th anniversary: ‘The day I got to live’

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 5th, 2012

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By Elizabeth Statmore


Sunday morning, my second without Fromage. All I’ve wanted to do all week was look at profiles of rescue dogs. During standardized testing I searched Petfinder and Craigslist, reading about different available dogs and looking into their eyes. There are so many dogs who need homes, and the hole in my heart feels so huge.

But we need to get a hypoallergenic dog this time. It was a lucky miracle that David was not allergic to Fromage. So I started searching breed rescues, looking for Goldendoodles and Labradoodles who needed rescuing.

There aren’t that many breed rescue groups for doodles, in spite of the fact that they are one of the most popular breeds around these days. That means so many dogs who get given up for being too big, too active, etc. People give dogs up for the weirdest reasons. They get bored with the dog or they’re moving, so they say they have to give up the dog. They wouldn’t give up their children if they were moving, I think, but I can’t be sure.

So I started looking up Labradoodle breeders to inquire after adult dogs who might need re-homing or rescue. And I came upon Golden Gate Labradoodles just south of here, so I e-mailed Kristin the owner/breeder, to ask about rescues.

And she told me the most wonderful news I have heard all week.

They rarely get returns, since they breed first and foremost for temperament and they screen adopters carefully. But they do have a Guardian Program for their breeding dogs, and there’s one adult male they’ve recently added to their program whom they adore but who really deserves to have his own guardian family and home.

His name is Topper.

Topper was also the name of my very first pet — a dime store turtle from Kresge’s. I loved that turtle. I cared for him endlessly, fed him and petted him and made adventures for him in his little dime store turtle bowl with the red diving board and the green plastic palm tree on the central island oasis. I remember all of this vividly because he was the most interactive pet I had until we got our Schnauzer Cappy.

My eyes bugged out when I read that. I did a double-take.


Kristin forwarded me the information on their guardian program as well as some information about Topper as a family dog. It’s basically a foster-to-own program, in which the dog lives with you in your home as your pet, and a few times a year he has a breeding “gig,” for which you drive him either to the breeder or to the specialized repro vet. For male dogs, this is a pretty minor affair, dog sex being what it is — which is to say, quick and dirty (or in the case of the repro vet, very sanitary). When the dog’s breeding career comes to an end in a few years (probably four or five), ownership gets transferred, he gets neutered, and he lives with you as your forever dog.

They have come to love him dearly but their home pack consists of a number of already-estabished dogs in their program, and Kristin feels like it’s not fair to Topper, who deserves to be the center of attention in a family — the most-loved dog in his pack. So she’s been looking for the right family of owner-guardians to match him with.

She forwarded a link to his profile on their web site and my heart bloomed open. He could not be more different from Fromage — fluffy, non-shedding, mellow, confident, laid back. He’s the color of cafe au lait — referred to in Australian Labradoodle parlance as “cafe,” a diluted coffee color, almost taupe, with a non-shedding coat but the same eager, loving chocolate eyes I am looking for.

Kristin said the best way to ask more questions about Topper and/or the guardian program would be to call her. She gave me her cell phone number and said she hoped to talk to me soon.

I called her yesterday afternoon.

We talked for two hours.

In my original inquiry message, I explained that we had recently lost our beloved 15 ½ year old dog, Fromage. I included David’s collage of photos and told her my story of how I’d rescued him and how we had loved him.

She received this message on May 18th, 2012 — Topper’s second birthday.


On the phone we talked about everything — training and dog-loving philosophy, Topper’s and Fromage’s personalities, and our home set-up.

She and I bonded deeply. We love our dogs in very similar and compatible ways.

I told her it was clear to me that Fromage had held on as long as he could to take care of us, but that he just couldn’t do it any more. But I told her that I knew in my bones — and in my feet — that he wants us to adopt another dog who can take care of us. He needs a new dog to take over the work of rescuing us. It took him thirteen and a half years to raise us, and he doesn’t want all that good work to go to waste.

All of this clearly resonated with her. She wants to move toward the next step as much as I do.

I told David about it and he is open to it. Since I’m the primary caregiver, he is looking to me to lead. And since I am the crazy one, he is looking for me to set the pace.

I will probably go over and meet Topper after school one day this week. They don’t live far from my school. We talked about my timing, with graduation and summer coming, and having that be the best time for me to integrate a new dog into our household.

We would give a deposit that would be refunded gradually over time as certain milestones get met. Then once his breeding career is finished, in maybe five or so years, the last portion of that deposit would go towards his neutering fee and he’d be transferred over to us for forever.

This feels like a miracle.


Topper & Elizabeth, Home At Last, San Francisco, California, June 2012, photo © 2012 by David Bassin. All rights reserved.


_________________________



About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Statmore is a San Francisco-based writer and teacher of writing and mathematics. She is a long-time practitioner and teacher of Writing Practice, which she learned from Natalie Goldberg. A frequent contributor to KQED-FM, Elizabeth’s last posts for red Ravine include Seed Starting, a piece about writers as gardeners, and Writing The “Remembering Grace Paley” Piece — a step-by-step tutorial on how she turned a raw piece of writing into a finished radio commentary. Elizabeth was also one of our first guest writers, contributing the post Abandoned Is… Fromage was her dog and spirit guide of almost fourteen years.

Healing is Part III in a series of three Writing Practices about the love and loss of Fromage. Parts I and II are Long and The Gifts Of Trash Night.

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By Elizabeth Statmore


I wanted to find that Anne Lamott essay on their dog’s dying, but it’s in another book and I don’t have time to find it right now.

This is the first work day without Fromage, and I can already tell there are going to be a lot of awful firsts like this — first Trash Night without him, for example. Trash Night was Fromage’s favorite holiday. Lucky for him, it came every week. Tuesday nights, after dinner, we would bring the trash and recycling and composting down the front stairs and haul the wheeled cans to the curb — black for rubbish, blue for recycling, green for compostables.

David would wind him up as I started gathering the bags in the kitchen. “Trash Night!” he would exclaim to Fromage. “Trash Night!” And Fromage would start to dance around the room excitedly, wagging his tail hard and barking.

“Trash Night! Trash Night!”

Bark! Bark! Bark!

Being descended from a long line of working dogs and shepherds, he would herd me with our bags toward the front door, barking as if to yell, “Hurry up! It’s Trash Night, dammit!”

As far as he was concerned, the best nights were the ones when we needed to make the trip to the sidewalk more than once. He would dash up the stairs and bark down at me, urging me on. While I dealt with the carts and the bags, he would amble over to lift his leg and pee on a nearby sidewalk tree. it was his holiday — and now he is going to miss it forever more as we are going to miss him.

This hole in my heart feels bottomless, and it makes me wonder if I will ever feel whole again. I miss him with an ache and an urgency I can’t describe with words. This is my life now.

***
8:00 p.m. insight — Fromage does not want us to be lonely. He wants us to adopt another dog who can watch over us.

He loves us and doesn’t want us to be lonely.

He stayed as long as he could, but he just couldn’t do his job of taking care of us any more and he had to go. He’d dragged himself through sickness and dying, and it was time for him to leave us.

But he doesn’t want us to be lonely for too long.

He loves us and wishes us the best. It’s not a betrayal of him for us to love a new dog.


_________________________



About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Statmore is a San Francisco-based writer and teacher of writing and mathematics. She is a long-time practitioner and teacher of Writing Practice, which she learned from Natalie Goldberg. A frequent contributor to KQED-FM, Elizabeth’s last posts for red Ravine include Seed Starting, a piece about writers as gardeners, and Writing The “Remembering Grace Paley” Piece — a step-by-step tutorial on how she turned a raw piece of writing into a finished radio commentary. Elizabeth was also one of our first guest writers, contributing the post Abandoned Is… Fromage was her dog and spirit guide of almost fourteen years.

The Gifts Of Trash Night is Part II in a series of three Writing Practices about the love and loss of Fromage. Part I is titled Long.

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