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DUCK EGGS IMG02219-20110427-1152 auto color

Duck Eggs, processed version of Nesting – 17/52, Week 17 Jump-Off, BlackBerry 52, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, April 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A mallard has taken up residence outside the door of a busy commercial building I visit each day. She sits on the eggs at night. By day, the human foot traffic keeps her away. So she covers the nest with down and dried umber leaves. They blend easily with the gravel and cement. Adaptability. The humans who inhabit the building keep watch over her eggs; smokers on break are eager to depart the latest news. I watch and wait in silence, hoping for a hatching of ducklings in the middle of a wintry Spring.


The original photograph was posted as the Week 17 Jump-Off for BlackBerry 52. Lotus and I will respond to each other’s BlackBerry photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, April 29th, 2011

-related to post: Of Thirsty Snakes And Ducks With Dry Bills

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Happy 4th Birthday red Ravine!


In Gratitude for another year of red Ravine, with much appreciation to our readers and guests. You keep the community going strong and inspire me every day with your courage, grace, and humor. red Ravine was conceived in Taos, New Mexico, born on November 3rd, 2006, and launched as an Aries, April 7th, 2007. It seems important to mark the passing of time, to reflect and remember how far we have come.

On the first anniversary in 2008, we were living dangerously. The second year, we celebrated poetry with a Postcard From Billy Collins — Kicking Off National Poetry Month. Year three explored the range of horoscopes of our readers. Here we are at the end of year four. I saw my first butterfly this afternoon signaling the birth of Spring. It held all the promise of a passionate year five. Thank you for all you have given!


-posted on red Ravine, in celebration of her 4th Birthday & Blogiversary, Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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By Marylin Schultz




My Father In Front Of The Family Ford — Earl Russell Biggs II, vintage family postcard, circa early 1900’s, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Images from long ago—letters, photographs, postcards, communicate family history, like ribbons tying up bundles of memories. I look into the sweet innocence of children’s faces and reflect on what I do know of their lives. Little Earl Russell Biggs, II, my father, placed in front of his family’s first automobile by a proud papa. There would eventually be four generations of men in the family, given that name. Family tradition had each generation alternating the names they were “known as.” My grandfather was called Earl, my father went by Russell. My brother was called Earl and his son was known as Russ, or the nick-name,” Rusty.”

The baby, Frances Louise Oliver, my mother, was as fair in complexion as E. Russell was dark. Their childhoods would also be in stark contrast. He was born in 1910, and she was three years younger. Frances was the adored, pampered baby of her family, with three brothers and a sister, much older than she. Frances always got what she wanted, I’m told, and became a woman who maintained that expectation from life.


My Mother — Frances Louise Oliver, family photo scan
© 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Russell’s life probably began happily enough. His father and mother, Mary Dickens Biggs, lived in Childress, Texas, where he was a successful businessman in banking, and insurance, as well as owning a cattle ranch, where the family lived. Russell was big brother to Emma Ruth, five years younger than he was. In 1920, tragedy struck the young family. Mary Dickens Biggs, who was expecting their third child, died from the dreaded Influenza that took over 20 million lives in Europe and America.

The parents of E. R. Biggs, Sr. were no longer living, and Mary’s parents offered to care for the children, so the devastated father agreed. Russell and Emmy spent the next two years with the Dickens family, who were living on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, where Felix Dickens, Mary’s brother, was the BIA Agent.

E. R. Biggs married his second wife, Lillian, and the two children were moved back to their Texas home. Very soon, however, Russell, at the age of twelve, was sent off to a Military Academy, and spent the rest of his school years there, only home for the summers and holidays. E.R. and Lillian had another son and daughter. It was one of those cases of a step-mother, whose “own” children could do no wrong, and the older children felt deeply, the deprivation of approval and affection. Emma, while still a teenager, had a baby, who was immediately placed for adoption, never experiencing even one embrace of the young mother who so desperately wanted to love and be loved.




(L to R) Paul, Harriet, Eloise, Mildred, & Grace Dickens, Russell Biggs (My Father) on right, Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I always wondered what it must have been like to grow up on Indian reservations, which the five Dickens children experienced. As we know from the postcard, they were in Oklahoma, then Minnesota and later in Washington State. As a child, I remember my father’s Uncle Felix visiting us a few times at our home in California. I have a few letters that he wrote to my Aunt Emma, which were from a reservation in South Dakota. These were at a much later date, when Emma was an adult.


Side B: Back of the Postcard of Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I finally met some of my Dickens relatives in an unusual way. After the deaths of my mother and father, I received all the family documents. In going through the papers I learned that Mary Dickens was born in McGregor, Iowa. My husband and I were scheduled to drive from our home in Bismarck, No. Dakota to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a convention, the very next day. I looked at a map and saw that McGregor was only a few miles south, and across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien. I decided to see if I could find a trace of the Dickens family in the small, riverside town of McGregor.

It was a cold, gray November Saturday. The trees along the river were bare, but the drive along the river was peaceful and I was feeling hopeful. When I entered the town, I saw a building marked “Museum,” and I parked. The sign on the Museum door said something like “Closed. See you next Spring.” The only place open was the Hardware Store, so I went in. The woman behind the counter gave me a warm welcome. I told her of my quest for family members and asked if she knew of any Dickens who were still living in the area.

“Harvey Dickens lives about five miles west of town,” she replied. “Would you like to call him from here?” I answered in the affirmative just as the phone rang. She spoke to the person for a few minutes, and then I heard her say, “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” and handing the phone to me, with a big smile, she said, “It’s Harvey Dickens.” I gasped in amazement at the coincidence, and took the phone. I gave a very brief explanation of who I was. He invited me to come to his home, and I scribbled down the directions he gave, handed the phone back to the woman and thanked her. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I hurried to my car.


Harvey had given good directions to his farm, and I found it with no problem. The plain, two story home, painted a soft yellow, with dark green shutters at the windows, was well cared for. There was a row of pine trees to the west of the house, offering a buffer from the prevailing prairie winds, and a hedge of Lilac bushes between house and out-buildings. The tires of my car made a crunching sound on the neatly graveled driveway. Harvey opened the door of the house before I started up the steps. His smile was wide.

“Come on in, little lady, it’s cold out there!” He introduced me to his wife, Louise, and immediately I felt the genuine warmth of their welcome. They already had a box of old papers and photographs for me to look at. Harvey was a slightly built man, about 70 years old. Louise, looking comfortable in sweater and jeans, offered me coffee, as we sat down around the kitchen table.

“We have four children, but they’ve all moved away,” Louise said, filling my cup.

With a sigh, Harvey added, “Not much to keep them in a small town in Iowa, and none of ‘em was interested in farming.” Harvey took photos out of the box, pointing out each individual by name. “Better write down those names on the back,” Louise gently chided. “No one but you can identify them anymore.” I listened carefully, not recognizing any names until he said, “And this is Uncle Felix.”

“Yes,” I said, now excited, as he handed it to me. “Did he have three daughters, who lived in Washington?” He smiled broadly, and replied, giving me their names. We had made a connection, as it turned out that his grandfather was my great-grandfather. We looked at more photographs and he gave me the names and addresses of other cousins that had done more research into the family history.

We were engrossed in each others’ family anecdotes, laughing at the funny little quirks that all families have, and the morning flew quickly by. I turned down an offer of a noon meal, and told them I needed to get back to La Crosse.

“Now, if you can come back, I’ll take you to the cemetery; quite a few Dickens there,” Harvey said.

“You keep in touch,” Louise whispered in my ear, as we exchanged a hug.

“I promise I will, and thank you so much. It was a great pleasure to meet you. I feel like I’ve been with old friends,” I replied.

“Nope, better than friends, we’re family!” Those were Harvey’s last words to me as I got into my car. That brief visit opened up a whole new chapter in my family history, and as I drove across the bridge over the wide Mississippi, I felt truly blessed.




Editor’s Note: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, professional photographers offered customers the choice of placing photographs on postcards, like the “packages” they sell today. Some were taken in a studio and others at different locations. The photo of Frances was taken in a studio, and the other two at the homes of their clients. Images From The Past was partly inspired by conversation on the postcard piece Joshua Trees & Desert Sands — Jan 25 1947.




_________________________




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 picture books for children. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. Her previous pieces for red Ravine include the travel essay Rollin’ Easy and a Writing Practice, Kindness.

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.


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EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise – 12/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 12, March 26th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Staedtler archival pigment ink Fineliner on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. Colored with Faber Castell 6 PITT Artist Brush Pens, DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Portfolio Water Soluble Oil Pastels, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers. Photograph taken with a BlackBerry Tour.


EarthHealer is a tribute to Turtle and her grounding and healing place in the world-wide celebration of Earth Hour on March 26th (here’s my photograph from Earth Hour 2010). It is also my contribution to the collective healing energy of Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, 2011. The mandala was inspired by Hope Among The Rubble, the Week 12 BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off from Lotus, and Tortoise Highway from Seattle poet Teresa Williams. The Tortoise has long been a symbol of the Earth across many cultures, from Ancient times through current day. She is strongly related to the New Moon, the direction North, and the element Earth in Mandala For The 5th Element — The Role Of Ritual In Our Lives.

I researched the differences between turtles, tortoises, and terrapins and found a detailed article on the San Diego Zoo website: Reptiles: Turtle & Tortoise. All three are reptiles. However, turtles spend most of their lives in water and have webbed feet. Tortoises are land-dwellers with short, stumpy legs. Terrapins live on land and in water and are most often found in the brackish, swampy areas near rivers, lakes, and ponds. Some cultures use the words interchangeably. For the purposes of this piece, I consider the Turtle, the Tortoise, and the Terrapin keepers of the Earth, representative of:

  • Slowing Down: standing still, slow walking, staring out the window; nurturing ideas, holding creative seeds in the belly until the time is right to share them; all good things come in time
  • Home as Water & Earth: learning to connect to both, to be fluid, yet grounded. Turtles spend most of their lives in water; tortoises are land dwellers; terrapins live on land and in water.
  • Protecting with Turtle’s Shell: learning how to use protection; teaches good boundaries. Turtles and tortoises have hard, protective shells (part of their skeleton) that are made up of 59 to 61 bones covered by plates called scutes.
  • Motherly Compassion: the Mother Goddess, the cycle of give & take, empathy for others
  • Giving Back to the Earth: as she has given to us. Expressing gratitude for what we have.


Every day I am moved and energized by the comments, deep conversations, and collective energy of our contributors and readers from all over the world. I feel so much gratitude for community and those who give of themselves in service to help tip the world a little more upright on its positive axis. You give me hope. Deep bow.


Searching for Hope Among the Rubble ("Hope Among the Rubble")

Hope Among The Rubble by Lotus, 12/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 12, March 24th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: Word Cloud created on Wordle using 3 different articles. Text manipulated by adding HOPE. Final touch up in Adobe Photoshop CS2.


Earth Turtle (Detail)

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 27th, 2011. Read about ybonesy’s adventures with turtles over the years at In Praise Of Nature & Garage Sales and Novelty Pets.

-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, Waning Moon (Haiga), The Void — January Mandalas, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52, Alter-Ego Mandala: Dreaming Of The Albatross (For Bukowski), WRITING TOPIC — SLOW OR FAST?

Lotus and I will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration).

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Mandala For The 5th Element - 10/52

Mandala For The 5th Element – 10/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 10, March 13th,
2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Fine Line DecoColor Opaque Paint Marker on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. Collaged & colored with Faber Castell 6 PITT Artist Brush Pens, DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Portfolio Water Soluble Oil Pastels, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers, Lineco Archival PVA Adhesive, yellow felt letters, metal fastener, archival card stock paper. Photo taken in streaming sunlight on a BlackBerry Tour.


At 6:20 CST on March 20th, 12 hours and 9 minutes of light welcomed Spring to the Midwest. Seasonal rituals are important to our spiritual health. Honoring cyclical changes in the seasons is one way to stay grounded. We delved into daily and superstitious rituals in one of the first Writing Topics on red Ravine. Animals engage in rituals to feed themselves and hibernate, to define and defend their territories; humans do, too. Rituals comfort me in times of loss and uncertainty — walking a labyrinth, creating a mandala, or celebrating the Spring Equinox.

My first response to Cityscape: Behind The Gray in the BlackBerry 52 collaboration with Lotus, was that it captured a late winter mood. The second time I viewed the photo was March 11th, after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Everything changed. I saw Every City, Every Town in her photograph — a skyline, a parking lot of white cars, minutes away from being tossed on the sea like toys. I felt helpless, sad for the collective suffering, for the families living through the devastation.

It was about that time that I learned about terma in Tibetan Buddhism — physical objects, texts, or ritual implements that are buried in the ground (Earth), hidden in a rock or crystal, secreted in an herb or tree, hidden in a lake (Water), or up in the sky (Air), elements that contain sacred teachings, accessible to all when we need them (Essence). Mandala For The 5th Element followed; the center is the symbol for Essence, also symbol for the Sun.

One night at the studio, while collaborating on Obsoletion Blues, an art project for Strange Attractors, I ran across an old article I had copied years ago at MCAD — The Art of Ritual. I read it, remembered the Akashic Records (akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning sky, space, or aether) — source of mystical knowledge, the collective unconscious, the history of the Cosmos. Perfectly in sync, readers began commenting on the same subjects in our daily haiku post. From annie:

I first came across termas when I read Thinley Norbu’s book ‘Magic Dance’. He describes, poetically, exotic tales of the ‘five wisdom dakinis’ (earth, air, fire, water and space/ether). These five dakinis manifest the feminine wisdom energy, bringing strength, power and transformation to our lives. They are known collectively as ‘Sky Dancers’ who dance in limitless space and are the writers of the termas, which they conceal until the time is right for them to be found. Their form of writing is ‘subtle and mysterious’ and the being who finds the terma must call on the five wisdom dakinis to help them interpret it (they also reside in the mind). I like the similarities of the elemental archetypes of Buddhism and Celtic Paganism. It brings it closer to home.



The Five Elements

______________


FIRE — SOUTH

Summer, Youth, Midday, Full Moon, Intuition

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Flames, Red, Point, Combustion, Energy, Passion, Desire, Inspiration, Beginning, Energy, Individual

OBJECTS:
fire, flame, candles, lamps, fireplaces, torches, matches, sparklers, fireworks, triangular shapes
Foods: hot-spiced foods, cayenne, salsa, Tabasco, curry, hot foods & drinks
Clothing: light and warm
Scents: sharp, tangy smells like cinnamon, odors from a fire

ACTIONS:
darting, rapid movements
lighting a fire or candle, burning or sacrificing

COLORS:
reds, oranges, yellows
bright, direct light, steady like the noon sun, or a flickering fire, or candle-light

SOUNDS:
arpeggios, staccato rhythms
the crackling of a fire, violins and other high-pitched strings, soprano instruments
inflaming speeches, stating an intention, invocations, appeals to the Spirit


______________


AIR (WIND) — EAST

Spring, Infancy, Dawn, Crescent Moon, Thinking

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Bell, Incense, Blue, Line, Gas, Mind, Communication, Study, Planning, Merging, Creation, Mental, Relationships

OBJECTS:
air, wind, round shapes, feathers, fans, incense, pinwheels, books, pens
Foods: light desserts, puff pastry, champagne, sparkling drinks
Clothing: light and free-fitting
Scents: clear and delicate scents

ACTIONS:
quick, light motions
lifting up or offering up
speaking or reading

COLORS:
sky blue, blues, whites
bright but indirect light, increasing in intensity, electric lighting
the morning sun

SOUNDS:
sound itself
clear, high-pitched tones; rapid, precise, light rhythms
the rushing wind, rustling sounds
wind chimes, flutes and woodwinds, rattles, bells or drums
speech and laughter, words that direct thoughts, appeals to reason and logic


______________


WATER — WEST

Autumn, Middle Age, Evening, Waning Moon, Feeling

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Cup, Silver, Plane, Liquid, Feeling Emotion, Integration, Process, Cycle, Deepening, Feeling, Family

OBJECTS: water, cups, liquid containers, crescent shapes, seashells, starfish, fish, dolphins
Foods: libations, clear broths
Clothing: smooth, flowing textures of materials such as silk
Scents: rain, sea air, water lilies

ACTIONS:
fluid, graceful, rhythmic motions
actions that denote giving and receiving aspects of water: pouring, drinking, washing
dancing, swaying

COLORS:
blues, blue-greens, silvers
filtered, indirect light, gently changing
twilight

SOUNDS:
melodious, flowing
rhythmic chanting, rushing water, waves, rain
vibraphone, harp, rhythm section, alto pitch
poetry or singing, speech that appeals to the emotions


______________


EARTH — NORTH

Winter, Old Age, Night, New Moon, Sensation

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Disc, Cube, Earth Tones, Solid, Body, Affection, Application, Product, Ending, Manifestation, Action, Group

OBJECTS: solid, sturdy objects of cubes, globes, squares, stones, metals, crystals, wood
Foods: breads, grains, meat, fruits, mushrooms
Clothing: coats, capes, rough mottled textures such as wool
Scents: heavy, musky odors, the smell of earth, forest floor, baking bread

ACTIONS:
stillness, slow, steady deliberate motions
lying, sitting, squatting
digging, planting harvesting
eating, ingestion, digestion
moving to each of the four quadrants of the circle

COLORS:
earth tones: browns, blacks, russets, olive greens, yellows
darkness or dim, steady light
nighttime

SOUNDS:
silence, the pause between sounds
low, deep tones; slow steady rhythms
bass instruments, drum, fiddle, oboe, tuba
speech that refers to body, the world, actions


______________


ESSENCE  — ALL AS ONE

Everything Is Connected, The Ethers, Life Force, Energy That Permeates All of Nature, Wholeness, Unity of Self, the World

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Circles, Mandalas, Altars, the Sun, Labyrinths, Centers, Balancing Points, the Bindu (point of origin and return)

OBJECTS: central altar, candle, lantern, lamp, cauldron, the ritual circle

ACTIONS:
standing in the center of a circle or labyrinth
holding hands in a circle, prayer chains
recognizing life force energy — prana, chi, ether, Akasha, Spirit, God, Tao (to name only a few)

COLORS:
brightness, light itself, the speed of light

SOUNDS:
sounds of pitch higher than human hearing
solitary clear soprano note, a choir’s single voice, monks chanting
instruments with a lingering echo, Tibetan bells
in speech, giving thanks for what has been received from Spirit through invocation


______________


I posted excerpts from that old MCAD library book (The Art Of Ritual) containing lists of objects, foods, actions, smells, and sounds to remind me to engage all of the senses, and in turn, each of the 5 Elements. Keep in mind that directional correlations and colors may vary from culture to culture, depending on what books you reference.

What rituals help you to heal or feel connected to the world at large? How do you integrate human suffering and pain into day-to-day life. What symbols help you to heal and grow, to come to terms with death and loss, to create balance in your life. For me, art and writing open doors to other worlds


The essence of ritual is that something done in the physical realm is related to the higher worlds. This may be a simple gesture of the hand or an elaborate ceremony. It can be working consciously in everyday life, so that quite mundane actions become full of meaning, or a carefully designed ritual acted out for a specific occasion…Ritual is the mode of formalizing action and giving it not only meaning, but creating a contact with other worlds.

—Halevi, School of Kabbalah

Mandala For The 5th Element (Detail)


-posted on red Ravine Monday, March 21st, 2011

-related to posts: Functioning Ego — August Mandalas (Goethe & Color), Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain

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By Judith Ford


My grandmother, who was Dutch, did an incredible job of spring cleaning, every March, every year she was alive. No object and no surface was spared a scrubbing. Rugs were taken out and beaten within an inch of their threaded lives; walls were washed with a hard brown scrub brush. Curtains taken down and washed. Every closet emptied, every sheet and towel bleached and washed. Everything dried outdoors on a clothesline. In March, Wisconsin is still cold so things froze out there, pillowcases transformed into wrinkled boards. Socks turned into twisted sculptures. She washed every dish and pot and spoon. Then when it was all done and everything set back in its proper place, she’d cover the sofa and chairs and lampshades in the living room with plastic covers. She’d lay a plastic path from doorway to living room couch and into the dining room. When I was around 11, I asked her, finally, who she was keeping everything so clean for and when would she remove the ugly plastic. (I didn’t say the word, ugly, I’m sure). “The plastic keeps everything ready for company,” she replied. “But, “I protested, “Aren’t I company?” I had never once seen her living room without plastic. “You,” she explained, “are family. Not company.” She didn’t need to add that I, being a rather messy child, was one of the reasons she protected her furniture.


My mother didn’t do spring cleaning. She did like to open up all the windows on the first day the temperature rose over 50–to air everything out. I always loved that, coming home from school for lunch and finding the windows all wide open, the house looking like a toothless, eyeless caricature of itself, the air sweet and chilly. My mother hated being a housewife and did not cotton to cooking or cleaning. She did the minimums and stuck to the 50’s schedule that most of her friends observed: Monday clean and do laundry; Tuesday iron; Wednesday, volunteer work; Thursday, groceries; Friday, light cleaning (a lick and a promise, is what she called it); Saturday was the night my dad cooked burgers and Sundays we went to my grandparent’s house for dinner. My mother did what she felt she must but mostly without joy and often with many sighs. She did seem to enjoy ironing (which I so don’t get) and would sing while she ironed, in a voice like Ella Fitzgerald. Singing over the ironing and walking in the mountains – those are the times I remember my mother at her happiest. Not cleaning. Never spring cleaning.


Well, it’s sort of spring now and I am sort of spring cleaning. I’ve been putting hours in every week to clean my attic. It has to be done. We’re selling the house and moving to the country.

I’ve lived in this house for 28 years, married husband #2 after living alone here with my daughter for 5 years, moved that husband and his daughter in, had another baby, raised these kids until each one grew their feathers and flew off. Also raised a cockatiel, a parrot, four dogs and numerous gerbils and hamsters in this house. Can you imagine the debris? My attic had become a combination museum, closet (huge closet), and file cabinet. Treasures and cast-offs that have trickled down to me from three generations and two family lines. The leftover objects include outgrown clothes, games, books, and life directions. My very first poem, written at age 10. A couple of Jessie’s baby teeth, nestled inside the newborn bracelet she wore in the nursery: “Baby girl, Marks-Szedziewski, 2-19-78.” An envelope containing a curling wisp of very blond baby hair, Nic’s first haircut, 1988, a battered and faded pink pair of tiny toe shoes (mine, from 1955, I think; although they might be my aunt Jeanne’s). A hair curling iron (great-grandmother Nettie’s, late 1800’s). Aunt Jeanne’s bracelets from the 30’s. So glad I didn’t throw those away. Hundreds of notes from Jessie and from Nic: I Love You, Mommy. Mommy don’t tell anyone but I love you best. Thank you for being my mommy, You are the best Mommy, Next time you go on a trip, take me too. Mommy, I hate camp. Come and get me out of here, please!please!please! Nic’s version of Jingle Bells, written at age 4 with a few backwards letters, words scrawled across the page, Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle all the way, Oh What Fun on Al’s True Ride, On the One on Holken Slay. Jessie’s school trophies, soccer and swimming, her camp and sports t-shirts, Nic’s academic medals for top scores in the state on the ACT and SAT at age 9 and 10, his IQ testing done at Northwestern U when he was 5.

The way I wept when the tester called me and told me the test results.

I wish I had known more back then how to feed his ravenous brain, his wonderful mind. So much I wish I could do over for him.


I will be 63 in a month. The past is truly the past. There are no do-overs and no time left for holding on. Time, instead, for letting go. For boxing up, and throwing away, for going to UPS to send Jessie her soccer and swim team t-shirts, to send Nic his Pokemon card collection. Handing the keepsakes over to my grown-up kids, handing over to them the job of remembering.

In the process of this sorting and cleaning, I’ve had to remind myself again and again to let go not only of the objects but the feelings. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve longed to have my children back in my arms, on my lap, longed for one more night of reading in bed with Jessie at age 7, one more night of long conversation at bedtime with Nic when he was 10. One more chance to see each of them for one hour during each year of their growing-up – one more chance to drink in the sight of them, their wispy hair, freckled faces, braces and missing teeth, to listen to their piping little voices more intently, memorize each one of them even more completely.

I had expected that cleaning out all this old stuff would help me clear the decks for this next chapter of my life, and yes, I guess that’s happening. I had anticipated reminiscing. I hadn’t anticipated the wave upon wave of memories to be so visceral, so wrenching, so expanding and swooping and full of love. I am not only clearing the decks; I am also rejuvenating both myself and the attic. Am going through some kind of death and resurrection here. Turning myself inside out and right side out again. Right side out and I must admit, a little trembly.

Spring cleaning is a piece of cake compared to this.




About Judith: Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with the piece 25 Reasons I Write. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include lang•widge, Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min. Spring Cleaning is based on a 15 minute Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — SPRING CLEANING.

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By Bob Chrisman

In my mind it’s too early to think of spring cleaning. As I write that sentence my thoughts veer off in another direction. I never clean my house unless company will arrive within a few hours. Those little cleaning spurts only touch the surface dirt and clutter, not at all like spring cleaning, but sufficient to fool guests into thinking I live in a neat, tidy and clean house.

Spring cleaning to me means days of going after the accumulated dirt of the winter. My mother took down all the sheers and curtains and washed them in the wringer washer. She fed them through the rollers to press the water out and then rinsed them before sending them through the wringer and into an empty wash tub. When she finished she hung everything outside on the clothesline to dry in the sun and wind.

As the laundry dried in the fresh air, she donned her rubber gloves and armed with old rags and a bucket of water went after the windows inside and out as my father removed the storm windows and replaced them with the screen windows. He took the screen windows out of storage in the basement, wiped them down and leaned them against the house. He started the removal of the storms at the front of the house and washed and dried them before he took them to the basement to store until fall cleaning.

Mom climbed the step ladder placed next to the house and washed the window panes and window sills. Then she wiped them dry. My sister and I stood inside and pointed out spots that she missed until she handed us a bucket and a sponge and we became her assistants.

Once the window panes sparkled and Dad had installed all of the screens, Mom would open every window in the house to “air out the place.” This airing occurred regardless of the outside temperature and lasted long enough for her to proclaim that the air inside was fresh.

She washed and waxed the wood floors throughout the house in the early years. After we installed linoleum in the kitchen and wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room, she would polish the kitchen floor until it gleamed and take her Kirby upright sweeper to the rug in the living room.

Just writing about it makes me tired. I think I’ll go take a nap and think about spring cleaning on a smaller scale when I wake up. Or, maybe I won’t think about it at all anymore.


-Related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – SPRING CLEANING (HOMEMADE CLEANING REMEDIES). Also related to posts: PRACTICE — Spring Cleaning — 10min by QuoinMonkey, WRITING TOPIC — CLEANLINESS, WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW, and Wanda Wooley — The Lean Green Clean Machine.

[NOTE: SPRING CLEANING was a Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.]

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I spent yesterday up to my elbows in dust bunnies, paper filing, and boxes of old memories. I have started Spring Cleaning. In the middle of this seasonal ritual, I stopped to read an old letter that revealed a secret, found a bulging folder full of fun city facts dated about the time Indria (our home) was purchased, and discovered a buried file that Liz had labeled Essential Oils and Homemade Air Fresheners. I thought it would be fun to post the old-fashioned cleaning remedies. Have you ever tried Borax, white vinegar, Ivory soap?

_______________________________

Homemade Cleaning Remedies


All Purpose Cleaner I

1 tsp Borax
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp dish washing liquid
2 cups hot water


All Purpose Cleaner II

Fill a 32 oz spray bottle nearly full with water. Add a squirt or two of Ivory liquid dish soap. Put the sprayer back on and gently shake the bottle until the soap has been evenly distributed. Use Ivory because most other dish soaps leave behind a filmy residue. Ivory is especially safe for Corion, marble and wood counter tops and butcher blocks. And it’s safe to use on brass or gold plated faucets.


Carpet Cleaner

1 cup crushed herbs (lavender or rosemary)
4 drops essential oil (lavender or rosemary)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp clove
2 tsp baking soda

Shake in a jar to blend & sprinkle carpet.


_______________________________

Homemade Air Fresheners for Household Odors


Cinnamon & Cloves

Boil the spices for a fragrant smell. For ease of cleaning, make a cheesecloth bag to contain the spices, and boil the cheesecloth bag. An excellent alternative when entertaining is to steep spiced tea or cider.

Oil of Wintergreen

Dampen cotton balls with oil of wintergreen and place out of sight, but where air will touch them.

Vinegar

Distribute partially filled saucers of vinegar around the room or boil 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odors.

Vanilla

Place pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a small saucer. Place the saucer in the car or refrigerator to remove odors. Vanilla is renowned to remove even skunk odors. Keep the cotton ball out of reach of children; vanilla has a high alcohol content.

Baking Soda

Place a partially filled box of baking soda on the refrigerator shelf. Replace every 2 months. Pour the contents of the used box down the drain to remove odors and keep the drain clean. Baking soda can also be used to deodorize bottles by filling them with undiluted baking soda and allowing the bottles to soak overnight. Then wash as usual. (To read about the difference between baking soda and baking powder, see WRITING TOPIC — COOKING FIASCOS.)

Borax

To inhibit growth of odor-producing molds and bacteria, sprinkle 1/2 cup Borax in the bottom of the garbage can. Empty garbage frequently and clean the can as needed.

Vinegar Or Celery Stalk

To avoid or remove onion odors from your hands, rub white vinegar on your hands before and after slicing. Rubbing hands with the end of a celery stalk will also remove the odor.

Potpourri

Buy or make your own potpourri from your favorite herbs and spices. Place the potpourri in a small basket or jar or in small sachet bags.

Ventilation

Open windows or doors in the house for at least a short period every day. This will help to reduce toxic fumes that may build up indoors.

_______________________________

We have written about cleanliness and attitudes about staying clean in WRITING TOPIC — CLEANLINESS. But seasonal cleaning rituals set a different tone. What home remedies were passed down in your family? What are your favorite cleaning tools (I’m fond of Wanda Wooley). How clean is clean?

Do you do windows once a year, twice a year? Does your entire family pitch in on the seasonal cleaning of your house, or does it fall to you. In Minnesota, Spring arrives late after a long Winter. Do you start your Spring Cleaning in February, March, April, or May? You can even write about how you hate Spring Cleaning!

Get out your fast writing pen, your laptop, or a spiral notebook and do a Writing Practice on Spring Cleaning. Fifteen minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 13th, 2011

-related to post: What If Madge Were Chicana?

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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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by Teri Blair



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



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

IMG_0656 window

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

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


IMG_0658 ANNA

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

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





A Period of Woolgathering


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

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

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


IMG_0651 porch


Writing Practices


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

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


Simplicity


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

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

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


♦     ♦     ♦


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

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


IMG_0654 From The Garden Large

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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



IMG_0670 in memoriam



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

 

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

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

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IMG01307-20110101-0922 auto 2

Mandala For A New Year, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A Downy pecks at the suet feeder. Black-eyed peas simmer in a vintage crock-pot in the kitchen. Temperatures hover around zero; it’s 3 degrees and windy. Gifted with unexpected time alone on New Year’s Eve, I wrote in my journal, checked in with the Midwest Writing Group, worked on a mandala, completed the BlackBerry 365 practice, made plans for the New Year. It felt positive to me, this forward thinking.

I am one of those people who mines for specks of gold in old and burly mountains, drags silvery threads of the past forward. Lineage. Writers, artists, photographers. Process. Birth, death, old age. What makes something work? Like The Fool archetype in Tarot, it is with great humility that I embrace the unknown and begin again. Beginner’s Mind. I will miss ybonesy and her free spirited and vibrant creative fire on a daily basis at red Ravine, but I know I have to face forward. It’s one of the things she taught me — take risks. Move into the future. When you collaborate with a person who strikes a balance, one who possesses the qualities you lack, it’s easy to become complacent about that which needs strengthening inside.

I need a strong back, flexible muscles. I will build on the Bones of red Ravine. I have so many dreams I want to pursue; they have not gone away. I will have to be diligent. Courageous. Disciplined. It takes courage for ybonesy to leave to spend more time with her family; it takes courage to stay. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There are days when the work of blogging feels like it needs a whole army of writers and artists to move it forward. But I believe in the mission and vision of red Ravine and am excited to steer her in a new direction. The winds may be stiff; I will follow the structure we put into place—teacher, practice, community—and see where red Ravine takes me.


Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year


I am forever grateful to Roma who walked up to me in Mabel’s dining room after one of the silent retreats, and asked if I wanted to write together. I would be returning to Minnesota, she to Albuquerque, 1200 miles between us. The Turtle in me had to give it some thought; not for long. The seed for red Ravine had been planted. Now this space is Home, a strong cottonwood by the Mother Ditch, in her adolescent years, still growing. But nothing can thrive without nurturing, play, attention, and time. I have to plan carefully, regroup. Thank you for standing by me.

I am grateful for the 5 years of creative collaboration with ybonesy. She is a strong, gifted woman, a dear friend. I am grateful for a community that keeps coming back. I feel supported. I’ve committed to keeping red Ravine alive through another year. It’s one of my practices. I draw on what Natalie taught me: Continue under all circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good (adding under my breath, Cross your fingers for Good Luck!).

Back to the moment. Time to feed Mr. Stripeypants and Kiev. Liz will be rising soon. We spent part of New Year’s Eve watching Lily and Hope on the NABC 2011 DenCam. They aren’t worried about such things as red Ravine. They are busy being Bears. I focus on my new practices for 2011: (1) a daily Journal entry 365 (2) a BlackBerry collaboration inspired by Lotus (one of our readers) (3) a year-long Renga collaboration. I’ll write more about these practices in coming posts. Happy New Year, ybonesy. Happy New Year to all red Ravine readers. Happy New Year, red Ravine. New Beginnings. The Promise of Spring.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 1st, 2011

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Taco Soup

Taco Soup, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Family Recipes

Family Recipes, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Simple Taco Soup


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can Mexican chili beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1 package taco seasoning mix


Brown ground beef and stir in the taco seasoning. Add canned veggies and simmer until flavors are blended — about 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with your choice of cheese, sour cream, cilantro, or tortilla chips.




Top With Your Choice

Top With Your Choice, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Comfort Food - Taco Soup

Comfort Food - Taco Soup, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sometimes it’s a gift to be a product of a blended family. There are different sets of parents, plumes of siblings, cousins galore. When I was in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago visiting my brother after his liver transplant, part of my Southern family showed up on the doorstep and surprised me. After driving the 10 hours from South Carolina, they literally stepped right out of the front seat of their car and into my brother’s kitchen. They came bearing gifts for a celebration of Thanksgiving. It was the first time in 45 years the Robertson side of the family had been together.

Though I’m not much of a cook, I love easy-to-make meals. One of my favorite gifts was a spiral bound recipe book. Daddy and Judy had handwritten simple recipes they collected from different members of the family. And behind the pages of the recipe cards, they tucked vintage family snapshots.


Like this one:


April 1973

April 1973, Vintage Family Snapshot In Recipe Book, Morristown, Tennessee, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


If you look closely, you might spot me there in Tennessee, in a half circle with my paternal grandparents, Ada and Jess, smirking behind that 70’s smile. So many memories.

Back in Minnesota, it’s a lot colder, and I’m a lot older. I pull the ground beef out of the freezer and open the handmade recipe book to Taco Soup. Since I’m late getting home, Liz starts dinner (if you are from the South, you might say “supper”), and I walk right into the middle smell of a family memory. The recipe book makes a creative Holiday gift. All you need are recipe cards, a fast writing pen, and a strong wrist. Food and family photos are a natural combination, a memory maker that keeps on giving.


-posted on red Ravine, with gratitude to my family, Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

-related to post: Memories, Writing, & Family Recipes

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After The Break - 313/365

After The Break, BlackBerry 365, 313/365, Goldsboro, Pennsylvania, November 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Scorpio birthday
the NightOwl’s idea of fun,
playing pool with Mom.





51014


Note: The night I flew into Harrisburg was the eve of Mom’s birthday. Lady Luck smiled down. We went out to dinner with Paul, won $120 on the push tabs, and had a great time playing pool to jukebox tunes. Mom beat me almost every game. Amelia is a good pool player.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, November 22nd, 2010

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

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Early Take-Off

Slice Of The Mississippi

Rivers & Wings


Opposing Forces


Mighty Susquehanna

Slice Of The Susquehanna

Shadow Shifting


It’s almost time to fly home. I don’t travel far enough get jet lag like ybonesy. But I do suffer from bothersome motion sickness. I’ve had it since I was a little girl, and found out about it when we would do winding family trips from the Pine Barrens of Georgia to the Great Smokies of Tennessee. I learned to keep my eyes on the horizon, and never to read or look at maps while in motion. Fresh air helps, too, along with sitting in the front of the vehicle or resting your head against a seat back.

These days I’m more likely to be in the driver’s seat (even though I have a terrible sense of direction) and most times I am flying cross country to visit family or friends. This morning I drove the 212 miles round trip to Philadelphia with my brother for his transplant check-in. (Frankenbelly 3 has zipped his recovery into the fast lane! November 18th marks 1 month.) Saturday we shared family stories and celebrated early Thanksgiving with relatives who have driven the 10 hours from South Carolina to Pennsylvania more than six times this year to be closer to family.

Travel is a gift. Travel can wear you out. And make you a little dizzy. When I arrived in Pennsylvania last week, the day before my mother’s birthday, she handed me a book on home remedies and pointed to the section on motion sickness. “See if this helps,” she said. The ingredients are pure and simple: pack the ginger, chew on some cloves.

According to Readers Digest Kitchen Cabinet Cures — 1,001 Homemade Remedies For Your Health, the same chemical compounds that give ginger its zing—gingerol and shogaol—reduce intestinal contractions, neutralize digestive acids, and quell activity in the brain’s “vomiting center.” If you eat 1/2 teaspoon of chopped, fresh ginger every 15 minutes for one hour before traveling, mix a pinch of powdered ginger in water, drink ginger tea, or nibble pieces of candied ginger, you should be good to go.

Grinding cloves between the teeth also helps. But if you’re looking for non-food related remedies, try Sea-Bands, knitted elastic wrist bands which operate by applying pressure on the Nei Kuan (P6) acupressure point on each wrist by means of a plastic stud. Liz introduced me to them a few years ago and I swear by them for both car and planes. Here’s a wrap up of other practical suggestions for motion sickness in the Readers Digest book:


On Planes:

  • Eat low-cal snacks & light meals 24 hours before departure
  • Choose a seat in the front of the plane or by the wing
  • Direct the air vent above the seat toward your face

In Cars:

  • Sit in the front seat
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon
  • Don’t read or look at maps
  • Keep your head still by resting it against the seat back
  • Turn air vents toward your face

On Boats:

  • Ask for cabin on the upper deck or near front of the ship
  • When on deck, keep eyes firmly fixed on horizon or land

If the cloves and ginger don’t work, one last home remedy listed for motion sickness is warm lemon-aid. Squeeze one whole lemon into a cup sweetened with a teaspoon of honey. Keep the drink in a warm thermos while traveling. And I’d add the Sea-Bands to every category. The acupressure works!


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 — all photos © 2010 by QuoinMonkey — with thanks to my family who have made this week in motion a joy and a pleasure

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What's Under My Fridge - 297/365

What’s Under My Fridge – 297/365, BlackBerry 365, Golden Valley, Minnesota, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On October 17th my brother had his third liver transplant. By all accounts, it is a miracle. And something that’s hard to wrap your mind around. It all began with a text: 10/17/2010 @ 9:48am — they called me with a liver. going to Philly now. Will let you know if they will be doing the operation. I’ve been trying to write a piece about it ever since. Eleven nights have passed; the day to day ekes away energy and time.

If you put all the days together, well, that’s a lifetime.

We think we can prepare for what lies ahead, try hard to be in control. Sift, collect, let go, wait. Sift, collect, let go. Wait. Yeah, we spend a lot of time waiting. The best laid plans fall hard. Somewhere between collect and let go, there are surprises. Laundry spins, rattling the floor, defying gravity. Water and fire boil, cooking spaghetti for dinner, but only as fast as the barometric pressure will allow. No amount of wishing can make the dust bunnies go away.

You would think that would be disappointing. You would be wrong. Vacuum under the desk, behind the piano bench, above the paper towel holder. Slide the giant green bottle brush under the fridge again and again and again. Thick rolls of cotton batting dust slide easily over freshly mopped floors. But what are those brilliant points of light, gleaming stars through the Pigpen fog?

Exactly 26 Mr. Stripeypants balls. Silver, gold, and the primaries, blue, red, green and yellow, lost to the swipe of the mighty Pants paw. He loves the small ones with the soft sparkling spikes. He would keep me playing fetch for hours every morning if I didn’t grab the purple lunch pail and fly out the door, late for work. Liz has a big heart for the animals. She carefully peeled and plucked the dust off of every tendril, washed each felt ball with warm water, and sat the bunch on the counter to dry.

Life can change in an instant. You can’t come back the way you came. It’s the simple things that make the day. They are as big as the miracles that make me a believer. In something bigger and better on the other side. Are there dust bunnies in heaven? I like to think they hop to a different beat.

My brother came home from the hospital on Tuesday, Frankenbelly 3 in tow. His 4:25 text said: on the turnpike – ETA 6:45 to 7:00 PM. I’ll eventually write the piece about his transplant. Tonight culminates in the midnight ramblings of a harried woman….and a plane ticket to Pennsylvania. ETA November 9th, 11:28am.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 29th, 2010 – 1:45am

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MY REFRIGERATOR, yellow sock haiku

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






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







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

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By Bob Chrisman


My mother met me in the lobby of the nursing home quite accidentally. She had taken her afternoon stroll pushing her walker up one hall and down another, visiting other residents she knew from the dining room. She arrived at the front desk as I walked in the front door.

She looked up and smiled. “Never thought I would see you again. It’s been awhile.”

“Mom, I was here last week. Remember? I took you to out to have that roast beef sandwich you wanted.” I waited for her to acknowledge that she had forgotten.

She ignored the question, instead she looked away and down at her walker. “Well, it’s good to see you anyway. Has a week passed already?” She started down the hall in the direction of her room. I knew I was to follow.

I asked, “How are things going here? Did you go to church services this morning?”

“No, the minister is nice enough, but he’s a little too serious for my taste. Too much death and sin to interest me at my age.” She nodded to the women who sat in wheelchairs in the wide hall. Some stared into space unaware of the greeting. Other responded with a soft “Hello.”

“A new woman moved in just two doors down. She’s married to Herbie. You remember Mildred’s husband? You always liked Mimi. Well, the poor thing is two doors down from me. Herbie came to visit a few days ago and stopped by to see me. Shame about his second wife and her poor health. I think she’s mental because all she does is beg people to find her some underwear.”

We passed by a room and she jerked her head toward the open door. “That’s where she stays.”

As we walked into her room I noticed her telephone is on the floor at the foot of her bed. “Mom, what happened to the phone? Is it broken?”

“You might as well get rid of that darn thing. No one calls, except people who want to sell me something. It rings at all times of the day and night and I’m afraid it will disturb my roommate.”

“I thought you wanted a phone. Don’t you call people from church?”

“No, take it out. Might as well not waste your money to pay the bill when I don’t use it. Besides, no one is ever home when I call.”

She sat in her chair. I took my place on the bed.



She had told me not to put a phone in her room at the nursing home. She hadn’t wanted to learn a new number. I insisted that she keep it. I even worked with the phone company to transfer her old number to the new phone. I held onto the idea that she wouldn’t die if she kept in contact with her friends.

She had kept the same phone number for fifty years. When she left her house for the senior citizens center, she left behind the heavy black phone with the battered receiver from countless drops on the floor, and the tattered cloth cable that connected it to the outlet. She kept the old phone number.

I bought her a new phone. She hated it. She wanted her old phone, her old house, her old life but she couldn’t have them anymore.



She shook her head. “I’ve tried calling Vera and Anna Lee for the last few days and no one answers their phones. What could my sisters be doing at all hours of the day and night? It’s beyond me. They even turned off those dang machines that take messages. I hate those things, but I would leave a message if I could. I wonder what they’ve been up to.”

I didn’t know what to say so I opted for the truth. “Mom, it’s a good thing your sisters didn’t answer the phone because they’ve been dead for years. I would be very concerned if you talked to them.” I watched her face to see what effect my words had on her.

She looked at the backs of her hands, covered with age spots and bruises, as though too preoccupied to reply right away. “Guess it is a good thing they didn’t answer. I thought they had died, but I wasn’t sure. Sometimes things aren’t so clear in my head anymore. Funny, how I can remember their phone numbers, but forget that they died.” She leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. “Just take the phone out of my room. I don’t have anyone to talk to anymore.”


When I left that day, I took the phone and made a mental note to terminate her service. The phone number I had learned as a preschooler some fifty years ago would cease to belong to the Chrisman family, yet another sign that my mother was dying.




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

You can see these other pieces of Bob’s in which he writes with humor and compassion about his family members: Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He also published these pieces about the life and death of his mother: Hands and In Memoriam. And he produced a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad.

Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, and PRACTICE — TREES  — 15min, a Writing Practice on the Topic of Trees.

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