Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘going home’

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)

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

By Barin Beard


It was a snowy, dreary day in southern Idaho. I was cold and homesick, and I was ready to go back to New Mexico. I questioned my sanity for being a thousand miles north, in sub-zero temperatures on the slope of a ski mountain. I didn’t even know how to ski! (When I told that to Idahoans, they couldn’t believe it.)

After a day working the chairlift, I went to my boss Gretchen and told her I was going to quit because I wanted to head back south. I was tired of being cold; snow and ice weren’t for me.

When I walked out of the lodge it was dark and the snow was falling. I got into my Jeep, a 1964 CJ-5, the short wheel-base wonder car, but it hated ice just like I did. I got into the unheated rag-top half cab and buckled my lap-belt. To get the belt to snap took some real effort—it was frozen, but I figured it’d be best to wear my seat belt.

I headed down the mountain in the dark. The road had about six inches of fresh snow. All was fine; I was tooling down the road at about 20 mph in 4-wheel drive high range.

About five miles down from the lodge I came to an S in the road and as soon as I entered the right-hand curve, I knew I was in trouble. Because of the jeep’s short stance, the rear axle slid out to the left, and I was heading down the road sideways. I turned the front wheels to the left into the slide, but there was no response. I may have tapped the brakes which probably worsened the problem, but now the road was curving to the left and I was still sliding perpendicular to the road, but heading straight.

I pretty much knew what was going to happen next. The jeep slid off the road onto the soft shoulder, left wheels digging in first and I immediately rolled! The headlights did a slow motion counter clockwise roll, then the driver’s side of the jeep hit hard with a crash! I continued rolling over… upside down, onto the passenger’s side, back up on the wheels, back onto the driver’s side, upside down, passenger side, upright, driver’s side, upside down, and finally coming to rest on the passenger’s side.

I dangled from the driver’s seat, the world on its side. The electric fuel pump was buzzing, so I turn off the ignition, then turned off the headlights, and assessed my situation while hanging from my seat belt (which I was glad I was wearing). I unbuckled the seat belt and fell into the passenger seat. I stood up inside the cab, reached up to the canvas driver’s door and popped it open. The door opened like the hatch on a tank. I crawled out by using the seats as steps.

Once outside the jeep, I looked things over. Still snowing, still cold, still dark. I figured I might be out there for a long while before someone came along, so I’d better do something. I walked around the jeep. It looked drivable IF I could get it back on its wheels.

There was a trail of debris from the road to the jeep. I needed to find my flashlight first, then my HiLift jack, then my other stuff, like my tool box. After a few minutes stomping around in foot-deep snow I found my things and decided how I could get the jeep back on its wheels. Meanwhile it was cold, probably below zero Fahrenheit. I put the HiLift onto the roll bar on the passenger side of the jeep and started lifting. The jack topped out when the CJ-5 was at its tipping point so I started rocking the jeep. The HiLift slipped out from the roll bar and the jeep crashed back to the ground.

Now more determined, I repeated the procedure and this time was successful getting the jeep past the tipping point, wheels back on the ground. Working as fast as I could, I opened the hood and checked the battery and fluid levels. I piled everything into the back of the jeep, including the ragtop. I got into the driver’s seat, put my foot on the accelerator but it went right to the floor. I knew exactly what happened. I lifted the hood again and saw the throttle linkage had come apart due to a broken cotter pin. I walked over to a nearby barbed wire fence and found some tie wire, broke off a piece, and fashioned the wire into a new cotter pin. I was back in business.

I started the jeep, put it in 4-wheel drive low, reverse gear, and ease out the clutch. The jeep clawed its way back onto the snowy highway. I was back on the road, without a top or heater, headed back to my studio apartment in Twin Falls.

I am not sure if I almost died that night. Obviously my seat belt kept me from being ejected and possibly crushed and killed. I probably would not have frozen to death since other people were still up at the ski lodge. Even so, in five years of owning that jeep, that was the most serious adventure we had together.

A few days later, I left Idaho and headed south to New Mexico, without a top or heater. The first few hours were extremely cold.


-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each. red Ravine reader and fellow blogger Barin Beard---aka Mimbres Man---also sent us a piece, based on a 15-minute Writing Practice on the first question, Have you ever come close to death?]

-Also related to posts PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by QuoinMonkey),  PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman).

Read Full Post »

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

We’re back after a 2+ week blogcation. How time flies. On Sunday ybonesy sent me an email titled: Getting Back in the Saddle. We both agreed that the vacation from blogging was refreshing; we needed it. We also took a hiatus from electronics, with the exception of learning a bit about Twitter. It’s a whole other world that moves at lightning speed and (like blogging) has its own protocols, courtesies, and idiosyncrasies. But there are some good, smart people on Twitter including a whole slew of writers and artists.

We’ll keep using Twitter for updates, to stay in touch from the field, and to add links we find of interest or that relate to red Ravine. So keep watching our sidebar for the latest Tweets. If you see an RT, it means we picked the link up from another Twitter user and are giving them credit. Oh, and the bit.ly and tiny.url link shorteners we use are perfectly safe. We test them first and wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction.

But what should I post today? ybonesy’s back from Vietnam and has a few posts in the works; I survived Art-A-Whirl and am excited to be in the studio. I’m leaning toward something simple for our first day back. While on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but I did go hear Patricia Hampl at the Highland Park Library in St. Paul. I had already finished The Florist’s Daughter and made the commitment to read all of her work; she is my kind of writer.

Her talk in St. Paul did not disappoint. She was there to promote the new book, Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape from Trinity University Press. The book is edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney and contains an A to Z history of words about the land written by famous writers like Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Hass, and Franklin Burroughs.  Lopez gave each writer a list of words for which they wrote a definition using a combination of research and wordsmithing; the result is over 850 terms—from `a`a to zigzag rocks—defined by 45 American writers. It’s beautifully written with pen and ink illustrations by Molly O’Halloran.

Hampl explained that Barry Lopez had asked her over a glass of wine if she would be interested in participating in the project; she agreed. And after being initially uncertain about the words she received, she ended up loving the project. In addition, each writer was asked to choose the place they considered to be their “home ground.” Patricia Hampl chose the North Shore of Lake Superior, womb of the earth, a Minnesota landscape completely different from the urban setting of her home in St. Paul.

What place do you consider your “home ground?”

  
 

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.            Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.             Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape is a historical map drawn by writers — word geography with cairns that weave through centuries of the American landscape. Liz and I fell in love with the book; she purchased it that evening. When I took the photograph at the top (that’s Liz’s finger holding the book up), Patricia Hampl had just walked out of the library and we chatted for a few seconds about the bloom of Spring on the Minnesota landscape and how well the book sold that night. I’m certain it will find a prominent place on our reference bookshelf.

Thanks for hanging in there with us on our red Ravine break. Thanks for reading. We’re back in the saddle and I’m going to wrap it up with a little taste of Home Ground. There is a short essay on saddle written by Conger Beasley, Jr. where he refers to the twin summits of the Spanish Peaks outside of Walsenburg, Colorado (though it’s closer to ybonesy, I did eat dinner there one evening on a drive to Taos). According to Beasley, because of their resemblance to the torso of a woman at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Spanish Peaks are called Wah-to-yah, “Breasts of the World,” by the Ute Indians and locals refer to the saddle as “the cleavage.” Conger Beasley considers the beautiful and nurturing Spanish Peaks his “home ground.”

  
Here’s a final excerpt from a word near and dear to our hearts: 
 

ravine
Ravine is French for mountain torrent, and comes from the Old French rapine, or “violent rush.” Larger than a gully or a cleft but smaller than a canyon or gorge, a ravine is a small steep-sided valley or depression, usually carved by running water. The word is most often associated with the narrow excavated valley of a mountain stream. A rarer usage denotes a stream with a slight fall between rapids. In A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Isabella Bird writes: “After descending about two thousand feet to avoid the ice, we got into a deep ravine with inaccessible sides, partly filled with ice and snow and partly with large and small fragments of rock which were constantly giving way, rendering the footing very insecure.”

      -Kim Barnes, from her home ground, Clearwater Country in Idaho

 

Home Ground Resources:



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Read Full Post »

River Painting, dusk along the Mississippi River, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

River Painting, drive-by shooting of dusk along the Mississippi River after a walk with two Midwest writers, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

Last week I finished reading writer Patricia Hampl’s memoir The Florist’s Daughter. It is set in her hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. The landmarks are familiar to me, and I identify with her descriptions of “middledom” — the ordered streets, the litterless greenways and lakes, the pressure to conform that naturally seeps into the psyche when one lives in the Midwest.

But I was telling a friend, after 25 years of living in the Twin Cities (and I do love it here), I am still a transplant. My roots are steeped in memories of Southern dialect, and the writing and letters of writers like Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker, and Carson McCullers. I feel an intense connection to the land and culture in the South. The years in Georgia (birth to 12), less than half the time I have lived in Minnesota, shaped me.

I am from the Midwest but not of it.

 

The Midwest. The flyover, where even the towns have fled to the margins, groceries warehoused in Wal-Marts hugging the freeways, the red barns of family farms sagging, dismantled and sold as “distressed” wood for McMansion kitchens, the feedlots of agribusiness crouched low to the prairie ground. Of all the American regions, the Midwest remains the most imaginary, ahistorical but fiercely emblematic. It’s Nowheresville. But it’s also the Heartland. That weight again: the innocent middle. Though it isn’t innocent. It’s where the American imagination has decided to archive innocence.

   -excerpt from The Florist’s Daughter, by Patricia Hampl

 

Patrician Hampl is a poet and a writer. She has written four memoirs and two collections of poetry. And maybe because it’s National Poetry Month, I was drawn to the way she weaves poetry into memoir when describing the differences in her relationship with her mother and father. One wanted her to be a poet; the other, a writer:

 
He could accept the notion of my being “a poet” better than my mother’s idea that I was “a writer.” Poets are innocents, they belong to the ether and the earth. They don’t narrow their eyes and tell tales as “writers” do, proving in their mean-spirited way that the earthlings are filled with greed and envy, that the world is a spiral of small-minded gestures. Poets, at least, don’t tell tales on other people. They celebrate beauty. They make much of the little. Flowers, birds, the names of things are important to them. So being a poet was all right, though hopeless.

There was, even in “tragic” poetry, a note of optimism, of hope, the lyric lilt of meaning and significance. And he was determined to be cheerful all his life.

 

___________________________________________

 

But for the most part he was silent, absolutely without affect. Finally let down his guard. I would chatter, ask him things, I got nothing—nothing—back. He just sat there, staring. Natter, natter, natter, my voice doing all the cheerfulness, his voice fallen silent as the midsummer fronds of wild rice made low hissing sounds in the wind. His real being, bleached to virtual absence by sun and water, descended to the soundless fish world where you didn’t need to say a thing.

Something about silence, something of silence was at the resistant core of poetry. Silence had to do with honesty. Just sit in the boat and stare at the lake’s troubled surface. No opinions, no judgments. No Leo the Lion—she almost never went out in the boat.

   -excerpts from The Florist’s Daughter by Patricia Hampl
 

♦       ♦       ♦       ♦       ♦

 

A few days ago, a Bill Holm poem rolled into my inbox; it was sent by Ted Kooser on behalf of American Life in Poetry. Two more Midwest poets. We had been speaking of Bill Holm in the comments on several posts after he died unexpectedly a few months ago. He spent much of his time near his roots in Iceland, and I got to thinking, what is a regional writer?

What if you were born and spent your formative years in Virginia, your teenage and college years in Nebraska, then moved to Pittsburgh and New York like Willa Cather. Or were born and raised in Iowa but lived most of your adult life in Nebraska like Ted Kooser. Where are you from? What if you lived in Georgia as a child, Pennsylvania as a teenager, Montana in your twenties, and Minnesota for the rest of your life. Are you a Midwest, Northeast, or Southern writer?

Is it personal preference? The place you were born and raised. The town where you spent most of your life. Do you choose the place. Or does the place choose you? When have you lived in a place long enough to say “I’m from….” When can you call a place “home?”

 

___________________________________________

 

American Life in Poetry: Column 213

By Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

 

Bill Holm, one of the most intelligent and engaging writers of our northern plains, died on February 25th. He will be greatly missed. He and I were of the same generation and we shared the same sense of wonder, amusement, and skepticism about the course of technology. I don’t yet own an Earbud, but I won’t need to, now that we have Bill’s poem.

 

Earbud

Earbud–a tiny marble sheathed in foam
to wear like an interior earring so you
can enjoy private noises wherever you go,
protected from any sudden silence.
Only check your batteries, then copy
a thousand secret songs and stories
on the tiny pod you carry in your pocket.
You are safe now from other noises made
by other people, other machines, by chance,
noises you have not chosen as your own.
To get your attention, I touch your arm
to show you the tornado or the polar bear.
Sometimes I catch you humming or talking to the air
as if to a shrunken lover waiting in your ear.

 

___________________________________________

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2008 by Bill Holm, whose most recent book of poems is “Playing the Black Piano,” Milkweed Editions, 2004. Poem reprinted by permission of Bill Holm. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.



 
-posted on red Ravine from the Midwest, salt of the Earth country, on April 22nd, Earth Day, 2009

-related to posts:  Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)Book Talk – Do You Let Yourself Read?, Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group, WRITING TOPIC – A PLACE TO STAND

Read Full Post »

Georgia Peach, North Augusta, South Carolina, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Georgia Peaches, small roadside market near North Augusta, South Carolina, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.











boiled peanuts, okra;
the whole wide world in a bite
of fresh Georgia peach












Post Script:  Special thanks to my step-dad — well, I call him Daddy. But some call him George, and some call him Robbie, and some call him Big Daddy, and Liz calls him Sweet Lou — for carting us around Georgia and South Carolina the last few summers. This year he took us to this little roadside stand for fresh watermelon, okra, corn, figs, peaches and boiled peanuts.

He also came to meet Liz at the airport with Mom and me, gave her a big hug when she arrived from Atlanta, and another one when she got on the plane to fly back to Minneapolis. I hope he knows how much I appreciate his kindness, his big heart, and the way he drove Liz, Mom, and me around so that Liz could see and hear about my old childhood haunts. (This is one of those cases where 1000 words of history from my parents is worth more than a single photograph.)

After Daddy left to drive to Tennessee for the funeral of his brother, and then on to Pennsylvania to help take care of my brother, Mom and I stayed on a while longer. We took one more late afternoon trip to the roadside stand the night before we left, and bought fresh boiled peanuts to cart back to my brothers, sister, and sister-in-law in Pennsylvania.

While Mom tasted a fresh fig, the feisty Korean woman who runs the stand with her husband told me that for the last two or three decades she has farmed the land and made the South her home. She loves it there. And forever her home it will be.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, September 12th, 2008

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

Read Full Post »

MoonSet, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MoonSmear, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MoonShine, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Moonset, Moonsmear, Moonshine, July Moons over Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




I was on the road for most of the many moons of July. Under the Full Thunder Moon, I traveled to Pennsylvania by plane, with intentions of heading on to Georgia and South Carolina by car. I planned the trip months ago, to drive South to do more research for my memoir, to work with my mother on missing pieces of the family tree. But all did not go as planned.

My brother went into the ICU the day before I left for Pennsylvania. And Mom and I weren’t even sure we should make the trip to Georgia at all. Mom spent a whole week, sometimes 8 hours a day, with my sister-in-law in waiting rooms, visiting at J’s side. His dad drove up from South Carolina and sat with us, too. I watched my parents (only recently connected again after over 40 years) standing side by side together over J’s bed. They never wavered. There were tears. And laughter. Things turned. 

By a miracle and a lot of prayers, my brother is out of the hospital. And though he is not yet out of the woods, he is home and in the arms of family caregivers. A whole new regimen begins, his recovery. It is stressful for family members in a different way. It is through crises like these that you get to see what a family is made of. Each member shows up in the ways that he or she can; it is not the same for everyone.



MoonSlit, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I am back in Minnesota. And in some ways removed. I have always been the one who has lived away from home, miles and miles away (at least 1200 miles have separated me and my family since I was in my early 20′s). It can be a helpless feeling. And I have had my share of guilt. But distance offers a different perspective. It is not something I would have wished, but under the Salmon Moon (Haidi) in the Month of the Fledgling Hawk (Kelmuya), I gained an overview. And realized all that I have shielded myself from by living so far away.

I have great admiration and respect for the members of my family. They really show up for one another regardless of what else is going on between them. They have integrity and grace and humor. And they are crazy and stubborn and flawed, as all families are — as I am. Thank goodness for that. In each member of my family I see my own strengths; and I see my weaknesses. Whatever I see inside them — it’s in me, too.

The trip was a mixed blessing of sadness, fear, laughter and joy. At the Grass Cutter Moon (Abenaki), Mom, Liz, and I visited the islands and towns where my ancestors homesteaded. We walked where they had walked in the 1600′s and 1700′s. Liz flew into Georgia, my dad met us for breakfast, I had a wonderful birthday, and a great time on St. Simons and in Savannah. But there were moments I felt alone, scared, fearful of the future. I was holding it all; my family was holding it all. Because all of this makes up life.

Under the Moon of the Horse (Apache) I accomplished more toward my goals of researching and shaping a memoir. It was different from last June. I was digging deeper emotionally; I had to grow up a little more. Under the Ripe Corn Moon (Cherokee), I ripened, too. Through all of the recorded years of births and deaths, walking marble graves and granite cemeteries with Mom, I am more aware than ever that one day, I will be there, too. So will we all. And we have no idea when that time might come.

 

 Moon Over Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Moon Over Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Three things I learned (again) under the Thunder Moon:

  • Memoir is about the past. The past can be healing; the past can be sad. When you dig into the past, be prepared for what you will find.
  • When you write, you have to be willing to hold everything – past, present, future – grief, sadness, loss, joy. In order to do hold everything, you have to stay present to the moment.
  • Life and death continue on with or without you. Don’t be tossed away.




-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

-related to posts: PRACTICE – Summer – 20min, Thunder Moon haiku (July), winter haiku trilogy

Read Full Post »

Flannery O‘Connor -- The House I Grew Up In, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Flannery O’Connor — The House I Grew Up In, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s almost time to leave the South. It seems like I’ve been gone forever. I had hoped to write more from the road but, I tell you, I’ve just been too exhausted when I drop into bed at night. That on-the-road research and writing takes a toll. And so does the heat. Yesterday it was 95 with a heat index of 108. Humidity like that saps my energy, and takes my breath away. This is the South of Flannery O’Connor.

To really get to know a writer, you need to walk in her shoes, live for a while where she lived, breathe the air she breathed, visit the places she called home. Flannery spent her childhood years until the age of 13 in the heart of the Historic District of Savannah, Georgia. She lived in an 1856 Savannah gray brick home owned by her beloved Cousin Katie. At the time the O’Connors lived in Savannah (from March 25th, 1925 to March, 1938 when the family moved to Milledgeville, Georgia) the population was three to four times greater than it is today.

According to the notes from a talk by Bill Dawers at the O’Connor home last December, a dozen or more people might have lived in the modest home in Lafayette Square in a dwelling that now houses only two or three. Savannah was more integrated with regard to race and class in the 1930′s, too. Before the automobile and the suburbs, nearly all Savannahians lived north of Victory Drive and people from all walks of life bumped into each other on Savannah’s city streets.



Flannery’s Neighbors, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The two days we visited Savannah were sweltering hot; the evenings surrendered to cool breezes pooling off the river. We ate at a place called Moon River and walked through Greene Square (one of Oglethorpe’s many city squares) on the way back to our hotel room that night. Our visit was brief, as we spent most of our time down on St. Simons Island about 80 miles south; every minute counted. Our last stop heading out of Savannah was Flannery’s childhood home in Lafayette Square. She could see the spire of the Catholic church where her family worshipped from their second story bedroom.

The Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home Foundation celebrated her March 25th birthday on Friday, April 11th, by having a cookout and celebratory burning of the 207 East Charlton Street mortgage papers that had just been retired. Their vision of establishing, preserving, and maintaining the birthplace of writer Flannery O’Connor began in 1987. I am grateful for their perseverance. 

A generous donation from Jerry Bruckheimer (whose wife, Linda, has long been a fan of O’Connor) restored a 1950′s kitchen back to the family library where Flannery learned to write and read. Many people have donated time, money, and original family furnishings, and the Florencourt Sisters, Louise and Frances, keep the aim true to the writer. It’s a partnership between many that works for the good of all.

My small donation was to purchase a few books before we left and the friendly and knowledgeable guide closed the doors for the day on Flannery’s childhood home. One came highly recommended — The Letters of Flannery O’Connor: The Habit Of Being. The guide told me if I want to learn about writing, read Flannery’s letters. I highly recommend them. Flannery called herself an “innocent speller” and I’m encouraged to see the humility she embodied through her casual misspellings and religious letter writing.

Before she flew back to Minneapolis earlier this week, Liz and I started reading the letters out loud to one another. My favorite time was sitting over Clarks Hill in the sultry afternoon heat, barely able to move, with the neighbor’s peacocks welting out their prehistoric caw in the distance. Flannery loved peacocks. In fact, she loved all birds, domestic and wild. Her letters are full of fowl references and a wicked Southern sense of humor that rattles my funny bone (I can relate, having grown up with it myself).



Lafayette Square, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The Habit Of Being is a thick tome. I’m reading her letters in chronological order from beginning to end. The sweat that pours off of me each day I’ve spent in the South only reinforces childhood memories of the slowness with which people move, the Southern drawl that rolls off the front of the mouth, the sweet iced tea and grits, the longing for that one next simple breeze.

Flannery died in 1964 at the age of 39. She suffered from lupus. It did not keep her from writing two collections of short stories (A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge) and two novels (Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away), and winning the O. Henry Award three times as well as being the posthumous winner of the National Book Award in 1972. Flannery lives on in her work and the lively letters edited by her close friend, Sally Fitzgerald.



  Savannh Gray Brick, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Savannh Gray Brick, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Savannh Gray Brick, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Though she doesn’t write much about Savannah or her childhood in the letters, Flannery calls Cousin Katie’s home on Lafayette Square “the house I grew up in.” She slept in the room on the second floor over the kitchen with bright windows that look out over what was then a dirt courtyard. At the age of five, she taught a chicken, a buff Cochin Bantam, to walk backwards in that very courtyard (there are 15 seconds of movie to prove it). And she makes this comment in a letter to Maryat Lee: “I think you probably collect most of your experiences as a child — when you really had nothing else to do — and then transfer it to other situations when you write.”

It is to this end, that our childhood homes hold the weight of being. Think about the house you grew up in. Is it surrounded by farmland, an urban parking lot, mountains, desert, rivers or streams?

I travel back to the quicksand, red clay, and gangly pines of the Southern hometown where I spent my childhood (same years as Flannery, birth to 13) in hopes of learning what I am made of. I always drive by the house I grew up in. It’s a part of me that has taken years to understand. I’m still gathering like a maniac. I’m still unraveling.



Flannery O‘Connor‘s Childhood Home, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008,
all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Post Script:

We were not permitted to take photographs inside the Flannery O’Connor home except in one location. I did capture a few images of the writer there. But I think I’ll save them for Part II. Part I is about home and the sense of place that surrounds us growing up. In Part II, I hope to talk more about what I’ve learned about Flannery from her letters, visiting her Savannah home, and the way she lived her life.



State of Georgia Historic Plaque, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.State of Georgia Historic Plaque, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.State of Georgia Historic Plaque, Savannah, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, August 1st, 2008

-related to posts: Homing Instinct You Can’t Go Back – 15 Haiku, Memories Of The Savannah, Excavating Memories, Book Talk — Do You Let Yourself Read?

Read Full Post »

Savannah River (Georgia), between Georgia and South Carolina, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







river of my youth
350 miles long
Atlantic awaits



12,000 years old
bearing gifts on my birthday
half centuries pass



hummingbird hides – joy!
rain dances on the surface
tropical marriage








          Savannah River (Georgia), between Georgia and South Carolina, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.The Space Between, between Georgia and South Carolina, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Savannah River (South Carolina), between Georgia and South Carolina, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
 



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

-related to posts:  haiku (one-a-day), Memories Of The Savannah, and Out Of Chaos Comes Hope

Read Full Post »

Susquehanna River, Central Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Susquehanna River, Central Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







old brown river winds
444 miles
to Chesapeake Bay



mile wide and foot deep
current flows to family
then turns South again



for J. and diddy
who love the Susquehanna
rest gently and heal








Bridges, Central Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bridges, Central Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bridges, Central Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bridges, Central Pennsylvania, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
 


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

-related to posts:  haiku (one-a-day) , Out Of Chaos Comes Hope, and Vote For Punxsutawney Phil!

Read Full Post »

A little kindness goes a long way. Simple things. I thought about kindness quite a bit last week when I was visiting with my family in Pennsylvania. The way everyone chips in to help each other in our family. It’s not like that for everyone. I don’t take it for granted.

The family donated money toward a ticket to fly me home for Mom’s 70th birthday. It was a last minute thing. She was completely surprised. The smile on her face said it all; every single penny was worth it.

What’s that saying, when you set your intention, then Providence follows? I can’t remember who said it, but it basically means nothing is impossible. When you set your intention on kindness toward others, the Universe lines up behind you.

I believe in things I can’t see. I believe in kindness. And generosity. And love.

My brother took off of work to drive me 2 1/2 hours to Dulles, both ways, 10 hours of his time and energy on the road. The whole extended family cooked for the birthday gathering. My brother and sister-in-law let me stay at their home the first two days I was there so Mom wouldn’t find out about the surprise.

My sister drove over to Mom’s to visit with me after a long day of work. A younger brother and his wife traveled from Delaware, a long night’s drive for them with my nephew. Everyone adjusted their schedules, gave up time and money, so that everything could come together.

We aren’t a family that talks much about feelings or emotions. There’s a lot of humor, cutting up, and bantering back and forth. But when it comes down to pulling together for family – my family is a winner.

Of course, the independence and resourcefulness we value means we don’t ask for help until things get pretty down and out (not the best emotional strategy). I’m the worst at thinking I can do it all alone. But when I hit hard times a few years ago, and finally got the courage to reach out, they were there. I didn’t have to ask twice. And they didn’t expect anything in return.

True generosity is giving without expecting anything in return. “We’re all family,” they say. “That’s the way you treat family.”

I’m not saying our family is perfect. By no means is that true. We’ve all got our problems, hang-ups, and quirks. We’re much like my sister said in her first comment on red Ravine - a vibrant patchwork quilt that all seems to fit together, no matter the pattern or stitch work, no matter how tattered or worn the cloth.

The whole is stronger than its individual parts. Kindness is the glue. We were taught respect for elders. And politeness. Manners. My brother still opens the car door for me. So did my step-dad when Mom and I were Down South in June. I never thought I’d admit how much I love that they do that.

I remember when I was a fiery young woman in my 20′s: a feminist, angry, wanting equals rights and pay for all women. It was a good cause, creating awareness and change. And I just could not understand when Mom said she still loved to have the car door opened for her, that she valued the feeling of care and respect. To me, chivalry was dead. A way to keep women in their places.

I’m much older now. I finally understand; it’s not about gender. Manners, politeness, altruism, and courtesy toward others are becoming a thing of the past. I recently heard a statistic that Americans are the most generous people in the world when it comes to donating money and giving to charity, yet we’ve jumped the fast track to rudeness, entitlement, rage, and lack of basic kindness toward others.

We’re losing sight of what’s important. Liz and I noticed the grocery clerk was rude to us in the checkout line last night. It was hard to smile at her. To turn the other cheek. What about simply asking if she was okay? Or if she had a hard day.

Maybe we *should* go back to living by clichés and recovery slogans. Keep it simple. Let go and let God. Work harder to be kind.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, November 19th, 2007

-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – KINDNESS & POLITENESS

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,205 other followers