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Posts Tagged ‘the practice of writing’

Wind in the Willow, April 2019, iPhone Video, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota, video © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

I am drawn to the nurturing willow, especially in times of loss or grief. The willow was sacred to Hera, Hecate, Circe, Perspehone, and all goddesses of the Underworld. In Celtic mythology, the willow represents death and is good for magical work involving the dark or hidden parts of the psyche. The weeping willow is a common sign of mourning and offers protection for underworld journeying and rites of passage. Willows represent immortality, creativity, inspiration, emotion, and fertility and are known for their ability to regenerate from a fallen branch. They have been used to bind brooms and divine water. Have you heard the wind in the willows?

Do a ten minute Writing Practice on the topic of Willow. Or you can write a haiku, poem, or do a photo practice on Willow. Drop your photo or practice into the comments here or link to your blog. I have learned over the years that it doesn’t matter what kind of creative practice you undertake, as long as you consistently feed your work.

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LESSON OF THE WILLOW

 

The watery willow encourages the expression of deeply buried feelings, easing sadness through tears and grieving, and teaching the consequences of love and loss in matters of the heart. The willow reminds us of the need to let go sometimes, to surrender completely to the watery world of the emotions and the subconscious, so that we may be carried toward a deeper understanding of our inner-most feelings, toward a better appreciation of our hidden motives and secret fears and desires. Any suppressed and unacknowledged emotions can be a major cause of stress and illness. Through emotional expression, and through the sharing of feelings of ecstasy and pain, our ancestors believed they could help heal the human spirit. The willow enables us to realize that within every loss lies the potential for something new.

-from Wisdom of the Trees by Jane Gifford

 

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Resources:

What Willow Folklore Surrounds This Beautiful Tree? by Icy Sedgwick

Willow at Trees for Life

Willow Collection at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Willow at The Goddess Tree

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I Feel Most Alive

I Feel Most Alive, Droid Shots, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2014, photo © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I saw this blackboard outside of a church in St. Paul and thought it would make a good Writing Topic. Who wants to do a Writing Practice with me. Get out a fast pen, paper, or keyboard. I Feel Most Alive When…10 Minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

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The Honeycrisp Apple - 108/365

The Honeycrisp Apple, Archive 365, Droid Shots, The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota, September 2012, photos © 2012-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Apples were a crisp, healthy snack when I was growing up. The apple varieties I was most familiar with then were Red Delicious and Granny Smiths. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was introduced to two apples I had never tasted before: the KIKU and the Ambrosia. If you draw a thermometer and add a scale from sweet to tart, here’s where they fit in:  SWEET — KIKU, Fuji, Ambrosia, Gala, Jonagold, Cameo, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, Kanzi, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Granny Smith — TART.

Apples are closely linked to place, and many of us are familiar with the Gala from New Zealand or the Fuji from Japan (both developed in the 1930s). In the history of the apple industry, the three varieties I favor are relatively new to the world. The Ambrosia originated in the 1990s in the Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada where the Mother Tree still lives. Local favorite the Honeycrisp was developed by the University of Minnesota and introduced in 1991. The Honeycrisp is a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold (the Honeygold itself a cross between the Golden Delicious and Haralson). The KIKU came about in 1990 when Luis Braun, the South Tyrolean apple expert, was traveling through Japan and discovered a branch in an orchard, which a few years later would become the sweet KIKU apple.

What’s your favorite apple?




Where does your mind go when I say apple? Is it your first bite of a lunchtime snack, a trip where you picked orchard apples with your family, or the smell of fresh apple pie right out of the oven (check out this great apple pie recipe from ybonesy: 1-2-3! Apple Pie Gluten-Free!). Are you reminded of a computer company? Or perhaps a certain snake and the precursor to the Seven Deadly Sins (another good Writing Topic). Do you believe the adage, An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Let your mind wander to all the places where apples grow, and capture your impressions in a Writing Practice.

Apple, 15 minutes, Go!


APPLE 3 2013-03-03 09.35.16

The KIKU Apple, Archive 365, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2013, photos © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




RESOURCES:

History of the Honeycrisp AppleNew Kid On The Block at Wood Orchard Market

History of the Ambrosia Apple Ambrosia History at Ambrosia Organic

History of the KIKU AppleStory – 20 Years at Kiku Apple


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 3rd, 2013


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Shuttlecocks, 1994 - 34/365

Shuttlecocks, 1994 – 34/365, Archive 365, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


At a writing retreat in 2009, our host took us to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Like we had done at museums in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg (see Diebenkorn Leaves Taos – Museum Walking Lives On), we walked around in silence, then gathered in front of the museum to do Writing Practice. I like the practice of taking photographs in the silence; this photo of the sculpture Shuttlecocks was snapped on a slow walk around the museum grounds. Museums are energizing places to find inspiration for writing and art.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a neoclassic structure designed by Kansas City architects Wight and Wight. Groundbreaking took place on July 16, 1930. The sculpture Shuttlecocks was created by husband and wife team Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden 1929) and Coosje van Bruggen (American, born The Netherlands, 1942), the same pair that created the Minneapolis sculpture, Spoonbridge & Cherry at the Walker (see my foggy winter photograph of Spoonbridge & Cherry in the piece White Elephants On Art). It is the scale of these sculptures that draws me in.

According to Nelson-Atkins, when Oldenburg and van Bruggen were commissioned in 1994 to design a sculpture for the space, they responded to the formality of the original neoclassical building and the green expanse of its lawn by imagining the museum as a badminton net and the lawn as a playing field. The pair designed four birdies or shuttlecocks (made out of aluminum, paint, and fiberglass-reinforced plastic) that were placed as though they had just landed on opposite sides of the net. Each shuttlecock weighs 5,500 pounds, stands nearly 18 feet tall, and has a diameter of 16 feet.


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ARCHIVE 365: Archive 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 13th, 2013

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By Marylin Schultz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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By Bob Chrisman

Clouds disappear in the night sky here in the city. Before the sun sat, gray clouds had covered the sky and now I can’t see anything except a dark gray sky. If I go outside and sit on the steps I’ll be able to see the cloud cover because the spotlight from the disowned Frank Lloyd Wright on the Plaza will shine off the clouds and I’ll know if the clouds have gone away.

The summer has been free of cloud for the most part. We look with anticipation at any cloud that floats across the sky. Rain? Will it bring showers? The cloud floats by and leaves the ground dry.

The clouds have passed over us, except for a rare sprinkle here and there. You can almost hear the trees sigh with relief as any water, no matter how little, falls on them. They swallow it up and beg for more, but this summer, more has not come their way.

The edges of the leaves have dehydrated as though the moisture had leaked out of them—some leaf vampires have attacked all the leaves on every tree. The victims of these vampires turn brown and fall to the ground. Color has left the leaves and turned them to a dull green. A few have turned a pale yellow, but for the most part only shades of brown are visible on the trees.

We will have rain tonight. That’s what the weather people say. Showers. But, at almost 9 p.m. the air is warm and still. The cicadas saw away in the trees outside, a deafening chorus that arrived early this year.

Everything has come early this year: the heat, the drought, the turning leaves. The only thing that hasn’t come at all is a cloud to relieve the thirsty earth.


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

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missing Ely's sky - 23/365

Missing Ely’s Sky – 23/365, Archive 365, Droid Shots, Ely, Minnesota, photo © 2012 by Liz Schultz. All rights reserved.


Rooster, Cloud

Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-2012 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Clouds are connectors. We see cloud formations as recognizable, weather predicting puffs of air. Clouds are classified using a Latin Linnean system based on a book written by a London pharmacist, Quaker, and amateur meteorologist named Luke Howard. In 1803, he wrote The Modifications of Clouds naming the various cloud structures he had studied.

Written In The Clouds - 169/365

New Hope, Minnesota, photo © 2010-2012 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The terms used by Howard were readily accepted by the meteorological community and detailed in The International Cloud Atlas, published by the World Meteorological Organization in 1896. They are still used across the world today.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) extended Luke Howard’s classifications into 10 main groups of clouds, called genera. These are divided into three levels – cloud low (CL), cloud medium (CM) and cloud high (CH) – according to the part of the atmosphere in which they are usually found. Types of clouds can be categorized by height and are divided up by the following names:

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Cloud level (ft) Cloud type
High clouds – (CH) Base usually 20,000 ft or above
Medium clouds – (CM) Base usually between 6,500 and 20,000 ft
Low clouds – (CL) Base usually below 6,500 ft

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The names of clouds are based on their height as well as their appearance. Common cloud names are derived from Latin:

  • Stratus— means layer and refers to the group of clouds that form in big sheets covering the entire sky. Stratus clouds are made of liquid water and are called fog or mists when close to the Earth. The blend of altostratus can cause ice build up on the wings of aircraft.
  • Cumulus—in Latin cumulus means heap. These are fair-weather clouds that we might say look like cotton candy or castles.
  • Alto—means middle and refers to clouds that are in the middle layer of our atmosphere.
  • Cirrus—means curl in Latin. These clouds are high up and look like wisps of hair. Cirrus are the highest of all clouds and are made up almost entirely of ice crystals.
  • Nimbus—comes from the Latin word for rain. Whenever there is precipitation, there are nimbus clouds.

Shadow LeavesDusk On The Mississippi - 226/365

Shadow Leaves, Dusk On The Mississippi, photos © 2007-
2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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What do you think of when you say the word cloud? Do you see the Universe, fog hanging on the mountains, the sky over the prairie? How many types of clouds can you name. Or maybe cloud to you is not that literal. Is your iced tea cloudy; are there clouds in your coffee? Is there a cloud over your day or your mood? Does your past cloud your vision of the future?


Get out your fast writing pens and write the Topic Cloud at the top of your spiral notebook (or start tapping away on your computer or Smartphone).

You can write a haiku, tanka, or gogyohka practice and post it in the comments.

Or you may be surprised at what you discover when you follow the rules of Writing Practice —- Cloud, 10 minutes, Go!


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Resources:

Cloud Spotting Guide — UK Met Office

Cloud Types for Observers — Reading the Sky — UK Met Office

Cloud Atlas

Common Cloud Names, Shapes, & Altitudes – Georgia Tech

Cotton CloudinessTop Of The Cedar Avenue Bridge - 207/365

Cotton Cloudiness, Top Of The Cedar Avenue Bridge, photo ©
2008-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

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By Elizabeth Statmore


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

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

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

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

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

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

His name is Topper.

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

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


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

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

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

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

I called her yesterday afternoon.

We talked for two hours.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This feels like a miracle.


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


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

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

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By Elizabeth Statmore


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

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

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

“Trash Night! Trash Night!”

Bark! Bark! Bark!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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By Elizabeth Statmore


Fromage died on Saturday, May 12th 2012 at 11:30 p.m. at All Animals Emergency Hospital, surrounded by us and our love. He was dehydrated and disoriented, with a temperature of 105.6. Normal temperature for dogs is 101-ish, with 102 being in the high fever range. So Fromage had a raging fever, probably from a combination of a brain tumor (or nervous system tumor) and end-stage kidney disease.

We knew it was serious when he couldn’t do anything with a Beggin’ Strip — his favorite treat in the universe. And I’d dreamed Wednesday morning that he died. I knew it was a precognitive dream, but I didn’t know how or when the end would happen.

He did his utmost to stay alive for me — to support me and love me through this disorienting chapter of my life. He showed the same heroic courage and love he had shown us all his life. He was an impeccable warrior to the end, but in the end it was time to let him go.

It was the night before Mother’s Day.

It’s the little things that really punch me in the gut — the moments that interrupt my conditioned habits, such as automatically tucking the newspaper bags into the plastic bag collection next to the front door, only to realize that I don’t have a need to save dog poop bags any more.

I put his sterling silver tag on a chain and started wearing it around my neck last night as I went to bed.

He was the only being who has ever called me his mother. On our first Mother’s Day he bought me a pair of dog socks.

He was the dog of my life.

He was the dog of my heart.

I somehow left my favorite fountain pen at school on Friday, but I was too stressed-out and worried yesterday to deal with it. But this morning, all I wanted to do was write, so I drove down to school and back to retrieve it.

When we got to All Animals, Fromage had a fever of 105.6. This was a raging brain fever. He couldn’t even walk down our front stairs. I carried him in my arms down the thirteen front steps — all 60+ pounds of him. David carried him into the car. He was dehydrated and disoriented and scared. He was dying.

I held him in the back seat while David drove. He lay quietly on the back seat, watching where we were going.

He had kept himself alive so he could support me. And now I knew it was my turn to support him by letting him go and by easing his passage into the next world, into his next life.

Fred always said that Fromage was my spirit guide.

Now my heart just aches. David’s too. Fromage loved David so much, even though David felt hurt that Fromage was always so freaked out and demented these last few years. David hugged him and loved him too, even though there was so much dog hair. By last night, no one cared.

I can’t put away his old beds or mats yet. I am still processing the fact that he is gone. There is a giant Fromage-shaped hole in my heart — one with one stand-up ear and one flappy ear. The stand-up ear is his right one. It has a bite taken out of the tip. My lips and fingers know the shape of that missing spot instinctively. Completely. Like a fingerprint.

He’d been staying alive to get me through this tough time. On Wednesday night I got the word that my layoff notice had been rescinded. He went downhill fast from there.

I loved that dog so much.

He loved me more purely and wholeheartedly than I had ever been loved before. It was a healing kind of love. He healed me. He made me whole.

When Crystal and I saw Mary Oliver the first time at the Herbst a few years ago, Mary had recently lost her longtime partner, Molly Malone Cook, and had been writing about it for some time. A woman in the audience asked how she’d gotten through the devastating loss. “Well,” she said, first you go a little crazy. You go nuts for a while.” That thought comforts me now. I am going to have to go a little nuts for a while while I grieve.

The loss feels cavernous.

It’s also tinged with fear and shame that I might not be experiencing appropriate gratitude for the gift of his life. I *do* feel a bottomless gratitude for his life. It’s just that right now, this is the part where I have to take in and let out the hurting — the loss and the groundlessness of impermanence.

In legal terms, I rescued him, but the emotional truth is that he is the one who rescued me.

He was a magical dog, a magical creature. In mythical terms, he was my magical helper-being.

“A dog lives fifteen years, if you’re lucky,” Mary Oliver writes in one of her dog poems. In so many, many ways I’ve been very, very lucky. Fromage was in good health and good spirits until this very last week. He enjoyed long walks and Trash Night and giving David five and ten and eating Beggin’ Strips until the very last day of his life. He watched for my return through the glass in the front door every single day of our life together.

As we left the hospital room after it was over, I kissed him behind his flappy ear — where, even in death, he still smelled like a puppy — and I whispered to him, “Okay, Puppity, guard the house.”

Then we left the treatment room and closed the door behind us.

I did not look back.


Fromage at the Dog Garden, Dog Garden, San Francisco, California, April 2004, photo © 2004 by Carlos Hillson. All rights reserved.


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

Long is Part I in a series of three Writing Practices about the love and loss of Fromage.

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WI Covers auto

Sunrise Undercover, Droid Shots, original photograph edited with Paper Camera, sunrise at a writing retreat in a small town outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







The Fallow Field


The master gardener
tithes and tills,
never forgetting to bury her dead—
broken bones rise from the fallow field
odorous compost, grist for the mill.








-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 6th, 2012, at a self-propelled silent writing retreat outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With gratitude to my writing friends. For more on composting and how we structure these small silent retreats see:  Sit, Walk, Write On Lake Michigan, I Write Because…, and Make Positive Effort For The Good.

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By Bob Chrisman

I believe that I will never know the meaning of life, where I came from, why I’m here, or where I’m going when I die (if anywhere) because I can’t know those things from my limited perspective of the universe and how it functions. I believe that my not knowing doesn’t matter because I can’t and won’t know everything in this world or in the cosmos. It doesn’t work that way.

I believe in the inherent goodness of all people which somehow gets mucked up along the way by the environment in which they live, the people who raise them, and their capacity to endure hard times without being embittered. I believe we all start out life as innocents and the world around us works hard to turn us this way or that depending on so many factors that it’s pointless to worry about what one person did to influence someone.

I believe I will die. My personal experience tells me that everyone I know who has died is really dead and not faking it. Some people think they won’t die and I’m willing to hang around and see if that’s true or not. I can’t imagine anything more horrifying than living forever in this world or in another.

I believe I was meant to be a happy person—actually that we were all meant to be happy, but the world of illusion works to convince us we are not happy and are incapable of being happy without something else. We are constantly assaulted with the idea that if we have this pair of jeans, that pair of shoes, this religious faith, that spiritual practice, this deodorant, that breath spray—that something will allow us to live in eternal bliss. We have all we need right now to be in a state of bliss. Easier said than experienced in our world.

I believe the things that happen to us are neither bad nor good, that we don’t “deserve” to have certain events occur in our lives, and that life is random with no “cause and effect” in play. And by that, I mean we aren’t the victims of some karma or some deity who wants to even the score or restore the balance. I do believe there are consequences of our actions, but we can’t always know what those will be.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls…time’s up.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — I BELIEVE… is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey, Laura, and Sandrarenee in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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I believe the sunrise I saw this morning holds the same rank as the snowflake that dotted the tip of the windshield wiper at noon. I believe I feel best when I am rooted where I stand, when the frozen cedars whistle in the wind, when the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven slips through a hole in the screen and calls me to attention. I like to believe I will live a long life, foolish to ponder. There are no guarantees and that takes me back to the sunset, the flip side, the underbelly of a Moon on the rise.

I believe it’s 30 degrees colder than it was yesterday. I believe the crow I saw on Highway 10 mixed it up with a flock of sparrows making me pay attention to the dew tipped grasses on the edge of the bowling alley parking lot. I believe I’d like to go back to St. Simons Island, the place I walked with Liz and Mom, the lighthouse, the restaurant where we ate fresh shrimp and Liz ordered a Po’ Boy and the sweet tea melted in my mouth. The shore was flat and hard, stiff enough for bike tires to travel. There was one lone white chair against the horizon. We ran down by the Atlantic and slipped our hands in the undercurrent. I felt the pulse of the world.

I believe in time I’ll accomplish my dreams. They seem simple to me now, simple minded, not complicated. I’m not looking for fame or fortune. I want to be content with what I have. I believe we will move to a new home in the next five years. I believe in my dreams even when I don’t know exactly what they are. I believe in the circle of life, in living and dying and living again in some kind of spirit form. I believe I carry the dreams of my ancestors. Their sins, too. Not in a heavy way, but in the way all cultures pass down their dreams and sins and complaints. I believe in 7-year cycles, 7-year itches, 7 months and it’s summer, 7 months and it’s my birthday, hottest time of the year.

I believe in deja vu, rules of thumb, the law of threes, not superstition, but belief. I believe in the weather, not in the scientific sense, but in the long extremes that happen in places like Minnesota, the middle land, the hinterlands, the mountainless bowels of America. I believe in working hard at every turn. A work ethic passed down to me, the same one that takes parents out of the house, trying to make a living for their families. I believe it should not be so hard to make enough to pay the mortgage, eat well, and have good healthcare. Access to good healthcare should not decide where a person works. I believe the richest country in the world can also be the most benevolent, gracious, and kind. I believe in the Wind that chills me to the bone. The cold exhale of the Dragon, breathing down my neck.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — I BELIEVE… is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. QuoinMonkey joined frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman, Laura, and Sandrarenee in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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By Mike Carter


So thinking about some early memories of chocolate, I am reminded of going to Mabry’s store as a kid in Vancouver, Washington. I was maybe ten years old and they used to have these little bars called “7-Up” which had seven kinds of little chocolates in them. 7-up, there was one piece that was a chocolate covered Brazil nut, and one that was like a chocolate covered section of an orange slice candy. I always have had a thing for nuts, especially cashews. Mom would send me to the store for cigarettes and she would give me a dime for a candy bar. Yes, a dime. I don’t think these little 7-Up bars were around very long.

I inherited the chocolate tooth from my mom who liked all things sweet and on Friday nights would beat homemade fudge with a wooden spoon, in a Revere Ware copper lined one quart saucepan, while watching T.V. in the living room. We would take turns beating and it took some time, like an hour. Your forearms would get a nice little workout. Yea, chocolate is always an essential ingredient and one of my top 10 essential foods. I don’t like being chocolate deprived and there was this one time in junior high after not having chocolate for four months, dieting all through wrestling season, when my little sister was selling these boxes of chocolate covered almonds for a class fundraiser. I took a whole box and devoured it in a closet in one sitting. I think it was like a pound. I hid in the closet. Guilty pleasures. I always had a sweet tooth and, by the way, pecan pie is foremost on my list.

Living this past year in Hawaii, I got to see an actual Cacao tree which has these red-cinnamon colored pods that grow from the tree. These pods look like a pointy cucumber and are five or six inches long. Inside these pods are the little chocolate beans. They have to put up these big fences around the chocolate trees or people will steel the pods. If you go to the Ho ‘omaluhia garden you can see them. It is on the windward side of Oahu close to Kaneohe. It is a REALLY cool garden and it has lots of one of a kind trees, like the amazing blue marble tree. I think they have two chocolate trees in the garden. And if you get there, also try the Roselani brand chocolate macadamia nut ice cream, which is to die for and has a strong dark chocolate flavor and a very creamy texture. It is a little pricey at 9 dollars for a half a gallon, but sometimes you can get it on sale at Foodland for 4.50/half price. Best ice cream ever, to die for.

Actually, the best ice-cream here is Haupia, which is a very tasty coconut custard ice cream confection. Amazing stuff. The last month I lived there, I ate nothing but ice cream. Other favorite chocolates, well Mr. Goodbar is also on my top ten list, but it is hard to match my mom’s Friday night fudge. Grandma Carter also made some great fudge around Christmas time and she also made Divinity, which I miss. Chocolates I have known. And chocolates I have remembered.

Also cool are the little bars of Madeira Mexican chocolate which we can get in Seattle and you break off a chunk of these and mix with milk and sugar for amazing hot chocolate. I don’t go in for the high percentage chocolate bars like 60 or 70 percent —is a little much and too bitter for me. And what is the name of the little chocolate shop at Pike’s Market where you can get the bacon chocolate? Seattle Chocolatier or something like that. It is on the Seattle Food tour if you get there. Beer, bacon and bratwurst. These are my three essential nutritional building blocks.


NOTE:  Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of the five main botanical gardens on Oahu. Ho’omaluhia means to make a place of peace and tranquility.

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About Mike:  Mike Carter has been living in Kaneohe, Hawaii for the last year, working at Hawaii State Hospital. He will be returning to Seattle next month, and would like write a memoir of his year in Hawaii. Inspired by  WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE, the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine, Mike joined Bob, Teri, and QM in a Writing Practice on the topic.


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By Teri Blair

This is the first time I’ve done a timed, 15-minute write on my Royal Deluxe manual typewriter. I bought this green machine in Amherst, Massachusetts—Emily Dickinson’s hometown. The man at the shop told me it was the model Hemingway used. Did Emily like chocolate? She like ginger-tasting things like ginger cookies and ginger cakes if memory serves.

My first strong memory of chocolate were the Mr. Goodbars Mom had hidden in her purse. We were allowed pretty easy access to her purse (she wasn’t private about it) and she always shared pieces of her Mr. Goodbar. There was an unwritten understanding if we didn’t ask why they were always hidden there, we’d always get to have pieces. Sometimes she’d shake up the mix and have a Hershey Bar with almonds, never plain. Even now, when I want to buy her a treat she is delighted to be given either.

She told us the story of the Milky Way incident during her childhood, a guilty memory that still taints her love affair with that particular brand. She grew up in Hawick, a tiny town in Minnesota. There was one general story, the type that had the post office in one corner. Her parents would send her to the store for supplies from time to time, and she was always instructed to charge everything to John Everson’s account. Once a month her father, the town blacksmith, would get his itemized list of charged groceries. These would only be the necessities his family of nine needed. There was nothing extra to throw around during the Depression. After Mom charged the Milky Way (and stole away to a private place to eat it), she lived in mortal fear of the impending grocery bill. They’d know then. She’d lied and wasn’t worthy of their trust.

But when the bill came, not a word was said. It wasn’t until Mom was about 50 that she told her dad about it. I remember it. Even though he was a kind, gentle man, she still didn’t want to disappoint him. He smiled, I suppose, and told her in his thick Norwegian accent that it didn’t matter. Knowing him, he probably went right out and bought her another one. He was sorry he couldn’t give his kids more. When they asked him for money when they were children, he’d turn his wallet inside out to show them it was completely empty. After he died and they cleaned out his house, she found that old wallet. She keeps it on her dresser.

They were broke. It was the Depression. They lived on potatoes, headcheese, and lefse. Maybe an occasional chicken some farmer paid his welding bill with. There were bums who came to their door begging for a meal. Her mom made them a plate of their starchy food. Surely no chocolate on the plate.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Teri Blair joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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By Bob Chrisman

The temperature at 3:50 p.m. is 101 degrees with a heat index of 106. Chocolate melts in these temperatures. I can’t even buy it and put it in my backpack without arriving home to a glob of a candy bar wrapper that, at one time, held a perfectly solid bar of chocolate.

I’m going into withdrawal in this heat. Either I eat the chocolate as soon as I buy it or I don’t have it. The summer isn’t fair to us chocolate eaters. I pray for cooler temperatures, ones below the melting point of chocolate.

Perhaps that accounts for my foul mood of the last couple of weeks when temperatures soared into the upper 90’s and I abandoned any attempt to purchase chocolate and walk home with it. The withdrawal has reduced me to a feral human being scouring the fridge for substitutes. Carrots won’t do it, neither will broccoli or Brussels sprouts. I could always eat butter and crackers, but the mere thought of being without any chocolate, even for chocolate emergencies which occur quite frequently in my house, has made me sullen. I WANT CHOCOLATE…a bar of chocolate, a chocolate kiss, a dish of chocolate ice cream, a piece of chocolate cake…no, cake won’t do…it’s not the pure joy of the taste of chocolate on my tongue.

Pure chocolate (and I’m talking milk chocolate) melts on my tongue and wraps each of the thousands of taste buds in the bliss and ecstasy of the taste. They go orgasmic surrounded by the luscious liquid that bathes them in milky darkness. The saliva fills my mouth at the thought of the experience. This isn’t a good thing. No, I must quit thinking about chocolate or I’ll go crazy and rush out in the heat to a store where I will buy and eat chocolate bars until I satisfy this craving.

Reminds me of the time I decided to diet. I found myself in church with a friend who recommended the minister because of his good sermons. As he got up to deliver his address, I noticed that he walked like a chicken. The thought of chicken made my mouth water and from there my thoughts descended into all my favorite chicken dishes: fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken in a tarragon cream sauce, and finally my mind settled on cashew chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant with a side of the greasiest and best egg rolls on the planet. My mind danced with the image of that dish, the smell, the taste. My stomach rumbled with anticipation.

Cashew chicken. I must have cashew chicken. I’ll die if I don’t have it. Feed me cashew chicken.

I felt the drool running down my chin and quickly wiped it away.

My friend turned to me, “Did you enjoy the sermon?”

“Yeah, I did. Is church over?”

“Sure is. What do you want to have for lunch?”

“Chocolate.” No, that’s now, not then. Right now I want chocolate in whatever solid form I can have it, heat or no heat.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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CHOC 4 2011-07-15 18.11.43 AUTO c

Chocolate – One Of Life’s Simple Pleasures – 28/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 28 BlackBerry 52 response to Jump-Off from Lotus, Around the City: Simple Pleasures, July 15th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s late in the evening at the end of a long week, so I’m going to make this Writing Topic short—and sweet (the way I like my chocolate). Though today we think of chocolate as having at least a hint of sweetness, it wasn’t always so. According to the Smithsonian’s article A Brief History of Chocolate it is estimated that chocolate has been around for over 2000 years, and for about 90 percent of that history, it was strictly a beverage, and sugar didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t until Europeans came to the Americas that chocolate was sweetened with cane sugar and honey.

The Timeline of Chocolate History at The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club states that in 1765, the first chocolate factory appeared in the United States in pre-revolutionary New England, where the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. And in 1797, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe toured Switzerland and insisted on having chocolate available at all times, along with a chocolate pot.

According to the Smithsonian, we often misuse words related to the origins of chocolate:

Most experts these days use the term “cacao” to refer to the plant or its beans before processing, while the term “chocolate” refers to anything made from the beans. “Cocoa” generally refers to chocolate in a powdered form, although it can also be a British form of “cacao.”

Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Nectar of the gods. The Midwest Writing Group I am in never meets without indulging in a few bars of gourmet chocolate. (And it’s no secret that our teacher Natalie loves chocolate.) Reading, writing, and chocolate just seem to go together. Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or delighted in Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy in the film (based on Dahl’s book) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?

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The Secrets Of ChocolateWhat is your favorite chocolate? Do you prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Do you believe chocolate has aphrodisiac properties? Scientists have isolated phenylethylamine (PEA) which is a stimulant found in chocolate, and also in the brain. A miniscule amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, raising blood pressure and heart rate. Is there a connection between food and the brain?

Last week Liz brought these chocolate bars home from Trader Joe’s. She chose the dark with walnuts and pecans; mine is the Swiss milk. Let’s put a slightly different twist on this Writing Practice. Instead of writing Chocolate at the top of your page, head into the kitchen and rip open your favorite chocolate bar. Slip a square right on top of your tongue, and write down what connects pen, page and a delicious chunk of chocolate — 15 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off 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.

-related to posts: the velveeta cheese of donuts haiku, WRITING TOPIC — CANDY FREAK, Homage to a Candy Freak, On Candy, Candy Stash — Barter Is Better

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