Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zory


Today is the last day of the 2016 April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Writing has always been my most effective way to process events, curiosities, life questions. Sometimes small and easily overlooked, sometimes too big and scary to look at directly.

Today is Z and today's piece is not a story or an essay or any other organized piece of literature. It's just an exploration without making a point or even identifying the point. Maybe some day one or more of these people will become a character I can get inside of and write a story. Or maybe I can do enough research to craft an essay with a point.

Until then let's just wander through my memories and ancillary thoughts, keeping in mind that they are my memories and thoughts and, as such, are flawed.

With the plight of the refugees trying to get out of the middle east, I think of the only refugees that I've known very well.

When I was in high school, Maria, one of my best friends, was a Cuban refugee. (I'll use a fictitious surname for the family.) I don't know exactly when Maria and her family left Cuba or how they ended up in Oklahoma. Maybe she said, but I don't remember.

What I do remember is the story about Zory. Maria, who had two younger sisters, was a year ahead of me in school. Luly was my age, and Zory was the youngest.

When the family left Cuba, they were allowed to bring only the clothes they wore.

While fairly rare in Oklahoma to have girls younger than our mothers' age with pierced ears, it was not uncommon for baby girls in Cuba to. And Zory did. Mrs. Sanchez put her ruby earrings in Zory's ears. They were her engagement gift from Mr. Sanchez and she hoped to be able to keep them.

Officers at the airport took their money. They took Mrs. Sanchez's jewelry including her diamond wedding rings, but did not question the ruby earrings in the baby's ears. They let Maria's mother keep her fur coat, too. I guess the coat wouldn't have been very valuable in Cuba's tropical climate or the new communist mode.

It's the ruby earrings smuggled out in Zory's ears that I most remember about their refugee story. How scary it must have been getting the baby through the officials onto the plane that would take them to the United States and freedom. Even now, just thinking about it conjures fear in my heart.

When I heard the story, my drama-teen mind imagined communist police ripping the earrings out of baby Zory's ears. Maybe that is exactly the thought that sits in my chest today making my breath shallow as I write this.

My today's mind knows that would likely not have happened. A more frightening thought now is that smuggling ruby earrings would have been sufficient cause to stop them getting onto the plane.

Maria's family owned a school in Cuba. I don't know where exactly, but her father ran the school and taught there.

Maria told us that her father originally supported Castro against the dictator Batista. Because her father supported the rebels, the Batista people had him on a list for execution. So they were happy when Castro won. But then Castro turned communist. (That's how we American's saw the events in the early sixties.)

The Sanchezes owned two houses, one in the mountains where they spent the summers because it was cool. Then Castro closed all the private schools. He took the school property and their home in the mountains and began rounding up the country's educated and upper class people. Mr. Sanchez began working against Castro.

Maria told stories about the anti-Castro young people roaming the city at night spray painting anti-communist slogans on walls. She told us about being chased by the police.

When the Sanchezes heard that Mr. Sanchez was on a list to be arrested by the Castro regime, they decided to leave Cuba.

In Oklahoma, the Sanchezes lived in a small frame, two-bedroom, one bath house. Mr. Sanchez, who spoke English, worked in a factory until he was able to get a job teaching at a Black university. Mrs. Sanchez, who did not speak English, did alterations for a department store.

By the time I knew them, which was maybe three years after they left Cuba, the girls spoke English, their only accent -- Oklahoman. I knew they lived differently from most of us. They ate avocados with olive oil. They put beans and rice on to cook for supper every evening after school, because their mother didn't get home from work until after six. (Most of our mothers didn't work.) They weren't allowed to date. Not even after they were sixteen. They only had one car.

Back then I never thought about how different it must have been for the three girls. The Sanchezes were white upper-class Cubans. In Cuba, they had two homes, servants. Their father was a recognized intellectual. They enjoyed status. They had extended family and family friends they'd known all their lives. They celebrated holidays and birthdays with Cuban music and Cuban food and Cuban games. And attended church where they had been christened. All in Spanish.

In Oklahoma, they spoke Spanish only in their home with their family and their little dog Dukey. The Cuban exile community in Oklahoma did come together for celebrations and partied in Cuban style. But then they would all go away again, to their adopted Anglo-Oklahoma lives.

I lost track of them when Luly and I graduated high school, but I know the Sanchezes sent Maria and Luly to college. Maria even joined a sorority, which must have been sort of like the social groups she would have enjoyed in Cuba -- but still no dating.

It's not until now as an adult that I think how lonely Mrs. Sanchez must have been. To work all day, when she'd never worked before. To hear nothing but an alien language from the time she left home in the morning until she came home at night. To know what a privileged life her children could have had, had things not gone so badly wrong in the land of her birth.

I remember her dressing to go to weddings of the children of her Cuban friends and friends of her Cuban American daughters. She always wore her fur coat and the ruby earrings.

If I were writing her story, that coat and the Zory earrings would be declarations of defiance and perseverance and, in the end, victory.


Friday, April 29, 2016

I See You -- flash fiction




Hoss, the Jack Russell, always met him at the door, and he always said the same thing. "I see you."

When she wrecked the car, she cried. She hadn't totaled the car. She was not hurt. She'd been thinking about where she was going instead of what she was doing. The officer ticketed the other driver, but if she'd been paying attention, she could have avoided the whole thing, been on time for her meeting, saved the other driver a ticket, saved herself the deductible. Tears were unnecessary. She was just so angry.

"I see you," he said as he tried to put his arm around her.

"Oh, leave me alone," she said and shrugged him off.

But he hadn't left her alone, and he didn't. Until he did.

A brain aneurysm. Asymptomatic. Can cause stroke ending in brain damage or death. "No shit Sherlock." She should be glad he died. He'd have hated brain damage. She'd have hated brain damage. She hated him being dead.

But she was learning. She had learned to go to bed alone. To get up alone. She didn't go out to eat alone or to the movies alone. Not yet.

There were good kinds of alone. Like when you're in a forest beyond the sound of humans. In the spring when everything is damp and just coming green again. Bird song, drops of rain landing on your hat, the quarreling of a squirrel when he realizes you've seen him.

Or in a warm, candle-lit bath. The house quiet, because he's already asleep. And you can almost hear him and the dog breathing.

One reason she'd married him was so she wouldn't have to deal with life alone. And because he was so practical. She'd been called a dreamer, a bleeding heart, a trouble maker. But he never faulted her for being angry or upset. He really could see her. He saw she tried to right the wrongs she railed against. That she tried to find the good in people, especially the people who were hard for her to like. That she wanted her way because she really did think it was the best way for everybody concerned. He saw that sometimes she failed. At big things. At little things. At being perfect.

Like right then. She did not know how to grieve. Not how to do it right. She read books, went to grief counselling.

 At least she could sleep.

She saw him. Maybe it was a dream. Maybe all those bad times were the dream. This seemed real. His hair was freshly cut and he smelled of bath soap and deodorant. He was coming through the trees toward her.

"I see you," he said.

"I see you," she said and reached for him.

Something landed in the middle of her, jolting her awake. Two bright black eyes in a little white face, looking down at her.

"Rotten dog." Her eyes filled with angry tears. But the little dog looked so happy to see her awake.

"I see you," she said letting go of the tears and the anger. "Wanna go to the movies? Or will breakfast do?"

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Boy with a Truck -- Flash Fiction


image from everydayfamily.com

"Gran, whatcha doin'?"  Michael asked as he climbed onto the bed.

"Folding laundry. What are you doing?"

"Nothing." The three-year-old held out a small, battered red truck.

"Where'd you get that?" she asked, checking the tag in a T-shirt.

"Grandpa." He tried to see the tag, too.

She turned the shirt so he could see. "XL, that's Grandpa's shirt."

"Michael starts with M," he said.

"Right. But XL is the size. Grandpa starts with G."

"G?"

"XL stands for extra large."

Michael took his truck and ran to the living room where his Grandpa watched the news. He stopped in front of the TV.

"Boy, you'd make a better door than window," his grandfather said.

"Extra, extra," someone sang as the announcer shouted "Welcome to Sports Extra." Video of people swimming flashed in the background and the sports-caster said "One hundred days until the 2016 Summer Olympics. Michael Phelps and our own Missy Franklin are in Colorado Springs training."

"Michael? Like me?" the child asked.

His Grandfather nodded. "But bigger."

"What are Olympics?" One knee down, travelling in a half-crawl, Michael pushed his truck across the floor.

"It's for athletes who excel at their sport. There'll be wrestling and basketball and running and jumping."

"Extra large?" Michael asked. Sure that his Grandpa watched him, he ran fast and jumped as high as he could.

"That's pretty good. You just might get to go to the Olympics in sixteen years or so. When you're a lot bigger. Go ask Gran if she wants some ice cream."

"Can I take Red?"

"Red?"

Michael held up the little truck.

Half an hour later the three of them and Red were outside the ice cream shop. They had to wait and let Michael watch a convoy of trucks. Big white trucks with the iconic red logo of a Colorado electric company on the doors.

"Xcel Energy trucks, headed for Kansas," the grandfather said. "They're expecting bad weather."

"Extra large," Michael said, entranced by the passing trucks.

Michael's grandmother looked up at the clear blue sky and watched a man in shorts enter the ice cream shop. "It must be Spring. Tornadoes on the prairie and we're expecting snow."

"Not until Saturday." Grandpa laughed and scooped Michael up.

Inside the shop a teenager behind the counter asked "What'll it be, little man?"

From the vantage point of his grandfather's arms Michael had the ice cream man say the names of each of the possibilities.

Finally he said, "Chocolate. XL, please."



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Words Used Wrongly


It's Day W in the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge. (Or should I write that "W?" Or 'W?' W?) Anyway, I had trouble coming up with a topic to write about. I finally settled on writing about where I live. (Where I Live. Get it? Except I was going to title the piece "The Wonders of My World.") But I Woke up With a Whole new idea even before the cat Worried me aWake, Which he often does by playing With the picture hanging over my bedside table.

Who knew there Were so many W Words in my life?

Just before I woke I was dreaming. In the dream my friend Lou was writing the word "periodontal" and I was reading over her shoulder. I know. I know. It's rude to read over someone's shoulder.

I remember thinking her hand-writing was not what I expected. It was big and bold. Rounded like a high school girl who's practiced her letters over and over to develop her style. In the waking world, I've never seen her handwriting. Her written communications with me have all been via email.

For some reason, she was dissatisfied with the word and she looked it up in a dictionary. Yes, a hard-bound book. That didn't surprise me. She's a retired librarian and of course she would turn to a book rather than look it up on her phone. Thinking back on it, that was my husband's American Heritage Dictionary. I recognize the tattered dust jacket.

When I woke, I knew my W-Day had to be "Words Used Wrongly." I can use all those photos some other day.

Everyone has pet peeves -- drivers who change lanes without signalling, people who squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle, husbands who hang clothes willy-nilly. Thinking people hang like shirts with like shirts, pants with pants, suits with suits. And dirty clothes should be dropped into the dirty-clothes basket not beside it. I leave lights on, get up early and don't start the coffee, and don't take the most efficient route to my destination. (You've probably noticed that last one about me.)

Anyway, using words wrongly is altogether too common. Television reporters are most likely to get me to shout the word they should have used. I'm a bit more restrained with friends, acquaintances, and strangers on the train. If I'm not tired or stressed. Or if they haven't just done it one too many times.

Canada Geese! Not Canadian. These geese were hatched right here in Colorado. They've probably never been to Canada.

No one has a "long road to hoe." Think about this. Why on earth would someone hoe a road? What does one do with a hoe? Haven't they ever seen a cotton field? Well, maybe not. But a garden, then? With rows of spinach and green beans and carrots. That's what people may have a long one of to hoe. A row of plants!

Unless I misunderstand and they're saying 'ho, talking about street walkers who actually walk a long street rather than standing on the corner.

And, No! An airplane crash does not make you feel badly unless you were in the crash and now your sense of touch is impaired. Would you feel sadly about a plane crash? No. You'd say you felt sad. Then say you feel bad about the plane crash. Adding -ly doesn't make you sound educated.

Folks, -ly makes a word an adverb. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. So we can want something really badly. Here, badly modifies want and really modifies badly. Now, you're educated, at least about adverbs.

And the word fewer is NOT the same as less. If a quantity can be counted and one hasn't as many, then he has fewer. Minutes can be counted so fewer is proper. Time cannot be counted so less is proper.

And don't get me started on defensed instead of defended or impacted instead of affected.

I could go on for hours. And you could, too. But I'm hungry so I'm going to go make my breakfast. Or is that fix my breakfast? Prepare my breakfast!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vision





                   Vision

For God so loved the world
That He gave to all men eyes.
And to some He gave sight.





Monday, April 25, 2016

Up, Up and Away!


If you've read three or more of my blog posts, you know that I think humanity's future lies in Space. And I tend more toward the "Shining city upon a hill" view of our future colonies, rather than post-apocalyptic outposts teetering on the brink of disaster.

And I hope, those shining new colonies will not be born of some global catastrophe on Earth like the current migration out of Africa and the Middle East. It is post-apocalyptic. Many of those people are not looking for a better life. They're just looking for any life at all.

I do not fancy an Earth left in smoking ruins. I don't think it will happen like that.

Humans have always moved on from their natal homes. They seek wealth, adventure, a new vista, a safer place to raise their children. A place where they can build the life they want. I don't think emigration from Earth will be any different. We'll have people who want one or more of these things just like we always have had.

Just as we do have.

I think colonies in Space will happen as they always have. Explorers will be inspired by the possibility of "going where no man has gone before." The new Columbuses will be funded by entrepreneurs who see the possibility of wealth by providing resources more abundantly and more cheaply.

Scientists will hitch a ride with the new Hudson Bay Companies to expand humanity's knowledge.
All manner of Engineers, will imagine and design better ways to get there, to live there. And the rest of us will go for the jobs, for the better neighborhoods. For the same reasons we up-stakes and move to a new town today. Eventually we'll even move to a colony because that's where the one we love is from and has family they want to be near.

That's just the way we humans work.

Yes is the answer. Space is our Future.

Up, up and away!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

2Cellos

Thank You Denver! #photooftheday #usa #tour #music #2cellos

I'm there! On the far right in the top balcony. You can't see me? You'll just have to take my word for it.

It's been years since I went to a concert, but I love these guys and I wanted to see them perform in person. Last year they toured the U.S. but Denver was not included. Midland, Texas, was included but not Denver. Midland? And not Denver. Really? Now, some of my favorite relatives live in Texas, but not in Midland!

My son John and his wife Sonja live near Dallas so they were able to go to the Dallas concert a year ago February. They introduced me to 2Cellos music. John plays cello. And their seven-year-old has just started lessons this year. John and Sonja very kindly bought me a T-shirt and waited in line to get it autographed. I wore that T-shirt lots, until I realized the autographs were fading from washing.

Then last November 2Cellos announced their 2016 American tour, and Denver was on the list. So I quick, quick bought two tickets.

I like all kinds of music. Maybe I should say many kinds of music. I'm not a fan of Country/Western, opera or operetta. Not fond of elevator music either.

My two favorite types of music are hard rock and classical. Watch this video and you'll see why I like these guys.
Welcome to the Jungle

The concert was in the Buell Theater in downtown Denver. Now driving in downtown Denver on a Saturday night is not my favorite activity, but the light rail goes downtown and it's cheaper than parking. 

What I didn't know when I bought the tickets, was that the new light rail line out to the airport would be open for business the day before the 2Cellos concert. And it would be free from noon Friday until ten Saturday night. Denver International is no where near the Buell Theater. In fact, it's 26 miles from downtown Denver. But the entire light rail system would be free during that time.

Even better! I could see 2Cellos in concert and not have to drive downtown at night. Wouldn't use any gas and wouldn't have to pay lotsa money to park. I love the light rail.

Of course I gave my husband right of first refusal on the second ticket and he refused it. He's not a big 2Cellos fan and he's even less enamored of crowded performance halls. My daughter Grace quickly agreed to fill the void.

The only thing left for me to plan was what I'd wear. You watched the above video, right? So you know this was a rock concert even if it was being done in an upscale theater. My 2Cellos T-shirt of course.
Senior Citizen Fan Girl!

16th Street Mall in downtown Denver is a veritable smorgasbord of eateries. Everything from cloth-table-linens style seafood and steak places to fast food Mexican. We ate at The Market which is a little place stuffed to the gills with umpteen different kinds of coffees and teas, honeys, jams, and every kind of homemade dessert a heart attack could desire. I had a Reuben sandwich and coffee. Skipped the desserts. I was too excited about the concert.

Oh, and it's prom season here in Denver. A young man appropriately attired came in accompanied by three young women, all wearing full-length evening dresses. One of the girls was wearing a princessy dress in the same apricot color as the young man's tie and vest so she was probably his official date. They gathered up at the counter to order and he announced "Okay, ladies, order anything you want." A man after mine own heart.

My own Senior Prom date was very like this. One of my friends was a Cuban refugee and her parents were old-school so they wouldn't let her date, but she could go to Prom with me and my date. After dropping into a couple of standard Oklahoma-style after-parties, we went to her house where her parents were giving a party for us -- and all their Cuban friends and family. Wonderful food and music and dancing on the lawn. 

But I digress. Back to downtown Denver. From The Market, it was a short walk to Denver's Performing Arts Complex and the Buell Theater. The Buell is beautiful. And huge. There's a bar on each floor. (Grace had champagne with the concert. I had water. Alcohol puts me to sleep.) And elevators, thank goodness. I do pretty well climbing stairs, but coming down is a slow and arduous process and I hadn't brought my hiking sticks.

Like I pointed out in the pic at the start of this blog, our seats were in the top balcony. I guess my fear of heights showed. The young woman ushering us to our seats suggested I walk on the side of the aisle with the railing saying, "Some people experience vertigo." Which I sometimes do and I did use the railing.

I was the only one there, at least that I saw, wearing a 2Cellos T-shirt. I did see a young man wearing an Oklahoma City Thunder T-shirt. That's a professional basketball team. And I'm originally from Oklahoma, so I thought I should speak to him. He was sitting a little ways away from us, but I figured I could shout "Thunder Up!" and he'd look around at me. Grace shushed me. She's not really shy or anything, she just has higher standards of deportment than I.

Oh, the concert. The concert!

Luka Šulić, born in Slovenia and Stjepan Hauser, born in Croatia, were classically trained and can play standard classical fare. But what makes them outstanding are their covers of songs by U2, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, etc. Instrumentally. They don't sing.


I swear Luka, the one on the left,
would fit right in with the Hrdlicka side of my family.

Theater employees in matching vests, dress shirts, and ties spent the pre-concert time moving through the audience telling people they couldn't take pictures or videos during the performance. Unlike most of the rock concerts I've been to, where the employees mingling were wearing matching brightly colored T-shirts marked SECURITY.

(Bye-the-by, when Luka and Stjepan came on stage, they said we could take all the pictures and videos we wanted.)

I do have to say that the audience was well-behaved and even though this is Colorado, there was no tell-tale smoke wafting through the light show.

In fact, I was a little concerned that the audience was too well-behaved. It seemed to take them a little while to get into it. But then they did and it was nonstop clapping, whistling, screaming, moving to the music. 

In the old-days, I'd have danced in the aisles, but they were so steep and so high up. I limited myself to dancing in my seat. And singing along. It was so loud, nobody complained about my singing.

Speaking of loud, the couple behind us had brought their two young children, but they wisely had also brought hearing protection for the littles and both were sound asleep before the concert got well underway. 

About half-way through the performance, their drummer came on stage. Drusan  Kranjc is of the John Densmore (The Doors) school of drums -- hard and harder. With the intensity of the cellos (I bet you never thought of cellos as intense!) and the crashing drums the audience was pumping adrenaline.

My favorite pieces were "Welcome to the Jungle," "With or Without You," and a surprise for me The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction." OMG!

It was after 10 when we got back to the light rail and a Transit Authority cop was right there. I asked him if the freebie ended at ten like they said it would. He said, "It's supposed to, but we're not enforcing it. Go ahead. Get on." Yes!

2Cellos said they'd come back. Gonna start saving my money today. I want seats right down front!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Surfaces -- Flash Fiction


"Will you need anything else?" Polly asked.

"No. That should do it." Diana closed her brief case. She would not open it again until Sunday afternoon. "Have a good weekend."

"You, too. And be careful."

"Polly, Polly. Being careful is not what it's all about."

Polly shook her head. "Whatever. Remember you've got a meeting first thing Monday. I don't think they'd appreciate your having a broken nose."

"Me either. Don't worry. No stars on the helmet for me."

She hadn't forgotten Monday's meeting. She had the figures in the brief case and she'd run over them Sunday. Farris, Martin, and Bach were ready to buy. She was ready to lead the negotiations. No problem. On the surface she was a shrewd lawyer. A maker of deals. A financial facilitator.

She took off her heels and dropped them in her bag. Red sole, pointy-toe pumps. Very plain, but not black. Nude. Proper for the office. Thank God she had small feet. Louboutins only went up to size 10. Well, her feet were small for her size.

She thought the Assault Queens took her more for her size than her athleticism. Five foot, ten and a hundred eighty pounds. But she could move. It probably didn't hurt that she was the Martin in Farris, Martin, and Bach. Amateur sports of all stripes could use money and a successful law firm could afford to invest in sports -- advertising write-off.

She tied her sneakers. A quick stop at the apartment to grab a bite and her equipment bag then back to the arena. She'd eat a proper dinner after the bout. It wouldn't do to throw up her first time out.

She'd been practicing with the team four nights a week for two months now. And working out on her own on Sundays and Tuesdays. She was ready.

In the locker room, she slipped into her high impact sports bra like a vest, hooking the ten front clasps, beginning at the bottom. It wasn't bullet proof but it was necessary.

She pulled on black and yellow striped tights, black shorts, a black sleeveless jersey with the gun toting bee logo on the front, a pair of heavy yellow athletic socks, and her good-luck red wrist bands. The wrist bands didn't match, but red was her color and there was no rule against them.

She thanked Coach Tina for marking a big 14 on her upper arm. Wrist guards over her red wrist bands. Elbow and knee pads in place. Mouth guard tucked into the top of her bra. She hung the quad skates over her shoulder, put her helmet under her arm, and headed up to the rink. She was Lady-Die-N. She was ready.

Roller Derby is like the law. Skaters and lawyers play offense and defense at the same time. Diana liked the immediacy, the intensity. The constant requirement that she be ready to shift focus. Attack and defend.

She chose corporate law because if she lost, it was only going to cost somebody money. If she lost at criminal law, it could cost somebody their freedom, maybe even their life. Plus corporate pays better.

Okay, so Roller Derby doesn't pay, but no one's likely to get killed. A black eye, maybe. Or a broken nose.

The first half came and went without her. But that was okay. She was sitting in a team chair, not in the bleachers. "Put me in, coach..." the John Fogarty lyrics looped over and over. "Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play today."

Tina waved her over. The Queens were up 193 to the Junkyard Dogs 89. What could it hurt?

She joined the blockers in the engagement zone. And they were off. She and her two fellow blockers walled-up trapping the Dogs' Jammer. Enemy blockers broke in, elbows flying. One caught her across the face and she retaliated sending the opposing blocker off the track. Exhilarated, she skated backwards, recycling to force the opposing blocker to reenter the track yards behind the pack.

She felt no pain. Unaware of the blood running down her face, she resisted the team doc's call to get off the track. Then she felt it. Tasted it. Warm, metallic blood seeping around her mouth guard, down her chin.

"Sit up straight and lean slightly forward," the doctor ordered. "Now pinch your nose like so," she said pinching her own nose just below the bone up against her face. "Hold it for five minutes. Watch the clock."

Oh God. She'd broken her nose. It was obvious. She was a skater only on the surface. Underneath the pads and high impact sports bra, she was just a forty-two year old lawyer. She couldn't show up at the meeting with a broken nose. Maybe two black eyes. Who would take her seriously?

"Is it broken?" she asked, barely above a whisper.

"What?" The doctor was watching the action on the track.

"Broken? Is it broken?"

"No. Just a little blood. You'll be all right. Give it five minutes."

Five minutes later, the bleeding had stopped. She rubbed her nose tentatively on her good-luck wrist band. No blood showed. At least she hadn't thrown up.

The Assault Queens, her team, were winning and John Fogerty was in her head again. "Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play today."




Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Race -- On Writing



Today is R in the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge. The 20th letter in the alphabet. Eight more letters. Nine more days. It's getting hard to sit down at the keyboard. To think of a topic or title that's appropriate. Maybe if I blogged about cooking. Or astronomy. Or rivers.

But I write about writing -- the mechanics of the craft, research (ah, that would have been good for today), book reviews with a nod to the author's style, bits of flash fiction and flash nonfiction, or excerpts from my book Murder on Ceres.

I read about bloggers planning ahead, deciding on a theme for the Challenge. Maybe even getting a few pieces written and ready to go. If you know me at all, you know I'm not that organized or that mindful.

That is not to say that I wait 'for the muse to strike' before I write. I had in mind a piece of flash fiction for today, but the story was like Topsy, Peter Rabbit's sister, it just grew and grew. Until it wasn't finished for today.

Inspiration for stories comes from everywhere. The Race comes from my exercise teacher's story about her grandmother's arranged marriage jammed together with an NPR story on this year's Paris-Roubaix.

Begun in 1896, Paris-Roubaix, sometimes called 'The Hell of the North,' is a one-day, 161 miles plus professional bicycle race. What makes The Race unique is the cobbles. Normal, fairly smooth road racing gives way to extended patches of cobbles -- old, loaf-sized paving stones that are anything but smooth.

The concept of smooth sailing giving way to bone-jarring, treacherous cobble stretches, is the storied path of true love and, in my story, the path of a marriage.

The moral of this blog post might be "be careful what you say around a writer, it may end up in print." Or "don't plan a project that's too big for the time or space allotted."


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quid Pro Quo -- A Fairy Tale


Once upon a time, not so very long ago a beautiful little fairy sat weeping in the snow. Under that snow lay her garden. Her beautiful starberries, could they survive.

The many warm days in late Winter had lulled her into believing Spring sat just around the corner and would come riding in at full gallop to make her starberries grow bigger, better, and faster than they ever had before.

But it wasn't Spring just around the corner, it was a man. And he didn't come riding in, he strode in on his own two feet. He wasn't particularly tall or handsome. He wasn't even very fit, but he was a powerful wizard. He said so.

"Listen to me, Babe," he said. "I can get rid of this snow. I've done it before and I can do it again. Your starberries will be Great!"

Now, our little fairy was no dummy. "What's in it for you?" she asked.

"I'm not gonna lie, my little Fruit Cup. I just want to share in your success. And with my help, you can be successful. Successful beyond your dreams."

"Beyond my dreams," she murmured dusting the icy flakes off her bare toes and hovering a bit higher off the ground. "What do I have to do?"

"Okay, Sugar Plum. The first thing is you gotta get rid of that Purple Fairy that's always hanging around."

"But she's my friend. She helps me pick the starberries. And her cousins bring starberries in the winter when it's too cold for mine to grow."

He reared back. Then jutting his jaw toward her and flexing his short, pudgy fingers, he said, "Think about this Sweet Cheeks. You need sunshine. And you need it now."

She knew he was right.

"You don't need no Purple Fairy," he said.

She didn't think that sounded nice.

"First thing you know, all her purple relatives will be on your doorstep and there won't be no room for you. Sure, she'll help you pick your starberries, if they survive this snow. But all those purple cousins will eat 'em up."

She didn't think that sounded right, but he'd done this before. He said so. And she did need to get rid of the snow.

"What should I do?" she asked.

"First of all, Honey Bun, you need to get rid of this piddly little fence. It ain't even tall as the snow is deep."

He was right. It wasn't.

"But it keeps the rabbits out. Or at least, most of them," she said.

"We'll build a bigger one. Better yet, we'll annihilate the little buggers."

He tramped back and forth in the snow. She wanted to tell him that her daffodils were under the snow right there, but he talked over her.

"And we'll plant cabbages and rutabagas. They'll bring a better price."

She did like a good coleslaw. But she wasn't sure what a rutabaga was. And would there be room for her starberries?

"We'll put up a big sign. Flashing lights and arrows, so's people will notice us," he said with a dreamy look in his eyes. "We'll tear down that hovel of yours and build a proper house, a huge house. You'll love it, Prettikins."

"Now, wait just a minute Mr. Whoever You Are."

She had built that cottage herself. Maybe it wasn't huge, but good deeds came out of that house. Good ideas. Good dreams for the future. Actually her home was one of the biggest in the neighborhood. Quite large enough for her world.

"Wait?" he shouted. "You ain't got a minute to wait. Let me fix this for you. I can do it. I've done it before. The Great and Powerful Trumpelstiltskin does not lose."

"You're trampling my daffodils." She hovered higher above the snow, eye to eye with the red-faced man. Her hands on her hips in her best Superman pose.

Recovering her equanimity, she smiled and graciously invited the man to tea. "The sun will come out in due time and Purple Fairy is bringing some starberries. I'll make whipped cream."



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Perceptions



From Google:
Perception: pərˈsepSH(ə)n
     1.  the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses
     2.  a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression
     3.  intuitive understanding and insight

Perceptions can be wrong.

My brother tells good stories and some of them are mostly true. This one probably is entirely true.

It happened back in 1970 or 71. Matt was in his twenties. He had longish hair that he wore in a pony tail and he drove a VW micro mini bus, undecorated. Maybe he had a beard, too. I can't remember. I've seen him both clean-shaven and bearded so many times that I don't even notice.

Now being young with long hair and driving a micro mini bus might not have attracted attention in San Francisco at the time or in Boulder, Colorado, today, for that matter. But he lived in Oklahoma City and the Vietnam war raged on. Perceptions and public sentiment were not on his side.

He worked the second shift at Western Electric. (They made telephones for AT&T. Telephones that people today wouldn't recognize as anything but props from an old movie.)

He was driving home from work in the middle of a weekday, hot summer night. The streets were nearly empty and the homes were all dark.

Those old buses didn't have air conditioning, at least his didn't. So he had the windows rolled down to get what little cool air there was.

There were lots of things those old buses didn't have. Push button windows. Seat belts. 5-mile-an-hour bumpers. They didn't go fast and they crumpled on impact. I'm sure they wouldn't be legal to import by today's safety standards.

Matt pulled up to a red light and stopped. Some old dude, properly tonsured and wearing a suit, pulled up behind him in a convertible, top down.

The man started shouting at Matt. "Get off the road, you damn hippie."

Matt was tired from work and just wanted to get home.

The old guy revved his engine, shouted epithets about cowardice and aspersions against the VW bus. All ending with "you damn hippie."

At six feet, a hundred and eighty-five or ninety and with a background of high school wrestling and football, Matt could be formidable.

With the traffic light still red, Matt got out of his bus and walked back to the man in the convertible. He leaned over the open car toward the rude driver and spoke quietly, clearly.

"Mister, hippies don't believe in violence, and I ain't no damn hippie."

Without waiting for the green light, the old dude gunned his convertible and sped around Matt's VW micro mini bus.

Perceptions can change.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Old Books


The A to Z Blogging Challenge is keeping me engaged with writing and reading. Not that I have a problem finding time to read or doing it.

I read when I go to bed. I read when I get up. I read when I eat, when I watch television, while I wait. But, you'll be glad to know I gave up reading while I drive. Thank goodness for audio books.

While visiting other blogs in the A to Z Challenge I ran across one who talked about rereading books and how the book was different the new time we read it. They asked which books we reread and how we read them differently each time. (I never think to ask my blog readers what they think, but I always appreciate them taking their time to comment. And I love reading the comments on other bloggers' posts.)

I reread Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. It keeps me writing. It keeps me sane.

I know what's going to happen next, so I can put it down and get back to writing, or do the laundry, or keep a commitment. When the daily stress gets to be too much, I can jump back into whichever book I'm on and escape to a place where the stress is so much greater than mine that mine is forgotten. Who'da thought books about impending doom with characters racing from battle to battle, facing terrifying mutants would be my security blanket?

It's hard to justify rereading books when there are so many out there that I haven't read yet. So many old ones. So many new ones. So many yet to come. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to have experienced all the books you want to read without having to take the time?

Ah, but I started out thinking about old books. An 'old' book is any book written by Dickens or by any other author that I've read. New books are those I've not read yet regardless of when they were written.

That inspired me to reread Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I started it, but I can't finish it. I've learned too much about writing and can't turn off my inner editor to enjoy it. It tells the story too much from the outside. Why that should stop me, I don't know. But I've the same problem with Julian Fellowes' new book Belgravia.

It's not that I need a story in first person, to feel a part of it. To be there. But I do need the story told from the characters' points of view, not the author's.

Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath was required reading when I was in high school. What a terrible choice to require of teens to read. His Of Mice and Men would have been a much better choice.  It's a deliciously tragic story of friendship. They did have us read Romeo and Juliet. Teens love tragedies. Life, at that age, is so intense and in the moment.

The tragedy in Grapes of Wrath takes too long for people too young to know just how long life can be especially when it's tragic. And it often is.

Grapes of Wrath is the story of a lifetime of human endurance. By the time I'd slogged through it as a teen, the ending was just another in a long line of dreariness. I completely missed the characters' strength to carry on even though there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I'm so glad I reread it thirty years later.

And Dickens? Reread Dickens? Certainly not. I get tired of him about three-quarters of the way through and swear never to read him again. But I always finish the book and find myself later looking to read him again -- maybe nine months, maybe two years, but I always come back. It's his characters. The situations they find themselves in. I know them personally. Not just from inside Dickens' books but from down the street, from my childhood, from my family.

There is something in Dickens about writing to be learned by rereading. How does he make them seem real? Involve us in the story?

I can feel an old Dickens book coming on.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Namaste


When I went to bed last night, I hadn't the slightest idea what I'd write about for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Today is N. "No." Maybe "Never." Definitely something "Negative."

I was tired. I'd spent the day in a hospital ER with my aged father. We were under a Winter Storm Warning with the promise of a two- or three-day snow event. Seven to fourteen inches of the white stuff for our Denver suburb. April is the Second Snowiest Month in Colorado.

A good sleep and waking wrapped "in my sweet baby's arms" with that tell-tale white, early morning snow-light seeping through closed blinds and I had a smile and today's N-word.

Namaste. (NAH-məs-tay)  According to Wikipedia, it's a respectful Hindi greeting meaning "I bow to the divine in you."

Yesterday, as my husband and I were heading home, by way of our favorite Mexican restaurant. We hadn't eaten since breakfast. Anyway, there was a Jeepish vehicle ahead of us with all kinds of stickers on its backside. One touting pet adoption, another outdoor recreation, a "native" bumper sticker, one of those ecumenical bumper stickers like so:
              
By using the standard background for a              I've seen this one in several states
       Colorado license plate, the bearer proclaims       and I like it.                                            
their having been born in Colorado, a rarity.                                                               

And there in the middle of the spare-tire was the biggest. It said Namaste. Even without those magnificent Rocky Mountains rising in the near distance ahead of us, I knew I was in Colorado.

Words are my life! The language we speak, where we learned to speak it, and where we speak it now.

I'm from Oklahoma where license plates say "Native America." Native there refers to Native Americans -- Cherokee, Comanche, Cheyenne, Choctaw, and those are just the C-tribes. According to the the U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma has the second highest population of Native Americans of any State in the Union. (Behind California, because I know you wondered.)

Namaste is from those other Indians. I don't think I've ever seen "Namaste" stuck on the side of a vehicle in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's not exactly The South. It's really more the Southwest. But it's definitely South of Colorado. So I say "y'all." I call my father "Daddy." I drink "pop." I jam words together --  at meal time I might ask "Jeet yet?" and a fellow Oklahoman might answer "No. Joo?" And we might have fried chicken or chicken fried steak. Or a burger. (McDonald's and its golden arches are the same everywhere.)

In Colorado, I've discovered green chili. That's a spicy stew of tomatillos, chili peppers, and pork.

When we lived in southeast Arkansas, they greeted everyone with "Hey," and ate the best fried catfish in the world.

I knew that one of our local police officers there in Crossett, Arkansas was originally from central Texas as soon as he talked about a "tank." He meant a body of water that Oklahoman's call a "pond." Here on the Front Range, Coloradans would call it a "lake."

Just thinking about the intricacies of languages and all the cultures across the world makes me happy.

Let it snow! Namaste, y'all.








Friday, April 15, 2016

Margaret, Mother, Murder -- flash fiction




"Margaret, did you feed your fish?"

Margaret looked away from the TV. "Yes, mother." Her favorite television show was coming on. The only time she got to watch it these days -- during public television's fund raising. And, then not on all the fund raisers. Cooking with Julia apparently wasn't as popular with the donors as Celtic Woman or Yanni.

"Margaret, what are you watching?" her mother called from the kitchen where she was making herself an egg sandwich.

"Julia Child."

"I always watch Dancing with the Stars."

"That's not on tonight."

"Are you sure?" her mother asked coming into the room and putting her plate on the end table.

"I'm sure."

"Margaret, isn't this that show where she makes the fish stew."

"Bouillabaisse." Margaret watched Julia Child walk through a fish market in Marseilles, examining the piles of dead fish and explaining how to tell if a fish is fresh.

It was difficult to hear Ms. Child over her mother's off-key humming and her rummaging through the umpteen magazines she wouldn't let Margaret throw out.

"Sit up straight, dear. Slumping like that will upset your digestion."

"Yes, mother."

"Why've you got the TV so loud? Are you deaf?"

"No, mother. It's just hard to hear with you moving your chair like that."

Margaret's mother stood up and shoved her chair back to it customary position. She stepped between Margaret and the TV, hands on her hips. "Well, excuse me! But I thought my keys had gotten under there."

Margaret sighed and leaned around her mother to see the TV.

"Were your keys under the chair?" Margaret asked.

Julia Child looked into the camera then patted a very large fish lying on the work table in her TV kitchen, which was always spotless.

"No. Do you know where they are?"

"No, mother. Do you need them right now?"

"No, of course not." Margaret's mother sat down and took a bite of her sandwich. "I'll need them in the morning." She carefully balanced the plate on her lap and opened the newspaper, rattling the pages until she found the Life Style section.

Margaret turned the volume up.

"Would you look for them?" her mother asked raising her voice to be heard over the TV.

"Right now? Mom, I'm watching TV."

"Well, of course, if that TV is more important...."

On television, Julia Child raised a meat cleaver high over her head. The light gleamed off its stainless steel blade, her eyes open wide, focusing on the hapless fish.

Margaret turned the television off and stomped out of the room into the kitchen. It was a disaster. Butter spattered the stove top. Egg shell sat amidst egg white on the counter, not three feet from the trash can. The mayonnaise jar had not been put back into the fridge and the bread bag sat there, open. A nearly new loaf left to dry out and be good for nothing but toast.

How in the world could anyone mess up a kitchen like that for one insignificant and probably over-cooked egg for something so uninspiring as an egg sandwich?

She didn't see her mother's keys anywhere. The handle of the meat cleaver protruding from the knife block caught her eye.




Thursday, April 14, 2016

Laugh



"A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures." -- Irish Proverb

As far as I know, we have no Irish in our family tree, but I adopt good sense from wherever it comes. Laughter comes easily to me, even in the face of adversity. Many periods in my life, I could swear were preparation for a stand-up comedy routine.

The first time my son saw a Good Humor truck, it ran over Santa Claus. (He was six and Santa Claus was his kitten. Really a sad occasion, but just try to explain what happened and keep a straight face.)

One afternoon both the psychiatrist and counselor I was seeing for depression (brought on by feelings of rejection) called to cancel my appointments.

At one point, I had so many Johns in my life I should have been more financially secure than I was. (A son, an ex-husband, two men I was dating, and my insurance guy. Our receptionist was confused on more than one occasion when I'd get a call from one of them.)

And I love jokes but I can never tell them right. Well, all except the anti-racist one about the cowboy hat, but it's obscene so I can't tell it here. Or very many places, for that matter.

A favorite joke of mine has the punch line that goes "transporting gulls past stately lions for immortal porpoises." But I can never remember the rest of the joke.

And then there's the joke a computer science teacher told in class. I was the only one who got it.

Descartes walks into a bar.
The bartender asked, "would you like a drink?"
Descartes said, "I think not," And poof. He disappeared.

This was a freshman college class I took as an older student -- like over 30. I think I was the only one who knew Descartes was the 17th Century French philosopher who said, "I think, therefore, I am."

I got an A in the class.

The last time I told that joke, I kinda messed up the punch line. The way I told it is immortalized on the mirror in our entryway by my daughter. See picture below.


They all already knew the joke so it was a good thing they weren't drinking pop when I told it wrong. Forceful expulsion of a carbonated beverage through the nose during a sudden fit of laughter can be painful.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kočka -- Czech for Cat



Kočka is the Czech word for cat. It sounds like coach-ka, emphasis on the first syllable. My mother's father's family emigrated to the U.S. when there was still a country named Bohemia. It, along with Moravia and a bit of Silesia, is the Czech Republic today.

Kočka the good kitty.
He waits for me at the bottom of the stairs while I'm in the laundry room. That is, he waits, unless I've failed to properly close the door so he can't push it open and get in with me. It wouldn't be such a problem if he did, but he can get into the unfinished crawl space under the house. Who knows what's in there. It may not be safe for him. Dragons maybe.

He comes when his Dad whistles. (I can't whistle.) He plays fetch as long as his Dad will toss his toys. He's figured out that the light and numbers come on my cell phone when he touches the screen. And his Dad got him an app to play on the tablet. 

    
                  
                Kočka came to live with us in August         A few weeks later he had grown. Of course,
                of last year. Here he is with his Dad.           not as much as it looks here. It's all a matter                    The same Dad who really didn't want         of perspective. My husband didn't age this
                a cat. "Cats belong in the barn."                   much in  those few weeks, either.                                         We don't have a barn.                                   This is my Dad.
                                                  

Our one-eyed cat.
He practices lurking incessantly,
and ambushes anyone who walks by.

   
Though he never expresses an interest in going outside, he loves to look outside.
He watches the birds at the bird feeder out back and cars and rabbits out the front.

The man, who didn't want a cat, brought in a box of snow 
so the cat he didn't want would know what snow is. 
Kočka was not impressed.

You might find him anywhere.

He knows he's not supposed to be on the table so he hides.
     
 Though not very well.

  See that cat on the lower shelf of the entry table? And the glass vase?  
Once there were bare branches in that vase. Long, but thin. Smaller in diameter than my little finger. Maybe a little bigger than a pencil. In dishes made by my potter son are piled origami cranes folded by my daughter. They bear signatures of our guests and the dates they visited. And they used to hang from the branches. How Kočka kept from knocking the vase onto the floor when he pulled the branches down, I do not know.

And the masking tape strategically placed sticky-side-up on the top shelf? Kočka doesn't like sticky stuff stuck to his lovely long fur.

It didn't always work though. My plants have been banished to a back bedroom until my husband can build a cat-fence to block access to the entryway. Kočka won't be able to watch out the front door any more. But, you know what? I don't care.

                                            So devil                                                 or Angel
   
He's our Kočka.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Justice -- Reality or Illusion?



I am real. I am typing this right this minute. The letters are appearing on my laptop's screen and forming into words. Into sentences. Forming symbols that will convey my understanding of Justice to anyone who can read English.

Reality or Illusion?

I might be an app and if I am there would be no need for me to use a keyboard. And this minute could have been hours ago. Or days. Or years. The letters may never have appeared on any screen until you started reading this post. And, I can assure you, only I will understand the thoughts I write exactly as I intend them to be understood. And that's just for today. Some tomorrow, I will have forgotten most of today and experienced enough of life to change my understanding of Justice.

Merriam Webster defines Justice as:
1   a :  the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of
           conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
     b :  judge
     c :  the administration of law; especially :  the establishment or determination of rights according
           to the rules of law or equity
2   a :  the quality of being just, impartial, or fair
     b (1) :  the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) :  conformity to this principle or
           ideal :  righteousness
     c :  the quality of conforming to law

I want Justice to exist, especially the fair part.

We humans are not alone in this. My husband and I used to have two dogs. Oscar a Dachshund and Bess the Basset Hound. (Actually, we've had many dogs, though never more than three at a time. And cats and birds and fish. And the idea of wanting fair treatment has been observable in all of them. Well, maybe not the fish. I never got well enough acquainted with individual fish to be able to ascribe to them any particular interest in anything other than food and sex.)

Anyway, Oscar and Bess liked to lick our yogurt cups and ice cream bowls. When there was only one for us to share with them, we had to give the other a doggy treat. Even then, they could hardly wait until their sibling finished so they could get a chance at the cup or bowl. They made it quite clear that they did not consider a Milk Bone in lieu of the yogurt cup or ice cream bowl, fair.

I think the desire for Justice is the driving force for the popularity of fictional murder mysteries. Although true crime inspires many nonfiction books and television shows, it's fiction I like. In a novel, TV show, or movie you almost always find out who done it. And the murderer is dealt with, promptly and without regard to their family or financial status. That's fair.

Unless, of course, the accused is innocent, then Justice is served because they are acquitted and the right baddie is identified. We're still talking fiction here.

That's why I write Science Fiction/Murder Mysteries. (Murder on Ceres)

Real life and true crime stories don't work that way. In real life, unless you personally know who done it (or maybe you did it yourself) you can never be sure that the right person is 'brought to justice.' And all too often the application of Justice is capricious and random.

Reality is if you get caught smoking a joint in the privacy of your own home in Denver, you might be considered inhospitable if you don't offer your guest a hit.

Get caught smoking a joint anywhere in Oklahoma and you could face a felony charge and one year in prison. Get caught again, and you could be looking at two to ten years incarceration.

More reality, in Oklahoma, a person can get convicted of First Degree Rape and be sentenced to five years. Or anything up to life without parole. Or the death penalty.

Wait a minute -- step across the Colorado State Line into Oklahoma and get caught more than once smoking a joint and you could be sentenced to more time in jail than someone who gets the minimum sentence for First Degree Rape. That can't be fair.

Ah, the reality of Justice is murky water meandering through a dangerous bog. (That's why lawyers get the big bucks.)

Now, I'm not a lawyer and I sure ain't gonna smoke marijuana in Oklahoma.

Think I'll stick to fiction where Justice is the kind of illusion I want to be real.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Introduction to Poetry or Why I Am Not an English Teacher



No! Wait! Oh, my goodness. I don't know where to start.

I know you think you don't like poetry.

It's too foo-foo -- a fuzzy poodle clipped into topiary.

It's too obscure, too much naval-gazing. No one, besides the poet who wrote it, can understand it. Or, for that matter, gives a frak.

And even people who like poetry, don't like this modern stuff. Half the time it doesn't even rhyme.

Beginning in elementary school, I wrote poetry. Even got some of it published. Had to give up the getting published part though. Too expensive.

That was in the days before cell phones when you had to pay long distance to call any prefix outside your area code and even most inside it. The phone prefix in the U.S. is the three numbers immediately following the area code. (For those of you too young to remember, prefixes once had names like Windsor which was dialed 946 and Melrose 635, etc. In old movies phone numbers began with the prefix 555, because there was no prefix 555 and that just gave one less reason to get sued. Some things don't change.)

Also, if your poem were published, payment generally consisted of two free copies of the issue your poem appeared in.

All this meant that if my poem was published, I had to pay long distance to call all my friends and relatives to tell them the good news. AND buy extra copies of the issue my poem appeared in, because I had friends and relatives who wanted to see it themselves. Then there was the expense of snail mail because not all my friends and relatives lived within easy driving distance.

But I digress.

You notice I said I gave up the getting published part. The writing of poetry I continued for a very long time. It was my way of understanding myself and the chaotic world I lived in. I read other people's poetry for the same reason.

A good poet pays attention to each word, asking if that word is the right word. A good poem, while it uses the exact word, also leaves room for the reader to bring to it their own experience. Room to understand the poem in their own way.

When I went to college, I thought I wanted to be an English teacher. I loved poetry and prose in all their forms, rhymed, free verse, form poems, fiction, nonfiction, plays. I would be surrounded by literature. I would spend my days sharing what I loved with my students. Lunch conversations would expand my own reading opportunities by exploring the literature my fellow teachers read and loved. What better way for me to make my living? And I would have time to write.

Life and reality changed everything. I eventually got to within something like four credit hours of a teaching degree in English. And I couldn't face the possibility of a lifetime of lunches with English teachers.

That said, let me share with you a poem by Billy Collins, who was an English teacher. Probably the kind of English teacher I would enjoy having lunch with. He is described by Wikipedia as "a Distinguished Professor of English." Among many prizes, awards, and honors, he was Poet Laureate of the United States 2001 - 2003.


Introduction to Poetry 
by Billy Collins

                                     I ask them to take a poem
                                     and hold it up to the light
                                     like a color slide

                                     or press an ear against its hive.

                                     I say drop a mouse into a poem
                                     and watch him probe his way out,

                                     or walk inside the poem’s room
                                     and feel the walls for a light switch.

                                     I want them to waterski
                                     across the surface of a poem
                                     waving at the author’s name on the shore.

                                     But all they want to do
                                     is tie the poem to a chair with rope
                                     and torture a confession out of it.

                                     They begin beating it with a hose
                                     to find out what it really means.


And that, dear friends, is why I am not an English teacher.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hiking Red Rocks

Aptly named Red Rocks is 6.6 miles from my house.

Its amphitheater is touted by Denver's tourist bureau as being "6,450 feet above sea level" and "the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world." Concerts began in 1906 and have included performers from opera to rock and roll. The Beatles played there in 1964. Jethro Tull caused a stir and a riot in 1971 which led to a five-year ban on rock concerts.  Jethro Tull was back at Red Rocks again in 2008 and 2011. And there's no lack of rock and roll during the summer season or country and western or symphony or genres of music I'm too old to know about.

It is also home to an annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb when first responders from around the country come to climb the bleachers in full gear to equal the 110 stories of New York City's World Trade Towers.

But there's much more to Red Rocks than an amphitheatre and rock and roll. The park has 868 acres of geologic wonders, wildlife, and more sky than you can imagine. When we have company Red Rocks is one of the area sites we show off. We hiked there last Sunday.

  
                                                and hiking trails.


This time of year, patches of snow still blanket north facing hillsides and shaded hollows. Grass greens quickly under Colorado's sun. And snow melt feeds tiny rivulets throughout the park.

         
                                                                These are water sparkles not flowers.

But there are flowers, even here where snow is possible in May and no one sets out annuals until after Mother's Day.

The Dandelion, disdained in lawns
is welcome in the wild

       Hollygrape flowers          
 .                                      
I didn't get any photos of the wildlife. We were there in the middle of the day so we saw none of the mule deer, rabbits, various and sundry rodents, mountain lions, coyote, or rattlesnakes. I did, however, hear meadow larks call, and saw magpies and scrub jays. Not to mention people of all shapes and sizes and their children and dogs.

and, of course, Colorado's glorious blue sky.
That's the prairie and Denver there in the distance.