to be continued – solc #31

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.

Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.

Goethe

This quote has been on a bulletin board in our study for over a year. It is so inspiring, yet until now, I have only wanted to write. I had never begun.

Thank goodness for the Slice of Life Writing Challenge 2012. Thank you to Ruth and Stacey, who were bold enough to begin it and consistent enough to keep it going. Thank you to all the writers I have read whose words show genius and compassion and talent. Thank you to those of you who have read my words and made comments that have been magically encouraging to me.

I am thankful to God for giving me the power to write every day for a month. I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own. This experience has been one of the best things I have ever done – it has changed me for the better, and for good.

The March Challenge may be over, but my writing is to be continued…

GaGa’s garden – solc #30

When I was in fourth grade my parents and I moved to a new house and my grandmother – GaGa – moved in with us. (That’s a funny name to write now in the days of Lady Gaga – but we actually pronounced it “Gaw-Gaw” and I can assure you there’s no relation). GaGa’s first floor bedroom was directly beneath my second floor one, so at age nine I began to learn how to walk softly and listen to music on headphones (they were big as a helmet back then).

One of the things I think of first when I remember GaGa was how she loved to eat bread. Actually we have decided it must be genetic as it seems to be a family trait to crave biscuits, rolls, breadsticks, even crackers. She was also wild about tomatoes. At dinner, she would always ask, “Does anyone want that last slice of tomato?” My parents would always smile at each other and make a big deal of sacrificing the last tomato to her – but they always let her enjoy it.

My grandmother was a seamstress, an embroiderer, an organist, a cook, and a collector of owls. But above all GaGa loved plants. She knew the name of every flower, bush, shrub, weed and plant that could grow in our area. Out of habit she sometimes called them by her own special name: for example, what most people would call a croton, she called the Florida plant – because she had gotten her first one in Florida, of course.

She loved to dig in the dirt and nurse a failing plant back to life. I can see her in the heat of summer in long pants, long sleeves, and a wide-brimmed hat covering her sweat rag that she tied around her head. She really did have a green thumb.

After I grew up, got married and my husband and I had our first child, we built a house with a hillside in the back and talked of planting a “rock garden” where the land fell away. I knew my grandmother could help us choose the right combination of plants, but we never got around to it.

We finally landscaped and planted our rock garden the year GaGa died. Several plants and basket gardens were sent to our family in her memory. We used many of those, and purchased other plants that we knew were her favorites, to start our rock garden at last.  I remember our daughter snapping the snapdragons and checking the “high-biscuit” (hibiscus) flowers every day to be sure they weren’t blooming more than they were allowed.  We moved from that house long ago, but I can recall that little garden so well and I hope it is still there.

We have planted all kinds of other growing things at the different places we have lived since then, and just tonight we went by our daughter and son-in-law’s house to see all the garden work and landscaping they had just finished in preparation for a party they are hosting tomorrow. Maybe gardening is genetic, too. GaGa would be so pleased to know that her love of plants lives on.

collecting words – solc #29

As I keep wishin’ and hopin’ to be a writer someday, I frequently find words that speak to me, phrases that repeat themselves in my mind, and sentences that paint pictures so vivid that there’s not a medium or an artist that could portray what is set in my mind and heart with those words.

So a while back I finally decided to follow others’ advice. I discovered that I could be (and should be) a collector of these words. I could keep these messages from others and reread them for inspiration along the way.  A well-turned phrase truly is a thing of beauty and something I long to create… someday.

The first phrase I chose to record was something not written but said by a friend – advice she had given her son:

You know someone is a true friend when you feel good about yourself after you’ve been with him.

Words from the heart.  Thanks, Dana!

Then I found something written by a columnist in our local paper. His stream of consciousness writing is easy to follow and always takes me to a new way of looking at things. Here’s what I highlighted from one of his ramblings about hitting golf balls on a driving range:

…most were discolored or nicked or cut and all at one time or another could have been an eagle on a par five or a chip to the pin from 20 yards out…and it was hard not to think of them now as failed promises or spent wishes so I tried not to… and when all the balls were gone I thought about going out and hunting them down but decided to leave them where they were to regain their promise or to become wishes once again.

Takes my breath away. Thanks, William Carter!

I think Jane Yolen shows her brilliance in everything she writes. In Letting Swift River Go she tells the story of small towns that are “drowned” when the people of Boston need more water and so decide to build a dam and flood these areas by creating a reservoir. Early in the book she describes a scene in which the main character Sally Jane is catching fireflies as a child and hears her mother’s voice telling her to let them go. Years later she and her father take a boat ride on the reservoir. As they try to peer through the water and remember the places that used to exist on the bottom down below, it gets dark and the stars reflect on the water “winking on and off like fireflies.”  She begins to be almost overcome with the memories of what used to be and what can never be again – all the places that are:

Gone, all gone, under the waters. Then I heard my mother’s voice coming to me over the drowned years. “You have to let them go, Sally Jane.” I looked down into the darkening deep, smiled, and did.

A full circle – genius! Thank you, Jane!

So now I hear those voices in my head as I write. And I continue to be a collector of words.

spring at last – solc #28

Perhaps you can feel it before you even get out of bed in the morning. There’s something different about the air – the way it smells, the way it quivers with anticipation, the way it holds the light.

It has been dark and cold for what seems like a very long time. You have spent your time with your head down and your inner self wrapped in a quilt of self-protection. Just hunker down and endure, you have been reminding yourself, as one day fades into another.

Keeping that bit of inner warmth going takes all you can muster. There’s not much excitement to spread around to others these days. It’s hard, just so hard, to keep going in this gloom. Surely this can’t last forever.

And sure enough, today is different. Hard to say exactly how, it’s a feeling, a stirring, maybe just a wish, but somehow it feels like more. So you open yourself up a bit and you venture a little farther than you have dared to let yourself go in the shadowy times of the yesterdays past.

As you poke your head out you sense it. You see the sun, you feel its encouraging warmth. You let yourself lift your head higher, searching for more. Yes, that’s what you have been waiting for, looking for… for such a long time.

You sense the shimmer of eagerness around you. You embrace the cool breeze that blows gently, nurturing instead of defeating. You stretch, you drop your guard, you unfurl your safety blanket, finally letting it go.

It is time, at last, to get on with your life. You have weathered the cold, and lo, the winter is past. Like a dormant seed underground you can send out roots to gather nourishment – those roots that were waiting there all this time. Now you can stretch, and spread out, and grow into who you were meant to be all along.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

an unwelcome guest – solc #27

This story is a legendary tale in our family, having been told and retold through the years in many forms – a memoir, an entertaining anecdote, a cautionary tale. One morning about fifteen years ago…

“Come home right now,” I told my husband when I called him at work that morning.

“Are you alright? What’s wrong? Are you hurt?” he asked.

“No, I am fine, you just have to come home.”

“I just got to work. Why should I come home now?” he replied.

“Because… a   snake   just   crawled   out   from   under   our   stove.”

“Sn-sn-snaaaake? What can I do about a snake?”

“Listen here, Chicken Little. Get home right now. I don’t care how scared you are of snakes, we need you to come home and get rid of it. NOW.”

I hung up the phone and reminded our son Mark, who was sitting at the table eating his breakfast, to stay far away from this unwanted visitor that came into our kitchen that morning. It was just a small black snake and after it made its appearance it may have been more scared than we were. But I knew I couldn’t let it crawl back under the cabinets or refrigerator or stove or I would never stop wondering when it might come out again.

So I found a big plastic tub we kept outside toys in and somehow managed to slam it down over the snake so it couldn’t get away. Then Mark and I waited for Dad to come home.

Pretty soon we saw him walking across the back patio with Mark’s hockey stick in hand. He grinned at us through the windows, but when he came through the back door his face was sober.

“Where is it?” he inquired as he looked around. We both pointed to the upside-down tub.

“What now?” I wondered silently. But I smiled at my husband. “All yours,” I said.

And that is where this retelling must pause. I have interviewed all the witnesses and none of us can remember exactly how the snake was removed from the kitchen.

We all recall that the snake did not survive the ordeal. We seem to recollect shouts and screaming. We agree that the hockey stick was probably used as a weapon of self defense. And we are certain that the snake was never seen again.

Somehow in the numerous retellings down through the years we have lost a few of the important details, but I have no doubt that this isn’t the last time our snake-in-the-kitchen story will be retold.

underwater glow – solc #25

Away from the heat

Or the wind, or the rain,

The air is thick inside the boathouse.

Crisp lines and edges blur.

Sheltered there,

The water seems firm.

Occasionally the boathouse creaks and moans,

Crooning its age old water tune

Of slipping highs and lows.

Beneath the floating docks

The light shining brightly outside

Reflects here indirectly with an underwater glow.

Sometimes it lights the path

For fish to swim

Along the unseen passages there

With a green transparent hue.

The muted glimmer

Holds so much promise

Of emotions to surface

Or tales to tell

When this peace is left behind

And traded

For the sharp-edged world outside.