The BIG Event

I knew I would over prepare because that’s just me. I had no idea who would show up — could be a lot of people, could be no one, who could say? So there were four dozen of every cookie, cups for sixty people, napkins and plates and and and and. A slide show and a poster and books to put in inventory, door prizes — everything just in case the ENTIRE CITY OF ALAMOSA showed up. I didn’t want that, didn’t expect it, but I was ready…

A handful of people — all of whom were my friends — showed up. It took longer to set up than we planned — the better part of an hour. Logistics and electricity and no one wanted to abandon any part of this extravaganza for the sake of expedience. So…

I read and my reading was the best part, I think for everyone.

Except maybe for the cookies. No one can compete with cookies and then EVERYONE won a prize and took home a box of sticky rice candy, known in Japanese as Mochi in China, as far as I know, as “sticky rice.”

SO all my anxiety and stress was spent so that I could learn that I am able to go to a bookstore and read stories to my friends who listened with rapt attention to the story I told.

I honestly can’t think of a better outcome. And, if I ever do this again, I will know how, I’ll have the resources and the encouraging memory of a very sweet experience.

And, I sold a book. ❤

P.S. Thank you for all the moral support leading up to this. It reminded me how much this is more than just a blogging platform. In a way, it’s a neighborhood that extends around the world. In a way, we meet here to chat over coffee, or tea, or whatever and learn interesting things about each other, share ideas, advice, help, visions of life, photos and stories of our travels. It’s very special.

Direction…

I’ve been bored by my blog for a while now, and the process of deleting posts has been educational. The posts that I’ve kept in the purge of more than 1000 (so far) are most of Lamont and Dude (naturally), some thought pieces, travel pieces, and short stories. Personally, I found some of the Quotidian updates interesting because they show me something about where my life has been (and is going?). But I also saw that back in the day when I was interested in my blog, I wrote a lot of stories.

And, as much as I sometimes hated (and reviled) the Daily Prompt, some of those prompts were engaging and led my writing in interesting directions. After thinking about it, and knowing I don’t want to stop writing every morning (as if Dusty T. Dog would allow it) I’ve decided to consciously move back to writing short stories and less about my daily life which, honestly, doesn’t vary much. It’s not that I’m not interested in my life (or reading posts about others’ lives) it’s that isn’t what I want to write.

I’ve also been lately inspired to convert some of the stories (all of which are largely dialogue) into short plays. While the formatting is tedious, the process of imagining the characters in sets and scenes and moving through space has been intellectually very interesting. There are also a lot of local contests that seek scripts of very short and one-act plays and I think that could be fun.

I hope that’s OK with you. 🙂

China

36 years ago I went to China. It wasn’t the place it is now. Today I’ve had the chance to wander down memory lane through my blog posts with a blogging pal who’s in China now with his family. 

It makes me want to invest in a slide scanner so I can see the pictures we (mostly my ex) took while we were there. The things I want to see really are gone — some for real, some just as they were back then, such as junks on the Pearl River, favorite street corners, my apartment, the university where I taught.

Sometimes people ask me if I want to return to China for a visit, but it’s impossible. I wish sometimes there WERE worm-holes in the universe through which we could revisit places AND times. More than once this morning I was moved to tears through the sharing of memories. 

AND the miracle of my blog, his blog. and the Internet. Imagine exchanging knowledge of places in China with a man from India (that one has not met) in real time — seriously. That’s unreal and wonderful. 

This song by Vasco Rossi is right on. 

Ormai è tardi
E quanto nostalgia
Guarda il tempo
Vola via …
Non si torna.
Comunque sia
E la Vita 
Continua a correr vi

Translation (with the repeated bits left out)

Now it’s late (or) It’s already late
And so much nostalgia
Look at the time
Fly away
And we don’t come back
And life
Continues to run on… 

Every Blogger Needs an “About” Page.

I’m not sleeping so I’m reading and exploring blogs on Word Press. I just read one about bears. It was kind of interesting, but there was no information about where the writer lives or who the writer is. There is no “About” page.

I hate that. A completed “about” page enhances a blog (to me, anyway).

Our readers (if we’re lucky) don’t live inside our heads. They live out in the world and presumably know stuff that might be engaging or even helpful to us, but without context? I have lost interest.

We don’t have to give ourselves away or make ourselves vulnerable to attack by writing, “The Northwest Territories of Canada have been my home since I was a cub” or “I live in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.” It’s possible to give context to one’s blog posts without saying a whole lot about one’s self.  One of the great things about doing this is “meeting” people from all over the place.

So I don’t care anymore about the guy and “his” bears or his wife and their dumbass pumpkin bread and coffee. By not having an “about” page that writer — with all of five followers — lost a potential reader. I WAS interested. I wanted to know about their 100-pound dogs (what kind?) I wanted to know where “their” bears are. I would have to read through all the posts to find that out and even then, that might not be anywhere to be found.

Sorry, but it’s just rude not to introduce yourself.

Undetermined Hiatus

In all honesty, I just haven’t been feeling the blog thing for the past few weeks. And, I can’t say why (maybe because I hate summer? maybe my post-surgery self has other priorities? maybe the Schneebelis want this to be over with? No idea…) I’m a little fractious and frustrated. Also, I have to say, the demise of the Daily Prompt was like, “OK, stop doing this now.” I was impressed that people wanted to pick up the baton, but I also thought “Why?” Still, ultimately, I let people down after volunteering to post prompts for Rag Tag Daily Prompt.

It could be that after five years and nine hundred million blog posts, I’m just finished and have nothing more to say. I really don’t know. But I’m not able to maintain my own rules as a writer and a reader at the moment.

Other bloggers have stopped — I know because there are three whose absence I STILL notice even though it’s been a while. Others have shifted to writing when they feel like it. I don’t know what I’m going to do or where this will take me, whether I’m finished or in a transition.

All that being said, I really cherish the friendships I’ve made here over the years and since most of you have other ways of contacting me and being contacted, I hope that just because I won’t be here any more won’t mean we lose contact with each other.

Saluté!!!

Blog Redux

Yesterday in the chaos of discovering that by shutting down the Daily Prompt, WordPress was making it harder for me to pay them for my websites, I thought of blowing the whole thing up. But, at this point in my life, I’m a reasonable person. I did some research only to learn that most of the free or low-cost webhosting sites send you to — yeah — WordPress.

It’s an empire.

I thought, “Do I want to deal with this?” If I am allotted only 3 score and 10 I have only four left. Clearly a hissy fit over WordPress and starting over from scratch with websites for my books is a poor use of a rapidly depleting resource.

In the process I looked at my blogs on Blogger, thinking, perhaps, of reviving one. I found a poem. I wondered who wrote it, and then I remembered I had written it. Wow. My poor brain… Well, a lot has happened since 2013 — five years and my whole entire life has changed. The poem is on my painting blog, A Lifetime Apprenticeship. 

There was This Day,
There was This Shadow,
There was This Woman,
There was This Blue.
There was No Fame.
There was No Reason.
There was No Winner.
There was No Immortality.

Only

This Shaft of Light
This Sharp Blast,
This Foundering Ship
This Lost Child,
This Man Walking,
This Stream Flowing,
This Arc of Passion,

And

These Hands
These Eyes
This Ochre Clay
This Gold Foil
This Deadly Yellow, but USE IT ANYWAY
This MAGIC Poison White
This Blue from Gold-Flecked Stone
This Green from a Copper Pot
This Short Life
This Single Vision.

I wrote the poem as an ode to the ordinary painter throughout time. The one whose name we don’t know who might have influenced the famous one. The one who painted as a way to feed his family. The one who loved the colors, the process, the images, the beauty. The one who might have discovered a new color or properties of the magical ground on which he painted.

I love pigment. In writing Martin of Gfenn I had to learn how colors were made in medieval times. It was absolutely fascinating. Ultramarine blue — for example — was originally made of ground up lapis lazuli. Its light-reflecting properties in a fresco are amazing. A couple of months ago, as I moved closer to my surgery date, I found some online and bought it. I also bought a real wooden panel and old fashioned gesso (gesso means gypsym) to size the panel and make it ready to absorb oil paint. It should be wonderful.

I’m living in a place where art is big. There’s not a lot else here other than potatoes, barley, hops, horses, cattle. Taos and Santa Fe are well known art centers in this country, but it’s one kind of art, mainly Southwest Art. I want another thing completely when I paint. I don’t know exactly what I’m painting FOR other than myself. I’ve sold more paintings than I have sold words, but the other artists around me don’t think my work is all that good. That’s fine. I would never paint what they paint, either, though I have the good grace not to think their work is bad. It’s just not mine. Rivalry between artists is nasty but real.

In my case, I don’t want to paint the same thing or the same way twice. I view painting as a journey of discovery. I’m never going to be a master. With each painting I’ve learned something new about painting, about paint, about myself, about the world I’m looking at. The painting above is a narrow trail up a California mountainlet in a wet spring. Dusty and I had a wonderful time that day and I took photos. I like painting from photos and I really like the way paintings come out when I paint from the image on my iPad with the light coming up through it rather than shining on it. It’s different. Like this one. This is Descanso Falls in December. Some of this painting works well for me, some of it doesn’t, but it took months to complete and someone was happy to give me $300 so I didn’t have to store it some place. 🙂

 

Descanso Falls, unframed FASO size

Descanso Falls

 

For my blogging cat friends, Tabby, Parker and Lucy… This is Catmandu. Please note her crossed eyes. Once in a while, they caused her to walk into a wall, after which she’d look around to see if anyone had noticed. ❤

mandu

 

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A Day — Baked Apple Time Machine

Back in Fall 2008, my life went seriously sideways. Not on its own, but…

What I did to fix it, moment by moment, was write. I started a blog on Blogger, a private blog since I didn’t want anyone I loved hurt because someone THEY loved had hurt me. I got all that out relatively quickly, and was on the way out of the hole (psychologically, emotionally, anyway. Financially just happened rather drastically.

I then sat down each day to write one good memory from my life. I did this because of Dostoyevsky having written — I believe in Crime and Punishment but I don’t know for sure — that one good memory from childhood could save a man from hell.

I’ve decided that 1) I need to work on my novel rather than responding to daily prompts that don’t “prompt” me, 2) some of those blog posts were good. So from now on, if I don’t like a the Daily Prompt, I’ll put up a good memory instead — and use the promptless morn for my own work.

Here’s a taste…

Baked Apple Time Machine

Last night I got home a little early from school, about 6 as opposed to 8. It was great to set the dogs free so they could run and play for a while, and to have time to make a real meal, though this time of the month there’s not an inspiring assortment of things in the fridge.

There were apples. I thought of Waldorf salad, but no walnuts. Then I thought, “Bake them the way you learned to do when you were 8 years old.” I do not think I’ve eaten apples cooked this way outside of pie since I left home at 18!

So, I sliced them, added sugar, cinnamon, flour and butter, mixed it together and put the apples the oven beside a plate of enchiladas. They came out great, but most wonderful was the fragrance. An aroma can be a time machine, and this one took me to Agency, Iowa and the Fall of 1962.

Agency is a historical place where, in the early 19th century, there was an Indian trading post. It is the burial place of a famous Indian chief, Wapello. My grandfather’s brother had a farm in Agency, and his son, Dan Beall, my mother’s cousin, still lived in the little town of about 600 people. Dan and his wife, Frieda, lived in a put-together-in-pieces, wood-paneled, little white house on some lovely green acres with a pond in the back yard in which my brother and I caught crayfish and minnows. Dan’s profession was house painting. He was completely bald and said it was because a bucket of paint had fallen on his head. My brother and I believed him.

There were apple trees filled with fruit, golden delicious, right from the tree, sweet and crisp, so different from what I can find in the store today. Best of all were crab apples, tart and wild. We filled bushel baskets full of windfall fruit, picked through to find the good ones, apples the worms had not eaten and those not bruised and rotten, and took them to the kitchen. Frieda was boiling down these apples for apple butter and apple sauce which she was frantically “putting up” before the moment passed. That week the whole house — the whole world — steamed with the fragrance of cinnamon, of apples cooking.

We went everywhere my grandfather had ever mentioned to my mom, along the road from Batavia, where a sister lived, to his brother’s farm in Agency. Dan pointed out the culvert my grandfather had helped build and a place to climb over a fence from which mom’s oldest sister had fallen as a little girl. We drove to Keokuk, to see the big white farm house where my grandfather was born and had grown up not far from the Mississippi. This was during my mom’s antique collecting period, and in a dusty antique store I was told to choose two salt cellars as memories of the day.

The landscape was haunted with my family’s history. So vivid were the stories coming from the front seat on the drive home, that in the twilight I imagined I saw the ghost of my grandfather — a man I had barely known — a young man, walking along the road in a world that had yet to see a car. He was born in 1870 and Iowa was still the wild west.