This is not a foodie blog, although I may talk about food from time to time. It is not a rant blog,
although I may do that, too. It is simply a sharing of my thoughts because we all need an audience
who responds to us, to validate that we mean something, that we are alive. Enjoy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

BSF launches for Kindle!

Blackbirds Second Flight now available for your Kindle!


Enjoy these dark fantasies:
A writer challenges her murderous muse.
Dragons and riders stage a daring rescue.
Gangsters face off over the world's fate.
Warriors duel to their deaths in the sky.
A dad battles ghosts to save his daughter.
The sidhe never forget nor forgive.
It's Malone's way, or the fur will fly.
A shaman invades Tulsa on a killing hunt.
And much more!

Kindle version!
Print versions!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Cheeseburger Incident

I consider myself a fairly rational adult, not given to drama or impulse, although that wasn’t always the case in my tender years when, if I didn’t get my way, I would throw myself on the ground and flop around, screaming like an unhinged banshee. My dad helped me grow out of that phase by falling down and wailing and flailing right along beside me. Sheesh. Throwing a temper tantrum loses its appeal when done in tandem with a grown man who is so obviously bad at it that even a five-year-old gets thats she’s being made fun of. So I gave up the practice. For the most part.

Many years later, as a high school teacher, I found myself in situations that would have unbalanced a person with more delicate sensitivities. There was the time I unlocked my classroom door, which was locked mostly for show since any kid could jiggle the knob and pop the lock open, and found a little styrofoam cup filled with soil and a tiny plant sitting in the middle of my desk. How nice—one of my students had brought me an addition for my flowerbed. It looked a little anemic, but with a little sunshine it should green up nicely. While I busied myself with the housekeeping that begins a school day, something picked at the edge of my consciousness. I stopped in the middle of writing the date in the top left corner of the chalkboard—what was that little gnat of thought? Had I forgotten something? Was there a teachers’ meeting this morning? Nothing on the calendar. Did I forget to put on underwear? I checked. No, I was fully clothed. So what was bothering me? Nothing was different in the classroom except that puny potted plant. Bingo. Why would a student sneak into my room so early in the morning unless he or she didn’t want to be seen? I took a closer look, and the light in my consciousness went on high beam. It wasn’t just a potted plant; it was a pot plant.

I knew the culprit would be watching for my reaction, like a kid pushing buttons on a battery-operated toy car, hoping I would go into overdrive. Never one to give attention seekers what they want—I was much practiced at ignoring my little sister who insisted on being the center of the universe—I tucked the baby marijuana plant into my book bag and headed to the principal’s office. Still early, there were a few students in the hall, and I spoke to each one or stopped and chatted for a minute if one was so inclined. None of them seemed curious about what might be in my bag or why I was headed in the direction of the office, and I certainly didn’t give any indication that I was in possession of an illegal drug.

Principal Stewart gave me a quizzical look when I set the marijuana pot on his desk. Not an incredibly bright man, he likely wondered why I was gifting him with a scrawny little plant in a throw-away coffee cup. Always for the underdog and those a bit dimmer than the average primate, I gave him a clue: “I found this marijuana plant on my desk this morning. I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I brought it to you.” Then I walked out of his office. End of incident. Not one word about it ever again from anyone. No police, no drug-sniffing dogs, no red-faced adults lecturing about the evils of smoking pot. Nothing. Principal Stewart and I didn’t have much in common except a love of low-key problem solving. He followed my lead and never acknowledged the anonymous locally sourced gift. I felt great delight in thwarting some kid’s attempt to create an adult drama just so he (she?) could stand back, look wryly amused, and say, “Some of my finest work.”

My aplomb was tested again several years later by a new generation of students who took a more direct approach to exploiting teachers as entertainment, which could have been the undoing of my composure had my mother not been a biology major who used every hapless woodland creature she came across as an opportunity to teach my sisters and me up close and personal lessons about wildlife. How could my students know I didn't meet the criteria for the stereotypical fastidious English teacher? How could they know cleaning chickens for the dinner table was also a lesson in poultry anatomy? (Cleaning a chicken isn’t about bathing a hen. It is about your mother wringing its neck, ripping its feathers off, and gutting it carefully to avoid strewing internal nastiness all over the flesh that would soon be fried up and served with gravy.) My students did not perceive the barefooted farm girl under my well-cultivated teacher facade. When a group of junior high thrill-seekers trouped into my room and said, “Mz. Woods, we wanna show you somethin’” and one of the boys thrust a wiggling, green garden snake under my nose, I reached for it with an admiring “Oh, how pretty.” They had been holding their collective breath in anticipation of Mrs. Wood’s scream. Their disappointed exhalation was audible. With simulated sternness, I handed the snake back to the leader of the group and exhorted him to return it to its home fully intact. They trouped out, heads down, and properly chastened. My pride swelled. I had just trumped a bunch of seventh graders. I could handle anything.

Although maintaining my composure in surprising situations has been a source of pride for me, it doesn’t require much effort on my part since I am naturally shy and displays of drama make me cringe. I am, however, embarrassed to admit there have been times that reason abandoned me, and my reactions were out of character. Those times always involved Ex-husband.

I can’t even remember the topic of the argument that caused me to go berserk the first time. Mostly, when Ex-husband and I had a disagreement, I went into quiet mode. He was brought up in an arguing family; I was not. If it was unpleasant, my family didn’t talk about it. In his family, however, the more unpleasant the topic, the more likely they were to scream at each other about it. Even though I lost my cool during this particular argument, I didn’t scream. I did think about running over him with my car, but I didn’t want to do it in front of our children. Anyway, I couldn’t think of a way to induce him to stand outside the garage while I backed the car out. So I did the next best thing. I threw bricks at his new shop building. He was proud of that building and for convenience had built it close to the house. Too close to suit me. It was a big, tin monstrosity with a tall, rust-coated diesel fuel tank parked in front of it. It was a perfect target—the building, not the diesel tank. I might have been crazy angry, but I wasn’t stupid.

With Ex-husband still yelling at me, I walked out of the house gritting my teeth and headed to a pile of bricks stacked against the shop. With very little thought and a great deal of focus, I picked up a brick, backed away just far enough to get good leverage, and heaved the brick smack into the shiny new tin. At the same time I let out a bellow that came from the pit of my stomach and made the hair on the back of my own neck stand up. My God, that felt good. So I did it again. And again—until my arm ached and that brand new, heretofore unsullied eyesore sported at least three brick-sized gashes.

Spent, I sat down on the ground and sobbed—not because I was sorry I had damaged Ex-husband’s building or because my two children, ages fourteen and eight, had seen their mother lose her mind. No, I cried because I’d forgotten how good throwing a temper tantrum could feel. Only running over Ex-husband could have topped this.

That’s the only time my composure completely abandoned me. Well, there was the time I threw a cup past my ex-husband’s head, and shards of glass stuck in the dining room paneling, but I don’t think that counts since I didn’t actually aim for his head. He was lucky. My imperturbability probably saved his life several times.

My psyche does have a dark and somewhat melodramatic side when it comes to food. I love food and will try almost anything edible. That doesn’t mean I will like it or ever eat it again, but I will give it a chance. I ate sushi when it was real and raw, long before the civilized California roll that appeals to the palate of European origin. I was attending a conference in Denver, and my cousin, who grew up on brown beans simmered all day, cornbread baked in an iron skillet, and potatoes fried in lard, wanted to show off his new-found sophistication. He took me to an Asian restaurant and ordered sushi. (I have since learned that sushi was not the correct name for the slices of raw salmon, tuna, and octopus served on a wooden board with a dab of sinus-clearing wasabi on the side—not that calling it sashimi made much difference.) I did not want to appear squeamish about eating something that looked like fishing bait, so I ate with gusto. Well, maybe not gusto, but I ate it. It was okay. It was certainly not the cornmeal-crusted fried catfish I grew up with. The salmon sort of fell apart in my mouth. Some might say it was so tender it melted in the mouth. They would be more diplomatic than I am. It was mushy and raw. I prefer my salmon mixed with egg, cracker crumbs, and onion and made into patties fried in hot grease—if I got one of those soft bones in the middle of the patty, that was an extra treat.

The raw tuna was firmer than the salmon. I could actually chew it, but I’m not sure that was an advantage. Tuna from a can is much different than tuna from the ocean. Maybe that’s why the octopus was my favorite of the three; I had no reference point for it. I had not yet enjoyed the delight of fried calamari or squid grilled in garlic butter, so without comparison raw octopus wasn’t too bad although I can say I have never craved it since. Regardless of my internal misgivings, I managed not to embarrass my cousin. I thanked him profusely for expanding my gustatory horizon. The next time he came to visit me in Oklahoma, I repaid his kindness by throwing sophistication out the window and serving him brown beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes. He ate four helpings.

While I try not to show prejudice against food I have not yet tasted, I do have my food preferences. I’m a big fan of anything hot and spicy. If it doesn’t sear my tongue, it’s probably too bland. As a child, I did not like raspberries or avocados, but I knew I would someday so I kept trying until they made a positive impression on my palate. It hasn’t worked for Brussels sprouts. I just don’t like the taste of those nasty, little cabbages.

Disliking something for its taste is not irrational; disliking it for its emotional value is very irrational. And I am thoroughly irrational in my dislike of cheeseburgers—to the point of rudeness (and I am never rude). I have embarrassed my children by complaining to a waiter about the intrusive cheese on my hamburger. I have returned hamburgers that came with mayonnaise instead of the preferred mustard. A hamburger is a sacred flavor of my childhood, a flavor accompanied by a chorus of angels. The patty must be good quality meat squashed thin on the grill so it can reach all the edges of the bun which has been toasted in hamburger grease and flattened with the same spatula used to turn the patty. That way the bun soaks up all that lovely caramelized meat flavor. Each half of the bun must be slathered with a layer of plain yellow mustard, then beginning with the bottom half, the burger must be assembled in this order: thinly sliced sweet onion, dill pickle slices, hot meat patty, homegrown tomato slices, and a crisp leaf of iceberg lettuce. This is the way God intended for us to eat hamburger meat. I’m sure it’s in the Bible—something about a fatted calf.

Anything that pretends to be a hamburger or a variation thereof cannot be justified. Call it an educated hamburger or a cheeseburger, I still don’t like it, and I am determined that I never will. Even my passion for Sweden couldn’t mitigate the horror I experienced when hamburgers there were served with globs of mayonnaise. In defense of their food—and there is not a lot to defend—the Swedes really know how to fry potatoes. Still, that doesn’t make up for what they did to hamburger meat, which I suspect was a flattened meatball.

My intense animosity toward cheeseburgers became apparent when Ex-husband brought one home to me for supper. There was a bag from Braum’s on the kitchen counter, and I thought, “How uncharacteristically sweet of him to bring me a hamburger!” Since this was a rare occurrence, I wanted to reinforce his behavior so I began silently rehearsing a warm but not too effusive thank you. “Oh, sweetheart, thank you so much for bringing me a hamburger for dinner.” No, that wouldn’t work. I never called him sweetheart. He would question my motive. He might even get up out of his recliner and come to the kitchen to see if I were alright. How about, “It was nice of you to pick up hamburgers for supper. Thanks.” No, couldn’t do that either. The word nice would stick in my throat and probably choke me. Better stick with “Thanks for the hamburger.”

While ruminating on the appropriate response to this unexpected windfall, I set out a plate, opened the bag, and inhaled deeply. Hmm. Not quite the satisfying mustard-onion smell I had anticipated. Maybe the cook had skimped on the condiments a little. No problem. I had plenty of mustard in the fridge, and if need be, I could slice up an onion. I unwrapped the burger. Something akin to electric shock skittered down my spine. Was that cheese stuck to the wrapper? Oh, dear. There was cheese on my hamburger. I breathed deeply. I could handle this. I would scrape it off and apply mustard. I could manage to eat it. No need to hurt Ex-husband’s feelings.

I placed the flawed burger onto the plate and lifted the top half of the bun to scrape off the offending cheese and to add extra pickle slices. This time I actually stepped away from the counter. Mayonnaise, ugh. No way I could eat that thing. It was an abomination. My composure dissolved. Had the server at Braum’s gotten the order wrong? It had happened before, and I always politely returned the alimentary mistake. I had to know the truth. Had he actually ordered me a cheeseburger? Well, yes, I liked cheese didn’t I? After forty-one years of marriage and my vociferous dislike for these culinary mistakes, he ordered me a cheeseburger?



Something in me snapped. It was as audible as a snake-wielding seventh-grader’s disappointment. I gripped the cabinet and counted to ten, but the dismembered cheeseburger taunted me. I thought about bricks and his shop building. I thought about my car, but it was a Prius and running over him would probably do more damage to it than to him. So I did what any woman whose childhood food fixation has been debased would do. I divorced him, but not once did I yell.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Blackbirds Second Flight On Sale NOW!

March 30, 2015

MANY RIVERS HARBOR PUBLISHES NEW FANTASY ANTHOLOGY

ADA, OKLAHOMA—Many Rivers Harbor announces the publication of Blackbirds Second Flight, an anthology of thrilling fantasy stories and chilling poems by new and established writers. The book is on sale now at Amazon, Barnes and NobleLulu, and other online retailers.

“We're proud to publish Blackbirds Second Flight,” said Kyra Childers, MRH associate editor. “This book follows last year's Blackbirds First Flight and features fantasy stories and poems with a dark twist.”

Childers said the book offers short stories that continue several characters' lives after their appearance in Blackbirds First Flight. "Both Stephen (Bagley) and Wendy (Blanton) return to characters first seen in last year's anthology. Stephen gives us another story about monster hunter Justina Grave, and Wendy tells us about another man's encounter with the powerful fairy Maeve."

The book retails for $12. For more information on Blackbirds Second Flight, readers can visit blackbirdsflights.blogspot.com.

The book features works from Stephen B. Bagley, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Ken Lewis, Jean Schara, and Heath Stallcup.

Stephen B. Bagley wrote Tales from Bethlehem, Murder by Dewey Decimal, Murder by the Acre, Floozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. His works have appeared in Blackbirds First FlightCreations 2014, Creations 2013, Creations 2012, ByLine Magazine, Free Star, Nautilus Magazine, OKMagazine, and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.

Wendy Blanton published three fantasy novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard under the pen name Elizabeth Joy with co-author Scott Carman. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management from the University of Mount Olive and served in active duty for the United States Air Force for eight years. She is an apprentice bard and tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues.

Gail Henderson collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography. Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry, was published in 2013. Her work has appeared in Blackbirds First FlightCreations 2014, Creations 2013, Creations 2012, and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.

Ken Lewis's articles, memoirs, short stories, and poems appeared in Creations 2014, Creations 2013, and Creations 2012. He graduated from East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology, with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He is also a graduate of the Long Ridge Writers Group, Danbury, Connecticut. He is an amateur astronomer and is currently involved in a global effort to gather visual information of double stars. He enjoys handcycling and has completed numerous marathons.

Jean Schara retired from a 28-year career in the United States Air Force in 2008 and took up residence in Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and of the Troy State University with a Master of Science in Adult Education. She has had several book reviews published in the Air Power Journal and several articles published in Vision: A Resource for Writers.

Heath Stallcup was born in Salinas, California, and relocated to Tupelo, Oklahoma, in his teen years. He joined the US Navy and was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, and Bangor, Washington, shortly after junior college. After his second tour, he attended East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, where he obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Chemistry. He then served ten years with the State of Oklahoma as a Compliance and Enforcement Officer while moonlighting nights and weekends with his local sheriff’s office. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife and three of his seven children. His books include Whispers, Caldera, Forneus Corson, and the continuing Monster Squad series: Return of the Phoenix, Full Moon Rising, Coalition of the Damned, Blood Apocalypse, Homecoming, and Wayward Son.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

BSF book trailer!

Book trailer for the new dark anthology Blackbirds Second Flight from Many Rivers Harbor. BSF features dark fantasy stories from Stephen B. Bagley, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Ken Lewis, Jean Schara, and Heath Stallcup.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Video Chat!

The first Many Rivers Harbor Video Chat. A few minutes of fun and information about the new anthology "Blackbirds Second Flight" with authors Stephen B. Bagley, Wendy Blanton, and Jean Schara in which they discuss their short stories, feral cats, murderous muses, fairies, dragons, and a few other oddities they didn't expect.<br />
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Costa Rica

I was 4,200 miles away from home and standing mid-thigh in the middle of the Baru River where it narrowed to meet the hammering surf of the South Pacific Ocean. One errant pebble under my tender feet could topple me into the driving river and roll me into a booming, watery destruction. I have never been closer to death nor felt more alive.
That one moment was the pinnacle of my vacation in Costa Rica. I don’t recommend wading across water squeezing through a bottleneck like toothpaste wearing a jet pack to get the full effect of this slender Central American country. You can do the full blown tourist experience, complete with guided everything (in which case you can stop reading now), or you can meander across the country, senses engaged with the unmitigated essence of the place. It’s meditation on steroids.
Unless you have the luxury of a private plane, you will likely enter Costa Rica at its primary airport, Juan Santamaria International Airport (JSIA), in San Jose, located in the middle of the country. Tiny by U.S. standards, JSIA still provides efficient service. A bit of history: the airport’s namesake, Juan Santamaria, was killed while defending his country from an attack by a U.S. citizen, William Walker, who wanted to establish slave states in Latin America. Ticos (Costa Ricans) have not allowed themselves to forget this invasion. April 11 is a national holiday celebrating Walker’s defeat.
From the airport to downtown San Jose is a twelve-mile taxi trip. Because there are few street signs and fewer stop signs, the taxi drivers, and there are swarms of them, communicate by honking and gesturing. They hang out the windows to yell greetings at one another. At least I think they were greetings. When you don’t know the language, it can be difficult to discern between enthusiastic friendliness and zealous animosity.
I was visiting Costa Rica with my cousin, June, a fearless veteran of free-form traveling. She insisted we didn’t need reservations. I was skeptical. She had, however, scouted out hostels in prime locations and listed them in order of preference. Fortunately, a room was available at Hostel Toruma, the first on her list. Following her instructions, our Tico taxi driver pulled into the driveway of a walled palace—modest, but a palace nonetheless. We were staying in what was once the home of Jose Figueres, the Costa Rican president who abolished the army and gave women the right to vote. Once a center of San Jose society and politics, the fortified building now served as a cheap stopping place for backpackers and non-resort tourists. Hostel Toruma provided a room with a double bed, a table, and a chair for $11 per person. Gym-style bathroom and showers down the hall. I was a bit appalled to see a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant across the street, but it proved to be a valuable landmark to find our way back after a walking trip.
The hostel has since been upgraded to appeal to a younger crowd bent on partying rather than soaking up the culture, but for $34 a night and ear plugs, it can’t be beat for economy and location. A short walk into the middle of town took us through a delightful mix of parks and old buildings - some historic, some just old. We found the post office easily, as well as money changers. Oh, and public restrooms were readily available, but toilet paper wasn’t. Thank goodness my cousin was aware of this and carried a supply in her multi-pocketed vest, along with a plastic bag for storing said paper after use. That’s right. Signs were everywhere: No flushing of paper. The sewer system couldn’t handle it.
Not all Ticos speak English, but enough do to make street and road navigation passable, and if you speak a little Spanish, that helps. Once we learned the basics of the monetary system, we made purchases without much hassle. Our first major purchase was a bus ticket to San Isidro de El General, where we would spend one night then continue our trek to a beach on the Pacific Ocean. 
The next day, after an improvised breakfast in the open air, we walked from Hostel Toruma to the bus station and boarded the bus to San Isidro. Two middle-aged white women, tall by Tico standards, we stood out like blanched beacons. We watched Ticos pile into the bus. They filled the seats, the aisles, and the steps, something that would never have been allowed in the States, but here, a bus was a mode of transportation, not a target for a lawsuit.
As we pulled away from the city limits of San Jose, small fields of coffee bean trees flanked the road on our left, and forests began their ascent on our right. The 80 mile trip took us southwest through little towns with tiny houses painted bright blue or orange and yards dotted with what we in a more temperate climate consider house plants. Unfamiliar flowers—reds and yellows and purples—backed by enormous leaves decorated the roadside. Green, green everywhere. I was stunned with the lushness of it. If the bus had stopped, and I never traveled another foot, I would have died happy. 
Inside the bus, Ticos chatted with one another and the bus driver. More than once I wished I knew the words for “Stop talking with your hands and keep them on the steering wheel!” This Mercedes Benz bus was taking up one-and-a-half lanes of the narrow Inter-American Highway and navigating switch-backs with a driver who was more interested in local gossip than arriving in San Isidro unscathed. There were times when I had to turn away from the window to avoid peering down a thousand foot drop that began three feet from my nose. We were just one off-the-wheel hand gesture away from plunging into the treetops below us. 
Four hours and 80 miles later we unfolded ourselves out of our bus seats and stepped into San Isidro, a town nestled between two mountain ridges. (Much later, I learned the name of the tallest of the mountains we had crossed—Cerro de la Muerte or Mountain of Death. I’m glad I was ignorant of that during the bus ride.) We walked a short way to the center of town and found a hostel across the street from a park where Ticos gathered to visit and use the public phones. We explored a bit and settled on a pizza place for dinner. We lounged on the cafe’s narrow veranda and listened to the exuberant conversation of a German family from a nearby table. The pizza was good, and the view of cloud-topped mountains airbrushed by a setting sun was spectacular.
A town of 45,000, San Isidro has the feel of a small village. There is nothing sleek or modern about it. Since it is warm without the extremes of blistering heat or icy winds, people live primarily outside. Man-made structures are merely shelters during rainy season. The tallest building, a church, pays homage to spiritual needs, not to physical comfort. Mother Earth is at her kindest in this sheltered niche. 
On our walk back to the hostel, we handed our remaining half pizza to a group of young, strapping Scandinavian men who would have been right at home in lederhosen. (Yes, I know lederhosen are German, but still . . . .) They were hiking down the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range into Panama. Oh, to have been 30 years younger.
The next morning, I traipsed around the town while waiting for my intrepid traveling companion to reorganize the contents of her many-pocketed vest. I checked the departure schedule at the bus station and discovered we had time for breakfast. I found a club-sized papaya and a white pineapple at one of the ubiquitous fruit and vegetable markets and carted them back to the room. Rarely did we eat in a restaurant. For five days, we lived mainly on fresh, often exotic fruit from open-air markets and cheese and crackers from little local grocery stores. 
After breakfast, we boarded a bus for our final destination, Playa Domenical. This shouldn’t have been a long trip, but we stopped at every crossroad, side road, almost road, and in some places, no road. Families stood waiting for the bus against backdrops of tangled vines and  towering trees. Sometimes people got off the bus and simply disappeared into the forest. 
These Ticos must have lived in primitive conditions. Utility service was non-existent, but everyone on the bus was clean and neat. Except maybe my cousin and me. We were hot and thirsty and cramped. We were never going to get to Domenical. Until we did.
The bus stopped. We got off and wondered where the hell we were. No signs, no people, nothing but a sandy road, so we followed it until we beheld one of the earth’s greatest treasures: a tiny open-air cafe serving frescos. Pure watermelon blended until it was a rosy nectar. Nothing has tasted as good before or since.
Fortified, we set out again, hoping we were heading west toward the ocean. Coconut palms and small, thrown-together houses lined the road, and gradually a subtle, rhythmic roar eased itself into the pauses of our conversation. The fine dust of the road turned to sand, and we stepped out of the palms onto a brown beach littered with drift wood and were presented with a full frontal view of the Pacific Ocean. Even now, it is hard to find words. Its vastness, its vitality made me feel small and larger-than-life at the same time. I was at home in some alien Eden.
We stood in awe for several minutes until luggage and fatigue pulled at our arms. We’d had a good run of luck finding rooms without having reservations, so we headed up the beach to the Tortilla Flats Hotel to see if our luck would hold. It did, and soon we were dragging our luggage across the threshold of a minimal room. No fancy resort here with mints on the pillows or mini-fridge filled with designer water. It was cheap, had two beds (twin-sized), and a shower. Since we didn’t plan to spend much time inside, it was all we needed.
For the next two days, we watched red-gold sunrises and sunsets; walked the curved beach; sat on driftwood with the Pacific at our feet; and ate watermelon and pineapple and tiny, ambrosial bananas. (I still buy the smallest bananas I can find in hopes of recreating heaven-in-my-mouth.) Two young women (ex-pats from the States) and their children visited with us about their lives in Costa Rica. One showed us the edible, bell-shaped cashew apple growing wild next to the beach. The soft red fruit had a mild citrusy flavor, nothing like the cashew nut which hangs from its underside. The other woman hacked into a freshly fallen coconut with her machete so I could taste its watery milk. We were informed that machetes are commonplace accessories for residents of the Costa Rican countryside.
I will admit to doing one touristy thing. Our first full day in Domenical, we took a horseback trip through a forested mountainside to a waterfall. It reminded me why I don’t like to do touristy things: other tourists. That I was riding the most reluctant of the horses did not try my patience so much, but the squealing, silly woman toward the front of the line made me grit my teeth. My cousin and I lagged behind in an attempt to enjoy the jungly forest around us. Any monkeys or birds we might have seen were scared off by the non-stop yammering of the female primate up front. 
Despite the woman’s incessant racket and my lazy horse, the trip was worth it. Halfway to the falls, we stopped for breakfast. Prepared in a shack and served by young Ticas, the meal consisted of eggs, gallo pinto (black beans and rice), lots of fresh fruit, and coffee with warmed milk. We ate in a small clearing surrounded by tall carambola (star fruit) trees and green parrots. Afterward, I wandered around and found a little garden where one of the workers was cutting an herb of some kind. I asked her about it, and she told me it was kulantro. Curious, I tasted it—cilantro. But it didn’t look like the cilantro I was familiar with. I made a mental note to research it when I returned home. I discovered it is also known as sawtooth coriander. Whatever its name, cilantro or kulantro, its smell and flavor always evoke images of Costa Rica for me.
When we finally reached the falls, I stripped to my bathing suit and slipped into the water. Two teenagers clambered up the rocks and jumped into the deep end of the pool formed by the falls. They were joined by one of the Tico guides, a bronze young man with muscles defined by hard work instead of a gym. It was an idyllic scene full of laughter and splashing—best viewed from a floating position. Ahhh. . . . 
Despite my furtive prayers, the loud lady did not drowned or get lost, but she was more subdued on the return trip, as we all were. We had just experienced Nature at her finest, and even the drama queen could not resist the pull of quiet contemplation. 
The tour van dropped us off at the turnoff to Domenical just before the bridge crosses the Baru River. We stopped at the fruit stand next to the road to buy white pineapple and watermelon. The vendor convinced me, without speaking English, to try an unfamiliar fruit a bit smaller than a tennis ball with a dark purple rind. He showed me how to break it open and toss its contents into my mouth. It looked like frog eggs, felt like tapioca, and tasted delightful, slightly tart and sweet. I had just experienced for the first time a maracuya, a variety of passion fruit. The farmer vendor nodded happily as I smiled and smacked my lips in appreciation. There are no communication barriers too great for the language of food.
We stopped on the bridge over the Baru River to take some pictures. It seemed a wide lazy river, but I discovered its power the next morning when I crossed the narrow stream that connected it to the Pacific Ocean. It impressed me as representative of the people of Costa Rica, calm and easygoing on the surface, deep and powerful underneath.
The next morning, while waiting for June to rearrange her multi-pocketed vest for the fortieth time, I took a walk alone along the beach and had my mind-blowing encounter with the river when it tried to shove me into the Pacific. I felt I had passed some sort of test and been approved by this amazing country. I had been here for only two days, but how easily I had grown attached to its rhythm, to its pleasant assault on the senses. 
That evening, we walked the edge of the ocean and watched the sun go down while brown pelicans wheeled and dove into the surf. We had to say good-bye. 
The next day, we traveled the 100 miles to San Jose by hired car rather than endure a six-hour bus ride. About 20 miles before reaching San Jose, the car broke down. We were totally at the mercy of the driver and a bit concerned, but we were soon transferred to another car with a new driver. We arrived at the Brilla Sol Hotel in time to wash the dust off and go to dinner.
After our rugged foray into provincial Costa Rica, June had decided that we should be rewarded by splurging on a nice, but non-chain, hotel. This time she had called ahead to guarantee our room. Like Hostel Toruma, it once was a walled estate; unlike Toruma, Brilla Sol had gardens, private rooms, and a restaurant for guests. That last night, on a veranda with mandarin flower-scented breezes, I ate garlic-encrusted fish, delicious beyond imagining. As comfortable and pleasant as it was, I would have happily traded it for a piece of driftwood, a white pineapple, and the music of the ocean.
I had fallen in love with this strong, quiet country, and my heart ached with leaving.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Library hosts signing for new anthology

ADA, OKLAHOMA—Ada Public Library will host a book signing for the new anthology “Blackbirds First Flight” 4:30-6:30 p.m., Thursday, October 30. The anthology features stories from Ada author Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Jean Schara, and Tamara Siler Jones.

Bagley, Blanton, Henderson, and Schara will sign copies of the book at the signing. The book will also be on sale at that time for the special price of $10.

“‘Blackbirds First Flight’ is an anthology of stories and poetry with a dark, sensual twist,” said Pru Simmons, Many River Harbor associate editor. “The stories run the gambit from thrilling Gothic adventure to modern urban fantasy to fantastic encounters with the macabre. The poetry is uniformly excellent and tells dark stories of its own, many related to mythology.”

Simmons said the book might become an annual anthology. “We have had many inquiries about the book and its theme,” she said. “We definitely think there is an interest in dark, twisty fantasy that tells a satisfying story and follows traditional narrative arcs. We hope there will be another flight next year.”

“Gail (Henderson) and I are excited to actually meet some of the other authors,” Bagley said. “Wendy (Blanton) is flying in from Chicago, and Jean (Schara) is driving up from Texas. This is the first time we’ll all be in the same town.”

Stephen B. Bagley wrote “Tales from Bethlehem,” “Murder by Dewey Decimal,” “Murder by the Acre,” “Floozy & Other Stories,” and “EndlesS.” His works have appeared in “Creations 2014,” “Creations 2013,” “Creations 2012,” “ByLine Magazine,” “Free Star,” “Nautilus Magazine,” “OKMagazine,” and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Ada Writers.

Kent Bass enjoys writing Gothic action/adventure stories. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business and from the University of Oklahoma, with a Master of Science in Accountancy. He and his family live in Dallas, Texas, where he works for the nation’s leading tax software company. “Blackbirds First Flight” is his first publication.

Wendy Blanton published three fantasy novels, “The Dragon’s Lady,” “Rogue Pawn,” and “Sword and Scabbard” under the pen name Elizabeth Joy with co-author Scott Carman. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management from the University of Mount Olive and served in active duty for the United States Air Force for eight years. She is an apprentice bard and tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues.

Gail Henderson collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce “Bare,” a book of poetry and photography. “Red Bird Woman,” a collection of her poetry, was published in 2013. Her work has appeared in “Creations 2014,” “Creations 2013,” “Creations 2012,” and “ByLine Magazine.” She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Ada Writers.

Tamara Siler Jones is a wife, mom, writer, quilter, and cat-wrangler from rural Iowa. She has three novels in print/eBook (“Ghosts in the Snow,” winner of the Compton Crook Award for best first novel of the year in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre; “Threads of Malice”; and “Valley of the Soul”; all published by Bantam Books), one book (“SPORE”) under contract with Samhain Publishing for release next summer; one book (“Morgan’s Run”) being marketed in New York, three novels in progress, and a screenplay in first draft.

Jean Schara retired from a 28-year career in the United States Air Force in 2008 and took up residence in Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and of the Troy State University with a Master of Science in Adult Education. She has had several book reviews published in the “Air Power Journal” and several articles published in “Vision: A Resource for Writers.”

“Blackbirds First Flight” is available from Amazon.com, Lulu.com, and other online retailers and in downtown Ada at Karen’s Art & Framing, Inc., 108 East Main.

For more information, visit Blackbirds Flights.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Blackbirds First Flight goes on sale!

Blackbirds First Flight is officially on sale now! This brand new anthology features dark, twisty short stories and poems from Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Jean Schara, and Tamara Siler Jones. 

To buy the book from Lulu.com, go here: Blackbirds First FlightGet free mail shipping or 50% off ground shipping on your order by using coupon code: GMF14. (Offer ends Oct. 6 at 11:59 PM. Offer cannot be combined with other offers.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall Book & Author Festival slated for Thursday

ADA – Ada Writers Second Annual Fall Book and Author Festival will be Thursday, Sept. 18, 4:30-6:30 p.m. hosted by Karen’s Art and Farming, 108 East Main. The festival will feature books by local authors and “Creations 2014,” the latest anthology by Ada Writers.

“This is our chance to show our appreciation for the support we’ve received from Ada and the surrounding area,” said Stephen B. Bagley, Ada Writers president. “We will have a limited number of signed copies of ‘Creations 2014’ available.”

The anthology features short stories, poems, memoirs, and more by members of Ada Writers, including Kelley Benson, Eric Collier, Stacey Foster, Gail Henderson, Mel Hutt, Sterling Jacobs, Ken Lewis, Rick Litchfield, Don Perry, Martha Rhynes, James Sanders, Anna Tynsky, Joanne Verbridge, Tim Wilson, Tom Yarbrough, and Loretta Yin. Unsigned copies are available for purchase on Lulu, Amazon, and other online retailers.

“We will also be featuring books from our members,” Bagley said. Among the books offered will be “Floozy & Other Stories,” “Tales from Bethlehem,” “Murder by Dewey Decimal,” and “Murder by the Acre” by Stephen B. Bagley; “On Target: Devotions for Modern Life” by Kelley Benson; “Montana Sunshine” by Arlee Fairbanks; “Red Bird Woman” by Gail Henderson; “Devoted to Creating” by Jen Nipps; “The War Bride,” “Secret of the Pack Rat’s Nest,” “Jack London,” and “How to Write Scary Stories” by Martha Rhynes; and “Tree Stand Scribbles” and “Treasures of the Kingdom” by Tom Yarbrough. “The books range from mysteries to romance to biography to inspirational and more,” said Bagley.

Several members of Ada Writers will read from the various Creations anthologies, and original music will be provided by member Anna Tynsky. “We will have refreshments, of course, and plenty of good conversations about books and writing, and a few surprises,” Bagley said.

Ada Writers has been helping local authors with their writing goals for more than 25 years. The group meets the second and fourth Saturday of each month in the upstairs meeting room at the Ada Public Library at 11 a.m. Meeting times may be changed to accommodate holidays and bad weather. The meetings feature writing programs and tips aimed at beginners, professionals, and all those in between. For more information about Ada Writers, visit their website at www.adawriters.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book blurb!

Here's the book blurb for Blackbirds First Flight:

An unhappy wife can’t decide what to do about her boorish husband until an uneaten meal gives her a dark idea...
Something is raising zombies in Tulsa, and Justina Grave is the only one who can stop it...
When a fat farm promises to make Edyth thin again, her dream comes true. She will never be fat again—or safe...
Hopping a freight train can be a cheap way to travel. Unless you pick the wrong boxcar...
One kiss gives Francois immortality, but at a cost he doesn't see coming...
A woman warrior must choose her fate as the Romans ravage her land...
Stalked by terrible creatures seeking vengeance, a band of robbers runs for their lives in medieval France...

This anthology will lead you into dark, twisted places filled with mystery and delight. Enjoy thrilling stories and chilling poems by authors Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Tamara Siler Jones, and Jean Schara.

It goes on sale October 1st! Watch for it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Trip to Sweden - Day 1

Recently, I had the good fortunate to visit Sweden. My husband Neil, a medical anthropologist, was invited to participate in a symposium dedicated to Alzheimer's and dementia in indigenous peoples, which is his specialty. He let me tag along, and we added three extra days as a "honeymoon." (Our first honeymoon was in Sulphur, Oklahoma!)

We boarded the first plane in OKC at around 11, flew to Dallas and changed planes. Nine hours and three movies later, we landed at Heathrow in London, went through security - tougher than in the U.S., got on a bus and rode on the wrong side of the street to a different terminal where we boarded another plane for the 2-and-a-half-hour flight to Arlanda airport north of Stockholm. By this time, we had been up for almost 24 hours, crossed seven time zones, and were running on pure adrenalin.

With the help of a soft-spoken young Swedish man, we managed to purchase train tickets for the hour-and-a-half ride to Norkopping (pronounced Nor-shooping or sometimes Nor- shurping). The train passed through Stockholm (stock = log, holm = small island), which occupies 14 islands where Malaren Lake meets the Baltic Sea. What little we saw of the city was beautiful. Lots of water. Old, but well-kept buildings. Ancient churches. A tourist could spend two weeks in this international city and not see all of the sites.

The ride south from Stockholm to Norrkoping was full of beautiful countryside. Fields of yellow flowers (the seeds of which are the source of canola oil), blood-red farm houses and barns, real rivers - not like Oklahoma's rivulets, and violent green everywhere. About half way into the 90 minute trip, Neil and I both conked out. Jet lag was stalking us.

Finally, at about five o'clock Swedish time, we arrived at our hotel. It was not a separate building, but rather a part of a very old building (nicely refurbished) that housed apartments and businesses along with hotel rooms. The elevator served only two floors so we had to lug our bags up some stairs to the reservation desk (a tiny cubicle), then down more stairs to get to our room.

I honestly cannot remember what we did after that. We were exhausted, starving, and foggy-brained. Neil had to attend the conference the next day so sight-seeing was out of the question. So ended our first day in Sweden.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Library to host book signing for Ada Writers

ADA, OKLAHOMA – Ada Public Library will host a book signing for “Creations 2014,” the newest anthology from Ada Writers, Thursday, June 19, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The book will be available to purchase at the signing for $12 and is available now at Lulu.com, Amazon.com, and other online retailers. Later this month, it will be on sale at Karen’s Art & Framing, Inc., in downtown Ada.

“We’ll have most of our authors at the signing,” Ada Writers president Stephen B. Bagley said. “It will be a great time to get your anthology signed by the writers and to meet them and talk about writing.”

A limited amount of the previous anthologies will also be available at the signing, and there will be a table featuring books by group members, including three new books. “Don Perry will be there with his new young adult book ‘Little Texas on the Pecos,’” Bagley said. “Tom Yarbrough will be bringing his new inspirational book ‘Treasures of the Kingdom.’ And Gail Henderson will present her new poetry and photography book ‘Bare.’” Other authors featured will be Bagley, Kelley Benson, and Martha Rhynes.

This is the third year that Ada Writers has produced an anthology. “Each year we’ve gained new authors,” Bagley said. “This year, we feature poems, essays, short stories, memoirs, and book excerpts from 17 local and area writers. Five of the authors have never been published in our anthology before.”

Authors will read from their works at the signing, Bagley said. “And we will have cookies. We can’t have a reading without cookies. It’s one of our traditions now.”

The local and area anthology authors include: Stephen B. Bagley, Kelley Benson, Eric Collier, Stacey Foster, Gail Henderson, Mel Hutt, Sterling Jacobs, Ken Lewis, Rick Litchfield, Don Perry, Martha Rhynes, James Sanders, Anna Tynsky, Joanne Verbridge, Tim Wilson, Tom Yarbrough, and Loretta Yin.

Ada Writers meets the second and fourth Saturday of each month at 11 a.m. in an upstairs meeting room at the Ada Public Library, 124 South Rennie. New writers are always welcome. For more information about the anthology and the writing group, please visit AdaWriters.blogspot.com.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Unnecessary People

I am in the process of clearing unnecessary people out of my head. These are people I have set up as judges to evaluate everything I do. You have them, too. They are people who find it discomforting to deal with people who do not hold the same values and feel it is their duty to try to make others around them see the world the same way they do. Usually, these judges have a very narrow view of the way the world should operate, and if you don't adhere to their standards, there is something wrong with you.

I don't want these people in my head any more. There are things I want to do for which my "judges" would condemn me so I must exorcise my personal moral demons. (Some of my demon/judges are religious; some just have a strict sense of what is proper. Either way, they've got to go.)

Here are some of the things I have done or am planning to do that offend my mental court system:

  • Wear a bikini at my age and with a stomach that is less than svelte - much less.
  • Wear shorts at my age even though I have the legs for it.
  • Wear my hair wild, which means long and pretty much doing its own thing.
  • Get a good tan that covers up my age spots - if only for a couple of months.
  • Speak out when someone pushes his/her religion in my face or just assumes that I believe the same thing he/she does. (This is the most difficult judge to face. I was thoroughly indoctrinated as a child, and coming to my own conclusions about religion took years of slogging through that alligator-infested swamp.)
  • Be proud of the talents I have without fear of being struck by lightning.
  • Write what I want to.
That last one will be tested soon enough. I have collaborated with my brother-in-law, Mike, on a book of photography and poetry. He took some awesome photographs of a beautiful young woman. When he showed them to me, I was enchanted and blurted out, "I don't look like that, but that's the way I feel inside. That's the way every woman should feel!" The young woman was nude, and the camera loved her. Mike hadn't been sure how I would react to the pictures, so his relief was obvious when I said I wanted to write poems to go with the pictures. It was the beginning of a project that has produced what we hope is the first in a series of books.

The book is called Bare. We are working on the final draft and will self-publish it soon. Mike and I both love the book. All of the photographs are set in rural Oklahoma, and Mike could not have chosen a more fitting model. He has done a superb job of capturing the sensual, earthy side of a woman. I crafted each poem specifically for the picture it accompanies. 

Here is the title poem:

     Bare

A shoulder,
a breast,
a hip.
No fabric
between your fingers
and my skin.

A gesture,
a glance,
a sigh.
No wall 
between your soul
and my eyes.

I am sure there will be people who condemn such a book, however beautiful it might be, but they are unnecessary people.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Poem: Somewhere in the Middle

I am experimenting with a new poetry style. The following poem is the result of running lines off the page (hence the indentions under the first line of each stanza). For lack of a formal style name, Stephen Bagley and I are calling it "flood poetry" because of the flood of words on the page. Let me know what you think.

Somewhere in the Middle

She stands on the front porch shrieking at me while God-knows-what works its way into a brain already half-rotted while one sister weeps in the house with Mother and I flinch in the front yard when she spews sanctimonious at me and I am even though she is breaking my heart falling apart
  
She sits on a bench in the back yard sobbing I’m sorry into my neck while her brain careens against her skull a mind we no longer recognize because things like this don’t happen to people like us but here we are waiting for strangers to save her life again

She lies in the back of a silent ambulance prostrate with life her mind knocked unconscious like an old boxer who couldn’t be talked into quitting while I ride in the front with my jaw clenched in anger at how dare she abandon her family abandon me until somewhere in the middle the ambulance turns into a screaming banshee turns anger into fear turns sanctimonious into a howling prayer

She struggles on a narrow gurney pulling at tubes and her emptied stomach frees her mind to zoom inside her skull to peer out of ice blue eyes to pour out of a grinning mouth in shotgun chatter dressed appropriately for a cocktail party while we watch nothing change watch bits of our baby sister fall off scattering across the emergency room floor

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Writing

Just when I thought my days in the classroom were over, I find myself enrolled in a poetry writing class. And excited about it. I am, unfortunately, a writer who is not driven to write. As a child, if I wasn't reading or traipsing across pastures, I was writing. That need to play with words on paper got derailed when I began writing grants - the most hideous genre of creative writing.

I have been away from grant writing for two years, and the desire to write is returning, but it will likely never be as strong as it was as when I was a child. So, I am learning to put myself in situations where I must write. First, a book of poetry with a deadline forced me to scrape the rust off my brain. Then another book. No deadline hung over me, but some awesome pictures lit a fire under me.

Soon, I will be attending a class that will require me to write a lot, and I won't be writing in a vacuum. There will be other people with different ideas to stir up my thinking. Writing is most satisfying when my thoughts tumble onto the paper. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Day 2014

My new year began with a bittersweet gathering of family and friends, not to mention the requisite black-eyed peas. Several family members were not able to participate in the festivities. My youngest daughter and her family live in Iowa. Both she and her husband have new jobs that prevented them from joining us during the holidays. I am happy for them, but I do miss them and the grandchildren, especially at times of celebration.

My older sister was not able to make it. I talked with her on the phone, and we both bemoaned the weather like country folk are wont to do. Although I now live in town, I factor the weather into my life like a farmer does. She lives on the remnants of the home place and has a small garden each year. I watch the weather in her area almost as avidly as I do in mine and feel the shock of extremes just as she does. Country lies deep in the bones.

Yesterday was our baby sister's birthday. She would have been 63. She was always proud of the fact that she was a new year's baby. It made her feel special even though she would complain that people forgot her birthday because it was so close to Christmas. I would love to fuss with her.

My soldier grandson was here. He will be deployed to Afghanistan at the end of this month (January). I cannot express the terror I feel for this beautiful man-child. I could not hug him tightly enough.

In the afternoon, we sat around a fire outside and watched the production of fry bread. Fresh from hot oil and dredged in powdered sugar, we dubbed them Indian beignets. Delicious! When the cold front moved in and the fire could no longer keep up with the wind, the black kettle had to be abandoned. Uncooked dough had become sponges for cooling grease.

All in all, it was a good day, a good beginning for 2014. Each of the remaining days is a present we will unwrap, little gifts of joy and anguish, all to be cherished.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Laurels to a Friend

In two weeks, I will be signing copies of my first book of poetry, Red Bird Woman, at the Ada Public Library. The book, the book signing, and my foray into becoming a published author is due to a friend's faith in me and his dogged persistence that I should not hide my light under a bushel.

I met Stephen over 30 years ago when I attended his poetry writing class sponsored by ECU's continuing education program. After the first class, I enrolled in every one he taught. What I learned from him was priceless. Here are a few tidbits:
  • Make every word count
  • Seldom, if ever, use "be" verbs
  • Count syllables
  • Be concise; don't ramble
  • Always write with your audience in mind
  • Read the poem out loud and listen to its music
  • Read other poets
I will be forever grateful to Stephen for the times he insisted that I rewrite a poem to make it stronger. He did not realize how he got inside my head and guided my writing.

After the series of classes ended, I did not see Stephen often, but when I did, he always asked if I was writing. There were times I had to say no, and I felt I had disappointed him. And myself.

Two years ago, we reconnected and our friendship is stronger than ever. I never ceased to be amazed at his depth of knowledge and his wisdom. He makes me laugh and he pushes me to use the little talent I have. Best of all, he makes me feel special. Nothing tops that.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful

There were times during my life in which I was not thankful for much of anything, especially being alive. Waking up in the morning was a disappointment. Each day was like a landscape painted in monotonous grey. Some of this was due to my circumstances and some to a legacy of depression left to me by my father. They were never depressions of great width and depth like my baby sister experienced; nevertheless, they made me less than thankful for being alive.

I still experience depression occasionally, and although it doesn't feel like it at the time, I know it will pass. The real problem is how it affects the people I love. To cope with a few days of depression, I shift into neutral. My behavior goes flat. I don't talk much. I tend not to look at people. My heart is just not in being alive. My significant other wants to fix it, since that's how most men approach problems:  "Tell me what's wrong, and I'll fix it." First, nothing is wrong except the chemicals in my brain. Second, it is temporary. Third, it is no one's problem to fix except my own. It drives him crazy, and I hate that for him. He is a good man and he doesn't like to see me unhappy. I assure him I am not unhappy. I am just not anything. He is visibly relieved when the gloom passes.

One of the worst things about my depression is that I can't write. I sit down at the computer and stare at a blank screen. My mind is even blanker than the screen. During my "normal" times, I often don't write because I am so busy being alive that I don't have time to write about it. When a few dark days descend on me, my mind feels dry and hollow. Where I usually see poems, I see nothing, as though my mind has gone blind. It's a lousy feeling.

So what I am most thankful for at this time in my life is the brevity of my depression episodes. They are not pleasant, but they are short-lived. If they weren't, if I did not know they would pass in a day or two, I'm not sure I could endure them. My life is too good to spend it looking for a way out.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Important Thing

I am learning about the marketing side of publishing a book. Mainly, what I am learning is that if you don't push your book under people's noses, they are not going to know it exists, much less buy it, and if they don't buy it, it doesn't get read. That's the most important part - getting people to read it.

Not everyone will like my poems. The audience for poetry is small and for the type of poetry I write, probably smaller still. But there are a few people out there who will "get" my poems. Those are the ones I'm aiming for, the ones who will feel what I felt while I was writing or will even feel something new. A poem should evoke a memory or an emotion, move the reader in some way, but there is no chance of that happening if it isn't read.

I don't like a lot of the poetry out there, especially "urban" poetry. I just don't get it. My experiences don't allow me to identify with city life with any depth. Some poems have some great lines but are too long for my taste. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" is one. I tend to like short poems that pack a punch or squeeze my heart.

One long poem that makes a profound emotional impact on me every time I read it is Amy Lowell's "Patterns." I cannot read it aloud without breaking down. It has so many levels to it and each one is more wrenching than the last. It has influenced many of my own poems. If you would like to read it, you can find it here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171725.

As for my own book of poetry, be assured that the poems are short and each word was carefully chosen. If you would like to find out if you are one of those people my poems can touch, you can buy the book here:  http://www.lulu.com/shop/gail-wood/red-bird-woman/paperback/product-21290374.html.

If you do read it, let me know what you think whether you like the poems or not. The important thing is that you read it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Poem

Here is the poem that is on the back of my book Red Bird Woman. I think a lot of people feel this way when they fall in love.


        Meteorite        

I could not resist
your gravity.
I slammed against your love
like a molten rock
falling from the sky
and disappearing
into the crust
of your masculinity.

I disintegrated,
leaving only bits
of my heart scattered
across your terrain. 

You hardly winced.



 

Boston


Recently, I made a trip to Boston. It is one of my favorite cities. It has a historical depth not found in any other city I have visited. Old buildings are scattered throughout, snuggling up to modern skyscrapers as though to say, “You may aspire to the heavens, but my foundation reaches back in time. I am rock solid.” From the 28th floor of my hotel room, I could count five churches built before the 1800’s. They seemed to pin the city to the ground, keeping it firmly in place.

I made a brief visit to the Boston Library in Copley Square. It was opened in 1895 and considered “a palace for the people.” The front entrance was indeed like the entrance to a palace – a two story ceiling, lots of marble, and curved staircases. It felt safe – not just for me, but for all the books it held, a grand repository for the immense knowledge within those books.

Aside from its historical value, Boston is a place for good food. I ate at an Italian restaurant with a Zagat rating of 28. Thirty is the highest rating a restaurant can get. I had butternut squash soup and a pasta dish with mushrooms and garlic – lots of garlic. Unbelievable. What I would have given to go back to the kitchen and watch! And that was just the first night!

On the second day, my dear friend Michele took me to Penzeys Spice Store in Arlington just outside Boston. You can’t even imagine how much better the spices are than those off the shelf in the local grocery. I bought the standbys I love – Vietnamese cinnamon, ground chipotle, smoked paprika, and sweet paprika – and a few new ones just because they smelled so good – rogan josh, vindaloo, garam masala, and a little jar of raspberry essence. Now my kitchen has a little bit of Boston in it.

One night I was privileged to eat at McCormick and Schmick’s. (Yes, I realize it is not a very appetizing name.) I had a salad with lettuce, shredded red and yellow beets and candied bacon. It was interesting, but the best was the halibut. The waiter assured me that it was fresh, had never been frozen. Believe me when say I was not disappointed. It melted in my mouth. It hard-wired a to-die-for gustatory memory in my brain.

Besides buildings and food, the most striking thing about Boston is the people. There are so many of them! I grew up in a home surrounded by 620 acres with no other houses visible. Some days the only people I saw were the four other members of my family. In Boston, sidewalks are like yards. If you live in an apartment, the only outside you have is covered in concrete, and you share it with a million other people. I had a hard time grasping how many people there were in that city during the work day. I rode the MTA, which was always crowded. I walked down sidewalks, which epitomized the term “bustling.” I could not walk three feet without passing another person, coming or going.

Needless to say, I have a much better appreciation for living in the “little” town of Edmond. It may not be historical or be filled with Zagat-rated restaurants, although it does have some good ones, it has an openness that is typical of Oklahoma. People are not stacked on top of one another. I will always miss the country, but at least I don’t live in Boston.